Tuesday, December 29, 2009

hiatus

obviously, i'm on one with regards to the blog and probably will be until the initial craziness of our return subsides.

hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and wish you all a happy new year!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

as promised

behold, the wonders of an alien seeking radiotelescope...





who says that $100 million was a waste of money? obviously, that thing is working...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009...

With a blink of the eye it has arrived, the end of our first year is upon us and we’re left baffled by how these eleven months have escaped us.

From the places we’ve seen, to the things we’ve done, to the people we’ve met it has been a year swollen with memories and experiences.

When we land in Atlanta on Friday we’ll have 60 flights, 40 hotels, 5 continents, 20 countries and over 50 cities under our belt. From North America to Asia to Europe to Africa to South America back to Asia and finally back to North America we’ve cut quite the path this year. It makes me tired just typing it. But, somewhere we found the energy and even wanted more when we were limited by our location.

Now, as the year draws to a close we’re ready for home, for our friends, for our families, for southern food and Christmas. We’ve gotten over the initial disappointment of not traveling the first round and embraced a chance to recharge, regroup and reconnect.

All I can do as I reflect on this year is say my heart is truly full of overwhelming gratitude. Gratitude for this incredible opportunity, for the experiences we’ve had, for the places we’ve seen, for our safe journeys and the safe journeys of our new friends, for our old friends who stayed in touch, for our friends that came to see us, for our families that forgave us our distance, for being missed and having people to miss, for the memories we’ve created, for all the laughter, all the tears, all the joy and the sheer frustration you experience while living abroad…I’m grateful for it all. It seems an impossible feat to sum it all up or resurrect all the hundreds of memories and gather them up in one place.

These are but a few from what has been an unbelievably incredible year…

video

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunday, Pouring Sunday

Our last weekend in Puerto Rico…I have to say there hasn’t been much I’ve been dying to see or do here. After multiple vacations to this lovely island there just isn’t much left to pique my interest. Also, it’s the last weekend of the travel year so it's going to need to be something pretty spectacular to make me want to get up early on a Saturday.

But, we had planned to see the Camuy Caves and Arecibo Observatory and after wimping out on Saturday we finally made the 90 minute trip on Sunday morning.

We arrived at the Camuy Caves with clouds looming. Everything I had read or heard said “if it rains at all they will close the caves”. Warnings from like every other person on trip advisor “watch the weather!!!”…well not sure who was in charge on Sunday but they had no problem taking us down in the pouring rain.

Had I come prepared with my quick-dry shorts and raincoat I would have been fine. I’ve spent many a weekend getting soaked to the bone and loved every minute of it. I was not prepared.

The caves themselves were pretty impressive. It was a much shorter tour than I had expected but hey we got to wear hardhats so that was cool…





Because Murphy’s Law was apparently ruling that day it had stopped raining for our entire duration underground only to start pouring again as we made our way back up. The Arecibo Observatory was about 20 minutes away and when we arrived my shorts and t-shirt were still soaked…and it was still raining.

We were told it was about 500 steps up to the observatory and that was when I had had my fill. There may have been a minor meltdown half-way up where I seriously toyed with going to back to the car to wait while they did the tour.

The Arecibo is the world’s largest radiotelescope. It was featured in that movie “Contact” and is ran by Cornell University to search for radio signals from distant galaxies in hopes of finding other forms of life. Yep, this $100 million dollar piece of equipment is there to search for aliens.

It was impressive as far as its size and its space-station quality aesthetics. The best part of the place was that we got to take pictures with an alien…that and MJ lent me $2 for an awesome coconut ice cream bar. I’ve still got to get the photos from MJ but will post when I do…of the alien, not the ice cream.

It was wet day with some mediocre sights but, when we got back my pants were fairly dry and we ordered a pitcher of margaritas at lunch. So, all in all still a pretty good Sunday!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

beware of coronas on the beach



So, this is my hand 2 weeks after my phytophoto dermatitis outbreak. It has faded significantly and has gone from looking like age spots to freckles. Not that I don't like freckles, I just don't have any on my arms so it looks ridiculous and very out of whack to have a hand full of them.

It took me a while to figure out when this sun/citrus fruit combo actually happened. But, after reading it usually peaks at 72 hours I realized it was the day we went to Old San Juan with E & K. Before spending all day in direct sun I had sweetly squeezed my Wife's limes into her margaritas at lunch. She had asked me because she didn't want to get sunscreen in her cocktails. Sunscreen that she had been smart enough to slather herself in and I had been stupid enough to forget.

I was hoping it would be gone before we got home but at this rate I'm seriously doubting it.

Lesson here is if you're dealing with citrus fruit, especially limes and you're out in the sun make sure you have on sunscreen. That, or make your spouse squeeze their own dang limes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dominican


In all honesty, we chose to go to the Dominican mainly because the tickets there were much more affordable than any other neighboring island and after the Philippines we just weren’t dying to island hop. We had looked at going to Punta Cana, but our apartment is just steps from the beach so it wasn’t a huge draw. Eventually we settled on going to the capital, Santo Domingo.

I have to say, we could not have been more pleasantly surprised. Granted we did no research and knew nothing about it but I guess we had expected it to be like old San Juan or maybe not even as nice. We had no idea the rich, rich history of Santo Domingo and the myriad of “firsts” we were going to encounter.

Did you know that Christopher’s Columbus’ final resting place is in Santo Domingo? Or that the first street built in the new world was is in Santo Domingo? Or the first Catholic Cathedral? Or the first sundial?

You get the point.

Anyway, we did a half-day tour that turned into an all day tour on Saturday and really enjoyed ourselves. That night we all went to dinner at a restaurant actually set in a natural cave. The atmosphere was wonderful and except for our poor choice of flaming Dominican hunch-punch, I’m glad we went.






Our crazy tour guide, Bill, had told us there would be a merengue festival that evening on our streets but sadly it wasn’t until Sunday night :(

Sunday we had lunch back in the old city and tooled around the few shops that were open before heading back to San Juan.

I have to say it felt pretty great at immigration once we reached the States…last time this year!

This weekend we’ve decided to stay put again. We’ll probably make a day trip out to the Camuy Caves or just relax at the beach by our apartment. We’ve got to start organizing the suitcases and packing because we’re going to be heading home before you know it!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

lost a battle but the fight will continue



"There's never a good time for civil rights. There's never, ever, ever, ever a good time for civil rights. I know. I get that," said Sen. Tom Duane, a Manhattan Democrat who was the chamber's first openly gay member. "But the paradox is, it's always the time to be on the right side of history"

*thanks to dr. pants for the video. and when i say "dr." i mean it in the most literal sense...as for the "pants" part i can't for the life of me remember where that came from*

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Costa Rica


Costa Rica is a beautiful country with tons, seriously tons to do and see. The only bad thing is all these things aren't close to each other. There is a lot of travel time in-between and roads aren’t great so it makes for curvy, bumpy and long drives in squeaky vans.

To do Costa Rica properly you need at least a full 7-10 days if not more. We crammed in as much as we could over the 4 day weekend which maybe wasn’t the smartest thing in the world.

We came in late on Friday night so we stayed in San Jose. As a side note, can I just tell you that the Hampton Inn, yeah, I said it, Hampton Inn was a real treat. I used to stay in them when I traveled for work and I had forgotten how nice it is just to have a basic hotel that’s super clean, a staff that is super friendly and a breakfast with the things I like to eat for breakfast. If you’re traveling domestically and need a good place to rest your head you can’t beat it.

Anyway, Thursday we headed out to Arenal to see the volcano. After about 3 ½ hours of driving we reached the city and were lucky enough to grab a few glimpses of the volcano before the clouds came rolling in. Apparently it hadn’t erupted in 3 weeks but it wouldn’t have matter. That night it poured and poured and we couldn’t see 2 feet in front of us much less the volcano.




The next morning we made our way to Monteverde. First you take a boat ride across Arenal Lake and then another long ride through the winding roads. Our hotel there was nestled in a lush setting and was a welcome sight after fighting the motion sickness.

Just as we were getting ready to walk out the door to our zip lining trip I went to wash my hands. It was then that I noticed a horrible rash covering them. Needless to say we had to skip the trip so I could take a Benadryl and wait to see if whatever it was spread and I needed to go to the doctor. (Update- been to Dr. and thankfully I don’t have jungle rot or leprosy- just some weird reaction to citrus fruit and the sun- yeah, I don’t know, but he seemed pretty sure and it is starting to fade.)

We got back on track that night with an evening forest tour. It wasn’t as creepy as I had thought it would be although the mating tarantulas did make my skin crawl.



We were up early the next day for our tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest tour. It was really great. We got to see some animals, birds and it was just nice being out in the fresh air.




It is a much cooler climate there so we got to enjoy a reprieve from the San Juan sun and heat. I think my favorite was the hummingbird sanctuary at the end. Hundreds of them feasting on sugar water. It was a lot of fun trying to capture them with the camera. The pics that are there are just a few of hundreds I had to take to get them.




Later that afternoon we went out to a small co-op coffee plantation which was very interesting. I’m not sure who is getting screwed more, the growers who get paid $5 for a box that contains like 10lbs or us, the consumers, who pay $20 for 1lb of organic coffee.




The owner of the plantation was very sweet and hospitable though and I’m glad we took the tour because it means more money for his family.

We enjoyed dinner at our quaint little hotel that night and headed off early the next morning for the ride back to San Jose.

It was another whirlwind weekend with too much to do in too little time. This weekend we’re headed to the Dominican. We’re skipping the beaches and staying in the city to get a little history and maybe a rocking chair…apparently they’re famous for them. What’s a few more kilos in the luggage at this point?

visitors!!


We had a great time having E & K in town with us. Even if they were Typhoid Mary 1 & 2 and brought us the plague and they couldn’t keep their eyes open for one stinking picture ;) Seriously, not one with both of you keeping your eyes open. I know two girls who need to ask Santa for some sunglasses.






We hadn't been to all the historical sites in San Juan in many years so it was nice to see them again on such a beautiful day.

It’s funny how much we just miss having our friends around to just grab a meal with. As much as I am on Facebook, Skype and Gmail Chat trying to stay in everyone's day to day lives, there is nothing like yapping the night away over a pitcher of sangria.

We feel really blessed to have had so many visitors this year. As much as we are disappointed to be in Atlanta next round we really are excited to catch up with everyone. It will be so nice to regroup and reconnect with our loved ones.
I’m just really grateful we have so many people in our lives that make coming home so worth it.

Thanks again E & K for making the trip down. I wish we would have had more time but hey, now we’ll have 12 weeks to make up for it! Love you guys!