Monthly Archives: March 2015

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon and Chasing the Northern Lights

One place we had read quite a bit about before heading to Iceland is the infamous Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon. Located on the southeastern coast of Iceland (the edge of Vatnajokull National Park), this glacial lagoon is the gateway between a gigantic glacier, Breiðamerkurjökull, and the Atlantic Ocean. All day (and night!), chunks of glacier ranging from tiny baseball-sized pieces up to car and even house-sized chunks of ice break off of the head of Breiðamerkurjökull and make their way through Jokulsarlon and on out to the Atlantic Ocean. Some of these ice chunks are carried out to the deep Ocean, while others just wash up on beach (right across the road from Jokulsarlon). Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon is known as a large tourist location because of its gorgeous lighting, peaceful surroundings, and varied textures and patterns. If you’re driving from Reykjavik, here are the directions:


When we arrived at Jokulsarlon, there were quite a few tourists hanging around taking photos…so we grabbed our gear, made our way over, and just started snapping photos. The day was absolutely gorgeous… freezing but blue skies and a bright sun. The reflections of rays of sunlight on the ice chunks was indescribable.

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Jokulsarlon Lagoon

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Glacial Chunks

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Ice chunks of all shapes and sizes

 

We spent perhaps 2 hours taking photos. We captured the sunset right over the nearby hill with the lagoon in front. There were a multitude of photographers lined up with their tripods, not even paying attention to the sunset… clearly they come here often. They had their cameras set to take photos every few seconds for maximum effect. Honestly, I hope I never get to a point where I take something like Jokulsarlon for granted… to the point where my camera is just snapping photos. It was just too gorgeous and I probably wouldn’t even have moved if Andrew hadn’t suggested warming up a bit before coming back out.

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Jokulsarlon is just gorgeous

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A sea otter enjoying the water

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Great textures

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Mesmerizing, isn’t it?

 

We bought some hot chocolate in the little stand that was jus closing for the day. We sat in our car and warmed up a bit before we decided that we would try to move a bit down the road to look for another spot where we could set up shop and hopefully catch the Northern Lights. At this point in the trip, we had seen them a handful of times, but we hadn’t spent a solid night sitting out in nature and darkness watching… so we pulled down the road a few hundred feet. There were pull offs every so often and we selected one and pulled in. The parking area backed up against a hill and we hoped on the other side, we would see the lagoon. We ran up and scouted it out and to our happy surprise, you could actually hike down the other side of the hill to a small stone beach right on the shores of the glacial lagoon. A perfect little nook where no one else was yet set-up. Away from the main parking area of the lagoon, away from the cars, away from the talking… just the glacier, the lagoon, the sky, the mountains, and us. Perfect.

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A beautiful sunset

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Jokulsarlon at sunset

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View from our little beach

 

We grabbed a little disposable grill that we picked up in one of the towns we drove through, along with our little cooking bowls, some ramen, some bread, some cheese, some beer and Brennavin, our sleeping bags, our tripods, and our cameras. We bundled up a bit more with gloves and hats and sweatshirts and then made our way up, over the hill, and back down the other side to our secluded mini beach. Over the next hour, we laid a sleeping bag out to sit on and used the other as a blanket. We set up our tripods and cameras and adjusted the settings. We cooked ramen and grilled cheese on a tiny grill, and we reveled in how perfect the night was…

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Andrew setting up camp

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This is my dream

 

A little while later, we noticed something in a faded green color that started to dance across the sky. There they were; the Northern Lights. So unique and completely mesmerizing. They were perfectly imperfect. We snapped 100s of photos of the Northern Lights, the glowing red of Bardarbunga, the volcano erupting at that time in Iceland, and the stars. So many stars. Living in DC, we don’t get a lot of chances to watch the stars. Sure, we still see some here and there, but it’s nothing like being out in the middle of nowhere. We took as many pictures as we could and just soaked up the sights and sounds. It was absolutely beautiful and the perfect night.

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The Northern lights, Bardarbunga (red glow of an active volcano), and the stars

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So many stars

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Dancing lights across the sky

 

When we eventually grew too cold to stay on our little beach, we packed up and head back up to our car, where we unloaded, crawled into our sleeping bags, and immediately fell asleep. What a perfect day! If you have the time, make sure you get out to Jokulsarlon. It is definitely worth the drive. There is no cost to “enter” and take pictures. They do run boat tours if you are interested in going out into the middle of the lagoon, but honestly it’s not necessary. There are a ton of vantage points to take pictures from or to just sit back and relax. I highly recommend that you venture beyond the main parking lot. Hike on up one of the hills and down the other side; you will be all alone and so happy that you did it!

The view from our secluded beach

The view from our secluded beach

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Categories: Iceland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Singapore Wet Markets

Singapore is a fantastic place to visit. On one of our trips to Indonesia, we decided to hop on over to Singapore for the weekend and we are so glad we did! We jam-packed our two days there, viewing architecture, trying out local open air food joints (hawker markets), enjoying the green plants that are growing into the buildings’ sides and roofs, and of course, exploring the wet markets. But first, per the usual set-up, here’s the map showing the trip from Jakarta to Singapore:

Getting to Singapore is pretty easy– a short flight from Jakarta. Although, depending on what airline you take, you may end up in departing from the domestic gates instead of the international gates– just make sure you check! More on that in a different post. For now… wet markets!

Wet markets are more or less large grocery markets… indoor famers markets. But on crack. They have everything from produce to fish to meat to eggs to dried goods to more exotic species, depending on the market. In Singapore, there are a multitude of these wet markets. A simple Google search for Singapore Wet Markets will give you tons of results. You can find articles talking about the best 5, the top 10, the one to visit, etc. We chose two based on proximity to our hotel and also a few articles that I had researched talked about two in particular: the Tekka Wet Market and the Chinatown Wet Market. These two markets are large, carry a wide range of products, and have decent hours. The Tekka Wet Market is located in Tekka Center and is known as one of the best culturally diverse markets. It is also the largest wet market in Singapore with more than 280 stalls. In addition, it has restaurants, so you can do everything in one place. Finally, it is a great market because it has hours into the afternoon (most wet markets are only open earlier in the day). Here it is on a map:

The Chinatown Wet Market, as the name implies, is located in Chinatown. It is also a central location. It is know for its more exotic items. You can find this market in the Chinatown Complex. It also has a Hawker Market, or an area of local cheap eats. This market is open only until noon and if you are looking for something in particular, you should arrive early for the best selection. Here it is on a map:

 

Because we were only in town for the weekend and staying in a hotel room (no kitchen) and the fact that I really don’t like seafood at all, we didn’t purchase anything big at the markets. We stuck to spices and ended up meeting a great guy (Anthony) who makes his own spice blends and ships them all over the world. Something we learned about Indonesia food on this trip was their use of candlenuts in curries. We found out that this toasted candlenut is what gives Indo food a lot of its unique flavor. We also made sure to purchase a LOT of spices from Anthony.

Anthony the Spice Guy

Anthony the Spice Guy

So, what can you find at these markets besides spices? All sorts of things!!

Like, Vegetables and Fruits:

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Fresh Vegetables and Greens

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Tropical Fruits

 

Eggs and Dried Goods (fish, mushrooms, peppers, shrimp and tofu crackers, etc)

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More eggs than you can dream of!

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Dried goods: fish, mushrooms, chips

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Peppers, crackers, spices, dried whole and ground

 

Fish! Sharks, tuna, cuttlefish, and all sorts of seafood that you have never seen or heard of!

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Fresh Fish!

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Squid

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Big Fish: Whole or Chopped Up

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Anything you want: Big or little, whole, or chopped

 

And of course, the meats and more exotics- frogs, eels, and even turtles!

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Live turtles

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Live frogs

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Live eels

 

You can find all sorts of items in these markets. Also, they’re used to tourists and I promise you won’t be the only one there. There are lots of people walking around and snapping photos, just remember that people are actually grocery shopping here as well- so mind your manners and try not to get in the way. Also, we found that some stall owners did not want us to take photos- these places tended to put up signs saying as much, but it always pays to ask if you can take some photos before you just start snapping. It may seem really crazy (and a little creepy!) to see literally hundreds of live frogs in cages for sale, but remember that every culture is different. Show some respect and you’ll be just fine.

I would recommend wearing closed toe shoes– they will rinse down the floors and the “wastewater” can appear less than appetizing at times (remember they’re cutting up fish on the spot!) Also, note that you can get to these markets either by walking or taxi or of course, by taking the public transportation. Singapore public transportation is amazing and highly suggest taking advantage of it! The Singapore Rail (MRT) provides extensive coverage of Singapore!

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Precision

 

 

 

 

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Tanjung Puting National Park: Borneo, Indonesia

One of the last times we went to Indonesia, we took the opportunity to travel over to Kalimantan (north of Java) to visit Tanjung Puting National Park. First, here’s the flight path we took from Jakarta to Pangkalanbuun Iskandar:

I’ll reserve another post to talk about flying over to Kalimantan. It was an experience in itself that involved walking down a highway outside of Jakarta, getting a free taxi ride, and a tiny airplane. 🙂

Tanjung Puting National Park. The park was originally designated as a game reserve in 1935. It wasn’t until 1982 when the national park was established and even since then it has had questionable protection mostly due to Palm Oil plantation in the surrounding lands (deforested areas). Nonetheless, it does remain wild and natural. The park consists of over 1100 square miles of area including the rivers that weave their way through the park before flowing into the Java Sea. Tanjung Puting is filled to the brim with wildlife, including multiple species of monkeys, gators, and a multitude of birds. It is most well known, however, for its Orangutans, made famous by a rehabilitation center at Camp Leakey. The orangutans, displaced mostly by the palm oil expansion (through deforestation), are nursed back to health and taught how to function as wild Orangs, before they are gradually re-released into the wild.

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Wildlife of Tanjung Puting

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Wildlife of Tanjung Puting

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Wildlife of Tanjung Puting

 

When you go to visit Tanjung Puting, you need to have a hired guide. This guide typically includes a boat (the only real way to explore the park). There are a multitude of services online that offer tours of the park for varying lengths of time. I must have spent weeks/months scouring through different tour services that sort of seemed sketchy or seemed really sketchy. After a multitude of emails back and forth with different options, I finally gave in and just booked with a company that would allow us to do a 2n/3d trip into the park. We were set to meet them at the airport and go from there.

Our boat was a traditional Indonesian boat similar to the boat we took in Flores to Komodo National Park, just a bit bigger. Our “area” was the top floor of the boat where there was a bed and mosquito net, a table with chairs, and some lounge chairs out on the deck. The bathroom was a flush toilet on the first floor– where the contents are flushed to is another story and a another mystery for another day. We met our crew and spoke with the tour operator- a woman and her husband run the business. Our tour guide for the trip was a young guy, maybe 18. He showed us around helped us get comfortable.

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Welcome Sign: Tanjung Puting

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Tanjung Puting National Park

 

For the next 3 days, we were immersed in the park and all it had to offer. Our tour guide talked to us about the difficulties of finding jobs in the local economy; trying to choose between acting as a tour guide in the part (few jobs) versus perhaps getting a better paying job in one of the palm oil plantations that were encroaching on the park. Our tour guide’s family was in the Orangutan business, so our tour guide was too. He worked at Camp Leakey, rehabilitating Orangs… bottle feeding them, rocking them, teaching them to look for food, and eventually helping to release them into the forest. Once Orangs are released, they work their way from platform station to platform station… working their way deeper into the forest.

We spent our days traveling to three platforms. The boat would dock and we would hike into the woods where some make-shift wooden benches were set-up for viewers. There were quite a few boats out on the river during our time in the park, but we never felt crowded. We were in our little oasis, taking pictures of monkeys and trees and birds. The forest was HOT. We were sweaty after only short hikes out to the platforms. We waited with baited breath while the park rangers brought out bananas and coconuts and called for the Orangs. As a part of the rehabilitation process, the Orangs are given varying amounts of food to help supplement their normal wild foraging. We held our breaths while Orang after Orang- moms, babies, and dads came out of nowhere. They walked right next to us, they swung from branches and limbs, they climbed trees, they sat on the platforms, and they ate. It was awesome!

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Male Orangutan

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Drinking some coconut milk

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Kissy Faces

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Just hanging out

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Nom Nom Nom

 

After each platform feeding time, we made our way back to our boat where our cook and guide set out cold drinks and snacks to re-energize us. We ate our meals in the wilds of Tanjung Puting National Park, on a small boat, surrounded by wildlife. At night, the boat was tied up anywhere along the river– wherever there was a spot and a tree to tie up to… we watched the stars and reflected on how fortunate we were to be able to be in that moment. We slept on the little mattress on the top deck, covered in a mosquito net, but open air. It was hot and we sweat through the night but it was so so worth it. If you ever get the chance, you should go. Just go and see what the big deal is… it changes your life.

When we eventually left the national park, three days later, we were in awe. We had seen and experienced so much. We reminisced about the previous day, when we had a Orang walk right past us on the trail. Then, when we were getting back on the boat, we snapped photo after photo of Orangs hanging on the docs and one Orang in particular that seemed to be playing with one of our crew. The Indonesian word for Orangutan is pronounced- “Oh-wrong-hoo-tahn” which means people of the forest. Indeed they are, indeed they are…

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Monkey in Tanjung Puting

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Monkey Species #2 in Tanjung Puting

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Monkey species #3 with baby

 

I remember reading Trip Advisor reviews of trips into the park much later, after we had returned to the states. I laughed and shook my head at people who left reviews like, “well the wine selection was mediocre at best on our boat”… honestly, if you are traveling to Tanjung Puting and your concern and thoughts are based on the wine selection, do me a favor, and don’t go. Stay at home, go out for an expensive bottle of wine in some stupid fancy restaurant. Leave the wilds of Indonesia and the graces of Orangutans to the people seeking adventure, to become one with nature, to be present in the wilds of the national park, and to experience Orangutans for what they are- people of the forest. A trip to Tanjung Puting National Park will change your life. You will understand just how small you are in this huge, huge world. It is a place for contemplation, reflection, and appreciation. If you are a wild one at heart, then please, please go to Tanjung Puting National Park. Go, experience the world and the pure awesomeness that the park emanates. If you want wine and creature comforts, stay at home, read this blog post, and take a look at the pictures of the Orangs. You have no place in the wild.

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Just two buddies hanging out in a tree

 

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Final Day in Belize: January 2, 2014

Today is our last full day in Belize. Ugh. In my experience, near the end of the trip, there is one of two ways you can feel: 1) you get excited to go home and resume life after rest and relaxation… then there’s how I feel: depressed. Seriously. I get so sad and even angry that the trip is over. Where did the time go? Why is this happening to me? Don’t the vacation gods get it? I need to be here more than I need oxygen. Dramatic, I know, but it’s sort of true. I love traveling. I love the feeling of being somewhere new and unexpected. I love meeting new people and hanging out with old friends. I like waiting up for the sun and I love chasing the last rays at sunset. If I could get paid to live out of my suitcase, I totally would… no questions asked. The only thing that gets me through the last day of a vacation is thinking about my next vacation. Crazy, I know. Maybe I’m just wired a bit differently!

So back to Belize. We woke up and of course, started our final day with a morning snorkel. Once again we saw lobsters and stingrays, fish, and eels. The current was really rough this morning- almost as if it didn’t want us to leave either! Breakfast was scrambled eggs, grapefruit, refried beans, butt bacon, orange juice, coffee, and johnny cakes. After breakfast, we worked on our puzzle of Italy. Someday, I’ll go to Italy. Yeah, that’s a nice thing to picture.

A look out to the boat dock from Dangriga

A look out to the boat dock from Dangriga

Most of our group was headed back to the good old U.S. of A. today so they jumped on the morning boat at 10:30AM. We took a bunch of group photos and said our goodbyes (secretly very happy that we had a few more hours on South Water Caye)! We relaxed, packed up, and took one last dip before we caught our 3:30PM boat back to Dangriga, where we would be staying for the night in the Pelican Resort’s sister resort again (we stayed there on our first night as well). On the boat trip back, we took a pit stop at Man-of-War Caye, affectionately known by locals as, Bird Island. It was absolutely covered in frigate birds and yellow-footed boobies. They seem to have worked themselves into a symbiotic relationship and there are no other birds on the island.

Dangriga coastline

Dangriga coastline

We arrived back in Dangriga and placed our bags in our room. We walked into the main square of Dangriga where there was a playground, brightly painted, and a few people around doing some work on the road. We picked up some Belizean hot sauce and rum and then headed back to Pelican Beach. We finished off the evening with dinner at the resort’s restaurant. I opted for spiced curry chicken with vegetables and coconut rice. For dessert, we all split some lemon meringue pie and a passionfruit milkshake. We spent a few hours just talking and drinking beers before we eventually headed to bed for the our final sleep in Belize.

Road construction in Dangriga

Road construction in Dangriga

Dangriga playground

Dangriga playground

This trip was fantastic. When we first heard about the trip/were invited on the trip by Andrew’s parents, we were absolutely ecstatic! I knew it was going to be different going in– because, 1) we were traveling internationally with family and I’ve only traveled internationally with friends and 2) we were going to be on a tiny island for the duration of the trip. To be honest, I was a bit worried that I’d get bored being in once place for so long…. like I’ve said before, I’m not a big “sit on the beach doing nothing” person. But this trip was exactly what I needed– relaxing, no pressure, no requirements, no expectations, and no decisions. Just good friends (and family!), good food, cold beverages, water, and warmth. It was perfect.

Plant closeup.

Plant closeup.

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Arnarfjordur Pool and Hot Spring: Westfjords, Iceland

So far, I’ve posted about two other hot springs and pools in Iceland. One in Snaefellsnes and one in the Southeastern Westfjords. Today’s post is about a pool and hot spring in the southwest Westfjords region. We happened upon it completely by accident. We were simply making our way from Snaefellsnes peninsula, up and around the Westfjords before moving on into central Iceland. The Westfjords are simply gorgeous. never ending coastline and deep curves of land with rivers and tributaries and deltas. It’s a water-person’s dream. I took so many pictures! Anyway, towards the beginning of our journey around the Westfjords, we hit a bend in the road with water to our left and a few small buildings to our right; imagine our delight when we saw a big swimming pool right next to the road. We just had to pull in and check it out!

Arnarfjord Pool

Arnarfjord Pool

Once we learned that it was a free public swimming pool all was right in the world. It may have looked slightly algae-covered, but it was naturally heated and looked so relaxing. Plus, the sign noted that there was a small natural hot spring up the bank a bit. This spring was what fed the pool, so naturally, the pool was cooler than the spring. Well, we just had to check out both spots and it was completely worth it! The pool and springs were completely free to use and there was a small building next to the pool to change and hang up your clothing. Although we were racing a setting sun and a driving destination for the day, we just could not pass up some time in some geothermal water. Nothing better to relieve aches and pains!

What a fantastic place for a pool!

What a fantastic place for a pool!

Hot spring just up the hill from the pool

Hot spring just up the hill from the pool

As far as how to get here, to be honest, it took us about 30-40 minutes to figure out just where on the map it is when I was typing up this blog post. If you google pools in the Westfjords, one site states that this pool is located Reykjafjordur on the northeastern portion of the Westfjords. While it is located along “Reykjaforjdur”, if you simply type that location into Google Maps, you will be taken to the wrong location. This pool is actually in the southeastern portion of the Westfjords. The best way to find it is to set up directions to the following GPS points (65.623635, -23.473685). This will take you to a point about 100 yards up the street from these pools. Alternatively, you can use the location “Bildudalsvegur” and that should also get you very close to the pools.  Additionally, it’s worth noting that although our experience with pool was swimming in a bit of algae, I have read a multitude of posts and have seen a ton of pictures of the pool algae-free. It could be that because we visited in the more off-season, upkeep on the pool was not at 100%, but either way, I just wanted to be honest. If you have some irrational fear of algae in pools, you may not like this one!

Below is a map with driving directions from Reykjavik. Per usual, I will again note the importance of getting out of Reykjavik to explore more of Iceland. Reykjavik is so awesome, but it is such a small part of Iceland. Rent a car!

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South Water Caye, Belize: Jan. 1 2014

We snorkeled before breakfast. Is there honestly any better way to start off a new year? I think not. So, we hopped into our suits right at sunrise and got in the water. It was a great morning of snorkeling, full of purple mouthed eels, squirrel fish, some weird-looking dragon fish, and a bunch of coral. It was a choppy and overcast morning, but it was just perfect.

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Andrew and Barbara walking around the island

Breakfast consisted of eggs, beans, fried jacks, apples, and ham with mango chutney. Strange mix I know. This was our final night on South Water Caye. Talk about sad. Our house was booked tonight, so we packed up our bags and moved into a room above the main house/kitchen area. We did some more snorkeling and swimming off the beach before lunch; a lot more eels… and crabs…and LOBSTERS! They’re so creepy and big and they just stare at you. But I digress… we ate our lunch of pasta salad with shrimp, rolls, and coconut empanadas (along with tropical juice) and then we got ready for our final off-island excursion: manatee hunt!!

The bar and restaurant

The bar and restaurant

I love manatees. At the time we went searching for them in Belize, I had never seen one in person before (well in the wild). I’ve read about them, looked at pictures of them, watched videos of them, and even wrote a few reports on them back in the day…but I never saw one. So, imagine my insane excitement to go Manatee searching in Belize!! The only problem was… we didn’t see a. single. manatee. I was a little heartbroken, but I told myself it just wasn’t the time. Truth be hold, we were looking for them during a time of year when they aren’t frequently in those waters. After the lack of manatees, we took the boat over to Tobacco Caye, an island a bit larger than South Water. We walked around for a bit which was nice- and we also saw a GIANT manta ray and a spotted eagle ray swimming right by the boat dock. Tobacco Caye was a lot more populated than South Water. There were a bunch of families living there, as well as some hotels/resorts. We only spent about 20 minutes there- just stretching the legs.

Hammocks!

Hammocks!

After stopping off at Tobacco Caye, we went snorkeling at a really cool spot where we saw electric rays, squirrel fish, lion fish, and cuddle fish. The snorkeling was relaxing and exciting and just perfect. We arrived back at South Water Caye, where we headed up to the puzzle room and worked to finish up our 3rd? 4th puzzle of the trip? This puzzle was of Italy. We enjoyed some Pina Coladas, Beliken Beers, and Island Sunsets. Dinner was spicy onion soup, stuffing, rice and beans, pineapple-cabbage slaw, turkey with cranberry sauce, and chocolate rum cake.

We spent the evening with cold drinks chatting with the crew about tv shows and all sorts of other mindless things. Our boat off of South Water Caye leaves tomorrow at 3:00PM. I’m bummed. I’m usually not the type of person that can stay in one place for very long but I just have to say… disconnecting- utterly and completely, is just so nice. I think I’m going to make a point of having 1 day a month without any technology. Just me and the outdoors… and maybe Andrew and the pups. Just 1 full day of utter relaxation and serenity. Yes, that sounds just wonderful.

Belize- I could get used to you!

Kayaks on the island

Kayaks on the island

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New Year’s Eve 2013: South Water Caye

Ah New Year’s Eve. It’s a great time of year, don’t you think? You get the chance to revisit the previous year and think about everything you did… and didn’t do. You get to hit the reset button and think about everything that will be done differently in the coming year. You make big plans. Yes, this year will be MY year. You’ll get to work early, you’ll exercise more, you’ll eat less this and more that, you won’t be negative, you won’t let the dishes pile up, you’ll get up the courage to ask that guy or gal out, you’ll look so fabulous that your pesky ex or that guy/gal that rejected you will look at you and think, “damn, what was I thinking…”. I mean, let’s get serious here for minute– everyone has that thought at some point in their life, guy or girl. Yes, 2014 will be my year to shine.

The funny thing is though… when you try to think about the previous year, it all melds together. I mean, here I am, in February 2015, writing up this post and I am having a tough time remembering 2014. Don’t get me wrong, 2014 was an awesome year… it’s just that the things I focus on to reset for the New Year seem so important when I make them… and then life happens and the relative “unimportantness” (yes I made up that word) of those resolutions shines. Perhaps my problem is that I am making the *wrong New Year’s resolutions. The things I remember from 2014? The trips I took, the people I met, the conversations I had, and the beers I discovered: eating lunch at Pike’s Place Market with my state coworkers at an annual meeting, drinking beers at a local DC brewpub with Andrew’s brother, sister-in-law, and our friends, hiking at Hetch-Hetchy Dam, picking up our new dog, Winston, from the shelter, taking a boat into a National Park in Indonesia to see Orangutans, drinking a beer at a crazy Robot Show in Tokyo, sneaking photos in an open air market in Singapore, taking a swig of bourbon from a flask that my fellow classmate snuck into the graduation ceremony, going to an “authentic” Russian meal in Alaska, teaching the drinking game, asshole, to a 60-year old man who wandered down to our cabin where we were staying with the Cornell crew one weekend, dancing with coworkers in Dallas after our meeting let out for the day, hiking to a natural hot spring in Iceland, exploring new brewpubs and collecting pint glasses, spending Thanksgiving with my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew at my parents’ house, and of course, spending New Year’s at the beach where Andrew proposed (technically New Year’s Day 2015).

I don’t, however, remember what I ate and did not eat. I don’t remember how many times I exercised. I don’t remember how often (if ever!) I got to work early. I don’t remember how many days I didn’t have a “negative” thought. I can’t tell you how many times Andrew and I did the dishes or let them pile up. I can’t tell you how many “dates” Andrew and I went on. I can’t even tell you if I kept a single one of my 2014 resolutions and you know why? Because I was busy living and that to me is more important than any superficial rule I made up on December 31, 2013. Live for the moment and don’t take life too seriously. No one gets out alive.

But back to South Water Caye! Wow that was me on my soap box. December 31, 2013 was a day for relaxation. I woke up and took some great sunrise photos on the beach with Tim and Barbara (for some reason, I can’t actually locate these sunrise photos)! Andrew and I went snorkeling again and saw a yellow stingray, green and yellow eels, and a ton of fish and lobsters. For breakfast, we ate fried beans, scrambled eggs, hot sauce, tortillas, soursop juice, orange slices, and sausage links. We also had fresh coconuts!!!!!

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A beautiful beach day

 

After breakfast, we worked on a Pink Floyd Album cover puzzle. We did not finish by lunch and that was just fine. We drank beers and piña coladas. We ate island paradise pizza (ground beef, tomato, onion, pepper, cheese, and pepperoni), banana muffins, and watermelon. After lunch, we did finish the puzzle. Then we went snorkeling again, further around the island a bit to switch it up. We saw more rays, lobsters, big schools of fish, these tiny silver fish that followed your every move, gigantic starfish, giant crabs, hermit crabs, conchs, purple lion fish, and sea cucumbers. It was the perfect day.

Pelican enjoying the island life

Pelican enjoying the island life

Pretty trees on the beach

Pretty trees on the beach

We showered and ate dinner: pineapple, breaded eggplant, jalapeño corn salad, macaroni pasta with tomato, conch stir fry, sweet potato pone, and coconut. After dinner, the tables were cleared and the party began! There were Belizean drummers, dancers, and singers. We did shots of 1 Barrel Rum. We drink Belikan Beer, we drank Mayfair dandy gin, and we even had some rum that Sarah and Stuart brought from the mainland. We danced and we sang and we talked about traveling and life. We lived in the moment. It was the perfect New Year’s!

coconuts

There’s nothing in the world that can’t be made better with some coconuts

 

Until next time. Live your life.

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South Water Caye, Belize: December 30th

Is it 5:30AM? I honestly have no idea. The sun isn’t up yet but I feel fantastic. I love having no clue what time it is here in Belize. There’s just something so wonderful about being completely disconnected from technology and the fast pace of Washington, DC. On island time, there are no politics (except when Andrew’s dad brings them up- haha), no worries, no agendas, no rules, and no crises that can’t be solved with a cold beer and a snorkel. I walked down on the beach and took some pictures of the retreating rain clouds. I met a woman and her child (from Germany!) who told me that the previous morning they saw a large Ray. I’ll have to be on the lookout for it!

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dec30

Retreating Rain Clouds

 

Returning to our cabin, Andrew was awake and we quickly jumped at the chance to get in the water and snorkel before breakfast. It was completely worth the early morning push! We saw Lion Fish, Spotted Eagle Rays, a Green Moray Eel, a Goldentail Moray Eel, and a ton of other fish. We went in our suits to breakfast just because we could and we met up with the others for a delicious meal of: scrambled eggs, fried beans, mixed fruit (papaya, watermelon, and cantaloupe), a dense homemade creole bread, and hibiscus juice.

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Sun shining through the clouds

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Palm patterns

 

After breakfast, we relaxed and put together a puzzle of frogs. We took a swim and then ate lunch (I know it seems like we eat a lot…) before heading out on an snorkel excursion a little further out, where we saw a ton of fish and a bunch of lion fish. They are apparently invasive species so there are a lot around. The water was a beautiful turquoise color and the temperature was perfect. If I could, I’d stay in the water all day and all night! Lunch was beef enchiladas, powder buns, pineapple, and hibiscus juice. We also tried out our first Belizean hot sauce (Beware).

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Owen enjoying the water

dec30_water_morning

The water by our house

 

We spent the afternoon drinking piña coladas and beer, swimming, lounging, showering, and reading in hammocks. Just delightful. I forgot what it was like to just slow down. Around sunset, we made sure to place ourselves on the beach so we could take some photos of the bright oranges, reds, yellows, and pinks that stretched on forever. It was like a painting out of some expensive coffee table book. I wouldn’t have believed the colors if I hadn’t been there to see it for myself.

dec30treeswatertexture

Beautiful textures

 

For dinner, we had coconut rice, herbed fish, a potato-esque salad called, “cho cho”, and bread pudding with rum sauce. After dinner, we retreated to our cabin and brainstormed our resolutions and goals for 2014. *Side note- we didn’t actually end up doing everything we had planned in 2014… but it was a great year, nonetheless* :0)

Until tomorrow!

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A kayaker enjoying the setting sun

dec30sunsetpalm

I just can’t get enough of those palms!

 

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