27 June 2011

destination: panama

A few weekends ago, I took a quick trip to Panama. I figured it's so close that it would be a wasted opportunity if I didn't go at least once! After school got out on Friday, I took the school bus home, caught a cab there, and then took the public bus to Puerto Viejo to spend the night before catching the shuttle to Panama on Saturday morning. I got to the bus station just in time, but I had to sit on the floor for almost the entire 4 1/2-trip because there were no seats left!

On Saturday morning, I caught the shuttle, which took us to the bridge at the border of Costa Rica and Panama. After going through immigration, we walked across the bridge to get into Panama. It was a bit...rickety, to say the least.
Can you believe that tractor-trailers and buses drive across this bridge?!

After going through immigration and customs in Panama, we caught a taxi.
Nice rims!

And from there, we caught a water taxi to take us to the islands of Bocas del Toro.
These houses on stilts were so interesting to me

We made it!
Check out the amazingly clear water

I had heard that the snorkeling in wonderful in Bocas del Toro, so I took another water taxi, followed by a truck, to Red Frog Beach on the island of Boquete to see for myself. Unfortunately, I didn't really know where exactly to go, but it was fun, anyway!
Aerial view of Red Frog Beach (not my photo)

Relaxing on the sand (also not my photo)

When I entered the beach, I was greeted by boys holding these tiny frogs. I've been wanting to see poisonous frogs since I got to Costa Rica, so I finally had my chance!

Saturday night, my hostel roommate and I went out dancing on the main island, Isla Colon. We found Barco Hundido, a really cool bar that is built out over the water, above a sunken ship.
The ship is in that hole!

Sunday morning, I had to head back to Costa Rica.
Waiting for the water taxi

Mountains in the distance


Riding back to the mainland

More houses on stilts

It was such a fast trip, but it was such a fun and beautiful place to spend a weekend. I'll have to go back some day!

Images found here and here.

24 June 2011

los angeles wedding

After visiting San Diego, I headed back to Los Angeles to be maid of honor in S.R.'s wedding! All of the bridesmaids arrived a few days early, and it was a wonderful week full of catching up and celebration.

S.R. (in the middle) with all of the bridesmaids, heading out for the bachelorette party, a day of wine tasting

Helping S.R. put on her crown and veil for the day

College roommates! We lived together for our three years at Cornell (we both transferred in for our sophomore year). So many good times...some rough times, too...but everything is always better with good friends!

The gorgeous view from Pepperdine's campus. Love that flag waving in the background, ha!

At our first winery...called Cornell! Many of us went to Cornell, so it was very appropriate. According to the lady who served us, there was actually a connection between the university and this town long ago.

My favorite picture from the day

All of the redheads with S.R.'s new "Redheads Are the Hottest...Cooks" cookbook, sold at our third winery. My hair is not super red anymore, but it used to be (it was totally natural, btw...just want to put that out there), but S.R. still considers me a redhead. After the wine tour, we went to some bars near S.R.'s house and then back to her house for a BBQ with a bunch of the couple's friends (both of these parts were a surprise for S.R.)

Arriving for the wedding rehearsal at The Victorian

S.R. is an amazing cellist (I mean seriously...she even did a master class with Yo Yo Ma when we were in college!), and she played this piece at the rehearsal dinner in memory of family members who had passed away and were not able to attend.

The happy couple

The day before the wedding, we went to Trader Joe's to buy flowers to make all of the arrangements. On Saturday morning, we went to town, making the centerpieces, the bridesmaids' bouquets, the boutonnieres, the corsages, and even the bridal bouquet! They turned out really well, and it was much cheaper than buying them from a florist.

Bridesmaids' bouquets

S.R. after getting her hair and makeup done

Getting into the dress

So lovely!

Almost time!

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of S.R. (now S.P.!) from the wedding, because I was too busy to take many photos! My reading during the ceremony and my toast during the reception went well, thank goodness. It was a beautiful wedding, and it was so fun to have everyone there early so we could have more time to celebrate and get ready for the wedding! Congratulations to S.P. and S.P.!

21 June 2011

california, here we come

At the end of May, I traveled to Los Angeles for the wedding of S.R., one of my best friends from high school. I was there for a little over a week, so I also had time to drive down to San Diego to hang out with S.K., a friend from teaching in Texas, and her husband. The last time I saw them was at their wedding last July (the day before I moved to Costa Rica!), so it was great to see them again!

Here are some highlights from San Diego:

Happy after a trip to In 'n' Out...I had always wanted to go there!

Visiting the sea lions

And the seals

There was a big hubbub on this beach...apparently, some people are mad that the beach has been closed off to humans, so they were having a demonstration, which you can see in the background of this pic.
I loved these flowers!

Going through a tunnel to get closer to the ocean

Looking for tidal pools and dodging the waves that were coming up

I also hopped over to Coronado, which is very close to San Diego, to see my mom's best friend, M.T. for a few hours. They grew up together in North Carolina, and I hadn't seen her for about six years.

What a great trip! Seeing old friends is always so much fun, and I loved visiting the San Diego area for the first time!

18 June 2011

machu picchu and back to reality

After waking up at 3 a.m. and waiting in the pouring rain for three hours, we boarded a bus to ride up to Machu Picchu. At the top, we waited in another line that turned into kind of a madhouse, but luckily, our guide was a pro and helped us get in to the gates in a timely fashion.

Our first view of the city through the mist!

Guardians of Machu Picchu

We were lucky enough to get some of the last tickets to climb Waynapicchu, the mountain that sticks up behind the city in the classic postcard photos of Machu Picchu. It looks super huge in the photos, but after all those high mountain passes over the previous few days, it wasn't that bad. These are some of the (very steep!) stairs leading to the top.

Crawling through a rock tunnel to reach the top. The Incas constructed this passage to represent spiritual re-birth.

Most of the group at the very top! We made it! I'm not going to lie, it was kinda tough at times, but I just sang Gypsy Kings jams in my head (I was inspired by the location), and that helped a lot. Also, everyone in my group (the trekkers and the guide) was so great and encouraging of everyone else.

I had to get proof that I was there

Don't get too close to the edge!

Machu Picchu from above

After we climbed down from Waynapicchu, it was much less misty

Postcard view...breathtaking, isn't it?! What amazes me most is that the Incas hauled these stones many miles to construct the city. I can't imagine the strength that must have taken!
(Btw, the rock/mountain sticking up in the background in Waynapicchu...there are also stone buildings on the top of that mountain!) Experts now think that Machu Picchu was a university where the smartest Incas studied agricultural techniques, rather than a religious center.

Cheesy, but you gotta

Some of the many, many terraces...apparently, this is where the magic (a.k.a. agricultural learning) happened

Wandering among the ruins

Still wandering

Reflecting on the trek...probably my favorite picture from Machu Picchu

Temple of the Three Widows

A while back, the president of Peru was trying to sell Machu Picchu to another country, and showed pictures of this part of Machu Picchu, saying that it was falling apart, and they would be lucky to get rid of it. It was not falling apart at all; rather, he just used the one broken part to convince the public to get on his side...what a liar/so scandalous.

Looking through many stone doorways

Last view of Machu Picchu

The trek was wonderful, but I couldn't stay there forever. After leaving Machu Picchu, I had another day in Cusco.
Narrow streets

Messages carved into the mountains. Our guide on the Sacred Valley tour told us that local schools have races in the mountains, and whichever school wins gets to carve their name and crest into the mountains.

Time to head home...flying over the Andes, back to Lima

Approaching Lima

While wandering around on Easter morning searching for a church service to attend, my hostel roommate and I found this group of older women doing Tai-Chi and aerobics routines. It seems that the Miraflores district of Lima is making a big push for fitness right now, as there were a bunch of other fitness-related events going on while we were there. Funny coincidence: when I was applying to international teaching positions last year, I interviewed with a school in Miraflores. It was interesting to see what Lima is like on this trip, and where I might have lived if things had turned out differently!

It was a whirlwind trip, but it was so wonderful! I'm so glad I had the opportunity to visit Peru and complete this trek, which I had been wanting to do for a while. Beyond visiting Machu Picchu and seeing some incredible scenery along the way, I ate some amazingly delicious food and met some really wonderful people. I would definitely recommend this trek to almost anyone...if you have any questions about it, let me know!