Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Nantahala National Park was absolutely gorgeous. Every which way you drive or turn, you have the opportunity to see a new waterfall. We were staying with our grandparents in their timeshare. Jon and I had spent all day driving from one waterfall to the next. At the end of our day trip of waterfalls, we went to see one last one, the tallest (or debatable to be the second tallest) east of the Mississippi River.
When we got back to my grandparent's, my grandpa informed me that he had met a man who graduated from Plattsburgh in 1951! We searched for him while we kayaked the next day and when we were around the area having dinner. We didn't see him, but I feel this goal was pretty much achieved through my grandpa. :)
For photos of NC and the waterfalls, click on the volume 3 photos to the right!
Monday, May 30, 2011
The wait for this trolley was long. Jon had on one of his old racing shirts. Back in 2009 or 2010, Jon had run an uphill race up Whiteface Mountain. The man behind us noticed Jon's shirt. It sparked a conversation between Jon, myself and our new friend Bernie. He shared absolutely amazing stories with us in line that we sat with him on the trolley. The trolley ride take approximately one hour to get to the various buildings and meanwhile, we're listening to the overhead story behind NASA. During our breaks, Bernie told us he was a recovering crack addict and is an iron man athlete. When he went into crack rehabilitation, he got addicted to something new. Iron Mans. This incredible man is sponsored, travels all over the world to do the iron man, and was in Houston to do the Iron Man himself. He's been clean for 11 years and he proposed to his wife after 3 years of being clean at t he end of one of his iron mans. He fell to the ground after finished and proposed!
At the end of the trolley ride, unbeknown to us he bought us a "memory photo" of Jon and I on the trolley car. We were so humbled and shocked. It seems small but those photos cost $30! Then, Bernie gave us his email. I thought Jon kept the paper, he thought I kept the paper. Well, neither of us can find it. So, Jon tried various emails that we thought it was and no response. The good news is that I just found him on facebook. I'm gonna friend Bernie. Thus, Jon achieves his 7th goal of "making one new friend that we keep in touch with after our trip! Jon wants to do iron mans in the future and Bernie is a great resource and I am confident would love to help!
For pictures of the space center, please click on Vol. 2 photos to the right!
Sunday, May 29, 2011
So, since I fell miserably behind on my blog. I am going to write stories of how we met the goals or reached an expectation. These stories won't necessarily be chronological. But, it will give insight as to our trip in general!
Sorry that this didn't worry out how I had hoped. It was too hard to write on the go.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Julie and Jimmy had separate plans for their day. Meanwhile, Jon and I had wanted to make both of our excursions to be related to Mayan history. To keep this in line, we went to the San Gervasio Mayan Ruins located on Cozumel. These ruins were barely impressive after having seen Chichen Itza the day before. The one thing to keep in mind is that the site still hasn’t been fully excavated yet. This means that we were only able to see part of what has been restored. Our tour guide was excellent and she provided us with the most interesting parts of the ruins which made up for a lack of physical awe.
Following the Mayan ruin tour, we were brought to a stunning beach, pleasantly remote and removed from the rest of the tourists. It’s water was blue, so blue that you can nearly see right through it. The sand was warm and soft and so pleasant. We relaxed on the beach, reading books, and occasionally hopping into the warm water!’
It was a quick excursion and before you know it, we are back on the boat. We met back up with Julie and Jimmy for lunch and to go on the waterslides that were available on the top deck of the boats. There’s something about being the only adults partaking in an event that is super fun!
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Our tour guide named Carlos took us the 2 hours to get there and informed us about the most unique things about the Maya and Mexico. Did you know the people that have Mayan blood still are born with a birth mark on their lower back of a bluish color? Over time, this birth mark begins to fade and become smaller, but that is how Mexicans can determine if someone has Mayan blood in them.
The Mayans were highly advanced for their time. There are several theories of where they originated from. Some believe they are from Egypt, from the lost city of Atlantis, and most probably that they are from an Asian descent.
Chichen Itza is only one, but possibly the most famous of all the lost civilizations of Maya. We don’t know as much as we should about them because when Catholics first came into contact with them, they burned most of their documents. It’s such a tragedy when you really think about it.
The most important archaeological site of the Maya civilization, it covers more than 3km squared. It was established in early to mid-fifth century AD. The most famous and important building there is the Pyramid of Kukulcan El Castillo (see bottom right picture). Surrounding this pyramid are many other ruins including the thousand columns (see bottom left pic).
I can’t really put into words how fascinating Chichen Itza truly is, so I’m just going to post pictures below so you can get an idea. By the way, links to all of the pictures of our roadtrip so far are in the right hand column. If you want to see more, check them out there!
Monday, April 25, 2011
We got to the embarkation process at exactly 12:30. This was not only my first cruise experience, but Jon’s as well. It took us nearly an hour to get through the airport-like security process and to obtain our “magic card”…the card that gets us into our room and all the drinks we could ever want.
Our first day out on sea was relaxing and sunny. Although I wasn’t entirely sure how I would like a cruise…and even though I’d been unemployed for nearly 3 weeks at this point, the relaxation was so needed. My mind had been overwhelmed with Japan and my friends, Peace Corps, and our future. I was actually able to let it all go on the Carnival Ecstasy…and I was shocked.
We drank out on the adult deck and basked in the sun for hours. The sun was something that none of us had seen for nearly five months now. Of course I slathered my Polish/Irish pale skin with as much sunscreen as possible. I read a book that I had started in Seattle in February, drank Coors Lights by the bucketful, and gazed out into the ocean. We celebrated our first night out at sea with several more drinks and checking out the bars that the cruise boat had to offer! The night ended with Jon getting everyone some pizza and headed into the cheapest room available on board…the bottom floor room with no view!
Sunday, April 24, 2011
The following morning, very early, Justin drove us to the train station. It was April 1 and we were catching our flight to Houston, TX. From Houston, we were taking a cruise to Mexico. I initially planned this cruise with my other best friend Julie from Plattsburgh as a goodbye travel adventure together. However, we thought it would be fun to include our partners. So, I asked Jon if he would be interested. He was, but couldn’t afford it, so I asked if he would like a cruise for his birthday. Of course, he said yes!
Let me remind you it was April 1 – April Fool’s Day. I called my mom and told her that we were going to Libya for Peace Corps as a joke and she bought it..until she realized it was a joke! What I didn’t know, however, was that my mother-in-law really did receive our acceptance packet and that we were headed to Tanzania.
We found this out JUST as we were about to get on our cruise!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Would we be available to leave in June instead of July? We’d still both be teaching and in Africa…just one month earlier than planned.
There were a lot of things to consider. First of all, we’d planned our road trip to see friends and family BEFORE we go to Peace Corps. We’d planned to see my sister graduate from her master’s program which has engulfed her life for the last two years and we are so proud of her. We had a lot of awesome camping trips planned in the west. When in June would we go?
But, we’d be foolish not to take it. We’d only budgeted to July. Everything you read about applying as a married couple to Peace Corps informs you that it takes anywhere from one year to fifteen months to get placed. We could get placed in just 11 months if we take it and or if not, possibly have to wait nearly half a year for something else.
We discussed it and responded to our placement officer…yes, we’re available to leave in June. Then, much to my chagrin because I really wanted to wait for a response from our placement officer, we rushed out the door to catch our train.
The whole way to NYC, I was contemplating where could we be going? How are we going to recalculate our trip? Is this for real? Are we going to beat out the odds and actually leave earlier than expected? We took another 40 minute ferry to get to battery park. It only took two minutes to buy our tickets to the statue of liberty, yet we had to wait in a large line to get on the ferry…like a two hour line.
Did you know that the Statue of Liberty is managed by the National Parks Service? I didn’t, but as a result we got to go inside the Lady of Liberty because we have a national parks pass. Lucky us! We saw the original crown which is held inside of the statue and got great views of New York City. I was shocked at how impressive this icon actually was. I’ve been all over the world, I’ve seen the pyramids, the ancient city of Angkor, century old temples and shrines, I really didn’t think that I would be impressed by the statue of liberty. I was so wrong! So many photos show her off in the distance and she looks sort of boring. I kept telling Jon how truly impressive she was with her grandeur presence and her stone cold face that is supposed to somehow be welcoming immigrants.
We took the ferry over to Ellis Island. Jon’s mission was to find his family’s names etched on the walls behind the museum. After much research and questioning the staff, we called Jon’s mom and found out how to locate them. Finally, we could use the museum’s information to locate his mother, his aunt, and his grandparents. It was pretty cool and such a reminder of how unique the United States truly is.
We caught the last ferry back to battery park and hurried to meet an old friend of mine for dinner (late again!). Corey is a friend who I studied abroad in Australia with, visited in Korea, and he visited me twice in Japan. We met for the first time in the United States on this day….continent #3 for us. I introduced Jon and Corey to each other and we enjoyed a great Korean buffet dinner. It was supposed to be just dinner and some drinks, but we ended up having a great time and missed the last train. We all bounced from bar to bar, including a bar that was as if we were back in the ADKs until we finally crashed at Corey’s beautiful apartment and slept for a few hours to get a train back into Long Island.
After a long, hung-over trip back to Erin’s…I opened my email and happily read that we had been invited to serve in Peace Corps and that our official acceptance with further information was coming in the mail!!!!!
Friday, April 22, 2011
We got on the LIRR which took us from Erin’s city on Long Island to Penn Station. If you’re at all familiar with the layout of NYC, you probably realize that the Empire State building is just blocks from Penn Station. Did you know that the Lonely Planet USA book is about 1,215 pages long? This was our guide to NYC. Talk about New York natives looking ridiculously like tourists. However, I am adamant about maps. I feel completely empowered and safe when I have a map of an unfamiliar area to me. Without one, I feel totally powerless.
We paid (very pricey!) and took the elevator to the 108th floor where the observation deck allows for excellent views of all of New York City. I was surprised that this particular deck did not scare me. I hate heights. When we were in the Space Needle in Seattle, I felt very uncomfortable at the viewing deck. I don’t know if it’s true, but the Empire State Building felt higher for me, yet less scary.
Following our visit to the top of NYC, we walked down to Rockefeller Square and over to Times Square. The sun started setting and it was cold. Thankfully, it was time for me to meet Meghann, my old friend from Japan in St. Mark’s Place for some half off sushi. Best sushi restaurant ever. You can get 4 sushi choices (that’s like 25 pieces of sushi) for $10. Our bill came to around $22 for both us to eat tons of sushi including tax and tip. It’s called Sushi Lounge and you definitely need to get it!
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Fire Island is very close to Erin’s apartment and we went to the only part accessible by car, Robert Moses State Park. We were lucky because in just three short days, they were going to start charging to park there.
The weather was extraordinarily nice for us. After living through numerous cold and long winters in Plattsburgh, being outdoors in late March and not freezing was heavenly. All of us went for a nice boardwalk walk. The boardwalk was raised over sand surrounded by pine trees. Our destination included a tall, red lighthouse. During the summer, people can go inside.
After viewing the beautiful lighthouse, we walked to the beach where it was incredibly windy. Although it was cold and windy, it was so nice to be next to the ocean, hearing the waves crash onto the sand.
We left to enjoy a dinner prepared by Erin and saw a phenomenal sunset on our way home.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
When Jon and I discussed how we wanted to travel, we had to compromise with Jon’s usually frugal ways and my attitude of we only live once. In other words, I want to do everything and anything in the event that I never make it back somewhere.
A city like New York City is super difficult to do everything all at once, so we chose 4 things to add to our “bucket list”. These are tourist things that we feel if you go to NYC, you have to do these things.
1. The Empire State building
2. Go to the Statue of Liberty
3. Ellis Island so Jon could find his mom and family’s names
4. See friends
We were staying with my old college roommate, Erin, who lives on Long Island, so we definitely wanted to see places on Long Island as well. There is a great state park only about fifteen minutes from Erin’s apartment and we immediately took advantage of the proximity.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
I was wavering…should I get an apple or just one of those little netbooks? Peace Corps was supposed to make that decision for me. I was not about to buy a super expensive apple computer and bring it to Africa at the risk it would be stolen.
The good news is...I haven’t written about it yet, but yes, it’s true, Jon and I have been officially accepted into Peace Corps! So, we got a new toshiba, a netbook. It’ll be going to Tanzania with us on June 15!
And so that also means I can actually blog more regularly. I have a mini computer that has a cool feature called Windows Live Writer. It lets me write my blog and then publish it when I get internet access!
I’m back folks!
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Plattsburgh connected me to my international love. I studied abroad in Australia and so Plattsburgh altered my life by giving me a desire to permanently continue exploring new lands. So, I applied to JET. I interviewed in Boston for JET. What do you know, my interview went well and I spent two years in the beautiful land of Japan.
Jon and I went back to Boston to visit his sister and my friend, Ben. When we arrived to Boston, our future was still uncertain. Our worries were the same, will Peace Corps give us more information? Are we in or should I start looking at graduate schools? Who knows? But, everything reminded me of how my life ending up in Japan all began in Boston.
We arrived in the afternoon on Monday and relaxed with his sister. On Tuesday, I was getting antsy about Peace Corps. According to their website, they should at very least be reviewing our information. I made a few phone calls and they told us they weren't going to review us until July. However, we're supposed to leave in July! I was shocked and upset that no one told us this new information and slightly panicky because we didn't budget for such a drastic change in departure dates. Well, life goes on and we all went to see a Boston Bruins game. Hockey is the only sport that I will ever consider watching on TV and by far the only sport I thoroughly enjoy in a large arena. Although I am a Sabres fan by hometown preference, I was excited to experience being in the cheap seats for a Bruins game. The crowd, in comparison to Montreal Canadiens fans were much tamer. I attribute this to the fact that I could actually understand what was going on around me. The Bruins won and it was great.
On Day 3 of our time in Boston, we walked the freedom trail. Full Circle: You see, I flew to Boston for an orientation 2 days before we departed for Japan. After my orientation, I had done the freedom trail on my own. All the historic landmarks, from the gravestones of very important founding fathers to buildings where people met to protest the British monarchy, to passing the Borders store which I bought my first Japanese dictionary from after I completed the freedom trail in 2006 left me with all the memories and excitement I felt before departing from Japan. The only sad part of this time for was saying goodbye to Jon. Full circle: here I am with Jon, waiting to hear more about my next international experience. I went to Plattsburgh, experienced international, met Jon, experienced international, married Jon,....what's next? Waiting for full circle to happen in Boston.
Our favorite part of the freedom trail definitely included the bell in hand tavern, which is the oldest tavern in the USA. That's us, drinking history more than reading it. I certainly enjoyed following the red bricks and paint throughout Boston, but it would have been far more enjoyable above 35 degrees farenheit. Over beers at the bell in hand, we decided on what our "story" would be when people asked what we are doing. When we tell them what we're actually doing, we usually gets looks of confusion or disbelief. I don't think it's a big deal, but most people can't relate. So, anyways, I'm an aspiring travel writer finding material and Jon's my photographer.
We took the T to visit my college friend Ben. Cambodian food was what was supposed to be on the menu, but the restaurant wasn't open yet. Thankfully, Cambridge is full of great food and we decided on Japanese/Asian fusion. We had dinner with Ben's friends where Jon and I got to practice our "aspiring travel writer/photographer" story. It wasn't totally necessary because his friends understood where we were coming from quite well. Ellie Goulding, a UK artist was in town and that was our plan for the evening. To keep a long story short, I hear she was good, but only from Jon and Ben who explained it to me as I lay hungover on Ben's couch barely remembering anything.
Finally, we get back to Jon's sister's apartment and we sleep. I wake up the next morning to Jon hovering over me with a large smile on his face. He said, "Peace Corps has changed our status". I didn't believe him at all. But, it's true, they sent an email to let us know something is coming in the mail for us, our medical review is complete.
We quickly get ready for the day and go visit his sister at her school. We tell her of this elusive email from Peace Corps which is confusing since they said we wouldn't be reviewed until July. I'm convinced it must be bad news, why would they send a letter so quickly?
After singing the Banana Song I used to teach to my Japanese students to her 7 special education students, Jon and I headed back to his sister's place. Email from Peace Corps. A very positive email...we've been medically cleared! We need to send updated resumes, but our health is fine. You have to understand that this is the biggest hurdle to get over in Peace Corps!!!!
We're in Boston. I interviewed for Japan here and now I am discovering that we're pretty much good to go for Peace Corps. Still lots of stuff to do before we go, but they've nominated us because of our skill sets and personality and now we're medically okay to go. We're like 80% of the way there!
We went to the Sam Adam's brewery. Free beer in always a great way to celebrate! The tour was nothing exciting, nothing more than 15 minutes and no new information that you wouldn't know if you've been to any other brewery. I'd go for the free beer and glasses, but definitely not for a tour experience. Dinner was at PF Chang's which was better than my expectations and finally, we ended at a comedy club.
When we arrived to Boston, I was still nervous about Peace Corps, nervous we'd made a mistake in cutting our security net. When we left Boston, I was elated and confident that we've made the right decision. Boston, I am confident somehow, through some energy makes it all come together...full circle for me.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
"It looks like an obelisk" I responded.
"What's the point of it?" Jon thought outloud.
"Well, back in ancient Egypt, it had some sort of...", I began to explain, but Jon cut me off.
"No, why is it in the middle of Vermont?", Jon inquired. Feeling stupid, I just responded, "Oh, I don't know" I proceeded to get our Lonely Planet USA book out from our back seat. I knew that this book would come in handy.
As it turns out, we were headed into Bennington, Vermont, a very beautiful Vermont town with lots of history. This obelisk, in the middle of rolling hills and farmland turned out to be a battle monument. For only $2, you can ride an elevator to the top to get 360 degree views of the beautiful landscape. Unfortunate for us, they close it down until April.
On a positive note, the Lonely Planet USA book alerted me to the fact that we were only minutes away from the gravestone and resting place of famous poet, Robert Lee Frost! We turned our car around and parked in front of the Old First Church and went for a walk in a very ancient graveyard. All around us were gravestones dating back as old as the late 1700s! Sure enough, we came across Robert Frost's gravestone stating, "I had a lover's quarrel with the world".
It was a beautiful, spring day that resulted in unexpected history of southern Vermont.
Friday, March 18, 2011
A great account of what it's been like for me can be summed up here:
In other news, we're pretty much set to start the first 3 weeks of our adventure. I'm hoping I can start feeling again, so that I can enjoy the time with my friends who aren't affected by this whole thing.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
|Amazing Timmy Ho's|
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Our honorable hosts: Brynn & Brian
I spent a good majority of my adult life in Plattsburgh, NY. It's a conveniently located city which is central to many wonderful places. The lively, young, and French city of Montreal. The hip, trendy, and environmental city of Burlington, VT. And just north of the astounding Adirondack region.
My favorite of these three surrounding areas is most certainly the Adirondacks (ADK). The Adirondacks consist of 6.1 million acres of private and state land. Plattsburgh dwelling has really only allowed me to see the northern and eastern parts of the park. Jon and I have hiked many, many, many mountains in that area.
Over the weekend, while visiting friends Brynn and Brian, we were afforded the opportunity to see a new part of the ADKs. Long Lake is somewhat central to the whole park. Jon and I went for a snow-shoeing extravaganza and to spend time with our friends before we embark on our journey. In my eyes, post-resignation has already begun my journey and so I wanted to blog about it now. We snow-shoed up Coney Mountain, which offered beautiful views for just a half minute. We could see stunning mountain views until a strong wind brought us into a very blusterous cloud of snow and gray. The whole group quickly descended.
|Escaping down the mountain from the wind that was coming||at us from other way!|
After a fun-filled weekend, we drove through Saranac Lake and noticed crowds of people walking down the street. We realized that we were driving through for their winter carnival! Since 1898, every year, they build an ice palace. It was an absolute must for us to park and go check out this castle. It was pretty amazing having a huge ice structure bigger than a typical house right there. You could go through and walk around inside of it. They had an ice maze in the back and other mini ice sculptures. It would have been better, if there weren't so many people, but it was a nice ending to our weekend.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Jon and I applied for Peace Corps and we've been nominated to leave in July 2011. The clincher is that it's not set in stone. Something could still happen where we don't actually go. We're probably not going to know much more than we do now until April.
So, why did I quit? Well, in preparation for Peace Corps, in case we do go. Jon and I are taking a huge road trip across the United States. We want to say goodbye to all of our friends and family. We need the time do that. March 15 our lease is up and we are leaving Plattsburgh permanently.
What if we don't get into Peace Corps? We have some back up plans, but no need to discuss that now.
So, from March 14 - July or so, we're homeless and living out of our car around the USA. Check back for more.