Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Our second excursion from our boat was to Cozumel, an island off Mexico, in which Mexicans have jokingly claimed it’s not a part of Mexico due to the large amounts of tourist the island receives every day. 
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.
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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!’
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It was a quick excursion and before you know it, we are back on the boat.  We met backIMG_0245 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

Chicken Pizza

or rather…Chichen Itza…the whole point of our cruise.   Julie and I really wanted to see these World Heritage site Mayan Ruins located in Mexico.  When I travel, I want to see old, historical, cultural things.  Chichen Itza seemed like a great place for us to go check out.  It was the first cruise excursion that we took.  We docked in Progreso, Mexico.  I can’t imagine any other reason to go to this port other than to see the ancient Mayan city.  It was pathetically touristy to the point that Jon couldn’t buy his sunglasses in pesos, they gave him a hard time for not having USD.  I’m sorry, but weren’t we in Mexico?  If I wanted to party with lots of Americans in hot weather, I’d have saved myself a lot of money and just have flown to Florida for spring break. 
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!
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Monday, April 25, 2011


An old family friend of mine lives in Houston and invited us to come stay before or after our cruise.  Jayne was key to making our cruise and trip go so smoothly.  She picked us up from the airport and brought us to our ship the next day.  Julie and Jimmy stayed at her house even though they arrived in the middle of the night.
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 IMG_0345my 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.   IMG_0234We 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 suspense!

We are invited!!!…and in great Peace Corps fashion they won’t tell us anything further.  But, how could I complain!?  Our dreams came true.  When I started this blog, we knew nothing and here we are leaving early!  When Erin and Justin came home from work, we shared our exciting news with them.  It was so nice to have people to celebrate with.  It was probably on this day that I realized how happy I was to have quit my job without much guarantee.  I love Erin, she is someone who I easily connect with from Plattsburgh, yet don’t have much opportunity to see.  Now that it was official that we are leaving for 27 months, I couldn’t be happier with my decision.  We got to see so many friends and family in only 2 weeks that I was unemployed.  If I hadn’t done this, I would probably not had a chance to see her.  I was so grateful that I am going to be seeing so many more of my friends & family.  It really helps me feel as if I will be leaving the USA on a very positive note.
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

Lady of Liberty, Ellis Island and American meeting

I’m not very punctual.  I am sure my previous boss’s would attest to that; friends, family members, anyone who has ever needed to meet me would agree.  As usual, we were getting off to a rather late start to get to see everything we had hoped to see in New York City that day.  It turned out to work out okay because just before we were rushing off to catch the next train, I got an email from our Peace Corps placement officer.
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?  IIMG_0181 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.   
IMG_0188We 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

The Empire State Building

We woke up “early” one morning to work on some Peace Corps paperwork and it took nearly half the day to get it done.  This left us with very little planning time to figure out NYC and the best way to see everything we wanted.  I
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 observationIMG_0096 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.  IMG_0135The 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


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.  IMG_0068

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. 

IMG_0077After 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

The City that never sleeps via LIRR

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

Big Toshiba, baby Toshiba

Well folks, I’ve got some good  news and I’ve got some bad news.  The bad news is that my computer broke.  It was unusable except if it was plugged into the wall.  Sure, sure, I could have just bought a new battery.  However, the blue toshiba that was my “congratulations, you’ve received your bachelor’s degree” gift from my parents reached it’s ripe age of 5.  That’s pretty old for PC laptop years.

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

The Whistling Kettle

From Boston, we made a pit stop in Albany on our way down to New York city. Jon and I went to Albany for a short weekend to reminisce our undergraduate years. He went with an old college friend and I went to stay with my friend, Shelli.  We always had tea time when we lived next to eachother in the dorms.

I've been to Albany numerous time.  Although the Capital region has never been a place I call home, I still feel like I can get around pretty well like a local.  However, Shelli guided me to a elegant and unique place in Ballston Spa, just north of Albany.  

It's called the Whistling Kettle and I would definitely go again.  The menu is vast, it takes easily 5 minutes to determine what tea alone you want.  After selecting your desired tea, it takes a good 5 minutes to determine what type of meal you would like to order.  I went with the bowl of soup, quiche, and scones special.  You could alternate some of these options with salads or different types of quiche, or you can get tea bread.  This is supposed to be modeled after Great Britain's high tea experience.  I think that the Whistling Kettle is a hidden gem just south of the Adirondacks or just north of Albany.  I highly encourage anyone in this area to seek it out!

In addition to his great restaurant, Shelli and her husband brought us to Napoli Italian Bakery in Albany.  It was what a true bakery should be; delicious breads, sweets, desserts, you name it!  We bought some to bring with us to our next stop...Long Island!