Tag Archives: explore

Border crossings, travel hiccups,…and finally, Jordan!

I finally arrived in Tel Aviv, having flown the last leg of my journey from Instanbul with an abnormally high number of children aboard – I was soon to learn this is the norm around here.  Families have a HUGE number of children and traveling with all 5-8 children is certainly way more common than in the US.  Ben Gurion airport is beautiful and security was a breeze, despite my apprehensions from all the warnings I had been given about it.   Basically I just got interrogated with a few specific questions through some thick glass – I had to keep asking the guard to repeat himself as I could barely hear him with all the noise in the background. I’m sure he thought I was extremely dense and could do no harm in his country and let me through to claim my bag and get my adventure started! J

First couple hiccups included my debit card being refused by the airport ATM, and subsequently my taxi driver refusing to let me pay with a card despite my being told clearly before I got in that it would be no problem. So here I am in the middle of the night with a taxi driver who needs to be paid, me with too little cash and no clue where I am, and a debit card that doesn’t work… lovely J We found a little free-standing ATM that worked (thank goodness!) and I arrived at my little hotel…where I couldn’t sleep at all thanks to the time change. It turned out this place had an absolutely lovely rooftop deck that overlooked the Meditteranean Sea and it felt soooo good to be up there, feeling the night breezes and taking in all the sensations around me. Being awake in such a lovely setting was a great excuse to get a work out in and I felt truly ALIVE and so happy and excited to be exactly where I was and for what the next few weeks held in store for me.

Early the next morning I arrived at the little domestic airport in TLV way too early and had to wait outside the (well-secured) gates till the airport opened. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one that made that mistake so I had some good conversation to keep me occupied. And, oh, did I say that security was a breeze somewhere earlier in this blog?! Yeah…nope. They scrutinized my passport, didn’t really like what they saw, made a very long phone call to god knows who, scrutinized it some more, questioned me about pretty much everything, ran my bags through the scanner LITERALLY about 5-7 times (I lost track), unpacked my fastidiously packed backpack, and finally handed me my stuff and my passport back and told me to enjoy my flight to Eilat. Whew!

So I arrived in Eilat (very far south resort beach town on the Red Sea) but I immediately zoomed off to the Jordanian border to begin my grand Jordanian tour. The border crossing was another almost unbelievable amount of passport checks. I think I literally had to show 7-8 people my passport, stopping at each different window, checkpoint, gate, scanner. Carrying my bags down a rather long stretch of no-man’s land to the Jordanian gate, it felt exactly like something in a movie… the hot desert air, the tall white metal gates in the distance, a couple other people in the distance struggling solo with their bags as well… interesting. I’m learning to really embrace the moments though and roll with each part of the happenings as part of the adventure. It makes it way more peaceful and way more exciting too, ironically.

My Jordanian driver deserves a blog devoted entirely to him, but for now let me just say he and I were quite the buddies by the time we arrived in Wadi Musa 2 hrs later. An older gentleman with 8 grown children, he really had quite the perspectives on Jordanian culture and population, the world, the USA, people, marriage, etc etc. More on him perhaps later…

The first thing my tour coordinator had booked for me was a cooking class with the Bedoins. I really had no idea what to expect but it sounded fun… boy, was it ever SO cool and completely different than anything I could have even made up or wanted. My Jordan experiences will be continued in next blog… Have to get ready to go have breakfast and leave Jerusalem for exploring up in beautiful Northern Israel… J

 

 

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Fifty Shades of Green

As is the usual case with my little (or not so little) ventures, we packed so many activities and sights into a few days that its crazy thinking back on everything that we fit in the last three days. When I say “we,” I am referring to my fellow travel nurse friend, David, and his friend, Amanda. David and I met in Washington while on assignment and I am delighted that he and his brother Stephen just moved near here on another assignment. Yay for friends, reunions and new adventures! 🙂

David picked me up after my last 12 hr shift for the week so we could start off early the next AM from his house to Yosemite and Mono Lake (4 and 6 hrs away, respectively) and still be able to take advantage of half of the day. Boy, am I so glad we started off early!

Yosemite, as most of you know, is ginormous and so crazy beautiful that one could wander there for a lifetime and still find things to do and explore. We rolled into the valley floor about midday and started off in search of a hidden trailhead David had heard about from a friend – to a now closed trail, presumably because it was so dangerous – a fact we swiftly found out while hiking up it.

Following directions Via screenshots of a blog that described in detail where this trailhead began, we started clambering over huge boulders up a steep mountain side and found our trail. To say I felt ALIVE and IN LOVE with life and this amazing world would be an understatement. It was incredible. No one but us as far as the eye could see overlooking as we climbed what can only be described as some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. Breathtaking in its grandeur and the glory of rocky mountain cliffs rising thousands of feet from the valley floor – I was in awe and delight. (in between panting from the 1000+feet climb)… As we rounded the last corner, the view from our summit of gushing waterfalls far below us nearly brought tears to my eyes.

We barely made it to Glacier Point for the sunset but enjoyed the views and a couple freezedried meals on top of the parkJ I had fun experimenting with lighting and a couple night shots. One of the highlights of the evening was meeting this fellow who had set up a telescope in preparation for a star tour he was giving later that night and he allowed me to look into it. At 2800x magnification, the planets are so beautiful. I saw Jupiter – and all four of its moons, Venus, and, in exchange for guarding his telescope for a few minutes, he turned the scope around and let me view Saturn in all its glory with its beautiful rings around it. I guess we hadn’t planned our somewhat spontaneous trip very well as we still didn’t know where we were going to stay for the night, but left the park about 9:30 PM for Mono Lake, another 2 ½ hour drive! Poor David was the only one that can drive a clutch, so allll the driving was up to him (while we slept)….

I think when we finally found a campsite about 1AM, it was the fastest anyone has ever set up camp. Within 10 min, tents were out and up, sleeping bags unrolled and into an exhausted sleep we fell. I woke up early, as usual, and re-discovered my joy of campsite mornings: hot fresh coffee, crackling fire, a quiet campsite, sizzling sausages, peace…

Peace, that is, till I had to try to reserve a campsite for the following night. I almost had smoke coming out my ears – first as the office didn’t open for 1 ½ hrs after opening time, second while waiting in line listening to an inane discussion figuring out logistics for a large camping party, and then, thirdly while actually dealing with the lady behind the counter. I shall refrain from getting too descriptive but I haven’t dealt with someone so DUMB (or slow) before. Just picture walls full of knick knacky fishing sayings, marriage jokes, old cash registers, handwritten schedules, rulers… and you kinda get the idea.. I seriously felt like saying, “Lady! We don’t want to stay HERE all day – we actually just want to be on our way enjoying our day!!” They ran that place like Nazis too. Just sayin…we could have found a better campground…like the beautiful state owned one literally a hundred yards down the road that we couldn’t see because we arrived in the dark.

I had something of an obsession to see Mono Lake and take pictures of the Tufa (towering salt residue structures) , especially at sunset and sunrise when everything turns orange and pink, but David talked me into checking out Mammoth Mountain and a couple cool things he wanted us to see. (once again, trying to cram as much as we possibly could into the day! J )

Once there, we took a shuttle bus down a very steep mountain road to see Devil’s Postpile (very very cool!) and a 2 mile hike to view Rainbow Falls. Beautiful!

Mono Lake was next and it was extraordinary. Tufa are large salt formations and they were splayed out in front and around us like something unearthly and magical. It felt like we had stepped onto another planet. I wouldn’t have been surprised in the least to see some strange, mythical creature rise out of the water at any minute! After a while prowling around and deciding the sky wasn’t going to be great for sunset pictures, we attempted to visit Bodie, an old ghost town way out in the Boonies, but were turned back at the gate as it was after hours. NOT to be deterred, we vowed to come back the next day as this place was high on our list to explore.

That night we roasted up some red bell peppers, baby red potatoes and teriyaki chicken! Delicious! I should call myself a campfire gourmand or something! Maybe start an outdoor cooking show…hey. That’s not a bad idea…:)

Bodie did not disappoint in the least. I can’t tell you how much fun I had, map and descriptions in hand, perambulating about this old town, taking pictures, experimenting with angles and colors and just basically being fascinated by the history, as well as getting very sunburnt! I have just finished a book by Isabel Allende that centers a lot on San Francisco/Northern California during the Gold Rush era, so this all felt familiar and super interesting. Only 5% of the town remains now which, considering the number of buildings still standing is impressive! The following are a couple little facts and links of interest:

http://www.bodie.com

“Almost 10,000 tons of rich ore was extracted from this mine, yielding close to $15 million in 25 years. Bodie became a boomtown in 1877. By 1879 Bodie had a population of approximately 8,500 people and more than 2,000 buildings.” http://www.monocounty.org/bodie/?gclid=CjwKEAjwtr6sBRDv7uzB492H9XISJADj6aqb8kkJw3pVVl3WOYJp1rKn35YNxBhMFzULAEjlJ8OIfRoC_5zw_wcB

Just driving around from place to place was so impactful: literally “fifty shades of green” covered the hillsides and mountains and plains: soft sage colors of brush to dark, scraggly pine trees emerging straight out of rock cliffs, to vibrant bushes, and rustling tree leaves, white birch trees crowding the banks of a lake, still and peaceful forest trees unencumbered with any underbrush – all combined with vibrant blue skies and cloud formations made for just unrivaled beauty. I just could barely take it all in and tried to keep imprinting it all in my mind (sometimes via my trusty camera:)

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After much debate and pondering about whether to head to Bristlecone Pine Forest to take spectacular photos, we decided the sky wasn’t going to be good..:( Pretty hazy due to the ongoing fires…so, we hoofed it back through Yosemite and spontaneously stopped at Pothole Mountain after seeing this guy run up it. Easy peasy, right?! I nearly puffed out a lung but it was so gloriously worth it! Stunning. I definitely get a natural high from scenery like this. I can’t wait to go back again. Amazing. We stopped for pizza (no, not freeze-dried!) and made it home safely, accompanied into the city by the most mind-blowing sunset. It was truly a fabulous way to wind up our adventure.   A big thank you to my great companions for a lovely time.

Time for Magic

“Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?”

G.K. Chesterton

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That is one of my favorite quotes… and exactly how I feel. My heart has been bursting with happiness – really – since moving to San Francisco, and I am frankly shocked. I did not expect to feel this way nor to feel so absolutely excited every day. It is not just that there is a bazillion things to do and see, but the inexplicable way that magic keeps happening in the form of random happenings, job, housing, beauty, making new friends and renewing old relationships, etc…

Specific happenings:

Job at UCSF. No sooner had I returned from SEA than this amazing contract kinda fell into my lap – 12 hr DAYS, immediate start date, great rate. So far, its been a busy, but very positive experience. Everyone is super nice, the facility is in a lovely area overlooking the city and the bay, and for the first time in my career, I actually have hour long lunch breaks. Whaaattt?!? Kinda still in shock, but, hey! I’ll take it! Read, walk, exercise, sleep…the 60 min options are limitless 🙂

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thot this was sweet…two men and a baby out enjoying the gardens. My hospital in the background.

Probably the funniest thing that’s happened yet relates to the navy blue scrub dress code for the nurses. Till my new scrubs come in, I’ve been making do with some old navy scrubs I “borrowed” months ago from a couple outpatient centers in SD including for some reason an enormous pair of drawstring pants. Well, I tried to cinch them tight but apparently, bustling around they just kept getting looser and looser. A little hitch here and there seemed to do the trick until, well, it just didn’t….mid-patient care I suddenly looked down and realized my pants were riding about mid-thigh. How long they had been that way, I can only guess. I just couldn’t stop laughing. I don’t think my sweet patient noticed (thank God) but the caregiver in the room sure did. We both lost it a bit. Fortunately I was wearing some stretch pants underneath to keep warm so didn’t quite scandalize the unit, but needless to say I can’t wait till some more flattering scrubs arrive!

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pretty cool view

Housing/roommates. San Francisco is quite possibly the most expensive US city to live in, making it difficult to find an acceptably affordable place in any decent part of the city. I basically had just a few days to try to find a place…and its crazy how this all has worked out. I randomly emailed my photography teacher from up here asking if she had any leads for me. Just so happened she and her husband had an amazing available room for a temporary place for as long as I needed (its so great to have roommates my age) and a hilarious cat named Connor who is so funny. And now I’ve found a fantastic more permanent place in Cole Valley – an 8 min walk to work!! With another great roommate and a dog! Absolutely love Cole Valley! One of the best parts of the city to live in: old lovely houses, safe neighborhood abounding in restaurants and coffee shops, ice cream parlor;), stores, parks, super easy transit to anywhere in the city, a stones throw from weird and cool Haight Street! Already in love.

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always wanted some tomato soup shoes…

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there’s just no explanation for some things on Haight Street. Its so cool though…happy hour in a hat shop? whaat? love it. music, shoes, bars, costumes…

Random SF explorations. Uber pool! Really fun! For just $5 you can grab a Uber and go anywhere in the city with the stipulation that you may have to pool up with someone going in your direction. I’ve honestly had a great time meeting people and the drivers are fun to talk to as well.

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one of my besties up for a visit! nail and massage time!

Golden Gate Park, museums, windy beaches, art, et al. So much culture and beauty up here. This is a great place for an art and nature lover. Already been to an exhibit at deYoung, prowled around art exhibits and talked to a number of ridiculously talented artists, wandered lazily through botanical garden and had some fun practicing street photography and capturing people and scenes that caught my eye.

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enjoying a sandwich…

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music student from chicago out enjoying the sunshine like the rest of us

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cuz, really, why not…

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these two ladies have been fast friends for literally decades…welcomed me warmly to the city.

Public transit. OhEmGee…this girl is SO unused to having to take buses… but I jumped right into it out of sheer necessity. (parking is $30/day at UCSF) I have had some moments of utter frustration, sheer stupidity, disgust and defeat, but all in all have been rather proud of my navigational abilities and have utilized the somewhat unpredictable but none-the-less supportable MUNI quite frequently. Can’t wait to just be able to walk to work though!

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a little bus stop romance…they could probably get a room at booking.com if they wanted…just saying

Just for laughs…almost unbelievable:  http://www.upout.com/blog/san-francisco-3/the-15-most-wtf-moments-of-san-francisco-public-transportation?utm_source=UpOutSF+Weekly+Newsletters&utm_campaign=8f49959d80-UpOutSF_Weekender_2_19_2015_Thursday&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_54b38fbfbf-8f49959d80-73710529

Restaurants, indoor miniature golf, starry hills at night, brunches with friends, super nice people…I feel blessed and spoiled and happy. Yes. I. Do. I knew 2015 was going to be good…

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…reflection experimentation…

“One of the deepest and strangest of all human moods is the mood which will suddenly strike us perhaps in a garden at night, or deep in sloping meadows, the feeling that every flower and leaf has just uttered something stupendously direct and important, and that we have by a prodigy of imbecility not heard or understood it. There is a certain poetic value, and that a genuine one, in this sense of having missed the full meaning of things. There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance.”

Phnom Penh to Kanchanaburi

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, 

we must carry it with us or we find it not.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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You wouldn’t believe the atmosphere of where I’m (finally) writing up my first blog from Asia: a little floating hostel in Kanchanaburi right on the banks of the famous River Kwai, sipping on Singha beer and feasting on homemade spicy Thai food while chatting up a couple other guests from California, of all places!

I probably need to back up a bit though…I have almost two weeks of catching up to do – solo traveling can be rather mentally and emotionally exhausting and blogging was the first thing to go. However, I keep getting repeated requests for updates so I am definitely attempting to give it a go here!

I spent the first 24 hours in Phnom Penh quite sick from my previous Mexico trip, emerging only once from my room to obtain some much needed Gatorade and medicine! Enough said about that. Phnom Penh I found to be quite dirty, busy, noisy but there seems to be some attraction for expats as there are quite a number of them there. While it IS the capital of Cambodia, there really isn’t that much to see or do there as a tourist. A few highlights from my time there included the following:

  • a really great cooking class (complete with an AM visit to the market to collect ingredients, lovely international fellow students)
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We learned how to make “amok” – a very traditional fish dish of ginger, lemongrass, mashed up spices, and egg – all steamed together in a banana leaf bowl. Delicious!!

  • an open air jeep ride and tour to a wildlife preserve (tons of creepy monkeys, native Cambodian deer, crocodiles, otters, tigers and other endangered species),
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feeding little fish to this very greedy otter

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okay, this is pretty cute but I still think monkeys are quite awful and unpredictable little beasts

  • and a private guided tour through the infamous Tuol Sleng Genocide museum and the horrificChoeung Ek Killing Fields
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20,000 men, women and children were brutally tortured and murdered at this former Phnom Penh hi-school during the Khmer rouge regime. Hard to even fathom such evil. How is it possible that humans can really do this to other humans…?!?

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  • the delights of eating delicious (and cheap!) Cambodian street food

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I’ll admit, this night wasn’t street food. celebrating Christmas at a rooftop bar overlooking the river.

Much more could be said about each of these activities but perhaps more detail is better for further posts when I can sort through my pictures and reflect.

Siem Reap was AMAZING and I loved it so much better than Phnom Penh! It is open and clean (er) and magical with so much to do and see and explore!

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I had such a lovely lovely time there I almost get shivers thinking about it! I shall DEFINITELY save all my adventures and pictures for another post (double procrastination at its finest…) but to highlight my time there,

  • I went on an absolutely FANTASTIC offroading cycling tour through the Angkor area, getting off the beaten path and visiting non-touristy temples, and basically having the time of my life with the coolest tour group ever: two British girls (whom I ended up hanging out with the rest of my time there), Candadian couples, a German.

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  • Tour of the floating villages and forest,
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there really are no words that do justice to how mesmerizingly enchanting and magical this was…just looking back at pictures has me transported back to fairy land.

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i took many more pictures of this unique river village but it is getting quite late so I will be posting more as i can!! it was such an incredible day of flavors (snake! and sun baked baby mussel) , sights, sounds, encounters

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  • facial and 90 min foot massage at lovely prices,
  • super interesting tour of a silk factory!! from start to finish…poor little silk worms.  cannot BELIEVE the work that goes into handcrafted silk material

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  • insane NYE countdown on the famous Pub Street.
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countdown!! grabbed drinks at an Irish pub (?!) with the Brits, a couple newly arrived and jet lagged American guys and a couple Japanese gals. down in the street was not my scene… I think that was my first time being showered with booze! At least no one got trampled here as far as i know! Cambodians DO love their NY celebrations!

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world famous bar on Pub Street

Anyway, my other lovely cycling compatriots talked up the glories of Thailand, so I spontaneously booked a flight into Bangkok, where I arrived yesterday and stayed for just one night. This morning I absolutely reveled in ART!! There is a relatively brand new contemporary art museum there (took me literally interviewing SIX taxi drivers to successfully get there. Seriously, NONE of them know how to read a map!!!) but it was well worth the effort. I photographed some of my favorite pieces. Some of them so bizarrely beautiful with Very different Thai flavor of course to most of it.

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This afternoon I railed it out here to Kanchanaburi – a 3rd class ticket on an ancient train. Seemed straight out of a turn of the century British film – corrugated metal shacks so close I could touch them with my fingers, branches whipping by the windows, near-fluorescent green rice fields, towering palm trees and sunlit hills. I felt newly strong and beautiful and happy gazing out the windows at it all, the wind in my face. And now, here I am, enjoying the night river air, good company, background Thai soap opera, and excited about tomorrow’s adventures: waterfalls, elephants, caves, and bridges!

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And now I shall attempt to insert some photos…the picky artistic side of me is loathe to include unedited versions but above are a few – some just from my iPhone.  Enjoy! and my love to you from Southeast Asia!

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Viva la Mexico!

This morning I am snorkeling between dark stalagmite studded caverns and shimmering aqua cenotes…this afternoon sitting on a crowded airplane enroute to frigid Denver and sunny San Diego. The world has become so easily accessible to us, and yet so full of endless wonder and newness that it seems a lifetime of lifetimes is not enough time to explore it all.

These last few days exploring the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico has been amazing and such a treat. Having been rather spontaneously invited by one of my nursing friends to tag along on a family vacation, I had NO idea what to expect and so every day was such a delight and filled with adventure. My friends and I are not the type to sit around an all-inclusive resort for days on end (seriously, how could you…?) so we found ourselves out the door every morning only to return after dark every evening, still glorying in the sights seen, tacos eaten, waters played in, ruins explored, and the great company.
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my first walk along the beach! The sky along with the setting sun made for an awesome photo shoot! 

We had the privilege of acquiring a spacious condo at the Vendante, Grand Luxxe, and I have to say, while I don’t require a lot of luxury, it was a pleasure staying at a lovely resort where a maid comes and cleans your whole place twice a day, turning down the beds, leaving little chocolates on your pillow, washing dishes, straightening up all your things, hanging up clothes. I could get used to such. ☺ I’m afraid I would get dreadfully lazy though. I did love our little Mexican housekeeper. She always greeted us cheerfully every evening and left the place nicer simply by being so consistently sweet to us spoiled gringos.

Before I get going too much on my narration, I have to preface this by saying my last experience of Mexico was mixed: the pyramids of Teotihucan were incredible, the nightly streetside Styrofoam cups of hot Escitas became a staple, the bustling and colorful town of Peubla was fun, but the continued lack of a hot shower, the fear of getting sick, the horrendous border crossing experience, the poverty, and I guess, fear (?) discomfort (?) all left a rather unpleasant aftertaste in my mouth for the whole country. I had gone down to southern Mexico to visit my poor lonely sis who was teaching English in a little rural town, and I returned to the US, shaking the proverbial dust from my feet with no desire for a repeat visit. So, to get ahead of myself a bit, I am returning from this trip with a transformed mindset and experience ☺ Yesterday, I even romantically fantasized about living in a beachside villa in the little town of Akumel, with daily routines of snorkeling with the turtles, drinking cold cervezas under palm trees, and reading on the beach. Maybe look for me there someday…

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lunch and cerveza along the Akumal beach! glorious!

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had to capture some of the local bar art 🙂 this, despite being a skeleton really is full of joie de vivre and makes me chuckle!

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i loved this little humble nativity set up in the splendor of beachside condos. Shot on our long but lovely trek to the Akumal lagoon.

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they’ve been waiting for a beer for a loooong time…

Sunday, in an attempt to avoid the crowds (haha), we decided to venture over to the Isle of Cozumel. The choppy ferry ride had me green around the gills and almost in need of the green plastic barf bag thrust into my hands by attendees trained to spot the white faced nauseated passengers. All that was soon a distant memory as we drove down a dusty unpaved road to emerge upon the quintessential postcard Caribbean beach…little palm frond covered booths, peppy Mexican music emitted from behind open air bars, white sand and turquoise waters as far as the eye could see. And it was delightfully uncrowded. I wasted no time donning the virgin snorkeling gear (thanks, Mom for the Christmas present! ☺ ) and with just a bit of training on proper techniques, I was off and running, er , paddling away. I can scarcely describe the feelings. It truly is like discovering for the first time another world for that is indeed what under the ocean surface is. Teeming with life. Beautiful life. Quiet. Solitary. Glistening. The soft in and out sounds of my own snorkeled breathing. Colors. Wonder. These are all words and phrases that come to mind in an attempt to describe this experience. Newness. Whatever heaven is like, I remember thinking, it surely has to be a place of this: not the physical facts of swimming through water, but the constant state of wonder, discovery, awe, newness, excitement. I really feel it cannot be less. I was a child again and unashamed of the joys of discovery.

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my underwater photography did not go as planned…but I got a few shots before deciding to give it up all together. at least my little case kept my phone dry but wasn’t the best at helping me get some pictures, sadly…

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seemed so incongruous to be sitting on a hot beach while listening to christmas carols…

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Monday we ventured further south to the beaches and Mayan ruins of Tulum. Another day of lovely experiences: hiring a boat and a guide to take us out to the reef where we prowled around coral reefs eying funny looking, large-eyed squid floating along, black spiky anenomies fastened securely to the coral, bright blue flat fish the size of dinner plates, yellow striped fish swishing in and out of dark crevices, skinny translucent barracudas, skimming along the surface. It was amazing. And I learned that spitting in your mask helps it not fog up. Who knew?

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The Mayan ruins were super cool: right along the beach. They were so advanced in their understanding of astronomy it never ceases to astound me. Many of the Mexicans in the Yucatan still speak Mayan. Our guide in Chichen Itza had Mayan ancestry and showed us the flat back of his head, which is just one of the physical characteristics that distinguishes the Mayan bloodline. Chichen itza we visited the following day – barely made it there in time to get a guided tour before closing time. I suppose we were having too much fun exploring the shops and eating a delicious lunch in Vallodorid on the way there! The only thing that I really would have liked more of was a bit more wandering down city streets and just prowling around. I love to explore as well as play around with street photography. Maybe next time. Playa del Carmen….Akumel, etc etc. : a veritable wealth of interest to take in. I did spy this super cool bus in the parking lot of WalMart and started talking to the lovely couple that owned it. They are from Argentina and have been traveling for 9 years, selling t-shirts and copies of their photographic narrative book to be able to stay on the road. I loved their cool dog and they had a lovely daughter, who had been born during their traveling, making this the only life she’s ever known. She would be an interesting one to interview several years from now.

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first lunch in Playa del Carmen. I really wanted some of that pork on that spindle thing but it wasn’t ready yet..:(

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I arrived in Mexico with one burning desire: to swim with the turtles in Akumel. Finally…the day had arrived. First we snorkeled for hours at the lagoon: a sort of paradisiacal inlet/sanctuary for oceanic wildlife. I think I paddled a good mile or so all around the perimeter, exploring the deep crevices, spooking out the fish from their hiding places, looking at conch shells, watching the Barracudas, battling the currents. All in all, wearing myself out in a most satisfactory way☺ Akumel Bay was probably the most crowded beach we went on but after haggling and being haggled, we finally found a guide to take us out to see turtles and sting rays. There is something SO indescribable about these animals. Gazing down at their beautiful markings and the patterns on their shells I could see why they have become the stuff of legends and objects of worship. To have these mighty and ancient animals swim past you was such a beautiful experience. I desperately wanted to grab one by his front flippers and have it take me for a swim. Alas, no touching allowed. The sting rays are so creepy with their long, lethal looking tales and evil eyes, but also beautiful. I would be so scared to step on one!! They settle into the sand so you can’t even see them. Spooky.

Absolutely determined to experience a cenote before leaving, we all gamely got up early this morning and drove about an hour to Los Ojos, the largest system of cenotes in Mexico. Three caverns all interconnected by underground tunnels. I have always been quite scared of dark underwater depths and snorkeling around the dark, deep edges of the beautiful sun splattered cenote, I felt a frissone of fear creep into me. Through water as clear as glass, I couldn’t stop staring at the divers silently slip past me and venture into the dark tunnels…it was such a surreal, monumental feeling for lack of a better way to describe it. Finally it was our turn to be led through the caverns connecting the cenotes and into “Bat Cave” – ew. I like bats but they really are gross, hairy little creatures all clumped together hanging in obscene little lumps from the ceiling. Anyway, the caverns were incredible!! Silently snorkeling along with our waterproof flashlights, single file, we gazed down around, ahead, behind us at enormous stalactite formations, deep hollowed out voids of darkness, twisted corridors of rocks and edges, and curves – auras from other divers lamps creating bluish black illuminations farther down in unreachable places to us snorkelers. What a mystical experience.

All that loveliness and mystery followed by a sub-par roadside lunch and a speedy drive back home to hastily change for the plane ride home only to sit in the airport for ages – the story of my life☺. (My airport experiences this trip are a whole different, much less glorious chapter of this story that really doesn’t need to be told.)

So, Mexico, you have sung me a different song on this trip. One of seduction, adventure, romance and beauty….Thank you for generously sharing your wonders with me and maybe…just maybe, one day we shall meet again. Till then, Cambodia is calling my name and I must answer….

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apparently the baby Jesus doesn’t make his appearance till christmas (or xmas eve?) Town square of Valladolid – inland city on the way to Chichen Itza.

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our favorite lunch we had! best enchiladas ever.

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apparently this is how one can meet a stranger here in this town…

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…and if you’re lucky it will go like this!! 🙂

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so the idea is to get this little rubber ball through the circle…the captain of the winning team gets beheaded by the captain of the losing team – it was an honor to be sacrificed by the gods…sounds like an all around lose-lose situation to me!

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