South East Asia Day 1 Flight from Utah to Vietnam

Like most travel days I have, I began the day by sleeping very little the night before. I drank a fair amount of coffee while packing and re-packing my bags to ensure that I had everything, which I knew I didn’t, I never do. It was around 10 am that I realized I had not actually sent off my taxes and so, like any reasonable person, I sat down at the most inopportune time to do them. Somehow I managed to  get them done, though this of course lead to my forgetting something that I would want. In either case, my Mother was panicking that we would be late for the flight. It seems that planning excessive time before a flight and still panicking  about being late is genetic. So we grabbed our bags and piled into the car. My step-father dropped us of at the terminal and we said our goodbyes before making out way through security. We were of course quite early for our flight and so grabbed some food. During this time we discovered that my mothers go-pro, which we thought had been lost, was found along with a lunch that had been packed for me and that I had forgotten to grab but very much wanted. So, my Step-father agreed to drive all the way back to the airport to deliver these things to us. I left my things with my mother and met up with him. By the time we had done this, paid for our over priced food, and began making our way the gate we realized that they were already in final boarding so we ran the rest of the way to the gate and slipped in just before they closed the cabin door. The flight had a layover in San Francisco that was much longer than desirable but was otherwise uneventful.

We made the connection and boarded in the early hour of the morning for our next transfer almost 12 hours later in Taipei, Taiwan. There we were supposed to meet up with a friend who was joining us for the trip, James. Do to some worried about the need for a visa into Vietnam he was unsure if he was going to be stuck in Taiwan or be able to meet us in Ho Chi Mihn City.  While anxious about my friend we boarded our last plan on the way to Vietnam and e few short hours later arrived in Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam. We were whole heartedly unprepared for the heat that was waiting for us outside of the air conditioned plane. We collected our bags and flagged down a taxi to take us to the hostel we had booked online via HostelWorld.com.

When we arrived we found James there enjoying a beer in the lobby. He had apparently been able to get the visa sorted out. For those flying into Vietnam, I would recommend that you get a visa in advance.  We left our things in the room of “Hotel Luan Vu”, which was very nice. We then talked for a bit with the girl at the front desk. She was a very sweet girl and quite funny. We joined James for some beers in the lobby and a little and then my cousin, Sara, arrived. She had been in another part of Vietnam for a few days and had taken the train to meet us. We headed off and walked around town eventually we came across the market, It was a labyrinth of items, some of which I later regretted not buying. You could find almost anything you wanted within the tightly packed and rather foul smelling corridors of the shopping area. Many shops had the same things but with some interesting variety from cloths to sea cucumbers. Along our walk I was amused by some of the notable differences between the States and Vietnam. The was people moved among each other seemed more chaotic and yet organized then in the states. In the park there were some free exercises machines, which I’m still not sure if they actually did anything that would be particularly effective for those using them. My initial impression of the country was a positive one. So we concluded our first day on a long and exciting adventure.

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Days 4 and 5 – Merino, Co

After caravanning with my cousins most of the way to For Collins, I realized this put me way out of the way. It turns out that my inability to properly tell directions added about 1.5-2 hours onto my travel. Though I did get to enjoy some delicious organic burgers with two of my cousins. without further delay I made my way to the Merino/Sterling area, where I was ecstatic to meet up with the family I adopted some years back. 

I arrived in Merino late and to make my embarrassing lack of directional skills even worse, when I thought I was there I walked into my adopted mother’s neighbor’s house. They were very nice and gracious when they asked who I was. Red with embarrassment I asked where the house I was looking for was located. They pointed me in the right direction and I ducked out with a red face. 

I spent that night having amazing conversation before folding down, it had been a long day of driving and it had taken its toll on me. The conversation began again the next morning and covered a wide array of topics every thing from my schooling to social dynamics in various places we have been too. The next thing we new my mom and I had talked straight until the time we were suppose to be on the way to a potluck dinner with the other members of my adopted family. Most of them where there, though unfortunately the eldest female sibling in my adopted family couldn’t make it she was still there in our heart with us. 

We arrived and began chatting as if I had never left the little Colorado town. I have learned a few things in my so far short time here, one of which is family is more than just your blood. Family is made up of those people who you choose to be around and whom you love. In my case, my family is composed of my blood relatives as well as others that I have incorporated into my life. Thank you for everything guys! 

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New Phase Day 3 The Wedding

The cabin woke earlier than usual and the atmosphere was alive with excitement. My clock read 8 am and already people were wandering about and preparing for the ceremony  The cabin was, according to other people present, the cleanest it had ever been. People rushed around to straiten up the grounds as well. Many of the tasks had been completed the previous day and just needed assembling. My Uncle Robert, a few others, and myself all worked to flatten the alter area. We relocated rocks and dirt to provide the perfect stage for my cousin’s perfect day. My other cousin Sara had lead a flower picking party and returned with some of the most beautiful wild flowers I had ever seen. 

Some of the ladies than set to work arranging the bouquet in the hand decorated vases with river rocks and water in the base. This aspect  along with so many others completed the amazing combination of pink, orange, and white. Chairs were in order and tables were set up and all we were missing were the people. Guests started to arrive earlier than expected but the extra time with family and friends was a welcomed problem to have. The first hints of stress on the beautiful day arrived when the sky opened and rain came pouring down. 

Many of the guests as well as those of us who were helping set things up were very concerned. Eventually the rain lightened and all looked as though it would be alright. That is however, when the second stress happened: the bride was late. This was unusual considering the bride is a generally punctual person. The sky began clouding again and people were concerned that when the bride arrived the sunlight would have given way to the dark rain clouds again. 

Bordering on the level of uncomfortable, the clock kept ticking and still no bride. For the second time that day, the rain subsided and in just that moment the bride arrived. There had apparently been some direction and traffic related delays. Despite that the bride was ushered inside and the guests were directed to their seats.

The ceremony was full of love and laughter much like the two people joining themselves.  Each exchanged loving vows and were bound by a good friend, who performed the service. Before the rings were exchanged the siblings loving attempted to preform the song the “The Little Mermaid” You know you want to kiss the girl. The performance while both off key and missing lines was one of the most heartfelt examples of sibling devotion one could imagine. Hugs were exchanged and so were rings. While still basking in the rare sunlight of the afternoon my cousin and her husbanded kissed each other and began a mutual dream they shared, their lives. Almost as is by divine province, the rain started up again just as the ceremony was completed.

The rest of the night was packed with drinking and celebration. We all danced and sang under the stars. Stories were told around the fire and in circles of friends. Family strengthened bonds and I new that never in my life had I been so close to my cousins. This was a new day with infinite possibilities, which we brought it home with laughter and love.  

All my Love to Stefanie and Noah ❤

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New Phase Day 2

I woke early and spent the morning wondering around and helping prep for the wedding the following day. As with any wedding, there was always more to be done. My cousin Stef is a wonderfully creative person and had practically designed her wedding from the ground up. Each detail was accounted for and she, unlike the rest of us, was peacefully calm in the knowledge that everything was going to turn out perfectly. Everyone assisted in the work from cleaning and cutting veggies for the dishes to setting up decorations. After a full day of work the family and some friends cleaned themselves up for a family dinner. This was the first time I was ever introduced to Noah’s, the groom’s, family. They are all amazing people. I had a blast wandering around and conversing with the diverse group of people. They had ordered pizza, brought the drinks, and payed attention to all the other details in this simple and lovely dinner.

Finally the dinner came to an end and everyone had to shuffle home. We arrived at the cabin where the remainder of the guests were. I poured a fresh glass of tap beer and mingled with the other people. The area was coming together lovely and all it needed was some finishing touches in the morning. Even though today, like previous days, it had rained on an off, I went for a walk to enjoy the area around the lake. The cool and quite air outside of camp was a nice change to the hustle and bustle of the people and the perfect way to end my night. Tomorrow would be as perfect at the mountains around the little cabin and tents.

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Beginning a New Phase Day 1

I began my newest stage of life with a bit of a rough start. The morning its self was beautiful. The sun was high and it wasn’t too hot. I packed my car up utilizing my skills in Tetris and managed to fit all of the belongings humanly possible in the back of my blue Hyundai hatchback. The only issue was that my keys were among those belongings and when I closed the door I locked them inside. My mom of course was only slightly sorry for my predicament as it meant I could spend some extra time with her before putting some pavement behind me. This lead to the most leisurely lock smith I have ever encountered. The man could use a little zest to say the least. However, after 50 min waiting and 5 min work, minus a hefty chunk of money I was on the road. I made my way to Salt Lake where I made a rather late appearance at breakfast. I spent a few relaxing moments calming down over coffee with some of my closest friends. Finally I couldn’t wait any longer, we exchanged hugs and temporary goodbyes. It is always hard to leave good friends, even if only for a while. My old roommate and good friend James wanted to see me one last time before leaving so on my way out I swung by for goodbyes. I was now outside of Salt Lake but had one last stop. I filled my tank, grabbed some extra road food, and meet up with my dad for some last minute hugs and kisses. 

With that I was off and down the road. I was passing though Moab on the way to my cousins wedding. Even though daylight was burning faster than I would like, I needed to eat. So, i stopped at one of my favorite restaurants in Moab that serves really good Thai food. After my delicious order of cocoanut cream soup and rice I hit the road.

The view was breath taking the whole way. If you have never taken this route into Colorado, you should. The mountains were beautiful and the road was practically deserted. I stopped repeatedly to take photos and this resulted in my inevitable late arrival to the camp on Trout Lake. This little piece of heaven is located just outside Telluride, Co and was a perfect backdrop for the wedding. By now it was dark and there was still 2 days till the wedding. I had made it and was rewarded immediately with a beer from tap and good conversation. I feel asleep that night excited for the next few days of memories with my family. I had always wished I had opportunities to bond with my cousins. I was thrilled to finally have the chance to increase that connection. Image

Days 26 and 27 Waterfall Showers and Break Downs

I woke early to the sound of cars passing by on the road. the mountains seemed alive as the sun rose in the sky. A new day with new adventures had begun. We continued on our way to David where we would run some errands and look for a well priced camera then off to Panama. While driving down the road we spotted a waterfall that we could shower in. So we pulled off the side of the road and began exploring the area. We walked down a water drainage pipe that opened up to a cliff where you could see down a valley in the cloud forest.

The water we washed in was cold but fresh and clean. Showers are a luxury I had often taken for granted. While we showered a cloud moved in all around us, limiting visibility slightly and creating a mystic atmosphere. It was then that a light drizzle began and we finished showering in the waterfall in the rain. When we were cleaned up, we ate some lunch and headed the rest of the way into town. There the first store we found had the camera we were looking for and cheaper than we thought, which was incredibly lucky. With those ready and the afternoon burning along we tried to leave town.

I say tried to leave because by the time we reached a few miles out of town the fuel stopped cycling and wiggles broke down. We managed to get back into town and find a mechanic. However, it was Sunday and everyone was closed. Luckily we were told we could stay at the shop till morning. Beyond that we had to try and clean up the mildew smell from where wiggles had leaked in the rainstorm. Over all it was hard to sleep that night.

When the sun rose we went to work doing various jobs. I charged tech and did online updates. Thad worked on media while Angela worked tirelessly to communicate with the mechanics to fix wiggles; everyone helped wash and dry things. The whole day was spent leaching of McDonald’s wifi and working on the van. With little progress we hoped that the problem would be fixed in enough time to get me to Panama city for my flight.

Day 25 Tropical Islands and Snorkeling in the Coral

We woke up to the sound of commuters piling into the ferry headed to the island of Bocas del Toro. We decided that based on the quickness and identical price of the ferry to water taxis, the water taxi was the way to go. So while headed to the other section of the dock we meet up with a guy who gets paid to direct people to his company. He led us to our water taxi, soon and 4 dollars later, we were zipping across the slightly choppy water. The surroundings were beautiful. There were small islands made up of trees growing from the water and boats of all kinds drifting along. The fresh air caressed my face as we weaved in and out of islands and boats at 50 MPH.

We reached Bocas del Toro after about 20 min and the island had an instant calming effect.  The people and environment were both laid back. The town was full of little shops and restaurant. We found a guide to take us snorkeling and dolphin watching along the main road. Once the little boat had picked everyone up we were off to see the dolphins.

Though we were not allowed to get in the water we watched for some time as the dolphins played and swam. This area is a main mating spot for dolphins and we were in the right season. They jumped through the air and preformed other acrobatics in the hopes of impressing possible mates. Soon we moved on to a little hut village that was resting on stilts over the water to eat and get ready for snorkeling over the reef.

Only some of the people on our tour wanted to snorkel so some were left at the village while we geared up and jumped in the cool water. Coral there was quiet diverse and we were warned to avoid an area where there was poisonous and stinging coral. As i swam around I noted that the colors were amazing. The blues, greens and reds all twined together and moving in unison. Even with the slightly less ideal waters of the rainy season, the colors were vibrant and housed equally vibrant fish. The fish were ranging from small striped ones to large rainbow colored ones. They were not particularly shy and when about they day as if I, a large foreign monster, was not looming over them with gigantic plastic eyes.

Unfortunately the currents were strong and as I swam about I would find myself drug around. I consider myself a rather decent swimmer and yet holding my ground was almost impossible.  I quickly found myself among the less desirable, itchy coral and suffered their wrath on my stomach and arms. The tour guide called everyone in and insisted we go back. The waters were too rough and the conditions were too dangerous to continue. Though Thad, Angela, and I were disappointed there was no discussing the terms. So we rested the remainder of the time in hammocks in the waterfront village.

When we arrived at port again we ate some dinner and headed back on the last water taxi of the day. While I have a difficult time handling the crowded on public transit, it provides an opportunity to watch the wide verity of people who are also migrating. They range from young teens gossiping to older workers and tourists. It makes for an interesting ride. By the time we got to wiggles, it was almost dark. After some confusion we found our way out of town and on the hunt for a place to park, which we found on the side of the road along the mountain pass.

Day 24 Car Surfing in the Rain, Boarders, and Dark Port Towns

We decided over breakfast that we would pack up and head for the boarder, assuming that is that we could manage to get out of the mud we were in. The whole night it had poured and was continuing to pour. The rainy season was moving up to its name. The ground was now muddy and each hole had become a minor lake. We attempted to dry up what we could but during the night the rain had dripped inside a little.

After we managed to get unstuck and made our way down the road, Angela and I decided we wanted to ride in the rain. We climbed up on wiggles in our bathing suits and held on tight. The rain fell hard but not too cold. We laughed and joked as we lumbered down the dirt road, waving at locals as we went. The moments I was on top of the van with a slight chill and the feeling of each drop hitting my exposed flesh, I felt alive. Eventually we reached the main road and had to get back in the vehicle. However, for that stretch of dirt I felt fresh and free of all stress.

From the reserve, it was a short drive to the boarder of Panama. We strapped on our rain coats and panchos and stared waiting in line. While Thad and Angela handled wiggles’ I held our spot in line. I watched the people shuffling past as though I didn’t exist as they went about their business. The group of students on their summer trip joked and laughed loudly in front of me while several backpackers and a very proud and well maintained woman stood behind me. Leaning against the brick wall of one of the public buildings I watched two girls gossip with each other and the Panama military personal patrolling and randomly asking for ID from passer-byers. About an hour or so later, they came back to get their passports stamped before returning to the task of wiggles.

The car took more than expected to get across the boarder. While there was no exit fee when crossing a land boarder from Costa Rica to Panama there is a 3 dollar taxes charge for Panama. With all of those things combined we turned out we were 25 cents short and the officials were sick of our pennies and began refusing them. This left us with only be choice, see if anyone in wanted to exchange pennies for other change. Luckily, a fellow a few people behind us spoke beautiful English and was willing to help.

So with the skin of our teeth and still the shortest boarder crossing to date we entered Panama and were on our way. The day was still fairly young and so we ran some errands such as shopping and looking for a replacement camera for the one Thad and Angela had damaged. With shopping done and no luck on cameras we pushed on to the port town of Almirante. It was dark when we arrived and quite honestly the town was a little unsettling.

Everyone walked around on the street with little regard for cars. People would yell as you passed by for seemingly no reason at all. When we realized we were a little lost we asked directions from a police officer, who guided us to the dock where the fairies were. Given that it was now quite dark and not feeling safe sleeping in the town, we asked if we could just sleep by the boat, which we were assured was a safe place.

After prepping wiggles and dealing with light night rain showers we settled into bed. I had a hard time falling asleep with the sounds of dock workers moving and preparing ships for the morning hall. Eventually I drifted off to a light and rather unsatisfying sleep.

Day 23 Protecting Turtles and Long Drives

When I woke it was still raining. The green of the foliage was intense in the morning light. My friends were still sleeping and I laid there for a while watching the rain slide down the window backed by rich green, listening to the drops hit the van. Despite the leek on one side, I had nothing to panic about, nothing to do other than breath and listen.

We started breakfast before pulling back on to the main road. Still in Costa Rica we were close to the border but wanted to see some beaches along the coast. We reached the first of some beaches we had been recommended while in Monteverdi. The little tourist town that occupied the beach was more interesting than the beach its self and so we decided to move along. We stopped to ask after a place to eat and what we could do in the area at tourist booth on the main road. The women there recommended a good and well priced lunch place. She had come from Spain and was working and living here now. After some talk she told us about a turtle reserve we could volunteer at. She had done some work there as well and told us how amazing it was.

We ate and moved south to the reserve. We drove past some amazing scenery while on our way even seeing monkeys and tucans in the wild. When we had reached the community by the turtle reserve we had to ask around for a guide that spoke English. Luckily one of the few people who spoke English was available. We paid him 20$ per person to be a guide and help pay for the supplies of the nonprofit organization that helps to protect the breading grounds of several types of turtles that use the beach as a hatching ground.

Braulio, our guide, explained the rules and and aims of the organization that he works for. We then dressed in dark colors, used our red head lights and began our rounds. The first round of the night runs from 8pm to 12am, which is the one we were assisting with. We were to walk along the beach and watch for birthing turtles. If any lay eggs than we were to help collect eggs that were played in dangerous spots while also keeping an eye put for egg poachers.

All that night we walked the length of the beach several times and spoke with Braulio about his life and work near the beach. Late that night a female leather back turtle found her way to the beach. We had hopped that she was ready but she wasn’t and returned to the sea. Just before our shift ended the local police did some rounds to check for poachers. That night we slept in wiggles and listened to the rain as it started to fall hard and fast in the early am hours.

Day 22 Goodbye to Good Friends, Hello to the Rain

David and Jeff left early in the morning. I stayed at the hotel while Angela and Thad dropped them off. I was sad to see them go. I had grown rather close to them and will miss them. The next morning was utilized to finish necessary processes and finish contacting people. By noon we were back on the road, our vacation from our vacation was over and there were things to jump off and places to explore.

We drove most of the day to make it to the other side of the country. The pacific side is currently in its rainy season. The farther south we went the greener the country got. We drove over large rolling hills covered in thick trees and plantations of fruit such as bananas. We stopped in a small town for lunch and took a small break. However, it gets dark fairly early and we wanted to reach the coast by sundown.

It was close but we found a little clearing just off of the road where we could see the waves and were nestled below thick foliage. It had been lightly raining on and off all but an hour or so after we parked, it poured. Even with the rain the air was hot and thick, which is a sensation I am still trying to be accustomed to. The rain remained unrelenting as we relaxed for the night and settled in to eat dinner. It continued in a down poor while I drifted off to sleep.

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