K8’s Old Blog

 Thai

Blogs from 2006-2008 including trips to London, Dubai, Tanzania, Zanizibar, Puerto Rico, Thailand and the British Virgin Islands; plus a little bit of randomness too.

March 31, 2009
Back Home in San Diego… reflecting on Tortola, British Virgin Island and Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico

What’s It All About Elsie?

I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t blog the rest of my trip.  It’s a first!  I know…  When I came back I went to the doc and my blood pressure was 96/60 – LOW!  And ever since the trip I haven’t quite been able to get ‘back.’ So it’s left me wondering…  “what’s it all about, Elsie?”  Pray tell cause all I know is i want more of whatever THAT was…
 

Flashback to Cane Garden Bay, Tortola where we left off.  I’m sitting on the deck of Rhymers and I have NO idea what day it is, what time it is and frankly I couldn’t care less.  I’m here w/ my roommate Cathy and we’ve been keeping time by nights.  Night 1, Night 2, Night 3 …. and if it’s Night 4 it’s our last Night and we’ve gotta go tomorrow.  Do people that live here keep time?  I’m wondering if life can get better?!?  Maybe I’ve found a little slice of paradise, yes yes that’s what it must be. 

 
…And then it’s gone but a few favorites to remember:
*  Myett’s Happy Hour w/ Myett’s Delight & Malibu Diets.  Apply caution.
*  Dance to Cap-Eye’s band and what the heck was that frog instrument thing?? 
*  ‘The Tree,’  I mean seriously it’s a hazard to have a tree growing out of the middle of a bar.
*  Tortola Dirt, it goes on EVERYTHING
*  Those hot island boys do too
*  Dance barefoot @ The Bomba Shack, avoid staring at the size 20 furry underware hanging from the rafters.
* Grilled Cheese over Gin Rummy when it rains
*  Baby Bull, just find the green shack.
*  Soggy Dollars Painkillers… the helpful multi-functioned cure.
*  White Bay Beach on Jost Van Dyke
*  Myett’s Bruschetta every.single.night. doesn’t disappoint.
*  The swings at Elm Beach
*  Swerve?
 
…..  and then back to Puerto Rico.  changed.
The run-down from here…..
*  I can no longer think straight and therefore can not speak Spanish after returning from the BVIs
*  New Years Eve bonfire w/ the Argentinians.  Love. it.
*  PRH3 doesn’t dissapoint with the Hangover Hash!  Ole Yelllllla, babyyyyyy! 
*  Just say no to anything foreign related.
*  La Sheisha!
*  Wave jumping in the Caribbean is still hazardous to bathing suits
*  Don’t expect to get a taxi into VSJ the night before an inauguration
*  Dinners at museums rock!
*  Nando’s new sail boat inspires “our household needs a sailboat”
* I can never leave PR on any amount of sleep.  Sleep is overrated anyway i suppose.
 
And a few lessons:
* No phone. No Facebook.  peace.
*  simplify. simplify. and then happiness.
*  S  p     e     a  k     s     l o w  l      y  in Tortola
*  sponteneity and randomness still rules.
*  Locals are the way to go.
*  Don’t be jaded.
*  i’m coming back. no question.
 
I truly believe that you get out what you put into life.  I’ve put in a lot and am “Livin the life, every single day” – yes?  yes. But somethings changed.  I don’t know yet what it is, but something big.  And I can’t seem to shake it… 
 
Where to next?  Machu Picchu Baby!  But I’ll be back.  Promise.
 
XOXO,  KATES
December 27, 2008
Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico

Chi-Town Baby!!

So I arrived in Chicago approximadamente 1am…. it was COLD COLD COLD…. -4F or -31F the next day when I checked at 11am. Woow!! So of course I was not going to leave my parents house until it got about zero degrees. Well, except to go get wine for the wine tasting that night with my brother (Jonathan or a.k.a JVB or Wubbs!) & Mom. Great time that night just hanging out with the P’s, cooking an amazing Ragout, drinking wine, playing Trivial Pursuit and generally laughing and having a good time stuck in the house. Of course if you know me you’ll know that by 7pm I had more than a little cabin fever so Mom & I layered up and walked Kodi Bear. Note: Kodi Bear was NOT happy to be walked, the frost bite probably didn’t help. But we went anyway….. …. And the next day it was above zero and so I ran, went to yoga & did all my PT exercises in-between trying to find Sophia Duncan. Who the heck is Sophia Duncan you might ask?? Don Alan is way into Geneology and I must admit it’s kinda fun hunting down old relatives so I unsuccessfully attempted to locate Sophia (who we think is actually Rhona) from Alabama. In the process, I also learned I’m a decendant of that guy that turned in William Walker in Braveheart. Seriously, sheesh… I guess we all have to have a little bit of drama in our past. That guy and the Thomas Jefferson-esque guy who freed all his slaves after having an affair with one of them was kinda interesting. Anyway, tangent that I don’t have time for (I’m off to the BVI’s in 20 minutes so I better just skip ahead…. Mom’s birthday at Erin’s was fun as always and oh my goodness do we have a little Don Alan in the family… Luke De Bruin is just the cutest (along w/ Dom & Ramsey I mean) Did get a chance to go downtown on the 23rd to visit with some old friends from H.S. (Katy / Marcie) and as always we spent 4 hours debriefing each other on the last year of our lives. I SERIOUSLY think you (Katy, Marcie, Caroline) need to visit in San Diego around the March timeframe when it’s likely still -31F in Chicago!! Somehow made it on the 6:35am train back to H-Wood to celebrate Xmas with the fam the next morning. Of course (of course of course) Mom out did herself, again, with the day…. and I don’t just mean the presents. The food, the presents, the games, the time spent together was wonderful. No, I’m not sucking up (jonathan!) I really mean it. That afternoon I finally was able to run outdoors… even with the rain, ice, snow, sleet it was good to get outside and try out my new Garmin 🙂 My family tries so hard to make sure everything is perfect when we’re all home at Christmas, but when it comes down to it the best part is just spending time together. I’ll take -31F and snow any year if it means sitting around together simply enjoying time. I made it back to Puerto Rico on Xmas night just fine surprising considering O’Hare was closed between the day I arrived and the day I left without affecting my flights. Cathy (roommate) wasn’t quite as lucky but did make it safely after a 24 hour saga. Okay, I better be on my way…. off to the BVI’s!!! XoXo Kates

December 24, 2008
At Home in Chicago

Winter Travels 2008

Hola !!
 
Who knew that people actually read this thing!!  Seriously, a few of you have asked about why I haven’t been bloggin’ this trip…  frankly I was just being too darn lazy!  Ahhhh beach life 😉
 
So, long story short I’m on holiday for about 3-weeks going to Puerto Rico, Chicago, Puerto Rico, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico then back home to San Diego.  A few things I hope to encounter in my travels:  beach, sand, sun, a little bit of snow and lots of good times with friends and family alike.
 
So for now I’ll just blog Puerto Rico take 1 (you’ll note there are 3-takes after all)….
 
I’ll just keep this blog short since by now you’ve probably gotten the jist of how I viva la vida borriqua – yes that’s right I’m actually going to ATTEMPT to shorten the story… so here it is in fast-motion.
 
Leave late-night on the 19th and red eye it into SJU on the 20th where I’m promptly swooped up by Dustin & Kathy….
Saturday… beach time!  lunch at our favorite beach-side cafe (which I always thought was named Pamelas but turns out it i was wrong)…  back for viejo san juan only to have Kathy & I throw on our running shoes and vamanos right back to… you guessed it…. the beach 🙂  salsa party that night with the whole crew and a few new ones.   Sunday….  brunch followed by lots of wave jumping in the caribbean followed by the worlds most interesting Gingerbread House contest.  Woow, I’ll leave out the details – and the photos – and just say this one was too interesting to repeat online.  (disclaimer for M-F:  I swear I did work even if remotely in-between the fun 🙂 Monday….  Spanish class w/ Ute, work, work, beach, work (see!), run & chillin’ at Kathy’s casita where things may have gotten just a little bit interesting. Tuesday…  more of the same as Monday but did get a few hill runs in.  Wednesday…  dinner w/ Gardi & Guerrmo and more wine which clearly meant that we needed to stay out at El Batey (local dive) for the rest of the night.  Thursday…  dry! and a 10pm bedtime, thank goodness.  Friday…  Dustin’s Christmas party at some awesome Peruvian restaurant and a very weak attempt out at El Batey which didn’t last (can’t a girl use the “have to run 9 manana” excuse anymore?)  Saturday…. somehow I did get in that run, more jumping waves in the caribbean…. 
 
and ended-up in Chicago at 1am wishing the white stuff floating in the air was sand!!! 
 
What I learned:
*  Leaving the n out of punta can make a sentence go very very wrong
* Caribbean waves in December can be fatal to bathing suits
* Tiger hunting is not really tiger hunting… and always check under the kitchen table.
*  Van Morrison and about half the worlds salsa bands rock… and so does manchango cheese.
* Enacting the ‘no phone with wine’ rule is a must…  with cuarenta & tres is survival.
 
More later….
 
XXXOOOO,  Kates
 
 
 
 
 
 
June 02, 2008
Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico and Vieques
Viva la Vida Borrequa!
I LOVE Puerto Rico!
 
Seriously, any place that I visit for 2-weeks, come back a year later and the man at the coffee asks where I’ve been, I run into people all day everyday that I know and just feels like I’m right where I should be… miraculous!  Bodega Chic, El Botey, St. Germains, the Plaza, El Bombero, El Mason, Pinkie’s, the Beach, 43, Vieques! ….  a few favorites.
 
Day 1, Vieques!
Arrive.  Boat.  Small Island with amazing beaches? yes please!
Sam Adams.  Wine. Beach.  Wine.  Crystal Blue.  Wine.  Crystal White.  Wine…..
Nap.
I’ve met paradise and damn is it nice!
Where did we meet these locals?
43.  Champagne.  Champagne.  Champagne.  Champagne.
 
Day 2,
Beach Bungalow.
Coffee.  Breakfast.  Coffee.  Toothbrush.  Thank god for the toothbrush!
More beach.  Crystal blue.
Dolphins?? Amazing wild dolphins.  Swimming monkeys.  The Puerto Rican police.
Old San Juan!  Kathy, your new open-air pad is amazing!
Bodega.  Couch.  Movie.  Ben & Jerrys. Sleep. 
 
Day 3-6,
Well I AM working after all.  Promise.
Work from Plaza in Old San Juan.
Work from Starbucks.
Lunch.  Walk.   Shop.
Work from Apartment.
Work from Park. Plaza.
Sunsets @ the beach!
Dinner with a charmer or two.
Argentinian families and their birthday parties!
Now, if only I could understand Spanish a bit better.
A ‘lil wine. a ‘lil cheese.
yup, that about sums it up.
 
Day 7,
Lunch beachside with the Argentinians!
A little get together at the casita!
wine. cheese.  dancing.  dancing.  43!  Ooohhwahhwahhahahahooooooo.
Kathy’s neighbors must have loved the rowdy ones!
El Botey.  Well clearly we had to take pictures of the bathroom.
What happened to those car mirrors?
The lesson of the night… palm oil BAD, FSC good.
 
Day 8,
Coffee!  El Bombero.  Coastie tours!
The Water Club – rooftop pool, bar, club.
It’s tradition!  Visitors!
Kathy, where did those inmates come from?
Bodega.  El Botey.  A little Modella night cap!
Yes, you should start seeing a pattern.
 
Day 9,
El Yunque.  Amazing green with ocean views.
Waterfall hikes…. real estate PLEASE.
Fajardo + Sailing Regatta + crystal blue.
Sunset @ the beach.
90+ degree water, getting knocked over by waves, okay and termites?
wine. cheese. wine. cheese.
 
DO I REALLY HAVE TO GO NOW?!?
Seriously…. 
I do need a hash name after all,
and I do appreciate everyones offer to sponsor my next trip.
Sooooo….
I’ll be back.
promise.
 
Meanwhile back in San Diego….
My apartment is WAY too quiet… and this ocean’s is at least 30 degrees colder.
okok, this IS the best place on the mainland.
Working remotely was SO much better

  

March 01, 2008
The Bangkok Airport, Thailand

My bad flight luck continues….

First, I’ll mention that all is well and I will be on my way home today.  Just not as I thought, on the flight that I thought, etc. etc. etc.  I’m in the Bangkok airport right now killing a little time after spending a few hours figuring this mess out.
 
So get into the airport this morning early enough – check-in, check baggage, make it through passport control, security, into the boarding area when the ticket lady comes up to me asking for my ticket saying it was booked wrong in the system.  I’m on a Japan Airlines flight though my ticket was booked and confirmed mind you through Northwest (NW frequent flier miles were used).  About 30 minutes of Japan Air trying to find my ticket number, asking me a million questions, calling NW airline who apparently they don’t have a contract with and hence can’t book frequent flier tickets through and so nope, can’t get on the flight.  I attempt to buy my ticket for let’s just say way too much money but all I want at this point is to get home and my credit card is declined.  Stupid me!!!  I forgot to call my credit card company ahead of time to tell them I’d be in Bangkok.  And the first time I used the cc was abuot 30 minutes earlier to buy breakfast since I have no more cash on me.  So apparently that set off the restriction on the card.
 
Anyway, they de-board my luggage and escort me out of the boarding / gate area to the NW ticket counter which has no one there.  The nice lady from Japan Air feels bad for me and let’s me use her cell phone since mind you I have no credit card and no cash to call out with.  Get ahold of NW and they give me many moons of run arounds and try to get me on another flight out on a sister airline…. you know, one they actually have a contract with.  But it’s Sunday and this is Thailand and so none of the systems are open.  A long while later and they determine all flights out today are full.  So they book me on a 6:00am flight out tomorrow…  which they can get me as far as Toyko on but the flights into the States are overbooked.  I won’t have an actual ticket until I arrive at the airport tomorrow morning when the ticket counter actually opens (3:00am).  So this is getting better and better you see….  I MAY get out of Bangkok sometime in the next day or so but in-between then and now it’ll be wonderful if my CC could work since no one takes debit.
 
So first thing I do is get $$ out of an ATM for security purposes.  And then find my way to the information desk to determine that yes, there is ONE flight out to LAX today on Thai airlines.  Full well knowing my CC doesn’t work I still go to their ticket counter.  Apparently the flight is closed.   Great – but then they get a few supervisors over (something about a stranded blonde in the middle of bangkok that looked like she was going to pass out may have spurred a bit of sympathy) and determine that yes, there are seats and 30 minutes later they have it authorized for purchase.  OH… but my CC doesn’t work.  I have them hold the flight and rush out to the payphone praying my debit card will work.  It doesn’t of course on the first phone.  Buy a card for the next phone, doesn’t work.  Finally I’m able to locate a working pay phone and my debit thankfully works.  Call home to mom just in case I’m not able to get through to the credit card company to let her know i’m okay but the line drops (don’t know if you got that call or could even here me, mom, but yes, I’m safe 🙂  And then finally get ahold of the CC company.  Whoow…  they lift the restriction…  back to Thai Airline.  I book the flight for $1,500 LESS than I was going to pay Japan Airlines (I know, it was almost an irrationale  purchase).  But I’m just glad to be getting out of here today with a booked ticket and confirmed seat.  Of course…  you just never know!!! 
 
Okay… more about Bangkok and the rest of my time later. 
 
XOXO,
Katie
February 29, 2008
Bangkok, Thailand
Chaing Mai, Thailand

The sampler tour

I think my last blog left off with mentioning that we were going to do a trek (now yesterday) and that the tour operator rattled off a gazillion things were were going to do… No way (we thought) can they actually fit this much into a 1-day trek.  Sure as heck – I was wrong!
 
When the tour operator picked us up we weren’t exactly sure if we were getting into the right pickup truck.  She seemed a bit confused (not a lot of english) and finally sad “okay okay, yes we can do that.”  Hmmm… 
 
But a bit later and we were off on what ended-up being a pack filled day that included:
 
The Orchid farm (And accompanying butterfly farm that had no butterflies)
Going to visit the Long Neck village tribe (women use brass rings to stretch their neck)
An Elephant Tour ride through the rural outback
Lunch at the Elephant place
Another visit to a village tribe
Hiking into a waterfall to swim
Whitewater rafting (no I”m not kidding – we were literally white water rafting)
Bamboo rafting
 
After attempting to teach the Thai tour guides a few different card games (unsuccesfully) we liked the Norweigans we met and so went back to their hotel to have a fewbeers with them and the tour guides. 
 
After all that we made it somehow to the airport in time for our 10pm flight to Bangkok!  It was late and so a late night into town to try and find a hotel which we were successful at on the second try.
 
Today lots and lots of walking (I’m exhausted!) around the city, on a water taxi, to the Grand Palace and Wat Phar Keow – more walking and now we just made it back to the hotel.  Oh – but we have managed to eat every 2 hours or so.  The fresh squeezed OJ, Pad Thai & other street-side food from the local vendors.  
 
Tonight we’re off to make the most of the infamous Bangkok nights…  we’ll see this could get interesting.
 
Hope all is well back home!
 
Katie 
February 27, 2008
Krabi, Thailand

Flying Monkeys, Hung Island & Men in Planes

This is probably going to be short… or at least as short as I can make things…  cause I’m on my way out soon.
 
So let’s see I think I left you last after we met up with Barrett and Marcie.  So here’s the quick update from then forward…
 
Flying Monkeys…  yes, apparently Thailand has flying monkeys that attach themselves to you.  Especially if you’re holding (or taunting them with) a banana.
 
Hung Island…  one of four islands we visited via speedboat on day 2 – snorkeled, sun bathed & sea kayaked.  Apparently getting stuck in caves is the thing to do.  Okay, not stuck but it was a close call.  The scenery was seriously amazing.  Limestone cliffs & caves, blue waters, lots and lots of islands.  I particularly enjoyed the swing on the first island and the Changs served on Hung Island.  Something about chilling in a blue lagoon beer in hand that just screams “no cares”
 
Found out that night from a few new Swedish friends that apparently there was a Tsunami warning…  2 days earlier…  yup, we had no clue that there was an earthquake off of Indonesia.  No worries, you can see the new warning sirens and evacuation signs everywhere so if something did happen we would have been fleeing into the mountains. 
 
More beach town, beach running & laziness the following day.  I did pick up a few good shopping bargains as well 🙂 
 
Then we’re off to Chaing Mai!  Our transfer flight was cancelled out of Bangkok (no luck i tell you), 3 hours, more Changs and a few games of Skip Bo & cards and were finally off to northern Thailand. 
 
Men on Planes…  apparently the guy sitting next to me in the exit row thought it appropriate to freak out on the way to Chaing Mai.   He looked ready to open the exit door mid-air.  But we did land safely in Chaing Mai and found ourselves a hotel right inside the city gates.
 
Went exploring and found a place to watch some Thai boxing.  There are more lady boys and transgender in this country — including the entertainment during the match.  Which lead to an interesting discussion on what it is about Thailand that stimulates … or perhaps it’s what is it about the US that suppresses transgendered individuals.  Anyway, enjoyed the Night Bazaar, a bar, a game of pool- a few friends (a screaming 4 year old and a brazilian) later we crashed in the $15/night Top North Guest house.
 
Which bring us about 3 days later to present day… we changed hotels to a bit more pricey ($50/night) place that has fresh towels and warm water.  Went out today and saw a number of the Wats (buddhist temples, etc.) in Chaing Mai, a veggie restaurant, got another Thai Massage for $4 / hr. and just got back from a 2-hour yoga class.  Hence, the somewhat subdued style from which I’m now writing.  But I better be off to dinner & whatever else the night may bring.
 
Off trekking tomorrow…  Apparently an 8 hour trek in Thailand can fit in 3 mountain tribes, hiking, swimming in waterfalls, rafting and an hour long elephant ride.  I’m skeptical but we’ll see…  then off to Bangkok for the final stretch of the trip! 
 
We’ve gotten lots in and had a blast backpacking around.  Can’t wait to show you the pics!
 
Hugs,
Katie
February 24, 2008
Krabi, Thailand

Reason #1000+ why you should never get on a plane with me…

Yes, that’s right.  If you don’t know my previous horrid stories of plane rides ask me when I get back…  I have a bad track record and it just got worse…  So plane out of San Diego into Seattle.  No troubles.  Seattle to Toyko…  9 1/2 hours – no troubles.  Until…  air pockets.  I’m not kidding when I say this extremely large plane was tossed around like a basketball.   Felt like we were on a roller coaster – over the Pacific Ocean (i hate flying over watter).  Out of no where we dropped a few thousand feet, turned on one side, another pocket hit, turned on the other side.  Air pockets aren’t turbulance – I can’t tell you the physics behind it but can tell you your stomach literally drops cause it feels like you’re falling out of the air.  We weaved and turned up, down, side, side…  Every person around me including my travel buddy got sick.  Poor Jesse got sick twice over.  No, it was not fun.  And yes, after about 30 minutes and I was trying extremely hard NOT to think of past flights, my bad luck or anything else that could go wrong.
 
But then we landed and all was well.  Pounded a beer and got on the next flight 🙂  Arrived in Bangkok last night and spent the night there.  Today off on another flight down to Krabi.  Actually Ao Nang.  IT IS GORGEOUS HERE…  I’ve had a Thai massage for the equivalent of $1.50, a few beers for about the same price and relaxed exploring the town and laying around the beach.  I can’t do this place justice – you’ll have to go on google images and look it up.  We’re off to some island or another (don’t know which yet) tomorrow.  OH and you could probably guess that we’ve found a place to stay both in Bangkok and here.  The place in Bangkok was $30 for a “resort” (really, it wasn’t a resort but was pretty nice) for the room and transfer to and from the airport.  I’m serious.
 
Okay, my friend just walked up with a crepe and I’m hungry.  This is crazy… can’t believe I’m here and have as you can imagine renewed my dream of retiring at 40 to travel the world.  Anyone have a plan for how I’m going to make enough money before then to support myself?!? 🙂 
 
XOXO
kates
February 21, 2008
From San Diego, prelude to Thailand

And the adventures continue…

As most everyone that knows me knows…  and if you don’t know then you don’t know me…. or haven’t read my blog…
 
Every year since who knows when I’ve compiled a list of goals / aspirations for the year.   Not NY-Resolution “lose 30 pounds” goals… (okay, not to be misleading I am that person as well) but the type of goals that align with the greater “things I want to do while I’m alive” list.  Yes, the now trendy “bucket list.”  Can I just repeat that I hate the now trendy version of life goals commonly referred to as bucket lists?  Bucket lists are destined to go down the same path as NY Resolutions, i.e. become meaningless promises that align with a social norm.  That’s why we don’t come up with trendy names  – trendy names lead to ritual and hence empty components of life.  Okay, stepping off the soap box….
 
So one of my goals of the year was to make headway on my personal aspiration to visit all continents.  I haven’t been to Asia, South America or Antarctica and so I was destined to spend my 1/2 day of earned vacation time in one of these locations.  I am dying to go to Machu Picchu and stay in Gringo Bill’s Hostal in Cusco (no, I don’t know Bill or his hostal).  But then my friend, Jesse, called talking about a trip to Thailand.  Now you know I can’t say no to travel but with 1/2 day of accrued time there’s definitely an opportunity cost to saying yes to the trip to Thailand (i.e. forfeiting Machu Picchu).  But then I thought about it and decided (1) I’ve heard Thailand is awesome  (2) what happens if I can’t find anyone to go to Machu Picchu with me (3)  Barrett and Marcie that are also going are great travel buddies (you’ll recall Barrett was the resident of the flat in London that was broken into in my trip last year — see previous entries).    But the real kicker came in thought #4…  I just know my friend is going to go and send me his pictures and I’m going to take one look at them and think “man, I should have just gone.” 
 
And so…  I jump online.  Verify frequent flier miles.  Book.  I’M GOING TO THAILAND!!!!!!!!! 
 
Tomorrow I’m off – on yet another adventure.   This is the point that I’d usually tell you my itinerary but truth be told I’m not all too sure on what that entails.  Did I mention we don’t have plans for where we’re staying?  We have flights from Bangkok to Krabi for a few days, up to Chiang Mai for a few days back to Bangkok and then it’s over!  We think we may scuba in Krabi – perhaps some elephant safari in Chiang Mai and must do traditional Thai massage in Bangkok.  But other than that… who knows!?!? 
 
If I find interente access (and time) I’ll share…  until then 🙂
 
XOXO
Kates
February 06, 2008
San Diego, CA

26.2 complete!

A year and a half ago I started this blog as a journal to capture a summer of running…  First blog captured my first race…   I thought I was darn near death at mile 2.  I keep telling people I couldn’t put 2 miles together before a year or two ago!  I went back and read the blog a few days ago, man have I come a ways… 

 

2-weeks ago I ran 26.2!  Yup, my first marathon.  Why the hell would I be crazy enough to do a full marathon you might ask?  Well, let me tell you I was questioning the same thing at about mile 24.  Simple answer, I had it on the list.  You know, that master list of things to do while I’m alive?!?  (apparently now that it’s trendy we’re all calling this a ‘bucket list’)

So here’s the story:

Back in September after spending almost every weekend outside my new home in San Diego – and after a lonely Friday night in SD I decided I needed to go out and make friends.  Joining a social running group to train for a marathon just fit.  So glad I did, I’ve met awesome friends in the process….  So 18-weeks and over 500 miles of training later… 

The Carlsbad Marathon…  simple goal of finishing.  (okay, so I’m lying the competitive bone in me had it in my head to run under 4:00:00)

Mile 2:  On pace for 4:00:00

Mile 5:  Wow, I’m ahead of that pace group

Mile 7:  1/2 marathon and full marathon were on the same course until it split.  90% of the people continued along the half marathon course – a bit of an eerie feeling knowing you’ve still got 20 miles to go and not too many people are coming with you!

Mile 7-12:  Straight shot up a 4% grade hill.  I’m now running with the 3:50 pace group (8:48 min miles)

Mile 12-14:  Down the hill and my legs are beginning to feel it

Mile 14-16:  Eek.

Mile 16-18:  The rolling hills keep coming and I’m shutting my eyes on the way up attempting to trick myself into believing I’m not running UP hill 🙂  doesn’t work.

Mile 18:  Hill.  Sucks.  People start dropping out of the race – including one of the pace group leaders (as in the guy that’s hired to LEAD and MOTIVATE the group)

Mile 18/19:  More hills.

Mile 20:  I find out later I’m running an 8:40 min pace at this point

Mile 21:  I’ve heard this is when your body starts shutting down.  I’m now focusing on mile to mile.

Mile 22:  Mentally challenging.  My body is definitely shutting down.   I’m now focusing on step by step. I can’t even think about water, fuel, anything.

Mile 23:  Lots of people dropping out.  I’m going up another freaking hill.  one foot infront of the other is all I can think – I’m no longer with my pace group and don’t even care.

Mile 24:  My only thought “I am never doing another freakin’ marathon again. and if i’m never doing another marathon I’m freakin’ finishing under 4:00:00”

Mile 25:  I think I’m going to cry.  No thoughts are in my head.

Mile 25-26:  Physically I’ve never been in so much pain or felt like my whole body was shutting down.  You can’t explain the feeling –  I know how / why people can’t make it through the last mile.  I can’t walk because it hurts more than running.  It’s downhill but it hurts.

Last few steps:  I see a Great Dane and then a few friends which pushes me through to the end.  If it was even 1/2 mile more I don’t think I could have made it.

I can’t move.  My whole body – muscles, joints ache and are on file.  I feel like my whole body has arthritis.

A few hours later:  🙂  I finished a freaking marathon 🙂  I’m on V’s couch eating cupcakes (thanks, Jen 🙂  and drinking Mimosas.  I can’t move.  I can’t walk.  But I can be just a little proud of myself for finishing my first marathon.  Secondarily, running it in 3:54:00.  That’s right – maybe this won’t be my last marathon after all.

 

October 25, 2007
San Diego, CA

it’s the price we pay to live in paradise”

Well things seem to be settling down but not before the damage has been done – an estimated $1 billion in fact.  I want to share with you a few high level points from the last few days and hopefully demonstrate just how personal this can be.
 
  • I’ve uploaded two fire maps from yesterday.  The first has my apartment and work tagged with a house and $ sign.  The fires came within about 5 miles of my apartment and within a block of work.  I’ll return to some pretty good smoke damage I’m sure but everything still standing…  I’m lucky.
  • About 85% of people that I work with have been evacuated.
  • Reports of at least 12 HPers (3 that I work directly with) that have lost their homes.
  • I have received emails, calls and texts from my dog walkers, fellow runners, co-workers, friends that I’ve met in San Diego all checking in to make sure the dogs were okay, i had a place to stay and offering any assistance they could.
  • HP set-up a website where people gave their whereabouts, listed known homes that were damaged and others offered up their homes or friends homes.
  • Everyone I know that stayed in San Diego has volunteered in some way — my dog walkers taking pets into their residence, friends opening up their doors and dropping off belongings to the Charger stadium.
  • Speaking of the Charger stadium — this was no Katrina.  From all reports it sounds like a five star woodstock…  live music and tons of good food.
  • The spirit of SoCal has certainly been apparent as the town has been hit with an estimated $1 billion in damages, close to 300,000 acres burned, somewhere around 1,500 homes destroyed, power outages to all SD residents throughout last night and massive clean-up efforts needed.

Call SoCal materialistic call it elitist or whatever other stereotypical badge can be found but I have seen no evidence of this phenomenon over the past few days.  In fact, in the face of massive loss most San Diegans are their typical positive cheerful selves, thankful for their own safety and that of their family and friends.  You see when it comes to definition understand that things – are still just things.  Sunday night when ash was coming down even then I went to let the dogs out and my neighbors were on their back porch.  I commented about the deterorating situation and their response “it’s the price we pay to live in paradise.”  And so it is…  I think I’ll call this place home for awhile…  It may just entail a few added precautions like adding a face mask to the emergency bag I’ll now keep in the apartment and perhaps conducting an earthquake hazard check or two.

It’s the price I’ll pay to live in paradise… if you lived here you’d understand.

Katie

 

Evacuated but Safe in San Fran (San Fran, CA)

An email I wrote to a number of people yesterday:
All,
I have received more text messages, emails and phone calls in the last day from people checking-in on my safety.  Thank you so much for your thoughts and concerns.  I am safe and currently in the San Fran bay area with the pooches.  I emailed a few of you on Sunday night about the situation which as you can imagine and based on the news deteriorated rapidly from there.
So if you didn’t get the first email scroll down and read that first.  This email follows the story from there.
………
Shortly after that email i had to plug my doors w/ towels to keep the smoke out.
Woke-up Monday morning to a call from Rachel.  The 2 fires from the night before had turned into 7 fires that morning (some since consolidated to 5).  One of the fires had jumped the 15 and was burning down houses in Rancho Bernardo (where HP is located).  One fire about 15 miles away another 10 miles away.  Our area was being recommended for evacuation.
We needed to make a quick decision on whether to stay or go.  A few factors to consider:   I-15 was closed, I-8 was closed the only way out of town was I-5.  We heard the fire was moving quickly in the direction of I-5.  Would I-5 stay open?  People are just waking up to the same news so how much time until (1) I-5 is jammed and (2) the movement of the fire closed the only way out? Even if i stayed when would i have to evacuate? Where would the dogs go in that case? 
Within 15 minutes my bag was packed w/ clothes for a few days, legal documents in-tow, the dogs, their food & bowls loaded up and Rach and I were heading out of town to San Fran to stay with her parents. 
The pictures don’t do the trip justice but come close.  Shortly after we got on the 5 I looked at Rachel and said “is this making you nervous?” “yup”  Know that when you see the picture that’s tagged as Del Mar racetrack that’s where people and large animals were being evacuated TO!
Thank god we got out when we did.  We’re safe and in San Francisco now.  Some friends still in-town have been moved and re-moved 2-3 times.  When I left the apartment there was already soot on the ground and wind damage.  That was over 24 hours ago.
To those still in San Diego be safe!
Love you all,
Katie

 

 October 21, 2007

House Arrest

An email I wrote at the start of the fires…
 
>—–Original Message—–
>From: Katie Boydston [mailto:kboydsto@msn.com]
>Sent: Sunday, October 21, 2007 7:37 PM
>Subject: House Arrest
>
>Well I am honkered up in my apartment until further notice — or so it
>appears.  A wildfire started about 25 miles away from me at 12:40.
>Unknown to me until I started driving to work (about 10 miles away from
>the fires) at 2:00p.m.  I got out of my car near work (visibility really
>low and very
>erie) and couldn’t breathe, ash was coming down.  Turned right back
>around and went in the opposite direction for some shopping.  By the
>time I got home around 5 visibility around my apartment was down to
>about 400 yards and everything stinks.  I mean stinks…  my car is
>going to smell like a bonfire indefinitely (good excuse to get that
>detail i’ve been wanting after this is over).
>
>Asia & Tego don’t know what to do and are quite depressed  – i’m
>depressed that i have to go out in this crap so they can pee before they
>go to bed!!
>
>Anyways, thought i’d share my update.  Hope all is well and the air is
>clean by you!
>
>
>Katie
June 11, 2007
Viejo San Juan & Culebra, Puerto Rico

Paradise!

I believe I have found paradise on earth…  Friday after class Kathy, Jodi & I traveled via puddle jumper to Culebra Island (12 miles off of Puerto Rico and about 8 miles from St. Thomas).  Here’s the full or not so full story:
 
Participants:  Kathy (friend), Jodi & 10 other PR Hash Hound Hashers. 
 
Purpose of the Trip:  Celebrate “box cars” last Hash by holding it on Culebra.  Which essentially means to eat, drink, run & chill out on the beach in Culebra.
 
We arrived on Friday, before the group on Saturday.  That night met a few locals…  including Taz – who will come into play later on in this story.  Awesome awesome awesome people.  We quickly discover that the “local rule” very very much applies on Culebra.  i.e. you either know everyone and can get anything or chose b, you’re a tourist and all the locals “hate you.”  Most of the locals are either there to hide or retire / relax.  A local shop’s sign says it all “Island Women’s store.  Open some days.  Closed others.”   Hope you can slow down and not give two bits about anything other than beer & beach.   By later that night, though – somewhere between being invited for dinner w/ locals at “dingy docks” and singing karoake with them at Gretchens (two out of four bars in total on the island) we’ve taken to them and they seem to have taken to us.
 
Saturday we eat, watch a few iguana’s tool around, slow our pace, drink some coffee and wait for the others to arrive.  They do, and we get on with relaxing at the beach, body surfing, snorkeling, etc.  Saturday afternoon we “hash” the island (i.e. run) where the locals are following us in there cars “auto hashing” if you will with us.  Our run ends with a great little hike down to an awesome beach just in-time for the sunset.  Oh and about 180 beers to drink in the process – doing th math that’s a crap load.  The pictures do more justice than I to the experience.  The night rolls in and we celebrate in true style.
 
Sunday….  What I forgot to mention above is that somehow one too many Corona’s on Friday night had me not only singing karaoke but also committing to Taz teaching me how to scuba dive on Sunday.  He’s a really fun / cool person that’s retired to the island to run his own little scuba shop.  I tried to tell everyone of my fear of sharks which got the well desired response “honey, the only type of sharks you have to worry about on this island are the kind you find on land.”  LOL.  So, Kathy, “Box Car” & I jump on his boat and partake in a full day in the sun which includes 1 scuba certification course, 2 scuba dives, 5 sting ray (one of which I came within 3 feet of), a baracuda, a ship wreck, lots of fish, lots of sea urchen, stuck my hands through big sea furn and some other something.  Was completely a surreal experience. Someone said it feels like flying under water which I agree with.  I very much think it feels like you’re swimming in one big aquarium at one with the fishies.  Very relaxing very cool experience.
 
So then took the puddle jumper back to San Juan and continued along with Spanish classes today.  I realize I haven’t given too much info on the reason I came here (i.e. the spanish immersion program).  So maybe another day.  I’m tired, back at Kathy’s laughing at Hell’s Kitchen. 
 
Hopefully the pics will do a bit of justice to the experience. 
 
XoXo
Kates
June 07, 2007
Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico

Hola!

Hola de Puerto Rico!  Arrived last Saturday but as you can see have had little time to blog…   Actually don’t have the time now – I’m too busy relaxing y estudiando por mi clase de espanol.  Oh yes, if you missed it I’m here in Puerto Rico relaxing, visiting w/ my friend Kathy and attending a Spanish Immersion program (one-on-one instruction for 3 hours / day).  Yes I may in-fact be obsessed with schooling 🙂 So…  here’s the wrap-up of events thus far.  I’m going to “pub talk” 🙂  this one to save a bit of time.
 
What To Pack:
Nothing but skirts & dresses are necessary.  If you’re a women don’t even try leaving your place in anything else.  You won’t fit in.
Running Clothes & Shoes
Sun Screen
Sun Glasses
Bug spray!
 
Where to go / What to Do: 
The Brickstone:  Try the Category 4 Hurricanes but don’t be surprised if your memory fails you at somepoint during the night.  Possibly after meeting a few dutch pilots.
Bombares:  I’ve never entered a place that better represents a “greasy spoon.”  Must be a local.  Must add sugar.  Must add lots and lots and lots of butter.  Doesn’t matter what you order it’s all good (todo bien).
The Streets of San Juan:  Picturesque cobblestone, bright colored buildings, lots of nooks and crannies, parks & plazas.
PH3 (Hash Hound Harriers):  A “drinking group with a running problem.”  5-6 miles in Pinones through the streets, along the beach, on the boardwalk.  Make sure to stop at the street side shack (i.e. beer check #2) 1/2 through the run.  Watch out for the garbage, emaciated dogs & women screaming at you to stop running through her yard.  Oh and the crooks that broke into everyones cars and stole about $6,000 worth of stuff from my group.  Odd thieves to take my $5 and leave the $1 bill.  That’s all they got from me.  Thank god they didn’t touch my camera (yes, I apparently attract thieves while I travel – see previous blogs – and ironically it’s always my camera that they leave behind).   The “hasher” group is AWESOME… consists of “three’s company”,  “R Kelly,” “EMT” “One-Inch Punch” “Ankles for Earrings” “Chapless Ass” “Pies Negros” “shitty titty” No-fucking-name-Dave (just named “I’m the bitch”), “gringo fucker,” no-fucking-name-Ian, no-fucking-name Mia and then me and another newbie were virgins.
Sat. Night in San Juan:  Bar hop – The brewery, twice at nueyoriquen for some salsa dancing a trip to The Brickstone for some karaoke (watch out for the Gringo who clears the bar w/ her singing….  what?  apparently they don’t like “Jack & Diane” in Puerto Rico 🙂  Plan for a 4:00am call time.
French Cafe in Condado:  Go there for some “Vitamin G” on Sunday morning w/ new found friends met at HHH. 
Oceanpark Beach:  Unbelievably picturesque.  Stop at the beach side cafe for a late lunch. Order the Arabian Platter.
First Step World:  Ummm….  my host person doesn’t know I’m coming and has no idea what I’m talking about with the “spanish immersion” program I’m enrolled.  Where the hell am I going to stay for the next two weeks? 
Sunday nights in Old San Juan:  Seriously, the entire neighborhood fills the Plaza at night singing what can only be related to as “campfire” songs, enjoying the company, etc.  There must have been 200+ people there.
Nesol Spanish School:  Hope that Jose is your instructor… and maybe you’ll luck out with one-on-one instruction like me.  Though he does pretends he doesn’t know English so you’ll really really be forced to speak spanish.  This place is awesome but lessons get harder and harder every day.
El Morro:  ANOTHER UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE CHECKED OFF MY LIST!!  This place is huge and unbelievable.  Must stop!
The Bus:  Slow but only $.50 and Ruta Una busses come around often.
Kathy’s Place:   An open air casita that overlooks the Bay of Puerto Rico.  SOOOO NICE!  Also a good place for a “latenight but not necessary” drink after Fri / Sat night partying. 
First Tuesday of the Month:  Art Galleries stay open late and everyone is out and the streets are packed!
What to Eat / Drink:
Cafe con Leche:  No matter where you go – from the coffee kiosks to the cafe on avenida de Ponce de Leon you can’t beat it!  Typical Cafe con Leche costs between $.50 and $1.07…  no Starbucks pricing here!
Plantain:  Plaintain chips, plaintain tostones, plaintain fried ball thing, plaintain with goat cheese…. todos bien!
Fried Food:  Never seen or eaten so much fried food in my life.  But again… todos bien!
Agua Viva restaraunt:  Great seafood – too bad I don’t eat it!  Who knew that there was veggie paella available? Good company w/ Kathy & Jared.
La Tamarind restaurant:  Try the white sangria and everything else on the menu.  Cuban black beans, puerto rican rice & beans, plaintain, yuca – everything Puerto Rican.
Baccarina:  place the Pina Colada was invented.  Didn’t know this when I walked in randomly desiring a Pina Colada and a break from the heat.
Bodega Chic:  DO NOT PASS THIS PLACE UP!  Looks like a hole in the wall bar BUT the food is awesome awesome awesome.  Chef / Owner owned a restaurant in New York before retiring for a more peaceful pace in San Juan.  Order the Mojito (best you’ll ever have!) but don’t be surprised if the bartender requires you to show proof that you’re local before he’ll make you one.  And I quote “who told you to come in and order a mojito?”  Good thing we knew someone…
El Bottey:  Another dive that locals consider one of the best places to be in Old San Juan.  ORDER 43 ON THE ROCKS WITH A SPLASH OF MILK.  It’s my new dessert drink – you can only find it in Puerto Rico but damn is it good!
What to expect from the Boriques (locals):
Locals are locals.  Quick to kick you out of a place that you don’t belong… unless of course you’re a women and have a good smile.
The women:  As Kathy says “it doesn’t matter what size they are they own it” and oh my goodness is this ever true!  My new favorite game is to walk down the street and watch all the men part like the sea.  I’m telling you we could all learn a few lessons from the women here!!! And most American men could learn a few (lot) of lessons from the chivalry that still exists among the Puerto Rican men.
Don’t be surprised if you run into the same people over and over and over again.  The locals are a small community and always out and about.
Don’t be surprised if the man at the coffee kiosk charges $1.07 for your coffee.  You give him $2 and he takes $1 saying “bring the $.07 tomorrow.  And then rememebers when you show up the following day w/ the change. 
One kiss on the right cheek for everyone!
Well dressed people.  Men and women alike.  Don’t dress down but less is more here. 
Other Shout Outs:
Running the streets of San Juan!
Yoga overlooking the bay in the mornings
El Meson’s fake roast beef
Kathy for putting me up, taking care, etc.! 
100% Deet
Street Cafes, People Watching & Slow paces
Autobus Ruta Numero Uno
Lucy & Roxy the Danes I met while running the streets
But Two thumbs down to First Step World’s host family program, the killer mosquitos, the traffic coming into Old San Juan and the bus driver that left me at the bus stop today.
Upcoming Events:
Flying to Culebra this weekend (island off PR)
Beach Time!
SoFo Festival tonight – kinda like the Taste of San Juan
Hash Numero Dos esta fin de semana (this weekend)
January 15, 2007
Phoenix, Arizona… relfecting on London, Dubai, Tanzania & Zanzibar

Reflections

After 40ish hours in flight traveling some 12,000 miles – I have arrived back home very tired.  Unfortunately, my luggage didn’t make it with me — it’s somewhere between Africa and London.  I slept a few hours and it’s now 2:30am and jet lag or jet forward depending on how you want to think of it is catching-up with me (can’t sleep) so I jumped on the computer to write down a few reflections from the trip.
 
First off I’ve now decided my theme for 2007 is “live in the moment.”  I did so many things during this trip that I could never have dreamed possible before the opportunities arose.  There was no set schedule at anypoint in the trip (except for the days that we were on Safari but even then we weren’t on a time schedule) and because of this we were all open to whatever opportunities came our way and goodness knows there were many of them!
 
The secondary theme of this year should be “Hakuna Matata”  (It’s amazing how accurate the Lion King actually was including with it’s Swahili).  We’ve also created a new phrase…  “I’m Hakuna Matata-ing my way through it”  meaning you’re working on not stressing about life or a particular stressful situation…… and remembering that there are no worries!
At somepoint during the trip my travel partners became more like family (though I admit we’re a bit of a disfunctional family!) and I am really glad to have had the people with me that I did.  Spending 3 weeks with friends (and I will also note here we had 2 ex-couples on the trip) could be a recipe for disaster but somehow we worked and traveled well together and learned a lot more about ourselves in the process.
Speaking of family, there were a number of times during the trip when I was reminded of vacations or holidays with my own family.  I have always appreciated (though sometimes not verbalized) the fact that my parents took us on a gazillion trips when I was growing up.  I feel incredibly blessed to have experienced so much of the U.S. and world because of their emphasis on family vacations and roadtrips.
One reason I love traveling, road trips, and family vacations is the simplicity and serenity that comes with it…  during the trip we watched almost no television, drank the occassional beer or two but never really in-excess, played a crap load of cards and dominoes, read a few good books and were extremely active.  It’s amazing how much clearer life becomes when you get rid of all the annoyances of everyday life like TV, cell phones, the social scene (and all the drama that goes along with it!)  This trip has also most certainly made me reflect on who I am and the people I want around me to leave footprints in my life.  There were times during our travels I was reminded of summer camp, camping in general, trips to the boundary waters, Nor’ Wester, lakehouse(s), family, friends and “family friends.”  I really do feel blessed… at many points I wanted those family, friends and “family friends” there to see what I was seeing or experience what I was experiencing.  Soogy’s space says it best “Live for the times that you will always remember with the friends you will never forget.” 
Early on in the trip, while in Bath actually, the group created “Pub Talk.”  As you may guess, we were in a pub when the activity was created…  everyday (or every activity) thereafter we noted on a piece of paper the activity, experience, place (For example, “Ngorongoro Farm House” where we stayed the first night on Safari) and then everyone wrote down the first thoughts that came to their head.  This is seriously the best vaca game ever created to help remember the times (and I’m not just saying that since we created it).  Unfortunately, I’m the beholder of said cards and 1/2 of them are currently in the missing luggage.  To give you an idea here’s everyone’s comments on the Ngorongoro Crater (my favorite location on Safari):
 
“Ngorongoro Conservation Area”
Katie:  W/i 20 minutes we were in-between a pack of 10 lions, eating lunch with the hippos and seeing vultures steal our food.
Heidi:  A lion stalking through the grass directly at you…  can you get more national geographic than that?  maybe if it was narrated by Morgan Freeman.
Jamie:  Flamingos, Frolicking zebras, super close lions, pain splitting bumps… all overclipsed by the amazing techocolor scenery
Rachel:  Where did my chicken go? Clearly these roads were made by a man…  descent hurts the boobs… oh ascent hurts too… damn!  Wow, so many different terrains.  Wow, those zebras ____  … no wonder all the females are prego.
Jonathan:  Please pronounce “Ngorongoro” because I can’t.
David:  The crunching of bone and shredding of flesh will haunt my dreams for weeks!
Jesse:  Don’t dismiss the Black Rhino’s.  You may not get up close and personal but there are only 13 in the world.  Think about that.
Soogy:  Easy Lion!!  Gabriel taugh us what “Ngorongoro” is – the sound of the bell on a bull.
I laugh and smile even now when I read over our Pub Talk comments.  This is definitely one tradition I’m taking back from this trip for other vacations….
You may be wondering about my only required purchase for the trip….  the infamous Xmas tree ornaments.  Mission Accomplished:  I already have 2 from London so didn’t purchase one there.  Picked-up a small one in Bath.  I nabbed one the first day in Dubai…  good thing since it’s the only one I saw!  And I’ll have to take the wooden elephant I purchased in Tanzania, drill a hole in it and make it into an ornament.
So much was accomplished on this trip…   My favorite moments were:  Les Miserables in London,  the Lebanese Restaurant in Dubai (and dancing with the Iraqis!), the Ngorongoro Crater day on Safari, Swimming in the Indian Ocean and generally hanging out, eating, playing cards and enjoying a campfire among friends 🙂  So it is 21 days, 12 flights, 4 continents, 3 safaris (desert, african & ocean) many locations, cultures, foods later and I have gained so much knowledge about the world we live in and myself…  definitely the trip of a lifetime.  “Pace Car to Back-up”…  Roger that!
Peace, Love & Happiness.
 
Kates
January 12, 2007
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Stone Town, Zanzibar

JAMBO!

No pictures let alone words can do justice to my time in Africa…  but I wanted to document a few occurences to give you an idea of what my trip here has been like.  I think I’ll reflect a bit more on the 40 hour haul I have home (ugg!) and write a bit more when I arrive back in AZ (ugg ugg ugg…  can’t believe I’ll be back so soon!)
 
Safari Moments:
–  We saw so many animals, trees and our Safari guide particularly liked the birds.
–  The first day at Taragire we were amazed when we were literally 5 seconds into the park and there were 3 elephants 15 feet from the dirt road….  along the way we discovered that EVERY animal (see comments below) is EXTREMELY close in proximity.
–  Giraffes are gigantic near-by or from far away…
–  Lions growling 20 feet from the car definitely warranted an “oh shiza”
–  You can’t imagine the scene of what seems like a gazillion zebras, wildabeasts, Impala’s, water buffalo all playing with eachother in the middle of the Ngorongoro crater.  They’re everywhere.
–  Within a 20 minute period we were in the middle of a 10 pack of female lions (about to hunt the zebra that were less than a 1/4 a mile away) literally the lions were rubbing up against the Land Cruiser (our guide says this is only the 2nd time in the 3 years he’s been traveling that he had the opp to be so close ) then having lunch not too far away next to a pond with Hippos when an Eagle swooped down and stole Rachel’s piece of chicken right out of her hands.
–  Even our guide got excited when we saw the Cheetahs napping in the grass… 
–  Only 13 Black Rhino’s in existence and I’ve now seen 2 of them.
–  The ascent out of the Ngorongoro Crater is hair raising to say the least
–  But, again, whole new appreciation for Toyota and the Land Cruiser (of course, I would have prefered a Land Rover!)
–  The first place we stayed at Ngorongoro Farm House was amazing….  and the stars!!!  Though we never could figure out where the Southern Cross is located…
–  The second place we stayed was a made-up Masaai village where hot showers were a scarcity but the camp fire was excellent
 
Then onto Zanzibar….  which is a little island off of Tanzania – a slice of paradise:
–  The beaches were amazing – crystal clear water and white sand.
–  Thursday Happy Hour was relocated to Baobob Beach Bar on a secluded beach on the far side of the island where the drink special was the “snakebite”:  i.e. rum, lots of crushed lime and a cup of honey.  Pass and choose the Kilimanjaro beer.
–  We ended up snorkeling (the “ocean safari” portion of on this trip) in the Indian Ocean where the fish were not exactly abundant but it was fun none-the-less.  Of course I could have passed on seeing the 3 eels.
–  The Serena Inn where we stayed was right on the Indian Ocean.  There’s just something peaceful about going to sleep and waking up to the sound of the ocean.
–  Of course one night I woke up to mortar fire and machine guns (with blanks in them) – apparently the locals were celebrating their revolutionary independence.  The front desk called to let us know there would be “fireworks” at midnight… apparently “fireworks” is another word for “firearms” here.
–  Then the flight back to Dar from Zanzibar was filled with 1/2 the government (Vice President, Minister of Cabinets, etc.) who were apparently on ZZ for the independence celebration.  We’re still wondering how Martin Warioba knows SO many people here including too many people in the government.
 
So now I have 5 minutes left on the Internet so I better go…  My long trek home starts this afternoon – lasts about 40 hours on 4 different planes so I’ll be back later on Sunday.  I can’t wait to share the pictures….  though I’m still not quite ready to come back yet I have to admit.  Just seems odd that it’s the weekend and school starts on Tuesday!  My has time flown……
 
Hope all is well back home!
XOXO
 
Katie
 
P.S.  I do miss everyone and have thought a lot about individual people that would have liked parts (or all) of the trip.  JVB (my bro) HAS got to Safari one day… a fisheries and wildlife major can’t pass this up!  And the pooches….  every animal reminded me of them 🙂 

  

January 07, 2007
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

HABARI FROM TANZANIA!

Current Location:  New Africa Hotel in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania!!
 
Not too much time to write….. so this maybe a quick one.  First, the flight into Tanzania was just like we like it — uneventful!  Although there were a few interesting characters.  The best way to explain Tanzania is to compare it to Costa Rica.  Which isn’t surprising since I think they’re both about on the same latitudinal line.  It’s really nice weather, if not a bit humid.  Got in yesterday and met up with my friends with no problem.  We have people in from travels everywhere and Martin (the local) here as well.  Jamie & Heidi have been here for a few days and sounds like had an amazing experience thus far.  I completely didn’t know what to expect but can say that so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how nice Tanz actually is.  Went to dinner last night in a restaurant that seemed like it was in the middle of no where, however, when you walked up the stairs, through all the plants we were greeted by this awesome place that looks like it belongs in a five star hotel on the beach in Maui.  No, not kidding and that’s not what I expected.  People are really friendly too.  So I’m off today to fly to Arusha in Northern Tanz and then first thing tomorrow morning we start our safari.  Plan is for Ngorongoro (staying at the wildlife lodge there) then Lake Manyara (staying at a different lodge there) and a few other places.  Everyone is really excited. 
 
I wish I had more time to write about the Desert Safari we went on because it was definitely a trip – actually the pictures and movie clips I took would do more justice anyway.  Essentially, we took a Toyota Land Cruiser (I was in the way back – 3rd row seat) into the desert and tour of the sand dunes.  Or I should say “tour.”  You’re seriously on a roller coaster speeding up and down the dunes, sliding sideways at a 45 degree angle down the side of the dunes, twisting up and down and around.  For the entire tour you feel like the Land Cruiser is going to roll but no…  I have a whole new appreciation for Toyota.  Was fun but definitely brings a whole new meaning to “living in the moment.”  We saw a great sunset in the desert… had dinner outside in the desert, was freezing (Dubai apparently is unseasonably cold right now).  Actually, I have a really funny story about the sunset – or it’s funny now not so much then but I can’t do it justice over the blog so remind me when I get home to tell everyone.
 
Okay, better get going so I can meet-up with mi compadres….  Hope all is well with everyone!
 
XOXO,
Katie
 
 
 
January 05, 2007
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Unfathomable

If there is one word to describe my experience in Dubai thus far unfathomable would be it.  Since Rachel & Soogie got here we have been non-stop on-the-go and experiencing things we could never have imagined.  Essentially, Rachel’s dad has a business partner in Dubai, Mohammad, who has been taking care of our travels here.  Her dad also came in the night that we got here so between the two they have arranged for us to experience every ounce of Dubai and the Middle East.  I’ll try to explain though I’m sure my words won’t be able to do this segment of my trip justice…..
 
Rachel & Soogs get in and we have Mohammad’s driver, Ali, come get us at 4:30p.m. to take us around the city.  He takes us everywhere on the new side of town.  We go to Jumeriah to see the only 7 star hotel in the world, he somehow gets us past every gate guard to see other hotels, buildings, the HUGe houses in the area, etc.  This is completely Vegas on steroids.  The properties are unbelievable.  THERE IS CONSTRUCTION EVERYWHERE!  Dubai is only 40 years old, and the newer part has all gone up in the last 10 years.  We heard that 15% of the world’s cranes are currently in Dubai.  It feels like they’re building LA in a decade or two, seriously.  We take pictures along the Gulf, see the Mall of Emirates, etc.  Mohammad picks us up at 8:30 to take us to dinner at Teatro – a nice chic restaurant hear our hotel that serves unbelievable food.
 
Yesterday, Ali picked us up to take us to the Mall of the Emirates….  he takes us on a few hours of detours first.  We go to Deria, which is old Dubai, see the Gold Market, the fish market and really see all the different cultures and people throughout the Middle East.  Ali is hilarious.  We then end up on this River / Canal (no idea what it’s called) and get out.  We end-up on a water taxi to tour Dubai.  I can’t even explain how modern, chic and unbelievably beautiful Dubai really is.  We see the Sheik’s sisters house (oh, before this Ali has taken us past compound after compound that the Sheik owns – they’re all HUGE), golf courses, beautiful hotels, parks, etc.  It’s like a very new version of Orlando or Miami…  gorgeous.  After the water taxi tour we continue on our way to the Mall of the Emirates but of course Ali takes us past another hour or so worth of places – the Sheik’s residence, his workplace, where pirates used to hide, the bank that holds all the rich Emirates money, we drive up the Emirates towers drive and end up going into the second Emirates tower where it looks like every wealthy Arabic (and we can now tell where everyone is from by what their garb is) from Saudi Arabia to Iran is doing business.  We go past the world’s largest horse track and then through the Camel races.  We finally make it to the Mall of the Emirates which is HUGE.  There’s an indoor ski mountain inside this mall – it’s the world’s largest mall.  We spend time shopping and end-up only with one purchase – from the grocery store inside the mall – for cough drops, water and razors!  This is a small miracle since Rach & Soog especially love to shop (good thing there’s still no room in our bags).
 
The best part of the entire trip so far, however, was dinner.  We all went to a Lebanese Restaurant for dinner reservations at 10:30…  we seriously ate until 2:00 in the morning and didn’t leave until 3:30a.m.!  My body has no concept of time these days since there is no schedule for eating, sleeping, etc.  There was hoards and hoards of food at this restaurant.  At about midnight there was an arabic singer, around 1ish the Belly Dancer started.  She was AMAZING.  I can’t even explain.  The entire room was completely alive with everyone cheering and dancing around – drinking some licorice concoction and smoking Sheish (what American’s call hookah – a very weak tobacco that’s flavored with anything from Strawberry to Cappucino).  It seriously felt like we were at a wedding reception.  Around this time Mohammad told us that the tables around us he could tell were Iraqi because of their accents….  based on what’s in the American media, etc. you would never have guessed that these very wealthy / chic individuals were who we’re at war against.  It’s all sooooo surreal.  It was even more unreal when 30 minutes later the last singer started and we were all together on the dance floor dancing arabian-style (which believe me, we had some dificulties with but was so much fun).  Unbelivable.  Unreal.  I wish I wouldn’t have had my camcorder stolen but I was able to take a few movie clips on my camera.  I think i’m still in awe of the whole experience.
 
But, our trip in Dubai isn’t over partaking in a dinner ceremony and making it back here later this evening.  I can’t believe everything we have experienced.  I feel incredibly lucky and completely thankful for this trip….  we would never have been able to experience everything we have if it hadn’t been for all the help we’ve gotten!!!!
 
Hope all is well back home!
 
XOXO,
Katie
 
 
 
 
January 03,  2007
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The “incident”, Dubai and more…

Oh yes, there has now been an “incident” on the trip (though nothing to be concerned about, everyone is fine).  So the last day in London Heidi & Jamie left to fly onto Tanzania.  The rest of us, including 4 flatmates & significant others, went out for an Indian dinner.  Was VERY good food….  then walked back to the flat.  Got in and discovered Barrett’s laptop missing but Jesse’s was sitting right next to it so thought Susan (flatmate) must have taken his on accident thinking it was hers.  I walk down to the room I was staying in and found it strange that the rug looked disturbed and my clothes from the previous night were in the middle of the floor (not where I left them).  Looked down and the camcorder that was charging (and converter) were missing…..  yup, can you believe this!??!  There flat was burglarized while we were at dinner.  Very strange – though – 3 laptops stolen (we counted and figured there were 8 available in the house no idea why they didn’t take the others), the camcorder, DP’s ipod, camera (not mine) which was right next to $40 which was NOT taken, and a toilettries bag.  Yes, that’s right – a toilettries bag which thankfully didn’t have the owners Malaria pills in it.  And my camera which was sitting right out in the open also wasn’t taken – only the camcorder & converter of mine (thankfully since Mom just gave the camera for Xmas).  So, needless to say I didn’t sleep well that night for fright that someone was still in the flat (though we did check every closet and nook in the place).  I had also just taken my Malaria pill with possible side effects of:  “the feeling that someone is trying to harm you” yes, that’s what it says in the instructions for this apparent drug.  Luckily, I didn’t have any side effects including the anxiety, hallucinations and depression that were likely.  I did, however, have a few vivid dreams.
 
So did make it bright and early on my plane to Dubai.  Emirates is an AWESOME airline.  On the TV in front of you they not only have the 15 TV channels w/ movies, but 40 music stations AND about the same number of video games.  Yes, that’s right.  I played Tetris on the way to Dubai (other games available were everything from Poker to Chinese Checkers).  I will say it is VERY strange looking at the airview map and seeing that you’re flying over the border or Iraq and then over Saudi Arabia to get here.  Dubai looks just like Phoenix from the air….  and actually not too far away from it on land either (desert wise).
The best way to describe the city is to say it’s somewhere between a cross of Miami (beaches), Orlando (Disneyland) and Vegas (hotels, nightlife, etc).  It is definitely one big work in process.  There’s construction everywhere….  very very very modern city that is only 40 years old.  Apparently voted “safest city” by Conde Nast too….  I can definitely tell.  This may also be the most diverse place I have ever been as well.  I only wish I knew the different sects each of the robes identifies.  So, anyway, got in late last night… Rachel & Soogie are arriving shortly.  So, have just worked-out, relaxed and enjoyed the FABULOUS hotel we’re staying at in the meantime.
I do hope everything is well with everyone back home!  Based on the time-change, I figure I’m officially half-way around the world at this point 🙂  Oh – and impressively I haven’t had much jet lag despite the 7 hour change in London and then another 4 hour change here in Dubai.
XOXO,
K
 
 
 
 
January 1, 2007
A Flat in London, England

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!  The theme of last night’s new years is….  apparently the English don’t celebrate like we Americans do.  There were a TON of people in Piccadilly Circus (think of it as London’s version — well sort of — of Times Square or at least it has a similar look with all the lights and huge screens) which had no ball drop, no happy new year written on the screens just about a million or so police officers in neon green jackets and a heck of a lot of foreigners.
 
So backing the train-up…. yesterday went to the Natural History Museum which was fun but apparently not the thing to do on a Sunday when every local has holiday and thinks the best idea is to bring the kids to a free museum.  Lots of crowds.   A few too many Herbie’s (bottlenecks) in the Mammal exhibit and couldn’t even get into the Dinosaur exhibit but did see a fascinating demonstration on sediment.  LOL.  Jamie has a friend in-town we met and went to a local pub for lunch…. then thought it was a good idea to walk to Buckingham Palace – not such a good idea when it’s freeeeeeezing out with lots of wind.
 
Last night for New Years we had reservations at Senor Sassi’s — cute small little Italian place near Harrod’s.  I had an amazing Crepoline de formaggio (basically a crepe w/ ricotta cheese, spinach and some creme sauce).   Was really really good.  Went from there to a pub in Leicester Square…  Turns out this place was like Scottsdale-East.  Not a usual pub but more of an American place…. but it wasn’t too busy (surprise surprise) and so we hung around there playing pool and enjoying our beers.  Just before midnight we walked through the tundra of people and police officers in Leicester Square went towards Trafalgar but didn’t quite make it with all the people and actually ended-up in the wrong direction in Picadilly Circus.  You’d think there would be a 10-9-8…. etc.  Or at least a Happy New Years music or SOMETHING.  Everyone stood there looking at the screen (which never said anything other than Sanyo) and a few minutes after mid-night a few amateur fireworks went off and we called it New Years.  Was actually a lot of fun even though there was no official blowing of the horns, toasting which champagne (which we actually did before that and then again a few hours later).  Bars also close a bit early here so went back to Scottsdale-East bar had 1/2 a beer and was kicked-out because of closing.  Ended-up back at the flat (after partaking in a Falafel) playing Spoons, rummy & tricks (lots of card games on this trip).  So now it’s 12:45p.m. I’ve been up for a few hours and everyone else is still sleeping…….  Maybe it was the 5a.m. bedtime!
 
Alright…. off I go to get some coffee (love the espresso here!)  Happy New Years everyone!  I’m off to Dubai tomorrow so hopefully will be able to write after I get there from somewhere!
 
Cheers!
 
Katie
 
 
 
 
December 31, 2006
London, England

London Edition Volume II

Happy New Years Eve!  I just left what I now know is loving called the K-house (KJUK or YWCA in Norweigian) by those that frequent the place and have moved onto stay w/ my friend’s friend’s flat for the next two day before departing for Dubai 🙂
 
So as I mentioned in my last blog, my friends came in on Friday morning and I ended-up meeting them out at Paddington Station to greet their arrival.  Oh, before that went to the British Museum that morning.  Glad I went — I can’t believe how much archelogoical finds the museum had. I spent about 3 hours there and only got through about 1/3 of the place!  Just enough to see the Enlightenment, Africa, Greece & Egypt exhibits.  I must say I think my favorite was the Tree of Life that artists in Mogadishu created out of disassembled / cut-up machine guns.
 
So anyway, my friends came in and we hung out the rest of the day in Camden Town where they’re staying.  They were all quite jet lagged so walking around the local area seemed most appropriate.  Camden Town is not the typical tourist hang-out… there’s lots of markets, lots of interesting characters (think everything from goth to grundge) – it’s an interesting place to run into what looks like every 1980’s London rocker!After having a cider or two and some chips I vamonosed along back to Holland Park before it got too late to take the Tube.  Then when I got back to the house dressed for bed and then was asked by one of the roommates if I wanted to go with the Norweigian girls for a beer at a local pub….  Good times and interesting talks.
 
Okay – I’m going to rush this along since I’m about to go have coffee w/ Jesse while Jamie & Heidi get ready.  Long story short – and I’ll write more tomorrow – ended up in Bath yesterday.  Went to the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Centre, the Pig & Fiddle and almost made it to Stonehendge but the tickets were sold out.  Still having a great time and Jamie, Heidi, Jesse & Dave are great travel partners……. 
 
MORE LATER!
 
Cheers,
 
Katie
December 28, 2006
London, England

British at Heart

Oh yes, I have arrived…. safe and sound with no major flight issues except for the fact that turbulence was so bad over the Atlantic the flight attendance could barely get out of their seats!  Yes, and we know how much I like flying over water!!
 
So yesterday after I got in early morning I spent an hour in the custom’s line….  and another half an hour in the Tube line…  and another hour on the Tube…  before I checked into the Norwegian YWCA.  As mentioned before you have to either be Norwegian or a women under 30 to stay there.  I’m the only one in the entire place that qualifies based on the latter.  The others, however, are trying to claim me as one of their own.  Apparently I look like a Norwegian because I’ve already had 3 people ask if I’ve checked my ancestory for N roots.  LOL – I told them yes have checked, and the closest I can get is Lithuanian (a collective… Ahhhhh, yes.)
 
So, yesterday I set out to explore Holland Park and have to admit that my first purchase in London was…. drum roll please…. Starbucks.  Don’t sigh, I NEEDED some tea and the first place I encountered was a Starbucks.  So I resisted.  And then the second place I passed was a Starbucks and gave in (they’re everyother block here, seriously!)  So after my usual Grande Earl Grey – 2 bags I walked around Holland Park and then into Notting Hill where I ended up at a cafe partaking in my favorite past time…….  People watching while drinking more tea.  I love the English!  I figured it best to get out of my own neighborhood and explore some more – looked at and memorized a map from a bookstore (can you believe I didn’t bring any of the London maps I own) I decided my mission was to walk to Harrod’s.  I’ve never been there before and it’s on the “list.”  My bones were frozen by the time I hit Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.  So I made a detour into the Museum of Science for two purposes……. first, warmth.  Second, my 20 year old brother and cousin whooped my butt at Trivial Pursuit over the holidays and so I figured I may be able to pick-up some much needed knowledge in the museum.  That didn’t last long….  I almost fell asleep in the Space exhibit and still wanted to make it to Harrod’s so I continued along my way.  I won’t bore you with the rest of my walk but will say that I arrived at Harrod’s to discover IT WAS CLOSED!  Yes, closed.  Apparently their big annual sale starts today and so yesterday they were preparing.  I looked through the windows and saw 50% Burberry signs — I almost died.  I put that on the list of things to do today….  Ended up back at the Norwegian home via Tube (no way was I going to walk another few miles in the cold) and hung out for the night with the other housemates.
 
Today, woke up not so bright and early (jet lag) and made it downstairs just before breakfast was ending.  Housemates informed me of the joy of the Oyster card (for the Tube and Bus) and ended-up back on the Tube making my way to Liecester square.  Mission was to score 1/2 price tickets for some show today.  Got tickets for a 2:30 showing of Les Miserables for cheap.  Spent the rest of the morning walking – to Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace just in time for the changing of the guard, past Parliament, past Westminster abbey and back to the West End in time for the show.  Oh – I did get in a coffee and more people watching right before the show.  I could write for hours on my findings but I won’t bore you with the American vs British Country fashions.  I will say I can spot an American a mile away (as I’m sure others can spot me).
 
AMAZING.  Absolutely freaking AMAZING is the only way I can describe Les Miserables.  I can hardly sit through an hour and a half movie but this 3 hour show had me entralled through its entirety.  So many symbolisms, meanings, lessons and principles that I think I could probably see it many many times before catching everything.  That’s the only bad part about traveling alone…. no one to analyze and discuss with!
 
So….  I’m having a great time so far.  My friends actually get in tomorrow.  I thought I was going to meet them on the 30th to make our way up to Bath, however, just saw one of them online and have now revised plans to meet tomorrow 1:30 at Paddington station.  I can’t wait to see everyone else too……..  I’m hoping to get in another show before I leave on the 2nd.  I still have the British Museum on my list of things to do — hopefully tomorrow morning.  Oh and Harrod’s never did happen today……..  apparently Dubai is not the only place that has a shopping holiday and based on the sales I probably wouldn’t have resisted.  I also eyed a few wool coats that I don’t need considering I live in Phoenix.  With no room in my pack everything would have had to be sent back anyway.  That’s what I need to keep telling myself — no room, resist, Katie 🙂 
 
Alright… off I go….
 
Cheers!
 
Katie

//

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