July 2014 | happy 27th birthday to me!!! - last year's birthday

Posted on 7/12/2015

Hello from the past! :) If all goes to plan, right now I should be hiking up to Machu Picchu, on my 28th birthday. 
Happy birthday to me!!!
I thought that it would be fun to share pictures from my birthday last year, when I was in Germany and turned 27. I finally have a working computer again, so I have been trying to sort thru all my pictures from last summer, and found these! 

We ate cake, went out to an American Themed Party (happy coincidence). It was a great birthday! And 27 was a great year! :)

Around this time my Mom and I spent the day in this littler German town, I don't remember the name now- the problem with doing things a year later, ugh. But I remember it being REALLY pretty, with lots of vineyards and right on the river and we drove there in Josh's little car - I drove, my Mom navigated. German roads are no joke to drive on, they're really terrifying. But the town was cute, and it was worth the terror. You can see a ski lift looking thing - we didn't take it, but we did have lunch in a really cute little restaurant and ate a brautworst! 

july 2015 - el, valle, Panama

Posted on 7/08/2015

 ^ local buses are painted like this - we didn't take a bus like this though, thankfully.

El Valle :

 ^ adorable church & gardens in the middle of town

 We had heard a lot about these "square trees" and tried twice to find them. We don't know if we ever actaully found them- if so they certainly weren't very square. But we rented bikes, which was a nice change of pace, and the ride was really pretty.
 "square trees?":

Overall, El Valle is a beautiful, small (7,000 people) town, that feels even smaller, since it's so spread out. It was relaxing and the weather was great. A nice way to start our vacation - especially since neither Matt or I were really all that impressed with Panama City itself.

july 2015, el valle de anton, panama. waterfall and swimming

Posted on 7/03/2015

Panama is SO pretty, but also SO hot, and humid.  Matt and I decided to rent bikes from our hostel and check out a waterfall and swimming spot that we had heard about. Good thing we rented bikes, as it was about a 20 minute bike ride from our hostel and the walk would have been miserable. Matt was pretty miserable anyway because his bike was kind of broken, but still better then walking, I think. We each paid a dollar, and after a five minute walk along the bank ended up at an awesome waterfall and swimming hole! We were the only people there, and it was amazing! Somehow we had forgotten all the imporant things you would want and need when going swimming, like a swimsuit, but we jumped in anyway! It felt so good on a hot day, I never wanted to leave. And I really wished I had thought to bring a floaty toy, which would have made it even better. Still, it was basically perfect.

july 2015 el valle de anton, buterfly sanctuary

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The number one, according to trip advisor and our hostel, thing to do in El Valle was the Butterfly Sanctuary. So like good tourists, Matt and I headed over on our second day to check it out. We already had a GIANT butterfly that was living with us at the hostel so wondered if these butterflys could possibly be better then our roommate.
Its five dollars a person to get in which seems high, since we were paying around fifteen a night at our hostel, and meals were around seven if you were eating out, but we paid, watched a little movie and went into the sanctuary. It was pretty and there were a LOT of butterflys. The people that work there are definetly passionate and know a lot, and spoke english which was nice.
A butterfly even landed on Matt, but despite my best efforts, not on me. 

2012 | Santo, RMI

Posted on 7/02/2015

While I was living on Santo, I lived with an amazing host family. They were nothing but kind, and hospitable! So much love for them! Having a volunteer teachers is somewhat of a status symbol - and in most cases the volunteers live with families that are pretty well off. On Santo, I would say my house was one of the nicest.

This was the view going into my house. Since there is no plumbing, there is no clean water, and all the containers here were full of water. This is also where we would sit to eat dinner/ breakfast/ lunch.
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^ The view looking onto the street / walkway

Here was the living room / where everyone in the family (2 parents, 1 adult daughter, 1 8th grade soon, 2 toddlers) but me slept (I had to have my own room with a locking door, as part of the agreement for me to live there):
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^the radio was one of the few working (it worked about 50% of the time) radios on the island. It was how I did my weekly check ins with the home office on Majuro.
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This was my bedroom ^ & I REALLY hated this when it rained:
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...a tin roof.  It sounded like bombs were going off.

And our kitchen:
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If you're having trouble imaging how this all fit, so was my Mom :) So I drew her this picture :
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showing the layout. I would say it was all about 500 sq. feet, and there were 8 of us living there, which sounds kind of crazy to say now, but felt totally luxurious at the time. All about perspective, right?!

july 2015 - la india dormida, Panama

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After spending one night in a seriusly questionable Hilton in Panama City (cockroaches anyone?) Matt and I hoped onto a local bus to go to El Valley de Anton, which we had read was about two hours outside the city. But even with our crazy never slow down bus driver (I was literally hanging my head out the window at points to keep from vomiting, and the loud music didnt help at all, but I was determined not to be that tourist that vomits out the window) it was closer to three, long, hot hours. Matt read his book and looked positivly comfortable the entire time, and every time I looked at him I was so jealous. But at $4.25 each, it is hard to complain too much.
The first thing I waned to do, and Matt gamely agreed to do with me, was hike La India Dormidia. We got up early, ate some pancakes, and headed out with a hand drawn map and followed these signs.

Walking thru the city outskirts was REALLY pretty. Then the hike started and it was UP the entire way. With humidity at close to 85% we were immedietly covered in sweat.
Ultimetly, this is what we got to the top of, after going up, up, up for what felt like forever,  but was really a little over an hour.
The views were crazy pretty, and totally worth it, though I literally sweated thru my shirt.

The town is in a colapsed (what I hope is) dormant volcano, and the hike got us up enough that we would see all the mountains surrounding the town, which was awesome.