Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Catch Up!

So the last week or so I've updated the blog to include the last two months of travels and "adventures" if you will. Unfortunately you'll have to skip ahead and read backward to get them in order. Sorry it's all at once but I wanted to post pictures with the updates too - so if you want to feel free to catch up from the Texas wedding, Caribbean cruise, Mexico, Brazil, and a few in betweens. Hope your holidays have been great and see you next year!


Right after Mexico I was able to travel with the "Josh's" to Brazil to celebrate the graduation of the seven kids that we have sponsored through an educational program. I met the kids last August so it was good to see them again, unfortunately we didn't have tons of time because both of the boys had to get back for work! But Teresa was a master organizer and event planner this trip, Friday we ran around getting the table clothes and some other errands and stopped by the town of San Luis to see the Director of Education and say a quick hello to the kids and make sure all the plans were coming along.
The table settings, all the great food, and our new friend Cynthia who is studying English right now we got to practice a bit but she had to keep telling me to slow down!
Then Saturday some more errands and finally out to San Luis for the fiesta. We worked with the kids to wash the tables and chairs, Josh was a taxi driver still running heaps of errands, we got the food all together, and everyone looked great! Bruna Gabrielle spoke in behalf of the kids and both Josh's gave a few comments just about how proud we were of them and how they now need to keep working to pursue their dreams. One of the girls already scored so well on her tests the Government offered her a job that she can do while she goes to University - so that is amazing!

All the kids Alaine, Elaine, Adilson, Geverton, Bruna Gabriella, Hudson, Adlane

The boys being "tough guys"

Sunday we just went to church and actually got to listen to Sister Beck, Elder Scott, and President Erying give a country wide conference and of course we were a big hit with the americano missionaries especially the ones new to the area who loved hearing some English.

Finally Monday we met up in San Luis again and the Mayor let us take his bus with all the kids in it and a few friends up north to a few of the beaches. We swam, played this dodgeball like game, king of the raft, and of course soccer. Oh and we went up and found Gomino that morning so he came to the beach to with us. The bus was so funny that day too because on the way we were singing to some of the kids phones that really just play music and we did a little freestyle too - they would sing us a song in Portuguese and we would have to sing in English. But on the way home we were all so tired that half the group fell asleep - it was a great day! Then unfortunately our short stay had ended and it was time to go back home!

The dodgeball battle: Boys vs Girls

The boys are the King of the Raft

Why do we like throwing children in the air?

Our last lunch together with all the kids!

We had one last dinner with Teresa and her family and I had to say goodbye to my little friend Sophia who was the only one who didn't care if I spoke English or Portuguese, we got along just fine! Also side note as we walked around with them to look at some "Papa Noel" lights by this one hotel we totally saw a guy get robbed for his wallet - the kids on bikes lifted up there shirts to show a gun but luckily the guy threw the wallet and ran and the kids rode off - it was really fast but to be honest we were far enough away and with such a big group that we weren't even that scared it was just crazy though - and for when my parents read this I promise that we try to be as safe as possible!

Hello SNOW!

Apparently I like jumping from extremes - lately it's hot weather to cold and my body (well really my skin) is hating me a little! But we came home from Mexico to some good ol' Utah snow - just wanted to so AL "The Best Snow on Earth" before she left back to Tennessee!

Kaiizen Christmas

The next adventure after making a home base in Provo (thanks Robbie and Anna for EVERYTHING!) was to head down to Mexico for the annual Kaiizen Christmas Trip. This year is was a little different we left Wednesday night to stay at Whiskey Pete's so that we could drive in Thursday morning and have more time to play with the kids.
This is what I call addiction - just kidding it was like midnight and she fell asleep while we waited to get our room keys!
Yeah when you've been on a few trips this is bound to happen, unplanned!

That first night we had a great soccer tournament that had eight teams they played for 5 minutes each and the winner advanced while the losers battled it out for a double elimination tournament. The little boys won the loser's bracket and we had a proper Mexican vs American championship game but before what do you have to do - eat Gorilla Feet pizza of course! We ordered all this pizza from this place called Gorilla Feet they were huge and it was hilarious but surprisingly good.

The finish of the computer lab we built at the Kindergarten!

The next day we went up to the school and taught classes - my group was third grade math and fractions, and then of course we put on a carnival - I was stationed at the human parachute and we got the kids flying - sometimes too high but we caught everyone of them! There faces were the best some were so surprised and we were too when the first kid flipped in the air totally unplanned - Once again NO CHILDREN WERE HURT IN THIS STUNT! Then it culminated with a giant flour war - what a great idea, we passed out bags of flour, not dyed just plain white and when they said go it was on - the worst was after the flour was on the ground and some kids tried to pick it up and recycle it with another throw so then it had like sand and pebbles mixed in - no bueno!
The Human Parachute!

Flour War Fun! Me, Kat, and Brittany!

That afternoon we got the kids all dressed up by clothes that had been donated for them and then the real surprise - four limos pulled up! We took the kids through Ensenada to Wal Mart where they had a pillow case (on the outside was there name and on the inside was the name of who they were shopping for) each kid had a volunteer with them and they were given a budget of $500 pesos so about $50 US and we went shopping for about 45 min. Then they came home to a red carpet and a five course meal (mozzarella sticks, soup, salad, lasagna and bread sticks, and dessert of their choice). While the volunteers ate the kids quickly changed and then we got everyone together for the present tunnel of volunteers where they announced the kids names and they run through the tunnel of cheering volunteer to the end where we had organized it so each kid received a gift from the person who bought for them and then turned around and gave the gift they had bought for the next kid - that was great! Then it was a mad opening of presents and a lot of smiles and shouts from the kids to each other like thank you for the gift!

The kids were so surprised!

My Shopping buddy Jose!

The Red Carpet and "The Tunnel"

Saturday we woke up and had breakfast with the kids and cleaned up but then they had another group coming down so we left them just before lunch to go to a very poor community near Ensenada where we met twenty very impoverished families that we donated rice/beans/hygiene kits/and T-shirts too. Some showed us their houses and some of our volunteers walked up these very steep hills to get to the homes of these ladies. This is always a very eye opening experience for our volunteers - I always hate it just because it seems like we never have enough, there are so many families in need and it sucks to have to turn them away sometimes! But still you have to take the small victories when you can and realize that you are helping someone today and hopefully for tomorrow and that's what matters the most.

We finished the trip with a quick stop in Ensenada and then to our favorite taco stand and finally to sleep on the beach after a great little dance party only to get up at the crack of dawn to head back to Utah! There were some great people on this trip and my friend Amy Lou even flew all the way from Tennessee to come too and it's weekends like these that are some of my favorites!


I flew straight to Boise after the cruise to spend the week with my Grandparents and celebrate Thanksgiving. All my aunts and uncles were there and a good handful of cousins and of course the reason we all come Grandma's famous rolls and chocolate pies!

My Grandma and me!

But I also had a good week, we went to some movies together and played some games - my parents had to leave early and head over to Rexburg to look at a few more houses for the upcoming move (not until this summer still). It was just a mellow weekend but very enjoyable to just get some down time with the family.

Like Father like son - a vision in Khaki!

My cousin Scott and his niece Shaylee

Oh by the way if you're ever in Boise there is this great old school restaurant downtown called Rockies - my Grandparents took me there for breakfast and there is great food for an amazing price and the waitresses skate around on roller skates but they seriously haul - it's impressive!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Final Days at Sea

For the last two days we were on the ship heading back to Miami and we just enjoyed a little down time. Attending some more of the activities (including Battle of the Sexes where the girls beat the boys and Annie and I won't let Joe forget it)! Another highlight was that Joe got to participate on stage two times - the first time was half way through the cruise when the juggler (who was funnier than the comedian) called him up to perform a part of the act where four gentlemen sit in chairs, then lean back on eachother - in a square of course - supporting eachother's weight until he pulls out all the chairs! Well he picked four gentlemen from different countries and so he threw in a bunch of stereotypes that had Annie and I crying because the Russian gentlemen would not put his butt up so they all fell down! It was hilarious and appartently he later told Joe that never happens but we didn't care that it didn't work - it was better that way. Then one of our last days, the activities director our friend Alejandro had Joe participate in a YMCA dance as one of the village people and that was another moment when we were all laughing so hard we almost cried! I have a few pictures from that!

Dancing hard with their "routine"!

This was the can-can and one time Joe tried to kick so high that he slipped and fell, it just added to the overall performance!

Our last night and Joe's final creme brulee (16 total on cruise!)

Of course we had three formal nights on the cruise I forgot to mention and we had our own table anyway so it all worked out perfect! But Annie and I got to use our bridesmaid dresses again - every girl's dream, well really Anna was just so nice that she let us pick our own dress and so we would want to wear it again!

First night sorry so blurry the only one I could find right now!

Ladies in black!

Finally we said our goodbyes to the crew members who really made our trip so much fun and to the few friends we made - well mostly my mom to the friends that she made, we walk down to the room and she'd be stopping and would say "Oh that was just my friend ____!"

Boedi and Sinicha - the best servers!

Wilson - not our stateroom attendent but close enough, we loved talking to him everyday and he even felt so close to us that he would tell us when we got burnt and when we got fat - true friendship!

Some of our favorites - the activities crew (minus Carl)!

But really the cruise was excellent, we loved the places we went, the cruiseline itself, and the people that we met it was truly a vacation to remember!


The last island we went to had some stunning architecture, most of it dutch influenced. It also had some vivid color on its buildings and apparently the story it that the prime minister would get migraines from all of the white buildings being so bright on his eyes so they ordered that all the building be painted in pastels. We walked around a bit downtown and saw the longest floating pontoon bridge in the world. When boats need to get through the bridge actually swings open and closed, we were on it when the alarm rang so we quickly ran off like the locals some tourists stayed on but it was kind of cool to see.

This was a shot of a few buildings from the ship but it doesn't do justice to the colors really!

This was as the bridge was swinging back closed!

Then we went over and checked out the floating market - these last two islands are only about 20 miles away from Venezuela so they ship over a lot of the meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables and sell them from their boats. Also a lot of Pelicans hang around looking for a free meal as they chop up the fish and throw the extras back into the water!

Afterward we just got a taxi to one of the closest beaches but we weren't super impressed because there were just too many people and it was too populated to really enjoy ourselves but we did snorkel just a bit more and try to soak up our last day on land before heading back to the ship for a final two days at sea!

Aruba - ooooh I want to take you!

On this island we decided to rent another car to travel around and see the whole island (don't worry we were extra careful and I only reminded my mom of that girl who went missing a couple years back AFTER we left). We decided to go a bit cheaper and get just a car - however tip of the Caribbean - Aruba is the island to rent a jeep on, we took the car on a few steep hills and dirt roads and lets just say we're glad we made it back with all the tires still in tack!

First we headed over to one point of the island - saw the Colorado Lighthouse named for the USS Colorado that sunk off the coast (A lot of sunken ships here too including one that was somewhat uncovered and close to the shore - we only later learned that it was a sunken ship two miles off the coast that was brought in by a hurricane a few years back)! Then we just stopped by a local beach and got some sun and tried to cool off - Aruba was different from the other islands in that it had this desert theme to it and a lot of cactus everywhere too!

Then we drove over to the World's largest land bridge - well where it had been, it collapsed a few years back but they had another baby land bridge right next to it so we stopped there and on the way we found this old abandoned Fort along the coast constucted with these great rocks! So we stopped to do a little exploring!

Posing in the windows and jumping to the shelf over Joe's head!

The Natural Land Bridge that had collapsed

Just running into The Danger Zone, and Annie and I posing on the Baby Land Bridge making bridges with our bodies - trying to spice our pictures up!

We then drove on through Aruba's National Park which actually has quite a bit of land preserved and we also ended up at these caves that at one time had been right along the coast and formed by the water constantly pounding in - there were all these tour guides to show us the ancient pictures of chiefs that were all high on mushrooms when they painted and they showed us the dripping of these minerals over many years, and our guide Valentino (aka Rambo) told us that the fruit bats lived in the very back of the cave and that they bite you if you try to catch them and after he finished that speech he was like "so you want me to take you to the end of the cave" It only took about ten minutes of course I paused briefly or just went stiff everytime a bat flew by me and the further we went into the cave the HOTTER it got - well just much more humid so we were dripping with sweat by the time we got to the end but it was still really fun.

The ancient drawings and crawling through the cave - notice how sweaty I am it was HOT!

Our guide Rambo and the three of us at the end of the tunnel

Afterward we just went to one more beach to cool off before we headed back to turn in the car. If I go again I guess some other places to stop, besides the rum factory, is the water refinery plant which cleanses a lot of water for the islands, and the gold mining factory which has been reopened I think due to the price of gold right now!