Monday, February 22, 2010

Chatanooga? No make that Chacchoben. Mexico (Day 6)

Thursday, January 21, 2010
Destination: Chacchoben, Mexico (Pronounced- Check Cho Ben)

Note: This was a fun day, and by the end I was wiped out! Rather than writing up a the day as a whole, I quickly wrote some notes down so that I would remember everything later.

This day I woke up extremely excited. I was excited about two things: Number one, the ruins. Number two, shopping. I love the sound of a good deal.

We arrived at the port in Costa Maya, Mexico, and armed ourselves with, well money. The port was beautiful. We had planned on shopping in the morning and then off to the ruins in the afternoon.

My Spanish is a little rusty, I must admit, but there are certain things that a girl doesn't forget. Like how to shop, even in another language. My mom and I were armed with a list of things to buy and people to shop for, and we would not be stopped. We entered the shops and started to work the magic. We were quite the team. The price would be named, my mom would look at me, and I would shake my head yes or no. As a rule, I would shake my head no. (Never go with the first offer.) I would throw out a new offer. My mom and I would nod at each other in agreement, and look to the shop owner (? Owner? I don't know who it was really. "I the owner. If my boss were here you would not get such a good deal.") It was fierce.

I must admit that at one point I got a little carried away and I bought something I really did NOT need. (It was a blanket, but I got a deal, alright, and the colors really did not fade or bleed together after I washed them.)

We did all the damage we could possibly do, and carried the goods back to the ship.

Next up, the ruins. This was one of the most organized excursions I have ever been on. Granted, it was only the second one ever. But think of a school field trip. For adults. While the trip the day before was really great, it did not compare to this day. Our guides were Diana and Nestor. Diana was the first tour guide to ever go to the ruins at Chacchoben.


If you get the opportunity to go, do it. It was amazing to see the ruins, to walk where they walked, to see the places where the lived. I enjoyed every moment of it...even watching the crazy monkeys throwing acorns at us! Many of the ruins at this site are the oldest ruins excavated.

We got back to the bus and were taken back to the ship. I must admit that I was so exhausted that I slept very comfortably all the way back.

The water this night was very rough.

This night we went to a Mexican restaurant on the ship. WONDERFUL food. My thought was that it was because we were all so hungry that it was good, but the reality is that it was some of the best Mexican food ever.

Um, did I mention the ocean was rough this night?

Oh it was rough alright After we ate our food (which once again was great. The salsa, fajitas....) I went back to take a "nap" in my room. I had planned on coming back to watch a movie with my dad. I laid in the dark room literally praying that the Bonine would keep working as the waves crashed causing the boat to rock back and forth. I attempted to get up several times. It didn't happen. (The Bonine did work, and I did NOT get sick.)

I fell asleep around 8 that night.

(Meanwhile my brother fell asleep listening to music and watching the ocean on the balcony.)

Tomorrow, a day at sea.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Red Sweatpants and an Arrest Warrant

I was fairly certain that I had written about this in a previous post. I actually don't believe I did, but if you happen to find it, let me know!

I moved in to my apartment almost three years ago. It's a cozy place. There's a gate that requires a person to check in before being let in. It's safe and I feel good about living here. (Always a positive feeling to have about the place where you live!)

Right about Christmas time two years or so ago, I was at home, enjoying a quiet Sunday. I had gone to church Sunday morning, came home and slipped on a pair of red sweatpants. (I should mention that I left on my pink sweater that I had worn that morning. This right here people could actually be a reason for someone to issue an arrest warrant- but wait. There's more!)

I sat at home, lounging, doing the usual Sunday stuff, relaxing, taking it easy. Around eight that night I had a knock on my door. My friend was a neighbor at that point and she would on occasion walk over and pay me a visit. I didn't think anything of it. I stood up, pink and red ensemble, and walked over to open the door. Um... it wasn't my friend. It wasn't anyone unrecognizable at all. Instead it was three men. Big men. With a "warrant."
Being a Law & Order watcher, as well as CSI, and other police-y shows, what I am about to say may shock you. I did not ask to see their badges. They said that they were looking for a person (we'll call her Sally) and they handed me a paper with Sally's face. "Have you seen this woman?" Uh, no. "Are you sure? Is anyone else here with you?" Somewhere in the next few moments they managed to push themselves in to the living room of my apartment. (This is where I feel a little foolish. I let them come in. I should have had them stand outside, but I didn't.) In that one moment my main concern was NOT about them coming in to my apartment, but rather about my wardrobe. I quickly said as they were stepping in, "Um, sorry, I don't match." They chuckled, and asked me how long I'd lived where I was living, and some other random questions, and then they were gone. On their way out, one of the (bounty hunters?) said something to the effect of, "Better make sure you match next time." I was once again reminded of my embarrassment, but they left, and I carried on with my quiet mismatched evening.

Fast forward. It's approximately seven or eight months ago. I'm at home. Ironically watching a police show. About nine thirty, ten at night I have a knock at my door. Strange. I was expecting no visitors. I hadn't called anyone in, but maybe Cindy I thought. She could have decided to come over. I flip back the blinds, and there in front of me, two police officers this time. I know the drill. I open the door. "Hi ma'am, we're looking for Sally." Oh brother, Sally again. "This has happened before," I explained. "I've lived here over two years, no Sally. I sometimes get her mail, but I just send it back." This time I remembered to use my Law & Order training and asked to see their badges. They showed me their credentials, asked some additional questions, and were satisfied that I was not the hard looking, short haired, fifty some year old woman they were looking for.

Fast forward. Again. This morning. Six am. Um, I'm asleep at six am. I sleep through things like storms and lightning. I'm dreaming, as usual, but there's this large banging in my dreams. I tried to ignore it and go back to the real part of my, but I can't, because the banging keeps getting louder. I finally wake up and realize that was no dream. There is someone banging. At my door, at six in the morning. I ran down the stairs, too groggy to even realize what's going on , or think of who could possible be looking for me so early in the morning. Well, imagine my surprise when I flip open the door and I see that it's three police officers. "Oh geez," was my initial thought. I open my door. "Hi ma'am," the first one said, "We're looking for Sally." At this point I'd like to start looking for Sally. She keeps interrupting me. I sighed and leaned my head against my door. "This has happened before," they ask.
"Um, yeah."
"How long have you lived here?"
"Almost three years."
"And what's your name?"
I go through the drill. I tell them my name, how long I've lived here, etc. They were then on their way, and I was back to sleep. (Well for a little while until it was time to actually get back up for work.)

Nothin' like a run in with the law.
Any one know where I can find Sally???

Monday, February 15, 2010

Altun Ha (Day 5)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Destination: Altun Ha, Belize

Today I woke up feeling better than I even had the day before. From our trip to Honduras on yesterday, I am now sporting my not so attractive burn lines, and a customary red nose. (As soon as I’m in the sun one day, regardless of how much sun screen I use, my nose becomes red for weeks and weeks.) I also have a new freckle on the top of my hand.

For the last three days, every time I’d walk out onto the balcony, I was met with a warm, yet cool (oxymoron?) breeze.

Today, however, was different, even first thing this morning, as soon as I walked outside, I was wacked in the face by, well, heat and humidity. Did I say hot? It was hot. Hot AND humid both. (Those are two descriptive words I never imagined using to describe the weather in January, seven days prior to my birthday.) Here it was though, January 20th, and the heat was nearly overwhelming, yet at the same time, exceptionally wonderful. (Heat in January? I live in Illinois. It is fantastic to be HOT in January.)

Despite the heat, I remained super excited because I was going to be visiting and seeing something I had ALWAYS wanted to see.

The Mayan Ruins.

There is something about archeology that has always fascinated me. The history behind it, the way people lived, imaging them moving and living. I was excited.

Each “excursion” group was to gather in a designated area on the ship. My family’s excursion gathered in the theater on the boat. We lined up together and exited the theater. We were herded down the hallways, and off the boat, similar to cattle being herded through a small place, and it was slow moving. On this day we were “tendered” to the dock. That almost sounds as though we were accosted with money, but no, not that type of “tender.” No one else will find that funny, but I do! (When the ports were not accessible to large ships, the ships have smaller boats, or tenders, pull up to the boat, load passengers, approximately 50 or so, and then pull up to the port.) We sat huddled on the boat, feeling rather warm and hoping that somehow the windows would open.

At the dock, we were once again herded as a group through hundreds of other people to get to our bus.

The bus was at least cool in temperature, although small and tight. Prior to heading to Altun Ha, we went on a bus tour of Belize City. The country of Belize is beautiful, but primitive. The roads are not in good condition. Not even in mediocre condition.

We were then on our way to Altun Ha! On our way to the ruins, the driver, Scotty, hit a pot hole, or more likely a ravine in the middle of the road. Everyone on the bus knew something was wrong, but Scotty charged ahead for another five minutes or so until we arrived at Altun Ha. The results of the run-in with the pot hole were NOT pretty. We ended up with not just a flat tire, but a tire with the front half of the rubber hanging off the wheel. (This picture does not adequately show the damage.) We continued with the tour as planned. There were ruins to see, however, so we charged ahead…to the bathrooms. Where we waited for a good 20 minutes for everyone, but then finally!

We walked through the ruins, looking, climbing, snapping photos, and trying to think cool thoughts. I could write about all the interesting facts about Altun Ha, but why rewrite what's already been written? If you would like to read more, click here.

On coming back to the bus, the tire was NOT fixed. We waited for help. I’m familiar with what happens when a tire goes flat, or rather becomes shredded. I’m familiar with tow trucks, and road size service. That being said, I’m not familiar with the road size service in offered in Belize. It came in the form of four men, a pick up truck, a sledge hammer, cinder blocks, oh and a huge tire. I sat on the bus and tried to take pictures through the foggy glass. Later I thought maybe I should have looked at the little shops, but I decided to take advantage of the air conditioning, and watch the excitement of the tire changing.

About an hour after they arrived we were on our way back to “town.”

I managed to sleep until we arrived back in Belize City. My mom and I were determined to find a place to have our passports stamped. (I neglected to mention that on Tuesday, on our way back to the ship, we passed right by a booth that stamped passports. We had been looking for the place that did give out the stamps, but we didn't realize it was right there!) Having our passports stamped from Honduras, we needed to have a Belize stamp as well. We walked all over, asked guards, asked different guards, were sent back to where we started from, asked again…Finally we found it.

My dad and brother were in line for the tender while my mom and I were wandering through the crowds looking for the passport “stampers." My dad gave my mom and I strict instructions as we parted ways. “Whatever you do, you better get back to the boat.”

Although the thought of living in a warm country sounded tempting, my mom and I made sure we made it back.
Next up, Costa Maya

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Roatan, Honduras (Day 4, more pictures this time)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Destination: Roatan, Honduras

Today I woke up filling great. Bonine is amazing!
We ate breakfast, and then ran to my parents’ room and their balcony to watch “the land.” (My brother loved being on the balcony. And he loved watching the land, coming and going.)

Music was filling the air as we pulled up to the dock. Dancers and musicians were along the pier, welcoming the Norweigian Jewel to dock. It was an amazing site, seeing them dance, and then watching the Honduran people lined up at the dock dancing along. There is obviously music in their soul.

This day we would be meeting with a family that my family met at our church in Indiana. Isabella, Carlos, and their kids. My brother had been very close to them, and the surprise for my brother was that we would be seeing them. Somehow the surprise was leaked, and John found out that we would be seeing them. Regardless, he was excited.

Isabella picked us up at the dock (she recognized John’s red hair). We visited a shopping “plaza” where Carlos met up with us for a few minutes. He hugged John, “I love you brother, I miss you.”

Then we drove around the island. While Roatan is a part of Honduras, it is not connected to the mainland, but a completely separate island. At the highest part of the island, you could see the ocean from both sides.

We also went to Yubu, a Garifuna Experience. Here we learned about the Garifuna people. Wanna dance? Get up and join them! (Or, as in this case, my mom was volunteered by Isabella!)

We also saw how they make Cassava Bread.

Then we were off to their beautiful house. I cannot use words to explain how amazing it is, so here is the picture to show:

We walked out on their dock and laid in the hammock, put our feet in the water, and enjoyed the ocean air. It was beautiful. I also happened to drink coconut milk right from a coconut. Isabella asked a neighbor to cut one down from the COCONUT TREE GROWING IN THEIR YARD.

Of course, we needed to eat lunch. Where to? Bahama Mama, of course! I had a hamburger, french fries, onion rings, nachos…Healthy right? And not really an authentic Honduran meal, but tasty nonetheless.

We then headed back to their house. Did I mention that their house was right on the ocean? Oh, yes. Carlos picked us up by boat in front of Bahama Mama and we were driven by boat back to their pier.

Did I mention that Bonine is amazing?

We then piled in to the bus that Carlos drives and headed to see their church. Having grown up in church, I’ve seen many churches, from small to smaller, large to larger. This church, was barely larger than a room. I was rather warm, and tired, so I sat on the bus while everyone else piled out and ran inside to see the church.

After a few minutes they came back out, red faces, talking excitedly, and we headed over to a piece of land that the church owns.

We walked around looking at all the work that needs to be done in order for a new building. All of the labor is being done by hand. A stream runs through the property. In order for the church building to be built, the stream has to be rerouted. There is nothing like digging in the heat. While the people of the church are excited about the property, and the prospect of a new building, bigger and larger to accommodate growth, it’s hard to see the vision. It also requires money to build, and do manual labor. While we stood on the property the pastor spoke of how this would be the only church in that “neighborhood.” He has a vision of their church, not just the building, but the people becoming a light to Roatan. We stood in a circle, and held hands, my family, Carlos and his family, the pastor, and a few of the dedicated church members and prayed. The pastor looked at my mom and dad and said, “I know that God brought you here on purpose, it was no accident.” And it wasn’t.

We arrived back at the boat, and went through the process of being sprayed down by hand sanitation.

I was reminded today again, of how God is the God of America, and Honduras, and all over the world. Everyone needs to hear. As you read this, please pray for this church in Honduras. Let’s pray that people in the church catch the vision, and that other people, other believers will catch this vision with them.

Mark 16:15

He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

Tomorrow we are headed to Belize and to see the Mayan ruins!


Oh, and go Colts!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Feelin' Green? (Day 3)

Monday, January 18, 2010
Current position: Mid Atlantic
Destination: Roatan, Honduras

This morning I woke up after a restless sleep, still feeling a little on the loopy side. I decided it was time for some motion sickness medicine, found in the form of a little chewable tablet. Bonine. Bonine and I have become friends. In fact I plan on taking Bonine with me wherever I go.

It’s now later in the evening. I’m sitting on the deck of my parents cabin listening to the water, feeling the breeze, and finally feeling good.

We ate in one of the ships “restaurants” tonight. Menu dining rather than the buffet style dining. It’s a different experience ordering appetizers, main courses, desert(s), all without having to pay. Of course, it’s not as though we HAVEN’T paid.

Today was relaxing. Listening to the waves. Watching for the lights in the distance. My brother and mother watching for sharks.

After eating lunch, and playing games, doing some reading, and napping and eating, I realized this whole cruise thing might not be so bad. You have your hotel room WITH you while you go visit these other places, in other countries. Hungry? Dial a line, or go visit one of the shops or restaurants available to the ravenous, or those who just feel like eating.

Tomorrow we will be in Roatan, Honduras, where a surprise is awaiting my brother.

My Bub:

Miscellaneous Items:
  • Tonight I went to a Zumba class. For those of you who have experienced Zumba, isn't it great fun? For those of you who haven't, you are missing out. Not being the most coordinated person (no additional comments needed) I wasn't sure how I'd do. Then I realized, if you aren't sure what to do, just wave your arms and dance around. No one will notice.
  • Apparently the ground hog saw his shadow. That means 6 more weeks of winter. I'd like to go on record to say, wouldn't it be great if there were ONLY six more weeks of winter. I figure that'd bring us mid-March. That sounds much better than the additional three months of winter. If six more weeks is all we've got, and then spring?- eh, I'll take it.
  • My birthday was nine days ago. I'm not sure, I'm never sure, what God has in mind, but I have a feeling as always that He has better things in mind for me than I can imagine. I can't wait to see! This year oughta be great! Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, February 01, 2010

Out with the Tide (Day 2)

Sunday January 17, 2010
Starting Point: Fort Lauderdale, FL
Destination: Miami, FL, Atlantic Ocean

Sunday started off and continued much smoother than Saturday. We had to be in the lobby of the hotel at 10 am and wait for our shuttle. We were in the lobby waiting until 12:30 when the shuttle arrived. We were driven thirty minutes (or so) to Miami, to the boat dock. By boats, I mean SHIPS. Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, you name it, they were there, standing proudly (floating?), waiting for passengers to come on board.

We moved through the lines with ease and made our way onto the boat, hand sanitizer waiting around every corner. “Don’t shake anyone’s hands,” we were instructed. And by every corner, I mean every corner! When you got on, got off, walking into the dining room, out of the dining room... EVERY WHERE. (There's nothing like large spaces that continually smell like hand sanitation.)

Sunday continued without a lot of fanfare. We had our safety drill. We learned the proper way to put on a life jacket, and where the emergency whistle is located on the life jacket. Some people decided to try out the whistle, but the following statement made by one of the workers put an end to that: “Some of you I see are trying out the whistle. I’ve worked at sea for six years. I have never seen them wash the whistles.”

We found our rooms. Took naps, ate. Wandered the decks. And, then, I began to experience a little motion sickness.

I’ve never done well traveling, and it was all catching up to me. The car ride to the airport. The plane ride. The ride in the van, the next van, the next van… My hope that I would be fine on the ship was quickly being squashed. While I’ve always loved being on boats, this boat was different from anything else I had ever been on. A cruise ship I suppose is hardly a “boat.” Not the same experience as rowing across beautiful Lake Placid (AKA Lake Acid, those of you who have been there know what I'm saying), or skimming the waters in a speed boat in a lake in California. It’s not the same as a canoe. Not even like the party barge, as we so named the raft my friends and I would float on in Lake Michigan. I laid in my bed last night feeling the movement of the ship, as it rocked and swayed with the ocean. “Think of the party barge. Think of the party barge.” It didn’t help. Eventually though, with the help of the pitch blackness of the cabin, I fell asleep.

Next up Honduras.

Outside our hotel

Leaving Miami

My dad and brotherInside the cabin

The pool area

A few additional notes:
  • Tonight I went to the gym. The Elliptical machine almost killed me. Literally, it wacked me in the arm, and I quite possibly may have a hemorrhage on the back of my arm. Don't ask how the machine hit me in the back of the arm. I can't really answer.
  • As a side note, is it wrong to want to exercise just so I can eat peanut m&ms, and any other thing I really want to eat
  • I realized that as I was walking to the laundry machine, more literally wheezing as I dragged my laundry basket behind me, I left a trail of shirts.
  • I am going to eat some cheese.