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Archive for the ‘of Wanderlust’ Category

I just want to say that I really enjoy my former and current co-workers.

So, one very hot weekend in July, two former co-workers, a current co-worker, my brother, and I all decided to go on a backpacking trip. Now, at least three of the five had backpacking experience. At least two of the three had extensive backpacking experience, and one of the two had major-super-hero-professional backpacking experience.

My brother – is an Eagle Scout.

Meanwhile, I have had zilch in experience. None, zero.

But hey, I was more than willing to tough it out and carry my own weight (figuratively, of course. I’m not that strong).

In any case, we all ended up voting for Chewing Gum Lake as the site of our torture, ahem…adventure. Actually, we had tried to do Cathedral Lakes, but permits for overnight camping there are fairly limited and are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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The original plan was that we would drive up all the way to the trailhead (Gianelli Cabin Trailhead), and then start the hike from there. It is about a 4.5 mile hike from the trailhead to Chewing Gum Lake. Round Trip, it would be about 9 miles.

Not too bad. Definitely doable. I’ve hiked the 8.5 miles of Panorama Trail in Yosemite National Park in one afternoon. I can certainly do 4.5 miles.

Scoff.

Well, we hadn’t anticipated the drive to the trailhead to be rather…rough, bumpy, and rocky. It became pretty clear that my co-worker’s sedan wasn’t going to make it. Not to mention all the signs warning that sedans should not move on forward.

And so we were forced to park the cars off the main “road” and start our hike about 2.5 miles away from the trailhead.

What was to be a leisurely 4.5 mile hike was now effectively 7 miles long. And it was hot. And we had a 1,500 foot ascent ahead of us. With 35 pounds of supplies on our backs.

Yayyy!

Obviously, within the first few feet of starting the hike…my foot rolled on some loose rocks and I was promptly dragged down by the weight of my bag. To this day, upon the writing of this blog post (nearly 3 weeks later), I still have a scab on my right knee from this adventure.

A few feet later, I slid again, this time on my butt. Loose rocks scrape buttocks, people.

But eventually we got into a little groove and plodded along. Actually, most of the group were very sprightly hikers. In fact, Maria…ran ahead of us to get our camp started. Here, I am, barely surviving, and she’s running the trail uphill and with her pack on. *Hangs head in shame*

Meanwhile, Vanessa, aka Team Leader, aka Group Mom, motivated us by saying things like, “Let’s keep going for the next 15 minutes without stopping, okay, guys?”

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Easy, peasy. Wheeze. The altitude really did make a difference. Air thinner, heart pumping so hard I wished I had worked harder on my cardio. To be fair, Chewing Gum Lake starts at about 8,000 feet above sea level and you do the extra 1000 foot climb up. And I normally exist (thrive, dare I say?) in a part of California that sits quite happily at 52 feet above sea level.

All kidding aside, everyone was really patient with my inexperience, and I’m just so grateful that they made the whole process an adventure.

One of the more rewarding things about the hike was the beauty that you could see along the trail. There are panoramic vistas looking down into valleys. In the distance, there was a thunderstorm over the horizon.  And then there were meadows upon meadows of wild flowers, too.

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Maria, who used to be a Ranger and a “hot shot” firefighter (see what a “hot shot” does here.) would point out all the various flowers, also identifying which ones were edible, which ones were poison, and which ones made for wonderful toilet paper out in the wilderness.

It’s like one of those moments where you are just rendered small by all the things you didn’t know about the world, and all that you take for granted. Like a proper plant to use as toilet paper that won’t have you breaking out in a rash. Important life stuff.

As we went along, Evette’s shoe broke and she had to switch to sandals. Trooper, that lady. Also, an insect flew into…and died in my eyeball.

Yes.

I saw it fly into me and I felt my eyelid close over it. And felt it … just there. On my eyeball. Stuck. I’m in the wilderness. I don’t have a mirror, or eyedrops. I allowed both Evette and my brother to poke my eye with their fingers while I held my eyelids open for the assault. My brother offered me some water and I squirted it into my eyeball…

…and realized that it was burning and sticky. He guiltily looked at me and said, “oops, I had some flavored electrolyte powder in it.” Aargh!

Finally, using a pair of sunglasses as a mirror, I finally extracted the creature from my eye. And just as I did, we realized we. had. made. it. We were at the lake!

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One of the First Glimpses of Chewing Gum Lake

We set up camp and look at how cute our tents are.

Then, we went for a refreshing dip in the lake.

Later, we hung out, gossiped, drank a little Fireball, and I also tended to my little wound from my first fall.

Then, it was time to start a fire. We gathered some firewood, and heck, Vanessa got us an entire log. Gotta admit, our campfire was pretty epic.

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Also took a second to capture a panoramic photo of the growing dusk.

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My brother was a trooper being the only boy.

We talked around the fire some more. Talking about our leggings, shoes, lawyer stuff, ovulation, babies, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, relationships, ethical dilemmas, whistleblower scenarios, finance and banking, ethnocentric identities, our Scandinavian conspiracy…

We covered a wide range of topics but I had to hand it to my brother. For about 70% of the conversation, he probably had no idea what we were talking about.

Hahaha! Poor guy.

Our dinners were dehydrated packs of food. With the use of a jet boil, all you gotta do is put in some purified water from the lake, get it to a boil, mix into the bag, and wait 20 minutes. Next thing you know, BAM! food. Not too bad, either. Then later, it was time for s’mores. Because…camping.

When it was bed time, we set up our bear hang. It was not actually as high as regulation bear hangs…lol. But we felt kind of better by just even doing it anyway. Pretty sure a bear on its hind legs could have easily ripped through our food and toiletries kit. None of us had carried a bear cannister with us.IMG_3187

The next day, we woke up bright and early and had breakfast — again, the dehydrated packs (bacon and eggs for me–surprisingly good).

The day was kind of hazy — and later when we had phone signal again, we learned that it was the day the Ferguson Fire in Mariposa County had just started. =(

We quickly packed up (practicing “leave no trace” principles) and headed back on the (dreaded) 7 mile hike back into civilization.

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A somewhat hazy early morning.

The trek back wasn’t as tough, given that most of the trail was at least downhill. It was such a challenging, but amazing trip. I’d definitely do it again, but this time, maybe stay a couple nights! It was a great way to keep in touch with former co-workers and get to know a new co-worker (who had co-counseled on previous cases before)!

I also really appreciated the time I got to spend with my brother. He doesn’t do social media, so keeping in touch with him really requires face-to-face hang outs.

So, who wants in on the next trip?

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The Happy Little Group

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Our second day in Iceland started off with our attempt to go to Bonus and get provisions…but somehow they are only open at 11 am most days, and on weekends they open at noon.

What I kind of convenience store isn’t so convenient? Luckily, the good thing about a Bonus is that it’s everywhere as far as “everywhere” can be in Iceland. This post is an exultation to Bonus — check it out.

We figured we’d run into one along the way, and we didn’t want to waste precious daylight, so off we went on our own Golden Circle tour.

Driving around Iceland is very easy and straightforward. The rules of the road are generally the same, except that you cannot make a right turn at a red light.

We opted to do the Golden Circle Tour on our own because we really hate being rushed. We both like to meander and discover on or own time and pace.  (We are not, however, above trailing behind a tour guide to listen in on little anecdotes and such 🤷🏻‍♀️)

STOP 1: Random spot off of þingvallavegur (Hwy 36):

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To be fair, we had no idea where we stopped. We saw a few cars pulled over, a picnic table and bench, and a cordoned off area that acted as a lookout point. So, naturally, like the tourists that we were, we also pulled over.

I. have. never. been. so. cold.

It was so incredibly windy. Like nearly-pick-my-whole-body-off-the-ground windy. And that wind was bone chilling cold. We (over)heard from one of the tour guides that Iceland was the 3rd windiest place on the planet. And that #s 1 and 2 were uninhabited. I was shivering from head to toe in Iceland, and I wondered if #s 1 and 2 were colder.

Luckily, the rest of the trip wasn’t half as chilly!

But that view though. It’s that first, “wow, this is amazing” feeling and it really gets you pumped for what’s next.

And boy, was there a lot of “Wow!” coming up!

STOP 2: þingvellir National Park

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Tectonic Plates

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þingvellir Church

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þingvellir is a special place in Icelandic history. The Alþing (Icelandic Parliament — considered the oldest Parliament in the world) used to convene here from 930 to 1798.  The little church is also symbolic of the change from paganism to Christianity.

It is also a place where you can see the shifts in the tectonic plates evidence of the shifting of the earth’s crust. If I was smarter in geology, I’d explain it better. But why don’t you check it out for yourself?

STOP 3: Laugarvatn

We continued on the Golden Circle Route after a couple of hours at þingvellir, afraid that the looming clouds threatened rain (anyone blogging about Iceland can tell you just how quickly the weather can change).

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Weather rolling into þingvellir.

We were also still on a look out for a Bonus, or any place we could grab lunch really, but as you will see, driving through Iceland can make you realize how remote some of the towns really are.

We ended up in Laugarvatn, where we bought some bread, cheeses and cured meats for lunch (and the rest of the day). No, it wasn’t a Bonus store.  We also discovered Laugarvatn lake.  It is a shallow lake midway between Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir. Under its floor there are hot springs heating the lake so it is warm and suitable for bathing all year round.

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The bank of the lake was steaming (and also smelled sulfuric). The water was indeed warm, and in fact, at the far bank of the lake, there was a public bath with locals and other tourists enjoying the hot waters.

Had we more time, I would have wanted to try the hot baths. But off we went towards the rest of our day’s adventure!

STOP 4: Bruarfoss

This was probably one of our favorite stops along the way, and it’s not one of the more well-known ones. In fact, it was a little bit difficult to find.

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Not Exactly X Marks the Spot.

We sort of just ended up pulling over at whatever dirt road off of Highway 37 that came as close to the red dot as possible.

We ended up parking in what we hoped was not private property, but it might have been. It was basically just between two bushes on the side of the dirt road that led up to someone’s very nice house.

Then we hiked in the general direction of the red dot.

Pretty soon, the sounds of water rewarded us. But only after we crawled under some barb wire. Yeahhhhh, we were probably somewhere we shouldn’t have been. *hangs head*

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Yep, Bruarfoss is totally worth the detour.

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After about a half mile’s hike, you are greeted by this incredible sight.

The glacial river Brúará falls 2-3 meters, ending in a U-turn at the base of the waterfall, where the river is concentrated into a deep crevice that runs through the center of dark volcanic rock formations. This creates sky-blue rapids that almost defy the imagination.

We could have stared at that waterfall all day.  I mean, the photos above have not been altered in any way. The falls really are that blue. Plus, it’s so remote and hard to find, there were no more than five other people there with us, and at some point, only the two of us were there for about a good 15 minutes before another small group of lost tourists stumbled into the area.

But, we still had a few more stops on our list, so off we went!

STOP 5: Geysir

The geyser for which all geysers are named after can technically be found at our Stop Number 5: Geysir.

However, we learned that it does not actually go off — not unless there was a high magnitude earthquake right before. So instead, at this stop, it was all about that sulfur smell and fields of smoking crevices, bubbling waters, boiling mud pits, and signs not to touch the boiling hot waters.

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It felt like the Land Before Time

There was, however, one geyser that erupted every fifteen minutes or so. It’s called Strokkur, and we saw it erupt three times while we were in the area. It’s quite a sight because it happens with little to no warning, and suddenly, a huge gush of water spurts out 100 feet up in the air.

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And like most of the common stops on the Golden Circle, this stop was littered with tourists.

There’s also a brand new visitor center across the street, but we didn’t stop inside because it was packed with people. We hopped into our rented SUV and went off to our next stop.

STOP 6: Gullfoss

Considered one of Iceland’s most popular attractions, Gullfoss is an iconic waterfall. It’s also one of the landmarks that sort of sparked environmentalism in the hearts of Icelandic folks.  Read up on Sigriður Tómasdóttir.

The waterfall itself is majestic and powerful. You will get soaked when you get close. It’s also kind of unique because it’s a staircase waterfall, and also kind of makes a 90 degree turn.

It’s a whole other kind of wow factor. I mean, really, Iceland. How many times does a girl have to say wow in one day? [Suddenly WOW Airlines’ name makes sense…]

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STOP 7: ICELANDIC HORSES!!!

They’re so fluffy, I could dieeeeeeeeeeeeee! I mean, they might as well be unicorns, they’re so cute! There are Icelandic horses and sheep all over the countryside, but sometimes, if you’re lucky, you see ones that are near enough the fence to be petted…and even better when the farm itself invites you to pet their cute horses.

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We pulled off the side of into a driveway and lo and behold! The sign basically says “Feed Cute Horses”

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So, of course I did.

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Can you fit in my luggage?

Can I has one, please?

STOP 8: FAXIFOSS

One of the mind boggling and wonderful things about Iceland is the fact that normal, regular people can have waterfalls in their own backyard. In fact, Gullfoss used to be privately owned up until around 1940ish and didn’t become a national preserve til 1979.

Meanwhile, smaller, less-oh-whoa waterfalls, like Faxifoss…are still in someone’s backyard. Basically, some Icelanders have just become very tolerant of random people driving up their driveway snapping some photos and leaving.

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Just off to the right of this photo, is someone’s house.

Faxifoss is a mini-waterfall that still manages to be, ugh…so pretty. And to imagine that someone gets to wake up everyday to this view. Again, ugh, I’m officially jealous.

STOP 9: Kerið

Finally, as the sun started setting, we made it to the last little pin on our google map.  Kerið is a volcanic crater lake with this unreal aquamarine blue waters (due to the minerals in the soil). It’s a cool little hike around the rim, then down towards the water.

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Tiny Chris at the top left corner of the photo!

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The photos don’t really do justice about how big the crater is, but it’s huge and super cool.

This attraction charges about $4 because…again, it’s owned by some private landowners.

By the time we got done walking around and exploring around the crater, the sun was setting and it was time to wrap up our Golden Circle Tour.

It was a long, beautiful, soul-restoring, awe-inspiring day. Thanks, Iceland. Let’s do it again.

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My husband and I randomly decided to go to Iceland because the fares were very cheap. A few of our friends had posted photos and it looked like one of the places where you probably wouldn’t go once you had a family, or got too old and arthritic (cold, y’know?).

So, when he caught a fare for $110 one way on WOW Airlines, we jumped on it. We also added a Stockholm leg to the trip (another post), and caught a fare of about $240 coming back home on Norwegian Airlines. Overall, with the flight between Iceland and Stockholm, and all the fees , including the additional luggage and train/bus fares, it came out to be about $750 per person round trip.

Before we jump in: I thought this trip was already going to be a disaster because I had such a crap start to everything.

First — work. Emergency popped up and I barely managed to drag my butt to SFO with 45 minutes to spare on an International flight. Right? Good thing I had no checked baggage. But I was already starting my vacation apoplectic.

Second, my shoe broke. Literally the entire bottom of my left boot came unglued. I was aghast. It was not a cheap boot and I had only worn it a couple of times before. I spent what little time I had at the AMEX Centurion Lounge trying to Gorilla Glue my shoe back together. I should have been stuffing my face with free food and drinks because…WOW Airlines.

Third. Yep, WOW Airlines. Let me just say: the seats are tiny. They recline by about a nano-millimeter. They’re not comfy, period. And there’s no food, no drinks (water in a glass maybe), no blanket, no nothing unless you pay an exorbitant amount. Before booking their relatively cheap fares, I encourage you to go on their website and read their rules and FAQ’s. You pay for everything including a hand-carry. (personal items are free.) I am She-Who-Can-Sleep-No-Matter-What-When-Or-Where…and I had a hard time sleeping (and the flight was at night).

Fourth, Chris fainted a dead faint on the flight. Like I literally saw him get up, walk, and face plant to the gasps of the rest of the passengers. You don’t know panic till you see something happen on a plane and the passengers all gasp simultaneously and people jump out of their seats dramatically…I mean, I, myself, have never bolted out of my plane seat so fast, no shoes, dropping my phone and all. Luckily, as much as I am ragging on WOW’s bare necessities policies, their flight attendants were on top of it, and Chris was back on his feet in….oh, ten minutes or so. They even dragged a poor doctor from her seat to see to him. (Don’t worry folks, it wasn’t anything serious, just a bad mix of drinks, getting overheated, not eating…etc…) They checked on him throughout the rest of the flight and got us free sodas and snacks. *wink. File under how to get free snacks on plane.

When we got to Reykjavik, we missed the bus that would take us to the rental car center. So we stood in the cold for about 10-15 minutes. When the bus came, it promptly dropped us off across the parking lot. We. Could. Have. Walked. There. *facepalm

Then, when we got our rental car from SIXT, I was told that it was going to be $2,000.00 as a deposit if I didn’t want to pay the exorbitant insurance fees. Apparently literal rocks can fly at you while driving in Iceland and destroy a car, I dunno. I even clarified, like, haha, you mean, $2,000 Icelandic Krona, right? (which conversion-wise, would have been a solid $20). Stone-faced and humorless, the answer was, “No, $2,000.00 U.S. American dollars”  — like by adding both U.S. and American together, I couldn’t mistake his meaning.

Fuming, we began our trip…

DAY 1 of misAdventure: Which really was a half-day after landing, gathering our luggage, going to the rental-car place and arguing with the clerk at the rental car place…*shrug

  • We drove to Reykjavik from the Keflavik International Airport. I personally underestimated how long this would take. I mean, YES, I read all the other blogs and info guides that say it’s an hour away. But I also read it was about 47 km, which is roughly 30 miles, which in the San Francisco Bay Area is about a 30-40 minute drive, less without traffic. BUT there is one main highway, and the speed limit is slow in Iceland, so there’s that. And the GPS we rented had some sort of speed radar that yelled at us every time we drove over the speed limit. I should have believed all the other travel bloggers…so for anyone reading this…believe me, it is about an hour away.
  • Reykjavik is an atypical urban city that suddenly turns into a quaint fishing town. One minute, you’re driving past nondescript buildings like you were in San Jose, California, and the next thing you know you see cute little cobblestone streets and colorful buildings.
  • Our hotel, Room with a View, was really quite nice. It’s an Apartment-Hotel, so came with a little kitchenette and fridge which came in handy later. It’s also located quite nicely along Laugevagur, in the heart of some shopping and restaurants.
  • Walking around Reykjavik can be a little confusing because some of the streets sound alike, and isn’t something you can just easily memorize. It’s more of a, “Our hotel is on the street that starts with the letter L that sounds kind of like that whiskey, and at the corner of that other street that sounds like xx. Oh, and it’s next to the Chuck Norris Grill. In short, use GPS.
  • We had a late lunch/snack at Loki Cafe, known for very Icelandic dishes. Think pickled herring, fermented shark, and the like. I really enjoyed my meal (seen below).
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Loki Cafe: Icelandic Plate III: 2 slices of Icelandic Rye Bread – one with mashed fish, one with egg and herring, as well as a scoop of Loki’s unique Rye Bread Ice Cream

  • We got lost in Reykjavik and could barely find our way back to our hotel somewhere on the street that sounds like Lagavulin scotch (okay, it was Laugevagur).
  • Then we went to The Blue Lagoon. Yes, in retrospect we should have started with the Blue Lagoon given that it’s right by the airport…but I dunno. There I go again miscalculating how long 30 miles was really going to take.
  • Doing the Blue Lagoon at night does deprive you of the “blue” part of the Blue Lagoon. It is basically a giant hot tub you share with strangers. Until you get wrinkly. Cuz you paid money to be there. And it’s really f’ckn cold everywhere else but in it. Also, it is only recommended if you’re staying nearby. We were so tired and relaxed, it was hard to make the drive back to Reykjavik. Well, not for me. I napped in the car, while my strapping handsome husband drove. We may or may not have seen our first Northern Lights on this drive back. If we weren’t on a misadventure, I’d say we would do the Blue Lagoon in the daytime.
  • Finally, back in Reykjavik, I had the most infuriating meal ever. It was the meal that was a portent of all our other meals in Iceland: it was ridiculously expensive.
  • See all those yummy looking appetizers above? + 2 beers = $88.00 Yes, that one tiny ass slider, was $18.00.  And it said “to share” on the menu! We were still hungry after this meal, but unwilling to spend any more money on food. ON PRINCIPLE. So we went to bed hungry, with a plan to hit up a grocery store before going off on our Golden Circle Adventure!

Up Next, our GOLDEN CIRCLE jaunt.

I hope you enjoyed our day of misadventure in Iceland!

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 On June 2012, I flew to Cebu, Philippines for my best friend’s wedding.

Christine and I had been friends since Kindergarten. Best friends from the age of nine till I had to move to the United States at the age of 16.  My last memory prior to moving from Cebu City, Philippines to Union City, California was going to tennis camp during the summer with Christine and squealing over how hot Patrick Rafter was.

In the years that followed, I had seen her a few times as I visited the Philippines and she came to visit the United States.

However, despite the time and distance that had separated us, I was proud to stand as a bridesmaid at her wedding to Mr. Romeo. No, literally, his name is Romeo. But we all call him by his nickname…Junie.

Here are some photos from her wedding:

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Marcus is sad that my mom is packing my suitcase. “Please don’t leave me…”

 

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The bridesmaids get their make up and hair did…

 

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I’ve never had so much make up on my face…guess it has to stand up to the weather and bright lights. I feel like a celebrity. Mwahaha!

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At Sacred Heart Parish. Full Circle since they both went to Sacred Heart Schools (one for Boys and the other for Girls).

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Filtered.

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What a Rock n’ Rollin’ Entrance to their reception!

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The Groom also served as the Entertainment that night! Lead singer status!

 

It was such a fun night. I always wondered who my friends would have been or what kind of person I would have grown up to be if I had stayed in the Philippines. If Cre and her friends are any indication, I think I would have been just fine…a little more metal in my music, maybe a little more in touch with creativity, too.

I know Cre and Junie will have an amazing marriage. They’ve already been through so much together, and have always supported each other. I believe in both of them, and they make me believe that there is a happily ever after.

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I never knew there was such pretty hiking trails just outside of Los Angeles. Although, I had to wake up at the butt crack of 6 am, but it was completely worth it. I never really go hiking in the summer because my greatest enemy tends to come out during the summer times…the ever-so-awful evilus lizardus.

So misty mountains, cool earth, cold temperatures — those were perfect hike conditions for me.

I went with a group of my Kickball friends who are always a fun bunch.

The hike was long and surprisingly arduous (probably because half the trail was a bit slippery from the previous day’s rain). But that waterfall was a very welcome surprise and definitely worth the hike. I will be back…y’know, after summer and when all the evilus lizardus are hiding under the rocks where they belong.

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Exactly two years ago was the last time I went snowboarding.I had hurt myself pretty terribly trying out a jump in icy conditions. So, while recuperating, I could not finish off the season. Then, last season…well, let’s just say that it resulted in June Mountain being shut down.

So, I’m really intent in getting my Snow Mojo back. My Snojo. Haha!

But it was a lot harder than I thought it would be.

Fear of injury, new boots to break in, and Southern California snow conditions weren’t the easiest ways to debut my almost-three-decade self back on the slopes. However, I still had a grand ol’ time.

It’s always a good reminder that snowboarding is really just a self-challenge. How far will you go? How fast can you ride? What new thing will you try? For me, I had two main goals: Break in the new boots that my brother had given me for Christmas TWO YEARS AGO (pre-injury), and be comfortable on the board again.

I’d say I half-accomplished both. PhotoGrid_1358056811944

Featured above: MINION, my awesome stomp pad that helped me get off the lift with fewer than normal incidents; the NEW BOOTS that I initially didn’t even know how to lace up; “Ketchup” aka Maker’s Mark in our Pepsi and Sierra Mist (Joey went to a Southern school, and I guess sprite and Maker’s Mark is popular there); BRRR, it was cold up there at 5 degrees Fahrenheit; DeTRUCK, aka Joey’s DeWalt truck that took us to the snow; Kickball BUDS, Micaela & I all bundled up.

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These boots were kind of weird to lace up, but surprisingly stayed tight (too tight, but I’m assuming it’s because it was the first time I ever put my feet in them ever). I had to go to the repair shop and have the guy in there show me how to lace these up. Hahaha! But they definitely were easier to tighten and loosen than the traditional laces. Let’s see how long they hold up.

Next week, I am off to Tahoe and I’m SUPER excited because it will be the BF’s FIRST time snowboarding!!!

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Finally.

29 (damn near almost 30) years in the making, and I finally see Disneyland at Winter Time.

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This dream coming true was made possible by my boss. He took the entire office to a Disneyland weekend Holiday trip instead of throwing a traditional office party. We were provided two day park hopper passes and two nights at the Grand Californian Hotel. It was pretty awesome.

The Lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland

The Lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland

The Grand Californian does not look very Disney inside…although I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting. Maybe more Hidden Mickeys?

However, it still delivered with their usual customer service and atmospheric awesomeness. For example, every couple of hours they had carolers, actual carolers, singing acapella Christmas songs in the lobby. There are pianists that fill the lobby with Christmas music.  There is a GIANT Christmas tree all decked out in the middle, and of course, the service is always phenomenal.

  1. Have I mentioned that it was FREE?

My boss wanted to forgo the usual Holiday party and got everyone in the office a weekend in Disneyland instead. He paid for the hotel, the park hopper tickets and for those who ran into him, drinks and dinner, or $100 gift cards, or random little gift shop presents. He actually paid for a fabulous dinner at the Wine Country Trattoria (I had some extremely delicious lamb shank).

And if you have the prixe fix menu at the Wine Country Trattoria, you actually get reserved viewing for the World of Color water show. As far as I was concerned, even if we had to pay for it, the good food and great show is well worth it.

Gotta admit, that World of Color show puts the Bellagio fountains to shame. I think my jaw dropped a couple of times, and my front teeth were dry from smiling so much throughout the show.

World of Color Show

World of Color Show

IMG951583

The Grin that dried my teeth.

           I also got to experience Magic Hour. If you stay in one of the Disney hotels, you are allowed into the parks an hour before anyone is even allowed to breathe in any disney air. This meant that we got on all the rides we wanted with practically no wait, and also let us get the fast passes for the new Cars Land car race before everyone else.

Then, there’s getting on Disney rides at almost-midnight. There’s something pretty eerie about rides in the dark, especially the Jungle Cruise in Adventure Land. In the daytime, all the creatures are clearly plastic and mechanical. At night, the croc swimming up to your jungle boat, looks pretty darned real. So do the piranhas. And the hippos. Uh…yeah. Creepy cool.

I also forced myself to get on California Screamin’, the one and only real roller coaster in Disney’s California Adventure. In essence, the BF made me promise that if he would be a good sport throughout the Disney weekend, I had to get on ONE scary ride. Fine.

I still refused to get on the Tower of Terror though. And in exchange, he watched the broadway-esque production of Aladdin without complaint. He liked it. He totally did.

And, did I mention that my firm hosted a CHARACTER BREAKFAST? Yeah…more cheese on the weekend of cheesy fun already! It was surprisingly fun acting like a kid again with these characters. Tigger was there…of course.

TIGGER and I

TIGGER and I

NO matter how old I am, Disneyland always delivers.

I’m glad I get to see this Winter Wonderland and cross it off my list of things to do in Life.

Character Breakfast!

Character Breakfast!

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In the midst of Golden Gate Park is the California Academy of Sciences. It’s pretty much a natural history museum complete with (1) the Steinhart Aquarium that rivals the Aquarium of the Bay in Fisherman’s Wharf and even slightly at par with Monterey Bay Aquarium (I’ll actually leave this judgment for later since I haven’t been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in a long time); (2)the Morrison Planetarium (Planet Arium South Park episode, anyone?) which I still think is one of the best places for a nap in the middle of the day; (3) a Rainforest which is basically a giant circular humid greenhouse; (4)  the Kimball Natural History museum with the mammal room, and exhibits on sustaining life on earth; and oh…yeah, they have a revolving special exhibit…this time it was (5) SNAKES AND LIZARDS.

Between my boyfriend and my brother, many pranks and psychological torture were applied on me in the Snakes and Lizards exhibit. There is apparently a lizard that can leap from boulder to boulder and run at 16 mph. My brother whispers, “You can’t outrun that…” Then Boyfriend tossed a rubber lizard at me which resulted in a strangled scream which resulted in a lot of people looking at me which had my brother asking in a LOUD VOICE, “Was that scream you?”

I don’t care. I’ll scream if I want to.

After that ordeal, the rest of the day went easy peasy. We went to the Aquarium where we touched starfish and sea urchins, we napped in the Planetarium where Jodi Foster’s throaty voice lulled us into a dream filled with nuclei and mitochondria, we went to the Living Roof (my first time in over 5 visits) and froze our butts off in the freezing San Francisco summer wind, we played with the toys in the gift shop and overall had a great time!

on the Living Roof overlooking the De Young Museum

well, a slice of the Philippine Reef was behind us.

mmm...Moray Eel

Hey, fishy, fishy...

It's a piece of rolled up carpet...Oh, actually it's a snake.

Sssslytherin's in the House

...and finally, this guy always makes me smile by planning little trips to make me happy!

Here’s the caveat: The California Academy of Sciences is a whopping $34.99! This hurts because the Smithsonian in Washington DC is FREE! And even the one in Los Angeles is only $12!

So, unless you really value the rainforest attraction and the planetarium, the living roof, the albino alligator, and the sustainable design of the CAS, then it’s recommended that you really plan your visit for that day instead of just randomly dropping in for 3 hours. If that was the case, then I’d say hop on Thursday nights Nightlife: 3 hours, NO CHILDREN RUNNING AMOK, wine, beer and hors d’oeuvres served — all for $12. STEAL.

Below are a few shots from Nightlife from my birthday in January:

Glow in the Dark

Nightlife Crew

Hey, Lil' Guy...

 

When there aren't little kids running around, you actually get to learn stuff.

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So we all know that if you ride Business Class, you get bigger seats, more legroom, unlimited liquor and flight attendants that address you as “Ms./Mr./Mrs. Last Name.” If you’re really lucky, you get the seats that turn into claustrophobic little beds.

On Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Class (their equivalent of Business class), you also get to have Filipino food!

I can’t really compare the food from other airlines since I’ve only flown Business class on 2 airlines (Delta and PAL). Delta was meh. PAL always amazes me with the food.

Nommers. So enjoy drooling over the food:

Mixed Tapas

Prawn Sinigang

Pork Loin with Figs

Nuts & Cheese, Creme Brulee and Fruits

Filipino Arroz Caldo (Porridge)

Sliders

Yogurt, Fruits, Breads

Beef Guizado (and Spiced Vinegar!) with Scrambled Egg & Garlic Rice

Mixed Tapas

Some Kind of Cured Pork with a Slice of Pear and Foie Gras

Bacon-Wrapped Steak, Scrambled Eggs, Mashed Potatoes & Apple Crepe

Fruits, Nuts & Cheese Plate

Pork Adobo!

Sigh, such delicious flights on Mabuhay Class, Philippine Airlines. It’s really bad for a diet. I flew Economy once, and barely ate anything. On Mabuhay Class, I keep ordering and re-ordering stuff on the menu. But y’know, it’s not just a flight, it’s a dining experience, too!

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When I was a child, my mom used to get so exasperated with me. She and my nannies and a veritable army of…well, actual soldiers, would spend an entire afternoon looking for me through the woods in Camp Lapu-Lapu (a military camp, where I grew up). I would saunter back into the house just as the sun was about to set completely covered in dirt, mud, scrapes, and smiles. My mom used to tell me that I stank to high heaven, too and the first order of business was always to throw me in the bathroom and order a bath.

Asa naman sad ka gikan?” (And where have you been this time?) and “Asa naman sad ka nalagput karon?” (Where have you been thrown to this time around?) As a semi-literal translation goes.

I would tell her about my adventures. Did you know there is a creek to the west side of the camp? And my mom would exclaim that a child had died in that creek (which sadly only piqued my interest in said creek). Did you know there are people living in the woods and they own pigs? My mom would sigh and tell me that they were squatters on government land and my dad would have to do something about them.  I saw two dogs stuck together from the butt. A statement my mom never followed up with anything. Now, I know why. I found a new way to the back of Daddy’s office. My dad worked on the top of the highest hill in the largest white building in the camp. The front was a meticulously designed garden with acres and acres of marching grounds. The back was an unpaved parking lot that bordered the woods. My mom would sigh. You have to be careful, mi hija.

Then we would get to the point where she would have to scrub my feet. I wore flip flops everywhere. It was almost always dusty, dirty and muddy wherever I happened to be. She would seat me on the toilet bowl cover, put a basin of water which was a mix of the lukewarm tap and water specifically boiled to clean…well, me. She would dip a washcloth into the warm water and start to scrub my feet, making sure to clean my heels and in between the toes. I would squirm and complain, but it was a ritual, almost.

We would eventually get to the dark mole on the side of my right foot, just beneath the ankle bone. More than once, she would sigh and point to it. “La-agan gyud ka, tan-awon palang.” (No straight translation comes to mind, but it means something like I am stricken with wanderlust just by the very sign of it.)

To this day, my tendency to be anywhere but home is both a joking and sore point with my mother. I never stay home on the weekends and most nights I do wander off before stumbling home. When I stay home for too long, I feel suffocated, like there was somewhere else I should be. Once, my parents had gotten mad at me for pushing my brother off the swing (hey, I was 6!) and they told me I could not go outside. I normally would have howled and caused a tantrum when I didn’t get my way. But this time, they thought it was so eerie how I simply stood in front of the window and stared outside, tears silently streaming down my face. I didn’t make a single sound. It was like I lost my spirit.

I do that at work too, almost every day (minus the crying, of course). My bosses and co-workers have noticed my tendency to spend at least a minute or two each day just staring out the window in silence.

I explained that it was this urge, this longing to be outside at all times. I have to move. I have to see something different. I have to feel the sun beating against my skin. I have to feel the ground beneath me as I walk towards somewhere…anywhere. I have to.

As I grew up, it became a driving need for knowledge and adventure. I had to meet these people I’ve read about in encyclopedias. I have to see the culture I have only seen on tv. I have to listen to the languages I have only ever heard on tape. I have to taste the food I’ve only ever seen pictures of. I have to. I want to know for myself whether something is true and real. To me, the only way to do that is to experience it.

You see, I have never been the person who couldn’t sleep when they were somewhere new. I have been comfortable on the floor, on hay, on a giant mattress, on a hammock, on the sand, on a carpet, on anywhere. I can sleep in a cramped car, in the bed of a pick-up truck, in a camper, and even on the hood of my car. I’ve never had a problem with unfamiliarity. I embraced it and occasionally, I’ve actually yearned to be somewhere utterly unfamiliar and new. Do you know how utterly amazing and mesmerizing it is to do, feel, and be something entirely new? I would follow that feeling wherever it takes me in this world.

However, later on, as life became more complicated (as it surely does when you become, gasp, an adult) it became a need to escape. I had my heart broken and I had to run away. I had to see places and things and people that didn’t remind me of him. I was overwhelmed with the decisions I’d made in the direction of my life, so inexplicably (or rather, because of it), I found myself turning towards the exact opposite direction.

Wanderlust–as strangely driving a need as it is can be dangerous. I’ve become a flight risk even to my own family. They look at me with unsteady eyes–their gazes asking me if I will be around for long enough. I’ve left what I call “home” in shambles because I cannot stay long enough to build one. Sometimes, the life I supposedly live in is a mess because I’m too busy living somewhere else.

It’s exhausting. Suitcase to suitcase. Miles and miles. Jumping from one adventure to another.

It’s financially draining. Simply because this is how the world works. To get somewhere, you have to pay for it.

And finally, it’s lonely.

When you need something different all the time, when the scenery has to change all the time, when the experience has to be different every time…it’s hard to find someone who can stay along with that and fulfill that. I’ve demanded new adventures, experiences and lifestyles of the same person before. It’s not fair. I know this.

And so now I’m a little bit older. A little bit more settled into adulthood that I’ve realized I cannot simply runaway from growing up. I’ve stayed in one place long enough to see that I do want that silence, that comfort of the same bed every night. I’ve started to envy the way fingers from two hands just learn to fit perfectly into each other instinctively.

I’ve started to question the need for the giddiness and spark in exchange for comfort and safety.

I don’t know. There’s only so far that wanderlust can take me. I need to settle down within myself long enough to find what’s missing. And that, my friends, is what I need to do now.

On a brighter note: March sends me Tahoe, April to Los Angeles and Dallas, May to the Philippines, June to Chicago, August to Las Vegas and Cabo, and October to New Orleans…yeah, I’m pretty broke right about now. But I’m so excited.

Hey, I never said Wanderlust was entirely bad, just that…y’know, I had to tone it down a bit.

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