Tuesday, August 9, 2011


A week ago, I returned from a tropical vacation adventure to Puerto Rico. I must have vacationed hard because my suitcase is still in a state of unpacking, and I'm reeling at the damage I put on my credit cards.

But it was worth it.

Check it out for yourself:

Really, I needed an exit from real life. I've been looking forward to this vacation for the past year, so I decided to live it up and not worry about work or money or calories. And I'm none the worse for the wear. Thank you, Puerto Rico, for making my vacation dreams come true. No thanks to you, real life, for reminding me that school is quickly upon me and bills have to be paid.

For our trip, Matt was the GPS and translator, and I was the driver and financier of the whole operation. We worked as a great team and had some hilarious times. It was also a lot of fun to have some good heart-to-hearts with him, as I haven't really been able to converse with him for two years while he's been on the mission.

One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was the half-day ziplining tour we took in a remote part of the mountains. It was a bunch of hippies who took us up and trusted us to be safe on the ziplines, in the cave, on the bridge, and doing a 70-foot rappel. We got some fun videos:



Matt, holding the camera as he goes (yikes!)

Other highlights from the trip include:

* Shopping in San Juan. I bought six new shirts for about $16 total out-of-pocket. That could just be that I'm an awesome shopper, not that the prices were particularly bargain basement or anything.

* Waking up at ridiculous times to make that stupid ferry to Culebra...third time was the charm! We made it on the cargo ferry, which took twice as long as the passenger one. And everyone was puking their guts out by the time we got there. Happy beach time, people! Getting back was a fun time, too. Standing in line for hours at a time (luckily I had a good book!) and worrying that with the tropical storm that was coming that way that we wouldn't make it back to Puerto Rico in time to get on our flight the next day coming home. Squeaked by on that one! And we made some new friends in the process...a lady and her sons were grateful that I offered to buy their return tickets (they were a first-come-first-serve type of thing) and meet up with them later. I figured I needed all the karma points possible by that point.

* Getting pulled over and receiving a speeding ticket for the first time in my life. "I went 90 my whole mission and the cops never pulled us over," said my brother. Thanks... $110 and a fun wait in line at the "collecturia" later, and I paid that sucker off. Hope that doesn't come back to haunt me. I have to say, though, if I'm going to get a ticket, I'll take it that way...while I'm on vacation and spending money through the nose anyway.

* Meeting all of my brother's friends from him mission. They all loved him. He's a lovable guy, I guess. The bishop of the ward in Humacao (where we were staying) even asked him to come bear his testimony in church. Don't worry, I got an introduction in Sacrament meeting, too...while I was playing on my phone (What?! I don't speak Spanish, ok?!). Everyone turned to stare at us, and I slowly looked up when I realized what was happening. Awesome. We also drove up to San Juan to the "suit store," which was actually in some random parking garage with a bunch of designer suits. I guess some missionary had introduced Matt to it the night before he came home, and our brother-in-law wanted some suits. At $65 a pop, it was worth the trip. We got to the store and who do we happen upon? Matt's mission president. It was nothing but acclaim and glowing reports from him about my favorite former Elder.

* Kayaking in the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo. If you've never heard of this, check it out: "A bio bay is a body of water that contains millions of micro-organisms, called “dinoflagellates”, that glow in the dark for a second when agitated." Sounds a little cool? Try amazing. We kayaked out as the sun was setting, through a tunnel of mangrove trees. When we got there, it wasn't quite dark, and we tried to see this supposed 'sparkle' when we put our hands in the water. I was skeptical, but as the darkness closed in, the little organisms began to shimmer. I can't even explain it without sounding cheesy. Our group, which consisted mainly of members of the Army who were in Puerto Rico for training, ended up having a water fight. Kayaking back to shore was a little crazy, but the whole experience was nothing short of magical. And Matt and I became awesome at kayaking in tandem.

* Listening to the following songs about 42 times each...and loving every second of it: Owl City's Fireflies, Gym Class Heroes' (feat. Adam Levine) Stereo Hearts, and B.o.B.'s (feat. Rivers Cuomo) Magic. I made some mix CDs before we left with some music that had come out in the past two years, and these were some of Matt's favorites. Somehow, the CD player knew this and would play them again, even after they finished the first go-round. :)

* Learning a little bit of Espanol. "Salida" means exit. "Culebra" means snake. "Damas" means ladies. You get the idea. I could pick out tiny parts of the conversations happening around me, but it all happened so fast.

* Beating the crap out of our poor rental car. Thank heavens for the insurance ($20 a day? Sheesh...) I got because we drove and drove and drove some more. And on some pretty crazy terrain. The first day, we discovered someone had scraped up against the car without our knowledge, so we figured we were already invoking the insurance and there were no holds barred. It was a good thing, too, because we climbed some insane mountain passes and fit through some tight spots. Driving in Puerto Rico was quite the experience, too. I just had to learn to go with the flow, break some laws, edge my way in, and I was good. One of the most hilarious driving moments included taking an "exit" on the freeway that turned out to be a side road that led to a chain link fence. Our solution was to back up onto the shoulder of the freeway and gun it to make it up to speed and get back on the real road. By the end of it all, I felt like driving in SLC would be tedious. Luckily I've re-acclimated pretty well.

* Finding out a fear of mine: jellyfish. I grazed one with my leg while we were snorkeling, and I flipped out. Got out of the water and was afraid to go back in. Once I did, I saw another one, and I was done. But snorkeling in crystal clear, warm ocean water isn't a bad way to start a day, I just gotta say.

* Infamous Thursday.
- We woke up to make the ferry (on the east coast) and didn't.
- I got pulled over that morning.
- The water at the place we were staying (for free, mind you!) finally got turned back on. 2 1/2 days without water is not something I am used to. Thankfully we had access to a shower and all, but not being able to use the toilet or have water for anything got frustrating. God bless the Walgreens down the street with baño access.
- We drove 2 1/2 hours to the waterfall in the mountains of San Sebastian (closer to the west coast)...only to get rained out 10 minutes after we got there.
- We tried making it to the lighthouse in Cabo Rojo (on the west coast!) before sunset and missed it. Had a couple minutes of light to make it up there, and it was still amazing, though.
- I went to pay a toll, and I threw the change in the basket, but didn't quite make it in...and I couldn't find any extra change in the ashtray. It was late at night and I'd been up since 5am. Bah. This was last straw material, people.
- Driving three hours home and eating ice cream for dinner.

When my brother asked me where I was going next, the only thing I could think to say was, "Grad school." Really, that's where all my time and money will be devoted for the next 2 1/2 years. It was good to have a week and a half of downtime and fun, but now it's time to gear up for some insane school time.


Blogger heidikins said...

What a fantastic trip!! Thank you for sharing!


August 9, 2011 at 11:55 AM

Blogger Erika said...

Looked way fun!!!! So adventurous!!! I can't beleive you are now gonna start grad school! I'm sure you'll do awesome.

August 10, 2011 at 9:02 PM


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