Day 5: SEA TURTLES!

Today we went and saw Grand Cayman’s sea turtles. They were so awesome. They have a huge lagoon where giant sea turtles – around 600lb – swim around. I could’ve sat and watched them all day. It was a little difficult getting good shots of their faces because often some other turtle would pull a jerk move and get in the way. They also had smaller pools for smaller turtles and we got to hold them and scratch the underside of their neck when they got agitated. We also got to see pink and white Ibises as well as some really cool spiders.

The turtle farm also had nurse sharks, which were really cool to see as their handlers hand fed them. At least one of the sharks has gotten fat and sassy! (Or so the handler said.) The pool that the sharks are in is filled with smaller fish, which the sharks don’t eat because they are full from the food from the handlers. I found that quite interesting. Apparently nurse sharks are responsible for the most shark bites, because divers go after them and mess with them, but nurse shark bites hardly ever call any significant harm.

We also got a free trip to Hell, because they put us on the wrong bus. I am glad we didn’t pay to go there, at least the part the bus stopped at wouldn’t have been worth paying for.

We ate dinner at the teppanyaki restaurant on the ship. It was pretty delicious and the shrimp was to die for. Just to die for. Best shrimp I’ve had since Memorial Day 2008. And of course the chef and the cooking were quite the spectacle.

Back to the beach tomorrow!

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Day 4: Christmas on the Beach

For the second year in a row, I’ve been able to spend December the 25th where it is best: on a tropical beach! This day we were on Ochos Rios, Jamaica. We spent it at the Dunn’s River Falls and the Shaw Park Gardens. The Falls empty into the ocean so while we were at the base we were on the beach.

Jamaica has some really cool looking spiders, which are referred to as banana spiders because they are black and yellow.

We spent a lot of time in the evening watching the sea. There is something mesmerizing about it.

Tomorrow we see sea turtles in Grand Cayman!

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Day 3: Blue Waters as Far as the Eye Can See

Today was our first day (of two) at sea for the trip; so there isn’t a lot to report. Most of the day involved reading on the balcony. I’ve been plowing through the Percy Jackson books along with the new book about Jeff Bezos. Jillian is reading American Gods, because she never has and that injustice must be rectified.

We are dinner at one of the complimentary restaurants. The filet of salmon was excellent.

Tomorrow is Jamaica!

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Day 2: The Beach

Our first stop was in the Bahamas. Since it was the cruise line’s private island, there wasn’t much to do other than swim in the sea and nap on the beach. And that’s not a complaint!

I got to do one of my favorite things in the world: walk along the beach on that area of sand that is firm from the tide washing in and out. The only downsides were the sand was pretty rough and the beach was pretty small.

We tried out one of the complimentary restaurants on the ship last night. It was fine. I’d rate it as chain-restaurant level of quality.

Tomorrow is a full day at sea.

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Day 1: Escaping Winter’s Wrath

Day 1

Jilliand I are on a ship! In the middle of the ocean in 85ish degree weather. This is damn near paradise even though it is a bit difficult to walk straight when the boat is in full motion.

The day started out rough. I went to bed at midnight and woke up about 3:20am. Then I drove us 50ish miles to Bloomington. It was raining in the awfulest way. No setting for the windshield wipers seemed toget the job down. But we made it. And despite Snow’s efforts we made it out of Chicago and to Miami.

This is the first time I’ve been on or ear the ocean in a year. And it is phenomenal. I leave you with a photo of Miami fading into the sunset.

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Day 17: Another Journey’s End

After non-routine layovers in two airports and a routine hour drive home, my Asia 2012 trip has come to an official end. The trip took me to six countries (counting layovers and the United States) and will forever be cherished. My thanks especially to Mary, Joseph, Evangeline, and Freddy for housing me, showing me around Hong Kong, and including me in the Bali excursion.

My brain is so whacky right now that I can’t type an appropriate wrap-up of the trip, too many things would be left out. I have a parting bit of advice, though: I think the best way to do long flights is to find a season of television that you haven’t seen yet and watch it. At the least, that worked wonders for me on the return trip. At Joseph and Mary’s recommendation, I watched most of season 1 of The Killing, which I think is so far a great show and is worth watching for the cinematography and art direction alone. Of course, the risk with following this advice is you may end up choosing a bad season of television. Your mileage may vary.

To all those who read this blog, I leave you with my favorite wish for the New Year: May 2013 be your best year yet and your worst to come.

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Day 16: 15 Minutes

We saw an amazing Andy Warhol exhibit at the Hong Kong museum of art today. It is touring the world so if you get a chance to see it do so. It is a fascinating and incredible collection of his work.

The three most memorable pieces for me were:
1) he did a painting of a photo of the Birmingham race riot, which was significant to me because of my great interest in the march to civil rights
2) his painting of a US weather map – Joseph and I both liked this one a lot but I haven’t been able to find a print for sale yet
3) there was a room of balloons that would float freely around because of fans and what the balloons were filled with; we had a good time playing in it

I’m going to have to read more about Andy Warhol now.

Joseph and I went to his university in the morning because he had an errand to run and I wanted to see where he worked. His campus has some pretty neat views. In a park there is this tree whose bark is like red dust, which was cool.

I also had a bubble tea in the afternoon, which is a Hong Kong drink Mary really wanted me to try. It was really good. I should’ve tried it earlier so I could have had more of it.

Speaking of Mary, she made dinner again. This time it was a delicious vegetable pot pie with mash potatoes and peas on top. Picture is attached. Mary is a great cook (and also an incredible cake baker, seriously you should see some of the cakes she made back in CU).

We played 7 Wonders and Bohnanza before bed. Those were fitting choices because we played A LOT of them in Bali.

I leave for the airport in the morning. This has been an incredible two weeks. And that is due in large point to the Joneses. I’ll miss them greatly.

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Day 15: Evangeline’s Museum!

We went to Evangeline’s museum today — the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. It was a pretty good museum (and quite plausibly better than the History museum that we went to pre-Bali). My favorite exhibits were:

1) Au Ho-nien’s art exhibit — these were some pretty cool paintings with each work consisting of multiple panels. Au Ho-nien is a 20th century painter from Hong Kong. My favorites were his landscape paintings. His animal paintings were impressive as well, but they seemed a bit over the top for my tastes. I’ll have to find an Au Ho-nien print I like and buy it once I’m back State-side.

2) The history of the New Territories — just 50 years ago this land, where the Jones’ live, was undeveloped countryside. Most of the development has occurred in the past 30 years with the population increasing by 2 million in that time. There was of course the exhibit that expressed faux concern for environmental protection. It is faux concern because it is obvious that there is not much to the concern. One example is a recent development. The developer went ahead and build the few new buildings even though by doing so it raised the temperature in the area by a couple of degrees (because it blocked air flow from the mountain).

3) The Cantonese opera exhibit. Cantonese opera seems quite one dimensional and singularly themed when compared to western opera. But the exhibit was neat.

Joseph and I achieved a milestone today: We didn’t lose a single mentos from our package of fruit mentos. Every time we’ve had fruit mentos on this trip we’ve always lost one. It feels like we should celebrate this every year.

While we were consuming said mentos, there was a Chinese marching band nearby that was playing American* patriotic songs, like “Old Glory”. It seemed really odd for a Chinese marching band to be playing those songs. Perhaps the Chinese wrote them after singlehandedly defeating the Japanese in World War 2.

Mary made black bean burgers and purple sweet potato fries for dinner. They were DELICIOUS. I had been craving a black bean burger for several days, so it was a big deal to me.

After dinner we played Flashpoint, which is a cooperative board game where each player is a firefighter. It is a whole lot of fun. Since I own a copy to, we’re going to try to play it together over the Internet via web cams and Google Hangouts, once I’m back Stateside. Hopefully we can make it work. It’ll be fun to try anyway.

Tomorrow is the last full day in Hong Kong!

*This is a test to see if a certain someone is reading this blog.

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Day 14: Back to Hong Kong

We returned to Hong Kong today without much of a hitch, aside from not knowing Bali would charge us a fee before we could leave (none of our guidebooks or the Secretary of State’s website mentioned it).

We had a three hour layover in Singapore. It is one of the best airports to have a layover in. There is so much stuff to do. We found a butterfly garden this time and a child’s playground (fun fact: Evangeline called it a play structure). For longer layovers there is even a cinema with several options.

I intend to end my 8-day fast of Coke Zero tomorrow. (I had avoided it in Bali because I was worried of getting dehydrated, something I was prone to do as a child or early teen. It was readily available and like all things cheap.)

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Day 13: Christmas on the Beach

I’m pretty sure the beach is my most favorite place ever. This afternoon reaffirmed that. First, Mary and I went to scout a place for dinner. Then, we all went to play in the sand. Evangeline was buried in the sand plenty of times, she loved it.

I love the smell of the ocean breeze. I love walking on wet, firm sand. The beach just quite simply rocks. (Although as the Jones can attest to I am not a big fan of just swimming in the ocean. But being on the beach, most definitely.) This was certainly the best location for celebrating Christmas even though the company was incomplete.

There were wonderful rock formations on either side of the stretch of beach we were on. I’ve attached a photo that shows the best formation.

Poor Evangeline has not slept much due to the heat during naptime and fireworks at night. This has resulted in hilarious statements from her due to her lack of sleep. Some of my favorites, “I don’t want to take a picture of me”, “I said it is not your time to help me, it is my time to help me”, and “This is not going well at all.” The latter was uttered when Joseph went to settle the room charges for tonight. Despite the lack of sleep, Evangeline is a joy to be around. She shares her food, toys, and imaginary friends. She has taken to calling me “Stevie”, which just makes me smile each and every time.

We head for the airport in the early morning. The next post should be from Hong Kong!
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