Monday, June 30, 2014

Slight Disclaimer!

So, it has been CrAzY around here for the past month or so.  Jeff has been doing such a good job writing posts about what has been going on, but I have been TERRIBLE about posting them to this blog.  I just wanted to make sure that no one is confused by the massive amounts of posts posted all today.  They were written earlier but now they are posted.  I hope to be back on the ball from now on.

You Better Belize It!

The second stop on our Caribbean Cruise was in Belize City, Belize.

The whole time we were there, people were saying things like, "Unbelizeable!" and "You better Belize it!".  I was in the country for less than 8 hours and I was tired of those jokes by the time I left.  I can't imagine how the locals feel.  (Though, the person who said it the most was the guide on our tour bus, so it's completely her fault if she experiences too much of it.)  In order to give you the full Belize experience, I have made sure to title this post with a stupid Belize pun.  You're welcome.

We had a great experience in Belize.  We got to see some Mayan ruins as well as lots of wildlife.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The tour started on a bus, of course.  I wasn't nearly as frightened by this one as I was by the one in Honduras.  We were still on a very thin dirt road (our tour guide said that the massage on our rear ends was complimentary as we bounced down the road) but there were less children and wildlife that looked like they were going to be run over.

The bus took us to an Archaeological site called Alton Ha where they are actively uncovering Mayan ruins.  This was important because climbing a Mayan pyramid was on my bucket list.

That's the first one I got to climb.

Some of the structures weren't fully uncovered.

I made sure to document my first steps of the climb, for your viewing pleasure.

When I get to the top of the first pyramid, I took this panorama of the surrounding area.

After the first pyramid, they quickly ushered us over to the second, and larger pyramid.  This one is the temple of the Sun God.
The temple of the sun god.

I wanted a close up picture of the temple with the sign.  I got our tour guide lady as a bonus.
This is from the top of the Temple of the Sun God, looking down on the first pyramid we climbed.

Looking precious on the top of the temple
After Alton Ha, our trip was not over.  We walked back to the bus, but first we had to wade through all of the locals who wanted to sell us stuff.  I wasn't interested in souvenirs, but when one lady held up a bag of pre-cut mangoes, I clearly wasn't going to say no.  Just for the record, those mangoes were possibly the best thing I ate on that trip, and I ate some amazing food on the ship.

The bus took us to a small resort where they fed us lunch and then we got on a boat that took us down the river, through an ocean inlet and back to the dock where we had started.  Our tour guide made sure to point out all of the wildlife.  It was funny because we had booked this excursion because I wanted to see the ruins, but I ended up enjoying the boat ride just as much as the first part.

The boat would periodically "turn on the AC".  That meant we would go faster.  Here are John and Carol enjoying some AC.

Some bats clinging to the tree.

Can you see the crocodile?  It's not a great picture, but he's there, I promise.
If you thought the crocodile picture was bad, this one is even worse.  The dark blob in the tree is a howler monkey.
A cashew tree.  The natives use the green fruit for eating and making alcohol and each fruit has only one nut.
We saw billions of iguanas, but this was the best pic I got.
When the boat made its way back to the ocean, there was a little area where we stopped for about ten minutes to watch manatees.  They were sooo cool!  I didn't get a picture of them, because they would just stick their noses out of the water for a half a second and then they were gone.  But it was super neat to sit and watch one pop up and then another pop up a few feet away only seconds later.

After watching manatees for a bit the boat started going way faster than we knew it could as it zipped us through the ocean.  It dropped us off at the dock, and we poked around the city a bit.  There wasn't a whole lot to see, but we did gain some true wisdom from a chocolate store:

True wisdom

We also took the time to get the obligatory picture in front of a sign.

All in all, Belize was unbelizeable.

Scuba Diving in Roatan

The first port on our recent cruise was Roatan, Honduras.

Since we were recently Scuba certified, we had taken this cruise specifically so that we would have the chance to use our certification.  We had heard that Roatan, Honduras was one of the coolest places to do Scuba, so we made it happen.

When we got off the ship, there were billions of different people holding signs for different excursions.  It was like when you land in the airport and there are all those people holding signs, and you always wish you were important enough to be on a sign.  We weren't important enough to be on a sign this time either, but we were looking for the sign that said "Scuba 2 tank dive".  We found the guy holding the proper sign and he asked to see our certification cards.  We showed him and then we got on a little ghetto fabulous bus.

I had been nervous about Scuba diving without our instructor to take care of us.  He promised us that even if we died underwater, he would bring us up alive.  (He's that good.)  The real world doesn't have that kind of guarantee.  However, what I didn't realize was that I didn't need to worry about the Scuba part.  I needed to worry about the bus part.  The bus was winding through the thin streets of Roatan at a speed that seemed much faster than what I would consider safe in those conditions.  There were children, dogs, goats, other cars and various other obstacle that came way too close to the bus for my comfort.  The bus driver would just honk loudly and hope that everyone would move.  At one point, I heard a little girl scream but I looked out the window and we did not hit her, so I think all was well.  I think the bus was just a little close for her comfort.  (She was experiencing the same discomfort I was.)

The bus dropped us off at a little resort.  (Or at least what passes for a resort in Roatan.)  It wasn't fancy or anything, but they had boats and Scuba gear.  That's all we needed.  We had to fill out paper work saying that we promise we know what we're doing and we won't sue if we die.  Then they asked us how much weight we needed.  I didn't need any weight in fresh water, because I sink like a rock.  But I had no idea what I needed in the ocean.  We explained that we're newbs, and we have no idea.  He gave me 16 pounds.  It turns out, 16 pounds is more than I need, even in the ocean.  But we'll get to that in a second.

The boat took us out to a little place called Green Outhouse Wall.  It's a really awkward name, and I thought I heard it incorrectly, but I googled it when I got home.  Maybe an outhouse is something different in Honduras.  Because I probably wouldn't name a dive location after a bathroom, but that's just me.

I jumped in the water with my BCD (Buoyancy Control Device, that's the vest you wear while diving) fully inflated like I'm supposed to.  In my class, I always just dumped all the air out of it so that I could sink.  It turns out when you have 16 pounds of weight, you probably want to leave some air in it.  I emptied it out and sank like a rock.  Luckily, we were only in 15 feet of water at that point.  I hit the bottom, and realized I wasn't supposed to sink that fast.  So I decided to put more air in.  I probably should have been more careful about how much air I put back in, because I then shot straight to the top.  Robyn was descending slowly and reached out her hand in somewhat of a panic as I shot past her on the way back up.

It took me a while, but I did eventually get the hang of buoyancy.  I've heard even experienced divers say that buoyancy is the hardest part of diving.  Getting to the point where you can control your ascent and descent or just staying at one point in the water is hard.   So I'm not ashamed that I didn't do it perfectly on the first dive.

I had a fantastic experience.  We saw crabs, turtles, lobster, tons of fish, lots of different kinds of coral, and even a shipwreck.  I wore my GoPro and took video the whole time.  The video isn't great for 2 reasons.  One is that I apparently move my head around a lot which makes for somewhat nauseating video.  The other is that it was an overcast day, and though I could see just fine, the video turned out very green and it's hard to make out very many things.

Nonetheless, I pulled out a few stills from the video for your enjoyment.

I took this selfie accidentally when I was trying to make sure the camera was on.

We saw lots of coral and sea fans.

We were constantly surrounded by fish.

Can you see the turtle?
 The first dive was about 45 minutes.  Then they took us back to the resort, let us take bathroom breaks and visit the gift shops while they got more air tanks on the boat.  We took the opportunity to show how cute we were.

Our second dive was to a place called Deep Eel Garden.  We never saw any eels but we did see a shipwreck which was super cool.
Approaching the shipwreck

Getting a little closer to the wreck
 The wreck itself sat at 110 feet in depth.  We're only supposed to go to 60 feet.  But I really wanted to check out the cool nest sitting on the mast.
You can't see super well but there are cool little furry worms on and in the nest.  
 After looking at the nest, I checked my depth gauge and I was at 75 feet deep.  I looked up at Robyn and she made a gesture to show that she was very cranky and that I needed to ascend to 60 feet.
Robyn never made that kind of mistake, because she was looking at her gauge 100% of the time.

But she still loved me, even when I went too deep.

She was easily the cutest thing I saw on the dive.

One of the things that we had to do in our dive class was that you are supposed to ascend to about 20 feet of depth and do a safety stop, where you stay at that depth for at least 5 minutes before continuing to ascend.  In our class, we just played paper rock scissors because there was nothing else to do.  The divemaster on this dive did a good job of leading us to a place where it was only 20 feet deep but there were still things to see.  So that made it a nice way to end the dive.

Finally we had to come up and finish off our diving experience.

These fish were all around the boat.  They hung out right at the surface.

Once we got back on the boat, they had people that took our air tanks off and broke down all our equipment.  We had learned how to do all of that in our class, but it was so nice to have someone do it for us.

This is how cute we were on the boat.

So that was my diving experience!  It was sooooo amazing!  The best part is that Robyn really enjoyed it which means we'll be doing it a lot more.  Woot!  I hope to share many more diving experiences.  And maybe in the future I'll have better pictures to share.

Exploring the Navigator of the Seas

On our recent cruise, the first two days were spent at sea.  The ship (christened the Navigator of the Seas, hence the title of this post) had to make its way from Texas to Honduras.  The other ports were further north so we could make our way back as we visited the different places.

Those two days at sea were very relaxing.  We spent them exploring every nook and cranny of the ship (at least when I wasn't reading a book, since  I did a lot of that.)

Here are a few of the fun things we did in those first two days.

We discovered the wind.

I became the king of the world.

Robyn did her impression of a helicopter on the helicopter pad.  (You thought that was a real helicopter didn't you.)

I ate ice cream.  Lots and lots of ice cream.
We watched people surfing on the Flowrider.

We watched people wipe out on the Flowrider.
We did some golfing
During dinner they did a parade of servers.  It was important to wave our napkins in celebration.
This was my view for a good portion of the cruise.  My Kindle, my feet, and the ocean: most relaxing thing ever.
The days at sea were not particularly adventurous, but they were just what I needed to rejuvenate. But don't worry, I'll write about the adventurous parts soon.

Goodbye to the Lake House

I've written a number of times about our various trips to Bear Lake.  It's been an oft visited place made possible by some good friends of ours.  These friends own a house there and have been gracious enough to let us take a number of fantastic trips where we've stayed there.  (Even as recent as just a few weeks ago.)

Recently, they made the decision to sell the Lake House.  Of course, since it makes sense for them to sell it, then obviously I wanted it to sell for their sake.  However, there was a small part of me that secretly hoped that it would stay on the market forever.

About a week ago we received word that the selfish part of me was going to have to be disappointed because the house had sold.  However, we did get the chance to have one last hurrah this past weekend with a few other couples.

We had a great time, even if I had to cry inside as we said goodbye to a house filled with happy memories.

But here are some of the fun things we did.

We flitted and floated in tubes.  Of course, naturally we didn't get any pictures of us floating in the tubes.

But we did get one of me on the shore with it stuck on my belly.

And we got one of Robyn looking so cute as she stands in the tube in a foot of water.
Despite the lack of photographic evidence, you'll have to trust me that we did do some floating.  Although, I'll admit that it wasn't very long because the water was pretty cold since it's still early in the season.

Due to the cold, we spent a lot longer in the kayaks because they were more up out of the water.  Robyn was possibly the cutest kayaker that ever lived.  (I personally interviewed everyone that has ever sat in a kayak and I have verified Robyn was the cutest of them all.)  Look at this cute kayaking video below.  (You probably didn't even think that kayaking could be cute before, did you?)

Do you want to see her kayaking in an animation?  Of course you do!
She's cute no matter what media you view her in.

I wasn't nearly as cute, so I'll just include a picture of me.

Probably the best part of kayaking was when I tried to take a video of Robyn and got off balance and nearly capsized.  Here is an excellent point of view video of what it's like to fail at kayaking.

It's been a tradition since I was a small child that you always swim, float, or whatever transportation you choose, to get to the buoy.  Naturally, we kayaked out there.  Look how precious Jared and Lindsi were.

Of course, there was excitement back on the shore as well.

Robyn made sure to steal a small child for a while.  An important part of every vacation.
Robyn also found a fellow teacher so she could talk about boring teacher stuff.  
Alas, eventually our day had to come to an end.  We returned to the house, cleaned it up one last time, and said our goodbyes.  I made Robyn give the house a hug so that we could take a goodbye picture.

Look at that sad face.
All in all, it was a great weekend.  We're super glad we got to have a last hurrah there.  I'm sad in my heart that it won't happen again, but I'm glad for the Stevensons that they were able to sell it.

Birthday Trilogy Part 3

Are you ready for the stunning conclusion to my birthday trilogy?

The final chapter in the birthday trilogy took place on my actual date of birth.  That's right.  All of the goodness you're about to read about was on Tuesday, May 27th.  The day I became 33 years of age.

It was a great day.

I woke up, expecting to eat breakfast and ride my bike to work.  I wasn't really expecting anything special since all the celebrating had already happened the previous two days.

It turns out that my legs were a little sore from the hike the day before, so I cancelled the bike ride.  (Every once in a while the reality that I'm still not where I want to be is placed in front of me.  Despite all the progress I've made.)

That was a small disappointment but was quickly overshadowed by my first birthday surprise.  John and Carol (Robyn's parents) had sent me a birthday present, so Robyn let me open a present in bed.  (Apparently, it had arrived long in advance, but Robyn hid it so that I wouldn't get too excited and try to open it.)  It was Elder Bednar's new book which I've been super excited to read.
 But the birthday love, just kept coming.  Foursquare gave me birthday love.
 Scramble with friends gave me birthday love by allowing me to get my highest score ever.

 Google gave me birthday love, by changing the Google page.  (I like to believe that everyone's Google looked like this on my birthday, to celebrate the anniversary of my birth.)

That evening, after work, Robyn told me to meet her at our rental property in Orem for a birthday surprise.  If I'm being honest (which I always am) then I have to admit that I guessed what the surprise would be.  There's a restaurant in Orem called Los Hermanos.  It's one of the most delicious places on planet Earth.  We haven't been there in a super long time since it's not exactly a place that makes it easy to eat healthy.  But the good news is that on your birthday you can eat whatever you want and you won't gain weight.  Ask your doctor.  It's legit.

Robyn had even brought our Los Hermanos T-shirts so that we could get free drinks.
They should put Robyn in Los Hermanos commercials.  Also, they should have Los Hermanos commercials.

That evening when I got home, Robyn had another surprise for me.  Even though we had agreed there would be no presents, she got me a present.
There are 3 presents in the picture.  It turns out 2 of them were books that had happened to come on my birthday.  (People like to send me free books.)  Robyn wrote Happy Birthday on the other packages, to make it look more exciting.  But the big one was from Robyn.
Do you want to know what was inside the ginormous package?  Of course you do!  It contained a magical pillow.  This pillow has some sort of enchantment on it that makes it stay cool all the time.  It's like sleeping on a cool breeze.  It's kind of amazing.
How does it work you ask?  Well, I'm glad you asked!  It's MAGIC!

Of course, the day was filled with lots of love through text messages and through Facebook.  But the final crowning act of love on my birthday was when Graham (my brother-in-law) sent me this picture.

Can everyone on Earth please make this face for my birthday every year?
Don't you feel like that Graham face was the crowing achievement of my birthday?  That face is Frodo throwing the ring in Mount Doom.  (Only with way less death and destruction.)