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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Next Steps

The time of wrapping up my college career and transitioning into summer was a time of fun, love, tears, and excitement. My finals went pretty smoothly, beside hearing that Bryan would be getting his leave cut short (meaning he would be unable to see me play any games at Nationals and we would be unable to visit his family in Texas for a week), and a really big International Law paper, I only had one big in class final and I was done! I had a lot of things other than finals to juggle, so getting that out of the way meant I could focus my attention on packing, Bryan coming, graduation, moving, home, nationals, and my summer job.

The Thursday I left for SF I couldn't have been more excited. Bryan would be flying in friday morning and I wanted to spend a little time with Natalie before I'd have to head back up to Humboldt. I arrived and met up with Natalie after she got out of class. It was nice because she was finally able to give me a full tour of SF states campus (all the times I've visited, it's been closed). That school is huge! They have so many food options, study areas, and a brand new library that is insanely cool. Natalie and I got to sit and share a bomb sandwich while sharing what the last couple months had looked like. Upon retuning back to her place we hung out until a few long time friends arrived for an early Thai dinner and drinks at one of Natalie's favorite Irish Pubs. The dinner great because I got to catch up with some old friends I hadn't seen in awhile and share about how wonderful it would be to have Bryan in the states for a visit. Come to find out the pub we were hanging out at after dinner is a favorite hang out of a local Ultimate pick up league, and I ended up in the pub surrounded by frisbee players, twas awesome. I went to bed that night very content and excited to pick my babes up at the airport in the morning. 

Waiting for someone at the airport is probably one of my least favorite things about traveling. The anticipation just gets me so anxious but the final outcome is always well worth the wait. When Bryan came out of the arrivals gate I had my arms wrapped around him before he even could put his bags down. It was actually pretty funny because in order to get his hands free to hug me back he just dropped his bags with a loud bang. We walked back to the car holding hands while he shared some of the adventures he'd had while coming to SF. Celebrating our 6th months by being in the states together for the first time was really pretty incredible. After leaving the airport we picked up Natalie from SF state and had a really lovely lunch where I was mentally pinching myself that some of my best friends in the world were finally meeting. 

The road trip back up to Humboldt was a highlight of Bryan's time here. Road tripping with that kid is just so amazing. After showing him around the Marine Headlands and snapping a picture together with the Golden Gate bridge in the background, we headed for the Redwoods. Photo opps included stopping at a Redwood grove so Bryan could hug a tree and a random toilet in a field, which has been there for as long as I can remember and I've never had a chance to stop at. We rolled into town in the late evening and headed to meet up with my dad, brothers, and my aunt. Their camp was right next to a Mexican restaurant, so after some hugs, and some introductions, we were inside sipping margarita's and cracking jokes. Bryan took all this like a champ because honestly my family tree is filled with a bunch of nuts. After hanging out with those crazy cats we went and met my mom, brother's girlfriend, and her little boys over at their camp, which they had just arrived too. It was a little late but I was grateful that Bryan and my mom were finally able to meet. Just seeing them hug was just another reminder that it wasn't a dream, Bryan was actually with me in California meeting my whole family. 

Everyone was up bright and early on Saturday in order to rally at my apartment and head over to campus. It was a beautiful morning and walking with my family onto campus, holding Bryan's hand, was really pretty incredible. The Redwood bowl was clean and bright, all set up for the ceremony, and as I headed off to the gym in my black robe, I don't think it had sunk in that I was graduating college. After congratulating some friends and familiar faces, we lined up, the music began and we were off into the middle of the stadium. Our ceremony was actually very pleasant. After getting past how early it was, one realized that the temperature was perfect. We also had less people in the early morning graduation, and one less speaker, making ours, faster and cooler than the later graduation ceremonies. I was at a back row so I was able to look back at see my family socializing, crying, and cheering, the whole time. After the ceremony it was smiles, flowers, hugs, and family pictures. I was so happy and ready to spend the rest of the afternoon with my family. We all headed to town to check out the local farmers market and art fair, while grabbing tasty dishes from local eateries. We spread blankets on the grass and soaked up the sun while listening to folk bands and drum circles. That afternoon Bryan even surprised me with flowers he had ordered from a local flower shop after I awoke from a nap! That's the second time since we've been dating that I've woken up to flowers. He even got my mom flowers for Mother's day!

For dinner we had a pot luck style get together at my mom's camp site, complete with frisbee and s'mores! Having my whole family, my boyfriend, and some of my best friends I've made in Humboldt, Irene and Jessica, all together in one place was an incredible blessing and I felt so very loved. A highlight of the night was probably, after seeing Bryan carrying me over his shoulder, my dad coming up and throw Bryan up over his shoulder. I laughed so hard. Probably made my life! After saying goodbyes for the night we visited another grad get together of a friend before hitting the hay.

Sunday was mother's day!!! And I got to spend the morning with all my siblings and my mom all together at Samoa Cookhouse. This place is legit. An old logging cabin, it has huge halls filled with long tables. The food is served family style and it's all you can eat! I was proud of all my siblings coming together for Mother's day and grateful things had worked out as well as they had. In the afternoon Bryan and I took a hike with my sister and her family, before they hit the road for home and Bryan and I headed to church. I had been really looking forward to having Bryan come to my church, Catalyst, for a long time. I was also singing that week, so I got to watch him be his incredible helpful self while doing preservice band practice. Since it was Mother's day, Bethany, our pastor Jason's wife, talked about the feminine attributes of God. It was lovely.

Now, I've already told Bryan this, but having him around to help me move was SO GREAT. He is the most encouraging, helpful, guy I know and he made the move go so smoothly. Between packing and frisbee workouts/practices, we managed to head up to Fern Canyon. One of my favorite places in Humboldt, one can just imagine dinosaurs roaming around and Ewoks living in the trees. Super beautiful. Like I said road trips with Bryan are amazing, and the highway 1 of the North Coast can't be beat. That Monday night we even went out to a fancy Italian restaurant before catching the Avengers. What a great film! I'm so grateful that Bryan doesn't mind that I ask questions, because there were definitely times I wasn't sure what was going on. I like super hero stuffs but I don't follow the craze. 

Tuesday was more packing, an incredible lunch at my favorite crepe place (They serve their hot chocolate in bowls!!!) before heading south to go shooting in Ferndale with My roommate Corie and her fiancee Dakota. Now that was cool! Some great bonding time and a chance for two of my good friends to meet Bryan. If I end up in Texas, I look forward to spending more time with those two! After a track workout in the evening with my team, Bryan and I had dinner with my small group leaders, John and Betty. It was another great moments where people I care about got to meet the man I'm incredibly in love with, it was a short dinner (John is a cop, so he had to head off to work) but it was sweet. 

In the morning Bryan and I packed up my kitchen, loaded my car, strapped my bike to the top, dropped off my keys and hit the road. With such great company the drive went by fast, we even got so into talking that we forgot to stop for dinner in Chico. We did manage to stop on one of my favorite stretches of road, during my favorite time of day in the summer (just before sunset), and breath in the warm summer air. I love that part of the drive, I almost always stop, and having Bryan there with me was almost too good to be true. I can't think of a better way to kick off summer than rolling into Grass Valley with him by my side. 


Monday, June 18, 2012

So, What Happened.......?

So the last 6 months or so have been pretty stinkin' amazing. So much has happened, and I feel like it's finally time to sit down and try to capture just a little bit of the magic.

So the last time I wrote was way back in March and I was about to take off to Myanmar. That's pretty far back but it's still DEFINITELY worth talking about.

I left Humboldt so excited and so ready for a break. I showed up in SF and had just enough time to catch dinner with Natalie then head to the airport. My flight there was fairly long and uneventful but it felt like God was filling my trip there with lot's of awesome, encouraging people to help pass the time. My seat mate Harveen was probably the best blessing I could have asked for. We cracked jokes, made friends with the stewardesses, and drank Singapore slings (see link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore_Sling) With Harveen's conversation and movies to help pass the time it felt like I made it through Tokyo and onto Singapore in no time. Now Singapore's airport is SO COOL. Big and beautiful, it comes complete with movie theater, spa, and even a butterfly garden. The butterfly garden helped me pass the most time and I took tons of pictures.

Now my leg to Yangon is where I started getting anxious, I just couldn't believe I'd be seeing Bryan after almost 4 months! Our relationship had come so far in that short time and I just couldn't wait to see how much more awesome we would be together. The flight felt so long and all I could do was pray because I had no mental space to do anything else. After landing I got through security WAY faster than I thought I would and wandered out into the mass of people standing in Arrivals. No Bryan..... He had told me he may be a little bit late (Had his boss in town to do embassy inspections that morning and would be dropping him off at the airport around the same time I landed) An hour past and I was fading fast... at this time I was trying to problem solve. I called the number Bryan gave me for the embassy to ask them to let him know I had arrived then tried my best to stay awake. Falling asleep in the arrivals area would not have been a good idea especially with all the taxi drivers and people waiting to grab up tourist and take them to where ever they needed to go. My thoughts: Get a hotel and let him meet me there? Get a taxi to the embassy? Sit tight? Just as I was starting to really fade, resting my head in my hands, praying he'd show up soon, the thought of a bed got more and more appealing, Bryan tapped my shoulder. I was up and in his arms in an instant. I couldn't even be mad I was just so relived to see him and know everything would be alright. Climbing into that Marine SUV made me so happy, it felt like no time at all since I was cruising through Santiago in the back seat of a similar SUV holding Bryan's hand. Being in one there in Yangon was so wonderfully familiar and as a napped with my head  on Bryan's shoulder, siren and lights from the SUV going on and off as it dodged through the busy night time traffic, I didn't even care where we were going, that moment was perfect enough in itself.

Before heading to Karine's apartment, a friend of Bryan's who was gracious enough to let Bryan and I use her 2 guest rooms at her beautiful state department apartment, we stopped by the embassy so Bryan could grab some stuff. After getting through security I got a little tour of the grounds and it was super beautiful. On the shore of the lake in the middle of the city, it was open and lush, and the architecture was lofty and regal with rich colored wooden beams. The Marine house was pretty standard, clean, open, had a bar, pool, table, etc. Since I wasn't allowed in the upstairs of the house I took the opportunity to take a nap in the TV room while Bryan collected his stuff. Getting woken up with a kiss on the forehead is one of my all time favorite things and I was extremely content as we headed to the apartment.

In the morning Bryan and I wandered a little bit down the street to a fruit stand in order to make a big bowl of fruit salad for breakfast. Great way to start the day! After breakfast we headed out to the "American Club" to watch some of the guys from the embassy play a baseball game. That was a great way to meet some more of the people Bryan worked with. After the game (which Bryan ended up playing in....) we had a nice lunch by the pool. Now this afternoon I got SO SPOILED. Bryan had a coupon to a massage place and so I got an hour and a half long thai massage. It was the best ever. This woman beat me up and I loved every second. That afternoon I even got a pedicure for the first time! Blue with yellow flowers! It was actually Bryan's idea if you can believe that!? Later on that night we hit the town and visited the HUGE capital Pagoda. It was lit up like a freaking christmas tree! So much gold and blinking lights!!!! And lots of adorable little kids that Bryan and I seriously geeked out on. We just wandered in our bare feet and took pictures. It was probably one of my favorite moments of the trip, but there are a lot..... I think we watched Despicable Me that night before hitting the hay.

Sunday started off our big adventure! We left the house in the wee hours of the morning and had an interesting deep fried breakfast (I know we had some shrimp....) before boarding our flight to Bagan. Now, I've done a lot of flying in my lifetime already (Not as much as Bryan though!) and it is so much more awesome to fly with a buddy! Especially when that buddy is your boyfriend that you haven't seen much in like 4 months and whom you love like crazy! Upon landing we were met by our tour guide "A" and went exploring. Our first stop was an outdoor market with everything you could imagine in it. Veggies, crazy looking deep fried fish, clothing, etc. We then visited our first Pagodas. In our few days in Bagan we saw the biggest, tallest, prettiest, oldest, and every other kind you could imagine, pagodas in the old imperial city. We had lunch by the river both days, climbed to the top of an ancient Pagodas both nights to watch the sunset, swam in the pool in the late afternoon heat, had dinner by candle light under the stars, stayed in a beautiful hotel, and visited work shops making beautiful handmade bowls. It was clear that Bryan had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when he booked the tour through the ladies at the embassy. They did such an incredible job!!! Even booked 2 rooms at all the hotels Bryan and I stayed at. One of my most favorite parts is when we visited a smaller Pagoda off the main circuit where no one else was visiting at the time and got to climb up through a tunnel, out the back, and up the steep stairs at the back to catch a view of the valley. Bryan and I also told each other that we loved each other for the first time on our 4 month anniversary.... but maybe that's too much information.... I think I saw enough gold Buddha statues to last me my entire lifetime. Probably like 1,000 in just 2 days....

Here's the link to the albums....

Bagan: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3561308794480.2166784.1325611081&type=1&aft=3561476598675

Bagan and Inle Lake: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3567043537845.2166874.1325611081&type=3

Tuesday morning we flew out and headed to a different region with a lake called Inle. It was a bit of a drive to the lake but I honestly didn't mind. It was a great way to see some of the country side with its lush rice fields. We stopped at a small umbrella shop and got to see how some of the local people made handmade paper and bautiful handmade umbrellas. It was a nice transition from the dry hot valley of Bagan. Things really got cool when we pulled up to a dock with tons of colorful long fishing boats with chairs to take tourists all around the lake. At Inle lake everything is on the water, so a boat is needed to get almost anywhere. They even have floating gardens! The morning was cool and refreshing as we boarded our boat and headed down the channel toward the lake. When it finally opened up into the lake I was truly taken back by how huge it was. Fishermen were scattered across the water collecting fish and lake grass.

It took us about 20 minutes on the water to get to our hotel and it was probably my favorite hotel of the 3 we were blessed enough to stay in. Like all the towns on the lake it was up on stilts on the water, with boardwalks connecting all the individual cabins to the main lodge. The lake lay on one side and the mountains on the other. We were greeted with warm towels and delicious juice before being shown to our cabins. I felt like such a princess in mine! The bed was HUGE, it had a mosquito net that made it look even prettier and my back deck looked right out toward some fields with the mountains in the distance. The outdoor shower pretty much made my life!!! After getting our stuff to our rooms we took off to get lunch and explore. Our first stop was a silk weaving factory. They would weave the most beautiful fabric and with it make scarfs, pants, shirts, and even ties! I picked out Bryan a blueish green one that he later wore to my graduation :D It was here that I had a wonderful interaction with a little girl who liked to see her reflection in my sunglasses. Our next stop was a silver smith shop and after that an old monastery where some of the monks had taught the cats to jump through hoops! It was called "Jumping Cat Monastery"... obviously.

Tuesday night was one of my favorites! The sunset over the lake and behind the mountains was absolutely breathtaking. Bryan and I just sat enjoying a cold refreshing juice as the sun set, the sky turned blue and the first stars started to appear. The hotel was so beautiful at night with the stars and lanterns lighting the boardwalk. Bryan and I had dinner in the hotel dinning where at one point, when I got up to go back to the room to get bug spray, Bryan shocked this old lady (after the comment "so it's good that age isn't an issue.... between him and I, I guess) when he told her I was 21 and he was only 24. Hahahaha I wish I could have seen it! Bryan and I definitely were the youngest couple everywhere we went. On Wednesday we got up and visited an outdoor market where we saw an older couple wearing matching pink shirts and totally wanted to be like them when we grow up. That afternoon we headed up river, complete with water buffalo, and visited a place that the locals called "Little Bagan." It was so cool to wander among the ancient small pagodas and interact with the locals. Our tour guide "T" even told us that while she knows that older people need to stop for water and a restroom, Bryan and I stop for puppies and children. Hahahahaha! So true! Another sunset later, and some cuddling watching How I Met Your Mother, our last day in Inle Lake came to a close.

Now the morning ride back down the cannel to the dock was a bit chilly but so beautiful. Just looking back to see Bryan with the sunrise behind him made me smile so big. As we piled into the car I was sad to leave the wonderful place but was getting more and more excited to head to DA BEACH! We touched down on a sandy run way by the sea and unloaded into probably the smallest airport of our trip. The hotel was there ready to take our group to the hotel in the cool beach buses and the drive along the dirt road through the villages was really interesting. Never in my life have I been on a trip quite like the one I took to Myanmar. While I had a truly incredible time, both Bryan and I couldn't help but feel really touristy and isolated from the people. We also weren't around of lot of people our age.

Now the hotel in Ngapali was probably the most fancy, which is saying something. I expected Bryan just to get 2 regular rooms but the ladies at the embassy booked us each our own whole cabin! A lot like Inle lake but with a 2nd story loft which had a bed and lounge pillows that looked out toward the beach. After finally getting checked into our rooms we changed into our suits and hit DA BEACH! The white sand and warm water was perfect, but the super salty water made me feel kinda sick.... For lunch Bryan and I rented beach cruisers, wandered down the road from the hotel and found a small local place that served us the most delicious cheap fresh seafood! We ate a whole fried fish and some super tasty shrimp. One of Bryan and I's favorite things to do together is eat because, well, we both LOVE food. Something I really love about Bryan is he is always down to share and it makes our meals so wonderful. We just track and it puts me so at ease. After lunch we biked further down the road and found a path that led us down to the beach, we then parked our bikes, and walked out to a restaurant on a rock pier to get refreshments. The sun, the breeze, and the company made me sun drunk and incredibly content. That evening Bryan and I just sat and talked as the sun went down (they even lit beautiful lanterns that floated on the pool!) before having (a very over priced) dinner at the hotel.

In the morning Bryan and I had breakfast before hitting the water for some snorkeling (Ya... if that sounds like a bad idea... it was) It was really a cool experience, with the colorful fish, reef, and even sea shells that I would dive down and collect. Poor Bryan ended up drinking some ocean water after it shot down is snorkel so upon returning to the boat he fed his breakfast to the fishes... needless to say I went out on the second dive by my onesie. I just stuck close to the boat and followed fish around. It was than that I saw a huge shell at the bottom and returned to the boat a very happy camper. I couldn't wait to show Bryan! But there was a slight problem... it already had an owner. I think the boat driver was the most excited, yelling "You fisherman! You fisherman!" I was pretty happy with myself and wondered if the boat driver was right in saying the hotel would take the creature out. After our dives we sat in a beach on an island off the main coast and just buried our feet in the sand. I hope heaven is something like that. When we got back to shore I asked the hotel staff if they could get the creature out of the shell I found.... They looked at me like I was crazy.... ah well. Bryan and I named him Shelldon and decided he was our first pet. For lunch we went to another restaurant where we got two fresh crabs for like 5 bucks and curry shrimp. Om nom nom. The rest of our afternoon was spent in the pool relaxing. When it came time for dinner we strolled down the beach under the stars and had dinner at the same restaurant on the pier we visited before. A perfect way to finish out our trip out of the city.

Ngapali:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3573328814973.2166964.1325611081&type=3

We left Ngapali early on Saturday and as we stood on the tarmac getting ready to board I serenaded Bryan with "Run" by Snow Patrol. It was AWESOME, he may have been kinda embarrassed but I know he loved it. And hey the plane engines drowned most of it out.... we landed back in the city and spent the afternoon just being lazy, making cookies and trying to boil Shelldon out of his shell.... it was a wonderful way to wrap up my time in Myanmar. Saturday night I got to head to Bryan's church's band practice and meet some of the people he'd become close to in his time in Myanmar. They even let me get up and sing with them! It was such a great time! For dinner we got to get Italian with a couple, Leslie and Elliot, and their 3 kids that Bryan had also become close to from church. They were so nice! It was great to finally meet them after hearing so much. And get this they have a little girl named Aubrey! I think she is 5, Kate is 3, and their baby boy Lincoln 6ish months. Cutest baby ever! I wanted to steal him! Before bed we just soaked up our last few hours together and played guitar. It got a bit intense but it's in times like that, that a relationship truly grows.

Sunday morning came way too soon.... and it was hard.... But I got myself on that airplane, shed a few tears, and slept. After the weekish that Bryan and I got to spend together, I was only that much more certain that Bryan and I could make it through the distance, so while leaving was hard there was a lot of hope in the future. Thankfully God blessed me with time to spend with my best friend Natalie, she grabbed me from the airport and came back to Humboldt with me, so I had a person to work through a lot upon getting back to Arcata. Having all the knowledge I have now, especially after having Bryan here visiting me, just makes looking back on the progression of our relationship that much more fun.

So this is really long and is a story from like 2 months ago but I spent a long time on it, and hope it's something someone may enjoy. I think it was really just something I needed to sit down and write down for me. Thank God for Sundays! This Summer Staff job at Jenness Park Christian Camp has been such a blessing, and getting to sit and write this down while having great conversation with all these girls was a wonderful way to spend my evening.

Like I always say, I love and miss you all!