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 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.
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!