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Thursday, July 4, 2013

a new year, a new country, a new adventure

2013 has started which means one thing, a new country to conquer with my camera and a few duffle bags. Ecuador, the Amazon, and the Galapagos Islands last summer, Zambia this summer. A whole new experience is about to commence with an internship with Family Legacy. 

Today I finally arrived in Lusaka after a grueling 10 hour flight to London with a screaming baby next to me. Next came my 9 hour layover in Heathrow, which consisted of me eating, sitting, and walking around all by lonesome. After my layover came my last and final journey down to my beloved Zambia. The second I walked off the plane and my feet hit Zambian soil, I knew I was home. 

We were all thrown right into the mix by fitting three houses at the Tree of Life with new clothes (Sunday clothes, play clothes, a jacket, socks, and some new undies). This might sound simple but let me tell you, this was no easy feat. The teenage girls and boys were just as picky as American teenagers are when it comes to what they want to wear. This process ended with some of us summer staffers modeling the clothes for them hoping they would FINALLY make a decision. After two and a half hours we headed home to Chamba Valley Exotic Hotel (whatever image you are thinking of delete it, this is not your usual hotel) where a delicious 4th of July cookout was awaiting us. The boy summer staffers set off fireworks for the little Americans to enjoy and it wasn't too shabby of a fireworks display. The Zambians living in the surrounding areas are probably cursing us for the loud bangs and shrieks that were emitted in all of our holiday fun. 

With the smell of fireworks still in the air, I walked back to my room that I have all to myself (pretty lonely if you ask me). Tomorrow begins my true adventure here in Zambia and all the wonders the Lord has in store for me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day Numero Diecinueve y Veinte:

Welcome to the states y'all! We arrived safely at noon yesterday and we are all alive, healthy, and more than happy to be home. Here is a run down on the last two days of our amazing journey in Ecuador and the Galapagos. We left Santa Cruz and headed back to Quito where we checked into our "home." We packed our three weeks worth of things and had some trouble with the smells. Let's just say the doors to our rooms remained open so fresh air could make its way into our rooms. After hanging our for an hour or so we went over our On Assignments for National Geographic that we have been working on the entire trip. After presenting our slideshows we went out for our last Ecuadorian dinner. In honor of our last night, we ate Cuy or guinea pig. It tasted just like chicken, but the idea of it kind of killed us since we were eating our kindergarten class pet. We headed back to our hostel and finished packing. We didn't go to sleep but took a nap seeing that we had to wake up at 2:45 (no, I'm not joking at all) and headed to the airport. We said adios to Ecuador, Sam, and Taylor and began our journey home. We were sad to say goodbye but happy to be home. Our trip was incredible and once in a lifetime. I already miss our leaders so much and miss all of our adventures. Hopefully I go next year too. Goodbye for now world, but don't worry I'll be back.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day Numero Dieciocho:

So seeing how our trip is beginning to wind down, this morning we decided to arise extra early and watch the sun rise. A few of us made it to the roof by 5:45, however the clouds that were in the sky didn't exactly burn off by the sun decided to appear. It was fun being there with every one watching the sun [attempt] to rise. We sauntered back downstairs by 6:15 and climbed back in bed. Seeing how I am the type of person to not be able to go back to bed, I went back downstairs and took advantage of the glitch free internet. The owner, Judy, was kind enough to feed a couple of us before breakfast and we headed back to our rooms for a little nap. After everyone else ate, we headed out to the Darwin Research Center. While there we got to see Lonesome George! I am very sad to say that we were some of the last people to ever see Lonesome George alive. Tonight we learned he had died we were all in shock, first of all, and then very sad. Who would have thought we would be here when he died? He's been at the research center since the 70s! It's weird to think we saw a species go extinct...but enough of the sad things. After we left the research center we headed back to our hotel and had a little swim break. We then went to lunch and then made a hike to Tortuga Bay. At Tortuga Bay we walked the length of the beach and made our way to a swimming lagoon where we stayed for a few hours, just hanging out and having some fun. We buried our leaders, each other, and even ourselves in the silky, white sand. After everyone was all swam out and a little sleepy so we headed back into town. We showered off all our sand and headed into town for dinner. If you hadn't already noticed, our schedule kind of revolves around food. I have never seen so many people, myself included, eat so much in three weeks. It is definitely a remarkable sight to see all of our food devoured in t-2 minutes. Enough about food and the amount the nine of us can put away, after dinner we ate some much deserved ice cream to properly mourn Lonesome George and then came back to the hotel. We came back early and had to compile all of our photos into different categories for both Memorial's photo credits, but also for National Geographic. Tonight we must pack because we head back to the mainland and bunk down for the night in Quito before we head back HOME!!!! This trip has been absolutely incredible but it will be very sad to say goodbye. We are going to have some last minute bonding so ta-ta for now.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day Numero Dieciseite:

Today we arose and said goodbye to San Cristobal. A speed boat picked us up and took us to Santa Cruz. Before entering the boat, however, a thorough inspection took place of all our things to make sure nothing was being taken from the island. Even though none of us had nothing to hide, it was still kind of scary to think you could get in so much trouble by taking anything. It just proved how much people care about their environment and actually made me respect the people of Ecuador, and their attempts at conserving the world. After we all passed inspection with flying colors we boarded our boat and headed for Santa Cruz. Upon arrival we checked in Galapagos Inn, by far the best place we have stayed on this entire trip. It is beautiful, clean, and so home-like that we have all fallen in love. The best part of it all is that it is our Galapagos tour guide's mother's hotel. SO STINKING CUTE! After checking the rooms out, we headed into town for a little bit of shopping and lunch. After lunch we boarded a bus and headed for family owned ranch which had the typical cows, horses, and a variety of locally grown plants. The real kicker about the main reason it had such a claim to fame however, was that it has giant tortoises. When I say giant I actually mean GIANT. The biggest one we found while walking around the property was over 100 years old and weighed at least 500 pounds. He got kind of vocal when we attempted to approach him, so our telephoto lenses were put to the test.

I think it's safe to say that my lens passed the test! Everyone meet Mortis the Ancient Tortoise. 

When we were finished watching all the tortoises we headed to an old lava tunnel. The best way to describe it would be like this: it's a big empty tunnel. Not that special to the naked eye, however when we learned about the history and what it really was, it took on an all new air of mystery. We were standing on old lava, in a tunnel! How many people can say that? After our little expedition, we headed back to the hotel and cleaned up for dinner. After a delicious meal of pasta [after close to three weeks without it, it didn't realize how much I have missed it] we rolled back to our hotel. We climbed up to the roof and practiced writing with light under the Galapagos sky. We had all sorts of giggles and fun times creating all sorts of different creations. After watching everyone tonight, I have realized that we have become such a close net group of people, we could easily be family. I have found seven new sisters and a new brother in all of my friends and I don't know what I am going to do without them when we return home. Tomorrow we are off to discover more about Darwin and Lonesome George. Goodnight to all.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Welcome to Kicker Rock everybody. This rock formation may seem some what small in this photo, but let me tell you, it's far from small. All my shark and sea turtle buddies would be in that channel between the big rock and the smaller one. I would have to say today was one of the best experiences of my life to say the very least. 
Just a little side note before I launch into our adventures of today -- I  just went back and re-read a few of my last posts and I realized that they are slightly out of order...oops sorry about that. Our lack of internet has caused us to utilize Word and then transfer to our blogs whenever we get internet, which is not very often. WiFi is not exactly the most reliable thing here in Ecuador, but we make it work. Ok well now on to today.

Day Numero Dieciseis:

Today began with us waking up to absolutely no bugs, no mosquito nets, and not dying for lack of air. The Galapagos Islands are too good to be true. It is quite the difference from the Amazon and we welcome it with open arms. After a breakfast of Coco Puffs (we devoured the entire hotel's stash of it in ten minutes flat) we hopped into our suits again headed for the marina. We jumped onto a speed boat and made our way to our first destination for the day: Kicker Rock. For those of you Harry Potter fans, it looks like its from the Half-Blood Prince (6th one for those Harry Potter challenged) when Harry and Dumbledore find the locket horcrux. In case you were wondering not only did we see this massive rock jutting from the water, but we also snorkeled around the big rock. Oh and no it is not a reef or anything, it is straight, sheer rock into 300 feet of water. Kylee, if you're reading this, YOU WOULD HAVE DIED. I thought it was freaky, you my dear would have had a heart attack. I do believe the best part about it though was diving down and seeing the sharks swimming below us. Yes, I swam with sharks and I am alive to tell the tale. Not to mention they were also a good 300 feet below me and they could have cared less whether I was there or not, so there really was no danger in the whole thing. I must say, however, the only danger I could have been was how cold the water was. Seeing how Current Humboldt (the cold current from the Antarctic) is making it's way to the Galapagos, I was very thankful for my oh so flattering wet suit.
After seeing the sharks waaaaay down below, we got to dive down and see all the different sea turtles that were lurking underneath us. I came so close to one, that I could have touched it if it were allowed. They are very prehistoric looking if you ask me, but at the same time they are incredibly graceful at the same time. Once we swam around for an hour or so, we got back on the boat and ate some lunch, then went snorkeling again at a new location, Isla Lobos. Here was more reef-like, so no worries no sharkies were spotted. We did however play around with a very playful sea lion pup. It was SO cute! It was very hard to say goodbye and climb back aboard our boat, but it was necessary so we could head back home before the water became too choppy. We came back to our hotel and were allowed to go around town for a few hours before dinner and shop and take some town photos. After meandering the streets we headed to dinner and then back to the hotel. Tonight we pack and tomorrow we say goodbye to San Cristobal and hello to Santa Cruz. Goodnight everybody and see  you in four days! Peace and blessings.

Day Numero Catorce:

We survived the Amazon!! Hallelujah thank the Lord we're back. Not that I didn't enjoy the Amazon it was incredible, however I love electricity all the time and water that's NOT from Piranha Lagoon. So today we woke up to a downpour on our heads. After breakfast we headed out in our big canoe and made our way home. However as we began our travels, our boat got slightly sick and decided to die for 45 minutes. We got it to work and we were soon our way again. As we began again, the rainforest truly lived up to  its name. A torrential downpour soon began and I think its safe to say that not a single person on the canoe was dry. My leggings soon became a wetsuit and the rest of our boat ride was slightly uncomfortable. We stopped for lunch at another lodge and then completed our five hour canoe ride. We arrived at the airport in a cloud of stench and we all felt slightly disgruntled. We boarded our thirty minute flight and safely made it back in Quito, where we have began to call home. Tonight we ate at our favorite dinner hot spot, Foccia. Basically it's straight American food i.e. french fries and sandwiches, but we welcomed it with empty bellies and thankful minds. We came back to our hostel and packed for adventures tomorrow in the Galapagos Islands. Tomorrow can't come fast enough because all I want to do is see the SEA LIONS!! Goodnight everybody.

Day Numero Quince:

Today we arrived in San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Wow that's a lot of place to be described in one sentence. This morning we arose in Hotsal Arupo and had breakfast of eggs, toast, and juice (just like the past two weeks) and finished up our packing. We made our way to the airport and took off on our three hour flight off the coast of Ecuador. When we finally broke through the clouds covering all the islands, the view was absolutely incredible! Blue, blue water that you only picture in movies and small islands that look like they are painted graced the view from the plane. We met the people who will stay with us for the duration of our stay in the Galapagos Islands. After meeting up with Julian, Max, and Carly, we went off to eat lunch. We headed back to the hotel/hostel (we aren't really sure which one it is) and changed into our swim suits. We headed to the Galpakiwi headquarters where we were fitted with snorkel gear, wet suit, snorkel, and fins included. After being fitted with the goods we went to the opposite side of the island where we learned about the history of the islands before we headed down to Darwin Cove to snorkel around for 45 minutes. While we were swimming around, a very curious sea lion decided to swim with us. We were told if you would swim in circles and dart back and forth along with it, that it would play with you. So when it would come close to me I would dive down with it and swim with it. It was so cool! Since the sea lion was so curious, fun, and cute, I would have to classify today as one of the best days of the trip. However our day just got even better when one of our leaders, Sam, called us over a little ways out in the cove. He had found a sea turtle. It was so interesting to watch it feed and just function that soon we left the sea lion and just watched the turtle. The sea lion was not very happy to have its playmates leave him so he decided to come and watch the turtle as well. Soon we had both the sea lion AND the sea turtle right in front of us. How many people can say that? Well nine students can now say they have. After we were done swimming we went to Lovers Beach, where there were sea lions and we had an opportunity to photograph them at sunset. I have decided that I want to keep a sea lion because they are just so stinking cute. I think I'm just going to shove it in my bag and sneak it back into the US. I mean let's face it, my bag already smells fishy due to the piranha jaws, it's not like a sea lion would make it much worse! Dinner tonight was unbelievably good and all of us ate like we hadn't seen food in three weeks. Tonight we go to bed exhausted from snorkeling and stuffed full with delicious food, and anxious for our fun-filled last night in the great country of Ecuador. Goodnight to all, sweet dreams.