Friday, December 28, 2012

Behind Again

Ahhhh, so much is happening and I'm behind on posts from the Chile trip but I promise I'm catching up this weekend! Plus hometown and holiday festivities and then it's on to moving...assuming this packing and finding a moving company all comes together in, oh you know, a few days.

So very my style to be winging a cross country move, during the holidays, after being out of the country for two weeks.

I've moved probably 50 times in my life and this one is proving to be the most frustrating in terms of finding a moving company (seriously, so many concerning things have already happened). If it wasn't winter and such a long distance, I would seriously drive the truck myself...again.

Fingers crossed y'all. Things are getting crazy, but that is so completely my style.

Promise more photos and posts on Chile are coming this weekend and then dispatches from the road, all as soon as I stop freaking out about how much stuff I have to go through and pack!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Leaving, on a Jet Plane...Again

After a great afternoon on Easter Island with my new friend Alex, who asked for a postcard from the States, I was back where I the airport...again.

At this point, I had done an overnight flight to arrive in Santiago, was there for the day, flew overnight to Easter Island and spent 1-5 a.m. in the Lima airport (BAH!) and then was doing another overnight flight back to Easter Island. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Landed back in Santiago around 8 a.m. and picked up my rucksack. I had planned to go straight to the bus station and get a ticket, drop my bag there and spend the day exploring. But I was far too exhausted. So I headed back to the hostel and hoped for a free bed to take a nap. Luckily, there was a bed and everyone in the room was awake and out so I could fall into bed, without changing, again and sleep.

Several hours later, I was still tired, but seriously, time to get up and explore. Showered and put on cleanish clothes (was conserving for the trip) and wandered out into the streets of Santiago. First, I found the bus terminal to make sure I had a seat on the bus to Puerto Montt, OVERNIGHT! AHH!

Bus ticket secured, I made my way to the market Antonio had recommended to pick up some souvenirs. Only thing, it was clear across town. Tried to hop on a bus, but that was too much trouble and time consuming to figure out, so I just kept walking. By the time I got to the market I was so flipping tired and hot I wanted to sleep on a bench. But, I stupidly wore my college t-shirt and looked so much like a tourist it was ridiculous. And since no clock I found had the correct time, I decided it was safer to get back and not miss the bus.

Ran into Yoan, the Swiss guy, at the hostel and we shared a cab to the bus station. His bus was earlier and the cab was late, so he nearly missed it, but made it. I managed to grab a snack for the ride. We left at 8:45 a.m. and arrived in Puerto Montt around 9 a.m. the next morning. The guy next to me only spoke Spanish, so we attempted some conversation, but didn't get far. Eventually, he went to the empty seats behind us and I could sort of stretch out and sleep.

Worried that I'd miss my stop, as I've done in other countries, I kept asking if every stop was Puerto Montt. It wasn't. But I went all the way downstairs at one stop just to be sure. That's where Carlo and I first met. He assured me we were not in Puerto Montt yet. Phew.

Later, in Puerto Montt, Carlo and I established that we were both catching the Navimag ferry, so we set off to find the terminal together. Luckily it wasn't far. It was overcast and rainy so I was just hoping to not have rain for the entire four days on the boat.

We found Yoan, checked in, dropped luggage, wandered the streets to find breakfast that sadly included Nescafe...awful instant coffee. Carlo went exploring, Yoan read his book in French and I went in search of Internet access. Fun emails awaited as I got a job offer just before boarding the ferry, excellent news (more on this later)!

Then back to the terminal to make sure I didn't miss the boat! I'll save that for another post.


Monday Motivation

I think this should apply to your entire life, not just when you're 22. I did my first international trip at 21, for a semester in New Zealand and definitely got the travel bug. A woman on the ferry in Patagonia was some 50 years older than me. She was traveling the world on her own and well, I want to be her when I grow up.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mysteries, In Photos

Horses on Easter Island

Hieroglyphics at Ahu Tongariki

Ahu Tongariki

Moai at Anakena Beach

The only moai on the island with the eyes remaining, making him a big deal

Moai at Hanga Roa

Leaving Easter Island

Awesomeness From Around Cyberspace

1.) Why aren't you traveling? Some fears to think about, then overcome. This is fantastic and I wholeheartedly agree. From the wonderful Solo Traveler:

2.) More from the Solo Traveler. It's a bit old so some of the prices have changed, but since I just came back from this place, I really enjoy this one on visiting Patagonia.

3.) Another on travels in Patagonia, seems I'm on a kick right now. But, the winds are intense. No joke.

4.) Learned about this guy from two Welsh guys. Somehow this stemmed from a conversation about songs with nautical themes or words and then somehow Alabama was in the conversation. They thought he was from 'bama, but doesn't look like he is. Still, enjoy!

5.) Love this from Adventurous Kate. Need to make my own top 12 for the year. What's on your list?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Santiago, In Photos

A few photos for you from the walking tours in Santiago. If you go, I definitely recommend Spicy Chile and their free tours. See the rest of the photos from Chile here.

Metropolitan Cathedral

Chess in the Plaza de Armas

The GAM Cultural Center

Outside GAM, probably my favorite thing in Santiago, interactive art.
"Before I die, I want to..."

Forestal Park

Amazing tile mosaics in a shopping center near San Cristobal Hill

Me, Antonio and the Japanese girl whose name I can't spell.
We were sweaty and fried by the end.

Island Mysteries, continued.

Now that I've got a more functional keyboard, let's get back to this.

Easter Island.

It was definitely an expensive trip for just a half day, but guys, it's Easter Island.

Few people get to go and see the moai and no one really knows much about them anyway. In a world that's more and more connected through technology and social media, a world where we seem to be losing our wonder, standing on Easter Island, looking at massive stone statues that people moved with just ropes and brute strength, it's fascinating that we can't explain something so seemingly simple. It's nice to know there's some wonder and mystery left in the world and that there are still some answers we can't find on the interwebs.

My taxi driver/tour guide, Alex, is from outside Santiago but has lived on Isla de Pascua (Easter Island in Spanish) for 20-25 years. His English is limited, but it was better than my Spanish, so we managed. He took me first to a site where the moai had been toppled by a tsunami in 1960 and never pulled upright again. Not far from this site, some horses were wandering and grazing. They are everywhere on the island and the preferred mode of transportation as they minimize the impact of tourists on the island. There's a problem with sick horses though as there's some plant on the island that is apparently toxic to the horses, but they eat it anyway and die. We saw several that were very sick or near death and it's incredibly sad. One bolted in front of the taxi and we nearly crashed, so not the way I want to go.

The water is stunningly clear and incredible and the air is also very clean. Alex talked about the pollution in Santiago and said it's not that way on Easter Island. There's only about 5,000 people living there now, apparently less than half are descendants of the native population and most work in tourism from the looks of it. I heard from another traveler that moving to Easter Island is a tough thing to do, but hard to say what the real rules are.

Side note, if you go to Easter Island, which you should, DO NOT walk too close to the moai. They're considered sacred ceremonial sites and it's completely improper and disrespectful to the locals.

The photos do not do justice to the beauty of this place.
We chatted some about my trip and his taxi business. Mostly, I just stared at the blueness of the ocean and the sky and the immenseness of how far from anything I was...and I loved it. Cruising along dirt roads in a rickety Nissan with a local on one of the most mysterious islands on Earth is a far cry from sitting in D.C. traffic trying to get somewhere I don't really want to go and being stressed about nothing all the time. One of my favorite things about travel is the perspective you get when you see how others live with so little and seem so happy and are reminded of real problems and what truly matters to you. Cut off from the world with no cell phone, social media, tv, whatever, you just meet new people, learn about their lives and cultures and feel small in a big world again. It's a good feeling.

We stopped at Rano Raraku, which was the quarry for the moai on the island and has the most moai of any site on the island. It's part of the Rapa Nui National Park and you have to pay to enter, not much, but I opted to just stop on the road and take a photo and stare from there. It's a World Heritage Site and I'm stoked to check another of those off my list. Though I'm just blown away by how they carved these massive statues and hauled them all over the island. I have no idea why they did it, and well, that might be the best part. The big one carved in the mountain in the photo is the largest moai on the island, Alex told me.

I saw people up on the site walking awfully close to the moai, hopefully someone up there set them straight. We hopped back in the car and headed to the next site, which was the one I was most excited to see. Some of the ones in this photo are pretty recognizable, but the next site might be the most iconic of the place.

Ahu Tongariki is amazing. Just amazing. There are 15 moai at this site, with their backs to the ocean, but they face sunset during the summer solstice. The statues were toppled during the island's civil wars from the late 1700s to the early 1800s. Many, like those at Ahu Tongariki, have been restored. During the 1960 tsunami, these moai were swept inland and have since been returned to their original positions. There's also a cave nearby that someone actually lives in, which seems crazy, but practical really. Learn more about the moai, the island and the restoration projects here.

I spent quite a bit of time just staring at this site. With the bluest ocean behind it, clear skies and a breeze, it was one of those incredible "I am here" moments.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Island Mysteries

Guys, I went to Easter Island.

Kind of amazing.

After the walking tour in Santiago, relaxed at the hostel for a bit, grabbed a cab to the airport (another 14,000 pesos) and caught my flight, barely, to Easter Island. When I arrived at the airport, I stashed my bag there so I didn´t have to cart it back and forth across the ocean. But then I noticed on the flight boards that my flight was now leaving an hour early. Cue mega panic attack.

I´d just about worked it out in my head that I wouldn´t make it to Easter Island and what would I do instead,  but then the ticketing agents got it sorted and I managed to race through security and customs and get on my flight. When I got to Lima, of course my flight was delayed so I spent five extra hours in the airport but at least they let us in the VIP lounge to wait.

Finally was on my flight, with some incredibly annoying girls and then of course, couldn´t sleep. I watched Contagion at one point, which was probably a bad idea while in South America, but oh well.

Landed on Easter Island and had no plan whatsoever, so after navigating through customs again and talking to a very rude hostel/tour guy, I just went outside and found a taxi.

The driver was trying to tell me how much it would cost and he was saying 30,000 pesos (about $60 USD) and for some reason I was sure I didn´t have that much. I´ll blame it on the lack of sleep, because I definitely did. Another tourist heard my confusion and came over to help and we got everything sorted.

So instead of paying hundreds for a private tour that day, I got my own taxi and tour by a local for $80 USD in the end.

Alright, typing on this keyboard is infuriating and gotta get a bus ticket, more later!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Quick One

After a long night on the bus, made it to Puerto Montt and made a new friend. Carlo, originally from Namibia, but has been living in London for nine years and is moving to Australia next month. He´s now added to the Swiss guy I met in the hostel in Santiago. We´re all about to board the ferry through Patagonia and we´re stoked.

Only have a minute, so have to dash, but more updates coming!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Walk Around Town, continued.

I left you in the Plaza de Armas and so that´s where we´ll return. In the plaza, in front of the government building is a statue of Don Pedro de Valdivia, the first governor of Chile. He was an interesting character and while the Chilean army was being challenged, and losing, to the Mapuche, the indigenous people of Chile, he started stealing their chidren and training them as his own troops. But one of them showed great promise and Valdivia took him under his wing, according to tour guide Antonio. He taught him weaponry, fighting and strategy. But the boy´s alliance was still with his people and he escaped once and warned the Mapuche camp of coming attack. They were prepared and ambushed Valdivia´s men. Antonio´s story is that the Mapuche cut off the heads of the soldiers and put them on stakes, but used Valdivia´s head a a bowl. Quite gruesome. 

We noticed a crowd and excitement in a gazebo and went to check it out. Every day, men gather for chess matches. Some are skilled players, Antonio said, and many of the onlookers bet on the best players. Ï always wonder if these people work,¨Antonio said. They looked pretty serious about their game, so who knows. 

From there, we walked a few blocks to the Parque Forestal, a beautiful, long park along the river. Stick with the park though, the river is brown and lined with trash. Antonio said it flows from the Andes and gets polluted along the way and picks up silt from other water sources, but he said he wishes the city would invest in the river and clean it.

As you walk through the park, you´ll see the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, which is located in the old Escuela de Bellas Artes, or School of Fine Arts. As you round the corner, you see the Bellas Artes Museum, which is a beautiful structure on its own and houses three floors of artwork. It was established in 1880 and is the oldest in South America. The current buiding dates to 1910 and was opened for the first centennial of the Independence of Chile. 

We stopped for coffee and chatted about our lives, where we´re from and where we´re going. Antonio is an actor and though he´s actually from Spain, he struggles with the Chilean accent. He loves some of the Japanese shows that I know nothing about, but oh well. In the neighborhood where we got coffee, he mentioned that the buildings were short because of Cerro Santa Lucia so that when you climb the hill, you get a beautiful panoramic of the city. I told him D.C. also has height restrictions for buildings since nothing can compete with the Washington Monument. Funny the things you find in common with foreign cities.

We take a quick walk through the Lastarria neighborhood, which is a classy area full of restaurants, bars and independent designers, all on just one street. Then we cut through an alley and see an odd looking building. It´s the GAM, or the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral. It´s a major cultural center in Santiago and has an odd design that incorporates copper plates with circles cut out. It looks funny from a distance, as if it´s still under construction, but up close it´s very cool. Plus, with wear, it will turn green. 

Mistal was a Chilean author, diplomat and educator and the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She won in 1945 and remains the only Latin American woman to win the prize. Construction on the building began in 1971 and was completed in just 275 days. But after the military coup in 1973 it was renamed the Diego Portales Building and was the seat of the governing board. In the 90s it was used for various government offices until a fire in 2006 destroyed most of the structure. It finally reopned, as the cultural center, in 2010. 

A lot of art is in the open air plazas of the center, too. There´s also participatory art throughout and the best part is a giant chalkboard near one of the entrances. It says ¨Before I die, I want to...¨and there´s lines for people to write in their own aspirations. Every few days, the filled board is erased and they start over. Antonio said it´s very popular and people continu to fill the board. I think that chalkboard is my very favorite thing in Santiago. 

We took a look at the former home of another Chilean Nobel Prize winner, Neruda, and made our way to the base of Cerro San Cristobal.It´s a huge hill with a statue of Mary on top and also a zoo that is a very sad zoo, Antonio said, and not worth the money or the hike up the hill. 

From there, the tour was over and my new Japanese friend and I made the walk back to our hostels and chatted along the way. I had to move quickly since I had to get ready to catch my late night flight out to Easter Island!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wander Wednesday: A Walk Around Town

Since I´m sitting in the Lima airport thanks to a flight delay, I might as well post. It´s 4 a.m. local time and I´ve been up and about for about 24 hours now, so apologies if I get a bit punchy. Since I´ve been wandering, today´s Wander Wednesday will be a few bits from Santiago.

After arriving in Santiago, I slept in a bit, grabbed some breakfast and tea, worked on the game plan a bit  then headed out for a free walking tour I came across in the hostel. Should you ever be in Santiago, I highly recommend the tours by Spicy Chile. Today, or I guess yesterday, I did the Good morning, Santiago! tour. I made it to the meeting spot with time to spare, amazing I know, and then waited, and waited and waited. Finally another girl showed up and we waited some more. She´s from Japan, but is studying in California and was traveling for the holidays.

The guide, Antonio, showed up a few minutes late and apologized profusely. Something had happened on his way to the meeting spot that involved broken glass and police, I´m still unclear.

And then we were off. First, he told us about La Moneda Palace, or the government palace. It´s a pretty famous place in Chilean history as there was a militaty coup d´etat on Sept. 11, 1973 and when Salvador Allende, the sitting president and a socialist, refused the military´s demand for his resignation, the Chilean Air Force bombed the building. Antonio told us that some believe the military stormed the palace and killed Allende, but some European scientists came in and discovered that Allende had actually committed suicide before the military broke in. But, Antonio said few know what really happened. Following that event, restorations included the addition of a bunker under the front square to protect then President General Augusto Pinochet from similar attack. Pinochet assumed his power through the coup that overthrew Allende. He then ruled Chile for 17 years as a dictator.

We looked at the Chilean supreme court and an art museum that is closed due to earthquake damage. We peeked at the ex National Congress. The government still uses the building, but Congress has moved to Valparaiso.

Just across from the former legislature´s home is a place known as a ¨coffee with legs.¨ The term is applied to coffee shops where all the servers are women in very high heels and short skirts but also to places with blacked windows, loud music, drinks and girls in skimpy clothing. Prostitution is illegal in Chile and Antonia said the ¨coffee with legs¨ is a growing phenomenon that is sort of a way around the law, for now.

After learning about such a place, we cut through the Metropolitan Cathedral. It´s absolutely stunning. I wanted to stay longer, but little time. Construction on the cathedral started in 1748, but wasn´t completed until 1800, with more alterations at the end of the 19th century. Earlier cathedrals in the archdiocese had been destroyed by earthquakes.

Exiting the cathedral into the Plaza de Armas is quite a sight. Just across from it is the Central Post Office building, a museum and what is essentially city hall. Those buildings are the oldest structures in the area, Antonio said. Many others were destroyed or demolished to make way for new buildings.

Alright, time to grab a snack and some water and just relax for a minute before the flight. On my way to Easter Island though this delay is seriously cutting into time there, but I´ll make do and wing it of course. Then another overnight flight back. I´m going to hate myself for this shortly.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hola from Santiago!

Alright, right off the bat, forgive me for crazy typos, international keyboards are a struggle.

After an entire day of shuttles, airports, planes and more shuttles, I arrived in Santiago, by way of Houston, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama City and finally Santiago. Thankfully, Copa Airlines upgraded me to business class for two of the flights and now I´m spoiled. Hopefully, they´ll upgrad me on the way home too.

On Monday, I got up at 3:30 a.m., finished tossing things in my bag and caught a shuttle to the airport (it was even too early for the Metro). As soon as I was in the van, I thought I had forgotten the camera - cue panic! But, no, it was safely in the bag. Same for the passport.

At the airport, there was confusion since the system had somehow put my fights in the wrong order, but a wonderful ticket agent from United got everything sorted and I was on my way.

The first flight landed a few minutes late so I had to hustle to the next gate and made it just on time, to sit between a baby and a guy backpacking in Honduras. He moved to give the mom more space, but I sort of wanted to talk to him more, he´d been to Chile and is a political science doctoral student.

That flight was late too so when we landed in Honduras, which is scary by the way because you come through the mountains and at the end of the runway, it just drops off a cliff basically into town. Yikes! Someone from Copa Airlines came to get me and walked me through the airport, skirting customs and all kinds of things to get me to my next flight. Lukyme, because I never would have made it on my own. On that flight I was in business class, which was basically first class and had a row to myself. The flight attendant called me Miss Jennifer and was patient in explaining things to me in English since my Spanish is lackluster at best.

That flight was on the ground in Costa Rica for about 30 minutes and then we were off again. I still had a row to myself and it was great. Got so much reading and napping done. Then we were in Panama City. You don´t have to go through customs there if you´re connecting to made it just in time once more to my last flight. Back in business class on a bigger plane, it was great. The whole seat reclined and I actually slept on the flight. I watched most of the Iron Lady, but fell asleep at the end. Oh well.

Once in Santiago, you have to pay a $160 fee, since we charge Chileans to get into the U.S. Then customs wasn´t a problem, then made my way out and found a shuttle to a hostel that I did not have a reservation for, but hoped for the best. They are so nice and found a bed for me, since I arrived at 3:30 a.m. local time. Of course, then I couldn´t sleep.

Now I´m sorting out my plan for getting back to the airport tonight when I head to Easter Island on an overnight flight. Not sure what I´ll do there yet, and I´m trying to get an idea now, but will probably just wing it when I get there. I´m considering renting a horse...yikes! That´s what the locals prefer you use to get around other than walking I read. Tours are crazy expensive, so I might try that. Hopefully I can find the luggage storage at the airport so I don´t have to lug my bag all over. If none of that works, I´ll head to a hostel and see if they´ll let me stow my bag for the day since I fly out again tomorrow night on an international flight.

When I get back early Thursday morning I have to find a bus to Puerto Montt where I catch the ferry and then things settle down just a bit.

After I leave Santiago, I think internet connection will be sparse for a few days, so no worries, I´ll check in and post when I can!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Motivation

Found this on another travel blog. I also have this magnet and love it, a lot.

This is fitting for your Monday motivation as I'm on a flight bound for Chile and very excited!

It's been awhile since I jetted off entirely on my own, so adventures await and I'm sure some of the classic JRo shenanigans, like missing trains, not having hostels, having to sit on sacks of grain on a bus of all Peruvians.

It's go time!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Night Before...

An international trip.

It usually involves a mad dash of packing and planning.

Oddly enough, I'm nervous since I haven't done a trip like this since Slovenia in 2009 and I haven't been to South America since Peru in 2008. Then I couldn't find the international adapter kit my very dear friend Abbie gave me a few years ago (after I killed camera batteries on two international trips), but then it was right in front of my face and I found it!

That said, many things are book, planned and ready to go. Although, I've left some room for chance, as it always happens on an international trip.

Considering those nerves, I am winging it.

Here's the current game plan:

Fly out Dec. 10 to Santiago, which involves many plane changes and an upgrade from Copa Airlines! Wahoo!

I arrive in Santiago very early Dec. 11 local time and hopefully can store my luggage at the airport for a  quick look at Santiago and then an overnight flight to Easter Island. Then I've got the day in Easter Island for checking out the ancient statues and hiking before another overnight flight back to Santiago. Then I have to catch a bus, which I haven't booked yet, to Puerto Montt. I've actually booked a hostel there for the night I should arrive.

From Puerto Montt, I'm boarding a ferry on Friday through Patagonia. I'm stoked about this part. STOKED! It's a four day/three night trip and I managed a discount somehow. I'll see all kinds of things and might get to disembark for a quick jaunt on one of the icebergs along the way. Amazing. I am so incredibly excited.

The ferry arrives in Puerto Natales on Dec. 17 and believe it or not, I've got a hostel booked for that night. Hopefully, the next day I'll head out for a tour of Patagonia on horseback. Seriously, horseback riding in foreign countries in genius and amazing. Did it in New Zealand twice and I love it. LOVE.

Once I'm in Puerto Natales I have pretty much no we'll see what happens. Then I've got to catch a bus to Punta Arenas to catch a flight to Santiago to get home. Ahh!

Get ready for an adventure folks, it's on!

I haven't finished packing, of course, but am grabbing dinner with some high school friends and drinking wine. The odds of me sleeping tonight are nil.

So excited and so nervous, but I am all about a great adventure!

I'll update as I'm able depending on internet connections and such.

Guys, I'm going to Chile. TOMORROW!

D.C. Tourist Day

Two years in the city and I've seen and done so much, but on my way out of town, I wanted to spend a day walking on the National Mall and visiting the monuments. And of course, a pass by the national Christmas tree at the White House and the Capitol Christmas tree.

My dear friend Ally (who showed me around Rome in January and moved to D.C. for work this summer) humored me by walking for hours, taking photos like tourists and learning about our city, the monuments and the wars/founding fathers they honor.

First up, Jefferson Memorial. I haven't been there in years, despite driving by it almost everyday for a year when I was working in Maryland. It reminded Ally and I of Rome. Rightfully so, as it was modeled after the Pantheon. Jefferson introduced the style in American and you'll see it all over D.C. and of course at the University of Virginia, the school founded by the third American president. A memorial commission was created by Congress in 1934 and the site at the Tidal Basin was selected in 1937. There was some controversy over the site choice because it required that some Japanese cherry blossom trees be removed and some worried the design competed with the Lincoln Memorial. But, then President Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed the design to move forward and laid the cornerstone in 1939. The memorial was dedicated in 1943.

Makes sense to head to the FDR Memorial next, history and location wise. It's a huge memorial, spanning his four terms, though FDR never wanted such a memorial. He asked for something no larger than his desk to be placed near the Archives. And it was, so he actually has two memorials in the district. The memorial is tucked away along the Tidal Basin and it seems like many forget it, but I really love it. Water features are everywhere, very thoughtful statues and quotes as well. One of my favorites is, "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith."

FDR was the only president to be elected to four terms, as most adhered to the unwritten principal of a two term limit. After FDR, a Constitutional amendment was passed, codifying the two term limit.

We stopped at the Martin Luther King Memorial and we're irritated by kids bouncing balls throughout the space. But, we love the quotes etched into the stone. From there, we cut across to the D.C. war memorial that is often overlooked. It's truly beautiful and one of my favorite spots on the Mall. It was built quickly and dedicated on Nov. 11, 1931. The names of the 499 D.C. citizens who died during World War I. The memorial was restored in 2010-2011. The last living WWI veteran worked with a Congressman in 2008 to expand the memorial and designate it as the WWI memorial on the National Mall. That hasn't happened yet.

On to another war memorial, we visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Though it was authorized by Congress in 1986, it took until 1995 to be dedicated. That was the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the war. It's a very moving memorial, informative and engaging. Ally and I were also surprised to realize that 54,246 Americans were killed during the war that only lasted three years. Somehow, we hadn't realized that. It's a figure shockingly close to the number of casualties in Vietnam, a war that lasted more than a decade. Of the international troops involved in the war, 628,833 were killed. That's a huge number and came from far more international combat troops than those involved in Vietnam.

We spent a fair amount of time at Korea taking in the vastness of the losses, and being incredibly irritated by misbehaving children, again, and their lack of parental oversight. Seriously, if you bring kids to the National Mall, it's an incredible learning experience, but please, please, please make sure that they remain respectful of what these places represent.

Lincoln is always a must see and I read his second inaugural address that's carved into the wall on Lincoln's left. One of Lincoln's hands is a fist, representing his strength and determination to end the Civil War. I've also heard it said that it represents his determination to get the 13th Amendment passed. His other hand is flat, which represents "his compassionate, warm nature," according to the National Park Service. Plus, you get this view from the steps of his memorial. The construction on the Reflecting Pool is finally done, leaving a clear view from one end of the Mall to the other. It was a beautiful day in D.C. and Instagram is pretty fun for capturing one of my favorite views in the city.

A holiday in the district wouldn't be complete without a visit to the national Christmas tree on the White House grounds. This year's tree came from Virginia (wahoo!). The place was packed, as usual, but we circled around to see each of the state and territory trees and the trains around the base of the main tree. We caught it early in the day, so we had fun lighting from the sun and Christmas lights. We were a bit tired at that point, so we walked back to the car and cheated by driving over to the Capitol to take a look at the tree there. This year's is from Colorado and decorated with items made mostly by school children in the state. Here's your national trees:

National Christmas tree at the White House

Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday Roundup

This week has been big, huge actually, but now it's a rainy, sleepy Friday in our house. Between naps with Grover, here's what has been good to read.

1. This one is a great find from my running buddy Markeshia. It's a good read and good questions. I especially like No. 9. I ask myself questions like this all the time, which might be why I am regularly disappointed with myself. But, constantly questioning myself is getting me to where I want to be, and I'm not just talking about international travel. While you're at it, you should check out this awesome blog that Markeshia and her friend write.

2. Today is the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. This is an extraordinary story by a woman who was a reporter in Hawaii that day. Her editors never ran the story she wrote, but it was published this week by the Washington Post.

3. Came across this one earlier this week, even though it's from January. People will always find excuses not to travel, here's why you should not fall into these traps. I totally agree. We celebrated my grandmother's 80th birthday last weekend and at one point I was looking at her and grandpa (who've been married for more than 50 years) and I thought to myself, when I am that age, I don't want any "What ifs." Live for now, life will usually keep up with you.

4. Having been to Italy earlier this year, this was a fun read. I've been to Rome and Venice, on two separate trips and I loved them both in different ways. Now I just need to get to all those other places.

5. This is where I'm going...on Monday! Yikes! So excited, but of course, not packed!

Happy Friday y'all. You're moment of cute for the afternoon: Grover after this morning's early (early!) run.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Landscape Changed

Growing up military with our Air Force dad, we lived all over. So did my cousins with my Navy uncle.

Some of the fam at the shore.
The boardwalk in back is now just concrete blocks.
But we spent many, many summers on the Jersey shore. My mom is from New Jersey and her parents lived in Glen Ridge for quite awhile until they moved to the shore while I was in high school. But, grandpa's brother and his wife have lived about a block off the ocean for decades. I spent a week with them as a kid and we went to the beach every day. We made our own bread, ice cream, crafts and I cleared my plate because my uncle said I couldn't leave the table if I didn't, and I believed him. It was also the time my aunt was making something from scratch and in one of my family legend moments, I said, "I don't eat scratch."

It was always interesting when we all met at the shore. So many sand castles, boogie boards, wave surfing and attempts to swim in the freezing salt water pool at the pavilion. There were sunburns, wipeouts and sand in our shoes, hair and everywhere.

As a kid, I loved the beach. You couldn't get me out of the water, or the sun. As I got older, I lost interest. So much sunburn, salt and sand. I'm a redhead, which equates to lobster girl in summer. One summer, I sat upstairs in the pavilion in the rocking chairs that I loved, and read a book about the CIA for hours (mostly the same pages over and was a bit dense). Later, I got into running and loved a jog on the boardwalk. Usually early in the morning for sunrise, when it's just you and the ocean. A walk on the beach during the winter is my favorite, probably because there's quiet and calm.

I hadn't been the shore since last summer and pulled out of the Atlantic City half marathon since I was sick. That race was the week before Hurricane Sandy. That boardwalk is now destroyed.

Over the weekend, we surprised Grandma with a huge family gathering for her 80th birthday. The party was in Princeton, but some of us headed to Grandma's and the shore afterwards. Walking on the beach, in December, with a cold wind coming off the sea, we took in what was left of our beloved boardwalk.

Despite the destruction and piles of rubble, we could visualize where things had been and I could remember where many things happened. Chats in the gazebo, swim races in the pool, the locker the family had all shared for decades, the badge kiosks.

The pavilion with the pool and lockers is missing sections of the wall. Our locker might be gone. There are piles of rubble and some homes were damaged, though most looked like they were mostly unscathed. Sand is everywhere, even a month later roads are closed and a huge operation to pump the lake was set up to prevent flooding.

The place is forever changed, but it will survive, just as it has before. We don't know if they'll rebuild or what it will look like in a few years. But, we'll be back on that beach sometime soon I'm sure. Though as the shore has changed, so have we. Some of us are married now, or will be, some now have advanced degrees, have moved away or have spent time in foreign countries. We've all grown up, but this place is a part of childhood memories and no amount of destruction can take that away.

A good friend of mine is from another part of the Jersey shore and wrote this incredible piece about her love for this place.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wander Wednesday

These are moai, the human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island, off the coast of Chile, from 1250 to 1500. Many are still at the main quarry, but hundreds were moved and set on stone platforms around the island's perimeter. I've always seen photos or video of these and been intrigued and well, I'm going. Next week.

Lots of changes are coming and I've noticed that since the first time I up and left the country, I now think much more about it. Guess it's that getting older and wiser thing, but is it really wiser not to travel in favor of a "normal" life? I don't think so.

This trip is moving fast. I booked a flight today, for Monday. I'm not giving myself time to reason myself out of it. I used to jump at any chance to book a flight and explore and I've noticed this hesitation creep in somewhere along the way and I don't like it one bit.

The Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu (604 BC-531 BC) said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

I've also been reading a lot lately about non-profit start ups since I've been working on an idea for almost two years now and a very wise man says in his emails every week essentially, "What are you waiting for!?"

Yesterday, I told a friend about this, and a few other things going on, and he joked that he wasn't surprised. He said it's the Art of Nonconformity, in reference to a book I read two years ago and loved. I loaned it to my friend and he agrees, it's great. Reading that book helped me shape the idea for my nonprofit, get out of an awful job I had at the time and go for it. I refer back to it regularly and follow the author, Chris Guillebeau, on Facebook for constant reminders and inspiration to find the things you love, go after dreams and not let fear or "the norm" hold you back. If you're not ready to jump in or buy the book, read what he calls his manifesto and be amazed. For some, it will have little to no impact. To other, like me, primed for change and just needing one last kick, it qualifies as life changing.

Prepare yourselves, friends, for some epic blog updates next week, I am stoked! The plan is arriving in Santiago, jumping to Easter Island, taking a 3-day ferry through Patagonia to the bottom of the continent to do a day of horseback riding through Patagonia and then flying back for a life very much changed.

Stay tuned sports fans, things are getting really interesting!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

From the archives: Colonial Christmas

Thanksgiving was spent at home, with family and no holiday weekend is complete without a trip to Williamsburg. We headed to the market and I was hoping to find another natural, colonial style wreath for my front door, but none of this year's designs jumped out at me. Instead I picked up some pineapple ornaments as gifts. The pineapple is a big deal in Virginia and is our symbol of hospitality. It's everywhere in the colonial areas. Read more about the history here.

I didn't get to do any holiday activities in Williamsburg this year, but never fear, here's my post about the holiday house tour and Grand Illumination in Colonial Williamsburg from two years ago. I love it just as much now as I did then!

Also, just for fun, here's the links to all the videos I posted of the fireworks and Fife and Drums from that year's Grand Illumination. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Motivation

This is a great motivator to start off the week. Sometimes I forget this and play it safe, so seeing this was a kick to remember to go for it. Working on a huge project and it might crash and burn, but that doesn't mean I won't give it absolutely everything! Go big friends!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Get Yourself Outside!

Absolutely love this project from REI.