Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year...Looking back on my personal Best of 2007

Indoor Bocci: Thanks to K-Baby & her crew in San Jose
WINE TASTING: Although I’m still developing a taste for wine, I have really come to appreciate the wine tasting experience as most people that are truly local to the Central Coast do! The vineyards are beautiful and the company is always good!

Coop visits!

Sara pours for us at her winery!

Had to get out of the office for a hot summer afternoon at Castoro Cellars!

I got bangs for the first time since Elementary School! It's been a fun change...although the more pictures I look at, I wonder if I'm becoming the the brunette version of my roommmate, Devon! (unfortunately, I'd also have to grow another foot before we could be true twins!)


BOSTON in the fall...
it was my first time in Boston & I loved it! I went to Boston in October to visit Ilene & she did a fabulous job of showing me the city--the Fall folliage was my favorite part!

Discovered “Afternoon Tea” at the Boston Harbor Hotel!

What a treat!!!! ...and then I shopped for lots of yummy teas to bring home!

We did a fun amphibious tour of the city on "Beantown Betty"--a boat that drove us through teh streets of the city AND floated us down the river!

I also got to try Candlestick Bowling...a New England specialty!
After Boston, I made a quick stop in Virginia to visit my Cousin Jimmy & his family. I met one of his sons--JASON--for the first time and we became instant buddies. He's a cop & took me to an indoor shooting range.

After that, I went to Baltimore for a conference for work. I spent one short day giving a tour of DC to my co-worker. It was the first time I've been back to DC since I studied there in 2002....I love DC!!!!

Even though I stayed in downtown Baltimore for the work conference, I have nothing to show for it except the ESPN Zone because that's where we spent our evenings... watching the Final games for Baseball!


New Year’s 2007: We celebrated the new year at our “new to us” Shell Shack. K-Baby & Linette came from outa town to help us host the biggest New Year’s brunch ever! We had a full house it it was a blast sharing our new ocean view with all our friends!

Mom’s 50th Birthday: Me, Tim, David & Dad organized and hosted Murder Mystery party in honor of Mom ! It was a 50’s theme party with lots of fun characters and acting! Can't locate a photo, though! Sorry!!
Tim got engaged to Debra! Me & my roommates + Janai were part of a covert operation to help set up the engagement day in Big Sur, CA. Tim pulled off a truly romantic day (with some of my help, of course) :) We all got to toast to the newly engaged couple late that night! I could not be happier for my brother!!!!
3rd Annual Fall Fun Party at the Shell Shack!
There were a ton of fun costumes & 60+ guests! Scroll down to our blog entry in October to see pix! The Shell Shack girls were "Greek Girls for the night"...
Although I didn't win the pumpkin carving contest, I started the latest trend in Watermelon carving...

April’s BDay: fun time in the mountains! I just got my knee scooter on this weekend (for my broken ankle), so it was a happy weekend of outdoor freedom!
My 28th BDay: I didn't do a huge theme party as I usually do, but instead, the Nespers hosted a dinner for a small group of my close friends! I had a blast and it was a SWEET way to celebrate another year of LIFE! Tim added the fun touch of party hats! :)

*I broke my ankle last Christmas and I've been recovering throughout most of this year. At times it was really difficult becuase I wasn't allowed to walk at all for 3-4 months. It was really difficult for me to deal with limitations, but I learned a lot about patience, perseverance, depending on others for help, and praying even when I'm frustrated with my circumstances! Now, that my ankle is almost fully recovered, I am so thankful EVERY day for simply being able to walk! And I see more of how sometimes God uses difficult circumstances to mold my character.

"Endure hardship as discipline; the Lord disciplines those He loves." Heb. 12: 7

* Thursday night is almost a guaranteed highlight of EVERY week this year, because I met with a few girls for bible study and encouragement. We've been studying the book of Mark and finding out incredible things about what the character of Jesus Christ really is. These women have been amazing friends, confidantes and the source of much so much fun & encouragement!

camping trip with the girls

Laeticia Winery with the girls

***My roommates, Devon & April are truly my family on the central coast. This year has been filled with ups & downs...but like a true family, we have enjoyed the ride! From sharing funny stories after a hard days work to praying for each other in hard times, each moment with these girls is truly a blessing! I love you, April & Dev!!!

Sadly, Devon moved to Santa Barbara about a month ago. She got a great opportunity, but we miss her at the Shell Shack!

Luckily, we just got an awesome NEW roommate--Heather! We need to get some pix of her and add her to the Shell Shack blog!

****Discovered "Precepts for Life"--Daily Podcast by Kay Arthur...this woman knows how to preach the Word! I love starting my mornings listening to these studies. If you haven't tried a podcast bible study and you wanna try something new, I highly recommend...

“Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness, for the shall be satisfied” ~Matt. 5
*****As always, I am overwhelmingly grateful for my parents and brothers. They are my treasured family and each one of them means so much to me in 2007...and years to come! I love you guys!

· Working as an Academic Advisor for Business students has it’s advantages & disadvantages, but bottom line, I totally enjoy being around students students! I especially love working with the students that I help supervise in our office —They are the best part of my job!

· I taught my first college course ever-- BUS 100 “Introduction to College Success”. It's a course for Freshmen to learn about skills for surviving & succeeding in college. This was an incredibly challenging, but rewarding experience! I really enjoy teaching in the classroom setting! We also got the opportunity to use this new classroom “clicker” technology. Each student gets their own remote control and they answer questions that we embed in the lecture. All the answers are then displayed on the overhead projector. If you are a teacher with access to money, this is an incredible way to get everyone to participate in the class!

· I’m in my 3rd year of working toward my Master’s degree at night. Although I love classes, it can be tiring to balance with a full time job. I’m hoping to finish the program this June!!!


“ He makes everything beautiful in it’s time” ~Ecclesiastes 3:11
· Slow down; more time with friends & less time at work
· Take more pictures
· Learn Italian (at least the basics) & Go to Italy this Summer

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ecuador with the brothers!

I finally had time to finish my Ecuador recap now that school is out for Christmas! Sorry for those of you who were promised it weeks ago, but better late than never, right?

Last month I went on an 8 day trip to visit my youngest brother Zack in Ecuador, where he has been studying for the last 4 months. My other brother Kyle met up with us halfway through the week, and the three of us plus Zack's friend Shaka from APU spent 5 days in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve in the Amazon Basin, were we searched for anacondas, fished for piranas, and trekked through the jungle!

Memorable experiences of the trip were:

  • The adventures starting before I even left Los Angeles: I walked into the terminal at 9 pm after taking a shuttle bus to LAX, only to be greeted with the news that the entire country was closed to incoming flights due to a minor plane accident at the Quito airport. The wheel blew on an Iberia jet as it landed, and it skidded off the runway into a field, causing a small amount of damage to the runway. The plane is still sitting in the field almost three weeks later! The delay meant that I had to use some of my carefully budgeted travel money for a hotel in LA, and I spent the next day wasting time in LA and hoping that the Qiuto airport would allow my flight on Saturday night to leave, which thankfully it did.

  • landing Sunday afternoon in Quito, meeting Zack at the airport, and then immediately flagging down a bus in order to go to Otavalo, a small, very picturesque town up in the Andes. Boarding this bus was not quite like getting on the colectivos of Argentina - we stood on the side of a busy main road in Quito, and as the bus approached us, a man leaned out the door and yelled "OTAVALO!" When we nodded, he hopped off, grabbed my bag, yelled at us to "Sube, sube!", or "get on, get on," and pushed us on the bus before it even came to a complete stop.

  • Otavalo - a beautiful town in the Andes, where we bartered over hammocks and alpaca scarves at their renowned artisan market, huffed and puffed our way around Laguna Ciococha, a 400 meter deep volcanic crater lake at 10,000 feet elevation, and sat down for dinner at a restuarant just as the entire town lost power, to have the menus whisked out of hands and be thrown back on the cold, dark streets, starving, where we wandered around before going back in to the restuarant to beg for food and eating by candlelight.

  • Exploring Quito's old town, especialy climbing to the top of La Basilica's spires

  • Traveling to our jungle lodge: we took a 9 hour overnight bus ride through the Andes, 3 hours of which was on a bumpy dirt road that did not allow the bus to go more than 5 miles an hour. Side note: My confidence in the buses was not improved when we passed this accident on our trip back to Quito: After the 9 hour bus ride, we then took a 4 hour car ride from a small town outside of the Amazon to the entrance to the national park we were going to, then a 2.5 hour canoe ride, 2 hours of which was in a tropical downpour.

  • Every minute of our 5 days in the Amazon. Our first night we went out in the canoes to look for caimans, who you find by their glowing red eyes when you shine your flashlights in the banks of the river. The next day we went pirana fishing, tromped through the mud on an unsuccessful but still incredibly fun and exciting search for anacondas, watched the sun set over the Laguna Grande, and went on a night hike through the jungle, where we saw tree spiders larger than my hand, snakes, poisonous Conga ants half the size of my pinky, tarantulas, and grasshoppers the size of my palm. The next day we visited an indigenous village, found ruby poison dart frogs, visited a Shaman that still practices his healing ritual (which involves both healer and healee drinking ioasca together) for the local people, and found an anaconda sunning itself on a pile of branches over the river. Our last full day we went one a three hour hike through the jungle where our guide explainded how the indigiones people use the medicinal plants and trees. We tasted the tree they make anti-malaria medication from, drank tree sap that cures ulcers, and ate edible ants - they tasted like lemon! During the 5 days there we saw an incredible amount of wildlife, including turtles, freshwater dolphins, several kinds of bats, four kinds of monkeys, two kinds of sloths, five kinds of snakes, and countless birds: three types of toucans, two varietes of potoos, scarlett macaws (an endangered species), blue and yellow macaws, parrots, stinky turkeys, kingfishers, swallows, hummingbirds, vultures, herons, and woodpeckers, to name only a few.

  • Watching water drain down a sink straight down directly on the equator, drain clockwise 10 feet into the southern hemisphere, and counter-clockwise 10 feet into the northern hemisphere.

  • Spending time with my brothers, learning more about them as adults, talking nonstop about fishing, traveling, or politics, and not fighting...very much!