Thailand Adventure! Episode 1

I'm sailing through the air, 200 meters above the water, I faintly hear my own voice echoing through my mind as the wind blares out any hope of other sound…

“Yeah! Let’s go to Thailand! But please, can we for once have a relaxing holiday? We’re always going on crazy adventures and end up more exhausted than we were when we left for the trip… Can’t we just spend an entire week relaxing on a beach somewhere?”

I remember making this plea to my wife Olena, and I’m pretty sure she agreed, but with a harness strapped to my body and a ten-meter parasail doing little to shade my already lobster-red back from the sun, having slept maybe two of the last 36 hours, I begin to doubt our holiday will be the escape from adrenaline I hoped for. This particular adventure wasn’t even on our agenda, and here I am, a starfish-shaped silhouette against the backdrop of Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand.

When I finally remember to breathe, I start trying to take some videos with our GoPro but the spectacle of the sand, sea and sky is just too big to fit into the viewfinder. I settle for waving my arms and legs about like an idiot in the hopes that Olena will take a funny picture.

Oh, speaking of Olena, there she is, a tiny dot in the boat to which my life is quite literally tied. It was her imploring that got me into this position. Two layovers, several delays, three hours spent in the immigration line, almost no sleep and a long week ahead and she still had the vivacity to be hoisted up into the sky by a small speedboat. I tried to argue against it because my lack of sleep was causing a parallel lack of interest in any physical activity whatsoever, but in the end it couldn’t be denied that the $36 cost of parasailing on this beach was the best we were ever going to get in our lifetimes. In the end, I’m glad we went for it, because this is quite the breathtaking experience.

How long have I even been up here? It feels like forever… Maybe they’ll be letting me down soo-

oh, here we go, wow this is faster than I expected, I hope Olena is getting some good pic-


Well then. That’s that!

We’re in our AirBnB hostel,resting up so we can go out later in the evening. The staff here are very nice! We arrived at six in the morning and they still let us check in, despite the 3:00 official check-in time. There’s a shower (watch out for spiders and salamanders), a flushing toilet (but don’t flush any toilet paper!) and even an air-con unit ($4 to use during our stay). They were also kind enough to provide us with transport to the bus that got us to Patong. Unfortunately, we won’t be going back there because the bus stops running at 8:00. We thought about staying in the area (seeing Patong and Bangla Road Walking Street at night is supposed to be quite the spectacle) but in the end we were too tired. I only mildly regret not staying, but I’m sure we’ll get the full city-life experience in Bangkok next week.

“We can’t just lie here and do nothing tonight though, right? This is the only time we’ll see this place,” my dear wife says in what is becoming the theme of the trip, “let’s at least explore the area!”

So, we set out. With nothing but a few essentials we start the walk into Phuket Town. In the Wuhan Airport we bought a Thai SIM card from a vending machine (no, seriously), so we use the power of the internet and GPS to guide us. In a way this is a pity, because I miss the feeling of wandering out into the unknown with only the advice of the locals to guide us. I am, however, happy that we can go wherever we want without getting lost…

The evening ends up being pretty relaxing, which is fine with me. We try to find a few recommended places from the internet but most either aren’t going to be busy until much later in the evening or are offering… well…  services that wouldn’t be appropriate for a man and his wife to indulge in. Even as we head back to call it an early night, soothing music wafts out to us from little Karaoke shacks, promising a good time. If there’s one thing Thailand is known for it’s its sex industry, and the small size of this town does not hinder any attempts to make it thrive even here. We elect to skip out on the KTV and get some well-needed sleep…

We’re on a boat!Destination: Ton Sai Beach in Krabi, on the other side of the Andaman Sea. After being driven to the harbor for a whopping $1.40, we had a quick breakfast of banana pancakes and hopped on the 8:30 ferry. Phuket was cool, but the beach was overcrowded, there were way too many drunk tourists, and people were trying to sell us stuff every two minutes. By far the most interesting of these was a man who kept trying to offer me a tailor-made suit on the street… Anyway, we’re excited to go to a place that’s a little more disconnected. Chillout Bungalows, our next AirBnB spot, apparently doesn’t even have electricity during the day. That’s fine with us because a disconnect is just what the doctor ordered.

Were I a better writer, I could capture what I’m seeing from the deck of the boat, transmute it into words and project it into your mind’s eye. However, I’ll just settle for this: it’s pretty freakin’ sweet. Not exactly Shakespeare, but it’ll do the job. But really, if you haven’t been to a place like this, you’ve seen the National Geographic pictures, you’ve seen movies filmed in tropical locations, you’ve seen the photos of your second-cousin’s honeymoon on Facebook, so you know what I’m talking about. Yeah, “pretty freakin’ sweet” will do just fine.

A couple hours and two or three $2 beers later, the barely audible PA system announces our first stop. Those going to Ao Nang Beach, a popular destination in Krabi, hop into a long-tail boat here and head off on their separate adventures. About half of the passengers are left, and soon enough many more get off in the direction of Railay Beach, which is probably the most popular beach in the area. Actually, it look like everyone is getting off except us and five or six others. Cool! That means this place we’re going really is as little-known as we thought. We grab our stuff, hop in a boat, and sail off to paradise...


Thoughts from a heterogametic knitter…

For me, knitting is like swimming: I have only vague memories of learning how to do it and when I knit I don’t really think about it. The way my legs and arms move to keep me afloat in the water, so do my fingers move in a way that just seems natural.  Over the past 20 years or so I’ve knit everything from simple scarfs to complicated sweaters. I find it to be the perfect combination of Zen meditation and creative productivity.

Oh, did I mention I’m a 27-year-old man? Yeah, that part gets people a bit mystified, especially when I’m stitching away at a multi-colored sock on four double-pointed needles on a crowded subway or in a busy restaurant. I’ve become familiar with the many different types of looks I get... There’s the blank, wide-eyed “I-simply-can’t-process-what-I’m-seeing” stare that's especially prevelant here in China, a more curious “Hmm, you don’t see that every day” kind of twitch, and even a jealous “Wow, I wish I could do that” gaze. By far the funniest is when I see a woman nudge her husband or boyfriend and point with raised eyebrows as if to say, “Where are my socks, huh?” I don’t knit in public places just to get these reactions; they’re just an amusing by-product. The reason I do it is simple: If I have downtime, why not do something productive and relaxing at the same time?

I learned to knit amongst my peers at a Waldorf school in 1st and 2nd grade. If you’re not familiar with these schools I’ll spare you the details as the depth such a description requires goes far beyond the scope of this simple post. In short, it’s an artsy school that focuses on educating the entire individual, not just the mind. Hence, hand-crafting is a central part of education from Kindergarten all the way to 12th grade. We learned simple finger knitting in Kindergarten, normal knitting a bit later on, and my first sock was completed in fifth grade (holes, extra stitches and all). By the end of eighth grade every student is armed with the ability to create a panoply of garments, from knitted and crocheted hats and scarves to woven blankets and needle-felted leg warmers. We learned as many methods of making these things as we did things to make: throughout my Waldorf education I learned how to finger-knit, crochet, sew (by hand and machine), weave (by hand and loom), and even to cross-stitch and embroider. It never occurred to me that it was odd that I crafted because everyone else in the whole school did it, boy or girl. (For more info check here)

There was something magical about the 45-minute blocks we spent twice a week, sitting in a circle and working on a similar project. We’d chat as we knit about all things under the sun while creating something useful in the process. It was one of my favorite subjects at school. Should any educators argue that it was a waste of time, I would only invite them to ask any of the countless people for whom I have crafted garments and other useful things as gifts for Christmas or for birthdays. I’d also recommend taking a brain scan of what my cerebral cortex looks like while I knit, as I am sure that crafting has beneficial effects on the mind.

So here I am now, sitting in my classroom during my lunch break, knitting my fifth pair of socks of the season, to be given to my colleague as a gift for Christmas. Will she remember the $1.15 it cost me for the materials? I doubt it. Will she think of me when her feet are warm in the winter? I’d like to think so.
I’m a man who knits, is proud of it, and would encourage any of his fellow men to give it a try. Next time you see me knitting on a public bench at rush hour, stop and say hi. I’d be happy to give you lessons.

Italian Adventures


“Ickily! Easyjet is offering flights to Rome for less than 2,000 crowns!”

            This was the excited exclamation several months ago from my girlfriend Olena, who is an expert when it comes to finding cheap deals on travel, food, going out and the like. At first I was naturally skeptical, “Yeah, of course, then there’s all the hidden fees, right?” Well, it turned out (as she loves to hear me say) that she was right. A few clicks of the mouse later we had two tickets to Rome Fiumicino airport in June. Aside from the cheap accommodation we booked through AirBnB, we had absolutely no itinerary planned and nothing booked, but that didn’t matter. I would reschedule some lessons and we would leave on a Thursday night and arrive on Monday evening, only missing a bit of work. Satisfied and filled with excitement for the coming journey, we shelved the rest of the planning til later, only occasionally bringing up the trip as the weeks went by.
            Flew bywould probably be a much better way to describe how the following weeks passed. One minute we were still freezing in Prague and the next we were lying on a beach under the Italian sun… But I’m getting ahead of myself. This all sounds very well and good, but our journey was not at all without its complications…

Thursday, June 11,2015

            The Travel Gods first strike while I’m sitting in my last lesson of the day, three or four hours before our flight. My tablet is playing a listening text for my student whom I am preparing for the FCE exam. While the listening plays from my tablet, a message from EasyJet pops up. I’m not usually in the habit of checking my emails during lessons, but I cannot ignore the preview of the message: “We regret to inform you that…” My heart immediately starts racing, Attempting to hide my suspicion of an impending disaster, I open the email to find that our flight has been cancelled.
I continue the lesson with my student, but I can’t really focus. What are we going to do? Can we reschedule? Will there be another flight we can take? How much is this going to cost? Will we even be able to go on our trip? Over the past week we’ve spent a great deal of time planning this trip, and in my backpack are not only our flight tickets but several entrance tickets to the sites we are hoping to visit…
            Finally the lesson ends and I have a few minutes to review the email in detail before catching my train back to Prague (I work in a small town south of Prague, about 40 minutes away by train). It turns out that it isn’t our flight therethat has been cancelled, but the flight back. This comes as a relief, but only a small one. Many things still need to be worked out.
            Jump ahead to my train ride home, where I am on the phone via Skype, talking into my headset to a Customer Service representative in India who claims to go by the authentically Indian name of “Tom.” Apparently there is great news! We can simply leave on the same EasyJet flight the next day, arriving Tuesday night instead of Monday. An extra day in Italy, isn’t it great?
            My impatience starts to escalate, “I’m sorry Tom, but unfortunately we have jobs and we can’t just call out of work as we please…”
            “I understand your situation sir,” says ‘Tom,’ “but because I can offer you a flight within the next 24 hours, we are not obligated to pay for a ticket on another airline for Monday night. You can leave on the Tuesday night flight with no problem.”
            Our conversation continues in circles like this for nearly half an hour and after various threats of bad feedback and of flooding social media with EasyJet horror stories, I’m finally able to convince a representative to let me find a flight from another carrier, for which they will ostensibly reimburse me. I call Olena, who is also on the way to the airport, and explain the situation. We decide to wait and figure it out after going through security at the airport. After all, we have several days to figure it out while in Italy.
            Our arrival in Rome proves to be later than we expected because, of course, the flight is delayed for three hours. A very nice woman notices us talking and informs us of the delay, and we thank her for the information. Well, at least that gives us time to conduct research into possible flights…
            …which yield very poor results. If we want to leave Rome on Monday night as planned, it would mean not arriving in Prague until Tuesday morning with an eight-hour layover in Paris. I’m not one who can sleep in airports, so that is not an attractive option before a seven-hours day of teaching.
            Several Customer Service calls later (This time I speak to “Linda” and “Peter”) we decide we’ll just have to call our bosses, explain the situation, and come home Tuesday night. For me this means a loss of 1,500 crowns (about $60) and a few disappointed students, but for Olena it means over-using her holiday time and missing important face-time with Tomáš Baťa, the founder of the fashion company Baťa for which she is a new employee. She’s been looking forward to meeting this fashion guru for some time, so it comes as a real let-down. Now find ourselves reciting a mantra that will become familiar to us throughout the trip, “It could be worse. Let’s not let this ruin our trip.” After all, we had an extra day in Italy!
            We then turn to the next problem at hand. We are going to be too late in Rome to get normal public transport to our accommodation, so we have to find another way. Our host informs us that a taxi would be over 60€, and we prepare for the first of many extra expenses on the trip.
            Fortune begins to shine a small ray of line upon us when we arrive in Rome at 2:00 AM Friday morning. As we wait for our luggage, we spot the same woman who told us about the delay. We ask her how she plans to get to the center, and she said by taxi. We agree to share the ride with her, cutting the cost in half for all of us.
Waiting for a taxi outside in the pleasantly warm Roman night, our new companion realizes that she has no cash and goes off to find an ATM. Olena and I are having a hard time locating the taxi, so I decide to run over to a bus that’s loading on passengers and ask where it’s going. The driver says they’re going to the city center, and the cost is 7€. We’re now left with a moral dilemma: Let the bus go and wait for our new cohort, or take the bus and leave her in the dust. Well, we’re already feeling our wallets thinning, so we take the latter option.
“This is gonna follow us for the rest of the trip, you know.” Olena says as our bus pulls out. “Karma is gonna pay us back for this.”
            “Don’t worry. She will understand… right? Besides, our karma can’t be that low. Let’s just call this strike one…”
            A half-hour journey later brings us to the central train station, where we have to pay for a 20€ taxi ride to our host’s apartment. The bill I plan to send EasyJet now stands at 34€, and it will continue to rise.
            Our host is understandably annoyed at our late arrival (nearly 4 AM) and leads us to our room. The accommodation is great, but she could have been a bit nicer. Oh well, we thought again. It could be worse. At least we finally have beds to sleep in.
            …for about four hours. We are scheduled for entrance into The Vatican at 10:30 tomorrow, so our sleep after such a long day of travel ends up being less than satisfactory.
            But we made it, we’re in Rome! Ahead of us we have a tour of the Vatican, the ancient Colosseum, the Roman Forums, sun-drenched beaches, and a trip to Pompeii to cap it off. We are not to be brought down!

Friday, June 12, 2015

            Seemingly five minutes later, I awaken to the Chocobo theme from Final Fantasy VII that serves as my phone’s alarm clock. I’m not particularly exhausted; I seem to have slept fairly well in the last four hours. I turn over to make sure Olena is awake and get a groan in response, which in her language means only kisses will wake her up, and I am happy to oblige.
            We shove some croissants down our throats and brew up some instant coffee and are out the door by 9:45. We finally figure out where to buy a ticket for the bus and are on a packed bus minutes later. We barely have room to move, and it must be over 30 degrees in the bus. Nevertheless, we’re excited for our trip to the Vatican, a country to which neither of us has been.
            We head in the general direction of the Sistine Chapel with the help of Google Maps, but it turns out the whole city is surrounded by a ten meter-high wall with one entrance half a kilometer away. We have about five minutes to get there…
            Having purchased tickets online, we pass the throngs of people waiting in line with well-deserved schadenfreude. They will be waiting the better part of an hour while we sail through the front entrance. The extra 4€ we paid for advance tickets were well worth it. Things are looking up after all.
            I may be an English teacher, but I am not nearly eloquent enough to describe the beauty of what we saw in the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. I will let Olena’s skillful photographic eye guide you through our winding journey through halls of statues, tapestries, ancient maps, mosaics, and of course the Sistine Chapel itself. I encourage you to look at her Facebook page, where she will undoubtedly post pictures from our trip. I’ll put up a link at the end of this post. She got some great shots, and we even managed to sneak in some forbidden pictures in the-
            “Silencio! No photo, no video!”
            -sorry, that guy is really giving us a hard time. We would NEVER take pictures in the Sistine Chapel. No way, no how.
            Our eyes still dazzled by the wonders of the Vatican, we head to a nearby cafe to meet up with Hana, an acquaintance of Olena. She works as a tour guide in the Vatican and is from Ostrava, in the Czech Republic. The information she gives us is incredibly helpful, and she even leads us around down a few streets to find some cheap pizza, our first of many pizza lunches. On the way, I pick up a sun hat for 5€ which, knowing myself, I will undoubtedly lose in no time.
            So. We’re still exhausted despite the overpriced yet delicious espresso but it’s only 3PM. We need to take advantage of our limited time in Rome. So what do we do? We take a metro as far as we can to the outskirts of Rome. A short walk from the metro station and we’re lying on the beach, relaxing. We still have another two days in Rome, so why try to force it on us while we’re so tired? Besides, the beach is nice, even though it’s a bit cloudy and windy. The water is nice too, and we enjoy a quick dip. We even buy one of those giant fabric tapestries that the meddlesome vendors are selling and sip cheap wine as we watch the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea. The stressful journey to get here seems distant, and we let the evening wind wash away our troubles of the previous day.

Saturday, June 13, 2014

            The chocobos wake us from deep sleep after a hot but restful night back in our little room. After some breakfast and coffee, we’re still not exactly sure what we’ll do today. After lots of Googling we decide to hit the Colosseum first. Most of the sites we want to see are in that area, so it’s a logical place to start.
            We make a pit-stop at the central train station to pick up our Roma Pass which will not only give us free entrance without lines to the Colosseum and the Forums but will also give us unlimited access to Rome’s rather extensive public transport system. That done, we head to the Colosseum. Outside the entrance I pick up another 5€ hat because, yes, I lost the first one. But don’t worry, I’ll lose this one too in a few days I’m sure.
            We experience that familiar feeling of schadenfreude as we float by the lines of people waiting to buy tickets. We do a circuit of the ancient amphitheater and are amazed by the size and splendor of this structure which was built such a long time ago. The word “awesome” is one of the most overused words in the English language and thus has lost its true definition which perfectly describes the scene around us. This isn’t the first time this thought crosses my mind.
           My camera is acting up, so I decide to stop using it for the rest of the trip and let Olena be the photographer. She not only has a much better camera but also a better eye for photography. I still snap the occasional selfie with my phone’s camera though. Again, check out her Facebook page for some pretty fantastic pictures.
            Our next stop is the ruins surrounding the Forums, where we pass temples to various gods. Olena intones that the gods better appreciate how much money was spent on their worship given the multitudes of people who could have been fed with the same money. I agree, but hey. That’s ancient history. (bada-boom-TSH!)
            It’s 33 degrees and we are starting to get really tired again, but we trudge on past more gorgeous ruins. We end up in Piazza Venezia and find ourselves jaded by the wondrous things we have seen. After all we’ve experienced, it’s getting more and more difficult to appreciate the smaller buildings. “Meh” we say, as we pass the Basilica di Santa Maria. “Psh” we mutter as we saunter by the Trajan Forum. “I think it’s time for a pizza break, huh?”
            A short tram ride brings us to a small pizzeria where we enjoy some more cheap yet delicious pizza. We sit by the river and munch while discussing what to do with the rest of the day. We know we want to watch the sunset near the Castel Sant'Angelo, but it’s too early for that. We decide to go and relax in a park for a bit, while seeing the famous Spanish Steps on the way there.
            Again, we seem to be a bit jaded by what we’ve already seen, so the Spanish Steps honestly just seem like a glorified flight of stairs. I’m sure it would be more impressive if we knew a bit more about them, but for now we just curse the heat as we trudge up the ancient staircase. A quick look at Google Maps shows us that the Hard Rock cafe isn’t far, so we head there. It’s kind of a tradition for Olena and me to get a drink at the Hard Rock in every foreign city we visit.
            Well, we visit the Hard Rock, but we definitely don’t have a drink there. The smallest bottled beer would run us 6.75€ and a large draft beer would be more like 13€. Yeah, no thanks. But the place was pretty cool and the bathrooms had toilet seats. Seriously, you’d be surprised what a rarity that is. For some reason, most public toilets in Italy don’t have toilet seats. If you’re more learned than we are, please enlighten us as to why this is…
            We head to the nearby Villa Borghese park to relax. We make a few organizational calls, arranging our trip to Pompeii and our last night in Rome. It's here that the Travel Gods strike again.
            Our plan has been to head to Pompeii via a rideshare service, then head back Monday night to stay at a really nice hotel room in Rome that we’ve booked for an amazing 600 crowns each ($25). Turns out that has deceived us and this is no hotel but some kind of vacation home that you’re supposed to rent for more than a month… The stay is 44€ for one night, which is a great price, but we are informed that there will be a 50€ cleaning charge plus a 7.50€ “tourist tax” and a 20€ fee for arriving late in the evening.
            We decide to cancel this booking, but we still have to pay the 44€ for the stay. EasyJet’s bill continues to rise…
            Anyway, it works out okay because we decide to just stay an extra night at our hostel in Pompeii and go straight back to the airport from there on Tuesday. This will prove to be a good decision because we will need the extra time in Pompeii.
            So, back at the park. We head towards what looks to be a small lake on Google Maps, and it turns out there are some rowboats you can rent for a 20-minute romantic voyage around a small yet beautiful stone temple to Asclepius, the god of medicine. Olena assumes the Cleopatra position as the front of the boat while I do the dirty work. It’s all very romantic, yadda-yadda-yadda =P
            Now it’s time to watch the sunset so we take a bus close to the St. Angelo Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Rome. We buy a couple cheap bottles of wine (come on, give us a break, we’re in Italy) and sit by the river. We play music from our smartphones, reflect on the beautiful day, and clink our glasses (well, bottles) as the sun sets on a toast to another fantastic day.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

           It’s not even 7:00 when the chocobos rouse us from our rest, and we hastily get ready to leave Rome behind. In less than two hours we’re meeting up with our driver with whom we arranged a drive to Naples. If you’re ever in Italy, Blabla car is a great way to get around. 10€ each gets us to Naples in less than three hours. The driver and his girlfriend are really nice and they even take us exactly where we need to be in Naples. We pick up a Pompeii card, a similar pass to the Roma Pass, and schlepp our luggage through the narrow streets of Naples. Our walk takes us by some stunning views of the city. “So, when are we moving here?” Olena asks, not for the first time.
            We were informed by our driver that we were not permitted to leave Naples without trying some of their famous pizza. Apparently the Margherita pizza was invented here in 1889. According to rumor, famous chef Raffaele Esposito of Pizzeria Brandi created the pizza to resemble the colors of the Italian flag. He made the pizza for Queen Margherita of Savoy while she was visiting Naples.
           We find a reputable-looking place and decide to sit down because we have a bit of time to kill before catching our train to Pompeii. We order up two of the best pizzas we’ve ever had for only 6€ each. I’m no George R.R. Martin, so I won’t go on for three paragraphs about these pizzas, but I easily could if I tried. We even manage to save a bit for later.
            Our bellies content with these oily yet scrumptious delights, we descend into the metro into one of the coolest stations we’ve ever seen. It’s got an “under-the-sea” type theme, the tiles and paint making wave patterns on the ceiling. “I would totally be making fun of someone in my shoes in Prague” Olena remarksabout her touristy camera-clicking, never missing a photo op.
            From Napoli Centrale we hop on a commuter train with the catchy name of “Circumvesuviana” (can you guess where it takes us?) It being a nearly cloudless day, we are treated to fantastic views of the volcano as we roll by. It’s an active volcano, and we joke about it erupting with only half smiles and nervous giggles.
            The train station in Pompeii is a circus of street vendors selling any kind of souvenir you can imagine. My second hat is already gone, left in our Blabla car driver’s Subaru, and I’m not going to buy another one. There’s a line, and I’ve crossed it.
            After politely shaking our heads at the hordes of vendors in this carnival of consumerism, we hop on a bus, courtesy of our Pompeii Pass. It’s only a five minute ride to our hostel.
            And what an awesome hostel it is! We are greeted by the friendliest couple we’ve met so far who welcome us with stereotypical Italian friendliness. We have found so far that Italians are quite friendly in general, and these two don’t disappoint. Every time we have a question they are happy to oblige. They lead us to our private room complete with a double bed and a private bathroom and best of all, air conditioning. These hot nights have been brutal, and the AC is a welcome addition. Best 600 crowns ever spent. If you ever stay in Pompeii, look up Agora Hostel.
            It’s already 4:00. Our plan was to go up Vesuvius tonight by bus, but our host suggests waiting until tomorrow because it’s getting late. Instead, he recommends something completely unexpected: a trip to the romantic little coastal town of Sorrento. We take his advice and hop on a 20-minute train ride.
            The town is absolutely gorgeous. I’ll say it again: look at Olena’s photos to see what I mean. The view of the Bay of Naples is breathtaking. At the very least, look it up on Google Images.
            We walk down a narrow path to the beach area maybe 30 meters below us and look for a place to swim. There are many paid beaches around, but it is Italian law that each town has to have at least one free beach. We find just the one, a very small and crowded patch of sand, but we don’t care, we just want to dive headfirst into that beautifully clear blue water. With the corner of our eye on our belongings, we make the blissful plunge.
            We stay at this beach for several hours, until the sun touches the horizon and we start to get a bit cold. As it goes down, we reflect on the wonderful trip we’ve had so far. The Gods of Travel may have got the upper hand at the beginning, but we are making the best of it, and the best definitely is the best.

Monday. June 15, 2015

            It was a blessing in disguise that we had to stay an extra day, because it would have been a shame to pack up and leave from here. We still had a lot to see. There was Vesuvius, and of course the ruins of the ancient city destroyed by its eruption.
            After a delicious breakfast and some coffee, we hop on a bus that takes us up the mountain. We get some amazing views on the winding road and are almost to the top after only 45 minutes. We’re informed that it’s about a 20-minutes hike up to the crater at the summit. On our way up, the clouds start to move in and our view is completely obstructed. At first I think this is a real shame, but Olena reassures me, saying that it’s actually pretty cool how the clouds are moving. The frequency of her clicks from behind me confirm that she’s enjoying the sights, clouds or no clouds. I decide that she’s right. Why complain about the conditions we’re given? It’s a blessing just to be up here.
            Olena has told me that she was not allowed to take any sand from Hawaii back to the USA because the gods punish anyone who does so. She almost took some sand home anyway but discarded it at the last second, apologizing to the gods. We haven’t been told such a thing about Vesuvius, so we select a particularly colorful handful of volcanic rock from the ground and tie it up in a baggie with plans to take it home. I’m starting to get a little bit nervous about the level of bad karma beginning to surround us. First there was the woman we left high and dry at the airport, now we’re stealing from Vesuvius… That’s two strikes, and perhaps there are more gods than just the Travel Gods…
            Finally at the top, we make the circuit around the crater. It is a truly unbelievable sight. The crater is more than 250 meters deep and up to a kilometer across. The mountain used to be three times its current height of 1200 meters before its explosive eruption in 79 AD which destroyed the surrounding towns and killed 16,000 people. The molten rock shot 33 kilometers into the air at 1.5 million tons per second, the temperature of which was 1.5 million times the temperature of the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima. Those numbers might be unbelievable, but not as much so as the spectacle before us. It was truly amazing.
            On our way back down the mountain we stop at a souvenir shop, where I haggle quite a bit with the vendor. Olena buys a really nice ring made of volcanic rock and I buy her a heart-shaped necklace of the same material. A bit more haggling gets me a hematite ring thrown on top, and the woman gives me a really dirty look and clearly doesn’t like me. “What if she cursed you?” Olena jokes. I laugh along with her, but the edge of my mouth shows a nervous tick. I can think only one thing: strike three.
            As we walk down the mountain towards the busses, we realize we only have about ten minutes until the bus leaves. If we want to see the ruins of the city too, we have to hurry. We begin to jog down the hill, in the face of the looks of concern that we keep getting from the people who see us doing so. Oh well, I just don’t want to sit around in this heat for another hour while being badgered by street vendors. We’ve got ten minutes and maybe another 600 meters to go. Then we’ll be on our way. If we can just-
            My vision goes blank as a howl of pain escapes my throat. I’m vaguely aware of several people surrounding me to check what happened, because now I’ve fallen to the ground and am still involuntarily moaning in pain. As my thoughts clear I locate where the pain is coming from. It seems I that, while running, I caught my foot in an uneven patch of rock and landed directly on my left ankle, which is where the cracking sound came from. My first though is first “Oh no, what if it’s broken?” and then the more immediate question of “How the hell will I get down from here?”
            Okay, time to start thinking logically. I gauge the pain and realize it isn’t quite as bad as it was right after the fall. Maybe it’s just adrenaline, but I can use that. First I need to try to stand on it, because if I can’t it’s probably broken.
            I am able to make some stumbling steps, and yes, I can stand on my left foot. Good sign, but it’s far too painful for me to walk all the way down to the busses. Plus, the bus comes in six minutes, and the next one isn’t for an hour. What can we do?
            Olena flags someone down and tells them to call a car to take us down.  We have seen one going up, so it’s definitely possible. Not long after, fortune shows a wan smile as a park ranger’s car comes from the top of the mountain. We flag it down frantically and it takes us to the busses.
            I sit down at the small cafe near all the busses and can't help sobbing in pain. I’m trying to stop, but it’s some of the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. I’ve always been a bit reckless, but I’ve also been really lucky and have never had a very serious injury. I quickly pop three ibuprofen from my bag and eat a Mars bar to go down with it.
            A very nice Italian man offers to call us an ambulance because the bus will take a long time, and won’t go straight to the hospital. My ankle could easily be broken so I definitely need to get it checked out. We agree, but my American brain can’t help but picture this bill for this. We’ve already paid much more than we’d expected on this trip. I don't know how much I can afford. But there is no escaping the fact that this is the only way.
            It’s almost an hour before the ambulance comes, but luckily by then the pain has subsided to a dull ache and I am no longer humiliating myself by sobbing. I could probably get into the ambulance myself, but they put me on a stretcher. I’ve never been in an ambulance before so I’m pretty scared. Especially because I am in a foreign country and have no idea what their policies are.
            Right when I get into the ambulance the medic takes out a needle and a tourniquet. I start to panic, demanding to know what they are going to do to me. The medic doesn’t speak English very well, so he just keeps saying “Don’t worry, don’t worry.” I finally get him to confirm that they’re not giving me any drugs, and it’s just an outlet for quick access at the hospital if they need to use it. Standard procedure. But still, the panicked feeling is there.
            Olena has climbed into the back of the ambulance with me and is holding my hand, God bless her. She won’t even sit in the back of cars because it makes her nauseous, so I am very grateful that she’s there. I know it isn’t easy, especially on the windy roads down Vesuvius. As the sirens blare and we speed on towards the hospital, I catch a glimpse of Vesuvius and think again: strike three. Touché, Mountain God.
            At the hospital, they wheel me into a room where we wait for about ten minutes. Now my ankle doesn't hurt so much and I’m worried that we’re just wasting time. I finally get an X-Ray and wait in suspense to finally be told that nothing is broken. It’s just a really bad bruise. I am told to take ibuprofen and no to walk on it for five to six days. I can’t help but think of the ruins we wanted to see today, and the Cat Empire concert I have coming up in two days. Still, I’m happy it isn’t broken, and I’m glad I got confirmation.
            Now we’re left with the problem that we’re eight kilometers from town and have no way to get back. I have one of the guards call a taxi, and in thirty minutes, around 4:00, it arrives. The meter is already at 25€ when he arrives because of the drive there, and a trip to the ruins costs me a solid 40€. But amazingly, the ambulance ride and the X-Ray were free. I wasn’t even asked for an insurance card, only my passport. Point one for the Italian healthcare system.
            I still haven’t given up on seeing the ruins, especially knowing how badly Olena wants to see them. For her Pompeii is a life dream and the main purpose of our trip. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna ruin that, so I stumble with her up to the entrance. It hurts a bit, and I really shouldn’t be walking on it, but I can get by.
            I don’t see as much as Olena does because I’m mostly sitting while she walks around taking pictures, but it’s still really cool. It boggles my mind that this was once a bustling city whose life was cut short in an instant, not to be discovered for 1,700 years.    
            We walk through the main square, into private homes complete with baths and fireplaces, through public bath houses and temples to various gods. The temples are plentiful, but clearly the gods were not sated in the end. As we walk towards the exit (well, as Olena walks and I hobble) we pass by the amphitheater of Pompeii which is having a special exhibition of the bodies that were excavated from the ruins. Plaster casts were able to preserve several bodies in exactly the same position they were in when they died. One shows two people huddled together, many with their hands shielding their faces, and even one mother with a child on her lap. It’s horrifying yet fascinating at the same time. I can’t imagine what those last moments must have felt like, futilely trying to fend off the inevitable. The exhibition is called “Stolen from death” – a very fitting name.
            Somehow I manage to stumble my way back to the hostel with Olena’s help and we enjoy a 5€ carbonara dinner. I am utterly exhausted from the stress my body has sustained, so we call it a relatively early night, especially since we have to be up for a big day of travel the next day. We cap it off with the season finale of Game of Thrones and hit the hay.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

            We wake up around 8:30, and I examine my foot. It seems to be in just about the same condition it was in before: a dull ache and not too painful to walk on. I think I will make it home without damaging it more.
            We have breakfast one last time at the hostel and begin our long journey home. It’s a pretty uneventful trip on several forms of transport: A bus to the center of Pompeii, the Circumvesuviana to Naples, a train to the Rome main station, a bus to the airport, a plane to Prague, and a bus a and tram home. I check on my foot when I get home, and it’s starting to get really purple in some places, but it still doesn’t hurt to walk and I know it’s not broken, so all I can do is wait and stay off it as much as I can.
            The Travel Gods cost us quite a bit of money, the Mountain God messed up my foot, and we spent quite a bit more money than we’d meant to, but it was a fantastic trip. Olena and I have been to many places together but never have we had a trip as action-packed as this one.
            I am happy that I don’t have to work until later tomorrow, because I have a lot of things to do. Maybe I’ll even sit down and write up a blog about our trip. For now, we drift off to sleep with dreams of ancient ruins, Italian beaches and romantic sunsets swirling through our minds.


            Well, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. Special thanks to Olena for being an awesome travel companion and for finding the tickets in the first place. Feel free to post any comments or questions, and be sure to check out this page because I’m sure there will be photos sometime in the next few days. Give it a “Like” while you’re at it:

            For those worried about me, don’t. This was all a true story, and it was quite bad when it happened, but I promise you I’m fine. I think my foot should heal in a week or two, and I’ll never run down an active volcano again ;)

For now, Mr_T00by out!

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Sunday, May 26, 2013 - 6:39 PM CET
I know I keep saying I will post more often, but I have been reeeaaallly busy. Once this course is over I will hopefully have more time.
Anyway, Prague is AWESOME. I am so happy I planned it out to get here a few days early, because one person in our house got here right on Sunday and hasn't had any time at all to explore. I took pretty much every opportunity I had to be out and about and didn't spend very much time sitting around at all.
Onward!Collapse )

Adventures in Deutschland!

Wednesday, Mai 1, 2013 - 10:30 AM GMT

Even as I sit here in Terminal C of London Heathrow Airport, waiting for my gate number to flash up on the screen, I still can't quite believe what I'm doing right now. This usually happens to me when I go abroad. The fact that I am embarking on a journey doesn't seem to sink in until I wake up the next morning in a foreign country.

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    Elton John - Tower of Babel

Herro all!

Saturday, April 22nd, 2011, 2:22 PM CST


I last posted at the beginning od my trip to Amsterdam, and now I am packed up and waiting to leave for the airport to head back to Munich, then to Regensburg. So let’s see…

I mostly spent my first night roaming around the area that the Bulldog Hotel is in. The Bulldog is a pretty big company, with three stores, two coffee shops and a hostel across a few hundred meters of one street. The street is one of the most famous streets in Amsterdam, because it is right in the middle of the Red Light District… needless to say I did my share of wandering around that area that night, but don’t worry. I did not make any purchases =P

I ate some Shawarms, then went to bed around 1. I couldn’t really sleep, but was happy that my room was pretty quiet and everyone was already sleeping. Then, at 2:00, like 5 people busted in, turned the lights on, took showers, and made noise. I didn’t sleep til 3:30…

Woke up for breakfast at 8:30, not very refreshed form 5 hours of sleep and no sleep the night before, plus all the traveling. I had a pretty relaxing day though, after having to check out of the Bulldog and finally settling in the Hans Brinker Hotel. It was kinda shitty lugging my suitcase and backpack a mile and a half to this place, but once I got here I was relieved that it was almost as nice as the Bulldog, even though the reviews of it online are terrible.

I had the room to myself at first, so I took the time to reorganize my stuff, then went out to Vandelpark. Vandelpark is one of the most famous parks in the world apparently. I saw a plaque that explained that 9 out of 10 residents of Holland visit it at least once a year, and the park gets approximately 10 million visitors per year. It’s about four times the size of the Boston Common, and is in an English garden style. It was GORGEOUS, I couldn’t believe it. I ended up staying there for about five hours, just walking around, lying in the son, reading, climbing trees, etc. It was a very magical day. If you’d like to see pictures, they’re on my Facebook:

Didn’t really do much of the night life here. I was really tired after being in the sun all day, and lay down around 8 to take a nap by a canal. Woke up to someone asking me if I was alive, because it had gotten dark, then headed back to the hostel. Walked around a little more later, then headed back and went to sleep… the same thing happened again. People checked in at like 3 AM and came in and took showers and unpacked… Then they woke up at 8, so I got another maybe four or five hours of sleep.

So you can imagine that I was pretty tired yesterday, all that walking, traveling, and ten hours of sleep in three days. Anyway, I ended up walking to Oosterpark on the other side of the city, which was very sub-par compared to Vandelpark but still very nice. On my way back, I was staring blindly at a map, trying to find my way, when I whacked my head real good on a sign. It didn’t hurt that bad, but when I ran my hand through my hair a little bit later and it was bleeding, I got a little worried. It started to hurt and I felt kinda funny, so I went back to the Bulldog, got some ice and advil, and sat there for like an hour while I got my wits back. It ended up fading by the end of the day, but I was kinda out of it all day.

Did some more sight-seeing at night, then came back here. It was then that I dropped my big laptop about 6 inches when putting it down, and now it doesn’t start up. I get a blank screen at startup. Luckily my mini works, which is what I’m using now. I’m pretty sure the hard drive is what the problem is, and so I took both my computers apart to try and switch the hard drives, but I couldn’t get the chassis off so I’ll have to do it later when I have better tools. But yeah, really sucks, I have to live with this one, which is very temperamental and has a 10 inch screen, until whenever I get my other one fixed…

I walked a little bit around Vandelpark today, then tried to go to the Vagough Museum, but there was an hour long line, so I came back here and packed up. Now I’m here with my luggage, waiting to take the train to the airport in about a half hour. I’m kind of excited to get back!

I think I have confused the crap out of TSA and some airline companies… Apparently I bought a round-trip ticket from Amsterdam because it was cheaper that way, which I forgot about, so I have a ticket back here on May 7th. So this is what my travels have been according to them:

Flew to Germany Jan 19 with a return ticket in August
Flew back to Boston with a return ticket, took the return flight but got off at the connecting flight in Amsterdam. So, I’m in Amsterdam but the system says I had a ticket back to Munich.
Now I am taking a flight from Amsterdam, even though I am supposed to already be in Munich, and I have a return flight I won’t be taking on May 7th… I really hope this isn’t going to be a problem. Anyone know about this kind of stuff?

Okay, anyway, I will stop ranting. Will be back soon!
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The Life and Adventures of Isaac Roosa

 Wesnesday, April 20th 2011 7:40 PM CST

So I decided that this is as good a time as any to start up a blog on my travels in Deutschland and such. I did it for my time in Munich in 10th grade, and really liked doing it, but never got around to it this time until now.
To recap slightly, I'm staying in a student residence hall about a 6 minute bus ride from the University of Regensburg. Regensburg is one of the oldest cities in Germany. I live in the suburbs, but a couple of miles away is the central city, the “Altstadt,” which is mostly medieval architecture. It's one of the oldest cities because it was largely untouched by the World Wars, so everything is still around. What's cool about that is that even the bars, clubs, and cafes are in 800-year-old buildings. The city is right on the Danube River, which made it a very important trade hub in southern Germany throughout its history.

Life in Regensburg has been crazy at times, boring at others. I go out on weekends to clubs and bars, but I need to find some new ones because they are kind of getting old. Either that or I need to find some more people to go with, because it's a lot more fun with more people.
I am part of a group of students living in Regensburg from Wesleyan University in Connecticut and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. The group is 23 people, and we all live in the same two residential complexes. We all took a ten-week intensive language course at the University while the Germans are all on break. We had four classes, from 8:30 in the morning to as late as 3:30. It was very reminiscent of high school. It was worth it though, because I get two semester credits towards my 10-credit German major just for those ten weeks.

Okay, enough about all that. Basically what ended up happening is I started to lose it a little bit from not hanging out with people I know really well. I have people I hang out with in Germany, and they're cool and fun to hang out with, but I kind of found myself longing being home and seeing everyone. So, we had four weeks off before the semester started, and I decided to go home. I was going to travel around Europe, like a lot of people in our group were doing, but it turned out that a two-week trip to the U.S. Was just about the same price, and something I kind of felt I needed.

I noticed, though, that the layover between Boston and Munich on my way back was in Amsterdam, and on 4/20... Needless to say, that would be an awesome time to be in Amsterdam. I called the airline to ask if I could change my second flight to a few days later, and they told me it'd probly be cheaper to just buy a new flight and not take the one I have. Turns out he was right, and I paid 100 € for another flight, three nights later. I booked a room at two different hostels, and I was set to head to Amsterdam on my way back from America.

My two weeks in America were exactly what I needed. I got to go home and see my mother, all of my siblings, my niece, my best friends at school, my girlfriend, and my friends in New Hampshire. I spent a few days at home, a weekend at Wheaton, three days in NH, and another weekend at Wheaton. It was SO amazing to see everyone, and I headed back with a brand new attitude towards my abroad experience. I was getting a little pessimistic about it before, but now I'm pumped. Especially because it's spring now, almost summer even, and has been in the 70s every day for the past couple weeks. We are also starting actual German classes in a couple weeks, so I am really excited to meet people!

So, the story of my trip to Amsterdam... I had been psyched for weeks for this trip, and went up to the counter at the airport. I was asked what my destination was, and I said Munich, but I'm getting off in Amsterdam. My heart sank to the floor when she started to shake her head and explain that I'm not allowed to do that. Apparently it's a policy that wherever your destination is, that's where you gotta go. I stayed there for like ten minutes asking her over and over if there is ANY way I can just grab my bags and get out at Amsterdam, and she said absolutely not. And if I were to intentionally miss the flight, red flags would go up all over the system because it's suspicious that I didn't get on the flight. I finally gave up and tried to get used to the idea that I wasn't going, that I had to go back to Regensburg, and that I wasted 100 € on a flight and 100 € on hostels. I finally kind of got over it by the end of seven-hour flight, but when I saw what a nice day it was out and how amazing the country looked, I got SO pissed that I was about to get on a plane and leave, when I had place to stay for three nights, and a flight home.

I had basically been asking everyone, at every stage, if there was a way to do this. The check-in lady, the security guard at the checkpoint, the gate-keeper at the gate to the flight; they all told me it's not possible: tough luck (see what I did there? Semicolon and colon win). So I got on the flight, got to Amsterdam, walked to my gate, and sat down to wait the half an hour until boarding time. Then, as a last ditch effort, I decided to tell my story to THIS gate-keeper. She immediately was just like, “Um. I can't make you get on that flight. If you don't want to travel, you don't travel. I don't understand the problem.” I asked her about my bags, whether they'd go on to Munich, and she said she'd personally call the baggage guys and tell them not to. I was then to go to baggage claim and give them my name, and have them call someone to put my bag on an unused belt. I did so, talked to a few people, and about an hour later, my bag was there! I was SO excited because I had spent the past 8 hours getting used to the fact that I was denied this opportunity, and it was saved at the very last second. How legit it was, how legal it was, I have no idea. All I know is that I'm in Amsterdam, and that it's one of the most amazing cities I've ever been to.

I took the train to the Central Station, and after much staring at maps and trying to make sense of the crazy Deutch street names, I found the Bulldog Hotel, the hostel I'm in right now. It's a REALLY nice place. The only thing was, I got here at 11, check-in was at 3, I had all my luggage, and I hadn't really slept since I woke up at Wheaton the day before. I ended up taking some 5-hour energy, leaving my luggage in a room they have here, and walking around the city a bit. I haven't seen much yet since I only got here a few hours ago, but it's beautiful, the people are nice, it's a melting pot of all cultures, and, last but not least, the hostel is located right at the end of the Red Light District!
So yeah. Sorry if I bored a bit with extraneous details, but I literally just kinda write what comes to mind. I'm mostly writing this for myself, but if anyone out there is interested enough to read, it's a very lovely added bonus!

I'll probably check back in sometime later, or tomorrow. Have a good one ladies and gents! Happy 4/20!
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    The Offspring - Self Esteem (On the radio at the bar)

Costa Rican Adventures, part 2

 Monday, April 26, 2010


Well hello there,

            Turns out we actually did plan some fun stuff to do this week! First I looked up a bunch of stuff online about things we could do and found out about a wildlife refuge called Curu really close by. They apparently have howler and spider monkeys, pumas, the occasionally mountain lion, and some other cool stuff. I talked it over with Hannah and Dad, and we planned to go the next day around 7.

            Well, we woke up at 6 and my dad came up with two reasons why we shouldn’t go that day: one, it was a Sunday and therefore could be really busy, and two, it rained for about four hours that morning, so “All the rivers and streams would be overflowing and everything would be muddy.” Both of these things were ridiculous. There’s no way it would be crowded in the middle of nowhere like this, and there’s no way it’d be flooded because it’s the dry season and it’s always 95 degrees out. When it rains for four hours, the earth sucks it up like a sponge and ten minutes later you can’t even tell it rained.

            Oh well. No arguing with DMFR, so we just planned to go the next day (today). Instead, we decided to drive down south to a town called Montezuma and see what kinds of stores and stuff were there.

            The town we came to was a small town which was mostly filled with pizza places, bars, and tourist daytrip planners like EcoTours and such. Hannah and I convinced Dad that we should go to one and see if there’s anything fun, so we chose one at random and asked what they had for us. Hannah and Dad particularly wanted to ask about horseback riding, which we ended up booking for Tuesday. For Wednesday, we went with my suggestion of doing a nature walk slash canopy zip-line trip. Apparently it’s eleven platforms and nine cables, which is a pretty good deal. I’ve been zip-lining twice, once actually in Costa Rica, and it’s a LOT of fun. I’m just hoping Dad doesn’t chicken out hah, because he has trouble going on amusement park rides sometimes…

            So yeah, just like that, we had our whole trip planned: Curu Monday, horseback riding Tuesday, zip-line Wednesday, relaxing and winding down Thursday, and coming home on Friday. Woot!

            We went to the grocery store and came back and hung by the pool for awhile. I don’t know how Hannah and Dad managed to lie in the sun the whole time. I was barely able to stand doing so under an umbrella. It’s SO HOT. Anyway, I started to doze off and was woken up by Hannah telling me that we should go back because it looked like rain. I looked up and damn, she was right. The sky was friggin black.

            Went back, watched some TV, blahblahblah. It rained like crazy all night and the thunder and lightening was almost constant. While Dad and I were watching some sort of murder mystery, right before the end, the TV started going on and off to gray fuzziness, and two minutes later the power went out. So much for cooking food that night.

            We all went outside to read for at least as long as the sun was up. It went down as it does around 6 and we went in, and the power came back on soon after. That was good, because we probably would have lost like $100 worth of food if it hadn’t gone back on, and we’d have had no A/C for the night.

            Rest of the night was kinda uneventful. We watched TV, hung around, Hannah and I went for a walk, then went to bed.

            Next day, today, we went to Curu. It was fun, but not as exciting as the website made it sound. First of all, when we got there we couldn’t figure out where to go because no one was around. The first interesting thing we saw was this little crab, about four inches wide, that was a weird combination of orange, red, and purple. It was really cool looking. We then chose a random trail that lead up into the hills. It was very steep and a difficult climb, and as we walked we noticed more of those funny crabs. Then, as we walked up the mountain, they were everywhere. Hannah and I started to get a bit creeped out, but it was pretty funny with them all scurrying about everywhere.

            We decided to walk back and try another trail. By then the gift shop had opened, so we asked about some of the trails. The woman recommended a few, and was surprised to hear we had even tried the other one because she said it was way too difficult.

            The trail we chose was really nice. We saw a lot of cool lizards, some spider monkeys, some cool birds, and lots of beautiful plants. We heard howler monkeys making their insane barking noises, but never saw any of them. The website may have made this place seem a little more exciting than it actually was, but I guess it depends on the season. Plus, I still had fun. We finished the trail and drove back to the villa, where we are now.

            I’m half excited and half dreading tomorrow. We’ll be going back to Montezuma and riding horses through the woods and by a waterfall that we’ll apparently be able to swim in, which should be fun, but the shitty part is we’re going to have to wear long pants, in the 95-degree humidity, on top of horses. It’s gunna be sooo hot. We asked what we should bring, and the guy said, “Long pants, and lots of sunscreen.”

            Sooo yeah, should be fun. I guess I’ll get back to everyone sometime tomorrow, or whenever. Hope I’m not boring everyone with these entries, my writing style seems to be kinda bland in its, “We did this, then this, then this. It was cool” aspect, but I hope people enjoy reading ><


All the best,


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