Friday, June 30, 2006

Fri 6/23:Galapagos, Seymour Island

Today was our first day of real diving- we only have one dive scheduled for the day and then one land excursion on Seymour Island. The dive was really nice, we saw some cool groupers, starfish, a ton of different tropicals and some cool white tip sharks. There was a bunch of them hanging out in this cove and the picture you see above was taken by my friend CP-- I so need double strobes. It was a nice leisure dive and I really enjoyed it - I didnt' take too many pictures but had a nice time just drifting along the wall.

We then got dressed and got to make it onto land on Seymour Island. Here, we saw seals resting on land, a ton of different iguanas and a bunch of different birds-- blue footed boobies and the friggit birds. It was cool taking a tour around the island but the flies were so bad... they were all over me. Thank god I had a long sleeved windbreaker so I couldn't feel them. My favorite were the seals... they have such big brown eyes and look so sweet.

After the excursion, we got back on the boat and got ready to head to Darwin Island which was a 15 hour boat ride. Time to eat dinner and go straight to sleep- tomorrow is going to be a long day.

Thurs 6/22:Galapagos Islands: San Cristobal

We finally got to the Galapagos after a brief stop in Guanayil (sp). We had been traveling now for almost 2 days and were wiped out. But after leaving Quito, Ecuador this morning at 9:45a, we took an hour and a half flight to Guanayil and another 1.5 hours to San Cristobal- our final destination.

We took an inflatable to where our boat was docked and the crew was so great helping us get all of our luggage on the boat and settled in our rooms. We barely had to lift a finger. After we figured out where our rooms were, we got our dive gear set up for our first check out dive so we could figure out how much weight we needed, etc... I didn't take my camera down on this dive because I just wanted to get acclimated and man, I wish I had! We dove with a bunch of sea lions that were so playful and coming right up to us. Sometimes, they would try and bite our fins or would come really close and "bark" in our face. It was really funny but at times, they got too close for comfort.

We stayed down for over an hour and then got back on the boat to get ready for dinner and rest up for our day tomorrow. Plus, many of us were still tired from traveling so sleep was an order! The crew had a welcome cocktail for us before dinner and then after we ate, all of us crashed to get some sleep and get ready for our big week.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Journey Begins: Day 1

The Journey Begins: Day 1

Its Wednesday today at 10am Panama Time, or eastern time and rose and I have 1.5 hours to kill. As always right before the trip, we were running around the night before trying to get stuff done and the next morning, I wake up and I have broken out everywhere. They are not sure where this came from- it could have been from anywhere-- but most likely, I just got back the day before from Catalina, stayed at the hotel there and rented wetsuit and hoodie- so it might have come from that. Or something I ate... or a million other things but the good to all of this was that I was home and was able to call my insurance company and get into the hospital asap. After 3 hours of waiting, they finally gave me a shot of steroids and a number of oral meds and cremes to put on. I couldn't believe this happened to me the day I am going to the Galapagos, but if I were to find positive in it, it would be that I was able to go to the doctor and get treated before I left.

So here I am in Panama, my hives are still coming back every now and then so I am living off benedryl and those steroid pills and I am hoping that they go away by the time the first dive happens- which I think is Thursday. Rose and I were able to get all of our stuff done- well, we hope-- and if not, at this point we don't really care and there's nothing we can do about it. As long as we have our passport, money and itineraries- we're all set.

I am really glad that I am traveling with my sister- I don't know what I would of done handling all the luggage and just simple things like going to the bathroom would have been difficult. This way, we can take turns to watch luggage while we run around the airport doing stuff. It was a smooth ride to here (except the last 20 minutes-loads of turbulance) and hope we continue to have smooth sailing. The driver from the Radisson met us right as we left baggage claim and we just now made it to the hotel. Its sooo nice not to be on a plane or have to do anything pressing just yet. Rose and I are the first to arrive and the rest o the team (the other 12 folks) come later.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Diving in Catalina: Testing Women's Gear

This past Sunday and Monday... I picked up Polly and Cathy at the airport who are friends of mine on the fintest team. Polly flew in from San Francisco and Cathy flew in from Washington DC. It was sooo great to see them again and dive together! We barely caught the boat at the Catalina Express downtown Longbeach but got there just in time to hop on the 4:15p boat. There was actually a film crew on board filming for the travel channel .. but we didn't make the cut!

We got to Catalina and much to our surprise ran into Vicki and Bruce (more fintesters) in the lobby of the Hotel MacRae. It was just like old times... we exchanged hugs and headed down to a mexican restaurant for something to eat. Afterwards, got some icecream and then called it a night since we had to be up bright and early to meet Brumm on the dock.

Monday- dive conditions we terrific. Viz could have been a little bit better- but the water, the weather, the company, having our dive bitch Bruce (sorry Bruce, had to do it) and everything else was perfect. The day seemd to last only 5 minutes.. yet, we tested almost 6 bc's that day and it was a ton of fun. I really wish we could have another fintest next year and I am crossing my fingers that it happens! Check out more photos!

Monday, June 19, 2006

In Encino to meet Joe...Finally!

Ron and I drove up on a beautiful Saturday morning to Encino- about 1/2 hour north of Los Feliz to meet Joe at Jerry's Famous Deli! Joe is the guy who is organizing this trip to the Galapagos that Im going on and actually leaving in 2 days! I can't believe it... I've been talking to Joe on the phone for months trying to plan this trip so it was good to finally meet him. He gave me everything I need to know about the trip and got answers to all my questions. It was really nice to get to know him and he definitely learned a lot about me, Ron and my family. We talked more about that than the dive trip I think! Here is a picture of Joe and I... more to come soon since I will be in the Galapagos before you know it!

Zea's in New Orleans

On my last day in New Orleans on that Thursday, after my closing which didn't take very long, Rach and I met up with Claudia, Velvet and Cyndy at one of my favorite restaurants to eat in New Orleans- Zea's on St. Charles. It was delicious like always and this was Rachelle's first time there. It was sooo good to see these girls and it was starting to hit me how much I was going to miss my "favorite" places and my friends that I have made here in New Orleans. I will never say goodbye because I know that I will always be back and New Orleans will always be home to me. I hope that I can make great friends like back home in California. I just hope that you guys come visit me when I finally get settled, whenever that will be. But I know after I get back from the Galapagos and Peru, I need to get a j-o-b and get my own place. I have been living out of bags long enough. I know it will happen soon enough.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Thanks Rachelle!

Just wanted to give a big THANK YOU to my sister Rachelle who helped me soooo much with helping me clean and move everything out of my house on Sycamore Place. I closed on the house on Thursday at noon (6/15... can you believe it?) and we literally had one day to clean it and get everything out of there. I wouldn't have been able to get everything done without my sister Rachelle and her friend Kristina, who I just met the day before. It was very sweet of the both of them and I appreciate every minute!

Here are some photos of our last days in New Orleans. One is the "sisters" picture taken at the Columns Hotel and the other one is a group shot we took at Sake Cafe. Both were taken with my camera phone so the quality isn't great! Anyway.. I miss you already and can't wait to see you again!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

New Orleans & Slim Goodies

Here are some pictures of my day with Rachelle and my nephews! We started our day off at Slim Goodies- a great little local eatery that serves breakfast all day long (you gots to love that)! Ron met us for breakfast and then we didn't seem him again until later that night since he had to get a bunch of stuff taken care of at his house. After we ate, we went down to the Aquarium only to find that it was closed! I couldn't believe it- pre-Katrina, it ONLY closed one day a year- Mardi Gras. Other than that-- it was open every single day! I ran into James, who works at the Aquarium, and he told me that due to being short staffed, not only do they close on Monday but they close at 5p during the summer instead of the usual 7p. So instead we walked along the river as much as we could until we couldn't take it anymore and had to go back to Canal Place where we had air conditioning! It was a fun day and it was great to hang out with my nephews one more time before I head back to Cali!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hollywood with my friend Dena

Last Friday, before I left for my trip to New Orleans, my highschool girlfriend Dena (who you might remember from past blog entries) met up with me and we got to hang out just for a night. Although it was just a quick get together, it's always a lot of fun to hang out with Dena and find out her latest adventures. This time- it was about her getting back from a European vacation she took by herself and how she lost her bags, got on wrong trains, met crazy French man (or what was he again?) etc... All in all, it was a fantastic trip for her and she made it home safely!

Its been so nice to see old friends and I just hope to see more of them when I am really settled! I'll call you Dena when I return to Cali!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Surprise Party for Rose!

We threw a surprise party for Rose last night for her farewell to New Orleans! I must say that I have NEVER seen someone soooo surprised! We got to Claudia's at 6:30ish and Rose thought we were going there for a dinner party for me (ha!) and it was supposed to be me, Rose, Claudia and Giulia. But Rose had no idea there was a party for her, much less the fact that Ron and Rach and our 3 nephews drove in from Pensacola to be there!

When we got there, Claudia met us at the door and everyone was hiding in the back room and they had the door closed. There were purses and keys strung all around the front room but neither Rose or I knew it. Claudia throught Rose would catch on that there was something going on (yeah, right). Even when we pulled up, I heard people out by the pool and the side of the house so I made up stuff to ask Rose out loud so they would hear us and get inside the house (which they did). Finally, we walked to the back of the house and Claudia opened the door and everyone was quiet as mice and yelled- Surprise! Rose was soooo shocked and surprised that she screamed it seemed for an hour. It was awesome and a good time was had by all.

We took a million pictures last night but here are a few-- one of the "kids"- sorry you weren't there Roger-- we missed you! and a couple of Cale and Jake in the pool. Cale did so good trying to do back flips in the water and both Jake and Cale swam for a couple of hours! it was a lot of fun!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

In Century Heights with my new friend Vanessa

Well, I have no pics to post because I didn't bring my camera with me (I know, can you believe it!)- I left it in my car actually since Vanessa drove us around. Vanessa and I connected through a good friend of mine (and hers) -- Jay Heneghan. As you know I worked for and actually replaced Jay, the marketing director at the time and Vanessa used to work with Jay early on at Anyway, Vanessa's home is Los Angeles but had spent a good 8 years in New Orleans and has now relocated back to LA. Its funny the people you meet and how that happens sometimes.

I met her at her house (after getting lost in the hills for a bit- but got out of there safely) and she gave me a tour- it's really cute and reminds me of New Orleans homes with its hardwood floors and it is decorated with signs that say-" Be nice or Leave!" and all the other subtle touches of the Big Easy that made me feel right at home. It was our first time ever meeting but we hit it off and I have a feeling Vanessa and I will be life long friends. She has a spirit about her that is strong and since we had a lot of stuff in common-, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, etc.. I felt really comfortable with her and enjoyed being around her very much.

We ate lunch off Robertson street at a place called the Newsroom which was fantastic! Down the street are places like Earth Cafe and Kitson's- which you might read about in In Touch or Star (ha!). We sat there for hours and then moved down to the coffee shop and talked for even longer. After our day of touring around and walking into places where nothing was cheaper than like $700... we headed back to her house where I got to meet her husband Josh, who happened to be an Editor for the Times Picayune! He seems like a great guy too and we hit it off too- I know I'll have to come back one night just to swap stories because I know we have a lot of them to swap!

Thanks for the awesome day Vanessa and can't wait to see you again!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Glendale: My cousin Antoinette

Wednesday night Ron and I went over to my cousin Antoinette's house for dinner. This is the first time I have seen her since visiting the Philippines where she was in 1986! So 20 years have gone by and this is our first time seeing each other since.

She looks great and is now married to a sweet and hilarious guy- Rex. They have an almost one year old baby girl, Rexanne, who is the cutest little girl you ever did see. They live in Glendale (closer to Pasedena) and the renovated this house they bought a couple of years ago and its amazing. Rex is a contractor so every fixture was carefully picked out and very unique. Every room has its own bathroom- literally every room, even the living room- and they picked out the coolest colors and furniture.

Its really quite amazing that Antoinette has been in the states only 5 years and has done so well for herself. She came over as a nurse and now its her, her sisters Marianne, Arlene and Anna who also live close by (2 of them are in Vegas). I am really happy for her and glad to be closer to her here, my brother and the rest of my cousins, aunts and uncles. Now I just have to get my mom and dad and sister Rachelle to move out here!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Manhattan Beach w/ my friend Eva

Monday night, I met up with a really old girlfriend of mine from Pensacola, Eva Lawson, who I haven' seen in many, many years- maybe even 8 years or more. She moved out to California (her second time) after living in Colorado, Texas and Greece for a little while. These are pics of Manahattan Beach which is just beautiful and us at dinner at an awesome little restaurant right near the beach. It was a beautiful day and we got to watch the amazing sunset.

Her life has taken many twists and turns like me, and it was great to talk to someone who could relate to many of the things in my life including personal relationships, living in hurricane country, moving around, siblings and family, etc... We met in 6th grade at St. John's school, went to high school together and its neat to re-connect after all this time. Turns out that our mothers call or e mail each other from time to time and my mom knew Eva and I were going to connect before I did. Funny the people that come in and out of your life... things really do happen for a reason because it was really therapeutic to talk to Eva and she literally is like a "guardian angel" to me here in Cali (and thanks for the guardian angel you gave me Eva... oh and the laminated So Cal map- it definitely comes in handy!) Hopefully, it won't be too long until we see each other again-- by the way-- don't forget you need to take me landsailing soon!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Temecula with my cousins

After we left my uncle's house, we headed east to Temecula where my cousin Jenny lives with her husband Al, her three beautiful kids leanne, AJ and Aaron, her mother and father and her brother gel-gel. Well, we've called him gel-gel ever since we met them in the PI in 86 and I don't even know his real name. Everyone in the PI has nicknames and it's usually two names like that. So they made a feast for us which was really nice. We had curry, lumpia, grilled steak, of course- rice, and the sweetest mangos and watermelon you've ever tasted. I think I ate like 2 whole mangos myself.

Jenny and the family just got back from a cruise around the carribean including Jamaica and Grand Cayman so they were showing us all the photos- it was the first one they have ever taken so the family was really psyched. Its really amazing Jenny's story about how she got here and has only been here for 6 years-- straight from the PI! Now, she has a huge, beautiful house in Temecula, multiple cars and one with a kick ass navigation system in it, an awesome job and you would think she has lived in Cali all her life. I am so proud of her and its nice to be close to her and I am sure I will make it over there a lot now that I am here!

Monday, June 05, 2006

San Diego with My Uncle Nick

Well, Ron and I went down to San Diego for the weekend and it was a really quick trip! We visited my Uncle Nick and I wanted to post a picture taken in front of their beautiful house... they actually live in San Marcos! Next to me is my Auntie Annie and of course Ron. We didn't get to play guitar this time around, but we got to eat some delicious food and hang out with my cousins Nat and Noah for a few hours anyway... and then headed off the next day to Temecula to see my cousin Jenny, et. al. The weather down South was a bit warmer, but still beautiful and of course the nights are perfect!