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Rio de Janeiro Day 1

April 8, 2017

My good friend Caitlin from college {you might remember when she came to visit me in Taiwan!} has been living and teaching abroad since we graduated from college and I've always been tempted to go visit, but have just never taken the plunge. She's been living the past 3 years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, teaching 4 grade at an international school. Well after informing me that she {for real} was moving back to the states after this school year she really got my wheel spinning. I checked my schools spring break schedule, her availability, plane ticket prices; and the rest, as they say, is history!

Remember my whirl-wind-crazy-fast-mexico-trip....yeah apparently I didn't learn much! I finished school at 3:20 and was in the car headed to the airport by 4:00...talk about dedication! Columbus to D.C. // D.C. to São Paulo // São Paulo to Rio.  12 total hours in the air, but when I landed in Rio Saturday morning {{and my first time south of the equator!}} it was all worth it!

It didn't take long for me to get situated, and by situated I mean Caitlin and I grabbed her friend Matt and went for a walk along the beach along with my first ever caipirinha type of situated! We walked and snacked around (yes I'm making that a verb now!) and got me a little acquainted with the city before we met up with several more foreign teachers from her school and went out to grab dinner. Dinner, drinks, snacks, & laughs and it was time for an early bedtime {{after a long, full day of traveling} and ready for more adventures tomorrow! 

7 Wonders of the World

"In 2007, more than 100 million people voted to declare the New Seven Wonders of the World. The following list of seven winners is presented without ranking, and aims to represent global heritage." - Travel Channel

● Great Wall of China, China ● Christ the Redeemer Statue, Brazil  Machu Picchu, Peru ● Chichen Itza, Mexico ● The Colosseum, Italy ● Taj Majal, India ● Petra, Jordan 

7 Wonders; 7 Continents; 7 lives {ok we can only wish!}; 7 Goals --- {{ I've got this }}

I may not have all 7 wonders in yet, but I'm officially more than 1/2 way there with 4 down and only 3 more to go (we all have goals right?!) and I can't even lie, I'm pretty stinkin' proud of my progress!
(Click each link below to read a little more in detail about each of my encounters)

Colosseum - Rome, Italy - Summer 2010 - 4,698 miles from home

Great Wall of China - Beijing, China - Summer 2016 - 6,729 miles from home

Chichen Itza - Yucatan, Mexico - Spring 2017 - 1,441 miles from home

Christ the Redeemer - Rio, Brazil - Spring 2017 - 5,069 miles from home

Pyramids of Giza {ancient Wonder of the World} - Giza, Egypt - Summer 2010 - 6,019 miles from home

** So help a girl out now...what wonder do you think I should visit next?**

Merida y Mexican Matrimony

If you missed out on the previous few days be sure to check them out here: {Day 3} {Day 2} & {Day 1}

Saturday brought us to our last day in Merida {or my last day as most of my family was staying until Sunday or Monday...JEALOUS!} as well as the real "reason for the season" Sebastian && Rocio's wedding!

The wedding ceremony didn't start until 7pm so we had plenty of time to soak up the sunshine before we had to stop playing tourist and transform into full blown wedding mode. We took advantage of our lazy day and had a later start to our morning and decided to walk through downtown Merida as we had really only seen pieces and parts of it in passing thus far. 

We began by walking down Paseo de Montejo {a main road in town boasting dozens of large colonial style homes that have been renovated into museums, offices, and memorials of the homes and families they once used to be}. Later we grabbed breakfast at an out door market venue that we had passed several times and ran into a couple other people who were in Merida for the wedding, the more the merrier...always! Next stop was downtown {{el Centro}}. After our late breakfast we strolled around town without a real agenda in mind {including forgetting to reapply sunscreen...lovely burns for 1/2 the people at the wedding!} stopping by the Plaza Grande (a large, open plaza boarding the local government building), Santa Lucia Park (a park full of food vendors tucked away in the middle of town), Merida Cathedral (beautiful both inside & out), & Casa Montejo (an old time home restored & set up to mimic the home that it had once been for the local noble family).

Tired, hot, and ready for a nap before the wedding we began to head back to the hotel {{things don't always work out as planned, we hit a detour...ran into my grandma & uncle who were on the hunt for food}}....ok so after our 2nd late lunch of the day we actually headed back to the hotel with just over an hour of time to get ready and change for the big event of the day...wedding time!

---> Shower, wardrobe change, some makeup, & pre-wedding pictures <---

We were ready to hit the road! The ceremony was in a small church in downtown Merida and it was an absolutely beautiful mass for Sebas & Rocio. Afterwards we hopped in a van and drove nearly 30 minutes out of town to a beautiful hacienda {a Mexican ranch} that was the backdrop for their amazing reception. I'll let the picture mostly speak for themselves here but I'll recap some of the night's highlights! Reception ran from 9pm - 6am, delicious food, live band to dance the night away, && family galore...what more could we ask for?!?!

Reception venue hall

My flight out of Merida was scheduled for 7:30am so around 5:30 we said our goodbyes and headed for the airport. It wasn't until I was checked in and through security that I finally was able to stop for 2 minutes and change out of my floor length dress and into some more travel appropriate ware! Live life on the edge a little....until next time Mexico...I love you!

Flamingos, Family, & Celestún

Merida, Mexico Take 2!

If you missed out on the previous few days be sure to check them out {here} & {here}

After our whirlwind day checking our the A.M.A.Z.I.N.G pyramids and natural sinkhole at Chichen Itza my grandma decided she wanted in on the fun and just had to see the wild flamingos...we happily obliged! 

My uncle Pablo rented a gigantic van and loaded my cousins, grandma, aunt, mom, brother, & I {{all 8 of us}} into this thing and hit the road. Close to 2 hours later and finally in Celestún we stopped, meeting up with another aunt & uncle, rented a pair of boats and guides and hit the open waters. 

Celestún is a narrow peninsula off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula right inside the golf of Mexico and is a well known destination for wild flamingo sightings and this day was no let-down. We traveled one boat after another for close to 10 minutes enjoying the scenic views, wind in our hair, and smiles on our faces. Next thing we know the horizon slowly began to turn pink and before we knew it, we were surrounded on all sides by bright pink flamingos.

{flying, squawking, eating, sleeping...they were everywhere!}  

5 hours with the flamingos probably still wouldn't have been enough, but just over a half hour after we first met the little guys, we were on our way back to the open waters. Before we knew it there were pelicans flying overhead {{like almost hit my head overhead!}} and we were being introduced to "Bird Island". Holy Moly, I have never seen so many giant birds so up close & personal. These pictures don't even begin to do it justice. We all craned our necks to looks up and out of the boat to ensure that we din't miss a single bird flying overhead! Spectacular!

Driving past Bird Island we had one more, magnificently beautiful, stop of the day before returning to shore. Los Manglares {or the mangroves}. I had become quite familiar with mangroves while living in Taiwan as they were less than 5 minutes driving distance from my house, but the mangroves near my home in Taiwan had nothing on these in Celestún; they were beyond beautiful! Clear waters, twisty tree roots, fish of all sizes, (and apparently alligators that we luckily didn't see that day!) After a quickly dip for the family in the cool & refreshing waters we hopped back in the boats and headed for shore. 

Afterwards we agreed that we were unanimously starving and stopped at a beach-side restaurant for some mouthwateringly fresh seafood {like my teeny shrimp ceviche pictured above}, family time, walks on the beach, and an abundance of seashells. The evening came to a close and Pablo drove as we napped! Returning back to the hotel we headed out with the remainder of the family for drinks and dinner until a typical Mexican 2 am when most of us called it quits for the night!

Saludos Dia 2!

Merida, Mexico & Mi Familia!

Talk about a shotgun wedding, I think this most recent trip was just that and more {{not my wedding!!!!}} 

Quick synopsis 

Tuesday - teach 24 hyper 8 year olds
Wednesday - spend the day flying from Ohio to Merida, Mexico
Thursday - check out some little known ruins called Chichen Itza
Friday - float around with wild flamingos
Saturday - here comes the bride and all that wedding jazz
Sunday - spend the day flying from Mexico back to Ohio 
Monday - 8:20 am...hello again my hyper children!

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I suppose if you're here you're looking for just a *tad* bit more information on my trip than that though! ...I'll see what I can do for you ;)

I'm 2nd grade teacher here in Ohio where I'm currently living and we get a whopping 3 personal days a year to take as we please. So come March, having not taken any days off of work yet, coupled with the prospect of a family wedding && getting to see all my family that lives in Mexico, I dove in and took Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday off BEST DECISION EVER!  (besides 15 pages of sub plans, planning for conferences, and 4.5 hours of sleep before teaching Monday morning.....but I digress!) 

Wednesday was mostly a travel day. Leaving my house at about 5am and landing in Merida, Mexico after 8pm. I made a couple quick layovers and met and picked up my mom and brother in Huston on the way. We landed, found our way to our hotel, and then went knocking on random room numbers until we started to recognize faces that answered the door...we made it! A quick food stop for a late (like 11:30pm late) and well deserved dinner and it was time to hit the sack for these 3 amigos!

Thursday was a little {{ok a lot}} more entertaining than our previous flight day. We didn't even try to wake up early as our tour wasn't leaving until 11, but when I found out the restaurant in our hotel was serving chilaquiles verdes for breakfast, I was downstairs in a flash. Post breakfast my mom, brother, aunt, and cousin {let's give out some names here: mom, David, Carmen, & Susana} hopped in a tour bus with several other tourists that we had arranged the evening before and headed east almost 2 hours to  Chichen Itza, the Mayan pyramids in the state of Merida. 

h.o.l.y- m.o.l.y were they breath-taking

The Pyramids of Chichen Itza are one of the new 7 Wonders of the World and just as amazing as I had been hoping for. We arrived to the pyramids and found ourselves an English speaking guide to show us around the grounds. Pyramid after pyramid and ruins after ruins, this place was gigantic with each new site leaving us more and more in awe of the almost 1500 year old structures that loomed above us. 

Once we finished our tour and wanderings (roughly 2 hours and we didn't even see everything) we hopped back in the van and headed for lunch. The tour group we joined included a traditional Yucatanian buffet that proved to be every bit wonderful. Bellies full we headed to our last stop of the day; a natural cenote. Cenote translates from Spanish into Sinkhole or natural pit and the are quite literally one of the most beautiful things I have seen. 

Dozens of meters below ground level lies some of the clearest & bluest water that you could imagine in the Cenote near Chichen Itza where we were in Merida. We walked down several flights of stairs that had been carved into the stone on the sides of the sinkhole until we were at the bottom starring up at the sky above us like we were in our own little world. A dip in the cool waters proved to be as exhilarating as the views and we swam until the last possible minute when we realized our tour van was ready to up and leave us behind {{not the worst place in the world to get left at overnight though!}}

After a now almost 3 hour ride back we were able to meet up with the rest of our family that was still trickling into Merida as well as grabbing dinner and drinks with my cousins and some of the friends of the bride && groom to be. Food + Family + Warm Weather + Laughter + Drinks = There's really no more a girl could wish for!

Saludos Day 1 :)