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 :)

Morning Sunrise

Quick post today...but this picture was too pretty to share this morning, and it can only mean one thing, most blog posts on the way. Hold onto your hard hats friends, we're going for a ride!


Taiwan Food Challenge - The Final Countdown

If you've been following along on my blog for more than 2 minutes you've probably quickly realized that one of my favorite past times while traveling is eating...ok, if I'm being honest, it's one of my favorite past times even when I'm not traveling...but, you get the point! 

Almost 2 years ago I began first dreaming of this crazy adventure of moving to Taiwan and one of the first questions many people asked me was "what do they eat in Taiwan"....well, that's a good question, because I really have ZERO idea. So, naturally I began to do some research. That's when I ran into CNN's list of the top 45 foods to try in Taiwan, I did one of my first posts about Taiwan on that specific list, and was instantly hooked. 

Several months after living in Taiwan, I was proposed with the question of "well have you tried any of the foods on the list?" Oh my goodness, THE LIST! How had I forgotten?! I quickly went back to that old post of mine and realized that I had tried quite a chunk of them and that's when my challenge officially began. I did a 2 part blog post on the foods I had tried {post 1 is HERE and post 2 is HERE}. I've been growing increasingly homesick for Taiwan over the last couple weeks and it has brought me back to some of my older blog post and I decided to update you lovely reader on my list!

SO, I present to you CNN's Top List of Taiwanese Foods...in 12 months of Taiwan!   {blue foods are new additions!}


1. Braised Pork Rice - This night market staple is delicious, flavorful, and crazy cheap...definitely a must try (I'm not going to lie I could eat several helpings of this dish alone!)

2. Beef Noodle - There's a shop behind my house I've been to multiple times. Not bad, but I wouldn't give it rave reviews either...just as the name implies...soup with beef and a bunch of noodles, to me it's nothing novel.

3. Oyster Omelet - I just had to give this one a try despite its slimy appearance. It's an egg omelet with some sweet potato starch added in to get it a really texture and a spoonful of oysters inside. Depending on the vendor it's topped with some sort of sauce. This wasn't TERRIBLE, but it would have been tons better without the sweet potato starch!

4. Bubble Tea - Holy moly have I had bubble tea! You can read a whole post on this sugary loaded cup of goodness
 here.

5. Milk Fish - Check, check, and check. I had this one several times, typically at a person's home, it's fish, but honestly I didn't think there was anything crazy special about it. 

6. Slack Season Danzai Noodles - This is a restaurant specific item that I haven't made it to yet.

7. Pan Fried Buns - I love a good pan fried bun here! Walking through the markets looking for food can sometimes be a daunting task, but when you find a man selling some of these, you know you're in luck!

8. Gua Bao - Well, this was a learning experience for me! I’ve had this several time now and had no idea what it was called! It’s a sandwich made from a steamed bun (super soft and fluffy) and filled with some type of flavorful pork (I think belly). Not the most filling of foods as they are rather small, but they always hit the spot!

9. Iron Egg - I came, I saw, I conquered....and me no likely! I'm not 100% sure what they did to the poor egg, but LORDY was it beyond funky!

10. Pineapple Cake - Pineapple cakes what would I do without you! They are a signature item in Taiwan and one that people love to give as gift {and that I gladly accept!} For any of my Mexican family reading, the easiest way to describe these is the Taiwanese version of Barritas de piña {for those of you who have never tried either....I'm sorry for the sad world you must live in! :P }

11. Tian Bu La – molded fish paste…lordy, nothing should start with a description like that unless you work for the play dough company! We have this at lunch more than I’d necessarily like to admit. I can’t say that it’s a favorite, but I eat it.

12. Ba Wan – I finally tried these little suckers! I walked into a small street side "restaurant" (like seriously, it fit 8 people inside and didn't even have a door...I'm talking tiny here) just across the street from the train station and had NO idea what to eat and saw a person eating one of these. Having zero idea what it was I did what any logical person would do and told the guy working (in Chinese, hey hey!) that I wanted 3...haha {go big or go home}. Ba Wan...thanks for not disappointing! 

13.Fried Chicken - Ok, I know this one sounds funny, but guys, I'm pretty sure they put crack in their fried chicken here...it is beyond delicious! You can buy it at restraunts, at McDonalds, from lunch box shops, but my favorite is the street vendor chicken! There's a lady that stands outside of the school and has a fresh batch ready with sweet potato fries everyday when the kids let out, and I'm telling you it takes special restraint not to pay her a visit everyday!

14. Flaky Scallion Pancake / Green Onion Pancake - These green onion pancakes are a funky little thing but a great breakfast or late night snack. The are esentially a really thin pastery that they fluff up {I'm mesmerized watching them make them!} and mix with scallions. They are then often served with an egg and some type of spicy sause...you've got to try them!

15.
 Oyster Vermicelli – can’t say I have

16. Stinky Tofu - Been there, tried that...no thanks! I'm not going to lie, when Josh was here he asked what was wrong with the sewers when we were walking through the market that you could smell them above ground...I politely informed him that he wasn't smelling the sewers, but rather the stinky tofu stand next to us...enough said!

17. Sweet Potato - Thank you 7-eleven and your endless supply of freshed baked sweet potatoes...I don't know where I'd be without you!

18. Shaved Ice
 – This deserves a place next to the friend chicken…how they can take a block of ice and make it taste so good is beyond me! This is literally shaved ice in which they put condensed milk on top and your choice of fruit (strawberries and/or mango are highly suggested though) and your mouth is suddenly in heaven!

19. Pepper Cakes
 – another good friend it’s nice to have a name for! My friends tease me about these, they know if I see them that I will have to get at least one! They smell so good and are cooked over an open flame making the crust on the outside of these cakes crispy and on the edge of being burnt and the insides with beef, pork, or cheese….mmm, so good!

20. Din Tai Fung Dumplings - simply some of the best soup dumpling I have had in Taiwan...I mean, I had my birthday dinner at this place...that's saying something! ;)

21. Fish Ball Soup
 – This is hand and hand with the shaped fish paste…I’ve eaten it, it wasn’t terrible, but seriously, what’s with all the fish paste!

22. Ribs Stewed in Medicinal Herbs – I’ll be honest here, I’ve had some of these “medicinal herbs” they tasted like cleaning solution…I’m not sure I want to venture into a cleaning solution flavored meat.

23. Goose
 – quack, quack! The goose here isn’t bad, and the dark sauce they generally serve it with is wonderful. Best yet, it’s the closest looking thing to a taco that I’ve had in Taiwan! They use a really really thin dough to put the goose and sauce in and roll it up like a taco to eat…score!

24. Ding Bian Cuo  Can’t say I have, but might be worth a try! Ding Bian Cuo



25. Taiwanese Sausage with Sticky Rice - all the STINKING TIME....favorite!

26. Mochi - Oh Mochi how I love you! This sticky rice paste ball almost always comes with a surprise of red beans or sesame seeds inside and makes my tummy oh so happy!}

27. Lantern Soy Sauce Braised Food - Again, this isn't fair! It's a food stand specific food...I'm going to have to go on a hunt in Taipei for this guy!

28. Sun Cakes - Mmmm sun cakes! {yes we have both moon and sun cakes here!} The first time I tried one of these my school director went to Taichung for the weekend where these pastries originated and brought me back one and I was hooked. The pastry is so flaky and buttery while the inside is filled with a creamy type malted sugar...it's a must try!

29. Tube Rice Pudding - Yes! Thanks Mason for finally ordering this so I could try it. But alas, it's exactly how it sounds. It's just typical rice, packed into a bamboo tube and then steamed within that...nothing special in my opinion, but another one for the books!

30. Taiwanese Breakfast - I mean I've lived here for 8 months...of course I've had breakfast lol. This is a pretty broad category, but I'll give their breakfasts a thumbs up a vast majority of the time!

31. Pig's Blood Cake - You may recall the first time I tried this food here that I thought I was going to get sick to my stomach. Well I'm proud {I'm not sure if that's the right word here!} to say that I've purchased many of these in markets since that day and have grown to love this snack! It's essentially a really sticky rice mixed with pigs blood and soy sauce and covered in a spicy sauce, peanut powder, and cilantro...delicious! 

32. Three Cup Chicken - Oh yes, Dragon Boat practice took care of this one for me! After practices they would always feed us SUPER traditional Taiwanese foods and always insisted that I try everything...let's just say I had some interesting meals this way!

33. Tamsui Agei - This Japanese snack sounds a little iffy to me! Tofu, fish paste, and bean noodles...can't say I'v heard of this one either. 

34. Ban Tiao - I learned something new! I've just been calling these Hakka noodles, but whatever you want to call them, this fat rice noodles with meat sauce on top are quite tasty and the perfect stomach filler!

35 Hot Star Fried Chicken - Ok CNN, no more restaurants for me to go on a crazy duck hunt for!

36. Cuttlefish - Yeah cuttlefish, it's one of those foods that walking through the market if you've never seen this before you just HAVE to ask what it is! They look like a cross between a squid and an octopus and in my opinion are quite tough for seafood. I'd eat it again if  I had to, but I'm not seeking these out in my spare time either. 

37. Aiyu Jelly - tasteless gelatin ...pretty much sums this up! Taiwanese people love to put this in teas, juices, and sweet soups. Can't say weather I like it or not as it honestly has not flavor! Just a jelly texture that Taiwanese people love so much! {fun fact, they call this texture QQ and you'll see it everywere!}

38. Pidan Tofu / Century Egg - Yeah, been there, done that, no thanks! These eggs are, by my understanding, put raw in a mix of surfer and I'm not sure what else to age. They come out looking hard boiled-isk (as in you can tell the shell off and still have an egg shape). But, the white of the egg now looks like brown jello, and the yok of the egg is green...I kid you not. I tried to be optimistic, I even gave it three bites...no thanks I'm good on this one now! The white was much better than the yok which I couldn't even choke down, but I'd be fine if I never ate another one again!

39. Steamed Spring Roll - Holy moley yes! Think of a deep fried egg roll from the United States. Now don't deep fry it so it's still fresh and crunchy...now may I introduce you to spring rolls?!?! Oh, and the peanut powder inside is just the perfect final touch!

40. Spicy Hotpot - Hot pot, what would Taiwan be without you! You order your flavor (in this case spicy) and they bring you a small pot of spicy broth and place it on a burner at your table. Once the broth is boiling they bring you a plate of raw meats, veggies, tofus, and seafood items to cook in the broth. You can then eat it as a soup or over rice (how I prefer it) and everything is cooked to your liking!

41. Tiger-Striped Chicken Gua Bao - Another restaurant to hunt down! 

42. Chicken Wing Rice Roll - Although this chicken wing/rice combo sounds intriguing, I can't say I've come across this yet. 

43.  Giant Pork Balls Soup - Pork ball (of any size) is quite popular in Taiwan and I've sampled this soup both at school as well as night markets. To me it's nothing out of the ordinary, but it's nice on a cold day. 

44. Wu Pao Chun Bakery Bread - Now they've got a bakery for me to find!

45. Biandang - Bento boxes. I was in love with these guys when I moved here! For $1.50 USD I could get a box with a piece of meat 2-3 veggies and rice all just by pointing since I knew ZERO Chinese! Now these convenience boxes are just that, an easy meal, and I rarely have them anymore, but they are ok in a pinch!



GRAND TOTAL after 12 months in TAIWAN - 35/45 or 78%

Not too shabby Taiwan...not too shabby! {And this only leads me to believe that I need to return to finish my quest!}

{What snacks would you want to try?!}

2016 in Review

I was so tickled pink with how my 2015 Year in Review infographic turned out, that there were no hesitations to creating a 2016 year in Review to follow up with! {If you missed my 2015 year in review you can check it out HERE}

Oooh buddy, if I thought 2015 was a crazy year full of changes, I clearly had ZERO foresight as to what 2016 was going to bring my way! I started off the year with some of the most amazing fireworks I may ever see in my life, followed by Caitlin's visit and then my amazing 2 week trek through Cambodia and Thailand that was surely a trip of a lifetime. Later in the year I was visited by Mason and my mom along with competing in my first ever Dragon Boat Races! I capped off my Asian adventures with a week in each Japan and China and checked off a huge bucket list item by camping on the Great Wall of China {I still can't believe those pictures are really me up there!}

I made the difficult decision early in the summer that I was going to say goodbye to Taiwan and move back to the United States. This started my marathon application process to schools across the state of Ohio complete with 3am skype interviews and the ever revolving door of questions as to why I wanted to move back home {truthfully, I miss it more and more each day I'm home}. I eventually found myself a wonderful 2nd grade teaching position back here in Ohio and phase 2 of "welcome home" stated as I frantically began to look for a home and vehicle {sadly my scooter was unshippable!} to adjust back to life in America.

It's been one heck of a crazy year 2016, but I thank you for all you have given to me!