Saturday, August 6, 2011

Homage to Winter, Spring and Summer 2011

I (Linz) was talking to mom recently, and she informed me that people still read our blog and look for updates, so...I thought I would indulge those of you who still check with an update!! This has been a busy year for us. We have been involved with a church plant now for a year and Ryan is leading worship when he's here, which has been really great! Ryan has been jet-setting all over the world with his job and I've gotten to go to a couple of fun places myself. Ryan has been to Bangkok, Thailand - Angkor Wat, Cambodia - Baghdad, Iraq - Moscow, Russia - Sarajevo, Bosnia/Herzegovina and I've been to Miami, FL - Bangkok, Thailand. Most recently, we went on vacation to visit Ryan's sister Jennifer and and her bf TJ in CA and then went to Vegas. top it all off, we celebrated our five year anniversary!...does that mean we are getting old? :)

Let's start with Cambodia and Bangkok

Ryan took a weekend trip to Cambodia to visit the ancient temples.

Angkor Wat Temples in Cambodia - This temple was built in the 1100s as a religious center for Hinduism, but later became dedicated to Buddha.
This is Ta Prohm. The trees have used the temple walls to spread their roots, they are called silk cotton trees. Pretty awesome!

Things you should know about Thailand. You can't drink the water, Bangkok is a large, dirty city, the
Thai revere the Royal Family, the food is amazing, and it is hot hot hot. While I was there, it averaged 95 with 90% know what that means, right? It = not cute. Though my hair remained frizzy, face shiny, and clothes drenched with sweat, I had an amazing time in Bangkok and so did Ryan. We went at different times of the year. Ryan went back in February and I went in July. July is the beginning of the rainy season and like clockwork, it rained at 6pm every day. This is not your average drizzle either, it rained so hard that an umbrella was useless...the rain just poured through the umbrella. I have a new appreciation for Thai food as I ate Thai food for almost every meal for 2.5 weeks. It is spicier than I thought, but delicious! The Thai people are very petite on average. I felt like a blonde giant most often....and despite the fact that they have the cutest clothes I've ever seen, I could not wear them because of my large size. That's right, an XL shirt was merely a belly shirt on me. I bought tea instead :) My first attempt at bargaining, you bargain for goods in Thailand, was terrible. I was eyeing some magnets, so the little lady said, "100 baht" and I said, "how about 70 baht?" She got in my face and was saying something about how she was eating and how she needed to eat and something something that I couldn't understand. I looked at her with that, "I know you are not yelling at me in face look," and promptly walked away....I was so upset that I went and got a 1 hour massage for $10. You should also know that I saw those same magnets for 50 baht at the weekend market...maybe she was having a really bad day?

Royal Palace -Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Pho-Thailand's largest reclining Buddha
Temple of the Dawn
This temple is covered in mosaic tile and by far one of the most amazing things I saw in Thailand. As you can see from the picture on the left, the sky is a bit gray. Well, I was on a small boat sitting on the river , which was very icky, when I took this photo. The boat was rocking fiercely and I was certain we weren't going to make it across and I was going to be thrown into this river and contract all kinds of weird diseases...but that did not happen and we made it across! Phew!

The Bridge over the River Kwai
This is the famous bridge from WWII that POWs from ally forces and US troops repaired. They lived in grass huts and wore sack clothes. Had little to eat, and many young POWs died while here from disease and living conditions.

It's a Jungle out there!
Ryan and I both went to Chonburi and went zip lining through the jungle and it was amazing!! The course is so high, that you can't even see the ground! The longest stretch was 300m long and buddy did I scream - exciting and terrifying all at the same time. As the only girl in the group, they thought it appropriate to pick on me. One of their practical jokes resulted in my getting stuck in the middle...just dangling on a wire in the middle of the jungle...meh! The best part was watching one of our guides monkey it across the wire and retrieve me...very impressive! I only saw one monkey and lots of very poisonous spiders! They were giant! Their legs actually had meat on them....I'm glad we didn't get too close.
ELEPHANTS and Waterfalls!
I went on an elephant ride, and I've discovered that I just should not ride animals. Every time I do...I cry, so maybe my lot in life is not riding any type of animal...regardless of whether or not they are part of the working class of animals. I later found out that the Thais do not approve of these elephant "farms," and I thought I was going to a nature park where you adopt an elephant- you know feed and water it, learn how to take care of it...instead I went to an elephant makes me sad that I contributed to something so terrible. I did tell the travel office that they should not send people there...
If you look closely, you'll see that I'm wearing a lovely hat. It was made by the elephant handler from leaves and flowers...very cute, yes? I must say that the best part was feeding the elephant bananas and visiting with the babies! Possibly one of the cutest things I've ever seen.

After we visited the elephants, we went to Erawan Falls. We did a little hiking up the waterfall and then swam with those fish that kiss you. Now, I was terrified to jump in until a 13-yr-old jumped in...then I didn't want to look like a big sissy and I jumped in. These fish do like to say "hello," and some of them were over a foot long, which was scary, but I did it!!!

I will close out Bangkok with this picture. This girl had rigged a bicycle to be a squid cart. Yes, those little pink things you see hanging from the metal contraption on the side are dried whole squids...they smell horrid! But they were sold everywhere! Deeeelicious...

Ryan visited Moscow and quite an adventure!

Tsar Bell in the broke

Tsar Cannon within the Kremlin

Crazy bird lady in front of Russian State "Lenin" Library

The Bolshoi Theatre, famous for ballets and operas. Went to an opera here...understood nothing.

Statue of Peter the Great (this thing is HUGE...standing 165 feet tall)
Entrance to Gorky Park

Red Square (little known fact, it is called red square because the word for red in Russian is "krasnaya," which also means beautiful. when it was named Red Square it was for the beauty of St. Basil's cathedral. So it has absolutely nothing to do with communism)

The Kremlin

St. Basil's

Cathedral of Christ the Savior

Tank during Victory Day parade in Moscow to celebrate victory in WWII (In soviet Russia, tank drives you!)

Small communist boy with Russian flag during V-Day parade
Lubyanka, former HQS of the KGB

BELGRADE Next stop on Ryan's big adventure was an unexpected trip to Belgrade...

Random bombed building in Belgrade, where I was stuck when traveling from Moscow to Sarajevo. Too long of a story to write here, but it was no fun...


Old Town in Sarajevo

these are known as "Sarajevo Roses," concrete stars created by mortar shells during the Bosnian War. they were later filled in with the red resin to symbolize the deaths cause by the mortars.

eternal flame in Sarajevo, memorial to the Bosnian victims of WWII

Latin Bridge in Sarajevo, where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated to start WWI

typical mosque in Sarajevo


I went to Miami for two weeks to get some training from another admin down there. A really great opportunity! My first week I was inland, but my second week, I stayed on Miami Beach and it was heaven. Every day after work, I would just sit on the beach and enjoy the sunset. One weekend my new friend Vanessa went with me to Key Largo. We went snorkeling in the middle of the ocean. I did see barracudas, which got very close to me, but thankfully that had no interest in eating me! I have never snorkeled and Ryan tried to get me to go on our honeymoon, but after that British guy yelled out sea snake! (poisonous btw) I couldn't work up the nerve...until Miami. The water was so clear and beautiful. If you look at the pic, you can see the ocean floor 50 ft below. The reefs were purple and lime green and the fish were every color and size. If you stay still, a whole school of fish will swim right up to you and make you part of their clan....really amazing. Unfortunately, there were thousands of baby jelly fish, so I did get stung quite a bit...totally worth it though!After our adventure, we sat on a patio at Sundowners, watched the sunset, ate fresh seafood, sipped Mai Thais and enjoyed live music.

Monterey Bay
Vacation to the West Coast

We visited Jennifer and TJ in LA, and we all rented a car and drove up Route 1 to San Francisco. The drive up the coast was beautiful. We winded along the coastline with views of cliffs dropping off into the ocean. We stopped in Monterey, which seems to be the resting place for very rich retired folks on the west coast. The fisherman's wharf is lined with with restaurants all claiming to have the best clam chowder. The best part was that each restaurant let you try a sample of their chowder for free.
Route 1
Big seal dude
We visited the Randolph Hearst Castle, but didn't do the tour. It is basically a really humongous house that a whole town could live in, with 200,00 acres of land. Hearst was a famous newspaper mogul who ended up owning 28 newspapers in his lifetime, and Mark Twain was one his writers! Near his home is a seal nesting place, so we went there and saw this big guy! He was giant!

Smaller, less threatening female seals
While in Monterey, we drove on the famous 17-mile drive. The PGA plays on the golf course we drove along side. Here you will see pebble beach, bird sanctuaries and the famous lone cypress.
Pebble Beach

Us and the lone cypress tree....


On to San Francisco
I could live here...the city is small and clean and the row houses are really beautiful and I couldn't stop singing the Full House theme song in my head...i did not torture everyone by singing it the whole time, though secretly I wanted to scream it out! Thankfully at one point, Jennifer had to sing it out loud, which made me happy.
We rented go carts one day and drove around the city for a few hours. The navigation in these things was messed up, so both carts went on interesting, stressful side routes. Most notably, we did not die while driving these things surrounded by regular sized vehicles. Chloe did not like the go carts :( and neither did Jennifer and TJ...they had a super slow cart and their navigation lady took them on a wild goose chase, but thankfully they made it back to the cart place safely.

There she is! The Golden Gate Bridge!
TJ at AT&T park,lift from the legs!

Ryan and I visited Alcatraz, and it was really cool. The buildings are falling apart, because of the harsh weather conditions, but it was amazing to step back into time. It was a guided tour, so we got to hear about the guys that escaped or attempted escape and the lives of the officers and their families that lived on the island. It was amazing to visit the cells occupied by the infamous Al Capone.
Typical inmate cell
The view of the city from Alcatraz is the best. It is a really beautiful cityscape.

After our adventures in the city, we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods. Within Muir woods is a small forest of redwood trees. These guys are huge!! They live for something like 800 years and for every 10,000 seeds, only one tree grows. I thought for sure a dinosaur was going to pop out! I have never seen anything like this. I just stared with mouth and eyes wide open for an hour. It was really beautiful.


Lion Habitat at MGM
We went on the Vegas for the second half of our vacation. We visited the casinos, ate at some buffets, saw a show and slept in late every day! ahhhhhhh.....vacation. It was 104 degrees and the sun sizzled your skin when you walked outside. We stayed in the Venetian-that's the one with the Gondolas. Our hotel was amazing, we really didn't need to leave, bc everything was there that we could ever want. Our hotel had the funny old lady perfume smell though...i'm guessing it's the cleaner or air freshener they use...but it smelled like icky old lady perfume....Ryan didn't notice....Oh! and Ryan won $200! I won nothing...turns out I'm bad luck in a casino. The only reason I say that is Ryan won his $ when I was running back to the room for something or in the bathroom...I don't mind though! I'm glad we left in the positive. We were overwhelmed for most of our Vegas vacation. There are so many things to see, people everywhere, hundreds of places to was just overwhelming, but we had a great time!
Bellagio Fountains
Eiffel Tower

The Venetian!