Sunday, June 28, 2009
I can't believe today is your gotcha' day. It's already been a year since we first saw you at the Stray Rescue adoption event at Four Muddy Paws. I remember you sitting there calmly with your loving foster mom and thinking how big you were. I remember taking you for a walk around Lafayette Square and not believing how well you walked on a leash. I remember Jason and I excitedly, but nervously, making the decision to bring you home for rent-a-pet. I remember going into Four Muddy Paws and buying you some things for the weekend. Little did I know how much money I'd be spending there over the next year!
When you came home you showed no interest in the birds. I think from that moment on, we knew you had found your forever home. We put you in your crate that first night and you didn't make a peep. You cried on the second night and Jason slept on the floor next to you you. On the third night, you slept on your bed in our room. Seven months later you slept in bed with us. But even if you come into the bedroom during the night, you always rest your head in front of me and ask permission to sleep in bed.
I judged every reaction from every passerby because of the way you look. I have been pleasantly surprised, disgusted, and amused by people's reactions to you. Most people comment on your large head, the way you feel like a rock beneath their hands, or your beautiful coat. Some people ask if you bite, if they can breed their female to you, or if they can buy one of your puppies. You have changed so many people's minds about your breed. I never thought I'd hear my mom say, "I wish a pitbull would win Best in Show."
My favorite part of the day is when you greet me when I get home. Your excitement is even more special because you are otherwise so mellow. I love the way you run to your bed when you get your nightly Greenie. I love the way you let out your long sighs. I love the way you lay on your back and kick your legs up in the air. I love that you are a fantastic playmate to every dog you meet. I love the way you sleep curled up in the space behind my bent knees and rest your head on my legs. I love your pink nose, your deep chest, and your soulful eyes.
Thank you for bringing nothing but happiness into my life. Thank you for bringing Jason and me closer. Thank you for making me smile no matter what my mood is. Thank you for not eating Monty and Lola. Thank you for all the fun we've had on our long daily walks; whether it's in the snow, into the Central West End, or into the creeks in the park, I always have something to tell Jason when we get home. Thank you for being lazy and letting us sleep in on the weekends. Thank you for being so awesome that we can take you with us to places with big crowds. Thank you for healing my broken heart after my dad died. I hope we have returned some of the love and joy that you bring us. I can't wait for the day when we live in a house and you have your own yard and maybe even a canine friend to share it with. I hope we have many more gotcha' days to celebrate in the future. I love you.
Levi and me: 6/28/08
Levi and me: 6/26/09:
Friday, June 26, 2009
I promise that I have a VERY happy post in store on Sunday (and no, I'm not pregnant-that would be a terrifying post)
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
For the first part of the adventure, we strapped on our headlamps and took a short hike to the entrance of St. Herman's cave.
Sunlight coming through at the entrance of the cave, which is at the bottom of an 180ft wide sinkhole:
Looking down at the entrance to the cave:
Looking back at the entrance from inside the cave, which was used by the Maya during the classical period (0-900). The Maya carved out those steps, which have since been recovered. The entire trek through the cave is about a mile.
Water ran alongside the path for the first part of the hike:
The first part of the hike was pretty flat, but that would soon change!
Here are some pictures of some of the cool rock formations:
This was our first technical climb. The guide told us people sometimes turn back here (which is why they always have two guides), but everyone in our group made it up.
We had to go up one at a time. Here I am waiting for my turn. Even though it was relatively cool in the cave, we were all absolutely dripping with sweat by the end.
Off I go!
That was fun!
This gives you an idea of how dark it was in there without the camera flash:
I was a little worried about freaking out in some of the tight spaces, but I did okay. In some of the areas you just had to get down on your butt and hold onto rocks, or even get on your knees to slither through tight places. We don't have pictures of all these things because we had to protect the camera. I'd rather fall on my face than fall on that camera!
Here is a very glamorous shot of us in the "heart" formation:
Here are some of the Mayan artifacts left over from the classical period. You can still see the red paint of some of them:
Nearing the end:
The exit of the cave was nothing short of spectacular. I mean, it looked fake because it was just so beautiful. It looked like something out of "The Lord of the Rings." Thanks to our little Joby, Jason managed to get some photos that hopefully convey the beauty of the scene:
We had another hike to get back to the van. We saw some trecherous trees:
Some beautiful foliage:
Ate some cohune palm nuts that may or may not have contributed to some intestinal unrest that night and next day:
And were happy to be in such a beautiful place:
We drove about two miles to have lunch. Let me say something about Hamansi and the food. They pack you lunch if you are going to be away all day at an adventure. And lunch isn't just some sandwich thrown together with chips. Oh no. Every day was something different-rice and beans, homemade johnny cakes with fresh tomatoes, lunchmeat, fried chicken, potato salad, coleslaw. And since I don't eat meat, they would ask me every night at dinner what I wanted to eat the next day and I would get my special meal (I had a burrito every day because it was delicious and easy). Even on the whale shark dive when we had to eat lunch in the boat. Since Hamansi is dedicated to the environment, they even use cloth napkins, real plates, silverware and cups. The cups are for the cooler of freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice. And I musn't forget about the cookies. Every day a different kind and all homemade. Wonderful. Here is the lunch set-up on this particular day:
After lunch we took a chilly dip in the blue hole, which is actually a sinkhole that formed when an underground river channel collapsed. It's about 25ft deep and quite refreshing after our hot hike through the cave.
Isn't it gorgeous?
And then we drove back to Hamansi for happy hour, pool time, dinner, and bed. Another beautiful day in Belize. If you're dying to see more (ha!), you can check out the sets in Flickr.
Here is the cave set, the blue hole set, the getting there set, and the underwater set. My only caveat is that I haven't had the chance to go through and label and tag every photo yet. Organization is so time consuming!
p.s. I hate you blogger for putting in unwanted spaces and then I have to go back and fix them all. Grrr.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
- Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean
- They congregate at Gladden Spit around the full moon in Mar-June when cubera snapper are spawning
- They can get up to 60ft
- They can live over 100 years
- They have been recorded to dive to depths of over 3000ft
- They are attracted to the bubbles from divers because the bubbles somewhat resemble spawn
And here were some of the rules and strategies for the dive:
- Since the sharks are attracted to bubbles, divemasters would bleed air from below us to simulate spawning
- If we didn't see any within 15min, we would get in a circle and just breathe to make bubbles in one spot
- Max. dive depth is 80ft because going deeper disturbs the snapper
- You're not allowed within 10ft of the sharks and aren't allowed to touch or ride them (seriously, who would do that?)
- The dive takes place in open ocean-no reef to orient you and you often can't see the bottom; you're merely surrounded by blue water
- To conserve air, we were encouraged to hang around 40-60ft (the deeper you are, the faster you use your air) and then if one is spotted, you can swim deeper to see it
Sadly, the housing for our rented underwater camera flooded as soon as we descended. Jason took every precaution while assembling it and even tested it in the bucket on the boat and it was fine. To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement. Here we are, with our once-in-a lifetime opportunity and all we had to remember it by was our crappy disposable camera. Thank goodness the memory card with photos from the first day was intact, but we did have to pony up even more bucks to help the dive shop replace it. What a bummer.
I admit that I was really scared during the first whale shark dive. The prospect of being in open ocean made me very nervous. I definitely breathed faster than normal! It is pretty crazy to just be in the middle of the ocean like that. There were times that you could see the bottom, over 100ft down, but some of the time you couldn't see anything but water. It was surreal to see divers at all different depths around you and I entertained myself by grabbing large bubbles from divers down below. Sometimes you could see the snapper below you. It was spectacular-thousands of snapper congregating, doing turns and flips-a virtual river of them as far as the eye can see. Jason saw some bull sharks, but I admit that I didn't. Probably for the best! It was pretty murky down when trying to see down that deep.
And then it happened-our first shark. Holy crap, was it enormous! I think the biggest ones we saw were around 35ft. You would hear the divemaster clink his tank and then you would look around to see where to go. Then you basically swim like hell to find it. Even though the sharks move slowly, they're still a lot faster than you! I think we saw about three on the first dive and I was much more at ease by the end of it. I was so happy to have seen just one, but to see three was pretty amazing!
We did our surface interval right on the boat in calmer water where we could eat lunch and snorkel a bit. On our way back for round two, we saw another shark under the surface. Incredible! And what a round two it was!
We saw about four more on the second dive. And, as I'm looking at one down below, a freaking DOLPHIN appears. A dolphin! Talk about icing on the cake! What's the underwater hand signal for, "I don't know what to look at-the whale shark or the dolphin!" Then, as Jason is looking at one down below, I see one swimming right at us. It was priceless to look at his face when I grabbed him and pointed to the approaching shark. We descended a bit and the spectacular creature swam RIGHT OVER OUR HEADS! In all his amazement, Jason didn't even snap a pic with the disposable, but oh well. There comes a time when you just have to enjoy the moment rather than try to document everything. Mr. dolphin appeared again and we followed him toward the surface until he swam away. Wow, wow, wow.
Here is the only shot we got with our disposable camera:
Here is the worst picture ever of the dolphin, but it's a freaking dolphin!
Here are a couple of the divers all around, something you don't normally see:
Here are a few more videos taken by another diver from our group.
This one really gives you a sense of their massive size:
This video shows how beautiful their spots are:
Finally, here is my dolphin friend!
Seeing whale sharks on Tuesday was even more exciting because it was our two-year wedding anniversary. I knew Jason had something up his sleeve for a dinner surprise. We were seated at our table where we found the champagne flutes from our engagement night and our wedding at the table. There's a long story behind the flutes, but just know for now that they are very special to me and that it was a fantastic surprise that he carried them down without me knowing. The gracious staff at Hamansi also decorated the table with flowers.
Here we are at dinner:
Jason also surprised me by having three black and white prints made by our photographer from our wedding. We don't have any wedding photos up at home, so it will be great to be able to finally display some. One of those prints is a favorite of my dad and me. It was unexpected and made me cry, but I am so grateful to have memories of that day.
Here I am with my present (which he even wrapped!)
And my handsome husband:
The set-up, complete with flowers and our champagne flutes:
And our delicious brownie and ice cream dessert:
Seriously, what more could you ask for on an anniversary? Vacation in a beatiful setting, whale sharks, a dolphin, gorgeous photos from the best day of your life, a thoughtful husband, and chocolate!
Next up: heading back to land for a cave and jungle adventure...