Panama

This last month has been exhausting. There’s been a lot of traveling, a lot of stress, and a lot of heartbreak. There’s also been a lot of joy and hope, so let’s start with the first story and make our way through the rest later.

The weekend after our Bach party (as in 3 days later) we flew to Panama for a friend’s wedding in a remote location off the coast called Bocas del Toro. My father’s side of the family all still lives in Panama City, so imagine my surprise when I ended up being the first in my entire family to visit Bocas. I’m such a world traveler.

On the flight from Atlanta to Panama, we got upgraded to First Class and holy shit I don’t think I can ever go back to being a regular citizen. That was legit. AAAAAANND I totally forgot that my friends’ gelato company, Honeysuckle, is now served on first class flights on Delta, so that was definitely fun and filled me with pride at how cool my friends are.

We sat next to two gentlemen that were THE definition of the odd couple, talking extremely loudly, making each other laugh, and just genuinely becoming friends. It was a much older white man who was super overserved with wine (as we all were) and a SUPER tall black man who, as we learned later on the flight, used to play for the Atlanta Braves in the 70s and was roommates with Dale Murphy. How cool is that??

My cousin picked us up from the airport and drove us to our hotel around 9:30p, which gave us just enough time to shower and fall asleep only to get up at 5 am to make our flight to Bocas. We got into the cab, told the driver Albrook Airport, and took off.

About 30 minutes later, I had the feeling that something wasn’t right. I had purposefully picked our hotel because it was only 15 minutes from the Albrook airport, so I signaled to Timmy to tell our driver, and lo and behold, we were one exit away from the WRONG AIRPORT. So we turned around and proceeded to take one of the most dangerous drives back in order to hopefully make our flight.

I had neglected to tell Timmy about driving in Central and Latin America. It’s really fun when you think about it: lane markers are really just suggestions, traffic lights are there for funsies, pedestrians get dropped off on the side of the highway, including school children, and the emergency lane is really for when you want to go faster. Timmy, bless his heart, almost had a heart attack.

And I just laughed quietly to myself.

We ended up making our flight by about 20 minutes. Thank god it was a small airport and not the international one, because we would’ve been screwed. And I had amped myself up to have a good ole, knock down drag out fight about payment since the driver was the one who messed up, but he charged us fairly and all was good.

We landed in Bocas after about a 45 minute flight and wow. What a cool freaking town. It’s laid back (think: not rich and glamorous resort living), friendly, and cheap. We stay on Isla Colon, the main island, which was about a 15 minute water taxi ride away from Bastimentos, where Jasmin and Todd were getting married. Our hotel was ADORABLE and definitely worth it.

We immediately found OUR spot, a teeny little bar restaurant with a surf/dive shop in the back. This town is clearly a surfer’s town, as everyone was unkempt, sun bleached, and suuuuuuuper laid back (read: high). This place served the BEST FISH TACOS EVER. No, I’m not kidding. They were amazing, and we went back again before we left for a repeat meal.

hell yes

The day of the wedding, we decided to take a day trip to Starfish Beach. We took a $35 cab about 30 minutes through the jungle to the other side of Colon. This was not a fun ride. The streets are “paved” and very very very hilly. It’s a miracle I didn’t get sick.

From our drop off spot, we took a water taxi about 5 minutes to the beach and OMG. This place. Unbelievable. It’s called Starfish Beach because there are starfish EVERYWHERE. You’re not allowed to pick them up but you can touch them underwater. It was just so cool.

We were pretty hungry when we got there but knew that the wedding was a few hours away, so we decided to split a meal at one of the little restaurant/shacks on the beach. There were only about 100 people on this remote beach, with a few spots to get food and drinks. We had brought the beer (which was like 85 cents for pretty delicious beer) and ordered a lobster with creole sauce from a dude who spoke perfect English. Then the coolness started.

We were told to go pick our lobster. Here we are thinking, “Oh from a tank. Cool.” Nope. FROM THE WATER.

Then we’re told to take a seat. Here we are thinking, “Ok, one of these tables.” Nope. THE TABLE IN THE WATER.

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Then he brings out the food. Here we are thinking, “This will probably be pretty good.” Nope. THE BEST LOBSTER I’VE EVER HAD.

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We clearly highly recommend checking this place out.

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The only time we were taken advantage for being tourists was on the water taxi over to Bastimentos to the Red Frog Beach Resort for the wedding. We didn’t get an itinerary in our gift bag, so I was going by the wedding website which said the wedding started at 4:30p. Knowing how long it takes Timmy to get ready (AGES), I said 4, so he’d be ready on time. We boarded the water taxi, paid the driver, and headed out.

First, he lied and said English was his first language even though it clearly wasn’t. Then, we stopped for gas (without telling us first) and asked for more money (which we didn’t give him). Then he dropped us off at the wrong dock at the island even though there were only 2 and I clearly didn’t know which one we were supposed to go to (side note: the resort is the only thing on that island. He clearly should’ve known). Thankfully, he was still close enough to come back and pick us up because at this point, Timmy and I didn’t have any more cash for a new water taxi. Silently and clearly disgruntled, he drove us to the other marina and HAD THE NERVE to tell me it was because my Spanish was so bad that he didn’t know where he was going.

F*%k You, sir. Clearly, you’re an idiot.

Finally we end up getting to the resort, which then entailed a golf cart ride to the actual wedding location, and by the time we arrived, it was 4:17. On time, right? Wrong! Apparently the wedding had been moved up to 4p, so we were late. AND YOU ALL KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT BEING LATE.

The Bride and her bridesmaids were already at the top of the stairs and I can’t even explain how bad that feels. We did it once before for a wedding in Beaufort, SC where the church was surrounded by 25 other churches and we got super confused as to which one we were supposed to go to. We ended up running into the church right before the bride, and I do mean, RIGHT before the bride and I’ve never felt so bad in my life.

Cue a second time doing this in Panama. We apologized profusely and explain what our taxi driver did (which apparently happened to a few people at the wedding too), and ran down the stairs only to be seated about 4 minutes before the wedding started.

Whew.

After the ceremony, they served fresh coconuts and I drank that sucker down in record time. We made our way over to the cocktail hour which was in a really cute hut overlooking a spectacular view.

And it was also in direct sunlight with no fans. I’m not going to lie, I don’t think I saw anyone use napkins for anything other than wiping off the profuse amount of sweat torentially downpouring from every inch of skin. Welcome to life on the equator. Thank god we were all wearing white.

The party moved back to the ceremony site where we ate, danced, and caught up with old friends. I heard someone say that I was Todd’s oldest friend present at the wedding, which just made my heart warm. I’ve known that dude since 1st grade, and he’s been solid ever since.

We were able to get back to our hotel much later that night so Timmy could shower. And then in the morning he showered again. And then he showered after breakfast. He took 5 showers in 18 hours. I’ve never laughed so hard at someone being unable to control their bodily perspiration. Did you realize that knees and ankles can sweat?

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We made it back to Panama City where my cousin took us on a whirlwind driving tour of Panama. I hadn’t been back to Panama in over a decade, since my Abuelita’s funeral, and holy shit, this city is insane. It looks like Dubai. The entire downtown looked NOTHING like that the few times I came to visit when I was younger. It’s really incredible.

We got dropped off at our amazingly beautiful Marriott for a quick snooze and another shower for Timmy, and then we were ready to meet the family for dinner. We went to a restaurant in Casco Viejo, which is the oldest part of Panama that they’ve beautifully restored. It looks a lot like Viejo San Juan, with its cobbled streets, white walls, and beautiful architecture and plazas. This was Timmy’s opportunity to meet nearly all of my dad’s side of the family, and I was so happy we were able to fit in a quick visit. It’s been so long since I’ve seen them, and it was so so so fun. And Timmy was a HUGE hit (when isn’t he, really). All in all, it was a fantastic but too quick 4 days.

Thanks and congratulations again to Jasmin and Todd! You gave us a reason to come to Panama to celebrate your love. We both couldn’t believe how gorgeous Jasmin looked (not that it was surprising since she’s already beautiful), I mean really stunning, and Todd couldn’t have been more happy to have all his friends and family in one place. We love you guys! Panama, we’ll be back, don’t you worry.

♥, VB

 

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Sick of Sickness

Remember how I started that last post with “Life has been pretty great lately”? HAHAHAHAThat ended quickly.

I’ve been sick as hell the last week, with a cold, loss of voice, and then pinkeye. How’s that for the most awesome week ever??

Why can’t I just get a normal cold like everyone else? Anytime I get sick, I get really sick. It’s no fun, especially when you live by yourself and have to take care of Floyd. It’s times like these when I miss my overbearing caretaker named Timmy (overbearing at times because he super takes care of me, even to the point of “No I don’t need soup/massage/blanket/food/drink/bath/anything! Just silence!”) (and yes I’m aware that he’s amazing for even offering those things, so don’t think I’m not grateful. I am; sometimes you just need quiet when you’re sick.)

The wedding two weekends ago was really interesting. It was in Atlanta in a location I have NEVER heard of, let alone seen but it was beautiful. It would’ve been more gorgeous had it not been raining and 60 degrees, but hey you can’t win them all.

Timmy’s neighborhood gang was all there, including a few older alums from our high school. We actually made it out to a bar afterwards like normal young people do, and got to catch up with my favorite Lyndsay. I cried when I saw her. That’s how much I missed her. All in all, it was a blast.

The wedding last weekend in St. Simon’s was amazing, and like I said before, I was determined to have a good time. And that lasted until about 9:30p at Saturday night’s shindig. I was over it. No voice. Coughing like crazy. Trying to hold conversations over a live band playing. Yea, no. It wasn’t happening.

But the weekend was seriously a blast. I got to meet Timmy’s newest nephew, Stewart a.k.a. Mr. Chins, and hang out with his sister which was so fun. We squeezed in a little beach time (and yea, east coast beaches CANNOT beat gulf coast. Not on any grading scale) and just laughed and laughed. It was a wonderful weekend, and I only wish I hadn’t been sidelined with this stupid sickness.

A week later and my voice still isn’t fully back. That blows. Although this weekend I have online classes for my Michigan program, so that should keep me quiet for another few days. Sucks that I have a full day of class on my 31st birthday this Sunday, but hey, I think I did 30 pretty good. I can sit this one out if need be.

Enjoy the photos and imagine a raspy, squeaky, cracking voice narrating them. Or not. That sounds terrible actually.

 

♥, VB

 

Life Lately, According to my iPhone

Life has been pretty great lately. After all the traveling, things slowed down a bit, and I’m able to think clearly again. It’s so very nice.

We had a wedding last weekend in Atlanta which was a blast, and we have another wedding this weekend, which should be so so so fun. I have come down with a cold (thanks to the lady who was coughing up her lungs without covering her mouth on the plane last weekend…you suck), but I don’t care, I’m having fun this weekend no matter what.

Last weekend, we got a chance to visit with Matt after his first week of chemo, and I was so glad to be able to see him. After hearing about his stage 1 diagnosis, my mind was telling me “Yay! That’s good news as far as cancer is concerned.” But my heart was broken. Hearing this news so soon after Jake’s passing, I just don’t know how to describe the sadness I feel. And knowing about his chemo treatments, 5 days a week, 6 hours each day, one week on, two weeks off, 4 rounds…god, that’s going to be so rough on him and his family. I’ve been thinking about them nonstop, crying most mornings and fighting complete mental breakdown some days.

We also got to visit with Jake’s parents last weekend, and man, that was fun. Timmy had them dying laughing at some amazing Barbara stories. If only for 30 minutes, I’m glad we got them to laugh.

A few weekends ago, Timmy planned the best weekend in Lake Mary. We drove super fast cars at the Orlando Grand Prix where I was the only chick on the course and everyone was driving poorly (as in running into me and others. It’s not bumper cars…no wonder, since they were all dudes). We went to the Central Florida Zoo and were surprised at how sad zoos are once you’re an adult. The animals trapped in cages, unable to move very far…you don’t see that at all when you’re a child. And the weekend before that, we enjoyed a lovely day at Pass-A-Grille beach in St. Pete. God I love living here.

Here’s what life has been like the last month or so. Enjoy.

♥, VB

What Joy Looks Like

This was us at the end of November 2012. The end of our wedding year (no use of the word season can apply to what we go through).

end of weddings 2012

This was us last weekend in Key Largo, FL. The end of our 2013 wedding year.

end of weddings 2013Sensing a pattern?

We love everyone who got married this year and last. It was a blessing to be a part of your day, and it was even more special to catch up with our loved ones who we haven’t seen because we live so far away now. Thank you for wanting to include us, we appreciate every invite we received, even if we couldn’t make it to some.

Now that we’re done with weddings, now it’s time for our real fun shit to get underway! This weekend we head to New Orleans! I’ve never been and I’m so excited to go, I may throw up. Any recommendations for awesomeness in NOLA?

After that, it’s time for vacations and more vacations! For those interested, it’s time for Timmy and I to start working on our holiday cards this year. I promise, it will live up to everything you think it will be. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll do a post closer to the end of the year and fill you in on a secret: Timmy and I are the masters at holiday cards. We OWN them.

♥, VB

P.S. Thank you to all our veterans! We support and thank you as we honor Veterans Day on Monday!

Life Lately (According to my iPhone)

What have we been doing lately? Do you really even need to ask anymore? I’ll give you one guess.

Here’s what my iPhone says we’ve been doing the last month or so. Enjoy!

Austin and Reina’s wedding. You can see a few pictures from the “60 Minutes” video the groomsmen created for Austin, a.k.a. Mr. Monogamy. It was hysterical. And take note of the paper cranes. Reina did them ALL BY HAND. Giiiirrrrrrrllll, that’s patience. Notice that we also take many dumb photos together while at weddings.

Trips back home to Atlanta always include a visit to one of our many favorite restaurants. While in town for Austin and Reina’s wedding, we stuffed our faces at Flip Burger Boutique. Go there. Just do it. Just don’t add the donut vodka to the Krispy Kreme Milkshake. Blech. (And yes, that does say Krispy Kreme milkshake. I told you to go there.) I also wore really cute shoes, introduced Austin to obesity in Orlando, saw some weird sky things happening, and saw what nice businesses do for people who can’t work.

Another wedding two weekends ago, this time Gino and Jessica, two of our closest friends. Jessica and I are life twins, which means that everything that has ever happened to one of us has absolutely happened to the other. It’s hysterical and creepy all at the same time. You’ll remember that this is also the amazing lady whose bachelorette party pictures I can never share with the outside world. Naughty. It was such a freaking fun night, and it’s always a blessing to see people who love each other make it official in front of people who love them. Congrats you guys, we love you.

This past week I burned my forehead and my nose (AGAIN) because it was Fall Wellness Week at USFSP. Everyday we held events outside to encourage students to seek out health and wellness resources, make healthy decisions, and raise awareness for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Thursday’s Clothesline Project was an extremely powerful and emotional event where we displayed shirts created by survivors and families of victims of abuse, sexual assault, rape, and incest. Each shirt had a personal message to display on a large scale a very silent epidemic.

Oh yeah, and I also cut the shit out of my hair. Time to welcome back the old Victoria, short hair and all. I made it to my goal of growing my hair out until it longer did anything except lie on my head like soggy paper towels. 8.5 inches later, I’m a new/return-to-the-old woman!

Thanks for stopping by. As you’ve probably guessed, we have another wedding this upcoming weekend, followed by another wedding next weekend. Lord be with me and my credit cards.

♥, VB