28 September 2011

We only lost one person in the rainforest

After another sea day (backgammon, bingo, and blackjack), we finally reached Costa Rica! I've been wanting to go there for quite some time, so I was particularly excited. Then I saw the size of the bus. Remember the bus from Guatemala? Well, this one managed to have even smaller seats. I had to turn sideways and duck down to get through the aisle. And somehow, it was more comfortable than the Guatemalan bus. Go figure.

Upon our arrival, we were immediately attacked by strange bugs. Thankfully, the one person who remembered bug spray was willing to share, or there might have been a riot.

Here's a question: should people who are afraid of heights go zip lining? I'd say no, but clearly that thought never crossed the mind of half our group. A few even started freaking out just climbing up to the first observation platform. 

I was the last to climb up to the first platform and zip across. By the time I arrived, backwards I might add, there were seven or eight people hugging the tree for dear life.

Granted, the platforms were all of eighteen inches wide, but we were all clipped in. Also, I had to wait until I was firmly on the ground to take that picture, since Matt refused to take his gloves off and get the camera out of my CamelBak while we were up there.

The employee on the right in the picture below, Oscar, was always the last to go.

Once he landed on the platform, the employee already there would move on and he'd hook the remaining explorers onto the lines. His English vocabulary was limited to giving zip line instructions, but I managed to have a semi-decent conversation with him in Spanish! Matt may have helped me a bit, and Oscar may have limited himself to words I was likely to know, but it still counts.

There were over twenty people in our group, so we were already running almost an hour behind schedule when everyone was safely on the ground. We were herded back into the bus almost immediately, where it was discovered that someone was missing. After recounting us twice, the tour leader got on his radio to see if anyone knew where the missing guy was. None of the other employees knew, so he was declared to have been eaten by tigers and we headed off. There were two other tour groups from our ship after ours, so if he wasn't eaten, he could ride back with them.

As I mentioned before, we were already running behind schedule. Just to make things worse, there was some sort of parade going on. 

We spent a good fifteen minutes behind a sea of people walking the street until the driver passed them. Over a double yellow line. Going up hill. With oncoming traffic. But we survived!

That was nothing compared to the u-turn the driver made when we finally arrived at the pier. He drove all the way down to the ship, at which point the pier is approximately twenty-five feet wide. The ends of the bus were definitely hanging off the edges. One of the old ladies who experienced heart palpitations from the heights actually cried out. But once again, we survived!

What happened to the missing guy? I'll let you know as soon as we find out. Stay tuned!

27 September 2011

Guatemala hates us

When we first boarded, we only bought tickets for the shore excursions that looked interesting. There was nothing of particular interest in Puerto Quetzal, so we decided to do our own thing. The night prior to our arrival, just before dinner on Day 6, I asked the internets what to do. The internets just laughed. Not even tripadvisor.com had a single activity. Uh-oh.

Clearly it was time to sign up for a shore excursion. Any would do. Actually, that wasn't true. Any that left after 9:00 would do; no one in their right mind wakes up for a 7:30 tour of a coffee farm on vacation. With that in mind, we bought the last two tickets for a self-guided tour of Antigua. In other words, we bought bus tickets.

I can only assume that this bus was designed to make airplane seats appear roomy by comparison. There was, and I kid you not, barely eight inches between my seat and the one in front. Just in case that wasn't painful enough, the bus came with a tour guide instead of air conditioning. About twenty minutes into the ninety minute ride, a fellow passenger asked if the a/c could be turned up. The guide said that wasn't necessary as we'd soon be arriving in the mountains. Let's just say that the increase in altitude did not convert the sauna into a palatable environment.

For most of the journey, there wasn't anything of value to point out. That didn't stop the guide from yapping, each sentence punctuated with "you know" at random intervals. Clearly he didn't know.

Having studied a map during the ride, we immediately headed towards Museo de Armas de Santiago, home to weapons used by the Spanish and Mayans during the conquest. When we arrived at the location indicated on the map, we found the wrong museum. However, we planned on visiting the Museo del Libro Antiguo, so we went inside. It was going to close in fifteen minutes for a two hour lunch, so we elected to do the same.

After lunch and ice cream in freshly made waffle cones, we still had an hour and a half before the museum reopened. Since we'd be coming back anyway, we headed towards Casa del Tejido Antiguo. Big mistake. The light drizzle turned into a major downpour. Neither of us thought to bring our rain gear when disembarked under sunny skies and into the humid port.

The rain didn't stop us, and we made it to the museum. A nice, big padlock indicated that we wouldn't be going inside any time soon. And there were absolutely no signs indicating when that might change. Fine. On to the artisan market.

Just our luck, the market was outside, with bootleg DVDs and t-shirts as far as the eye could see. Clearly they have a different definition of artisan and we high-tailed back to the cafe to wait.

We discussed the prolific security guards everywhere while waiting out the rain. All of them had pistols, but many had pump-action shotguns as well. The one in the cafe had one sticking out the top of the back of his jacket. A debate ensued on how effectively he could pull it, but neither of us wanted to test our theories.

At 2:00, I practically pushed Matt out the door and into the now-open book museum. He knows some Spanish, but the desk clerk pretended to not understand Matt's questions about payment. The guard was nicer and told us that they only accepted Quetzales.

We returned to the museum after a quick trip next door to BAM, Banco Argomercantil, to exchange some money. Even though I handed him a 100 Quetzal note, he purposely ignored my outstretched hand to give Matt the change. I demoted him from asshat to douche-nozzle. 

Once inside, I was rather disappointed. The only book of interest was a first edition of Don Quixote. Even worse, the 1660s printing press was made in 1974 from the archived plans for the original.

I inadvertently discovered the weapons museum soon after we left. It had been misplaced down the street, but that wasn't a big a deal. The sign saying that it was going to close starting on March 22nd for renovation was.

By then it had finally stopped raining, so we headed back to the bus stop/market via the jade museum. We wandered around the small market, looking at trinkets, until it was time to play sardines again.

While the bus ride back was equally uncomfortable, it was marginally more bearable due to the active volcano just waiting to be photographed. I was more than happy to oblige, but not nearly as happy as I was to take a long, hot shower as soon as we got back on the boat.

Nothing good is ever named Hillary

Due to the Puerto Vallarta diversion, we found ourselves facing two days in a row at sea with a tiny little class five hurricane named Hillary. In other words, two thousand people stuck inside a wobbly ship instead of outside working on their carcinomas. But at least there was bingo!

Sea days come with two doses of bingo. The morning game is only one card, but you have to fill the entire card. And, of course, there are raffles, drinks, and contests to see who has the most great-grandchildren. There are also surprises for those who are adventurous enough to wakeup before eleven while on vacation. For Day 5, everyone in attendance received a pass to visit the navigation bridge later in the cruise. For Day 6, everyone received a free bingo card for the afternoon. I also won a beach tote bag in a raffle, though I am more excited about getting to see the navigation bridge. I'd prefer the battle bridge, but, hey, maybe I'll get to steer!

Aside from bingo, Day 5 was mostly spent reading. Matt had this crazy idea that he should buy another book online, as he had already finished two books. I nearly fell over laughing, but he went to the wireless area to try his luck. He was gone for awhile, so I thought he had succeeded in his mission. Nope! Apparently the nook store let him make a purchase and download, just to taunt him with a licensing issue when he opened the book. Gee, I'm shocked.

Day 6 was a bit more interesting, as the weather cleared up we finally made it to the pools. Matt wore his sandals, but I didn't want to get my new ones wet. By the time we found a single empty deck chair, the soles of my feet had moved past lightly seared. I dropped my towel and sprinted to the pool, while Matt looked bewildered at my sudden departure. I was too busy yelling "OWWWIIIEEEEE," to properly explain my singed epidermis.

After Matt's slightly more poised arrival, I discovered that the pool was filled with salt water! How did I discover this? With my very own eyes. And what does one need to wipe salt water out of ones eyes? Why, the dry towel that can only be accessed via ten meters of the scorching hot deck!

Having decided that we've been tortured enough by the supposed amenities, we soon went inside to get dressed for tea. Champagne high tea, that is. In other words, we had pastries for lunch.

Since I had no intention of going anywhere near the evil pool and its cohorts, we went straight to $5 blackjack. I have never seen so many people stand on soft seventeen in my life, and it was by no means the worst thing we saw. My favorite part was a lecture on splitting from a guy who  later hit on his 15 versus dealer 6. He quickly lost his money. We, on the other hand, walked away with over $200 profit.

26 September 2011

Mexico, now with fewer tourist abductions!

The ship was supposed to dock in Acapulco on Day 5, but that plan was scrapped. Apparently someone had determined that if guests were kidnapped by violent drug gangs, then there would be fewer people to buy Brilliant Tanzanite, On Sale for 40% Off MSRP! Instead, we would be spending Day 4 in Puerto Vallarta.

We had tickets to swim with dolphins for the second half of the day, so we spent the first half wandering around downtown Puerto Vallarta. Everyone there tried to sell us something, usually overpriced jewelry or tequila. Having practiced ignoring such proprietors in New York, we had no problem disregarding their one day sales.

We were less successful at disregarding the heat and humidity, so we did the only logical thing: Mexican Starbucks! 

I managed to order the wrong thing, so we were forced to make a second stop: Mexican McDonald's! 

After laughing at various menu options, namely the McNifico, I enjoyed a Coke chica, made with actual sugar, while Matt had a McFlurry, made with actual preservatives. Clearly I made the better choice.

Half the maps provided by the cruise ship were covered in ads for Diamonds International. We summarily ignored them at the first port, but curiosity, or perhaps a coupon for a free charm bracelet, finally got the better of me. I walked in knowing that it was going to be some sort of trap, so I was not surprised when they started trying to sell me things. For five dollars, I could get a punch card good for a free charm at practically every port in North America. I decided what the hell, knowing that it would make a good gift for someone.

A salesman kept trying to convince us to take a look around, perhaps at the Alexandrite? What? You've never heard of Alexandrite? That's because it's so rare that no more mines exist in the world. This is the last of the jewelry that will ever be made of it! Duly noted, we're leaving, toodle-loo. I strongly suspect that if I had been wearing my engagement ring, we never would have been allowed to leave.

After such a wonderful shopping experience, I was more than ready to swim with the dolphins. Our group of six had two dolphins, Luna and Jashuy (there is a slim chance that I spelled her name correctly). They were incredibly friendly and loved belly rubs. In fact, they were basically wet puppies with fewer legs. We danced with them, fed them, and even received dolphin kisses. But the best parts were the dolphin rides.

I was surprised how easily they were able to tow us, as well as how fast. Also, their skin was incredibly smooth. I expected that they would have cilia, or some sort of fine hairs, like other mammals. However, we were both shocked at their picture prices. Not even our waterproof camera was allowed near the dolphins, but their helpful photographers were on hand to capture magical memories! And for the merely exorbitant price of $139, we were welcome to take home as many pictures as we wanted on CD. Yay!

Home of the taco

Day 3 brought us to our first port of call, Cabo San Lucas. Having never actually stepped foot in Mexico, I was quite excited to remedy that problem. But first a different problem had to be overcome: tenders!

The silly port was no where deep enough for the giant cruise ship to get anywhere near the dock, so it dropped anchor in the open water. Tenders, also known as lifeboats under more disastrous circumstances, were lowered and filled with tourists eager to spend money at Señor Frog's. The water was disagreeably choppy, which severely slowed down the loading process.

Eventually we, and the rest of our tour group, made it onto dryish land. I say dryish because it was horribly humid. Just to make things worse, the bus barely had any air circulation. Not cool, in every sense of the word.

I was glad to be out of the slow cooker, despite the sun beating down. We had bought tickets for a 4x4 tour along the beach and in the desert. I was picturing something a little more ATV-ish, but the Honda Big Reds were fine with me. With my left arm still lacking in the strength department, I was willing to let Matt stay in charge of the non-power steering wheel.

The tour was a lot of fun, and I even managed a few amazing pictures. One of the cars in front of us was clearly under the command of a complete moron who was determined to flip his vehicle, but they survived with nary a scratch, much to my disappointment.

Since our intended lunch time turned into tender waiting time, we were starving by the time we got back to the port. I decided it was taco time. Matt was smart enough to agree. I briefly considered Señor Frog's, as we had to walk past it to get to the dock, but I couldn't bring myself to go near the dancing waiters. Instead, I chose a slightly less cheesy tourist restaurant.

The tacos were not amazing, but they were in Mexico. And that made the meal worth it.

While we were still in port, I made another call to the eternal hold line run by Barnes & Noble. This time I used Matt's cell phone, which was slightly cheaper. The disturbingly chipper female on the other end helpfully explained that trying purchases again was not a bug, but a feature. I failed to care as long as she could fix the existing orders. Sadly, she had to individually fix each order, and the whole process was manual. In other words, it was not a short call. Before she could finish the process, the call dropped.

After much swearing like a sailor, in which Matt joined me, we used some more of our closely guarded intartubes to redownload our books, this time with useful licenses for most of them. One of Matt's books refused to correct itself, whether on the tablet or nook. I can only assume that it was lost in the ocean, perhaps being eaten by a lobster.

After much prodding, Matt couldn't find a more logical explanation for the missing license and was forced to agree with my theory. My missing book, on the other hand, fell victim to a worse fate. A fate known as NOT FREAKING RELEASED YET! Yes, that's right, no where did the damn nook store mention this little detail when I bought the book. It was declared to be a successful purchase just like all the others. 

When we return to Los Angeles, I am going to have some serious words with Barnes & Noble. They will be remedying this situation if they know what's good for them. At least we have the majority of our books, for now.

24 September 2011

Of dots and doom

Things got interesting on the second day, our first full day of sailing, starting with a war against Barnes & Noble. We had downloaded books directly to our nook before leaving. Nearly ten books in all, and each purchase was confirmed as having been completed. It wasn't until we were on the ship and attempted to read the aforementioned books did we discover that whoever designed the system should be shot.

Each new book was lacking in the license category. But then why did the damn nook say that the purchase and download was complete after each checkout? Because it is retarded, of course! Apparently if there is an issue charging the credit card on file, it still appears as having gone through on the nook until you try to open the book. Meanwhile, they send you an email saying that there was an issue with the card, and that if you do not contact them, they will automatically try again after seven days. Therefore, if you didn't realize that you had used a now deprecated credit card because CitiBank decided to change your card number again (which is a different rant), you are shit out of luck.

Having already paid an exorbitant amount to get online long enough to discovered the emails, we were particularly happy with what we turned up next. Entering a new credit card number online was not sufficient; I was expected to call their standard help line. From a cruise ship. For $7.99 a minute. Well, fuck.

After some deliberation, we decided that two weeks on a ship without reading materials would result in Bad Things, I placed the horrific call. After five minutes on hold, I hung up and swore profusely. There were only so many times I could here the "we will be with you as soon as we help the eighty-seven people in front of you" message before homicidal rage took over. Luckily Matt had the presence of mind to distract me, and we found ourselves playing bingo.

I must say, bingo is surprisingly fun. However, the desire to misuse the bingo daubers is overwhelming; I wanted to put green dots on everything, starting with Matt's forehead. I didn't win, nor did I sufficiently polkadot the world. But I did stop threatening to exsanguinate the product manager who decided to get rid of error messages.

I'm on a boat

After the whole wedding thing, Matt and I drove down to San Diego to stow away on a cruise ship. Despite leaving from the rental car place over an hour late, we found ourselves at the dock with plenty of time to spare. So much time, in fact, that we dropped off our luggage at the dock, returned the rental car, and walked all the way from the rental car lot back to the dock.

Despite increasing Matt's increasing frustration, I insisted on taking pictures of everything. I even got a few nice shots of airplanes taking off and landing, as we were right next to San Diego Airport.

Since the boat only has a pathetic satellite internet connection for which I'm charged per minute, this is the only picture you will get for now:

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Upon arrival at the dock, we played a riveting game of wait in line. There was a line to get into the dock. A line to check passports. A line to go through security. A line to check in and get room keys. The last line wasn't bad at all, but that was because we, as the proud occupants of what is jokingly called a suite, were entitled to skip it.

Upon reaching our "suite", we met both our butler and maid while waiting for our luggage to be delivered. My suitcase was smart enough to arrive soon after we did, but Matt was forced to wait quite some time. In fact, his suitcase wasn't delivered until well after we left port. But delivered it was, and he did not go to dinner naked.

Nothing of particular interest occurred the first night, as we were both too tired to sufficiently care about whatever activities were offered.

23 September 2011

An important family tradition continues

The rabbi showed up, so we figured what the hell, let's get married. And then we did. The end. That's not enough detail? Well, there was music, alcohol, a band, more alcohol, and the peasants rejoiced. Oh, and my bustle broke about thirty-seven seconds after our grand entrance as woman and husband. However, mine lasted ever so slightly longer than my mom's did at her wedding, so I consider that to be a victory. Still not enough details? Well, tough. The internet can wait for pictures until I am no longer on a cruise ship and paying forty-eight cents a minute for access. Besides, I'm sure my myriad of minions have posted a disgusting number of pictures on Facebook and tagged me accordingly.

05 September 2011

A Man's Best Friend

We spent Labor Day in El Paso de Robles. There was wine tasting, kayaking, an awful BBQ restaurant, and a classic car show. Oh, and Zero made a new friend.

03 September 2011

I'm still not green

I spent Wednesday night worrying about my arm falling off due to the mysterious radiation-induced rash. I even called my parents to ask them if my arm was dying. They said no.

Thursday morning, I awoke to a much improved situation. The rash had faded from bright red, though it was still visible if you looked. The worst part? Still no super powers. If comic books taught me anything, it's that I am the only person in the history of mankind to have an allergic reaction to a RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPE and not get any super powers.

Moving on, the Herceptin nurse examined my arm before plunging yet another IV into my veins. She said that it was nothing to worry about. Having a medically-qualified opinion, I finally decided to believe everyone that amputation was not going to be necessary.

After receiving a mere one-week dose of Herceptin, it was time to run to the next doctor, Dr. Radiologist. Dr. Radiologist is a radiation oncologist, whose job it is to plan out the dosing of boobular radiation. I decided that I liked him when he said that I wouldn't have to get any medical tattoos. However, my high opinion decreased when I found out that the tattoos would be replaced with dots THREE DAYS BEFORE MY WEDDING. Not cool. Oh, and we'll be starting the fun two days after we return from the Panama Canal.

In case that wasn't the best news ever, he also mentioned radiation causes cancer in about one in every thousand cases. But I shouldn't worry because the odds are in my favor. After not only getting cancer, but heterogenous breast cancer at age 27, saying that the odds are in my favor does nothing to make me feel better.

One interesting thing that should be mentioned. Apparently radiation oncologist cannot be licensed to operate the radiation machines. They are restricted to merely calculating dosing and planning courses of treatment.

Two down, one doctor to go. My final stop of the day was Dr. Dentist. After three weeks of the final Invsalign tray (number seventeen, not that I was counting or anything), it was time to take the little nubs off and make impressions for a retainer.

While Matt didn't have a choice for his retainer, I was given an entire booklet of colors to choose from. After much debate, I settled on chrome glitter, because it seemed Googley. And I had no other basis for choosing between the glitter colors.

I was uncomfortable while Dr. Dentist sanded the nubs off of my teeth, but it wasn't so bad. What truly sucked was making the mold for my upper teeth. The mold goop has to cover the entire palate, which made me gag severely. Have you ever puked while there is a giant mold in your mouth? Let's just say I don't recommend it. Oh, and of course the first mold wasn't good enough, so they had to do it again.

I nearly forgot about the ants! While the dental assistant was preparing the second mold, I noticed an invading army of ants descending upon the equipment that was to go in my mouth. Unlike certain coworkers, I will not voluntarily put ants in my mouth. Thankfully, the assistant agreed that the ants needed to go.

Three is the maximum safe number of doctors to see in one day, and Matt was more than willing to drive me directly home afterwards. The end.