Thursday, November 28, 2013

TWO PLACES AT ONCE!

I love walking across borders. 

It reminds be of A Walk To Remember when Jamie & Landon go to and straddle the state line in order to be in "two places at one time". On road trips, McCray and I always yell "TWO PLACES AT ONCE" as we're passing the "Welcome to __(insert state name here)__" sign. 


Well ladies and gentlemen, there's nothing like a country border crossing to make you feel like yelling,
  "TWO PLACES AT ONCE!"


       Last weekend, we traveled down to Boca Del Toro in Panama. This antique bridge is where you cross the Costa Rican/Panama border. Ashley looks so cool and trendy in her bridge walking picture, but really we were freaking out a tad bit. The bridge floor boards definitely felt a little too old and a little too loose for our comfort…But hey there I am, smack dab in the middle of CR & Panama.

How to cross from CR to Panama:

1. Stand in line, get your passport stamped by Costa Rica/turn in customs form.
2. Walk across the antique railroad bridge.
3. Go pay your border tax- $3, listen to some Miley Cyrus blasting from somewhere down the road while you're waiting!
4. Go stand in line again, get your passport stamped by Panama.
5. Smile, because you have a brand spanking new Visa. Way to go, champ.

(To return to CR, do these in reverse. Except keep #5 at #5. Trust me, it doesn't work any other way.)

That red & white build on the left = where you pay your tax.



After crossing the border, you should probably head to Bocas Del Toro, because really, you've never seen water clear blue like this. 

When we got there, we rented bikes for $5 each and rode around town to see what we could find!










And after that fun afternoon, we took a boat taxi to Aqua Lounge- where we jumped off swings into the ocean!


  We even met one guy who helped design the place. How cool is that job?


Ashley taking the plunge...
Bocas Del Toro- Isla Colon
(from across the water)

There have been so many days in my life when I have wished I could be in two places at once, especially this past year. 

At least this was one of those days that I could say that I had been.






Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Oh dear, Reggae Night.

Our trip to Panama was so relaxing & stress-free. Instead of taking the public bus & boats, etc to Panama, we ended up taking a 2 night backpackers tour through a company called Caribe. I couldn't have been happier with that choice! 


Our tour picked us up Friday morning on the Carribean coast of Costa Rica at a beach near the border (that I have visited a few times) called Puerto Viejo. 

Playa Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Thursday night we stayed in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica before heading to Bocas Del Toro, Panama in the morning. We decided to stay at a cute little hostel called "The Lazy Loft" above a really chill restaurant on the beach. 


Playa Puerto Viejo de Talamanca



The owner mentioned to us that it was Reggae night with free drinks for the ladies 10-12. So, when the Reggae music started up, we weren't surprised. At 11, we crawled  into bed, all packed up for our 7AM morning departure, resting assured that the music outside our window would stop in a mere hour. 
Boy were we wrong.

Live music at "The Lazy Mon"




















3 hours later, the music had turned from a chill reggae ballad to a bumpin reggae-techno disco mix. The volume had also increased to the extent that when I told Ashley I was going to move to another room- I had to yell. Literally this party was on the other side of our glass sliding door. Finally at about 3:30AM (or was it 4? Either way, I was in an unhappy sleepy stupor) we moved down the hall to an empty room and received some muted relief from the happening reggae party a floor below. It's pretty laughable looking back on it now, to be honest.. to think of how badly we underestimated the owner's nonchalant mention of a "oh yeah and tonight's reggae night". All I can say now is BEWARE OF REGGAE NIGHT!

Next up- recap of crossing the Costa Rica/Panama border & heading to Bocas Del Toro! 




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

#WWCHALLENGE- Vote Now!


McCray and I are in the Top 100 Finalists (of 2,300+ entires) for the Wedding Wire Instacouple Challenge!

PLEASE go and VOTE for us now! Make sure you scroll for a bit cause we're #57!

http://mktg.weddingwire.com/contests/instacouple



Here's the picture & the story that got us into the top 100...



 McCray & Lauren! We fell into summer love as camp counselors at a camp in Dahlonega, GA. Our romance blossomed through  secret letters passed back and forth throughout the weeks. Some time after that, I found myself back in that same precious mountain town, a ring newly on my finger and a dilemma in my hands. I had just been offered the job of my dreams: a year long teaching position in #CostaRica. I opted for the adventure and we have been pursuing one another across the ocean through letters & postcards once again. A year later, and two months from our wedding, I can proudly say that McCray has supported and loved me wholeheartedly every day of our long distance #engagement. We have grown immensely during this season and I wouldn't trade our story with any other in the world! 

***UPDATE 12/16/13: We didn't win first place, but we DID end in the Top 10, which won us a $100 Apple Gift Card! Thanks for all of your help, we were honored by your support!!!***





Sunday, November 24, 2013

Panama-nia: sneak peek!

Just got home to Costa Rica from our 4 day trek down south(east) to our neighbor, Panama! I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to add another stamp to my passport before heading home so we decided to venture to Bocas del Toro. 

The bus driver drove like a maniac on the way home tonight so we made the trip in 1 1/2 hrs less than expected. A little shaken from the fear of driving over a few cliffs here & there, but thoroughly pleased to be back in my cozy bungalow. 

I am too excited about the wonderful adventure that we had so before I crash, I'm going to give you a sneak peek (it's all I have the energy for!). 

It. Was. Just. Lovely

These are no filter, no edit- too tired for that. You're getting the real thing.

Panama/Costa Rica BORDER CROSSING!
Yes, literally this bridge is how you cross the border. 
clear blue.
Riding bikes around town!

The most wonderful sailboat tour.


just beautiful. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day Tripping.

A few months ago, I started helping lead a Young Adult Bible Study at my church every Sunday morning. This has been such an incredible blessing! Naturally, however, this has limited my weekend travels a little bit.

I feel that have become less of a tourist this semester and taken advantage of that fact that my time in Costa Rica is actually real life, not just a vacation. Saturdays have become a serene and Holy time where I recharge with the Lord and just rest.


Two weeks ago, Ashley and I took a day trip to the closest beach and enjoyed the ocean, ice cream, & reading under the hot sun.



Last week, I explored a nearby town, Belen, just because. It was so pleasant just to walk around the town and to watch what life is really like here. Fresh markets in the morning, families porch sitting, kids playing soccer on the nearby field, parents getting ice-cream with their kids after the game. I think that is one of the coolest things about spending an extended period of time in a foreign country, noticing the details-- really, truly experiencing it.

I am so turned off by the falseness of tourism sometimes. They take something that was pure and beautiful and turn it into show with a souvenir shop at the end. I want to see what is real and authentic- notice the details and really experience it.

Recently, I started a new book that I discovered in the church library called "Good Morning, Holy Spirit" by Benny Hinn and I have just been getting rocked by it!  The Holy Spirit is real and powerful wants to connect me to The Father and The Son in ways that I cannot do alone… This is something I know, but this book has been showing it to me in a whole new light. 

The book says:
"The Holy Spirit is the power of God. He is the power of the father and the Son. He is the one who brings into action the performance of the Son.Yet He is a person. He has emotions…I cannot be in touch with the Father and the Son without the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:18)." 

Your salvation in Jesus will transform you as a person. 
But the Spirit will tremendously transform your Christian walk. 


I don't want a walk of faith that is all for show- one that is made up of great facades & cheap souvenirs. 
Holy Spirit, I long to know you intimately and personally.


 I want to see what is real and authentic- notice the details in my faith and really,
intentionally experience it.




Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ending October the right way!

As October quickly came to a close last week, here are a few of the fun things that I did to end the month with a bang!

Another fun activity that made my kids more excited for Language Arts than they ever have been before--


Touchy-Feely, Creepy-Crawly, Halloween Boxes:


You guessed it, I made boxes of some of the grossest, creepiest Halloween things around. 
After giving the secret things in boxes a good feel, the kids had to use as many adjectives that they could find to describe what they felt. 
It was a great way to get them enthusiastically writing!


I'll let you in on the secret ingredients:

1. Bat Bones: pretzels
2. Worms: spaghetti & oil
3. Lizard Lips: sugar coated gum drops
4. Witch Toes: mini (and very "warty") pickles
5. Brains: scrambled eggs 
6. Zombie Tongues: canned, sliced, mushrooms




(yes this is from the same child who wrote a math word problem
about boogers earlier in the year…)

Then we got to enjoy a few adorable, healthy Halloween snacks for our class celebration.

Banana Ghosts! (with chocolate chip faces)

Mandarin Orange Pumpkins


And not to be out done by my students, I made sure to dress up for the occasion as well. 
Ok, ok, let's be real. I LOVE to dress up. 
Halloween is just a good excuse to do it!

Scuba diving with my shark counterpart:

The whole suit.

I hope that you had the fabulous October that I had & Happy November!!!