Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NEPAL

Where do I even begin? You can only describe a place half way around the world so well; to really understand it you just have to go there. But, I will do my best to paint a picture of the experience for you.

Kathmandu

The capital of Nepal is absolutely huge, colorful, poluted and BUSY! We got out as soon as we could. A taxi driver (who earned commission) drove us to a Guest House where we paid $20 for a room and quickly organized the trek with Shankar, a representive of Swan Valley Trekking. We got a package that included meals, lodging, a guide, a porter, bus tickets and our permits. We left for the trail the next day.


Our Crew

Our guide, Jivan, and porter, Rom, are neighbors from Ghorka, Nepal. Jivan spoke pretty decent English while Rom remained the silent strong type. Jivan was social and taught us card tricks and games. Rom sat beside us giving Brad pointers on which cards to throw down. Jivan lead the expedition setting the pace. Rom took up the back carrying his load. Jivan and Rom both ate Dal Bhat always with glasses of "mountain medicine," or local wine (kinda like Saki). And of course there was Katie, Brad and myself. Katie and Brad kept everyone laughing. I recorded the trip with a detailed journal and photographs.


The Bus Ride

video

We loaded up on a colorful bus titled 'DVD Coach' and we puzzled over the concept of a TV in this short fully loaded animated shuttle. But sure enough, they played a Nepali movie that included lots of Indian style singing and a dramatic story of a forbidden love, or at least that's what we gathered from their actions. The bus was public and so we stopped often to load up and drop off while all our bags were tied down on the roof. I really had no worries about theft, even when passengers were riding on the roof. People are pretty respectful in this country. So we endured 7 hours of potholes, cramped quarters, a crazy driver who passed cars no matter what, and LOUD Nepali music. And everyone honks musical horns while passing, adding to the music of the trip. We all had a laugh when Katie got splashed with muddy road water jumping up from a puddle when another bus passed us.

The Trek

Click on link to see map of the Annapurna Circuit



Ngadi (930m/3,050ft)

Our 1st stop on the trek came a bit early due to Brad contracting some sort of illness that kept him throwing up until the next day when he started to feel better. We think it was food related, but it was just a one day bug. It was Jivan's birthday and so we celebrated with Everest beer, card games and a Snickers bar.








The Jungle

We continued trekking alongside a river in lush greenery. Waterfalls poured out from all over and my legs broke out in pimples due to the humidity. Whatever lodges we stayed in Jivan always led us right to our rooms and ordered tea and snacks for us. Having a guide took a lot of stressful decision making out of the equation. We ran into donkey trains carrying loads of supplies and porters making thier way in flip flops with a strap over their foreheads to carry their own loads. We crossed lots of bridges as we slowly climbed our way to higher grounds and got little peeks of some big snow covered peaks.


Chame (2670m/8757ft)

As the headquarters of the region, Chame was full of modern luxuries such as a Western toliet attached to our bedroom, hot showers and Internet. We were able to connect with our families to say we were doing fine. The weather is getting a bit chillier.





Pisang (3240m/10,627)
The days are getting shorter due to acclimazation and our surroundings are looking more like Tahoe with dryer air and more pine trees. We witnessed a man here who burst in the door at dinner coughing and disoriented. The next morning we found out he died from Pulminary Edema. He didn't have insurance for a helicopter evacuation and didn't descend enough to cure his symptoms. Serious stuff here in the mts, and we all hiked on with a little more respect for the place.


Manang (3540m/11,611ft)

We are well into the mountains here and every view is breathtaking. Glaciers and avalanches bombard the tall peaks and the sun shines brightly off of them. There is a bakery here that we took full advantage of and we did a little day hike to help acclimate. We also attended a talk on altitude sickness and its effects at a free clinic, which was helpful even though Jivan knows it all anyway. But we were all feeling good thus far.



Gunsang (3900m/12,792ft)

What a cool little place equipped with a few rooms, a rooftop deck of the incredible Annapurna Range, and a whole wheel of Yak cheese to flavor our food. We really enjoyed the 2 hour hike to this place where we continued to acclimate.


Thorung Phedi (4420m/14,498ft)

Literally translated "foot of the mountain," this was our last stop before the pass. It was cold and began snowing that night. It was at this lodge where I really felt like we were on a mt expedition. There was a sense of anticipation in the air as we looked around at the two sorts of people there: porters who wore simple clothes vs mountaineers who wore solid gear. We ate a lot of carbs and played a lot of cards before curling up in our sleeping bags ignoring mice scampering underneath our beds.


The Pass (5415m/17,761ft)

We awoke at 3:30am, ate breakfast, turned on our headlamps and started up the switchbacks with a line of headlights behind us and in front. It was completely dark save for the stars in the clear black sky. As dawn approached you could just barely make out the outline of the mountains as the light started to reflect off the snow. We kept going UPUPUP and it was cold.




But how could you complain when your hands were cold with gloves on while Rom simply shoved his hands in his pockets to stay warm? We stopped for tea part way up and took in the views. There was a man outside with a donkey looking for weaker hikers to pay him a fortune for a mule ride to the top. We continued on foot.


No one had altitude sickness symptoms, but my body had slowed down quite a bit and I took it very slowly. Brad wrote a message in the snow to encourage me. Then the top came into view and Rom was there to give us high fives as we put our packs down to take congratulatory photos. And yes, there was a tea shack at the top. Then we started the decent, which was long, slippery and hard. But we were happy the pass was over. WE DID IT!


Muktinath (3710m/12,168ft)

I took a shower and we spent the morning exploring the temple, which is a sort of Mecca for the people of Nepal. Prayer flags flew everywhere within these closed grounds as the leaves yellowed above the flowing creeks. It was a beautiful area with lots of bells that when rung bring prayers to the sky.


Kagbeni (2800m/9184ft)

This is where I celebrated my birthday in another fine lodge with a bathroom attached to our room. Katie and Brad got me a treat as a gift: Pringles! And we started ordering bottles of Everest early to celebrate. We taught Jivan some drinking games, including Kings Cup and Screw the Dealer. He really got a kick out of the games and we all laughed when we tryed to explain the 'Busta Rhyme' rule in Kings Cup. We told Jivan to just pick any word at all and Katie would have to rhyme with it and it would continue around the circle. So he looks at Katie and says, "Water." Katie's smile faded as she tried to think of a word to rhyme, but couldn't, so she drank. A pretty clever guide =)


Then a woman from the kitchen brought out a chocolate cake much to my surprise! She wrapped a Yak shawl around me and everyone sang. I blew out the candles and we passed a piece of cake to everyone in the room. What a wonderful way to turn 27.


Kotapani (2530m/8,298ft)

We had a long day of hiking to Katopani and none of us were really sure why. There were places to stop along the way, but Jivan wanted to keep going. We joked that he had a girlfriend waiting for him. To cut off some time from the trail, we decided to ford a river flowing with glacial water. It was such a cold long process of wading barefoot through the river that it would have been faster to have gone around! Oh well. Our feet were tired that night and we ate a huge delicious meal of Dal Bhat...the best so far.

Tatopani (1190m/3,903ft)

Hot Springs! We talked Jivan into staying 2 nights here, and if he said no we threatened to drug his mountain medicine =) Americans like to rest! But we relaxed near the hot springs for 2 days here as we were ahead of schedule.


Ghorepani via Poon Hill (2750/9,020ft)

Ugh Poon Hill. UPUPUPUP all in one day. I had a harder time climbing these endless stone steps than going over the pass! The next morning we summited Poon Hill at sunrise to watch Mother Nature show her radiant morning colors against a backdrop of the highest mountains in the world.


To Pokhara

We had 3 extra days and so were going to cut into the Annapurna Sanctuary, but as we started to head up more stone stairs, Katie's chest started hurting and it was hard for her to take deep breaths. We stopped to assess the situation and I told her, "Katie, if you want to turn around and go down, I'm totally ok with that." And so was Brad. We were all a little burnt out on the trek and so we decided to make our way to Pokhara to rest for 5 days.

And so we trekked 300 km or 184 miles over a 17,761 foot pass through the Himalayas. It was stunning, tiring, adventurous and fun.


Pokhara (884m/2,900ft)

We killed time in Pokhara, the 2nd largest city in Nepal but not nearly as crazy because the tourist section is located near a large calm lake. We spent our time rowing in it, hiking to the Peace Pagoda, eating Banana Choc Chip cake, shopping and riding bikes to museums. I came down with some sort of diarhea/stomach cramp thing, but took some antibiotics and felt better. Then we got on a bus back to Kathmandu.


Kathmandu (again)

Jivan was there to greet us as we stepped off the bus. He insisted we stay at his place with his 2 cousins. They rented 2 rooms below their landlord about a 10 min walk from Thamel, the tourist district. We were the only tourists in his neighborhood. They had 3 beds and insisted that Katie, Brad and I take 2 of them. They shared the other and 1 slept on the floor. They made Dal Bhat and breakfast for us everyday and wouldn't let us give them a cent. They took us out to the Nepali bars, which was a unique scene of dancing and singing. Again, we were the only tourists in their bars. We picked up last minute souvineers, saw a whole lotta temples, including a monkey temple, which is exactly what it sounds like, and an area where families cremate their dead and send them down a river.

I can't believe the experiences we had while in Nepal and the hospitality we were shown. I would reccommend a trip there in a heartbeat. I've included a few more tidbits below from the trip. ENJOY!


Moods of the SteriPen

We used a nifty device called the Steripen to purify our water. We filled our bottles from a local water source and then waved the magic Steripen UV light wand in the water for 90 seconds per liter of water. It scrambles the DNA of bacteria, so you're still drinking them, but they are unable to reproduce to make you sick. If the process is successful, the Steripen gives you a :) If something went wrong, it :( At altitude, it gets finiky and often :( much to our dismay, but Jivan :) and fills our bottles with boiling water. After the pass, the Steripen was back to its old self, smiling away after liters of water were purified. It was an easy and reliable process.


Typical Meals for the Day:
Breakfast: fried egg + chipati (flat bread) OR apple porridge, tea
Snack: apple or banana, tea
Lunch: fried noodles, tea
Snack: popcorn or french fries, tea
Dinner: Dal Bhat*, tea

*DAL BHAT- the staple food of every Nepali that can be found EVERYWHERE
1. a heaping pile of rice
2. lentil soup
3. curried vegetables
4. pickled radishes
5. curried chicken (only at dinner)

How to Eat:
First, you pour the lentil soup over the rice, then with your right hand (never never never your left because that's what you clean your bum with after the bathroom) you take the curry and mash up the potatoes into the rice and mix in the veggies. They you put a scoop of the mixture into your hand and use your thumb to shovel it all into your mouth. Add in the delicious chicken at intervals and eat the pickled radishes last if they aren't too spicy. You can always ask for more of everything, but you never waste anything on your plate. It really is a delicious dish!!!


The Art of the Squat Toliet

Many of you may cringe at the thought of not being able to sit on a 'throne' while going to the bathroom, but I must say the Squat Toliet is very effective. After arriving in Nepal I was very afraid of being stopped up due to the grossness of a sloppy toliet you hold yourself over. I imagined straining my leg muscles over a poop covered floor to go, but in reality it wasn't that bad. First of all, there was usually a porcelin toliet placed in the floor and once you get into that natural squat position, it all comes out. And eventually, the stinky outhouse smell stops bothering you. I don't know why we sit on toliets at all reading a magazine waiting for the drop. With a Squat Toliet, you squat and then you're done...it's easy! Then you pour buckets of water down the hole until gravity works its magic.


Tips on making your squat toliet experience enjoyable:

1. Roll up your pants

2. Bring your own TP

3. Aim correctly

4. Relax and have fun with the experience =)


Religion

Hinduism and Buddhism are ever prevalent in Nepal and often you can't tell the difference between the two. Posters of Buddha and Vishnu are hung next to each other in lodges, Monasteries and Temples are built right next to each other. Prayer flags are everywhere and I'm still unsure exactly which religion they serve, so I assume both. Most people wear the tika, or red dot on the forehead and Hindu sadhus and Buddhist monks are often roaming the streets. Both religions offer a lot of color and traditions. I asked Jivan which religion he practices, to which he responded Buddhism, but his Facebook page says he's Hindu. Nepal is one country we can learn from as far as religious tolerance goes: religions meld into daily life without a sense of competition and with complete adaptation.


Other Tid Bits

1. No public displays of affection (Katie and Brad!)

2. Dogs are everywhere and don't belong to anyone

3. Don't open your mouth in the shower

4. Jivan's cell phone works everywhere except over the pass

5. The best place to dry anything is on the roof


And now for the sentimental side: my last journal entry. Most blogs spill out its creator's inner thoughts, so I guess I will do that just this one time. Hope it's not overkill =)


November 6, 2009 TRUCKEE
I am home in Truckee at last. Staying with Ingrid and John in Santa Cruz (Brad's brother and sister-in-law) was wonderful, but I was so ready to get home to take a shower- it had been 6 days. We went out for a huge breakfast with pancakes, sausage, and coffee and rode our bikes to the restaurant. It's a wonderful feeling to be comfortable with customs and culture. I knew how to ride on the roads, what to order at breakfast, how to ask the waitress for something and how to pay properly. It can be unnerving to not know what's acceptable and what's not during the simplest tasks in another country. Here, back in America, I can just be myself and know I'll fit in.

As we were driving back from Santa Cruz in a comfortable safe car on a comfortable safe pothole free but highway patrol loaded interstate, I couldn't help but wonder what Jivan would think of it all if he were here. It's so exciting to show a foreigner your own country- there is a great amount of pride in it. For Jivan, it's the beauty of the Himalayas and customs of his people and sharing in food. For me it would be showing him the great architecture and bridges of San Francisco and how clean the bathrooms are. We would cover so much ground on our efficient highways and still find solitude by Lake Tahoe. Anything he could possibly want is accessable via the huge variety and size of stores and markets and malls. Opportunity is at your fingertips here in America and I wouldn't change my place of birth for anything in the world.

I walked into my apartment in Truckee, put my things down, marveled at how clean it is, and then jumped in the shower. It was a very long shower (mostly because I had to shave a month's worth of leg hair) and I scrubbed my skin pink. My feet are still dirty though. I clipped my toenails, swabbed my ears, and plucked my eyebrows. I put on cotton underwear, cotton pants and a cotton shirt, having grown tired of polypropolene attire. And I felt CLEAN! And the biggest difference is that I'm staying clean.

I did my laundry and a stink that I thought would never come out has turned to 'spring fresh.' Everything is so easy in the kitchen and all my stuff has its place, unlike Jivan and his cousins' kitchen/bedroom. I am so glad to be home.

After I went to the grocery store where everything is packaged and processed, my phone rang and it was Jivan calling to make sure we all got home alright. The hospitality continues, ever over the miles and after the fact. It was good to hear his voice because I do miss him and the high regard in friendship that he holds us all in. I feel spoiled just leaving him and his country so I can come back to my luxurious lifestyle, and even though my lifestyle is meager by American standards, all of our lifestyles are very very luxurious in comparison. It's so easy to just leave all that behind, but so many people in Nepal don't know the difference and most seem very happy with their lifestyles. People in Nepal are happy- genuinely so. There is certainly something we can learn from that: take in life as it is, respect the higher power that has brought us all here, be self-suffiecient, and value your few but useful possessions. Love your family, celebrate festivals and don't overindulge yourself. I think every American can work on those things that a Nepali finds everyday in his work and life.

Nepal was an incredible experience. The people are sincere and friendly and the landscape is breathtaking. The country makes it easy to visit and go on any trek you want with all services provided. It is crazy in the cities, but the hospitality is unlimited. My mind and body took on Nepal with an enthusiastic fervor, drinking in the extreme differences, the exercise, the food, the people and children and the beautiful surroundings. But toward the end my body grew tired and I became accustomed to the culture and grew weary of the begging, the nomadic lifestyle, the pollution and lack of sanitation, causing me to learn something about myself: I value travel, I truly do. Having the opportunity to leave your comfort level to compare your simple and narrow idea of what life is to the stark contrast of life in other parts of the world always steers your mind away from ignorance. You grow as a person and value what you do have more. But I learned that in comparison to such a poorer lifestyle, I was very ready to come home instead of continuing to embrace it. I thought I was tougher than that. I give myself credit: I went and experienced it and would do it again in Nepal or another country like it, but I love my life here in America and how convenient this country can make life be.

I am so amazed and proud that Katie, Brad and I traveled so far to a completely different culture, trusted its people with our lives, and climbed a pass that reached 17, 761 ft. I hope I never pass up those kids of opportunities because they are few and far between. Life is too short to look the other way. I wonder what the next adventure will be =)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Summer of 2009

Not a whole lot of new occurrences this summer...the same old biking, hiking, golfing, swimming, sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking and softball leaguing. Our softball team once again has come into last place. We invested in a new bat, which actually did make our hits go further, but it unfortunately had no effect on our fielding talents (or lack thereof). But of course, it's always about the fun and the free drink ticket for the local bar afterward.

The golf course was an adventure of course. Another crash this summer in one of our brand new electric carts. The parents thought it would be a great idea to let their 8 year old kid drive the cart down a hill to his mom's golf ball. Well of course he got scared and lost control and didn't know how to react because he doesn't know how to DRIVE!! People don't understand that carts are mini cars. I actually almost got run over by one this summer when a guy was loading a cart up with boxes of wine. One box fell on the gas pedal and the cart shot forward as I dodged out of the way. Anyway, in both cases no one was injured.

I did have the opportunity to drive the Beverage Cart for one day when all the regular girls were sick. I have to say I really enjoyed driving that little cart full of free food for the driver. I got it stuck in a ditch once, but other than that all went smoothly. I had never made a Bloody Mary before and of course that's exactly what the first group of golfers wanted, so I just made them strong and no one complained. Good times.

I've also moved away from the lake to Truckee, about 15 miles north of it. I'm pretty excited for the change and I think it'll motivate me to try something new for next summer...we'll see what happens. For now I'm scrounging the thrift stores for unique home items.

And of course lots of hiking this summer, including Mt. Tallac, the quintessential peak of Tahoe. It was a steep climb, but I kept thinking, "Nepal, Nepal, Nepal" to stay focused. The views from above are the best I've seen of the lake so far.
Have a wonderful fall and do a snow dance for all the people who are all ready for the ski season to begin!

I leave you with this wonderful 80s photo of a fun crew before leaving to see Tainted Love, a talented 80s cover band that makes yours truly the happiest girl on the planet =)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Stevo Visits Tahoe and Conquers It!

My very very good friend from college, Steve Zander, just came for a lovely visit to beautiful Lake Tahoe. I owed him a tour of the place after all the bike rides he gave me to the bars when I had torn my ACL in Boulder =) So here's the recap:

I picked Steve up at the Reno Airport and we immediately went to California's famous burger chain, In-N-Out. After scarfing down a Double Double and shake, we headed back to Tahoe and went to a free Bluegrass kinda Funk show at the local casino, the Crystal Bay Club. The band, Blue Turtle Seduction, is one of my local faves and it wasn't crowded so there was plenty of room on the dance floor!

The next day I made pancakes (that were excellent if I must say so myself) and Steve asked where a good coffee place is, so we biked to Tahoe House that serves a rich strong coffee that is often nicknamed crack cocaine coffee because of the strong after effects. We enjoyed some tasty pastries and caffeine and then biked up to Squaw Valley where we began our steep hike to Shirley Lake and then up to High Camp. My 8oz coffee kicked in on the hike and I was in the zone not stopping for anything, even a steep slab of granite that we had to scramble up! We swam in Shirley Lake and then continued to High Camp where we took the Cable Car back down to the base, climbed on our bikes, and made the 9 mile trek back home.

The one great thing about Steve coming out to visit is that he already lives at altitude in Denver and is an active person, so I didn't take it easy on him in Tahoe. I feel I just need to defend myself here in case you think, as you read on, that I'm pushing Steve a little too much with the local hiking and biking Tahoe lifestyle =) He was ready for it!

That night we made a big delicious dinner with my roommates and played a little drunken Jenga, the original wooden block game! We stacked it up pretty high and then Matt pulled the wrong block and Steve captured some good shots with his highly expensive very nice Canon camera. A bunch of friends came over and then we biked to the local bars in a Tahoe style typical bike gang. It was a great night on the town!

Saturday, we had a delicious breakfast at the Old Post Office, saw some of the classic old wooden boats (Cris Crafts and Gar Woods) at the marina and visited a "Huge Yard Sale" that was disappointingly small only offering 10 VHS tapes and a bracelet. Steve fixed our shower because the water pressure in the shower head was awful, and then I made Steve get back on the bike to stroll down the West Shore. We got some great views of the lake and all the mansions that border it and hiked up to Eagle Rock which shows a nice elevated view of the lake, as you can see below. (Steve takes great photos!)
Then we met up with Katie and Bradford, packed up our overnight bags, and hiked down to Chimney Beach on the East Shore to do a little sleeping under the stars. So you're not supposed to camp down there and when we got to the beach some guy jumped out of the bushes at us and said with authority, "You guys are busted." It ended up being another camper who thought we were rangers and he was hiding from us. He and his pal were a little strange, but they made a fire in the Chimney and didn't bother us too much.

We all got a great nights sleep, including Bradford who was all cozy in his sleeping bag after going for a late night swim in the cold waters of Tahoe. We woke up to a beautiful sunrise and Tim Tam slams, which is a little chocolate snack brought over from New Zealand. This is the wonderful part about Tahoe: camping, star gazing, beautiful blue waters, endless bike paths, hiking trails and friendly outgoing people are all in your very backyard. You have to travel nowhere to experience a lifestyle that people in the city and suburbs travel hours to get to only to emerse themselves in Nature for the weekend. I love it here.

After eating breakfast at the local cafe, Bradford, Matt, Stevo and myself headed out for a gnarly hike starting from Emerald Bay, heading to Eagle Lake and then to Velma Lakes, crossing over to Maggie's Peaks and then back down the Bayview trail to a vista piont of Lake Tahoe. About 10 miles overall. Again, Steve is already aclimated! And it was a wonderful hike with a refreshing jump into Velma Lakes and delicious sandwhiches that were previously purchased.

We ended up at a different trailhead than where we started from, so the gang nominated me to hitchhike down the hill back to the car. It was logical: a girl should get a ride quicker than a guy. I hitchhike occasionally in Tahoe City and get a ride pretty fast, but this was a tourist's parking lot and NO ONE was picking me up. I even confronted a couple and said that I just needed a ride down the road and they looked at each other like I had a gun in my backpack and then replied, "We don't have room." Finally, a truck pulled over and the driver was from Truckee...you can always rely on the locals! He gave me a ride down the hill as Steve took photos of his liscense plate with his mega zoom just in case =0)










My roommate made dinner that night and then we pretty much just passed out.

Monday was the day for Steve's departure, so we ate at the BEST local breakfast joint, Fire Sign (we had tried to go Sunday but it was a hour and a half wait!) It was nice to have that morning to just hang out with my old college friend. The whole weekend was jam packed with adventures with some of my closest friends here in Tahoe. Everyone is always up for anything and I'm psyched that Steve got to hang out with everyone so much. Everyone wanted him to move to Tahoe, including me! And I'm still working on a persuasion plan.

So we went to Secret Cove on the West Shore to swim in one the the most amazing spots on the lake. Then it was time to head to the Airport. I was very sad to see such a good friend go, but also in life, we must travel and see all there is to see and meet good friends along the way. In a perfect world, I would create a community in the mountains where all my family and friends from all stages of life would live. But until they all turn into hippies and are willing to uproot from home, I will just have to settle with great visits to all the wonderful places where all my wonderful friends reside. And know you always have a home in Tahoe too!

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Wedding in Chicago

CHI TOWN

Chicago is one of the coolest cities in this world, and we had the opportunity to check it out with a wedding perspective. My mom's best friend, Gail King, has a beautiful daughter who met a wonderful man and they tied the knot in complete style and class.

Sarah, the bride, and I used to set up lemonade stands at the top of Surfside Dr. in Kentucky and we would sell cookies and snacks too. I remember one guy emptied out his coin tray into our tip cup and we thought we were rich. But now she's all grown up and our family was able to participate in the big day, with Michael Fay, an old neighbor who now lives in Chicago, as a date for 3 lovely ladies.

Michael works at the Hyatt and hooked it up with a very nice room with a stunning view of downtown and the Chicago River. We heard a knock at the door and in comes room service with chocolate strawberries, local beer, cheese and wine and a nice note. Michael was raised well!!

We then headed to a little Polish place to celebrate a birthday for Greg, Gail's boyfriend. We enjoyed Polish beer and tons of meat, fried and delicious! And mom took home the bottle of port she's holding in her hand with her new Polish pal, the owner. =)






The next day included shopping on Michigan Avenue and meeting up with an old high school friend, Denise. We used to be lab partners freshman year in Physics and we haven't lost our sense of humor! Shelley's pants ripped getting into the cab, which was a hilarious episode, but luckily she had a nice shawl to tie around her waist to hide the rip. The sushi was great and it was so fun to catch up with old friends and enjoy some stylish nightlife! A little different from what we've got in Tahoe. And we're pretty sure our waiter was jacked up on steroids and Red Bull, which made the evening even more humorous.

The next day was rainy and gloomy so we enjoyed the Field Museum and walked passed Lalapalooza that was happening in Grant Park. It was entertaining to watch kids scout out the concert, jump the fence and run like hell and then watch a security officer take off after them.

That night Sarah and Adam arranged for a cocktail hour at the Drake Hotel, a classic of Chicago. My grandparents on my dad's side used to dine there occasionally and it was like walking back in time going through the Hotel. Shelley and I even slipped into the closed Cod room where a bartender was cleaning up. He ended up telling us old stories about the place as he showed us where Marilyn Monroe and the like had carved their initials into the bar top. It was a very tasteful evening.

And now, the wedding day. Sarah got married in a Cathedral right on Michigan Ave. The ceremony was short and sweet (so it was not a Catholic wedding) and then we all headed to the Alder Planetarium for the reception. Michael was a good date and hailed the cab for us while the wedding party took a cute little trolley.

The planetarium was an amazing place to have a reception. It is located at the end of a point that juts out into Lake Michigan. The result: an incredible view of the city. We were able to enjoy the setting sun with a cosmo in hand (and a beer for Michael) and a delicious meal. There are also fireworks that are set off from Navy Pier every Saturday night in the summer. And of course, the wedding was on a Saturday and we all were able to enjoy an uninterrupted view of the bright show. The band was a lot of fun and Sarah's friends are even more fun. The dance floor was pumping and even a Sarah's half brother, who is 4, couldn't stop break dancing! Sarah even had a photo booth set up to take group pictures like you would with all your friends at the movies in middle school.

(In the photo: Shelley, Sarah, Gail, Kathy, Kim)


When the party was over 2 city buses pulled up to the planetarium and we all loaded on. Some of Sarah's friends grabbed some bottles of Kaluha and downed shots like champs! It was very entertaining to hear all the sorority songs being sung by all the Tri Deltas on the bus!


We were drpped off at the Hyatt and Michael and I went out to the bars. City life is so diverse and entertaining with every type of person and bar imaginable around. Don't get me wrong, I love my mountains and being able to see the stars in the night sky, but if I could live in a city, it would be CHICAGO!!!