Category: Orlando

Christmas break part 2

We returned from New Jersey a few days before New Year’s Eve.  But was that enough traveling for me??  Oh no, Miss Glutton-for-punishment still had over a week of traveling remaining.  My parents dropped me off in Atlanta; while they went on to Birmingham to spend New Year’s Eve with old family friends, I hopped on a bus and went down to Orlando to spend it with new ones.

My good friend Sarah (the same one whose wedding I was in in October) moved to Texas shortly after her wedding.  Her sister, Hannah, with whom I also got very close over the wedding weekend, lives in North Carolina.  However, it just so happened that they were both (along with their husbands, of course ;]) in Orlando, visiting their parents.  So, I told myself, what better time to visit!  Kill several birds with one stone – go to 1 place and get to see several good friends who are normally scattered all over the country! 🙂  And so it was that I arrived in Orlando on the evening of the 29th.

From the moment I arrived until my departure, it was nonstop mayhem.  Now, please do not mistake me; mayhem is not always meant in a pejorative sense, and in this particular instance it’s definitely meant in a positive light.  While we were almost constantly doing something the entire 6 days that I was there, they were all wonderful things.  I had a lovely time reconnecting with this wonderful family; the only downside was that as my sleep deprivation increased throughout the week, so did my irritability – it had reached a critical level by the end of the week.  Sleep must be a priority for both my happiness and the happiness of those around me, lol.  🙂

But anyway, a few highlights from the week:

We went to Busche Gardens my first full day in Orlando.  What a place!  Where else in the world can you find giraffes, hippos, and lions (both real and topiary), water rides and roller coasters, trains and zip lines, Egyptian artwork, ice skating performances by world-class skaters, singing and dancing performances, dippin’ dots and spanish empanadas….and I’m sure I’m forgetting a myriad of other things, too…all in one place??  It was a lot of fun – like a grown-up playground.  And then, I’m sure completely out of concern for our well-being, the park employees even threw in a built-in workout!  Many of the rides were closed, so we ended up walking a lot more than we had expected to ;).  So yeah…..that may have been a bit frustrating, but it really was a lovely day – definitely a bonding experience for us all ;).

The whole gang at Busche Gardens!

Fantastic ice skating performance!

Water rides in January….they’re crazy!!

Left to right: Hannah, Josh, Jon, Sarah, and Donnie

For New Year’s Eve, we had a wine and bread tasting party.  There were some incredibly exotic (and, I’m sure, expensive) wines that made appearances.  It almost made me wish that I enjoyed alcohol!  But nevertheless, the bread was super yummy, and the company lovely; I made it just long enough to watch the ball drop, and then went home and went to bed :).

The Reichel’s have a New Year’s Day tradition in which they go to a famous pancake house for breakfast on the first of the year, so this year they brought me along with them.  It’s apparently really famous – there was an hour and a half wait – but there was a little lake and place where you could walk around, so it wasn’t hard to amuse ourselves.  I even got a photo-op with a couple of planes!! 🙂

Check out the sunlight, and the Spanish moss, and the leaf in the foreground…I’m particularly proud of this picture 🙂

The whole gang at the pancake place

Sarah and I went on a bike ride one morning, and then had breakfast at Panera’s.  With all of the craziness and people coming and going throughout the week, it was so wonderful to be able to have 2 whole hours of uninterrupted time with her.  Definitely just what my heart needed :).

Jonathan and I saw Les Miserables together, and then met Hannah and her husband Josh and a friend at a portable ice skating rink.  It was fun, although I must admit also rather disconcerting to be ice skating when the outside temperature had to have been in the 60’s.

Me, Jon, Hannah, and Josh at the skating rink

Check out their awesome golf-cart zambini!! 

The night before I left (my birthday!), we went to an Irish pub in downtown Disney.  It was not my first choice for celebrating my birthday, but it also happened to be Josh’s birthday, and he was really dead-set on going, so in the interest of keeping the peace I went along with them.  It ended up being pretty cool – there were live musicians and Irish dancers, the food was delicious, and the band even sang for Josh and me to wish us happy birthday!  But by that point, I was so dead tired, I probably would have been just as happy doing nothing and just going to bed, lol.

I got a birthday candle and ice cream!! 🙂

My departure from Orlando was a little more exciting than I would have liked.  There were 4 accidents on the highway to the bus stop, and the traffic was so backed up that I ended up missing my bus.  We were within half a mile of the station, in standstill traffic, so I got out and started running on the highway in a desperate rush to get there on time – it was something straight out of a movie!  Just picture me, running along the shoulder, my jeans wet almost to my knees from the drizzling rain, with Jon running behind me in his dress shoes and slacks pulling my roller bag, scrambling like mad people to catch the bus…ut alas, it was all for naught, and I still missed it.  But I am blessed with wonderful friends who offered to drive me on to my next destination – Jacksonville – and so the journey continued.

I was only in Jacksonville for a few days – my pastor from Korea and his family were there, and his wife had planned a surprise birthday party for him.  So I showed up for a few days to celebrate with them and to see the whole family.  It was so good to see them – definitely made me nostalgic for Korea again, though!

Beautiful shot of a park that we visited

Me and baby Zamanta!  She was a newborn when I left Korea!! 🙂

All of this time spent with other people’s families was wonderful, but by the end of the week, I was definitely ready to get back to my own.  No matter how welcoming people may be, it’s never the same as spending time with your own family! 🙂  So I came back to Albany for a day, had dinner with my family, collected my stuff, and then headed back up to Atlanta and started classes the next day!  And moving back to Atlanta…..well that’s a whole new adventure in itself!  Stay tuned!

Orlando vacation ^_^

As the semester draws to a close, I’ve realized just how far behind I’ve gotten in several things that are important to me – most notably, in writing.  Writing is something that I really do enjoy doing, and I’m told by my loyal fans that I’m decently good at it ;).  Plus, with 2 freelance contracts under my belt over the past few months – one with a startup travel blog, and the other one writing the cultural sections of a Spanish language textbook – I suppose I need to get back into the habit of actually writing regularly again!  So here goes, update #1 of who-knows-how-many….

I had so much fun in Florida with my friends the Reichels for Sarah’s wedding (see my blog about that here), that I just had to go back and see them again.  My class schedule is pretty flexible, so one weekend in early November I was able to hop on a bus and spend an entire 3 days down in Orlando with them.  It took an incredible amount of work beforehand to get to a point where I didn’t have to do any schoolwork while I was down there; but once I was there, it was a lovely little mini-vacation.

Mr. and Mrs. Reichel greeted me with another welcome basket and note, just like they had when I first arrived for the wedding a month earlier.  It was so nice to feel so loved and welcome – my love language has always been gift-giving, and that family certainly knows how to speak my language :).

As wonderful as the wedding was, however, this weekend was great in an entirely different way, as there were no stressful preparations for a life-changing event to prepare for.  It was definitely a much more relaxing weekend overall than the first time around.  We hung out around the house some, had dinner at a Japanese steak house, went for a walk around a lovely park at night, saw a hilarious show at a comedy club, and went on a canoeing trip – wearing a bathing suit in November….imagine that!!  Gotta love Florida….

My favorite place, however, was called WonderWorks.  It’s difficult to explain, but I suppose that the best description I can afford you would be that it is a hand’s-on science museum.  They had giant bubble makers, and machines that generated hurricane-force gales, and virtual roller coasters, and beds of nails, and all sorts of things to let your inner child play without abandon.  It was delightful.  My mother always says that age is a state of mind, and I quite agree.  I may be turning 23 next month, but I’m really closer to 3 than 23 ;).

So that was Florida!  Updates from Atlanta are soon to follow!

The park at Crane’s Roost
SAK comedy club 😀
Yay for canoeing!!

The wonder of WonderWorks!!

Laser tag….I was unshootable 😉

Florida wedding!

My sincerest apologies for the deplorable delay since my last update!  The last month has been marked by pretty much non-stop insanity – I spent a couple of weeks preparing to be gone for the wedding of my dear friend Sarah, then I was at the wedding, then I spent a few weeks catching up afterwards, and now here I am!  I’m hoping to fill you in on the rest of the month before the end of the week, but until then, enjoy the pics from Sarah’s wedding!

You may recognize Sarah from some of my pictures in Korea – she was on the same Fulbright grant as I was, and became one of my best friends while over there.  I was privileged to be a member of her wedding party upon our return to the states.  So in early October, I took a bus down to Orlando, FL, and spent 5 wonderful days catching up with her and meeting her incredible family and helping her prepare for her big day.

I was greeted with a welcome basket when I got to her parent’s home.  It was so sweet!  It was a wonderful feeling to know that, even amidst all of the insanity that is a wedding, Sarah still took the time to thank me for being there.  I felt so loved 🙂

The next few days were marked by lots of preparations.  We rolled napkins, and tied ribbons, and even made the bouquets ourselves!  She bought the flowers in bulk and then we arranged them, to save on cost.  I tell you what, I have a newfound appreciation for what florists do!

My wedding gift for Sarah and Donnie – it has “Welcome to the Durm home” burned into a wooden shingle, and then welcome written in several different languages 🙂

Thursday night we had a bachelorette party for Sarah.  It was fun and silly and lighthearted, and I think that we all had a blast.  It began with food and games at the home of one of Sarah’s friends, and ended with drinks at a bar in town that is famous for its live dueling pianists.  By that time, however, we were all pretty tired, and so we were content to simply sit and listen to the music.  Apparently our subdued attitudes were noticed, because one of the employees came up to us and asked, “is this a bachelorette party?  Because all I see is a buch of old ladies.”, and a fellow customer bought a round of drinks for every one os us.  It was nice of him, but I think we all agreed that we were actually enjoying ourselves, even if we weren’t dancing on the tables or anything of the sort :).

Sarah’s sweet sister, Hannah.  She has taken to calling me Lolo 🙂
Sarah’s mom, Mrs. Reichel, twisted her ankle pretty badly the day before the wedding, so I dubbed myself her personal assistant for the latter end of the week.  One thing I helped a lot with was preparing for the little family reception that they had at their house the day before the wedding.  I made pumpkin bars and coffee cake and I don’t remember what else.  It was fun :).

Some of the goodies I made for the reception

Sarah’s brother Jon, and Grandma Bubbles 
And then….the big day arrived!!  It was pouring for most of the ceremony, but that didn’t matter because it was held inside a big beautiful restored victorian home.  There were a few hiccups before hand – my dress ripped in 2 separate places, and there were major technical difficulties with the video that Sarah asked me to be responsible for – but overall, it was a great, remarkably stress-free day.  There was dancing and laughter and joy, and at the end of the day, Sarah and Donnie were married, so I would say that it was a successful day!

Jon was my escort at the wedding 🙂

Me and Mrs. Reichel

The Reichel siblings!  Good-looking family, if I do say so myself… 🙂

Reichel sibs + me 🙂
I stayed an extra day after the wedding.  I got to see Sarah and Donnie one more time in the morning before they left on their honeymoon, which was nice.  Her Grandma Bubbles (yes, that is her real name) insisted on teaching me poker that afternoon.  I schooled them all – had a grand total of like $15 in winnings!  It was fun, lol :).  So then that evening, I got back on a bus and made my way back to Atlanta – back to the grind!  It was a lot of work to get down there and back, but so totally worth it – I was so grateful to be there, and getting to meet and spend almost a whole week with her awesome family and friends was just icing on the cake!  At the same time, though, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit relieved that the rash of weddings is over with for a while! 😀
My first picture with Mrs. Durm! 🙂

After our poker game….hehehe