Those type of days that “can’t be real” -Barahona & Pedernales

IMG_6799Like I mentioned before, we had a 10 day vacation away from teaching and service work earlier this month. Our wonderful weekend in Jarabacoa was the fist half of that vacation (see our time spent there in my previous post). For the second half of our vacation, Derek and I met up with a few girls from group and visited the beautiful beach towns of Pedernales and Barahona.IMG_6788Pedernales is on the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. The population of Pedernales is the lowest populated city in the DR and sadly, I think the beaches are that beautiful because there aren’t a lot of people there to ruin them.IMG_6798IMG_6800XQYP1467IMG_6792I’ve never seen more clear water, or white sand in my life, and the best part is that we were the only ones there.IMG_6025IMG_6052IMG_6050IMG_6053IMG_6051We spent our 3 days there walking the “ghost town” streets, trying to find restaurants that were open, and enjoying the beautiful beaches. At one point we talked about how “this place looks like a movie set, or it feels like we are living in a dream world.” And I thought to myself multiple times “this can’t be real.”IMG_6794IMG_6790IMG_6789IMG_6795IMG_600334

IMG_6797After 3 nights in Pedernales, we headed to Barahona.  This place is right below Samana on my favorite vacation places this summer. It had beautiful green mountains, bright blue water, and the biggest waves I have ever seen. We ditched the Air BNB idea here, and instead camped 2 nights on the beach. We had a bon fire, enjoyed the sunrises and sunsets, and we even got lucky enough to have a full moon!IMG_6774IMG_6784IMG_6770IMG_6771Our time there included a beautiful hike, swimming in the river, getting swept under by the giant waves, and enjoying the camping life of tents and no shower. Derek and I have slept in some crazy places, and we both agree that this is one of our favorites.IMG_6786IMG_6787IMG_6778IMG_6776IMG_6777IMG_6779Our “vacation week” felt very long since we visited 3 different places, but it was filled with once in a life time experiences, some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen, and memories that I’ll hold on to forever. These photos make me realize just how lucky I am to live on this beautiful island.IMG_6773IMG_677212IMG_6782We have couple more vacations planned before we head home in 6 weeks, and I am looking forward to more days, more places, and moments that feel like they “can’t be real”.

Onto the next adventure,
Wren

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Anniversary Getaway in Jarabacoa

IMG_6570The first weekend of this month, our group had our one “long vacation” for the time we are spending here. Which means we had 10 days to leave town and “vacation” again from our service and teaching work.

Derek and I spent the first half of our vacation in a cute little mountain town called Jarabacoa, that is about 3 hours from where we live. We went alone, to celebrate our four year wedding anniversary that was on June 5th, and we had such an adventurous and fun weekend!IMG_6573We kicked off our anniversary get away by going paragliding! Despite these awesome photos, this experience wasn’t my favorite. I actually got pretty sick from nerves and motion sickness, and it was a lot longer than I expected, but I am so glad that we did it. I’ve always wanted to, and it was so cool to see this beautiful country from above. Plus, it will always be such a fun story for Derek and I to tell!IMG_6417IMG_6581IMG_6418The next day we went canyoneering. Another adventure that neither Derek or I have ever done, but one of our favorites. We went repelling down waterfalls, hiked through the river, went down natural water slides, and even went on a small zipline! I am adding repelling and canyoneering to the list of my new favorite things, and planning on trying both when we get back home.IMG_5932IMG_6578IMG_6577IMG_5953

Even though both paragliding and canyoneering were adventurous and exhilarating, my favorite part of the weekend was where we stayed. I’ve never been a picky person when it comes to where I lay my head at night, since I am more of a “go go go” traveler, but I never cared to leave our hostel that we stayed at in Jarabacoa.

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For the first time since we’ve been here, we had air conditioning, hot water to shower, good WiFi, a big flat screen TV, and way too many throw pillows on our bed. I know these things don’t seem out of the ordinary to you, but when you go 5 weeks with out any of the above and then get them handed to you all at once, it puts a spike in your mental health. 😉

 

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IMG_5834The architecture and design of the hostel was also my favorite “style” so I felt like I was staying in my dream home the whole weekend, equipped with free coffee every morning, and 3-4 dogs that greeted us every time we “came home”.IMG_5833IMG_5830

 

IMG_6567We enjoyed this place so much that on one of the days we were there, we didn’t leave the hostel. We watched way too many movies, had food delivered to us for lunch and dinner, and watched the afternoon thunderstorm through our large windows.

If you ever find yourself in this area, or just like to browse through pretty photos of architecture and design (like me) here is the link for the hostel:

https://www.booking.com/hotel/do/jarabacoa-mountain-hostel.en-gb.html

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Our weekend together in Jarabacoa was exactly what Derek and I needed to kick off our fifth year of marriage, and to have a break of the crazy month (who am I kidding- crazy 3 months) we had prior.

IMG_6572IMG_6502I love this temporary home of ours, and the adventures it’s bringing for us, I love this life I have decided to live, I love the consciousness I have to not take things for granted- like hot water and A/C, and I love the person who I get to experience it all with.

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Onto the next adventure,

Wren

 

 

 

Our Hike to Cascada El LImon

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When I found out we were assigned to the Dominican Republic, I did what any cliche traveler does, and searched for the best things to do/see on this island. As I scrolled through google and Pinterest, a specific waterfall kept catching my eye.

 

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As soon as we got our dates for our vacation, I searched where that specific waterfall was to see if it would be possible to visit. It was located in the beautiful town of Samana, so that is where Derek and I decided to “vacation” to. You can see our whole weekend spent there in my previous post.40The waterfall didn’t disappoint. The hike to the waterfall was the perfect amount of distance (1.5 miles each way). It was a bit rocky, but the hike was beautiful. At one point, we came out on top of a mountain and saw forests of palm trees. It was one of the most interesting and beautiful views I’ve ever seen.4233

As we approached the waterfall, other tourists were heading back down the trail, leaving us and our group almost completely alone to swim. The water was refreshing after our hike, and we had fun swimming under the waterfall, cliff jumping, and relaxing.41

I’ve done a lot of hiking in my life, and this one is definitely towards the top of my list. It was the perfect start to our weekend vacation, and the perfect reminder of how beautiful this world, this island, and this life of mine is.

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If you ever find yourself in the Dominican Republic, add the Cascada El Limon waterfall hike to your list.

Onto the next adventure, Wren

Sweet, Sweet, Samana

2This past weekend, we had 4 day vacation. I know what you’re thinking. A four day vacation from your summer long vacation? But yes. A vacation on our program means our teachers get a break from teaching or doing service work. Which means Derek and I get a break from “working” as well.

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For our vacation, we decided to go to the beautiful beach town of Samana. Derek and I knew that we wanted to hike a certain waterfall and zipline while we are here in the Domincan Republic, so Samana was a place that was towards the top of our to see list.

3024We planned our vacation, and 9 other volunteers from our group decided to join us.  We stayed in an Airbnb that was right on the ocean. Even though we saw a total of 6 spiders the size of Derek’s hand, falling asleep and waking up to the sound of waves made up for it.

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571If you are ever interested in ever seeing the beautiful town Samana, Domincan Republic I recommend staying in this beautiful jungle home. The hosts are so friendly, the home is beautiful, and they even have horses and a dog. (just be aware of spiders. 😉 )

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15529655?search_id=276616a1-3fc2-036c-eb9e-2d10aac0f77f&federated_search_id=0e9d392f-3022-4315-91d3-26d0d9567e8129Our first day on our vaction, we hiked the beautiful Casda el Limon waterfall. I am going to post about this hike in a seperate post because the photos I took that day are some of my favorites I’ve ever taken. (and there is a lot).31Our second day we went zip lining through the jungle. The zip line had 12 cable lines, and it was 350 ft up. Most of us have been zip lining before, but we’ve never been able to ride together, or go on one as long as this. We all had so much fun!15

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After zip lining, we headed to Playa Rincon, which is one of the most beautiful hidden beaches on the whole island of the Dominican Republic. We were the only ones on the beach, and the water was the most beautiful, tourquise, clear water any of us have ever seen. It did not disappoint!

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The third day, we took a ferry to the beautiful island of Cayo Leventado. This island is known as “Bacardi Island” because this island is where they film the Bacardi commercials. On our program, we are not allowed to drink any alcohol, so I wasn’t able to drink any Bacardi on Bacardi island, but this virgin Pina Coloda almost made up for it.  🙂23

8172225Today (Sunday) we are heading back to our “home” here in the Dominican republic to do another week of service, before heading out on “vacation” again next weekend.26281218This weekend was amazing, and I am adding Samana to one of my top favorite places I’ve ever visited (spiders, bug bites, and all).

Onto the next adventure, Wren

Hola from our new home!

IMG_5023.JPGWe’ve officially lived in the Dominican Republic for just over a week and so far, we are adjusting great. The culture shock here isn’t as bad as it was in China. I don’t know if it’s because we knew what to expect this time around, or if it’s because the time change and life changes aren’t as extreme.IMG_5086IMG_5087.JPG

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IMG_5099.JPGI don’t think it’s hit me yet that we are here for 3 and a half months, but I know from past experience that it will eventually. I’ll get home sick, I’ll get my separation anxiety from Harvey, I will miss certain things and certain people, but right now I am just taking it all in and enjoying this beautiful chapter that Derek and I are lucky to experience together with 30 strangers.IMG_5101

A few things that are different here than back home:

The humidity! On Monday, it was 90 degrees with 60% humidity. We don’t have AC in our house or schools, so we are all constantly covered in sweat, and we’ve just accepted it. I am glad we are all here to stick together through it all (literally and figuratively). My hair and nails are thriving though.

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Our water and electricity situation. Without fail, one of them is always off every other day for a couple of hours. The area our house is in doesn’t have city water and power, so our house runs off of a back up system. (Batteries and cisterns) It feels like we are all camping, but in a very nice house.IMG_5077.JPGIMG_5078.JPG

In addition to not having water sometimes, we never have hot water or good water pressure. With that being said, showering is a whole new experience. Since we are constantly hot and sweaty, cold showers haven’t been that bad. But I know I’ll probably cry happy tears when I get my hard water pressure back (in 90 days) 😉IMG_5079

We also can’t drink the tap water here, which is a habit that Derek and I got used to in China, but I do miss having the luxury of constant access to water. Especially here, where we are always thirsty from the heat.IMG_5083.JPG

Our house situation is similar to what it was like in China. Our “home” is like a larger hotel room with our own bathroom, but we share a kitchen and laundry room with the other 30 volunteers. Since we are the head teachers this time around, we have our own “hotel room” but the other rooms in our house are filled with 6-9 volunteers who all share a bathroom together. (props to them!)IMG_4917.JPGIMG_4928.JPGThe good news is, we can walk 20 minutes from our house and be in the ocean, which makes all of the “bad” and different things worth it. I’ve also learned that most of the dogs and cats that we see on the street are people’s pets, and not strays, and that has eased my emotions and culture shock a little bit.

IMG_5102IMG_5100.JPGIMG_5091Unlike our first living abroad experience, the language barrier here isn’t too bad for us. I love being able to read the Spanish words in the restaurants and grocery stores which I was never able to do with Chinese characters, and Derek loves practicing the Spanish he knows with our personal taxi driver/ neighbor, Papi.

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IMG_5084.JPGWe also have pretty skies, good food, a comfortable bed, and regular toilets which were all things we struggled with our first week when we lived in China. If you want to read the post that I wrote back then, here is the link: https://thestellarstories.com/2017/09/09/ni-hao-from-our-new-home/

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IMG_5089.JPGIn the last 9 days, we’ve adjusted to our new living situation, we’ve made some new friends, we’ve organized all of our groups’ teaching schedules, and we’ve started teaching the kids. Being greeted with a million hugs and hearing “teacha Wren and Teacha D” again as we arrive at the schools almost makes me tear up.IMG_5090.JPGIMG_5092.JPGIMG_5093

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We’ve also explored our city center (with the best architecture), ate the yummiest food,  spent some time at a beautiful country club, and have been to the beach three times, which makes me the happiest little soul. I am so excited to see what accomplishments, experiences, and adventures we have in the next 13 weeks.

IMG_5021Like I’ve said before, with adventure comes change, and with change comes growth. And I am so ready for all of it.

Onto the next adventure, Wren

 

 

Onto The Next Adventure

IMG_3731If you know me personally at all, you know that I live my life in a way that when someone asks me “what’s new?” I have a whole list of things. Unlike most people, I thrive off constant change, getting out of my comfort zone, and taking the opportunities and adventures that come my way.  It’s one of my favorite things about myself. 

I sometimes wonder if there is ever a time in my life that I won’t want this, and eventually “get comfortable or settle down,” but for now, I am just enjoying this crazy, constantly changing, growth period time of my life. And having my other half by my side through it all has made it that much better.gopr0509.jpgWith that being said, what crazy, life changing thing are we up to next?!

No, we’re not selling our home and moving into a tiny house to travel the states. No, we’re not moving to a farm, or adopting 2 more dogs, a pig, and some chickens. No, we’re not opening our own business, or selling our home to build our dream home. And no, we’re not having babies or starting our family….yet.

Believe it or not, these are all conversations that have came up in the last couple of years, and maybe one day we will accomplish those fantasies that we have, or they will stay fantasies, but for now…

We are moving to the Caribbean for the summer to become beach bums!12509477_940303516022738_7543440047604848957_nI know I have a lot of dreams, (see above)  but living near the ocean is near the very top of my list, so when this opportunity was handed to us a couple months ago, I told Derek we HAD to take it.

Who, what, when, where, why?? You may be asking.

I already answered the why, and I hope you’re smart enough to figure out the who. 😉10.JPGThe What: We are teaching English again with the same program that we went to China with. However, this time will be a little different. We are the head teachers, which means we are “in charge” and the go to help for the other volunteer teachers who are going for their first time. We are also working as humanitarian volunteers this time which means we will be teaching, as well as doing humanitarian work for the kids and their families, who are underprivileged.EGLO4168.JPGThe When: We leave around May 10th and come home around August 10th, just in time for Derek to get right back to school and me to jump right into fall wedding season.

The Where: the most exciting part. We will be living, teaching, and of course- exploring in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. One of the most beautiful islands to exist, and right in the middle of my favorite place (that I’ve visited) in the world.11986431_916439311742492_5780921689488802445_nAs you can imagine, we are so excited for this adventure. We learned so much about ourselves and each other while living abroad in China. It was the best thing we’ve ever done together, and we are so happy that the opportunity has come for us to do it again.

A few things that I am really looking forward to:

  • Immersing myself in another new culture
  • Practicing my Spanish (which I think will be much easier than Chinese. 😉 )
  • Being next to the ocean EVERY DAY – I think happy tears will happen just about every morning.
  • Spending every single minute of every day with my Derek, because to be honest we work best that way.
  • And of course, being called “Teacher Wren”.
  • IMG_E4061Onto the next adventure, Wren

Sunny days in San Francisco

IMG_E1499Maybe you know me in person, or maybe you feel like you know me because you’ve been following this blog for so long. But no matter how you know me, you know that traveling is the one thing that I thrive for. I usually try to leave town at least once every few weeks, even if it’s just for a couple days, or in the next town over.IMG_1678These last couple of months have been crazy busy for us. Between wedding season, school, work, and handling personal matters, we haven’t had any time to leave town. When Derek and I started getting into our rut, our routine, our busy schedules, I knew I needed to go somewhere and I needed to do it soon. Back in August, I looked at the next possible weekend for both of us to leave town and it wasn’t until the first weekend in November. I saw a light at the end of the tunnel! (okay that’s dramatic, but that’s how traveling feels to me. 😉 )IMG_1806I instantly thought of San Francisco. We had been to San Francisco once before, but we only had 24 hours in that beautiful city. It was over 2 years ago, but if you want to read about our interesting/ crazy adventure there, here is the link: https://thestellarstories.com/2016/08/08/less-than-24-hours-in-san-francisco/IMG_1803Our experience was so much different this time for so many different reasons. Since Kenzie and Joe had moved there in the time that we were there last, we had a comfortable place to stay. And spending time with them was the highlight of our trip! It was so fun visiting their favorite restaurants and seeing how happy they are with their temporary lives in that charming city. Since Joe is in the coast guard, they are only there for another year- and i am already thinking of planning another trip back.IMG_1656IMG_1788IMG_1789We arrived to to Alameda (where Kenzie and Joe live) on Thursday and started our weekend of eating like kings and queens with Italian. Derek and I remember the food being delicious from our first visit, and this time it did not disappoint! We ate way too good all weekend long. -and probably gained 20 pounds.

(I am drooling.)

IMG_1800This was also the first time in a VERY long time that Derek and I traveled together alone. We’ve traveled all year, but every time we’ve left town it has been with our friends or our families. It was so fun to spend quality time together outside of our regular routines.img_1807.jpgOn Friday, we spent 15 hours alone together. We rode the ferry into the city, walked through China town and got really nostalgic. The little part in our Chinese hearts absolutely loved listening to the language, smelling the food, and walking through all of the stores that became so dear to our hearts just a year ago.IMG_1804.JPG

We even found our favorite desserts from China! (Drooling again)

IMG_E1591We also rented bikes, and rode 8 miles across the bridge and down the coast to a little beach town called Sausalito. Biking across the golden gate has always been on my bucket list, and crossing things off that list with Derek by my side is my most favorite thing in the world.IMG_1596.JPGIMG_1595.JPGIMG_1794

IMG_1808.JPGWe ended the day by going to a fancy Mexican place in Sausilito for dinner and drinks. I think that day was one of my favorite days that Derek and I have ever had together. It was perfect.

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(I told you we gained 20 pounds!)

IMG_1793To make the day even better, the weather was AMAZING. Last time we went to San Francisco, it was in July and it was windy, foggy, and freezing. This time in November, the skies were completely clear and it was sunny and warm the whole time we were there. We definitely packed too warm, but I am not complaining. I mean look at that bridge!! IMG_1672IMG_1802On Saturday, we went back into the city. This time with Kenzie and Joe, since they didn’t have to work. We walked around the shops at Fisherman’s Wharf, vistied Ghiradelli Square, and ate lunch at a yummy cafe.IMG_1791 We also witnessed one of the prettiest sunsets I have ever seen. Between living in the desert, and visiting Hawaii, I have seen a lot of pretty sunsets, but I was so breath taken by this one. Maybe it’s because it was the last thing I expected in the city that is known for cloudy nights and foggy days. We were all amazed, so of course I had to capture it!IMG_1782IMG_1784IMG_1783IMG_1781We ate dinner at a burger joint, walked the streets and admired the architecture, and then ended the night with a scary movie at Kenzie and Joe’s. On a quick flight and a 2 hour drive, we made our way home the next day.IMG_1786IMG_1676IMG_1677

 

IMG_1679IMG_1785This sunny weekend away from home was such a nice little break. It was exactly what Derek and I needed, personally, and as a couple. I am constantly in awe of this world, but I am even more in awe that I get to see it with him.IMG_1799IMG_1738Video coming soon- once I find enough free time. 😉

 

Onto the next adventure, Wren