Category Archives: Uncategorized

Back in Akumal

Well, it’s been quite awhile since my last post, and I know my two faithful readers (our moms!) might want an update.  I cheated a little by just uploading photos of some of our events in Northern California last month. We had a great time visiting some of our friends and family up in Big Bear (Shannon), Pacifica (my mom and sister), San Francisco (Adina), Los Altos (Rhodes et. al — if this was not a G-rated blog Mark could tell you some stories….), Healdsburg (Steve and his family), and Mammoth (the bump crew!).  And it was bittersweet to say goodbye to the family and friends in San Diego, but on June 1 we arrived back in Akumal for the summer.

And now more than ever Akumal is feeling like home, and I suppose technically it’s the place we are spending the most time in, so that qualifies as our default home right now, huh? It sure feels like it.  I admit it sounds a bit cheesy, but as soon as we arrived we felt embraced by the warm tropical breeze, the beautiful turquoise water, and the laid-back pace of life.

Immediately we were welcomed back in the Akumal community, for better or worse!  The waiters at Lol-Ha definitely were happy to see us, and we have been spending a lot of time at Tequillaville, a bar/restaurant in Akumal Pueblo, since they show all the NBA games.  In fact, the other night a girl was proposed to, and somehow she dragged me up along with the owner of the place so we could dance on top of the bar. Pretty hilarious!

And Panchita is really getting into her groove down here. At first she was timid and yappy and clearly confused about what the heck we were doing here, but now she’s learned to enjoy chilling under the palapa and paddleboarding.

I started teaching my local English class and all my students returned from last year, plus a few new ones. They are so cute, and often stump me with “Why is the English language like that?” questions. My answer is always the same, “I don’t know!” 🙂

I also started working with a Spanish professor once a week, who is “refining” my Spanish, as she kindly puts it.  She’s amazing, and our classroom happens to be a cafe overlooking the dolphins in Puerto Aventuras, so it’s quite a pleasant tutoring session!

Mark is, of course, working out like a maniac, and after a shopping spree at the sporting good store (including his new weighted jump rope), his outdoor gym is all set up.

And the past week has been full of fun and revelry for Paola and Troy’s wedding, which happened just a few miles away. It was such a blast to have fifty of (their) closest friends visiting. One of them was our old roommate Ulrike, who made the major effort of coming down for the weekend and leaving behind her two small children. She was a champ and in the 48 hours she was here managed to fit in lots of snorkelling, swimming, running, palapa time, and many drinks, too!

The wedding was a wonderful success.   The ceremony and reception were both at beautiful sites and the party was pretty out of control! Here are a few of the more tame photos.

Not much else to report. Basically, we are both happy and settled here for awhile!

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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Uncategorized



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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


Meg’s Shower

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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Uncategorized



One huge plus about living in Rosarito is the proximity to our friends.  It’s been great to reconnect with so many people.  We thought our friends might be hesitant to cross into Mexico to see us, but happily many have made the trip, and we’ve enjoyed entertaining south of the border!  Our first guest was Andrea, who bravely walked over the border by herself, made her way the three blocks to downtown Tijuana, and caught a local colectivo (bus) down to Rosarito!  Way to go, world traveler!

Next Paul and Carolina passed through on their way to the Guadalupe Valley for some wine and food tasting. It was great to see them, too, and we had a fun night at Tapanco.  Then Mark’s dad Nick came down while I was away, and the two of them reportedly had a perfect 24 hours that included cervezas in the hot tub while watching gray whales swim by, lobster dinner at Puerto Nuevo, and breakfast at our new favorite beachfront restaurant, Splash.  Nick also braved the public transportation and found his way back over the border by foot. He’s still got it!  Next Johnson and Jenny showed up. Baja is their old stomping ground, so we enjoyed their favorite spot in Puerto Nuevo, Ortega’s, along with a few other nice spots along the coast that day.

Finally Shannon, Venti and Guppy showed up on Cinco de Mayo (which was pretty much a non-event because this holiday is really only celebrated outside of Mexico, in the US, by a few Mexicans and a lot of white people!).  Still, we had a blast with them!

We also had fun on a night out with some new friends, Alejandra and Miguel. They took us to the VIP Room at the movie theatre in Tijuana. For the price of a regular ticket in the US we enjoyed plush leather recliners and a waiter who took our drink and popcorn orders through the movie. We saw Comando Especial, which is the Spanish name for 21 Jump Street. Pretty hilarious, actually!

I  also love being close enough to visit friends up in San Diego. Adina and her family came to San Diego for a week’s vacation, and I met them in Cardiff for a day.

And it’s been great to be so close to Paola! We had a great time beach cruising around PB the other day.

We even rode past our old house on Sequoia Street. Ah, the memories!

Mark and I checked out the Guadalupe Valley a few weeks ago for some wine tasting and a concert. Here are some pictures:

So, this little test of trying out life in Rosarito went pretty well.  We are packing up soon for a few weeks in the Bay Area and Mammoth, and then in June we head back to Akumal for the summer.  But we will probably come back to Rosarito after that.

Here’s one last video of Mark surfing the other day.  Having a nice little wave all to himself right out front is definitely something he will miss!

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Posted by on May 6, 2012 in Uncategorized


Life in Rosarito

It’s been about a month and a half so far in Rosarito.  We are having fun exploring the area. Here are a few stories.


There’s a small bay and fishing village just half a mile north of us called Popotla. After all the years that Mark has surfed in Baja, it’s pretty amazing that he never discovered Popotla until now.  I imagine this is what Puerto Nuevo, the lobster town further south, was like 30 years ago.  The road off the highway is not marked, but as you drive down it you discover about 40 different businesses all squeezed onto a tiny road that spills onto the sand. Don’t let the sand stop you–everyone just drives right on the sand and parks their cars there.  It’s the closest beachfront parking space we’ve ever seen.  Along the sand and the little road before the sand are taco shops, fish vendors, and seafood restaurants, all offering fish caught that day (probably that hour).  The boats drive right up on the sand to drop off their catches, and then the fisherman jumps out of the boat and runs over to his truck to pull the boat out of the water for the day.  It’s such a simple,  low-food miles, authentic little village. Very Steinbeck-esque.

Yesterday Mark and I spent the afternoon there. This week is Easter Week, known as Semana Santa, and Popotla, like the rest of Rosarito, is bustling with tourists.  Not your typical spring breakers, though. The tourists are all Mexican families from inland cities like Tecate.  The beach was packed with extra vendors selling anything from belts to cotton candy to garlic, and kids were being guided around on the backs of sheltand ponies.  Guys on mopeds would drive up and down the beach selling pizza, too.  And a couple of horse riders would cruise by from time to time.

Mark paddled out for a surf, and even though the beach was packed, not one surfer was out (these tourists don’t surf much).  I had planned to bask in the sun and read my book, but didn’t read a word because the people watching was so interesting!

Here’s a video of us driving out of Popotla.

La Sala Tinta Theatre

I read about a concert in Ensenada, and convinced Mark to check it out with me last Saturday night. We’re both so glad we did.  It was in the Santo Tomas Bodega de Vinos, which is an old wine warehouse in the middle of downtown Ensenada.  The old brick building was huge and full of giant wine barrels, old-fashioned tools and wine making apparati.

The theatre inside the warehouse was beautiful, and we perched at the front of the balcony to enjoy the vocalists, two of which were world class opera singers, born and raised in Tijuana.  During the intermission yummy wine, cheese, and desserts were served. The whole night was beautiful and not at all what we expected to find as part of our stay in Baja California!

Here’s a video of the choir singing the title song, Noche de Ronda:


And we are very excited about our new family member, Pancha. After a year without a constant companion (except of course for our foster dog Isha), we were both ready for a new pup, and now that we got our overseas travelling out of our system for a while, it seemed to be the right time. We were looking for a dog that could match our lifestyle, which Diego did so well, so of course we were looking for someone like him.

We found Pancha after about a month of looking at shelters and rescue groups. She is a two year old Pomeranian mix that was given up at a shelter in Orange County.  She’s pretty adorable, and has adapted quickly to our life.  She is already very attached to us, and follows us around the house faithfully.  She is a snugglebug and loves to cuddle.  As we get to know her she is showing that she is playful and energetic at times, too.  Unfortunately, we took her to visit some of our canine friends yesterday and she doesn’t seem to be too friendly with other dogs, so that’s a big issue we need to work on.  She still has a lot to learn, as I guess so do we!

She has a beautiful multi-colored fox-like coat, but we shaved her just to see if she could pull off the shaved look. We think she’s pretty cute both ways.

Pancha el natural

Pancha’s summer cut

Catching up with Friends and Family

We are loving being close enough to hop up to San Diego for a night, and have had fun seeing our family and friends.  We got to celebrate Mark’s mom’s birthday last month, and have been slowly making the rounds on all of our friends.

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by!


Posted by on April 8, 2012 in Uncategorized


Back to Mexico

After spending a month in Takapuna, we thought long and hard about where to go next.  With the whole world to choose from, it was hard to make the decision. The original plan had been to settle down on a south pacific island for the next few months, but that wasn’t going to work since those islands didn’t have the community (or internet access) we were looking for.  While we both love Akumal, right now is the high season and everything is totally booked, so that was out. Both of us have been feeling the need to settle down, get more comfortable, be closer to friends and family, and have our “stuff,” so we thought, why not try Rosarito?  Yes, Rosarito, Mexico, as in just over the border from San Diego right next to Tijuana. We have been thinking about Rosarito as a possible new home, so we decided to use the next three months as a trial period. If we like it, maybe we’ll come back here in the late fall to start up a semi-permanent winter/spring residence here.

There were lots of condos for rent since there is not much tourism going on in this part of Mexico (you may have heard there is a little bit of a drug war going on in Tijuana).  While we are concerned about safety issues, before we arrived we spent hours reading and corresponding with both Americans and Mexicans that live in Rosarito, and we think that it’s not an issue that will affect us personally.  We’ve been here two weeks so far, and already we feel very safe. We avoid going to Tijuana, and are mainly staying around the south side of Rosarito, where there are plenty of shops and restaurants to keep up occupied for now.  I feel comfortable driving by myself (our beat-up truck is the perfect Baja car) and everyone we have met is nice and friendly and oh my god the food is so good (and cheap!).

And we love our condo in the Calafia Towers.  We have an amazing view, with dolphins and seals going by every day. Yesterday we also saw our first whale. Pretty neato. The community area here is also amazing–with beautiful walkways, six jacuzzis, two (freezing) pools, and of course, the beach.  The oceanfront gym is a huge plus (which of course Mark uses every day and I have even been known to set foot in), and there is a large lounge downstairs with pool tables, ping pong, fooz ball, etc.,  that we are already enjoying.

Mark and I are playing tennis together. So far I’ve been a big girl and haven’t pouted too much when I lose. He also discovered a left surf break called Popotla, which is just north of us, and it has a great little fishing village attached to it, which has great “autentico” seafood restaurants and taco shops.

The best part is that we are less than an hour away from San Diego (well, it’s a quick drive south, but the north-bound border wait can be hours). We plan to visit as much as possible. We surprised the Vargas/Jasner/Wilson clan a couple weeks ago, and it was great to see the family.  We headed up about a week ago for Mark’s birthday–golf at Torrey Pines and dinner in La Jolla with all our friends. Then back to Mexico the next day.

It’s a nice balance of mellow-Mexican life with US amenities and friends and family nearby….I think this might work for awhile!

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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


Last Week in New Zealand

Our time in New Zealand has come to an end, but we did have an extra fun last week, so I thought I’d share a few more stories.

I took Erica’s bike to Waiheke island for the day. It was an easy ferry trip from Devonport, and though it was cloudy and threatening rain when I left, in half an hour I found myself back in the sunshine. Turned out to be a beautiful day–perfect for biking and wine tasting around this little island.  As soon as I got off the ferry it was easy to navigate my way through the quaint streets of Waiheke. The island has a very mellow, slightly hippie vibe. There’s not much on the island except for beaches, bed and breakfasts, and wineries.

I started on the south side of the island where there was a lovely auto-free coastal track.

Then I made my way to the first winery: Goldie’s Vineyard.  I hopped off my bike and met a friendly American in the tasting room who hooked me up with lots of wine and then sent me to the top of the hill with my glass to enjoy the view. Not too shabby.

From there I went to two more wineries (already forgot the names) and one of them also was a brewery, so I got to taste some beer, too.  I treated myself to a lovely lunch and then rode around the north side of the island, stopping at various beaches along the way. The entire time I was thinking of Mark and Jennie Johnson–you guys would love this place.  I was even scoping out the best hotel to recommend to you, so if you ever are in that part of the world, let me know!


One day we rented a car and headed to the west coast to see what kind of surf is on the Tasman Sea. Piha is a well-known surf-spot for Aucklanders, and the beach is just gorgeous with giant rocks framing the surf.  Mark rented a board and caught a few waves while I enjoyed lying on the warm black sand.  We wandered around a bit and saw some pretty cool surfshops/beach pads. Everyone we met was really laid back and friendly, including the deli shop guy who gave us free brownies. Mark was impressed with the friendly vibe out in the water, too. Out in the lineup he accidentally bumped the board of a huge Maori guy. The guy turned around, and Mark got ready for a thrashing. The guy said, “I’m so sorry, brah!” and smiled. Love those kiwis! Overall it was a great day and felt a lot like being back in California.

We had a few more touristy things to knock off, like the zoo, which was fun.

Then Erica and Rob took us to the Sky City Casino for a big night of gambling and fine dining. The view was fabulous from the observatory (probably the best view in the entire country) and we had fun down in the casino, too.

The very last night Rob took Mark sailing, and they both came back hooting and hollering with excitement. They had four races and managed to place in the last one. Mark loved every minute. Here are few videos:

Well, I thought another month in Kiwi Land might make the novelty of this country wear off, but no such luck.  We just love everything about New Zealand, and we’re truly grateful that we got a chance to spend two months there.  Here are a few more classic kiwi pictures:

Love the Airport Terminal Screen, with its “Relax” message:

Will always remember our view from the Spencer on Byron

God Bless New Zealand!

And where do we go next? Well, the five readers of this blog probably already know…but stay tuned for our next blog coming soon!

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Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Uncategorized


February: Takapuna

Just thought I’d share a few Takapuna days with you all.

Let’s see…Erica and Rob invited us over for a house party poker game with a few of their friends.  Very brave of them to invite us, but my loose “all-in” style balanced Mark’s professional skills, so they took all my money and Mark won most of it back. Though Erica was the tournament champion, beating Mark in the last hand.  Come to think of it, she also won the role of “President” the most times in our game at Tupou–she’s got some skills!

The next week was Superbowl, and Erica’s friends were kind enough to host a Superbowl party at their place. We brought all the food, making sure it was a proper-American menu: hot dogs and apple pie, nachos, guacamole, chips and dip, and margaritas. Well, I suppose it was a Mexican-American theme. 🙂  We had a blast watching it with them. Mark explained the rules (some of them knew the game quite well) while I made batch after batch of margarita.  Then we stumbled down to the beach to play a quick touch game of grid iron (what Kiwis call American football).  Mark had a blast calling the plays, though all the “old men,” including Mark, were sore or injured by the end of the day.

Mark ran the Beach Series 5K last week, and did well (7th overall!).  It was fun to watch and hopefully by next week I can run myself ( my foot is healing finally).  Though he’s still nursing a calf-injury, Mark’s in good shape again and working out everyday, which as you know, is so important to him.

We saw our first rugby game (well, it was rugby league, which apparently is WAY different than rugby union, what they play in the World Cup). It was fun to watch and I definitely like it more than football, though Mark thinks I’m just being a contrarian.  Maybe I just like the shorter shorts the players wear. Plus, there are no time outs, so the game moves incredibly fast.  Fun night!

Been getting a little bit of culture, since who knows when I’ll live in a big city again. Last week I saw a great Shakespeare performance of Macbeth at a beautiful lakefront outdoor amphitheater. The actors were incredible, though I chuckled a bit to hear the relaxed cadence of the Kiwi accent out of the mouth of Banquo and King Duncan. 🙂 Today I’m going to an opera performance right down the road. Should be fun! (Suffice it to say, I’ve been doing these things solo, Mark is not that curious about Kiwi arts and culture).

Erica brought me along to a Hen’s party last night, which is the Kiwi term for Bachelorette party. It was a great night, starting with a cocktail making training at a local bar. The bartenders were great. When we showed up they had arranged drink stations and divided us into teams, then taught us how to make first mojitos and then Sex on the Beach, and we competed on which team made the best drink.  We had a lot of fun drinking and tasting, and designing creative looks for the drink toppers:

Still lots to see and do. This week I hope to get over to Waiheke Island, where I can bike around to different wineries.  Also need to check out the surf on the west coast, and definitely need to see the zoo.

That’s all for now!

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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Uncategorized


January 22: Takapuna, New Zealand

Finally back to the first world, which we appreciate for three main reasons: medicine (I go to a real doctor and get my foot seen, cleaned, bandaged) internet (high speed and bulletproof, god bless it!), and creature comforts (American sports on TV, every kind of cuisine within a one-block radius, and English-speaking people!).  So, as soon as we land I load minutes on my New Zealand sim card and get a text from Erica. She’s having a party tonight with all her coast-to-coasters. Can we come? Of course!

We check into our new “home” at the Spencer on Byron Hotel in Takapuna, a north shore beach community of Auckland.  I’ve always fantasized about living in a fancy hotel in New York City, and I think this is as close as I’ll ever get.  They put us on the 19th floor with gorgeous views of Rangitoto Island, and we finally have a door between the bedroom and living room, which gives us a bit of a break from each other.  We also have a little kitchen and washer/dryer—basically everything we need.  The hotel is beautiful and has a great pool, hot tub, gym and tennis court, which Mark is using every day (I will as soon as my foot gets better).  Plus, we are just a couple blocks from the beach and Erica’s.

Takapuna is a really cute place. It is sort of a mix between Del Mar (walkable, great restaurants), Pacific Beach (mellow vibe with lots of athletic people wandering around), and La Jolla (cute shops, cafes, etc.).  The beach is lovely and every Tuesday night during the summer (which we are in now, btw) is the Beach Series, this wonderful event that encourages everyone to jump in.  At 6pm the horn blows and the race begins. About a thousand people participate in either a 5K run, a stand up paddle, a kayak, or a swim. It’s so exciting and everyone finishes through the same finish line about 30 minutes later—really neat!

So, we are relieved to unpack, buy groceries, work comfortably, and just “live our lives.”  We booked a month for now and then, we’ll see…both of us are trying to make an effort NOT to plan ahead and just focus on the “now,” which we haven’t been doing for the last few weeks.

This trip has really made me ponder those frustrating questions like, “Where do I belong?” and “What is the meaning and purpose of my life?”  I have a sneaking suspicion that there will never be just “one” purpose to my life, and that my meaning and focus will shift over the years, as it has already done.  It used to be track, then dogs and chimps, then traveling. Now what?  It would be nice to just check a box and say, “This is what I’m all about.”

And I am beginning to have an obsessive relationship with the expression “the grass is always greener.”  No matter where I am, it seems like I always want to be somewhere else. If I’m home, I wish I was on the road. If I am on the road, I wish I was home.  And now who knows where home really is? This is the ultimate question on my mind, and I’m working on figuring it out.

I have always thought that travel was the road to enlightenment. The best way to broaden my mind and grow as a human being. But in so many ways travel has mixed me up. With so many places and perspectives and lifestyles, it’s problematic to have to choose one. There’s no easy way to sift through these things, but I suppose time, contemplation, and reflection are a good start, right? Or if someone out there has already figured this out for me, please let me know!


Posted by on February 2, 2012 in Uncategorized


January 16-22: Vanuatu

So, even though we are both ready to settle down, we decide to fly first to Vanuatu because it’s close and convenient.  It’s funny, because there’s something in me that craves travel and new places so much that it even trumps my exhaustion and need to settle down. So we find ourselves in yet a new country but limit it to just five nights. From here we will go to Auckland to set up shop for awhile.

So—we arrive in Port Vila at 7:30 in the morning.  Port Vila is the capital of Vanuatu, which is a small country of 250,000 people, located in the middle of the South Pacific.   It looks a lot like Fiji, though the people look a little different. They resemble East Africans more than the West African look they had in Fiji, and are a bit shorter than the mighty Fijians we had met.  Mark also notices that there are quite a few men that closely resemble Lebron James (just not as tall), so maybe Lebron has Vanuatuan heritage?

We step outside the airport and look for a taxi. Some men ask us where we are going and we tell them our hotel, and they say, “We’ll take you. I think all the taxis are gone.”  So nice of them. They drive us into town and tell us a little about Vanuatu. We stop at a gas station and they speak bislama, a pidgeon English which is very interesting to me.  We learn a few words from the ads, like “Me Wantem Tusker.” (I want a Tusker Beer!).  Funny!

We stay at the Grand Casino Hotel, which is modern and lovely and perched on the beautiful harbor.

We dive at Tranquility Island one day and both dives are very nice.  The soft coral isn’t as vibrant as Taveuni, but the visibility is great and we even see a Hawksbill turtle, which I love. At lunch they take us to the Turtle Sanctuary, where they keep turtle babies for 15 months before releasing them, to help increase their odds of their survival. They say their survival rate goes from 1% to 40% by letting them grow a little bigger before they swim out to sea.

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I am a bit under the weather for most of the week due to an infection on my foot which starts to get worse and worse so that I can barely walk. This majorly puts a damper on the visit. Mainly I mope around the hotel and Mark works out like a maniac, enjoying the hotel gym.  But overall we like the people and the vibe in Port Vila. It’s a walkable town with cute bars and restaurants and the harbor is clean and turquoise blue. Still third world here, but this place comes a lot closer to a livable beach town.

Here are a few more underwater videos from Vanuatu.  Did I mention there was an earthquake while we were diving? We didn’t “feel” it but we heard a rumbling sound. Pretty unique!

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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Uncategorized