I've been gone for a while, so here's a quick recap of what I've been up to. I'm also going to let y'all know what I am up to, now that I am back.
Where I've Been
What really set this 19-day vacation into motion for The Traveling Kotenkos was the marriage between Daniel and Kari.
This is Kari and Daniel. They both went to the same college as J.
This is their adorable little baby Ana. She is one of the cutest babies ever!
J & J. Wow, we clean up good!
So anyway, we spent a couple of days in Orlando after the wedding and went to Universal Studios. I probably would have had a more awesome time at Disneyland, but Disneyland didn't have The Wizarding World of Harry Potter...that made our choice way easier. IT WAS AWESOME. I would have asked J to go through the roller coaster again in TWWOHP, but he wasn't feeling that great (we had a lot to drink at the wedding) and I didn't want to do it by myself. Ahhh, so THAT'S why Kari had a shitload of Tums in her wedding giveaways for us! Should've had the common sense to bring it with us to the theme park.
Hogwarts. It was pretty damn spectacular.
We flew to DC and stayed with Jason's brother for 2 nights. J ensured that a day would be enough to see the sights in DC. It would have been true, if it didn't suddenly rain later on in the day. We did get to see the monuments and I did get to see a few of the museums at the national mall, but we weren't able to go into the Capitol (it was a Sunday) and there was no time to check out the White House.
J&J in front of the DC Capitol
We did get to meet up with my cousin Johnny, though, whom I have not seen in 3-4 years! He's one of my most favorite relatives and it was really heartwarming to see him. He almost didn't come, but I expertly guilted him into showing up by saying that it's been years and that all I wanted from him was a hug. :) He brought his girlfriend with him.
My mother-in-law picked us up from Jason's brother's place so we can spend some time with her and my father-in-law in the house J grew up in. It was my second time in their house and in their town. I always enjoy visiting because it reminds me of the village I grew up in. It was small enough for people to know people (if not personally, at least by face), it was peaceful, it wasn't congested or polluted. In short, the ideal place to raise a family. I know people from small towns have big dreams of moving to the city, and maybe when J was younger, he too wanted to see the world, but there's definitely a charm to the small town life that appeals to me greatly. Maybe after J and I have exhausted our vagabond traveling ways and are looking to rest for a while, we'd reconsider our options.
We also took a trip up to Edinboro, J's college town. On the way there I had a slight mishap with the convenience store door, rendering two of my toes on the right foot torn apart and bloody, which sort of limited our activities from then on, but it was okay because 1) We got to spend 2 nights in a quaint little cottage, and 2) I fished for the first time and caught one! J's dad threw mine back into the lake though since it was too small, but now I sort of get the appeal of fishing: it's a quiet activity, you get to relax, and you get a sense of pride when you catch a lot of fish. It also doesn't hurt that you have a yummy meal ahead of you. It was good...the only thing missing was a saucer of soy sauce and calamansi. :P
J's college house. Adorable, ain't it?
We drove all day from Edinboro to downtown Chicago without a plan or a hotel reservation, which was a mistake, we later on learned. We actually got in early thanks to J's steady driving, but we ended up having to look for a place to stay for 3 hours until we settled on an expensive Country Inn & Suites hotel suite (we actually had hotel points that would've enabled us to stay for free, but J decided to save those for a more worthy cause in the future). Traveler tip: Finding a hotel in Chicago is tough shit...better visit with a reservation prior to arrival.
Anyway, like I said, we absolutely had no plans for our stay in the city, so we did the touristy thing first and visited The Bean, which was pretty cool for about a minute--there were just too many people taking photos and whatnot!
That's me and J in the middle, with someone random behind us.
We also walked around...a lot. I would've wanted to go to the art museum because they were featuring works of Roy Lichtenstein (one of my favorites!), but being the frugal folks that we are, we decided on going to a free concert instead. Apparently they do this a lot, hold free concerts in Millennium Park, in an area where people can bring their own food and drink and chairs and relax. We weren't as prepared as some of the people there (a couple had wine in glasses, a table, and fancy takeout from some Italian restaurant), but it was okay....we laid on the grass and drank our beer in cans. It was great. The concert? It was Haydn's The Seasons, and the entire time we had no idea what season was being performed. We were so confused we decided to leave during intermission.
We also visited the Lincoln Park/Zoo (is this what Linkin Park is named after?), which was awesome, despite not being able to see any bears. We also had a bunch of good food (ribs = my fave = always good)...didn't get a chance to try deep dish pizza though. I know, tourist fail.
Our stint in Chicago ended with a night out with some of Jason's college friends. We drank and barely had time to sleep off our hangover before we had to head to the airport for our next leg. Traveler tip:if you plan to get shitfaced before a flight...DON'T DO IT. It does not feel good.
This was the last stop in our very long trip, and I was very excited to see it (Idaho especially) since J refers to it as one of his most favorite places he has lived in. It was just bad luck that I had a hangover and that we had to go through a lot of bull to rent a car from the Salt Lake City airport (read: modus operandi where they say they don't have your reservation, but they have a more expensive rental for you...nevah mind!), but that didn't stop us from having a good time. Not even the fact that we had to stay in a Motel 6 for a night..tired people are not choosy people, I've learned. And it was okay after that anyway... We saw a little bit more of Utah and checked out the Mormon towns, which are impeccable. Never mind the fact that they have weird beliefs in magic underwear, they sure know how to keep a neat and orderly lifestyle! I also found out that Mormons are required to keep a year's supply of food and other amenities in their household for, ya know, in case life as we now know it collapses (this idea I actually support, seems like a good idea to be prepared for an apocalypse). And yes, I met up with my MrazWomen friend Whitney. :)
We also ended up staying at J's former workmate's parents' mansion house, where there were 4 dogs and 9 horses free to roam about. It was scary at first, but it didn't take me long to love it and wish I had a horse of my own (or wish that I knew how to ride one on my own, without assistance).
Our last few days were spent with Jason's old boss/mentor and his wife, and we also had drinks with some of his other former workmates from back when he was an intern at the national laboratory. One of his workmates, Randy, had a garden full of tomatoes, peppers, and other herbs, and visiting them made me want to have my own garden of eatables so badly. It further solidified my resolve that one day, small town life will be ours, J's and mine. If not here, then maybe the Philippines.
And have this view, if not right outside my window (wishful thinking), then maybe an hour's drive away...
What I've Realized: A Consolidation
To make this part easier, I'll do a list:
* Although doing things spontaneously and "winging it" are two of my favorite past times, I shouldn't do those things when my own wedding is concerned (which will be in January 2013, in Miami...more on this real soon). I definitely want a small wedding like Daniel and Kari's. Instead of my old plan of planning things out 1-2 months before The Day, I'm going to try and get started as soon as possible.
* I know jackshit about the US, about its history, and its geography. As an aspiring US citizen, I really need to get crackin' and find out more. I've asked J to find me the best and most comprehensive American History book he can find that's not so hard to read. I'm also making it a point to look at the US map that's on our apartment wall right now so I can get a better sense of what state is in what area.
* Like I've said previously...I think I am in love with the small town life. I am unexpectedly enjoying being a housewife as opposed to my old dream of being a full fledged career woman, and the more I think about it, the more I think it's okay. Maybe the modern woman is regressing to the old days when women ruled the household since female empowerment has already been established and we've gotten a taste of gender equality. Maybe I've just been unemployed (in the corporate setting) for far too long that I've grown accustomed to my laid back routine. Whatever the reason, I think that down the line, I'd rather enjoy my life in simple ways rather than work myself to the ground and enjoy the fruits of my labor a little too late. The small town life is so awesome...waking up with the sunlight streaming into your room because there's no smog blocking it, hearing animal sounds instead of traffic noise, eating vegetables right out of your garden, having a barn full of animals. IT ALL SOUNDS AWESOME. And really, as long as I have Internet, I can pretty much occupy myself with other things if I really need the distraction. I can even get a job and work from home if it's necessary. Which leads me to the next one...
* Working only when necessary...THAT IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL.
* We're too old to get too shitfaced....AND THAT'S OKAY.
So far, that's all I have. I've uploaded photos of our trip on my Facebook account, so if you're interested, just check there.