ATV Adventures in Bali

Hello Dear Readers!

Tired of hearing about Bali yet? Don’t worry, this is my last post! I don’t normally write about every day of a trip, but then again I also don’t do incredible things Every. Single. Day.

Have I whined enough about my lack of sleep? Trust me, this was a vacation in the sense that we were far from home and doing cool things, but absolutely not in the sense that we were sitting around relaxing.

Anyway, on our last day in Bali our flight didn’t leave until 9:45pm. Obviously, that meant we could squeeze in one final activity. What did we pick? As may be obvious from the title, we did an ATV ride through the island!

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Straight rolling through the jungle

Now, I’d never ridden an ATV before, so I was a little nervous, but it was actually really easy. We had the quads for two hours, which meant we rode down across the beach, through the waves, over coconuts and all kinds of driftwood, and up into a little local village, where all the children ran to stand at the door and wave to us as we went by. It was awesome!

I only put sunscreen on my face so now I have a really sweet v-neck and farmer’s tan line. Such is the price I pay for my adventures.

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But look how badass I am

We stopped a few times for photos, and once a cow even tried to attack Deja on her ATV. Like, I’m not gonna say it was hilarious…but it was. Cows are sacred in Hindu, so there wasn’t anything she could do about it. Eventually, our guide ended up holding the line the cow was attached down so she could ride over it and escape. It was great.

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I’m a model. Ignore the denim chaps.

Unfortunately, traffic in Bali is absolutely atrocious. It takes at least an hour to get anywhere, and more often two hours. As an example, our ATV place was located fifteen miles away, and took a little over an hour and a half to get to. This meant that we were a bit late getting back, and David and I had to rush in order to pack and get to the airport. I know, I know, I’m a procrastinator. But for good reason!

Anyway, the flight back from Bali was the worst…a full 24 hours to get back to Houston and an additional four more to get to Orlando, where I’ve just spent the last five days. I’ll tell you guys all about it next.

-Carissa “Nonstop” Ragland

Awesome Amman

Hello Friends!

So I wouldn’t say that my time in Jordan got off to a…good…start. As you guys read previously, almost everything went wrong immediately. However! We’re both fully recovered and have spent some fun time wandering around this city.

I told you guys that I lived here before, so there have been lots of things I wanted to show David. It’s surreal being back. We’ve been making the rounds, climbing up to the citadel:

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Checking out the Roman Theatre:

And eating at every restaurant I’ve ever been to. It’s been a stomach-busting adventure, and we’re having a lot of fun.

In fact, yesterday we made some new friends! Basically as soon as people figure out we can speak Arabic, we’re instantly 100% more interesting. (Me, mostly. It’s the hair).

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Look at this stuff. So hairy

So we spent the entirety of our Uber ride yesterday chatting with our driver, who declared us his new friends from California, and asked if he could climb into our checked luggage back to the US. Something…tells me that wouldn’t work out.

And oh my god.

While we were at the Roman theatre, we made friends with a couple of kids who were there hanging out. Now, I don’t know if you guys know this, but the Jordanian concept of personal space is very different than in the US (for men only). Thus, we found ourselves sitting at the top of the theatre with a couple of 17 year-olds, who immediately started hanging all over David and asking him to sing.

So he did. He obliged them with a rap.

Have you met David?

It went a little something like this:

“My name is David and I’m in the city of Amman, sitting here with my new friends- I forgot your name- what’s your name? Kasm! Yeahhhhhhh”

I actually doubled over in laughter. And no matter how impressed they were with our American-ness, they were not impressed with this rap. The disbelief, doubt, and confusion ran across their faces as they stared at him, wondering if he was joking.

He wasn’t. He’s just not…uh…adept at rapping.

After this debacle, we headed to a rooftop bar, where we enjoyed amazing Arab food, including mansaf, which is the official dish of Jordan. It’s a sour yogurt, rice, and lamb dish, and pretty good if you like Arab food overall. (Which we do).

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Mmmm

It was a great day with a beautiful ending.

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Today we’re heading out the the souks for a little shopping and hopefully more new friends.

-Carissa “Nour” Rawson

Amor in Roma

Well hello! Long time no talk! That’s because I’ve been busy making memories. And guys, do I have some stories to tell you. But! First things first. I’ve spent the last 9 days in Rome, where I’ve made new friends, spent time with old ones, and got to show an Italy noob around. (As if I’m not one)

Let’s begin from the beginning, shall we?

I previously told you guys that I was staying in an ancient farmhouse in Tuscany, with no wifi and lots of animals. Well, my day to leave came around and I packed everything up, dragged my suitcase to the car, and let the farmer’s son drive me the half hour to the train station. I was waiting on the platform with Nala, barely five minutes before leaving, when I realized that I had forgotten my wallet. You will recognize this as something that I absolutely cannot lose. Luckily, the farmer’s son had gone to the market and hadn’t left the village yet. I caught him as he got to his car, and he escorted me back to the farm, where my wallet sat waiting. D’oh. Unfortunately, this also meant I missed my train, and my connecting one, which put me in Rome at 4pm rather than 12pm. This sucks all by itself, but my friend Sarah (hi Sarah!) had come down from Germany for the weekend and landed at 9am. She was forced to wander alone while I languished in the Tuscan countryside. Such is life.

Pause here for a moment while I tell you guys about this game that my mom got me. It’s called Anywhere, and can be found on Amazon.

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Sarah working hard during the game

I hadn’t played it before, since I didn’t want to be a lonely loser, but Sarah and I spent the entire weekend playing and had an absolute blast. It features such cards as “make up a silly walk,” and “pick someone to follow around. Follow them for as long as possible.” You better believe we followed a man wearing incredibly tight pants all throughout the city.

Our second night in the city was amazing and ridiculous and just…well let me tell you. We made the bus ride to the Coliseum, during which an incredibly drunk man sat thirteen inches away from us and made awkward, unending, eye contact for half an hour. He was undoubtedly fascinated by us, to the point where he attempted to read our cards and even check out the pictures I was showing Sarah on my phone. After an understandably creepy amount of time had passed, we finally managed to hop off the bus and make a run for it before he realized we were gone. Upon reaching the Coliseum, however, we found out it was closed. Staring at it, and the various people milling around inside, Sarah turned to me and said, “I think I need a drink.”

And thus began our adventures.

 

We started first at a hipster bar, where the bartender did his best to impress Sarah and accidentally threw an entire bottle of liquor on the floor. Then they gave us free shots because they forgot to give us our bruschetta.

Suitably tipsy, we made our way to a highly recommended pizza shop, where we told the wait would be a half hour and finally got a table two hours later. In the meantime, we wandered the streets and even managed a few words with a Syrian shopkeeper, who was very impressed by us.

Finally sitting down, we ordered an entire liter of red wine and devoured a whole pizza each. We closed the shop down at midnight, after the exasperated waitress asked us for the third time whether we wanted to order any more food.

Then, because I had told Sarah I’d always wanted to go to an Ice Bar, she looked one up and we made our way over there. We arrived at 12:30, and the guy at the entrance paused, my credit card in his hand, before telling me to look up at the live feed inside the bar. It. Was. Empty. I mean literally not a single person was inside. Having saved us 30 Euros (for a cover fee), we thanked him profusely and asked for bar recommendations. He directed us to the Nag’s Head, a Scottish pub which he promised would have people in it.

Also, I just need to tell you guys what we looked like at this point. Sarah was dressed all in black, from head to toe, and I was wearing sky blue leggings with a hot pink workout shirt that read “After this…pizza.” Oh, and my red Gryffindor sweater. So basically we were hot babes and everyone knew it.

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Goddesses of the Night

In contrast, the pub was full of middle-aged women in club attire, with full face makeup. Seeing we were completely out-dressed, we hurriedly redid our hair from ‘ponytail’ to ‘inside-out ponytail.’ Very effective.

We then continued to play Anywhere, enjoying glasses of Guinness and dancing around awkwardly at our very own table. At one point, Sarah walked into the kitchen (on purpose) before hurriedly being shoved out by a very distressed waiter and waved in the direction of the bathrooms.

It was at this point, after having been alone for approximately 30 seconds, that an Indian man named Tareq came over and made himself comfortable at our table. Now, it was very loud in the bar, and I had a really hard time hearing him. So every time he spoke, I would turn to Sarah (who had come back from the bathroom) and ask her what he said.

It was because of this that I thought he was a writer. For the Vatican. After asking a million questions about what he wrote, he exasperatedly told us that he was a waiter and that he served people food for a living. Oops.

I mean seriously, this guy would not leave our table. So in desperation, I stood up, eyed the bar, and beckoned a different table full of men over in order to get him to leave. And, I mean, it worked. He did leave. But then we were stuck with this other table full of men. So…it was better?

We ended up spending the rest of the night hanging out with these guys, before they tried really hard to get us to go home with them. I mean, come on guys, we’re not fourteen. We know what you’re trying here.

So it was with great enjoyment that I watched Sarah break down into full hysterics over her lost necklace, fabricating a hilarious and semi-realistic excuse to leave. And let me tell you- she didn’t half-ass it here. She went all out, sobbing, tearing at her hair, looking all over the floor, etc. etc. I even made up a nice backstory, telling the guys with us that it was from her dead mother and literally irreplaceable.

Since she was just *so* upset, we had to make a quick break for it. Running off down the road, I called an Uber, which was just minutes away when the guys from the bar caught up to us. I’m fairly certain they saw us chit-chatting, with Sarah perfectly fine, before she broke down again, RAN TO THE NEAREST CAB, and climbed in, screaming for me to join her. I, being the good friend that I was, couldn’t just leave her, and shrugged woefully at the poor bar guys before joining her in the cab.

And thus we made our escape.

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-Carissa “Tight Pants” Rawson

Tuscany: Romancing my Dog

Hello All!

Today I am sitting here in my very own farmhouse, deep within the rolling hills of Tuscany. It’s as nice as it sounds. The weather up here is gorgeous and the house is 500 years old (as told to me by the incredibly nice owners staying next door). I’m here for a total of four nights, and I have to admit, when I first got here, I was…sad. Because this place is beautiful, and romantic, and so very clearly a honeymoon-esque place to be.

And I’m here alone. Ah well, such is life.

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At least I have my dog?

I’ve cheered myself right up by finally having no plans at all. There’s not even wifi here, and my phone signal is straight out of 2006. This means I’ve spent a lot of time staring into the middle distance with the sun on my face and the goats baaing behind me.

Did I mention this was a working farm? The people who own it have everything- goats, pigs, rabbits, horses, sheep, chickens- even their own vineyard! They own the entire mountain we’re sitting on, as well as the one next to it. Of course, this means we’re approximately 20 minutes from any sort of store. Obviously I didn’t think this through, because I realized very quickly I had no food and no means of retrieving any (most people drive themselves here). However, the first night I was here, they cooked me a fantastic meal (of all homegrown foods) and even gave me a bottle of their own homemade wine. Ah-mazing.

The next morning, they even took me down to the village supermarket so I could get groceries for the next few days. Pro tip here guys: don’t ever attempt to use the self-checkout in a foreign country. Everything is different. When I first started scanning my items, the woman manning the self-checkouts pointed to the sign above me, saying “10 items maximum,” which I very obviously missed. (I had like 25). Then, when I went to ring in some bananas, she literally shouted “stop!” ran over, and showed me that you have to pre-price all your produce before getting to the checkout stand. Of course I had like…10 items of produce, which I shamefully went back and priced out while leaving my basket hogging an entire checkout stand.

Then she had to come over to verify my age for my wine.

Then I accidentally took an item out of the bagging area and she had to unlock the register so I could continue.

At this point she just gave up and scanned all my groceries for me.

She left me to pay and I thanked her profusely while I finished up.

Then I couldn’t figure out how to get out. I was locked in the grocery store.

Finally, I walked up to her, as shamefully as you could possibly imagine, said “scusi,” and then gestured helplessly at the locked doors.

I think she probably wanted to fall off her chair in laughter, but she was very graceful, scanned her badge at a kiosk (you’re supposed to scan your receipt) and let me out.

My embarrassment was palpable.

Next time I’ll just starve.

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My farmhouse in the upper left

-Carissa “what’s Italian?” Rawson

Florence, Dog Pee, and a Vacation from a Vacation

Hello All,

I’m writing to you from my hotel in Florence, where I am taking a vacation from my vacation. God, how spoiled do I sound? The truth is, it’s pretty tiring getting up and getting out all day, every day. Combined with the care of a tiny needy dog who sometimes pees on things like your bed, it can be downright exhausting!

So! Like I mentioned previously, I’m completing a status challenge in order to get Hilton Diamond status for the next few years. That meant canceling a few of my Airbnbs and switching to hotels.

And boy, is it worth it. I took off yesterday from Nice, where it had kindly decided to start storming exactly as I ran for the train station. Soggy and freezing, Nala and I climbed onto the train, where we sat, delayed, for two hours. Like, I mean, we hadn’t even left the station yet.

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But look at that tongue.

Anyway, I had a connection in Milan, which I ended up missing. Knowing this, I went down to customer service, where I waited for an hour for help and ended up missing another train. Oh! And someone tried to pickpocket me! Never underestimate the excitement of travel, guys.

Long story short, I ended up in Florence 4 hours late and tired of hauling all my (Nala’s) stuff through train stations. Luckily, upon arrival at the Hilton, (almost) everything got immediately better. Seeing as how I’m currently a top-tier elite, my room was upgraded, and, of course, I got executive lounge access, which means free food and drinks all day long. The point I’m making here is: get status! It makes everything 1000% nicer.

I’m now freshly showered, fed, and watered, and spent a lovely morning in a whirlpool spa area doing absolutely nothing. It was glorious.

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From the rooftop terrace at the executive lounge.

Now, a final story to send you guys off before I spend some more time relaxing and chilling out.

So, last night, like I mentioned, I was pretty tired. Nala too, since she had been traveling with me all day. Well, she had already pooped in the train terminal, but luckily the Italians love dogs so everyone just chuckled and shook their heads.

After arriving to the hotel, I spent a few minutes in my room before heading to the club lounge to grab a few drinks and snacks. When I came back, Nala was waiting for me at the door, frantically greeting me and jumping around. Well…I soon found out why, when I encountered my plush, amazing, king-size bed covered in pee. This means my dog, who I had just left, (and who was just outside!) found herself alone, jumped up onto the bed (because the floor wasn’t good enough?) and decided to relieve herself. All. Over. It.

I mean come on! Shamefully, I called down to the front desk and asked them for a new bedspread, because my dog has no manners. They were very kind and sent up housekeeping with a new one, who remade my bed while I awkwardly watched and tried to ignore the wet pile of dog pee bedding right next to us.

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I am a shameful pee dog.

Good times.

Ciao!

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Selfie Queens

-Carissa “Under the Tuscan Sun” Rawson

Nice is Nice!

Hello Dear Readers!

Today I am in Nice! I left Barcelona early on Saturday and ended up here at around 8pm. It was a long, long, day, and Nala wasn’t the biggest fan, but we made it safe and sound. My apartment here is pretty nice, though it’s only got a futon for a bed, which is less than ideal. But! It’s about a two minute walk to the beach so can I really complain?

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Can you believe this view?

Yesterday was my first full day in Nice, and to get myself started, I signed up for a walking food tour throughout the city. Let me tell you guys, the French really know their stuff. So fresh!

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We even did an olive oil tasting

I actually happened to meet a few other Americans on the tour, so they adopted me into our group and we even spent the rest of the day together! Guys, people think I’m interesting. They even want to spend time with me! How cool is that?

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I’m popular!

Anyway, the French Riviera is so far way cooler than Paris (sorry Eiffel Tower), and I can see why everyone comes to live here. I certainly would. It’s stunning, and I’ll be spending the next week here taking as many poorly-lit and amateurish photos as possible so you all can see.

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Until then, au revoir!

-Carissa “I can’t stop speaking in Spanish” Rawson

Japan, Or: Dear God Where Am I? Part Three

So yesterday I left you guys with the story of the crazy Izakaya (dinner show) and Mr. Yucky humping a ton of girls. Well, let me tell you how the end of the night went, because it’s just as ridiculous.

Sitting just behind David at the Izakaya was another couple. Miley (who pronounced it Mirey), a very Japanese girl who loved Disney as much as me, and her boyfriend, Jeremy, who was half-Japanese, half-Canadian, ano had moved to Japan from Canada just a few years prior.

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Miley *also* got her drawing humped

They ended up asking us if we wanted to go out after the show, and obviously we agreed. Miley said she knew a really awesome bar to go to, so we headed out right away.

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Very Vampire-y

Now, I don’t know if I’ve gotten this totally across yet, but Tokyo is full of weird places. Thus, we ended up at the Vampire Cafe, the *spookiest* bar/ restaurant around. It was in Ginza, where all the rich people like to play and hang out, so obviously we fit right in (not).

We spent a few awesome hours talking and hanging out, enjoying bloody drinks and creepy appetizers. Or something like that. Miley regaled us with tales of her work at Tokyo Disney and guys if you think I’m into Disney you need to meet these people. Fanatic doesn’t quite cover it.

Have you ever heard of the Japanese term Kawaii? It means cute, and is the favorite term of Harajuku girls (think violently pink dress-up clothes). Well, at one point during the night, Miley started telling David, whom she had already dubbed Denzel Washington, that he was *especially* kawaii. Over and over.

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David “Kawaii” Ragland

David loved this.

Eventually, however, her boyfriend got pissed and snapped at her “you can’t just call another man cute, Miley! It’s rude! What does his girlfriend think??”

Obviously I thought it was hilarious but did my best to look offended.

After a few hours, we wrapped up the night, took a few pictures with the resident vampire, and headed home to our apartment.

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Spooooky

And thus ended our first day in Japan.

-Carissa “Not so Kawaii” Rawson

Japan, Or: Dear God Where Am I? Part Two

Ok! I know I promised some more Japan, so here we go:

Remember how I left off with Mr. Yucky drawing a picture of my face and then humping it? It gets better.

There also happened to be a large table of Japanese girls, maybe 10 or so, who looked to be 18-25ish.

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See those girls in the background?

Well, they picked America as the country that they wanted him to represent. Cool, right?

Right.

So, Mr. Yucky went back into his closet and set up a puppet show with a little green frog, who proceeded to tell us about his life in America. Great, wonderful, etc etc. Finally, the little green frog goes: “do you guys want to meet my brother?”

“Yes!” shouts everyone.

“Do you want to meet my brother?”

“Yes!”

“His name is Dick! Do you guys want to meet my brother Dick?”

“Yes!” shouts everyone except David and I because we speak English and oh my god this is not going to end well.

The frog, hearing that we don’t respond, turns to me and says, “Carissa, DO YOU WANT TO MEET MY BROTHER DICK??”

To which I say no. Hell no. Everyone else in the room looks at me like I’m a spoilsport, which is short-lived because Mr. Yucky encourages them to start chanting his name.

“Dick! Dick! Dick!” shout the Japanese girls.

And out jumps Mr. Yucky in a giant green frog costume, with the puppet frog placed firmly over his crotch. He leaps at these girls and starts ramming the frog at their heads. They scream and cover their faces as he hops around the room shouting that his name is Dick.

Because America.

-Carissa

The Dominican Republic: Virgin Mudslides and Montezuma’s Revenge: The Final Part

Finally the last part guys! I’ve finished talking about how we got there, the caste system of the resort, and our new best friend the huntsman spider. So what else is left? Basically, I just want to discuss what went right, what went wrong, and what I’d change given the chance to do it again.

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David when he knows there’s a photo coming

First, while I definitely appreciate having gotten the hotel for so cheap, I certainly didn’t like the atmosphere of different tiered guests. There were certain pools and restaurants we weren’t able to go to, which I definitely didn’t appreciate.

Second, I’d do some more research on when the best weather is for the Dominican Republic. Like I mentioned before, it rained almost every day, which really put a- wait for it- damper on our trip. Ba dum tshh.

Third, bruh. What was up with that spider? Not cool, seriously not cool.

So what were the good things? The price, obviously, couldn’t be beat. Considering most all-inclusive resorts go for a minimum of $300/night for a couple, paying a mere $88 for the both of us for 4 nights was incredible. Though I didn’t do a lot of drinking, we ate our weight alone in food. (They had a Brazilian steakhouse! Unlimited meat!) The food was also really good, and no one stared judgily when I ordered every single dessert on the menu. I appreciated that.

The people were also pretty nice, though that may have been because everyone kept mistaking David for a Dominican. He speaks no Spanish, so every time they addressed him, he just stared at the floor uncomfortably while muttering “no…hablo…” until they got the message. It was fantastic.

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Me when I have no idea it’s taking a picture

Finally, when the weather was nice, it was really nice. Not too hot, though it was pretty humid. The pools were beautiful and fun to swim in as well.

So what would I change? Honestly, I’d probably go to a different resort. Despite the low price, when going somewhere all-inclusive (this was our first time) you expect to feel like a rockstar, which this place didn’t do. Was it worth eighty bucks? Yeah, definitely. Would I do it again? Maybe. Depends on if the spider showed up.

-Carissa

Oh, and regarding the title? Yeah, that happened. Thanks, Dominican Republic.