Tagged: vacations

Lions and Bucket Lists

Sunday, August 10, 2014 -- 11:02 pm

Pretty much since I can remember, I’ve wanted to hug a lion.  A big male lion with a giant mane I can run my hands through.  It’s been up there at the top of my bucket list right along with owning my very own home, standing underneath the Eiffel Tower, and traveling to Africa: hug a lion.  Some people may think it’s a bit silly, but for me the thought makes the breath catch in my throat and brings tears to my eyes the same way that the individuals who cry for whatever reason at weddings can’t really explain to other people.  Some people’s dreams involve winning the gold, visiting the Great Wall, or swimming with dolphins.  This is mine.

While I’ve already crossed off Paris and home ownership, earlier this year I made the decision that I would finally stop saying “some day” and tackle at least one more of these dreams: in 2015 (barring complications and scary Ebola outbreaks) I will be going to South Africa to volunteer for two to four weeks at an animal sanctuary and conservation reserve.

Like many others, my original idea for doing this came from watching a series of YouTube videos showing groups of international volunteers helping out at a South African lion park, feeding and playing with the cute, furry cubs.  I was entranced.  “What?” I thought.  “You mean I could visit Africa AND have the opportunity to cuddle lion cubs at the same time?”  It wasn’t the big adult lion I had been hoping for, but it was the closest I was probably ever going to get.  The decision was obvious.

Except -- it wasn’t.  Because the more excited I got, the more looking into it I did, the more I learned. . . the more I realized I didn’t want to do this at all.  The more I realized I didn’t want anyone anywhere ever doing this.

What You Don’t Know: A World Without Lions

To understand the problem behind this idea I had of cuddling adorable lion cubs, you have to have a little bit of an understanding about the current status of lions.

Lions are everywhere -- depicted on popular branding and logos, emblazoned on our clothes, sitting outside buildings as stone facades, on children’s books and in movies.  They have become cultural icons across the world and are easily one of the first and most identifiable animals we learn to recognize at an early age.

Unfortunately, what most people are surprised to learn is that lions are in serious trouble -- in the 1940’s there were reported to be over 450,000 lions in Africa; by the 1980’s less than 100,000.  Today there are only as few as 20,000 to 35,000 left in all of Africa.  That’s nearly a staggering 95% decrease in only 70 years; and over an 80% loss of population in just the last 30 years alone.  The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) have lions currently classified as a vulnerable species, though many people argue they should officially be listed as endangered.

So where has the king of beasts gone?

Lions are suffering from a four-pronged threat:

  1. Habitat loss / human encroachment: lions have disappeared from over 75% of their former range and there’s increasingly less wild habitat for them to live in due to ever expanding human settlements.  Lion prides require a very large territory to thrive, and the decreasing space they find themselves in simply isn’t enough to support them and other wild game.
  2. Retaliatory killings: with less habitat space and less available game to hunt, lions begin preying on livestock -- and in turn are being killed by angry farmers.
  3. Poaching: lions are being illegally trapped and slaughtered almost to extinction in various national parks across Africa; their meat is sold as “bushmeat” at local African markets, while their bones are traded to China to be used for traditional medicinal purposes that have no scientific basis, and as a replacement for tiger bones in making tiger bone wine (since tigers have been practically wiped out due to the same practice.)
  4. Tourist hunting: rich tourists from overseas flock to Africa to pay for the right to shoot a lion for sport in trophy and canned hunts.

It’s both devastating and sadly not surprising at all that people are the direct root of every one of these problems.  It’s estimated that within just 20 years the lion could become completely extinct in the wild.  We are wiping out this species just as we wiped out the passenger pigeon and the Western black rhino and so many other species, all because humans can’t seem to learn that we don’t own the world -- we’re a part of it.  And if we don’t change the way we think, then generations from now parents will be explaining to their children how that fascinating and iconic animal with the beautiful mane on the front of their storybook doesn’t actually exist anymore.

Africa’s Dirty Secret: Canned Hunting

So where does lion cub cuddling factor into all of this?  Remember that four-pronged threat I mentioned above?  This is where we learn a bit more about number four on that list: canned hunting.

Canned hunting (also called “put and take” hunting) was first exposed back in 1997 by the Cook Report, a British exposé program.  It is the disturbing practice of placing a lion or other captive animal in an area to be shot for sport with no means of escape – this can be due to being fenced in a small enclosed space, being preemptively drugged or lured in, or by having all natural fear of people removed from being hand-raised and tamed by humans.  They’re incredibly popular as they ensure a virtually guaranteed kill for even first time hunters with little to no effort on their part.

These captive bred hunts are a lucrative, rapidly flourishing, and un-policed industry, particularly in South Africa where there have been over 160 canned lion breeding farms established in the last 15 years.  In South Africa alone, there are more lions bred and raised in cages than there are in the wild – at last count only about 2,700 lions existed on game reserves in South Africa compared to the more than 8,000 in captivity, most of them destined to end up in canned hunts.

The Con of Conservation Volunteering: Cub Petting

If that’s not upsetting enough, here’s where the innocent, well-meaning and animal loving general public falls in -- specifically, international tourists and volunteers who come to Africa to pet and raise lion cubs.

Petting lion cubs is a popular tourist attraction and attracts droves of visitors to animal parks every year, in addition to hundreds of overseas volunteers and gap year students eager to lend a hand and their time in helping to raise and take care of animals -- and willing to pay thousands of dollars a month for the privilege.  Unfortunately, the truth that so few are aware of is that the parks offering these opportunities serve as direct or indirect breeding centers for canned hunting establishments.  They essentially have lions raised by tourists to later be killed by tourists -- and they profit from it every step of the way.

The life cycle of a single captive bred lion can bring in thousands or even millions of dollars in profit for a facility:

  1. Cubs are bred and taken from the mother days after being born, which is traumatic for both mother and cub.  The cubs are then raised by paying volunteers; tourists pay to pet them and take pictures with them.  This constant handling is actually detrimental to the cubs’ health, extremely stressful, and often leads to health problems.
  2. When the cubs are older, tourists can pay to walk with them for “enrichment purposes.”
  3. When the lions reach adulthood and are too large to be pet or walked with anymore, females are taken to breed more cubs; cubs are pulled from the mothers 3 - 10 days after being born in order to immediately put the lioness back into estrus so she can be mated again.  Adult males are sent to hunting farms.
  4. The bones of killed lions are sold to East Asian markets.

Volunteers and tourists are often none the wiser, lured into supporting such establishments parading as animal sanctuaries or rescues.  These facilities advertise under claims of conservation breeding and purposely misinform visitors that the lions raised are being re-introduced back into the wild.

The fact of the matter is that it is not possible for lions bred and raised in captivity to be released into the wild.  It has never been successfully done, because lions in captive breeding programs have compromised genetics and are often too inbred to be released -- doing so would genetically harm wild populations and introduce disease.  In addition to this, basic conservation practices will not allow animals that have been raised by and habituated to humans to be returned to the wild, as they have lost their fear of people which is a critical survival instinct.  Do not believe any establishment that tries to tell you otherwise.

I can’t blame past volunteers.  My heart goes out to them, devoting their money, time, and passion into an apparent cause they care so much about and animals they become so bonded to, only to find out afterward that they’ve been duped.  There have been some instances in which volunteers have rallied and petitioned through social media in an effort to save certain lions that are being put up for a hunt; one volunteer went so far as to purchase her lion cubs and relocate them to a legitimate sanctuary.

Aside from being a cruel and unethical business practice, the cub petting and canned hunting cycle actually harms legitimate conservation efforts for wild lions.  It not only takes international tourism and donation dollars away from real conservation projects seeking funding, but also whereas breeding farms misinform the public that their lions are being re-introduced back into the wild, lions are in fact being caught and removed from the wild in effort to add genetic diversity to the farm stock.

If you are considering visiting Africa in the future and are planning on engaging in cub petting, please reconsider and avoid supporting any facility that offers lion cub interactions.  For those who have visited Africa and have come home with pictures of themselves cuddling lion cubs -- the cub in your photo is probably dead by now.  If it’s a female, she has been force bred into litter after litter of cubs that are repeatedly taken away once their born, and bought for thousands of dollars to be slaughtered.  Not for their meat, but for entertainment.  And all at the cost of the lions themselves, both captive and wild.

Weeding the Good From the Bad: How Do You Know?

Easy.  Ask questions.  Do your research.

Before you visit or volunteer at an animal park, find out more information about it.  Search online for reviews or hints of unethical business practices or questionable associations; talk to other past visitors and volunteers; and get in touch directly with someone from the facility itself.

During your inquiry, some helpful questions to ask include:

  • How can you aim to reintroduce animals to the wild and yet allow volunteers to handle them and expose them to so much human contact?
  • What happens to the animals when they're older? Are they sold? If so, to where? What sort of assurances do you take to make sure you're not participating in canned hunting?
  • How often are lionesses giving birth to new litters?
  • Why are cubs being removed from their mothers in the first place? For what purpose/reason?
  • If you're breeding lions, what's your breeding plan? What happens when there are too many animals to support? Why breed purely for a life of confinement? If you rescue animals, why perpetuate the problem by breeding more of them?
  • Predators raised in captivity have little to no success of ever being released back into the wild. How many successful reintegration into the wild cases have you had? Do you have any specific and detailed documentation or proof of these instances?

In addition to questioning the facility itself, there are a number of other things to keep in mind when searching for a reputable place to visit or volunteer.  Based on my own experience over the last several months, my advice would be the following:

  • Dig into not only the program/facility itself, but also the travel or volunteer company offering the program.  Avoid any companies that do not specifically advertise the names of the facilities they want to send you to and list them rather as some vague "Big 5 Safari Reserve."  When inquiring about the exact location of one volunteer program, I received a reply that they were not allowed to release that information to me until after booking.  Word to the wise: if they’re not being straight with you, there’s a reason.
  • Do your research not just on the facility, but on the owners and management too.  When looking up information about one park that claimed itself a rescue sanctuary, I came across three news reports of the owner having previously been involved in supplying tame animals for canned hunts.
  • Ask for reviews from others -- but with all word-of-mouth, take other people’s words with a grain of salt.  Facebook groups devoted to responsible volunteering are helpful and can be commended for the awareness they’re trying to create – but how authoritative are all of the individuals running these groups and the people commenting?
  • When making direct inquiries, be polite but insistent.  Do not settle for vague stock replies; ask to speak to someone higher up if necessary.  And do not make accusations or begin ranting – you will get less straight answers, and instead receive a defensive reply or no reply at all.
  • If the answers you do receive convince you that the facility is bad news, respond politely telling them so.  This is actually not something I’ve done myself before, but will begin doing for the simple reason that most of the people working at these establishments don’t know any better.  More often than not, they’re fed information from park management and probably have no idea themselves what’s actually going on.  By explaining to them why you’re not interesting in supporting their business, you may just help raise awareness of the issue with that one employee.

The safest rule of thumb to follow though is to simply avoid any facility that offers cub petting or lion walks.  No true sanctuary breeds animals or has a steady supply of cubs.  And no reputable animal welfare organization will allow you to walk with predators or have any unnecessary physical interaction with wild animals or their infants – this is to protect you, the animal, and to reduce the chances of human habituation.

Knowing What You Know: How to Help

Let’s face it -- in truth, lions are not anymore deserving of our compassion and conservation efforts than any other animal.  I’m not trying to say they deserve special treatment in this regard -- rather that all animals do, native to our own land or otherwise.  But the lion is special to me.  I have spent my childhood and adult life dreaming of going to Africa and experiencing these animals, and the idea that years from now the only place anyone will be able to see a lion is behind a fence destroys me.

When these parks and reserves try to lure you in with the promise of cuddling cute cubs, be proactive.  Don’t be lazy -- do your own research. Dig deeper.  Because when you know what's going on but pretend you don't, or ignore it, or make excuses for why it's okay just this once -- you are saying you support this practice.  Because now you've read this, and now you know.

So what can you do to help stop it?  Simple.  It’s fast, easy, and won’t cost you a cent: share what you know.  In honor of World Lion Day, spread the word about how lions are disappearing.  That cub petting attractions are scams and that canned hunting is a sickening industry that is only getting bigger and bigger, and that tourists and volunteers are unknowingly hurting the same animals they appreciate so much.  Help save lions by simply sharing an article or posting a video, because awareness is half the battle.  (And if you do by chance want to donate, check out the links at the bottom of this post!)

I’m sure some people think I’m crazy – that I’m making too much out of nothing and that I’m obviously just another silly tree hugger.  Sure, okay, maybe I am.  I’m a lion hugger, but in name only.  Because I will not ignore or pretend -- and that probably means I will never have a chance to touch a lion, which is crushing.  I'll have to give up that particular dream.  And I'm okay with that.

 

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Learn More, Do More: Extra Resources

Websites and print resources:

  • National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative
    Learn more about the plight of Big Cats across the world, including lions and learn what you can do to help through advocacy and fundraising, as well as donating to the fantastic Build a Boma campaign.
  • National Geographic Kids’ “Mission: Lion Rescue” by Ashlee Brown Blewett and Daniel Raven-Ellison
    A fantastic and very informative book for kids and adults that covers everything from lion facts and history, the threats facing them, conservation strategies, and advocacy ideas/activities.  (Check to see if your local library has a copy!)
  • Campaign Against Canned Hunting
    CACH is a non-governmental organization founded and led by Chris Mercer, the leading expert and outspoken advocate against canned hunting.
  • Volunteers Beware (Facebook group)
    If you’re planning a wildlife-based volunteer trip to South Africa, this is a Facebook group you should check out.  They aim to raise awareness about things like cub petting and canned hunting, and compile reviews and information about different SA volunteer programs in an effort to help people choose reputable volunteer placements.  It has helpful information on it though it’s mostly conjecture, so don't rely entirely on it and always do your own research.
Some excellent exploratory videos and interviews that explore in-depth the canned hunting industry, cub petting, and the lion bone trade.  Very informative, and a must-watch:
Additional informative articles discussing cub petting, canned hunting, and the lion bone trade:

 

For more posts on cub petting, canned hunting, and lion conservation, 
follow my other blog at Bucket List Lion.

 

March: In like a lamb, out like… uh, a different lamb.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 -- 7:54 pm

Poor March, no blog post for you.

Sorry for the long absence.  I'm not what really happened to March, it sort of just slipped in and then slipped right back out again like very sneaky, early spring ninja with nothing much of note to show for it other than my SHINY NEW iMAC OMG!  Yes, for anyone who has some how missed my fangirlish squeeing last month, I finally bit the bullet and retired my faithful old 2006 computer and its perpetual spinny beach ball of doom for the newest sleek model, complete with OS X Lion *rawr*.  It's fantastic to once again be able to run more than one program at the same time without my computer sputtering and coughing and wheezing like a 102-year-old man with asthma.

*Pats computer adoringly and spoils it with treats when no one is looking -- which really consists of force feeding Ghirardelli chocolates into its super drive while making disgusting cooing noises at it, and then a month later looking perplexed and distraught when her new computer dies on her without warning and only the curious, smoking smell of burning chocolate trailing from the CD slot.*

So April is here and with it promises a month full of exciting shinies~  Not only does it herald:

  1. the end of my first year of school (huzzuh!  Rejoice!  I get my life back!  ...Or at least I do for a couple of weeks before I start my two online spring classes... =_=;)
  2. my birthday (once again I am at a complete loss with remembering how old I'm turning unless I take the time to actually do the math, so I'm just going to refer to it as my 20-something birthday)

but it also marks...

  1. the start of the second season of Game of Thrones!  *Squee squee squee!*  I MUST FIND A TEAM TYRION SHIRT.
  2. the premiere of the new Avatar series, Legend of Korra!  *Even more fangirly squee-age!*
  3. the official (and long-awaited) Guild Wars 2 pre-order event (which just happens to fall on the same day as my birthday.  You can bet that the avid gamers in my life are far more excited for April 10th to arrive for this reason alone than they are for my birthday.)

And oh, I'm also going on a fabulous road trip this month to the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo!  Oh yeah, and did I mention that James Marsters and Patrick Stewart are going to be there?  And Stan Lee?  And Adam West?  And Wil Wheaton?  And hey, the rest of the entire Star Trek: Generations main cast (which conveniently is also half of the cast from Disney's Gargoyles, which I'm an even bigger fan of than Star Trek.)  This is going to be fabulously NERD-TACULAR.  :B

While we're down there we're going to visit the Calgary Zoo too, which I'm also excited about because I've heard it's awesome and I've never had the chance to go.  It seems like every time anyone I know plans a Calgary Zoo day trip, I'm always left behind.  (This makes Brenna a sad panda. A sad, adorable RED PANDA which I will see AT THE ZOO.)

*Glee!*

Also, for anyone who's the least bit interested, I've added a new Twitter account (in addition to my personal one) that will be mostly centered around library and book/reading-related stuff that I find around the web and think is interesting.  I've set up an adjoining Tumblr account along the same theme.  FOLLOW ME AND LEARN LIBRARY-RELATED THINGS.  Or just laugh at amusing items like this.  That's cool too.

A brief interlude.

Monday, December 19, 2011 -- 11:18 pm

Oh, my poor, poor neglected blog.  What has full-time schooling done to you?

No fear though, I have successfully survived my first semester!  Bring on the Christmas holidays, coo coo ca choo~  I'll try to give my blog a little more love during my two weeks off, maybe post some more book reviews -- but for now, here's the entirety of what little you've missed of my life for November and December:

  • Exams are finished!  Grades are in!  I finished my classes with three A+'s and one A so far (though we haven't officially received our final grade for English, but based on my prior assignment marks and the final exam, I'm going to go ahead and assume I'll end up with an A for that class as well.)  I'm looking forward to the start of second semester with its early morning classes (leaving more time to spare in the afternoons and evenings) and having one less class in my course load; I opted to drop a class in both second and third semester, in favor of taking them during the summer and hopefully lessening my stress over the next two terms.  *Crosses fingers*
  • I'm a mere hairs-breadth away from finishing my Christmas shopping!  This is an improvement over last year, considering I only began my shopping two days ago; however, once again my procrastination when it comes to ordering gifts online has left me fretting if any of them will even arrive before the 25th...  =_=;
  • My temporary four month page position at SAPL has been extended to a permanent one!  Hallelujah!  It's still only one day a week, but it'll be on Thursdays instead of Saturdays which will free up my weekends nicely to breath a little and keep up with homework.  Besides, a tiny one-day-a-week library position looks better on a resume than no library position at all.
  • After exercising a considerable amount of will power for the last two months, I've finally broken open my copy of Batman: Arkham City!  *Gibbers excitedly with fangirlish glee*  So far, the sequel is just as much fun as its predecessor -- though I hate the new take on Harley, and for whatever reason I'm feeling much more inept this time around when it comes to executing all of the different button combinations...  There has been a frustrating increase in accidentally falling off roofs when I'm trying to ground pound goons, and inadvertently exposing myself headlong into enemy fire when I'm trying to sneak around all ninja stealthy-like.  I'm a sorry excuse for a gamer, but it's Batman and so I shall persevere.  *DETERMINED FACE*

Oh yeah, and obviously I'm back from our cruise!  I kind of forgot to get around to writing up a whole vacation recap post in the midst of looming project deadlines and exam havoc.  Rest assured though that the vacation was very awesome, despite this Carnival ship being especially rocky for whatever reason -- we heard someone say that the Carnival Dream didn't have "stabilizers" or whatever the crazy boat magic is that's supposed to keep the ship from pitching back and forth wildly under your feet in crazy 16 foot swells.  So a slightly dizzying trip, yes, but still awesome.

Did I mention that we swam with sea turtles?   WILD SEA TURTLES.  They swam up for air right next to you!  If not for the strict rule we were given beforehand of "no touching, no hugging, no licking" (no lie)  of the wild life, I could have kissed those sea turtles right on the nose -- that's how close they came!  So amazing~

:3

I’m still alive. Barely.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 -- 1:00 am

</melodrama>

Seriously though?  The combination right now of school, homework, and working part-time is all kinds of unpleasant.

I spend my entire day walking around in a constant state of fretful anxiety, worrying and strategizing on how I'm going to get the current class assignment finished and how little time there is to finish all of the rest of the assignments following afterward.  It's not that I'm doing bad in my classes -- I am, in fact, doing pleasantly well grade-wise -- but trying to stay on top of my course load and maintain my marks while at the same time not completely neglect the rest of my life is becoming... problematic.  I think we can all agree that I hit an especially low point last week which involved me having a mini meltdown while cleaning the kitchen at 10 p.m.  Let me explain: in our house, the chores are split up and one of my jobs is washing the dishes.  It's pretty safe to say that for the past two months since I started school, the dishes have not been clean.

"Why can't I do the dishes?!" *Sob sob sob* "Why can't I even keep on top of something *sob sob* as simple as keeping the kitchen clean?!" *Sob hiccup sob*

True story.  Somewhat pathetic (and hilarious in hindsight,) but true.

I know I'm not the only one in my class suffering from a severe case of November burnout, and it's a little bittersweet to think that there's only nine days until I escape for a much-needed week away in the Caribbean.  On the one side, YAY VACATION YAY OMGINEEDTHISSOBAD.  On the other side, I now have even more assignments I need to get finished before next Thursday to make up for the time I'll be away.  As it stands, I will already be bringing a backpack full of school work with me on the ship.  Nothing dampens a day at port in the Bahamas like spending it in your stateroom doing homework.  :P

All right, no more whining now.  Suck it up, princess.  *Brushes the angst off her clothes*

In other somewhat belated news, Toby finally has his glass door!  It's fantastic.  Toby once again gets to see what's going on outside his room, we get some natural light in our hallway again, and Iroh gets hours of endless entertainment and frustration.  Everyone wins.

It is, at times, hard to physically pry the cat away from this spot now.

Dragged back to the real world against my better judgement.

Sunday, May 29, 2011 -- 1:38 pm

Sorry for the tardiness in honeymoon blog posting, the return to real life has sort of gotten in the way of my blogging.  *Sad face*  In any event, quick honeymoon cruise recap!

  • Friday, May 13th: We discover that our flight leaves six hours earlier than we originally thought it did!  Panic!  Frantic running around!  (Apologies to Mike who housesat for us while we were away, even though I didn't end up having time to clean as much as I wanted to or tidy the bunny room.)  We spend most of the day sitting in airports and airplanes and more airports and airplanes.  Then when we arrived in Miami we ended up being evacuated from the airport because of a bomb scare.  Collapsing into bed that night was the best thing ever.
  • Saturday, May 14th: Cruise time!  Met up with the rest of the gang to taxi it down to the port and board the fantastic Carnival Liberty!  *Flash flash sparkle sparkle*  We spent most of remainder of the day exploring the ship and reacquainting ourselves with the smorgasbord of free buffet food that we would be gorging ourselves with for the duration of the trip.
  • Sunday, May 15th: Our first port, Half Moon Cay.  The epitome of classic white beach and blue water Caribbean island paradise.  The island is actually owned by Carnival, so literally the only people there were the people from our cruise ship which was cool.  Copious amounts of beach laying, ocean frolicking, and squealing was had -- the squealing a direct result from our first excursion, swimming with stingrays!  OMG.  They're huge!  And awesome!  And terrifying!  Every time one brushed my leg or swam underneath me I squealed with exhiliarating fear into my snorkel mask which sounded a little like "*Muffled scream* *Bubble bubble bubble*".
  • Monday, May 16th: Sea day.  As much as I love days at port and going on excursions, I really like the days at sea.  So relaxing.  I spent the entire day sleeping, and reading, and eating, and sleeping and eating some more.  Also, mini golf!  FYI, trying to mini golf on the top of a ship in the middle of the ocean in the ripping wind is very difficult.
  • Tuesday, May 17th: St. Thomas.  Shopping, yay!  I scored a new fake Prada purse (pretteh!) that I love from the flea market.  Then in the afternoon we went snuba-ing -- basically like diving but with a snorkel mask attached to a long air hose.  Very cool, except I didn't have enough weight in my belt to actually sink at all, so our very nice diving guide pulled me down by the hand and pretty much dragged me along the bottom of the bay bed.  Wait, did I say nice diving guide?  I meant horribly mean and cruel!  He scared the crap out of me with a fake shark set up along the bottom of the water that I had been convinced earlier was very real.  Yes, I'm just that gullible some times.  =_=;
  • Wednesday, May 18th: San Juan.  We went on a tour excursion of the rainforest, which was actually much more enjoyable than I thought it would be.  It's gorgeous up there -- super hot, but very pretty.  Surprisingly little to no bugs either, apparently the altitude and temperature is too high for them...?  (Obviously we need to relocate Edmonton to the top of a mountain so I can stop worrying about spiders and bees.)  I have to admit that despite the good time I had, my respect for the people of San Juan went down a few points when our tour guide proudly proclaimed that the number one sport on the island is cock fighting.  Seriously?  That's sick.  Dear San Juanians: please take up an actual sport like soccer or baseball that doesn't entertain the masses at the expense of innocent animals.  :P
  • Thursday, May 19th: Grand Turk.  My first time kayaking!  It wasn't as difficult as everyone made it sound, it wasn't until the last stretch on our way back to the dock that my arms started to feel the strain of it, and mostly just in my shoulders.  It was a lot of fun actually, and the kayak had a plexiglass bottom so we could watch all of the little jellyfish swim amid the reeds below the boat.  The only part I could have done without was when the guide dragged us all out of the boats and up onto a sandy, incredibly hot hill to talk endlessly about the tress and the shrubs and the eco-whatnot.  Oh god, the sun burn!  D:  More kayaking, less eco safari!  My legs were a hideously mottled red finger painting of PAIN.
  • Friday, May 20th: Sea day.  More sleeping!  More reading!  More eating!  (I had to make the eating especially count this day as it was our last day on the ship and my last chance to gorge.  Oh food, I miss you so much!)  We also spent some time down at the casino and Mason introduced me to a game even better than slot machines -- video poker!  Well sort of, you're not really playing against any other people or even virtual players, but it's horribly addicting and we played Jacks or Better for an hour and a half and won $12.  :3  *Cackles maniacally over their big twelve dollar payout while actual serious gamblers look down on them with disdain.*
  • Saturday, May 21st: Arrive back in Miami and must debark the ship and make the long flight back home.  *Epic sad face*

Coming back home after a vacation is always bitter sweet.  I miss the cruise ship terribly and its maid service and towel animals and balconies over the ocean and wonderful amount of free already-prepared food.  But on the other hand, I was glad to get home to Iroh and Toby (though I doubt they missed us very much once they realized that Mike now provided their food for them.  How easily they forget me.)  I was also relieved to finally have taps running cold water.  I don't know why, but the staterooms on the cruise ship have no cold running water.  The best you could ever get was sort of a luke warm temperature, it drove me nuts.  At times I was tempted to steal ice and cold drinking water from the lido deck buffet just to brush my teeth.

So yes, it's back to real life now.  *Sigh*  This is amplified by the fact that I have finally, after more than a year of freedom, returned to working full time.  Yes, you read correctly.  Brenna is no longer an unemployed bum (sadly, might I add.)  I started work at (insert name of major automotive/hardware/houseware department store here, which I will thus refer to as "The Job" so as to avoid any potential complications if my blog is Googled) this past week -- it's not glamourous by any stretch of the imagination and I'm not wild about being in the land of retail again, but it's a job and it's paying me money and it means I can stop doing the web contract work that I loathe so much.  I've been hired on as sort of a multi-department monkey -- I help with stocking on the floor, and I'm being trained as a cashier next week, and I also do morning deposits some times and will eventually be trained for customer service.

So far deposits are my favorite thing to do, mostly because it's quiet, solitary work off in the cash office for the whole of the morning, away from the noise of the store and all of the customers.  My biggest gripe so far, apart from the fact that it's shift work and I forgot how much I hate not having a steady weekly schedule followed by a customary two-day weekend, is the complete lack of any sort of training I've received so far.  I was fully trained for the deposit part of my job, but as far as my afternoons so far spent entirely out on the floor stocking and helping customers, I've received absolutely ZERO training.  I mean it, nothing. I was given a price gun and assigned a pallet of stock and that's it. It's been five days and I still don't know the procedure (if there even is any) for locating or dropping off stock in the warehouse, I get customers coming up to me every five minutes asking me questions that I don't even know the most basic answers to, and I spend most of my time bumbling around trying to find other employees who can answer questions for me and the customers I'm trying to help and just generally looking and feeling like an idiot.  I've never worked somewhere where I feel so completely frustrated and unprepared.  Will someone please instruct me on how to do my job?

I miss the cruise ship.  :c

#weddingsinmordor

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 -- 12:33 am

It's official!  I'm an old married woman now!  \o/

What a week.  Epic wedding was epic!  The final seven days ramping up to the big day were full of running and lists and phone calls and driving and printing and cutting and folding and flailing and just a general boat load of frantic insanity.

Thankfully, said insanity was interspersed with evenings of awesome such as my stagette party.  Much love and thanks to my wonderful posse of bridesmaids that orchestrated the epic WEM photo scavenger hunt filled with hilarious bead games, 18" dildos, escalators, funny hats, edible panties, and many cupcakes~  XD  Also, singing!  Amid an evening filled with ringing renditions of "Soft Kitty", Nancy proved her epic improv prowess when she fearlessly went up to the stage during the open mic night at the pub and made a song up off the top of her head, which was frankly freaking amazing IMO and can be heard here on her YouTube channel.  I've never been serenaded before!  :3

For me, the wedding sort of officially started on Friday, since the entire day from when we woke up to when we went to sleep was pretty much devoted to final prep.  We picked up linens, practiced a ceremony walk through at the Citadel, followed by the rehearsal dinner and then the setting up and decoration of the reception hall in the evening, and finally us ladies proceeded to all go back to my parents house and wrap 400 sugared Timbit favors.  I had meant to write a quick entry here the night before the wedding, a "last single girl blog post" sort of deal, but I just didn't have time :P -- instead I crashed into bed and had a surprisingly good sleep considering how stressed I had started out earlier that day.

The morning of the wedding was more or less pretty relaxing.  Coleen and I swung by Timmies for a sausage-egg-muffin breakfast of champions before our hair appointment, and all went according to plan other than my elaborate little hair curlies went a little long (I loved my hair!  :3  I was so sad the next day when I had to shower and wash away all the beautiful bouncy curls.  I should really buy myself a hair curler and learn how to do it myself.) which cut down time for the makeup session and thus made us sort of frantically hurl myself into my dress to get out the door in time.  ^^;

It's strange, because I wasn't nervous at all leading up to the wedding or when I woke up that morning.  Excited, but not particularly nervous.  It wasn't until my sister began lacing up my dress that I began to get the stomach butterflies; then sitting in the car as we drove to the Citadel, I started feeling more nervous.  (BTW, climbing in and out of a van in a very form fitting mermaid skirt?  Not easy!)  By the time I was standing with my dad behind the curtain, the music playing while we waited to walk down the aisle, I think I looked like I was close to hyperventilating, leaving my father no choice but to whip out the big gun, our magic family word, to make me forget my nerves and break out laughing as we were walking out.  (I was totally all "AHHHHH AHHHHH AHHHHH!" and my dad was sort of *sweatdrop* but then he was all "BANANA!" and I LOLed.  True story.)

My brother Sean acted as our officiant and did a spectacular job (much love and hugs, Seanathan!), though admittedly I don't really have a clear memory of most of the ceremony because I was so busy trying to remember to breathe.  I remember my mom crying during the rose ceremony, and I remember feeling so worried I would jumble my words and fail-whale up the vows (I didn't though!  Go Team Me!), and I remember Mason looking smoking hot in his very sexy, Bond-like tux~  Seriously yummy. X3  I'm looking forward to seeing the video of the ceremony from start to finish.

(As for my dress, it was gorgeous, but was intent on trying to kill me before the day was out.  The bodice had these bones running vertically up the torso that dug right in under my breast bone that was particularly uncomfortable when I sat down.  We ended up loosening the corset a few times which helped, but it was still easier to just stand than sit at all.  It was worth it though!  I loved my dress despite its apparent hatred of me.)

Between the ceremony and reception was: a) fancy limos! b) photographs! c) ice cream!  Awesome sauce.  We managed to make it to all three of our picture locations, and the photographers from Scade were great.  They took soooooo many pictures, I'm so excited to see them!  *Perches on edge of seat waiting for previews to be posted on the Scade blog*

And then the reception!  XD  It was so perfect!  The hall looked fantastic, the fully Brenna-approved buffet was delicious, and the photo booth was the cherry on the fabulous wedding reception cake!  (Only not literally, since we had cupcakes, and the cake tier we did have was in fact pineapple and coconut and not at all in any way cherry, but still tasty.)  But yes, the photo booth seemed to be a hit -- almost everyone got some snapshots done and some guests really went to town fancying up their guestbook page.  It was so worth the extra investment.  It really made the guestbook unique.  Mason and I were flipping through it the following day and there's some especially hilarious photos and entries.  Eventually I'll try to get around to scanning some and post them up.

Such a great day!  (Exhausting, but awesome.)  I couldn't even be bothered to try and pull out the hundred or so pins holding my hair up when we got home that night, I was so tired -- I just slept with them in and woke up the next morning in a what I'm sure many would call a very sexy state of dishevelment.  (On the bright side, I will never have to buy another bobby pin again ever, I'm set with a life time supply.)

Love, hugs, and hair ruffles to all of our friends and family who came out to celebrate with us on Saturday and helped make the day as fabulous and memorable as it was!  (Also thanks to everyone who's sending me their pictures from the day, there's some great shots, some of which I've used on this post.)  I would give you all extra cupcakes in thanks, but let's face it, I'm a big greedy cupcake hoarder and will probably stuff my face full of all of the left overs.  I have already eaten two today.  *OM NOM NOM NOM*

Next up... honeymoon cruise!  OMG only four more days!  *Glee*