Walk Like A Phoenician

Max and I spent this past weekend taking advantage of the fun events being offered in our new community. Phoenix alone is home to over 1.5 million people, so it seems like something is always going on...

Saturday morning Max and I were Early Birds, arriving at our local high school (located just a couple blocks from our home) at 6:00am for their Community Sale. Though we didn't find any treasures for our house, we did get a kick out of one of the high school students working at a booth who we overheard saying that she had been up since 6:00am the previous day, just because it was easier to stay up all night than wake up so early on a Saturday. I think this reminded Max of his own high school days pulling all-nighters to attend the Electronics Fairs : )

Saturday night, Max and I went to Acua, one of the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week. Each restaurant that is involved offers a three-course dinner menu at a discounted price - what a wonderful idea! Acua was my choice since it is located in Scottdale's Waterfront area which we hadn't been to prior. Unfortunately, it was maybe the most difficult eatery to find as it is located on the water and hidden from the walkways. One phone call to the restaurant (asking for directions) from my problem solving husband, however, and we were at their very modern doors. Acua serves "Contemporary American" cuisine, and this Comtemporary American couple highly enjoyed the meal as well as the wine pairing that came with it - yum! We also were happy to discover this hopping new area, and are excited to return with visitors!

Every year, the Arizona Ballet offers a series of free outdoor performances in September known as "Ballet Under the Stars" to kick off their regular season. Sunday night, the ballet was at a park located in Glendale. Just like it sounds, the stage is located outdoors and guests bring chairs and blankets to sit on. The performance started off with excerpts from Swan Lake and also included my favorite of the night, parts from Don Quixote. The costumes for this number were just beautiful. No, Max did not have to sit through the ballet; I took my old friend from Junior High, Krissy, as my date. Max did promise to attend the Nutcracker in December, though, and I will definitely hold him to that!

Bora Bora Honeymoon! (Day 3)

We started our first dive day (Honeymoon Day 3) bright and early as the Bora Dive Center boat was picking us up at 8:00am. 

What a beautiful view to wake up to!

Our SCUBA gear - packed and ready to go!

The Bora Dive taxi boat picked us up at the Four Seasons pier (seriously it was out of a movie, so awesome to be picked up by boat!) and took us to their dive shop (located on the other side of the main island). Once we arrived, it was suggested that I (being on the tiny side) wear two wetsuits to keep warm! The water temperature was just below 80 degrees, but being underwater for hours at a time can get chilly. My super manly husband only wore one wetsuit. We boarded the actual dive boat with a mom and daughter from the states who were doing their check-out dives, and a couple from France. Our dive master, Niko, was a wonderfully funny and endearing Polynesian who was so much fun on all of our dives. Niko had a very relaxed, chill, "island" mindset. He took us down on our first dive to a spot called Haapiti where we were under 51 minutes and went to 76 feet.
Before we reached depth, however, I had an uncontrolled ascent to the surface (one of the scarier moments of the honeymoon - the other being on our last dive when my air intake burst right after we we nearly thrown overboard by a crazy French captain, but that's another story...). We were thirty feet down when I put too much air in my BCD (buoyancy control device – the inflatable vest) and started rising. As the air rises, it expands in the vest. This causes a snowball effect and, in turn, a very quickly rising Mande. I looked down to see Niko holding up his deflate valve, and Max doing the same thing. Had I not been underwater and breathing out of a regulator, I would have yelled out "I'm pressing the deflate button!" I was in fact trying to empty my vest. Unfortunately, the air wasn’t escaping quick enough. In my haste to empty the BCD, I didn’t hold the deflate valve high enough, which is needed for it to work, so I continued to rise uncontrollably. Max started to swim up to catch me, but was stopped by Niko, who gets paid to go after silly people like me. A rapid ascent is actually quite dangerous as a breath of compressed air at 30 feet expands with each foot that you rise and could easily result in a burst lung. Luckily, in my panicked state, my breathing was super-quick and thus this was not a problem. Go me, for taking a breath at the top and then heading back down for the rest of the dive! And what a dive it was!

I encountered my first shark (a Black Tipped Reef Shark) which was amazing and not at all scary as I had anticipated.

On that first dive, we also saw tons of fish including this giant Titan Trigger (on the left side of the photo). They're funny to watch; since they have no side fins, they kind of waddle back and forth as they move. The Titan Triggers also have huge teeth! Our dive master is on the right side of the photo, semi-covered by Butterfly Fish that he is feeding with bread.

This picture gives a little glimpse to the sheer quantity of fish! It also showcases the first Lemon Shark that we saw! Lemon Sharks can get quite a bit larger than the Black Tipped Reef Sharks, though this one was on the smaller side.

In between dives we were served hot sweet tea, such a wonderful treat to sip as we sped on to the next site: Tapu! Here we reached 87 feet and were underwater for 49 minutes. We saw countless types of fish, Lemon Sharks reaching 12 feet in length, clams, an octopus, reef sharks, and a Moray Eel that bit our dive master! Adventurous Niko also destroyed an urchin with a rock, getting rid of its spikes and providing food for a Box Fish who was all too eager to eat it up. Here are more of our favorite memories from dive number two...

A pretty Parrot Fish using its namesake beak to scrape food off the rock.

An upside down Lion Fish (one of the most poisonous creatures in the ocean) hanging under a ledge.

Me and my new friend, the Lemon Shark.

Max showed me that the clams actually close up when you get near them, then open right up again. The colors inside them were beautiful, ranging from green to turquoise to purple.

Too funny - a submarine full of people, taking pictures of us!

My favorite type of coral - I love seeing the fish swim through.

Out of the water and on the way back to the bungalow. Time for a "swift kip" (term borrowed from our new English friend Tim, this is British slang for a quick nap).

We went to a fancy dinner at the resort that night (I indulged in a sweet potato cappuccino that came with my entree - quite interesting!) and then we decided it was time for a night snorkel! We donned our wetsuits and fins and masks and hopped into the Four Season's lagoon where we had snorkeled the previous day. This time, however, there was no sunlight to penetrate the water which made everything black and - I'll say it - scary! Our hand held lights only illuminated tiny circles in the water; most of the surrounding water remained dark. It was neat to get to see some fish at night, though, especially the giant sleeping Porcupine Puffer. When the Puffers sleep they stay pretty much immobile on the bottom of the floor (we know this from watching our tiny Puffers, Eli and Princess, in their tank at home). Max actually picked up the Puffer so we could get a better look at it, although he sank right back to the bottom when Max let him go. Max let me hold his hand the entire time we were in the water, which did make me feel better. I realized how "not-normal" we were being though when a security guard from the resort came over to check on us and asked if everything was okay... I think it's very possible that we were the first crazy people he'd seen snorkeling at night!

Day three was AMAZING - and we were so happy we still had more than half the honeymoon left!

Bora Bora Honeymoon! (Days 1-2)

My wonderful husband kept our Honeymoon destination a secret until the day of our departure (how he kept this amazing secret, I will never know!). He surprised me at LAX by leading me to the Air Tahiti counter, which confused me as I thought we were traveling to one of the Hawaiian islands. When I realized what was happening, I was so overwhelmed that I started crying, and when Max asked why, all I could say was "I don't think Air Tahiti flies to Hawaii." He said that we would in fact be going to French Polynesia, to the island of Bora Bora! We started our journey with an overnight flight from LA to Papeete, Tahiti. It was just enough time to eat dinner, drink a glass of wine and watch a movie, get a night's worth of sleep, wake up to breakfast and arrive to be greeted with Tiare flowers to tuck behind our ears!

Taken right before our take-off, this photo shows the map located on one of the seat-back screens and the route we would be taking:

French and Tahitian are the two main languages of French Polynesia, however many workers at the shops and resorts also spoke English.

A photo of the updated map when we were close to landing:

At the airport in Tahiti, we collected our bags and re-checked them in for the small flight to Bora Bora. Our SCUBA certification cards granted us some extra kilos of weight, but we were still slightly over our limit. Luckily, the kind airport workers let us slide.

We had some time to explore before our next flight...

A bus on a street in Papeete:

The flight fron Papeete to Bora Bora was a short 45 minutes. Bora Bora is comprised of a main island (mountainous with extinct volcanoes) circled by a lagoon and then a Motu beyond that that has channels to the ocean. A "Motu" is any tiny island made up of nothing but coral and its derivatives that have been ground over time. The airport is actually located on the Motu and thus all passengers leave the airport by boat!

Upon our arrival we were greeted with beautiful pink and white leis. Within minutes we were whisked onto a Four Seasons boat to take us to the resort!

Max had another surprise for me - where we were staying! This is a photo of the Four Seasons Resort, located on the Motu and looking out on the lagoon and the main island!

The over-water Bungalows were unreal!!

First things first: only minutes after arriving at our bungalow, we just had to put on our snorkeling gear and hop in the lagoon from our very own private dock!! Here is my hubby, all ready to go:

The next item on our agenda: a yummy room service meal : ) From the deck of the bungalow we saw an Eagle Ray swim by!

On our first full day in Bora Bora, we wanted to try everything!

After a yummy breakfast, Max hopped in a kayak and raced me back to our bungalow.

He's winning...

Time to grab our snorkeling gear and hop back in the kayak! Max is tying a bright orange safety vest to the dock so we'll be able to find our bungalow when we kayak back.

We kayaked to a lagoon inlet and dove in to find Parrot Fish, Damsels, huge Trumpet Fish, and a Porcupine Puffer Fish (the same kind of Blow Fish we have at home!).

Max pointing to a box fish:

Next we kayaked over to what we called our own "Private Motu" in the lagoon - it was maybe thirty feet in diameter, just enough room for us and our kayak! Max even found a random coconut!

I preferred looking for shells:

Kayaking back to the bungalow to rest up for our first day of SCUBA diving...

"I give you this ring..."

On August 29th, 2009, I got to marry my best friend...

Thank you, Max, for sweeping me off my feet : )

So happy to be Dr. and Mrs.!
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