Friday, January 10, 2014

A Place in the Sun

In Seoul, autumn is short and winter is sudden. As November is still finding a foothold, our brief excitement of trading flipflops in humidity for boots in brisk air is ended before spark has a chance to fade. Autumn's brevity is a precious gasp air in our lungs - we'll be holding our breath in the dark until spring brings promise of the surface.

After Christmas, we were lucky to escape for a few days, to find a place in the sun before winter steals the memory of such a thing. Arriving at 2am wreaked havoc in jetlag form, but our first stop in Cebu allowed us a first taste of a welcome thaw before heading to the islands.

A day and a ferry-ride later landed us on Panglao, a small island off the bigger, better-known Bohol. Our tiny resort was at the end of a winding dirt road, perched cliffside over the ocean.

We named him Cecil.

Having only two full, proper days on the island (bookended by two half/travel days), we took advantage of what we could, namely a "countryside" tour spanning 8 hours, including encounters with a number of animals (some cuter than others), a Jungle Cruise-esque lunch with decidedly fewer puns, and astounding geography despite the temperamental skies. (P.S. Remember the devastating earthquake in the Philippines at the end of last year? That was on Bohol, where we saw a good bit of sad aftermath, i.e. centuries-old churches reduced to ruins as you'll see below.)

The belltower of the Baclayon Church. Post-earthquake, the bell now lies at the bottom of the ruin.

Adam and a monkey exchanged a polite handshake.

A few pythons (the dark one holding the record of "Largest Snake in Bohol") and I exchanged a polite ew-I'm-pretending-I'm-not-a-little-freaked-out.

Adam loves amusing me more than he hates snakes.

The breeze we enjoyed during the cruise (and lunch) on the Bohol River dried our sweat-damp skin long enough to find an appetite and to stoke our ultimately-misplaced hopes of seeing the backside of water.

Another church, crumbled by the earthquake.

To get a better idea, I made a quick video of our riverboat excursion.

Next up, the tiny, furry-tree-froggish buddies I'd been dreaming of meeting for months. I found it difficult to contain my squeals when silence was enforced at the Tarsier Sanctuary. The world's smallest primate = Kait's overdose of cute.

We posed in the designated way because we're adults. Because tarsiers.

The man-made mahogany forest was... tall.

The butterfly garden survived the earthquake, but Typhoon Haiyan decimated the numbers of insects. Thankfully, there were still plenty of beauties flitting about and plenty more pupae, patient and safe.

The Chocolate Hills are a crazy geographical formation, named for the distinctive brown of the adorable Hobbit mounds rising above the green of the jungle.

Most of the observation peak didn't manage to survive the earthquake.

More animals, obviously. 

This little guy was a sniffing machine. His name is Chummy.
New Year's Eve was spent absorbing our last rays of sunlight on the white (hot) sands of Alona Beach.

Of course, with any international trip, I would be remiss not to give a nod to some of the delicious local fare I lustily inhaled sampled.

For breakfast, sunshine on a plate.

Lumpia, lumpia, and more lumpia.

Sorry, shrimpies. At least I resisted reenacting a particularly silly scene from 'Good Morning, Vietnam' with your remains.
Although we heard them, we did not see any fireworks from our tiny island. Instead, this New Year's Eve, our riots of color and light came instead from the constellations burning bright and absolute in the southern sky, the riches of experience, and the indomitable life we beheld, abundant and enduring. This year, I celebrate that I am both witness to and part of something infinitely grand and wondrously intimate.

Manigong Bagong Taon and 새해 복 많이 받으세요 - Happy New Year, friends.

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