What I pack for a 3-4 day solo hammock camping trip. Woo!

Hey guys!
Many people have been wondering what are all the items I pack and use in order to hammock camp. Well, the nice thing is, I will be heading out to do some hammock camping in Theodore Roosevelt National Park and also Hyalite Canyon. I’m planning on being out 3-4 days in the parks at a time and I’m giving myself two days of travel in between. If I cut my days short (3 instead of 4) in the parks, I plan on just checking out some smaller less popular trails or off route areas along the way. I might also just visit a town for a bit for freshening up and just having a day to draw traditionally for my commissions. I’m a bit behind on them at this point and I want to finish them all before I’m off to Southeast Asia.

Preparing my car and credit cards.
First off, I made sure for my tires were rotated and had air in them (well, my father did this for me since he’s a mechanic and was worried, ha)! I appreciate that. My cell company is AT&T and I called to add AT&T road side assistance to my phone line (it actually follows the person, not the phone so if I’m in another car and it has trouble, they will still come out to help). I called my credit card companies and debit card companies to let them know I will be traveling in area besides my “home” state of North Dakota. I also have a full tank of gas and made sure my spare tire was looking alright (I have to do this since I have a tendency to pack a lot of stuff in my car and it lies beneath all of this). My lights are fine, my insurance is good, and my tabs aren’t expired. Yay!

Getting food and feeling comfortable for the trip.
I have some snacks packed for my car as well as quite a few drinks. I do not plan on making many rest stops for food. Instead, my rest stops will be only for the purpose of using the bathroom and a 5 minute breather for some fresh air. If I’m tired, I might add in 20 minute naps (I actually happen to have a compressible pillow and a sleeping bag in my car for comfort). To relax in the car, I have music downloaded onto a small MP3 Player (with a large memory card) as well as some audio books on my Kindle Fire. Back to my snacks, for the car I will have bread, fresh fruit (I’m grabbing some at the grocery store before I leave), pretzels, and chips.

Now onto the good stuff – my gear:
Keep in mind, I am not going into 100% detail on what I brought, but I will point out the important stuff or the things I get questioned about.
I also want to let you know that I had called TRNP and they had told me that it is not recommended that I drink the water from the park because there’s not too many running water sources (streams, etc.) that aren’t filled with a ton of sediment. I do have a life straw (which I will probably end up using anyway out there after somewhat filtering out my water with my bandana for the sediments)- however, I plan to not use this too much.
I have also customized my backpack. I have cut off straps and added velcro straps to where it was appropriate for me. I also took off some of the accessories that came with the backpack which my friend had given me.

This is an image layout of everything. I will now go into detail- you can click on the pictures to see them in full view. I will start with my hammocking equipment.

 

 

In a large ziplock bag, I have my suspension straps, my ridge line, extra paracord, a plastic bag (for a bear bag), carabiners, my tent stakes, and a little storage bag for my ridge line (I put my headlamp in this and other things I need near my hammock).
As for my actual hanging gear, I have the ENO fly tarp (the item that looks like a tarp with strings attached), the ENO bug cover (goes around my hammock and is the small grey bag) and the ENO doublenest hammock. Most of the ENO items come with a bag or have a bag attached to the item to easily tuck it into so that makes it easier, but I don’t want my tarp in a bag since it’s a little harder to stuff back in. I also have an inflatable insulted bad (since your back can get cold quickly when sleeping in a hammock at night), and a light sleeping bag). Since I will be summer camping, I feel this is enough to keep me warm along with the clothes I have brought. Just in case though, I do bring extra plastic bags to help retain the heat near my body if I’m cold. The blug bag underneath my bigger hammocking items is a sack that I throw the gear into.

Now onto my clothes. I am not taking much. Just what’s on my body (sports bra, underwear, tank top, sweatshirt, a light waterproof jacket, a hat, bandana, hiking boots, and socks), and only a couple change of clothes. Since my sweat is going to make me smell and may actually make animals curious of me, I will be putting my “dirty” clothes in the container with my food when I hang it away from my camp (in bear country). I will have clean sleeping clothes and socks for the night. I brought  an extra pair of socks and liner and I will also be packing my gaiters (not shown). There’s a high possibility that it will rain a few of the days I will be camping so I put my clothes in plastic bags. I wanted to mention that the pants I will be wearing out there are convertibles so I can just zip off the bottoms if it gets hot. Most of my clothes (except for the sweatshirt) are light weight and would dry quickly if I wash them (I packed biodegradable soap sheets in case they get pretty bad). I’m bringing gaiters because in the badlands the ticks are apparently pretty bad (I have a tick removable ring in the my first aid kit) and if it rains, it’s going to get super muddy!  I have used Permethrin spray on all of my clothing. Also, on the clothes I’ll be wearing, I have a belt which I’ll put my bear spray on (for parks that have bears), my trowel (for burying toilet paper and all those other goods..), and I will tuck my boat horn somewhere. In addition, I have a really small and thin box cutter I will bring with me (I accidentally kept this from my old job…).

As for food, I have packed enough for myself. I eat a ton so I packed a lot of snacks. I know that my load will lessen as I eat (while I hike). I plan to keep all my trash together in a plastic bag to dispose of so I don’t liter. I made soup mixes with powder soup mix, dehydrated veggies and I threw in some chili flakes. I packed cereal (honey nut cheerios are so good), powdered soy milk (vanilla), candy bears, apple sauce, containers of peanut butter (dips or just to spoon it out and eat), Mountainhouse dehydrated meals, tea bags, hot chocolate mix, seasoning and more. I have a small “stove” and a fuel cubes. I will pack that, the pot holder, cooking items, and the lighter altogether. I don’t play to “wash” too much of my dishes, I want to eat ALL of my food so nothing is left. If I must though, I will be washing them away from my camp with a little bit of water and hand scrubbing.

There’s an image above with other items I packed. There’s my journal and my Kindle Fire. I will also pack my GoPro along with extra batteries and a juice pack for my Kindle Fire to charge on. In addition, my phone will be with me in a water proof bag, but it will also have a battery pack on it that helps it last longer. I plan to not use my electronics much besides for reading material. I will also be bringing a book of my choice for paper reading material. I packed an emergency kit with various items such as bandaids, wipes, stormproof matches, a mirror (for signaling), duct tape, my tick key (to easily remove ticks embedded in skin), and a few other items. As for hygiene, I have floss, toothpaste and a foldable tooth brush. In addition, since I don’t know how often I will come across areas for “bathing” or for gathering water to do so, I plan to use body wipes and facial wipes throughout the day so I feel comfortable even when I’m outdoors. I also use panti-liners to help with keeping my underwear cleaner (and to not have to wash as often- let’s be mature here)! If you’re traveling during your time of month ladies, you should look into an item called the Diva-Cup. ;)  Also in this image, I have my life straw, sunscreen, toilet paper, mesh sack, and more. The image shows everything so take a look!

Overall, I put the blue bag full of my sleeping bag and insulation pad onto the bottom of my bag (normally I’d put it vertical against my pack but I have to carry water in) and then I add my Platypus water bag onto my backpack (which I customized so it could hold it). Then I added a bell (so bears will know I am coming) and a case for my sunglasses onto my backpack. For the sake of the picture, I threw my hiking poles into the bundle, but I will be using these in my hands and when in my area for hammocking, I will be using them to help pitch a ground tent. I will be using these in the badlands since you can’t hang a hammock from trees (but they didn’t say anything about a ridgeline for your tarp…). Not sure if I will bring these into bear country yet.

Since I am taking two separate trips, I will leave my second “round” of food in my car in a (unfortunately heavy) bear canister. I will do this for my own safety since I’m alone and.. I love my food.

As I make my trip, if I learn that I absolutely don’t need anything or don’t use it as much (due to climate, etc) I will be leaving it in my car. Not pictured is my map I will have as well as my watch. I also don’t have bug spray or cortisone pictured but I will be having these for sure! Most likely I will also bring a very small sketch book with some writing items. That’s it though! Everything packs nicely into my pack and I’ve rearranged items so the important items are easy to reach and things come out in order (example, my tarp is on top of most stuff so I can easily get it if I feel the air change and I think the sky will dump water on me)! :) Wish me luck and I can’t wait to share the adventures with you guys with my new GoPro!

If you’re interested in seeing some of these items in detail, feel free to take a look at my Amazon Associate’s store – Outdoor Gear section.

Please comment below or ask a question if you have anything to say. I love to hear from you guys.

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New Update!

Hey everyone.
Sorry for the lack of updates, I simply traveled so much and did so many things I really didn’t have time to sit down and write until now.

I’m finally back in the USA. I traveled in the following countries while I was abroad: Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. I missed Panama this time around, but perhaps next time I’ll tackle it.

To be honest, I do not plan on writing too much about the previous countries at the moment because I’m just about to take another quick adventure. This time, I will be heading out to Western North Dakota. I will be going to Theodore Roosevelt Park to do some solo camping with my hammocking gear. You can’t hang gear out there on trees, but I can still pitch my tarp like a tent and just sleep on the ground. That’s not a problem to me. After that, I plan on spending a few nights in Hyalite Canyon. I’m a bit weary of doing this alone, but I think I will be fine. The reason why I’m nervous is because of the bears. At least I will have a bell, a horn, and also bear spray so I should be fine. Plus, I will be hanging my food away from my camp so I’m safe in that manner (I hope).

After this, my boyfriend and I will be spending some time in Bismarck, ND (a bit farther out from the city I am currently in now). Then shortly after, I will be heading out to South East Asia. Actually, my visa for Vietnam (along with my passport) just arrived home today.
My plans are to fly into Bangkok, Thailand (I am informed of what’s going on out there), then to get a flight out to Myanmar.  From there, perhaps I will travel by land to the other countries. I try to make my itinerary loose as you never know what might catch your attention while you’re traveling… and might change your plans completely! I’ll have a better grasp of what places I may want to visit after my camping trip.

I will be releasing a post about my hammocking gear later today! Keep an eye out for it!

Card Design

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Oursonder.com card design! I got them printed on recycled paper from http://www.us.moo.com! Pretty awesome! :)

My route out to Cozumel, Mexico from Cancun, Mexico.

I’m the sort of traveler that doesn’t get too excited with the idea of partying all night long in loud, over crowded bars. It’s just not my thing, but of course I couldn’t escape the scene when I chose to fly into Cancun, Mexico the weekend before 2014′s St. Patrick’s day. I couldn’t even escape the airport scene without seeing people who were pumped to party all night long. Nothing wrong with that, but I wanted to have a quiet and relaxing trip to clear my mind. However, I really couldn’t avoid a huge smile when I saw these fellas at the airport so happy as can be about St. Patty’s day.
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My ticket was purchased after doing research on multiple ticket searching engines. I ended up purchasing my multi-city ticket through Avianca.com. My trip departed out of Guatemala City, Guatemala on March 17th and my first destination was party city Cancun, Mexico. I had plans to take a bus directly from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. Later, my plans were to depart out of Belize City back to Guatemala City on March 26th. I’d also like to mention that I did not have any checked bags so I was able to hop on and off of various transportation methods quickly.

Some websites out there will tell you to go to an ADO bus station outside of the airport by getting taxi, but you do not need to do this.  Some of these websites are outdated on the internet, keep that in mind! Once you exit customs/immigration and pick up your luggage, you can ask people in the airport where the ADO bus station stand it. If your Spanish isn’t the greatest, just write the name ‘ADO’ down and say “bus”. People will point you to the right direction. Click here for a list of prices and departure times. When I went to the counter, I already had pesos so I paid for my ticket with that. I caught the next bus out which was in about thirty minutes after I arrived. Take your ticket and walk directly to the terminal area where you’ll be picked up. It took me a while to walk out to the area since the airport was crowded outside. You’ll walk through a few “gated” areas to get here. It’s not really “gated” though, there’s just security guards standing next to a horizontal pole that restricts vehicles from freely going through. If you need help locating where your terminal platform is, show them the number on your ticket and they will redirect you. My ticket was a one way trip to Playa del Carmen.

I was expecting a run down, not so nice bus, but I was happy to find out my seats were pleasant and the bus was clean. I spoke to people on the bus which made the 40-45 minute trip seem like it only lasted 20 minutes. I would encourage others to speak with those around them if they seem willing to talk. It’s a good way to get some local advice.

I arrived safely into Playa del Carmen and ended up meeting a fella that was living in the area and had a construction business around Mexico. He gave me some advice about places in the area, but none of them sounded too interesting to me. I was interested in a more remote area so my mind was thinking it was best to skip staying in Playa and head out to Cozumel (the island) instead.

If you need help finding a ferry to get to the island, you don’t need to speak much Spanish in the area because it’s pretty much like Florida out here. It’s funny because a few Swiss guys I met were disappointed to find out that credit cards were accepted every where and everyone spoke English. It was not the Mexico you’d normally expect to encounter – and if you want to practice your Spanish, you’re better off going towards the center of Mexico instead.
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I do want to warn people that the line for waiting for a water ferry is ridiculously long. After leaving the airport, getting a bus ride directly to Playa del Carmen and arriving later in the evening (it was dark out, maybe 7pm or so), I was pretty hungry. I grew envious of others that had food from nearby restaurants in their hands. I was getting annoyed with the ridiculously loud music blaring from the restaurants nearby. I was told this was normal and it didn’t matter if there was an upcoming holiday or not, the music was always this loud in this area.

Of course, I was quite happy to jump into the ferry to Cozumel. The Ferry was nicer than any I’ve been on before. I was quite happy with it and knew I’d be comfortable during the 45 minute ride. In addition, there was a bathroom too, but it seems as though so people had trouble walking to it when the Ferry was in motion (free entertainment for me). It had nice seats and a flat screen TV towards the front of the Ferry. This however, did not seem to comfort many people at all. As a matter of fact, I would say at least 70% of the people on the boat were suffering from motion sickness. I typically do as well but I had taken two motion sickness pills an hour before the Ferry ride and I was perfectly fine. I recommend doing the same and maybe bringing a little baggy to use instead of vomiting on the exiting platform like some people did.
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Link to Ferry departure time and prices here.

Once off the platform, it was easy for me to run along and grab a taxi. Keep in mind, Cozumel, in my opinion, isn’t the cheapest place to visit anymore. It’s attracting many tourists now especially with families and those from older crowds. In other words, it attracts those who are planning to spend money and don’t want to party hard.

I had already booked a hotel on airbnb.com named Beachouse Dive Hostel before I arrived. I selected this hostel because it was further away from the heart of Cozumel (the shopping areas) and I knew it would have access to a quieter beach area since it was on private property and a safe area. Walking distance, it was about 5km from where the Ferry unloaded its passengers. I took a taxi to the hostel. It was 100 pesos, which was about $7.60 or let’s just round up and say $8USD. This was for one way so it was fairly expensive which explains why I hitched a ride with others and even walked one day instead (it’s nice to walk and just take it all in anyway). I only had to pay for a taxi one time when I was staying here. Other people had vehicles and the hosts were kind enough to drop me off when they were going the direction I was heading. I recommend staying here if you’re okay with the further distance for walking. My biggest issue with traveling is bug bites. I scar right away from bites even when I don’t itch and I have a crazy reaction to them where I swell up pretty bad – this happens even when I have Deet sometimes. The windows are covered very well here and I was never bit inside the hostel. In addition, it’s very safe and for me, comfortable. There’s only four rooms which Tina, the owner, has available for travelers so it’s quieter than other hostels which I needed at the time.
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You can read my review on the hostel I stayed for a few days on airbnb at the moment.
Soon I will create a review on TripAdvisor for the hostel and will link it here {currently unavailable}.

I did most of my relaxing out here in Cozumel, Mexico. I stayed here from the 17th-20th.
During my stay on Cozumel, I did some browsing and shopping on the island. I’d advise you to look at multiple stores before purchasing something. If you’re going to buy clothing, just wait until you get back to Playa del Carmen via Ferry because you can get better deals there.

I went snorkeling and did some scuba diving with Adolfo (one of the hosts of the hostel I was at). If you want to get a good deal on diving, please contact me so I can put you in contact with Adolfo. We did two tank dives for $85USD. If you need to rent equipment, it’s $15USD extra. Adolfo was amazing, especially with me because I was a little nervous to be out in strong current and he took care of me underwater. Finally when the current wasn’t as strong I let go and did some scuba diving on my own while he took snap shots with my underwater came with me for free.

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The scuba diving and snorkeling is nice and relaxing here, but honestly nothing too breath taking. I did get insanely close to a sea turtle though.. I kind of wanted to touch it because I like to touch and poke everything but I figured it was best not to. I love turtles so this was pretty cool for me (especially since I can’t dive or swim well.. even with snorkeling gear).  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of this because we were about 60ft deep and that’s pushing it for my underwater camera.

My favorite time on the island (besides times when I ate) were simply when I walked along the shoreline near the area I stayed at and spoke to people from around the world. I also got some peace and quiet when I walked to the more quiet areas (farther and farther away from the all inclusive resort areas).

I was able to snap some pretty photos and someone snapped a photo of me too.
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The Mexican-Caribbean sea is very beautiful.. Actually anything with a multitude of different hues is beautiful to me, but I’d say the average American tourist would most definitely be uploading a few pictures of the sea to Facebook and good old Instagram.

My trip to Cozumel was one of the most relaxing parts of my little Spring break. My trip out to Bacalar was a bit more.. I guess you could say unpredictable. Then later, my adventure to Chetumal into Caye Caulker for a few days and to Belize City for my departure was the best part of my vacation. Stay tuned for more!

Read more:
{Links currently unavailable.. because I didn’t write these posts yet!}
Playa del Carmen to Bacalar and finally to Chetumal, Mexico
Chetumal, Mexico to Caye Caulker, Belize and finally back home to Guatemala City.

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10 ARTIST TIPS from Jade / MzzAzn.

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10 DETAILED ARTIST TIPS – From my own view (related to deviantART):

I am too lazy to write a “long” version so I’ll throw out tips from time to time. I have been asked for advice many times so here’s some advice now! Follow <a href=”http://www.facebook.com/mzzazn”>my facebook</a> to get more info!

1. Once you have a “very good” customer base, try putting into your commission agreement that you do not accept rushed ordered and can take as long as you’d like.
This is risky because you’re not making promises to your commissioners. In order to “keep” my customer base, while still not putting pressure on myself, I “reward” patient commissioners by simply doing detailed coloring. The secret to having this agreement be successful is making your final drawing “worth the wait”, however long that may be for you is your decision.

2.  Time management & pricing. This is just something I do, I spent around 5-10 minutes roughing sketching a comm. I do not spend more than 10-15 minutes lining (this is if it’s headshot). Coloring is the part that brings my drawings to life and I will spend 1-2 hours on a headshot.  Price your commissions with your “competition” in mind, but also, do not forget about your time you’re investing into your work!

3. Know your own art. Knowing what you’re good at doesn’t make you cocky. It’s how you present yourself. Be confident in your art and sell it if you feel that it is “competitive-enough” on the dA market. If you don’t get any buyers within a week, you either have your prices too high or, to be honest, you may not be ready to market your art yet – at least on deviantART.

4. Understand dA’s competition and don’t take it to heart. Simply because your art doesn’t sell, doesn’t mean that it’s horrible. If you feel that your art is horrible and you say this to the public – guess what? You probably just lost a watcher or two. Take me for example, when I really feel an artist hates their art (via journals), but doesn’t ask for help or even “try” to improve, I automatically unwatch them. Don’t publicize your distrust in yourself. Instead, why not offer sketches for free in exchange for feedback (at least a paragraph – 5 sentences worth)? If you do this, you’re offering work for detailed feedback and who knows, maybe you’ll attract future buyers who are interested in your hard effort!

5. Do not draw when you have an “art block”.  This is a rule I have for myself. Some watchers have noticed, there are periods where months can go by and I don’t upload anything. Why? Because I didn’t draw. I didn’t feel like it. I wasn’t motivated, but once that motivation finally kicks in (I don’t even know what brings it back, usually awesome music or videos), then I come back -wanting- to draw well and improve so the commissions I pump out turn out better than most previously made ones. Do not force yourself to break an art block because you’ll probably make art that you won’t like and you may just end up frustrating yourself.

6. Know what you can handle for commission slots. I am a multi tasker so I tend to open tons of slots of different sorts. The reason why I do this is so I have varied commissions I can choose to work on! I am not bored! I have variety, but I know what I can handle. In the past I’ve opened up 70+ slots (promos) and even more than that. I knew this was more than I could typically handle, but I noted my commissioners and kept in contact with all of them. I knew I could “handle” it, if I communicated so that’s why I accepted the slots. Selling your art isn’t all about the art work that’s produced, it’s also about the rapport you build with your customers during the production of the work. Communicate better and you may be able to handle more.

7. Take time to appreciate how far you’ve come. My friends are awesome. If I’m feeling down about my art, they sometimes throw my old art work in my face and that can make me feel motivated to draw more. Look at your art from two years ago, four years ago +, can you see how you’ve improved? Now imagine another five years or so. Dreaming of improvements can only get so far, you have to work hard when you’re motivated to get better!

8. Do you want to build your “watcher base”? Host kiribans, contests, and do giveaways. Giveaways work best if you ask for reblogs, sharing of your journal or your art, and on your giveaways you can offer to give features. A journal that gets 1k views will surely get you a watcher or many more if you featured your art on it. Sometimes I see plain journals that say, “free sketches” with no links to previous art work or galleries! Ah! No! You should throw your art on there that you’re proud of so when the journal is shared by others, they have a chance to look at your gallery and watch you instead of just dropping off a reference of their character and carrying on with their browsing.

9. Understand how paypal works. This is important for all buyers and sellers. I may get some hate for this, but I’d rather play it safe. SELLERS are supposed to pay the paypal fee. They are creating a business (essentially) and paypal needs to make a profit as well. This is why paypal charges a fee for transactions it handles! If a buyer chooses to send a little extra to cover the paypal fee, then awesome! If they don’t, you cannot ask them (paypal rules) to cover this fee! Also, if you’re requesting that people send you money for a drawing via the “gift” option, you may be flagged later.. meaning, paypal can freeze your account! I mean, doesn’t it look kind of fishy that tons of people are just sending you money on separate days? I think Paypal only freezes after a certain amount of income, but it can happen… I know because it happened to me!

10. Do you buy with points or sell via points? Know the “normal” conversion rate. 80 points = $1USD. If you have a strong customer base, you may get by with charging 100 points = $1USD. Sometimes when you charge that though, just know you may lose the interest of some buyers by not charging the normal conversion rate. You could also simply state “This is the normal rate, 80 points for $1USD, but I’m choosing to charge more”. If there’s a “newbie” on dA, they may think that 100 points = $1 and if they find out later it’s not, and you didn’t say that, you could be seen as “cheating” them out of extra points. I don’t have a problem with this rate, but I try to think about it from other possible perspectives and how you can “lose” watchers.

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Weekend trip in El Salvador at Decameron All Inclusive Resort

Recently I went to Decameron All Inclusive Resort in El Salvador for a weekend getaway. I have never been to an inclusive resort and I am very happy to say that I enjoyed my time there. I was pretty darn happy to be eating bacon and treats though out the day!

My friends and I took a shuttle to and from the resort. The ride was about four hours and with our driver, Jose, I didn’t get sick! Normally, I’d be feeling ill, but perhaps I didn’t get sick because the motion sickness medicine here is stronger as well. Who knows. The ride from Guatemala City to the resort was a smooth one and was hardly bumpy. I didn’t make the arrangement, but for about eight adults in a vehicle, we had to pay 400Q each.  If you’re in G.C. and interested in our driver, please send me an e-mail and I can probably get the information over to you.

We left early Saturday morning and arrived around noon or so. We stayed for Saturday, Sunday, and left around lunch time on Monday to head back to the city.

Breakfast was served in a buffet style and was quite pleasant. Lunch was also served the same way. Dinner can be served as a buffet style, but if you get up early, you can go to the reception area and ask to make a reservation at one of the restaurants. The reservation is also included (A la carte), but there is limited space in each of the dining areas (and they fill up quickly!). I tried the Mediterranean and Thai Restaurant. I highly recommend the Thai one!  Note that you must have presentable attire on when trying to dine. Sandals, a tshirt and shorts are fine, but some like to dress up fancier. If you come in with just your bathing suit, you will not be allowed to dine (I observed this as I passed by).

The resort is quite large and has a multitude of things you can do while staying there. There are kayaks available, bikes, several pools, the spa, an office where you can book excursions, and my favorite, a day trip you can take to the “real” beach. The “beach” at the resort isn’t sandy like the “real beach” which is about 15-20 minutes away by bus (and also $2USD/person). At the resort, it is quite rocky and the salt water pool is shallow (maybe 4′ at most, if I remember correctly). If you ask the front desk to be put on the bus to the “real beach”, you pay $2USD per person and can still enjoy a snack bar and unlimited drinks while enjoying a sandy beach. There is also a volleyball net out at the “real beach” and board games. If you choose to play volleyball, I’d recommend asking someone to use a hose to water the sand since it can be quite hot!

As for night life, there are “shows” which start around 8:30pm-9pm that you can attend. Also, there is a disco area where you can go dancing. When we were there, a “casino” night occurred, but my friends and I were not familiar with the games. There are also stands outside the pool area in the evening where you can buy souvenirs for friends and family.

If you have kids, they will have a good time in the pool area alone. I am a child at heart so I went around climbing some rocks and found a really quiet area when the tide was out and took some snapshots of the sunset. I was really enjoying that. In addition, I ran around looking at little creatures I can find outside such as sea snails and hermit crabs. It would be nice to bring kids to the rocky area when the tide goes out because they might find fun little ocean goodies. Keep an eye on them though, because at one point I found a dead puffer fish and a kiddo may run across that when they’re not looking to see where they’re going. I’d recommend taking photos on the statues around the resort with children and grabbing a few board games to play with family members and friends.

There is a small store next to the excursion office which I’d recommend taking a peek in. When it’s hot, you can grab ice cream for about .50 cents to $1USD each. It’s fantastic for really hot days. Also, friends and myself grabbed a cup/jug in order to fill it with drinks we requested.

As for the rooms themselves, I booked with my boyfriend. It was $350USD for the both of us (two nights, three days). Our room contained three beds and was very clean. It also had a television and was air conditioned. I’d recommend booking and paying ahead of time. A couple of my friends had difficulty paying the $350 total when they came to the resort and were being asked to pay double. In addition, arrival is much easier if you book ahead and print out a confirmation form because the guards in the front entry area will ask for it. Apparently one of our friends showed them the image of the confirmation on their phones the last time they visited the resort and that wasn’t good enough so they had to get a manager involved. You don’t want to do that, you want to get in and enjoy the resort!

By the way, if you arrive prior to the check in time, you can pay an extra fee to take advantage of the resort right away (but not have your room). It was about $15USD-$20USD for my boyfriend and I together. Unfortunately, I am not sure where I placed that receipt because I was having a good time!

One thing I really loved seeing was Eucalyptus Deglupta trees on our way out of the resort! These trees shed their bark at different times of the year so they look like colorful artwork! I’ve always wanted to see them and I was so happy to see it while our shuttle made our way out!

If you plan on staying at the resort, here are a few tips:
- do not lose your towels that you obtain with the towel cards after check in. The resort needs the cards back (you return your towel for it) in order to check you out without extra fees.
- Bring your sandals with you. If you end up taking a walk, it can be quite hot. Sunglasses and sunblock are a good idea too but keep an eye out for your stuff. I lost my sunglasses at one point but a group of folks I spoke to earlier found them and returned them to me.
- US dollars it the currency used here. Bring smaller bills to tip your bartender and servers.
- If you make reservations for the Spa or restaurants, do them early in the morning.
- Take a walk in the resort, it’s large and you’ll be able to peek into some stores and meet a greater variety of people. There’s also a “lagoon” you can visit.
- If you bring your kids into the salt water pool, be a bit careful in the entry area, it’s a little slippery and I saw a few kids fall hard on their rear since they didn’t grasp the metal pole there to help them.
- If you have a ride arranged to pick you up, make sure the hotel knows they are coming and knows their name on their ID card so they don’t have difficulty passing through the front gates to pick you up.
- There are children at the “real beach” area that will try to hand you pieces of paper. They have drawings on them. It’s a way to encourage you to give some money. If you’d like to, go ahead, but they seem to really cherish time you spend with them too. I drew for them and ended up learning a few Spanish words! Engage with these children, they are part of the culture out here and each one is so beautiful.
- If you end up going to the “real beach” area, I’d recommend leaving the area and walking around the roads with a friend or two. You can visit little shops ran by locals and if you’d like, try to eat fruit or food prepared at one of the stands.

Now for the goodies – the photos:
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The children at the beach and I exchanged drawings and got to laugh together at my horrible Spanish.
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This is the bar at the “real beach” area. There are also changing rooms, bathroom stalls (not portable potty stands), clean towels, a small fresh pool, beach chairs, the volleyball net, and an outdoor shower which you can use to rinse off the salt water on your body.
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This is simply my boyfriend and I enjoying our time out here. Use sunscreen!
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This is the volleyball net at the “real beach”. I didn’t play long, but it’s nice to chit chat with others from around the world.. but mainly Canada.

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An image of one of the main bars at Lobby #1 and to the right is the salt water pool.

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A better image of the salt water pool.

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This is the rockier area when its high tide. The water recedes quite a bit.

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Our friend Jordan showing off our sad little creation.
If you have kids, you can buy sand castle making tools at the little shop I mentioned. I was quite tempted to do so… but ended up with tons of sand under my nails instead.
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I gathered up some hermit crabs to race because I’m a child.

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These are the trees you need to look out for on your way out. They’re not found everywhere!

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The sunset was quite beautiful and memorable as well. I like to venture off away from others and just listen to music while people watching or observing nature. It was my quiet time.. and the only time where I didn’t speak, hahaha. If you have time to get away from others, I’d recommend doing the same. Grab your music player and go find a nice place among the rocks to just.. relax and calm yourself.

Overall, I had a great time in the resort and it was how I expected it to be (however, I did have a higher expectation from the buffet). Checking in and out was pretty easy and I enjoyed myself. I do enjoy visiting regular cities/towns much more though as I like cultural immersion a lot better than the fancy high life – but that’s just me!

Trying out some digital painting.

realhwThis is a work in progress and will be finished within the next few days. I really enjoy this character I was commissioned to do and I am happy the commissioner is allowing me full flexibility on it! This is why it is not cell shaded and painted instead. I can’t wait to finish!

Bun Girl – Iced Themed Adoptable

Bun Girl - Iced Themed Adoptable

I made an adoptable today to take a break from commissions. It is

What is art? | Art for Smiles – a new program in the making.

 

Young children at Imani

Many would define art as a form of self expression. I believe it goes far beyond that. Art when made has a creator, but when shared also has an audience. It can touch this audience and stir up all sorts of emotions. Sadness, regret, hope, happiness – the list continues.
My goal is to launch an art program to help create a smile on the faces of children in orphanages.
I want to first start with the orphanage that recently hosted me as a volunteer in Kenya.
The Imani Children Orphanage is full of love. You can feel it as you hear the welcoming song the children sing to visitors and see it in the hopeful eyes of all the children.

These children have a good life here. They are well taken care of and their future is always a concern for their well being.

At this orphanage there were over three hundred children. Many of them have wonderful hopes and dreams. Many want to be doctors to help other children in the future. I thought this was so beautiful.

As I sat down with an orphanage administrator, I explained my own hopes and dreams. One of them being, having some sort of program launched to put a smile on these kids’ faces. This program may be small or grow to be very successful, but I will work hard to make sure that art made by caring artists will reach the hands of these children who want to be inspired and want to succeed.

The goal of the program is to spread a positive vibe in the orphanage. Once art is received in envelopes from artists from around the world, the administration team will share the envelopes with the kids and they will admire it and use it to decorate their rooms. Every artist that contributes will know that this may be a one way road. Meaning, some of these children may never write back to them. Postage may not be cheap or they may not have the supplies to send responses back. However, their emotions will speak for themselves. I will ask administrators to take pictures of these children with their art and upload it via e-mail to me to spread on my website and the world wide web.

In addition to this, I plan to ask for sponsors to send some art supplies and T-shirts to the children at the orphanage. During my stay, I saw a lot of clothing that was very tattered and worn; I was happy to see that they kept reusing what they had, but I think it would be wonderful giving these children some new shirts to throw on and grin about.

Also, after one or two years of launching the program, my plan to create a fundraiser for this orphanage. I had learned to send one of the young adults at this orphanage to a university for a college degree, it costs only $2,000 USD per year. That’s how much one of my classes basically costs! The money from the fundraiser could go towards funding a college education or whatever may be best for the orphanage at the time. I looked around the orphanage when I was curious and saw that the orphanage appreciates donations of fruits. Many visitors give the kids candy which isn’t healthy for them and doesn’t contribute to good health so fresh fruits are appreciated. I would like it if funds from this is used for fresh produce for the children.

The program will be called “Art for Smiles”. I will be working on the details of the program and will be updating again soon. I hope you’re looking forward to it!

I know art can create positive vibes to help our children in third world and developing countries – as well as the entire world in general. I want these children to see what art can do for them when they live in an orphanage. Not many children in orphanages have access to a laptop or computer so browsing through an online art gallery is not always an option. Traditional art or printed digital works sent to these children will create a gallery within their own rooms. I know when I receive art or letters from friends or family and I post it around my room, I can’t help but feel loved and inspired to keep working hard to be successful. To help put a smile on their faces from my success – that’s what I want to do for them in return. I want them to feel proud!

I want the children in the orphanage to experience the excitement most of us feel when we see a hand written letter in the mail from a family member or a friend rather than another bill. I want them to know that artists out there want to help them even though they may not be able reply back. I want them to know the world wants to see them grow up and be successful. We want them to work hard and achieve their goals and dreams – and we want to help them do it starting with a simple smile and kind gesture.

If you are a person or a business who is interested in helping with the program as a sponsor, please feel free to contact me at mzzychan@gmail.com.

Please subscribe to my website http://www.oursonder.com to receive more updates on this program, travel news, and much more.

Thank you,
Jade Choung

-mzzy | mzzazn | Jade Choung

Spending the holidays at an orphanage in Kenya.

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I spent this holiday season with the Imani children in a Kenya orphanage named:
During my entry to the orphanage, I was welcomed with a song from the children. They sang it beautifully and it put a huge smile on my face.
I was told at the orphanage I stayed at, there were over 300 kids. Some were babies, toddlers and and the age ranged all the way up to young adults. My assignment was to work with the babies. Some of the babies I worked with were only two weeks old. They were so precious.

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I was quickly introduced to some staff members that showed me where my room was. I was surprised at how big my room was. As a matter of fact, I technically had two rooms because I was the only volunteer at the orphanage during Christmas time. Two different rooms and two different beds were supplied to me. Of course, I only used one. The size of the bed seemed to be a queen so it was plenty big for me. There were light sheets covering the bed acting like a mosquito net which was nice. I had a kitchen to myself that was equipped with a fridge, microwave, toaster and other often used appliances. I had a bathroom with a bathtub and hot water. It was really nice. The only downfall was the fact that IFRE, the volunteer program I had signed up with, had said my accomodation was a fifteen minute walk from the orphanage whereas it was actually in the orphanage itself. It was not a big deal to me as I had my ear phones in as I slept (and I played my own music at a decent volume level). It was necessary for me to do so as my room was next to a baby/toddler unit and babies were crying all night long (thought there were people working night shifts to take care of them).

During the day, since it was a holiday time, the orphanage was relaxed. Kids played outside and not too much work had to be done. The babies had to be cared for of course and had to be shown loved. It was sweet to see their smiling faces, but it broke my heart knowing that they did not have parents that wanted to keep them or could not supply them a good life. I’m glad the orphanage was there for them. Most of the babies I worked with were newborns to about 8 months of age. There were exceptions for children with any birth defects. I was told that birth defects were common, especially the one (I was not told the exact name) where water was being built up in the area of the brain. It’s tragic, but unfortunately extremely common. The children who had this birth defect had to be cared for in a different way as their heads were more delicate due to weight differences and imbalance. I learned how to care for them properly along with the other babies too. I changed diapers (which were actually two towels wrapped around each child’s bottoms), changed their clothing, fed them their proper formulas and meals, played with them, held them, and gave them affection. During my volunteer work, I met two women that handled the baby unit with me. One was named Shiko and the other Esta.

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Esta was employed at the orphanage and loved working with the children here. It was what she always wanted to do. She wanted to help children and here she was doing what she loved and making a difference. It was a great pleasure meeting her.

I also met Shiko. Shiko was actually one of the older kids at the orphanage. She spent some of her holiday time caring for the kids in the baby unit because she simply liked doing so. I learned that she wants to be a doctor because she enjoys helping others. I wished her success and told her she’d make a wonderful doctor, especially with her sweet personality.

I didn’t have to stay at the baby unit the entire time. I was given complete freedom and was able to walk around and observe other kids. One of the rules of the orphanage was not to ask the kids how they got there and details of their upbringing. I could see why it would not be appropriate, especially during the holiday time.

I saw many, many children. All of them had some sort of role on the orphanage and they did them willingly. I saw some kids help on the rooftop with cleaning linens and hanging them. I saw some kids cutting up vegetables for preparing a meal afterwards and I also was welcomed by two nice boys who cleaned up a table where I was to sit down and eat a meal. They were very responsible and respectful.

I was told most of the children here were learning both English and Swahili. They all went to school when they were an appropriate age, but since this was holiday time they were able to relax and just play with one another.

 

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I spent most of my days with the baby unit, but one day I was able to head out of the orphanage with an escort. The orphanage is surrounded by a very, very busy market. I was told it was not safe for me to go out alone. I probably would not have been told an outrageous price to buy food, but I could be pick pocketed and become lost easily.

Vinnie was my escort and my new friend. He was to be a doctor and studied medicine at the University of Nairobi with a scholarship. He was incredibly bright and also curious. I loved his enthusiasm and his ability to converse with me about a wide array of topics. He told me more about the culture of Nairobi and its surrounding areas and about how he was an orphan. He described his life to me and was curious to know about mine. I told him about my life, in depth (which is not common of me to do so), and we bonded easily. Christmas Eve was the night when Kenyans stayed up late to celebrate the holidays. After walking through market for quite some time to obtain fruits for me, we arrived back at the orphanage. I was invited to come down and celebrate the evening with Vinnie.

Unfortunately, I did not get to do so because by the time I came downstairs to try to meet Vinnie, the gates of the orphanage were locked with a padlock and I did not see anyone (late at night) that I could ask to open the pad lock for me. Since I was already tired and had eaten, I simply went to bed.

Christmas was a regular day as the other holiday days.  Christmas music could be heard from the market that was only a few meters outside of the orphanage and spirits were high. I was greeted with “Merry Christmas” as I walked through the orphanage and huge smiling faces of children. It warmed my heart.

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Although Christmas was not festive as in the USA, I was able to spend the holidays with children who didn’t have parents and that appreciated every ounce of love and attention I gave them. It made me so happy.

I plan to ask more about how I can help this orphanage and I will be creating some sort of plan/program to assist them or at least put some smiles on their faces in the future. I have already received the okay with one of the orphanage administrators for their cooperation as well.

Thank you to the Imani children and orphanage staff for the great time and for being so welcoming. You’re all wonderful and I really appreciate the chance to get to know you and how the orphanage worked!

 

-mzzy | mzzazn | Jade Choung

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