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I am guilty of neglecting my blog for way too long. I apologize for not keeping everyone up to date, and this post should get everyone up to speed if you dare to read it all! For those of you who make it to the end of this uber long post, I commend your determination, and hope you find this chapter of my life to be one that leaves you on the edge of your seat wanting more! After all, the last few months have been so action packed that I have not had the time to sit down and share with everyone. So here it goes:It all began with a swoop... bangs that is. I needed to spice up my hair a bit, and Kate had just the solution; swoop bangs! So I took the plunge and I must say, I love them. They add a little sass which seems to be very fitting for my personality. It is amazing how a change of bangs can add a bounce to your step.For my swoop bang debut, Matt and I headed to Jefferson's Bistro. The bistro is known for their delicious (let me repeat that) delicious french onion soup. Knowing it was going to be his last visit, Matt ordered the soup, and only the soup. Six bowls of it to be exact! After the waitress got over the initial shock of such a peculiar order, I watched as Matt devoured bowl after bowl of the oniony goodness. When my entree arrived, so did Matt's. They had put three bowls worth of soup in one giant bowl, and he conquered it all. He swore after that meal he would never eat the soup again, but I specifically remember he was craving it again only three days later.

On Monday of that week, I got called into the hotel director's office. My mind immediately flashed back to all my walks to the principal's office in high school. I racked my brain trying to figure out what I had done, nothing. I couldn't come up with anything, which left me wondering how I was going to get out of something I didn't even know I did. Much to my surprise, I entered his office to find out that I was being offered the S.T.Y.L.E. (Service Teamwork and Yes Lead to Excellence) award for Outstanding Guest Services. This award is given to one employee each month and is voted on by all of the head honchos. It was a surprise and an honor, especially considering I had only been with the company for three months and they had already noticed my commitment to the guests. I was spoiled with a dinner for two, a free night in a passenger cabin, and lots of sweet NCL swag. I was also given a star pin that I now wear proudly on my uniform each day. Not to mention, I had a delicious lunch with my manager and the people that had voted for me to win the award. We all know how much I love food, so that was quite the treat!With awards under my belt, and an awesome new manager helping me with my shoots, I was happy to see my numbers improving and my pictures looking better and better each week. I even started meeting my goals for restaurant shots, which I would have deemed an impossible feat the month before. I took a night out on the town to reward myself for a job well done, and to say goodbye to my friend Kaleo, who was leaving on vacation. Theo, Kaleo, and I traveled over to Kihei for a night of fun and mayhem that included karaoke, dancing, and an extra long drive home. We had a total blast that night, and the three of us made for a night of triple fun and triple trouble!The week of Mardi Gras was interesting to say the least. After surviving a small earthquake and volcano eruption on Fat Tuesday, I had a Wednesday that was packed with 13 hours of work and a little added stress from all things work related. By the end of the night, I was ready to put my smile to bed. I walked down to my room, and much to my surprise, my entire room was filled with fresh orchids. Brett had got in touch with my roommate and broke into my room to fill my bed with a fragrant display of purple, lime green, and white orchids. It was the perfect ending to a long day of work, and left me with a big smile on my face.

The next day was a sunny one, but moods turned a little sour when talk of a rapidly approaching tsunami came into play. Luckily, the safest place to be for a tsunami is on a ship. We conveniently were able to take the ship out to sea, and slept peacefully with no recollection of the waves ever passing underneath us. Unfortunately we were not able to stop at one of the ports the following week due to damage, but the day floating around the whale sanctuary was not a bad trade off.

The next week I was mingling with the guests at the V.I.P. party on board, and I met a lovely woman named Carolyn. We hit off a wonderful conversation and were getting on the level that was going to blossom from acquaintance to best friendship. When I asked Carolyn where she was from, I was surprised to find she was from Olathe, KS. We then discovered that we were both Pittsburg State University alumni. She had attended Pitt 50 years before me, but as they say "Once a gorilla, Always a gorilla." We continued to share stories to find that we had both been student secretaries in the Student Center, we were both ambassadors to the president of the university, and we were both Tri Sigmas! After hugging, we proceeded to do the dance that is close to every gorilla's heart... the banana dance. Yes, in the middle of the prestigious V.I.P. cocktail event, I participated in the banana dance with the 70 year old version of me! Later that week were were able to talk more, and have continued to stay in touch. It is amazing what a small world it is that we would live such similar lives, and that they would collide halfway around the world, and thousands of miles from home. It is these moments that continue to remind me the amazing opportunity I have been given. It is such a blessing to meet people from all over the world, and comforting to meet someone that can hit your heart so close to home.

Later that week, I was able to bask in a world of creative freedom. I was assigned to shoot the ceremonies and post-couple shoots of two wedding vow renewals. It was so neat to actually get to meet the clients and spend time really getting to know the people I was taking pictures of. I was able to cater the time I spent with them to their specific needs and to their families. We had a lot of fun at each shoot, and the Hawaiian ritual is very refreshing and inspiring.

The next week, Theo and I hit up the town and explored the farmer's market in Hilo. While looking at all of the jewelery, fresh produce, and oils, we invented a new word... kerperfect. What started as a stumbling of words, has now taken a prominent seat in my everyday vocabulary. The definition is simple.
Kerperfect (ker.per.fect)
pronunciation ker-per-fekt
1. absolutely, positively the best
2. a combination of cool and perfect
Please feel free to incorporate it into your own vocabulary. This word is no "fetch" from the movie Mean Girls. This word IS going to happen, so you might as well jump on the kerperfect wagon now!

On Wednesday of that week, I was blessed with the morning off. Theo talked me into waking up at 6:45am to take full advantage of the free time I was given. First stop, a seaside breakfast. With an ocean backdrop, I feasted on a delicious array of fresh fruit, and a waffle topped with macadamia nuts, banana slices, and coconut syrup. The combination was nothing less of kerperfect.After breakfast, we walked along the shore enjoying thousands of fresh flowers, fun encounters with sea urchins and crabs, and our final resting point, the beach. We soaked up the sun, had a few water fights, and people watched before meeting up with Kate and Adrienne for lunch. Then it was back to the ship for work, work, work. I was exhausted by the time I got off work at 11:30pm that night, but the day was so spectacular, and so worth it.I finished the week with a dinner at the steak house on board, a rainy day movie day with my roommate, and a surprise from Brett one night after work. The surprise; a dinosaur watch. Yes, that is right, a glow in the dark, jurassic masterpiece. It all rounded out to the best week I had on the ship, and I wouldn't mind a total repeat, every week!The schedule a few days later sent my roommate Gabby and I into a state of shock. We had most of the day off. We both were done with work at 11:00am and did not have to return until 7:00pm. That left us with eight, I repeat eight, hours of free time. This was a very rare occurrence and we made a pact to take full advantage of the opportunity. As soon as we got off work we boarded the bus to Lahaina. The one hour trip there was quite entertaining all thanks to the couple across the aisle from us. They were obviously fighting about something. What? I will never know, but it was interesting none the less. I tried not to watch as the two began with a quiet argument, but as voices escalated, and the woman put her husband in a headlock, all eyes were on the couple. They proceeded to steal each others cell phones and began a screaming match all before we arrived in beautiful Lahaina, and that was just the beginning of our day. We walked up and down the street shopping up a storm in all of the boutiques and gift shops, then headed to the beach.

The bus ride back became more interesting than the bus ride there. As more and more people piled onto the bus, the driver declared the ride standing room only and squeezed 70 people onto a bus that could seat 36. The bus driver laughed as he whipped around corners and we all tossed back and forth across the bus. At the time, I did not find the ride as humorous as he did. In fact, I found it rather painful. Looking back, I bet that was quite a sight to see, and I would have been laughing too if I were him.

With it being my last week on board, I was able to enjoy some of the restaurants on board, and even made it to a few of the shows. That Thursday, Theo, Victoria and I went out for a night on the town that began with fun and mischief, and ended with Theo accidentally sending me face first into a pile of sand. Needless to say, I returned back to the ship a little sandier than when I had left.

The next two days were spent saying goodbyes, packing, and signing off my first contract on the Pride of America. Gabby and I went to the airport together to say our goodbyes. Unfortunately, when I return in a month, Gabby will not be joining me. Although I will miss her, I am inspired by her fearless desire to see the world. She has decided to pursue her passion for traveling and is currently exploring the countries of southeast Asia. I can not wait to follow all of her adventures.

After a very long, sleepless night of flying, I arrived in Kansas City. Despite the cold, I was happy to be back in the midwest and even happier to find Erin had come to surprise me in baggage claim. I screamed with excitement and pounced on my friend the minute I saw her! We grabbed breakfast, and before long she had to head back to school, but my day had only begun. Still restless, I grabbed a second wind and headed to the Slaton/Sherwood household to visit Amanda and celebrate her sister's birthday. Conveniently all of the family was getting together for Kalli, and I was fortunate enough to get to join on the fun and catch the family in the same place at the same time. After a delicious lunch and a quick catch up session, I headed back home to find Gabe was there with a suitcase, ready to move in for a few days. We hopped in the car and headed to my grandparents. All of the family had gathered for dinner. A bit delirious, I feasted on an extra large helping of green bean casserole. That night we went to bed and I slept for a solid 12 hours, but I guess that is what happens when you have been awake for 40 hours.

The next day, Gabe and I began the much awaited restaurant crawl. Gabe had promised we would tackle as many restaurants as possible during his three day visit that I had not been able to enjoy while in Hawaii. Now that is the sign of a true friend, someone who plans three days around all of your favorite foods! We didn't get to hit as many as we would have liked due to family functions and visits with friends, but my first three days home were filled with non-stop fun.

Yesterday, Mom, Frank and I discovered my new favorite KC restaurant. I had seen the little joint featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and since we were downtown, we decided to scope it out. It exceeded our expectations and sent us on a roller coaster of rich, delicious flavors. I will definitely be going back a few more times during my break.

So, I am here for four more weeks, then it is back to the land of eighty degrees, mountains, oceans and greenery. Until then, I plan on enjoying the company of the amazing friends and family I boasted about in the first posting of this blog. If I could do it all over again, would I? Of course! That is why I am headed back for round two!


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