Saturday, August 26, 2006

Rach and My Date

It's been absolutely nuts around here the past few weeks. Rach and I got back from the Honeymoon and I started right into training with the RAs. I've been working for 20 days straight now. I will get my first day off next Sunday, which means by the time I finally get a day off, it will have been 27 days straight. I usually get up at 8:00 or 9:00 and meet my staff downstairs. Then I sit through training exercises until 2:00 or so. I then get a break until 5:00, and it's back to training until 10:00 or so. Then Rach and I meet with students to play board games in our apartment. So, you can imagine, it's been pretty nuts. About a week ago though, Rach and I decided to take two hours off. I made pork chops and corn on the cob for dinner.

After dinner, we went to Dairy Queen, and then I found a path that went down to a creek next to campus. I had never been down there before, and I don't know why. The sun was starting to set, and with the dusk starting to fade down on the creek, it felt like the most quaint and picturesque place on earth. There was a teenager walking in the stream with his bike parked on the rocks, and across the river stood a skinny blue heron. The whole experience was very simple, but there was something about taking a creek walk at dusk with my new bride watching a heron wait for a catch with a butterfly on some Queen Anne's Lace... it was beautiful. Anyway... here are some pictures:

This is the path that runs next to the creek. I thought we would walk along the path, but we ended up taking the road less travelled.

Just a shot of the creek from the bank. It really was quiet and calm. The crickets and spring peepers had just started singing so it was extraordinarily wonderful.

Here's a shot of the stately Blue Heron. He stood there for such a long time just waiting for a fish. When none came by, he just walked clumsily up that dirt hill there and disappeared.

Rachel standing next to this wonderfully big tree that spread its branches out over the shallow creek. And an army of poison ivy just begging for Jim to get naked and roll around in it.

When we got down to the creek, I thought Rach wouldn't be interested in getting dirty. Much to my surprise, she walked right down the three foot bank and started wading through the creek. I think my favorite part of the walk was just being three paces behind her watching as she looked down and slid her feet onto the smoother stones.

I stopped with her for a while to watch the crane on the other side of the creek. Then, I took a shot of our feet in the water.

Rach took this picture of the flowers her friend Allie had brought over. I put this photo in so you could see the new kitchen set up. We now have shelves and a long wooden table for our pots and our glorified toaster oven.

Later that night, we took a tour through the female residence Hall so Rachel could become acquainted with it. On the way out, I came across this amazing spider spinning her web. I sat out there on the back stairwell watching as she finished spinning her web, and then a mayfly got snagged up. She jumped off and fell like a shot onto the little bug and tore him from the web and held him in mid air as she bit down and then wrapped him up using all eight legs. It was absolutely amazing... I have so much respect for God when I watch his creation do such beautiful dances of life and death... it's macabre, but it ends up being beautiful. The natural order must have been authored by God. It could never have become so beautiful on its own.

I warn you, neither of the following are all that great,
but I think they're cool.

Here's a video of the spider spinning her web.
You can actually see her pulling the threads out of her body.

Here's a video of the spider catching and wrapping up the mayfly.
It's not very good quality, but you get the idea.

The next morning I made eggs and hashbrowns with orange juice and coffee for breakfast.

The end.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Wedding Pictures

I think you can go here to see pictures of our wedding taken by the exceedingly talented, generous and gracious Michael Baird. Abby's pics are coming soon!!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

We're Back!!!

So, I guess I should start officially referring to myself in the plural. We are back!

The wedding and Honeymoon were really fabulous. I'm going to try to post a bit about how things went, but it's a lot to write, so I'm going to condense things a bit. Mostly, I'm excited to show and see pictures of the wedding. I don't actually have any pictures of the wedding, so if you do, it would be awesome to see them. You can email them to ""

At any rate, the wedding was beautiful. I was so happy once I walked out onto the altar that I couldn't help but grin like an idiot waiting for Rachel to come down the aisle. It was really funny. Then, they started playing all the music, and I started getting a bit choked up. B y the time Stacy sang "Oh the Deep Deep Love of Jesus" I was ready to loose it. Rach kept squeezing my hand saying "Are you going to be okay?" I think she thought I was going to run.

Needless to say I was no where near running away, I was so happy and excited, and it's been a really wonderful experience to be married.

After the wedding we took pictures. Michael Baird and Abby Welsheimer were kind enough to help us by taking pictures for us at the wedding. It was a huge help, and we're so happy... we can't wait to see them.

After the pictures we had the reception at the Mount Troy Ballroom. It was really pretty, and I must say together with Phil, I managed to put together a pretty bumpin' wedding mix. We played "Ridin' Dirty" by Chamilionaire and Kray-Z-Bone, "In Da Club" and "Big Pimpin'" We didn't play anything by Earth Wind and Fire, nor did we play the Macarena, the Electric Slide, or anything else like that. I may have upset some of my guests because of this, but boy did we have a blast.

After the reception I went out to find my car annihilated (of course) and Rach and I jumped in and started down the road. I was hoping to get to a gas station to clean off the windows, but apparently the mess was a bit too much for Rach because she yanked on the windshield wipers thingy to turn the spray on. The spray came out and the condom wrapped windshield wipers started smearing the toilet paper into the shaving cream on the windshield, and in two passes, the windshield was pretty much opaque. We laughed, and yanked on the bar for a good solid minute before I could see through the windshield again.

We drove down to the William Omni Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, and parked with the Valet. We dropped off our luggage and checked into our room. The room was really big, and kinda nice, but to be honest, I expected more. It took about twenty minutes for the luggage to arrive, and when it finally did we unpacked a bit, and then played cards until we went to bed.

The next day we ate breakfast at the hotel, (under the service of a pretty rude waiter) and then unwrapped all of our presents at Mom and Dad McCowin's house. We hung out there for a while, and then checked into the Comfort Suites and changed for dinner. We went to a five star restaurant on Mount Washington for dinner figuring it would be the last time we could excuse ourselves to splurge so much on dinner. Then we went back to the hotel and watched Mork and Mindy reruns for a while before going to bed. I was so excited about going to Mexico that I didn't sleep very much at all that night. We woke up the next morning around 4:30 and went to the airport. We flew into Atlanta and then to Puerto Vallarta.

Rach and I in the Hotlanta Airport.

We got off the plane and went through customs in a breeze. And then we went to the hotel. Holy crap. It was the nicest place I've ever been. Everything was so clean, and beautiful... and the staff was so kind and helpful, and everything was paid for. We didn't have to drop a cent the whole time... but we ended up tipping everyone (even though it said gratuity was included.)

Here are some shots of the hotel room...

we had an ocean view and every night we sat at the balconey, or at dinner watching the nightly storm roll in. It is the rainy season there which means that every single night we were there starting around 5:30 it rained until a little after midnight. As a result, everything is green green green. Anyway, here's a picture story of our Honeymoon... don't worry, it's a family show.

This was the king-sized bed that I think could comfortably sleep sixteen Rach and Joshua's.

This was our little sink area... the wooden slats there look out onto the bed.

This was the bed table... yeah, it lights from underneath.

MINI BAR! We had a fifth of Gin, a fifth of Tequilla, a fifth of Scotch and a fifth of Brandy. Yum.
The view from our Balconey... that's one of two pools there, you can swim under the bridges, or just hang out in the water out of the sun.

This was the banana tree growing next to the pool...

The tiki huts we sat under to watch the waves roll in... we spent a day here and I read the world's worst book: Freddy and Frederika. It's on the New York Times Bestseller List, but it's horrible.

A shot of all the tiki huts for our hotel. They were never really full, it was pretty laid back and nice. Waitresses would come by and ask you if you wanted anything to drink if you sat in the chairs.

The activities hut, where I got my free sea kayak.

Me Kayaking... it was free. Look at those monstrous waves out there! PHEW! (There I was just cruising along when a tsunami came out of nowhere and tipped my whole boat over slamming an oar into the bridge of my nose, and slamming the kayak down on the back of my head. That was the last time I kayaked.)

My nose after getting my face busted by an oar.

The presentation for all the meals was unreal. They even had five person mariachi bands that would come and play music while you ate... I felt like royalty.

We ate a romantic Honeymooner's dinner at our favorite restaurant and they dropped off this cake for us. They called earlier in the day to make sure they spelled our name correctly. (On another note, we paid for the hotel with Rachel's card, so everyone at the hotel called us Mr. and Mrs. McCowin. The only time we were called the Elek's, it was actually the Ilik's. I am not sure we have been called by our real last name more than half a dozen times yet.)

Another meal, this one at the Italian Restaurant.

Rach, before her haircut at the Spa.


We went on a city tour through Puerto Vallarta. The city is busy, and full of life, but definately not wealthy. Most of their money comes through tourism. And we learned that the average daily wage is five US dollars.

Just a neat looking doorway.

These arches were one of two things that withstood an enormous flood that came after a typhoon in Puerto Vallarta three years ago.

This sea horse statue was the second thing that withstood the floods.

This is where we sat to eat some quesedillas we bought at a neighborhood deli while we were on the city tour in Puerto Vallarta.

This is the flea market we shopped in during the tour. It was fun to barter for stuff.

It took the people of Puerto Vallarta over 30 years to build this church because they were so hard up for materials and labor. It survived the floods, but only structurally. The insides had to be totally removed and replaced.

The city tour ended with a trip to the Tequilla factory. Hasienda State one of two states in Mexico that are permitted to produce Tequilla. No other place in the world can make the drink other than these two states. We bought two bottles, and you've never had tequilla like this before. I promise.

We also went on the Ranche Pancho horseback riding tour. It was really fun, but Peter kept telling me that my horse was bad and wouldn't listen to anyone. Sure enough, it only stopped if he told it to. (Peter was about twelve years old.) Rachel's horse was as clumsy as I am, and nearly fell over half a dozen times. Seriously... only Rach and I.

Just a shot of the back of my horse's head. I liked this photo.

We saw a crocodile sunning itself on the shore. It's tough to take pictures while you're riding a horse that refuses to stop for you. Apparently when the floods came, the crocodiles were found in the town, and they ate a couple of people. I'm guessing this guy was a bit over seven feet long.

This is the cute little boy in a hammock who threw his soccer ball under Rachel's horse which promptly tripped on it with his front and back feet.

This picture was taken during our sunset cruise. It is my favorite picture from the honeymoon.

Here you can see the wall of rain that moved over our boat just before we set off on the cruise. We were forced to anchor close to the dock for about twenty minutes. When the rain quit, it was just another beautiful night.

This is Los Archos. These are two islands off the shore of Puerto Vallarta that are inhinabitable by humans. They are massive and absolutely gorgeous. The sunset cruise went right between the two. That was a highlight.

The islands are called Los Archos (The Arches? Charlotte?) because each stone has an arch at the base. That thing on the right is a hotel. That's how big these things are.

This tree was straight from the shire... look how beautiful those roots are. Wow.

The birds flying at the top of the rock made me think of the original King Kong.

I held an Iguana.

Rach took this one of the sunset. Even this doesn't capture the brilliance of the colors in the sky. The red in the sky that night was like scarlet. Still, this is my second favorite picture.

This sunset was a bit more hazy... a storm was coming on us.

On the last morning there, I got up before the sun to wait for crabs. I've never seen them in person other than in the grocery store, and I wanted to see some crawling in the sand. I sat in my chair for two hours and didn't see any. Then, I started walking the shore, and this little bird was hunting in the waves. He would stand at the beach, and when the water went out, he'd rush in to catch fish that were left on the sand. When a wave came in, he'd run back up to the sand. He wasn't afraid of me at all and I walked with him on the sand for about fifteen minutes before he flew away. The whole time he was about five or six feet away from me. It was really amazing. Way better than crabs.

The plane wing on the way home. Don't talk to Rach about it. The third little stabilizer thing was shaking really bad and I wanted to tell the stewardess, but Rachel thought I was nuts. But it really was shaking bad... for a minute I thought it might fall off.