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December 2, 2010


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Thanksgiving Day reminds me of so many great memories. However, the one that brings me to this particular entry in my blog is the fond memory I have of being the perennially self-designated person of the family to read out loud, ‘the’ Thanksgiving Day prayer.  I recall it usually being pretty short and sweet, you know, I didn’t want the turkey to get too cold or have the gravy settle into an incurably thick curdle the microwave couldn’t fix in less than a five second zap (wait, did we have a microwave back then?). Seriously though, I remember it being a fairly special occasion. But most importantly, I always remember wondering what it would feel like to be an adult someday and what would be the kind of things I’d eventually be grateful for.

Well, after two plus decades, an absent concern of curdling gravy and my age clocked at 36 (though some confuse me with 21 quite frequently), here’s an answer to my question for the current year, 2010.

Thank You - Merci - Gracias - Grazie  - Terima Kasih - Xie Xie 

Marie & I in Todos Santos, Mexico (Photo: Jason Schwary)
1 - Thank you, Marie. Thank you for your love. Thank you for diving head long aside me into many of the biggest question marks life has to offer. Thank you curiosity and your furious grasp around her. Thank you beauty, charm, humor and intelligence for the way you make her the most amazing woman I know.  Thank you for holding a mirror in front of me so I can see my reflection and all the things I truly am, of course the bad but especially the good.  Thank you for your time and listening to what I think, feel, fear and love. Thank you for inspiring me to be more.  Thank you for making me more humble. Thank you for expressing yourself back to me and creating the closest bond I’ve ever shared with another person. Thank you for your trust in me and thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt.  Thank you for your family. Thank you for KD and his quick wit and carefree attitude on life. Thank you for Nick and the week we spent skiing in the Alps. Thank you your mom and the magic she creates in her kitchen and especially her unabated efforts to pronounce every word in English with a flawless accent. Thank for your dad and the way he engages you.  Thank you for your tireless sense of adventure. Thank you  beauty for designing such a genuine masterpiece. But above all, thank you for being you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Marie!

Mayan Ruins, Mexico (Photo: Jason Schwary)
2 - Thank you, Mexico.  Thank you Zipolite. Thank you Alex, David, Foad and Shambalah. Thank you Michelada, everyday sunset experienced without your presence is a bit less dramatic. Thank you Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Ocean and every other body or stand of water that contours your body. Thank you 5,000 dolphins for fascinating me more than any singular encounter of nature in my life. Thank you, Palenque. Thank you green, lush, dense jungle for making this sacred spot your home. Thank you San Cristobal de las Casas for being the magical spot where you introduced me to Marie.  Thank you, Taxco and the unforgettable Christmas we spent together. Thank you Mexico City for being borderline insane. Thank you Acapulco and the remarkable surf n’ turf dinner with the cliff divers. Thank you, Pie de la Questa and some of the most powerful shore breakers seen in my life. Thank you, Merida and even thanks to you, Cancun. Thank you waterfalls, senotes, underground caves, all your magnificent beaches with those kind of sunsets that force you to appreciate all the beauty there is in life.  Thank you mexican food. Thank you carne asada, fresh tortillas, totopos, tacos al pastor, cerveza Sol, lime, salt and green chile salsa. Thank you tequila and many a crazy nights. Thank you exotic, fascination and splendor for being Mexico’s best friends. Thank you Spanish and the ability to share our thoughts, emotions and passions with the people of Mexico. Thank you citizens of Mexico for laughing along with me throughout the discovery of your nation. Thank you regeatton for being an inseparable component of all my memories created while roaming across your lands.  And thank you fiesta and fun for being a part of everything Mexico.  Gracias, gracias, gracias a Mexico!  
Me, The Park, The Tower (Photo: Jason Schwary)
3 - Thank you, France.  Thank you Paris. Thank you Nice, Tours, Besancon, Normandy, Les Deux Alpes, Avignon, Lisieux, Fontainblueau, Les Vosges, Amboise, Toulouse, Carcassonne, Metz, Nancy, Strasbourg, Le Pin, Honefleur, Douville, Trouville,  and especially Montbeliard and Grand Charmont.  Thank you for every museum, monument, park, tree lined boulevard, restaurant, cathedral, canal, bridge, boulangerie, patisserie, side street cafe and Leader Price product that dominate your isles. Thank you for being the standard of urban elegance I’ve ever known. Thank you for the all the haute culture and fashion. Thank you Metro line 13 and 21 Rue Guy Moquet. Thank you for every friendly newsstand hawker that takes the time to share in conversation. Thank you for all the beauty that you are. Thank you for your summers that fill themselves with concerts, open air movies, festivals and street parties. Thank you Raphael, Caravan Palace and Eurockeennes. Thank you for not only being my favorite country in the world but for being the native land of my Sweetheart.  Thank you for speaking more English than any foreigner ever gives you credit for. Thank you magret canard, comte cheese, raclette, vin rouge, 1664, soucisson sec, cornichons, tomates sechees, aubergines tapenade, baguette tradition, lardon, croque minsieur, tartine, creme brulee, merguez, and even the occasional halal product. Thank you for your open fields of hay, rocky rigged Alps and world famous, Cote Azur. And above all, thank you for your Eiffel Tower and Champs de Mars for being my favorite singular spot on the planet. Merci, merci, merci, France!

Me & Global Landmarks (Photo: Jason Schwary)
4 - Thank you, Baja California.  Thank you Mexico Highway 1 for being the most incredible 1000+ mile highway in the world. Thank you safety for accompanying me  all the while. Thank you Cabo Pulmo and the 5 days I spent in awe of your nightly concerts of flying sting rays. Thank you Mr. Crazy Cabo Man for watching over me nightly and see to it that I survived another day.  Thank you my beloved Jeep Wrangler, you fulfilled your most valiant mission and made me proud to be your captain.  Thank you tacos, you were at your best in Baja. Thank you Mother Nature for inviting me to the ‘biggest parade of life’ on your peninsula. Thank you migrating whales for showing life from random coastal highways that paralleled a major chunk of your journey. Thank you Animal Kingdom for making Baja a major resident of you empire. Thank you local artisans and all your creative work, what you do with porcelain and paint is really special. Thank you IPod for accompanying me for 35 days of the longest road trip of my life.  Thank you to altruism and the 4 fisherman of  Todos Santos that rescued my Jeep out of the sand, and when offered money for their efforts, they flat out refused and settled for a big American hug.  Thank you Bahia de Los Angeles and outer space for finding a mutual understand and respect for one another.  Thank you Cabo San Lucas and your cousin, San Jose del Cabo, you two combined make an incredibly attractive alternative to some of the my favorite getaways on the globe .  Thank you OXXO and the midnight munchies you satisfied so  amusingly.  Thank you Canon G11 for serving respect to the landscapes of Baja. Thank you Sol Zero and Milwaukee’s Best Zero, you made a most satisfactory alternative to the real beast. Thank you to my road worrier co-pilot, Marie, your tireless companionship was the most remarkable factor in this experience. Thank you opportunity for the chance of a lifetime.  Gracias, gracias, gracias a Baja!  
Wow! (Photo: Marie Zurlinden)
5 - Thank you, Italy.  Thank you for inviting me back to your wonderful boot in sea. Thank you for staying patient and knowing one day I would return. Thank you for being the most romantic place on Earth. Thank you for all your colors, especially red, white and green. Thank you for your pizza, pasta and antipasti. Thank you Venice, Florence, Bologna and Rome. Thank you Santa Maria Cathedral and the way you stand centurion on your venetian canals. Thank you Doges Plaza for being one of the most brilliant and inspiring places ever.  Thank you Burano and every fantastically painted wall of your tiny village. Thank you tourist for remaining on Murano. Thank you for the sunset over Venice from the Lido island. Thank you Bologna and your subtle splendor. Thank you half-famous chef for overview of Tuscany cuisine and why the “real” food of Italy is from your city. Thank you for teaching me that Marco Polo brought back tomatoes from his Asian excursion. Thank you restroom at your restaurant for suddenly getting us wet. Thank you Leaning Towers of Bologna and the drop-dead gorgeous view of the world you provided from the top of your shoulder. Thank you hotel and the free give-a-ways you didn’t know you were giving. Thank you Florence, and thank you for giving Marie your infamous “Stendhal’s Syndrome”.  Thank you Duomo and your first impression that will last a lifetime.  Thank you Duomo Tower and the afternoon Marie and I spent on top of you, making music videos with Akon and Rihanna. Thank you naked statue man, David. Thank you Leo. Thank you Michelangelo. Thank you two for being the most brilliant men of all time. Thank you to all of the fiery, exuberant and outspoken Italians you gave me the honer of meeting. Thank you Ryan Air and the $24 roundtrip tickets.  Thank you history, culture, architecture and divine intervention for playing an ubiquitous part in everything you are. Grazie, grazie, grazie, Italia!
Me and The Petronas Towers (Photo: Jason Schwary)
6 - Thank you, Malaysia.  Thank you Kuala Lumpur and my favorite skyscraper in the world, the mind blowing Petronas Towers. Thank you KL Tower and the awesome hour I spent marveling at your views. Thank you generous Indian-Malay chef for making us a free dinner, it was delicious. Thank you Malaysia for being the gateway to my 6 month Southeast Asia Odyssey. Thank you for Kuala Lumpurians for making me feel at home in a country so different from mine.  Thank you Indian food for finally coming to terms with the pallet of my tongue. Thank you Malacca. Thank you Penang. Thank you most importantly to the Perhentian Islands and making my top 5 island destination in the world. Thank you coconut palm, banana trees, exotic plant life for residing in every corner of your island minus the powder white sand that lined your crystal clear blue shores. Thank you Komodo Dragons that appeared from everywhere. Thank you squirrels for teaching Marie to shut every window and lock every door when not inside our chalet.  Thank you Butterfly Palace for being my first hotel that stood above water. Thank you reef sharks, nemos, green spotted bat rays, and enormously oversized sea turtles for being my neighbors for a brief, yet unforgettable 5 days . Thank you Tiger beer and the refreshing way in which you quenched my salty thirst. Thank you mie goreng and nazi campur for joining me throughout countless lunches and dinners.  Thank you Islam and morning bell towers for introducing me to the feel of what it’s like to visit a Muslim dominated country. Thank you tolerance and the effort you require in finding your peaceful palace. Thank you China Town and every city you dwell in, your entertaining energy is always appreciated.  Thank you September for being the entire month we got to know such a special place. Terima kasih, terima kasih, terima kasih, Malaysia!
Me & Singapore (Photo: Jason Schwary)
7 - Thank you, Singapore.  Thank you New York City of the Orient. Thank you enormous food courts and the 5 star cuisine I discovered within you. Thank you China and the 70% Chinese population that left me a with a strong feeling that I’d visited your country without waiting one second for a visa to visit your country.  Thank you first-world-modernity for finding residence at the heart of  Southeast Asia. Thank you spicy, and thank you for teaching me a new level of respect that went far beyond the jalapeno. Thank you energy for twisting yourself up and around everything singaporean. Thank you Siloso island and all of your adult toys, if I had to choose one city in Asia to find a “real” job, I’d probably pick you. Thank you capitalism and free trade, Singapore may be your best business model over the last half century. Thank you amalgamation for shedding a new definition on what that means in an urban context. Thank you Formula 1 for showing me what it sounds like to be within earshot of your speedy cars, wow. Thank you shopping malls and the chance to see you in all your glory. Thank you escalators for providing me photos that will long be cherished.  Thank you skyline, you are officially one of my favorites.  Thank you tech guy for hooking me up with a copy of Photoshop for $25. Thank you everyone in your fantastic city-state for making me feel loved, welcomed and appreciated. Xie xie, xie xie, xie xie, Singapore!
Me & Brunei (Photo: Jason Schwary)
8 - Thank you, Borneo.  Thank you treachery, danger, determination and adventure for tagging along for every step of the way. Thank you wildlife for indulging yourself so perfectly in the essence of who you are...wild. Thank you Macao monkeys (i.e. David Beckham monkey) for making my life miserable yet so delightfully entertained. Thank you Mabul Island and some of the most amazing scuba diving experienced in my life. Thank you sleepy fishing village perched on top a sea of stilts. Thank you to all the generous and welcoming workers at my home stay, Sphere Divers. Thank you for all the wonderful meals you prepared for me as well. Thank you Celebes Sea for making my acquaintance.  Thank you Brunei and the 8 passport stamps you left on my passport, the story is worth every one of ‘em. Thank you water taxi Bornean driver for whizzing me around your water village while enjoying a near perfect urban sunset. Thank you Miri and all the torrential downpours that entertained me for hours. Thank you for all the greenery you enveloped around me. Thank you tranquility  and laziness for the respite I so needed. Thank you modern day technology and the  DVD player I sorely miss after being ‘gone’ for so long. Thank you watch dealer and the 3 hours we spent negotiating, we both learned a bit more about one another than we bargained for. Thank you Tree Tops Lodge for being such a cool place and especially for the free beers, cheers.  Thank you propeller plane and the turbulence you distracted me with. Thank you ridiculously friendly staff at the B&B Inn. Thank you Bako National Park and the wild adventure you were. Thank you for a sunset and a secluded beach that will long be remember.  Thank you bus rides and the 33 hours you safely transported me. Thank you 3rd largest island of the world for endowing a new standard of respect and what it means to travel ‘beyond the brochure’.  Terima kasih, terima kasih, terima kasih, Borneo!
Me & Bali (Photo: Jason Schwary)
9 - Thank you, Indonesia.  Thank you mankind for producing such a genuine, friendly, outgoing and positive populous.  Thank you rice terrace and the manicured landscapes you bath in. Thank you Ganesh and your benevolent religion. Thank you capital of Indonesia, Jakarta. Thank you for demonstrating that money, more often than not, has an inverse relationship to happiness.  Thank you volcanos of Indonesia, regardless of which of your 1,700 island you come from. Thank you especially to my favorite volcano of all time, Mt. Bromo, you are simply stunning. Thank you to every Javanese citizen who stopped us for a photo and a chance to thank us for visiting their country. Thank you insight, appreciation and gratitude for sharing yourselves so freely during my stay on your island.  Thank you tourism and your voting dollar, you support one of the most deserving countries on the planet and the people it benefits.  Thank you Paranbainam and Borobodur for amazing me. Thank you to the 100 indonesian people that day that rolled at my jokes and smiled in my direction.  Thank you Bali. Thank you Bali, again and again and again. Thank you #1 for being your designation on my latest and best exploration of all time. Thank you 40 days & 40 nights of getting to know you, every second of it was necessary. Thank you Bali for dismantling every notion I had of Kauai, Santorini or Buzios of being my favorite island in the world. Thank you culture, temples, volcanoes, white sand, black sand, lakes, technicolored coral reefs, exquisite cuisine, charming people, hidden villages, jungles, potable clear blue rivers and postcard perfect water falls.  Thank you Rupiah and the overvalued respect you have for my American dollar. Thank you to the most interesting and comfortable hotel accommodation ever experienced. Thank you 1 hour Balinese massages and the mer $4 you cost. Thank you Kuta, Ubud, Lovina and Amed for being the 4 chosen destinations while discovering your vast paradise. Thank you motorbike and the 1,500 kilometers you took me on, without you my experience wouldn’t even come close to being the same. Thank you Indonesia for being one of so few countries I’ll always desire to return to.  Terima kasih, terima kasih, terima kasih, Indonesia!
Me & Mom in La Paz, Bolivia (Photo: Jason Schwary)
10 - Thank you, Mom.  Thank you for having no clue as to where to begin thanking you. Thank you for always believing in me. Thank you for your pride in me. Thank you for never giving up on me or counting me out. Thank you for being the kind of mother most men lack and few men have.  Thank you devotion and your inextricable grasp around the center of her actions. Thank you for your blue eyes. Thank you for being the “ground control tower” of all my adventures oversea, especially while I was in the Peace Corps and most recently in Europe, Mexico and now Southeast Asia. Thank you for the 23 out of 24 hours a day you put others first, myself most included. Thank you for all the years you spent raising me so someday I could look back with intelligent reasoning and thank you for all that you did. Thank you for the emails you pour your little heart into. Thank you interest, care and compassion for taking deep root in defining who my mother is and what makes her #1. Thank you adventure and your steady flame that remains kindled deep within her soul. Thank you devil and your best friend, advocate - the two of you together play an important role in our relationship. Thank you sense of humor and conversation, two more friends that make my mom “cool”.  Thank you for just about everything, but most of all, thank you for being my Miggle Plix! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mom!

Gratefully, this list could go on and on! Thank you 2010, thank you for being the kind of year in my life like no other, and one I say goodbye to with a tear in my eye. Thank you for being a year that will define me as a man and lay a new foundation from which I will grow into the future. Thank you, thank you, thank you, 2010!
Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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