Elastic Basket for my Peaches

I also have a website: www.lizhightower.com

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Running...or not

So, I've decided to start running. I feel that this decision has been a long time coming. I've tried to run on and off for years but I want to make a real attempt at making this a lifestyle. Feel free to nag me in the next few months about whether I am going through with this or not.

I've been thinking about this for a while. Apparently my brother has been running half marathons in Iraq. If they run it at the same time as a U.S. marathon, like the famed Boston marathon, they can send in their times and get a free t-shirt. I figure if my brother can run in Iraq, I should be able to get off my lazy butt and run here in the U.S. I actually like working out and doing athletic activities but my gym access is limited and there aren't too many adult sports leagues for me to join with my traveling. I like riding my bike but the Maui winds are killer. Running seems like a good option. You can pretty much do it anywhere and all you need are some shoes. I went to the local sporting goods store to find some but I kept getting swayed by appearance and couldn't figure out which ones to get. I decided to go to this specialty running store where their employees are fit experts and really seem to know what they are talking about.

My consultant was named Frankie. He asked me how much running I do. I said, "It's more like how much running do I want to start doing." I told him I wouldn't be doing more than 10 miles. This is a safe bet since I have never run farther than a 5K in my life. Frankie, the running shoe expert, had me put my foot on this special floor that showed the shape of my foot. Then he had me walk down a little corridor in the middle of the store and then run down it while he watched me. A little weird, but I did it. He said my feet curve in when I run so I need a shoe with support on the inside. He had me put on different shoes and run so he could see how they fit. Again, I felt a bit awkward especially when people would inadvertantly cross into the path of my mini-run.

I ended up finding some shoes that felt like I wasn't wearing shoes. This is a good thing. I always wish someone else could feel what my feet are feeling in shoes and tell me if they fit. I don't necessarily trust myself. Apparently these shoes with extra support will stabilize my feet so running will feel better. They aren't too bad looking and while expensive, they weren't the most expensive ones in the place. There's something about having them tell you which ones are right for you that makes it feel worth the extra money. I also liked how Frankie unlaced each trial pair, put them on my feet and laced them back up. They don't do that for you at the local Academy or Sports Authority and their employees would probably think you are a freak if you asked them to.

I asked the cashier as I was checking out if they could call me a couple times a week to see if I was actually running. She said they didn't provide that service right now but that it was a good idea. I am hoping the cost of the shoes and the fact that they're supposed to be the best ones for me will help motivate/guilt me into sticking with running.

The day after I bought the magic running shoes, I figured I'd better go for a run. I tend to try to go too far, too fast, too soon. This run was no different. I walked to a nearby greenbelt to run the 5K loop there. I ran a few blocks and felt like my lungs were going to explode. I hadn't factored in the cooler temperatures here and my recent lack of physical activity. I figured I was being too ambitious and decided to run a block, walk a block. I'd like to say I was doing intervals but it was really just me being lazy. I think I walked more than ran though I definitely didn't exert myself to the max. I could have run more. The outside of my knee started hurting about halfway through my intervals. I think I might not have the best running form and may be putting undue pressure on that part of my knee. Despite this knee pain, I do want to keep running. I will try again tomorrow to see if stretching before helps.

One of my friends told me she ran for years and hated it but recently started to really like it. This is coming from someone who even ran a marathon. I am hoping she's right. I want to stick with it and give it a chance even if I hate it. I will keep you posted on my progress.

Friday, December 25, 2009

This Christmas

Today was Christmas. It was a pretty good Christmas overall, though it would have been improved by having my brother in the United States and not in Iraq. We did get to talk to him on the web-cam, which was an awesome blessing. I got to joke around with him a bit. I miss our witty banter. I can't wait to see him when he comes home for two weeks in January!

I had Christmas morning with my just me and my parents. It was definitely not as much fun as when Andrew was there. I did get good presents, no duds. My best gift was a Kindle from my parents. For those of you not as techie or nerdy as me, a Kindle is an electronic book. It is designed to be as close to a book as possible. I've already downloaded some books and started reading. It's perfect for overseas because it can hold up to 1000 books. I am excited to take it on my next trip.

My grandparents came over later, along with my aunt and uncle and cousin. We cooked all morning. I got to practice the potato peeling skills I acquired by working in the kitchen the last 3 months. We had three types of potatoes since my family loves them so much. We ate until we couldn't eat anymore. After the dishes were done, we opened presents. I only got two presents from my relatives, which were both pretty decent. There have been a lot of awkward ones in the past so this was a relief. The rest of my gifts were money, which is always welcome.

After presents, my cousin, Roy and I went to the movies. The first theater we tried was absolute chaos; full parking lot, people everywhere and all the good movies were sold out. We went to a little art house theater instead and saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie. It wasn't the best movie I've ever seen but worth watching.

So all in all, a good day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy to be Home

I love Maui but I am happy to be back in Houston. Maui is an awesome place that hundreds of thousands of tourists visit each year. Houston doesn't receive the same acclaim. I mean, who would come to Houston on vacation? And yet, I love this place and I have missed it very much in these last three months. Because of this, I have decided to create a "Top Ten Things I Love About Houston" list in no particular order.

1. Bike Riding- In Houston, many people ride bikes. From kids with training wheels to grandmas on cruisers to spandex-clad athletes with clip-in pedals; there are tons of bikers on the streets at any given time. There is a big bike ride every year that goes for 150 miles from Houston to Austin. Many people participate in it, including me and train for it throughout the year. Because of this, there are organized training rides almost every weekend within about 30 miles of Houston. I love organized rides because I can ride a lot farther and a lot longer with other people around me. They also feed you all along the way and I love to eat for fuel. In Maui,I have only found 3 organized rides for the whole year and one is "Cycle to the Sun" where you ride uphill about 25 miles to the top of Haleakala, Maui's dormant volcano. No thank you. In Maui, there are some people who bike but you have to be pretty hardcore to go very far. This is because of the crazy wind that draws the world-class windsurfers. At certain times of day and in certain directions, it's almost impossible to keep your pedals moving against the wind. The first time I tried to pedal against the wind, I gave up and got a hitch home in the back of a pick-up truck.

2. Clean Houses- Houses in Houston tend to be cleaner than in Maui. They also all have air conditioning (partially because you would die in the summers without it.) In Maui, the air conditioning comes in the form of open windows. For much of the year, the wind mentioned above provides more than enough relief from the heat. There are certain times when the wind doesn't cut it though and you feel like you are actually being baked inside your home. Because of the abundance of open windows and wind, there is a fine red dirt that settles all over everything in a house. The houses in Maui also tend to be a bit more run down (not all of them but most of the ones I frequent). In Houston you are not likely to see someone passively living with termites and a hole in the floor. In Maui, this isn't too uncommon.

3. Shopping- Since Houston has over 2 million people, there is also an abundance of stores for all those people to shop at. We have all the chain stores as well as some fun local shops. You can find almost anything you could possibly want. This is not the case in Maui. For starters there is no Target. I know that sounds like a bad dream, but it's true. The only Target substitutes are Wal-Mart and the Big K. Neither of which even comes close to Target. In Houston, I personally know the locations of at least 8 different Targets. In Maui there is no Bed, Bath and Beyond, Victoria's Secret, Bath and Body Works, Marshalls, Best Buy, etc. Most stuff has to be ordered off the internet and there is often an extra charge to ship to Hawaii.

4. Friends- I have plenty of friends in Maui but they tend to come and go. In the couple months before I came back to Maui this time, a bunch of my favorite people left. Bad timing! Then, several people left right after I got there. I tried not to take it personal. I only have one friend in Maui who owns a house. Everyone else is prone to coming and going so it's hard to count on any of them being there when I am. In Houston, several of my friends own homes and have good jobs here. They plan on staying here indefinitely. This is really nice and makes my group of friends in Houston feel a bit more solid.

5. Texas Pride- I have missed this a lot. Hawaiians have a lot of pride, which I respect. Being an outsider, though means that some of that pride is negatively directed at me. They have bumper stickers that say "We grew here. You flew here." And the thing is that they are right. There also stickers that say 100% Hawaiian. Now I can never become a true Hawaiian but I am a true Texan. Maybe I could make some "I arrived here. You drive here." bumper stickers. I really don't have to though since Texans already have a lot of pride. There are even bumper stickers that say, "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could." There are Texas flags flying everywhere and many businesses incorporate Texas into their company name or logo. And of course, everyone knows that Texas is bigger than France.

6. Mexican People and Black People- I don't know if this is racist since I like these groups. Oh well, I do miss them. In Hawaii, there are very few Mexican or black people. There are plenty of Asians, though. I've always enjoyed black people since I was a little kid. We had a housekeeper/babysitter who watched me and my brother on Saturdays when we were kids. Her name was Betty and she was so loving. I adored her and I think it instilled in me a lifelong love for black people. I also enjoy Mexican people. The school I worked at was predominately Hispanic and I got used to hearing Spanish all the time. I also think Mexican is my favorite genre of food. In Texas there is a Mexican food restaurant on almost every corner. This is not the case in Maui.

7. Driving- In Maui there are no freeways and the highest speed limit you will find is 55mph. I also don't always have a car in Maui. In Texas, you really can't survive without a car and there are plenty of wide freeways with 70mph speed limits to satisfy one's need for speed. I also really like road trips. There are plenty you can take from Texas. I used to go to Louisiana almost every weekend. In Maui, it's a lot like being in a small town you can't leave since it is surrounded by ocean. Sometimes I get that island fever and just want to get off the island.

8. Family- Most of my family lives in Texas so I get to see them a lot more when I am here. When I am not in Texas, I miss shopping with my mom, biking with my dad, playing with my nephew, laughing with my brother and hanging out with my sister-in-law. There's definitely something special about being near those people who love you no matter what.

9. TV and Cable- In Maui, I don't usually get to have a TV. I'm not addicted to TV but I definitely enjoy it. Cable is especially fun since I can watch 5 college football games on one Saturday. It's nice just to veg in front of the TV for a while or get together with friends to make fun of reality TV. It's easy to get out of the loop with no news or movie previews to watch.

10. Nightlife- In Maui, pretty much all the fun to be had happens during daylight hours. There are incredible beaches to lay out on, clear blue water to snorkel in and tropical trails to hike on. But at night, everything pretty much shuts down. Very few places are open after nine, let alone after midnight. The typical night is spent hanging out and watching movies at someone's house. In Houston there is plenty to do at night. I like to go bowling, play trivia at a local bar, go to a concert, go to a sporting event, etc. There are a lot of choices.

It may have sounded like I was dogging Maui in this post. I truly love Maui and the work I do there. However, Houston is my home and I will always love it (lack of natural beauty and all.)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Hawaiian Holidays

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...or not. In Hawaii, there is no drastic weather change. It's pretty much warm year round. But as common during the holiday season, the waves have gotten bigger. The talk all over the island is of "Jaws" the giant wave that only breaks a few times a year. It's one of the biggest waves in the world and it breaks right by our YWAM base.

There are some signs of Christmas even here in the tropics. The other day I stumbled onto a Christmas hula. I mean, how often do you see that? It was in front of a coffee shop and it seemed like a dance recital but all the dances were island-style. They had lots of different costumes, most of which exposed their midriffs. The kids ranged in age from about 4 to 18. It was mostly girls but there was a ridiculously cute little boy who did a boy hula. I almost kidnapped him; he was THAT cute! He did a dance with two 12-15 year old obese boys which made him look even cuter and smaller. He had some good moves and could gyrate his body better than I could ever hope to. All the songs were Hawaiian Christmas songs with ukulele accompaniment. We were only going to stay a few minutes but were soon entranced.

I also went to a Christmas party at the Mormon church. We've been meeting with some Mormons to learn about their beliefs. It gets a bit taxing at times since they act like robots when talking about matters of faith. I enjoy our small talk with them much more. The Christmas party was more of a social event so they seemed more relaxed and less robotic. The food was good and the people were very nice. They had a white elephant gift party and the missionaries let my friend, Max and I take their turns picking gifts. I got a book by Glenn Beck, who I'd been talking about only minutes earlier. Pretty cool! They even had Santa come and about 20 kids quickly lined up for a turn in the old guy's lap. Unfortunately our ride had to leave before I got a chance to sit on his lap. Darn!

So, there is a bit of holiday spirit here but I am anxious to get back to the mainland where it really feels like Christmas. I am excited to see my family and friends.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving: Korean and Regular

This was a good Thanksgiving holiday. I ate an abnormal amount of food, watched an abnormal amount of football and slept an abnormal amount of hours. It was awesome! On Wednesday we had our last lecture for the week, which was on church history. Then, that night our base had its Thanksgiving. This is so the families on the base can have theirs on the actual day. This was my third Thanksgiving on the base and it was really nice. There were about 60 people, many who were from other countries. I love sharing Thanksgiving with people who've never experienced it before. I made sure to sit by Deborah from China to see what she thought of it all.

The staff had set up a beautiful spread outside under tents. There were Christmas lights, table cloths and tons of delicious food. Unfortunately there was also tons of wind and rain, which meant we all got wet. There was a turkey carving contest between the older men of the base. One of the guys, Fritz began his carving with a huge Samurai knife. It was pretty funny. They were also all wearing chef hats, which made me laugh. After the turkey carving, the rain was getting too many people wet so we took half the tables inside so that the other tables could reap the full benefit of the tent.

Despite the change of venue, we managed to enjoy our meal. Even though the head cook was Canadian, she managed to pull off an excellent American Thanksgiving. The sweet potato casserole was the best I've ever eaten. I heard it was made by some Swiss people who'd never even heard of it before. The food was very good and there was plenty of it. I tried to convince Deborah that we ate the gourd table decorations as a tradition but she was on to my schemes.

After the meal, one of the staff girls gave a marvelous rendition of the pilgrim story. I don't think I could properly describe its hilarity in this blog. Then we sang the National anthem. After that, the Swedish guys got up and sang their national anthem. They were followed by the Swiss guys who sang and then passed out Swiss chocolate. Then everyone tried to goad the Ingrids from Norway to sing their national anthem. One Ingrid claimed they didn't have one. In the end, they did come up and represent with their song. I tried to get the dozen or so Canadians to get up and sing, "Oh, Canada," but they were all unpatriotic wusses. All in all I had good company, good food and several national anthems. A good Thanksgiving for sure.

The next day, I went to another Thanksgiving celebration at a local Korean church where some of my fellow students help with the Sunday school class. It was a sort of thank you for the volunteers but they encouraged them to bring friends. I like Koreans and I like free food so clearly I was down. We socialized for a bit and then ate...a lot. There was a mix of Korean and American food. I was afraid they would stuff the turkey with kimchi (fermented cabbage) but thankfully the two items were served separately. I passed on the kimchi. The food was good and the hosts were very gracious.

After lunch, we went into a large empty room. A woman performed a traditional Korean dance with full make-up and costume. It was really neat. Then a couple of our boys sang a song in English and Korean. It was pretty funny to watch them stumble over the Korean words. The people of the church were super appreciative and almost moved to tears by the fact that they sang Korean. Then they had a lady do some sort of traditional drum routine. That lady had some serious talent and some serious rhythm. It was really impressive. Then one of our girls, Michelle did a dance and another girl, Chelsea sang. It was also really nice.

I made it home in time to watch my Texas Longhorns beat a surprisingly good A&M team. Now if only Alabama or Florida had lost! That would have made it the best Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Testimony Night

Tuesday night was Testimony Night. This is when our returning DTS students share with the base about their outreaches. I always love testimony nights because they give us all a chance to hear what God is doing in other parts of the world. When you are on staff at the base and not going overseas, it is easy to lose sight of why we do all that we do. All the people who work on the base help to facilitate the sending of teams to other countries and are extremely necessary. Testimony nights help us to remember that.

For this DTS, we sent teams to Borneo and Bangladesh. A couple students from each team told a little about what they did in their respective countries. The Bangladesh team had a hard time. I understand this since I have been there and know it can be a very difficult place. Many of the team members got sick and several developed severe food allergies to things that had never given them problems before. Thankfully no one got Dengue this time. In Bangladesh it used to take 10 years+ for someone to become a Christian, but now they are seeing people come to the Lord in less than five. This is a big deal because in order to become a Christian in Bangladesh, one often has to sacrifice their relationship with their friends and family and sometimes can lead to their death. Often they become an outcast. It's hard to fathom here in the United States where change of religion doesn't often result in those sorts of consequences.

The Borneo team seemed to have a little more fun. They got to be a part of a healing of a woman who had had a stroke. The members of both teams clearly grew a lot and were so inspiring to those of us listening to what they had to say. I was really blessed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Missing Houston?

Lately I have been feeling homesick for Houston. I understand that this may seem crazy since I happen to live in a popular vacation destination, but I still miss Houston. I think this is because I had really established a life there before I left. I had a good job, a car, good roommates, awesome friends, family nearby and I was getting deeper with my Young Life kids.

I feel confident that I am where I am supposed to be right now but it's still hard to be away from home. I'm also trying to figure out what's next for me. I have some ideas about what I want to do but I want to make sure I'm doing what God wants me to do. And so, I keep praying.

I also just found out some sad news about one of my former students, "D". He is a fifth grader now and he was caught with drugs at school. I don't have all the details but I think he's been sent to some sort of juvenile hall type place. The whole thing just breaks my heart. I truly care about all my students and hate to see anything bad happen to them. And D really isn't a bad kid but he does come from a rough area and I'm sure he has plenty of bad influences. Some of his family members are a bit rough but they genuinely love their kids. He has family that loves him and he still made this bad choice. What hope is there for my former students who don't have loving adults in their lives? I can only pray.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A family of color

I have been super busy lately. Last weekend I went to Oahu to celebrate my friends' birthdays. Both Rachel Snyder and Maria Daughtry have the same birthday so we had to do something fun to celebrate. I have also been working really hard on my Buddhism project that was due on Monday. I am actually doing my presentation on it tonight. So with my trip and all my studying, I have slacked off on my blog. I want to write about some things that stuck out to me in our lectures last week.

Our speaker was a guy named Ray, who used to be a college professor and who's traveled all over. He had a lot of wisdom to share as he taught us about Cross-Cultural Communications. One point he made was that Christians are so quick to tell people not to get abortions, but what are they doing to help those babies? He told stories of working in inner-city Chicago and how people would have given up their babies for adoption to good Christian people, if there had been some willing to adopt them. He said often Christians want to adopt from other countries but not our country. This is especially true of minority children. Christians need to stand up and give these kids good homes.

Ray definitely has an authority in this area since he has 7 adopted kids of his own. He has also placed about 24 kids into homes without going through an agency. One really cool thing about Ray's family is that it's multi-ethnic. He calls it a "family of color." I may not get them all right but he has a daughter from Eastern Europe, a son from the Philippines, a child from Ecuador, 3 African American kids and one native American kid. It's really inspiring. One really cool thing is that his two oldest kids now have adopted families of their own. They too, chose not to have biological children and instead adopted kids of varying nationalities as well. This shows that they believed in what their parents did in raising them and wanted to give that to other kids in need. So cool!

It's also pretty cool that Ray never had to go through an expensive adoption agency. Adoptions, especially overseas, can cost tens of thousands of dollars. People would often just give him kids. I would like to adopt someday and would definitely prefer that someone give me a kid instead of paying thousands for one. I am so inspired by Ray's story.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Feelin' Halloweeny

I have recently emerged from a media fast, which gives me a valid excuse for not writing blog entries. Our whole school did a media fast for a week, which meant we were not allowed to go on the internet for anything other than research for a project we're doing. We couldn't listen to music, watch movies or watch TV. It was pretty tough. I've decided I just love media! Even though it was painful at times, it's always good to take a break from things that have become habitual for you.

There's a lot I could write about in this blog entry but I will try to stick to one topic- Halloween. Living with a bunch of Christians from different backgrounds reminds me of how different we can all be. I have loved Halloween since I was a kid. My parents always let me and my brother trick or treat around our neighborhood. I loved dressing up and I loved candy so it pretty much seemed like a win/win situation. Let's be honest, I still like dressing up and eating candy. I know that some people use Halloween as some sort of demonic holiday but I'm just in it for the candy and the costumes.

Some of the people here were not allowed to participate in Halloween as a child and see the holiday as evil. They try to pretend it's not happening and hide indoors from the festivities. I like to do something fun and Halloweeny on the big day. When I lived here before I ran into the same problem of many people around me saying that Halloween was evil and implying that I'm sinful for wanting to celebrate it. In those days, our town, Paia did nothing and the crazy Halloween fun was on the other side of the island. What a difference three years has made!

Now Paia is the party town and I could hear people partying late into the night. Some of my friends and I walked around our town in the early evening. There were little kids everywhere trick-or-treating at the local businesses. It was pretty adorable. A lot of the people in our town are hippies so it was interesting to see what their kids were dressed up as. I expected a lot of nature-inspired homemade costumes, but surprisingly enough, most were standard store-bought super heroes and princesses. Their parents' wore a variety of costumes with giant exposed pregnant bellies seeming to be a trend.

We went to some friends' house to watch Dark Knight and hang out. This was a good movie choice because it was suspenseful but not too scary. After the movie, we had to walk through town to get home. The atmosphere had definitely changed. There were few families around and a lot of rowdy adults. Music was blaring from various businesses and people were dancing in the streets. There were some interesting costumes:Little Bo Peep and her sheep, Jesus Christ on a cross (which I found offensive), a duo dressed as gold and a digger (pretty clever), a lot of fairy type creatures and women in slutty gear. We even saw a fake cop frisking someone. Awkward! We were even offered a free tarot card reading as we walked by a shop. It was interesting to say the least.

I had fun and it felt pretty Halloweeny so I was satisfied. It was a shame I didn't get to showcase my creativity this year. I definitely missed competing at the costume contest at school. I enjoyed looking at my friends' facebook pictures of their Halloween costumes. My favorite was my friend Carrie who dressed her toddler daughter up as Nacho Libre, complete with mustache. It was priceless. I can't wait until I have my own kids so I can dress them up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wonderful Wipeouts

So, in case anyone is wondering, (This is presupposing people even read my blog which I am not really sure if they do) it turns out that I did have strep throat so I feel even more justified in spending the $200 to get checked out and get antibiotics.

This weekend I was feeling pretty much fully recovered. My friend, Kristy left for the Philippines today so I wanted to spend some time with her on Saturday. This, of course, was after I woke up at 6am to watch the UT/OU college football game. It was kind of a strange game but at least my team won.

Kristy wanted to go to Makena beach, which is one of Maui's premier beaches. It's really beautiful with a huge rock wall that's a deep reddish brown that contrasts stunningly with the blue water and tan sand. Little do many people know, but on the other side of the rock wall is an unofficial nude beach. That is a story for another time.

This is only the second time I have really gone to the beach since I have been here. I often go to the beach by my house to read my Bible and journal. I don't really count this as going to the beach since I don't wear my bathing suit or actually go in the water at all. Kristy is a real surfer not an occasional surfer like me. As we were putting our stuff down on the sand, I asked Kristy if we were far enough from the water's edge. She assured me we were given the water mark on the sand and I took her surfer, water knowledgeable opinion seriously. We were still setting up our stuff on the beach, when a rogue wave came and attacked our belongings. Apparently Kristy's surfer sense was not as reliable as we both had thought. Luckily I had placed my valuables farther from the ocean and was able to snatch them up quickly. Our only real casualties were a couple of wet/sandy towels.

Now Makena beach is beautiful but it is also a little dangerous for those not experienced with the ocean. It has a shore break, which is where big waves break right onto the shore. Saturday it was very big and I estimate some of the waves reached at least six feet tall. The lifeguards even used their megaphones to warn inexperienced people to not go out into the water. This was the perfect set-up for one of my favorite pastimes here: watching tourists get pounded by waves. Kristy and I kept our eyes on the people who looked the most inexperienced and just waited for them to do something stupid. It didn't take long.

A couple was in the water who definitely didn't look too savvy. The woman of the couple looked like your average frumpy 60 year old but her male counterpart was a bit more interesting. Kristy initially thought he was covered in sand but it turned out to be hair. Ewww! And he was covered with it. He wasn't fat but his body was very strange. He seemed to have loose skin hanging in weird places, an unfortunate byproduct of being old. He also accentuated his weird body by wearing a little black speedo bathing suit. Double ewww!

So, Kristy and I watched as this couple attempted to get out of the ocean. The most dangerous times for tourists are entering and leaving the ocean. This is when we pay attention. The couple decided to be bold and attempt to body surf. Body surfing is often harder than it looks, especially when a six foot wave is threatening to slam you into the sand. We saw the couple at the top of the wave. Then, we saw white foam and misc. body parts tumbling about like a washing machine. After a few seconds, the couple emerged stumbling and sputtering. They lurched toward the sand and stood looking at the waves and breathing deeply as they recovered. Kristy and started laughing hysterically until the man started to rid himself of the sand. He reached his hands deep into his black speedo and fished out handful after handful of sand. What a disgusting conclusion to a wonderful wipeout! Yuck!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Being Taken Care Of

So, I may or may not have strep throat. I woke up on Monday morning with a killer sore throat and tonsils that looked like they were covered in snow. I slept through our morning worship but made it to the day's lectures. I took a bunch of Tylenol but my throat, ears and body hurt. Later that day I was supposed to wash the lunch and dinner dishes but my partner, Max graciously told me I didn't have to. I spent most of the afternoon sleeping, calling my nurse mom and looking up my condition on web MD. I pretty much laid around for the rest of the day.

The next morning my throat still hurt. I started to get worried it was strep throat, which is contagious. I live with a bunch of people in a small space and some of my fellow students have small kids. I didn't want to get anyone sick so I made a doctor appointment. I was supposed to make dinner that night but my partner, Michelle offered to do it by herself. Luckily there wasn't too much to do. After taking yet another nap, I went to the doctor. She was nice and said I might have strep. She did a throat culture, gave me antibiotics and sent me on my way. Unfortunately the whole experience cost me $200. I do feel better that I did see a doctor and got medicine, though. I would have felt really bad if I got anyone else sick. When I got back home, they didn't make me go to our nightly activity. I got to rest more.

One thing I have noticed from my brief illness is that people are a lot nicer here than at my old job. I guess this is to be expected from a bunch of Christians but it's still touching. There were times at my old job when I would be really sick and ask to go home and get denied. Also people didn't really cut you any slack if you were sick. My friends cared but not many other people. Here, people went out of their way to help me, asking if there was anything they could do, getting me orange juice, taking over my responsibilities, etc. I wish everyone was like these people. I think the world would be a much nicer place.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

I have recently acquired a new hobby: watching humorous documentaries. I've watched some good ones in the past like "American Mullet" and "Hands on a Hardbody." But now it has become more of a regular thing. I have netflix and it has a feature where you can watch some things instantly on your computer. This is where I have been finding most of these entertaining documentaries.

The first one we watched was about "little people" otherwise known as dwarfs. One of the little people in the video did a bit of little person stand-up comedy which was pretty funny.

Then I found one called, "Monster Camp." It was about those people who play Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft all day. Apparently someone in Seattle created a live action fantasy game called Nero. The documentary was all about the people who play it. The players looked like the dorkiest people from drama and ROTC. They were the kind of people who dress up for Renaissance fairs and like to have fake sword fights. The game itself was super complicated and involved throwing "spells" at each other and hitting each other with swords made out of funnoodle material. The people were clearly very into it and had their own lingo. They had also created personas with fanciful names and costumes. It was basically an extreme nerd fest and really funny to watch. You can check out their website here.

After this delightful documentary, we watched one about the people trying to break the world record score on Donkey Kong. It was called "The King of Kong." This one featured the underground classic video game subculture. They had their own hero, the reigning Donkey Kong champion who was treated like a cross between a god and a celebrity. He clearly reveled in the attention his fans gave him. The documentary story line centers around a newcomer trying to break the Donkey Kong record. You definitely find yourself rooting against the vampire-haired, egotistical champion and rooting for the meek family man who is challenging his record.

I also watched "Word Wars." This is about people who are Scrabble champions. Although predominantly male, the Scrabble champions they profiled were far more different from each other than I would expect. They profiled the reigning champion, a hippieish family man who does lots of tai chi and eastern meditation practices. They also show a Rastafarian looking guy who lives with his mom in the projects. That guy spouted out profanity nonstop, smokes weed on camera and also goes to Tijuana to do some shady things in the middle of a competition. He also goes to the local elementary school to run a Scrabble club and act as a motivational speaker. Then there's an awkward weaselish man who divulges intimate details of his gross intestinal medical problems on camera. He calls himself G.I. Joe because of his problems in his G.I. tract and even has shirts made with this nickname on them.

Overall, I enjoy watching these documentaries. I don't think I'd want to watch them by myself because much of the fun is remarking to a friend how crazy these people are. It's a lot of fun.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Car Drama

The last time I lived in Maui, I bought a 1993 Ford Explorer the first week I arrived. I had a guy (who may or may not have actually known about cars) give it a cursory once over. He thought it was pretty good and I liked the price, so I went for it. I had really good intentions in buying the car. I figured I could fit a lot of people in it so they wouldn't have to hitch. I had also created a basketball team and a volleyball team and figured we could use the Explorer as our team vehicle to travel to and from games. Despite all my good intentions, the Exploder broke down after only about two and a half months. It was the transmission and it was going to cost more than I could afford to spend. It sat in front of our house for months until one of my friends offered to take it off my hands. I left the country and only found out what happened to the car when I got back three months later. A few of my friends had been in it, driving across the island when the hood flew up. They crashed into a telephone pole and abandoned the car to hitch back home. They came back about a week later and the car was gone.

When I got back from Bangladesh, I had a notice from some towing company that they had my gray VW rabbit. I don't know how a green Ford Explorer turns into a gray VW rabbit but it was no longer my problem since I had passed the responsibility on to my friend. She called the tow yard and they told her they knew nothing of a gray VW rabbit or my green Ford Explorer.

At home I could never survive without a car but on Maui, it is definitely possible. I also have enough friends here with cars that if I am patient and flexible I can pretty much do what I need to do without hitchhiking. We also have town runs where they take a van into town so we can go to Wal-Mart, Borders,etc.

So, I can live without a car. But I want one! I want the freedom to go where I want when I want. But despite this deep longing, I am wary of rushing into a car after my previous car experience here on Maui. I have been habitually checking craigslist and local newspapers for cars. I don't have a lot of money to spend so my options are limited. Maui is also a lot different from Houston as far as buying a used car goes. I have seen ads that say things like "doesn't go in reverse," "Not running but a real cherry car," "blown head gasket," "windows don't roll down," etc. Also cars are worth more here. People try to sell Toyota trucks for premium prices even though they are 20+ years old.

I found a website online that gives you a reliability rating for used car of various makes, models and years. This gives me piece of mind knowing how a car is likely to hold up. This can't factor in human abuse but it helps. So, I found an add for a 1994 Nissan Sentra with 187,000 miles. At home I would never drive such a clunker, but I am in Maui and it only costs $800. I call the owner on the phone and it turns out he owns "Maui Cruisers." It's the cheapest rental car on the island because its cars look very local with peeling paint and random quirks. He sounded like quite the character on the phone and we arranged to meet the next day.

I got my friend, Kristy to drive me to see the car. It was in a seedy part of the island in what looked like a junkyard with about 10 Nissan Sentras parked there. The only two people we could see were some sketchy-looking local guys. We pulled up and asked the guys where Paul was. They gestured towards a car with its hood up and a stereo blaring Elvis. From underneath the car comes Paul, an older white guy or haole(non-native), he is filthy, covered in grease. He begins to tell us about his business and his cars but only after disappearing under the broken down car for a few more minutes while Kristy and I waited around awkwardly. When he was telling us about the cars, I noticed that he was missing the tip of his index finger, nail and all. This discovery definitely added to the weirdness of the experience.

He showed me the car from the ad and it became clear why no photo was posted. It had the typical Maui paint job- black with peeling white patches from too much time in the sun. This combined with its overall boxy exterior was pretty much a deal breaker before I got in. I may be a missionary, but I still have my self-respect. He showed us the engine, which he insisted he'd serviced regularly. He seemed to know what he was talking about but that didn't change the fact that the battery was held in by what looked like an old extension cord. He also told us that the odometer had stopped working so he thought the car had 200,000 miles or so. Why did he put the odometer reading on the ad if he knew it was wrong?

Kristy and I took it for a test drive mainly because it seemed weird not to. It was during the test drive that we found out that the spedometer doesn't work either. The car also made some strange noises and seemed to have a problem with its shocks. I wasn't going to pay $800 for something that felt like it could fall apart any minute. The seller was persuasive and a bit forceful so I was nervous about what to tell him. When we got back, I said it wasn't quite what I was looking for. He told me that was very diplomatic of me. I felt lucky to get out of there.

And so...I am still carless.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Getting into the Swing of Things

I have been in school for two weeks now. It's a lot of working but it's interesting and not too bad if you manage your time. I've been trying to balance work and play by going to parties. I think I have been to about four so far and I have a girls' night tomorrow, which I think should count as a party, right? We had a going away party for Rachel Cordy on Wednesday night. I got to see my friend, Sara Montiero for the fourth time in about six days. She too is part of the party circuit. I brought my wii fit and other wii paraphernalia from home. It is a bit heavy so I had to bring it to Kristy's in a rolling carry-on suitcase. I felt super dorky wheeling that thing through town. Luckily Kristy drove me back. We busted out the wii and it was good fun. It was pretty much my friend, Kristy and me with a bunch of boys. It was fun to watch them doing slalom skiing and the ski jump. They kept trying to one up each other.

This week in class, we've been discussing the state of the world and it is pretty intense and can feel really bleak at times. To make matters worse, last night we watched Schindler's List and talked about it. Everyone was so affected by it that after the movie, no one talked for about five minutes and we all just stared straight ahead in silence. Thankfully many people know about the atrocities of the Holocaust but today we talked about massacres in Cambodia, Russia, C hna and lots of other places that are less publicized. Our speaker showed us the images of some of the victims of the killing fields in Cambodia, which really made the awful statistics come to life. It was hard to hear all that but I am glad I did, so maybe I can help us to not be doomed to repeat it.

On a lighter note, I've done some decorating in my room to make it nicer. I put up pictures of my loved ones all over the wall by my bed. My fellow student, Maria calls it my yearbook on the wall and I think that's a pretty accurate description. I bought a lava lamp foolishly thinking it would give off enough light to read by. It does not. It makes my room looking very psychedelic, though. I also have purple Christmas lights around my bed adding to the psychedelic effect. It's not at all the way I would decorate at home but it's more like I live in a dilapidated dorm room, so it works here. This weekend I want to take a video of my house so all can see its condition. It will be a treat.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Washin' Feet

Today it really felt like I was starting school for real. We got our schedule of assignments and I have a lot to do. I already started reading some. I am trying to fight my natural tendency towards procrastination. We have several things due each week so I really can't wait until the end to do it all.

It's still a bit odd being back. A guy here bought my friend, Ashley's car when she left the island. I keep seeing it and it makes me miss her a lot. At every group function, I cling to the people I know. I am sure this will pass as I get to know more people but for now, it feels like the right thing to do.

Tonight we had Love Feast. This is a YWAM Maui tradition. When DTS students first arrive, they get a grand welcoming ceremony complete with traditional Hawaiian leis. At the ceremony, they are told that the next day they have to go on a minimalist camping trip of indeterminable length. And they are not allowed to bring toothbrushes, deodorant, change of clothes, etc. I watched their faces this time when they found out how little they could bring. Priceless! So, the students go on what we call "Exodus" and spend three days and two nights roughing it and bonding in ways they couldn't have done if they were still all clean and smelling nice.

Just when they can't bear their own stench any longer, we bus them up to a church where all the staff and us SBFM students are waiting clean and in Aloha attire aka nice clothes. We cheer them into a clean room set up for a banquet. The contrast is extreme. I remember how amazing and surreal it felt when I was in DTS, to come into this clean room with all these clean people when I was just filthy. It was pretty humbling.

Everyone has a big meal and enjoys being out of the wilderness. Then, there is a time where the DTS staff washes their students' feet. It is very powerful. When I first became a Christian, I thought foot washing was weird and gross. Why would anyone want to wash someone else's feet? I later understood the significance of Jesus washing the disciples' dirty, smelly sandal-wearing feet. He was showing that despite being God, He was there to serve His disciples. After my own Exodus, I remember how humbling it was to have someone clean my feet when they were at their dirtiest. It was very powerful.

This time our SBFM staff washed our feet. It was a great gesture but not quite as powerful since I had taken a shower about an hour before. My feet were washed by D, who is from Chna and serving with SBFM so that she will be able to replicate it on her base in Chna. She knew of my heart to go there so it was definitely meaningful to have her wash my feet and thank me for loving her country.

Being at love feast again after being away for a few years, brought back tons of memories. When I came back on staff, for every school, we each picked a DTS student whose feet we would wash after Exodus. Whenever possible, I chose the Asian girl students. With so many blond haired white girls in the schools, I figured the Asian girls would be easier to spot. I felt these foot washing times were also meaningful though not as much as when I was a leader in a DTS. I washed two girls' feet that time. One, E, was quite the fireball who'd begged to be allowed to go home several times during Exodus. As I washed her feet, she just broke down and sobbed. It was a very powerful moment. Unfortunately this memory is bittersweet because she ended up being sent home for discipline problems and a broken leg.

The other person whose feet I washed, K, also bawled like a baby during the process. She was quite the handful but completed her DTS and outreach with plenty of highs and lows. She was a girl who'd come from so much shame and chaos and I really grew to love her. She was also blessed with so many gifts. She constantly battled between right and wrong in her life. For most of DTS, the right and good side won. We were all so scared for her to go back home and our fears proved founded when she got pregnant the week she returned.

As I watched the foot washing this time, I was reminded of my two former students and was literally very close to tears. Then I saw another one of my students, Rachel, for whom DTS and SBFM were life altering experiences. She has grown into a really solid woman of God and a strong leader. In fact, she is currently a leader in this DTS. I saw her washing her students' feet and was almost moved to tears for another reason- pride.

The funny thing about YWAM is that for some people the experience here changes them positively for life, in ways they couldn't possibly imagine. God can use this time to mold them into the people He wants them to be, if they are willing. But for others, the experience feels significant at the time but doesn't stick in the end. It is truly heartbreaking for me to think of students like E and K but then I remember students like Rachel and I remember why we do this. And it is all worth it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Aloha Maui

I've been back in Maui almost a week now and I am not quite sure how I feel. I definitely have mixed emotions. I am glad to be back but I was more established in Houston than I've ever been so uprooting this time was more difficult. I'd actually invested in where I was and in the people around me.

My fellow students seem nice but really young. My roommate, Ashley arrived today and complimented my Longhorn flag. Smart move, roomie! I think we should get along just fine. The other students have been busy hanging out with each other and traveling around the island. I am just not in the same phase as they are. I was actually on staff here and lived here for two years and this was before any of them were even involved with YWAM Maui. I have seen all the sights and I do enjoy them but I am in no real hurry to go out and see them. I also have friends on the island that I have known for years that I can hang out with. Luckily many of them have cars so I don't have to hitch.

Last night we had our opening ceremonies. It's so weird to be a student again. I did get to get leied, which is always fun. The DTS students are all super young and fresh faced. It brought back lots of memories from when I first came to this island. One of the students I took to Bangladesh will now be leading one of the teams this Fall. I am so proud of her! I spent opening night talking with her and the other people I've known for a while and eating all the yummy snacks. I have missed all the baked goods. I will have to be diligent in riding my bike as to not gain 20 lbs. Those snacks are way too good to pass up.

I'd forgotten how interesting the people in Maui are. I have seen quite a few hippies doing their thing. There were free tarot card readings offered at Borders and this old hippie lady literally ran to get in line. I have already seen two woman wearing bras as tops out in public. I've seen the tourists in their shiny Chrysler Sebring convertibles or Ford Mustang convertibles. I've seen the locals driving Maui cruisers. These are cars that look like they shouldn't run but miraculously do. Their paint jobs are marred by discolorations and rust and their seats are covered in faded Hawaiian prints. I've watched people surf and windsurf and I have seen large Hawaiian women selling coconuts and enormous jack fruit at the mall. And while I am glad to be back, it makes me miss all the people I met here who no longer live here. I am confronted by memories at every turn. I am thankful for this but I miss Amy Kirk, Sherry and Jono, Misti, Matt Laskey, Bethany, Josh and Ashley, Sarah Olthuis, Calla, Kera, Maria Daughtry. Heck, I even miss Wayne Bunting! There are others I miss but these are the ones I've been thinking of almost daily.

I have left enough people and situations to know that I am so lucky to have these incredible memories with these people. Many people don't have a single quality friend in their lives and I have been given them so lavishly. I'm truly thankful for all these people. I know I will make more friends while I am here, but it doesn't mean I don't miss the old ones.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Adventures in Selling My Car

I have been back in Maui for two days now. It's crazy to think about how much has happened in my life in the almost exactly six years since I stepped foot on this island for the first time.

Since then, I have lived in Maui for two years, taught elementary school for two years, endured my brother being at war for almost 20 months and counting. I've been to New Zealand, Thailand, Bangladesh, Singapore, China, Cuba and five trips to Canada. I've been in six weddings and been on countless dates with random dudes. I also tried my best to help my best friend through her bout with breast cancer and am so thankful that she is now okay. I now have a nephew and my parents have their dream home. It's been a wild ride and it's pretty crazy to look back on all that has happened.

On a lighter note, I thought it might be humorous to tell you of my adventures in selling my car. This was my first real car selling experience. My only real experience buying a car from a private party was in Maui. And that was a disaster. In Maui the standards are much lower. In fact, the term, "Maui Cruiser" refers to an often junky, quirky car that may look like it is going to fall apart but still runs.

One of my friends bought a car that due to some sort of malfunction needed an igloo cooler in the backseat at all times to prop up the driver's seat. Another friend had to run the heater at all times or the car would overheat. This was Hellish (literally) in tropical Maui.

In Texas, the standards were higher. I didn't realize that I wouldn't get my title until a few weeks after I paid off my car. This meant I ended up only having a week to sell my car. If I had it to do over again, I would have gotten an estimate from CarMax the week before I wanted to sell it. They give you a price they are willing to pay and you have a week to accept or reject their offer. Then you know how much you could sell it for.

I set a price and then basically lowered it every two days. I got some nibbles but no one was serious about buying it. On Saturday, I had two prospective buyers, a nice family with three little blond girls and a fairly recent Indian immigrant named, Raman. Yes, like the noodles. The wife of the family took the car for a test drive and was very interested. She said she loved it and then her husband told her she needed to play it cool to properly negotiate. It was pretty funny. He offered me about $300 less than I was asking, which was pretty fair considering the Blue Book value. The only problem was that because of Labor Day weekend, the banks were closed and he had no way to get that much cash. I told him that I had another interested party and that if he could come up with the cash, then I would go with him.

Later that night, Raman came by and took the car for a test drive. He drove like a grandma. I don't know if he was nervous or if he always drives like the elderly. He was interested in the car too. I explained to him my situation with the other people. I told him how much they offered and when they could get me the money. He asked if I was trying to get into a bidding war. Then he offered $700 less than what they had offered and said that he too would have to wait until Tuesday to get the money. Ummmm....Wake up Raman! Why would I take $700 less when you can't get me the money any sooner? I'm pretty sure he thought I was bluffing about the other people. He said he would talk to his wife about it and see if he could get the money earlier. Then he emailed me and said that the Blue Book Value he found was $500 or so less than what I knew it to be. I emailed him back with the proper specs to put in but he was still confused and called me. I walked him through it over the phone until he was able to get the same figures. Raman was definitely getting on my nerves!

I decided to end my dealings with Raman and put my money (literally) on the blond family. The risky part of all of this was that I was leaving early Tuesday morning and no one in my family really had the time to keep showing the car to other people. On Monday, I got an estimate from CarMax as a back-up in case the family backed out. They offered me about $1200 less so I figured it was worth the gamble with the family. I had a good feeling about them and they seemed legit, although it was a bit stressful taking a chance.

So, I left my sister-in-law, Shella to make the transaction. They were supposed to meet on Tuesday but the scheduling fell through. I was especially nervous because I had foolishly already written their name on my title so I would probably have to take it to the DMV to fix it if they didn't buy it. Hard to do from Maui. So I prayed. And on Wednesday they finally rendezvoused and a cashier's check was exchanged. I was so relieved!

Then I received an email yesterday from the buyers that said that the brake lights weren't working. I wasn't aware of this and I felt awful about it. I offered to pay to fix them. Then today they emailed me and said they got it fixed easily and I didn't need to worry about it. Whew! This made me feel a lot better. And finally I can say that I have sold my car. Yay!

You'd think this would dissuade me from buying a car here in Maui, but I have been looking. I don't think it makes sense financially right now and my last experience with a car here was terrible. ie: 3 months with my Explorer before it died. I think it will have to take some serious signs from the Lord before I dabble in Maui car ownership. I don't think I am ready for an always on heater or a cooler propped seat.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Elderly nudists and other tales from the retirement community

Today was a blog-worthy day. I felt a little like I was on a reality show. You know how they always do out of the ordinary things to spice up the show? ie: on Brooke Hogan's show she went out on a date with a girl as a dare and on Kathie Griffin's show she pretended to be interested in buying a multi-million dollar house but then low-balled it and almost got cussed out by a spicy Latina real estate agent. Stuff like that. Here were my reality show adventures.

I am currently trying to sell my car. I wasn't able to get my title until Monday so my window of opportunity is small. This morning I met up with a couple so they could test drive it. It felt a lot like a blind date. I waited at the gas station on Kirby and 59 where they'd arranged for us to meet. Little did any of us know that there are two Shell gas stations at Kirby and 59, just on opposite sides of the freeway. After we all waited about 15 minutes at different gas stations, we finally figured out the mistake and met up. The couple was super nice, Christian and knew about YWAM. Pretty random. They were looking for a car for their kids since the oldest one was turning 16. We had interesting conversations on the test drive and I really liked them. Unfortunately my car was not right for them. This felt like one of those dates I have been on where the guy is really nice and doing all the right things. We have good conversation and no awkward silences but in the end the spark was not there. Hopefully my next car sale/ blind date will go better.

The even more reality show type stunt occurred later in the day when I went to have dinner with my grandparents. They live in Houston and I have actually seen a lot of them lately since they stayed at my house for over a week looking after my post-operative mom. Well, my grandma looked after her. My grandpa just sat on the couch begging her to make fried chicken or give him ice cream. They really wanted me to come to their retirement community for dinner. They'd been asking me for a while and I kept putting them off because of my busy schedule. Time's running out so I finally consented. I had no idea what I was in store for.

The place they live in is pretty posh. It reminds me a lot of Del Boca Vista on Seinfeld except without the extreme Florida vibe or Jack Klampas and his astronaut pen. My grandparents have their own apartment with a living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. The whole complex is made up of internal hallways that connect the rooms and the amenities. You could do pretty much anything without leaving the property, or for that matter going outside. They have a bank, mini-grocery store, library, weight room, beauty salon, dining room and you don't even have to go outside to get to the pool and hot tub because they are indoors.

I had been to their place before but just straight up to their apartment. I'd never met any of their friends or seen much of the facilities. It was quite interesting. My grandma met me in the lobby and took me up to the lounge area outside the dining room. We sat down with a group of their friends who were enjoying Happy Hour. That's right, they have Happy Hour! I was privy to the latest Eagle's Trace (name of the place) gossip. Apparently a new couple has moved in and they are nudists. No kidding! Their comments about these people were just priceless. The rumor mill has it that they've already been seen sans clothing and people are not happy. The primary story is that the man was seen lounging by the pool "as naked as the day he was born." Supposedly someone brought him a towel to cover up with but not before enough people saw him to get the rumors flying. They started talking about how no one should be nude in public in their 80's and that this particular couple was especially unattractive.

I also found out a little bit about my grandparents' group of friends from our socializing during cocktail hour. One of the was a court reporter during the Nazi doctor trials at Nuremberg. I'd read the book she wrote, which was both sad and fascinating. She told me that her book had even been published in Bangladesh. Random. One of the men used to be a commercial pilot but now runs the community's TV station. Apparently it plays music, movies and news from the community. I suggested they do a story on the nudists.

It was so interesting to see my grandparents interacting socially with their own kind. One of the ladies made sure to get extra maraschino cherries in her drink to give to my grandpa. Always a hit with the ladies! He does still have a lot of hair and some of it still black. Their friends were all pretty fun and lively. They talked about how there were some people they didn't like there. It felt a little like high school. My grandma held my hand (which she never does) as we walked around. She was so proud of me and introduced me to everyone who passed and told them I was a missionary. It made me feel really loved.

Dinner was pretty nice. We had a choice of fish, chicken or lamb. I didn't quite understand how it all worked so I tried to follow the lead of my fellow diners. They all seemed to be getting soup, salad, an entree and dessert so I followed suit. I wasn't quite sure how it all worked. My tablemates were all pretty opinionated about the food and apparently filling out the comment cards is quite common and the kitchen really takes their opinions into account. I thought the food was pretty good. At the end, they only gave a bill to my grandparents and it was $17. That was kind of a lot just for me. If I had known the prices, I wouldn't have ordered as much. I was just copying the old people. My grandpa gave me a hard time about it and his friends laughed as they already know he's a tightwad. I offered to pay but my grandma wouldn't let me. I think they have some meal credits saved up from being at my house so long anyway. It's kind of like in college when I would skip meals in the dining hall so I could use the credits to buy random stuff from the store at Jester dormitory. After the meal, everyone was going to go watch Steel Magnolias. I do love that movie but wasn't sure I wanted to stay that long.

I went back to my grandparents' apartment to try to help them with an electronics problem. I am pretty handy at that stuff, at least for a girl. They hadn't been able to get their DVD player to work and thought they had tried everything. My grandma was especially frustrated because she wants to be better with technology but the learning curve is pretty steep when you are in your eighties. I looked at their TV and saw that there was a TV/AV button. I pushed it and voila! The DVD player worked. Then my grandpa only half playfully called my grandma, "stupid." This didn't seem fair since he hadn't known how to fix the problem either. It was humorously easy to fix.

Then I tried to make sure my grandma understood how to use the internet. She has taken a class on it but doesn't really see the need to use it. I want to communicate with them more but they are hard of hearing and kind of awkward on the phone. They don't communicate the way I do, ie: email, facebook. My grandma did have an email account and I was able to send her an old update while I was at their place. Then she said she wanted help using the printer my aunt and uncle had gave them. Luckily the hardware had been installed and the printer had been plugged into the computer. All I had to do was turn it on and press print. Another amusingly simple technological task. It's funny how natural that stuff comes to those of us who grew up with it compared with those who didn't.

Then my grandpa says "What's the channel where you can buy stuff?" He was watching TV so at first I thought he meant the home shopping network or something. Then I realized he was gesturing towards the computer. He said, "A buddy of mine bought a movie projector on one of those." Basically he wanted to know which website to go to in order to buy stuff online. It sounded like he thought there was just one place to buy anything. I didn't want to make him feel dumb even though he'd kind of done that to my grandma. I told them there are a lot of websites but he could try google or craigslist. I don't anticipate them ordering anything anytime soon. I can't imagine how they would get through the check-out process with their credit card.

All in all, it was very fun and amusing. I will definitely try to visit them in their element more when I can. I hear they have wii tournaments. Old people playing wii; now that's something I can get in to.

I am happy my grandparents have a place like this to live and good friends to enrich their lives. Maybe I can convince some friends to move into a place like that with me when we get old. My friend, Jocelyn and I were talking about this recently and how we would own the place; racing in our Rascal scooters and hustling people at shuffleboard. Now that's the life!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Travel Tips from someone who needs to take her own advice

I was thinking about what I might want to write in my next blog entry. I have been doing a lot of traveling so I thought I could write about some of my traveling tips as a seasoned veteran. But of course, life doesn’t always go as planned. It’s pretty ironic that just when I am feeling confident enough in my traveling prowess to give others advice, that I would make a rookie traveling mistake that would prove to be a big hassle.

As I begin to write this, I am sitting in a comfy lounge (literally what it is called) at the DFW airport. And I will be here until early tomorrow morning. I flew from Calgary to Dallas earlier today. I went to my next gate, checked the time of my next flight on the ticket and went off in search of food. I got some BBQ and sat down at a nearby gate to charge my laptop. When it was about 5 minutes until time to board (or so I thought) I headed to my gate. I realized there were not many people around so I asked the man at the counter about the flight. He asked me where I had been and told me that I just missed it. What I had thought was the boarding time, was the departure time. I felt so stupid and unseasoned. He issued me a standby ticket for the next flight, which unfortunately turned out to be sold out. And thus, I am sitting in the airport until my flight leaves at 6am tomorrow morning.

Thankfully, I am not being charged for this ticket and I have found this comfortable lounge to hunker down in and watch Dexter. Despite my latest foible, I do want to share some of what I’ve learned in my travels. These are things that work for me… well, most of the time.

I like to wear specific clothes when I am flying. I have noticed many different airplane clothing philosophies from the many hours I have spent at the airport today. Some people wear shorts and flip flops, others seem to dress as nice as possible with lots of make-up or a business suit, and some women wear those monochromatic velour sweat suits. I must admit that the sweat suits do look comfortable but I don’t think I am New Jersey enough to pull it off. Not even the Victoria’s Secret kind with “Pink” written on the butt. I prefer long pants of some kind; jeans are good. I have found that shorts are unacceptable due to the fact that airports and airplanes are kept at roughly the same temperature as the penguin area of the zoo. Some people like flip flops but I prefer close-toed shoes because they provide warmth and protection from the elements that may be found on the floor as you walk through security. Who knows where their feet have been and you don’t want to get athlete’s foot. It’s best to have shoes that slip on and off quickly to facilitate going through security quickly. Taking a long time or getting flustered will make you look like a dork. I don’t know why they are still making us take off our shoes. I am afraid at some point it will be acceptable to make us strip down completely naked to walk through the metal detector. We won’t be able to complain and it will just become the price you have to pay for traveling. I hope I am wrong because there are plenty of people at airports that I do not want to see nude. Ever…

In addition to jeans and closed toed shoes, I also bring a light jacket or sweater. This helps to insulate me from the above mentioned chilly airports and frigid planes. For entertainment, I always carry a backpack with my toys. As an adult, it is no longer Barbies I need to entertain myself but things like my laptop with DVDs, a book, Bible for when I want to be spiritual, iPod and sometimes my Nintendo DS. Though I don’t normally use all the play things, I do like to have options. If I am going on a long flight or an early morning flight, I like to bring a full-size pillow. No puny travel pillows for me. I also like to put a sheet or thin blanket inside the pillowcase. This provides an optimal sleeping arrangement as the large pillow can be squeezed and molded into a good sleeping position. This works best in conjunction with the window seat, which is the one I always choose. If you are in a big plane, you may have those headrests you can adjust to prevent your head from flopping from side to side. Those work well too. I am pretty much a professional at sleeping while traveling on a plane or bus. On rare occasions that I fear I will not be able to fall asleep, a little Benadryl goes a long way. Sleeping is my preferred activity on a plane since it is what makes time go by the fastest.

I was glad to have my full size pillow and sheet during my overnight in the Dallas airport. The sheet I brought was for a full size bed so I was able to cover myself and all my luggage with it as I slept. When I went to sleep, there were four other people who’d also found the comfy lounge. When I emerged from my yellow sheet cocoon, those four people were gone and there were about ten new people napping. It was a little disconcerting.

When I am flying, I also try not to drink much so I don’t have to use the airplane bathroom. Contrary to what Jerry Seinfeld thinks, those things are awkward and gross. It never fails that during the rare occasion that I do not have the window seat, my seatmate at the window will need to use the bathroom. This is always awkward since the person has to wake me up and then I can’t go back to sleep until they return, which always takes way longer than I’d like. At that point, at least in my mind, they no longer deserve a window seat because they can’t hold it. I’m tempted to commandeer their seat and fall asleep and hope they settle in mine understanding it’s the price they pay for having to use the restroom.

I always use the restroom right before and right after a flight and try not to drink too much in order not to use the bathroom on the plane. I can probably count the number of times I have used the bathroom on a plane in my entire life, on one hand. The system works, people.

These are just some of the things I do when traveling. They really do work for me. I broke one of my travel rules at the DFW airport and it’s why I had to spend the night in the comfy lounge and not in my comfy bed. My rule is to find my gate as quickly as possible during my layover as to assure that I don’t miss my plane. Then I double check the time before going off to find food. Then I return to my gate to wait so I can’t possibly miss my flight. This time I was charging my laptop a few gates away and could not see my gate. If I had been at my gate, I would have realized my mistake and not missed my flight. It looks like I need to stick to what works so I don’t end up spending the night in another airport that may or may not have a comfy lounge.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My friends need a vacation

My friends, Sarah and Michael Musselman, are trying to win a luxury weekend away from their two young children. They are quality people and definitely deserve this. Please go to the following website:
I voted and it took me literally three seconds. It's called "Doctor Dolce's Reconnection Cure for Weary Parents."

And on another note, I met a really fun girl on my mission trip this summer who has a blog. I find her pretty amusing, so you might want to check it out. She's a bit more popular than me, as you will quickly see and has as many as 50,000 people who read her blog. Basically she's my idol.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Astros Game

Today I went to my first Astros game of the season. I try to go to at least one per season, though I pretty much only go when I can get free tickets. Luckily I have some friends with free tickets from time to time so it works out well.

I am no baseball fanatic, though I have dated one. I don't get into all the stats and technical stuff. I don't even pay very close attention to the game. I do like the experience of going to a game. Unfortunately the Astros always seem to lose when I go to games. Clearly the players can sense that I am in the stands and in their extreme anxiousness to impress me, they get nervous and lose the game. I don't know how they know I am there (maybe from my facebook status) but this always seems to happen. Luckily I am not a diehard baseball fan because I can still have a good time when we lose. (This does not at all translate to Longhorn football. We lose, I am pissed.)

Today I went with my friend, Bethany (the procurer of the free tickets), her dad and then we were later joined by our friend, Bronson. We got there late which wasn't a big deal since we managed to get free parking. It was the first inning when we arrived and the Marlins scored right as we came in. I figured this was my curse at work again. We found our seats, which were in the club level and retailed for $50. Cha-ching! In the club level they have waiter-type people who take your order and bring you outrageously expensive tasty treats. I ordered the only real deal on the menu. It was a kids meal for $4 with a hot dog, juice box and animal crackers. Not enough food for a grown man but perfectly sufficient for me. I later bought cotton candy for $5 negating my savings on my meal.

Bronson arrived late and right as he sat down, the Astros scored a homerun. Apparently he is the opposite of me. Somehow he gives the Astros some sort of comfort by his very presence in the stadium and they perform well for him. The game was actually really fun to watch. There were homeruns, great catches and good pitching by our guy. It was good cheap fun. Apparently I need to go with Bronson more often. It is more fun when the Astros win.

One funny thing at the game was a sign in the outfield that said,
"www.astrosextrabases.com" I don't know about you but my friends and I saw one thing when we saw that sign... sex. It's right there in the middle of the web address. I tried to take a picture but didn't have enough zoom.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hangin' with Halle Berry and Ricky Bobby

It's 1:48am and I am still awake. Ever since I got back from Colorado, I have been staying up late. This is not really a problem because Maui time is five hours behind making it only 8:48pm there. And who goes to bed before 9? I am watching Forensic Files. It's this 30 minute show where they go over how they solved a violent crime with the tiniest pieces of evidence. People get convicted on fingerprints, tire treads, footprints, etc. It's pretty interesting and pretty creepy. I think it makes it a little more creepy that I am watching it after midnight. My parents were gone the last few days and watching Forensic Files didn't help me to feel at ease.

Yesterday I went for a bike ride on a trail near my house. There were a ton of people on the trail and at the nearby park. I saw a big group of people who seemed to be celebrating a family reunion. In the middle of the group was a circle of people doing the Halle Berry dance. I've included it below if you aren't familiar with it. Seeing this made me sad about leaving Houston. I don't think Hawaiians are really up to date with the latest dances. Without my Young Life kids how will I find out about dances like the Ricky Bobby, the Dougie or the Stanky Legg? Maybe at least this time when I am in Hawaii, I can learn the hula.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

From Riches to Rags

I am definitely going through a transitional time right now. The weird part about this transition is that it seems to come in phases. Right after school finished, nothing felt much different since I'd had the summer off last year. I traveled for Jesus and pleasure and hung out with friends just like last summer. One big transition during this time was moving into my parents' new house with them. It's been good overall and definitely a money saver but we all still relearning how to cohabitat.

Now it seems like am in a different transitional phase. I think it began when I got my last paycheck. One of the best parts of being a teacher is that you get paid in the summer when you are not working. They divide your paycheck up and spread it out over 52 weeks. Now I have received my last paycheck and no longer experience the joys of a steady income. It feels a little scary. I have done the whole missionary living on support thing before and I know it will all work out in the end. I think this time is harder because I just quit a job where I was making far more money than I ever have. My cost of living wasn't high and I was able to do just about anything I wanted to do without feeling the financial crunch. I learned to live more frugally the last time I was in ministry but I feel like having a "real job" made me unlearn some of thos lessons.

I've been raising support for my upcoming projects this summer and it's gone pretty well. But everything felt a lot more secure with the promise of future paychecks. Now that this is over and I feel I have lost a bit of my security. In the end I know the truth. Christ is my security and through Him and His people I will always be provided for financially for doing His work. Yet, He doesn't deposit a check into my account every two weeks like my teaching job.

I am about $1000 away from my fundraising goal of $6000. That's not too far at all. People have been super generous and for that I am so thankful. There are also several people who pledged support but haven't sent anything yet so I know more is coming. I am not where I want to be with monthly support at about $175 of the $400 I need for my time in SBFM. But from my previous experiences as a missionary, I know monthly support is something that builds the longer you are out in the field so I am confident it will increase over time. I'd hoped to sell my car before I left to give myself further cushion but apparently since I just paid it off, I won't get the title for about a month and at that point I will be gone.

So, I am trying my best to be frugal and not spend much money. It's not easy. I find the busier I am, the less money I spend. Well, with most of my friends at work all day and me with no job, there's really not much for me to do. I try to fill my time with free activities; in ways that are productive like spending time with God, working on my Chinese, reading books and working out and unproductive like watching TV and playing on the internet, esp. Facebook.

Even though I get frustrated that I can no longer just buy what I want , I think this time of more extreme frugality is good for me. I am learning to depend on God more and to seek out activities that are free or inexpensive. By the time I build up my support and feel less strapped, I will be wiser with my money.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Secret World of Mexican Snow Cones

Today I went back to the school that I worked at for the last two years. To work?, you ask. No, I went for the same reason I went to school as a teen, to see my friends. Today was a teacher work day and I went up to the school to help out where I could but also to catch up with my teacher friends. It ended up being a lot more fun than I thought. I've always enjoyed joking and socializing with my co-workers and this time I didn't have to spoil it by constantly thinking of the work I should have been doing in my classroom. I don't have a classroom!

Despite the freedom it provided, the fact that I didn't have a classroom made me a little sad. As much as I am excited for my next steps, I am still mourning the loss of things like school supplies, co-workers and funny comments from my students. It was a little weird to see someone new in my classroom. To combat the weirdness, I decided to avoid going past the room or talking to the "new me." Denial has always worked for me in the past.

All day I helped with random things like putting up bulletin board paper, setting up desks and chairs and hooking up my friends' computers. For a girl, I am better than average at the techie stuff so I was glad to be of service. It was also a lot easier to do the before school tasks knowing that I really only had to do what I felt like doing and there wasn't a huge list of things I needed to accomplish.

My old principal asked me why I wasn't helping the new teachers. I laughed her off and said it paid to be my friend. Seriously, though. Why would I help teachers I didn't know? I am certainly no saint and my primary purpose was not to lend a hand. My main reason for being there was to hang out with my friends and help them out a little bit. Let the new teachers fend for themselves. I know I had to.

After work, I went for snowcones with a couple of my co-workers. I was introduced to this particular snowcone place by my friend, Belinda. It felt a bit like the episode of Seinfeld where George goes to the club with all the models and gets in only because he's with one. Belinda's Mexican so she took me to a Mexican snow one place. I felt like I was only allowed to go because I was with Mexican people. This was a different snowcone place than I was used to.

After living in Austin, I felt confident in calling myself a snowcone connoisseur. Snow Beach, formerly located on Lamar near Barton Springs was the standard by which I measured all other snowcones. (You know you are at the right place if you see a white trailer with a fake purple snowcone wearing sunglasses on top.) The red rasberry with cream is to die for. The place is so popular that they furnish umbrellas for the people in line to hold to shield themselves from the sun. You feel stupid but it works. A snowcone there costs between $2.50-$5.00 depending on size and amount of cream.

I'd lamented that Houston did not have a Snow Beach equivalent. Finally this summer, some people put up a snowcone stand in my neighborhood. The ice is not as finely shaved as Snow Beach's but it decent and similar in price. It's also about 179 miles closer. And because my neighborhood is trendy, they even have a snowcone for dogs. Who buys their dog a snowcone? It's probably the same people buying the dog appetizers I saw advertised on TV.

Now back to my Mexican snowcone experience. This place was pretty big and pink with a little covered patio area with ceiling fans. (Note to snowcone place, in 100 degree weather like today, ceiling fans do not work.) Belinda said the place is hopping at nights and on the weekends with a long line of cars at the drive-thru. Yes, there is a drive-thru! I was shocked when I saw the price. Their snow cones ranged in price from 75 cents for a small (that's less than a dollar) to 2.50 for a giant one. This means I could get three small snowcones at this place for the price of one at the honky snow cone places. I was getting ripped off! The quality of the snow cone was good though the pointy top was disconcerting to someone who is used to a rounded top. I quickly adjusted, though. At 75 cents, I felt I was getting the deal of the century. Apparently I need to spend more time in the Mexican parts of town. I knew from the Wal-Mart parking lot that they had cheap puppies, tamales and fake Gucci purses, but cheap snowcones...that's something I could really get into.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Self-induced anti-social hibernation

I am just coming out of what I have dubbed my "self-induced anti-social hibernation." I enjoyed my back to back week-long trips but they left me a little starved for alone time. Because of my need to just chill out and avoid human contact I have been making no attempt to hang out with anyone other than my parents, who I can't avoid since I live in their house. Tonight I went to church and was social without feeling like I was going to die or punch someone in the face. I feel this is a good sign that I am ready to return to being social. Overall I am a pretty social person and would almost always prefer to be with people than to be alone but I guess I just got a case of social overload.

I have a little over a month before I leave for Maui and not much planned other than a trip to Calgary at the end of this month. I am trying to figure out how to spend my days and how not to spend a lot of money since my last teacher paycheck was yesterday. I have decided to try to read my Bible/have quiet time, workout and practice my Chinese on Rosetta Stone everyday. So, far I have done it for two days. I am on a roll! I will be super spiritual, super hot and bilingual in no time!

I am also trying to read a lot, which I really enjoy. I am currently in the middle of several books that I just need to buckle down and finish. The most interesting to me right now is one called, "Doctors from Hell." It's a pretty harsh title, I know but an accurate one. It was actually written by a woman my grandparents know from their retirement community. She was a court reporter for the medical trials at Nurenburg. These were the trials for the Nazi doctors after World War 2. The book is very interesting and very sad. It's hard for me to believe that these atrocities could have been committed on human beings and that they were called Science. I find the whole Nazi regime fascinating and even used the Diary of Anne Frank in my third grade class. It gave me a lot of hope to see how strongly my students reacted to injustice. They just couldn't understand why something like that could happen and neither could I.

World War II makes me think about war in general. There are a lot of people who are outspoken in their hatred for all war. I feel that this is just ignorant. I know some of you may be strongly anti-war and I respect your right to an opinion but I just cannot agree. I am not for all wars or injust wars and I don't think the God of the Bible is either. But I think it is extremely difficult to argue against a war like WWII as a Christian or non Christian. The Bible is certainly not anti-war with Jesus commending a soldier's faith without condemning his profession as well as all the fighting in the Old Testament. But what the Nazis did was an afront to God's chosen people, the Jews. I can't imagine God wanting us to stand back as His chosen people were being slaughtered like animals.

I don't know how anti-war people believe we can stop horrors like the holocaust or the genocide going on today without violence. Peaceful protests and logic don't work on people who kill others in that way. I don't feel educated about the current war to say one way or another if it should have started and I know that with my brother being in the Army, it is hard for me to be unbiased. I do trust Andrew and support him in what he does. Right now a lot of what he is doing is helping rebuild areas that Saddam has destroyed and working with local leaders to help them get back on their feet. It sounds more like mission work than war. I wonder why the news doesn't talk about that stuff?

Sorry to be so randomly political. Maybe this is what happens to me when I seclude myself. I will stick to the funny stuff next time.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

An out-of-country experience

I have pretty much spent all day vegging and sleeping. After two back-to-back weeklong trips, I am just pooped. I feel I deserve an unproductive day.

I want to share a little bit about my trip to Q-ba. I feel like I learned a lot more than I did but I know that this is important as well. The purpose of our trip was to help with a Young Life type group for high school students there. All the students go to boarding schools so it seems like peer pressure is intensified since they are with each other day and night. The students told me about how they and their Christian teachers are persecuted at their schools.

Many of the students traveled hundreds of miles by hitchhiking or cramming into vans to get to our camp. I know my Young Life kids would have complained a ton. They complain enough about traveling in lavish vans with DVD players and air conditioning. We have short Jesus talks once a week for our Young LIfe kids and it can take half the time just to get them to be quiet and pay attention. These kids, who were the same age, could listen attentively for three hours +.

I love my Young Life kids but I really wish they could see and really understand what sacrfices other kids their age make to be Christians. I think they would learn a lot. I know that I did.

I also found out a lot about the country. Most of which, would not be prudent to mention on such a public forum. I'd love to talk to you about this place sometime, if you are interested.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Ice blocking or how I got grass down my pants

I have been meaning to update this thing for a while now. I mean, I have been to Qba and I haven't mentioned how the trip went yet. Unfortunately I don't really have time to go into it right now. I also want to be very careful about what I post on the web. I have also been having some crazy adventures in Colorado that I don't have time to fully go into. So, instead I will have to go into detail about those things later and just tell you about tonight.

Ashley and Josh are getting married tomorrow and wanted to have a night 'o' fun with their friends. We all went ice blocking. This is when you buy big blocks of ice from the grocery store and then ride the blocks down a hill. I had heard of people doing this before in Houston at the Miller Outdoor Theater. In fact, I had always wanted to try it but never actually followed through with it.

So, we bought a bunch of ice blocks from the grocery store. In fact, we bought all the ice blocks at that particular grocery store. I also bought an issue of People on impulse because the cover said "Saved By the Bell" Reunion. Who could pass up that gem?

We took our ice blocks and towels to a nearby hill next to a baseball field. It was pretty dark but we could still see. After a short demonstration,(Put towel on ice, sit on ice, slide down hill and try not to die), we began sliding down the hill. It was a blast. I think we all underestimated the fun factor. We went down on our butts, on our stomachs, in ones, twos, threes, fours and mores and it was just hilarious. I think there was only one time where my ride ended without me sprawled all over the ground. This was painful but fun. I probably went up and down the hill 20 times. It was exhausting! One of my most memorable falls was when I was in a four person train that inadvertantly broke into two separate trains. Rachel Cordy and I were going super fast and somehow turned backwards and then rolled into a ball together. I imagine us looking a lot like one of those cartoons where someone is skiing and they turn into a big snowball with legs, arms and skis flying about.

At the end of our adventure, we took a big group picture. This was a good idea until the little wall we'd made of the ice blocks fell on Josh's head. At least it was ice, right?

The whole thing was super fun. I am already feeling sore, my clothes were stained brown with dirt and my pants were filled with grass. These are all signs of a fun night. And we didn't even have alcohol. Fun times!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ten Year Reunion

It's 2am, my room is a mess, I haven't packed and I am leaving the country tomorrow. Perfect time to write on my blog, right? I thought so too. I have had too much caffeine and don't think I will be able to sleep soon. Also I have literally just gotten home from my high school reunion so this should be pretty fresh.

I am going to try my best to not talk bad about anyone in this post even though some of my funniest comments would be at someone else's expense. For the sake of human decency and the fact that anyone could read this, I will try to be nice.

Movies often feature high school reunions as do TV shows. In fact, one of my favorite episodes of Golden Girls is when the girls go to a local high school reunion to make up for Rose missing hers in St. Olaf. They pick up other people's nametags and Rose becomes Asian foreign exchange student, Kim Fong Choi. Obviously hilarious times ensue.

I know a lot of people dread their high school reunions and avoid them like the plague. I actually really liked high school. I had some good friends and some really fun times. I don't think I was very popular but I also wasn't unpopular. My favorite book, Stuff White People Like, says as a white person that I was supposed to hate high school, but I don't.

A lot of people don't want to go to their reunion because they haven't kept in touch with people from high school. Luckily my best friend, Sarah, went to my high school. When I realized that the ten year mark was coming up, I anticipated the whole experience being a lot better since I would have a friend to attend with and talk to in case things got awkward. Unfortunately those dreams were dashed when Sarah had to work. Stupid space shuttle! (She works for NASA.) Despite the horror stories and having to go Sarah-less, I was determined to go because I just knew I would have a good time. Well, I was right.

I didn't know what to expect. I thought they might have inflatable moon walks and one of those booths where you grab the cash swirling around inside. These things were at our school sponsored post-grad party. This was more like a wedding reception with no bride and groom. It was the ultimate in people watching. It was liking being at the airport but you are supposed to know a majority of the people. Thankfully we all had to wear nametags so no one had to actually remember someone's name.

Most people looked the same, though some people definitely put on the pounds. Some of the girls had had children but what was the men's excuse? I think the most kids I heard someone having so far was 3 but they are Mormon so that makes sense. I was afraid coming solo that I would have a lot of awkward times trying to figure out who to talk to but that was not the case. I actually had a lot of fun conversations though it was a bit confusing to try to explain my current stage of life and iminent plans. People seemed to get it for the most part, though they might have been faking it.

I met a lot of people who were now doctors. My school had a large Asian population. It is a stereotype but one that I find to be pretty true. Other people work at NASA where a good percentage of our graduating class's parents worked when they were in high school. A lot of people were married, then plenty were not. Some had already been married and divorced. Most guys still had their hair. I think that will change the more reunions we have.

We spent most of the time mingling and catching up. Then they made us take a group picture of just the girls and then just the guys. Apparently the whole group was too big to fit in one picture. There had been sample pictures on the table where we signed in. In one, a woman had taken off her shirt and was wearing only her bra. Why was that the sample picture? Were they encouraging one of us to do the same? And why did that woman think it was appropriate? Taking the group picture reminded me of how I got in-school suspension for putting a plastic hamburger bun in my mouth in the senior class panoramic picture. Continuing my food in mouth streak, I stuck a chicken finger in my mouth for this one. The photographer seemed to be hating his life and kept barking orders that noone could hear because they were too busy catching up with one another.

After the single gender group pictures, they started taking pictures for various categories like what junior high you went to or club you were in. This reminded me when me and some friends got in a bunch of different club pictures for the yearbook. We weren't in the clubs but snuck into the pictures because they all took them on the same day. That's how I ended up in the Math club and FFA. These pictures were for the cheerleaders, drill team, band/choir (I am not sure why those two were combined). The funniest/most disconcerting was "Party-goers/Stoners." Why was that a category? And for some reason, as one of my friends pointed out, it was pretty much all the kids who went to the same junior high.

It was nice to connect with people in person as opposed to electronically through Facebook. My best friend through junior high and high school was there, Amy. She and I grew apart in college despite going to the same school. Our lives just went in different directions. I was surprised about how much love I felt towards her at the reunion. I just wanted to give her a big hug and I am not much of a hugger. I think by being so close in high school, we formed a bond that cannot be broken through time or differing life choices. It's special. It was so fun to visit and talk with her. I am so thankful we still have that connection.

I also learned a lot about people's lives. Of course, we talked about the girl who ended up on the cover of Playboy and the one who went on the dating show, The Fifth Wheel. We talked about jobs, relationships, siblings and parents. I also found out that two guys from my high school committed suicide. I wasn't close to either of them, though they were definitely in some of my classes. It just made me so sad. All death is sad, but suicide makes you hurt. I didn't know either well and it just hurt my heart. It made me wish that there was something I could have done to change that outcome. What pain they must have felt! Other classmates were killed in car crashes, drug overdoses and one died serving with the military in Iraq. Learning of people's deaths is going to be something that unfortunately increases with each reunion. I am not looking forward to that. I am looking forward to our 20 year. This one was a lot of fun and I can only imagine how many stories people will have then.
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