27 June 2011

animals, storms, and pasta (again!)

Hello again! Today was an utterly wonderful day. Even better than yesterday. So today's theme is: animals! What little kid doesn't love animals?
So in our groups last night, I came up with a swell idea. Animal masks. So today we made animal masks. Isn't that cool? My idea was used in our lesson!
So today when we got to the school, some of the kids were getting more excited to see what we had brought for them. So we gave them each a piece of white paper, some markers, some glue, some tissue paper, and some of this colored cellophane that they literally went crazy over.
So I worked with Aryel again today and another little boy named Ulises. He is literally the most adorable kid in the whole world, and so everyone loves him. He's only 3, and he doesn't really like to sit and do anything for a sustained amount of time. So every once in a while he walks out of the room and finds his mom, then his mom brings him back. I helped him with his mask too, which was a horse, and he loved it. He ran around holding it up and making cute little animal noises.
Which was the second part of our lesson. We would make an animal noise and the kids would say it in Spanish. Then we would say what it was in English and they would repeat it. It got easy for them though, so we had to switch up what we were doing. We were having so much fun by the end and unfortunately, we had to end our lesson work on construction outside.
We were ripping up the weeds and dead plants in the school yard so we could make room for a basketball court. We were going to clear the land and other groups that would come later in the summer would work on clearing the rest and laying cement.
And it occurred to me, sitting out in the field, that if they want a construction project to get done, then they would need to get tools and do it themselves.They can't call in a team of workers and get dump trucks and cranes and what not to help them. They have to do it all by hand.
After school, we had lunch and then it started to pour. We were stuck in the tree house for some time, and we waited for the rain to let up. When it did, we went to our rooms and hung out for an hour until we came up for a salsa dance lesson. I sat in my room lying on the bed doing nothing. I didn't fall asleep nor did I do anything. I just sat and listened to the rain for an hour. It was almost like meditation.
Then our Latin dance teacher arrived and showed us how to salsa. It was great fun, seeing all of the awkward Americans trying to dance as suave as our dance teacher did. And at the end, we all got it and we were really quite good. I still remember all of the dance moves actually.
At 2pm, 8 of the kids came up to the kitchen because they were going to cook dinner for us. And rumor has it it was something good.
The rest of us hung out in our rooms and played cards and talked and relaxed. It was fun getting to know the kids we were rooming with and the kids we were going to be living with for our time here. They were all so fun and nice and by the end we all felt closer.
But then a storm came, and the power went out. Including the power in the kitchen. Dinner was going to be delayed for an hour, so we waited and continued to hang out and enjoy each other's company.
At 7, we went upstairs and we found out what was for dinner - PASTA again! - and it was amazing. The sauce was great, so was the sausage and the vegetables. After dinner, I went to the kitchen to help clean up, but there were too many people in there so me and a few others had to leave. But one thing I noticed was that there was one plate filled with food that we got back. One of the girls on the cooking staff for today was shocked and sad. "We spent our free time cooking this meal and someone just wasted the food." she said. And it was right. This is how our real cooks must feel when we waste. They spend so much time cooking for us and we take to much and don't finish it. And then it goes to waste. It showed us all that we have to be careful about how much we take and about how much we actually eat, because in countries like this every grain of rice counts.
After dinner we played some group games and talked about our home visits. Then we retired to bed - after lesson planning - and went to sleep.
Well that's all for now. See you in the morning my friends! Pura vida!

26 June 2011

families and the beach

Last night, after we came home from the mountain, we got into our groups and started to plan lessons for the school. I had completely forgotten about the school - everyone was on an adrenaline rush from the mountain and now it was starting to wane.
Our group got to work with the little kids, around ages 3 to 6 - the best age group in my opinion. And everyday we were planning to have a certain theme. Today's theme was family, which made sense because we were going to walk to the families' houses after school. So we divided into further groups: English and art. I was part of the English group last night, and we came up with family flash cards and a skit - something simple, but still something engaging. The art group came up with using Popsicle sticks to make houses, and then having the kids draw their families inside of them.
So this morning, we woke up later at 7am for breakfast before we went to the school at 8. The sun rises here a little before 5am, so I sat up in my bed for an hour waiting for 6am to come. Then I started to get ready.
After breakfast, we got in the bus and went to the school. We were all a little bit apprehensive because it was our first day and we didn't want it to go badly.
We got into our groups and walked quietly to the classroom that we were assigned to. We saw a bunch of little kids in there with excited smiles on their faces. A muffled hola was all we could really say. They didn't respond.
We moved their desks to the walls so we had room to sit in a circle and introduce ourselves. Our group leader, who was fluent in Spanish, explained to the kids what we were doing. They slowly came into a sloppy circle and we started.
"Hello, my name is Megan."
"Can you say your name?"
Again in Spanish. No answer. Some mumbled their names and we couldn't make out what they said. Some shook their heads when we asked them to say their names. It was going to be harder than we expected.
But we gave each of the kids a sheet of paper while our leader told them we were going to focus on family today.
They held the blank paper and carefully looked at it, unsure of what to make of it. Some of us got up and gave the kids 4 Popsicle sticks and they became more confused. We each sat down with one of the kids and helped them out.
I worked with a boy named Aryel. He wouldn't tell me his name, but I got him to write it. Most of these kids don't know how to read or write yet, and some don't know how to write their names. But luckily he did. It's hard to make conversation with a kid who is 11 years younger than you, and who does not speak your language. And you don't speak his. But I found out that he was 5 years old and through his picture he told me he had a mom, a dad, and no sisters but 3 brothers. He also had a dog, 2 cats, and some cows. Somehow they all fit in his Popsicle stick house.
When we finished, we hung them up on the wall, and I put my hand out to give him a high five. At first he was confused, but he got it.
Then we got up and showed them our drawings of mom, dad, sister, brother, and grandparents. They caught on a lot faster than I thought, and they thought our little skit was hysterical. They started to warm up to us and talk a lot more. After we exhausted the flash cards, we asked them to explain their pictures and who was in their families. And some of them even said "mother", "father", and "brother" and "sister". I was impressed.
After that, we did another art project. We traced the kids hands and used crumpled up bits of tissue paper to fill it in. They got really excited about it, especially all the colors of paper we had. And they were going to give them to their parents at the end of class.
When they showed them to their moms, they were so excited and started rambling in Spanish.
Then school was over, and we headed out with our families. I went with 3 other girls from the group and a little boy named Kevin's family. He was in our school group. He had 3 brothers too, and they lived about 30 minutes away from the school.
Here's a quick science lesson. Sometimes, dirt roads are great at trapping and radiating heat. And luckily today, that's exactly what it did. We walked on the road, kicking up dirt into our shoes. We followed the mother as she walked up ahead, making sure her boys didn't wander.
I literally have not been hotter in my life. Sunlight burning your skin, heat rising from the ground, no shade and no wind. It was really bad. But then I thought that these families have to walk to school and home everyday. I'm doing it once.
When we finally arrived at their house, it was relatively large compared to others in the area. It was actually more like a large plot of land with some shacks on it. There was a big shack at the front for storage, shacks all up the sides and the back for the stables. They had chickens, geese, ducks, dogs, and a parrot. And next to their stables was a large ceramic bread oven. The mother explained that this is how they make their own bread and don't have to buy it. Near the place where the chickens stayed was the kitchen, which was a very small shack with some appliances. Outside was the small table where they ate.
We walked further down the property and saw the bedrooms Where the boys slept. The blue tarps over their beds were mosquito nets. There were a few toys strewn on the dirt of their property, and a few emaciated dogs wandering around in the shade.

Then the mother mumbled something and we all went to the beach. It was private property, in fact, and so the mother got down on all fours and climbed under the fence. We thought she was unlocking it from the inside, but instead she motioned for us to come under. So we threw our backpacks over and climbed under the fence. And then we went down to the beach, stopped, snapped a few pictures of some pigs fighting, and then continued on.
We walked to this deserted beach that was the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. The most beautiful things are the ones that people never see.
We met up with some other families and kids from our group and we all hung out at the beach for a while. But it started getting hot and so some of the kids ran in the water and started playing volleyball. Soon the moms were getting in the water and splashing around with their kids and I snapped that picture that won that contest.
They were all in the clothes, but they were all having so much fun. It was something beautiful and real, something I had never seen before.

Soon it was noon and we had to walk back to the school to have lunch at our house. We said goodbye to our families and headed back.
In the afternoon, we all went to another beach and swam in the beautiful Pacific Ocean. I am now adding to my bucket list "swim in all of the oceans". So far I have Atlantic and Pacific. I wonder how the Arctic Ocean is going to go over. .
But the beach was amazing and by far the best I have ever been to. The waves were high enough, the water was warm, and the sand was soft like liquid silk. We stayed at the beach until sunset, then came back home and had dinner.
Tomorrow we're heading back to the school, but I can't tell you what we have planned. You'll just have to wait. Until then, pura vida!

25 June 2011

cliff-jumping and inner tubes

Today was probably the best day ever. The best collective day I have ever had. We woke up really early again - 5:30 - and went back to the mountain. It took some time, so everyone fell asleep until we got there. When we got out of the van at the place, the people told us to change into our jeans - we were going horseback riding! So we went to the bathrooms that didn't have lights and we went to the stables and got on our little horses!
These Costa Rican stablemen who didn't know any English got us up on our horses. But I knew how to mount horses, which was good because it was hot and they needed to get those horses a-movin'. So we got on and waited a while (some of the horses thought it was an appropriate time to pee) and then we rode off on the low part of the mountain through the Guanacaste countryside. And the mud.
My horse was actually rather docile and good to me; some people's horses had their own ideas of what to do and which mud piles to go through. Eventually the horses all stopped when we reached a stopping point, and we got off and saw this beautiful waterfall.
And the one of our mentor people said "who's going in?"
A couple people had swim suits on, but I didn't put mine on. So we all stood there. And then he said "well I'm jumping in". And we all looked at him like he was nuts. There was a big 15 foot drop from this cliff to get into the water. No way. Especially in jeans.
But we all stand corrected - even by ourselves - and we all ended up jumping off the cliff and trying to get out of the water with wet jeans. But at what other time in my life will I look back and say "I regret jumping off that cliff". I would regret it much more if I hadn't done it.
That's the cool part about life. We do silly things and we enjoy them. They make life better.

Then we changed out of our wet clothes and got into harnesses for ziplining. This guy who worked at the mountain gave us a little tutorial about ziplining and then he told us things we had to do so we wouldn't die. Very comforting. Then we ascended and started on the first line. It was incredible. Like flying, but better. Then we unhooked from line to line, and we went through 3 lines before stopping at this big gap in the mountain. It was a 100 foot drop. To the bottom of this little creek thing, which was near 50 feet below the 100 foot drop. And we were being dropped.
I started to freak out a little bit, but then I was at the bottom platform and I walked over to a small cove (in my harness of course) and we waited to swing over to the other side. Where I had to face something most terrible - rock climbing.
I am afraid of heights, and strangely I found this out in a dream when I was on a high building. I had never come face-to-face with this fear, so I didn't know if it was real.
It was real.
I started climbing up the mountain, but it started to rain and it got slippery so I just hung onto the rope and the Costa Rican men who worked there pulled me to the top. And in that moment they were my ultimate heroes. I almost died. But luckily the next was a regular line, and then 2 others after that. I was back in the air.
But then we had another climbing segment and this was literally 200 feet above the ground. Sure, I was in a harness, but I was still freaking out. Luckily I got to the next line, did another round of climbing, then finished the last 2 lines and planted my feet safely on the ground. I was completely safe, and I did it.

So I discovered that I am afraid of heights and rock climbing, but that I still had a fun time ziplining.
So after that, we had a buffet at the mountain and you wouldn't believe what they had - rice and beans. But...they also had PASTA! With marinara sauce and everything! And by now everyone knows that pasta is gold for me, and so they all laughed at my utter delight in pasta.
After pasta, well lunch, we were all sort of tired and we weren't really in the mood to go tubing, even though we had wanted to go. But we went down to the river and got into life jackets and good shoes. And by now, it was sort of cold, and we were all ready to get back to the house. But we lugged our 10 pound inner tubes 1/4 of a mile down to the river. It was a cold river, too.
But the guys who worked there just pushed us in, and we started down the river. The rocks and the rapids pushed s through and it was really fun. But then I fell out of my tube - something they said should never happen - and I got in again by myself, but on the wrong side. So I had to redo it. But then we continued on, and it was the funnest thing I have ever done. It was a 5km river path we went on, but it seemed like only a .5km because we were having so much fun! I fell out again, and then again, and finally we had finished and we thought we were halfway there. But it was over, and we were all willing to go again. It was utterly wonderful.
Then we started on our bus ride home, and everyone fell asleep.
Today was jam-packed with things I never would have done if I wasn't here, or with a group. Because even though they were fun, I never would have prompted myself to do it. Here's to going outside of your comfort zone, and loving it. Pura vida!

24 June 2011

slushy streets and sulfur springs

Hello folks! Hope you are having a wonderful day because we did! Today our group got up a little early - 5:30 - so we could leave for Rincon de la Vieja, a mountain in Guanacaste. And in case you thought rice and beans were only reserved for lunch and dinner, they're not - rice and beans for breakfast too!
So we started off on our trip, which is about two hours, and we just barely made it out of Playa Copal when the van stopped and a bunch of kids said "woah!" Another bus, about 100 feet in front of us, was completely stuck and almost cemented in the mud. It rained really heavily the night before, and in Costa Rica, like Georgia, when it rains it pours. The dirt road was now a mud road, and it was barely able to be used. So I sat in the van, waiting for someone to come and pull the bus out. But we waited, and we waited. No one came. And then our bus driver, Arnaldo, told us to get out. It would be a while.
So we were standing outside in the middle of nowhere, going nowhere, at 7 in the morning. But we started to play some group games to pass the time.
After about a half an hour, the bus was still stuck and some of the locals flocked to see what was going on. Probably since there was a slew of tourist-like beings in their quaint town. So they told us that help was coming, but that we couldn't move the bus that was stuck, and there was no way around the bus. So we had to walk a mile to get to our new bus, which meant walking in the mud and quicksand-like goo to get to the new bus. Needless to say I was going to need some new shoes.
So we walked to the spot past the bus where we were supposed to wait for a new bus. By now it was about 8:30, and we were all tired - and the hike hadn't even begun! It was hot and sticky, and everyone was annoyed. But it just made me think about something. When we have a problem with traffic in America, we just call the tow truck and they are there in less than 10 minutes. We later found out that the bus was removed several hours later. They have little ways of getting that kind of help, and it happens to them a lot more often - and more severely - than it does to us.
When our replacement bus came, everyone erupted in cheerful joy. And then we were off to Rincon de la Vieja.
Once there, we embarked on our 3-hour hike through the mountains. And we stopped at different natural hot springs throughout. The mountain was a volcano that stopped erupting in the 1990s and we got to see the sulfuric springs that were there. Some of them reached temperatures of 248 degrees F - enough to sufficiently burn yourself - and they smelled nasty. But I got some amazing pictures of the interesting trees, the wildlife - iguanas, monkeys, the works - and later we got to go to some hot springs of our own.
We drove a few minutes down the mountain to get to the other hot springs where people can go in. It is made of natural water from the real springs, but filtered into the man-manipulated nature (it's not really man-made). There were three pools - one was hot tub temperature, the other was hotter than a hot tub, and the man made river was ice cold. Which was nice when you wanted a break from the heat. So we got to relax in the beautiful hot springs and enjoy the quaint beauty of a place that tourists don't really get to see. Untouched nature.
After that, we went home and the Wifi stopped working at the tree house. So I was going to call home, but my SIM card died and there was no way to fix it. So I'm phoneless and Wifi-less. It's going to be an even more interesting time.
But tomorrow morning we have another before-the-sun-comes-up wake-up time, so I better go. And if you thought today was crazy, wait until tomorrow. Pura vida!

23 June 2011

pura vida from costa rica

Pura vida from Costa Rica! Sorry for the late post, it is harder here to post than at Oxford, so if I dont post I am sorry.
Before arriving here, we arrived at the crazy ATL airport and I met with someone else going on the trip. And thankfully we did everything right, because here I am! So the flight was actually alright, other than the fact that the lady I sat next to decided to throw up when we were landing..but that's ok, it's whatever.
So you know in the movies when the people walk down the stairs from the plane and they look all attractive as they exit into the luxurious oasis? Well that's not what happened. This gue engine was spewing gas at us and it was really unpleasant - my first steps in Costa Rica! But the cool thing is that we got to see the airport, which was literally customs and baggage claim. It was a fraction of a terminal at the ATL airport. But it was easy, and it was all outside - almost like a warehouse. And once we finished customs and got our bags, we were off! We found the people we were supposed to meet and then we met with about 20 other kids - and we're still waiting on about 10 more. It was hot as anything, and for me being from Georgia I even thought it was hot, and we went to the air-conditioned bus and went from Liberia to La Cruz, which is actually 2 hours from the airport, not 30 minutes like I thought.
One thing I appreciate more than life yet never recognized until now is air conditioning. They advertise AC as an amenity here, as an added bonus. But I think of it as a neccessity, like having toilet paper when you use the bathroom. And luckily my sweat glands don't mind going into overdrive! But that's one thing that never hit me - I always complain of the heat but really it's not that hot. At all. But here you feel everything so much more.
The leaders of our trip talked to us on the bus and I met some of the other kids. It was fascinating to watch the passers-by in Costa Rica, especially when we got to La Cruz. And in case you are wondering, this is rural. We drove on a long dirt road for about 30 minutes and literally there was nothing but an occasional truck, an occasional person, and a couple cows and chickens here and there. It was much more rural than I have ever seen, and at the same time it's still so beautiful.

When we pulled around the mountain and saw the amazing view, this ubiquitous mountainous madness, we could not believe it. You can stare at as many postcards as you want, but you can't duplicate the feeling. It's amazing.
But at the same time, it's like a rose, beautiful yet with faults. Most of the homes here, if they can be called that, are small, metal-roofed shacks, dilapidated and old. There are chickens wandering the yards, and emaciated cows bent over grown in fields. It was shattering to see it. There were clotheslines with ragged clothes hanging limply, and a lot of times you would see right into the homes from holes in walls. Yet when we drove by, the people smiled and waved at us. I saw a father with his daughter, him holding her and swinging back and forth, and they smiled and waved eagerly as we drove by.
It was unlike anything I have ever seen. The worst truck stops in America cannot compare. And also when we were driving down, we saw miles and miles of trucks sitting there. Not turned on. On the longest highway I know (Highway 1 goes from Vancouver to Argentina), and the truck drivers set up hamocks under their trucks to sleep as they waited. I saw men lying there, dirty and asleep, under their trucks. They wait because the trucks are inspected for drugs. Everyday.
When we came back here, I was so overcome. This place is amazing, we have a nice treehouse and nice rooms, granted they aren't air-conditioned and the showers are cold, but we are living a stone's throw away from the most poverty-stricken place I have seen and we are swimming together in a pool, laughing and having fun. It was hard to accept.
How could I have complained just last week of not being able to have a milkshake when there are people here who don't have completely erected walls in their homes?
After that, we went to the beach, which was gorgeous, and we saw the Pacific Ocean and the mountain range that separates us from Nicaragua. We played a game in the pool - a nice cool treat - and then we came in for dinner.
And at the end, one of our leaders asked us to go around and say what our apples, onions, and mangoes were. Your apple is something good about the day, the onion is the opposite, and the mango is something you learned about Costa Rica. And this is just the start of something incredible and transforming.
ps - this computer's spell check is set on Spanish, so if there are typos, sorry!

22 June 2011

the donut man

Today I have a short story about a man who gave me a donut. And it's a pretty simple story, but nevertheless a story.
So me and my mom were going to the audiologist to pick up my custom ear plugs and figure out how to get them into my ear. So once we figured those out and I put them in and out of my ears about 5 times, we went to CVS to get a prescription. And it just so happens that a Dunkin Donuts is about 4 stores down from this CVS. So after we got what we needed to get there, we walked over to Dunkins.
This jolly man took our order, and all I really wanted was a chocolate glazed donut. And then he said, "oh, don't worry about it. You can just have it." and then he smiled as we pranced away.
The donut only cost 50 cents, but saving money wasn't the reason it made me so overjoyed. I not only got a donut, but a free donut! It was the generosity of the donut man that made me so happy. He was willing to let me have something for free just because I was me. What a guy.
Donuts make me happy. So do generous donut venders.

21 June 2011

come back soon

I'm going to apologize for the lameness of this post right now. I really am fresh out of ideas. Yet the good part is that tomorrow will be the last post in the country for a few weeks because I will be venturing elsewhere! And then I can write about things that are vastly more interesting than "today I went to Target with my mommy".
And actually, today, me and my mommy went to Target yet again because (1) we love Target, and (2) because Target is a great place to waste time. We actually forgot some things for my trip so we had to go back. And we even went back to the camera section so I could show my mom the camera I liked, and the same guy from yesterday (the one who tracked down my siblings and found my money) was there. It was pretty embarrassing. He was probably worried about our family.
Well, I really am drained of all creative thoughts, so I apologize. But starting Thursday, I will have exciting things to report. By the way, you can check this blog as well as my other one. Warning to all: I might not be able to blog every day. I hope so, but if not, I will post things after my trip. Sorry, for both the potential bloglessness and the lameness of today's post.
Come back soon!

20 June 2011

the target excursion

As the summer drones on, we find ways to keep ourselves occupied. And today was a shopping sort of day, and we went to Target and such. It was quite an adventure in Target.
My siblings scurried off and we had the whole staff at Target searching for them and calling for them on large intercoms that went through the whole store, except, evidently, the sections that they were in, because they just didn't know that when they called their names on the intercom, they were referring to them, and not some other people with the same names.
We found them a half an hour later, and luckily they were fine, just looking at electronics. We even had the camera guy contact the manager. It was intense.
After wreaking havoc on the whole store, we bought some miniature shampoo bottles and bug sprays for my trip, which is only 2 days away! We also found Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars, which are really a treat - original ice cream made from all-natural ingredients (chocolate, please) covered in a rich dark chocolate blanket of goodness and sparkles - and it's frozen. I also found a new fancy camera that I would like. It's fancier than my other one, but I still love that one. I'm taking it with me to capture the wonder of Costa Rica.

And the best part was at the checkout counter - they had vintage Tide detergent bottles - at least 35 - on display. I even took a stupid picture of myself with it. My brother got a picture with them too. Vintage detergent is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
And as we were leaving, I was so enraptured by the fancy camera that I left the money we got from pet sitting - thirty dollars - in Target. So I had to run back to Target and run through the aisles to find it. And luckily I found it after asking the same camera guy who assisted my wandering siblings. He probably thinks we're freaks now. And he's not wrong.
Life is about the small, quick, and seemingly insignificant things that give us a short but intense burst of pure, raw joy. Things like vintage detergent bottles, ice cream bars, and sprinting through stores like a freak. Things like that, the things that give us joy, are found in everyday life. You just have to look hard enough to find them.

19 June 2011

to my dad

On mother's day, I made a post called "to my mom". So today, I'm making a post called "to my dad".
But if my dad was in my position, this post would be completely different. He lost his dad when he was just a kid and he had to take over and become the man of the house. And now he's a vice president, a soccer team manager, a hockey coach, a domestic traveler, an avid gardener/landscaper, a sports (hockey) fan, and my dad.
He's not home often because he has to travel (hence the "domestic traveler" in the list) for work, but when he's not traveling, coaching, or working, he's with me, my mom, and my brother and sister. And today was a great day because we got to spend time with him, and since he's not here that often, every moment counts.
Even though he's home a lot less than most of my friend's dads, I still have a dad and he's a great one - the best. He gives up everything for us. He gives up a life so he can work for us, and in his free time he coaches and helps us be better people.
I've been reading a lot of those "what my dad taught me" lists, so I thought I would compile some of the things he's taught me.

  1. Sit up straight - remember your posture! My dad is big into posture, and sometimes it's a little ridiculous (i.e. an airport official thanked him for his military service even though he's not in the military, based on his posture and stature), but it's true; I know a girl who had such bad scoliosis that she had to ave 2 rods and 17 screws put into her back.

  2. Go brush your teeth. He's also an avid tooth brusher - like 4 or 5 times a day; the man probably spends 20 minutes everyday brushing his teeth. But his teeth are perfect, and just like the posture thing, he's in better shape than most people his age. Actually all of the people his age - and younger. Take care of your body, because it's the only one you get. And a lot of people need to take that advice.

  3. Work hard, don't slack off, and do your best. My dad has always had to work hard, and he works really hard everyday for me, my family, and other people. Hard work is how you achieve what you want to achieve in the world, and it's how you get to where you want to be.

  4. Speak up (aka "don't be a doormat"). A lot of times I don't speak up for myself if I have a problem. But he says that the only way to make things happen, or to get what you want, is to speak up for yourself and don't let people step on you. And it works; you need to have respect for yourself and people will have respect for you.

  5. Believe in what you do. Have faith in your abilities, and trust that you are good at what ever you do.

Thanks, Pa. I love you.

18 June 2011

family love

Tomorrow is Father's Day, and as you might notice, people don't make as much of a fuss about this celebratory day as they do about Mother's Day. Why, I don't know; I don't write the rules. But nevertheless I think that moms and dads are equally important for different reasons, and dads still have to be appreciated for who they are.
While you might think I am a studious person all the time, I do my fair share of celebrity gossip foolishness, mostly as I log into my email on Yahoo. So I was looking at a celebrity dad photo album with a bunch of famous dads in there, like Will Smith and David Beckham. And I was reading the comments, the corny, the rude, the nice, the ugly, and rarely, the thought-provoking.
I found one that said "enjoy your kids. They grow up so fast."
It might be obvious and somewhat trite and corny, but if you look past the corny-ness you can see that it's true both ways - we grow up fast so we have to enjoy our parents.
Moments like everyday life don't come again, and time is precious. Enjoy the company of each other today, because it might not be there forever.

17 June 2011

the legit ovation

Only 30 more posts until I reach 200!
Just thought we'd start out today with a little statistic - pretty exciting! That's really the only type of statistic you'll get here, because I don't do math.
But anyway, you might remember a couple months ago when I posted about the time I had a sitting ovation in AP lang because of my somewhat stellar essay. Well today, I got a real standing ovation.
I got a little award at practice today for filling in for the girl in the race last night and for winning, and in addition my coach said, "and let's give her a hand!" and everyone stood up and it was rather humbling.
Things like that are things that people who receive them, like me, really appreciate. So if you know someone who does something stellar, just shy of stellar, or beyond stellar, do something more than a half-hearted "wow!" and a muffled, generic "great job!". Because it makes them feel great and it makes you feel like a great person, which you are, because then it leaves you and the other feeling warm and fuzzy.
Sitting or standing, ovations are nice.

16 June 2011

every ripple counts

Today was the most epic swim meet ever. And I am going to tell you all about it.
So our opponents were these fierce, crazy people who have been swimming since they were born. We're pretty good, but they were really intense. I mean, they were tough competition. And our coach said that we had never beat them ever, in the history of our swim team. But he said we could do it tonight. And he was right.
We beat the other team by less than 10 points, and my coach was talking to us at the end and he said that when I won the 50 free (I just filled in for someone else who was lost coming from college orientation), we got 5 points. And it made me think that every person really does matter. Because I only won by out-touching the person next to me. If I didn't do that, and maybe someone else didn't put in their best effort, we could have lost, and we would have been sad.
But that's how it is. Every little millisecond counts that much. Because I could have just said, well, I'm a little tired, I'll just glide into the wall. But I remembered that in the Olympics, Sports Illustrated makes thousands of dollars on spreads of photo finishes, like Michael Phelps in the 2008 100 fly. That was epic.
But really, everything you do counts in some way, even if you think it doesn't. These blog posts are really just small pieces of the puzzle. They are really small and insignificant by themselves, but put together, it's 365 posts! And those mosaic picture things that are made up of smaller pictures (it's hard to explain).
Don't discount what you do, and don't put forth anything less than your best. Because I did my best, and thankfully it was good enough. A small win for a big win, a small ripple for a big wave.

15 June 2011

here's to us

Today the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks to win the Stanley Cup. The last time the Bruins won was 1972, which was rather a long time ago.
We are hockey people in my family, especially my dad. I played hockey, my sister plays, and ironically my brother doesn't play. But needless to say, this was important to watch, even though no one really watches hockey here unless you're a hockey person.
The win wasn't like a 3-2 with 7 seconds left; it was a 4-0 with the last goal shot with about 5 minutes left. Tim Thomas didn't let anything by; that man literally is the god of Boston right now.
Sometimes people don't believe in Boston, i.e. the Red Sox before 2004. Sometimes we don't seem like the victorious team, but tonight is just to prove those non-believers wrong. And sometimes it's hard to stand by your team when they lose year after year. But my dad did for most of his life, and he got to see what he thought he never would.
This win is not just for the team; it's for all of Boston and all of its fans around the country and the globe. We believed. And we still believe. And every Bruins fan right now is basking in the glory.
Here's to the Bruins. Here's to Boston. Here's to us.

14 June 2011


Yet another post dedicated to the magic that Twitter can work..
A lot of times on Twitter, other than my tweets from the World Food Programme and Teach for America, which are all about saving the world, there are gossipy things and trending topics about celebrities, movies, and other trivial things. Nothing in mainstream twitter is really important or meaningful, save a few hashtags, i.e. #prayforjapan, but today I found another exception:
Then you fill in the implied blank.
SO I found a few good ones that I want to share with you. They are not directly referenced to the twitter account from which they came, and some are paraphrased, and preceding the ". . ." is the hashtag #imhappiestwhen.

. . . I can enjoy people's company and everyone is laughing and having a good time.

. . . I get to eat ice cream.

. . . my parents are proud of me.

. . . I've accomplished a goal by working hard.

. . . I am around my friends.

. . . I travel somewhere new.

. . . I know that everyone I love is happy.

. . . The weather is beautiful.

. . . My kids do something selfless for someone else.

. . . I'm with inspiring and optimistic people.

. . . Summer is here.

. . . I make other people happy.

These are just some of the nice things that people tweeted under this hashtag. And I'm happiest when I can see the good in humanity; like today. At the mall (I rarely go to the mall, it's sort of sleazy), I was getting pizza and meatballs from Sbarro (it's the best). But my drink could not fit on the tray so I had to leave it and walk to the table and bring it back later. But the lady behind me got out of line and brought the rest of my food to the table and smiled. It was a small gesture, but it really made me happy because I was glad that someone would do that for me. When are you happiest?

13 June 2011

home remedies

I follow Life is Good (@LifeisGood, for you fellow tweeters) on Twitter. Practically everything they tweet is retweetable. But today I found a really swell tweet from them, so here it goes: Humor is the shock absorber on the road of life.
Isn't that utterly wonderful? I think it is. And it is so utterly true.
When you think about it, the thing that usually gets us out of a sad and depressed state is something funny. Well, maybe not something funny, but something a little humorous. Whether it's a sardonic poem that might be "hysterical" or a mindless episode of Spongebob, humor is a wonderful thing.
Obviously it makes you feel good because of the chemicals it releases. But humor also encourages you to be with other people; normally people don't just sit in a corner and watch a comedy movie - they'll invite their friends. And who doesn't like to tell a funny story? Laughing brings people together. And unfortunately so does sadness.
But anyway, it also makes things seem not as bad as they are, or might seem at the time. It forces you to laugh, which makes you loosen up and forget about your problems, at least for a little while.
Whenever I'm sad, watching a funny movie or a funny show makes me feel better immediately. Better than any medicine.

12 June 2011

two homes

One of the nice benefits to having Facebook is that you can market yourself and what you do, like if you are a businessperson or a blogger. So every night after blogging I post my post to my wall so that people can read it. Hopefully they do, but hey it's cool if they don't. This is really for me, I don't really blog for any specific person.
So when I was on Facebook tonight, I saw a comment from my friend that said she was glad to be home, and I'm assuming it's from vacation. And it got me thinking about the idea of home. Everyone always says that home is where the heart is; where you come back to when you are done exploring the world, where you come when you need a home-cooked meal or a boost of spirits. It's the place that keeps you grounded.
My home is Massachusetts, and it always will be. It's where everything is. And five years ago, I never accepted this as a home. We would go back to our house, but it wasn't home. But gradually, it became home. And the cool thing is, sometimes I like this home more than the other one, and sometimes I like my original home more than here. But I still have both of them, and I still connect just as much to both of them. And not a lot of people can say they have so many places that are so familiar to them. It makes the world seem smaller when you have two places to retreat to that feel equally as cozy.
Before we moved here I really didn't want to come here. The first two years we were here, even though I slowly started to like it, I wanted to move back. But now I like it here, and I have two homes. Which is really cool. I'm luckier than a lot of people who say that they don't have a real place they call home.
Also, I said that on the 165th post I would give you a small surprise. Well, I decided that I was going to miss blogging after this "project" was finished, and I decided I don't have to stop. I am going to stop this blog when the time comes, because one, a writer, like an artist, knows when to stop, and two, because the best things in life are things that are fleeting and going to part soon. If things were always going to be there, we wouldn't love them as much.
But, what is going to happen is a new blog. I already created it, but you can't see it yet. Sorry. It is going to be a blog about stories and inspiration, almost like this but taking it in a new direction. I can't just do the same thing all the time. It's going to start sometime in the future (obviously, it can't really start sometime in the past), and it will be the first blog in which I don't post every day. It's going to be light and sparing; I'll post every Wednesday night (here's why: every other day is taken - Monday is the first day of the week, and my inspiration will really mean nothing to people who are grumpy at the start of the week; Tuesday just soaks up the extra glum from Monday; Thursday is too close to Friday; Friday is Friday, so everyone who has a life will ignore my post; Saturday is the weekend, and weekends are off-limits, which also kicks out Sunday. So there you have it.). Plus people can use a pick-me-up on Wednesdays, right in the middle of the week.
So stay on the lookout for details about blog project number three!

11 June 2011


Today was the last of the standardized tests. Well at least for now. It was ACT time today, which was a nice break from the SAT; something fun to shake things up. It was a fun way to spend one's morning.
After the test it was completely stagnant and dead outside. There was no noise at all. I was waiting for my mom to pick me up from school. I was waiting for about 15 minutes and I noticed how uncomfortably quiet it was. But then it became really nice. All you could hear were the small chirps of the birds, barely disturbing the rhythmic waves of silence. It was different from everyday life - there is noise all over the place. Here is a small list of the many banal places we go to everyday that have noise: the grocery store, the movie theatre, the frozen yogurt place, the dentist, the post office, Home Depot, the bathroom, the airport, and the warehouse. Even libraries are filled with slow churning of heaters and inner pipes and the awkward noise of children turning book pages.
But when I was outside for that brief period, there was no man-made noise. No cars. No other people but me. No yelling or music. Just me, the static, humid air, and nature. I could think my thoughts. And I felt inspired to write this post. And I've kept it in mind all day, just thinking about those quiet moments in the humidity.
It's a great way to dump out all of the foolishness that clutters your head and accumulates over days, weeks, months, years, etc. Sometimes, while we love society, we have to get away from it sometimes and think our own thoughts. Then we can really be energized to be contributing members to the world. That's how stress builds up and tears people down.
Don't crash and burn because of stress; do a little bit of what Thoreau did and get outta town.

10 June 2011

cottages and fields of daisies

I felt that my posts have been losing a lot of the originality that they started out with, and I'm sorry that they had to lose their spunk with time. I guess things just got crazier and I just lost inspiration. I've been jumping back and forth between tabs and I really haven't devoted time, individual time, to each post. So, with a refreshed mind, I recommence.
I've been thinking about the weather lately since I went to that sorting warehouse and helped move boxes and reorganize clothes and other donations. I'm not one of those people who scoffs at the outlandishness of global warming, and it's not a myth or some sort of Democratic Party platform idea. It's very much real, and I think that the tsunami and earthquakes in Japan, the tornadoes in Joplin and Tuscaloosa, and even Hurricane Katrina 5 years ago are because of global warming. Those tectonic plates are busy a-movin' and it's because of increased climactic temperatures.
Alright, enough of my novice meteorology. Time for what I'm getting to.
So all over the country, and the world, the weather has destroyed towns, lives, and countries. And even though it's been over 100 degrees a lot of the time here, it's nowhere near as bad as in other places. We go to the pool and we get to enjoy some really nice weather and we get to retire to our perfect little cottage (it's really not a cottage, but cottages convey a more quintessential level of perfection) amidst the fields of daisies and roses (we don't have daisies or roses actually). But we are never usually plagued with anything dangerous, and, knock on wood (I am a pretty superstitious freak), we have never felt the wrath of nature at its worst, and I'm thankful for that.
So get outside and enjoy that beauty, because one day it's great and the next day it's horrible. Heidi Klum says the same thing about fashion designs (I just watched this huge Project Runway marathon, hence, well yeah.)

09 June 2011

indiana jones and the boxes

Today was probably the most productive summer day so far. I actually did things that were important.
First, I went to a swim meet. Actually I did this second. It was pretty exciting because I almost missed my event and it was a relay, but I made it just in time like Indiana Jones. Talk about a win. But before that I volunteered at the warehouse.
It was actually a not very sketch warehouse; rather upscale as warehouses go. And me and my sister helped sort through almost a hundred huge industrial boxes of donations for the Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornado victims. It was actually a lot of fun. We found all sorts of interesting items that people threw out, including, but not limited to: glitter, Q-tips (not in a box), dirty dishes (yes, it's true), an empty vodka bottle (...), newspapers, lingerie (another "..."), and the like. But there were some actually nice things too, like storage units, nice clothes, and bedding. And we had to sort through everything, every box, and put it into other boxes that organized the items more.
We donate a lot of stuff too, and I always think that all the items we donate just magically make their way to the places they need to be at, and that they don't need to be sorted. But there is a lot of work that goes into making sure that every donated item gets a place to go. And that is a lot more work than I thought.
It really gave me a perspective about volunteering too. Not only do you have to donate these things, but we have to do a lot of work to get the things to these people whose homes and towns have been ruined. It's a lot more intense than you would think. I might go back soon and help them finish sorting because there were so many boxes. Think 5 feet deep, about 4.5 feet around. That's how big each box is, filled with anything and everything. And we have to go through all of them. But it was nice to help people out and know that the shirt you are holding in your hands, throwing into a box to get sorted, will end up with someone who might have lost their family in the tornado, and that shirt means more to them than anything at the moment.
And plus we got to work in a cool warehouse.

08 June 2011

the ultimate

I just read the most inspirational blog ever.
You really should read some of it, and luckily I have posted a link to it right about here. It's a blog written by a girl who is around my age, which is interesting because that's like me. And ironically, she is writing about a bucket list that she has too (funny because I just wrote about bucket lists!).
The difference between us is that she has terminal cancer and she's not sure how much longer she will be here.
But she is blogging and writing uplifting things and barely focusing on her sickness. Reading it makes me feel horrible for ever thinking my life is really hard. My life's not hard. Sometimes there are struggles, but my life really isn't that hard.
Some of the things on this girl's list are things she can't do, like become a dolphin trainer and go to Kenya, but some of them are things she can do. Here are some of her things: entering her dog in a dog show, have a private party at the movies with her best friends, go whale watching, have a purple iPad, swim with sharks, and have everyone sign up to be a bone marrow donor.
Just think if you had one day left; what would you do on that day? Who would you spend it with? What would you do to make it the best day ever?
That's the attitude behind this girl's blog. And the only thing you can feel from her, even though she has terminal cancer, is that she is going to do the things on her bucket list.
And even more special, the things that people are doing to make sure those things get fulfilled. Anonymous comments that tell her that they have called their friends who know people who can coordinate some of her wishes. People who have pledged to donate bone marrow. People have even shared email correspondences from people showing that they can make her bucket list items happen.
Now that is the ultimate bucket list. I hope that she can check everything off of her list.

07 June 2011

it's all in the bucket

As you know, my Sunday mornings go something like this: stroll out of bed and fumble down the stairs, remember that it's Sunday, and immediately walk over to find Parade. Usually it's not that interesting, so I don't know why I read it. But I do, and there was a feature in there about bucket lists.
And in case you're not as trendy as me and you don't know what a bucket list is (I actually just found out because that is how hip I am), it's a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket (HA! isn't that the best pun you have ever heard?). I compiled my own list. This is actually from a little while ago, with a few things infused from my improvisational mind. Well here goes:

  1. Go traveling to at least one country from each continent - So far, I've done North America and Europe. I am also thinking about doing an expedition to Antarctica for a little science research, if I go on the biology path in college. But I also plan on traveling a lot anyways.

  2. Learn a new language - I already know English and French, but I want to learn another; perhaps Italian, German, Dutch, or Swahili.

  3. Become a National Geographic photographer - and travel the world taking pictures! What's better than that?

  4. Buy a kayak - and then sail around obscure places in my little kayak while listening to hippie music.

  5. Design my own house - I'm no Martha Stewart, but I do watch a fair amount of HGTV so I could design something rather smashing and then live in it.

  6. Write a bill/go to Congress with an issue - probably something hunger-related or animal rights-related.

  7. Go on a pilgrammage - I don't know where and to what extent, but it will be done.

  8. Work for Pixar - I don't think there's a Pixar movie I haven't seen, including the short films.

  9. See the Northern Lights - and get some really amazing pictures of them. I'll be bringing at least 2 memory cards up to the poles.

  10. Join the Peace Corps, Teach for America, or something of that nature - and come back completely transformed.

  11. Buy a house in Nahant, MA or Cape Cod or Nantucket - Yeah, that's the life.

  12. Teach someone - whether it's a teacher in another country or just showing someone the way.

  13. Learn how to play piano and guitar - and other instruments so I can really be the well-rounded entertainer at parties.

  14. Go to a Red Sox vs. Yankees game - and watch the Yankees get pummeled by my Sox.
And that my friends is my bucket list. What's yours? Think abou the things that you really want to do and do them.
By the way, sorry if the spell checker doesn't fix problems involving the U key. I might need that key looked at because it usually doesn't work.
And also, according to Urban Dictionary, "bucket list" comes from "kick the bucket", so my pun is really much more underwhelming than you think.

06 June 2011

physics works for people too

This entire post just deleted itself. Life is really great. So here is the post, typed out for a second time.
I was logging into Blogger when I saw something that caught my eye: the Bowls Half Full campaign logo. I realized I haven't been paying much attention to WFP news or really any of that news for the matter because I have been too busy doing, well, school and tests. But now that school is over I can focus on it again.
So I have shown you the part about donating your money. But are there other ways to get involved? Of course. You knew that was coming. What if I said "no". Then the post would just be over. But no I have more things to tell you!
Hungerfast.org is a wonderful organization of people that are dedicated to fasting and prayer to help raise awareness. It was started by a guy, Tony Hall, who was a congressman that did not believe the government should make such heavy budget cuts to humanitarian organizations trying to help hungry people here and abroad. He fasted for 22 days.
That's almost a month.
But the interesting thing about this is that it works on a personal level; it helps build empathy through first-hand experience, something that watching poverty on TV can't do.
I challenge you to try what they are doing - but you don't have to be as extreme at Congressman Hall. You can give up a meal a day, a meal a week, or even spend as little as $2 less on your food per day or week. It can make you think twice about how much you have.
Netwon's third law of motion was that every action creates an equal reaction. If you act, you can cause a reaction in Congress, in the country, and in the world. Physics can apply to people too.

05 June 2011


I was going to name this post "baby steps", but I think "milestones" works better.
Well, I consider myself the nonconformist. In fact, I get mad when things get popular because then I can't like them and I have to feel original. So something monumental happened today.
I got a Facebook.
It's true. I even put up a semi-attractive picture of myself. I've been on Twitter for 2 years, but that's ok because it's less popular than Facebook. Everyone in the world is on Facebook so I felt like I shouldn't get one.
Now, like 4 and a half years after everyone else got theirs, I got mine. Now I'm the really uncool freak who has no idea what's going on. But that's ok, because doing things we are not very excited about doing is good for us.
It's important to take big steps, because then the little steps won't seem so hard. I wouldn't really consider this a milestone, but it's pretty big I guess.
Well, now if you need to find me, and you can't through me email, my 11 websites (yes, I manage 11), or my Twitter, I am now on Facebook. You're welcome.

04 June 2011

it's on you

I found this great website that is working on a graphic design project to spread peace, remedies to problems, public awareness, and good sentiments in all different ways. Here was one of the posters I found in the website:

There are so many, you should check them out. There might be many problems in the world, but there are many people who make good propaganda like this to get people excited to change.
People who are willing to be the change make me happy for the future. Will you join them?

03 June 2011

so much for surprises

Today is one of those says when I come to you without anything to write. I have not a topic to focus on, or an inspiration for the night.
I did however go out to dinner with my friends for my other friend's surprise birthday party. The thing is, the person who we were throwing the party for didn't come because he was sick. And unfortunately my brother is sick too. I guess this climate change thing doesn't go over well with some folks.
We were at probably my favorite restaurant ever though, so it was fine. We actually had a really fun time even though no one was there to actually have a party for anyone.
So I guess sometimes things don't work out, but I guess it's not all that bad.
Tomorrow I have the SAT subject tests, which is always a fun time, and I have to make sure I get really good scores so I can win at life. But for right now, I'm going to review so molecular biology while you read my senseless blog. Again, I apologize for the lameness. However, I do have a special surprise that I will unveil at the 165th blog post - only 200 left until the finish!

02 June 2011


Summer in Georgia is like winter in Massachusetts. You don't go outside unless you are going to stay cool or stay warm (in MA) and you don't go outside unless you have to. Today was the first summer swim team meet and it was well over 100 degrees. The problem is that we only swim for about 5 minutes and the rest is dying in the heat. And the mom volunteers (well, really it's more like mandatory military duty to your team) don't even get to go swimming - they just bake in their own sweat.
We got to the oven (the parking lot) at 4pm, which is without a doubt the worst time of day to be outside. And no one was sweating. I think perhaps our family has a sweating problem because no one - all of the kids wearing shirts and hats and their hair falling in their faces were not sweating but the kid without a shirt (don't worry I was wearing a swim suit) and with her hair out of her face - me - could feel the concrete melting onto the bottom of my suit. Fun times.
Then the smoke from the grill wafted into our bullpen and it just added to the heat and smog. I literally thought I was going to pass out on the melting concrete. Right in the middle of the meet.
And the water in the pool isn't even cold. It's like bath water. Which isn't too refreshing. But that's ok. Because summer swim meets, with their sweltering heat, children grafitti-ed with "eat my bubbles" on their tan backs, and the pyscho coaches, make the summer feel more like summer.
What would summer be without all those unforgettable memories? I mean, the old swim team I was on only had about 40 people on it, and because of our size, we lost every meet we ever went to. We were even 19th place out of 19 teams at the championship meet. But it's really not about winning, and I know I'm going to sound like the underdog coach who just says having fun is the most important thing, but really, it is - the memories I have are of having fun swimming, not of winning (not that our team did a whole lot of that, but there was this one time when no one came to my meet and I won every event I was in and no one saw it except my coaches).
Next time something comes up, try to not remind yourself of winning. Remind yourself of the fun that you are missing by worrying about winning.

For the record, we did win this meet. Our relay dominated.

01 June 2011

utter bliss

Summer has finally come. In fact, CNN has an article to prove it: "100+ degrees in Georgia". As if this was news.
All of these memories of summer just come back when school is over: the smell of the chlorine on your skin, the fact that your face is clear and in great shape, the fact that you're tan and not pasty, hearing the same six songs being played on loop at the pool, and seeing all the tennis moms not sweating while they're playing tennis in the 100+ heat that we have here in Georgia.
It's that wonderful laid-back lifestyle, that "well, it didn't happen today,but it can happen tomorrow" attitude. Even with summer reading - you have until the first day of school. That's it. It's really not a very rough life.
This may seem a little shallow, but I'm liking this "whatever" attitude. It's pretty great after a really exhausting year.
But don't worry, I still have things to do. SAT subject tests coming on Saturday!