Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rolling solo roadtrip

Before I started my new job a few months ago I took a week to drive to the Grand Canyon. I stopped when I wanted, ate what I wanted, slept when I wanted, left when I wanted. It was great. Traveling alone on the road was a revelation - I've been on business trips alone before, but road trips have always been with family or friends. There are a lot of advantages to speak of when you allow yourself the power to only think of yourself and your needs, but you sacrifice the joy of sharing adventures with the people you love. Also, you can't take a break from driving. 

I stopped in Mona, Utah, where my grandmother was born and spent her childhood on a chicken farm. The Young Living Family Farm was beautiful. Bought a $6 lavender plant which died a few weeks later. Then I went to Fillmore, where I went to the state museum and had a milkshake at a local dive. Finally got to St. George, spending a few restful days inside (it was 112 degrees outside) with one short hike and a visit to Brigham Young's winter home, and then headed to the Grand Canyon. It was AMAZING! Pictures really just don't do it justice. I made some friends from Chicago, who let me camp with them overnight, then I headed back to St. George to shower and rest from my hiking blisters with a few Swig cookies. My last day before heading home I made a stop at the Pizza Factory - a bread twist and a Dr. Pepper, which made me very happy. 

Ultimately, I think a solo road trip is worth repeating somewhere else, but I missed my family enough that it probably won't happen very often. 

Oh yeah, except for the whole moving to Thailand thing. 

I was going to caption and organize all my pictures, but I'll just let you browse and enjoy instead. :)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Curve balls

Whew. The last 5 months have been...interesting. A kind of metaphor has been running through my head for awhile now: when life throws you a curve ball and it hits you right in the face, it hurts and you are bruised and angry, but it helps you realize you were playing the wrong game the whole time. Baseball is boring and there are probably some sports you will like much better.

The Peace Corps contacted me in April to let me know that I wasn't given final medical clearance to serve in Mongolia because a staff member who made it possible for me to be posted there had just left. No way to get around it - they have very strict rules on medical care, which is a good thing until it screws up your life plans. So there I was, having sold my home, given notice at my job, and basically packed my parka to head to Mongolia in a month. With no guarantee I'd be placed anywhere else, I had a few weeks of panicked nail-biting, praying that I would get an invitation to serve in another country.

After 6 months spent learning Mongolian, reading books, buying supplies for freezing winters, and watching documentaries on nomads and camels, it all went away. No more Mongolia.

At least I could stay at my job for a bit longer, right? Nope. I was informed that because my resignation had already been accepted and they had started the hiring process for someone else, I wouldn't be able to keep working there beyond my original leave date. Feeling alternately shocked, hurt, betrayed, angry, and bitter, I couldn't believe that after 5 years at a job that was often thankless and frustrating, I would have to leave. It wasn't the way I wanted to finish something that had been such a big part of my life for so long - I had actually been a bit excited to have more time to develop the job before someone else took over. Ultimately, it was just another lesson learned the hard way that your best efforts sometimes aren't enough, and that the things and people you think you can trust won't always be there for you.

I'm a 28 year-old with a part-time job and no health insurance living with my parents. Not where I thought I'd be.

But things are good. Not ideal, but pretty darn good. I've had the time and opportunity to work with several nonprofits where I feel valued and respected - and where I am inspired. The kinds of things I'm doing now - teaching dance classes to children at the YWCA, developing refugee women's community groups, planning charity events to raise money for school programs at the United Way - I am really happy doing. There are challenges everywhere, but I am meeting truly amazing people who are passionate about what they do and want to make the world better. So it turns out that I've found a different sport I'm good at, which I really enjoy.

I received another invitation from the Peace Corps to serve in Thailand as a Teacher Collaborator and Community Facilitator, departing January 8, 2016. Letting go of Mongolia and having to wait another 7 months to leave was a blow - but so far, if there's anything I've learned about life hitting you in the face, it is that getting beaten up is sometimes the best thing that can happen to you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Oh, Mexico

My grandparents are awesome and took us all on a cruise to celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary. Not all of the family could make it, and there was a bit of drama, but overall it was a fun trip and I made some great memories to take with me to Mongolia. I just have to get over the devastation of learning that I snore now.

The Church of our Lady of Guadalupe, Puerto Vallarta
 The Seahorse is Puerto Vallarta's "mascot"
Every good McDonald girl stops at Diamonds International. Wouldn't be a cruise without some jewelry to take home.

Cliff diver in Mazatlan

Lover's Beach, Cabo San Lucas

Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas

 And also most of my favorite people on the ship:

Playing Scrabble Slam and Scattergories with my overly competitive family
Watching the "macho" competition between 2 gay guys at a folk show in Mazatlan
Seeing my grandma cry over the lovely scrapbook my mom made for her
Late nights chatting in Brandon and Kiley's room
Haggling over jewelry prices for my mom and sister
Spending two hours watching a mother humpback whale train her baby to jump and flap his tail on the water
Sitting next to Dallin at dinner and seeing him slap my uncle's face when he said he ate Dallin's ice cream
Jared making it to 20 milkshakes by the end
Making friends with our waitress Smilja from Serbia (she said to call her "Smiley")
Hearing Erin call our steward "Appelini" when his name was really Appolonio
Making Grandpa laugh when he was grumpy waiting for the elevator
My mom bringing back Maracas for my niece and having her get mad that Grandma brought her "baby rattles"
Hanging with Jared, who is just as sweet as a teenager as he was as a kid

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they?"
-Virginia Woolf

Hubble Sees A Smiling Lens

In the center of this image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 — and it seems to be smiling. You can make out its two orange eyes and white button nose. In the case of this “happy face”, the two eyes are very bright galaxies and the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing.

Galaxy clusters are the most massive structures in the Universe and exert such a powerful gravitational pull that they warp the spacetime around them and act as cosmic lenses which can magnify, distort and bend the light behind them. This phenomenon, crucial to many of Hubble’s discoveries, can be explained by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
In this special case of gravitational lensing, a ring — known as an Einstein Ring — is produced from this bending of light, a consequence of the exact and symmetrical alignment of the source, lens and observer and resulting in the ring-like structure we see here.

Hubble has provided astronomers with the tools to probe these massive galaxies and model their lensing effects, allowing us to peer further into the early Universe than ever before. This object was studied by Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) as part of a survey of strong lenses.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

the world goes on

Wild Geese 
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mini Erin.

I just can't get over how much Erin and Elsie look alike as babies. Sometimes I am just so perplexed and amazed that humans are capable of creating a mini person - a bundle of all these crazy bits of genes that we are just now starting to understand. 

Last week I visited my oldest sister and her family in Pacific Grove and we went to the Tech Museum in San Jose. There was a whole exhibit devoted to the Human Genome Project, and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed my AP Biology class in high school. As a hopeful 16 year-old, for about 20 minutes I thought of becoming a scientist to work with genetics...and then remembered that numbers and codes and formulas just aren't my thing. But what those numbers make - what each tiny piece of invisible DNA inside us can mean,  and the larger implications of it all - still fascinates me.

Like how such a small percentage of our DNA goes into making us look different from one another, but that the majority of our genetic code is the same for the whole human species. Which means that fundamentally, race or ethnicity is not a genetic construct, but rather a social one - in which we ourselves attach so much significance to skin color or the shape of our eyes that we group ourselves by differences. Differences that, in the larger scheme of things, are absolutely miniscule in comparison to our similarities.

Monday, February 2, 2015

all of us