Monday, January 31

Bits of blue sky

This past year I've become an avid blog reader and I'm glad I've chosen to keep this blog alive, even if I'm finding it difficult to develop a blogging rhythm!  

Sadly Auburn has lost its homeness.  Despite my efforts and good intentions since coming back from Australia, it has become a waiting room, a departure lounge of sorts, and I don't feel like I do much of note.  But I'm not giving up! I'm very busy during the week with classes, work, and my newfound love of exercise.  (I left exercise out of my 2011 goals, which seems to have helped spur me on, oddly enough.)  And speaking of goals - it's not easy taking a photo every day!  Especially with my cell phone camera.  I go to the same places, at the same times, day after day and am lacking in inspiration, too.  This week I want to post a few photos I've taken and spend some time planning the next couple of weeks' worth of photos, so I'll have a specific idea each morning.  

This cool photography project incorporates two of my favorite things, travel and bubbles:  World Landmarks Reflected in Bubbles by Tom Storm. Check out all ten of the photos. City Hall in Philadelphia and Neptune's Fountain in Poland are amazing!

 Windmills - Copenhagen, Denmark

Auburn's Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is currently hosting a film series called Southern Outsiders.  The series consists of six films about what it means to be an outsider in the South.  This past week I saw the screening of "Cool Hand Luke" starring Gene Kelley - I'm sure some of you have seen it.  It's a prison movie, kind of a 1960s Shawshank Redemption.  I recommend it, as well as "True Grit," which I saw last night.  I love the soundtrack and the different arrangements of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.

It's past 2am and I've finished my cinnamon toast and tea.  Mmmm.  Happy Monday!

Wednesday, January 26

Wednesday morning

1.  A boy offered me his seat on the transit, and it made my morning.  Especially because it was cold and rainy outside.

1a.  When will I start referring to male peers as men?  

2.  Auburn keeps sending me emails about study abroad programs.  Costa Rica, Shanghai, England, Tanzania, etc.  Study abroad opportunities have definitely increased since 2006.  And, this year the university introduced an alternative student break program.  These are both good things.

3.  Something nice I read by D.H. Lawrence:

Behind all the dancing was a vision, and even a science of life, a conception of the universe and man's place in the universe which made men live to the depth of their capacity.

4.  Regular blenders cannot crush chickpeas.  This weekend I'm buying a food processor.  

Monday, January 24

To be of use

by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cried for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Sunday, January 23

Whatever is lovely

Spring isn't my favorite season, and I enjoy wearing boots and scarves.  But today I'm looking forward to warmer weather.  And this photo is lovely and encouraging.

Wednesday, January 19

Serious family travel

First of all, I am tired.  Two hours in the classroom, thirty minutes at the grocery store, one hour in the kitchen (making pumpkin turkey chili, it was tasty), and nine hours at work.  Whew.  I had a nice chat with a doctor while I prepared his espresso beverage.  He kept asking me questions and finally discovered that my family had lived overseas for awhile.

Him: Aha!  I thought you seemed... like you had been places.

Me: Haha, really, what do you mean?    

Him:  Your accent is very neutral.  You also carry yourself differently.  

Me: Would you like whipped cream on your mocha?

In all seriousness, it was a good conversation.  The doctor had some wise and encouraging words re: careers and life.

Second of all, check out this brief interview with the Redpaths, a family of four who embarked on a year-long round the world adventure in 2009. 

Traveling long term with kids must take unusual amounts of patience and guts.  But I'll bet it's extra rewarding... Read more about this family on their website.  The intro video makes me want to take my nonexistent kids across the world, too.

Tuesday, January 18

Try new things: Pilates

Today I tried a new thing:  Pilates.  

An unverified Wikipedia article says that "the Pilates method seeks to increase the strength, flexibility, and control of the body."  The "core" is emphasized a lot.  Basically your abs are continuously flexed throughout the workout.  I really enjoyed my first 50 minute session.  It was relaxing, different, and I could feel my body being worked.  (And I looked around during certain exercises... I wasn't alone in my inflexibility!)  

I found this image after searching for "pilates and outdoors."  This in Colorado.

Monday, January 17

MLK weekend

How was everyone's weekend?  I headed north with my parents to see some family and retrieve my piano from the Winfield house.  Our family's possessions are scattered across Alabama and Georgia and I'm trying to gather all my things in one place.  As I cleaned out my bedroom closet I found my favorite black shirt and a wall hanging from Tanzania!  It feels good to find things (and to get rid of things).

Today we had lunch in Birmingham at the Fish Market.  I had trout.  It was delicious.  I developed a love for trout in Wyoming this summer.  It may be my favorite fish.  On the way out I picked up Birmingham's free newspaper Black & White and found lots of good ideas for day trips around Alabama.  One of my unofficial goals this semester is to take advantage of Auburn and surrounding areas - to be a good traveler here.  The newspaper reminded me of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Crawfish Boil (hopefully I'll still be around for the latter).  And I was totally surprised to read about Tigers For Tomorrow.  Did you know there was a tiger reserve in the middle of Alabama?!  I certainly did not.

I've just discovered Tumblr, a micro-blogging site, and already love two or three photo blogs.  Today's favorite find:

I don't know where this is or who took the photo (maybe the author of The Cooling Twilight?), but I want this deck to be mine.  (If I had to guess, I'd say this is somewhere in Portgual.  But it looks like there's iced tea on the table.  Maybe a Southerner expat's house in Portugal?) 

Oh!  And PS - as I was cleaning out my closet I found an anthology of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches and writings!  What great timing.  I've wanted to read more MLK for a long time.  I'm trying to read one chapter a night before bed.

Saturday, January 15

Photos i dig: Argentina

I love this photo.  I visited Buenos Aires in 2007, but it rained the three days I was there.  This makes me want to go back!

Oooh, and this one!  Also in Argentina.

It's a beautiful Saturday morning.  I made coffee and pancakes and am in a fantastic mood.  Hope everyone enjoys their weekend!

Thursday, January 13

365 photos

Hello!  I've been working on turning my lofty 2011 goals into habits.  Resolutions are hard to keep!  But I'm slowly getting used to intentionally taking photos with my phone.  Here are my four favorite photo days from the past two weeks.

sunday, january 2: before church workout in the park.

monday, january 3: 
reading and swinging at another park. (we like parks.)

tuesday, january 11:  COLD.

wednesday, january 12: 
mmm, warm.  guatemala rug & christmas socks.

monday, january 10: a day that will live in infamy.

This little boy braved the screaming mob of college kids so he could proudly wave his victory sign in the very center of Toomer's Corner.  It's a miracle he wasn't trampled.  War damn eagle. More championship celebration photos to come.

Sunday, January 9

Books & dreams

It's a new year and I have dreams!  What are some of these dreams, you ask?

First: take a photo each day of 2011.  I've already missed a few days.  Oops.  But I'm not throwing in the towel yet.  Tomorrow I plan on waking up to a winter wonderland and fifteen hours later storming Toomer's Corner with thousands of other ecstatic Auburn fans.  Plenty of photo-taking opportunities.

Second:  DON'T BUY ANY BOOKS during 2011.  I mean it.  The only exception is if a book is required for school and it's not available to rent.  This goal will be difficult to achieve.

Third:  don't buy any clothes except from thrift stores.  That should be easy enough.

Fourth:  read the entire Bible.

Fifth: stay off Gmail and Facebook except for half an hour before breakfast and half an hour before bedtime.  I did well today.  My dear friend and roommate Shelley asked what I planned to do with all my Facebook-free time. I said I didn't know.  Read.  Think.  Sleep.  Write short stories.  Bake cupcakes.  (Probably the latter.)

Photo from this architecture Tumblr:
If I can't buy books, I reserve the right to post lots of beautiful bibliophilic book photos on my blog.

Friday, January 7

Measuring happiness

Another fun find from today: Good's infographic measuring "mean happiness" in thirteen countries.

I like this particularly because I just finished reading Eric Weiner's "The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for Happiest Places in the World."  Not the greatest book I've ever read but entertaining and occasionally thought provoking.  

I was finishing the chapter on Great Britain as I waited for Dave at the airport and a few minutes before he arrived I read,

Watching Brits shed their inhibitions is like watching elephants mate.  You know it happens, it must, but it's noisy as hell, and you can't help but wonder: is this something I really need to see?  

I laughed hard.  It's not "SO true!"... but as a generalization it's a little bit true :)

Untranslatable words

This morning I've been perusing my favorite travel writing sites and found this popular Matador article:  20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World.  Definitely worth checking out if you like words.

My two favorites:

Brazilian Portuguese – “The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.”


Inuit – “To go outside to check if anyone is coming.”  (I'm imagining a fur-clad head of household figure emerging from an igloo.)

Thursday, January 6

E3 Kids International

My best friend from Japan is working at Royal Kids School in Kenya for the next six weeks.  She spent lots of time in Kenya during college and now she's a full time employee of E3 Kids International.  I haven't talked to JoEllen in almost a year but this morning I saw her blog post on Facebook - she'll be posting a new photo of the students every day!  Today's photo is fun :)

Great minds thinks alike!  One of my 2011 goals is to complete the 365 photography project - I'll take one photo each day of the year.  I'll be relying on my average cell phone camera for the next few months... I might use some film if I can fix my Holga and Instax cameras.  But I'm hoping the project will improve my photography skills and get the creative juices flowing!  I'll share the results every Saturday.

Wednesday, January 5

Things we did in Guatemala

Happy two thousand and eleven!

Surprise, surprise - I didn't blog at all during the Christmas holidays.  Too busy eating obscene amounts of food and being happy!  I hope everyone had a great Christmas and is looking forward to this year.  I certainly am.  For the next seven days I'm having a "blog party" so to speak - one new blog post every day, maybe two or three!  Many posts will wrap up my Guatemala chapter, some will include lots of photos, and there'll be a few random posts as well.

First of all, straight out of my blog notebook:
Things we did in Guatemala.  Hannah and I's trip had its ups and downs.  We didn't have the experience we had expected.  One day I was grumpy and dwelling on the things we didn't accomplish, and I decided to list our positive, memorable, and/or noteworthy experiences to remind myself that yes, we had indeed seen and learned a lot!

Things we did in Guatemala
October - December 2010

- successfully chicken bussed from Antigua from Reu, leaping off at the Esquintla McDonald's just in time.

- almost panicked (but didn't) when we couldn't find cheap hostels in Reu; settled on
La Quinta in the central park; happily took cold showers and happily drank cold beers to escape the heat.

- the first camioneta to Nueva Alianza:  This bus is going to break down.  Why is everyone staring at me?  Oh my gosh, that woman has a plastic bag full of living adolescent chickens.

- eating dinner with Joel, Carlos, and Kevan during the first week at Nueva Alianza.  Broken Spanish conversations. How fun it was (initially).

- buying our Tigo internet stick in Antigua = a nightmare.  Realized how limited my Spanish skills were.

- first shopping trip in Reu = hot and overwhelming; unpleasant
mercado; no idea how much to pay for produce (I was so paranoid about people ripping me off because I was a gringa); woman steals our chicken and pancake mix.

- ... how good our first macaroni and cheese dinner was, even if it was third choice after chicken and pancakes.

freaked out after week one in Nueva Alianza; questioned my world view and life goals; received encouraging and practical thoughts from Dave on issues related to international development.

- learned to quickly - and without hesitation - light a gas stove (I'd struggled with this before, embarrassing but true).

- learned to wash my clothes in a

- ate and loved cauliflower torta (cauliflower cooked in a fried egg), arroz con leche, and the camioneta's wife's homemade tamales.

- read
Johnathan Franzen's "Freedom" and discussed it ALOT with Hannah (I recommend the book).

- impressed with
Earth Lodge's tree houses and their work with local schools (more about this later in the week).
- saw sea turtles dig nests and swim out to sea.

- LOVED swimming in the Pacific Ocean; usually I hate oceans, so this was a nice change.

cooked a substantial meal for thirteen people.

- volunteered at
La Festival de la Tortuga, Monterrico and Hawaii's second annual turtle festival.

- riding in the back of pick-up trucks = fun and now my preferred method of transportation.

- rode a boat, truck, and three busses
to Chichicastanango with Hannah and Amy and was really happy.

- climbed Volcán San Pedro and couldn't walk normally for days.

dock at San Marcos = idyllic.  Prettiest spot I encountered in Guatemala.

saw a murder victim in the streets of Monterrico.

- caught a ride in the back of a truck with two heavily armed soldiers.  They were among the friendliest Guatemalans we met.  One of them earnestly described (in Spanish) his efforts to learn English in his spare time, and his earnestness warmed my heart.

- avoided being stranded in Reu
by the grace of the old woman selling snacks at the cuatro caminos intersection in Reu and Nueva Alianza's agua pura truck driver.  This experience, too, warmed my heart.

Happy New Year, and see you tomorrow!