Monday, June 22, 2009

A Belated Graduation Blog...

OK, OK, OK... I graduated about a month and a half ago, so this is quite belated.  I was thinking back to graduation this week.  I went to the dance building a few days ago to get the DVD's of all the dances I have been in the last four years (there were a lot).  I thought I might get a little emotional walking back into the dance building- a place I've considered my home for the last 4 years (when the campus was evacuated last semester we all went to the dance building instead of leaving because we all spend more time there than at home).  I realized the building itself, although beautiful, I will not miss, but the people inside it I definitely will.  The totally awesome thing about being involved in the dance program was that I could walk into that building and know and love every single person I saw - which is quite encouraging when dealing with a terrible case of senioritis. I LOVE that I knew every single person that I sat with while waiting to accept our diplomas.  I love the fun we had running around the dressing room before we paraded in.  And I absolutely LOVE that we all lost our heels and accepted our diplomas barefoot.  We earned them barefoot, so it is tradition that we accept them barefoot... which created much confusion amongst the audience members...

You wish you were as fine as the class of 2009... much love to you all!!!
Barefooted picture with the Chair of Modern Dance Donna White and the Dean of Fine Arts Raymond Tymas - Jones taken by Gammell Photography.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves

On one of my many joyful trips to Barnes and Noble with my mom I spotted this book... Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves.  With my summer just about packed with trips, I figured it would be an appropriate read and... I LOVED IT!!!  

I spent my morning driving my father to the airport for his trip to Budapest, Hungary and Prague, Czech Republic.  I've been trying to sneak my way onto this trip with him and was almost successful (I  had the plane ticket and everything), but ultimately it didn't work out and I'm left sitting here in Salt Lake - still with my sore throat going on 4 weeks now - trying not to get too down in the dumps that I'm missing out on such a fabulous trip.  I think I am even more saddened to be missing out after reading this supremely intriguing and eye opening book.  I highly recommend EVERYONE read it - even if you are not planning a trip abroad anytime soon.  Rick Steves has honestly been just about everywhere (his list of destinations is jaw dropping)  and even if you don't travel so much, you can learn from his experience.

Steves quotes Mark Twain who says, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow- mindedness."  I haven't been on that many trips out of the country, but after the few I have been on, I definitely agree.   Steves says, "On returning home from a major trip, you sense that your friends and coworkers have stayed the same but you're... different.  It's enlightening and unsettling at the same time."  After hearing this statement, I am reminded of my trip to Ghana last summer, which I still find myself dissecting, pondering, and reflecting on almost everyday.  That trip truly changed me, and after my three weeks there, I am a firm believer that everyone should travel to Africa, Ghana especially.

My sister, the parasite expert, says she never wants to go to Africa.  She has read of too many illnesses that can be contracted there.  I made it in and out of Africa without so much as a stomach ache.  I realize many are not so lucky, but this sheds light on the plight of those that live there.  While spending time with my host family, two of their daughters, both young girls, were sick with Malaria.  They get this illness every now and then - in the same way that we might contract a cold - and they just take a quick trip to the hospital and have it dealt with as soon as possible...  it didn't really seem like it had a major effect on their lives because this is something they deal with every day.  How lucky are we that we don't have to go about our daily lives worrying about Malaria or Yellow Fever?  And I'm such a wonderfully privileged person, that if I did have a healthcare concern I can get healthcare quite easily.  There is a problem with healthcare in the United States, but ultimately we are lucky to have such an advanced system. The risk of illness was nothing compared to the things I learned there and the amazing people I met.  It is a risk I would easily take again.

While walking down the streets of Ghana, when entering a home, entering a shop, checking in to our hotel... I constantly heard the greeting "woe zo" -  "you are welcome."  I was welcomed every single place I went.  Everyone was so unbelievably kind and generous and willing to talk to me.  Everyone wanted to hear about the United States and they wanted to talk about their country of Ghana.  They were open and willing to discuss just about anything.  I felt that people I had just met on the street had a genuine interest in who I was and why I was there.  Everyone wanted to be my friend.  We took a brief visit to the Art Center - a shopping market, primarily for tourists, in Accra the capital city.  Everyone welcomed me into their shop, woe zo!  I spent some time talking with people ever so briefly.  When I came back 3 weeks later, I was remembered!  The people I had met remembered my name, remembered where I was from, what I had bought and considered me their friend.  At the grocery store I have visited once, maybe twice a week, for the last 4 years in Salt Lake, nobody knows my name.  I don't think an African walking down the streets of my city - a very friendly city by US standards- would ever be greeted with a warm smile and a welcome.  

While walking through the village of Dzodze, I came across a window shutter that had written on it "Poor in Pocket, but Happy in Life."  This is the epitome of Ghana.  I spent my days with an amazingly kind family that lives in a modest house, had no running water, and uses very little electricity.  The family of 5 creates so little trash that they are able to dump what little they make outside their home.  While we were there, the parents took days off of work to give us tours of their village (which was not small - when I say village, I really mean city).  They spent the day cooking for us and giving us cooking lessons.  They took us to church and let us tour their hospital.  They paid for us to take motor bike rides (the best form of a taxi) and bought us water knowing their water would make us sick.  Finally, they had complete Ghanaian outfits made especially for us and even gave us matching jewelry.  I was touched beyond words that a family who, by American standards, has so little could give us so much.  They were unspeakably kind and generous.  When I returned to the states I got into an argument with an ex boyfriend over money.  I couldn't help but wonder at that point to what extent money has ruined us as a culture and kept us from appreciating the little things in life and the kindness of others.  After returning from Ghana I realized I would rather be "poor in pocket but happy in life" than have any great amount of riches.  I already have lived a life of such unbelievable privilege, but I am most lucky to have a loving family and amazing friends.

Rick Steves brings up so many important points in his book, Travel as a Political Act.  The whole world is acutely aware of what goes on in the United States.  When I said I was from the US, while traveling through Ghana in the Summer of 2008, everyone asked me if I was planning on voting for Obama.  I didn't even know the name of the current Prime Minister of Ghana.  The rest of the world is so affected by the decisions made by the United States, yet many of us as voters are painfully unaware of what goes on in the rest of the world and the difference our vote makes in others' lives- myself included.  Steves talks about how other countries do their taxes, how they deal with their healthcare, their education system, their public transportation, their "war on drugs," and even their take on poverty and hunger.  Steves and I both agree that we are unbelievably lucky to live in a country as absolutely fabulous as the United States of America, but that doesn't mean that we don't have a lot to learn from the rest of the world.  Steves mentions, "I like to say (naively, I know) that if every American were required to travel abroad  before voting, the US would fit more comfortably into this ever-smaller planet."   If you can't afford to travel abroad, at least read this book.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

California... oh California

Only a few days after returning from Greece - without enough time for recovery - I flew, still a bit sick, to California with my parents to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all those I love who dwell in southern Cali.

Both my parents grew up in Southern California, loving the ocean and loving the sunshine.  Even though both have had some encounters with sun damaged skin, cancer and the like, I don't think either of them would trade their childhoods near the ocean for one moment.  Without fail, I can not visit a beach in California without hearing my father's tales of surfing, diving, fishing, or sailing in the area.  Both my parents majored in marine biology in college with the intent of never leaving the beauty of the ocean.  Even my mother, who is a known wimp with cold water, can't help but get her feet wet and look longingly out into the ocean with every beach visit.  

Both will admit, however, that southern California is a very different place than it once was. We visited the house where my father lived in college in Laguna Beach, across the street from the beach.  Back then, there were no mansions on the cliffs, and he payed 50 dollars a month to live there.  The tiny little house now sells for far more than our huge lake house in Colorado.  Every outing we made had to be planned around rush hour... but inevitably we would find ourselves stuck in traffic anyway.  Overall, the L.A. area appears a bit trashy... sorry to all who live there.  I would say the only beauty I saw was in my grandmother's upscale Pasadena neighborhood and  those glimpses of the ocean.  It seems ironic to me that the buildings and freeways appear so trashy when the people appear in classic cars and wear designer clothing.  I often found myself feeling self - conscious about my less than designer duds and wishing I had spent more time on my hair... for a trip to the beach?  And with all the amazingly wealthy people that live in the great state of California, economically it is in such serious trouble that the next time I visit my family I will have to pay a 5 dollar tourist fee.  I wish people put more money into their state and their public schools than their fancy cars and beach side mansions... and with such a serious traffic problem you would think someone might invest in some form of public transportation!!!  

In spite of the frustrations I encountered in California, I am always glad to have time with my family.  My parents are both totally awesome people.  My aunt, new to facebook, sent me "excited for your visit" messages almost daily leading up to our trip. My grandfather, in his late 80's, sometimes forgets my major in school but remembered to wear the shirt I got him on my trip to Ghana last year when he saw me.  I love that he wears it!  My cousin, who I know has lively adventures with his pals on a daily basis, always devotes his days to hanging out with me and my fam when we are in town, no matter how low key our plans are.  I also greatly enjoyed my time with my grandmother on the couch sharing Nyquil, cough drops, hot tea,  and book recommendations.  

I don't know why I was so struck by this trip to California - we go almost every year.  The southern California glamour is lost to me, and I am continually grateful for my decision to not attend college there- even though I can't hide my jealousy of my cousin's membership to the Cal State Long Beach Sailing Club. I find myself agreeing more and more with comedians such as Fred Allen who say, "California is a fine place to live - if you happen to be an orange."  Still, I do love hearing of the California glamour that did exist during my parents childhood days and seeing my amazing family.  I will be back- even if I have to pay my 5 dollar tourist fee next time.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"In many ways we are all sons and daughters of ancient Greece. " - Nia Vardalos

I primarily created this blog to document my summer adventures.  Of all the adventures had and all the adventures yet to be had... Greece is probably the most spectacular.  If it hadn't been near impossible to bring my computer with me, I would have blogged about every single amazing day.  While the trip is still fresh in my mind, here were some of the highlights...

- We were the favorite dancers at our Greek evening dinner.  Our perfect seats and our BFA's may have aided us in this accomplishment.  We had the constant affection of the Greek gentlemen that were dancing and I was even twirled.  It was lovely.

- One of the many stray dogs in Greece befriended us during our first outing into the Plaka market in Athens when we were straight out of the airport and exhausted.  While wandering the streets, only somewhat lost, it was nice to have a friend.  He sat and waited for us while we ate lunch and somehow found us the next day as we walked around the Acropolis.  

-Me, Diana, and Amanda broke away from the group which allowed us to do many splendid things.  We had lunch in the most beautiful little Taverna surrounded by beautiful trees tucked away in the Plaka market.  We explored the Roman Agora- beautiful ruins fenced into modern day Athens. Between their restaurants and homes lies beautiful ancient columns and an amazing piece of history - those lucky ducks.  We also explored the Greek Agora, walking through beautifully preserved columns through peaceful trees with a light breeze tucked away from the city.  We also took great pride in finding our way back to the hotel all on our own.  Small accomplishments should always be appreciated.  

-Discovered the Greek version of the Oreo.  DELISH!

- Homer's Inn - Ios.  Amazing view from our window-  most beautiful pool I've ever seen - a short bus ride from the most beautiful beach with the most amazing blue water - a decent hike from town but well worth the climb.  

- Days in Ios were spent in our lounge chairs with a front row view of crystal clear water situated a short walk from a bar with fresh squeezed orange juice and Greek coffee- I don't like coffee, but I like Greek coffee.  Nights were spent exploring the town, eating delicious dinners on restaurant balconies, bar hopping / pub crawling with Australian boys, eating baklava, and dancing the night away. Lovely.

- Enjoyed the black sand beaches of Santorini- absolutely beautiful - with a street lined in beach lounge restaurants.

- Spent the day on a boat all around Santorini - the day included hiking a volcano, viewing a 1.5 million Euro island that is actually for sale, eating grilled calamari on a tiny little island, swimming to natural hot springs and covering ourselves in mud, donkey rides, and watching one of the most beautiful and world famous sunsets from the cliffs created by the volcano.

-Explored the labyrinth of the city on Mykonos with streets so narrow you can ONLY walk through them--- designed that way to keep out the wind and the pirates, eventually making our way to lunch at Niko's and trying our best to not be eaten by the GIANT pelicans that reside there.

- We took a ferry from Mykonos to Delos- an island archeological site.  We hiked to the very top of the entire island and had the most amazing view of the fields, the ruins, and other islands. So beautiful. So free.

-A fabulous night in Mykonos. Down Under Bar. Ouzo. Scandinavian Bar. Free Shots. Togas. Stripper pole. Dancing on bars. Thriller....  imagine the good times.

- We got some absolutely delicious juice boxes to celebrate Diana's birthday.  We didn't have the best flight home... but that's a story to be shared in person...

Ultimately, I would say Greece is one of my favorite places in the entire world.  I haven't seen the entire world YET, but once I do, I'm sure my feelings will be confirmed.  Nowhere else can compare to its amazing beauty, its laid-back nature, its calming ocean breeze, and the constant reminder of its beautifully rich history.  People have lived there for thousands and thousands of years; I completely understand why.