Friday, October 22, 2010


I haven't posted on this blog in forever - I've been spending a lot of time trying to update my crafty blog So you should read that, and maybe spare yourself from reading the whining post I'm about to let loose.

Anyway- this was a very bad week - and I felt the need to be be a very whiny baby and just complain about it here, so this is as good of place as any I guess...

1. Someone shoplifted $300 worth of my handmade hats at a craft fair. Jerks. How do you even fit that much knitwear in your purse??? If you must be a terrible person and steal, do it from a gigantic corporation that can handle the loss - not a college girl who does every stitch by hand. Seriously.

2. Due to the shoplifting distraction, and my general lack of motivation lately, I neglected to study for my microbiology exam until the last minute. Not my finest work. I hate doing poorly on something and knowing I could have done better.

3. I found out that an old pal of mine is very sick. I haven't kept in touch with this person - but she is truly wonderful, and knowing that she is handling her situation better than I ever could if I were in her place makes me greatly regret not getting to know her better and doing a better job of keeping in touch. Sometimes amazing people pass through your life - it's important to treasure it when they do.

4. I didn't get accepted to the Renegade Craft Fair. I really wanted to go. Sad Sara.

5. I watched a puppy get run over by a car. Yes I did. I'm still recovering from the shock of it all and truly hope I don't have puppy run over nightmares tonight. May I just say, that I looked into that puppy's eyes when it took it's last breath, and I still want to cry about it.

Thankfully, Samba Fogo played at Urban Lounge tonight - so an evening of great dancing, music, and people made the week a bit brighter.

I hope no one reads this whining post. I just really needed a vent session. These little things can get you down...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Am Because We Are

I've been meaning... for weeks now... to write about the poverty I saw while I was in Uganda. I stumbled upon this film - I Am Because We Are - and thought it's much better to show what Africa is like than to try and explain... After a month in Uganda, I feel like this film is spot on.

Watch it here.

Madonna narrates the film. People have asked me what my intrigue is with Africa ... why am I so intrigued by it. Madonna says, "Malawi needs change desperately, yet there are so many things I would never want to change. The people that live here are amazing. I often feel like we're the ones that have it wrong. In spite of all the hardships and devistation, they have a sense of community and extended family that I haven't seen anywhere else. Look around you, if someone on your street lost a member of their family, would everyone in the neighborhood get together to cook a meal? To make sure the children are looked after? Or to simply share in the burden of grief? When you travel around Malawi, you see how diverse the landscape is... couple that with the resiliency of the people. It's hard to understand why there is so much suffering. Life is a paradox and there is duality in everything. On the one hand you can come to Malawi, and think, "Wow, these people are so caught up in these traditions that are thousands of years old"... but on the other hand you can walk down the street and wave to people and smile and there is a sense of humanity that you can't find in places like America or England. It feels like modernization equals no humanity. You get trapped when you come here, you get caught up in this dichotomy where you think if they could only understand what I understand they could fix everything... but then I look at the way they live and I think Oh God... they have illnesses and they have cultural traditions, but yet they're happy... and you can drive down a street in Beverly Hills, you could drive down Central Park West and you don't see that kind of joy... you don't see that kind of happiness... so who's right? Being in Africa has made me understand that suffering is subjective - there is an enormous amount of suffering here that is really tangible. People are dying of illnesses, they're hungry, they don't have parents, they don't have a roof over their head... they don't have so many basic things that we take for granted and yet they have a joy and appreciation and a gratitude that we could never understand..."

Bill Clinton says, "People say why do you love it so much, and I always say it is because they have the highest percentage of people I believe anywhere on earth that wake up with a song in their heart..They sing through their pain and their need and the madness of the people around them... it's almost like an ingrained wisdom of more than a 100,000 years."

I Am Because We Are. It's an understanding that we are all interconnected... we are all children of the world... and we are all responsible for one another.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Once You Know Something, You Never Won't

I love Salt Lake summers. Just returned from a late night at the Arts Festival with my favorite people in the world - Diana, April, and Nina. Diana totally rocked it as the under the ocean sea queen in the performance with Children's Dance Theatre. After eating some yummy food and quickly realizing all jewelry and art were well beyond our price range, we sat down to watch a lil' something that I became hooked on at the art market last year... poetry slams. Just left a totally amazing poetry slam. The things that people write poems about are so remarkably touching... emigration, patriotism, trust, the love you place on others even when they let you down. I'm constantly getting the chills and sometimes brought to tears.

In much more eloquent words a line in the poem came up that touched me. Once you know something, you never won't. I thought about my trip to Uganda. Once you know what poverty looks like, you never won't. I can go into details about all that I saw... eventually I will probably write about it... but not tonight. All I know is that I hope I will always think about what I learned and saw on this trip for two reasons. First, it makes me think about how remarkable lucky I have been in my life and even though I've faced some difficulties, really my life has been easy, and I'm more fortunate than most. Second, I can't fix poverty on my own, I know this, but I can make small differences... and you can too. And even if you haven't seen poverty firsthand... hopefully you can imagine its difficulties after talking to me.

Because once you know something, you never won't.

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup

There is a big game tomorrow - USA v Ghana... and as much as I love my home country, the good ol' US of A ... I'm totally cheering for Ghana. Black Stars, all the way baby!

I realize people might find me a bit unpatriotic here... especially given the fact that the USA team has made it much further than was expected, but I have some very valid reasons for my pick... and here are just a few of them.

1. I have a Ghana jersey.
2. I love the country of Ghana, and my trip there changed my life.
3. Out of the 3 television channels you can get in most of Ghana, 2 are entirely devoted to football (soccer) all day, all the time... not just when the World Cup is happening. Soccer is not a big deal in the USA - you rarely see coverage of it and I'm struggling to watch the World Cup right now without cable!
4. Ghana is the last African team still in, and the host continent is Africa.
5. All of Africa is behind Ghana. In Uganda people living in poverty gather in the streets to watch the games on tiny television sets... and cheers erupted when Ghana won their first game. (Ghana and Uganda are on opposite sides of the continent... but they still support each other... pretty cool... can't picture us supporting Canada like that...)
6. The people of Africa have a pretty rough go of it most of the time. Our lives are much easier than theirs. This is something that is important to them that they are good at... they downright deserve to win.
7. The USA is a world power that tends to dominate in everything. We have a lot of other sports that clearly keep us more entertained the rest of the 4 years... we can afford to lose one.

Don't get me wrong. I am very proud the USA has made it this far. And part of me will be very excited if we move on... But we don't care about the sport enough as a country to win this sucker. When we have a soccer 24/7 channel, and poor kids in our streets are making soccer balls from old plastic bags, and soccer stadiums start getting more packed than OUR football stadiums... then we can talk.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Uganda - a brief summary

OK, so I have returned. I have a full 8 hours of peaceful sleep under my belt sans stuffy bug net (first time in a while). I am also showered and smelling oh so fresh and so clean - first shower in a month with both decent water pressure AND hot water and no bucket involved! This is my attempt to do a quick sum up of the trip before I forget- although I have a feeling it won't be as quick as I intend. Here it goes.

Pics from my favorite ridiculous day... bus break downs and mystery creature poo in our room...

It all began with a flight to San Francisco and then a 16 hour flight to Dubai. (In the future I would much prefer two 8 hours with a layover- 16 hours is killer- my bum still hurts!) We were lucky enough to have a 10 hour layover in Dubai which allowed us enough time to take a 2 hour bus tour, some showers, grab some food, and snag about 4 hours of sleep in an actual bed! Our 2 hour tour took us to see some amazing architecture, wicked awesome buildings, the Atlantis hotel and aquarium,the largest mall in the world, a building that has indoor skiing, and a night trip to the beach to dip our toes in the water of the Persian Gulf. The flight the next day was an 8 hour process with a stop in Adis Ababa, Ethiopia and finally landing in Entebbe, Uganda.

The plan was to spend our first night in Kampala, the capital city, to recover from a long journey but found that our hotel there had no water or electricity that day. So we piled ourselves and our luggage with impressive skill onto the bus and had our first drive with Mr. Baker, our amazing driver for the trip. He didn't speak much English, but was by far the most impressive driver in Uganda- reassuring since you are more likely to die in a car crash in Uganda rather than any type of Malaria/ Yellow Fever/Parasite you could catch. The drive onto Masaka took much longer than expected because we were so weighted down- and it felt longer since it was our first experience in the packed van and we were fresh off an all day plane ride. We finally made it and were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful Maria Flo hotel and the charm of Masaka.

We spent about 5 nights in Masaka visiting schools such as Byana Mary Hill, God's Grace, and Blessings of Joy. We mainly were grouping and organizing. We also took a night to go out and see Radio and Weasel - a very popular Ugandan band. This was also our first introduction to standard Ugandan foods like Chappatti (picture a tortilla with darker dough) and Matoki (boiled mashed bananas) along with lots and lots of rice, potatos, kasava, goat and of course.... pineapple (heaven).

After Masaka, we spent one night in Kampala to regroup and stopover on our travel. Then onward to spend 2 nights in Katosi - a small fishing village on the shore of Lake Victoria. Here we spent our time doing eye exams, handing out glasses, and conducting women's health seminars at a school just outside Katosi and on Bubwa Island a remote peninsula in Lake Victoria. We got to take a boat to Bubwa where our boat drivers were all too excited to carry us from boat to shore. I stayed completely dry!

Then we returned to spend another night in Kampala and regroup. After our very "primitive and rustic" hotel stay in Katosi eating entire boiled fish complete with eyeballs... we took advantage of the big city and made our first stop at Nano's for some pizza. Pizza never tasted so good! This was also the night we discovered Yovani- the mouse, complete with mouse mansion whose grand entrance was in my bathroom.

We woke the next morning and left as the sun was rising so we could make the long drive into Northern Uganda for some tourist fun... Murchison Falls National Park where the rich can go to Safari! We spent our first day there taking a casual boat ride down the Nile where we spotted hippos, crocodiles, monkeys, some elephants, water buffalo, and many many birds. The boat ride's grand finale was a stop at Murchison Falls- the most amazing and powerful waterfal I've ever seen! We hiked maybe a mile to get to the top. While it wasn't a difficult hike, the humidity killed us and we were all drenched in sweat by the time we reached the top... but that just made the spray from the falls all that much more enjoyable! At the top of the falls we met Mr. Baker and our van and drove back to our camp just as the sun was going down. Poor planning on our parts. This is when the Titsie flies are out... whose bite carries African Sleeping Sickness. For the first time, we had to pack all our hot sweaty bodies into the van with all our windows CLOSED. We joke that this was our unplanned spa day... the bus sauna... yum. It was pretty comical looking at all of us wilting away, the windows steaming up, and flies attacking at the outside of the bus... just another adventure.

The next day we loaded into a Safari van and drove through the game park where we saw many elephants and giraffes AND (drum roll please...) a leopard. Apparently leopard's are very very rare- we were lucky to see one! When our guide spotted it he became so excited that our van busted into off- roading mode as we followed this leopard around. Good thing we didn't make him mad!

After this we returned again to Kampala for another night with Yovani the mouse and some pizza!

From there we drove on to Iganga where we spent almost a full week devoting our days to making bricks for Hope Children's Center's new dorm and our nights at the Sol Cafe watching the World Cup! (Man do I miss having the games play in the evenings... and not needing cable to see them!) We took one day's break in the middle of the week to drive to the nearby city of Jinja where they have bungee jumping and class 5 rapid rafting for a hefty price. While my trip mates flew down the Nile I enjoyed a lovely day lounging in my swimsuit with a great book and the perfect view of the Nile... and amazing food- I'm now addicted to Kiwi burgers and plan on putting eggs on my burgers from now until forever! My friends returned with some nasty sunburns, but mostly in good spirits apart from one case of heat stroke!

From Iganga we drove to Kaptorwa- more of a mountain town where there is a lot more rain and many waterfalls. What an experience we had getting there! On the way our van kept overheating. They don't use coolant in Africa ... just cold water... good thing we were near so many waterfalls! Ever half hour our so we would have to pull over and give our van a 30 minute break- so it was much slower going than expected. Finally we stopped again to check the engine... just as we opened it up... the radiator blew sending hot water and steam everywhere... while we were inside. Quite the startling experience. Once we finally all trouped out of the van we wondered over to chill with the cow figuring he had a pretty good chill spot on the edge of this mountain. As Ashley walked through the grass to take a picture of Mr. Cow she was attacked by a swarm of massive ants biting her feet. She was fine after we dumped some water on them and deet-ed her pretty well. After that we were all a bit jumpy. Finally a bus came to rescue us and we spent the next day without Mr. Baker as he tried to find a place to get the van fixed.

At our hotel in Kaptorwa we had a pretty decent sized walk through massive amounts of mud to get from our room to the restaurant's dining area. As we were walking back that first night (never have I ever been so grateful for my headlamp!) the hotel bus drove by offering us a ride. We all preferred to walk. As the bus drove off it got horrible stuck in the mud. It took all of us plus some very kind gentlemen just walking past to get that sucker out. When me and my awesome roomie made it back to our room we discovered poo on all our stuff... what animal made it we had no idea. (Since we've been home I google imaged it and am nearly convinced it was a bat.) Oh what an adventurous day.

We spent two days in Kaptorwa in the hospital interviewing women who had complications from female circumcision leading to problems with incontinence (inability to control your urine). The hope is to bring a doctor or two back next summer to work with the doctors at the hospital and find a way to treat these women either with prescription medicines or surgery. The saddest cases were when you saw young girls who suffered from the problem and were then made fun of in school. School is already so difficult... it shouldn't have to be that hard.

On the way home from Kaptorwa we stopped to eat in a place with a beautiful view of Sippi Falls. MM MM awesome! Then we headed out for the very very VERY long drive home to Kampala. We spent 3 more nights in Kampala packing up, regrouping, eating pizza, and doing lots and lots of shopping at the Kampala craft markets!

Finally we headed of the the airport in Entebbe and spent a few hours there before our flight to Dubai - about 8 hours with a stop down in Ethiopia. We then had an 8 hour layover in Dubai where we opted to stay in the airport and give up sleep in an attempt to beat our jet lag. We spent the night exploring the airport spa we could not afford, trying to sweet talk our way into the first class lounge, buying a few things, and taking full advantage of the first Starbucks we'd seen in a month! We also braved the public showers... and not one of us slept! Mission successful. We then made it on to our 16 hour flight from Dubai to San Francisco, had an 8 hour layover there and made it into Salt Lake City just before midnight last night... phew. All around... about a 48 hour process trying to get home.

I've completely hibernated today... unsure if I'm ready to face a slew of Salt Lakers yet... but I'm thinking I'll have to venture out to the grocery store some time soon! I'm just pumped I don't have to worry about buying all my water any more! WOOH!

So that was my trip to Africa in a nutshell. Of course many more reflections are still to come!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Ok, so I've mentioned a few times now I'm doing this medical anthropology project on people's views on healthcare in an attempt to understand why people are against reform.... because I honestly didn't understand. I've gained a lot of insight... understand more of the economic consequences... still haven't changed my view on the matter - but ultimately have a better understanding of the opposition. I suggest all people take on this project for things they care about- it's been incredibly helpful and increased my understanding.

One thing I have learned while working this project is just how ridiculous the bipartisan divide has become. I feel like politicians, Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers... whoever you are... we are all arguing just for the sake of arguing and it is getting in the way. Honestly- even if you HATE Obama- do you REALLY think it's ok to deny someone who can AFFORD health insurance (and works hard for that money) coverage because they have a pre-existing condition??? Do you honestly think that's ok??? Do you honestly think that it's ok for insurance companies to put a limit on your coverage??? As in, once you get sick in a really big, bad expensive, way--- the reason you have insurance--- they can just drop you because you've reached the limit of what they will cover??? REALLY???

People have this manipulated view that we have the best healthcare in the world - but we are ranked 37th! 37TH!!!!. We have the best doctors and the best health related technology in the world, it's true - but we have a downright shitty way of delivering it to the public. According to the World Health Organization when ranking countries based on the FAIRNESS of their healthcare we rank 54th!!! So we are just ahead of Rwanda (a country recently ravaged by genocide) and just behind Bangladesh (a country that is known for its poverty and sweatshops). No on can deny that we need some kind of reform.

We live in the most amazing country in the world. Those statistics are ridiculous when you take into account the privileged lives we all lead. So you hate Obama? You hate big government? You think socialized medicine is evil? Good for you... come up with a better idea, then, instead of sitting there being negative and childish.

And for goodness sake... Obama is not like Hitler. Hitler was not thought of as a bad person because he wanted socialized medicine- he's bad because he happened to commit one of the most horrendous genocides ever seen... hate to break it to you.. but Obama's not into that, so your comparison is a little bit off. Also - there are big important people in Washington DC that probably took it upon themselves to make damn sure that Obama was born in the US before they let him take office. We have a pretty decent intelligence system, so yeah... I don't have anything more to say about that. AND ... how crazy is it that Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks had her career nearly ruined, was accused as a traitor and received DEATH THREATS for making a comment like, "We're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." ... but facebook groups that say, "Dear Lord, This year you took my favorite actor- Patrick Swayze, You took my favorite actress- Farah Fawcett, You took my favorite singer - Michael Jackson. I just wanted to let you know, my favorite president is Barack Obama. Amen." are ok??? SERIOUSLY???? Seriously?

Stop being childish and using the excuse that someone is a liberal, conservative, or whatever as a reason for hating them. Our country has some serious issues and all of us throwing insults and death threats back and forth BELIEVE IT OR NOT is quite unproductive. GRRRRR... FRUSTRATION!!!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Perfect Day

Oh man. I've had a very interesting week filled with thoughts I've been meaning to write a blog on, but I will save such a heavy subject for another day.

Today was one of those perfect days you just want to keep talking about. It was a classic day in Salt Lake City- one that makes me love living here!

1. Woke up early to go snowboarding with father dear. It was our last day of the season (it closes tomorrow) so it was a little bittersweet. I always have fun with him, and hate to admit that my 62 year old father is totally kicking my ass at snowboarding. Today he told me about how he wants to start using words like "pow." Haha... I love it!

2. It was a beautiful day in the Salt Lake Valley (and mountains too). Total T-shirt weather and EVERYONE was out on their bikes enjoying the sunshine and the mood was generally cheery.

3. Finished up snowboarding with some soup made by my father dear that is positively delicious.

4. Had a great phone call with my mother dear.

5. Cleaned my apartment- which is never fun to do, but now it's oh so clean and oh so nice. And the weather is such that I can leave my windows open which always makes the air so happy and fresh.

6. Grabbed a salad with my bestie, Diana, and took a ride in her beautiful new car! HOLY COW SO EXCITED FOR HER!!!!! WOOH!

7. Went to my first Real Salt Lake Soccer Game with my buddy, Nina, and met some fellow Coloradoans, which I always love and cheered on all the Salt Lakers that went to the olympics at half time.

8. Coloradoans+Nina+ Me meet up with my lovely pal April for some cheese pull -aparts and a beer at the Pie.

9. Late night outdoor chat session with my ladies because the weather is that lovely.

I love Salt Lake, I love my friends, and I love my life... just a few more weeks of hardcore studying and then my dear Colorado besties Emily and Emma will be visiting SLC, my little sister finally turns 21, I'll be spending a month in Uganda, and having an all around awesomely fantastic summer!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Doing stuff that scares me

There is this song that I listen to, that isn't really a song as much as a speech set to music, whenever I feel the need to hear some good life advice. One piece of advice is this... "Do one thing everyday that scares you!"

I never follow this advice. I do things that scare me even less often than I floss (which is another piece of advice from the song). I suffer from a chronic case of playing it safe, but the last 2 weeks I've been doing pretty good with the scary stuff. Read on...

1. I went to a meeting of the Young Republicans - which doesn't sound that scary, but I'm so very much a Democrat I was positively sure they would sniff me out as the imposter and eat me alive. (They didn't - they were actually very nice and I don't think anyone even noticed my frequent grimaces of disagreement.)

2. I booked my flight to Uganda. The excitement that comes with a new big and unfamiliar trip is always accompanied by some fear. I think that's a lot of what makes it exciting. Uganda is a country that has been ravaged by a terrible civil war and copes with extreme poverty on a daily basis. I don't think I'm being unreasonable when I say I'm a little scared of going (and crazy excited!).

3. I shook my booty in a crowded bar in very little clothing while I dance battled it out for Samba Queen. Yeah... you'd think dancing in front of a crowd would be old news for me by now... but it's amazing how much your courage is boosted when you are on stage and can't actually see the audience until the bow... and by then they already love you - haha. I'm used to being much further from my audience, surrounded by at least a couple other dancers, and in much more clothing. Oh yeah... and did I mention the 4 inch heels? Yet another obstacle. Man, I was only a little terrified going into that thing... but had such a blast I'm already trying to plan what costume I could make for next year!

4. I hiked to Delicate Arch. Ok... laugh away. The last time I went on that hike I was about 7 years old and completely one hundred per cent freaked by that steep drop on the last leg of the hike... I'm terrified of heights. This is something I've been trying to get over (I walked across the rainforest canopy rope bridge in Ghana, walked out onto the skydeck of Sears Tower and looked about a hundred floors straight down... I'm making progress.) So... some 16 years later I not only made it through the hike, I sat on the steep ledge. Progress.

Most of these things I actually really enjoy once I get the courage to do them. So from now on, I'll be trying my best to do one thing each day that scares me!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oh... Politicos...

What an interesting foray into politics the last few days have been! I'm currently in a medical anthropology class where I'm conducting a research project on people's views on healthcare and its reform. As a part of my research, I ventured over to a meeting of the Young Republicans "Meet the Candidates" night. I am very much a Democrat. The night began with speeches from those running in Utah for the Republican party. I listened to a speech from a lady who prides herself as a conservative woman who hates those evil feminists in government that have scared those good men into a corner (even though the feminist movement began with the women's suffragists who fought for a woman's right to vote which eventually led to a woman even being able to run for office...) I listened to references to those "global warming nuts," which gave me such warm fuzzies inside- all those world class scientist just MUST be nutty. I also listened to an entire speech devoted to the importance of gold... because that's right up there with healthcare, the economy, the war.... (insert sarcasm here). And finally... I heard references to healthcare - my purpose for the night, but very few. Healthcare is not a worry - and it is not something Republicans choose to address unless forced to by the Democrats.

In talking with people afterwards this is what I found out... People are against healthcare reform because we have "the best healthcare system in the world." (Actually, according the the World Health Organization we are ranked 37th... just behind Costa Rica.) And ultimately no one is going to die because they don't have insurance- there aren't piles of people dying outside emergency rooms (even though it is estimated that around 45,000 people die each year because they can't be covered - which is drastically higher than the amount of people who died on September 11, 2001). Also, we don't have the money to reform healthcare... even though it is estimated that the current healthcare bill will REDUCE the deficit - unlike the Bush Tax cuts which increased the deficit by TRILLIONS. There is a fear of what the picking order would be if healthcare were nationalized - not everyone can get treated... so a 22 year old will be treated long before a 60 year old would be... which is fine until the 60 year old is your mother. Ok... so yeah, it would suck if your mom couldn't get healthcare... but currently the poor don't have healthcare - so really... what's the difference? Other than being unable to use your riches to guarantee stellar care? Also, 90% of people in Utah are insured and happy with their care, so any type of reform would be hurting the majority who are already getting just what they need. To that I say... just hope you don't get a chronic disease. Yeah... I'm insured... and I love it when I get strep throat... but diagnose me with a chronic disease that could be termed "pre-existing" and my chances of switching or keeping my insurance goes down dramatically... and that's not cool. Oh yeah... and there's also that whole thing about how the government can't control anything efficiently (even the the US postal service, fire department, and police are pretty wicked awesome...)

So yeah... I don't have a solution to the problem... maybe you do... but something does need to change. Believing that US healthcare is awesome just means you've been ignorant and happy... and healthy.

I didn't outright disagree with people while talking with them (the purpose of the research is to get THEIR opinion- not start a debate, even though it was tempting...). But when asked outright, I did have to admit (with caution, for fear of being pounced on) that I was FOR reform. They wanted a specific example of why. (I shared the mother dear story about the brain surgery turned Epilepsy turned pre-existing condition and my parents' 10-year age difference that has my dad working well into the time he was planning on retiring so my mom can be covered...) This example actually led to someone admitting that my family's situation really did suck *gasp*. Maybe all you need to be convinced that we need reform is to talk to someone who has worked hard their whole lives, done everything right, then gotten sick and been screwed over by the system. Open up your ears politcos because my mother's story is a mild one...

Friday, March 5, 2010

"I feel sexier in the dark..."

I must say that the University of Utah's modern dance program is the shit. There is a reason they are ranked among the top in the country. The dancers/student/faculty are all AMAZINGLY talented, and I feel privileged everyday to have been a part of such an amazing program.

What has me on such a U of U pride kick? ...2 performances I've seen over the last week. First, the Spring Performing Dance Company (which I was lucky enough to be a part of for many years) and Juan and Molly's independent show The Grey Area. (Both of them are U of U alums, and both people I'm lucky enough to think of as friends.)

Performing dance company left me in awe. Dancers do things now that you wouldn't have thought possible years back. They have such control over their bodies. They move with such speed and accuracy that only a fellow dancer could truly appreciate the years of training and skill that goes into such a performance. Works were choreographed by U professors Donna White, Eric Handman, Juan Carlos Claudio, Movement Forum (a dance organization formed by U of U alums), and Steve Koester.

Donna's piece left the most lasting impression on me. Her piece explored the juxtaposition of modern day Italy next to its ancient ruins entitled "Dust and Ruins." This has been something I experienced. Italy is still on my places to visit, but I HAVE been to Greece twice. Part of the magic of Athens is that you can hop off the modern subway and on the walk to your typical delicious Greek restaurant in the Plaka you stroll by old grave sites, glance up at the Parthenon, and can eat lunch with a view of the Roman Agora. It was an experience that left an impression on me and I'm so glad a dance was made that so perfectly conveys my thoughts. Eric Handman's piece, "Organism," was another Eric Handman piece, and those that have seen works by Eric Handman know what I mean when I say this. His movement never fails to amaze me with its magical ease and precision. Juan Carlos Claudio created a work that revolved around a light hanging from the center of the stage called, "Night Moths in an Open Field." "The Surreal World" was a structured improvisation created by Movement Forum. It takes courage and determination to perform a piece on stage where you, the performer, doesn't know what will happen. Stephen Koester's piece, "Storm Passing" was awesome as always.

What I've loved most was a work choreographed by Molly Beardmore-Heller and Juan Adalpe set on U of U faculty member Stephen Koester. It is a rare treat to see our professors perform; they are truly magical. The sound score for his performance was an interview conducted by Molly where she asked Steve to fill in statements like..."I'm proud of..." "I've failed at..." "In my life I've had this many friends..." "In my life I've had this many enemies..." "I feel sexy when..." "Do you fear growing old?' etc. What I love most about the U professors is that they are magical when they move, but they are also incredibly insightful when they speak. What I love most about art is that it allows you to relate to people and have a certain amount of insight into who they are. Steve Koester is a man I greatly respect. He has been referred to as a "genius" when he choreographs and I've always learned so much from his classes while being ridiculously challenged. In some ways he can be a little intimidating... in this piece it was easy to see him as just another person with fears and discomforts but also respect his amazing artistry. He feels sexier in the dark, uncomfortable in the public spotlight, and what he fears most about growing old isn't the growing old part as much as losing the promise of what comes with being young... I'm not sure if those were his exact words, but whatever the exact words were, they were eloquent. Congrats to Molly and Juan on an amazing piece and show... and to Steve for an awesome, revealing, and courageous performance... I love dance.

One of the things I love about no longer being in the dance program is no longer being required to see shows and write reviews on them... Now that I'm "free" I find myself going to shows and writing blogs on them... Oh man.

From the Village to the Stage

First and foremost... the title of this blog post is taken from the research of the wonderful Dr. Zelma Badu-Younge. She gave a wonderful talk on this topic while I was in Ghana and has done extensive research on it.

I've started thinking about this talk a lot lately because I found it so interesting. I have been trained in dance, so I know how to choreograph a piece that is meant for the stage. I've even performed in African dance pieces. The difference? The focus... Taking west African (and lately for me, Brazilian) dance classes as well as performing these works, the focus is toward the audience. But, when you really get into these cultural dances, and if you are lucky enough to learn about it from locals, the dance (while it may be called the same) looks different and has a different intention behind it.

In Ghana, the dance we learned from the national company was something I was familiar with. It was like many other West African classes I had taken while in the US. What made West African dance magical was when we got to travel to a village and learn the dances from the community. The whole community worked to teach us the movement, rather than one teacher. And they didn't break down the steps in the way a dance teacher would... they just invited you to dance and you followed along. There was no focus on the audience, no concern for who was watching, it was a community, often in a circle, enjoying their culture, heritage and tradition.

I had a similar experience last week. I took a master class with Dance Brazil. I was very impressed. All of these dancers were crazy strong (and fit - I thought I might pass out when class ended...). After the class... we formed a circle and dancers entered to dance and do some Capoeira. Me, being a classic dancer, was struggling to dance without someone giving me the steps... sooooo wishing I wasn't like that. Basically, it turned into one big Brazilian party. SUCH fun! The next night we went to see the performance. It was totally different - still beautiful, but completely Americanized from what we had experienced the night before. I was in a modern dance show, that happened to include some more movement of the torso and a few capoeirsta moves... I missed the Brazilian party from the night before.

Dances change a lot when prepared for the stage. I understand why it is necessary to do this, but I do think a little bit of the magic gets lost. The American influence on cultural dances goes far and wide... from West Africa to Brazil.

Color Me Happy

Check out my awesome shoes! They tell me I am awesome each time I wear them... which makes me happy. Lately, it has been something I need to hear. What makes them more awesome? I got them for Christmas from my mother dear (who I love, who also has a pair) and they were picked out by my sister (who also got some for Christmas) and they were recently e-bayed by my dear friend April (who now also has a pair).

Beyond them being awesome, they are now owned and worn by all of my favorite people. Friendship kicks? Perhaps...

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Stewing Period

So I have been referring to this period in my life as my "stewing period." It's my time to think. Everyday I'm realizing how different it is to get a BFA rather than a BS or even a BA... yes, every student learns a lot in college. But the science classes I'm in now are a huge switch. You learn the blood trace through the heart, and boom- you know the blood trace through the heart. It takes a lot to remember it, but ultimately this is the way it works and there isn't much more to ponder on after that. With a BFA, I'm constantly thinking back to moments in class that might have more meaning now than they did then. I'm wrapping my head around all that I learned. Having a degree in FINE ARTS requires a different kind of energy. Each part of art you create requires you to put a part of yourself in it. It requires a lot mentally and emotionally. It is as if you are learning more about you and how you relate to the world than any solid piece of fact and that process sticks with you. Several things have gotten me thinking about my dance degree this week.

The first was on my plane ride home from Boston during the Super Bowl. (The trip to Boston was amazing - I am lucky to have a friend as fantastic as Emily who I adore spending time with and the trip really deserves its own blog.) The man across the aisle from me formed an instant bond when we requested super bowl updates from the pilot. Much fun was had. In the space between game updates we made small talk. ("So what do you do?... etc.") Our conversation went something like this...
Him: "So I saw you studying over there- you must be a student. What are you studying?"
Me: "I'm taking pre-req classes for the nursing program, but I have a degree in modern dance."
Him: "Nice, my mom/sister/ cousin's best friend (you know how that convo goes...) is a nurse."
loooooong silence...
Him: "So what did you plan on doing with a DANCE degree?"
Me: "I wanted to be a professional dancer."
Him: "What like in P-Diddy videos?"
Me: "No... like in a professional company."
blank stare...
"Like the posters you see in New York City... "
blank stare...
" You know, Alvin Ailey..., Martha Graham?... Paul Taylor?... New York City Ballet?"
still a blank stare...
At this point I was trying to decide if I wanted to launch into the stimulating explanation of what dance as art is, how it has shaped my life, the history of it, the development of it... an explanation that, to do it justice, would probably take longer than the super bowl lasted, and soon I saw his eyes start to glaze over. (I like football, but really - you can watch men run back and forth tackling each other for hours but not make it through a 2 minute explanation of modern dance?) So I ended my explanation with "Well, I've been doing it for a long time, it's a huge part of my life, it just made sense to major in it in college."
"So why did you stop?" He asks.
I responded with, "I got tired of it..."
To this he tells me about how he is 35 and has been doing the same job for the last 5 years. He's tired of it too... it's getting boring. I just had to smile and nod. I didn't explain that even though I'm 23 and have been dancing for 19 years, when I say I'm tired of it, it's because it is emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting... but it has NEVER been boring. I've probably done thousands if not millions of plies in my lifetime - but I've never been so bored with them that I decided not to do them.

So that had me thinking... really, why have I stopped? I'm a good dancer. I'm qualified to be in a professional company... so why am I not doing everything in my power to pursue that? Maybe this whole staying in school/taking a break from dancing thing is one really big mistake.

But then I read this article today. Why I Dance. By Jenifer Ringer

I agree with Jenifer wholeheartedly. She writes, "This world bombards us with words and instructions and flashing media, and it is so wonderful to be able to experience profound emotions simply through music and movement. It is an honor to be someone who interprets choreography with the hope that someone watching will feel blessed. I dance because I am grateful." This is why I dance, and at times, this is what I miss. But she also writes, "Dancing became a trap that swallowed up who I was and what I had wanted to be. I danced then because I knew nothing else. I was nothing else, and it was unhealthy. I spent a year away at age 25, not dancing at all." This is where I am now. It's not healthy to have your whole life revolve around one thing... not to mention spending all day everyday staring (criticizing) at yourself in the mirror. Dance has been my whole life for too long. This break is just what I need, and I'm enjoying it... There is a world out there much bigger than the inside of a dance studio, and I'm going to see and explore it all... well, most of it at least...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review Session Pet Peeves

I came home from anatomy review last night in a completely horrible mood. Not because I was frustrated with the subject (I'm loving anatomy and the TA's and SI leader are awesome!) but because I was completely disappointed in the other students...

College students (especially of the pre-med variety) should NOT...

1. Interrupt the TA
2. Talk with their buddies for 2 hours... in review.
3. Fidget and constantly kick the backs of other's chairs.
4. Whine about how hard something is.
5. Begin every question with "Do we need to know... ?"
6. Ask the same question that 4 other people have already asked.
7. Lose the ability to stay on topic.
8. Start arguments over silly things.
9. Act like they know more than the SI leader.
10. Laugh at other students that make mistakes but actually have the courage to try an entire blood trace in front of everyone.

I'm especially cranky because I only slept 4 hours in preparation for the test this morning, but honestly people... don't be buttheads, please!!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

sickety sick sick

I have been coughing for a week. Last week I was conveniently able to blame it on the inversion, but now with clear skies I am feeling worse than ever. I have spent the whole day in bed (except for when I made it to anatomy and chemistry this morning). I need to get healthy because...

-I love yoga. I have started a yoga practice, which is no fun when sick.
- I auditioned for Samba Gringa on Sunday (while sick)... have practice this Sunday... hopefully not while sick.
- I am almost able to stand on a snowboard... big accomplishment for me. I need to get back at it before I lose what little skills I have acquired.
- With clear air I am months past due for a winter hike.
- I am remarkably behind in Organic Chemistry... as in have not even opened the book yet...
- I am remarkably behind in anatomy... although all 3 of those books have been opened and flashcards have been made... how am I behind already?
- I have a very messy apartment that has been made even messier by the plumbing and dry wall guys that have basically moved in with me this week.

Dearest immune system, please step up your game!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Massachusetts... MMM

The state of Massachusetts has played a hug role in my mood for the day.

First, one of my dearest and oldest friends- Emily Frydendall - is heading to Boston in two and a half weeks for a med school interview... and I am flying out to meet her there! Emily and I have been friends since 7th grade. She is genuinely one of the kindest, most supportive friends I have ever had, not to mention brilliantly smart (the girl pretty much single handedly got me through calculus and physics in high school), and I'm so excited for this next step in her life. Plus, Boston is my dear friend Diana's all time favorite city - so I cannot wait to go!

Now booking my flight TO Boston... was rougher than expected. My dad is awesomely awesome and is letting me use his frequent flyers, but apparently a daughter using frequent flyer miles is really confusing for those working at the airlines. I spent an hour on the phone today trying to get that all worked out... my itinerary was supposed to be emailed... it wasn't... sounds like I will be spending more time on the phone with the airline tomorrow... It will all be worth it, though.

Currently, I am watching Rachel Maddow reporting from Boston on MSNBC on the election that took place today in Massachusetts. Much more than frustrating airline employees... this issue really has me down. The vote was to replace the beloved Senator Ted Kennedy, the "Lion of the Senate" who recently passed away from brain cancer. (Anything having to do with the brain instantly gets my attention.) Ted Kennedy, especially with his health situation, was one of the strongest senators for health care reform. He also was able to accomplish what most Democrats can not... compromise and gain the respect of Republicans. The loss of him in the senate was a great loss for the country. I am very much a Democrat, but I fully realize that this country would not work, and would not be as great, if everyone believed what I believe. But I truly TRULY believe in health care reform as it has affected my life and the lives of those I love. Today a "teabagger"/Republican was elected to fill Teddy Kennedy's senate seat - surprising because Massachusetts is a largely Democratic state and has not had a Republican Senator since 1972. This is a major bummer because 1) Dems no longer have the votes they need to pass health care reform and 2) this man is the exact opposite of Ted Kennedy. In Massachusetts 98% of people have health insurance- so this was not an election that dictated health care reform for them... but it does dictate health care reform for the rest of the country. Congrats to the Republicans? ... I am majorly bummed out.

Also bumming me out? An article I read this morning that completely contradicts the praise I had for those in Haiti...

Losing a little bit of my faith in people today... here's hoping for a better tomorrow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thoughts on Haiti

My book of 2009 - a book that truly inspired me- that kept my interest every moment- that even inspired me to sign up for the medical anthropology class I am in right now- is the book Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder - a biography of Dr. Paul Farmer. Paul Farmer is a Harvard educated doctor who also holds a PhD in anthropology. Already sounds like an amazing guy, right? I haven't even begun... he works 4 months of the year at Harvard as an Anthropology professor and doctor. He then uses the money he makes in those 4 months to fund a healthcare clinic in Haiti where people can be treated for whatever they can afford- even if that means treating them for free. This is a huge undertaking since Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world, and good healthcare is unheard of. What makes Paul Farmer successful is that he approaches his medicine from an anthropological perspective. What has made the western developed world's attempts at fixing AIDS or Tuberculosis a complete failure is that lack of an anthropological perspective.

Not even 2 months after finishing this book, with Haiti still fresh in my mind, the country is hit by a devastating earthquake. With a thorough image of how poor their healthcare system already is, I think I felt perhaps even more panic and worry for those living there than others with a less informed view of how hard it already is to live there. Of course a disaster like this would be terrible anywhere, but it really couldn't hit anywhere worse than Haiti- a country where people are already struggling beyond what most Americans can even comprehend.

I watched footage last night on my favorite news channel - MSNBC (Yes, I'm well aware of their very liberal approach to news reporting, but being a liberal myself, I find myself agreeing with most of what they say...). They approached their news coverage in a way that I had not expected. Yes, there is chaos in Haiti, many are homeless, many have nothing left... but there is not as much chaos and crime as one would expect in a poverty stricken "undeveloped" country. People seem to be helping one another out in any and all possible ways.

While watching this coverage I had flashbacks to the footage of the most notable natural disaster we saw here in the States- another area close to my heart - when Katrina hit New Orleans. I was born in New Orleans, and my parents' old house was 6 feet underwater when the levies broke. What made this disaster even more terrifying was that those who were seeking refuge in the Superdome encountered, robbers, rapists, and murderers. I don't mean to judge the people of New Orleans - I have no idea how I would react in a terrifying situation like that- and this could all be skewed news reporting- but nothing like this seems to be going on in Haiti- nothing that the news is covering at least. The people of Haiti seem to be handling a terrible disaster with much more class and bravery than Americans would (I don't exclude myself from this...).

I've been pondering the effects of living in poverty for some time now. After my visit to Ghana I could genuinely say that generally- Ghanaians seem to be, as a culture, more open and giving than Americans. Something I found to be quite ironic since most Americans have so much more than those in Ghana. Perhaps the lack of material things causes people to be more concerned with people than "stuff," and that value of a person causes someone to react differently in a moment of crisis. Of course I am speaking in remarkably broad generalizations and stereotypes. And I also realize I sound very hypocritical since I, myself have lived a very cushy life filled with much "stuff."

So I hope that Paul Farmer is safe and sound - he is someone who has truly saved the world. And I know he will be essential and necessary in helping Haiti rebuild. Read about his story!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Epilepsy Gala

So I guess this is blog 3 devoted to Epilepsy... this one is a bit more joyful.

Last night was the Utah Epilepsy Gala, put on by the Epilepsy Foundation, a black tie event. My Dad is a very notable person in the world of Epilepsy research, especially in Utah ... so my parents got all dressed up last night and made an appearance at this black tie affair.

For those that know my parents, it is probably quite difficult to picture them in tuxedos and ball gowns. My parents are both very casual people that live their lives in t-shirts and jeans. I was quite excited to see my parents all dressed up and have spent this last week helping my mom prepare for the event. (We went ball gown shopping... and even though I wasn't going, I made sure to try on a dress too, because who can resist trying on a ball gown?)

My parents were so cute the morning of the event. They spent it practicing their black tie etiquette over a very casual breakfast and googling all the black tie faux pas. One of the most classic moments goes like this...
Dad reading from a website: "Black tie means one thing - tuxedo."
Mom: "oops!"
Dad: "and floor length gowns..."
Mom: "oops again!"

Ok, but on to the important stuff. The Gala had several key speakers including Susan Axelrod (wife of David Axelrod - Obama's right hand man- whose daughter has a very severe case of epilepsy), Orrin Hatch (our Utah senator who has worked to get the Americans with Disabilities Act passed), and one of the Osmond brothers... My parents shared some interesting facts with me... Did you know that in the United States it was illegal for someone to marry someone with Epilepsy? And worst of all, that the last state to end this law only ended it in 1980? That's right... only 6 years before I was born was it legal in the entire USA to marry someone with Epilepsy! Crazy, no? Also, in our world today, more people die each year of Epilepsy than they do from breast cancer! Many don't think about Epilepsy being a terminal disease, but it most definitely is! And think of all that pink you see out there in the world! There are so many breast cancer awareness t-shirts, ribbons, events... which is totally awesome, but how often do you see a ribbon for Epilepsy awareness??? There are so many misconceptions about the disease, it is unbelievable! When I was a sophomore in high school, I sold crocheted hats at Colorado State University and donated all the proceeds to the Epilepsy Foundation. I went to school with some pretty intelligent kids (shout out to the IB nerds that I love sooooo much)... yet as SOPHOMORES IN HIGH SCHOOL many people didn't know what epilepsy was or had even heard of it! Crazy!

Anyway, I'm glad my parents were able to attend. My dad is a great scientist who I look up to and admire every day and my mom is now living with Epilepsy and handling it better than I ever could (she saw a lot of her doctors at the event last night) Go Mom and Dad!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hello 2010!!!

I can truly tell the year has changed, promise. Never mind that all my bills payed thus far accidentally have 09 written on them and that I seriously almost put "Hello 2009" as my title... haha... oh dear.

ANYWAY... I had hoped that my first blog of 2010 (yeah... almost did it again) would be about this fantastic book I'm reading called 7 Days in the Art World. But, I still have 100 pages to go and I am a firm believer in not formulating all thoughts on a book until it has been read completely through... why have I not finished this book? Because I am completely addicted to my crochet projects at the moment... whatever will I do when school starts???

So goals for 2010:

1. Prioritize. I will not let my crochet addiction keep me from studying... I will not, I will not.

2. Keep up with my reading. Much of what has been learned this year has been through the reading of amazing books, I need to keep that up.

3. Take better care of myself. I will not put off doctors checkups till the last minute (I scheduled my dentist appointment today- be proud!). I will eat food that is good for me that will help me stay alert and active. I will exercise my heart - because it needs it (as soon as icky inversion goes away... gag!).

4. I will volunteer. Been meaning to, don't have a decent excuse for why I haven't...

5. I will go on a fantastic trip. Ever since Ghana, this travel stuff has become an addiction... one I will happily give into because I believe it makes my life better. (Been looking at trips to South Africa, Tanzania, Egypt, Costa Rica, Thailand, and India for this summer... I CAN NOT decide!!!!)

6. I will climb a 14er. I believe Mount Elbert has been the lucky 14er of choice and with any luck... my mom will be in healthy enough shape to go with me! (The risk for seizures increases at higher altitudes, so we might have to do a gradual climb... giving that brain of hers time to adjust.)

7. I will write down at least 3 of my hat patterns - the official start to the crochet book I will write in the next few years.

8. I will be able to carve on a snowboard... once I get a firming grasp on the whole staying standing part.

9. I will not sweat the small stuff. I get worked up over silly things and am really hard on myself sometimes. I'm 23. I should have a better grasp on what's important and what is not.

10. I will keep dancing. Not the crazy amount I have kept up for the previous 18 years, but I will do something to keep it up. I took a dance class over Christmas with an old teacher who has become a great friend. She stopped us in class to say this, "I love you all for how vivacious, individual, and full of light you are! Each one of you has something precious and unique to offer in movement and spirit - Always know how lucky you are to be dancing!" We danced to a song with the lyrics, "If my heart was a house, you'd be home." She talked about how dancing feels like home to her... and it does to me too- especially being back in my old studio, with people I knew from high school, my sister, and her teaching. I was home in so many more ways than one. It was funny to be there listening to her say that. All the younger dancers (which I used to be!!!) were there smiling and nodding, but I was on the verge of tears! It takes maturity and dancing for 18+ years to realize the magnitude of those words and to truly understand the great great advice we were being given. So in 2010, I'm taking that advice.

2010 is going to be awesome. I can feel it!