Monday, December 19, 2011


So I know Thanksgiving was a while ago, but life got busy with the end of the semester. So finally I can post some Thanksgiving picture. For the long five day weekend my friend, Patrick, came home with me to visit my crazy family. Since he is from Washington, he had to either sit at school for the holiday or come with me. I planned several activities, and I knew we were going to have tons of fun. One the first things we did was visit Fountain Hills, home to the tallest man-made fountain in the world. The fountain shoots over 500 feet high. It is quite amazing. My sisters loved chasing the numerous ducks and our talented game of frisbee!

That night we decided to go to the Mesa, Arizona Temple to look at the beautiful lights. We had a great time while drinking hot chocolate and walking around enjoying the Christmas spirit. 

Our last exciting activity was our trip to the Phoenix zoo. Patrick had never been to a zoo, so I mad it a priority to go. We had a blast!!

Overall, Patrick and I had so much fun coming to my home for Thanksgiving. It was a great way to ring in the holiday season.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What you'll find in Mesa, Arizona

Of course this is a cute little smart car sporting American pride.
This is a great replica of a school bus. I think the bus driver is a bit big seeing that his head is busting through the roof.
I decided to return home for Veteran's Day weekend, and see what the family had planned. They were going to see the Veteran's Day parade located in Downtown Mesa. My younger sister, Bailee, is on her high school's color guard and we were excited to see her perform in the parade. However, I was very surprised at just how entertaining the parade would be. I had no idea of the many social amenities that Mesa, Arizona offers. Here are some of the great and perhaps laughable highlights of the parade:

I feel that no caption is required here :)
So this appeared to be a typical Mesa bike gang that supports the Veterans, until we see the tiny motorcycle weaving in and out of all the other tough and expensive looking bikes. In addition, the woman driving seemed to be having so much fun, so it really added to the parade.

Well finally it was time for my sister and her band to come perform. They looked and sounded amazing. Bailee has put so much effort into Color Guard and really looks beautiful and great out on the football fields and in this case in the parade. Let's just say she really knows how to flip a rifle around. Great job Bai!!

Overall the parade was great and of course entertaining. It was great to see all the social clubs and activity groups that reside in Mesa.  It was also fun seeing how they spice up a Veteran's Day parade.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Final Day on the San Juan

Sunday was our final day on the river. We were just sailing straight through to our take-out location in order to get back to Flagstaff at a decent hour. Today was my lucky day to be in the "Duckie". To those of you who do not know river terms, myself included, a duckie is basically an inflatable canoe. I had been a little eerie of the duckie because I knew I would be getting wet. To make matters a bit worse, my class had camped in a canyon, where there was little sun. We woke up pretty cold only to realize that our wetsuits and gear had not dried from the day before. Also the sun would not fill our canyon until noon so nothing was going to get much warmer until were paddled into sun light. I gingerly put on my wet river shoes and suit and was ready to find a patch of sun light. My partner and I climbed into our duckie and started paddling. Without any previous experience, our efforts only seemed to spin us in circles. We learned we were somehow more coordinated and could go straight if we went backwards. Of course eventually we would just end up in our regular 360 pattern. Finally we made it to a patch of sunlight. Our red, frozen hands dried out and instead of frustration at our failing efforts, everything just became funny. Then we both had to use the restroom. I was getting desperate so our river guide told us to just stop at a beach and go. Immediately I located a perfect location a few feet ahead. We hit the sandy shore, ready to relieve ourselves. Of course, just as we stepped out of the duckie, we sunk up to our knees in mud. My partner's shoes were falling off as he tried to pry his feet from the quick-sand like mud. Once we freed ourselves we ran in opposite directions to use the restroom. Then back into the duckie we went. However, we had not realized how long we were stuck in the sticky mud. Everyone else in the group was way ahead and quickly disappearing from site. We both kicked our paddling skills into high gear trying to work with the river and avoid spinning in circles. We were exhausting our every effort, while the groups ahead weren't paddling at all and still seemed to be moving faster. At last, totally exhausted, we were able to catch up. Of course, thats when the guides and other students decide to tell us how to paddle correctly! Eventually we arrived at our pull out destination and headed down the road toward home.

I really had a great time on the San Juan. I began to see the Indian culture and desert in a different light. I had often looked at Indian Reservations with a negative connotation, but this trip really opened my eyes to a new, although ancient, culture. I have a lot more respect and understanding. The San Juan sits among gorgeous canyons and rock formations. I would encourage people to plan a trip to the area even if only to look at it. However, please research and remember the history of the area and please respect the land and artifacts.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

River Trip: Day Two

The next morning we awoke and were ready to go. We had 12 1/2 miles to travel in one day, so we had to stay organized and get going. We got on the river and were off. Today we were going to be hitting several rapids so everyone was extremely excited.
After dipping and diving through the rapids were made a quick stop to a pictograph. Pictographs, unlike hieroglyphs, are painted on to the canyon walls. Because the paints come off the walls relatively easily, it is amazing to see several that have withstood time. The reason for this pictograph surviving is likely because it does not face the constant wind and is hidden on a canyon wall.I loved seeing the little hand prints that surround the painting. The big circle symbol of the pictograph is thought by some anthropologists to represent war. Of course, the exact meaning is unknown.

Also while looking at the pictographs we saw many granaries.These are storage units that were often built high of the ground and in small cubbies in canyon walls. These granaries haven't yet been examined or dug though to determine what was stored in them. Actually many sites along the San Juan have remained unexcavated in order to preserve history and tradition. It is also done out of respect to our ancestors.

In order to see the pictograph we had to cross a small river. At one point we were all up to our waist in water and up to our knees in mud. Of course this muddy water was not new to our group. The San Juan and surrounding area has survived centuries of soil erosion. The banks of the river are all sand and the river is a nice brown color. My class couldn't decide whether the river was the color of chocolate milk, cappuccino, chai tea latte, or the just chocolate. But either way, getting into the river was definitely exfoliating.

Once we saw the pictograph and crossed back over the small river, we continued downstream to make camp. Remember those groups that were with us at launch? well we had to camp just a little bit downstream from one of them, and let's just say they were not going to waste any of that beer. Til pretty late in the night we heard tons of laughing and even some mock howling. Meanwhile our group is having a camp fire discussion on the cultural and environmental issues of the river. But we did not mind the noise; it made the night hilarious for sure.

On the River: Day One

My small class arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed at five AM outside the university pool. We loaded all of our gear and set off on the four hour drive to Bluff, Utah. Most of the van slept the entire drive only to wake up to a chill wind at our launch site. The San Juan at one point was being trashed and over-used by the hordes of tourists that would flood it's shores every summer. Now the Bureau of Land Mangement restricts the amount of river runners to 15,000 a year. Because of this our class was lucky just to have been drawn to go. With the drawing, the BLM restricts when people are on the river too. That is why we were doing our river excursion in the cold fall air instead of the warmer summer months. Also as a result of the drawing system other groups were launching on the same day as my class. The must have thought we were crazy or something. We pull up to the dock and begin to outfit ourselves in wet suits, splash jackets, life jackets, river shoes, and helmets. The other groups stood confused in their shorts and sandals all the while loading several 24-packs of beer onto their boats.

Nevertheless, we all dressed and set sail in our three boats, prepared for the great adventure ahead.I really fell in love with the geology of the San Juan. The different rock formations and high cliff walls were beautiful.

Our class made a quick stop for a delicious lunch and small hike. The hike lead the group up to some ancient petroglyphs that were carved into stone by the Ancestral Pueblo. Little is known of the meaning of the pictures, so sitting around making up stories and meanings is really entertaining.

Soon our tour down the river was done for the first day. We had traveled 5 1/2 miles and were ready to make camp. Before dinner, though, we hiked to an old ruin. This location was probably my favorite. This house and kiva were built centuries before my visit and yet were perfectly preserved. We even found some old corn cobs that had resisted decomposition in the high desert walls. The kiva's insides walls were still coal black from a fire's smoke.It was truly amazing to just imagine one day in the life of this ancient culture.

On the hike back from from the ruins, the Honors director at NAU encouraged us to look at the ground. Before our eyes thousands small pieces of broken pottery lay. We had hardly noticed them. In some of the coil styled pot pieces little fingerprints and nail markings were visible. It really hit me then that the inhabitants were humans, just like us, and we were visiting their homes. Just on day one, the San Juan trip was already broadening my perspectives to a new culture.   

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

San Juan River Trip

At the beginning of the semester I was searching for a final class to fill my schedule and I came upon HON 244. This class seemed like a perfect fit. It gave me honor credits and had a small class size. I enrolled as was set to go although I had never heard if its main subject matter: the San Juan River. The first class I attended I learned that I was going to go on a three day river excursion.Man was I excited!! Throughout the semester my class has been reading and studying all about the environmental and cultural problems that involve the river and the surrounding area. Finally, it was time to actually see the river!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ways to Save in College!

Just about everyday, I come up with a way to save something. Sometimes its time or money or effort or even my own sanity. As a result of all of my fabulous saving ideas, I figured I could make an on-going sequence for my blog. So every now and again when I have an saving epiphany I post about it. Hopefully someone out there can use my inspiration and save himself.
Without further ado, ways to save MONEY in college tip #1: Stop drying loads of laundry. My roommate and I were forced into doing this one day when all of the dryers were busy in our communal laundry room., but it ended up working out great. Not only do I now save about $1.25 ($0.75 per load) a week but I do not have to worry about being late to pick up my clothes.As it is common in our small laundry room for wet or dry clothes to be tossed on the floor if the owner is not exactly on time to retrieve them. In addition, I already have the perfect drying rack, my own bed. I use the ladder side to place small items like socks, shorts, and underwear, and then I can hang shirts, pants, and dresses on the bed frame. The only down side my roommate and I have discovered to this method, is that instead of it taking 45 minutes for clothes to dry, it takes around 4 hours. Eventually, I may have to break down and use the dryer again in an eurgent "I need this dry now" case, but for the time being the bed/ drying rack is working great and saving me money.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Snow Already?!

So the good news is I got my computer back and it is 100% fixed (at least I hope it is). Either way it is working great. The other news, I have not determined whether its good or bad yet, is the snow!! It happened last Friday. I came out of my Spanish 303 class and BAM, it was snowing. I loved it! It melted pretty rapidly but it did dust the top of the San Francisco Peaks creating a brilliant view. The snow was beautiful and not too cold. However, the rumor around campus is that we are going to have more snow storms this year than we have had in the past 50 years. Also this was the earliest it has snowed in the past 40 years. So not only will I be experiencing just winter, but it is bound to be an exciting one. Apparently, according to one of my sophomore friends, I looked like a real fool running out of class and capturing these photos. But what can I say? I am a freshmen. So i suppose my worrying about the cold a month in advance was not uncalled for because it is already upon me! 

Friday, September 30, 2011

College Life Begins

I have gotten so far behind with blogging from moving from Germany and now up to Flagstaff, Arizona. College started just over a month ago and it is going great. However one mishap, my computer received a virus somehow, so for now I am stuck using the computer labs and can not post pictures. I am enjoying living in Flagstaff but am deathly afraid for cold season. Traditionally, Flagstaff gets its first bit of snow on Halloween. THAT'S IN 31 DAYS. I am convinced I should be doing something to prepare for the burst of cold that is about to encircle the area, but I have no clue what that something is. I have bought a rain jacket and two wool coats. I have some jeans as well. Does anyone have suggestions for appropriate foot wear? (Please keep in mind that I want to look somewhat attractive in winter shoes:) Never have I had to deal with cold weather for more than a couple of days. I am excited to experience it, but still terrified. I am sure once the weather and snow hits, I will adapt easily and survive. Lets hope!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day One in Aachen

While Antonia was busy having fun in kindergarten, Sonja, Martin and I raced to Aachen for a short preview. I would later return one the third leg of my journey so they were just trying to get me orientated. We first stopped at the pillars. This structure represents the natural hot springs that Aachen is famous for.

 People have been comming to bathe in the sulfur water for centuries. Of course the hot springs is not located in the center of the town, but this just tells a bit of history under this giant domed area of the structure is where salsa dances occassionally take place. You just have to hope you can dance through the rotten egg smell of the water that comes through these lion heads.

After the pillars we wandered through town quickly and came to the great cathedral. As legend goes the great Charlemagne gave Aachen tons of money to build a great cathedral. When Charlemagne left the city, however, the citizens pilfered the money and built no church. Later news arrived that Charlemagne was returning to Aachen and was anxiously awaiting to see his new church. The people panic, knowing that in days time the leader would see how the citizens wasted his money. Then the devil stepped in and offered the townspeople something they couldn't resist. The devil would build the giant cathdral in one night if he could have the soul of the first one that enters the church. The people agreed, but knew the first soul to enter a cathdral is always a bishop. How could they sell the bishop to the devil?
 After thinking of a way to avoid the death of the bishop, they had a solution. The devil spent the night building the cathedral. The next morning the townspeople gathered to marvel at the structure and put their plan to action. They released a wolf into the church. The wolf was instantly killed and the soul was the devil's. Now the bishop could safely enter the church, and Charlemagne wold be pleased with his gracious cathedral. Now a statue of the wolf seats at the entrance of the cathedral to remind the people of the deal they made.

Inside the church was beautiful. The church was originally built in the 800s, so the whole cathedral is a mixture of relics for different time period where parts were destroyed and rebuilt.  The ceiling was amazing. It was an almost entirely hand crafted mosiac tile mural, depicting many different scenes and symbols. The tile however was part of an 19th century remodel. The podium, however was original to the 800s when the church was completed. It is covered in gold and is detailed with precious gems and ivory. It was really quite delicate.
Soon it was time to return to the kindergarten to pick up cute little Antonia. I had a great time doing a mini tour in Aachen, and I was definitely excited to be returning later in my trip.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

German Kindergarten

The second day with Sonja and Martin was Antonia's first day of kindergarten. German kindergarten is the same as American day care. The children simply play and do crafts all day while the parents work or just get a small break. A few years ago, the kindergartens were for ages 3-7, but now there is a trend of more moms working. The  majority of kindergartens will now take children at one and a half years. Antonia is three and half and was going for the first time. She was so excited! In Germany there is a tradition that the cild gets a cone for his first day. These cones are made of thin cardboard and come in all different sizes. It is filled with small toys and treats to help excite the child for, in many cases, the first time they will be without their parents. Antonia's cone was themed with Princess Lilifee. Lilifee is a very popular German cartoon character for little girls. Antonia was delighted. She received a stamp kit, some markers and crayons, and some little acessories for her baby doll. Then off to kindergarten she went. She was nervous, but ended up aving a great time and meeting a new little friend.

Antwerpen and Belguim Chocolate

I was only going to be with Sonja and Martin for two and a half days, and of course they had to continue the German tradition of being overly generous. Every family that I stayed with just radiated generousity. I was VERY lucky. Both Sonja and Martin took the day off of work to take me to Belguim. Because of the European Union, once I entered a country in Europe I had free access to any other European country. I could have headed to Italy, Spain, France, anywhere honestly without needing another passport stamp or passing any border control. SO with a quick one hour drive from Aachen, Germany, I was in Antwerpen, Belguim. Of course the sign that you have entered Belguim is the lights. Every few meters of every stretch of Belguim highway has a light. Apparently these lights, which are visible from space, were highly expensive and, to most people, serve very little purpose.

I found Antwerpen to be very beautiful. Sonja had been a tour guide in her early career and had so much knowledge on the history of Antwerpen. The first stop was to the Rubens House Museum. Rubens is a well know and artistic painter. The museum holds many of his original pieces. Obviously, I was unable to take pictures of his work, but many pictures come up on google. I was able to photograph this garden. Rubens had painted this garden and several centuries later, this garden was developed to resemble his painting.

Next we went walking around the town. We saw the first skyscraper built in Europe, well on the mainland. England had skyscrapers before this one.

We also passed through the diamond district. It was Sunday so many of the stores were closed but a few have window displays for viewing the precious jewerly.

After walking we went to the Museum Plantin-Moretus Prentenkabinet. It was a printing press museum. It was amazing. It had so many books. The museum did a great job of showing the history of bound books. First it had many hand written books with delicate designs on every page. Later there were book written on papyrus. Some books had paintings on gold. Then there were some of the first leather bound books, and one of the first translated bibles. Then it opened into the original printing shop. There were twenty four presses that had been preserved. I got to see the individual letters that had to be lined up to create words. After the letters were lined into words, they were covered with a coat of ink and then pressed onto paper. The pages then had to hang to dry and were finally bound. I was able to watch a sort video about how every letter and symbol was sculpted in metal to be used with the press. It was such intricate work. Also creating one book took forever. I guess a printing press would have to be pretty sure the book was going to be a hit before they would be super willing to invest time to print it out.

As my short trip to Belgium was drawing to a close I dashed for some Belguim chocolate. The choclate shop smelled delicious. All of the treats were homemade on the second floor of the building. Let me just say it was all so delicous!

The Next Leg of My Journey

After five short days with Helga and Gunter it was time to say good bye and begin the next section of my journey. I would be staying with Sonja, Helga and Gunter's daughter. She is married to Martin, and they have the cutest little girl named Antonia.

 We all got together for lunch. I was extremely nervous to be staying with little Antonia because I knew she did not speak any English, and I only knew about ten words of German. However, it is amazing how far a little smile and a laugh will go. Although we really didn't understand each other, we had a great time. After lunch at a local gausthaus (a bed and breakfast) we went to the park. Seeing Antonia play, I realized I hadn't seen any other children the entire five days I had been in Germany.

 Luckily I was taught about this issue. Apparently the birthrate in Germany is extremely low. By the year 2030 the population of Germany will drop from today's 80 million to 60 billion. The birthrate is currently rising though and the government has  created excellent programs to benefit parents with children. Some of these benefits include cheap child care and long maternity leaves.

 Anways I hadn't realized how exciting it was to see a little three and a half year old child. We had blast at the park. Then we began to walk around and I noticed the first parent trap. ICE CREAM! Or as the Germans call it eis (pronounced ice). Just about every single eis parlor has a large statue of and ice cream cone standing outside. Of course a child recognizes this single symbol of a tasty treat. And Antonia was no exception!