Tuesday, April 27, 2010

good fortune

Every once in a while something happens that is just so perfect that you can't quite believe your good fortune.  I'm talking about kind of good fortune that brings a gelato stand to your parent's neighborhood the very summer that you are home studying for the bar exam.  The sort of good fortune that you might call a blessing and then second guess whether such a trivial thing could be divine.  I mean I'd never sincerely pray for a gelato stand to open up in my neighborhood, yet I have many times dreamt of it.  And if there was ever a time when it might be most appreciated would be the summer I was plagued with the odious task of studying for the dreaded bar exam.  

Such good fortune just came my way.

For the past couple years I have been huge fan of a radio show called This American Life, it's kind of hard to explain but utterly brilliant and the next time you have an hour, give it a listen.  I promise it'll be educational, thought provoking and entertaining.  The host of This American Life is Ira Glass and the show is his creation.  

A few months ago I found out that he was going to be coming to Anchorage and I tried to devise a plan to get down to see him, but it was going to be complicated.  So, I sort of gave up on the idea of seeing Ira.  Until one day, I was listening to NPR when I heard that Ira was coming to Fairbanks.  My jaw dropped to the floor (not literally of coarse, but I nearly fell over I was so shocked).  I could NOT believe that Ira would come all the way to little old Fairbanks.  It was like a dream come true (I recognize how geeky I sound and am woefully unapologetic).  And my general opinion of Fairbanks improved significantly - I mean if Ira Glass is going to be coming here, maybe this town is cooler than I thought.

So, I bought my ticket well ahead of time and invited my friend Eva to come with me.  It was really important to find someone who had heard of Ira, and I was glad to find out that my instincts were correct, Eva is a fellow fan of Mr. Glass and his remarkable show.  

While I am familiar with Ira's weekly radio show, I wasn't quite sure what this event would be like but being a super geeky fan as I am, I didn't really care.  All I knew was that Ira is brilliant and I was facinated see whatever he was doing in Fairbanks.  It turned out to be part the making of the show and part Ira's theories on journalism and story telling.  And there were moments where it felt a little bit like a stand up comedy routine - everyone was laughing A LOT.  He shared clips from past shows and talked about the making of the show.  I was really impressed by his insights about story telling.  Story telling is a really significant form of communication and and fascilitates learning and understanding.  Through effective story telling, it is possible to experience vicariously other times, places, interactions and emotions.  The event is really hard to explain but to summarize, it was brilliant and thought provoking.  And extremely good fortune.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth Day

Today being Earth Day, I've been thinking about this amazing planet that we live on.  I'm definitely a fan of Earth and I want to do my part to make sure that it remains a nice place for us to live for a long time.  So, I've been thinking of things that I could do/improve on to help out the planet.  I'm really good at coming up with excuses and sometimes I just get overwhelmed.  But there are a few things that I've been meaning to change for a while now.  

1)  Start recycling.  I've been so bad here in Fairbanks, my excuse is that I'm only here temporarily but that is a lousy excuse for doing something I know is wrong.

2)  Eat less processed foods and less animal products.  I've been pretty good lately about limiting my meat and dairy lately.  I won't cut it out entirely but I think that I could be more careful.  The toughie is going to be giving up my frozen entrees.  I have gotten in the habit of bringing a lean cuisine (or equivalent) to work with me for my lunch.  I'd really like to get into the habit of preparing my lunches the night before - less packaging, less mystery ingredients, less weird chicken. 

3)  Drive less, walk more.  This one's convenient because it is once again pleasant to walk about outside without any special equipment.

4)  Read more, less tv/computer.  Also easier now that it's beautiful outside.  I do enjoy reading good book in the sunshine. 

5)  Plant a garden.  I actually started this last Saturday and I admit that it is a bit of a science experiment but even if it doesn't yield anything edible, it's a learning experience.

Well, that's about it for now - no more excuses.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

final day on the island

On our fourth and final day on the island we got up early, packed our bags and checked out of the not so swanky Royal Grove Hotel.  We grabbed some breakfast at a convenience store on our way to our car.  Our flights didn't leave until late that night so we had a good part of a day to explore the north shore.  We drove north and stopped at the Dole plantation where we ate giant pineapple confections and learned some interesting facts about pineapples.

When we had finished our cones we continued on our way to the north shore.  We stopped in Haleiwa and did a bit of shopping and (upon multiple recommendations) checked out Matsumoto's shaved ice.  As we were still digesting our Dole Whips, we decided that we would come back later.  We continued north to Shark's Cove (don't worry Abbey, we saw no sharks and it was really to shallow for sharks of any threatening size).

I'd read that this was an excellent snorkeling spot but we ended up just wading through the tide pools.  The water was so clear that we had a pretty good view of the fish while staying dry from the waist up.  You wouldn't know it from the picture but it was a rather rainy day - we were glad that it cleared up for a bit so while we were in the water.  

After we'd had our fill at Shark's Cove we went back to Haleiwa and had lunch at a fabulous little place called Grass Skirt (another fabulous recommendation).  I had a hebi sandwich - the hebi (which I learned from the owner is similar to mahi-mahi) was caught fresh that morning and it tasted absolutely delish.

Before we headed to the airport we checked out all the shops (didn't buy anything but I generally like the looking better than the buying).  And we went back to Matsumoto's for their famous shaved ice.  I think that I would have liked it a bit better if it had been a hot day, but it was pretty good.

It was a really good trip. I was so glad that my mom could meet me over there.  She is so good to me and we had a really good time exploring Oahu together.  I should also mention that she was a really good sport to do all the driving and was really patient with my poor navigational skills. 

I'm pretty sure this was the best birthday present that I could have given myself this year and for that I should thank myself - Thanks! I really needed that.    

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

day 3 - Easter

Our third day on Oahu just happened to Easter - absolutely the least traditional Easter of my life but definitely memorable.  It also happened to be General Conference* weekend and though we couldn't figure out how to watch it live, thanks to the miracle of the internet, I've been able to listen to it since I got home.  

So we didn't go to church but we did go to brunch at the Marriot Hotel - a couple blocks from our stellar bargain hotel.  It was oh so yummy, they had this bread pudding stuff that made me weak in the knees.  (I have a weakness for just about anything called pudding.)  

After that we went to go see Queen Emma's Summer Palace but as it was closed we wandered around the garden for a bit.  On our way there we happened upon the Punchbowl Cemetery, where (I learned later) casualties of Pearl Harbor are buried.  It was really pretty but as it started to rain as soon as we got out of the car, I took no pictures.  

In the afternoon, we went to Pearl Harbor where we toured a submarine and the USS Missouri - aka the Mighty Mo.  Now those are some crazy huge guns! 

It was on this battleship the we signed the peace treaty with Japan that ended World War II.  
In the distance you can see the USS Arizona Memorial.

In the evening  we decided to go see the Temple.  The Temple was closed but the visitor center was open.  We met a very nice sister missionary who shared this video of Elder Hollands testimony of the atonement.  It is such a good reminder of the reason that we celebrate Easter.  Please watch it.

This Easter Sunday I was reminded of the great sacrifices that have been made on my behalf and through which I am blessed.  My blessings are truly countless.  I am so thankful for those who have heroically defended this country, placing their very lives at stake to preserve the freedoms I enjoy.  And yet, the greatest sacrifice was made our Savior Jesus Christ, through whom we all may live again and return the presence of our Father in Heaven.  I am overcome with gratitude as I ponder the implications the Savior's infinite atonement.  I know that Christ lived and died for us, that he conquered death and that he will come again - I look forward to that day.  

Happy belated Easter!

* twice a year the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a general conference in which the Prophet, Apostles and other church leaders address the world.

Monday, April 19, 2010

day 2

On my second day of vacation I went snorkeling here. 

Hanauma Bay  - it's a bay that formed in a volcanic crater.  It was insanely crowded but we saw some really cool fishes.  The coral creates a sort of maze and at times I got totally trapped between fellow snorkelers and the coral - but it was cool and fish didn't seem to mind all the crazy people bumping into everything and gawking at them, I guess they're used to it.  Also it started raining while we were snorkeling - cool sensation to have water falling on your back while your face is submerged in the ocean.  

After snorkeling we drove around to the windward side of the island and saw some really impressive views.  

I don't think the pictures really capture it that well but it was absolutely beautiful. 

While we were still in our swim suits we headed over to Waikiki for some sunbathing and people watching.  After dinner and a disappointing experience at the International Marketplace (not my kind of retail therapy) we turned in early - the sun and water had worn me out.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

travel log - day 1

I apologize there will be no pictures from my trip in this post. You see, I got a new camera a month ago and I am still figuring it out.  While I managed to download the new software to my computer, that is as far as I've gotten in the process.  I really thought that it was going to happen last night but alas, I found myself uncharacteristically tired at 9:30 and in a state of bewilderment decided to be mature about it and go to bed even though it wasn't even dark yet (might as well get used to it now). That's right, it's still kind of light out at 10pm these days - very weird.     

But I will take a moment here to tell you all about some of the highlights of my trip.

We had 4 lovely days on the island of Oahu and we saw a lot in that time.  I'm not one to lounge on the beach all day - I get antsy and honestly, I just can't take that much sun.  And well, our hotel wasn't the sort of place that you'd want to spend more time than you have too. (btw, let me know if you are looking for a dirt cheap place to stay in Waikiki, because I found one.  The location is great and the room was clean - if that's all you care about, this place is a bargain.)

Day 1: We got up early and walked down the beach.  We wandered around, went to nice little aquarium, checked out some of the fancy hotels. (Note: don't confuse the Royal Hawaiian with the Royal Grove, they are booth pink, but the similarities end there.  We stayed at the Royal Grove, not the Royal Hawaiian and probably saved thousands of dollars, but our lobby just didn't compare.)

In the afternoon we went to the Polynesian Cultural Center - which I really enjoyed.  I learned how to make coconut milk (and by learned I mean in the sense that I learned how to make wedding cakes by watching Martha Stewart make wedding cakes - now that I've seen someone else do it, there is a chance that in a pinch I could do it myself.).  I also learned that I like Hawaiian music and poi in very small quantities.  The very best part was the show, Ha the Breath of Life.  It was really impressive - lots of dancing - hard to explain but I highly recommend it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

little miracles make life sweet

I had a moderately successful Saturday.  I spent most of the day cleaning my room - in hopes that in the cleaning I would find my rogue W-2 form.  I wasn't quite frantic yet, but I knew I had to find it soon or figure out how to get a duplicate.  I had just about given up when I had to leave to go do my visiting teaching*.  My companion is a rockstar and is really good about making sure we get it done. (note: the month isn't even half over here folks.) We had some nice visits with the a couple of the girls that we are assigned to and talked a bit about personal revelation.  In the middle of one of these said visits, a thought popped into my head: you need to look in the drawers of your night stand. When I went home I opened the top drawer of my nightstand and within seconds, I had my W-2 in hand. 

Maybe I just needed to step away from the problem for a minute for my brain to remember where I'd put that little piece of mail months previously. However, I'd rather give credit where credit is due - it was the spirit that helped me remember.  I'd been looking for this form for a quite a while but the spirit helped me find it when I needed it, when I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.  

So now I can say that my room is clean (disaster zone downgraded) and my taxes are done.  Taxes may be a lame way to spend a Saturday night but it feels really good to finally have them done.  (Added bonus: my tax refund will more than pay for my birthday trip that I took last week.)  

I am grateful for the miracles great and small that make my life sweet and give me hope.

* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a program called visiting teaching; in which the women of the church are partnered up and assigned other women to visit every month.  It is a simple system to watch out for everyone and to learn from one another.  

Friday, April 9, 2010

spring is on it's way

Things sure change fast up here. When I left for Hawaii last week it was still pretty snowy, though the days had gotten much longer and slightly warmer.  I came back to soggier, muddier and much less frozen landscape.  Spring is on it's way. The geese have returned, the river is thawing and the ice sculptures around town are crumpling. 

Oh, and my trip was AWESOME! I didn't take many pictures but I hope to get a few of them onto my computer this weekend.  So get ready to be insanely jealous.  For now, I'll just say that Oahu is maybe the prettiest place I have ever been - it most definitely exceeded my expectations.