All You Can Eat

Three nights ago, we made it to St. George Utah with the intention of staying at Zion National Forest.  Exhaustion got the best of us and we settled for the KOA, conveniently stationed off of the freeway.

All of our overnights, thus far, have been nice and cool; at times a little cold.  The refreshing climate in the north and midwest is very satiable, ideal even, for an enjoyable night in a tent.  This was not the case off of the I15.

Once we hit Southern Colorado, the cool, crisp mountain air ceased whisking through the slender window openings.  Instead, it turned to the sensation of cooking a pizza in a wood fire oven.  “It’s ok, ” we thought.  “We’ll just put on the AC.”

Nope.

Just when we needed a little temperature relief, we discover that the vents only delivered the same heat that the windows were providing.  But we just laughed it off, rolled ’em down and embraced the blasts of inferno that we yearned for last February in Lake Placid.

We got to our site in the middle of the night and proceeded to set up the tent.  The weather reminded us of those hot summer nights in Paraguay, minus the humidity.  Oh, and the little cucarachas dancing at our feet, brought back memories as well.  Different climate, different vermin.  One night you’re batting mosquitoes from your face and the next you’re hoping that a roach didn’t sneak in your tent as you entered.

We didn’t really rest well, but because Evelyn pushed our journey that day to the limit, our drive in the morning would only be two hours to our next destination; Las Vegas.

When we arrived, we immediately called up an ex-pat friend of ours that we met in Paraguay.  Karen was just as mutually excited to see us, as we were to see her.  We were able to meet her youngest daughter and we spent the greater part of the day enjoying each other’s company.

They took us to a little hole in the wall restaurant that was showing the first game of the world cup on three big screens.  The only thing is, we were the only ones there and we weren’t necessarily interested in watching the game.  Except for one of the four of us, who shall remain unnamed, who was interested in how gorgeous the Brazilian futbalistas were.

The spices of the food and the flavor of the conversation, made for a good afternoon.

We later met up with an old neighbor of mine and caught up with him.  After midnight, all you can eat Korean BBQ buffet.  I tried to keep up with the James’ appetite. I failed immensely.  Evelyn was done after a few bowls of rice and a few strips of beef.  She was exhausted from our trip, at that point.

Playing ping pong (I was dominated in that, just as well as the eating competition) with James, watching him play in his adult league soccer game and meeting his girlfriend, were definite highlights of our trip.  Congratulations on your one year anniversary!

We were well rested due to the unmatched hospitality of our Aunt Adi.  We woke up the next day, with the “itis.”  We were preparing for the final four hours of our trip.  The plan to leave early was postponed due to a delicious breakfast, with strong coffee and a great conversational interchange.  We must have been talking from 10:00am to 3:00pm.  Thank you for your inspirational and empowering words, and your open ears Aunt Adi.

It is a wonderful blessing to have friends and family of different magnitudes.  Counterparts that live life continually growing and empowering others.  It is one of the greatest feelings when I can go 2 years without seeing someone, only to encounter them as if we didn’t skip a beat.  All of these types of experiences would be non existent, if it wasn’t for these people.

Well, now, here we are in the greater Los Angeles area and we have about a month and a half here.  Here’s to a wonderful, renewing, break and more exciting adventures and encounters with friends and family.

I’m sure Evelyn will put up some photos that we took (We didn’t take too many) soon.

This was a true bonding session, seven days in length.  We have grown a little stronger and are looking forward to continually strengthening our love.  She is a great road partner and I look forward to doing more sporadic and crazy things like this in the future.

Happy Summer!

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Hanging Lake

We woke up this morning at the White River National Forest in Colorado. We wanted to experience the difference from the campgrounds we’ve been staying at. We really enjoyed it. Evelyn and I have been really enjoying one another’s company. After Evelyn took the book that we’ve been reading together on and off during the trip, we had a full, nine hour, slumber. When morning came, backtracked up the I-70 to go to Hanging Lake. This was a recommendation from our Peace Corps compañero, Chris.

When we were heading into Denver, we remembered that Chris called this place home. We called him, and he obliged to wait an extra hour so that we could meet him for lunch. Over some deli sandwiches, we discussed what we had been up to over the last year, following two years in Paraguay. We were happy to see that he was happy. He has a cool new job, utilizing his accounting skills; he also has a super cool boss. Chris told us that they, him and his boss, just went on a mountain bike trip. Not everyone can have such a relationship with their supervisor. Add to that, Colorado is a really beautiful place.

After our lunch, Chris advised us to go on a nice hike. He gave us directions and we were off. It was good to see a member of our volunteer group outside of Paraguay. We’ll be back to Colorado to visit again.

Ok, back to our hike…

The whole hike ran alongside waterfalls that fall from many different directions. There were stairs of rocks; some natural, some positioned strategically.  These climbs kept us conscientious of our breathing. It was a steep climb, but it wasn’t too taxing. It was similar to a hike that we have on campus, that we call Balanced Rocks. Only instead of two huge boulders (placed there by glaciers), there was something different. Once we reached the final destination, we saw a sight that seemed surreal.

Again, waterfalls, spewing cold water from giant cliffs and little holes, alike. The clear fluid congregated into a still pool, filled with a clear, blue hue. The colors were brilliant and played joyfully with the sky, trees and bright red of the mountains. The fish, the birds even the little arachnids, were at home in this beautiful ecosystem.  Evelyn and I just took it in and smiled the whole time.

There are some whimsical places out there, people to meet and experiences to be had. Even if it takes a challenging, steep hike to get there, we look forward to exploring more.

We’re here in Utah now, set to stay at the Zion National Forest. We’ll see what’s out there. See you soon!

 

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Midwest Heat

What a day!

I started it out with a moist chest, wet feet and a damp sleeping bag.

The birds chirped my eyes open with their beautiful songs, counteracting the abysmal gloom left over from the nights fiasco.

From Erie, we zipped down the 90W.

Evelyn had a yearning to explore “the city” of Chicago, and “eat at a restaurant.”  After spending nine months in the nice, quiet and peaceful mountains in upstate New York, I could only look at her, with angst, and offer her an assortment of tree nuts and dried fruits that we stocked up on; hoping to evade this taxing urge of hers.

I almost gave in, until we hit rush hour traffic.  At that point, we were both over it.

I instantly noticed a headache and my blood pressure, I imagine, was through the SUV roof! How are we going to survive two months in L.A.?

We pulled into to our campsite just before sundown, with cloud sweat beginning to drip on us.  We hustled to construct the tent while being bugged by those pesky mosquitoes.

12 hours of fun had just begun.

A wind that was unnoticeable if you were standing in the open air, was making our tent do the Harlem shake.  Once we got it up, I was making little tweaks, to try and alleviate the pestering drips that would pull us out of our slumber.  Eventually, I gave in and turned in.  Thankfully, our bags kept us warm while we were soaked.

Waking up in a puddle of water is no fun.

After getting things together, we had to figure out how to dry multiple things.

Evelyn felt that the dryer, on delicate/low/no heat could be a viable option.  We approach the laundry room and notice that the dryer only operates on normal (hot, hot heat).  Naturally and logically, there were some reservations.  Plastic doesn’t do so well in these types of situations.

I don’t do so well in these types of situations.

She doesn’t do so well in these types of situations.

A “discussion” ensued.

Like the plastic, heat can take its toll on us; like all of the toll roads that we passed through, as well.  But we kept it all together and were listening to some Putumayo collections, taking in the hypnotizing, repetitive landscape that surrounded us.

Courtney, if you’re reading this, we will send you a replacement tent as soon as we touch base in Cali!

I was expecting these types of intimacy and friction during this road trip.  It was inevitable after a busy year, where it seemed like we hardly saw each other.  It was good to know that we still have the fire to “discuss” things out and stand for our convictions; as opposed to just trying to bury it and let it fester.

Well, we’re about to leave our third KOA here in Jackson, Minnesota.  We need to pack up our new tent, selected by, hot hands, Evelyn.

I look forward to the rest of this trip and our summer together.

 

 

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t.K.O…A.

Waking up under a huge (maple?) tree, with the sun peeking through the leaves, is rejuvenating.  Especially after an eight, or more, hour trek from Lake Placid to Erie, Pennsylvania.  The aviators started chirping early and even though we didn’t get settled in until 2:00am, it was a beautiful way to wake up.

If you ever go on a long road trip, as we are attempting, look into staying at KOA‘s.  W’eve only stayed at one so far, but it’s affordable and convenient.  Hopefully we keep getting lucky, this one here won the President’s award!

With the original plan of taking the train being nixed (Bike on train complications), we hustled and bustled to fix our car up ($$$) and hit the road.

The first leg of the trip was enjoyable.  We had a good hour of silence, mild conversations and observing the explosive green that surrounded us, leaving the Adirondacks.

After that we, how do the youngsters say?  Turnt Up?  I think that there were a plethora of terms, ranging from crunk, hyphy and just plain ol’ excited; all meaning just about the same thing.

We listened to Radiohead, Roberta Flack, N.E.R.D., Busta Rhymes, random classical music and the then, for about 45 minutes, James Brown .

Mama, bring me that lickin’ stick!”

I think that’s all for now.

Oh, of course, being in a car with your significant other for elongated periods of time, naturally leads to… disagreements.  This one, after shelling out thousands of pretty pennies, was about, you guessed it, money.  Yes I may have overreacted, but I am cautious; which is a cousin to worry and a son of anxiety.  I would just hate to be in a predicament that can throw us off track.

It’s okay to worry, just can’t let it ruin things, I guess.

So let’s keep it movin’, see you west coasters and maybe midwesters soon.

 

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When Was It Lost?

The other day, an international eighth grader decided to engage in a conversation during dinner.  Charles asked me, “Do you know what makes education bad in my home country?”  He then proceeded, tracing a round shape on the table with the tip of his finger, “What can you tell me about this?”  I swiftly replied that it was a circle, he smiled and shook his head, stating, “that is one answer. What else?”  The other four students at the table chimed in, “It’s an O.”

“It has a radius.”

“It’s round.”

“It’s a zero….”

His smile kept everyone going until they got tired and shrunk silent.

He then proceeded to tell a story of a high school, where the teacher did the same exercise.  Not one student said a thing, until, that is, the teacher told them that it was a circle.

Next, he described a junior high, where, in the same situation, the class was stale until one student stood up and exclaimed that it was a zero.  The teacher, in this predicament, was angry and then corrected him, stating that it was a circle.

Scene three, an early elementary class, the same thing is drawn on the board and a cacophony of answers ring in the air, “the sun,” “an orange,” an eye ball…”  The children were laughing.  Happy. Unaware of their liberty to state their own interpretation; they just did what was natural.  The teacher relished in this moment as well.

So, when was it lost?

There is a Japanese proverb that comes to mind, “The nail that sticks out, gets hammered.”

That creative spirit is so hard to cultivate after years of unidentifiable hammer strikes, from different angles.  We even hammer our own heads at times, to keep ourselves in line and docile.

Charles and I are going to keep working on not losing the, quintessential, imagination and creativity that we all had at one point in our lives.

 

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Junk on the Bunk

The students returned a few days ago and they appeared to be excited.  To me, this is a good sign for, what I hear will be a fast and sometimes challenging, Spring Term.

As is customary, we welcome the kids back and have to do “Junk on the Bunk.”  “Junk on the Bunk” is a precautionary measure to inspect their luggage and ensure that they didn’t bring back any paraphernalia (candy, soda, chips…) after their two week hiatus.  Also, it is a way to safeguard their valuables so that they don’t get misplaced or damaged during this spring season.

While doing this interrogation, I encountered a student, Sean, who, by the way, is a very well behaved and honest kid, with five bite size Hershey bars.  I was inclined to take them away but I decided to strike a deal with him because he wasn’t trying to be misleading; as some kids tend to do.  So, I said, “If you can get rid of the evidence in five minutes, then I will pretend like I didn’t see a thing.”  He, happily, accepted and in that short window of opportunity, he disposed of his stash by ravaging three for himself and sharing two with his housemates.

One of these accomplices was also caught with contraband; a grape flavored Blow Pop!  When offered the same ultimatum, he took his sweet time to contemplate.  Darren decided to decline this motion.  He realized that he couldn’t really enjoy it in that amount of time.  So now it is in his valuables box, along with his PSP (Playstation Personal, I think…), waiting to be devoured  at the end of school; an inspiring example of delaying gratification, don’t you think?

Oh, but we’re not done with little Darren just yet!

While unpacking, it was brought to his and his roommates attention how clean their room was; they usually leave it in shambles.  I said to them, “If you can keep your room looking like this for the whole term, I will get you anything!”

Please allow me to go on an introspective tangent.  Darren and his roommates are a mixture of fourth and fifth graders.  What do you think his wager will be after hearing the word, “anything?”  What would you request?  I mean, this is a child with unimaginable imagination, it could really be ANYTHING right?

Darren looks at me with spirited eyes that cause me to feel like he is going to make me eat my words like Sean ate that chocolate…  He gazed at me with conviction and an intimidating smile and stated these words, “Sour…Patch… Kids… Gum!”  The look on his face was so victorious and it could be felt in the air how pleased he was of his decision.

A goulash of confusion, relief and elation took over, all at once.  Here I was, ready to say that I can’t afford a Porsche and he tells me, “Sour Patch Kids Gum.”  He wanted a future snack, a year 2000 snack!  I quickly shook on the deal, and that was that.  They had motivation to keep their room clean and I felt bliss because I have the opportunity to experience this type of feeling daily.

But wait, there’s more!

Today, Darren stopped me on the stairs and said, “Dion, I gotta talk to you.  I’ll keep my room clean, but I would like to change the deal.”  I took a deep breath and waited for some extravagant replacement.  “Instead of a pack of Sour Patch Kids Gum… I want TWO!”

All that I could do was smile and shake my head.  I looked at him with astonishment.  I politely obliged and put my arm around his shoulder, laughing.  When we went our separate ways, we both looked back at each other and smiled.  I was ecstatic just to be able to know this superstar.  And, I like to imagine that he was thinking, “Just like stealing candy from a teacher.”

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Hyperballad

“We live on a mountain, right at the top.  There’s a beautiful view, from the top of the mountain…”  While I have yet to go to the edge and throw little things off, I still feel safe here!

I’ve been listening to different music lately, ranging from some good ‘ol Poinciana (Song of the Trees) by Ahmad Jamal, to the intricate sounds of Bjork’s Hyperballad.  Of course there are others to note, like Death Grips, Bach and Little Dragon.  But the point is, that there is a wonderful world of music out there that you can mismatch to your liking.  It might be your not-liking actually, but listening to different sounds can be intrinsically pleasing.  The same goes for films or any other type of art you find enticing.

Sticking to the theme of art, being here at North Country School has re-ignited the creative flame.  While it’s just a flash right now, I’m hoping to cultivate it into a phoenix!  This summer’s task is to finish my training in Tae Kwon Do diligently,  reaching black belt after 18+ years of being a brown belt.  The belt really is not important to me, it’s the quest to try to master something.

Next up, percussion!  That’s right, martial arts and drumming, don’t call it a mid-life crisis, I’m too young for that… right…?  I’ve always wanted to learn music and I think that this would be a good introduction.

Evelyn will be looking into ballet and tap dancing to hone her skills as a dance teacher.  She should be able to do this by the end of the summer.

Maybe we’ll even take some visual arts classes at LACMA or some cooking classes together!

We’re supposed to grow, kind of like my hair.  But like my hair, sometimes we don’t care!  So we’re deciding to trim it up and cultivate a creative spirit within our union.  Once we pick up these new traits, who knows what we’ll tackle next.

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