Month: July 2010

More family and friends

My grandparents took me to a Polish restaurant on Saturday for lunch before I left. I had authentic pierogies, yummy…. :). After lunch, I headed back to Atlanta. I was sad to go, but took some great memories with me…it was a wonderful visit.

It’s hard to not become pensive when you’re stuck immobile in the same place for hours and hours on end. As the mileposts flew across my windshield, I started to wonder about the people who flashed by. A minivan from Iowa full of people and bursting with beach balls, lawn chairs, surfboards, and other wind and sea; a tiny little neon with 4 doors, all different colors, and driven by a huge man with handlebar mustaches who looked as if half of him shouldn’t be able to fit in that car, let alone all of him; a diminutive woman driving an angry-looking man in a convertible, the top of which was most likely down because their AC was broken – even so, they had to mop the sweat off of their faces every few minutes (they eventually gave in a threw water-soaked towels on top of their heads and left them there). I saw all of this as I was held captive in bumper-to-bumper traffic by the swarms of happy-go-lucky beach-goers – such as my friends from Iowa.

Nobody likes traffic (I should amend that: few people like traffic; I have actually met a couple of people who really enjoy sitting in traffic. I worry for their mental health). But it’s remarkable how less painful traffic can be when you pay attention to the people around you. You can get a much more complete look at them than you normally would in the typical 2-3 seconds you would have were you both traveling at normal highway speeds. Life is full of obstacles; we get the most out of life when we learn to find enjoyment in the obstacles…in my case, that was practicing my life-long wish to be a spy ;).

At long last however, I reached the end of the yellow brick road…or the gray asphalt road, but that doesn’t have nearly as pleasant a ring to it. But there was no Wizard of Oz waiting there for me, just a lot of great family. I went to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Alpharetta for the evening. Their son, Daniel, was getting back that day from a 5-week stint in Greece. So they had a big party, with the Dery’s, the Rinehart’s, and other distant relatives that I had never met in attendance. I got to spend a lot of time with my cousins, which was great. Daniel showed us pictures of his travels, which gave me travel envy. But I kept reminding myself that my turn is coming soon! Aunt Rose made a comment once during the course of the evening that I’m leaving for Spain in 4 weeks, which rather startled me. I had been thinking that I still had an entire month before I left. Saying I leave in 4 weeks made it seem much more real….and much sooner!!!

On Sunday morning I went to church; it was the last in a series. I really enjoyed the series, so I was grateful to be able to finish it out. I was disappointed in the church, however. I went to a sister church of Buckhead (the one I had been going to) because it was much closer to Aunt Irene and Uncle Carlos’ house. The sermon was the same, the church layout similar, and the worship style identical. But the feel of the church was different. I’m not quite sure how to describe it. It was much less friendly and un-welcoming. I’m glad I got to finish the sermon series, but I’m making a mental note that if I’m ever in the Atlanta area again I’m going to Buckhead, not Northpoint, even if the drive is a little longer :).

Aunt Irene asked me to come back and visit with them after church – which I was happy to oblige :). I love their family, they’re really cool. I wish we had been able to see each other more as I was growing up. Anyway, they took me to a bar and grill….I can’t remember the name of it at the moment. We all, except Meghan, got the blue cheese and bacon burger. It was soooo yummy. After lunch we were sitting around talking, and decided we wanted to go see a movie. So they pulled out their iPhones and found out that the next showing of Salt was in 30 minutes. We went back to the house first to get sweaters for everyone and made it to the theater with time to spare. The movie was very good; I would recommend it to anyone who was considering watching it.

I went dancing at Nemoe’s in the evening. I know they meant well, but I felt rather unloved….I had sooo many people ask me what I was doing here, since I had told everyone that my internship ended last week :). I broke in the shoes that Pa and Jan got me. I was very happy with their performance. They did rub me a little bit after a few hours, but I think that’s just because they’re still stiff. Even if it’s always like that, it’s only a few spots; moleskin will cover it no prob. And they provided lots of cushions for the balls of my feet – I could actually still walk with ease by the end of the night. I don’t know why I feel a need to tell you about how my shoes performed, I’m sure it doesn’t interest you. Don’t worry, I’m moving on now :).

Katrina came over after the dance. She was going to come over tomorrow, but then realized she couldn’t anymore, so we had to change plans. We rented Leap Year (which, by the way, if you like chick flicks, is EXCELLENT), and shared a pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and watched it on my computer, since my roommate had checked out and taken the TV. Ahhh, the life of a college student :). Afterwards, we stayed up talking to the wee hours of the morning. I’m pretty tired this morning, but it was worth it – we needed to catch up.

That’s all I have time for today – I have to go pack up my stuff and clean my apartment so I can check out tomorrow :(. I’ll have another update soon! 🙂

visit to the Grandparents

Well, my internship is over **sniff, sniff**. I had some interesting interactions with people on my last day….made for an unforgettable send-off. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’m not sure of :).

We had a big farewell lunch with all of the interns and mentors and grad students that we worked with this summer. That was fun – all of the interns went around and told what their favorite memory was this summer. Mine was a tie between Phantom of the Opera and the dance workshop…although I think that the workshop slightly edged out the Fox. It was rather bittersweet, because all of us knew, although no one said it, that the likelyhood that any of us would ever see each other again was slim to none. But it was a wonderful experience, and I am so so so glad I did it. When I think of how close I came to not taking the job, simply because I was scared of it, I shudder, and then thank God profusely for giving me the courage to take it.

On my way back from work for the last time, I saw a scary sight. A woman was stopped at a traffic light, facing the wrong way on a 1-way street. She was talking up a storm on her cell phone, totally oblivious to the world. Apparently she didn’t see the people turning onto her street, or honking at her, or the wall of cars that faced her at the other end of the intersection. I stopped and knocked on her window as I crossed and told her she was on a 1-way street; she pulled around after that, but I worry for the safety of others when drivers like her are on the road…

After I got back from work, I threw my bag in my car and hit the road, headed for my grandparents’ home in North Carolina. I only got turned around once, and quickly figured that out. When I got gas, I checked my oil, like always. A guy pulled up into the bay next to mine and asked if I needed help checking my oil. I’m pretty sure he was convinced that females are not capable of checking their own oil; he asked me 3 separate times if I needed help, even after I said no. Either that or he was just deaf… 🙂

Pa and Jan have taken me to some pretty awesome restaurants while I’ve been here….they have also, however, informed me that I write about food alot, so I’m going to restrain from describing what we ate; suffice if to say that it was very good :). On Thursday Pa took me to see Le Grand Cirque at the Palace Theater. It was incredible!! Two hours of non-stop, jawdropping acrobatics. Check it out here. I also got to see Grandma Dot (actually my great-grandmother, Jan’s mom). It was good to see her – she’s 90 years old now, and it’s been years since I’ve seen her. I’ve spent alot of my free time cleaning up their computer and making it usable again – installing more memory, deleting unused programs, running antivirus programs, downloading security updates, etc. They thank me profusely, but I don’t think they really get that I like to help them when I can – they’ve done so much for me. Plus, I like puttering around with computers, and don’t get to do it very often. Yes, I am a nerd, and proud of it, lol… 😀

On Friday, they decided to take me shopping for dance shoes, to replace the ones that broke. They wanted to pay me in some way for all of the work I had done on their computer (which, in the end, totaled to 2 virus scan, a defragmentation of the hard drive, installation of more ram, extensive cleanup of the programs on the computer, installation of a new printer, setting up iTunes on the laptop, setting up Pa’s mp3 player, plus a few more things). I told them that they didn’t have to – I enjoy working on computers, plus I appreciated the opportunity to help them. But they insisted….plus I get the feeling that they were also kinda looking for an excuse to be doting grandparents :). And, since I have a very difficult time arguing too vehemently against an offer of free dance shoes, shopping we went!

We caroused around the city for the better part of the day. I finally found not one, but 2 pairs! The first is a traditional dancing style, and very comfortable. The second, though, is not quite as traditional. I was so excited when I saw them, though!! I’ve always, always wanted a pair….it’s a pair of black spats!! I can’t wait to break them in! 😀

They’re not very good pictures, but I’ve uploaded pics of the shoes here:


Jan went to bed early, but I stayed up late talking with Pa – we talked about church, telemarketers, life, death, homeschooling, serving in the army, and everything in between. It was alot of fun. He’s so interesting, and has such wonderful stories to tell. My brother’s been after him lately to write down his memories to pass onto the grandkids. He’s started doing that, and I really hope he follows through; I think it would be fascinating to read what he has to say. Plus, it’s important that young people remember that their grandparents were not always old, but have years and years of wisdom and experience they could pass on. But enough of my theoretical philosophizing…I have a long drive tomorrow, and I need to get some rest. Dear Pa and Jan, I know I’ve told you this in person, but since I know you’ll also be reading this blog, I can say it again….I love you so! Thank you again for a wonderful, wonderful week! It was soooo good to see you 🙂 🙂 :).

Moving onward!

Well, my internship is pretty much over now. We had half of the final presentations today, of which mine was among them. So I presented, answered questions, and tried to stay awake during the other presentations (they were interesting topics, but I tell you what, this weekend has worn me OUT!!!). I don’t expect any of you guys to read it, but if any of you are interested in what I’ve done this summer other than dance, you can read the final draft of the paper that I wrote for the internship here.

I generally try not to go to work with my headphones on, but this morning I was so tired, I stuck them in because I didn’t want to talk to anyone. As I left the train station, I remember walking past a woman who was walking quite slowly. A few minutes later, I heard a noise, and took out my headphones to see that same woman I had passed had chased me down and was trying to talk to me. Apparently she was lost, and needed directions….but she only spoke Spanish, so she took a gamble and hoped I spoke Spanish and asked me for help. Lucky for her, I did….unluckily for her, I had no idea how to get where she was trying to go. But I played translator for her, and asked someone else in English for directions to where she needed to go, and got her on her way. I would have walked with her to help her, but I had to get to work for the presentations. I felt really bad :(. It’s cool, though, seeing how helping others can improve your mood. I was very grumpy before she asked me for help, but afterwards I was in a much better mood.

In the afternoon, I took a nap (because I was about to pass out :]), and then started packing…I leave tomorrow to go see my grandparents!!! Moving onto the next adventure…I’m pretty excited about that :).

We also had a final intern get-together in the evening. That was alot of fun. We had pizza and drinks at the home of a professor from GSU. She lived within walking distance of my apartment, on Myrtle street, so myself and another intern, Aryn, decided to walk there and take in the sights. Dr. Searcy lives in a really cool little neighborhood (and her apartment is WAY cool! I want to live somewhere like that!!! :]) We sat around and talked, and recapped some of our favorite stories throughout the past seven weeks, and just had alot of fun and laughs…it was a nice way to unwind. We also did a little exercise in which we wrote down some things about the other interns that we had noticed that we liked about them. This is what I got: “confident, “straightforward, funny,” ” positive, energetic, loves life!,” “great smile,” “maternal – takes care of others,” “has a good work ethic, very disciplined,” “isn’t afraid to give her opinion,” “knows what she wants and goes for it,” very energetic and spunky :),” “great multitasker,” etc…

Anyway, it was a really cool summation of the whole program, and the relationships with the other interns that I’ve developed. So now, I’m going to hit the sack….I have another long day ahead of me, and still need to catch up on lost sleep! Love you guys! 🙂

So…much…dancing!! :)

~~Friday~~

Today I worked from home. All I had left to do was practice my presentation, and I didn’t really want the people at the school to think I was crazy when they heard me talking to myself :). In the afternoon, I met Johnathan, Jessica, and Matt at their house. We had another adventure with public transportation (somehow it gets less scary every time I do it :]). One Georgia Tech shuttle, lots of walking, and a significant amount of heated discussion later, we made it to the World of Coke.

That was really cool….although I got the impression on more than one occasion that I was engulfed in a shrine to coke. They had a working bottling / production line, a museum showing coke through the centuries, a coke in pop culture and art exhibit, a running loop of old coke commercials, a tasting area in which you could try over 80 coke products from all over the world, and an interactive 3D movie in which a lab worker tries to find the “secret formula” (she finally figured out that the secret ingredient to what makes coke so good is us, the people who buy it!! Ya, way sappy, I agree… :]). The coke taste tests were good, but my stomach was a little angry with me after drinking all that soda – of course I had to try all of them :). I must say that pretty much all of the ones from Africa were pretty atrocious :(.

So we met Julia after the World of Coke at my apartment and made pasta – both garlic alfredo and pesto. I have lots of food that I have to eat before I leave :). After that, Julia and Matt came with me to the swing dance at Georgia Tech, and Jonathan and Jessica went home. The music was kinda slow, but I got to dance with alot of friends I haven’t seen in a while, plus some fun new guys, so it was all good. I taught Julia and Matt some moves, too, that was fun :). Julia had to leave early, but Matt stayed til the end. After the dance, we got some mint chocolate chip milkshakes from Steak ‘n shake and talked for a while before I took him home.

~~Saturday~~

Today was insane!! I went to day 1 (of 2 days) of a West Coast Workshop. It started at 2:00, so I was able to get some stuff done in the morning before I went there. I wrote some in my journal, polished my project and presentation that I have to give on Monday, and other such sundry things.

But once the workshop started, nothing else happened except dancing :). I learned some awesome starter moves, foot syncopations, and big flashy moves. I also got a video of the couple that taught the workshop (Jake and Taletha) doing all of the moves they taught. It’s pretty amazing…I look forward to watching it in slow motion and breaking it apart to perfect my technique after the workshop has ended :).

So we got a 2-hour break between the end of the workshop and the beginning of the evening dance. But my friend David and I decided to keep dancing. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at a really good chicken place called Roasters, and then found an empty Wachovia parking lot and danced some more. The humidity and heat was suffocating, and it was difficult to move on the concrete ground in sneakers, but we made do :).

Then we went back to the place where they had the workshop for the evening dance. It was soooo much fun!!!! I got to dance with so many good dancers! I also got alot of practice with the moves we had just learned; everyone who had attended the workshop kept using the moves we had learned :). At one point, Jake (the male instructor) asked me to dance. I was sooo nervous and intimidated, but I wasn’t about to turn him down!!! So we danced, and it was a blast!!

Towards the end of the night, they had a “snowball dance”. They started off with just Jake and Taletha dancing….which was quite mesmerizing. But then someone yelled “snowball!”, and they stopped dancing and both went and grabbed another random partner from the crowd. Every time they snowballed, the number of couples doubled. Pretty soon, everyone in the room was dancing. It was a blast :).

As I was getting ready to leave, the guy I had just danced with, Chad, asked me to wait for a few minutes. So I did, sneaking in one last dance with someone else before I took off. When he came back, he said that he had just asked Jake for a private lesson, but he needed a partner…would I do it? He also offered to cover the cost of the lesson. So tomorrow I’m going to get a private lesson with an incredible, in addition to a workshop and free dance!!! I can’t wait!!!!

The only sad part of the night is that my silver dance shoes, my faithful shoes that have served me without fail for over 4 years, that have gotten my feet through the hundreds of hours of punishment I make them endure, broke. I have to admit, I may have sniffled once or twice over their loss. The clip that holds the strap in place snapped completely in half. It’s not repairable; those shoes have been retired :(. Rest in peace, dear dancesport shoes, you have served me well….

So, since my favorite shoes were broken, I had to revert to my backup shoes. There’s a reason they are my backups. They don’t fit nearly as well. After the workshop, I went on a scavenger hunt to find moleskin to try to protect my feet during the dance. Even so, I have quite a list of injuries. They include: quarter-sized blisters on the balls of both of my feet, raw patches of skin in three separate places on each of my feet, four broken nails from getting stepped on or kicked, a popped blister on one of my toes, a burn of some sort on my left shoulder, and a fist-sized bruise on the back of my left arm….plus add to that the fact that I can barely put weight on my feet, they’re so sore. And tomorrow, I get to do it all again!! It’s gonna be great!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

~~Sunday~~

Well, today started off much earlier than I was anticipating. I didn’t get back from the dance last night and showered and in bed until after 1:00, so I was hoping to sleep in. But I got a call from Jonathan at 7:30, asking me to come jump Matt’s car, which was completely dead. So I hurried up and got ready for church, and then went to the early service at Buckhead after jumping their car. After church, I went back and took a nap before the workshop started. I’m so glad I did, because I never would have made it through the day if I hadn’t.

So anyway, the workshop started at 12:30. It was amazing, just like yesterday. There were 3 classes back-to-back, which ended around 4:30. I wore my jazz shoes the whole time; I couldn’t handle my backup shoes again. Then I went straight from there to the private lesson with Chad and Jake. That was great! Not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be (Jake is an reallyyyyy good teacher), and I learned soooo many good technique tips. After the private lesson, I went straight to Nemoe’s for the social dance. This weekend has been an amazing combination of instruction. I got the group classes, which taught me some big, fun moves to augment my style; videos of the group classes, which will help me remember how to do them; private lessons, which helped my technique immensely; and social dancing, which helped me practice what I had learned with lots of different people. Apparently I actually did learn something – I had several people comment on new moves I had learned, and one guy asked me if I was using things I had learned during my private lesson (which I was), because my style seemed alot better and more fluid. And this was even after I had switched to my dancing shoes! Of course, I was wearing socks with them to try to protect my feet….oh yeah, I was rocking it out with the white socks and black heels :). But hey, it worked! The only additional injury I found was a palm-sized bruise on my arm from when a guy caught me wrong in a move we were learning.

By the end of the night, I was soooo tired. I tried leaving several times, but just couldn’t make myself leave. So I stayed til the end of the dance, and talked for a while with Alan and Barbara (coordinators of the event), Jake and Taletha (instructors), and several other regulars. When I started saying my goodbyes, I finally started tearing up. It may sound silly to you guys, but I’ve grown really close to these people over the past few months. They’ve made me feel so welcome, and have been so helpful in teaching me this dance that I love so much. Atlanta in general, but specifically the dance crowd that I interacted with, has had a profound impact on me that I will miss immensely. The tears were what finally made me leave; I escaped just in time, before I actually started crying.

And that’s this weekend! All dancing, pretty much. But it’s my passion, and I loved it, and seeing all of these wonderful people and dancing such great dances with them one last time was definitely the way I would have chosen to end my summer in Atlanta. I did the math, and figured out that I danced about 20 hours in the span of 30 hours!! 🙂 (oh, and as a side note, if any of you want to be super generous, I would love a pair of shoes that don’t murder my feet!! ;]) Well, as Looney Tunes says, that’s all, folks! 🙂

A week of "lasts"

Another whirlwind week has flown by!! Probably the best – and definitely the worst – week yet. I got to do alot of great things, made alot of progress at work, and saw alot of great people…but it was also a week of “lasts”, which has been really hard for me.

I already wrote about my last lesson with Philip on Monday night. Tuesday was the last dinner and frisbee evening with the “J’s”. We ate at my place again….I made chicken and rice, Jonathan and Jessica brought a watermelon, and Julia made really yummie brownies. Jessica also brought her brother, Matt, who is visiting her for the week. The food was great, and the company was even better. Ahhh, the college life….we had quite an adventure trying to scrounge up a fifth chair and silverware and squeeze into the obviously 4-person table in my apartment :D. I felt like I was drinking the air during the frisbee games; it was soooooo humid. But surprisingly, it was probably my best game yet. I had an absolute blast. One of the guys told me I should join the facebook group they’ve got for the frisbee group. I did, but it’s kinda late, considering that was my last game for a while :(.

Wednesday was AMAZING!!!! My friend Jon drove down to see Phantom of the Opera with me at the Fox theater. We had a bit of excitement at the beginning. He had just shown up (it’s an hour and a half drive each way), and then we realized that he had left the tickets at his house. We were on our way out the door to go get them and come back when I was able to reach the ticketmaster on the phone (I had been on hold for 15 minutes). They were able to cancel our old tickets and issue us new ones that we could pick up at the box office. So, crisis averted, we went to Coldstone Creamery in Atlantic Station for ice cream before the show (yes mom, I usually am good and eat healthy dinners, but every now and then you gotta mix things up ;]). He got some sort of berry concoction…I got mint chocolate chip on steroids. It was mint ice cream, with brownies, fudges, and chocolate chips folded into it. Mmmm, mmmm, it was tasty 🙂

We walked to the Fox from my apartment – it was about a 20 minute walk (I LOVE my apartment’s location!!!!!!). The place was packed out! Our seats were higher than I would have liked, but it was still incredible. Magnificent. It absolutely took my breath away. The soaring voices, the lush scenery, the rich costumes….everything about it was exquisite. When they got to the love song, “All I ask of you”, I was nearly in tears. (here’s a link to the clip from the movie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vec3bmdFkOg) The only thing that this summer lacks to make it perfect is someone to share it with. Yes, I’ve spent time with plenty of wonderful friends, and I’m grateful for that….but it’s not the same. I want to meet my Raoul :). I’ve been waiting for him for a long time, and when I saw that scene played out on stage….it was so beautiful, so poignant, that it literally hurt. All in all, however, it was nothing short of a magical evening. I came back itching to sit down right there and watch the Phantom of the Opera movie :).

Thursday comes…another last, ugh. This time was my last Wicked Westie. I went to dinner with Jonathan, Jessica, and Matt before the dance. Then Jessica and I went and looked at the outside bazaar they had set up, while the boys ran away into the nearest sporting gear store they could find :). Jessica and I are both athletic girls, so pretty soon we migrated in there as well, to look at all the exciting soccer balls, strengthening tools, and athletic gear. They dropped me off at my apartment, and I went by myself to the dance. It was definitely a memorable last Westie! The air was broken, so it was, quite literally, a sizzling evening. It was sizzling figuratively, too, however – I was so on my game tonight! I was hitting the beats, playing with foot syncopations, body rolls, everything….it was so much fun! My feet feel like they’re about to fall off, but it was sooo worth it :D.

I’ve also made a ton of progress at work this week. I’ve finished my paper, almost finished my presentation, wrapped up my research and given it to my mentor, and….tada! I only have a little bit of polishing left to do on the paper and presentation, and I’m done! But, speaking of work, I should probably get some sleep if I want to do any of that tomorrow. Productive thought generally works better for me when I get more than just a couple hours of sleep :). So, adeiu for now! This weekend promises to be a big one, so I’m sure I’ll have more updates soon.

By the way, I’ve updated my picture album online, check it out at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=174416&id=571111848&l=6ad6478b60. New pictures start with the ones from the CDC :).

Dancing in the rain

I went to Peachtree City to dance with Philip tonight. This week is full of “lasts” for me…tonight was the last time I’ll get to dance with him for a very, very long time. But it was a great way to end it :).

We danced for over three hours, took lots of videos, and got yummy Thai food afterwards. I had the crispy duck – it was excellent. Here are a few of our dances that I took videos of tonight:

It’s really cool to see how much I’ve improved in the few months I’ve been dancing with him and going to weekly dances 🙂 :). I’ve been dancing with people at least 3 times a week, plus practicing stretching, balance, and spin techniques on my own every night. It’s quite encouraging to see my hard work actually paying off.

So, Philip and I were standing in the parking lot in a light drizzle, talking right before I was about to leave, and he mentioned a song that he wanted me to listen to, “Drink, Swear, Steal and Lie.” (It sounds like a bad song, but it’s actually really sweet :]). We were listening to it on his iPod, sharing the headphones (one bud for each of us). Then all of a sudden, he stuck the iPod in his pocket and starting dancing with me. It was so cool – the song, dancing barefoot in the rainy parking lot with lighting flashing in the distance…definitely a dance that I want to remember for a very long time :). It made me think of “Singing in the rain”, except I was dancing in the rain, which is way cooler :).

Coming back, I got a fireworks show, God-style. The lighting was absolutely terrific. At one point, there was a huge bolt that split the sky right in front of me. This is just a picture that I googled, but it looked just like this: http://www.code4lib.org/files/lightning.jpg. It was gorgeous!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

I was glad to finally make it back home and not have to drive in the storm anymore. But what overwhelmed me more than the awesome might of the storm, was the awesome love of my God. A God who cares about me enough to show me the beauty of His mighty creation – and protect me as I’m driving through it. A God who loves me enough to give me a zest for life and a hobby – dancing – that gives me such exquisite pleasure every time I do it. A God who delights in orchestrating my life and giving me such incredible opportunities such as the current one that is about to end in a week. I am so humbled to be loved and blessed so much.

Viva España!!

Today I went to the early service at Buckhead church. I met David and Julia and her mom there. I think if I move to a big city I might have to invest in a GPS :(. It’s really hard to find your way if you miss a turn and only have a specific set of directions. That happened to me this morning, and made me late to the service. That was frustrating, but the service was still great, of course. The sermon was about having balance in your life, and not letting your desire for good things overwhelm you and rule your life (think 1 Corinthians 6:12). So anyway, after church, the four of us decided to go out to brunch (it was only a little after 10). We drove around for a little bit, and found a place nearby, called the Corner Cafe Bakery. I got an all-American breakfast – bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit. We went to sit at the little tables they had set up outside, and a restaurant employee brought our food out to us. The woman who brought it out was named Yvonne, and set absolutely made my week. She came out with our food, and insisted on giving us all hugs. She then proceeded to talk to us for a while. Nothing terribly exciting, but she was just fun to talk to; absolutely bubbling over with life and happiness. She came back later with silverware while we were praying; after we finished, she expressed her opinion of us praying. “A family that prays together, stays together”, she said, among other things. I found her as we were leaving and thanked her for her happiness, telling her she had made my week; that earned me another hug :).

By the time I got home, however, I could barely keep my eyes open. My late-night escapades from Friday night were finally catching up to me. So I crawled into bed and took almost a 2-hour nap. I finally felt semi-human again, and got up just in time to watch the World Cup final. My TV in my room is broken, so I went down to the basement of my apartment building and watched on the huge TV down there. It’s gotta be at least a 60″ screen; I curled up on the big, comfy leather couches, and watched the whole thing in the peacefulness of inaction. I’ve been going, going, going nonstop for so long, it was really nice to be able to just sit and think about nothing except the figures on the screen. (of course, I couldn’t actually do that, exactly; I did some research for grad schools while I was watching, as well, but it was still really relaxing. It was definitely the recharging I needed. Of course, I was rooting for Spain, and they won, woohoo!!!! It was a hard-fought, ugly battle, though. There were over a dozen yellow cards (14) and 1 red card (another that should have been a red card but wasn’t called). It was scoreless until overtime; Spain finally scored in the 116th minute. Lest I give you guys the impression that I have aspirations to be an amateur sports announcer, I will stop there and just tell you to look up the game on google if you want to know more :).

I went west coasting in the evening, of course. It was fun, but a little bittersweet, as well. I just realized that I only have 1 dance there left, possibly 2. But I made the best of it, and had a marvelous time. Now, on to bed. I have a presentation to give tomorrow; gotta be ready for it!! 🙂

The beginning of the end

Hello, all! Well, it’s been a few days since I’ve written anything, so this post will have to sum up the entire past week. Sorry if it gets really long…I’ve been going nonstop!! I want to squeeze absolutely everything I can into my last few days – there’s only 1 week left for me here after the end of this weekend. I tell myself that I keep so busy because I only have a very finite time left in Atlanta; but honestly, I doubt the validity of that statement. I’m pretty sure Atlanta would be just as exciting and my schedule would be just as full if I was here 7 weeks, or 7 months, or even 7 years.

But anyway, I digress…. I hung out with Julia again on Tuesday, and then ate dinner with her, Jonathan and Jessica, and then went and played Ultimate Frisbee again, like last week. It seems to be becoming a tradition with us…but I have just long enough to make the tradition, and then I have to leave the city :(. [I apologize for my morose tone today…I only have a few days left in Atlanta, and it’s starting to get to me 🙂 ]

Before dinner, Julia and I went thrift store hunting around Ponce de Leon street. I wouldn’t call it shopping, because we didn’t buy anything, and we were really looking for the stores themselves, not any particular item in the store. But we found some exciting stores, as well as treasures within them. The last one we went to, an old antique store, was my favorite. It was absolutely jam-packed full of old treasures – shoes, fans, TV’s, couches, pictures, fondue dishes….you name it, it was there. There was a second floor that had a small window in it looking down into the first floor. That was really cool; you could look down and survey the treasure trove and all of the people milling around it from above. I found a pair of beautiful flats that instantly made me think of Cinderella’s slippers. They were lovely, and fit me perfectly….the woman who owned them said I was the first person in months with feet actually small enough to wear them. I was too cheap to actually buy them – they were $35 – but I did make an important discovery. I need to start looking for shoes in antique stores. Apparently people’s feet used to be smaller. I’ve never seen so many shoes in one store that were actually too SMALL for me :).

Well, after our antique store romp, I had Johnathan and Jessica and Julia over, and we made dinner before our Ultimate Frisbee excitement. It was quite good. I made a pan-fried steak in a creamy mushroom sauce concoction and cheesy buttery mashed potatoes, Julia made a white chocolate and strawberry pudding dessert, and Johnathan and Jessica brought a yummie salad. They asked me what I had made, and I told them a Lauren Special. My experiments in the kitchen generally turn out quite well, but I can never tell you what I did – I just throw random ingredients together, lol :).

After dinner, Julia was craving coffee, so we walked down to the Starbucks in the GA Tech square (which also happens to be located a Barnes and Noble!). So Julia got her coffee, and then we all walked around the books for a while. It was excellent to be surrounded by fellow book lovers. We had quite a fun time looking at the title of some of those books…. :D. At 8, we went to play frisbee, which was a great romp, as usual….

Wednesday was an excellent and awful day all at once. Mostly excellent, though. We had to do pictures for my internship’s website in the morning, so I had to get all dressed up in my formal business attire. As much as I hate wearing tights, I now realize why I always do with that outfit. I forgot to bring tights with me from home, so I just slipped my bare feet in my heels on the way out the door. They had rubbed my ankles raw and bleeding by lunchtime. I also have huge blisters all over the backs of my ankles. It was pretty bad :(.

But that’s the extent of the awfulness, now onto the excellence. I ate lunch with Alan again; we went to a little hole-in-the-wall deli called Reuben’s. After getting our food we took it outside and ate while talking and people-watching and listening to the curb-side singer who was right next to us and enjoying the breeze. In the evening I met up with another friend, David, who had just gotten back from several weeks in Europe. We went to a tapas restaurant called Pura Vida (pure life). It was really cool…here’s the website: http://www.puravidatapas.com/. Oh, and for those of you who don’t know what tapas are, here’s a brief overview (gotta love Wikipedia! :]): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapas. We got 2 tapas: one with King crab that was really acidic and I didn’t much care for, and one with coconut-marinated goat meat – that one was really good. I feel rather proud of myself that I can now say I’ve had goat meat :). Afterwards, we went to Steak ‘n Shake to get milkshakes, and he showed me all of his pictures from his trip. It was great to catch up with him :).

Thursday night was such a trip!! I went to Wicked Westie, as usual. This dance, however, was special. They had a Jack and Jill competition. For those of you who don’t know, a Jack and Jill is a competition is which you enter as an individual, not a couple; then, you are randomly paired, and have to dance to 2 songs, a fast and a slow one, completely on the fly. So the day before, while we were eating lunch, Alan had asked me if I was planning on doing the Jack and Jill. I’ve never competed before, and the thought of doing it completely improv was really nerve-racking to me. But the more I thought about it over the course of the next day, the more I thought I wanted to do it. I almost chickened out right before I left for the dance, but my friend Lindsey used my words against me. I told her about my apprehensions, and she reminded me of what I had written earlier about grabbing life by the horns. I hate it when people use my logic against me, lol ;).

But anyway, I did it, and it was proven to me once again that life is always better when you don’t shy away from challenges. It was so much fun!! We didn’t win…but then, I wasn’t expecting to. We did, however, place second, I think (the voting was by audience applause, so it was a little hard to tell :]), and in addition, I got to say that I’ve competed in a Jack and Jill, something I’ve always wanted to do. And I have photographic evidence, too! Check out these pictures someone took during the competition:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tedreynolds/4777272238/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tedreynolds/4777267624/

Alright, now I’ve finally made it to Friday! Whew! The interns got to go on a field trip to see the Federal bank of Atlanta. That was really cool. I learned alot, and it was very interactive. I also got to see 5 million dollars in $5 bills, which was exciting. They didn’t let me take any pictures, but they did give me a bag of shredded money as a souvenir…not sure what I’m going to do with it, but it looks neat :).

After work, myself and another one of the interns, Naomi, went to Shakespeare’s Tavern to see Hamlet the Musical. It was a musical adaptation of Hamlet, with a modern twist. Pretty cool idea, and the actors were brilliant, as always. We also got to see it for free, which was excellent. If you volunteer to bus tables at the Tavern, you get free admission and discounted food. So I got to see a great play and eat a really tasty “king’s supper sandwich” – Succulent slices of pork loin stuffed with apricots and prunes, roasted with herbs and served on a crusty baguette with rosemary butter, served with a mixed green salad – for under $10. Oh, and I also had peach cheescake, too, mmmm….. 😀

Well, it was about 11:00 before I got back to my apartment. I noticed I had a missed call from some friends of mine from college who graduated last year, Wade and Oscar. I called them back to see what they wanted; apparently they had been in my area of Atlanta and had wanted to hang out. But since I missed them, they asked me to come hang out with them at their place instead. It was late and I was tired, but for some reason I agreed. I hadn’t seen them in forever, and besides, I was feeling the desire to be spontaneous. Having lots of things planned is all well and good, but I need something to mix it up every now and then :).

So anyway, I went, and it was great. We hung out and talked for a while. We watched the end of a movie that they were in the middle of when I got there. We made blueberry pancakes when they got hungry. We talked to Oscar’s girlfriend for a while on Skype :). Finally, after trying to leave several times and continually getting distracted by the next topic of conversation, I firmly told them that I needed to leave – at 4:30 in the morning. I didn’t crawl into bed until after 5.

I had to get up only a few hours later, however, because I was meeting up with Matt, my boss and friend at Berry. He was in Atlanta visiting his girlfriend, so we went to lunch at Atlantic Station Grill. It was nice to see him and catch up with him, even if it was just for a few hours. In the afternoon I went to a pool party / cookout with some of the interns. We brought fruit and chips and drinks and made hotdogs and went swimming and listened to indie music on a portable mp3 player and had an altogether jolly time. I haven’t really hung out with any of the interns much this summer, it was fun to get to spend some time with them :).

I spent the evening at the Mellott’s house, old friends of ours from Americus. I used to babysit their daughter, Priya, when we lived there. She was like 6 or 7 years old. Now she’s in 6th grade, and has a 2-year-old sister (who’s just as adorable as she was when she was little). It’s so crazy how fast times goes by!! So we spent the evening eating Indian food and reminiscing. It was alot of fun. As much as I would love to go into more detail, I can feel my brain turning to cotton and my eyelids to lead. Apparently I don’t function well on 4 hours of sleep :). So, I’m going to say so long, farwell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye…..until mañana!

Happy Fourth of July!

I celebrated the 4th of July vacation with my family this weekend. It was great fun, but a little unsettling, as well. It was not just my immediate family, although they were all present (with the exception of Chris). It also including rarely-seen aunts, uncles, cousins, and the like. It was great to see all of them – it’s been yearsssssss since we’ve seen each other. But at the same time, I hated being reminded of how distant we are. The kids literally have to re-introduce themselves to each other every time we get together, because it’s so infrequent. I know that our lives have diverged, and we get together as much as we can, and it’s great to see them when we do…but I’ve always wanted a big, close extended family. It’s like teasing a child with candy when I see my big extended family, but know that we are not close and likely never will be.

But anyway, enough of that self-pity. Onto the details of the weekend. I met mom and the little ones at my aunt’s house in Alpharetta (she’s technically my mom’s cousin, not her sister, but I don’t know what that would make her to me; it’s easier to call her aunt :]). Mom and the kids came back with me that evening and stayed in my apartment. That was fun, even though we were all pretty thoroughly exhausted at that point. I hadn’t expected my little siblings to ever be able to see my place, so it was cool that they got to. I also loved waking up to see them in MY house, not vice-versa… :).

The next morning, we went to my friend Julia’s church, Perimeter church. It was really good. The message was incredible, and so, so applicable to me in my current stage of life. He was talking about freedom in Christ (quite appropriate, considering Sunday marked the anniversary of our freedom as a nation). He tied it into concerns and plans about the future, relationships, finances…basically, everything that I’m currently struggling with. It was a very timely message for me.

We hung around for a while talking with Julia and her parents. They’re really nice, I like them all a lot :). Finally, though, we had to move on. So we jumped in the cars (I drove daddy’s truck, since he had met us up there that morning) and headed up to Suches, the “Valley above the clouds”. Suches, for most of you guys that don’t know, is located in the northeast Georgia mountains, near Dahlonega.

Sunday afternoon was spent playing with cousins, conversing with aunts and uncles, and consoling indignant siblings. My uncle tried – fairly successfully – to recruit me to work in the CIA as an attaché. It’s definitely at least an option I’m going to look into… 🙂 As the light started to fade, we all packed up and went to the local school to watch the fireworks display. It was a very good show, especially considering the size of the town.

Monday was spent lolling around my aunt and uncle’s house, and saying goodbye as the day wore on and more and more people left for home. Finally, dad and I decided to head back down the mountain. We stopped by our cabin on the way down. It looked rather sad and neglected, but that’s to be expected – it’s been over a year since anyone’s been there. But other than that, it seemed to be in pretty good shape, which was a relief to us all.

I made it back to Atlanta, and had just enough time to unpack and get ready for tomorrow before a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to have dinner with her. So we went to Atlantic Station and grabbed dinner at the Cheescake Bistro. The service was less than commendable, but the food was amazinggggg. And the cheescake….oh, the cheescake. We decided that we couldn’t go to a restaurant called the Cheescake Bistro and not get cheescake. So I boxed up the dinner I couldn’t eat, and she and I split a white chocolate and strawberry cheescake. I’m pretty sure I died for a few minutes and went to heaven. Now, however, I’m back in the very real, cheescake-less world, and have to be at work tomorrow. So I’m going to call it a night.

I do have one more thing I want to say, however. I don’t know why, but the fireworks got me in a very pensive mood, and I decided to pen a quick poem. I’ve re-written it here in my blog. Don’t laugh, a natural poet I am not :P. I would like feedback, though, if you have it, as long as it’s constructive :).

Thunderous tremors split the sky
Flashes of light punctuate the staccato shots
Glittering ribbons of emeralds, rubies, and diamonds slice the air
The screams and echoes of deadly firearms pervade the night sky
As the smoke clears, the cries of the frightened fill the stillness
Then, silence.
Tranquility.
Peace.

The struggle to obtain freedom…and the celebration of it
The outward façades are analogous
The charred earth on both the fields of conflict and carnival prompt all who see it to remember
Remember the hardships.
Remember the struggles.
Remember those who gave their lives for people they would never meet.
Their sacrifice remains long after the singed ground has healed
Remember that sacrifice, before the annual gala of frenzied sparklers forces remembrance

Wahoo!!!!!!

Wahoo, interjection: an expression of joy.
Wahoo, noun: a large game and food fish found in warm seas.
Wahoo, noun: an amazing restaurant, full of joy, warmth, and great food.

That’s what’s printed on the menus of the restaurant I went to tonight. The last definition is a fitting description of the restaurant; the first is quite apt in describing my day in general today. Let me start from the beginning….

Well, today started out like any other Friday (which, of course, is inherently better than all other days :]). I made alot of progress on my paper; it’s really starting to come together. I’m excited about the final report. The theory that I finally worked out is this: decentralized countries with large degrees of ethnic fractionalization tend to remove some of their decentralized fiscal autonomy in order to reduce secessionist tendencies. In other words, that federal governments in areas with alot of ethnic tension tend to make regional governments dependent upon transfer from the federal government to make them stay in the union. So I’m looking at constitutions, legal code, law journals, scholarly articles, etc, to try to back this theory up.

So anyway, after lunch, we went to the Center for Disease Control for a tour. It was really alot more interesting that I was expecting. The tour was very interactive and informative. I’m hoping to get pictures up soon; the pics are on someone else’s camera, so I’ll have to get them from him before I can upload them. The only bad thing about that was that I kept getting flashbacks from my Great Neglected Diseases biology class I took during my sophomore year. I hated, hated, HATED that class – we spent the whole summer studying these bizarre parasites and effects of them, as well as how to treat them and common areas of the world that they are found in. I have to say, though, my professor was very good at what he did. At the CDC, I knew most of the parasites that I read about, as well as how they were obtained and treated, because I still remember most of what I learned in Dr. Conn’s class 2 years ago.

After I got back from the CDC, I met up with a dance buddy, Alan. (oh, and speaking of dancing, I went to a west coast dance last night, called Wicked Westie. It was incredible. I don’t know why I enjoyed it so much more than the Sunday night West coast dances – it’s basically the same crowd, just in a different location. But it really was something special last night. I can’t wait to go back next week :]) But anyway, Alan and I recently discovered (through my photo album that I’ve been upkeeping about this summer, actually) that we work a block away from each other. So we went to the CNN center to grab a late lunch. Did you know that the CNN center used to be an indoor amusement park? It also boasts the largest unsupported escalator in the world….in case anyone was interested in that :). So anyway, we got Chick-fil-a and took our food to Centennial Park. Centennial Park is a huge park that was built in Atlanta for the 1996 olympics. It has walkways, benches, trees, shrubs, fountains, statues, everything…it even has a choreographed water fountain show that people can – and do – play in all the time. There were several school groups frolicking in the water while we were there. I really wanted to join them….but then I decided that it would be rude to just leave him there while I went and played, so I restrained myself :). The conversation was interesting anyway, so I was happy where I was.

In the evening, I met up with some graduate students from the department I’m working in. I had met with my advisor yesterday to talk about my project; after we were done, he told me he had someone he wanted me to meet. So he took me around the hall and introduced me to his new research assistant from the Netherlands, Peter. While we were talking, a grad student, Tamoya, came up to him and told him that they were meeting to go to dinner the next night around 6:30. I casually asked where they were going, and she told me it was a place called Wahoo, in east Atlanta. She then invited me to go, if I wanted to. So today, I was really debating going, but then I finally decided, what the heck, go for it! You only live once!! And I’m so glad I did! 🙂

Regardless of the restaurant or the food, the group I went with was fascinating. Dancel, from Brazil, was on my left, wearing black in mourning. And Peter, from the Netherlands, was to my right, wearing his country’s colors in celebration. (The Netherlands beat Brazil in the World Cup soccer tournament today, lol. There was lots of discussion about that :D) Then there was Andrea, a philosophy professor from Germany. Next came Violetta, a 5th-year P.h.D. student from Serbia. There was also Tamanya, from Jamaica, and her Italian boyfriend, Mario. The accents, the stories, the experiences, the different points of view….everything about the conversation tonight was fascinating. It was strange being the minority in my own country, tho… 🙂

But then, as icing on the cake, the restaurant was actually really cool, and the food was AMAZING!! Check out their website here: http://www.wahoogrilldecatur.com/. I got the Georgian trout – sauteed trout topped with succulent pesto butter and sugared pecans, served with delicate white cheddar grits and sauteed green beans (that description was for you, mom! Love ya! ;]). Anyway want to guess what the grand total on the bill was? **drum roll, please**….$421.50!! I’ve never seen a check from a restaurant that big! The alcohol alone was about $130. Peter said, jokingly, that I should keep the check as a “souvenir”. But then I decided that I really did want to keep it. So I did :).

I don’t think the group knew what to make of this strange American girl who doesn’t party or date random people, though. It was really quite amusing. I got grilled by pretty much everyone at the table, some more than once, about why I don’t drink or date. I tried explaining my reasons at first, but finally just gave up and said because I simply don’t want to. Actually, I was asked (and then had subsequent conversations about the subject) on 3 different occasions over the course of the day as to why I don’t date…I found it rather amusing 🙂

I haven’t talked to my family from Costa Rica in close to 6 months (tico is the colloquial term for Costa Ricans). We’ve communicated a few times via email, but it’s been pretty sparse; we’ve both just been really really busy :(. But after I got back from Wahoo, they randomly called me on Skype!! It was soooo good to talk to them; we talked for almost an hour and a half. (on a side note, I love Skype. Free unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls, anywhere in the world, plus you can use a webcam and see each other’s faces. I would marry Skype if I could…. :D)

It was really sad, though, to see how rusty my Spanish has gotten in 6 months. I can’t wait to go to Spain and polish it up. Which is ANOTHER wahoo factor!! My mom sent me a text today telling me that my visa has come in!!!!!!! I’m OFFICIALLY going to Spain in 60 days!!!!!!! Mom told me that when she opened the package she thought at first that I had been rejected – there was no note inside the package, no forms, nothing except my passport. Apparently, a visa is simply a little piece of paper that goes in your passport. After all of the hassle of getting my visa, that tiny little piece of paper is almost a let-down. You’d think they could at least give me a stand-alone form or SOMETHING….but hey, it’s one less thing to have to worry about losing while I’m there. I’m just glad it’s all over :).

I know everyone’s in different stages of life…but guys, embrace life, please! You’ll never get another chance to do it!!! Even with the little things…take advantage of the opportunities that come your way! I seriously considered not going to Wahoo’s because I didn’t know anyone in the group and the restaurant was pretty pricey and I’m trying to be a good steward of the money God has blessed me with. But you’ll never meet new friends if you don’t go out with people you don’t know! And, as my dad often says, money is not meant to stay in a bank. There’s so much joy and excitement out there in this world, just waiting for anyone who’s brave enough to experience it. Sure, new things are scary. I’m scared every single time I do something new. But that’s not a reason to not do something. Shoot, if everyone took that point of view, I think the human race would die out pretty soon…I’m pretty sure that having a child is one of the scariest things in the whole world :). But guys, go chase your dreams! Dreams will always be just that – fantasies – unless you work to achieve them. It breaks my heart to see friends of mine who have things they want to do, but they’re shackled by fear into the same hum-drum existence that they’ve always known. Take a leap of faith! Do something daring, out of the box, extraordinary! I promise you you won’t regret it :).

OK, I’m off my soapbox now. Love you guys bunches, thanks for reading! 🙂