Category: friends

Introducing Lauren Fenner, MS

I am now the proud owner of a Master’s of Science Degree from Georgia Institute of Technology.  Although I am very happy for and truly proud of my accomplishment, I decided, against the opinions of many, to not walk at the graduation ceremony.  I did do all of the other celebratory  things for graduates – I went to a graduation banquet at church, a reception for everyone in my major at school, and also an awards ceremony for an award that I received for high scholastic achievement while at Georgia Tech.  But I simply wasn’t invested in the school enough to make me want to walk.  Unlike at Berry, where I was looking forward to it for weeks, the thought of walking at Georgia Tech just sounded tedious to me.  I hope that I will not regret my decision in 15 years, but at this point it is a moot point.  At least I haven’t regretted my decision up to now :).

So instead of walking, I decided that I would throw a party to celebrate the other graduates in my life.  I knew quite a few people graduating this semester, so I got a bunch of mutual friends together to celebrate their accomplishment.  It wasn’t a super well thought out party, since it was coming on the end of a crazy few weeks of writing papers and doing interviews, some of which were in other cities.  So I was pretty tired and didn’t have much time to plan it.  But the group was fun, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

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That was the last party of the semester.  Or so I thought.  But my friends had other plans.  I thought that I was going to my friend Elizabeth’s house last Saturday night just for a regular sleepover.  But she and Michael had actually been scheming for weeks to throw a surprise graduation party of my own.  I’ve gotta say, I was pretty impressed…I didn’t have a clue until I walked in the house and saw decorations hanging everywhere.  They had gotten almost everyone from my house church to come, and even Chris and Julia made an appearance for a little bit!  Needless to say, I was blown away.  They had games, and food, and brought the ping-pong table out, and even started a fire in the back yard once the sun went down.  It was an amazing evening, made even more special by the fact that these people I love so dearly had worked so hard to make it a surprise.

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Oh, I suppose before I wrap up that I should also give an update on the job hunt.  I’ve been diligently, sometimes frantically looking for a job all semester.  I’ve gotten pretty far in the interview process with several companies – including Apple flying me all the way out to their regional headquarters in Houston – but so far, nothing has panned out.  But I will be leaving for a month-long trip to Peru next week, so I’ve kinda stopped looking for right now.  At this point, the priority is to just enjoy my time while I’m over there.  Trying to juggle the interviews with classwork made life supremely stressful over the past few months, especially the Apple interview in Houston, but I tried to look at it as good interviewing practice, at the very least.  Plus I got to have dinner with my dear friend Sarah while I was in Houston, and still managed to pull off all A’s – a surprising feat, considering the fact that one of my classes alone required hundreds of pages of reading and about 15 hours of time every week, plus nearly 100 pages of written work over the course of the semester.  Despite the fact that I’ll be leaving for Peru without a job offer, I’ve got quite a peace about it all.  I consider this semester a huge success, and am looking forward to getting back in the job hunt when I return :).

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So wonderful getting to see Sarah! Even if it was just for a few hours 🙂

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That big circle above the road is a street sign!! I was in a super swanky area of town…

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My hotel room

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The view from my balcony

 

Dogwood festival and Easter weekend

My last two weekends have been vastly different, but equally wonderful.  Two weeks ago I went to the Atlanta Dogwood festival.  A huge collection of artists and performers, this event only comes around to Atlanta one weekend a year.  Last year it was miserable and rainy, and so I decided not to go, but this year the weather was absolutely incredible.  And add to that the fact that I was surrounded by people I love, and it made for a perfect first time visit to the dogwood festival.  There were music and dance performances from people and styles all over the world, vendors selling yummy food, exquisite art on display, and even some dog racing and performances.  My only regret is not wearing enough sunscreen :).

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The next weekend, Easter weekend, I went home to Albany to celebrate Passover with my family.  Passover is one of my favorite days of the entire year.  It’s a lot of work to prepare for, and it’s always over in only a couple of hours; but taking the time to remember and celebrate what God did for His people so many years ago is just really special to me.  It was even more special this year, because I got to bring home Amy and Michael with me.  And Chris and Julia and Julia’s parents were also able to come down – we had a full house, but full hearts, as well.  I found the days leading up to Passover quite amusing – I kept getting messages from Amy, Michael, and mom telling me how excited they all were.  I must admit, I shared their excitement.  And once we got there, I found myself just randomly bursting into smiles on multiple occasions.  I was just so happy to be surrounded by so many people that I loved so much.  Despite the stress of school, the job hunt, and everything else, I have been very blessed, indeed.

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Birthday surprises

I left for Atlanta right after New Year’s day, on January second.  Grammie needed to get to the airport, so I decided to take the airport shuttle from Columbus to Atlanta with her, so I could spend some time with her one-on-one.  This also happened, however, to be the day before my birthday.  And I must admit…I was having a bit of a pity party on the way up to Atlanta.  Here I was, the day before my birthday, going away from family and not going towards friends.  School didn’t start for another 4 days; most of my friends were still out of town.  I didn’t even bother trying to plan anything; I just assumed that my birthday was going to go by unnoticed.  At least I’d get to see Elizabeth – she had already said that she would pick me up from the airport after the shuttle dropped me off.

So she picked me up, we got to my house, and she sent me up the stairs with my stuff, saying she’d be right behind me.  I still didn’t suspect a thing.  I heard her coming up the stairs behind me.  And all of a sudden the footsteps separated, and I realized that there was more than one person coming into my house.  Elizabeth had made a little mini surprise party for me!  She had contacted all of my friends to see who was in town – in the end it was only 2 people, but that didn’t really matter :).  So after I went up the stairs, she snuck in Matt and Courtney with her.  They had a cake, and sang to me, and it was just a lovely surprise.  Elizabeth even managed somehow to hide clues to a little scavenger hunt to lead me to a little birthday present – all while I was right there in the house!!  Either I was really out of it, or she’s reallyyyyyy good.  Maybe a little bit of both :).  Either way, it was a huge surprise…totally blessed the socks off of me!

The curveballs continued into the night and the next day.  That night I went dancing, and got to have a special birthday dance.  You can check it out in the video below.  The next day, my actual birthday, was full of little gestures in unexpected places that just meant so much to me.  Chris and Julia treated me to lunch.  A dance friend of mine met up with me to give me a scarf that he had bought for my birthday.  Several friends surprised me with a birthday dinner – which meant even more because the guy who had organized it, Michael, had lots of family stuff going on that would have given him plenty of excuses to not bother with making someone else feel special on her birthday.

L-R: Michael, Jonathan, Jessica, little Nicholas, and Matt

Then that evening Alan, the founder of Wicked Westie, took all of the volunteers to Andretti indoor racing.  It was his way of saying thank you for the help that we give him.  Andretti doesn’t just have indoor racing, though – it has a rock wall, ropes course, and an arcade, as well.  And we did it all.  It was such a blast.  I didn’t get back until almost 1:00 am, but it was totally worth it.  A perfect way to end my birthday – racing go-karts with my dancing friends :).

L-R: Doria, Hannah, Cherylyn, and me

L-R: Stefanie, Jennifer, Nichole, me, and Christopher

That’s me! 🙂

The whole gang

So that’s the story of how my dull birthday turned into the best one of my life.  It was humbling to see how well God wants to take care of me, if only I’ll stop planning everything and leave it up to Him.  Even in silly little things like celebrating one’s birthday.  I had lots of surprises this year for my birthday.  But the biggest surprise shouldn’t have been one at all.  The biggest surprise was just how blessed I am to have the people I do in my life.  People who give selflessly, who constantly put others ahead of themselves.  People who are willing to put my needs ahead of their own.  It shouldn’t have surprised me…but it did, nonetheless.  It really was quite humbling.  I’m so undeservedly blessed!

The Amazing Race: Oregon edition

Every now and then, you meet someone with whom you immediately click.  Someone with whom you can share everything with, and no matter how many miles or months may separate you, as soon as you see them again you can immediately pick things back up where they were left off.  Many people only have one or two friends like this in a lifetime.  But I’ve been blessed with several; although they’re scattered all over the world, I’ve no doubt that they will be in my life for a very long time.What’s more, I actually got to see one of them last week!  Rachel, one of my roommates in college, had the nerve to get married and go off to Oregon to go to optometry school.  But I suppose I can’t get upset, since I left her for Korea, haha.  It had been a while since I saw her, and I was blessed with a fantastic deal on the flight, so after I finished up my finals, I headed out west to pay a visit.

I must admit…I don’t think I could ever live in Oregon (**knock on wood**).  The fog and creeping chill is something that I’m not used to, and I imagine would have a very hard time acclimating myself to.  But nasty weather is easily overlooked for a few days, especially when you’re with such lovely people! 🙂

Rachel still had to take a final the first day that I arrived, so Ryan and Seth (an old friend of theirs and also their housemate) took it upon themselves to entertain me while she was taking her test.  We went to a Sherlock Holmes exhibit at a hands-on science museum in Portland.  It was really excellently done.  They had some artifacts from the time period on display, as well as a lot of biographical information about the author, Arthur Conan Doyle (did you know that he was an army medic?  The character of Watson is modeled after himself).  There was even a recreation of Sherlock’s living room!  But after that, it got even cooler.  They had recreated a “crime scene” in the exhibit hall.  We had to go through the clues and compare the evidence to the official police theory, and see if they were right or not.  Eventually we cracked the case!  The police had it all wrong :).  It really was a fantastically done exhibit…I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The next day, Ryan and Rachel and I went on a walking tour of Portland.  There’s an app called Stray Boots Tours that you can get that sends you on a scavenger hunt around the city, so we bought it and followed the clues.  I felt like I was on the Amazing Race – actually with both the Sherlock Holmes exhibition and the Stray Boots tour, but particularly the walking tour.  I had to remind myself several times that there was no need to rush, we were not going to be eliminated if we came in last.  In fact, between the clues, scavenger hunts, and trying lots of new things – from homemade beer to lockpicking driving super fast cars to videogames – the entire weekend felt somewhat like a tamer version of the Amazing Race, haha :).  They were definitely my kinds of activities, though!

One of the first stops on the Stray Boots tour was a vintage record store
Another clue took us to Powell’s, the largest new and used independent book store in the world.  We spent quite a bit of time there…. 🙂
The rare books section.  I thought I found the most expensive book.  I found out later that apparently there’s a book there that costs around $200,000!
Check out the Christmas Tree – it’s made from beer bottles.  Rather fitting for a famous pub, I’d say 🙂
A map of tea across the world in a cute little tea shop

The rest of the week was marked by board games, an introduction to the video game Portal (every level is basically solving a series of puzzles; I’m not a video gamer, but that one was pretty darn fun), seeing Rachel’s campus and meeting her friends, and oh yeah…a Tesla test drive.  Teslas, for those who may not know, are premium fully electric vehicles (they start around $70,000 and go up from there).  And they are gorgeous.  Ryan arranged for Rachel and I to have a test drive while I was there.  Oh my word.  It was like a dream.  I’ve never really had car envy, always been perfectly happy with my beat up little Subaru; but I must admit, car envy may have reared its ugly head during that test drive :).

It goes without saying that the week flew by all too quickly.  I’m so grateful to have been able to go, and I missed them even before I boarded the plane back to Atlanta.  No time to mourn their absence, though…it’s time to get geared up for Christmas!  Only 3 more days!!

Ryan really liked the Tesla shirt that Rachel got him for Christmas 🙂
Rachel’s campus – doesn’t it look eerie with all the fog and devoid of students??

Gratefulness

I’m finding, as I get older and my schedule fills and responsibilities multiply, that I have to make a conscience effort to verbalize the things that I’m grateful for.  Otherwise, they simply get…forgotten.  Swept under the rug.  Left by the wayside.  And that is truly a tragedy.  Because there are so many beautiful, wonderful things that we can be grateful for.

Such as….birthdays.  My dear friend Elizabeth turned 22 last week.  She had a big shindig at her house – I got to meet all of her equally wonderful friends and family.  The next day was my mom’s birthday, and I spontaneously decided to go down to Albany and surprise her.  Oh my word.  She flipped out.  She was soooooo surprised.  It made the 6 hour round trip drive totallyyyyy worth it :).  Oh yes….surprises are another thing that I’m grateful for.  Good ones, at least ;).
I’m grateful for a crazy stupid busy school schedule – classes and 3 jobs and English tutoring and Spanish language exchange and dancing and volunteering at church and more – because I’m grateful for the opportunity that God has given me to further my education and experiences.  I’m grateful for the people that God has placed in my life over the last few years.  I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had – yes, even the really really bad ones – that have grown me and made me more like Jesus.  
I’m grateful for discount restaurant coupons from Groupon.  My friend Amy had one for an Asian fusion place called Mulan (yes, like the Disney princess; another company for which I’m grateful).  We walked to Midtown, and had a lovely evening just shooting the breeze together.
On that note…I’m grateful for godly friends in my life.  I’m sitting here writing this in my friend Elizabeth’s house.  As I’m writing, her father walks in and starts talking to me about the “God pocket,” an idea written about by Bruce Wilkinson.  Basically the idea is that you set aside some money and dedicate it to God, and then give to whoever you feel led.  Tonight he gave it to me, saying that he wanted to thank me for being a good friend to Elizabeth and that he hoped that it would help pay for gas.  Seriously.  I love God’s timing.  I’m grateful for my friends and I’m grateful for the Lord and for His timing and sovereignty in my life.
So many more things I could list….but maybe I’ll save them for a later date :).  What are you thankful for today?
A few pictures from Elizabeth’s birthday: her cousin Lauren is on the left, and her sister Mary-Catherine on the right.  Both incredibleeeeeee ladies 🙂

We took mom out to Red Lobster for her birthday….what a fun evening! 🙂

Hopey, me and Chad

Joint birthday celebration for my mom and dad; Chad got a cake that read “Happy birthday to the man in tights and our favorite Jewish mom!”

The man in tights himself!! 🙂 

Finals Week Highlights

I’m done!  I have officially finished my first year of graduate school!  Let me tell you what, it was quite a ride!  But the last week or so or classes I didn’t really actually have much schoolwork to do – I’m happy to report that the mind-numbing amount of work I did before finals week finally paid off, and my finals week was quite relaxing.  So I made up for some lost time, doing all of the things that I had neglected to do throughout the course of the semester.  Here are some of the highlights:
I went camping with my dad the weekend before finals.  I think the two of us had two very different experiences.  For me, I had a blast – I really enjoy camping, but hadn’t been in years, so it was a nice change, and great spending some quality time with my dad.  But my dad’s perspective, however, was that there was a hole in the tent over his head.  Poor man.  It poured most of the night, and add to that the fact that he didn’t have a water-repellant sleeping bag, but rather one that absorbed all of that excess moisture in the air, and he had quite a rough night that evening.  We ended up waking up really early in the morning and just heading back – at least then he was dry, even if he wasn’t well-rested!
I also got to see a musical performance of The Mask of Zorro with my friend Amy.  To psych myself up for it, I watched the movie the night before, which was excellent.  But the musical just blew me away.  It had beautiful singing, and energetic dancing, and pithy humor, and sonorous Spanish, incredible costumes…it really had everything.  I was left breathless on more than one occasion.  I’m definitely getting the Georgia Tech student art pass next year!
My friends Jonathan and Jessica invited me to see a double feature at one of the last remaining drive-in movie theaters in the country.  We brought food and chairs and got there early to just talk and hang out – Jess and I did our nails, lol.  I had never been to a drive-in theater before, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even despite the threat of rain that drove us into our cars for a while.  But even then, they play the sound through a radio station, so we could still enjoy the movie just fine :).
Of course I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do some dancing, too.  I caught the last bit of the Thursday night dance after Zorro ended, and that was a lot of fun.  I almost didn’t go, but in the end I’m very glad that I did.  But even better than the dance on Thursday, was the workshop on Saturday.  Now, I had been to dance workshops before – they’re always good and I learn a lot, but there’s nothing really that unique about them.  This one, however, was different.  It was called “The Art of the Steal,” and was specifically tailored to teach people how to steal someone else’s partner in the middle of a dance without disrupting the flow of the music or the dancers.  So there was a lot of group partnering instead of pairs, and weird rotations, and all in all everyone just had a grand time.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned a heck of a lot.  
My last night in Atlanta, I went out to dinner with Jonathan and Jessica and some friends of theirs to celebrate his graduation from Tech.  The place we went to was called Buca di Beppo, and their trademark thing is that they take all of their guests through the kitchen before seating them – way cool!! Anyway, I got back to Albany just in time on Sunday to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday celebration with the family.  I was glad I made it back for that.  And now I’m in Albany for the summer!  For now, at least.  Who knows where I’ll be in a couple of weeks! 🙂

Christmas break part 2

We returned from New Jersey a few days before New Year’s Eve.  But was that enough traveling for me??  Oh no, Miss Glutton-for-punishment still had over a week of traveling remaining.  My parents dropped me off in Atlanta; while they went on to Birmingham to spend New Year’s Eve with old family friends, I hopped on a bus and went down to Orlando to spend it with new ones.

My good friend Sarah (the same one whose wedding I was in in October) moved to Texas shortly after her wedding.  Her sister, Hannah, with whom I also got very close over the wedding weekend, lives in North Carolina.  However, it just so happened that they were both (along with their husbands, of course ;]) in Orlando, visiting their parents.  So, I told myself, what better time to visit!  Kill several birds with one stone – go to 1 place and get to see several good friends who are normally scattered all over the country! 🙂  And so it was that I arrived in Orlando on the evening of the 29th.

From the moment I arrived until my departure, it was nonstop mayhem.  Now, please do not mistake me; mayhem is not always meant in a pejorative sense, and in this particular instance it’s definitely meant in a positive light.  While we were almost constantly doing something the entire 6 days that I was there, they were all wonderful things.  I had a lovely time reconnecting with this wonderful family; the only downside was that as my sleep deprivation increased throughout the week, so did my irritability – it had reached a critical level by the end of the week.  Sleep must be a priority for both my happiness and the happiness of those around me, lol.  🙂

But anyway, a few highlights from the week:

We went to Busche Gardens my first full day in Orlando.  What a place!  Where else in the world can you find giraffes, hippos, and lions (both real and topiary), water rides and roller coasters, trains and zip lines, Egyptian artwork, ice skating performances by world-class skaters, singing and dancing performances, dippin’ dots and spanish empanadas….and I’m sure I’m forgetting a myriad of other things, too…all in one place??  It was a lot of fun – like a grown-up playground.  And then, I’m sure completely out of concern for our well-being, the park employees even threw in a built-in workout!  Many of the rides were closed, so we ended up walking a lot more than we had expected to ;).  So yeah…..that may have been a bit frustrating, but it really was a lovely day – definitely a bonding experience for us all ;).

The whole gang at Busche Gardens!

Fantastic ice skating performance!

Water rides in January….they’re crazy!!

Left to right: Hannah, Josh, Jon, Sarah, and Donnie

For New Year’s Eve, we had a wine and bread tasting party.  There were some incredibly exotic (and, I’m sure, expensive) wines that made appearances.  It almost made me wish that I enjoyed alcohol!  But nevertheless, the bread was super yummy, and the company lovely; I made it just long enough to watch the ball drop, and then went home and went to bed :).

The Reichel’s have a New Year’s Day tradition in which they go to a famous pancake house for breakfast on the first of the year, so this year they brought me along with them.  It’s apparently really famous – there was an hour and a half wait – but there was a little lake and place where you could walk around, so it wasn’t hard to amuse ourselves.  I even got a photo-op with a couple of planes!! 🙂

Check out the sunlight, and the Spanish moss, and the leaf in the foreground…I’m particularly proud of this picture 🙂

The whole gang at the pancake place

Sarah and I went on a bike ride one morning, and then had breakfast at Panera’s.  With all of the craziness and people coming and going throughout the week, it was so wonderful to be able to have 2 whole hours of uninterrupted time with her.  Definitely just what my heart needed :).

Jonathan and I saw Les Miserables together, and then met Hannah and her husband Josh and a friend at a portable ice skating rink.  It was fun, although I must admit also rather disconcerting to be ice skating when the outside temperature had to have been in the 60’s.

Me, Jon, Hannah, and Josh at the skating rink

Check out their awesome golf-cart zambini!! 

The night before I left (my birthday!), we went to an Irish pub in downtown Disney.  It was not my first choice for celebrating my birthday, but it also happened to be Josh’s birthday, and he was really dead-set on going, so in the interest of keeping the peace I went along with them.  It ended up being pretty cool – there were live musicians and Irish dancers, the food was delicious, and the band even sang for Josh and me to wish us happy birthday!  But by that point, I was so dead tired, I probably would have been just as happy doing nothing and just going to bed, lol.

I got a birthday candle and ice cream!! 🙂

My departure from Orlando was a little more exciting than I would have liked.  There were 4 accidents on the highway to the bus stop, and the traffic was so backed up that I ended up missing my bus.  We were within half a mile of the station, in standstill traffic, so I got out and started running on the highway in a desperate rush to get there on time – it was something straight out of a movie!  Just picture me, running along the shoulder, my jeans wet almost to my knees from the drizzling rain, with Jon running behind me in his dress shoes and slacks pulling my roller bag, scrambling like mad people to catch the bus…ut alas, it was all for naught, and I still missed it.  But I am blessed with wonderful friends who offered to drive me on to my next destination – Jacksonville – and so the journey continued.

I was only in Jacksonville for a few days – my pastor from Korea and his family were there, and his wife had planned a surprise birthday party for him.  So I showed up for a few days to celebrate with them and to see the whole family.  It was so good to see them – definitely made me nostalgic for Korea again, though!

Beautiful shot of a park that we visited

Me and baby Zamanta!  She was a newborn when I left Korea!! 🙂

All of this time spent with other people’s families was wonderful, but by the end of the week, I was definitely ready to get back to my own.  No matter how welcoming people may be, it’s never the same as spending time with your own family! 🙂  So I came back to Albany for a day, had dinner with my family, collected my stuff, and then headed back up to Atlanta and started classes the next day!  And moving back to Atlanta…..well that’s a whole new adventure in itself!  Stay tuned!

Orlando vacation ^_^

As the semester draws to a close, I’ve realized just how far behind I’ve gotten in several things that are important to me – most notably, in writing.  Writing is something that I really do enjoy doing, and I’m told by my loyal fans that I’m decently good at it ;).  Plus, with 2 freelance contracts under my belt over the past few months – one with a startup travel blog, and the other one writing the cultural sections of a Spanish language textbook – I suppose I need to get back into the habit of actually writing regularly again!  So here goes, update #1 of who-knows-how-many….

I had so much fun in Florida with my friends the Reichels for Sarah’s wedding (see my blog about that here), that I just had to go back and see them again.  My class schedule is pretty flexible, so one weekend in early November I was able to hop on a bus and spend an entire 3 days down in Orlando with them.  It took an incredible amount of work beforehand to get to a point where I didn’t have to do any schoolwork while I was down there; but once I was there, it was a lovely little mini-vacation.

Mr. and Mrs. Reichel greeted me with another welcome basket and note, just like they had when I first arrived for the wedding a month earlier.  It was so nice to feel so loved and welcome – my love language has always been gift-giving, and that family certainly knows how to speak my language :).

As wonderful as the wedding was, however, this weekend was great in an entirely different way, as there were no stressful preparations for a life-changing event to prepare for.  It was definitely a much more relaxing weekend overall than the first time around.  We hung out around the house some, had dinner at a Japanese steak house, went for a walk around a lovely park at night, saw a hilarious show at a comedy club, and went on a canoeing trip – wearing a bathing suit in November….imagine that!!  Gotta love Florida….

My favorite place, however, was called WonderWorks.  It’s difficult to explain, but I suppose that the best description I can afford you would be that it is a hand’s-on science museum.  They had giant bubble makers, and machines that generated hurricane-force gales, and virtual roller coasters, and beds of nails, and all sorts of things to let your inner child play without abandon.  It was delightful.  My mother always says that age is a state of mind, and I quite agree.  I may be turning 23 next month, but I’m really closer to 3 than 23 ;).

So that was Florida!  Updates from Atlanta are soon to follow!

The park at Crane’s Roost
SAK comedy club 😀
Yay for canoeing!!

The wonder of WonderWorks!!

Laser tag….I was unshootable 😉

Finding the allure

It’s a curious thing, indeed, that even the most mundane things can seem interesting to us when we are abroad.  I’ve often noticed this phenomenon in my many travels – every restaurant, historical site, performance, or even ice cream shop or cafe can be charming and alluring when you’re in another country.  But then, I get back to the states, and I forget that intrigue, that child-like fascination with every experience that comes my way.

I didn’t really realize that I had lost this interest, until I started hanging out with foreign friends here in Atlanta.  And all of a sudden their thirst to experience everything that Atlanta had to offer, their passion to understand as many facets of this culture as they possibly could, and their desire for new experiences was totally putting me to shame.

So for the past few weeks, in the middle of my crazy busy schedule, I’ve been trying to sit back and find some of that interest, that allure, that intrigue, from my own culture – the one that I’m most likely to take for granted.  Here’s a few of the highlights from the month of October.

I went to a fantastical restaurant called Dante’s Down the Hatch with some friends.  It’s a fondue restaurant, which is already cool enough in itself – I had never had fondue before.  But then, on top of that, the entire restaurant looks like the inside of a massive ship – hence the name, I suppose.  You could walk through the “ship’s” walkways and into the galley and such while you were waiting for your delicious fondue to arrive.  Definitely a multi-sensory experience!!

Dante’s Down the Hatch

Fondue!!!  Yummmm

I went to a ballroom competition in mid-October.  At this point I had actually gotten rather burnt out on dancing, so it was a nice change to sit back and just watch it.  Plus, the styles were completely different from what I’m used to, so that was fun, too.  Was definitely a memorable evening…

For fall break, my family mixed it up some and came to visit me, instead of the other way around!  What a joy it was to be able to host them, instead of being the one hosted.  Mom and I cooked a nice dinner (it was the first time that she had cooked something in my kitchen! :]), and then Chris and Julia came over to eat with all of us.  The only person missing was dad, but he was there in spirit! 🙂  I’m looking forward to many more visits like that….it blessed me in so many ways!

My sister is really the cutest ever.  The end.

I love seeing my family at home in my home!

Sleepover!!!

I went to a Korean barbecue place with some friends from school.  I was soooooo excited before going – it was the first time I had eaten Korean food since I came back!  But I have to admit, I was sorely disappointed.  It was expensive, and honestly not very good, and they didn’t even let us grill it ourselves, which is half of the fun of Korean barbecue!  Lame.  I guess living in Korea has spoiled me. I should have known better – I didn’t eat American food in Korea, because they can’t make it the “right” way; why would I have thought that Americans can do Korean food any better??  Ahh well, live and learn, it was still an experience :).  The hunt continues for an authentic Korean food place!!

I was telling them what everything at the table was.  It was fun playing tour guide… 
Had an interesting Friday night a few weeks ago.  The Fernbank museum of natural history was having a salsa and bachata night – in the middle of the museum.  So I dragged my friend Fernando along – we actually met at a dance, so it was fitting that he come with me – and then met some other friends from the Tech salsa club there.  It was really cool, with DJs and dancers and drinks all spread out amid the museum exhibits and such.  I can’t say that I’ve ever danced under a dinosaur before, lol.  Now I can check that off of my list!  Not that it was actually on my list to begin with….but if it was, it’s been checked off now! 😉

Dancing with dinosaurs!!
The shell was as big as I was!!
This past week was really a momentous week in my life.  I went to TWO different sporting events – in a single week!  For someone who’s never in her entire life been to either a professional basketball or football game, going to one of each in a single week was quite a feat!  What can I say, I’m trying hard to find the allure of my own culture… 😉
So the first game I went to was an Atlanta Hawks basketball game.  Two German friends of mine, Theresa and Carston, had an extra ticket, and so they invited me to come along.  We went to Johnny Rockets first for dinner, and then headed over to the game.  I was a little underwhelmed.  Perhaps it’s because it was a pre-season game, so the crowd wasn’t as into it as they would normally be, but I wasn’t particularly impressed.  I had a good time with my friends though, and the mascot was certainly fun to watch ;).
Carston, Theresa, and me and Johnny Rockets
Beautiful shot of Atlanta’s skyline! 🙂
My second sporting event was GA Tech’s homecoming football game.  I figured if I was going to go to a football game, a homecoming game was a good day to go.  The pre-game festivities for this one were much more impressive than at the basketball game – there was a tailgate with my department before the game, and also a parade and great halftime performance.  But at least the Hawks won the game.  GA Tech lost 40-17, so that put a bit of a damper on the festivities.  However, I really feel no personal attachement to the team at all (don’t tell any of my fellow Tech students!), so it didn’t bother me that much.  I just went and admired the general atmosphere.  So I can now say that I’ve been to a football game; I don’t see myself ever going again, though.  It’s not that it wasn’t fun – it’s just that I can think of tons of alternative activities to do that I would enjoy more :).  Anyway, off to the books for me now!  I shall try to be more diligent in writing over the next month!

My first tailgate!!

Buzz, GA Tech’s mascot.  He kind of creeps me out, lol

She’s juggling torches!!  Made me think of my dad… 🙂

Florida wedding!

My sincerest apologies for the deplorable delay since my last update!  The last month has been marked by pretty much non-stop insanity – I spent a couple of weeks preparing to be gone for the wedding of my dear friend Sarah, then I was at the wedding, then I spent a few weeks catching up afterwards, and now here I am!  I’m hoping to fill you in on the rest of the month before the end of the week, but until then, enjoy the pics from Sarah’s wedding!

You may recognize Sarah from some of my pictures in Korea – she was on the same Fulbright grant as I was, and became one of my best friends while over there.  I was privileged to be a member of her wedding party upon our return to the states.  So in early October, I took a bus down to Orlando, FL, and spent 5 wonderful days catching up with her and meeting her incredible family and helping her prepare for her big day.

I was greeted with a welcome basket when I got to her parent’s home.  It was so sweet!  It was a wonderful feeling to know that, even amidst all of the insanity that is a wedding, Sarah still took the time to thank me for being there.  I felt so loved 🙂

The next few days were marked by lots of preparations.  We rolled napkins, and tied ribbons, and even made the bouquets ourselves!  She bought the flowers in bulk and then we arranged them, to save on cost.  I tell you what, I have a newfound appreciation for what florists do!

My wedding gift for Sarah and Donnie – it has “Welcome to the Durm home” burned into a wooden shingle, and then welcome written in several different languages 🙂

Thursday night we had a bachelorette party for Sarah.  It was fun and silly and lighthearted, and I think that we all had a blast.  It began with food and games at the home of one of Sarah’s friends, and ended with drinks at a bar in town that is famous for its live dueling pianists.  By that time, however, we were all pretty tired, and so we were content to simply sit and listen to the music.  Apparently our subdued attitudes were noticed, because one of the employees came up to us and asked, “is this a bachelorette party?  Because all I see is a buch of old ladies.”, and a fellow customer bought a round of drinks for every one os us.  It was nice of him, but I think we all agreed that we were actually enjoying ourselves, even if we weren’t dancing on the tables or anything of the sort :).

Sarah’s sweet sister, Hannah.  She has taken to calling me Lolo 🙂
Sarah’s mom, Mrs. Reichel, twisted her ankle pretty badly the day before the wedding, so I dubbed myself her personal assistant for the latter end of the week.  One thing I helped a lot with was preparing for the little family reception that they had at their house the day before the wedding.  I made pumpkin bars and coffee cake and I don’t remember what else.  It was fun :).

Some of the goodies I made for the reception

Sarah’s brother Jon, and Grandma Bubbles 
And then….the big day arrived!!  It was pouring for most of the ceremony, but that didn’t matter because it was held inside a big beautiful restored victorian home.  There were a few hiccups before hand – my dress ripped in 2 separate places, and there were major technical difficulties with the video that Sarah asked me to be responsible for – but overall, it was a great, remarkably stress-free day.  There was dancing and laughter and joy, and at the end of the day, Sarah and Donnie were married, so I would say that it was a successful day!

Jon was my escort at the wedding 🙂

Me and Mrs. Reichel

The Reichel siblings!  Good-looking family, if I do say so myself… 🙂

Reichel sibs + me 🙂
I stayed an extra day after the wedding.  I got to see Sarah and Donnie one more time in the morning before they left on their honeymoon, which was nice.  Her Grandma Bubbles (yes, that is her real name) insisted on teaching me poker that afternoon.  I schooled them all – had a grand total of like $15 in winnings!  It was fun, lol :).  So then that evening, I got back on a bus and made my way back to Atlanta – back to the grind!  It was a lot of work to get down there and back, but so totally worth it – I was so grateful to be there, and getting to meet and spend almost a whole week with her awesome family and friends was just icing on the cake!  At the same time, though, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit relieved that the rash of weddings is over with for a while! 😀
My first picture with Mrs. Durm! 🙂

After our poker game….hehehe