Monday, March 31, 2008

Waiting on the World to Change

Sometimes I really miss my American Sign Language and Deaf Culture classes. It's so hard to be in other random classes with Interpreting majors or Deaf Education majors, and hear them talking about it... I miss it, even though I am now positive that I no longer want to dedicate my life to teaching the deaf. I do wish, however, that I could still be involved and still finish learning ASL. I was so close to becoming fluent! It's such a shame that I let that waste away in the past year. Sure, I run into my deaf friends on campus, and I can converse with them, but it's harder for me... it's tense, and I often forget simple signs like "how" or "hard".

Today Jenn Curren sent me this great video... and I think it's something you all should watch. It's awesome!

Cat Scratch Fever

When my mom visited we made her try Guitar Hero. She actually got to be pretty good by the end of the weekend! I liked this picture because she was laughing so hard... I love when my mom laughs hysterically. It's the best.

Our friend Jackie recently got Rock Band for her birthday...which, for those of you who don't know, is kind of like Guitar Hero, only it has the drums, a microphone, and another guitar. So, you can have the guitar, the bass, a singer, and a drummer. It's pretty awesome, especially when you have four people to play all of the instruments. The drums are my favorite. (you can see them in the picture...all the way on the left, in front of the fireplace.)

Em and I just returned from the Emergency Room. I have to have set a record by now for the person with the most odd issues that result in an ER visit. I have been having this odd medical malady lately that has been ongoing for about 3 weeks...and it is driving me up the wall. I'm to the point where I am covered head to toe in a horrible rash. I have been on steroids and antihistamines, which help but tonight I just about lost it when I realized that I have so many hives on my back and belly (and in my BELLY BUTTON! owie!) that it looked like one huge hive. The doc at the ER told me that I have eczema, which I don't know if I buy his theory just yet. However, he did prescribe me more steroids and an anti-itch pill...which is better because up until now, the only thing I've been prescribed for the itch is a topical cream, which hasn't really helped with the itching. Sorry if all of that was a little TMI, but I'm trying to chronicle my life here, odd rashes and all ;-)

Aside from the rash, it's been a good weekend. Sean Dolgin (my good friend Rachel's little brother) was visiting UNCG .. he's a senior in high school and deciding between UNCG and Michigan State. We tried to show him how cool Greensboro can be!! It was good because there was a lot going on this weekend. A friend of our from rugby had a little get together Friday night, and afterwards we took Sean to the Q for some pool. Saturday he went to an all day thing for admitted students, and afterwards we went to the Tate St. Festival, which happened to be this weekend - perfect. It was awesome! Saturday night we were going to go camping, but it was 40 degrees and freezing out, so we had a cookout instead, S'mores and all. Today we shopped for dresses for Serendipity, and then dropped him off at the airport. I hope he had a great time :)

About two weeks ago another good friend visited! One of the best friends that I made this summer - Beaker (Meg) visited for a few days to hang out during her Spring Break. Em and I felt bad because we had classes that week, and there wasn't really much of anything going on on the Tues/Weds that we had to play. Still, it was good to see her and we welcome visits from ANYONE at ANYTIME! (hint, hint!)

Well, it's time to take my sorry itchy self to bed. Hope all is well.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Two Things

First of all, I recently re-discovered my love for Fruit Roll-ups. As a child, they were a big treat because my Dad did the grocery shopping, and he rarely bought us crap that would rot our teeth and make us hyper. I can remember very vividly opening up my lunch at school (although, I bought lunch about 98% of the time, from grades 1-12) and whenever there was a Fruit Roll-Up I would get so excited. (Or a I had a Fruit-Roll-Up Ritual... First, if there were any cut-outs, I would pop them out and eat them bite by bite. Once all of the pop-outs were out, I would roll the remainder into a ball and put the whole thing in my mouth (which makes me cringe now..) and chewed on it until all of the sugar dissolved.

Today while driving home from class, I was suprised to see FIVE cars (three parked, two driving) that had Obama '08 stickers on them. Previous to Obama's visit yesterday, there weren't many stickers around. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but the fact that I saw 5 Obama stickers is a big deal for Greensboro, NC. It made me happy, along with the fact that it was 72 degrees and I had the windows down, blasting 'Everyday' by DMB.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

2nd Half of the Pictures...

This was a result of me messing around with the shutter speed settings on Em's camera when we were out to dinner one night.

While in Key West we visited the Hemingway House, which was the home of Ernest Hemingway for a few years in the 40s.  While living there he wrote The Old Man and the Sea (which was about his Cuban best friend).  While there, he also acquired a bunch of cats, most of which had 6 toes on each paw.  The offspring of those cats still live there today - there are over 40 of them!  And they all have movie star names.  
Me with Zsa Zsa Gabor

Em with a cute kitty.

Ok I really liked these cats...

This really awesome restaurant called No Name Bar that was covered in about $25,000 worth of $1 bills.  I found a very special one that I'll post some other time.

Em in front of some pretty flowers!

SWEET TEA!  Even in Key West :D

A cute turtle at the Sea Turtle Hospital (I didn't take very many pictures there... I think because you can only take so many pictures of turtles in a pool...)

A GORGEOUS sunset that we watched on the beach at our hotel in Key Largo.

Me catching minnows!!

Snorkeling at the 3rd largest Coral Reef in the world.  Snorkeling was really, really fun - Em and I went on a trip with John Pennekamp State Park, which I would recommend to anyone because instead of pumping money into private charters or anything, you're paying money to the state park system, which is great.  The snorkeling was great... scary for me at first, because I'm not the best swimmer ever and I really am not used to seeing underwater (or breathing, while seeing underwater!).  It was definitely a great experience - probably in the top 5 of my life.  Em and I took a bunch of great underwater pictures with a disposable camera...Em is going to scan those in at school, so I'll post some of those soon.
After snorkeling for 45 minutes... you can see the lines on our faces from the masks.

After snorkeling we relaxed on the beach at the hotel.  I finished my book for class and Em read a novel.  It was probably the most relaxing day of vacation.  I took a long catnap after I finished my book, and woke up just in time to watch the sun set.

The End.

Great vacation... I really miss just the attitude of the keys.  Everything was so laid back and I never really felt like I HAD to do anything or felt obligation towards anything.  Sigh.

On another note, I got a job!  Well, it's not completely set in stone yet, but I'm 99.9% sure that I got the job.  I'll be transcribing interviews (pretty boring, yeah..) but atleast the interviews will be interesting.  One of the sociology professors at UNCG (actually, he's pretty famous in the academic world apparently) is doing a huge study on Hurricane Katrina victims, and he has gone there numerous times to interview them.  I'll make $13 an hour, which is better than babysitting.  I'm excited to actually be pulling in some money, even if it is sitting and listening to a tape and typing what I hear.

Em and I were just discussing that we hope things get back to normal soon.  Our routine has flown out the window for the past two weeks, and I think it's affecting my sleeping.  (I'm such an old man).  Things will get back to normal by next week, I think.

Time to go head to REI to look at fun toys!

Monday, March 24, 2008

I am just a new soul, in this very strange world

Our first picture of the trip!  In the rental car, ready to drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Islamorada Key!  (That's pronounced "Eye - La - More - Ah - Da" ... I was pronouncing it like some strange religion until I heard it on the radio down there.  Then I felt dumb, because I'm usually great about phonetics and pronunciations.)
We caught this beautiful sunset one night when we went out to eat at this great little restaurant.  We were seated right on the beach, and this cute little table for two, right at the water's edge.  We were seated at about 7:15 - so we watched this stunning sunset (really, none of my pictures do it justice) while eating a delicious meal.  It was perfect.

Our rental car.  It was a Dodge Caliber...while it may be ugly (and was a hideous rust orange color), it served its purpose well and got great gas mileage.  We returned it in great shape, just a few pounds heavier from all of the sand in the trunk!

A beach we stopped at called Sombrero Beach in Marathon Key.  The sun went behind the clouds when I snapped this shot, but it was a great day - and Em and I both got really sunburned while laying out!  

A little beach behind a restaurant we went to.  I just liked the palm trees - they were huge!

Another great sunset that we caught.  This was also at a restaurant... we stalled as long as possible while eating so that we could watch the sun set.  It wasn't as vibrant as the other sunsets we saw, but this one was Em's favorite.  I think because of the reflection, which did make it pretty stunning.
We left that restaurant to drive back to the hotel and realized that it looked even prettier, so we pulled off and climbed down to the "beach" to take this picture with the timer on Em's digital camera.  It was... interesting.  Haha!

Pretty.  However, have you ever seen phone lines in the water like that?  All of the keys are connected by those, even at the longest gap (7 miles), which is also where the 7 Mile Bridge (duh) is located.  At one time, there was a train track that went all the way to Key West, but a hurricane in the 30s wiped out most of the track - which looked like a big bridge next to the highway.  

That's all for now... I'll post the rest of the pictures as soon as I get another minute to myself!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Heart of a Champion

This past weekend was quite possibly one of the best weekends of my life.  Thursday night my mom flew in, and she stayed until this afternoon.  On Saturday we went to UNC Chapel Hill to see the UNC / University of Maryland softball game!  One of my very best friends from home pitches for Maryland, so we wouldn't have missed the double-header for anything!  It was beautiful out - 75 degrees and sunny.  It was a perfect day for a ball game :)  And it was also the first time I've seen Meredith play since high school - it was great!  I forgot how much I love watching my friends play their sports.  Go Terps!!

On another note - before I go to bed, I just wanted to post a picture that made me really happy:

This is me and Heidi on St. Patrick's Day.  We went to the bar with Meg, who was visiting (but I will get to that in an update soon!)  Heidi is doing REALLY well!  She's almost 100% since her near fatal head injury.  We are ecstatic that she is doing so well, and I just thought I'd post a picture of her looking normal again.

I think what I'm going to do for now is just update in small portions.  I have a lot to say about the last couple of weeks, but I'll just update in small blips rather than one HUGE SCARY post that would take hours!

Hope all is well in the world-

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I wanna go back...

This picture really, for me, just means one thing. Pure happiness...

We're back... and in true Kristen/Em fashion, our car is still packed with our suitcases (including the camera). So, I'll post my favorite pictures soon... I've also been so busy non-stop since we got back on Sunday.

I promise, I'll update with pictures soon. We got our underwater camera developed, so I'll include those once Em scans them in!!

Highlights from the trip: Visiting the Sea Turtle Hospital, Kayaking in the ocean, Touring Key West, Visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway (that was actually REALLY COOL)... snorkeling at the 3rd largest Coral Reef in the world, and outside of our hotel- relaxing in hammocks on the beach, underneath palm trees, watching the sun go down over the water ...

I'll be back!
Let me know how you guys are-

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A quick post from Paradise.

I tried really hard to upload this great picture that I took yesterday, and it all worked fine until I realized that this computer that I'm updating from is a piece of crap! Actually, it's not so bad, it's just that the connection stinks.

Anyways, we are having a blast! Our days are packed with interesting and beautiful sights, people, sunsets, and cuisine. The Keys are truly something that every person should experience. And definitely not just the touristy part. For example, tonight, for dinner, Em and I found this little pub out in the middle of Big Pine Key, which is like 1 mile x 1 mile, called No Name Pub. It had great pizza & nachos, and the walls were COVERED with one dollar bills signed by patrons. They cover the ceiling as well, they're layered and hang down all over the place. It's really neat - the owner estimates that about $20,000 covers the walls. I even found a special dollar, but I'll save that for later when I can post a picture of it.

Hope everyone is well & safe. Tomorrow morning we leave the Chesapeake Resort is Islamorada Key and head to Key Largo for two nights! We get back Sunday afternoon.

Much love. Oh, I miss Sydney :)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Biltmore & Canceled Flights

This weekend was fun - I realized that the link from before didn't work, however, if you're really that interested in the Biltmore, then just google it.  It was extremely interesting, and I have some pictures to post eventually.  The Biltmore is the largest privately owned home in the United States.  It was built by George Vanderbilt, who is also the namesake of Vanderbilt University.  The entire house is restored with the original furniture and amenities.  I loved it.  It has 250 rooms and almost 30 bedrooms (I think).  I suggest it to anyone visiting the western NC area.  We stayed at the Biltmore Inn, which is also on the estate, just a few miles from the house.  That was beautiful as well.

It's been a crazy evening - Em's mom's flight at 7 was canceled, so she is now staying another night in Greensboro and we were able to book her another flight at the Raleigh/Durham airport, around the same time as our flight.  So that works out well.  We are leaving our house tomorrow at 5:15 am.  Whew!  

I better go pack.  I'll update when we get back!  

Friday, March 7, 2008

And so it begins...

After finishing my Global Families exam this morning, I welcomed the start of Spring Break by walking back to my car in the pouring rain, shivering and cursing the hidden puddles that soaked the bottom of my pants. I am so ready to get out of here!

Our 2 (possibly 2 1/2 or 3!!) week Extravaganza of Excitement is slated to begin today at 1:10pm when Em's mom arrives into the Greensboro airport. We're going out to dinner tonight (possibly Melting Pot? or Buffalo Wild Wings.) and then tomorrow morning we are getting up early and driving to Asheville to tour the Biltmore Estates and we're actually staying at the Biltmore, which should be interesting/beautiful. The Biltmore was an estate where the Vanderbilt family had a beautiful mansion that I'm assuming they used for vacationing or whatever they wanted. On Sunday morning we drive back to Greensboro to hang out, pack for FL, and get Sydney all situated ... she's staying with our neighbor Gwen, who is excited to have a playmate for her Boston Terrier, Neo.

I'll update probably once more before we leave for the Keys.

Much love.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A random poem

A few weeks ago, one of my professors gave us a poem, and I thought it was really really awesome.  So, here it is.  If you skim over it, it really doesn't give you the whole effect.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
you must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Trials of Darryl Hunt

Last night Em and I went to the viewing of The Trials of Darryl Hunt, followed by a discussion with Darryl and his lawyer, Mark Rabil. It was one of the best events I have EVER attended. I laughed, I cried, I felt anger, and I felt in awe. If you ever get the chance to see this documentary, PLEASE do so. It is premiering on HBO on April 26th.

Darryl Hunt was a black 19 year old living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1984. On August 10, Deborah Sykes, a reporter for a local newspaper, never showed up for work. Her co-workers called police. Her body was found later that morning. She had been raped and stabbed and her body left behind an apartment complex. Police were quick to pin the crime on Darryl, even though there was no physical evidence, he had an alibi, and barely had a criminal history. The star witness for the prosecution was a former Ku Klux Klan member who was later proven to be completely unreliable. Hunt was convicted by an 11:1 white to black jury.

In 1994, DNA proved that Hunt had not been the person to rape Deborah Sykes. Hunt and his lawyer thought that he would be let free. Surely the fact that the DNA found in Sykes was not his would convince the state that he was innocent. But, no. Hunt was somehow kept in prison for another 10 years. It was not until they actually found the man who had murdered Sykes (and they found him because Hunt's lawyer insisted that the DNA that was found in Sykes' body be run through the system until it got a hit, which it did in 2003). In Feb. 2004, Darryl Hunt was finally exonerated and set free. The actual murderer, Williard Brown, confessed to the crime and apologized to Hunt.

The details are so complex, and so upsetting. Darryl Hunt spent almost 20 years in prison for a crime he did not in any way commit. Winston-Salem, and its racially charged police department covered up evidence and information that would help to prove Darryl innocent. Hearing him and his lawyer speak was heartbreaking and beautiful. One part of the documentary that struck me was when Mark Rabil, his lawyer, had to call Darryl in prison and tell him that the Supreme Court had denied them a hearing. The crew films Rabil and one of the heads of the many supporting organizations on the phone with Hunt. Hearing Hunt's reaction was so sad.. and even sadder was watching Rabil sitting at his desk, bent over with his head in his hands, sobbing. It brings tears to my eyes just to think about that scene again.

Please, do yourself a favor. Educate yourself on how screwed up our justice system is. Learn how racism can take hold of people. See the ridiculousness of these trials. At points in the movie, the audience was laughing, not because anything was actually funny, but because of the absurdity of the prosecution, their witnesses (one was a 14 year old prostitute with a mental illness who made a statement and then vehemently denied ever making the statement). Please, please, please rent and watch this. If the library at your university rents movies/documentaries, they probably have this. You can also rent this through Netflix, if you have an account. I promise, it is so worth it, and you will feel inspired and enlightened at the end. Especially because Hunt is completely unangered by all of this. He is calm and serene. He has forgiven the courts, the Winston-Salem PD, Williard Brown for never coming forward, and Deborah Sykes' family for hating him with such a passion. He is completely proactive and believes that this entire experience can be turned into something good. The Darryl Hunt Project is his is an organization who helps exonerees become exonerated and helps them re-enter society. The organization also helps convicts re enter into society upon release. For for information, visit The Darryl Hunt Project website.

Darryl Hunt can be added to my list of heroes.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Off the Florida Keys, there's a place called Cocomo...

Well, it was really last minute, but Em and I just finished booking everything for Spring Break.  We are so incredibly lucky, and I am so thankful that we are able to get away for a few days.  I really, really, really need a relaxing break right now.  We were able to save money by staying in more than one place.

We're basically doing a tour of the Florida Keys (Lindsey, I wish you could come and knock it off your list of places!)  We're flying into Ft. Lauderdale on Monday morning, and then driving to Marathon Key (the middle of the FL Keys) to stay for 4 nights.  During those days, Key West is only an hour away, so I'm sure we'll be visiting there.  Marathon also has a neat Turtle Rescue Center that you can visit..I love turtles!  The next two nights we will be staying in Key Largo, and we have reservations to go on a snorkeling tour at John Pennekamp State Park, which has one of the largest underwater coral reefs in the US!!  There's also a really cool dolphin research center where you can swim with the dolphins, but I'm sure that they'll be booked/super expensive, so maybe we'll just visit them and say hi :)  We have a flight back on Sunday morning, so we should get back into Greensboro on Sunday afternoon.

The weekend before we leave (this weekend) Em's mom is coming to visit!  We fly the next day to FL, and the day after we return, Monday, Meg comes to visit!!  We have 3 days to play and she leaves Thursday morning.  Wednesday night my mom comes to visit, and she's staying until Sunday, so pretty much starting this Friday we have a 2 week stint of EXCITEMENT and VISITS and FUN STUFF, which I think I need desperately.

**Edit**  To add to the AWESOME 2 weeks of fun, the Saturday that my mom is here, Meredith and the Maryland Softball Team are playing at UNC!!  That's actually why mom is coming, haha.  So we get to see Mer if her coaches will let us say hello :) 

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Land of the Free..

Zion National Park, Utah

Someone asked me recently, what are the top 5 places I'd like to visit in the world.  Well, that may be one of the hardest questions anyone could ever ask.  But, it got me thinking -- what are the top 5 places I'd like to visit in the US?  That's a hard question too, but it kind of helps narrow it down, plus I'm familiar with a lot of areas of the US - unlike the entire WORLD where I have no idea what it's like in Estonia or Uruguay.  

So, here are my picks.  The top 5 places in the US that I personally want to see and experience.

1. Boston, Massachusetts.  Not only do they have great sports, food, and accents - I've never heard of another city who takes so much pride in itself.  

2. San Fransisco, California.  San Fransisco has always been a place I've wanted to visit.  I'd love to see the Haight-Ashbury area, where contemporary writers and thinkers gathered in the sixties, when the hippy movement began.  

3. Southern Utah.  I can't name a certain town/park, I'd really just like to do a tour of all of Southern Utah.  (Maybe not all at once..)  Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Glen Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park, and Canyonlands National Park.  When I visited Idaho and Yellowstone last summer I got just a tiny glimpse of the very untouched parts of the US.  I would love to see more of that, up close.

4. New Orleans, Louisiana.  Ok, who wouldn't love to see this place!  First of all, it's rich history and diverse traditions are really cool.  On top of that, it experienced a horrible tragedy and is rebuilding, despite the fact that the government is not holding up on its end of promises.  Even though New Orleans is still rebuilding its structures, it doesn't seem like the spirit of the people needs any rebuilding.

5.  Boulder, Colorado.  This place seems to have just about it all!!  It's diverse and beautiful and has more Top 10 rankings than any other place I've ever heard of.  Close by are Denver, Ft. Collins, and Rocky Mountain National Park.  Imagine the greenest, cleanest place you can think of  :)

If you could visit anywhere in the US, where would you go?