Sunday, November 17, 2013

Good night, John

I moved in with John in August and despite the dozens of roommates I've had throughout my life, I've never had one quite like him.  Just by looking at us you'd think that John and I are brothers.  We're both the same height and build, have the same hair color, and the size of our noses is about one standard deviation above the mean.  Despite looking relatively the same, our personalities are totally different.

I recently took a personality test that said I was 84% extroverted.  John took the same test and was 100% introverted.  John quickly realized that I'm extremely extroverted (and slightly annoying?) so he lent me a book he has about introversion so I could understand him better.  It was a good move on his part because I really had no idea what it's like to be introverted.  According to the book, I, as an extrovert, get my energy from people and events.  John, as an introvert, gets his energy from spending time by himself and being with too many other people can be draining for him.  John enjoys company, but has to space it out a bit.  Armed with this new knowledge about John I try to give him space and allow silence to exist in the house which I usually am unable to do.  Living with John has been good for me, but I still can't help being myself.  

Here's an example of a conversation between me and John: 
Me: I'm home!
John: Oh, sorry, I didn't notice you come in.
Me: That's okay. I realize that I'm not that fun or exciting. *no reply* I'm fishing for compliments, John.
John: ...Okay. 
Compliments are hard to catch in my house.

Despite our differences, John is one of the best roommates I've ever had (and hyperbole is my favorite thing in the whole wide world!).  I have my own bathroom that John doesn't use, and yet he still fills up the soap dispenser and takes out the trash.  He's really thoughtful like that.  He also makes really delicious food that he shares with me and even bought me a steak dinner once.  No complaints from me. 

John and I often spend our evenings reading in the living room.  John, without saying a word, usually gets up, walks to his bedroom and closes the door.  I know he's an introvert and all, but it seemed odd to me that he would go to bed without saying good night, especially since we were just sitting in the same room together.  I told him that that seemed weird to me so a few nights later when we were both reading in the living room he got up to go to bed and said, "Well, see you later," and I said, "You're supposed to say good night, John," and he just mumbled in fake frustration to be funny and walked away. 

A staged picture of John and me reading
The next night when he got up to go to bed he said, "Well, it's bedtime," and I said, "You're getting so close!" and then he walked away. 

Last night I went to bed before John (which is an extremely rare occurrence) and as I was walking to my room I said, "Well see you tomorrow," and John jokingly said, "Good night!"  I replied, "Yes!  Score!" while making a victorious gesture with my arm (I can't figure out how else to describe that.  You know, it's like the gesture you make when you're trying to get a semi to honk his horn, but down by your side.  How do you say that?).  John had finally wished me a good night, and it sure was.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bolivian Payphones

In the fall of 2006 I did an internship with LDS Employment Resource Services in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  It was awesome and the funnest thing I did during my time as an undergrad at BYU.  While I was there I took pictures of myself "talking" on the payphones around town.  I'm sharing these pictures seven years after they were taken because I'm in a 2 1/2 hour long class and I'm bored.  So enjoy pictures of 22 year old Ben phony phoning on funny phones.  

This phone was in a park by my house that the locals described
as "dangerous."  While I was there I got heckled and yelled at.
I didn't go back.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Borthday, Michael!

This is Michael.  Michael's 26th birthday was in July.  He was living in California for the summer far away from friends and family.  His birthday was very uneventful and he felt forgotten and uncelebrated (and with good reason).  His dad sent him a happy birthday text and his mom called him late that night to ask him how his birthday went.  How do you think it went, mom?! 

Michael frequently brings up that no one cared about his birthday.  A week ago Saturday a group of us were eating at the Guadalajara Grill and Michael was once again explaining how his family doesn't love him because they basically forgot his birthday. I leaned over to Amy Flood and said, "We should throw Michael a surprise birthday party so he stops complaining."  She loved the idea and we started scheming.  I was originally thinking that we would have a "Happy Birthday, Michael" sign, a cake, we'd sing, and that would be it.  Well, I told Lindsey and Sarah about the plan we'd hatched in the parking lot and they loved it.  Loved it so much that the little gesture I envisioned transformed into a full blown party. 

As the party planning continued we thought of more and more ways to make fun of Michael.  He claims to be able to do a spot on impression of Elmo, but we have our doubts since he's too embarrassed to show it to any of us.  Elmo quickly became a party theme.  Sarah made Elmo cupcakes and I got an Elmo piñata. 
Pinterest can do anything
Sarah, Lindsey, and Amy with an effigy of Michael

Sarah and Lindsey made a banner that said, "Family Love Michael" which is a joke from Arrested Development; Michael's favorite show that he's always quoting. 
Save our Bluths!
They also thought it'd be hilarious to throw copious amounts of confetti when he walked in the door which we of course did.  Since yesterday was nowhere near Michael's actual birthday, he was a little confused when he walked into the room and we started shouting at him while smothering him in confetti, but he caught on to what was happening pretty fast. 
"I don't know what's happening, but I like it."
Amy Flood was in charge of party games and she did not disappoint.  First, we played a game in which we had to answer 10 questions about Michael.  And then we played "Pin the Michael on the Audi."  Michael loves his Audi as much as a man can love his car so Amy drew something that resembled a car on a poster board and then printed off a bunch of pictures of Michael's face that we then had to pin on the Audi while blindfolded.  It was a hoot. 
Michael wasn't as successful as Josh, who probably cheated

We then went outside to break the piñata.  We hadn't planned out this part and didn't know where would be a good place to attack the piñata.  We ended up on the dirt road in front of their house which, due to all the huge potholes in it, looks more like Iraq than a street.  Josh climbed up a tree that was covered in spikes and hung the piñata for us.  Amy Flood then maliciously knocked off both of Elmo's legs in one swift swipe.  
Elmo is waving good-bye
Amy Flood was ruthless
The night before the party Lindsey and I were talking with Michael and he was once again complaining about his birthday and we both had to try hard to not reveal the awesome secret we were concealing.  Michael misspoke and said borthday instead of birthday so we started calling the Sunday night shenanigans Michael's borthday party.  
How Michael felt before his borthday party
How he felt after
My original plan for the party was to only have a cake and sing "Happy Birthday," but oddly enough we ended up not doing either of those things.  The girls really took my little idea and made it into something super-awesome.  Mormons sure know how to have a good time.

And now that Michael can no longer complain about his forgotten birthday, he can move on to complaining about other things like slow drivers, the shabbiness of Tucson, far away parking, and people that care too much about ultimate frisbee.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Wedding: A Ben Perspective

Kevin and Allison tied the knot yesterday and it was a wonderful day.  Here's how it went down from my perspective.

The night before the wedding Allison's family had dinner at a Mexican restaurant so Kevin could meet all his new in-laws.  The bride's maids and I were invited too.  I sat with the bride's maids.  At one point I was telling them about a girl I'm friends with in Mexico and said, "And she's really dramatic--because she's Mexican."  At the very moment I said that our Mexican waiter was leaning in to fill our drinks and obviously overheard my racist comment.  Luckily we had already eaten so there was no fear of my food being spit in.  One of the bride's maids pointed out that he would probably have agreed with what I said so no damage done.   
Allison and her bride's maids/former roommates
Kevin and I shared a hotel room the night before the wedding.  We both went to bed pretty early and when it was still dark I heard an alarm go off.  I was half asleep and knew that Kevin had to get up early for pictures so I assumed it was his alarm.  I said, "Happy wedding day, Kevin!" to which he responded, "What are you talking about?"  I continued, "You're getting married today.  Wasn't that your alarm?"  Nope, it turns out it was my cell phone.  Someone texted me at 12:15am to remind me to bring milk to the church potluck on Sunday.  I was bummed that it wasn't morning yet and that I had to go back to sleep, but more than anything I didn't understand why someone would text me such a random thing at such an inconvenient hour.

The next morning Kevin got up on time and left for pictures.  Five minutes after he left I was half asleep again and I thought I heard a knock at the door.  I thought I'd just imagined it, but decided to check just in case.  It was Kevin's mom trying to find him, but he had already left.  Bummer, because Allison wasn't going to be ready on time and now Kevin had to wait alone.  I texted him to let him know that she'd be 30 minutes late (and his mom called him too, of course) and he texted back, "I was expecting it since I know her enough to marry her and all."  Kevin is wise.

While the family and friends were sitting in the sealing room waiting for Kevin and Allison, one of the temple workers very kindly reminded us to be reverent and that if we need to talk, to do so quietly.  I was sitting at the end of a row with all the bride's maids.  One of them leaned over to me and asked if I would grab her some tissues ('cause girls get weepy at weddings).  I asked her how many and she said three.  I got up and walked over to the Kleenex box and pulled out three tissues.  The room was very quiet and it felt like everyone was watching me.  Not wanting everyone to think that I thought I was going to cry through three whole tissues, to removed any suspicion I said, "They're for the girls."  Everyone laughed and I remembered that I'm very bad at being reverent and quiet.

The sealing was totally awesome and I recorded all my feelings about it in my journal.  Let me just say here that seeing two of my best friends so happy to get married was one of the highlights of my life.

And then we took pictures outside and not only was it hot, but it was incredibly humid because of all the rain from the previous day.  It felt like Florida.  And the grass was pretty soggy and a lot of the girls' heels sunk into the ground which made me chuckle on the inside and made me grateful that my shoes are so big they're basically snowshoes. 

One Mexican woman made all the food for the reception and it was unbelievably delicious.  I may have finished someone else's food who was too full to finish.

The reception included a dance which was surprisingly fun.  Julianne, one of Allison's bride's maids and a good friend of mine from BYU, really loves Latin dancing and couldn't wait to dance.  I'm not the best dancer, but Julianne showed me what to do and it ended up being pretty fun.  At one point Julianne was shimmying a bit and an old woman with a walker came over and said, "Remember, you're Mormon," implying that her dancing was unbecoming of a Latter-day Saint.  We all got a laugh out of that and the shimmying didn't stop. 

Kevin's cousins decorated his car Mexican style.  They attached miniature Mexican flags, wrote "Viva México" and lots of other Spanish phrases, and even tuned the radio to a Mexican station so that when Kevin turned on the car it would blast Mexican music.  Before the lovebirds got into the car the cousins put two huge sombreros on them which made kissing difficult.  I don't know how Allison from a few years ago pictured driving away from her wedding reception, but I assume she didn't see herself in a Mexican themed car wearing a sombrero.  Still, she looked very pleased. 
Si se pudo!

It was a fun day. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Muggle in a World of Wizards

Tomorrow is my last day of work as a roofing observer.  Yes, that's a real job and I've been doing it for the last four weeks.  I mostly just watch people put on a roof and make sure they do it right.  I then take pictures and write a report about it.  It has not been very pleasant. 

I knew absolutely nothing about roofing when I started work last month.  I immediately felt very incompetent and out of place which is how I imagine Harry felt when he first boarded the Hogwarts Express and was immersed in the wizarding world.

Harry was confused when his new friends mentioned things previously unknown to him like chocolate frogs and sorting hats.  I have been similarly perplexed when the roofers mention tools I've never heard of.  I was standing next to someone's bag and he said, "Could you pass me the [deluminator] and the [howler]?"  I had no idea what he was talking about, but I peered into the bag which was very full and grabbed the two things that seemed like the right objects.  I said, "These?" and he nodded so I walked them over to him holding them awkwardly between my fingers like they were two lizard I had just caught. 

One of the products that we use all the time is called underlayment.  A popular brand of underlayment is called Ice and Water and, much like how everyone calls facial tissue Kleenex, everyone calls underlayment Ice and Water.  I didn't know this for my first few days on the roof and I was really befuddled every time someone asked for some ice and water for the roof.  First of all, I never saw anyone with ice and water even though it was constantly talked about and second, despite pondering about it for a long time, I never figured out how ice and water helped in roofing.  Luckily someone eventually explained it to me when I asked. 

In the last four weeks I've gotten pretty good at chatting about roofing and sports, the only two things that are ever talked about.  I've learned to give vague answers to hide my ignorance.  Today, for example, when asked if I thought the Seahawks were going to win, I said, "Well, they have their good games and their bad games," to which the roofer responded, "They sure the &%$# do!  I think they'll win tonight, though."  I replied, "I sure hope so!" which was sort of a lie because I don't really care at all. 

There are a number of times when the roofers talk about roofing and I have no experience with the vocabulary they're using and I really have no idea what they're talking about.  I've learned to respond based on their tone.  Like if some sounds upset or angry I just say, "That sucks," or if they seem happy or giddy I say, "Sweet!"  Whenever the response I should give isn't obvious I just nod and say, "Of course."  Now I've learned enough that I can say things like, "You got 10 squares!?  Dude, that's sweet!"  That would have been utter nonsense to me a month ago, but now I can be appropriate happy for someone who achieved something difficult. 

Roofing is not my world and I often feel very out of place among the roofers.  They swear like sailors, they smoke like chimneys, they don't know what linguistics is, and one of them has a tattoo of an avocado.  One of the roofers reminds me of Mater from Cars.  He asked me what I'm studying in school and I told him I was getting my PhD.  He said, "A what?" and I said, "A doctorate."  He still looked confused so I just said I was studying Spanish which isn't very true anymore.  Another guy reminds me of Pinky from Pinky and the Brain.  He's the one with the avocado.

Even though we're different, they are great guys.  They're the kind of people that I would describe as unfailingly loyal.  I feel like if we were buddies and I was in a jam they would have my back.  Most of the roofers have told me how they don't like roofing and how they would pick a different career if they could go back and do life again.  I asked one of the guys what he would have liked to have done, what his dream job is.  He thought for a second and said, "Heck (my word, not his), I don't know.  I've been roofing for too long to even remember what I wanted to do.  I suppose my dream job is that my kids will do something they love and have a better job than I do."  For some reason that really touched me.  Even though we're different, we both know what it's like to want the best for the people we care about.  Deep down, I think we humans are intensely similar.

It's been a good experience and I've made some money, but I'm so glad that tomorrow is my last day.  If any of you ever hear of me saying that I'm going to be a roofing observer again, please talk me out of it.  Remind me that I felt out of place, that the sun was hot, that it was super-boring, that I had to get up at 4:30, and the money wasn't worth it.  Tomorrow after I get paid for the last time I'm going to go home, throw my money in the air, and roll around in it.  I feel like I've earned that.  
This is seriously the view from the roof I was on.  It was spectacular.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Since May 11th

My life has been a little crazy since May 11th.  On Saturday, May 11th I flew from Tucson to Miami.  I then flew from Miami to Peru for 10 days (which was awesome!) and then back to Miami for a few days in the Florida Keys.  I then flew to Seattle for two weeks followed by a flight to Tucson.  I was in Tucson for three days, ate some delicious food at Kevin's parents' house, decided to give up flying for the rest of summer, and drove my car to Utah where I met up with my brother Jessen and sister-in-law Laura.  I left my car in Salt Lake at a friend's house (thanks, Jordan) and drove with my brother's family to visit my sister-in-law's family in Iowa.  In Iowa I borrowed my sister-in-law's dad's car and drove to Illinois to visit Craig and Heidi Johnson.  I then drove back to Iowa and then back to Utah where I got my car, hung out with a ton of awesome people and then drove to Washington on July 2nd.  According to Google Maps this is what I did. 

The USA is very large and mostly just corn fields, desert, and forest

Here are some stats from my trip:
Since May 11th I've been living out of a duffle bag and a backpack.  I'm getting a little tired of living out of a suitcase so I brought my drawers with me from Arizona (the kind of drawers you put stuff in, not the kind you wear under your clothes, although I brought those, too). 
Since May 11th I've been to 10 states and Peru. 
Since May 11th I've slept in 19 different beds including a couch, my old bed in Utah, and two nights spent in my brother's minivan. 
Since May 11th I've driven 4,375 miles (according to Google Maps).
Since May 11th I've gone to church in nine different wards on nine different Sundays, but have only worn three different ties. 
Since May 11th I've bought my first pair of sunglasses.  
Since May 11th I went snorkeling and kayaking for the first time.  I didn't care for snorkeling and I loved kayaking.  
Since May 11th I have recreated one famous painting. 
Laura's parents
Laura and I

Laura's parents?

I'm starting to think that I should have been a rock star because I don't really mind constantly being on the move.  Life has been a blast since May 11th, but it's nice to know that I'll be staying with my parents for the next six weeks and I can finally unpack my duffle bag.  

Here are some photos that I've taken since May 11th.  
Kayaking in the Florida Keys
A hilarious gravestone in Key West
This picture is self-explanatory  
My mom and I got chased by this rainstorm
in the Everglades
Hiking with Andrew in the Cascades
Bandera Peak

The Schilatys have a lot of fun on our trips.  
Jessen and Laura after 11 years of marriage
 Nauvoo, Illinois was one of the highlights of the trip.

So excited to be in Nauvoo!
Contemplating Nauvoo's rich history
On the banks of the Mississippi river waving good-bye to
the pioneers and wishing them well on the their trek west
Jessen dancing the Funky Chicken on the original
 dance floor at the Nauvoo cultural hall
Hangin' with the Johnsons at the Caterpillar museum in Illinois

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Mystery of the Missing Magnets

I started a magnet collection in January which is probably the most exciting endeavor I've ever pursued.  The goal is to get a magnet from every place I visit.  Thanks to my latest trip I now have six on my fridge.  I was so excited about my new magnets that when I got back to Tucson I made Kevin come over and look at them while I yelled, "Ta-dah!" and gestured at them.  Kevin was a good sport and acted interested. 

Kevin and I have a third roommate who I don't think I've mentioned before on my blog.  I'll call him Todd (to protect the possibly guilty).  Todd spends most of his time in his room with the door closed and Kevin and I don't see him a ton.  In fact, Kevin and Todd almost never talk.  If Kevin is watching TV in the living room and Todd walks into the kitchen they won't even say hi to each other.  During the month I was on vacation Kevin and Todd barely spoke to each other.  I talk to him, but we're not super-close.

I flew into Tucson last Tuesday night and Kevin picked me up at the airport.  I hadn't told Todd that I was coming back and I naively thought he'd be excited to see me since I'd been gone for a whole month.  As I walked to my room passed Todd's closed door I shouted, "Hi, Todd!" and all I got back was a very unenthusiastic, "Hey."  Maybe he hadn't realized I was gone, or maybe I'm not very exciting.  Kevin and I then sat down to watch 30 Rock on Netflix, but the internet was a little slow so Kevin unplugged the router to move it closer to the TV.  As soon as the internet went out Todd emerged from his room saying accusingly, "What happened to the internet?"  He had been playing a game that we had ruined by unplugging the router.  He was forgiving and I got a few minutes to talk to Todd about the computer game he's been playing for hours every day. 

The following night Kevin and I were in the living room and I was downloading new podcasts and music on my old laptop for my drive from Arizona to Utah.  The fan on my old laptop broke a few months ago so it overheats quickly (thus why I have a new laptop).  Since it was overheating I would occasionally hold it up to air conditioning duct to cool it down.  Todd emerged from his room as I was holding my laptop up to ceiling.  He looked at me suspending my computer in the air, said, "You're weird," and then left for work. 

As I was downloading podcasts I glanced at fridge and noticed that the two magnets I bought in Peru were missing.  I pointed this out to Kevin and he was perplexed, too.  Maybe I hadn't put them up on the fridge?  That didn't make sense because I had made such a big deal about my new magnets that we both remembered seeing them on the fridge.  Maybe Todd's daughter grabbed them when she was visiting?  Nope, they were up way too high for her little hands to reach.  Maybe they had fallen onto the floor and gotten kicked under something?  That's a no go because the house had just been swept and mopped and no magnets had been found.  We were really confused and couldn't figure out where they'd gone and how. 

I didn't move the magnets and Kevin didn't move the magnets so it had to be Todd who moved the magnets.  We thought and thought and couldn't figure out why he would have moved just the two magnets from Peru.  Kevin then said, "Do you wanna search his room for the magnets?"  I thought for a moment and then said matter-of-factly, "Yes."  I knew that Kevin wasn't being serious and I didn't actually want to search Todd's room -- I was just calling Kevin's bluff.  We walked to Todd's room, opened the door, and turned on the light.  I was expecting to peek in, say, "oh, no magnets," and leave.  But as I turned on the light I immediately saw my Machu Picchu magnet laying face down on Todd's dresser.  When I grabbed it I saw the other magnet partially hidden under a cloth.  I grabbed that one, too as I said, "What the heck?"  Kevin and I both erupted into confused laughter. 

I really like my magnets and I don't want them to disappear so I took the ones we'd recovered from Todd's room and the magnets off the fridge and hide them in one of my drawers.  Kevin and I were trying to figure out why on earth Todd had taken two of my magnets.  Kevin really, really wanted me to ask Todd about them, but I couldn't because if I did I would have to admit that I violated his privacy by going into his room when he was gone (and then I'd look as bad as the NSA).  So we decided to put everything back like it was so that I would be guilty of violating his privacy, but he wouldn't know about it so I'd feel a lot better.  We put the two magnets back on his dresser and put the other magnets back on the fridge. 

The next morning left for Utah and I was going to ask Todd about the magnets before I left.  I was going to say something really nonchalant like, "Good morning, Todd.  Did you sleep well?  What are your weekend plans?  Huh, two of my magnets are missing.  Have you seen them?"  Unfortunately, Todd was in his room with the door closed, possibly sleeping, and my nonchalant questioning would have seemed  very chalant through a closed door.  So I left without recovering my magnets and without knowing why they'd been moved. 

I asked Kevin to ask Todd about them.  It's been nearly a week since I left Arizona and Kevin hasn't seen Todd since I left so it's still a mystery.  And the magnets haven't been returned to the fridge either.  I worry about them. 

I won't be going back to Arizona until August and Todd will have moved out before I get back so I probably won't ever see him again (we're not very close).  That means that the last thing he'll ever say to me was, "You're weird."  Based on my obsession with magnets I'm starting to think that Todd may be right.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Plans? What Plans?

I did a pretty poor job of planning my summer this year.  I really didn't enjoy my last year of school so instead of planning jobs and activities that would enrich my academic portfolio (like a lot of my colleagues did), I decided to close my eyes this summer and pretend that school didn't exist.  I was so excited to just not be in school this summer that I didn't get a job which started to seem like a horrible mistake when I arrived in Seattle on May 25th and didn't have anything to do until late August.  My friends and family in Washington were thrilled to have me around so I decided to just hang out there for the rest of the summer (the 100+ temperatures in Tucson were very unappealing compared to the 70 and partly cloudy weather of Seattle).

I managed to get a sweet, part-time job from the University of Arizona for six weeks that I could do remotely in Washington through June.  This made me feel like much less of bum since I had been feeling a lot like a bum lately.  Let me give you an example.  I was watching TV with my parents last week and I said, "I really feel like eating some brownie batter."  Without a moment's hesitation my dad said, "I'm on it," got up, and whipped some up for us.  My dad brought out three spoons and in twenty minutes my parents and I had devoured the whole batch.  One of my dad's mottoes is: "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels."  That does not apply to chocolate. 

Since I was feeling slightly bum-like (a bumpkin, if you will), I started thinking of ways I could be productive this summer.  Two Sundays ago my brother Jay recommended that I contact the company he had worked for last summer.  It sounded like a sweet gig so I emailed the head honcho on Monday morning.  I didn't hear from him on Tuesday or Wednesday, and by Thursday I was consuming so much sugar that my memory started to fade and I mostly forgot about it. 

On Sunday night I went over to the Kecks' to beat them at a game of Ticket to Ride.  As I was leaving their house I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognize.  I answered it and it was the head honcho my brother had told me to contact.  He asked if we could chat, but I was driving and talking on my cell phone which is a big no-no in Washington.  So I said, "Yeah, I'd love to chat.  Just let me put in my blue tooth," which I then did.  Unfortunately, I just got a new cell phone and I pushed the wrong button and hung up on a near stranger who I was hoping would pay me money.  I called him right back, we chatted, and he offered me a summer a job in Washington which I promptly accepted.  I start right after the 4th of July. 

The only problem with being employed in Washington is that my car is in Arizona.  Luckily, I had purchased a flight back to Tucson over a month ago thinking that I would be in Arizona for summer.  I'm now in Las Vegas en route to Tucson.  I'll be there for two days and then on Friday I'm driving up to Utah where I'll be for two days and then it's off to Washington to spend the summer in a verdant paradise making some money.  I'm thrilled.  Unfortunately, Utah friends, I'm very sorry, but I won't be able to see most of you on this super-fast trip through Utah.  However, I will be back later this month and we can hang out then. 

Mostly, I'm just amazed at how everything works out.  Whether it be getting a teaching job the day before school starts (which has happened to me twice and both times I wasn't technically qualified for the job) or getting a summer job in June, things work out.  I remember when I was trying to find a place to live in Tucson last year.  I only knew a few people there and I knew it would be lonely at first.  I prayed and prayed that Heavenly Father would send me to a place with people who would become like family to me.  And then I moved in with Kevin and he and his family really are like family to me.  His dad has even called me his third son (he has two sons).  I've seen it over and over and over again in my life; things always work out. 

If anyone wants a lift, I'm driving from Arizona to Utah on Friday and then from Utah to Washington on Monday.  Road trips with me resemble this.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Disney Channel Solutions

Many of my friends have heard me reference the "Disney Channel solution" before.  Basically, in every Disney Channel original movie when the main character has to choose between two things the correct answer is always to choose both.  Of course, for most of the movie it doesn't seem possible to choose both options, but towards the end of the movie the protagonist suddenly figures out how to get everything he wants.  My mom and I faced such an issue today.

It's Sunday and we're in Puno, Peru on the shores of Lake Titicaca (feel free to giggle if you say it out loud).  I always go to church when I'm traveling and so we planned on going to church this morning.  The problem was that our tour group was going to visit the floating reed islands at 9:00 am and we wouldn't have time to go to church and go on the tour.  Visiting the floating islands has been described as the second highlight of the trip after Machu Picchu and I really, really wanted to go.  But, I wanted to go to church more so my mom and I decided to pass on the tour in order to attend church. 

While we were looking up local LDS congregations last night we found one that meets at 8:00 am.  That would give us just enough time to attend the first part of sacrament meeting and then rush down to the port to meet up with everyone at 9:00 am.  I was a little giddy when we discovered this because it was the perfect Disney Channel solution--we could do both things! 

We got up early this morning, grabbed a taxi, and got to church at 7:45.  No one was there yet, but I wasn't worried.  Having attended many Spanish congregations I was well aware that arriving to church early isn't very Hispanic.  At 7:50 I wasn't worried.  At 7:55 I started to get a little nervous, but I told myself that church was very early and everyone would be arriving soon.  I prayed and prayed that church was actually here at 8:00 so that we could go.  I asked Heavenly Father again and again to make it possible for us to go to church.  At 8:00 I admitted to myself that no one was coming.  My mom and I sat down for a minute trying to figure out what to do and we decided to get a taxi back to the hotel rationalizing that we had tried and that our effort was good enough. 

As the taxi drove us down the street back to our hotel I saw a woman ahead of us that looked like she was on her way to church.  As we passed her I turned around to get a good look at her and I saw that she was carrying a Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow book, a sure sign she was LDS.  As soon as I saw this I said to the cab driver, "Pull over!" and I looked at my mom and said, "That woman's LDS!"  By then we were about half a block from her so I jumped out of the cab and started running to her.  As I was running I realized that it might be a little frightening for a small Peruvian woman to see a tall white guy suddenly jump out of a cab and sprint towards her.  I was a little too excited when I got to her and in one breath said, "I'm a member of the church from the United States and I want to go to church are you going to church?"  She said that she was and that she was running really late.  I said, "We've got a cab!  C'mon!"  And she got in the cab with us.  Her name is Hermana Nieves. 

As we were driving to the church I told her how I'd recognized because of the book she was carrying and she told me that she was going to put it in her bag, but for some reason had decided just to carry it.  She thanked us over and over again because she was going to be so late to church and that we had answered her prayer.  Actually, she had answered our prayer because we had been trying to go to church.  I told her that we had gone to church, but no one was there and she explained that that building was in a different stake and it was stake conference today so there wouldn't be any meetings there. 

The three us got to church right before it started.  There was no one to play the piano so we sang the hymns acapella.  It wasn't super-beautiful, but Hermana Nieves sang with all the energy of her heart and "Jesus listening can hear the songs [we] cannot sing."  We took the sacrament and then we had to go to meet up with our group.  I shook Hermana Nieves' hand and thanked her for bringing us to church.  She wouldn't let go of my hand and said that God had put us in her path to bring her to church.  She gave my mom a big hug and they both expressed gratitude to each other in languages that the other couldn't understand, but I could.  I nearly cried I was so touched. 

Our getting to church today was a miracle.  We had been in exactly the right place at the right time and the fact that Hermana Nieves was evening carrying her book and that I managed to see it as we sped past her seemed like more than coincidences to us.  My mom is certain that the miracle wasn't really for us, but that it was for Hermana Nieves.  She had wanted to get to church so badly to sing the hymns and take the sacrament, and somehow we managed to be a part of it.

Throughout my life I have had many, many prayers answered.  Sometimes answers to prayers can seem like coincidences, but every once in a while I'll have an experience where it's like Heavenly Father is saying, "Hey, I want you to know this one's from me."  Today He wanted mom, me, and Hermana Nieves to know that He was watching out for us.  I only knew Hermana Nieves for 30 minutes, but I will always remember her and how we were put in each other's path to help one another.  It's like Spencer W. Kimball said, "God does watch over us and does notice us, but it usually through someone else that he meets our needs.”  I know that that's true and I'm so grateful for it.  And I'm so grateful that He answered my prayer to be able to go to church today in such a miraculous and unexpected way. 

And now, here are some pictures of the floating islands because we did get to do both things today.
These people live on a floating island
It floats
The water under this island is 55 ft deep
And finally, a picture of me being silly

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Watch Out, They Spit!

We went to Machu Picchu on Thursday and it was absolutely spectacular.  It was as awesome as everyone says it is and I didn't want to leave.  But I'm not going to write about it now since I would probably write "It was so cool!" and other synonymous phrases over and over again and no one wants to read that.
Machu Picchu, check!
 On most days our tour company offers an optional tour for about $50.  We've been on two and they were well worth the money.  We were in Cusco yesterday and the optional tour was $65 per person so we were less excited about spending that much money.  And most of the sites they were going to see were close to town so we decided to save some money and find them on our own.  Our first stop was the Temple of the Sun where my mom and I hired our own guide for $13 to explain things to us.  She was very knowledgeable, but her English was so bad that I frequently had to repeat what she'd said so my mother who is unaccustomed to hearing non-native speakers would know what was going on.  The guide would just throw in random Spanish words when she didn't know the English word and occasionally would just speak entirely in Spanish.

While were there we ran into Armin and Shiloh, a young married couple in our group from Canada.  The four of us decided to share a cab up to Sacsayhuamán (sounds like "sexy woman").  I had never heard of it until the previous night when Barb mentioned that it was really cool.  When I asked her what it was she said it was an old Inca wall with stones so close together that not even a piece of paper can fit between them.  We've already seen a lot of walls so it didn't sound too exciting, but we decided to go anyway.
It's a wall!
We saw a llama there (which turned out to be an alpaca) and Shiloh wanted a picture by it, but she was scared that it would bite her so she'd inch closer and then it would move and she'd get scared and jump away.  This happened a number of times with us and Armin assuring her that it wouldn't bite her.  

Armin: Don't worry, honey, it won't bite you.
Shiloh: It's making funny noises!
Me: *laughter*
The lady who takes care of the alpaca walked over and held the alpaca's rope and we all got a picture with it. 
See, it doesn't bite
We then went to enter the Sacsayhuamán archaeological site.  When we got to the ticket office we learned that the entrance fee was about $30 per person.  My jaw figuratively dropped to the ground in shock.  Apparently the ticket to a lot of the sites we'd been to includes the entrance to Sacsayhuamán.  We didn't have those tickets because our tour guide never gave them to us and in spite of a bit of arguing in Spanish from me we were not let into the site.  We were also told that the site was huge (much more than just a wall) and included a ziz-zaggy wall and some tunnels.  Even though I'd only heard about it the night before I suddenly really, really wanted to go inside, but I was way too cheap to pay that much money.  While we were fretting about the cost and trying to figure out what to do a man walked up to us and offered to take us horseback riding for about $13 and promised to take us to an archaeological site as well as a great view.  We decided to be spontaneous and go.

As we were following this guy to the stables we saw another alpaca and took pictures with it, too.  Shiloh was nervous again, but pretended to kiss it.  My mom, not nervous at all, strolled right up to the alpaca and pretended to kiss it.  It then surprised us all and spit on her.  I randomly got a picture of it on my mom's phone (that we unfortunately can't figure out how to get onto my computer) and we all burst into raucous laughter.  Mom just laughed it off and we cleaned off the gift from the alpaca without any problem. 

Sergio, Paola, and I
We kept following the man up a small trail through some trees and I realized that we were breaking the first rule of international travel: don't follow strangers to a different location, especially into the woods.  Let me just say that I've never done anything so reckless before while traveling.  However, for some reason I felt totally okay about it and I was glad when we arrived at the stables instead of being kidnapped and turned into slaves or had our organs harvested.  My mom was the first to get on a horse and her bag got in the way so our guide Sergio said he'd hold it.  Usually I wouldn't have allowed this because her iPad and money were in it.  But once again, my gut told me it was okay.  My mom's horse was named Bonito, Shiloh's was named Benito (like me!), I don't remember the name of Armin's horse, and mine was named Paola.  I led the pack because my horse was the fastest and I had to continually pull the reins back so that she would stop and the others could catch up.  The ride was incredibly fun and I kept thinking to myself, how did we end up here?  It was a blast.

Mom, Bonito, Shiloh, and Benito
We didn't go in this one
As we were riding it started raining and it got pretty cold and windy.  We left the horses by the highway and Sergio had us climb up a little hill with him.  He barely speaks English so he would explain things in Spanish and I'd translate for everyone else.  He had us go through a short cave (my mom had to crawl) and then showed us some Inca altars.  He also pointed out the entrance of a cave that takes two days to walk through and leads to a place called the Devil's Balcony.  We didn't go in there.  We then went into a cave called the Temple of the Moon.  It seriously felt like we were in a scene from Indiana Jones.  The cave was tall, but thin and there were some holes in the roof that allowed some light in. The only thing missing was torches.  He showed us an altar that the moon shines directly on from midnight to one.  It was very cool.  He talked in whispers out of respect (I'm assuming) and left a coca leaf as an offering to the moon. 

Here we are pretending to hitchhike
We then went back to the horses and it was still raining and Sergio could see that we were cold.  He said that we could take a bus back to town instead of riding the horses back if we wanted.  We were very cold (especially mom and Shiloh) so we took a bus back.  While we were waiting for the bus mom and Shiloh crowded next to me because I blocked the wind.  When we got back to Cusco it was 3:00 pm and none of us had eaten lunch and we were very hungry so we bought some delicious empanadas.  Right after we ate them mom very apologetically told me that she felt like she might vomit and wanted to take a taxi back to the hotel immediately.  Shiloh also wanted to go home so that's what we did.  While we were in the taxi I told Shiloh that she had been worried about getting spit on by an alpaca and now she might get puked on by an American woman.

Me and mom on the bus
Mom is fine and didn't puke at all, even on Shiloh.  Our day ended up much differently than I had imagined it and it was way cheaper than a tour.  Spontaneity usually pays off.