Thursday, March 21, 2013

Don't Go Spring Breakin' My Heart

Kevin and I went to California last weekend to visit Allison.  She was on spring break last week and she and her former roommate Brooklyn were hangin' out in SoCal.  Anyone with half a brain (luckily I have a whole brain) would have realized that Allison and Kevin would be spending all of their time together which meant that Brooklyn and I by default would be on a weekend long double date (we went Dutch).  I'd met Brooklyn before, but we were acquaintances at best.  When Kevin and I arrived at Allison's parents' house on Thursday night I said to Brooklyn, "Well, it looks like it's just you and me for the weekend."  She did not seem impressed, but I think she was just feeling tired. 

On Friday morning the four of us set out for Los Angeles and the adventures immediately began.  We first went to Walt Disney Concert Hall which is covered in stainless steel making it very hard to look at when the sun is out.  We learned on the audio tour that Lillian Disney donated $50 million to the project in the 80's.  When asked what she would like the concert hall to look like, she said that she wanted it to be a brick building that looked like a church covered in vines.  Upon hearing this, the head architect said, "I know exactly what she means.  She wants the building to be warm and inviting!"  And so, he covered it in stainless steel.  While I very much like the architecture of the building, I can't help but think that Lillian Disney was being extremely literal with her description. 

Learning things on the audio tour
So much stainless steel!
We then went and saw all of things that I had seen in movies that actually exist in real life.  I was a little giddy.
Hollywood sign
Grauman's Chinese Theater 
I particularly liked this historic pun in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater. 

Brooklyn has a degree in theater from BYU and loves musicals.  While we drove around I'd say, "Hey, sing me such-and-such a song," and she would.  The four of us saw Catch Me If You Can and the Pantages.  Kevin had never been to a musical before and don't think he quite understood why they're so awesome.  I later asked him what he really thought of the play and he said, "I'd rather watch the movie."  I, however, preferred the musical -- even though it had less Amy Adams. 

Some of us were exceptionally happy to be there
The next day we went to the LA temple which was HUGE!  I ran into three people that knew there (two former students and former coworker) and was genuinely surprised that I knew so many people in LA.  In order to get the picture below we set my camera on the LA temple sign.  The angle wasn't right so we propped it up on some quarters, but then if just fell over so we put Kevin's wallet behind it to keep it from falling down.  It worked like charm. 

Who needs a photographer?
We then went to the Santa Monica beach where it was surprisingly cold and cloudy and Seattle-like.  I got really giddy at the beach and made Brooklyn race me to the end of a boardwalk.  We then had an epic stare down. 

We then went to the Santa Monica pier and made lots of pier puns.  

It a-piers that we are awesome
And can't take ourselves seriously
By the end of the weekend Brooklyn and I agreed that we now knew each other enough to feel comfortable accepting a ride from the other person (because you DO NOT get into a car with a stranger).  And Allison and Kevin seemed even more in love which warmed my heart.  

Kevin and I bought a lot of junk food for our road trip including multiple kinds of chips, whoppers (the candy, not the burger), twizzlers, skittles, and a coke.  I also brought two tangerines.  When we got back to Tucson on Sunday night we both felt slightly ill from all the junk we'd consumed.  I said, "Let's never eat like that again."  I then baked a pizza and watched the new episode of Once Upon a Time.  It was a great weekend.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I ♥ Seminary

I got a part time job in January as a seminary teacher.  For anyone not familiar with how an LDS seminary works, you're probably incorrectly imagining what it's like.  Seminary isn't a place to train future priests, it's simply a class where high school students study the scriptures.  It's like most high school classes, really: we play games, we discuss things, there are posters on the walls, the guys and girls have crushes on each other, and we have whiteboard markers of varying colors.  In places with small Mormon populations (like western Washington) seminary is in the morning before school.  However, when there are enough Mormon kids at a high school they often have a release time program and seminary is part of their daily class schedule.  There are a couple release time programs in Tucson and the seminary I teach at is in a small building next to the high school.

I love my job!  Ever since I went to seminary in high school I've always wanted to work as a seminary teacher and it is so much fun.  A lot of the kids eat lunch in seminary building so I've had a lot of time to get to know them, but I'm learning that each year I get older while high school students stay the same age.  A few weeks ago I made a reference to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.  One kid had seen the movie, but the rest had never heard of it.  So I started to explain the plot, but somewhere around using a telephone booth time machine from the future to collect historic people so they can pass a science project and not get sent off to boot camp so they can start a band whose music will be most excellent and bring peace to the world, everyone got a little lost and I felt silly for liking such an odd movie.  But really, it is a most excellent movie. 

I experienced a similar "wow, I'm old" feeling today.  One of the seniors asked me what kids listened to when I was in school.  I mentioned a number of bands including Weezer and most of them had no idea who I was talking about.  I was sure they just didn't know the band's name and they must have heard the songs so I sang some of the popular ones and all I got were confused looks.  I then played some songs from youtube and still no recognition.  They thought the song about the unraveling sweater was particularly silly, which it is. 

I can't say enough how awesome my students are.  They really are the best.  We had a test at the end of January and I left a space for them to draw funny pictures or write funny limericks.  There were many great pictures and limericks, but these two were my favorites. 

I hope I do well on this test
I confess many answers were guessed
But seminary is fun! =)
Some tests can be dumb =(
Don't worry, I don't like you any less

I'm not very good but I'll give it a try
Poetry is not as easy as pie
Dude, chocolate's delicious
Not fit for the fishes
And I'm a big fan of your tie

Yep, they're witty. 

A bunch of my students are on the volleyball team and they've invited me to many of their games so I finally went to one this week.  I inadvertently sat with their parents.  While talking with one set of parents I asked if they had played sports in high school.  The dad said, "We're supportive, not sportive."  And I immediately knew that I liked them.  During the game a kid dove for the ball and missed.  The mom applauded and yelled, "Good try!" and then under her breath said, "just try harder next time."  And I chuckled to myself.  Later on a similar event happened where there was sincere effort, but no success.  The mom yelled, "Very good!  Try it again, but with a different result."  I really liked those people.

I have a great job.  I get to spend my afternoons with awesome teenagers teaching them something that I love and it's wonderful.  

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Really Good News

Holy moly, I got some fantastic news yesterday!  Let me paint you a picture of what went down. 

When I got to Arizona in August things were a little financially disastrous.  I was confident that I would get a job working as a Spanish TA.  That would have paid my tuition plus a salary that would have been plenty for a single man like myself.  I was banking on working as a TA, but budget cuts and tuition hikes meant that the Spanish department couldn't hire as many TA's as usual and I was left unemployed and in a bad mood.  My mood got worse when I had to pay tuition. 

I was lucky this semester and got a job as a research assistant which paid half my tuition.  Better than last semester, but I still lost a digit in my bank account and I started to get a little financially stressed.  I was really worried about how I was going to pay for school next year when I came across a scholarship that would pay for me to study Portuguese at the University of Arizona.  My program requires that I complete a minor and minoring in Portuguese sounded great so I decided to apply.  I talked to the guy who runs the scholarship in January to get information about it.  He didn't have any specific information, but said that he would know more later and would email me about it.

I checked the scholarship website frequently for information about this specific scholarship, but there was never any information.  On Thursday, February 28th I decided to email the guy to find out how to apply and when the application materials were due.  The next day I checked my email at 3:30 pm and he had replied with the following message: "The due date for nominations is actually today at 4pm.  Let me know if you have any other questions."  I was more than a little annoyed that I had been told when everything needed to be turned in 30 minutes before the deadline.  I spent about an hour that night crafting a well worded email explaining that I had by trying to get information for weeks, but just hadn't received it and that I would like permission to apply late.  I was very careful to make sure that the email didn't sound angry or whiny even though I was angry and felt very much like whining.  I didn't have much hope that they would make an exception, but I had to try.

On Saturday after going on a morning hike I checked my email and the guy had written back apologizing for any miscommunication.  He said that they were all reasonable people and that they would let me turn in the application materials by Monday at 4 pm.  That was great news, but led to an extremely stressful Saturday afternoon as I tried to assemble all the application materials.  I don't have a printer so I had to go to the Kevin's parents' house to print stuff off.  I felt bad about doing that, but they were so gracious and helpful and really saved me.  As part of the application my program director needed to write me a letter of recommendation so I drove to his house, handed him all the stuff I'd printed out so he could look it over and write me an awesome letter.  I felt really, really bad giving him such short notice to write a letter of recommendation, but he was happy to help out. 

On Monday I got the letter of recommendation from my professor and with a sigh of relief turned in my application packet.  When I submitted it I ran into the guy who was kind enough to let me turn everything in late.  He sincerely apologized for any misunderstandings and said that they were happy that I was able to apply.  I thanked him for the opportunity to apply and left.  The scholarship is fairly competitive so I wasn't expecting to get it, especially since I had applied late, but I really was happy to just be able to try.

Three days later (yesterday) I got an email congratulating me on being awarded the scholarship!  I was stunned, absolutely stunned.  I really thought I didn't have a chance and I was floored.  I sat in front of my computer dumbfounded for a few moments and then I called my parents and did a little dance.  My program director and the department secretary were CCed on the email and they almost immediately emailed me to congratulate me.  The subject of the secretary's email was just a bunch of exclamation marks and said, "I'm dancing down the halls right now.  Congratulations!!!!"  I replied, "I'm not gonna lie, I just danced a little bit, too!"  Happy moments. 

The scholarship requires that I take two Portuguese classes each semester next year.  It covers all my tuition and comes with a very generous living stipend.  Not only am I no longer stressed about money, but I get to improve my Portuguese which I am thrilled about.  It's so unexpected and awesome and I'm pumped for next year.  I'm so grateful for the people who helped me out on that stressful Saturday afternoon who made it possible for me to apply.  I couldn't have done it by myself.  At the risk of sounding sappy, as great as scholarships are, the real prize is having a life filled with people who will bend over backwards to help me, even on a Saturday night.  I'm super-lucky.

Since I'll be studying Portuguese next year, here are my two favorite pictures from my trip to Portugal in 2011.  
My mom and I biking along the Tejo river
Too tall for the basement in the Torre de Belem

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Am the 70%

I haven’t done any quantitative analyses, but I have recently decided that I am right roughly 70% of the time.  Let me use Kevin’s romantic life to illustrate my point.  I share this information with his permission.  

When I first moved in with Kevin in August he was dating a lovely girl.  She was nice, pretty, had a good job  -- a real catch.  However, as I watched them interact they didn’t seem that into each other.  During my time at BYU about a dozen of my roommates got engaged while I was living with them.  I have seen a lot of people in love so I can recognize love when I see it (and it makes me want to barf!).  I didn’t know Kevin very well at the time and I didn’t want to be a negative Nancy and say, “Kevin, I don’t think your girlfriend’s that into you,” so I didn’t say anything.  A few weeks after I’d moved in Kevin came home one night and announced that he and his girlfriend had broken up.  I felt bad for him and expressed real sympathy, but I wasn’t too surprised.

Two months later Kevin took a girl from church out on few dates.  She came by the house of few times which gave me the opportunity to see them interact.  She was giving all the “I like you” signs: sitting next to him on the couch when other seats were available, sending after date texts, chatting for longer than is required by social etiquette, etc.  I was convinced that she was interested in Kevin.  Kevin, on the other hand, wasn’t so convinced.  He thought that she was into this other guy who I was sure was just her friend.  I kept saying things like, “Kevin, don’t worry about it.  You’re a catch and she totally likes you.”  Still, he wasn’t persuaded. 

Since I was sure I was right I decided to prove my point with an I Love Lucy style bet.  The bet was that if this girl started dating that other guy within a month then I had to clean the entire house (tub and all).  But if she didn’t date that other guy then Kevin had to clean the whole house.  I really hate cleaning the tub (I'd much rather clean the toilet) so I was thrilled with the bet because I was sure I’d win.  And the bet was a great deal for Kevin, too.  Either he had a girl like him or he got a clean house.  It was a win-win.

Much like in the hilarious plots of I Love Lucy I ended up being horribly wrong.  While I was waiting in the Tucson airport for my flight home for Thanksgiving break I got a text from Kevin saying that the girl had gotten engaged to the other guy.  So not only did I lose the bet, but I really couldn’t have been any more wrong.  Luckily for Kevin, after I was done with it that tub had never been cleaner.

Even though he’d won the bet, Kevin was still sad.  To cheer him up I recommended that he Skype with my friend Allison who lives in Houston.  I wasn’t expecting them to fall in love, but I thought they’d have fun talking together.  Kevin thought that that was a terrible idea because long distance relationships never work out.  I didn’t give up, though.  Allison was going to be in Tucson for a week in January to visit relatives so I decided to try and hook them up while she was here.  I made sure to talk them up to each other before Allison’s visit and I orchestrated some things for the three of us to do together.  There were no sparks while Allison was here, but she did confide in me that she thought Kevin was cute.  I, of course, told Kevin this and since he thought she was pretty he decided that maybe Skyping wasn’t such a bad idea.  They Skyped about a week after Allison went back to Houston and they’ve been talking even since.

Kevin is in Houston right now visiting Allison and I’m in Tucson smugly patting myself on the back for being a matchmaking genius.  So if you’d like any relationship advice I’d be happy to give it.  Unfortunately, I’m only right about 70% of the time, but those are still pretty good odds, right?

I'm partially responsible for this