Thursday, December 15, 2011

Puerto Rico Update #4

Thursday! Wow...this week hasnt really gone by fast for me and I think its because of several different factors. First, I am NOT used to waking up with the sun. It has, however, become my new favourite thing. I mean come on; sunrise over palm trees out your window while its 80 degrees? Chyeah! Of course getting up early requires me to go to bed early (which I really do not all) but its worth it. Its weird to me to have accomplished so much in the day that by 10am we take a break. Woah. I am going to have to get used to this. Most people wake up at 6 or before! eye-yeigh-eye. Another reason why the week has been long is because I have mostly communicated in sign language. I know sign language, but to think IN sign and to use it for everything you want to communicate, it is very challenging. Sometimes I work as my deaf roommate for the week's interpreter too when we are in big crowds. I dont want her to feel left out and most of the staff dont like to sign and speak at the same time because it makes for very awkward and choppy speech. So most of the time we just talk. And then when we finish a story, we'll tell her and some of the other deaf people what was said so they can join in. Its kinda exhausting. I dont know how hearing moms who have deaf kids do it. Its very challenging to be in a group situation. I cant really participate in the conversation either until I have finished signing what they are saying, too, because I am so focused on relaying the information. This whole deaf/hearing thing is much harder than I imagined. I suppose this is what you call "the real world" where the cushy educational interpreters disappear and suddenly you are the interpreter! Its a lot to take in. I understand why the teachers here say that they are tired all the time. Until you really know a language (and I mean you really dream in it, think in it, live in it) its hard to not only switch back and forth between them, but to use two different languages at the same time!

Anyways, school today was good. In the morning I was back in the high school classroom which was nice. Those boys are very funny and have great personalities. I was able to get some great language samples from both of the boys, plus from one of the 3rd grade girls. I am thrilled about that. I know next semester I will be taking a class on ASL linguistics as well as one on language samples and evaluations. Yay! Maybe this last semester will really start to prepare me to become a teacher. I am looking forward to it! We had a traditional PR'ian lunch which consisted of a stew of some sorts with peas, gravy, chicken, corn, and other various mixed vegetables, all served over some white rice. PR'ians are really big on white rice and all types of beans. Big shocker, eh? We finished The Nativity Story movie after lunch and then set up the chapel for tomorrow when the parents come to school for a small party and to hear the kids perform their hand bells. The kids were so noisy setting up the chairs in the chapel that afterwards, I really needed some silence. I asked Jen if I could go lay down and ended up taking a two hour long nap. It was much needed.

Today a new group of people arrived that will be staying at the school! College students! Who are hearing! Hallelujah! It was very exciting for me, but most of the missionaries said they dont like having them here. One of the teachers said she hates when these big groups come, but the principal said she loves it because it gives them a chance to interact with some fresh faces. This particular group is a "do gooders" club from the Uni of Charleston in SC. They are not a Christian group, so please pray, pray, pray that I would be able to witness to them tomorrow. They are really fun and its good to hear a Southern accent once more (oh dear did I really just say that!?) =) I am excited to have them staying in the dorms with me as it has just been me and my roommate in a 10 person dorm up until now. They're leaders are really interesting and they have 2 adult females and 1 adult male (who actually arrived on tuesday and went to dinner with us on tuesday night, etc.) One of the ladies works for the government and has lived and traveled all over the world! Wow! She's really cool. I am definitely a people person, but I also need my personal space. This trip has been a perfect combination of the two! Praise the Lord! I could not have asked for a better experience here. They are taking such good care of me that I am bound to go back to CA happy as a clam (well, I will be maybe a baked clam because it is so nice and warm over here! I'm so gonna freeze when I go back to school!)

This afternoon didnt really consist of much. I woke up from my nap and tired to read the last little portion of The Hunger Games books (only have about 100 pages left...if that many.) Each time I go to read it, no one is around, and then, of course, as soon as I crack it open, people appear! Its kinda a cool trick. Its like whenever I go to restaurants, if we have been sitting for a long time, I get kinda bored and excuse myself to the restroom. It is fool proof that by the time I get back from the restroom, the food will have arrived! I'm lucky like that =)
After we chatted with the folks, they cooked us dinner of hamburgers and hot dogs. I feel like I always say this, but by the time it was dinner, I was really hungry! Its weird for me to eat on a regulated schedule because at school I eat whenever I feel like it. Sometimes I will eat breakfast at 11am and then lunch at 3:30 and then dinner around 7. (actually, that's a typical day in my books lol.) I had a great time chatting with Jen and the new folks and learning a little about what they are up to here. The weather has cooled down considerably, so instead of just a tee shirt, tonight I had to thrown on a light jacket. Oh no! Well, cooler weather awaits me in CA and then I will go back to TN and freeze my little tailfeathers off in the snow. Yes. Thank you very much. I have LOVED being in the balmy, humid air! Ahh! Its like a renewed breath of life! Oh man...! My hair and skin are so happy here, but my allergies are not all that keen on whatever is blooming around here. I am excited for school tomorrow as we have a modified day and will go to the rainforest to play the hand bells! Woo so excited to see another part of this beautiful island!

That 2 hour nap is wearing off and I will sign off now. Stay tuned to an update tomorrow night! Tomorrow is my last full day in PR! I will be so sad to leave! There are wonderful people here!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Puerto Rico Update #3

Numero tres (y quatro since I skipped yesterday).

Tuesday was much the same as Monday, actually. I enjoyed my day, but it was a little more frustrating than the day before. I got to work int he 3rd grade classroom in the morning. There are three students in that class (two girls and one boy) ages 8, 8, and 11. They did a variety of different subjects and when we got to English vocabulary and sentences, things kind of fell apart. It was really frustrating to know both English and to know how the mind of these 8 year old kids works (well...I have a fairly good guess at how they work, anyways) but not be able to place myself outside of myself and explain it to these kids! Its like, how do you describe a "direct object of the sentence" to someone who has only recently learned about kangaroos who live in Australia? Its kinda mind blowing. Its so hard to not use "college words" to describe things that I know. I was totally at a loss of how to tell this one little girl I was working with why her sentence made perfect sense in ASL, but for English, she needed to add in a couple of more words. ASL doesnt have articles ("the", "a", etc.) nor do they have helping verbs ("is", "am"). So to write a sentence that says "The baby's name is called Joey" really turns out to be "Baby name Joey" in ASL (well, at least for the level of linguistics I was working with with this 8 year old. I eventually said "Ok look. You need the word "is". Trust me. I am a teacher and I am telling you write on your paper right here "i-s"." She did but she didnt understand why. That was the frustrating thing for me because I know that if they do not understand why, they wont be able to make these sentences on their own. AHH! Ok someone please teach me how to teach these kids!

After all that, we went into the "library" to type up the story about the kangaroos on the computer. I had both of the 8 year olds and I could not get them to stop messing with the fonts, etc., on the computer. Oh man. I got really mad. Let me tell  you; little deaf kid, when they get mad, their language turns on and they sing really fast and sloppily. Hearing teacher? When she gets mad, ASL goes out the window and all you can think is "stop! stop!" That was a crisis moment in my day because I thought I was really good at signing and then all of a sudden I have no signs to communicate to them their bad behaviour. Most of the problem was that I could not get the kids to look at me. I've seen some of the other teachers take them by the chin and force the kids to make eye contact because when these kids dont want to listen, they just look away. There's really nothing you can do to make them look at you besides holding their head with your hands so they will be forced to look into your eyes. I dont feel comfortable with that. So I simply told them if they dont stop, they wont be able to use the computers. They saw that I was mad and even if I couldnt express myself with myhands, they could read my face and could figure out I was dead serious about this. Thankfully, ten minutes later (of course this is the time when they are actually focusing and typing up their stories...) its time to go to lunch. Oh brother. Well, I did what I could.

The rest of the afternoon went better and I didnt have anymore "communication breakdowns." I got to work with the kindergarten/1st grade class again after lunch. The teacher wanted me to work one-on-one with this one particular girl named "Z" (not her real name...but her name starts with a Z so we'll just call her Z). Z is 7 (she told me she was 8...dont know why still) and she is one of the girls I blogged about earlier who has a younger deaf sister, is deaf herself, and both her parents are deaf. You would think her linguistic skills would be off the charts, however, no. We had the book "The Grinch" and I asked her to "read" it to me. Well, of course she cant read that book because she is 7. I had NO idea what she was saying other than "decorations" and "place". She does not have very much vocab AT ALL so i was not at all surprised to just watch her move her hands. She wasnt signing. She was trying to imitate a language that she can barely speak. And she's 7. Sad. She understands nearly everything anybody says to her, but she has very poor expressive skills. It was not until today (wednesday) until I realized/came up with the idea that maybe she is autistic. Her sister ("N) is 5 and has very good language! Of course N says kid-like things like a 5 year old does, but she can hold joint-attention and has no problem making eye contact. Z on the other hand has me worried. I asked her teacher today (Wed) if she had ever noticed that about Z before and I asked her if she thought she might be a little bit autistic. Her teacher said she'd never noticed it before, but that she'd look out for it in the near future.

Its weird to me because here they do not have tests for the kids. This is a school for the deaf with highly qualified people, but when I ask them if they have ever tested them for XY or Z, they just say "Uhh no." I think PR'ian deaf kids would do so well with A) a school SLP (speech language pathologist) B) certified interpreters (they told me there was ONE woman who was a certified interpreter who worked in the school system, but she died two years ago...sooooo now there are no certified interpreters. WOW!) C) some SLPs who specialize in educational testing. All of these are needed. I say an SLP is needed very badly in the schools because some of the kids are HoH (hard of hearing) and want to speak and sign at the same time. The kids here at ESD are *extremely* willing to use their voice. In fact, all of them do! They know the teachers are hearing, so if they want to get your attention, they will just yell out and you turn around. Its really an effective system, actually. The only problem with this is that you have deaf kids screaming!!! at other deaf kids which will blow your ears out (especially when you are in the car...oh man!) That is extremely ineffective because they are both deaf...go figure...they dont get it. Ha!

Anyways, after Z tried to read me the Grinch (while making no eye contact whatsoever) she had warmed up to me in her own way and was willing to let me help her with her math homework. This kid was great at math! Many deaf people are because it is concrete and numbers are constant. Languages are clearly their weak point, but math and numbers and computers, normally they are pretty good with them. I was blown away because I have never done math with an 8 year old before, but I always imagined there would be a lot more teaching and explaining than what went on yesterday with my experience with Z.

After school, I literally had a headache. Jen asked me "Beach?" and I said "YES!" Betsy and some of the others joined us and we swam and played in the water for about an hour or more. It was great! The waves are huge here and really powerful! They also churn up a ton of sand...bleach.

I had told a couple people earlier in the week that I loved seafood so for dinner Tuesday night they decided I had to go to their favourite seafood restaurant place called "King Seafood". It was delicious! Very, very decadent and so good! I was starving by the time we ate dinner though, because it took them an hour to bring us our food. We were at the restaurant for nearly 2.5 hours. Apparently "island time" trumps all and they take their down time very seriously here. Dinner was great and I had leftovers for lunch on Wed.

By the time we got back to school, it was 9pm. I read for a little while but was too tired to blog. Went to bed at 10:30pm and started Wed!

Today we took the kids to do a hand bell performance in San Juan. It took about 40 minutes to get to the hotel where we played. The kids did great and were very excited to perform. I loved watching them smile and get nervous and congratulate each other. We left first thing after chapel and devotions, performed, and got back to the school at nearly 1pm. After lunch we continued watching part of The Nativity Story movie. I love watching it with the kids because they will say "Watch out because this bad guy will come up!" or "There's gonna be a snake soon! Dont be scared!" They're so sweet! =) There was only about 45 minutes left in the school day so I went with the 3rd grade class and helped them make macaroni angel Christmas decorations. For the most part, after school, I helped JJ and just relaxed a little bit. JJ made me fish and salad for dinner and it was very tasty. I'll have to try her recipe at home! After dinner some of us went to an evening church service. We went there on sunday night too. The service is completely in Spanish, but we have brought a deaf person each time, so Betsy will interpret the whole thing in ASL. Its like listening to an language you recognize and know vocabulary words from, but really would never be able to get the meaning of it (Spanish) and then watching it be translated in ASL at the same time (my 2nd language). ...It hurts my brain, but totally stretches my ASL skills. Actually, it stretches all of my linguistic skills! Its fun! I really like living in "America" for this week but being in such a different culture (I put "America" in scare quotes because PR is a US owned territory...but it feels like a different country just without the extreme 3rd world conditions most of the other non-US territories around here probably face). After church, I blogged and now bed! Goodnight!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Puerto Rico Update #2

Buenas tardes once more mi amigas/amigos!

Today was my first day to observe in the classrooms at the school for the deaf. I had a great time, but my brain is extremely tired! I now understand why all the rest of the missionary staff go to bed at like 8:30pm. This morning I observed the high school class which consisted of two boy students. One of them is HoH and the other is Deaf. It was really interesting to see their intelligence levels and their communicative levels. The Deaf boy, in terms of school work and just general "grade level appropriateness" was way behind. However, his language skills of "through the air" communication (AKA signing) were great! He used strong ASL and it was clear he has been signing for a while. The HoH (hard of hearing) boy was right there and with it academically, but his signing was a little lacking. Its so funny to be around these deaf kids because they are so noisy! Man! They don't realize they are being loud, so when they laugh, or if they drop something, they have no idea how much noise they are actually making. It's a kick. Its also a strange feeling when a siren will go by down the street, or a run shot will ring out and the kids don't even flinch. It is very, very sad to me to imagine living in their world. Puerto Rico is a place of amazing sounds! At night, there are the rain forest critters (tons of all kinds of crazy frogs, lizards, bats, crickets, etc.). During the day, when we go to the beach, the sound of the waves crashing on the sand is just beautiful! It is SO calming. I think it may be one of God's favourite sounds considering so much of the world is covered in water. Just a little biased thought. Its sad to turn to the kids and want to say to them "aww don't you love that sound?" but I can't. I don't pity them because these kids are wonderful people. They are individuals. But, they will always be a minority. They will have difficulties communicating with those in their main "hearing world" environment and trouble talking to their families. No matter how good cochlear implants and hearing aids become, they will never hear the world like I do.

As far as the events of the day:
Woke up early and went to observe the high school class until lunch. We learned about Paul Revere and the events leading up to the American Revolution. When I think about running my own classroom I think "there's no way I'm ready!" and then I jump into a class like the one I was in today and think "okay, sure. I could totally do this. I could read from a book, and make up fun activities, and have the kids act things out, and really get them enthuastic about learning!" It's a very exciting and encouraging feeling!

At lunch time, we all (meaning the 8 staff members plus me, and all 10 kids that attend the school) gathered into the cafeteria. We had this delicious pasta lunch made and brought over by an American lady. It tasted like "American pasta" if you ask me...

After lunch, we went into the chapel to watch part of the Nativity Story (the movie). Then, all the students practiced hand bells. They do a great job and have it down to a science. The kids really enjoyed the bells (especially this adorable little 8 year old named Mizael who will talk your head off...oh my!) I just listened and observed and smiled at the kids. Its so fun to watch the kids interact with each other, too! They range in age from about 16 or 17 to 4 years old. Such cuties! They look quite a lot like Mexican kids (IMO) but they have less Native American looking features and look more like South Americans to me. By the time we finished bell practice, someone had brought presents for all the classes: books! The kids were thrilled and it was fun to watch them open their presents! I really wish I had thought to bring something for them all too! Next time. One of the books the kindergarten/1st grade class got was called "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats. I had to do a report on this book for my Children's literature class, so I was very familiar with it. I told the teacher that and she asked if I would like to read it to the kinders. Okay, let me tell you, best part of my day. Haha! It's hard to get deaf kids to pay attention and look at you because when they are looking at you, they are really trying to figure out what you are signing to them. Needless to say, I read them the story by signing it for them. Then one of the boys who was my little helper who turned the pages of the book decided it was his turn to read the book. He's six and can't really read, but can pick out a few words here and there (like any 6 year old I suppose). THAT was the best part of the day because half the time he would totally make up a story about what was going on in the picture, and the other half of the time, he would just ramble. (I had a hard time understanding him to be honest because you know how little kids like to say things that are totally unrelated to the topic? Yeah, well that was what this little guy was doing too. Very fun experience.) I stayed in the kindergarten/1st grade classroom for another hour and a half until school was over and just talked with the kids and with the teacher about each of the 3 kids in the class. There was this little boy, of course, and then two other girls who were sisters (both deaf). The little boy has a 4 year old hearing brother and an 8 year old deaf sister. He himself is deaf.

One of the missionaries told me that there are about 150,000 deaf adults and children on the island of PR. The total population is around 4 million people. When you figure it out, that means there are a LOT of deaf people here. There are about 8,000 deaf people in the state of Texas so...that kinda gives you an idea. Most of these deaf people live in the mountains in small, extremely rural communities. I would die to go up there because I bet their language is fascinating because they are so isolated and there is no one there to teach them. Wow. Maybe next time I will go visit them. I can only imagine that they would use a ton of gesturing, pigeon sign language and mixes of English and Spanish. There is a lot of inbreeding in general among the PR'ians (of course...its an island...) so there are a lot of issues with genetics. I have never known a deaf person to have deaf parents, nor a deaf person to have deaf brothers and siblings (or both!). There is one family at the school here in PR where both the mother and father are deaf and both of their daughters (the ones in the kindergarten class) are deaf as well. Can you imagine!? It is great, though, because these two deaf girls have grown up with sign language in their home from day one. They are fairly skilled communicators.

Sidetrack...anyways... directly after school was over, my missionary friend, JJ, and I had to take one of the HS boys home. He lived close to the beach, so Jen asked if I wanted to go for a walk with her on the beach we went to on Sunday. Of course I said yes! We were able to walk this empty shoreline for about an hour. Then we needed to go to the grocery store to pick up some bread, etc. for dinner tonight. Everyone at the school takes turns making dinner on different nights of the week. Tonight was not JJ's night, but since we were out, we got some of the ingredients. Dinner was this delicious pasta casserole (lucky me, right? pasta twice in one day! I love it!) and salad and bread. JJ told me earlier that we would go to a resort and go in their jacuzzi after dinner. Since everyone likes to go to bed nice and early around here, we went directly after dinner.

Now the resort: and the jacuzzi and pool:
Well, a while ago, JJ and some of the others on staff knew this guy who was head of security for a resort about 20 minutes down the road. (Oh btw, everything on the island is really far away because their roads are kinda crazy! Its an adventure!) =) Anyways, we get up to the guardgate and give them our name and tell them we will just be visiting for the evening. Since this is PR, they said "sure thing" and let us in. Ha! We walk in like we own the place and jump right in the jacuzzis that are right near the ocean! You can hear the waves crashing when you sit in the jacuzzi/pool. Guhhhg! Beautiful! We also saw quite a lot of stars (I miss them when I am in Knoxville) and watched the cruise ships sail on past and watched the airplanes overhead. The jacuzzi was really chilly (kinda unusual they said...) and of course tonight is the coldest its been in a long time (probably down into the low 70s! Burrr! Everyone, better break out the snowcoats! hehe) We were at the resort for about an hour and much to my dismay left to head back to the school. This resort was amazing! Think combo of the Hilton in Waikiki and the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, San Diego, CA. Just beautiful!

I know this has been super long, but its fun for me to write it all out and I hope you enjoy getting a bit of an update about what all I am doing here. I just realized after reading over the whole posting that I promised yesterday I'd write about Sunday...I'm not sure if that's gonna happen tomorrow or not...but I'll try to insert snippets.

Buenas noches!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Buenas Tardes! Puerto Rico Update #1

Hello! Hello! Hello! (...that is supposed to be in English, ASL, and Spanish for ya there.)
For the past 24 hours I have been operating on a tri-lingual basis. Holy cow...its ultra hard. I am fluent in English and ASL (American Sign Language) and can use them both at the same time and independently from each other. It comes in extremely handy around here. The third language is Spanish, which sounds *so* familiar and good to my ears to hear again, but alas, I really can't comprehend it orally. If its written down, I can get about 40% of what is trying to be communicated. Its not great, but its all I have. The official language of PR is both English and Spanish. The ASL comes into play because I am staying/working/visiting a school for the Deaf here in PR.

The school is very nice and I am staying in the girl's dorm. Right now, there is only one student who lives here (even though the whole school is technically a "residential school for the deaf"...go figure). I found this school because God wanted me to: there's no other way to explain it. Here's the story-- My grandparents have these friends named the Barnes. The Barnes love my mom and they love my whole family, actually, even though I've never meet them. Sometime around my HS graduation, they (somehow) heard I was going into deaf education. They wrote me this very nice, very long note of congratulations. In the note, they told me there was a school in PR that they used to support financially and that they knew several of the missionaries who worked there over the years. The crazy thing is that I read this letter when I graduated, but never, ever, remembered the school for the deaf. Well, about 2 years ago, at Christmas time, actually, I was deep cleaning my room and came across this letter. This was my sophomore year of college when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. When I re-read the letter, the school for the deaf jumped out at me! I searched it online and immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of their mission. I contacted them and they put me in touch with a missionary named JJ. She is from CA and I knew that I wanted to support her. So, for the past two years JJ and I have been writing letters, facebooking, and even had one skype encounter (...not very successful due to both of us having bad internets). I am SO happy to actually meet the person I have been praying for on a weekly basis and that I have been supporting. Its been great, also, to jump inside her world and see what all she has/is doing down here and how intense missionary life really can be.

In terms of a little bit of an update--
I left TN yesterday morning very early. Made it to Miami around 11am and had a layover until 1pm. [Insert awesome stories from chatting with fellow travelers/airport strangers here...there are some interesting folks in airports these days...let me tell you. you'll have to ask me in person for some of the "goods".] Trying to explain why you are a quarter of the age of all the retired folks heading from Minn. and NY for some warm weather is a little harder than you might think. HA! I slept almost the whole plane ride to PR and when I arrived I was worn out! JJ was running around San Juan and Betsy (the principal/director/linguist extrordinaire!) picked me up from the airport. There were five other people in the car with us; all missionaries at the school. San Juan is about an hour's drive from Luquillo (where the school is) so the whole team came into the city to pick me up. We went first to this really expensive Italian restaurant. Long story short, JJ and 2 others met us at the Italian restaurant and we decided that the prices were too high. Betsy was still parking the car. She called and said she was having car trouble and we all made our hasty exit (sorry to our waiter, whoever you are!) We ended up going to this awesome pizza place that was a lot of fun and had great food. After dinner, we walked around the city and looked at Christmas lights. Ok, let me explain. PR'ians really love Christmas. Like really! There are nativity scenes all over the place and the three kings are more of the focus than anyone in the nativity scene. They have Three Kings Day (another story to follow about that later...) and that is celebrated in the beginning of January. Once we finished walking around downtown San Juan, we headed "home" to the school. I got settled in, took a shower, and went to bed.

Tune in tomorrow for the update about today, Sunday!

Thanks for the prayers! I am doing well and am in great health (which is great seeing that I had been for the past 10 days with a cold...) Everything is running smoothly so far and the missionaries are taking good care of me! =)

Friday, December 9, 2011


(Yes, I do realize that my order for completing my 101 things may be driving some of you bonkers, but I never was a 1-101 type of girl. I prefer to be all over the map [or blog].)

#100 reads "be the first person to tell someone exciting new". 

Well, about three weeks ago one of my two best friends from back home told me she was engaged! I am thrilled for her since she has found such a wonderful man. I was surprised that he popped the question so soon because last time I was talking to her, she said it would be a while before they were engaged. But, apparently he felt differently! Since he is in the Marines and will be deployed (not deported as I kept saying...geesh) in a year and a half, they want to get married now and have a little time together. And by "now" I mean NOW! If I have calculated it correctly, they will be engaged for 5 weeks! They plan to be wed a week from tomorrow. One of the bummer things about having a wedding planned so quickly is that you dont know if everyone will be in town. I am heading out to Puerto Rico for a mission trip and get back the night they are supposed to be married. Unfortunately, I will not be able to be in the wedding or able to attend. 

But I diverge... 

One of the best parts about getting engaged is that you get to tell everyone! Well, I certainly wasn't the one engaged here, but I did ask my BFF if I could have permission to tell my family. She said of course. (This is where #100 falls into place...) I called my parents and then my two sisters and broke the news to them. They all were shocked and it was SO much fun to be able to relay such good, happy news to them (and, of course, to be the first one to break it to them!) 

I cannot wait to get to know my best friend's new husband and to see them when I go home for Christmas break! Congratulations to you both!

Date completed: November 19th, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Ice Cream Monday"

"Ice Cream Monday" is officially finished! Yay! After a total of three months of work, and three drafts, it is complete! If you would like to read it, please comment below with your email address. Thanks for all the support!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

#46 Visit the Biltmore

46. Visit the Biltmore in Asheville, NC

This past Saturday I got to check #46 off my list. I decided it would be a fun Christmas present to give my boyfriend, and it would be equally fun to turn it into a double date with his roommate who is dating a friend of ours from church.

The house was terrific and we had a wonderful day! Unfortunately, I got sick a few days before we went to visit the Biltmore so I was feeling rather crummy that whole day. Nonetheless! Let me tell you a pretty darn good story!

The tickets to go to the Biltmore are way more expensive than what they should be. Thus being the case, I searched around online to see if any fellow travelers/tourists had any tips. Some smarty said to check on Craigslist and see if anybody in the area had posted some tickets for sale. Sure enough, I found a lady who was selling six tickets at a very good price. She was going to email me a picture of the tickets and I was going to send her a check via snail mail and she was going to send me the tickets via equally slow snail mail. She hadn't send me the email with the picture of the tickets by the end of the week, so I got nervous and called her. Well, my nervousness turned out to be a good thing, because when I called, she said that she had already sold the tickets to someone else! I was really upset because had spent a couple of hours online trying to find tickets and finally found this six-pack. Anyways, I returned to square one of searching on Craigslist. I found someone who had five tickets for sale at a cheaper price than the ones Lady-Who-Sold-Our-First-Set was offering hers for. Lady #2 is named Leah and turned out to be quite the character.

Leah works at a bar in Asheville and I didnt even want to know how she had acquired these special tickets that were good for two years. They turned out to be employee comp tickets and the four of us all made up stories as to how we thought she wound up with these tickets. Anyways... Leah and I made an agreement that I would pick up the tickets from her when we came over to Asheville (where she lives/works). I was extremely nervous about this arrangement because if something went wrong, then we would already be 2 hours away from school with no tickets and no date ahead of us! Well, we did get the tickets, but not from Leah, but from Rich. (I know...stick with me).

Leah told me the address of the bar she worked at and said that she would leave the tickets with Rich (one of her co-workers) and we could just give him the lumpsum of cash. We would just trade off, and that would be that--we would have our tickets and go on our merry way and Leah would have an envelope of cash waiting for her when she came into work later that evening. Before we left on Saturday morning, I googled the address and found directions online to the bar. I also google searched the name of the bar so we would be able to spot it from the road (and also so I knew that there actually was a legit bar at the address she had given me). We drive for two hours, get to Asheville, and I spot the sign for the bar (called Westville Pub). We dont bother to double check the address of the bar, because I thought it corresponded with the information I had looked up online. Well, we walk into the bar (mind you; this is at 11am...) and its not quite open. We ask the bartender in the back if she knows Leah and if Rich is working. She said she didnt know either one of them! (*Begin panic attack here*) She asks an other co-worker who says he knows Leah who works across the street as the bartender at University Pub. (*Inhale big sigh of relief*) It turns out that the name of the bar and the address of the bar didnt correspond like google said they did. We simply showed up at (what I thought was the right NAME of the bar, but) the wrong address. So, we mosey our way to the second bar for that morning, and sure enough Rich is standing behind the counter, gives me the envelope, we give him the money and head to the Biltmore!

Ahh mission accomplished! I just think its comical that we had to go through this whole ordeal all for the sake of saving (quite a few) bucks. Its very appropriate because my sister Amanda and I encounter these types of wild and heart-rate-raising adventures all the time. Nonetheless! We got a fantastic deal out of it and there is no way we would have been able to afford going if the tickets were full price.

When we arrived, we walked around the indoor botanical gardens (greenhouses! yay for warmth!). After that we went into the mansion and walked around/took the self-guided tour for several hours. We really enjoyed ourselves and I would definitely recommend going to visit to anyone! (Just...dont pay full price when you can get them for cheaper online.)

Date completed: December 3rd, 2011

Song of the Day

Its been a while since I've posted a song of the day, so here you go!

Put Your Head on My Shoulder

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Teaser for "Ice Cream Monday"

Its almost done! My short story is about to be completed. Whether I like it or not, the deadline is Friday. I am hoping to finish it by this weekend so I can go back and make some changes if necessary.

In the meantime, here is the first page as a teaser for the rest of the short story. If you would like to read the whole thing, please send me an email at

Thanks to all for the support and encouragement!

Midland Valley, California was all a-buzz as it prepared for its annual Christmas parade. The parade wasn’t so much a fan-fare event with millions of dollars poured into it by the city council, but rather, it was a way for the neighbors to support each other. Each year, the whole town burrowed out of their toasty homes to watch members of their community strut down Main Street all for the sake of being “in the Christmas spirit.” Children bundled up to their eyebrows in heavy down jackets would marvel at the way their breath hung in the air and then vanished as they sat, freezing, waiting for the parade to begin. Jill Golden, age nineteen, saw the memories of past parades play in her mind. It was a bit like looking into a shadow box; the setting always remained the same, as did the people. Jill’s shadow box of last year’s 2001 parade did not look much different from the parade of 1951. Despite fashion differences that occurred over the ages, Midland Valley’s one and only high school band still played their same medley of Christmas tunes, the volunteer firefighter brigade still blared their wailing siren, the classic cars, though different each year and ever-changing in style, still revved their engines, and the Fox Hunter’s Farms beginning riders class still rode atop their aged lesson horses. This year, however, was different for Jill. She was in charge of 27 young riders all within the ages of four- to nine-years-old. She was responsible for organizing which rider rode which of the stable’s 42 lesson horses, and had to make sure each child knew how to control his or her horse. All the while, Jill would ride her Appaloosa gelding, Arrow, at the front of the herd for the duration of the parade.
If it weren’t for the horses, Jill might not be so keen on sacrificing some of her precious study time in order to help out with the novice group of students. She was a student at Midland Valley Community College, and she rarely had time for anything besides studying, sleeping, and slinging around English training saddles. Jill had lived in Midland Valley all her life and knew the characters of the town like she knew the entire cast of her favorite television show Friends- intimately. Most of the people who lived in Midland Valley were either newly married with a baby or two, or were what they all called “old timers”, like her grandparents. Jill lived with her cousin, Melinda, in a comfortable two bedroom apartment in the “college district” of town. With three more final exams still to be taken, and four days until the annual parade, Jill had much she needed to accomplish.