Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Totally Awkward Tuesday

So, every week Tova Darling does this on her blog and I finally decided that I’m going to participate this week. So, I bring you an extremely awkward night on a cruise I was on in March of ’08. (That's a picture of Mahdis and I on the cruise to the right.)

So, at this point in life, I was almost 18, about to graduate high school, in an over-a-year-long relationship that was slowly falling apart, on a week long cruise in the Caribbean with my mom, her best friend, and her best friend’s fourteen year old daughter, and was prone to awkward situations (I still am). Something horrifyingly awkward was bound to happen soon. It did in the form of teen nights on the cruise. They were designed for kids aged 13-17, meaning that most of the people in it were closer to 13. But Mahdis, who is like a little sister to me, really wanted to go and she wasn’t allowed to go without me, so I put up with it and went (it honestly wasn’t too bad, but the being a lot older than everyone else was already awkward).

It was one of the final nights of this series of night dances in a “club.” I started talking to this one kid from New York or somewhere at the “bar.” To make a long story short, I excused myself after a few minutes (because despite how bad of a turn my relationship with the boy at the time had taken, I wasn’t going to cheat on him) and returned to Mahdis and the other girls we were with. Well, he hunted me down, got behind me, put his hands on my hips and started dancing with me. No, not dancing, grinding roughly against me. Basically humping me.

I know, I know, I should have expected this because it was “club” setting and people do immature things. Except I’d mentioned there was a boyfriend. And I tried to step away from him so he wasn’t so close to me. And, honestly, even if what he’d been doing resembled dancing, I’m a terrible dancer and didn’t really want anyone near me.

Have I mentioned yet that this kid could not have been a day over fifteen?

Yeah. When the song ended, I stepped away from him and asked him to stop. He didn’t, I asked again, he got rude, and another guy that I had made friends with kind of stepped in and said something. It was awkwardly awful.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Home Again

So, I'm settling back in at home and it feels great. I'm back to working "too much" (I love my job, honestly), writing, drinking waaaay too much coffee (I've been to starbucks/Buon Giornio's four times in the past 24 hours), and just being happy. I'm not doing so well on that list of 50 banned books that I wanted to read, but I have been reading a lot. I read The Prince by Machiavelli, which Cyndi let me borrow, I'm almost done with Jackie after Jack: Portrait of the Lady by Christopher Andersen, which has been a great book about the mysterious Jackie O. Both books are definitely ones I'd recommend, especially if you're interested in politics at all. I also, without consulting the list, ordered blink by Malcolm Gladwell and Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen J Dubner. So I'll probably start on those tonight while I'm working from 2:30 - 9. My friend Kevin, the one who was nice enough to give me a ride home on Saturday, is also going to start helping me learn guitar soon, so that's really awesome. Maybe this time I'll actually learn. How great would that be? I found some of the people I met randomly on vacation on facebook, so now we're all friends and hopefully I'll be able to keep in touch with them.

On top of all the wonderful reading and working and getting paid (I forgot to go deposit my paycheck! Dang it!), I've been going to this Bible study recently that my friend Jenny started, which has been really great. It's been cool to have a group of friends I can talk God with because not all of my friends are religious so bringing it up can occasionally turn kind of awkward. I've been having a lot of conversations about God with a lot of people recently that I would have never expected to talk with me about it though, so maybe it's a sign that I need to be more comfortable talking about it.

Well, it's time to grab lunch and head to work. Hooray. Have a great day, everyone. :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

More Texans, Hitler, And Everything Else

Remember how I was saying I could attract every Texan everywhere we go? I've proven myself right numerous times since then.

On the 24th we spent part of the day walking around and sight-seeing (the Glockenspiel, St Peter's Church, etc) then going on a tour of the parts of Munich that show it's Nazi history. Since they're not exactly proud of Hitler, Munich has naturally allowed some of the buildings to be torn down or fall into disrepair or they just conveniently didn't rebuild them after WWII ended, but some are still around. For instance, the museum the Nazis built to house "German art" is still around, built resembling the neoclassical style but uglier. However the beer hall where Hitler attempted the Beer Hall Putchz (which landed him in jail) is actually now the site of a very nice two-story Apple store. The buildings that are still around are typically used for other things and it's only been very recently that they're admitting to the Nazi history o the building.

That night, we dropped by Hard Rock Cafe - Munich and had some good old burgers and fajitas (ah, Tex-Mex) then went across the street to Hofbräuhaus, which is actually where the first Nazi political rally was held. The place is like a huge typical German hangout -- long wooden benches and tables, pretzels and sausages, free-flowing beer, really loud traditional music, waitresses in slutty milkmaid outifts, the works. That's where we ran into more Texans -- one of the people we talked to had lived in the state for a little while before going to UC San Bernadino, then graduating and moving to Riverside, California. I never caught his name, unfortunately, but we actually ran into him again on the street in Prague twice, which was super bizarre.

The next day, we mostly spent the day shopping near Marienplatz (the square where the Glockenspiel is) at a few big German department stores and some other European stores. We got on a train headed back to Prague around 4:45 and that's where we ran into more Texans. The carriage we got in was actually super crowded but I managed to somehow sit us down right next to three guys that just graduated from Rice University (Houston). We talked through probably a little more than half of the six hour train ride about a little bit of everything -- medical stuff (they're all about to start medical school), Houston versus College Station, Iran, scary stories, the Olympics and China -- one of them actually worked at the Beijing Olympics. How bad ass is that?! We talked a lot about Chinese culture and he (his name was Tommy) actually got me really pumped about studying abroad there in a few years. So that was kind of a Godsend since I'd been starting to doubt myself and freak out about learning such a complicated language and moving across the world. But now I can't wait to go! I know I said I'd love to live in Europe, but China might be quite awesome as well. We're thinking about going to Beijing next year to look around and see the country once before I go live there.

The next morning (the 26th) we woke up and went to see the half of Prague we didn't see the first fay we were there. Our hotel was really close to both what we dubbed "the Beverly Hills of Prague" and the Jewish cultural center. After breakfast, we walked around the Jewish area, taking pictures of synagogues and etc. It was the same area where the Nazis coralled all the Jews into pogroms after Kristallnacht and before the concentration camps were built and there was still a lot of evidence of that history in the area. I didn't actually take many pictures there because I felt kind of weird taking touristy pictures in a place where a lot of people spent their last free weeks of life, but the few I have are on facebook and flickr. It was then, as we were leaving the area that a man stopped me on the street, looked at my maroon 'Howdy, we are the Aggies' shirt and said, "are you from Texas?" I said we were and he immediately exclaimed "I'm actually a horns fan, but it's so nice to see a friendly Texan face!" I laughed and we chatted for a moment before parting ways.

My dad joined us later that day (he hasn't been with us the rest of the trip) and we showed him the Jewish pogrom area, walked through the Beverly Hills shops (Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, etc), then had a really late lunch/really early dinner at 4 pm. After that, we went to a really famous five-floor club in Prague even though it was pouring rain. We had to leave earlier than appreciated because we had to leave for the airport at 5:30 am, but it was fun.

Yesterday, unfortunately was all travel. I woke up at 4:30 am (Prague time-- about 8:30 pm CST) to be downstairs and ready to go by 5:20. We got on a plane to London and chilled there for about six hours. Luckily, there was plenty of free alcohol, good shopping, and (don't act surprised) Aggies to keep us amused. Because, yes, after running into six Texans during our trip, I FINALLY ran into two Aggies. It was pretty awesome. I got home pretty late, thanks to my good friend Kevin who was nice enough to come pick me up from the airport then take me to Sonic for American food. :]

Now, I'm unpacking, writing, probably going to Buon Giornio's and editing pictures for the rest of the night. I'll be attempting to stay awake until at least 9 pm to conquer jetlag. Hopefully going through the close to 700 pictures I took during five days of legit vacation will help in that endeavor. :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Thought While in Prague

In life, you should laugh, you should love, and above all, you should

[The picture is of some graffitti I saw on the side of a church. Cute? I think so.]

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Learned: Rain boots are a must-have

I’m learning a lot on this trip – you know, why it’s called backpacking, that peach schnapps are all right… and now that rain boots are a must-have for a trip to Europe.

This isn’t my first trip to Europe. Or second, or third, or fourth. I’d venture to guess it’s well into the double digits, actually. But, it’s taken me this long to realize that rain boots are a must have when traveling to Europe. Why, you ask? Because it will rain at least once, and it will be miserable.

Oh, and no, your really cute TOMS do not count as appropriate rain shoes.

If you couldn’t guess yet, it rained a lot today. And I was wearing really cute TOMS because we weren’t expecting rain and therefore none of us had rain boots. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t decided to go on a (really stinkin’ awesome) tour two hours outside of Munich that required a thirty minute hike. But other than the freezing rain and my TOMS that were once off-white but are now brown, the tour was amazing. (The picture is what they used to look like. Weren't they cute? http://www.tomsshoes.com)

We visited one of King Ludwig II’s (or, in German: König Ludwig) dream castles, Neuschwanstein (again, in German: Schloss Neuschwanstein), which is nestled high in the mountains above a tiny little town. I’d be surprised if you feel like that’s a familiar name, but if you do, it’s because it’s the castle that Disney based the castle in their company logo on, as well as many of the castles in their movies. I won’t give you a full history of König Ludwig’s lifetime and reign, but I’ll cover some basic facts for you: many often say that Ludwig was slightly mentally incompetent/insane. In his childhood, he withdrew from his parents and the proper grooming to become a king of Bavaria, and when he was suddenly shoved into the position prematurely at eighteen, he was entirely unprepared to take control of the kingdom for many reasons. Instead of trying to rise to the occasion, he brought composer/playwright Richard Wagner to Bavaria, gave him a home, and asked him to bring Ludwig’s childhood fantasies to life.

As Wagner brought these fantasies to life, Ludwig ordered the building of three castles to house these fantasies, attempted to get married, lost a war, and began what can only be deemed as a controversial relationship with Wagner. All of this eventually led him to ruin – Bavaria lost it’s military independence to Prussia, he never married his betrothed (that's a picture of statuettes of them to the left) and never fathered an heir, he fell into immense debt (yet was planning a fourth castle when he died), and his courtiers became suspicious of Ludwig and Wagner and demanded that the playwright leave Bavaria or they would. Ludwig was eventually deemed mentally insane due to intense substance abuse (morphine and cocaine at the same time), was asked to abdicate the throne, but was probably assassinated before he was ever able to appear before the parliament and make his case against mental insanity. I say ‘probably’ because the day after he was served the papers declaring his incompetency to rule, he and his psychiatrist were found “drowned” in a lake near Munich, but the autopsy showed no signs of water in their lungs.

Because of his death, Schloss Neuschwanstein was never completed, but from what was completed, his childlike mentality seems clear. Other than his throne room, which is decorated to look like a Byzantine church with lots of vivid colors and scenes depicting the Apostles, every room has a different legend as a theme – his bedroom shows the story of Tristan and Isolde and another passageway was constructed to appear like a cave so he could play out a scene from one of Wagner’s plays. A huge hallway is decorated with stained glass, carvings of mythical creatures (I’m talking unicorns here) and baby animals, and other frolicking things adorn the walls. It’s beautiful, and interesting, and adorable, but it looks like it was decorated to be a play palace for the children of a royal family, not the castle of a grown ruler.

Maybe he wasn’t totally mentally incompetent; maybe he was just “eccentric and gentle” as my sometimes-too-kind-for-her-own-good mother said. Either way, he’s still considered one of the favorite past rulers by people in Germany because his immense building projects boosted the economy not only then but to this day. He seems cool; I would have liked to have met him.

Chicken Fried

You know I like my chicken fried, cold beer on a Friday night, a pair of jeans that fit just right, and the radio on. Well, I was raised up beneath the shade of a [Texan] pine, and that’s home you know – sweet tea, pecan pie, and homemade wine, where the peaches grow. My house, it’s not much to talk about, but it’s filled with love and grown in Southern ground…
-Chicken Fried, Zac Brown Band

Truth be told, I’m a Southern girl at heart. I was raised in the South, my kids will come to love the South someday, even if they never live there, and one of these days, I’ll be buried underneath that big open Texas sky.

That being said, I want to live in Europe for a little while. Long enough to really get a grasp on the culture and fit myself into it, to establish lasting friendships so whenever I visit I have a place to stay and friends to catch up with.

I know this is all very random, but I’m thinking about this because, honestly, only I could attract every Texan visiting the same countries as us everywhere we go. Sitting in the hotel lobby last night, trying desperately to get internet so my mom could tell the people she works with that no, she can’t make some meeting because she’s in freaking Germany, and a guy wearing a UT ring sat down next to me and said hi. We struck up a conversation, making jokes about each other’s respective schools and discussing what had brought him to Munich – apparently he just graduated from the UT business school and was celebrating by traveling between Switzerland, Germany, and Italy for a month. Alone. How incredibly bad ass is that?

[I’m sorry, but I have to interrupt my own story here to say that I just told my mom I was hungry and her response was “Here, have this,” and passed me a bottle of vitamins. Cool, thanks.]

Anyways, Dallas' story made me realize that I want to do nothing more than travel around alone at least once. I want to see places and do things on my own time, meet new people and be forced to speak and learn other languages. Maybe after college or during a summer? We’ll see.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Discovered: Why it’s called “backpacking.”

Traveling through Europe by train is supposed to be super classic, right? You haven’t experienced Europe properly until you’ve traveled by train, yes? I agree, absolutely, entirely, without any doubts. If you’re ever in Europe you absolutely must take a train for at least an hour. But let me let you in on a little secret: it’s called “backpacking across Europe,” not “dragging your suitcase across Europe” for a good reason.

We started our day on the one pm train to Schwandorf, where we would get off and connect to another train going to Munich. We each had a suitcase (and not exactly small ones, mind you) and a purse to drag along in a five-minute connection in a country where we didn’t know the language. We knew from the get-go that this was going to be an interesting part of our day. However, two stops before Schwandorf, at Furth im Wald, the train came to a stop and over the intercom came a voice that said the same short sentence in about three languages before finally making it to English – “everyone off the train.”

Not the only confused people getting off the train, we looked around us for an explanation but saw only a few houses and the platform we were on, surrounded entirely by field and trees, holding. This was getting more interesting. Finally though, one of the train directors took pity on all of us poor non-German/Czech speakers and said something along the lines of “We can’t take you all the way, there’s a train coming to take you to Munich.”

Slightly more apprehensive, we boarded another train, dragging our bulky suitcases up the tiny little stairs behind us and shoving them into a small little compartment with a nice lady from Mexico City who attempted to teach a few of the German words she’d picked up in the six months she’d been living there – “danka” (“thank you”) is the only one I remember. Two stops later, we attempted to get back off the train, but the door we went to was stuck and we couldn’t open it, so we had to turn our suitcases around and run back down the tiny corridor, our suitcases getting momentarily stuck behind us as we ran, causing our shoulder joints a fair amount of pain as they were almost entirely jerked out of socket. We all but threw our suitcases out of the train, looking at the empty platform and wondering where in the hell our train was. The random switchover in Furth im Wald had caused a bit of a delay and we had about one minute to make our connecting train. Panic began to course through my system as the idea of being stuck in some random little town for the rest of the night played through my head.

After what seemed like an eternity (but was probably only a second or two) a nice guy on the platform made eye contact with me and in a heavy German accent said, “Munich?” I’m not sure if I said words or just nodded, but he quickly said “Platform Five,” and off we ran, down a flight of stairs, down a hallway, up another flight of stairs, onto a platform and threw our suitcases into a non-descript train right before the doors closed and it pulled away (yes, I did shout “danka” back to the man, don’t worry!). Relieved, we started hunting for our last compartment to hide in before arriving in Munich. We found one with only a friendly old man occupying it and dragged our suitcases in before we realized we were being confronted with a problem: there was really no rack area where we could stow away our suitcases. There was a small rack where maybe you could place a long thin backpack (or a really fabulous big purse) but our suitcases were never going to fit. And even if they did fit, the rack didn’t really promise to support their weight. We finally just piled them all onto the spare seat in the compartment, apologized to the man for disturbing his peace (though I doubt he understood what we were saying), and settled in for some more sitting. As I type this, we’re pulling from the stop for Neufahrn (Neiderbay?), my feet are resting up on the suitcases my mom, Mandy and Mahdis are sleeping and I’m pretty sure I’ll pass out soon. Two more stops until Munich, that’s enough time for a nap, right? I need to get my strength up before I mess with these suitcases again.

You know what the best part is? We get to do all this again on Thursday. I wish we had backpacks.

Prague it up, baby!

June 20, 2009
Today, we arrived in Prague at about seven pm after a nine-hour flight to London, a four-hour layover, and another two-hour flight. My first impression of the country is one of beauty: I’ve already taken dozens of pictures since getting here and I can’t wait to take more. If only I’d gotten the Canon Rebel XSi before coming. :[ But my little Sony CyberShot will get the job done. And I will have the Rebel XSi in time for Buenos Aires for New Year’s Eve.

We stumbled across a little pub near the hostel where we’re staying and ate there around nine pm. The owner (we assume) looked surprised that American tourists had stumbled across his little place but served us great food and beer that we happily inhaled after so much less-than-delicious plane food. We paid in Czech crowns and called it a night. (A picture of the pub is below.)

June 21, 2009
So, apparently today is really the only full day we’re spending in Prague. But, what a full day it was.

After leaving the hotel at nine, the whole day was just go, go, go. We walked to the main squares in Prague, shopping as we saw shops that interested us (I got a quite fabulous bracelet, boots that should have been $200, but I only paid $45, and a scarf), going to open air markets that sold the freshest fruit and best candy I’ve ever had in my life (pictured left), talking with random locals and attempting to learn a few basic words in Czech, taking too many pictures on random benches and in front of random fountains (that's Mandy being very excited about Prague to the right), and finally making it to the main tourist attractions by around two.

We walked by the famous Astronomical Clock, getting very lost on the way there (but finding cute little churches and cafes during that time), ate a late lunch on the river, crossed the Charles Bridge (or Karluv rnost, pictured right and below) to St. Nicholas Church and Prague Castle. We didn’t go to the Frankz Kafka museum, which would have been cool, but the Castle (and the palaces surrounding it) amused us for too long. We didn’t get to go inside, but the courtyard was absolutely stunning – the private chapel and all the fences were gilded with gold, enormous statues were everywhere, and non-smiling guards were standing solemnly by. In fact, we tried to make them laugh, and someone succeeded, but I’m ashamed to say it wasn’t me. After seeing the castle and taking more pictures than will ever make it onto Flickr, Facebook, and this blog combined, we started wandering around, stopping at a Starbucks to listen to people speaking in dozens of different languages, going in search of a little bar I had spotted on the way that was serving free drinks if you were cheering for the right team during the football (soccer) match (Brazil v. Italy) but never finding it. Instead, we stumbled across a Hard Rock Café, which was extremely exciting. We went in and got a few drinks and hung out with out waiter, who was a cool blond Czech boy named Honsek (pronounced: On-seek), who encouraged me to try a Sex on the Beach, despite my misgivings about peach schnapps. The drink ended up making it onto my list of Top 5 Favorite Drinks. After that, we grabbed some pizza at a nearby restaurant (we wanted local food, not American food) and by the time we got finished there, it was past eleven and we started the thirty-minute walk back to the hotel.

All in all, it was a pretty great day; we’ve kept our phones off and avoided TV as much as possible, but one thing we’ve still been paying attention to is the whole mess in Iran because the two women traveling with my mom and I are actually Iranian. In fact, I just watched the video clip of Neda’s death (graphic – don’t watch if you have a weak stomach) on CNN and I’m realizing how out of control this whole situation is. Moussavi is preparing to become a martyr and encouraging his protestors to not lose their temper yet (supposedly – no one is sure since international media is barely allowed to report anymore and all our information comes from social networking sites) thousands are dying in Iran every day. I wish there was an easy solution to this whole situation, but there never is. There’s never an easy solution for anything. (Photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/son_of_persia/3652037011/ )

Friday, June 19, 2009


First and foremost, I apologize for taking so long to update!

I leave for Prague in roughly seven hours. After a few days there, I'm taking a train to Munich, which is also going to be awesome. I recently mentioned that my mom is letting me plan the Munich part of our trip, and I've finally made my decisions:

1. St.Nepomuk's (also called Asamkirche) -- a rococo style church. (Pictured.)
2. The New Residenz palace of the Bavarian rulers -- 130 rooms open to the public & the royal jewels on display.
3. Nymphenburg Palace -- the summer residence of the Bavarian rulers.
4. St. Peter's Church -- the oldest church in Munich. It has the best view of the city.
5. Alte Pinakothek -- a museum full of the Old Masters: Rembrandt, Rubens, Raphael, Da Vinci, etc. :]
6. The Glockenspiel -- 32 little mechanical figurines re-enact some of Munich's history.

There are other museums to go to -- The BMW museum, a modern art museum -- and palaces to see, so I'm sure there will be some of that too. What we're doing in Prague is going to be a surprise for me though! I'll try to update throughout the trip -- pictures, posting, etc. Hopefully! I've got to go finish packing though. Have a wonderful week, all of you!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why Verizon sucks & Mary Kay is awesome

First things first, in my last post I mentioned that I hoped that reformist Moussavi would win Iran's presidential election, but it's been announced that Ahmadinejad has been re-elected, despite the fact that the vote count is still highly disputed. He's planning his victory parade and refusing to guarantee Moussavi's safety.

As far as life goes -- my family might just kill Verizon Fios. See, on Wednesday, we lost internet. We thought it was because of a big storm that rolled through the area, so we didn't complain too much, but did ask them to get it up and running. They said they would soon, probably within the next few hours; one day at the most. Two days passed. Still no internet. So on Friday, my mom and I started making some phone calls, trying to figure out why we had no internet still and finally, after getting hung up on four times, repeating our problem to five different people, and being told "Oh, our computers show that internet is up in your area," five times, we were finally told "Oh, you don't have internet on your plan."

Excuse me? Yes, we do. We've had it for over a year now.

There was much yelling involved from both my mother and I and finally the (admittedly poor) guy on the phone finally said that he could get our internet up and running soon, but would have to switch us to billing. In the transfer to the billing department, we were hung up on.

Saturday. We'd had a dinner party to go to Friday night that we were already late to by the time we were told we didn't have internet, so further calls had to wait until Saturday morning, when my father could ge involved. While I think my mom and I were doing a pretty decent job, he's a much more intimidating person, even over the phone. However, the same basic thing starts happening to him -- during four hours, he was hung up on three times, talked to numerous people, then finally started demanding to talk to a supervisor because, let's face it, this is getting ridiculous. Now, my father is not a yeller. In fact, he's kind of the quiet angry man that just stares at you when he's pissed and you know without being told that you want to get the hell out of that room. But, on the phone with Verizon, he was treading that thing line between 'speaking loudly' and yelling. Why? Because someong finally admitted that all the previous people we'd talked to had lied to us.

Ummm, what?

Now, we never really figured out exactly what we were lied to about because after we figured that one out, we were hung up on again. But when my dad finally got to talk to a supevisor -- I was scared. I'd never seen him that angry. But it worked -- by 4 yesterday afternoon, we finally had internet again. I think they owe us like six months free, but we're still trying to get them to get our Verizon emails working (because they disabled those and won't give them back) so that hasn't even come up in discussions yet. We'll see how that goes.

The only other real thing going on is that I had my Mary Kay Grand Opening party yesterday. It went really well! I sold almost a thousand dollars in product and everyone had a lot of fun. I have to order a few things because we actually sold out of a few things people wanted, so I'm about to start working on that. I'm really excited!

Friday, June 12, 2009

In the news...

I've decided that, along with posts on liberty (or the lack thereof) around the world, I'm also going to do a weekly posting of things in the news that I find interesting and/or worthy of being aware of.

First -- girls that kick butt: Jessica Terry diagnosed herself with Crohn's disease in science class after doctors couldn't do it in labs for eight years. While the fact that she has Crohn's disease is awful (it's a disease that causes intense pain and can't be cured), it's pretty cool that she figured it out on her own.

Regardless of your opinion of America's war in Iraq, this is something to know: Al Qaeda fighters are relocating into the horn of Africa. Countries like Somalia and Yemen could end up being safehavens for Al Qaeda fighters attempting to escape dangers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Reformist Mir Hossein Moussavi could win Iran's presidential election today. We'll see if that's true later on after polls close, but for now it's something I'm watching. If he does, it'll be the first time the incumbent president (the current one likes to pretend the Holocaust didn't happen) doesn't win a second term.

This man claimed to be a veteran of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and to have survived a roadside bomb as a Marine. He appeared for campaigns, he spoke on behalf of veterans, and he set up an alliance for veterans in Colorado. Now it's come out that none of that is true. He's being investigated for embezzlement charges in relation to the alliance he set up.

This is something that is actually really close to my heart, and I'm surprised I don't talk about it more: Young girls in Zimbabwe have begun turning to prostitution for food, school books, or simply attention. Now, they're also being targeted to become sex slaves during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

A man shot up the Holocaust Museum to express his opinion that the Holocaust apparently didn't exist (maybe he'd get along with the current president on Iran?).

In celebrity news, Hugh Grant has made an ass of himself again, Sonny and Cher's child Chastity will henceforth be known as Chaz -- she (he, now, I guess) is in the early stages of transition from female to male, Madonna won her adoption appeal in Malawi, Rihanna was served a subpoena to testify against Chris Brown, and Palin is crying foul against Letterman -- waaaaaahhh!'

Five things that make me happy today:
1. Cold hot chocolate (Buon Giornio's!)
2. Internet!
3. Going shopping with Mommy (and maybe Cyndi?)
4. Paychecks! (We got paid yesterday, I deposited it today.)
5. New music (Cyndi burned me a really good summer mix.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"I'm gonna write another traveling song..."

(lyrics from "Another Traveling Song" by The Bright Eyes)

So, it seems like all I can talk about and think about recently is traveling. I'm so ridiculously excited for our trip (we leave in 10 days!) that it's all I can think about. But, I have good news! My passport finally got back (we sent it off to be renewed like a week ago, so that was quick!) so now I don't have to worry about whether or not I'll actually be able to go to Prague and Munich. I haven't quite finished that whole "deciding what we're doing in Munich" thing that I talked about, but I'll work on that. It'll probably happen the night before or so. (I'm good at procrastinating like that.) Plus, my mom mentioned she really wants to see mostly castles, so I'm thinking we'll be doing a lot of that, and because it's a girl's trip, there'll be lots of shopping! :]

In relation to traveling, but only in the way that it's something I'm taking with me to Prague and Munich -- my mom ordered me the Canon Rebel XSi today. That's it to the right. :) I'm really incredibly wonderfully excited about it. It's (of course) an early birthday present (my actual birthday is next month) but it's going to be SO worth not getting a present on the actual day because this camera is so freaking kick ass.

Five things I'm happy for:
1. Private swim lessons that pay me lots of money
2. The Tudors season two
3. Long drives at night with Cyndi
4. Open mic nights
5. Good music therapy after crappy bands at open mic nights :)

How're y'all doing?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Munich travel plans

For about three months now, my family has been planning a vacation to the Czech Republic and Germany for the end of June. Today, my mother informed me that it is actually going to be my responsibility to decide what we're going to do for the three days we're in Munich. I, however, have never really researched Munich, so I don't know what there is to do there, other than lots of castles to visit. Any suggestions?

Five things I'm happy for today
1. Canon EOS Rebel XSi
2. Chocolate shakes
3. Vacation planning
4. Sleeping in
5. Warm showers

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tiananmen Square Massacre

It just hit me in the past hour that today is the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989 (known in China as the June Fourth Incident or more colloquially as Six-four to eliminate confusion about two other massacres that occurred at Tiananmen Square). It was a protest that began in April of that year, after the death of Hu Yaobang, who was the "pro-democracy, pro-market, and anti-corruption" (Wikipedia) former Secretary General. The thousands of people that gathered at Tiananmen were originally only there to mourn Hu's death, but soon students and workers alike started impromptu speeches that requested government changes based on the reforms Hu had attempted to make before resigning from office. Because it was so impromptu, there was really no unified cause or leader to the protests, but by April 21, a sit-in had been staged and students were calling for official meetings with government representatives. On May 4, students in Beijing marched and demanded free press and open dialogue between the government and student-elected representatives. Demonstrations at Tiananmen continued to be well-organized and the students initiated a hunger strike by May of '89 that was supported even by people not involved in the protest. Mikhael Gorbachev (USSR) would be visiting China soon and the reform-minded protestors considered his policy of glastnost to be something that China could follow in order to be more democratic. In fact, at the beginning of the movement the central and local governments didn't have a lot of control over the media and reporting was free to say as it pleased for a rare moment in history.

On May 20, the government declared martial law, but entrance into the square was blocked by protestors and the demonstrations were able to continue. Citizens of Beijing (whether protesting or not) actively tried to stop the People's Liberation Army from entering the square, constructing roadblocks out of buses they burned as the PLA attempted to stop them using tear gas and rifles. Rickshaw drivers dared to cross the boundary between the PLA and the protestors and carried hundreds of wounded off to hospitals for treatment.

The final assault began a little after ten pm on June 3. Chinese soldiers shot into the crowds with rifles, and troops approached with bayonets. Protestors that attempted to take refuge in the buses were dragged out and beaten and even people that attempted to leave peacefully were assaulted by the soldiers. Leaders of the protest encouraged students to remain peaceful even in the face of the abuse and by early the next morning the square was cleared of all protestors.

The number of deaths at Tiananmen is highly debated and ranges from the "official" figure as 241 dead/7,000 wounded (including soldiers) to thousands as reported early by various groups (including the Soviet Union, NATO, and Amnesty International). Close to thousands seems more likely since at one point during these protests close to 1,000,000 people were gathered in Tiananmen square, and it seems strange that only a few hundred would have died in such a violent and unorganized suppression.

The Tank Man in the photo was immortalized by his defiant stand in front of the tanks as they left Tiananmen Square on June 5. He was hauled away by police after momentarily talking with one of the soldiers in the tanks and never seen again. The theory that he was executed for his stand led Time Magazine to declare him one of the 100 Most Influential People of the Twentieth Century, a list that also included FDR, Oprah Winfrey, Mohandas Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela.

The other photo is of the Goddess of Democracy, which was carved and erected by protestors toward the end of May when they realized how much international media coverage they were receiving. She stood as a symbol of the protest for viewers around the world as they watched the protestors stand up for freedom and democracy.

(Thanks Wikipedia and my World History professor for the knowledge. It's appreciated.)

thank you, world, for keeping me busy.

It's funny. I really want to write a blog post but I can't think of anything to talk about. Not because my life is boring or anything, but because I actually have too much going on -- I've been reading a lot of interesting stuff, I've been working a lot, I've been seeing a lot of my friends, I've been watching a lot of The Tudors with them (great show, by the way), I've been drinking coffee and writing a lot... There have been plenty of stories to tell recently, but at the end of each day, it's like I can't decide which one to focus on, like they're all jumping up and down like little kids screaming "pick me! pick me!" in the forefront of my mind, leading me to be totally overwhelmed and unable to focus on an one of them.

I guess I could just briefly mention a few of them. Then if any of you are confused or the allusion piques your interest, you can always comment/email/twitter me for further details.

Firstly, remember how I mentioned that Cyndi and I almost died? Well, later that day, Andy (the boyfriend) called me and I told him about it and his immediate reaction (other than, "I'm glad you're alive") was "Wow, a similar thing happened to me today too." He was going through an intersection and some guy ran his red light and turned left going decently fast. Andy managed to see him and slam on the breaks to save himself , but the car in the lane next to him didn't end up so lucky. The car slammed into the driver's side door and both drivers were taken to a hospital.

Also, my good friend Ryan (from the Renaissance Festival I attended) moved to Missouri a few days ago for an internship. I'm really happy for him because he's happy and this is what he wants to do with his life, but I miss him. And I'm ready for him to come back home.

Last night, I spent a lot of time going through my old myspace messages and blog posts and comments, and I stumbled headfirst into a swirling torrent of forgotten memories. From things like the first guy I was ever in a serious relationship with (who turned out to be a total jerk, by the way), to the first guy I fell in love with and, though I don't miss him, think of him often, to our mutual friends, many of whom I haven't seen in a year or so. I saw pictures of a boy who I should have treated better, if only we'd met at a better time for both of us. I read poetry I'd written throughout close to three years of high school. I found old blog posts that, all though they were vague to outsiders, I still remember every feeling I had burning inside me as I wrote them, whether they were anger, joy, fear, accomplishment, or loss. It was a strange feeling to read and see all those words and pictures and feel like they were me, but not really. Like it was someone else's life I was peeking into. It was intense and it left me feeling confused, overwhelmed, and wondering about old friends. So, I started investigating. I started seeing how many of them still update their myspaces, and I found that an overwhelming amount of them do and all of them have been going through some painful stuff since we last talked. Though not always direct in what they posted (many of my friends and I have always been the subtle type), there were obvious signs of masked pain that was churning just below the surface of their smiles. But the posts that were direct, that confronted their pain up front were some of the most raw emotional things I've read in my life. I wish I could reach out and give all of them a hug, but we're all far flung across the nation these days and my arms don't reach that far.

One of my friends started doing this in her posts, and I think I want to as well --
Five things I'm happy for today
1. Skype
2. My job
3. Starbucks
4. Good friends
5. Fast cars to get me to work on time