July 29, 2010

Minnesota - No Matter Where I Roam, You’ll Always Be My Heart, You’ll Always Be My Home

Thirty-six days after I walked through the doors at Hubert H. Humphrey terminal at the Minneapolis – St. Paul airport, I am headed back to Cali, Colombia for my second year of a two-year contract teaching 8th grade math. While I am leaving only a mere eight hours earlier (to the day!) than I did last summer, I feel completely different about it. I am leaving Minnesota knowing that the relationships I have here can stretch across any ocean, mountain range, gulf, or border - after all I have already had a year to test it out. I leave without a sense of anxiety about what Colombia will look like, feel like, be like, etc. I leave with the comfort of knowing I can do this whole teaching thing, and that most days it’s a pretty sweet gig that I usually don’t mind getting out of bed for in the morning. (And a whole summer off only improved my outlook on the teaching profession!) Somewhere along the way I seem to be developing this “It will work out”, “Live in the moment”, “No regrets” attitude and although I definitely have a long ways to go from letting go of my Type A natural stress mentality, things seem to be going pretty well right about now...

Here are some pictures to recap the rest of my summer in Minnesota.

Visiting with my goddaughter Stefanie. Kids grow so fast - I cannot believe how big she is now!! And she carries on entire conversations and its just fabulous. :)
Visit to my college town of La Crosse, Wisconsin where my brother Joe is living for the summer. Nothing like a little Wednesday wing night and a few games of bags!
Grand Ole Creamery with my friend Liz. If you live in Minnesota or ever visit in the summer you should probably go there everyday.
Night game at Target Field!!! Minneapolis skyline + sunset + outdoor baseball + a win against the White Sox!

Father/daughter trip to Al's Breakfast for a some short short WW wally blues. (AKA one giant whole wheat blueberry pancake with walnuts AKA heaven on earth) You should probably go here too. Although expect a wait because there is one counter and 13 stools in the entire place. In fact, this photo captures about 40% of the entire restaurant.
Country themed going away party for my friends Anna and Andy who are moving to Thermopolis, Wyoming so Anna can teach 4th graders how to be awesome.
Visit to Target Field with Alex during his quick 36 hour visit to Minnesota. And the Twins had a walk off win against the White Sox in the ninth. I am going to refer to it as the game of the year, and I was there. WIN.
Pool time with the ladies!
Going away dinner. Mmmmmm pasta.
Saying goodbye to brothers who are 15 and now taller than me and think that makes them cool. (HI D BABES!)

The Real OC: My First Trip to California

During this busy summer of travels I made some time to go out to California to visit my friends Lindsey and Alex, who are living there while Alex goes to grad school at UC – Irvine. Before this trip, I had never been west of Colorado, and living in Colombia for the year had really awakened in me a sense that I have not explored enough of my own country, so I was psyched to be traveling again!

The trip started with a flight from MSP to LAX during which I witnessed entirely too much PDA from the couple across the aisle from me. However, I blocked out the ridiculousness by listening to the Glee soundtracks and playing iPod Free Cell, so really it’s a pretty win-win situation for everyone.

In California, I stayed with Alex & Lindsey at their townhouse located right across the street from the campus, which worked out awesome. Their place is perfect for the two of them, but big enough to have visitors, and decorated in a way that totally reminds me of both of them. Since I was visiting during the week, they both had to make some time for work, but we also got the chance to do a lot of exploring!

Some notes, including my reflections, comments and corrected misconceptions of the other Cali:

In general, California is not as hot as I thought. Without the Midwestern humidity, things cool down quite quickly at night. Frozen yogurt, better known as fro-yo, is actually as delicious as my roommate Kelsi told me it was – I recommend YogurtLand. The LA Angels are known as the “wealthy” team with a nicer/newer stadium (they played hosts to the 2010 All Star Game) located in Anaheim, while the Dodgers are more of the “common person’s” team with a stadium from the 60s built overlooking downtown LA. Dodger fans are angry people and the same four letter words that would earn you frowns of disapproval in Minnesota are commonly yelled throughout the stands to roars of crowd approval. Palm trees are kind of boring to look at after a while. Marine layer – ever heard of it? Me neither. Turns out the clouds from the ocean generally hug the coast of the Pacific Ocean, so many times it isn’t even sunny at the beach. Despite my horrible track record with four legged creatures, I managed to live in the same townhouse as a cat for a full five days. The majority of The OC was filmed in LA County, NOT in Orange County. The pier diner from The OC is a real place on the Redondo Beach pier - I celebrated my birthday lunch there with fries and a white chocolate mocha. LA traffic really is the worst thing known to humans and if I could write an open letter to the person who set up Dodger Stadium so that only one highway exit and one road lead to the parking lot and stadium, I would probably use a lot of the vocabulary used by Dodger fans. I have now been to five of 30 Major League Baseball stadiums – oddly I have seen more National League stadiums than American League stadiums. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is cool but probably the biggest tourist trap in America outside of Wall Drug and the Corn Palace in South Dakota. Surfers are naturally gorgeous – all of them. Not seeing some of your best friends for 11 months really doesn’t change a whole lot about your friendships. Jamba Juice in Huntington Beach celebrates happy hour everyday from 5-7 by upgrading your smoothie to the power size for free. WIN. I am forever indebted to Lindsey for introducing me to roasted red pepper hummus. Santa Monica is by far and away the coolest pier to hang out on with the most delicious corn dogs outside of the Minnesota State Fair. Huntington Beach is the coolest beachfront with more beach volleyball nets than I could count.

Combination of many different types of fruit flavored tart yogurt - yum!
Seeing the Pacific Ocean from the US!
This is the REAL OC diner - located on the Redondo Beach Pier.
Seth & Summer at the diner - see it is the same!!! :)
Lots of sand volleyball at Huntington Beach.
Dodger Stadium
Dodger meltdown that included a discussion with the head coach, entire infield and four umpires. Brilliant.
Walk of Fame + me
Santa Monica
Santa Monica Beach - care for a swing?!?
Santa Monica Pier
Bench at Santa Monica Pier
Lindsey, Alex and me at Dodger Stadium for my 23rd birthday.

Overall, I had a fabulous time visiting and celebrating my 23rd birthday California style! They are going to be out there for at least another few years so I am hoping to get back for a second visit at some point.

Until then, California is pretty great in my book.

July 11, 2010

What I Did On My Summer Vacation...So Far

I have been in the United States eighteen days now and will be for seventeen more. My type A math major brain tells me this is the perfect time for an update :)
Overall it feels like I have been here a lot longer than that, which is probably the best surprise of summer this far. Coming home for just a few weeks to see so many people I felt really nervous that I was never going to have time to settle in and enjoy my time with family and friends. I thought the entire summer would feel like a blur.
Things are certainly happening quickly, but I have already done a lot in a short time. To briefly summarize my Minnesotan escapades so far, here are some of my summer activities...
  • Coffee dates
  • Visiting Aunt Susie in Colorado Springs - what I learned from this is that I need to live in Colorado at some point in life.
  • FIRST visit to Target Field (new Minnesota Twins stadium) - one more to go this summer! I cannot believe this gorgeous stadium is ours!! It felt like going to an away game...
  • Midnight showing of Eclipse. I am now 100% Team Jacob and 100% a proud Twilight Saga addict. Nevermind the Edward shirt in the photo - it's not mine.
  • Breakfast dates at Day by Day Cafe
  • Jamba Juice - so delicious.
  • Family vacation to Cuchara, Colorado
  • Bumming around the University of Nebraska - Lincoln while brother Michael registered for classes
  • Enjoying the Minnesota lakes :)
  • Shopping - Kohls, Old Navy, Forever 21, Ikea, Bibelot, Urban Outfitters, Victoria's Secret, American Eagle...there are so many more choices in the States!
  • Entertaining weekend guests!
Hope your summer is off to a fabulous start! More details to come from the second half of vacation...
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