January 31, 2011

“Everyone has a "best friend" during each stage of life-only a precious few have the same one.”

We all know the "drill" when it comes to friendship. With a lot of people you become friends for a season or friends for a reason - you are friends at a time in your life when it fits or a time in life when you are mutually dependent on each other. We have work friends, college friends, high school friends, childhood friends, study abroad friends, friends from when I lived ______, and the list goes on.

Lucky girl that I am I have friends in all those categories. :) But I also have forever friends, sister friends, people I have known for years who are more like family than friends. Growing up with three brothers wasn't always easy, so at the age of five I sought out a best friend immediately upon entering kindergarten. Eighteen years, infinite sleepovers, late-night chats, birthdays, Christmas-Day-what-did-you-get-for-Christmas phone calls, play dates, Girl Scouts, break-ups, make-ups, notebooks of back-and-forth middle school conversations, travels together, travels apart, visitng each other at respective colleges, and coffee dates later and Ilse is still my best friend. There are things about us that make us drastically different and unique, but she forever remains my person.

...I wish I had digital copies of our elementary school days but this will have to do. Bright-eyed-18-year-olds ready to take on the world...and probably terrified of living more than 5 minutes apart from each other.

So we went to college, learned a lot, and came home the next summer ready to reunite.

Visiting Ilse at Madison during senior year of college - Capitol dome in the background!

My going away party in July 2009.

December 2010.

In one week Ilse leaves for Uganda, where she will embark on her life-long dream of being a Peace Corps volunteer. Fresh off a year working for Ameri Corps in Madison, Wisconsin, there is no better person suited to go out into the world and try to make it a better place. Ilse is going to be working in education, helping to train teachers in Uganda to better their education system. Her creativity and amazing ability to relate to people are going to serve her so well and I cannot wait to read all about it on her blog. So check it out, wish her luck and notice how cool her header looks. ;) Also you should probably just start reading along because she majored in creative writing so her entire blog is pretty much hysterical.

Ilse - Go to Africa knowing that you are SO loved by your family, friends and everyone who meets you. Live you dream with all of the incredible passion you have. Experience new things, new places, new people, and immerse yourself in the Peace Corps. Love every second of every day that you spend abroad and then hurry up and meet me in Minnesota we can have 26-year-old play dates. :) Love you lady!!

January 30, 2011

Graffiti Benches & A Sunday Walk

One of my favorite things about living in my neighborhood is its relative proximity to the center of town and the river, which has nice walking paths and such alongside it. The walk there takes about 30 minutes, so we don't do it a lot, but it's a nice break from the gym on the weekends.

I took my camera along today because there is this bench that I wanted to take a picture of cause I think the spray painted word "love" on it looks kind of artsy and cool. Please note Kelsi & Tara laughing at me...

Later in our walk we came upon another bench with a somewhat different message. Check it out:

And finally --- the question that comes to mind is this: why are these messages written in English?? Quien sabe (Who knows).

Happy Sunday!

January 29, 2011

“You might as well give up on the idea of sleep till you’ve finished the book.”

Since returning to school 2.5 weeks ago I have been frustrated by my students a bit. They didn't come back from three week of vacation with a positive, rested, ready-to-learn attitude and instead seem to be complaining more and more each day. Things got a little better this past week, so maybe we all just needed time to get back into the swing of things...

However, a part of my annoyance might have been the tiny, not-so-insignificant fact that I have been reading the Stieg Larsson series non-stop! After coming home yesterday after school and spending four straight hours reading I finished all three books, and yes, they are definitely as good as everyone says. I have been reading them at night, at lunch, on the way to school, on the way home from school...basically I have been living and breathing the life of Lisbeth Salander for two straight weeks. I cannot recommend these books highly enough to anyone who enjoys mystery, suspense, drama, or just well written novels.

I have included the summaries from Amazon for your reading enjoyment! Just be warned that the minute you start reading these books you will NOT be able to put them down until you finish the series! Also, a piece of advice: the first book takes awhile to get into. Once you are hooked there is no turning back, but you probably need to read to at least page 100 of the first book to get to that point. So don't give up too early!

Currently getting ready to watch the movie (The Swedish version...they are also making an American version) from the first book! Can't wait! Happy reading!

Amazon Review:
Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there's no turning back. This debut thriller--the first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson--is a serious page-turner. Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.

Amazon Review:
Stieg Larsson's seething heroine, Lisbeth Salander, once again finds herself paired with journalist Mikael Blomkvist on the trail of a sinister criminal enterprise. Only this time, Lisbeth must return to the darkness of her own past (more specifically, an event coldly known as "All the Evil") if she is to stay one step ahead--and alive. The Girl Who Played with Fire is a break-out-in-a-cold-sweat thriller that crackles with stunning twists and dismisses any talk of a sophomore slump. Fans of Larsson's prior work will find even more to love here, and readers who do not find their hearts racing within the first five pages may want to confirm they still have a pulse. Expect healthy doses of murder, betrayal, and deceit, as well as enough espresso drinks to fuel downtown Seattle for months.

Amazon Review:
As the finale to Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is not content to merely match the adrenaline-charged pace that made international bestsellers out of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire. Instead, it roars with an explosive storyline that blows the doors off the series and announces that the very best has been saved for last. A familiar evil lies in wait for Lisbeth Salander, but this time, she must do more than confront the miscreants of her past; she must destroy them. Much to her chagrin, survival requires her to place a great deal of faith in journalist Mikael Blomkvist and trust his judgment when the stakes are highest. To reveal more of the plot would be criminal, as Larsson's mastery of the unexpected is why millions have fallen hard for his work. But rest assured that the odds are again stacked, the challenges personal, and the action fraught with neck-snapping revelations in this snarling conclusion to a thrilling triad. This closing chapter to The Girl's pursuit of justice is guaranteed to leave readers both satisfied and saddened once the final page has been turned.

January 22, 2011

CHIVA (Or the time we went on a party bus through Cali)

This Friday we celebrated my friend Beatriz's birthday in true Colombian party style, with a chiva! A chiva is a bus without a roof and sides that only extend about 4 feet up. Seats ring around the perimeter of the chiva bus, leaving the middle open as a dance floor. The idea is that the bus drives around the city, playing music, while you hang out with all of your friends throughout the city. I have seen hundreds of chivas since arriving in Colombia, but this was my first time participating!

We left from our neighborhood around 10 pm, water bottles of drinks in hand, and drove around the city for about two hours before ending the night at a bar. Despite the typically maniac drivers in Cali, the chiva drove super slow, which was nice because you could really see things as we drove past. Basically we just danced on the bus to a ridiculous combination of reggaeton, salsa and Beatriz's homemade "Miami 1999" CD while intermittently being interrupted by the on-board DJ and the microphone he should not have been allowed to use.

In summary - we totally loved the chiva and the subsequent dancing at a bar afterwards! Definitely a good birthday celebration :)

Tara, Beatriz and Kelsi outside the chiva.

Kelsi and I on board!

Let the dancing begin!

January 17, 2011

Bring It On 2011

I am not really that into New Years Resolutions. In fact, I haven't really made them in a long time because it seems like they are just ideas that get tossed aside by Valentine's Day. Instead of New Years Resolutions I typically make a list sometime around my birthday of all the things I am going to accomplish at that age. However, I didn't do that this year either... Oops.

Anyway, this January I have been reading all these fabulous posts from other bloggers with great ideas for what they are going to do in 2011. I still didn't feel like actually taking the time to think about my goals or intentions for this year. Then I read this. No, these aren't specifically goals or intentions for 2011, but they are awesome ideas and a number of them are things I would put on some sort of resolutions list of my own.

So, without further ado, here is the complete list of 30 Tips for an Extraordinary Life from the Stratejoy blog with the five things that I am going to focus on in 2011 in bold.

  1. Practice radical acceptance towards yourself and others.
  2. Stop trying to control everything.
  3. Laugh. A lot.
  4. Balance your input (reading, watching, learning) with your output (creating, giving, leading).
  5. Take amazing care of your body: eat clean, floss, practice yoga, don’t smoke, breathe deeply, be mindful of alcohol, visit the doctor, eat less, move more, sleep 8 hours, get massages, and learn to listen to your inner signals.
  6. Celebrate your successes. Celebrate others’ successes.
  7. Embrace your strengths and stop worrying so much about your weaknesses.
  8. Tell the truth. Even at work. Especially with those you love. Most importantly, with yourself.
  9. Set boundaries with your time, energy and money. Respect them.
  10. Be colorful.
  11. Create meaningful connections and nurture the heck out of them.
  12. Save a chunk of your money and give away another chunk. Use the rest on things, adventures, treats, and necessities that truly please you. Be a conscious consumer.
  13. Stop freakin’ comparing yourself to others.
  14. Speak up, sing loudly, and raise your voice if something needs saying.
  15. Don’t be afraid to love with abandon. Love is a renewable resource and yes, your heart is resilient.
  16. Go outside and play.
  17. Ignore the haters. It’s your life, your legacy, your choice.
  18. Explore your spirituality. Connect with something larger than yourself.
  19. Share your story.
  20. Get clear on your top 8 values. Honor them daily.
  21. Find your balance of deliberate action and spontaneous fun.
  22. Challenge the status quo.
  23. Be a hero to someone.
  24. Practice kindness.
  25. Stop taking yourself so seriously.
  26. Take your dreams very seriously.
  27. Act with personal integrity and be quick to admit mistakes. Clean up your own messes.
  28. Cultivate mindfulness.
  29. Seek and spread inspiration.
  30. Fall in love with yourself a little more each day: treat yourself kindly, protect your passions, allow yourself space to grow, believe in your gifts, tend your gardens. Fierce love, baby, fierce love.

Basically, I chose these five because (#1) I am a judger AKA I judge way more frequently than I enter a situation with an open mind. More often than not this probably closes me off to really cool people, situations and experiences. Then, (#2) I am a control freak. Somewhere between being the oldest of four kids, teaching for a living and just being my mother's daughter I like it when things are under my control. As a result I stink at delegating and generally prefer to do things on my own cause I know other people won't do them the same way I will. In 2011 I need to just get over it and go with the flow. (#12) It's not like I have no money, but I am certainly not raking in the big bucks as a teacher and in 2011 I will need to start to adapt to saving more money and not spending on the little things. Eventually I plan to transition back to living in the U.S. and things will cost a bit more than they do in Colombian Pesos so I better adjust sooner rather than later.

As for (#15) love without abandon? I don't do it. Period. I mean, I think it's fine when other people fall in love and get married and want to have babies and live happily ever after, but right now that kind of terrifies me. Terrifies me a lot. I feel like I have all of my own stuff to handle without some guy getting in the way of that. Relationships are inevitably messy and if I cannot figure out what I want how am I supposed to factor what someone else wants into the equation? Also, whether it is living in Colombia where disloyalty is pretty common in relationships or a still very distinct memory of ridiculous college boys, I don't always think the best of men's intentions. In 2011 I need to approach this idea of love or dating or whatever with an open heart...and an open mind.

My life list is written and posted on this blog, but how much progress am I making with it from day-to-day? Sometimes it feels like none. 2011 is my year to live out some of these (#26) dreams by doing whatever I can to make them happen. This is the year I will go visit wine country in Argentina. This is the year I will hold side crow pose in yoga. This is the year I will scrapbook all my picture from studying abroad in Spain during the summer of 2007. This is the year I will get a tattoo. This is the year I will meet Joe Mauer. (Hey - it's going to happen...don't kill my dreams :))

So in summary? It's going to be a fabulous year...stay tuned loves :)

January 16, 2011

Family in Colombia: Part Two

Back in Cali we spent time relaxing, resting and enjoying time in our (my) own place after staying in hotels and eating out in Cartagena. Dad and brother both really liked my apartment, although they probably wish I had bigger beds, but overall I think they were comfortable here.

Sunday night Joe and I made a long trip to the grocery store for food and home essentials since I hadn't been living in my apartment for three weeks! We found some delicious food, Joe got to experience grocery shopping in a foreign country and we headed home to make dinner. That night we relaxed and watch some Big Bang Theory. I brought back three seasons on DVD after Christmas and we all enjoyed watching the show, even my dad who doesn't typically like a lot of TV!

Monday we played tourist in the very un-touristy city of Cali and took a walk through the neighborhoods of San Antonio and El Penon. Of course we made a stop at El Gato, the famous at statue along the river in the center of Cali. Finally we headed to Pizza 1969 to meet up with some friends and drink delicious beer from the Tres Cordilleras micro-brewery in Medellin. Joe and dad got to meet my friends Tara, Angie, Caleb and Hana as we re-united after Christmas break.

Dad outside the Church of San Antonio.

Joe and I at El Gato.

On Tuesday the boys laid low at my apartment while I went to school for a teacher's only curriculum day. I think they enjoyed the time to relax, use my WI-FI (Dad), and catch up on Gossip Girl (yes Joe, the secret is out). That night we went present shopping for my mom and found her a gorgeous skirt with hand-painted flowers, then met up with Tara and Hana at Mister Wings for happy hour. I think my family was discovering quickly that teachers go to happy hour a lot. :)

2-for-1 Margaritas at Mister Wings

Wednesday morning I got them both out of bed and on the way to school by 6:15 AM, which they were not exactly loving, but they were excited to see my school. As with all new visitors, they were in awe at the gorgeous campus where I work and I enjoyed taking them around on a tour. Sometimes it is easy to take for granted this open-air, beautifully groomed place where I teach everyday and having them there reminded me just how awesome it is. They also met a few sections of my students which I think both parties enjoyed. My dad commented on how middle school students express the same traits regardless of where they live in the world, which I think it is a cool observation when you think about what a big place the world really is. Also, I think meeting my family helped my students view me more as a "real person" and not just their math teacher.

Dad and I outside my classroom.

Swinging for the fences as they overlook the baseball field!

Wednesday afternoon I sent them to the airport for the journey back to Minnesota! We had an awesome trip Joe & Dad - love you guys!!

January 15, 2011

Family in Colombia: Part One

After a year and a half in Colombia the fam finally came to visit!! ...well part of them anyway. Six family members abroad at one time might have been a bit much to handle, so my dad and oldest brother, Joe decided to come this January. Neither one of them have traveled outside of North America, so not much international travel experience, let alone travel to Colombia. Joe speaks some Spanish, based on what he remembers from high school, and my dad speaks none.

Needless to say, I did a lot of prep work for their trip and tried my best to explain the various steps along the way for their arrival. Thankfully, they arrived safe and sound in Cartagena, Colombia after a long day of travel from Minnesota. We spent four awesome days in the old city of Cartagena and then three more days in my home city of Cali. They were able to experience a lot of Colombian culture as well as get a taste of what my life is like here in Cali on a daily basis.

I loved being able to share everything about this awesome country with them and I think they both left with a better idea of why I have chosen to live and work here for an extended period of time. Even Joe said when he was leaving that he thought I made a good decision to take the job in Colombia! I couldn't agree more :)

Here is how we spent our time:

Day One - Joe's first trip to the Caribbean! We found a small, not-too-busy section of public beach for a mid-morning dip to ward off the heat of Cartagena.

There are vendors everyone trying to sell you things in Cartagena....to the point where it gets kind of annoying after some time in the city. These two men in particular really wanted my dad to buy a hat - he did end up buying a Panama style hat eventually, but not this day.

Church of St. Peter Claver, patron saint of a church in St. Paul where my dad and I sometimes go for mass when I am home.

The boys checking things out.

Joe in the Plaza de San Pedro Claver

A classic photo of Joe with a statue of a naked lady reclined by Colombian artist Fernando Botero.

My dad loving the toothpick that he found all by himself after I told him I couldn't remember the word for toothpick but forbid him from trying to ask for it at the bar in English. He was pretty proud. :)

Watching the sunset over the Caribbean.

Finishing off Day One with some Pizza en el Parque, where you order the pizza at a window and then they bring it to you in the park...propped up on a stool. Delicious!
Starting out Day Two with some caffeine at Juan Valdez.

Castillo de San Felipe - one of the grandest Spanish forts built in Spain's original colonies and home to a giant Colombian flag.

Family pic with the Colombian flag.

Street dancers at sunset in one of Cartagena's many plazas.

Starting out Day Three with the brother on Playa Blanca AKA White Beach full of turquoise waters and fine white sand!

One crazy boat ride and lots of waiting around later we were ready for some Coco Loco's - rum filled coconuts :)

Joe swimming away!

The perfect pit-stop on a trip back to Cali - Bogota Beer Company in the Bogota airport!

...chronicles of our time back in Cali to come shortly!

Cartagena: Photo Favorites with Friends

While my main purpose for traveling to Cartagena was to meet my dad and brother there, I did have two days between New Years in Bogota and their arrival. Thankfully, since I hate traveling alone, some friends from school also planned to be in the city during those days.

We spent time strolling the streets of Cartagena and taking a mud bath with strangers, but we also spent a lot of time taking pictures. My friend Sam is well-known for always being behind the camera and she takes crazy fun, creative and goofy pictures. She even brought props for picture taking! I also love taking pictures and everyone we were with humored us enough to be part of the experience. The result is a series of photos that still have me laughing and remembering a fun vacation!

Lounging around by the pool at our hostel, Casa Relax, with Sam and Rob.

Poolside lounging wth Rob and Mike...I apparently couldn't be bothered to lift my head up for this photo.

Blending in with the artwork with Mandi.

Awkward math teachers picture - Rob teaches 7th grade math and I teach 8th.

Jump shot in the plaza just outside the main door to the walled city.

With the "Reclining Woman" statue by famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero in Plaza de Santo Domingo.

Rob on the walls of the old city.

Loving Cartagena!

Jump shot!

Sangria at sunset at Cafe del Mar.

Everyone is ready for sunset drinks!

Enjoying the sunset over the Caribbean.

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