Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Surprise Trip - NYC!

I just took one of the craziest trips of my life! Basically, my work has been really slow and for the week September 26-30, I was originally supposed to have 4 days of work, but it got cut back to 1 day, only Friday. Obviously, I was rather disappointed and down in the dumps, considering I am getting really bored and frustrated with living in Gainesville. Well, I decided on a whim to look at plane ticket costs to go to NYC for the weekend. It was my sister's birthday on Saturday and I really just needed to get away from Gainesville. After checking a few airlines and different days, I found a direct flight from Jacksonville for only $270, which is super cheap last minute (the same flight is about $200 booked in advance). After clearing it with my family, I booked it!

It was a really lovely trip. My sister was completely surprised - she had NO idea I was going to come up for her birthday, and since it was so last minute, no time for anyone to give it away to her! We cooked all day for her party that night, which was a huge success. Tons of people came! After that I headed up to Columbia to visit my friend Kal and have a drink. it was o strange being back at the old bars from college not as a student!

Sunday was mostly cleaning and relaxing. I introduced my sister and Nate to Doctor Who, a british sci-fi show I have recently become addicted to.

Monday was a really great day in NYC, and it reminded me of why I love the city so much. I woke up early and went to get breakfast up by Columbia with Nate at my favorite bagel place in the city, Nussbaum and Wu. The guys that work there even remembered me! After being a regular for 4 years, I guess they still recognize me. I then wandered around Columbia's campus. I took some pictures with my new camera, working on focusing and framing. I definitely need some work, but it's fun to mess around with. Also stopped by the Citibank up there and canceled my account. No need for a bank account in NYC when I don't live there! After I finished up around Columbia, I headed down to Madison Square Park to relax in the park for about an hour. Sadly, the lawn wasn't open, but It was nice to just sit and relax in the park. I left around 11:30 to head over to Google, where I met my friend Meghna for lunch! I hadn't seen her in about 4 months, so it was so nice to get to catch up in person! I only wish it could have been longer. Afterwards, I met my sister for some light shopping. I didn't do much, considering I don't have much money! Took a short nap that afternoon, grabbed dinner with Dana and Nate, and then went over to the east side to meet up with a few friends from college: Lili, Megan, and Melissa! Had another small bite to eat, grabbed some frozen yogurt, and just caught up with everything. It was so nice to see my college friends - I've been missing them so much while here in Gainesville!

Sadly, the cheap flight I found had a return on Tuesday, so I couldn't stay longer, even though I don't have work until Friday. I'm just so happy I got to get up there and see some people. I want to see as many people as often as I can before I leave for Honduras. I will for sure be returning to NYC once or twice more before I leave, but it was nice to have a weekend up in the city!

Coming next: Hawaii in 10 days!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Hobby - Ukulele!

In anticipation of Peace Corps, as well as simply because I have wanted to for a while, I have purchased a ukulele! I have been wanting to learn a new instrument for a while. For some time I considered guitar, but I decided that ukulele would be a better beginning instrument for many reasons. One, it's cheaper than a guitar and more affordable for me. Two, it's smaller. That allows me to travel with it easier (i.e. Peace Corps) as well as easier to learn on with my tiny hands. Three, it's just super adorable! I may sound like a stupid little girl, but my uke is seriously adorable. Four, it only has four stings rather than 6 and that makes it easier to start learning.

I got myself a concert ukulele. I decided on that size because it is small enough to travel with easily, but large enough that I don't feel my fingers are overly cramped or that it is too high pitched. I think it's a great size to learn on, though I would love to play around on a soprano or a tenor sometime. Maybe once I actually know how to play... haha!

I now have a lot of respect for people that play string instruments. My left hand fingers seriously HURT. I am working on trying to build those calluses up on my fingers, but until then, ouch! You have to press so hard with your left hand to make the notes sound right, and its a bit painful after playing for a while. Then there is the whole strumming and changing chords. My first day of playing around, I was HORRIBLE. I'm still not great, but I'm getting a bit more comfortable with changing chords and strumming the right rhythm. I've got a few books on the way of songs and techniques to try and teach myself. I'm super excited!

And then there is trying to sing as well. Oh lord. Now THAT is funny with me! I try to sing and my strumming goes all crazy and i speed up and slow down all over the place. Let's just say that's a work in progress.

I have only been playing for a grand total of 10 days, and I haven't played every day of those 10, so I'm not too frustrated. Hopefully by the time I head to Honduras, I'll know lots of little songs on my uke and I can use it for cultural exchange with people in my community! They do say that music is a universal language!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Car Crash

I had a pretty scary day last Monday - I got into a car crash.

I was on my way to the gym after getting off work early, and I was stopped just past a light - there was some traffic or something, I'm not exactly sure what, but when the car in front of me is stopped, I try to do the same. I was stopped for a good 5-10 seconds, and a car came through the light, didn't realize we were stopped, and hit me going somewhere between 35 and 40 mph. The momentum pushed me into the car in front of me, and when it was all done, my car was at least 40 feet away from the car that hit me. As many of you know who read this blog, I don't technically have my own car - I borrow my mom's and my grandma's cars, depending on who needs theirs any given day. That day I had my mom's car, a 2005 Honda Accord.

The important part is that everyone was okay. I was freaking out big time after the crash - I couldn't find my phone, as it flew somewhere in the car when I was hit. My dad works in radio and had just gotten on the air about 5 minutes before the accident, and my mom was in a staff meeting and not answering her phone. Furthermore, I was supposed to pick my mom up in a few hours since I had her car.

It all worked out in the end - I got through to my mom on the man I was hit into's cell phone, eventually found my phone in the car, and my mom got a ride out to the crash from a coworker. She managed to get a message delivered to my dad so that he knew what was going on and to find out where he wanted the car towed to (it wasn't drivable). The man my car was hit into stayed and ended up driving me and my mom home since we had no car. It's wonderful how nice people can be in a time of need.

So the bad news - I got mild whiplash from the accident. I had to take 2 of my 3 days of work off last week because of my stiff neck. With all the driving I do, if my neck is bothering me and I am unable to turn it properly, I am putting the work car in danger as well as myself. I also was only scheduled for one day this week - Friday in Gainesville - because I wasn't sure of my speed of recovery. The person who hit me's car is likely totaled, and we just found out today that my car wasn't totaled, but the repairs are going to be quite high - thank god for insurance! was completely totaled (insurance changed their mind). We should be getting a check shortly for the value of the car and have to go shopping for a new one.

Other than that all is well. I've watched lots of Doctor Who, done some major cleaning of my room, and slept in, a luxury I don't have with work. I am just glad everyone was okay! I drove again for the first time today - neck still a bit stiff when turning it, but I wasn't too bad. May have had a mild panic attack every time a car came up behind me when I was stopped at a light, but that will pass. Just want to heal on up so I can get back to work!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wow, I haven't posted on this blog is a month. Now that I have an invite in hand and nothing to do until closer to my February departure, I have far less to obsess about! Let's see if there are any potentially relevant updates regarding my preparations for Peace Corps...

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that I got myself a new camera! I think one of the most valuable souvenirs that I can bring home from my 2 years of service is memories, and a camera is one of the best ways to record these memories. I finally decided to get a DSLR camera after years of point and shoot cameras that never quite keep their quality. I invested in the Canon Rebel T3 camera - it is one of the newer models that has both camera and video. From what I have seen of other Peace Corps volunteers, lots of events have great opportunities for video, so I wanted that to take advantage. I just have the kit lens, but I am looking to getting a zoom lens as well as a wide angle lens. I especially want a wide angle lens for amazing landscape shots - unfortunately they cost more than I would prefer to spend. Maybe for Christmas/Birthday/Going Away present... I am still working on getting used to and learning all the settings on my camera, but I am confident that I will soon be able to take pictures like a pro! (okay, like a semi-pro)

I have also been working more on my wish list for things I will need for the Peace Corps. I ordered myself a nice North Face rain jacket that I have also been using for work, which has been really useful. Working in Florida outdoors = high chance of rain just about every day. And unless there is lightning, we don't quit working! I'm planning on ordering with Chacos, Tevas, or both soon. I love the Peace Corps discounts! Other things on my list include a light-weight sleeping bag, fast drying travel towel quality cotton socks and underwear. Still working on perfecting it - any suggestions from current volunteers on things I should make sure not to forget or things that are completely unnecessary? I am planning on going mainly by the Peace Corps list, with a few additions that I think I really need

My most exciting news is the trip that I have planned for this October - I am going to be going to HAWAII! One of my best friends from high school lives out there for grad school, and I will be going in October for a week to see her and her fiance. It will be a week of scuba diving, hiking, surfing (well, me attempting to learn to surf), and much, much more. I am sadly going to be in Honduras when she gets married, and it will be during the first 6 months when I will be unable to leave site. I am glad I will at least get to come and have my own celebration with them in Hawaii!

That's about all I can think of. Work is continuing to go well, and I am working on saving up some money - would love to have ome money for potential vacations during my Peace Corps service! Having money when I finish will also help me get resettled, so it's a win-win. Plus there are a few more trips I'd like to make before leaving in February :)

Love to all! To those serving, hope things are going well, to those with invitations, good luck with that anticipation and packing, and to those waiting for invitations, good luck and I am sending good vibes your way!