Monday, July 27, 2009

Every summer deserves a beach trip

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this entry will be nearly a novel, because I had a hard time narrowing down the photos to my very favorites.

This past week we headed out to the North Carolina Outer Banks to enjoy a few days with our friends the Prouses. They had rented a beach house at Kill Devil Hills for the week, and Aline's Brazilian family came in last minute from Pennsylvania and Florida to join the party.

We stayed at a beach house called the "Relax Inn", which was supposed to sleep 9 warm bodies, but we pulled a record with 22! With a few air mattresses and lots of love, we were able to manage quite nicely. There was a foosball table in the garage area, and what true Brazilians wouldn't get feisty over a round of soccer, even if the game was played with a bunch of plastic figurines?

Growing up in Hawaii, it's difficult not to be a beach snob, but I've learned that there's all kinds of "beautiful". The beach that runs along Kill Devil Hills is more of the rough sand, colder water, pounding waves type, but being at the oceanside was idyllic regardless of the set up. Our beach day was a little overcast, but for me it just meant more time exposed before I was burned.

Photos, photos, photos... The photo above is of our friends Dwight and Aline, who moved to Chapel Hill last year from Pennsylvania. Our "Brazil radar" picked them out fairly quickly, and we discovered that not only did we have Brazil in common (Aline is from Rio de Janeiro and Dwight served a mission in Rio), but we really enjoyed each other's company too! Bonus!

Aline's dad Alvenir with all of the grandkiddos. We took a lot of family photos because it was their first complete family reunion in a number of years. We were sort of borrowed family members, but it was so much fun to see the kids all getting to know each other again, the adults staying up late on the patio laughing and catching up, and the Brazilian feast being made the first night we were there.

One of the interesting things about Kill Devil Hills is that the Wright Brother's visitors center and Monument are directly off of the main drag. Above is a model of the glider the brothers first made (with the monument in the background), and below is the rock that marks the place from where the Wright Brothers took off on their trial flights. There was a lot to learn from the Wright Brothers; tanacity, creativity, resourcefulness... They took painstaking notes and detailed calculations, and only after a lot of trial and error did they build a useable flying machine.

Hattaras Lighthouse! We had a chance to climb up to the top and look out over the Outer Banks. Aline and Dwight's little girl Bella wasn't quite tall enough to make the cut for going up, but the keeper let her up anyway.

On the way back to the beach house from Hattaras, we pulled over and two vans full of us spilled out onto the dunes. It was a spontaneous break from the drive, and it was one of the highlights of the trip, with all of the peacefullness and the dunes and the ocean.

Dwight, Bella, Aline and Joshua.

The end.

While the paint dries...

I have a few moments while the paint dries from my recent project, and I thought I'd sit down and write a little update. I have been more MIA than usual these past few weeks, and it has caused me to think about my relationship with this blog, and have a little DTR (define the relationship) session. I think that when I was overly busy, I needed an outlet for my thoughts, creativity and life in a way that I don't require as much now. I'm okay with that though. After experiencing some writer's crisis at the time when I first started blogging, I had to come to terms with the fact that if I pressured myself to keep up with the blog even when I didn't feel inspired to write, it would lose its capacity to serve me and my friends and family in a informal, informational, fun, therapeutic way.

Hence, my absence.

So, what is going on? Fun, and friends, projects and I'm keeping up the job search despite the fact that it is becoming increasingly discouraging. Sometimes I have to remind myself how blessed I am that I have a spouse with an income and that I graduated with a (relatively) small amount of debt. Some days I have no energy whatsover to browse the limited number of jobs in the area, and some days I'm determined. And then comes the realization that despite how many jobs I apply for, the entire thing is somewhat out of my control. I mean, what can I do? Apply for the same job multiple times with increasingly better cover letters?

I already tried that. It doesn't work.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In case you're wondering

My friend Lauren tagged me a while back with this post, and today I decided to give it a try. I don't know how interesting this will be for you, but I was surprised by how fun (and challenging) it was for me to fill out. I know the point of being tagged is to tag others and pass it on, but really? You're welcome to use the questions if you'd like, otherwise, no pressure.

What is your current obsession?

DIY ("Do it yourself") home projects, using money wisely, making an effort to stop eating when I'm full, accuracy in telling stories, nice dishes and linens, and flossing and brushing my teeth.

What's for dinner?
Tonight we were running low on creativity and high on feelings of imminent starvation: Rice, and a stir fry of our pathetic selection of on-hand fresh veggies.

What's the last thing you bought?
A 23" LCD computer monitor WD-40 triple sow-cow ACDC double scoop. Or something like that. There were a lot of highly impressive numbers involved.

What are you listening to right now?
The crickets outside.

What is your favorite ice-cream flavor?
Usually something with texture and chocolate, like Moosetracks, but my real eternal love on extravagant days is Haagen Daz vanilla swiss almond.

What do you think of the person who tagged you?
Lauren is just... solid. Solid in her faith, in her loyalty to her friends, and solid in keeping calm and carrying on.

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?
Sorocaba, Brazil, or maybe Kailua, Hawaii, to give to our parents. That would really be something. Because we're still young and transient, Marcos jokes that he wonders if Obama's $8,000 stimulus for first-time home buyers would go towards a Goodyear Blimp, because that's about how much I want to be tied down to one place...

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
Probably Chiba-ken, Japan. There is a family there I would like to visit. Or maybe Hilo, Hawaii to play gin rummy with my grandpa. He has days when he's not doing well.

Which language do you want to learn?
Probably Portuguese, the world's prettiest language (and for the record, I felt that way before I married a Brazilian). I can fake it fairly well now, but I'd love to be more fluent, specifically to the point where I can formulate a sentence quick enough to add to a group conversation.

What's your favorite quote (for now)?
Well... I just started making this new funny little scary laugh when I'm wrestling with Marcos, and every time it happens I stop and say, "My favorite laugh of the week!", so that might be my recent favorite quote even though I'm the one who says it. Don't judge.

What is your favorite store to shop at?
The Salvation Army thrift store on Hillsborough St. in Durham. I kid you not, that place is magical. You walk in and just wish for something, and you turn around and there it is. More often than not, the magical item is priced at 29 cents.

What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe?
I like the shirt I just made at my sewing class, simply because I made it. Otherwise, no personal attachments.

What is your dream job?
Conducting a large orchestra. Teaching parenting in group settings. Writing for Lonely Planet or some other travel book. Training refugees for job readiness in America. Something like that...

If you could go anywhere on a long vacation, where would you go?
Spain. I sometimes forget about this dream, but I've always wanted to live in Spain for about six months at some point in my life solely to learn how to play flamenco guitar and learn to dance the Paso Doble (anyone seen "Strictly Ballroom"? Anyone?).

If you had $100 now, what would you spend it on?
I would either save it to spend on a train ticket (we're heading to Europe in September), or use it towards the IKEA bed I've been loving for months.

Who is one historical figure you would love to meet?
I'm at a loss here (I asked Marcos and he answered "Madonna?". Hm.). But someone I would really enjoy talking to is Auguste Rodin ("Ro-dan"). He created the mold for the statue called "Le Penseur" ("The Thinker"), and I love the style of his sculpture. He just has it going with human figures...

What are you going to do after this?
Go to bed. Pray. Snuggle.

What are your favorite movies?
The Bourne movies, The Holiday, the Oceans movies, Ratatouille, Sliding Doors, Cinderella Man, The Devil Wears Prada, The Count of Monte Cristo, Dan in Real Life.

What's your favorite fruit?
Mangoes are always a winner, and other tropicals like passion fruit and lychee. I dig watermelon too, but especially if it is prepared with a melon baller. That really sells me on melons.

Are you a home body or do you prefer to be out?
No preference either way. In any case, I am astonished at how social we are. More often than not we are with friends in the evenings, although usually our activities are pretty chill.

Polka Dots or checks?

What are 3 jobs you've had in your life?
Working as a precinct official at the local voting center when I was very young, Family Support Specialist in Durham, and I was once paid to paint faces at a kid's birthday party.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Midnight Viewings

I try to choose my addictions well.

Which is why it was more than ten years after the Harry Potter books came out that I gave them a whirl. As the world around me spun into disarray and sleepless nights, I decided that I would wait until I had a significant amount of time to dedicate to reading before I got into the world of Wizardry.

The summer after Marcos and I got hitched was the perfect timing. We knew that we would soon be moving to North Carolina, so we were only loosely employed and had a lot of time to spend together. In the evenings, we listened to all seven books narrated by Jim Dale, which was 116 hours of pure bliss, made more blissful by the fact that we multi-tasked and accomplished a number of mindless projects while we were entertained. Because of Marcos' summer-long bout of mono before his sophomore year in high school, he had spent months reading Harry Potter, and knew the books inside and out. How could I dislike a series of books that endeared my husband to reading as a teenager, and expanded his vocabulary in the English language? Even if he does think the real name of the tree is "Womping Willow".

And all this to say, "...which is how we ended up here".

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, sneak preview at midnight-o-five this past Tuesday night. We went with our new friends Ertle and Krista, and I see that I didn't take any pictures of us. We didn't look half as interesting as some of the others waiting in line.

We all liked the movie. I really am the worst to ask because I couldn't remember any of the details of the book anyway, but the others who have functioning memories loved it. I was disappointed by the lack of closure at the end, but Marcos reminded me that the book ends somewhat abruptly too. Apparently book seven is being made into two movies, so hopefully all of the excitement will be played out really well in the near future. As far as the acting goes though, we were so impressed. We are still not sure that the Dumbledore in the movie quite does the book version justice, but he's the only one who is questionable.

So, we highly recommend seeing it if you have the chance! The movie ended at 2:37am, and I wanted to sit through another hour or two, it was so good.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


When we moved to Chapel Hill just short of two years ago (!) we brought very little with us. Marcos went to his German class one day that first semester, and the students were learning the vocabulary "Ich habe..." (I have...). The exercise was to go through a list of items, and converse in German about the things people owned. When he came home, he laughingly reported that we had about one thing on the entire list. No car. No I-pod. No bike. No furniture. (At that time) no job. Pretty much, no-thing.

That first year or so we received a lot of rides, dinner invitations, and we adopted pieces of furniture from generous new friends. We felt so grateful for the community that gathered around us, most immediately from our church, and then as we came to know more people, from the university and our work places.

Now it's a few years later and although we are far from wealthy, we have a running car, furniture to sit on, and Marcos has a job. These past few weeks we've had the chance to give rides to the airport, pick up stranded friends in Durham, answer calls for last-minute babysitting, and we are happy that people feel comfortable calling on us. We say yes if we're willing, and no if we're busy or unable. No money is exchanged for service, and there is an understanding in our community that whoever can does, and whoever can't will later.

I like to imagine that there is a great universal pool of generosity, and at different chapters of our lives, we give and we take as needed. Most of what Marcos and I received years ago (and continue to receive) in generosity and favors did not come from the same people we give to now, and I am okay with that. Won't the universal tab be settled by the kindness that is perpetuated by the people we serve, in the same way that we try to perpetuate the kindness that has been shown to us?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains

It was starting to become beyond ridiculous. Two years living in North Carolina, and never a drive to the Blue Ridge Mountains, which run down the western border of the state. I always thought it was very cool that where we ended up settling for this chapter of our life journey was in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which like Hawaii, sits between a drive one direction to the mountains and the other direction to the ocean. So how it is that we had gone so long without taking advantage of those mountains, I shall never understand.

But now we can sleep well at night. Last week we drove with Drew, Alicia and their baby Korven to the Blue Ridge Mountains for an overnight camping trip. For work reasons it was only a one-nighter, but considering our hellish sleeping set-up with thin sheets on cold, rock-hard ground (we failed to bring sleeping bags), one night was plenty long enough.

Our first stop was to Linville Caverns. The tour cost $7, and in my opinion was well worth the price because of the interesting facts and lamp-lit, dry path. The entire area is called the Linville area (there is also a Linville Falls, and a Linville Gorge, etc.), and the caverns were discovered a few hundred years ago by fisherman following trout that were venturing into a hole in the side of the mountain. The caverns basically follow the path of the underground river, and a heavy rope 250 feet long was once dropped down to measure the distance to the bottom and never hit it. The temperature in the caves is 52 degrees F year round, and the water is much colder!

The nook behind us in the above picture is called the Colonial Fireplace, because during the Civil War, deserters hid in the caves and used the space for their fires. The smoke made it's way out through very small pores in the rock, and the men were undiscovered until the locals started to wonder why the mountain was smoking...

With the help of a local man at a gas station, we were able to avoid the $30 a tent campsites, and find a very secluded, free option just down the road from the back entrance to Linville Falls. Because we had to gather the firewood and had nothing but a lighter to start us off, we were very proud of the blaze we created. Below is the view from Wiseman's Lookout, which was also very close to our campsite.

You'd think that I'd be able to narrow down the photo selection a bit more, but no, I can't. As dusk came on, the color of the mountains became more blue, and those blue layers just got me smitten...

Dinner: hotdogs and the works, and s'mores. You can see how Marcos made his dog more "gourmet" with all of those slits.

And then it was our turn for kiddo duty. Marcos reads to Korven...

At sunset the guys went over to Wiseman's Lookout.

Day two: In the morning, we cooked sausage links we had brought, and ate them with Hawaiian sweet bread roles. Considering we had no access to water or electricity, we ate really well. I love this next picture of Marcos...

Linville Falls! After eating breakfast, packing up the campsite and making bagel sandwiches for lunch, we drove a few minutes back down the road to the falls trailhead. The falls were really fun. After growing up in Hawaii, I've noticed that waterfalls and beaches in other places have a very high standard to live up to... And those tall mature trees towering over us in the last frame were gorgeous, and reminded me of trail hikes in Oregon, one of my other favorite states.

The ride home was so gorgeous. We rode along the Blue Ridge Parkway for about a half hour, and pulled over at every lookout so that I could find the perfect view with the blue layered mountains. What do you think of the photo below? Are you sold yet?

Our last stop: about half way home we stopped at a random little town, found their public park, and Marcos pulled a fast one on our cold watermelon and cracked it into two pieces on the side of a brick wall. We had no knife, but that was the last thing on our minds as we dug into our melon bowls and cold watermelon juice ran down our chins.

What a great trip! Thanks Drew and Alicia for inviting us, and thanks Drew for the planning and preparations. It was a perfect few days and we're already excited for our next adventure!