11 September 2014

Moments on MUNI

(In case you missed it, I moved to San Francisco almost two weeks ago.)

So I use the MUNI train/metro/cable car system to get around here. (Still don't know what to call it.) 

I get on a couple blocks from my house and ride through various neighborhoods right to the heart of downtown each day to get to work. It’s about a half hour, which is not bad at all.

(Unless you get trapped in the underground section for 20 minutes when there’s some type of something stuck on the track that you don’t know what it is because the conductor’s voice is always muffled [unless it’s the guy this morning who wouldn’t stop talking the whole trip, telling you MUNI loves you and he also loves you]. THEN you hate your life and your mild claustrophobia threatens to give you a mini panic attack. But yeah, it’s usually a half hour.)

Being that it’s a conglomeration of all walks of life (minus the super rich, of course), you see all sorts of things. Yesterday there were two dudes who wanted everyone to know about their crazy weekends and their drunk vomiting escapades. There’s the crazy man who yells at the wall. There’s the troubled woman who yells into the air for not getting on the packed train with her stroller. There’s the adorable Asian baby sleeping on his father’s lap.

I get glimpses of the most lovely streets and parks and colors and architecture. Each house has a unique personality. Many of them are beautiful and all I want to do is stare at each one until I’ve figured it out. I will come to know them all with time.

When I’m lucky and the weather’s good, I get to see the fog slowly lift from where I begin in my neighborhood of perpetual fog to the land of suits and ties.

Yes, it’s exhausting to stand in a packed car at the end of a long day. Yes, it’s depressing to leave the sunlight and get enveloped in foggy gray when I go home. Yes, I’ve been trapped right next to an extremely affectionate lady couple. Yes, I made the mistake of sitting by a homeless man and realized in subtle horror as he kept scratching his head and I worried about getting fleas.

But I’ve missed the study of the human condition that public transportation provides. And everyone was right, people are actually surprisingly nice here.

I’m sure there will be days that I loathe my commute. But for now it provides me with a fascinating peek into the lives of my fellow San Franciscans—along with the added bonus of uninterrupted reading time. And I get to feel like a champion when I sprint for two blocks as the train is pulling past me and barely make it on.

So far me and MUNI are getting along just fine.

03 June 2014

A Small Ode To Provo: The Newsroom

So I was going to do a whole series dedicated to my near decade in Provo. But, you know, life is busy. So I leave you with one simple essay of one place that changed me. I wrote this right before I moved a month ago.

My first few weeks working at the paper were stressful. I had just quit my full-time job at a place I’d worked at for three years. Suddenly I was surrounded by so many strangers. And these strangers were loud. There was so much movement, so much commotion. There was a TV right by my desk that vacillated among the news stations. It always seemed like the broadcasters were yelling at me. People milled about and I struggled to focus. And I had no idea how to edit a newspaper.

But then I adjusted. And I fell completely in love with the newsroom. I loved the quick pace of the work there. The high pressure. The tight deadlines. The complete lack of privacy.

Without question the people there were the best part. These loud, opinionated, honest people became some of my closest friends (some of whom would leave me sticky notes when I wasn’t there simply to tell me they missed me). I began to see myself in them.

In the newsroom you have to speak up or you will get drowned out. You have to yell across the room to get someone’s attention. You have to back up your opinion. If you don’t have an opinion, you truly have no place in the newsroom. I wasn’t a loud person before I worked in the newsroom. I wasn’t prone to raise my voice. Well, that is certainly no longer the case.

For myriad reasons, grad school was (and still is) a time when I felt stretched to my limit in every way. The newsroom was my haven. It’s where I would go when I needed a social outlet after a long stretch of solitary studying. It’s where I went to complain about boys (obviously). It’s where I went to feel completely loved and accepted. Because there I was completely loved and accepted.

As I became more comfortable with my newsroom family, I found that I also became more comfortable with myself. I came to know myself in a new way. I became a truer version of myself.

I had an exit interview with my boss a couple weeks ago. He expressed his gratitude to me for my time at the newsroom. I tried to express just how dear the newsroom is to me, but I started to get emotional so, obviously to stave of tears in front of my boss, I stumbled through some lame response.

Working in the newsroom was easily one of the best things that has happened in my life. I will never forget my time there and the beautiful people who changed me.

Newsroom forever.

08 May 2014

My New Beginning

I went for a run today. My back was sore from sitting all day and I felt like exploring. So I went.

There was this moment of freedom as I ran. I felt alive and perfectly content. The weather was perfect. Endorphins were exploding in my body. I was in the company of several cyclists and several dogs getting walked. It was that moment when I felt like I had come home here.

I didn't realize just how out of place I felt in Provo. I've only lived in Salt Lake for five days, but it already feels like more of a home than Provo ever was. Yes, I know I'm in my honeymoon phase with Salt Lake and I'll come to a place of better reality with things here. But I feel at home here.

So here's to my new beginning. Another one. And only one in the string of many, I am sure. But so far I love my Salt Lake life.

The only thing that would make my life complete here would be a dog.

11 March 2014

‘Everybody Take a Ride on the Peace Train’

Recently I’ve started an internship in Salt Lake, which has been perfectly lovely, but that’s another story for another day. As part of this internship, I commute from Provo to Salt Lake. Rather than drive and get road rage every day, I take the train.

When I was on my mission there was a train I would ride to get into Lisbon. At one point it goes over their version of the Golden Gate Bridge (Ponto 25 de Abril) across the river (Rio Tejo). On one end you could see all of Lisbon unfold before you, cruise ships chilling in the river, the red tile roof standing out against the grimy, old buildings. On the other side was this magnificent, green cliff. Though I loved seeing Lisbon, that cliff was my favorite view of the whole train ride. I would look for it both ways.

I love the train.

Riding the train is peaceful and perfectly pleasant. Yes, it makes for a longer day. But it’s fine by me. I catch the 6:50 a.m. train and that gives me my most productive time of the day to work on my ominous thesis. It’s quiet (unless there’s a random dude sitting across from me playing back football highlights on his phone sans headphones) and I get to sit by a window and work.

 (I’ve recently discovered how important sitting by windows is to me. I will get as close as possible to a window whenever I need to be productive. As in, I moved away from one of my coworkers on the train just now and sat somewhere right by the window. A bit rude? Perhaps. Healthy for my soul? Absolutely.)

The ride home I work and hope the Internet will cooperate with me. It’s a craps shoot every time.
But without fail riding the train feels like breathing a sigh of relief. The mountains stand ever majestic. The clouds toy with them. The lake glistens in the rising and setting of the sun. I listen to music and bask in the beauty that surrounds me. 

And I am healed. Every time.

26 November 2013

I'm Taking Back My Life

There. I said it.

I don't know when it happened, but somewhere along the way I handed over the reigns to my life. It was slow; it was subtle. But it happened. The last several months have provided a lot of reflection on my life, where it's going, what I'm doing, and where and who I want to be. It's been thrilling, heart-wrenching, beautiful, frustrating, exhausting, terrifying. I'm still figuring things out. But I realized something: somewhere in the past years, and I can't even name the number, I turned into something I didn't want to be. I lost my zest.

So for the past few weeks I've looked to get back my zest. It's meant that I've had to learn to let go of who I was so that I can become what I need to be. Here's what I've done.

1. I've slowed down.

I've stopped over-scheduling myself. I've taken a lot of down time and allowed myself to have time to simply just be. It's been fantastic.

2. I've simplified.

This goes alone with slowing down. I've removed anything superfluous from my life. That has meant removing any project, person, or commitment that has caused me unneeded stress. This has been the hardest part of taking back my life. Letting things and people go is never easy for me, but it has also been probably one of the most beneficial things I've done.

And that doesn't mean that I've nixed anything I don't like. I've only pared down to the essential things that I need.

3. I've prioritized.

I've taken months to reflect on what my priorities really are and whether or not my life is currently organized in such a way that supports those priorities. This has meant that I've had to change how I allot my time. Prioritizing has made it easier for me to simplify my life and to turn down attractive offers that I otherwise would have taken were it not for these priorities being firm in my mind.

4. I've returned to the things that I love.

A few weeks ago I realized that I've become kind of boring. I'd stopped doing many of the things that I loved and that gave me a zest for life. So I've returned to some of the things I love. I've been much more involved in music, trying to become somewhat proficient at the guitar. I've returned to reading for pleasure. I've kept the people around me that lift me up and make me feel loved. I've also pared down on the amount of media I consume daily. All of these things have made me much happier and I feel like I am becoming a more interesting person. I like myself more.

5. I've taken time to reflect.

I've taken much more time to myself in the past month to just think, reflect, and be by myself. It has given me the time I've needed to make peace with some things and to improve my relationship with myself and with God. It's been vital for me to just have time to be alone with my thoughts.

6. I've allowed myself time to not have a plan.

So often I've tried to force myself into a path and to have a specific plan. I had a pretty specific plan about a month ago. But as I've been transitioning into a new person, I've realized that, along with needing to let go with who I used to be, I also need to let go of what I used to want and what my plans used to be. Giving myself this freedom has helped open up the myriad options that are now available for me. I think this has been one of the best things that I could have done at this point in my life. If I can find what I really want at this point in my life, it will make things so much easier and less painful in the future.

I'm still figuring things out. I'm still working on being a proactive participant in my life rather than a passive observer. But I'm trying and I'm much happier than I have been in a while.

10 July 2013

Belize So Far

First, you should know that my sunburn is amazingly better. Essential oils work miracles, people. Use them.

That said, last weekend we went up to Caye Caulker. It's an island off the coast of Belize. They have a series of keys (cayes) there. There were beaches and places to swim, but they weren't in the same place unfortunately. However, we didn't really have much beach time anyway. 

Saturday most of us went on a snorkeling tour. I felt like I was in Finding Nemo. It was fantastic. I saw manatees kiss and nuzzle (probably the most adorable thing I've ever seen); swam with schools of fish and was amazed at their ability to move as one entity; was about one foot away from five-foot-long sharks who were being fed by our guide (maybe I yelped when I got too close and it freaked me out a bit....); and became buddies with a sea turtle I lovingly named Marvin (seriously, he was adorable). Oh and we got to swim through the reef too. It made me really want to go to the Great Barrier Reef. It was an incredible experience.

The weekend before last, we were able to go to Guatemala and visit Tikal, one of the ancient Mayan cities (also where they filmed some of Star Wars, COOL). It was incredible. We also went zip-lining. Though I'd never been zip-lining before, I was pretty sure it was a more sketchy experience than what I would have experienced in the US.

Things back in San Ignacio have been going well. I've been teaching ESL to three women at one of the local nonprofit organizations we've been helping with. These women are so eager to learn and come ready and prepared for class. Were that all students had the same attitude, including me. I also helped to put on a community movie night last week. We partnered with another volunteer organization and the city center to put it on. We started too punctually, which was a bit frustrating for me after such careful planning and instructing everyone to start the movie a half hour late. Oh well, they learned for themselves and will start the next movie late. (Yes, everything here in Belize runs about a half hour to an hour late. It takes some adjusting.)

I think one of the things that has been the best for me here has been the opportunity to go out with Hermana Reyes, one of the missionaries here. It was fun to do missionary work in that way again. It was also crazy the contrast between being a missionary here and being a missionary in Portugal. People are actually nice to the missionaries here. Mind blowing. They smile and wave at the missionaries. They listen politely. They let you into their homes. The investigators they are working with are actually progressing and want to know if the gospel is true. It was so interesting to see. Hermana Reyes was also so lovely to work with. I wish that I could maintain my cool like she does. She was a great example for me.

In all Belize has proven to be both difficult and beneficial at once. I've made some really good friends here, but mostly it has shown me just how happy I am in my regular life doing my everyday thing. It's been a good time to take space and reflect on what is the most important for me. I feel like I have come to better understand where I want my life to go. I feel like I've also come closer to my Savior through the things I've gone through here. And I wouldn't trade that for the world.

No photos for now. They take WAY too long to upload here. The Internet is super spotty as it is. Check Facebook for some photos that have been posted. 

25 June 2013

Back in the Belize Groove

Today was the first day of working here that I felt I actually helped people and that I, Laura, was needed.

Last week I discovered there was a need for English classes at a local nonprofit organization we do a lot with. So I did a lot of research for both ESL and literacy classes in the past few days. And today I taught my first English class.

And I loved it.

Like a lot.

I forgot how much I love teaching language. I feel like I'm completely in my element. I had three amazing students. All Spanish-speaking women who only know the most basic English. They were so eager to learn and ready for anything I would teach them. I had them write down five things they wanted to accomplish or learn in this class and they wrote things down like, "Learn the alphabet," "How to greet someone," and "Pay for things at the store."

Today we went over numbers (they rocked it), introductions and leave takings, and the alphabet. Yes, we straight-up sang the ABC song. They already knew the song, which was helpful. And we practiced spelling and numbers for a bit. They were so happy to be there and we set it up to get together twice a week. One of the women, who had been hesitant to commit to twice a week, said at the end of class that she was going to talk to her husband and tell him she needed to come twice a week. It touched my heart to see how earnest they were in learning. I felt like I had really helped them and that I was needed there. I'm so pumped for classes next week.

Then after a game of cribbage with our Scottish friend, Dave, I ran into the sister missionaries. They flagged me down and asked if I could go out teaching with them right then. (I had told them in previous weeks that I wanted to help them whenever they needed me.) I noticed that one of the hermanas was missing and put it together why they needed me. That sister had fallen down last week and chipped of two of her teeth, so she went to El Salvador to get her teeth fixed. (Apparently Belize is the worst country in Central America for medical care. Here's to hoping I stay healthy!)

So I got to go out with Hermana Reyes for a few hours. We went over to the sister city of Santa Elena to teach a family. We picked up their bikes partway there.

Let me tell you about these bikes: They were super old beach cruisers, heavy as all get out, and had super cracked seats. The sister who went to El Salvador is about 5' tall, so she had lowered the seat to fit her. So imagine me, a 5'7" girl sitting on a bike set for a 5' tall girl. Oh and I was in a skirt. I looked ridiculous. My knees were up in my elbows and my stomach and almost to my face. Not really, but it felt like it.

We rode our bikes up the pothole-ridden, no sidewalks containing, street to get to their house. Thankfully we walked the bikes up the hills.

And then we taught Elston and Diana. Diana is a member of the Church, but hasn't been going in a long time and her boyfriend/almost husband is investigating the Church. It was SOOO much fun to teach again and to get a feel for the culture down here. It really brought me back to Portugal. So many things were the same. The fact that people would go off on tangents for a long time and you had to pull them back, everything starts so late and takes so long. It was just delightful. I didn't feel the stress of time because I wasn't in charge! I just got to teach and listen and learn. It was wonderful.

I really felt like I helped people and made a difference. It was a very welcome change. Hopefully it continues.