Saturday, August 23, 2008

Back to the Grind

The past two weeks back on the farm have been a great change of pace from fast-paced life in DC. Getting up with the sun, eating meals entirely from the garden, physical labor, running into wildlife, it has been both enjoyable and relaxing, exactly what I need before I dive into another semester. It is interesting how there are always multiple projects to be makes me wonder if they will ever end. Anyway, to all siblings out there (especially the three who are far away) remember how awesome the farm is and come visit as soon as you can! It has been so long since I have seen ya'll here at home.

Trying to salvage the concrete for use as a parking slab.

I am up for any excuse to get up on the roof.

Running the powerline out to the barn.

Digging a trench for the powerline...the machine weighed at least a ton, it was hard to maneuver.

Pretty view of the valley.

I like how extreme the contrast is between the parched spots and the rest of the field.

One of my least favorite jobs—moving handlines out of the wheat field.

Fortunately there are not so many mainlines to move.

Mom and I were pretty proud of our scrabble game since we used all the letters but the "z", which ended up being responsible for her losing to me.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

One Last Hurrah

Well, NYC did not end up being my last excursion for the summer. My friend JD suggested we visit Palmyra and Niagara Falls before we leave and since he has a car that made the decision quite easy. So we road-tripped to upstate New York on Friday, saw the sites on Saturday and drove back all night arriving in time for church but fun trip. Heidi and Diana also came along, and we had our ipod, so that made the 10 hour drive (including stops) actually quite enjoyable. Friday night we camped at some random county fairgrounds and were the only campers, so we were initially confused as to whether it was the right spot or not. It was 10:30 at night when we finally got there, so we proceeded to set up camp in the dark after finding numbered spots that we figured must have been campsites (we were all cracking up at the thought of locals waking up the next morning to find a random tent pitched on the infield of the horse-racing track until we finally found the designated areas). Everything turned out fine the next morning. We breakfasted at a local diner and it was refreshing to hear that the talk of the day was about air wrenches and engines rather than the political discussion I have been used to these last 3 months.

The Smith family farm and the Sacred Grove were certainly my favorite historical sites. It was awe-inspiring to be standing on holy ground while my mind flashed back to the first vision, Moroni's first visit to Joseph and the instances when Joseph was busy translating. To think of all that has come about in the world because of the events at those little sites is amazing. The Hill Cumorah visitor's center was fun, but Hill Cumorah did not really do it for me. Mostly because the hill is covered by modern towers used for the pageant, it just had a less historic feel to it. We also visited the Grandin Print Shop where the first Book of Mormon was published and had a nice tour there.

Then it was off to Niagara Falls which was amazing in its own right. As you approach it looks like a building nearby is on fire, but then you realize that it is not smoke you see, rather it is the mist that rises so high above the falls. Since we were so close we took the opportunity to grace Canada with our presence and Heidi even took up my offer that I would give anyone a dollar if they would use "ay?" in conversation with a local. She said it felt completely unnatural but I commend her for her usage of local dialect, hehe. And if it was January 2009, JD and I would still be in Canada right now because we did not have our passports on us, but the new regulations for re-entering the US do not have effect until then so we lucked out. Might I add, the guard at the checkpoint into Canada was extremely stern and unpleasant, so I thanked our US guard for her pleasant and helpful attitude toward us as we re-entered the states. After that, we all-nighted it back home and basically ran into a hurricane of a storm that was with us from New York all the way though Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The worst stretches were near the NY-PA boarder where the intensity of rainfall caused us to go 40 mph on the freeway. But we made it home safe and sound, made it to church and I proceeded to take a 7 hour nap this afternoon which actually counted as my previous night's sleep--I love weekends like this.

For all fans of the Office out there.

Palmyra Temple, I like how it is secluded in the woods not far from the Smith family farm.

Palmyra Temple-view from Smith family farm road.

Smith family farm...I felt in my element here.

As close as I could come to recreating the First Vision.

It is nice how the canopy offers shelter, notice that I am a little rained-on, would have been soaked if I had been out in the open.

Smith family residence.

Our small understanding among all 107 translations.

The sign tells it all.

Original floorboards that Joseph walked on when he ordered the publication of the first 5,000 copies.

Even from here the mist was getting me.

All the gang: me, Heidi, Diana, JD

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Start Spreadin' the News...

So I feel like my summer adventures culminated with my recent excursion to New York City. Heidi and I basically decided 24 hours beforehand that we were going to make the trip because her dad had a hotel room that would have otherwise gone unused. Then we recruited Andrew and Lucy about 6 hours before departure and we all hopped a bus at 2 am expecting to sleep on the way there so that we would have all of Saturday to spend in the city. Well, none of us slept more than an hour on the bus, so we rolled into NYC at 5:30 am somewhat wired, but really hoping we would make it through the day. We lucked out though when we decided to try the hotel just in case, and it turned out that they were able to check us in at 6:00 am and we all took a little nap before we hit the town. Saturday was a full day with lots of walking, but it was good because the best way to get to know a city is by foot. We mostly just wanted to experience the city and I think that plan worked out perfectly. We visited the usual places: Ground Zero, Soho, Greenwich, Canal St., Times Square, Central Park, Harlem, etc. Things like Ellis Island would have been fun but would have cut too much into our day. It was the little things we experienced that I enjoyed most about the trip-watching break dancers in Central Park, listening to Jazz musicians in the squares throughout the city, seeing a rat in the Subway, eating at little bagel shops and a pizzeria at 2 am, haggling the street vendors at Canal St. until they realized we weren't gonna buy anything and would kick us out. All the joys of a big city. And of course, Hairspray was amazing plus we had front row tickets so it was that much better. Despite being the filthiest American city I have ever visited, I would have to say that The Big Apple lived up to the hype, it was an awesome trip.

Dawn in NYC

Just off the Bus in Chinatown, for a city that never sleeps the streets were awfully empty at 5:30 in the morning.

Cool picture, though a bear would have been a more accurate reflection of the current market.

Wall St. and Broadway, doesn't get more famous than that.

Bagels in the park for breakfast.

Lady Liberty

Our hotel overlooked Ground Zero.

Times Square, this place seriously felt like being at the center of the world.

Hairspray, after meeting some of the cast.

Couldn't go to NYC without stopping here, though I wanted to eat at Rupert Gee's Hello Deli but it was closed for some reason.

Seinfeld was actually not filmed inside here, they just used the outside shot.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Heavy Dose of Nostalgia

Today my friend Heather got her mission call to Guatemala. It was really fun to she her excitement as she opened her call and read those famous few lines. I am so happy for her, but at the same time, I felt such a strong wave of nostalgia hit me that I was extremely overwhelmed. Then I got on my blog tonight and saw the post Mom did just before I returned home from Brasil-that was like a second dagger to the heart. I was doing better in recent months about not missing my mission, but now its as bad as ever. Let me just say that it was the best experience ever and means everything to me (I can say that since I am not married yet). When I look back at getting my call, it was like getting a call to the celestial kingdom. I had never heard of Salvador, I just knew that I was going to serve the Lord and I was going to a sweet tropical paradise. Up to this point in my life no words mean more to me than these: "You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You have been called to labor in the Brasil Salvador South Mission." Even now, I can barely type them without crying out of joy. I can't remember if we video taped when I opened my call, I don't think we did, and I am sad about that, but we have pictures and I have my memories. As you may recall when I got off the plane and reunited with all the family I was somewhat quiet. Looking back I realize that was because as happy as I was to be home and to see everyone, I was still trying to come to terms with the reality of everything that I had left behind, it meant so much to me. I testify that each mission call is given from the Lord through his servants. I felt it when I read mine, and I felt when Heather read hers today; what an incredible, sacred feeling.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Reflection on Life

This past week had me thinking a lot. I hadn't really stopped to think about how privileged I am to have the experience of spending a summer in DC. Mom reminded me that I am doing things that many people won't ever get to do in their lifetime. It has not all been about fun and games (though I have had my fair share!). I have also been able to have inspiring experiences in our nation's capital. Yes, our government is far from perfect, but I would argue that we do a pretty darn good job for the most part. On monday we had the opportunity to attend a Supreme Court session. It was, indeed, awesome in the "awe" sense of the word. Sitting inside a courtroom that seemed to resemble the temple in both architecture and solemnity, I felt honored to stand in respect for the eight justices as they entered the courtroom (justice Ginsberg was not present). Opinions were quickly read, cases involving patents, discrimination, among others, some lawyers were sworn in as new members of the bar, and the justices exited-all in a matter of no more than 25 minutes. It was pretty fast and I would have liked to see a session with arguments, but it was a great experience nonetheless.

We also had the chance to have Senator Bennett from Utah speak to us about health care and also attend a briefing from a chief-of-staff in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. This is our government working first-hand and I have really enjoyed seeing that myself so far during my stay here. I have also come to learn that politics is not so black and white as I thought. It is about compromise, giving a little to get a little and taking one step at a time. And it really bothers me to hear people disparage politicians, especially the President. I am not happy we are involved in Iraq either, but when I hear people make degrading remarks, I lose respect for them. The men in power are all brilliant people, and it is not easy to make decisions that literally affect hundreds of millions of people and their future. Its really easy to sit back at home and gripe about the state of the country, but I find that few people have an answer or a plan. It has been refreshing to meet people who don't complain, but actually go out and strive to implement change through their actions.

A happy Father's Day to all.

Future Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs?

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Two friends and I (J.D. and Jessie) decided to hit up Annapolis yesterday, or as cool people call it "Naptown". It is a pretty sweet town, mostly because the historicity but also because of the harbor. Our main plan was to go sailing, but there is obviously much more to do and see in the city besides sailing. J.D.'s mom happens to be a walking tour guide, so when she had a break from work, she came and gave us a little walking tour of the town and the Naval Academy. It was awesome mostly because she was dressed up colonial-style and stayed in character for most of the tour. Afterward, we caught the Schooner "Woodwind" and went for a 2-hour sailing trip on the Chesapeake Bay. We first considered manning our own vessel, but in retrospect it was probably a good thing we didn't; sailing is more difficult than I imagined. It was really nice once we got out on the Bay and the breeze gave us a break from the extremely hot and humid conditions of the day.

Our day wouldn't have been complete without seafood, so we took the bridge across the Bay and went to a restaurant for a crab feast. Crab is a lot of work for a little meat, but that's part of the experience of eating crab, and it was really good. On the way home we saw one of the craziest lighting storms I have seen in my life, we even stopped to record some of it. This area has been getting a lot of thunderstorms and tornados lately, I wasn't aware this weather was typical of the area. Definitely loved sailing though. Someday I will need to get my own boat.

Me contemplating life...

Our captain actually trusted us with the boat for few seconds.

Anchors away!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Can't Stop Having Fun

I realize I haven't posted for a while, I guess because I have been busy having fun. Last weekend Mandy, Jessie, Peter and I spent Saturday playing around DC. We went up the Washington Monument early in the morning for some incredible views of the DC metropolitan area. That afternoon we went paddle-boating by the Jefferson memorial and also went to an awesome air show at Andrews Air Force base. I had never been to one before and I didn't really know what to expect, but it was a blast. That evening we went to Baltimore to see the Orioles play and naturally the game was awesome; Camden Yards is classic. It was a fun-filled day and we were all dead tired when we finally got home.

Wednesday evening I wasn't feeling tired so I decided I would go write my paper at the Lincoln memorial late at night. It has become my favorite place for peacefulness and introspection. I noticed there was a lot of tents and lighting equipment when I got there, and as I was making progress on my paper, a bunch of people arrived and informed me I would have to leave the memorial because they were filming Night at the Museum II there that night. I thought that was pretty cool so I hung around the set for a couple of hours and watched them film. It was fun to see Ben Stiller and Amy Adams in action. But as I learned helping William film his short movie, filming mostly involves standing around forever and then getting a few seconds of footage; it was still fun to see the professionals in action though. I love it when random things like that happen to me.

This past Memorial Day weekend, Mandy, Jessie and I rented a car and headed down to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Apparently it is the thing to do among LDS singles in the area every Memorial Day weekend. We rented a beach house along with about 12 other people and just hung out at the beach during the day and partied it up at night. It was my first experience with an east coast beach but I really enjoyed it. It is different from those in California but cool in its own right. It was so hard to come back and start work again today, I just want to vacation the entire summer!

I should be a photographer.

Paddle-boating at Tidal Basin, Jefferson Memorial

Gotta love classic WWII planes...or maybe this was a WWI plane, I don't know

Waverly, VA. We got lost on the way down to NC but it ended up being good b/c we saw the countryside. Isn't our little car cute?

Yeah, we're awesome.

This wasn't our house, but we liked this one and it has the classic beach house look.

As you can see, a big contrast from west coast beaches, at least the ones I know.

I got up early the last day to see my first sunrise over the Atlantic. Once again, mad photography skills.

A few more photos to come...I am waiting to get them from other people.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Fill of Philly

Our group returned tonight from a two-day excursion to Philadelphia. We left early Friday morning and took a bus to Valley Forge where we stayed the night. Unfortunately it was a very cold and rainy day. I being my stubborn self did not take a jacket and only had sandals. Though the weather was inclement, I like to think it allowed me to slightly experience what the soldiers did so many years ago, although it is a misconception that the winter there was particularly cold. In reality, no soldiers died that winter due to cold weather, it was mostly disease that killed them. Then today we left for Philadelphia early in the morning and visited the obvious spots: Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, etc. My favorite part of the day though was actually late afternoon when Heidi, Mandy and I bought some mangos and clementines at the market (they were extremely delicious) went to a park bench to eat them, and then visited a cute, little residential street that holds the claim to be the oldest such street in the nation. Philadelphia obviously boasts a rich history, but there is something unpleasant about it-I certainly prefer D.C.-and one day was about perfect to experience the highlights of the city. I could really get used to this traveling thing!

This was General Washington's headquarters at Valley Forge, the house is original.

(Left to Right) Mandy, Jay, Heidi, Russ

This is the room (mostly original) where the Continental Congress occurred...our Constitution was born here!


Mandy and I having fun in front of Independence Hall

Market Street, Philadelphia, PA

This is the oldest street of its type in the nation, pretty awesome if you ask me.