Life at Random

Reverse Bucket List

Today the Momfessionals blog is hosting a fun topic, talking about “Reverse Bucket Lists” on her “Show and Tell Tuesday.” I think bucket lists are important to have because they make us think about what we want in life and what it might take to get there. But personally I have always clumped bucket lists together with goal setting. Sure, its important to dream and take the time to write down your list, but I think it is so easy to never get past that step if we don’t set goals and think through the actions we need to take to get us there.

Anyway, I love the idea of celebrating and highlighting a reverse bucket list because I do think it is easy to look at other people’s lives (especially on social media) and feel negative toward your own life experiences and accomplishments. I’m all about looking ahead to what’s to come, but I think its important to remind ourselves how far we’ve come too.

As I was writing this, two things stood out to me:

  1. I included some things that weren’t necessarily on my bucket list or a particular goal before they happened, but they are significant parts of my story that I am proud of.
  2. As I browsed around for pictures to use and to help spark ideas for what to include on this post, I was reminded that though everything might not be a “bucket list” caliber item, I’ve lived a pretty awesome, fun and love-filled life so far, and that thought really made my day.

 

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— Going to and graduating from an out of state college —

DLC Photography.

Graduated from Kansas State University in 2013 with a bachelor of science in agricultural communications and journalism, and was recognized as the Outstanding Senior in my department.

— Serving on the National AFA Student Advisory Team in college —

Not sure I would call this a bucket list item, but more of a “I don’t have high hopes, but I don’t have anything to lose by applying” that turned into one of the most important experiences of my life thus far. A year of traveling with these 8 other college students to plan a student conference and learn about agriculture and careers, has shaped me personally and professionally in a way that is beyond measure, and brought so many wonderful people into my life. And more importantly, years later it is a network that continues to push me and support me in so many ways.

— Traveling internationally —

Thailand in 2017.
The Philippines in 2017.
Guatemala in 2015.
Mexico in 2012.

For three of those I have my job to thank. On those trips I got to do some pretty cool things like boat on the Andaman Sea, ride an elephant and hike a volcano! Obviously there are a LOT more places on my list to check off…with Greece and Australia at the top!

— Building a career I love —

I started out my career in the pork industry in Kansas and now I work in the wheat and trade industry just outside of Washington, D.C. On one hand I know that I am extremely lucky for the opportunities that have come my way and the people who have supported me along the way. But on the other hand, I do feel very proud of myself for the hard work I’ve put in to get to where I am only 5 years out of college. I’ve wanted to be a communicator for farmers for as long as I can remember, and that’s exactly what I am doing.

— Moving to Washington, D.C. —


I often tell people the story about how I went from randomly finding out about this open job position on January 9, accepting it on February 9 and starting in on March 9 (all in 2015). And that all included picking up and moving from Manhattan, KS, to Arlington, VA, a place where, once again, I didn’t know anyone, and was WAY different than anywhere I lived before. Looking back, I really do often think, “who the heck does that??” People have asked me whether moving here was a dream or goal of mine, and for the most part, the answer is no. I visited D.C. four times throughout middle school, high school and college, and have always been fascinated by it, but never thought too seriously about moving there. As I finished college, I looked for jobs in Kansas and the PNW (where I grew up.) I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to make another life changing move ever again and I was happy with those two areas. So when I decided that I was ready to move on from my first job, those are the areas I looked again. Yet, less than 12 hours after stumbling across this job posting on Facebook I called my parents to tell them that I had this really strong gut feeling that this was what I needed and wanted to do next.

— Attending an inauguration —

I could (and maybe should) do a post just focused on my “living in Washington, D.C.” bucket list and reverse bucket list.  But once I moved here and knew that I would probably be here at least a few years, attending an inauguration in person was definitely at the top, regardless who ended up as the President. For me, I just just excited to be experiencing a part of U.S. history in person.

— Getting a sister tattoo —


While the other major things on my list above are accomplishments and great experiences, this is more of fun to-do that my sister and I talked about for a long time before we finally decided what we wanted to get and followed through on it. Tattoos aren’t for everyone, but this is extra special because not only it is our last name, but it is written in our mom’s handwriting.

— A few others —

– Keeping up with this blog, even if it has seen some hiatuses 🙂
– Building genuine, lifetime friendships and relationships with my family
– Finding a church community I am comfortable in
– Traveling to all 50 states… I have 35 done (plus Guam) and 15 left to go!
– Buying a DSLR camera
– Visiting NYC
– Watching Independence Day fireworks on the National Mall and at Mt. Vernon
– Taking my sister to Vegas for her 21st birthday
– Learning to crochet
– Becoming a Lifetime Member of the K-State Alumni Association
– Becoming of a AFA Lifetime Alliance Member
– Traveling to watch K-State play in a bowl game (done this twice in 2014 and 2015)
– Rushing the field and the court as a college student
– Attending a game of every major pro team sport (covered football, basketball, baseball and hockey, missing soccer!)
– Too many bucket list concerts to count…and so many to go!

Cheers!

Year in Review

Where It All Begins: 2015, A Year in Review

With the new year approaching, I was struggling to come up with a witty way to review my 2015, like I did at the end of 2014. But then again, that post always makes me laugh, because so much was about to happen and I had NO CLUE. Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about that new year’s celebrated on San Antonio Riverwalk with my friends during our Alamo Bowl trip. I remember being really happy, and though I had told myself two months before that I wasn’t going to look, but was going to be open to new job opportunities, I really did love my life in Kansas. I had no clue that just nine days later I was going to apply for a job in Washington D.C. and that a very short two months later I was going to start all over and move halfway across the country AGAIN to the place I had dreamed about since I was little.

2015 was full of adventure and taking risks. It was a year where I challenged myself and when I really learned about value. How to work toward better valuing my friends and family, criticism and praise, life and opportunity. Many of my values were strengthened and some I chose to question. And I learned to better value myself. In the book “Let’s All Be Brave” by Annie F. Downs that I have (very) slowly been working through there is a line that says, “–that I am who I am on purpose.” That thought really struck me and I’ve carried it with me ever since (literally, as the picture on my phone’s lock screen.). In the blogging world, a lot of people talk about choosing a “focus” word or phrase for the coming year and at the end of 2014, I thought I would join. My Grammy had given me a token that said “Shine From Within,” and I thought about how that sentiment could mean so many different things. I don’t know if I “focused” on that phrase as much as I said I would, but I do believe that I worked toward being my more authentic self. Of course there are always many more miles to go, and maybe I’ll find new definitions for that phrase, but I can say in full confidence, that I like where I am headed in 2016.

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Let’s not skip past 2015 though, because it’s certainly not a year that I ever want to forget.

In 2015, I took a new job and moved to Washington D.C.

On January 9th I heard about a job opening at U.S. Wheat Associates
On February 9th I accepted a job there as a Communications Specialist
On March 9th I was all moved in and had my first day as a “wheatie.”
And by April 9th, I knew I had found someplace special.
The learning curve is still really steep and I might live by “fake it till you make it” forever, but I honestly love my job. I love my office environment, the work, the farmers I work for and feel so lucky to have so many great co-workers. I love the feeling that I’m doing something that benefits others and in an industry that I believe in with every part of me.

I REALLY miss both Kansas and Oregon, but I am confident that this is where I need to be in my life right now.

In 2015, I explored my new home.

Looking back I don’t really remember much in March and April. I think it was all I could do to go to work and learn as much as I could everyday and curl up on the couch when I got home. But I’ve always dreamed of living here and eventually I began explore. I am fascinated by this place. So much history, so many unique people and there is always a dozen or so fun events going on here. I am continuing to slowly work my way through the tourist attractions (saving some for when I have visitors) and searching out some of the lesser known sights. I love visiting Arlington Cemetery, running on the Mall and saying Hi to Lincoln. I crossed off an item off of my bucket list and watched fireworks on the Mall and enjoyed the cherry blossoms in the spring. Anyone who would like to visit, let me know, I am honing my skills as a tour guide 🙂

In 2015, I had so many opportunities to travel.

My job took me back to Kansas, San Diego, Phoenix, Lake Tahoe and on my first big international trip to Guatemala.
I had the chance for a quick trip home and to the cabin over the summer, celebrated my sister’s 21st birthday in Las Vegas, my 25th birthday back in Kansas and witnessed my friend Blaine’s wedding. I spent Friendsgiving in North Carolina and Christmas at home again with my family.

At one point in the summer I went 8 weeks where I never spent more than 8 days in a row in D.C. This is the life friends. There is a lot of ugly that goes on in the world, but I still refuse to believe that it’s not beautiful.

In 2015, I really valued my time with my family and friends.

My grandparents are the true rockstars of the year. They cut their anniversary trip short to fly to Kansas to help me pack and then made the drive East with me. And I don’t know which was more horrible, the weather on the drive or my attitude. I put all of my stress and worry on them and all they did was love me back. I am still incredibly grateful for the help and support.

Even though I moved to the East coast I still got to spend quality time with people that I love and as I mentioned above, shared many celebrations together. I had a few visitors to my new home, including my best friend Richole from Oregon and my college friend Chelsea, who is now a fellow Virginian at Virginia Tech. And most importantly I am starting to build a life here and making new friends

In 2015, I did things that made me happy.

I became a resident of Virginia and began to embrace my new home.
I began a window garden again, and failed, AGAIN.
I continued to do some DIY projects and finished my very first crochet project.
I discovered the BEST semi-annual book sale at the local library and added so many new books to my own library.
I finally got a professional camera and am enjoying learning how to better use it and sharing those images with others.
I really dove into blogging, sharing my love for music, scrapbooking my life and felt so rewarded and motivated by my new “The Road I Traveled” series. And those are all just SOME of the highlights.

There is a lot that I am hopeful for in 2016.
I hope that I continue to grow, build my self confidence and be someone that I can be proud of.
I hope that I keep learning and become a better communicator and agriculturist. I hope to better serve others, both in my career and everyone who deserves the best from me. I hope to continue to have wanderlust and be brave enough to take risks. And most of all I am always hopeful for health and happiness, for myself and those I love.
There are a lot of things that we can be in this life, but I think just being simply happy, is the best there is.

I have lots of goals and adventures to be had, so 2016, I hope you are ready, because I am not slowing down.

And of course, my list of favorite music this year is long, but these four songs are what motivated me and spoke to my heart this year.

Cheers, and Happy New Years!

Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Guatemala In Pictures

My journal entries are all finished, but I thought I would do one last post on Guatemala to share a few more of my pictures from the trip.  I will probably go back through all of my pictures (here and in my other posts) and do some editing, but for now I am just sharing them as they were taken. Enjoy!

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 View my entry for Day 1 and 2 HERE.

 View my entry for Day 3 and 4 HERE.

 View my entry for Day 5 and 6 HERE.

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View from the roof of our resort.
View from the roof of our resort.

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View from our resort.
View from our resort.

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Thought of my dad when I saw all of the hats.
Thought of my dad when I saw all of the hats.
There were panaderias (bakeries) everywhere with beautifully decorated cakes.
There were panaderias (bakeries) everywhere with beautifully decorated cakes.
Antigua
Antigua
Mango with sugar and spices
Mango with sugar and spices
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Antigua
Street food in Antigua
Street food in Antigua
Headed down to roast marshmellows!
Headed down to roast marshmellows!

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This foal followed its mama all the way up the hike and back down.
This foal followed its mama all the way up the hike and back down.

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Volcan de Pacaya
Volcan de Pacaya

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Part of our group at the Volcan de Pacaya
Part of our group at the Volcan de Pacaya

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Driving through Guatemala City.
Driving through Guatemala City.

Salud!

Career/Professional, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Guatemala Day 5 and 6

Hey friends, this is my last written travel journal entry, but I will be back tomorrow for one last post just featuring a “few” more of my pictures.

View my entry for Day 1 and 2 HERE.
View my entry for Day 3 and 4 HERE.

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Day 5: September 2, 2015

On Wednesday, the conference only went until noon and then we had the rest of the day to be tourists. I had planned on going zip lining with a group, but at the last minute opted out because this was going to be my only chance to walk around Antigua and through the markets. I had really been looking forward to zip lining and the videos my co-workers have from it were AMAZING, but I am glad I chose otherwise.

Antigua has a very simple, colonial feel, with lots of colors and textures. My co-workers gave me a hard time because I wanted to take pictures of everything – walls, floors, doors, windows – it was all so beautiful. I included a few of those pictures today, but the rest I will share tomorrow in my picture blog post wrap up. I’ll also mention now that it rained off and on all afternoon. I was the only in my group who didn’t have a good rain jacket. I own a few of those waterproof shell jackets that are popular in college but I figured that would be too heavy for the weather, so I didn’t bring one. Normally I wouldn’t have minded the rain, but I had my camera with me, so out came the poncho. There is a picture, but its on someone else’s phone.

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These little cars were everywhere!

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We started out by getting some street food for a late lunch. I know that sounds a bit sketchy, but one of my co-workers, who is also fluent in Spanish, has spent enough time traveling specifically in Central and South America that we trusted her judgment. I can’t quite describe what it all was, with the exception of the papusas that we recognized from the hotel, but it was all so cute. Our dessert from another stop was mango slices that were covered in sugars and spices. It was a different taste, reminding me of some of the Mexican candy that I grew up around in Eastern Oregon. We also stop in a bakery (which are everywhere) to buy some wafer like cookies to share, as well as some tortillas to take home.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around two different markets. The first was less touristy, with lots of household and general items mixed in. The one thing I noticed all over Antigua that that there were a lot of shoe stores, pharmacies and bakeries. The second market had more of the type of items that we were interested in buying and was settled around the city’s main square. It was so overwhelming, my pictures do not do it justice. I had decided before my trip that it would be hard to do too many gifts for people because I would have to mail them once I was home, so I (selfishly) just focused on a few things I wanted. My main priority was some sort of artwork for my office. Everyone in my office has decorations from all of their international travel and my space kind of sticks out. Everything was so beautiful and SO COLORFUL, which was also difficult because my living room décor is somewhat southwestern with lots of oranges, reds and blues, so everywhere I looked there were things that would fit so well in it. In the end I fell in love with the paintings. Originally I wanted a much bigger and slightly different version of the painting of the women, but even with the help of my co-worker bartering skills, we couldn’t get the guy down on the price, and I settled for two equally as beautiful paintings. The bigger one, which I’ll have to have restretched, will go in my office and the smaller one will probably stay at home.

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A few other highlights:

-At the market I also bought a hand-painted ceramic cross for my wall of crosses at home, a decorated small bottle and a thimble for my mom (her collection is impressive!)
-We went to a store called the “Choco Museo” and got to sample so many different coffees, teas and chocolate. Both coffee and cocoa are two of Guatemala’s top commodities and the store had a small educational room off to the side. I am visiting Kansas for a three-day weekend in October so I got a little bit of everything to share with my friends while I am there. I am so going to stash a bit of the coffee in my freezer to take home at Christmas.
-I really wanted to buy a jade necklace. I have a jade bracelet that I wear everyday that a friend brought back from China for me, but it was just a bit too expensive in Guatemala. Some of the spouses that were on the trip and got to do a lot of tours while we were at the conference were on the lookout for me, but even after taking a quick look myself, the ones that I loved were out of my price range.
-We stopped by the Casa de Ron, which sold the many different rums that Guatemala is also popular for. After someone bought a small bottle they invited us down in the “Rum Cave,” which was basically a really cool lounge down in a stone cellar. No, we didn’t get samples though…
-Except for my one bad experience, the food in Guatemala was amazing. However by the last evening I think we all were a bit ready for some basic comfort food, so one of our state commissions ordered Dominoes pizza for everyone in the hospitality suite. #ohsweetheavens #foreveracollegestudent

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The “Rum Cave”
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Ground cocoa beans

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Day 6: September 3, 2015

This was our travel day home.
Even though my group’s flight was not until 1 pm, they wanted us to head for the airport at 9 am. In my Day 1 post I mentioned that there was a lot of political stuff going on in the country. The presidential election was coming up and at the same time there was a lot of controversy surrounding the sitting President. On night 4 or 5, the sitting President resigned because of accusations of fraud. There were fireworks that night, that sounded more like artillery, and we assumed it was because of the announcement. Anyway, they were still concerned about traffic being really bad (which it was) so we started out early. Once we made it to the airport, we had a lot of time to kill, which would have been fine by me, expect the airport had hardly any AC! I know that sounds a bit petty, but it was very uncomfortable.

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Our travel back to the states went smoothly and mostly uneventful. The connection was in Atlanta, and we were supposed to land back in D.C. at 10:30 pm, but a flight delay didn’t get us home until after midnight. The only exciting thing was that apparently Kate Hudson was with us in the Delta Sky Lounge. When we were leaving a random guy started telling us that he had gotten off of the elevator with her. After he described what she had been wearing, one of my co-workers finally said, “oh yeah, I think I saw that woman…” #areyoulivingunderarock?

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My heart is so full from this adventure. I may not be very well traveled yet, but I feel like I still knew how to appreciate the experience and what I have back at home. One thing is for sure, there is SO MUCH beauty in world, and I am so thankful that I got to explore a new part of it. Again, if you made this far, thanks for reading through my travel journal.

Salud!

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Career/Professional, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Guatemala Day 3 and 4

By now I’m home from Guatemala, the trip just got too busy between work and fun to get my updates up. But I’ll still be sharing, today is Day’s 3 and 4, and next week I’ll do a post for 5 and 6, as well as a recap of pictures.

View my entry for Day 1 and 2 HERE.

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Day 3 – 4: August 31 – September 1, 2015

Contrary to my family teasing me that I was just there to have fun, that certainly wasn’t the case. Day’s 3 and 4 were both full of meetings and presentations. It was a great experience though. With 15 offices around the world, in addition to our two U.S. offices, there are a lot of people that I talk to, email and work on projects with that I had never met in person. I now feel like these people truly are my colleagues, and it was great to get to know them. There is so much that I still need to learn at my job, and this conference gave me an increased sense of purpose and motivation.

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I said this in my previous entry, but the resort was beautiful. It used to be a convent and includes 5 different museums.  There were lots of statues, water features and plants everywhere. There were also lots of birds, including a few different types of parrots that sat out during the day, but I always missed them when I was out with my camera. The staff and service was also great, even though there was usually a language barrier. Between the resort and going out into Antigua for lunches and dinner, I was surprised how many words and phrases in Spanish quickly came back to me from my few years of high school Spanish. The only issue is that now that I am back in the States, I keep responding with “Gracias” and “Si,” out of habit.

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There were statues everywhere! These guys were just outside my room.
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My balcony.
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skeletons from the convent
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Growing up in my family’s flower shop I was just amazed by all of the flowers! These Birds of Paradise were everywhere!
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This is where they hold mass every Sunday and where the wedding I saw on Day 1 was at.
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My room.
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My room.

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We ate breakfast every morning at the hotel and the evening we had a hospitality suite, but our lunches and dinners were on our own. I usually tried to mix up who I went out to seat with and what kind of food I was trying. On Day 3, a really big group went to a restaurant right next door to the resort that looked that it would be really good. The menu was significantly harder to interpret than others had been and the staff didn’t know any English. I ended up ordering something that I thought had beef and green salsa in it, and my boss order the same with red salsa. Almost an hour later we still didn’t have our food and had noticed that other tables of our colleagues had already gotten theirs even though we had ordered first. When we finally got our food mine was in a salty green soup/sauce (not salsa) and the meat was long white strips with a few different weird textures and was very chewy. At first we thought it might be some sort of seafood, and I like to try, new and different things, but this was just too much. Others in our group got food that was meant for other tables or didn’t get anything at all. All things considered, it was the only meal that was a complete fail. Later on that evening I was chatting with one of my colleagues from Mexico City about it and we eventually figured out that my dish had been tripe – beef stomach! I’ve had things like beef tongue and pork brain that I enjoyed before, but the stomach is not one that I plan on getting on purpose ever again.

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A few more highlights:

-The water pressure at the resort was ridiculous, how is it that a country like Guatemala has that more figured out than the United States? #priorities
-My legs hurt SO BAD from the hike. The part of the resort where our meetings were at was a good 5-8 minute walk from my room, including stairs. I got on the treadmill every day for a short jog to try to keep from getting too stiff, but I don’t know how much it helped.
-Our trip was during Guatemala’s wet season, so the rain came in almost every afternoon, but that also meant it was a bit cooler there, probably averaging a high of 80 degrees or so each day. Where the meeting was held was across a large courtyard from the entrance and the restrooms… so while it was raining, there was a huge umbrella that they used to get us across.
-Our rooms did not have AC only a fan and windows. It was nice to be able to leave the balcony doors and windows open, except that there were also mosquitos at night. I haven’t even tried to count how many bites I have on my legs.
-On Day 4 I figured out that you could get up on the roof in one area of the resort, which gave me a wonderful view.
-All over the resort there were basins of water with red rose petals in them. Like every other well-attended detail, each day the gardeners would scoop out any petals that looked even the slightest bit bad and replace them with new ones that they very carefully plucked.

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My view from the treadmill.

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Looking back over part of the resort.
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On the resort’s rooftop. If I remember correctly this is the volcano they call “Fuego,” but I might be mixing it up with another…there are so many!

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Thanks for checking out my travel journal. Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend! I’ll be back next week with my last two entries!

Salud!

Career/Professional, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Guatemala Day 1 and 2

As I sit down to write this I feel overwhelmed. I wish I could just hard wire people to my brain, so you can absorb every exciting thing I am experiencing.

Let me back up a little though…

If you don’t know, I am in Antigua, Guatemala for my job. Aside from two U.S. offices we also have 15 other offices around the world. So every other year we have a World Staff Conference for most of us to meet together. We are also joined by farmers on our board of directors, a few staff members from our state commissions and a few other industry guests.

I have my nice camera with me so many of the ones in this post are either from my phone, or pulled off the camera unedited. When I get home I will do a couple of extra posts that feature the better pictures edited. But I also wanted to utilize my blog as a bit of a travel journal to better capture my experience and of course share with my friends and family. Aside from a family vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, I have never traveled internationally. Not joining a summer or spring break study abroad in college is one of my few legitimate regrets. It is one of many reasons why I took this job, to have another chance to explore and experience more of what’s out there. I also want to throw a disclaimer out there, as a communicator and writer, I am WELL AWARE that there are lot of errors in the post. However, I didn’t have a lot of extra time to go through and edit, though I might later.

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Day 1: August 29, 2015

The first day was mostly spent traveling. Most of us traveling from the headquarters office started out bright and early with a 7 a.m. flight. (Side note: one of our employees and his family who were joining us on the trip were involved in a accident in the taxi they were taking to the airport. Everyone will be ok, but one was hurt pretty bad, so sending some good thoughts and prayers that direction would be much appreciated.) Our connection was through Atlanta and we flew into the capital city, Guatemala City.  This was also my first time flying first-class (insert 13 year old girl scream here)!! Now this isn’t something I should get used to for work, it was just a special treat because we had some points to use, but man that sure is the life.

There was some concern leading up to this trip. Guatemala can  be an unsafe place at times, and is consistently toward the top of the State Departments list of dangerous places. But you know, some of our American cities can be just as unsafe too, so a bit of extra planning and a few talks about general safety (and common sense) and we were good to go.

Coming out the airport we were met by our shuttle driver. It was a little over an hour from the airport to our hotel in Antigua. The country of Guatemala is a week away from its elections, so  propaganda is everywhere! Apparently they are also trying to impeach their sitting president at the same time (I’m a little confused by this so certainly don’t read this as actual news) so there are also a lot of protests going on, making it that much harder to maneuver through traffic. The drive to Antigua was a bit miserable. It’s common for me to get a little dizzy and nauseous in the car on windy roads and that combined with the down hill on straining breaks after a day of travel got to me a little. When I got to the hotel I took a short nap and felt much better.

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Court yard outside my room

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Speaking of the hotel. Oh my goodness, it is beautiful! It is built in an old convent and everywhere you turn there are pieces of history, the entire place is considered to be 5 different museums. That first evening there was a wedding going on that passersby could view from a distance and the entire resort was covered in lit candles. So beautiful.

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The evening was spent relaxing and venturing out to enjoy some dinner.  One of our employees in our Mexico City office chose a place and ordered for the whole table. Mexican/Latin food is by far my favorite kind of food so I was in heaven. Unfortunately I forgot to take any pictures there besides the restaurant sign, but there was a marimba (?) band playing and you could watch the women making the tortillas. I think I ate at least 6…

Day 2: August 30, 2015

Let’s continue to talk about food…
When I vacationed in Cabo with my family a few years back I thought I had had the best meal that I would ever have at one of the Mexican buffets. But no…the buffet here was been better. Pretty sure we’re just going to stop counting how many tortillas I eat this week. And papusas! They are thicker corn patty, much like a dense pancake, that is stuff with I think sausage, chiles and other yummy goodness.

Because we have so many people coming in from around the world, those who got here on Saturday, an extra full day to enjoy. About 30 of us chose to go on a full day hike up the Volcan de Pacaya. This volcano is consistently active, but similar to the volcanos in Hawaii, so it doesn’t “explode” that often, just consistently steams and flows. It was an amazing experience. It took about an hour an a half to drive to where we started the hike. With a little ginger Dramamine, I did much better on this drive. The drive took us through a lot of Guatemala City. We’re told about 2% of the country has most of wealth so there is a lot of poverty. It definitely makes you take a step back for a moment. A couple of things I observed and information from the tour guide:

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– They burn all of their trash and we saw that along the road.
– A lot of parts of the city did not have sidewalks. In a lot of places the homes and businesses are built above what I would call a ditch and so from the road there were a lot of small concrete ramps connected to the upper parts
– We continued to see lots of demonstrations, parades, etc. for the election, the tour guide said there was 12 candidates, including 2 women. This is significant because only 3 countries in Central America have had women presidents, but not Guatemala.
– There were so many little nurseries and beautiful flowers.
– There is so much color everywhere. Buildings, doors, signs and clothes, making even some of the really poverty stricken areas beautiful in their own ways.
– Corn is their main commodity and its grown in every little available patch of ground, even in the city. It was also amusing to hear our people from the PNW, who are using to farming on hilly terrain, to see grain crops grown on such steep grades, much like you would see done in vineyards.
– Other top commodities include coffee beans, bananas, beans, and many other fruits and vegetables.
– Once out of the city the drive up the mountain had insane switchbacks and curves, making mountain driving in Oregon look a bit pathetic.

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Once we made it to the starting point of the hike we were swarmed by little kids selling walking sticks for a dollar. Now I am not a very coordinated person, plus I had my camera around my neck, so I really thought that a stick would just make it worse. PEOPLE, always buy the walking stick. About halfway up I took one from someone who had two, and while I could have made it without it going up, going down it was a lifesaver. The hike was REALLY hard. I’ve gotten back into running lately and was pretty optimistic, but it was really steep and pretty rough, not to mention the altitude. I took comfort in knowing that just about everyone, including those who were pretty fit, found it challenging at some point. Surprisingly I only tripped and fell once, getting a nasty bruise, because saving my camera meant breaking the fall with my leg. There was the option to ride a horse for a small fee, which I thought would be fun, but I really wanted to push myself and do it all on foot. The men with the horses followed us the entire hike and anytime you stopped or looked to be struggling they would yell “taxi?” I was a part of a group bringing up the rear, both because it was easier to go slow and steady, and I stopped a lot for pictures. It was kind of neat though because the guide that stayed with us would stop, with the help of one of our people translated, and share about some of different plants we were seeing.

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There was a lake crater down to the right.
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This is Mark, who was my boss all through college at the IGP Institute at K-State. He helped me prepare for my interview for this job and has been a great friend and mentor.

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The peak to the left is the “Agua” volcano.

The highest point that you are allowed to hike is at 75,000 ft., up to the start of what they call the lava fields. Last year in 2014, was the last time that the volcano had a really big flow/explosion (from what I understood.) The hike took us down into the fields, from where we had peaked and that by far the hardest part because the ash on the ground was very similar to sand (think running on the beach). I think I slipped and land on my behind at least three times.

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Volcan de Pacaya
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The lava fields
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Go K-State! Mark from the IGP Institute is on the left and Aaron from Kansas Wheat is on the right. There are quite a few K-Stater’s here!
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Made it to the top! I was very proud of myself!

Next was my favorite part… we got to roast marshmellows in a small hotspot hole that they found/dug that where you could see a bit of the lava. I know it goes without saying but it was SO HOT. In the picture, where you can see my hand holding the stick, I could only leave it there for a few moments at a time. We then stopped by the “Lava Shop” that sold jewelry and small woven bags, with much of the proceeds going back into education. I bought these three small rings made from the lava rock that came with bags for my mom, my sister and myself (Surprise Mom and Jancz!) The triangle represents the volcano, which Guatemala considers sacred in their culture. I was told that if you are feeling negative energy you wear pointing one way, and if the energy is positive, you wear it the other way. The circles represent the lake crater at the other volcano across the valley in many of my pictures. This is the “Agua” volcano, which is dormant. In 1541 (?) it rained so much that it filled one of the craters, creating a lake.

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One of my co-workers.

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Side note: Has anyone seen the Pixar short film “Lava” that is shown at the beginning of the new “Inside Out”?  Basically, its adorable. A lot of the jewelry had the phrases “I Lava U” and “I Lava It” on them, and apparently they’ve been selling those for about three years, but just this summer since the movie came out, those have become their most popular item.

I couldn’t get it to play for me so I don’t know if this is the whole video or not…

A few more highlights throughout the hike:

– The hardened molten rock, is really sharp, much like coral would be. We didn’t see any active red flows but the rock radiated heat both from the volcano and the sun.
– There were three dogs that followed us the whole hike. It is common to see dogs roaming around at various stages of health. These ones could not have been more than a year or so old, and though they were fairly clean, they were very skinny. Aside from the fact that they were begging, they were very sweet and most of us gave in at some point and shared a bit of our snacks.
– The guys at the Lava Shop told me that they had just celebrated their 1,500 hike, and that they usually opt to walk and not use the horses. One also said “it’s the best commute there, I can drink all the beer I want.” #priorities
– On the drive back to Antigua we stopped at a gas station. I was amused to see that the Coke products had Spanish names and phrases for the “Share a Coke with…” campaign.
– I put on sunscreen everywhere but my neck, and because of both my backpack and camera straps I have large, VERY red triangle covering one side of my neck.

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This sign shows a really good overview of the hike.
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Our whole group.

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Back in Antigua at our resort, we all rested until the evening reception. Like the wedding, our area was all candle lit. I thought it was a bit weird though that the servers were dressed as monks. Afterward, everyone broke into smaller groups for dinner. It’s interesting, because some of the restaurants have armed guards standing outside and some don’t. I shared a great filet mignon with one of my co-workers and since it was someone’s birthday, we had a round of tequila shots (so good!)

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If you aren’t my family or close friends, I applaud you for making it to the end. I expect that this will be the longest entry, but we’ll see! It was a lot to write but I know I will be happy looking back later.

Salud!

So There's That Series

What’s Up Wednesday: August 2015

Oh hey, what’s up? I’m excited to finally jump in on this fun link up! It happens the last Wednesday of every month with the same list of questions and is hosted by The Larson Lingo, Mix & Match Family and Pinterest Told Me To.

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What I’m Eating This Week…
Normally I would not really have anything interesting to share here. I don’t really enjoy cooking, so I usually keep it pretty basic. But I know that I eat better when I plan a little ahead of time and with a busy week ahead I knew that I was not going to want to come home after work each night and put any thought into it. So aside from a few of my easy go-to staples, that I bought or prepared ahead of time I also made these two recipes: Parmesan and Spinach Orzo (I substituted bleu cheese crumbles) and Baked Chicken. I have some pork and other chicken that I am trading off mixing into the orzo (although it would be good by itself,) and the baked chicken I will pair with some steamed veggies and maybe a sweet potato! I have enough for about 6 meals this week, and I am actually pretty proud of myself for how well they turned out!

What I’m Reminiscing About…
Back-to-school memories at K-State. I always LOVED the week before classes started back up. Lot of traditions, moving in to new places, buying new supplies and getting organized, and catching up with friends you haven’t seen all summer before the busy semester starts. Yepp, I officially “Miss Manhattan.” Here are a few of my favorite back-to-school college photos.

What I’m Loving…
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Making my own cold brew coffee. I’m obsessed.

What I’ve Been Up To…
This summer has been REALLY busy. Over the last eight weeks my best friend visited me here in D.C., I had work trips in San Diego and Phoenix, and I took two quick vacations home to Oregon and to Vegas. To be honest, the little bit of downtime on weeknights and weekends that I have had have been pretty laid back.

What I’m Dreading…
Flying on my upcoming trip (see below)? I don’t know, life is pretty good right now, so that would have to be it. I don’t get sick when I fly, but I never feel all that great. And honestly airports and the whole process of flying just pushes all of my buttons. I get it, you just have to practice a bit more patience then a normal day, but people who are rude or have no common sense, nope, the struggle for me is very real. Although packing is right up there with flying…

I promise, I really do love traveling.

What I’m Working On…
That’s a good question. During the day I am a communications specialist for the U.S. Wheat Associates. It’s a busy job, but I love it. I always have multiple projects going on at once, but something that is a bit different than the norm is a set of writing and editing courses that I am taking online through Poytner’s News University. Continuing education is an important part of just about any career!

What I’m Excited About…
Aside from my answers to some of the questions below? (!!!) Considering almost every blogger I follow also has a deep love for fall, I feel a bit cliché saying it, but seriously though, I’m SO EXCITED FOR FALL.

It’s my favorite season with out a doubt. I think a “Good Stuff” list about fall in the near future, not to mention increased time on Pinterest…

What I’m Watching…
friends

My list of shows to eventually binge watch on Netflix is never-ending, but for some reason I kept putting off Friends. I had seen enough random episodes over the years to know some of the references and storylines, and know that I would like it. I finally gave in and now I am wondering why the friends have not been a part of my life sooner than now, other than I might appreciate it the most right now, also being in mid-20s. I just started season 6, so I am on the downhill and I just know that I am never going to want it to end.

graceland
I remember back in 2013, when the original promos for Graceland came out and wanting to pick up, and for whatever reason, didn’t. My sister brought it back to my attention this summer, and I am definitely hooked. I love Aaron Tveit from Les Miserables and his guest spots on Gossip Girl (no shame), but I honestly expected him to be awkward in this somewhat gritty show. And he is at times…but it surprising fits into the story pretty well. Crime/cop shows are my favorite genre, and this one separates itself with an unique angle and has characters that are really easy to become invested in. I definitely recommend it!

BIP
I have no shame. I Facetime with my friend Brandi back in Kansas and it’s the best entertainment.

What I’m Reading…
My reading list is significantly longer than my Netflix list. Throughout college I would buy cheap books here and there for my library, but didn’t get to read very many of them, because, college, duh. #herestoneverhavingtoreadatextbookagain. So essentially I have a ton of unread books on my shelf, yet I have no willpower from buying books that are popular right now and reading them right away. This month I only read one book…
dark places
I read Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, the same author who brought us Gone Girl. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Like Gone Girl it was twisted, with well-crafted scenes and characters, and also very hard to review without giving too much away. I will say that this one was just a tad bit predictable before I would have liked (still a good shock though) and I felt like after so much detail, the ending was kind of misplaced and hasty. On the other hand, this book makes you think A LOT, which I particularly like. Definitely recommend it!

What I’m Listening To…
I recently started up a new version of my Friday Jam Sessions, sharing each Friday what I have been listening to throughout the week. Check it out HERE.

Friday Jam Session

What I’m Wearing…
I don’t really consider myself that fashionable, but I like to look nice. I also don’t usually take mirror pictures… so maybe next time, maybe. But I am looking forward to a change in wardrobe with the upcoming change of season, especially so I can wear my new scarf! All of fall and winter, I really wanted a blanket scarf but couldn’t make up my mind on wanted. This year I told myself that I was going to make a decision and stick to it. This is what is on its way in the mail right now…
scarf

What I’m Doing This Weekend…
I’m going to Guatemala!!
I will be spending six day in Antigua, Guatemala at a World Staff Conference for my job. In addition to our East and West Coast U.S. offices, we also have 15 Foreign Offices around the world, so every other year this conference happens. Yes, a lot of my time will be spent in meetings at the resort, but I will still get to enjoy quite a few things. We have a day-long hike up the Pacaya volcano and weather permitting, I am going to be going zip lining! This is my first big international trip aside from a vacation in Mexico so I am extremely excited! I will be taking my camera, so be prepared for lots of pictures!

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month…
K-STATE FOOTBALL!!!!!
I’ve said many times that my perfect last day on earth includes a K-State Gameday and I know that I am going to be incredibly homesick for Kansas this fall. But I am very excited to join some of the watch parties here in D.C. and meet some new friends here that also bleed purple.

KSU-FOOTBALL-TEAM
Source.

This Month’s Bonus Question: What’s Your Favorite Back to School Tradition…

 So I definitely wrote the above answers before I read what the bonus question was. Oh well. We didn’t really have an consistent traditions growing up and I already mentioned that the week before school started at K-State was always my favorite. I will say my favorite thing at the end of the first week of school was sitting down with all of my syllabi and extra curricular schedules and organizing it all in my planner. I even had erasable colored pencils… #nerdalert

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Well, that’s what’s up this Wednesday!
Cheers!