Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A whole new perspective on junk

There's a secret spot in DC where you will find the most beautiful pieces of junk :) One of my co-workers took everyone in the office to her neighbor's back yard to show us what happens to all the random pieces of scrap metal, broken garden tools and mirrors, discarded furniture, etc. that people put out by the street for the garbage men to take --- they never make it to the actual dump! Instead, her neighbor collects junk and turns it into art in the woods behind his house. It is amazing! Kind of hard to see from the pictures, but the top one is all different shapes and sizes of broken mirrors hung from a tree so that when the sun sets, it makes the most magnificent prisms that bounce off the mirrors and dazzle the trees. The second picture is a giant wind chime made from broken, rusty garden tools, street hole covers, pieces of metal medicine cabinets, kitchen utensils, and anything else you can imagine, all hung from bamboo poles ~ surprisingly, there is an overabundance of natural bamboo growing in DC suburbs. I was absolutely in awe of this guy's artwork. Definitely one of those things that you have to see to get the full affect, so next time anyone comes to visit, remind me to take you to this place!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hey, why not?

The latest craze in DC ~ pizza trucks! Just like an ice-cream truck but better!! It has pizza ovens inside so you just walk up to the window and order your slice of pizza and voila, hot pizza right there! I didn't hear any music like an ice-cream truck, but it could be because it was already stopped....or, maybe the pizza people decided to get rid of the whole creepy music part of food trucks! Ha!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Great Urban Race

Paddle boat challenge at the Tidal Basin - paddle around the designated boat station in the water
Challenge at the National Aquarium ~ find live versions of the famous underwater duo featured in a popular 2003 Pixar film
I've started the first sentence of this entry many times and then erased it and started again simply because I'm still so excited from the race that I don't even know where to begin! Saturday, Sam and I participated in the Great Urban Race. It's based after the reality tv show "The Amazing Race" where teams race around the WORLD solving clues and completing challenges in an effort to be the first to cross the finish line and win a million dollars. GUR is very similar (except for the racing around the world part and the million dollar prize) and teams of 2 are given a clue sheet to solve with places and challenges to complete around DC. It was a 5 hour course and we finished in 4 hours 3 minutes! The only forms of transportation allowed were walking/running and metro, so as you can imagine from looking at the map above, my feet hated me at the end of the day!! It's kind of hard to see but I tried to highlight in pink all the places we had to go to complete challenges. There were 12 clues and we had to complete 11 of them, so our strategy was to solve all the clues first then plot them on a map and make our route. It was a great strategy and a fun race! This was by far one of the, if not THE, most fun things I've done in DC :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Guatemala Stories

My little ragamuffin Sammy
Princess Maria
Happy Birthday Mother Maria!!
The very "fresh" lunch at the monastery
A new little sweetheart, Gabby
Me and my boys :)
Armando was unable to choose which sunglasses he liked better

I just returned from 5 days at the Hogar in Guatemala and it was a very nice break from all the chaos that goes with living in a First World country ~ telephone, email, television, hot water.....well, maybe I missed the hot water part, but the others I really didn't miss at all because I was so busy playing with the kids. My mom, dad, sister, friends of our family, and myself flew down on Friday and came back Tuesday night. We spent Friday playing with the kids, reconnecting with all the familiar ones and meeting 2 new adorable little girls. My neighbor was so kind to buy sunglasses for everyone and oh my goodness those glasses instantly turned the kids into movie stars who HAD to have their picture taken :) We always bring lots of donations (clothes, toys, etc.) for the Hogar and I try to take down something unusual each time. The past couple trips I took Pop Rock candy ~ you know, the little candy crystals that pop in your mouth and make crackling noises. It was a big hit, so I took down 24 packets of them this time and it was hilarious to watch the kids' expressions like they forgot what happens when you eat the candy! The "unusual" items this trip were stress balls made by my sister's class - basically a balloon with rice inside and 2 more balloons wrapped around the outside to keep everything together. I apparently did not do a good job of explaining in Spanish what they were because it soon turned into the kids trying to open each balloon and blow it up with the rice still inside. Yikes! So, we re-confiscated those from all the little curious children. But it was a nice thought and fun for awhile.

Saturday we spent the entire day at the Monastery celebrating Mother Maria's birthday. She is a very very special nun and it was such a joy to be with her on her special day. We ate tilapia from the ponds, rabbit from the rabbit hutches, rice, cheese, and yogurt. It was a "fresh" lunch....the tilapia were being caught still when we arrived :) Flan for dessert! Yummmm! Then we sat on the Monastery patio overlooking Lake Amatitlan, sipping Russian beer from the Russian Ambassador who was in attendance at the party, and watching an active volcano erupt right across the lake. Most of the children were also there, so it was a very relaxing day away from the noisy city.

Sunday we had church of course, then spent the afternoon playing in the park, watching a movie, eating popcorn, and just hanging out. Sundays are free days for the kids and we have the most delicious popcorn ever during the movie! I was heartbroken last time I was at the Hogar because the children were bad and didn't get a movie, which meant no popcorn :( They put a special seasoning on it that tastes sort of like a salty chicken bouillon mixture and is quite delightful!

Monday was Mother's Day in Guatemala ~ not Sunday ~ Monday. In Guatemala, that means anyone who is a mother does not have to go to work, so many of the teachers at the Hogar did not work. So, us missionaries became the teachers! We had the preschool and kindergarten classes. Preschoolers were pretty much content to sit at their desks and color....kindergarteners were NOT so easy to please. Some wanted to do puzzles, some wanted to dance to music, some wanted to read, and the others fought over who got to use the Leap Pad computer. It was clearly a "no teacher" day in that classroom, but I tried my best :) Mom and dad brought special projects to do with the kids ~ sewing aprons for the young girls and making wooden boxes in the carpentry shop for the older ones. Those were fun projects!

Tuesday we left and I made it back home around 11:30pm. Smooth flights for the most part and plenty of time to go through customs and eat a delicious dinner in Atlanta. NO ONE ordered black beans that night :)

I love and miss all the kids already and can't wait to go back in October for my sister's quinceanera!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hiking...more like life or death rock climbing!

The hiking trail
About to climb this rock wall!! The little red dot barely visible almost at the top of the wall is a climber in front of us. This was a serious climb!
A crazy kayaker going over the falls

Sam and I decided to go hiking on Saturday at Great Falls in Maryland. It was a gorgeous day and Sam said he had been hiking here in the past, so we decided to give it a go and head out into the great outdoors. The only problem with our plan was that it was HOT!! I'm talking 87 degrees and humid with no breeze! Good thing we packed water...actually, mine only lasted part way through the hike, so thankfully Sam wasn't all that thirsty :) The scenery was breathtaking and it was a wonderful escape from the city. Literally, it was just us and nature. So nice! No helicopters and planes flying overhead; no sirens and firetrucks; no ringing cell phones and checking emails every 5 was so serene.

But now let me tell you about the other side of this hiking excursion - the rocks. Sam mentioned there were some "fun" rocks to climb over. Guess he forgot to mention the cliffs on the other side of them and the ankle-twisting crevices. Oh, and the rock wall that we had to scale in the middle of the hike. Little different from hiking in the Hocking Hills or through Highbanks Park in Ohio! Haha! And did I already say that it was 87 degrees without a breeze?!?!

But, it was a lot of fun and great exercise. I would love to hike it again when the temperature isn't so hot.