31 August 2012

Boston Market

When the last school year ended one of my students (I'll conceal his identity by calling him Hiroki) gave me a $10 gift certificate to Boston Market. This was a very generous gift, personalized by his recognition of my hometown. Although I have been to many Boston markets, I don't recall having ever been to a Boston Market. Notice the capitalization for a subtle hint as to what I'm getting at.
I thought that $10 was a strange amount for a restaurant gift card, but upon further pontificating I can see two reasons why Hiroki would give me a $10 gift certificate:

  1. He kindly gave all of his teachers one, which could easily add up to $80 or more. He is a very kind student.
  2. He assumes that I would be eating by myself, and that Boston Market would be a nice change of pace from my usual TV dinners-for-one, eaten on a fold out table and salted by human tears.
It seems that Hiroki knows me well. That's not actually true; I don't usually eat dinner alone. But as part of an effort to be more independent, I have been investigating participating in different activities- by myself. I have been to the movies by myself, a museum all by myself, and Thursday last I decided to go to Boston Market by myself. It was lonely; not lonely like a seventy year solitude sentence, but lonely like Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic. My BBQ dinner wasn't bad, but then again I'm the type of person who once put ketchup on green salad. This isn't meant to be a food critique.
The scene at Boston Market that Thursday night was far from uplifting. In fact, my solitary eating was the least depressing event in the whole establishment. There were two elderly people eating separately, but who clearly knew each other. The lady, donned in very old lady gear (shawl over her head, light brown trench coat, umbrella, thick glasses, gloves) got up twice to talk to her male counterpart, then went back to her own seat. I was lucky enough to overhear one of the conversations. It went like this:
"Did you read that thing on your table? It says the salt is at the front counter. They're doing it so we don't put salt on our food. It's part of an effort to reduce sodium intake in America."
And then she sat back down in her seat, three tables away. My guess is that they knew each other from the senior center or something, but that they didn't want to sit together in case that would send the wrong message. Witnessing this whole scene made me think of two more things. Three actually.

  1. I really don't want to be widowed. I want a companion my whole life. I don't want to be alone when I'm old.
  2. I need to be more friendly.
  3. There's was a small bone in my chicken. It was hidden in the barbecue sauce.
I'm working on #1. Not the widowed part, but the companion part. I'm working on #2. I went around and spoke privately with many coworkers, inviting them to live with me in 60 years if we're both alone. Just kidding. But I did go around and speak with many coworkers in private to ask them about their summers in an effort to be a better friend. Some of them were really taken back when I gave them a hug, but seemed okay with it. It's hard to give someone a hug when you've never had a 'hug type' relationship before, but a new school year is a perfect time to experiment.
Thank you Hiroki for this experience, and for indirectly making me a friendlier person.

24 August 2012

Excited for the Future

Dear Family and Friends,
I attended my brother's wedding last week, which was fantastic. His wife is great, as is her family, and the wedding went off without a hitch. It began raining 14 minutes after the outdoor reception ended, which was fortuitious and lucky.  All this talk about the wedding got me thinking about my own future. Here's what I came up with:

I am very, very, very excited about the future. There are so many unanswered questions circling through my head now, and many more to come, all of which delight me. Some examples, with commentary, are presented below.

  1.  Who will I marry? The options are literally endless. New girls are born every day and they all age just like me, making the supply every fruitful. Will I marry a girl from New England? Will I marry a small town girl? A single mother? A celebrity (Julianne Hough, maybe)? A long time friend? A fisherwoman? A Brit? An Aussie? I do not know but I sure am excited to find out!
  2. What will I do for a living? Sure I'm a math teacher now, but that doesn't mean it's what I'll do for my entire life. Or maybe it does? I plan on going back to school in the next few years. Where will I go to school? Boston? The Deep South? An island? What will I study? Secondary education? Statistics? Psychology? British literature? Law school? Business school? I have no idea right now, but I sure am excited to find out!
  3. How many kids will I have? Will I have a big family? A small family? Will I adopt? Will I raise all boys? All girls? Will I have twins? Triplets? What will my kids accomplish? Where will they be in 40 years? I have no idea but I'm stoked to find out!
  4. On a more religious note: What callings will I have? Will I be a ward chorister? A scout leader for 25 years? A temple president? Strictly a home teacher my whole life? Will I serve another mission? Will I live to see the Second Coming? I haven't a clue but I'll be here to find out!
  5. How will the world advance in my lifetime? Will we colonize the moon or mars? Will we have flying cars? Will we detract as humanity? What influence will Lady Gaga and the Kardashians have on the youth of tomorrow? What new inventions will be revealed? There are so many things waiting to happen in this world!
  6. Sorry to sound macabre, but how will I die? Will I die young? Will I die by a drunk driver? Who will I survive? Will I live to be a one hundred years old? Will I die rich? Will I die lonesome? How will my health be in the final years of my life? Will I get cancer? I really don't know, but death doesn't scare me right now and I'm slightly less excited to open this chapter of my life. Even still, it's interesting to think about.
 While I am really excited about my own future, my brother's future as a husband to Mckell is more current. Congratulations Thomas and Mckell!

09 August 2012

Belizean Fishing

The other highlighted day of my Belize trip was the fishing trip we took in San Pedro. Fishing! It was an expedition that none of us had done before (except for Bekah, but we'd have to sneak into North Korea or something to outdo her) and never thought we'd do. But, then there we were in the tour office as the guide knocked off the price because he wouldn't have to imbibe us, and we couldn't pass it up. The five of us had the boat to ourselves, along with the native tour guide who spoke as much English as you'd expect a Belizean fisherman to speak. We couldn't even understand him when he told us his name, and we wouldn't have been able to understand his directions had he offered any. We rode offshore, sipping Cokes and Fantas, then anchored and cast our lines. I was impressed at how much I enjoyed myself out there. Maybe it was the allure of a motorboat and four ladies on a beautiful, sunny, Belizean morning, or maybe it was the live sardines being chopped before my eyes, but whatever it was I was having a ball. To catch the sardine bait our instructor cast a large net into a school of them and then hauled them into a small water tank in the rear of the boat.  All very Biblical and thrilling. I was the first to catch a fish, but it was endangered or something and we had to throw it back. Unhooking a fishing lure from a live fish squirming for life in your hand was not my favorite aspect of the trip, but a necessary one if you don't want to destroy the oceanic wildlife. The second fish I caught was also a throwback; I think because it was too small. Bekah caught the first keeper, a grouper. After that she and I went nutso, catching a few fish apiece. No one else got anything until we started trolling. I always thought trolling would involve small, naked dolls with lots of fluorescent hair, but apparently it's when you hook bait to your line and then drive in the boat. Basically it's fishing on the run. While we were trolling we caught a large 3 foot barracuda off one side of the boat and a 2 foot tuna off the other side. We caught them both at the same time, which resulted in an extremely frantic 4 minutes. Our captain was barking orders spanning the width of the boat, none of which anyone could understand. I was in charge of the tuna, and got it in the boat despite it's wild and ferocious thrashing. Did you know tuna's have teeth? Sharp ones. Captain No-name started yelling at me to stab the fish to put it out of its misery and to end the thrashing; this something I wasn't really prepared to do. I have never killed anything larger than a spider. But, knowing that my life as well as the lives of my shipmates was likely in danger, I grabbed the largest knife I could see, raised it up and struck it right through the fish. A little shocked at the horror I had just witnessed, never mind committed, I fell back stunned at my own violence. Apparently I stabbed it through flubber because it didn't even seem to notice. Only problem was now it was flopping about the boat with a giant knife coming out of it. Turns out the captain was telling to me club the fish, not stab it. That would have been equally disturbing I feel. As all this trauma was going on he was on the other side of the boat helping Karin wrestle a very large barracuda. He was not happy with Karin, something that made us all uncomfortable, and eventually the barracuda broke the line and got away.
For lunch we cooked the groupers and ate them, along with the conchs we found while snorkling. We put them in very chewy tacos. Talk about fresh fish, huh?
In the afternoon we just snorkled with sharks and rays. No biggie compared to wrestling tunas.

07 August 2012

ATM Caves in Belize

As many of you may know, I spent a few days in Belize during the week sandwiched between July and August. While there were many great moments during our eight day trip, one of the highlights would have to be spelunking in the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave. The mouth of this incredible hole was believed to be a the entrance to the Underworld by the Mayans. Just to get to the mouth we had to drive 30 minutes on paved roads, then 45 minutes on a very bumpy, dirty road, which included driving through a creek that my Honda Civic- strong though she be- would have quivered at the sight of. Luckily we were in a Dodge Stratus so we made it just fine (Joke. A Stratus would not have even made it on the paved portion). Once at the 'parking lot', which was just a clearing with a latrine, we went on a Belizean hike for 45 minutes, fording a river three times and avoiding ant highways, and then finally stopped at base camp. We got our headlights there, and left our rice and bean lunches for the howler monkeys to nibble on.
With our headlights on, our feet shod, and clothing on our backs (we were told it to wear respectful clothing. I brought a bowtie but ditched it soon after the descent) we entered the batty cave. The water coming out of the cave was too deep to walk through so we had to swim the first part. Soon thereafter the water thinned and we were able to stand in it.
The ATM cave is over 3 miles long with 7 sunlit openings, and dark as a chalkboard in an abandoned storage unit otherwise. During one river climb we turned off our headlights and followed each other, hand on shoulder. In such circumstances children would weep, adults would tremble, and I would face grope and pick people's noses. Mwuahaha. My goal this trip was to see how many times I could get my travel companions to say "Why invited him anyway?"
At some points in the cave the boulders we were climbing over and through were so tight they made Anne Hathaway's Catwoman costume look like sweats. We had to contort our necks in order to fit our bodies through the crevices. One time we were ascending a boulder pass that went about 15 feet up. Once on the top shelf we were welcomed by a cavernous room filled with stalactites and stalagmites as big as newspaper rolls and as intimately close to one another that Michelangelo may have modeled his Creation of Adam after them. In the midst of the stone pillars were Mayan ruins spotting the ground. The Belizeans don't seem to have a very urgent desire to protect the collectibles (or they are just so plentiful that it would be quite difficult to guard them all) so they just put flourscent pink electrical tape around the larger pots and skeletons so that no one steps on them. The cave stays a pleasant 70F at all times so artifacts are well preserved. We saw three skeletons of sacrificed Mayans, and one skeleton of a sacrificed tourist who dropped his camera on a pot and broke it. His tour guide destroyed him on the spot.
The culminating event in the ATM caves was not a money tree like I was expecting, but rather a fully intact skeleton of a sacrificed human. You could even see individual grooves carved into the poor soul's teeth. The whole cave experience was pretty spectacular and the most interesting expedition we went on the whole week. If you're ever in Belize I would highly recommend it. Unfortunately they did not allow any cameras into the cave after the one tourist dropped his/hers, so I don't have any pictures. If you want visual confirmation of what I'm talking about then you can Google ATM Caves Belize.