Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Yet another "new" blog...

Hey everyone! I am embarrassed to see that it's been 8 months since my last blog entry and I sincerely apologize for not keeping everyone up to date. You would think that with all the changes in my life I would be clamoring for the chance to write about it and share it with the world. But, I have found that the simple pleasures of my every day life were somewhat harder to publish than the adventures of foreign countries and cultures. And, to be honest, I was spending all of my downtime with Dave (which wasn't as abundant as I would have liked!) and so it was harder to find time to blog.

Enough with the excuses...fact is I am going to try and get back on the blogging bandwagon. BUT, as I am now a Clay, Dave and I have started a joint blog. I don't have very high expectations for Dave blogging...we had already fought when I tried to get him to blog the wedding photos and he complained that he wasn't a writer. But if only in spirit, it will be a blog from both of us.

So, the new blog is daveandkristine.blogspot.com and hopefully more adventures will soon follow.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reflections on...Easter and a chocolate park

I know this is coming a few days late...such is the busy life of a graduate student in the middle of wedding plans!! Late is all I got right now!

This is the ADORABLE Easter Bunny basket that Kathy made me--purple of course! Dave and all the gang have the same bunny with different fabrics and have used the same Easter basket since they were kids. It was touching that, while I'm not officially part of the Clay clan yet, I now have one of the family baskets!! What a great tradition! and it's purple!!

I went down to the lake house to watch General Conference the week before Easter and did what I could to help Kathy make the bunnies (just barely helpful since she'd already cut them out nad started sewing). Dave was at drill but came back in the afternoon and we got to see one session together but I watched the rest with Kathy (both Marc and Dave left Sunday for different trips) and Nicki came down but just for a little while on Sunday. It was a nice break from studying and WOW what a wonderful weekend of doctrinal lessons! And, what a surprise to see a member of my ward called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles!! I don't know Elder Anderson too closely and his kids were not my age but it's still cool.

I really loved hearing the prophets and apostles talk and I just felt so uplifted with each successive message. Not only is the gospel true but it keeps making me happier and happier as time goes on! And, of course, this is the best Conference because it helps set the stage for Easter and the celebration of our Savior's resurrection. Beyond the hype of bunnies and chicks and pastel Easter eggs, the true meaning of Easter is a rebirth of our spirits and our bodies made possible through the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for the knowledge of that gift and for the reminders of it every Easter season.

The sad part about Easter...Dave was in Virginia :( The plan was pretty basic...miss Dave, talk to him on the phone, miss him some more, drive down to see all his family and miss seeing him with them, play games, maybe watch a movie and miss having Dave to cuddle up to...then go back to school and miss him for a whole entire week before getting him back to Syracuse.

But, the plan changed! Dave found out he would only have to work a half day on Friday and I didn't have classes because of Good Friday, and so last minute we decided to meet each other halfway in Hershey Pennsylvania. I drove 4 1/2 hours down, he got a rental car and drove 4 hours up, and we met in the middle of dairy farm land and rolling hills. I was so excited to see him I could hardly keep my head on and ended up accidentally leaving my laptop behind at the oil change place!! So dumb of me!! But, luckily they were honest and reliable and kept it behind the counter for me until I came back on Monday morning to pick it up.

But, the weekend was a perfect chance to see each other and get some tourist time in too.

Saturday morning we started our journey through the gigantic maze of Hershey Park and Chocolate World. Yes there is such a thing...and oh what a wonderful place it is. Chocolate World!!

This is Dave about to enter the Chocolate World Tour. There were TONS of people all jammed inside because it was still raining in the morning when we got to the park...and because there were simply a lot of people there this weekend. The park had opened just for the weekend and won't be open again until the end of May for the start of the Summer season.

While we had both envisioned a tour to mean some kind of glimpse inside the actual Hershey factories, it actually ended up being a Disney-inspired "tunnel o chocolate" ride through a fake factory churning out fake candybars, complete with animated dancing milk cows touting the secret of Hershey's success, and I quote: "It's the milk chocolate...oo oo oo...It's the milk chocolate."

I refused to pay the $15 they were charging for your picture in one of the thrill ride cars, so I snuck a picture of the picture. Not too shabby for clandestine photography.

Given that it was windy and kind of cold outside but that I had only packed a wool coat that would be really bothersome on the amusement park rides, we went through the gift shop in search of a non-tacky sweatshirt/track jacket. Here I am in my recent acquisition!

In the background is the sign saying "Welcome to Hershey" and a gigantically long building...we guessed it was where they hid all the oompa loompas from the tourists.

Entering the other half of the gigantic complex--Hershey Park.

Supposedly searching the right souvenir for our new tradition of getting a coin and/or pin from all the places we visit together, Dave managed to try on some bling. Not only did he voluntary don the fake bling but insisted I take his picture. No comment.

We had a great time exploring the park, working hard to try and win a bear from one of the carni games and finally getting one with our combined efforts and a roll of quarters at Skee ball. Time went by super fast and already it was time for us to part ways again. I drove Sunday morning just in time to get back to Church and Dave headed South to report back to his unit.

His family was generous in inviting me down again to the lake house and, after I gave a talk in Sacrament about covenants and sacrifice, taught a Sunday School lesson on spiritual gifts, and took care of the dog I was dog-sitting, I was free to drive down. We had a great time eating the chocolate-covered pretzles I brought back from Chocolate World as we played board games and finished off the amazing ham dinner that Kathy had prepared. We watched Yes Man and I really did miss my cuddle buddy but with the amazing freedoms of modern technology, I was able to text him a few times to keep me company while I watched.

Now I'm heading into the final weeks of the semester, the escalating stages of wedding planning, and happily the warmer days of the new Spring weather. My mom has been getting in lots of driving time and man hours to plan the wedding reception, book a photographer, scout out decorations, and everything else that goes into a wedding and I'm so thrilled that things are coming together. She has already been an incredible help even being all the way across the country! I finally figured out official travel days and booked my airfare today and think I found the dress I'm going to wear... Sometimes it's really crazy to think that I'm actually getting married and in less than 3 months from now! But, after suffering through these two hectic weeks without Dave by my side, I realize how much I enjoy having his input and influence in my life. Marriage may be one of the biggest challenges to human sanity and the most singular commitment I'll ever make in my life, but I've never been happier knowing that I'll be growing and learning alongside my sweetheart for all eternity. Thanks everyone (and MOM especially) for all your help in making this celebration come together.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reflections on...fish, forts, and the Star-Spangled Banner

This weekend Dave and I took some time off from wedding planning and work to hang out in Baltimore. I was at the end of Spring Break and he was at the end of his rope having worked two weeks straight through. So, looking for somewhere warmer than Syracuse (which really meant anywhere South). After we got off work on Friday, we jumped in Priscilla (Dave's Empreza) and jetted down the freeway to Maryland. We had a great time watching the snowy landscape disappear while watching Spy Game on the in-dash DVD player. After some long detours and delays we made it into Baltimore very late and crashed, ready for the next day full of adventures.

First stop: Inner Harbor. Sadly for us, it wasn't as warm as we had hoped. The forecast had put both weekend days in the low 50's but with the onset of rain and low clouds it was very humid and still chilly. Not desperately, bitterly cold like Syracuse, but chilly.

Complete with touristy shops and restaurants, this section of town was recommended as one of the most interesting. Here Dave is educating me on the different types of devices to keep boats from drifting away. This is called a "cleet".

A beautiful lighthouse that once guided colonial ships into Baltimore's busy commercial port is now surrounded by a growing skyscraper skyline.

The USS Taney, one of the survivors from the Pearl Harbor attacks. We had planned on touring it with the rest of our Maritime Museum tickets but, arriving at 4:30 they had already closed the ship (it was supposed to be open to 5!!)

It was still an impressive ship to see in the harbor.

After buying tickets to go to the aquarium, we ambled around the Inner Harbor trails and then headed into the USS Constitution museum and on to the ship. This is a replica cannon out in the plaza, ready for photo opps.

On board the USS Constitution, we had a brief demonstration of the ship's cannons. Once used as an antislaving ship, it was the last all-wood ship built in the Navy's fleet. It caught slaving ships leading up to the Civil War and was in commission for various purposes for over 100 years. This is the third deck (I forget all the names) where the crew would sleep. They said it would be extremely damp and hot on this deck and the crew would stay away as long as possible until forced to retire for the night. I don't blame them.

This is the second deck almost even with the water where the guns were fired. They would require 9 pounds of gunpowder to fire!! The ship had 20 of these cannons as well as 2 rifle-style guns on the top deck for longer-distance firing. It's amazing to relive the toil and effort and time that went into protecting our country. Not to mention the amount of people involved in just running a ship like this!!

On the upper deck, pretending to steer the ship

Dave's learning the ropes. Great lesson in history, but we both realized that the sailor's life was NOT for us! It was amazing to walk through the different compartments and think about being sent out to sea for months and years at a time. It truly was a different lifestyle, complete with jargon for all the working parts of the ship, the different roles of the men and boys aboard, and the utter unpredictability of being at war on a wooden ship. They had done a fantastic job of describing the life aboard the ship including a display on the different foods they would dry and store, the contraptions for keeping light in the belly of the ship without exposing the gunpowder to flame, the variety of thick and thin ropes, and of course the weapons of the ship with cutlasses (pirate swords) and cannons.

Then, we were off to the National Aquarium. I'm not much of a fish person and honestly I'm glad to see them walled off behind glass where they don't stink as much, but the aquarium was very well-done and had exhibits from the Atlantic, Pacific, Rain Forest, Australia, and more. These are some rays that swam around with the sharks.

One of my favorite lurking sea creatures...an octupus!

Waiting for the dolphin show to start, making fish faces...

Not sure the inspiration for the piano fish, but I had to snag a picture!!

We then went back to tour more ships. This is touring the USS Torsk, a submarine that served in the Pacific during WWII. Dave admires the torpedos and torpedo tubes...

Atop the USS Torsk. It was cool to see how compactly and efficiently the space in the submarine was used. Everything had its place and its label. It's no wonder that the armed forces are required to display a high degree of discipline...there's no room to be messy or disorderly!! Surprisingly, though, as we were touring the bunks, a group of rowdy and disrespectful teenagers that hinted of being in ROTC bounced through tapping the tanks and laughing as they joked about falling onto their bunkmates. I waited with Dave to let them pass through before continuing on because it really bothered me how disrespectful they were being.

Personally, it was inspiring to think of the amount of manpower required to keep that ship operating, the sacrifice of thousands of bright-eyed boys and men heading out to serve their country, never knowing if their names would later be etched onto memorial lists of those that didn't make it back. And, I thought of the mothers waiting at home and receiving letters of their boys operating the ships that would cruise enemy waters, hardly knowing what the inside of the ship or the conditions their sons were living in. Hardly the subject of joking. I'm very grateful for reminders such as this submarine that teach me how blessed I am thanks to the sacrifice of generations before me.

Finishing the submarine tour and prevented from touring the USS Taney, we headed back for a nap and then dinner in Little Italy (sorry no pictures...). We had GREAT food and finished the night cuddling up to a movie.

Sunday was a drizzly, rainy day. Not heavy enough to keep us from going outside though!! We headed to tour Fort McHenry, famous for its role in the War of 1812 and the site of inspiration for Francis Scott Key's words of the Star Spangled Banner.

We began the tour watching a movie on the fort's history that ended by looking out towards the flagpole and hearing the National Anthem in a rousing and beautifully strong arrangment by the Naval Academy Choir. Dave and I then headed into the fort itself.

A cool picture of the replica barrels of supplies inside the fort.

These cannons were part of a later era than the famous War of 1812...the Fort was used as a detention camp for Confederate prisoners during the Civil War, then as a hospital following WWI into WWII and was functional until declared a national monument and historic site in the 1980s. These cannons were amazingly heavy (listed as upward of 50,000 lbs) and moved around on tracks at the base, installed during the Civil War and shortly thereafter. Luckily, the fort itself only saw action during the War of 1812 and didn't come under fire any time afterwards.

This is the famous flagpole in the same spot that it was during Key's days. While captured and forced to remain on an American Truce Ship during a British advance on Baltimore, Francis Scott Key saw the fort come under fire and listened to the bombardment through an antagonizing 3 days of warfare. On the final morning, the guns silenced, and a gigantic 30' by 42' American flag rose triumphant over the smoke, inspiring him to pen his poem that would later accompany an English drinking song to make our National Anthem. What a cool piece of history!!

Standing at the gates to the main courtyard inside the fort.

A statue dedicated to Key

The main gates of the fort.

We finsihed the day as we drove to visit Dave's parents and then head back to Syracuse. It turns out that the weekend had been unusually pleasant in Syracuse and Spring had sprung during our absence.

We were glad for a break, though, and now head into the second half of the semester busy with wedding plans, school work, work work, callings, and personal lives in full swing!! Wish us luck.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Reflections on…a night at the opera and the beginning of Spring Break!

That’s right, in addition to being freed from the depths of the winter chill, I am officially freed from a week of classes! Much of the city has emptied as people head off to beach destinations or other trips, but I am sticking around to work on grading papers, working on my internship search for the Fall, wedding plans, and hopefully getting ahead in my research papers due at the end of the semester. While that may not sound exciting, the fact that I don’t have to sit through multiple hours of class means that I have TONS of free time! I’m so excited to get to eat at my own house, clean my room, organize myself, and otherwise relax with no deadlines, no meetings, no need to be anywhere “on time.” It’s a great feeling!

To kick it all off, when I got off work yesterday, Dave texted me that we were going to meet his sister Nikki and her kids for dinner. We went to a wonderful little family-run Vietnamese place and I LOVED everything we ordered from sweet-and-sour pork to beef tamarind to soybean milk. Meg (Nikki’s almost-20-year-old daughter, Dave’s niece) came down and is off for Spring Break too so hopefully we’ll get some more time to hang out during the week. It was great to relax with them and Nikki has been so welcoming and inviting as my future sister-in-law.
Then, Dave and I headed out for a night at the opera. The Syracuse Opera only performs 3 operas a season, and tonight was their big opener with Romeo and Juliet. Neither of us had sat through a full opera though we had been to different samplers and I had studied operatic form in my past humanities classes. We met up with another girl from the Branch majoring in music education and were lucky enough to get seats on the orchestra level! Both the Symphony and the Opera offer student specials for whatever seats don’t sell that you can get a half hour before the show begins. But, you never know where you’ll end up. The seats were close to the back but a perfect view for catching the English translations projected overhead.

It was the first time we’d been back to the Symphony since Dave and I got engaged there on Valentine’s Day, so, naturally, we were both admittedly sentimental. It may just be another civic center, but it will always be a special place for us where we shared our love of music, our love of fine arts, and our love for each other. I’m very blessed to have a great man who loves me in my life and it was sweetly humbling to cuddle up next to him while robust music filled the dark concert hall. We talked about how, unlike popular media with skeleton-skinny drug-addicted and moral-less models parade around on screen, the opera singers were larger, robust, and confident people who, with nothing beyond their own lungs could fill an entire hall with rich tones and harmonies. Yes, there was elaborate costuming and stage props and the backdrop of the set of visual enhancement, but their real beauty lay in their love of music and the recognition of their God-given talents strengthened by years of practice and polishing. Needless to say, I love the performing arts and it’s been AWESOME to attend so many high-caliber shows...and share them with my sweetheart.

Reflections on…a morning jog. AND…spring?

Wow. I cannot begin to describe how energized and wonderful I feel this morning. I got up to birds (other than crows!) chirping outside my window, a bright and cheery sun bold against a clear blue sky, and the most beautifully warm weather we’ve had since the onset of winter back in October. It may only be 50 degrees, but it feels like it’s 80! Armed with a light jacket and warm running pants, I laced up my running shoes and went for a jog down the street to a nearby park where I admired a flock of lazy ducks happily sploshing around in the ponds. Muscles I had forgotten about began to wake up and my entire body strained at having lacked attention for so long. My thighs are already thanking me but my mind and my heart feel so much lighter.
The whole town of Syracuse seemed to have come out of a deep sleep. People were out walking their dogs, some accompanied by strollers or toddlers trotting to keep up, a few couples walking arm-in-arm aimlessly ambling down the now-dry and clear sidewalks. Others were out clearing away the broken branches and debris of winter from their gardens. I couldn’t help but want to pinch myself and make sure I wasn’t dreaming!!

After longs week of crazy paper-writing, midterms, group presentations, and TERRIBLY COLD days with biting winds, constant snow storms, and dismally gray skies hiding the sun, it seems that Syracuse is finally beginning to thaw. In all honesty, I’m afraid to even publish this blog in fear that I’m going to jinx my new-found freedom from the lock-down of winter. All the warnings of bad weather and harsh winters somehow didn’t deter me from coming here (just as the warnings of brutal heat and the meltdown of Paraguay didn’t stop me either). And, it didn’t seem real until after I returned from Christmas break and lived the day-to-day drudgery of highs in the 20s alongside brutish winds and humidity that sent the cold straight to my bones. I started planning my day based on how long I would have to be outside—wearing my thermal pants or an extra layer if I had to go to the library because it would mean an additional 10 minutes exposed to the cold. I dreaded even the 10 steps from my front door to my car. That was all it took to shake up my body heat and flush the blood from my nose and tops of my ears. It may sound extreme, but yesterday was literally the first day that I’ve gone outside without gloves and maintained feeling in my fingertips!!!

So, on this momentous day I figured I would take some time to sit and write how good I feel and wonderful the simple pleasure of taking a morning jog can be. It could be that Spring is yet to arrive and this is just another teaser before we get hammered by the ominous Noreasters. But, I’m grateful for it nonetheless.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

reflections on...getting ENGAGED

Well, for some of you this may be more of a surprise than for others, but yes... it's official! I'm now committed to marry an absolutely wonderful man that I adore and that treats me like a princess. And, more importantly, I'm marrying my best friend and the one person that I feel i can trust with anything and everything I have, I am, or want to become.

While I had expected this moment to come, and built my life around the expectation of finding "the one," now that the moment is here, it hardly seems worth all the build-up of stress and anxiety over the years. In reality, things just came together and time passed by like nothing was out of the ordinary. We found each other in very different stages of life, yet within the first couple of encounters, we were able to cut through all the superficiality of casual conversation and learn about each others' life experience. And, within a short time, we knew that this relationship was going to be more significant than just another friendship.

So, you're sure to want to know how things happened.

The day before Valentine's, he gave me a beautiful arrangement of flowers, claiming he wanted to give me an early gift because he didn't know how long they would last inside the big plastic wrapping they had put around it. I took it home and it makes the most perfect center to my dresser with my favorite colors and a variety of flowers that any girl would love:

That night, we headed to the Stake Valentine's Day dance, and tore up the dance floor to the amazing live music alongside a bunch of friends from the singles branch. It was a really fun and entertaining night and, after returning to Dave's house for some late night Wii bowling, I was dead tired and crashed before the party even ended and had to be half carried to my car to go home for the night.

The next morning when Valentine's rolled around, it just luckily enough turned out to be a Saturday. We went out for a quick but fun breakfast at IHOP and then made plans to meet back up for dinner later on in the evening. I had a hunch that something special might happen, but with the flowers from the day before, I kinda thought maybe he would choose some other day. But, as we sat through breakfast and he was incredibly nostalgic and almost emotional, I started to realize that THIS Valentine's would be different from all the rest. I got ready and, knowing that we were going to the Symphony, got a little dressed up.

He came to the door with two big red boxes... the one long one contained a full dozen red roses, a majestically starting to bloom and fragrant as a rose bush. I was amazed at the new beautiful garden that adorned my room, but didn't have a tall enough vase to really accent the long stems, though I refused to cut them much and ruin the special beauty of their graceful height.

We headed to dinner which was...well...wonderful. We ambled around downtown until deciding to go to Ambrosia, a modern, upscale downtown bar that has a separate room for fine dining with mostly specialty fish and sushi. They had set up extra tables in the area that was usually the dance floor/bar in anticipation for the special day and we were able to get a great table and enjoyed a candleit dinner. I was kinda thinking that, if anytime would be the time, it would be at dinner...but no. Just good conversation, amazing food, a couple pictures, and a lot of nostalgia as we recounted dating histories.

From there, we had some time to wander around and went casually window-shopping at a nearby art shop before heading over to the symphony. Dave a little more talkative and interactive, but kept stopping midsentence to look in my eyes and tell me that I looked really beautiful and that he loved spending time with me and that he loved me.

At the symphony, I was ecstatic to see the program included Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. I had seen the advertisement just talking about the Ravel's Bolero number but was really excited to see one of my favorite compositions of all time there live by a professional Symphony Orchestra. They handed out crysanthemums to all the women as a gesture of Happy Valentine's and we settled in to see a great performance.

During intermission, Dave wanted to "walk around a bit" and we slowly made our way to the hallway. Rather than heading to the lobby, though, he turned towards the corner of the building and a bank of windows overlooking the street 2 stories below. He commented "I love architecture...." and when I looked completely puzzled back at him due to the fact that we were looking at asphalt below and clunky square office buildings on either side, he just said "i could look down forever...". Then, as we talked a little more about how nice it was to spend time together, he said that his heart was telling him that he was ready to make things permament, that he wanted to spend every moment he could at my side. He got to one knee and asked me if I would be his bride forever, someone to hold his hand, someone to take care of him and be taken care of by him, and someone to form a family and future with. And, as I emphatically and with tears streaking my face whispered YES, he slipped my ring on my finger and then hugged me so tight I could barely keep my feet on the ground. We asked the usher to take some pictures which, sadly, didn't turn out so great due to the nasty lighting in the corner and the fact that she moved the camera every time it was about to take the picture. But, this is my favorite one, with my now almost permament smile

We decided to try and get some on our own and this really captured how close I felt to Dave at that moment and how special his company was to me...during what would otherwise have been just another intermission.

So, while it really is just a symbol of our love and he could have given me a simple string and it would still have had the same significance, I am nonetheless blessed to have a beautiful ring that I chose to wear as a mark of my new status and being off the market for good...

It was the most wonderful Valentine's Day of my life, and one of many I plan to spend beside my sweetheart.

And, in a few months, I hope to truly celebrate this connection with my family and friends as we will be making a sacred covenant to form an eternal family in the Bountiful Utah temple. There will be a lot of planning and details attached to that day, but for now I am holding dearly to the feeling of contentment and peace I feel at making this decision for a man that I love. I had always envisioned jumping up and down and seeking to shout to the whole world that I had found Mr. Right. But, in reality, I am just filled with a sweet acceptance and calm happiness that makes the world melt away as I sink into Dave's arms and know that I am loved, that I am in love, and that I have found a love that will remain in my life forever. And, while I love sharing this with all of you and with those that have yet to find such a beautiful connection in their lives, the greatest excitement I feel does not have anything to do with my wedding plans or any sort of festivity but rather with the lifetime of memories and wisdom-filled experience that my handsome sweetheart and I are beginning to accumulate. Life is short, but time spent in the arms of one you love is time invested and I'm grateful that we will have all eternity to continue to grow and express that love for each other.

We have started a website (it's far from complete because we just opened it) to help keep everyone appraised of the wedding plans. Visit us and please leave comments on the guest book at:


Sunday, December 28, 2008

reflections on...New York City 2

On my last weekend in Syracuse, following my last final turned in right at 5 o'clock on Thursday, Dave and I decided to make another run down to New York City. I stayed with him and his family on Thursday night, enjoying an early Christmas as Kathy gave me a beautiful hand-crafted snowman and a Bath and Body Works set. Then, Dave went to one of his finals Friday morning and we got on the road. It was a quick trip, arriving Friday night and leaving Sunday morning, but it was a great way to end the semester. Just after getting back to Syracuse, I packed my bags and finished last minute details and jumped on a jet plane on Monday to go back to Utah for the winter break. Here are some highlights:

Enjoying a Frosty on the road...


Trying to get a look at the amazing ice storm that attacked the Northeast. All along the route, trees were bent over with ice even though most of the way the ground was dry. I'd never seen such a storm.

One of the biggest blessings of this trip was getting to see my wonderful friend Angelica. We first met in 2005 while I was working in Guatemala, where she is from. Her mom was my best translator and they are both part of an amazing household of women (mom, Angelica, and four other daughters). They became my best friends outside of Tambrizap and I will forever be grateful for their kindness and sincere friendship. I was blessed to be able to visit her family both in 2006 and 2007 when I returned to Guatemala and they even came down to meet my host family in 2007 in Santa Maria Visitacion. Constantly supportive of my education and repeating how careful I should be before attaching myself to any man, Angelica's mom also instilled the same respect for education and hope for the future for her daughters. Angelica received a scholarship to come to Suffern, New York and study English in an international program at Rockland Community College and will be in the States for the next 2 years. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read the emails that she was coming to the States, and then even more amazed when I read that she was going to be living in New York while I was going to be out there for graduate school. I hadn't been able to see her until now after she'd already spent almost 4 months in New York and already her English is outstanding. She's such an inspiration and I'm so grateful I got to see her. It was the blending of two worlds and I am still honestly in shock at seeing her in my own country, dressed in jeans rather than in traditional Maya textiles, and speaking English. Regardless of any other activity, I was immensely grateful to see her.

And, on top of everything, my wonderful Dave cheauffered us around and was supportive enough to sit through the entire dinner as Angelica and I spoke in Spanish and K'iche'.

After getting to Rye and finding the apartment where my friends the Bonhams generously offered for us to stay, we crashed for the night and then headed out on the morning train, straight to Grand Central Station. Not only filled with the daily bustle, we happened to arrive in time to catch an International Santa Convention, thus the sea of red velvet pouring in on the left-hand side. We stopped to ask what the commotion was all about and heard intermittent "Ho! Ho! Ho!" chants fill the immense hallway. There were your traditional bearded Santas but also a million unconventional Santas with red and green checkers, mohawks, skater pants, and everything in between.

While we were in the neighborhood, we headed over to see the very impressive headquarters of the UN. Sadly, whether due to being Saturday or whatever the reason, the flags were not on display and everything was closed off. The reflection of the skyscrapers in the windows is truly spectacular.

Directly opposite the huge U.N. building is U.N. Way, a short and arguably dingy small alleyway connecting to Grand Central. The funny thing is, rather than leading you to the U.N. building, it is a one-way street, in the opposite direction! We laughed about how the U.N. is not only so large an unapproachable as a bureaucracy but they literally build themselves out of contact but are happy to send people away into the world. It is, after all, the "U.N. Way"! Haha.

Walking around town, we passed the MetLife Building, beautifully adorned with a GIGANTIC wreath and beautiful tree.

We finally made it to the TKTS booth to hang out for Broadway tickets, and jumped in line despite the cold in hopes of getting matinee tickets. We waited for about 20 minutes only to get up to the front of the line and have the guy at the window look at us, the last two in line with nobody behind us, and be told it was 2 o'clock and they were closed and we would have to come back at 3. Thanks New York. So, furious but helpless, we jumped in line to wait for a VERY cold hour to get evening tickets. I offered to go get some food and walked up to the Olive Garden around the corner when I saw people still buying tickets at two of the TKTS windows. I was so confused and found out that, rather than having completely closed, our window was ONE of the windows that closed while they kept 2 open until changing to evening tickets at 3. I was floored. So, rather than just telling us that we had to walk 5 feet to the other window to get our matinee tickets, the wonderful ticket agent just pushed us away and claimed they were closed....thanks New York. I got up to the window and asked if they had some Cirque de Soleil tickets but they only had separate seats available. So, I continued with the lunch run as planned and, after being ridiculously overcharged but blessedly warmed by being inside, I headed over to meet Dave again in line. He was almost frozen and despite initial attempts to stick around and wait till 3, I finally convinced him to go inside somewhere and warm up. He found the Times Square Information Center and hung out there for a little while before we finally got the line moving and bought our tickets for the evening show. We immediately returned to the info center and ate our delightlfully still warm food and Dave got some McDonald's hot chocolate to speed up the dethawing process. My feet were tingling so I got them out of the cold shoes and socks and rubbed them warm while Dave attended to his hands. We really were THAT cold. Following the encounter with the TKTS agent and the frigid wind despite the sun shining, I told Dave that New York was simply too cold. He agreed and added, "and not just the weather."

Here is Dave inside the Times Square Info center in front of the famous New Year's Eve ball that will drop over Times Square this year. Glistening with Waterford Crystal and brilliantly shining various designs and many colors, it was cool to see the ball up close.

Even after a half hour of rest time, I was still cold.

We had a couple of hours before the show started, so we decided to check out some of the big shops there at Times Square. We headed into the M & M's factory and bought some cheesy but warm hats at a corner news stand.

We then saw the Hershey's store and headed down the street on our way to the big tree at Rockefeller Center. Here is the famous Radio City Music Hall.

Me at the big tree. Gigantic and full of lights, it was a beautiful sight in the midst of the very cold NYC. Honestly, though, I had expected more than just lights and was sad to see no ornaments or other decorations but just multicolored lights. But, the sheer size of the tree was cool.

Yeah, we look like nerdy tourists, but we were a LOT warmer.

Heading down to Madison Square Garden to get to the show.

Meandering through the theater district, I found this dedication to Les Mes, one of my absolutely favorite musicals.

At the Garden to see Cirque de Soleil! It was a very unique show incorporating an urban theme with BMX biking and roller blading with traditional circus tricks of trapeze acts and gymnastics. Live energetic music and a quirky mystical atmosphere accompanied the physical feats and I enjoyed the show. I struggled to identify with the urban setting and thought that I would have liked a more plot-driven show than the helter-skelter antics of big dogs and big birds circling cops and robbers. But, it was still entertaining and Dave and I relished in the chance to sit down in a warm theater and just relax next to each other. In the end, we got covered in a flurry of paper snowflakes pouring down from the ceiling.

We finished out the night getting back on a train to Rye and went straight to bed, up early on Sunday to return on the 4 hour drive to Syracuse, arriving just as sacrament meeting began. It was a WONDERFUL trip and even with the cold we were really blessed to have safe roads and safe accomodations. Thanks Bonhams for the apartment, thanks Angelica for the great visit, and thanks Dave for a perfect end-of-semester send-off.