Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Party In The Woods...

Several years ago, Heather spent a summer in Uganda, working with a charity organization to provide work for displaced Ugandan women.  She chronicled her experiences with Light Gives Heat here on her blog.   Her passion for this program, which shines light on the hope of the Ugandan people rather than their darker moments, continues to be a contagious force.  This weekend, she helped put on an incredible fund raising event to send our friend Anneliese to Africa to follow in her footsteps with Light Gives Heat.

Growing up, I always knew Anno as the girl who was involved in, if not in charge of, everything.  She seemed to possess an unlimited energy to be everywhere at once, and an ability to keep all sorts of plates spinning  at a time.  Clubs, student body, leadership, school, work- you name it and Anno was there full-force making things happen.  
Little has changed since she began university in Santa Cruz.  Every time I see her around town, she's just off to teach a class on Education for Sustainable Living, on her way to Master's Swimming, off to work or to run a triathlon...  There is nothing this girl doesn't do.
Naturally, these two super-women pulled off the fundraiser to send Anno to Uganda with flying colors.  Friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike flocked to their little cabin in the Bonny Doon woods for a night of music, food, dancing, and celebration, and helped contribute towards Anno's financial goal for her trip to Uganda.

Despite generous contributions during the event, Anno still has a ways to go to reach her goal of $9,000.  If you're interested in finding out more about Light Gives Heat, or contributing towards her time in Uganda, she has set up an online shop that will help make this venture a reality.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lost And Found...

Oh Shannon.

This picture was taken in December, with one of my little disposables.  
I had decided to make an advent calendar to send home, in lieu of one big Christmas gift, and in anticipation of Shannon coming to visit me in Europe.  Over several hours a train ride to Barcelona, I wrapped up little trinkets in brown paper, tied them with red string, and labeled them according to the day they should be opened.
I"ll admit I was a little excited about the box full of goodies reaching its recipient and checked with Shannon incessantly to see whether it had arrived.  
Much to my chagrin, advent days began to slip by, and Shannon still hadn't gotten my package in the mail.
Months later, I had resigned myself to the idea that it had just been lost somewhere between Spain and California due to those bumbling postal workers at the Correos.

But! One of the first days I was back home, visiting Shannon's little cottage by the beach, and drinking whiskey sours in her back garden, I spotted an oddly familiar green lump tucked under the back stoop and did a double take. 
There was no mistaking that iconic green box and yellow tape- Shannon's Christmas present had finally arrived!

Late mail is better than no mail at all, I thought, but on further investigation, it turns out that the package hadn't been late at all.  Tucked away in the garden it had escaped notice for months, and weathered rainstorms, bleaching sunrays and worse.  We opened up the box to find that a family of snails and their salamander friends had taken up residence inside and decided to eat the tags and wrapping paper.  I didn't even know snails ate paper!
I found the whole thing rather amusing, and though the advent days and Christmas socks are now irrelevant, the lost and found aspect makes up for the novelty.
Merry Christmas in April!

P.S.  I feel sort of about having thought poorly of the Correos postal workers.  The little post office ladies had laughed and laughed when  I arrived with a sack full of little numbered parcels but they had, been nothing but helpful and accommodating as I tried out different box sizes before settling on one for shipping, and in fact, were very excited about the idea of a postal advent calendar too. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Santa Cruz...

Santa Cruz...I've spent so many years struggling to free myself from this place, taking off to someplace new only to be pulled back again by gnawing forces of commitment.  Every time I leave, it's never to return.
And yet, here I am.  It's April and I'm back at square one for what promises to be the shortest time possible.  And you know, it's really not that bad.  If France gave me anything, besides pneumonia and an expensive addiction to oysters,  I think I've gained just a little bit of perspective on the place I come from.

So for the next 57 days (not that I'm counting or anything), I'll be focusing on the things I love about Santa Cruz.  A year ago, that list would have been made up of maybe one thing.  But times have changed, and though I still feel restless to a certain degree, I think I've become better at appreciating things  that are familiar.  
So in that spirit, keep your eyes peeled for stories about everything that I love in sleepy Santa Cruz.

P.S.  I took these pictures at the trailer park at UC Santa Cruz.  I don't really know if that place constitutes as somewhere I love per say, but I do feel it sort of sums up a little bit of that quintessential Santa Cruz feel.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hoover Dam...

It's always a strange feeling to straddle two places at one. 

Just down the road from Boulder City is the Hoover Dam.  On the other side of the river lies the Turquoise State.  (And while we're on the subject of time, did you know Arizona doesn't adhere to Daylight Savings?)  
People don't seem to go out here much anymore, now that the bridge links the two states together and the road no longer leads anywhere.  After getting grilled on our Nation's Constitution to ensure we weren't the terrorist type, the upstanding security team of the great Hoover Dam let us in.  We had the place to ourselves- no moon, no stars, just the steady hum of cars on the giant bridge above us, midnight traffic moving through the desert.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Drive By Shooting...

No rest for the weary...after getting a good dose of much needed sunshine in Southern California, it was back on Southwest and off to 
Las Vegas, Nevada.  
I've found it quite funny how my opinion of Southwest Airlines has changed over the last months.  After countless cramped flights aboard EasyJet (although, I'm not complaining- they have the best in-flight magazine in the industry), Southwest seems so posh.  Peanuts?  Complementary soft drinks?  A bit of wiggle room and WHAT? two checked bags????

Just outside the brilliant, glitzy bright lights and bells and whistles of Las Vegas, these shots are taken from the car window in Boulder City.  These empty roads and worn down signs seem sad to me, particularly in contrast to it's glamorous city.  It seems like another one of those little American towns that just slipped through the cracks.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Southern California...

After eight long months, the travel bug is hard to kick.  Thus, in the spirit of adventure, I did a quick turn around at home, then hopped on a plane to Southern California.


 Frankly, I have always been pretty prejudiced towards Southern California.  It seems silly now, but not having really spent any time there, I fell prey to believing the stereotypes of gas guzzling, freeway congesting, warm weather-hedonism that seem to circulate the liberal coast of Northern California.   Yet, although they may use rather a lot of gas to get anywhere, traffic could be nightmarish, and they do have the best weather ever (Hmm, I guess I just confirmed every stereotype right there), Southern California is GREAT!
I think these vicious rumors started off more along the lines of jealousy.  What blue-sky craving, bus taking, bring-fifty-layers-of-clothes-with-you-just-to-walk-a-block-just-in-case, Northern Californianer wouldn't be jealous??
And, albeit more spread out than I'm used to in Northern California, there doesn't seem to be anything down there that they don't have/couldn't have down there.  Proof of this my reunion with Jami Cakes, which resulted in a day long crawl through Hollywood's greater food scene, and in contrast, the quite street of Los Ramos in San Juan Capistrano.
It might just be the sun, but...I think I'm in love.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Haunting Place...

As if the little town of Port Costa wasn't mysterious enough, the town's sole hotel adds an even greater enigmatic air to the whole picture.  Tucked above the cafĂ©, up a spindly railed staircase, and down halls with red carpeted walls are a number of guest rooms.  These are not your standard rooms, as per your typical hotels.  There are no little soap bottles on the sink, so far as I can see, no uniform sheets and window drapings, and no phone down to the concierge.  Instead some rooms have bare light bulbs, or little porcelain figurines of cats that sit on the nightstands.  

I know little of the history of The Burlington Hotel.  Like the rest of the town, the hotel seems bent on creating ambiguities, struggling back and forth between an air of hospitality and a desire to be left alone.    It's like a place that seems to have found a crease in chronology and now functions outside of time.