Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stand by me...in Africa!

So some friends and I have this singing group called GleeYU (named after the terrible TV show).  Anyway, yesterday we participated in BYU's Got Talent, and we won!  We will be going on to a finals competition in April, so stay tuned.  We sang a mashup that we created ourselves.  Here it is!

We've done lots of other songs too, so check us out on youtube!  Just search for gleeyu and you'll find us!  We're definitely not professional, and we do have technical difficulties like every time we perform, but we have a blast.  We arrange all of our own music, which is always an adventure!  We are always looking for new people who may be interested (especially guys) so if you know anybody, let me know!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My international friends...

For almost two years now, I have been an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher at the Missionary Training Center here in Provo.  I work with students from all over the planet who have come to the U.S. to learn English so they can serve missions in English-speaking places.  I sometimes brag that I have personally taught students from over 50 countries.  This may sound a little exaggerated, so I decided to count them up.  Here is an alphabetical list of the nationalities of my students:

1. American Samoa
2. Argentina
3.  Armenia
4.  Austria
5.  Bangladesh
6.  Belize
7.  Bolivia
8.  Brazil
9.  Burma
10.  Cambodia
11.  Canada
12.  Chile
13.  China
14.  Colombia
15.  Costa Rica
16.  Czech Republic
17.  Denmark
18.  Dominica
19.  Dominican Republic
20.  Ecuador
21.  El Salvador
22.  Fiji
23.  Finland
24.  France
25.  Germany
26.  Guadeloupe
27.  Guatemala
28.  Honduras
29.  Hong Kong
30.  India
31.  Israel
32.  Italy
33.  Japan
34.  Jordan
35.  Kiribati
36.  Korea, South
37.  Laos
38.  Madagascar
39.  Malaysia
40.  Marshall Islands
41.  Mexico
42.  Micronesia
43.  Mongolia
44.  Netherlands
45.  New Caledonia
46.  Norway
47.  Pakistan
48.  Panama
49.  Paraguay
50.  Peru
51.  Phillipines
52.  Poland
53.  Portugal
54.  Puerto Rico
55. Russia
56.  Samoa
57.  Singapore
58. Slovenia
59.  Spain
60.  Sri Lanka
61.  Sweden
62.  Switzerland
63.  Taiwan
64.  Thailand
65. Tonga
66.  Tuvalu
67.  Ukraine
68.  United Kingdom
69.  United States
70.  Uruguay
71.  Vanuatu
72.  Venezuela

Wow!  That list is even bigger than I expected!  Every day when I go to work I meek someone new from some new place.  Some of these places I had never even heard of before I met my students.  It is amazing how much your perspective changes when you encounter incredible diversity.  I have learned several big lessons:

1.  We are more different than we realize.  A lot of people think that language is like a code.  If I want to speak Portuguese, I just have to learn the Portuguese words that are equivalent to the English words that I use, and substitute them in as if it were a code.  The reality is much more complex.  Language is more than just words and phrases, and even idioms.  Language is culture, understanding, and perception.  In English we have the word 'hug' and in Portuguese they have the word 'abra├žo' which any dictionary would tell you had the same meaning.  What dictionaries don't capture, and what most people don't realize is that a hug to a Brazilian, although it is the same gesture that we make, has a totally different meaning than a hug to an American has.  These little differences cause cultures to misunderstand each other.  Many Latin Americans and Polynesians think that Americans are 'cold'.  Many Americans think that Russians are blunt and rude.  They, in turn, think that we are manipulative and dishonest.  We need to understand the differences between cultures so that we don't misjudge.  Americans aren't cold, we just don't hug as much, because to us a hug means something stronger than it does to most Latinos.  Russians aren't purposefully rude, they show respect by being honest.  Americans show respect by protecting the feelings of others.  If you really try, you can see these differences and appreciate them, allowing you to understand people, rather than judging them for not behaving like Americans.

2.  We are more the same than we realize.  I have learned that as much as we all are different, we have so much in common.  We have families, problems, hopes, fears, faith,...  There is a very long list of things that unite us.  I have learned that no one is so different from you that you couldn't have a decent, friendly conversation if you put forth a little effort.  We focus so much on the differences that we miss out on the similarities.

I love my job and the perspective that it brings, and I encourage you to look around.  Try to understand the Hispanic lady at the grocery store, or the German foreign exchange student, or even the members of your own family.  Where are they coming from?  What are their expectations?  How can we connect with them?  It's kinda cool when you think about it...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Not a superhero...

So, I used to live in Brazil, and it was really great.  I had lots of fun experiences, and some that were not so fun (Dengue Fever was a riot!).  There was one experience in particular that I thought was pretty interesting.  This one morning, I think it was in May of 2007, I woke up with a slight burning sensation on my right cheek and on the back, right side of my neck.  I didn't think much about it until my mission companion, Hebert Gomes, looked really startled and told me to run and look in the mirror.  On my cheek there was a spot about the size of a slice of pepperoni that appeared to have been burned!  There was generally a dark red color with little gray and yellow blisters.  Apparently on my neck there was a similar "burn" only it was about the size of the palm of my hand.  We couldn't figure out what had happened.  I thought maybe it was some sort of reaction to the Brazilian sun, which was strange because I never really get sunburned (I'm pretty brown naturally).  Some of our friends thought that maybe it was an allergic reaction to something.  Nobody really was sure what it was at the time.  By the next day, both sores had grown, and they had opened up.  There was pus and other gross stuff oozing out of them, they were painful to touch, and I had a slight fever.  It was a holiday (naturally) so all of the pharmacies were closed.  Being men of faith, we prayed about it, and I got a priesthood blessing, and I was able to continue working.  Of course I never wrote my mom about this at the time (sorry Mom), but here are some pictures that were taken about two weeks after the initial incident.



After a couple of weeks, the sores on both my face and neck dried up (the incessant oozing had stained the collars of most of my shirts), and eventually the dead skin and scabs peeled off.  I am happy to say that there is no residual scarring.  About a year later, I related this story and showed the pictures to a friend who just happened to be a spider expert.  He believed that I had been bitten by something like this:



He thought I had been bitten by a Brazilian variety of the brown recluse, a tiny spider that hides in dark places.  It injects its venom under the skin of its victim, causing necrosis to spread underneath.  That's why my face and neck had open sores that looked like hamburger or something.  He asked what treatment I received, and when I told him that I had pretty much just waited for it to heal, he was very surprised and told me that I was extremely lucky, as these bites can be deadly.  Wow.

Anyway, I don't really like spiders anymore.  That was a really scary experience, and I didn't even get any super powers!  That spider could have at least left me with a six-pack or something!  All joking aside, I guess I am super, because where I had some ugly sores and a slight fever, some people die.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Collection...

It seems like I always end up in those getting-to-know-you situations where you go around the room and say your name, where you're from, what you do, and something interesting about yourself.  This seems to come up on the first day of almost any class, or at church on the first Sunday of the semester.  Maybe it's just because I'm a guy, but it seems like there's always this pressure to say something really cool.  I'm not necessarily the coolest guy around, but I do have something interesting to share in these situations.  I, like most of my immediate family, collect roller coasters.  Not the literal, physical attraction, but the thrill.  I have been on quite a few from quite a few different places.  I thought I would share some of them.

Batman, Six Flags St. Louis, my first suspended roller-coaster.

BATMAN THE RIDE BY THE NUMBERS

Height Restrictionsmin. 54"
Ride CategoryThrill 

IntroducedApril 1995
Elevation10 1/2 stories tall
Length2,693 feet
Top Speed50 mph
Ride Duration2 minutes
Number of Trains2
Capacity Per Ride32
G-Force4
Special FeaturesRide features five "head-over-heels" experiences, as trains travel on the outside, rather than the inside of the loops, with ski-lift-style coaches, where the floor drops out from beneath the riders' feet



Try the ride for yourself!





Mr. Freeze, Six Flags St. Louis, my first fast-launch coaster!




MR. FREEZE BY THE NUMBERS

Height Restrictionsmin. 54"
Ride CategoryThrill 


IntroducedApril 1998
Elevationover 22 1/2 stories tall
Length1,382 feet
Top Speed70 mph
Ride Duration1 minute, 45 seconds
Number of Trains2
Capacity Per Ride20



Give this one a shot!




Millenium Force, Cedar Point in Sandusky, this one is just huge!




Duration:
2 min., 0 sec.
Height Requirement:
48"
Manufacturer:
Intamin, AG
Speed:
93 mph


It’s the big star of the show. A true Giant among coasters. So huge, it created a whole new category – the giga-coaster. Welcome to Millennium Force, the 310 foot, 93 MPH record-breaking monster of a thrill ride. The first hill features an elevator cable lift system to get you to the top faster, then it’s an 80-degree drop to start the coaster ride of your life!


Here it is!




Top Thrill Dragster, Cedar Point, Sandusky, this was the tallest, fastest roller coaster in the world at the time that I rode it.  Dad and I waited extra long to sit in the front seat!




Zero to 120 MPH in less than 4 seconds. A few seconds later, you’re 420 feet in the air. In the race for pure adrenaline thrills, there is one winner: Top Thrill Dragster. Nothing else compares to this high-horsepower shot into the sky. From a standing start you’re launched forward, then straight up, then straight down and back to the finish line. The ride may be over in 17 seconds, but it’ll stay with you forever.
Check this out!




The X 2,  Six Flags Magic Mountain, Rock 'n Roll, inversions, flames, fantastic!



X2 BY THE NUMBERS

Height Restrictionsmin. 48"
Ride CategoryThrill 


TrainsCompletely redesigned, sleek trains
FeaturesInnovative, state-of-the-art visual, audio and sensory effects
Top Speed76 mph
Elevation20 stories
Length3,610 feet
Capacity28




Tatsu, Six Flags Magic Mountain, my first flying coaster!

 

TATSU BY THE NUMBERS

Height Restrictionsmin. 54"
Ride CategoryThrill 


Top Speed62 mph
Elevation17 stories
Length3,602 feet
Duration2 minutes
Capacity1,600 riders per hour


Here we go!  This one may be my favorite!



I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sherlock...



Pretty much everybody is familiar with the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Junior.  I really like them a lot.  I don't think that many people are aware of the Sherlock BBC series, however.  I know that British television has kind of a reputation, but this series is fantastic!  There are two seasons so far, each consisting of three episodes that are about 90 minutes each.  What's fun about the series is that they adapted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novels to fit in a modern setting. Where they could have turned out really cheesy, they are actually extremely well written and directed, and the acting is phenomenal. The actor who portrays Dr. Watson will play the part of Bilbo in Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies, and the actor who plays Sherlock Holmes will do the voice of Smaug, which is kind of funny, but they are both very talented.




The first season can currently be watched on Netflix, and it is out on DVD and BluRay.  The second season just finished airing last week and is not yet available.  Whether you're a fan of the novels or just someone who enjoys a good mystery/action movie, I highly recommend checking them out!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Churrasco...



So last Saturday a few friends and I went to this awesome restaurant called Tucanos.  It is a traditional type of Brazilian barbecue known as churrasco, pronounced "shoo-HA-skoo".  This is an all-you-can-eat restaurant where the buffet comes to you!  There is a "salad festival" which is their spin on a salad bar, except that it's awesome and has things you don't find at Chuck-a-rama, like heart of palm, brazilian cheese bread, fried bananas, and dozens of other types of salads, pastas, fruits, breads, cheeses, and more!

Salad Festival Pastas at Tucanos Provo Restaurant

The salad, my friends, is only the beginning.  At each table there is a little wooden cylinder with a green end and a red end.  Just like in traffic, green means go, so when you are ready to go, you turn the green side up, and the food starts coming!

image2.jpgimage3.jpg

Waiters bring around big metal skewers with sizzling chunks of meat on them, and with a huge knife, they cut you off a piece of whatever you want!

Churrasco
Grilled Pineapple! A favorite.
The meat, pineapple, and some other things, like grilled vegetables are cooked over a fire on the same skewers that are used to serve.

Meats Grilling at Tucanos Provo Restaurant

In addition to the amazing meat and salad festival, they serve Brazilian limeade, which I discussed in an earlier post.  It is all fantastic.  It really makes me miss Brazil, because we used to eat like this about once a week.  The only difference is that there, churrasco is common and very cheap (2 or 3 bucks generally and at the most  7 or 8) but in the US, it is unique, and so you spend around $20 for lunch.  

Since we don't go very often, when we do go we eat till we're sick.  It is SOOO good.  I recommend saving up and trying it at least once.  It is totally worth the experience, unless you're vegetarian.  Great food, great atmosphere, super fun!  I deserve a free meal for doing such great adverstizing...   

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My family...

This was our last Christmas together as a family before my younger brother moves to New York for two years to serve a full-time mission for the LDS church.  While we were all at home, we had some family pictures taken. I don't have the final edited copies yet, but I wanted to introduce my family.



Left to right, there's me, and then my youngest sister Haley.

Haley is 14 years old, but she will soon turn 15.  She is a freshmen in high school, and she will soon receive her driver's license (in Idaho we get our license when we turn 15). Haley is an amazing reader and a fantastic musician.  She plays the piano very well, and she is an amazing singer.  Haley is also a hard worker.  She has worked several jobs, including babysitting, house cleaning, and lawn-mowing at the local cemetery.  I am amazed at how independent she is.  She pays for a lot of her own things, which is pretty cool for a 14-year-old.  Haley is also the only one who still lives at home with Mom and Dad.

The cute, blonde one to the right of Haley is Suzy.

Suzy is a senior at Brigham Young University.  She is getting a bachelors degree in Landscape Management.  She particularly enjoys landscape design and architecture and is considering these areas for her graduate studies.  Suzy also studies business and non-profit organizations.  She is a fantastic piano player and a talented artist.  She has also become pretty well traveled, having spent several weeks trekking across Europe last summer.  I recommend that you check out her blog to learn more about her.  She is a really great writer! Suzy is 20, but to me, she seems much more wise than your average 20-year-old.

After Suzy is my mom.  I don't even know where to start here. Mom is so great.  She has five kids and a husband, and she has always done a fantastic job of taking care of us.  Because of my mom I did well in school, I learned to play the piano, I had a nice home to grow up in, I have life, the list goes on and on.  One thing I really like about my mom is that she's fun.  She water skis, likes movies. rides roller-coasters, and lots of other awesome stuff.  I have been really impressed by Mom lately, because she has been learning to play the cello.  She practices every day, and she is learning very fast.  A year ago, I don't think she had even held        one before, but now she plays songs, and it is starting to sound really good, although she would never admit it.

Mom is next to Dad, as you probably guessed.  Pretty much every good thing I have said about Mom can be said about Dad, and vice versa.  They are truly one. There can be no doubt that they love each other and support each other, and that they love and support us.  Dad doesn't play the cello, but he sings really well.  He is a member of a quartet, and they are really good.  Dad is a phenomenal provider.  He works so hard to make a living.  He is a mechanical engineer, designing machinery for food processing.  Even though he is always very busy with work, he has always made it his first priority to be a husband and father.  We never doubted that he loved us or that he would give anything he could to help us out.  This hasn't changed as we've moved away.  He and Mom both do everything they can to help us with anything we need.

Jared is my bigger little brother.  He just turned 19 and next Tuesday he will leave for New York to be a full-time missionary.

Jared is a fantastic athlete.  In high school he was selected to take part in an all-star football game for the state of Idaho.  He was a key player in the state championship football game in 2010.  Jared also placed in state wrestling 2 years in a row.  Recently he finished his first year at Brigham Young University, taking some generals and preparing to leave on his mission.  Jared is a very hard worker.  He has had many jobs growing up, including farm worker, *irrigation pipe mover, and lawn mower, and custodian at a clinic.
       * 
I have no doubt that he will do a fantastic job in New York.

The glamorous one on the end is Melissa.

She is closest in age to me, being born only 17 months after me. She is currently working on a masters degree in Physiology and Developmental Biology at Brigham Young University, having completed a BS in the same area last year.  She is a fantastic teacher and currently TAs an upper level class in pathophysiology, which is the physiology of disease-causing agents (right Melissa?).  Cool stuff.  Melissa studied for one semester in London, which she loved, and she also is an amazing piano player and artist.  We are super close, having gone through lots of life's experiences together.  Melissa, as with the other women in my family, is a fantastic cook.  She can make anything, and she makes it with her own flare.  She isn't afraid to experiment, but she is talented enough that usually her culinary experiments are mind-blowing.  I recommend checking our her blog, as she also is a fantastic writer.

Basically, I think I have the coolest family ever.  These little blurbs are far from a comprehensive look at the awesomeness that is my family, but hopefully you get a better idea about who these people are, as I will probably be mentioning them a lot.  They are definitely a huge part of my continuing education.