Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Abroad In Ukraine

Whenever someone mentions that they studied 'abroad' for a semester or that they are traveling 'abroad', a Foxtrot cartoon pops into my head every time. Every time. And I secretly giggle each time, too. The cartoon starts off with the dad telling the son that the older brother wants to study abroad for his next college semester. There are only two frames in the strip. The second frame is the what the little brother imagines that must mean: his brother dressed up like a woman with dark hair as he is studying. The little brother then expresses his confusion. Every time, I swear.

The news is out. I am going to be abroad for the next 3 months beginning February 28th. I giggled. Destination? Kiev, Ukraine. I hyperlinked it straight to Wikipedia for your convenience. I have really pined for some sort of adventure, and I don't think an adventure like this could have come timelier and on more auspicious wings.

After looking at pictures of Kiev (Kyiv), I am so darn excited to experience the culture and see the architecture. I think this could be a very cool thing for me in my life.

Meanwhile, I have dropped all my classes, withdrawn from a hectic semester, and began a job as a painter in the Salt Lake temple. I work eleven hour days under murals of the Savior and various Prophets. I sand walls and calk cracks in plaster that has been dedicated to praise God. I count my blessings. Sanding and calking are still just sanding and calking, though, no matter where you do it. It is quite dreary.

Life is still very good. I could be doing things a lot better. I could call my parents and siblings more. Make a greater effort to see and spend time with cousins and friends. I could improve just about everything right now. I think those two things are highest on my priorities list. But regardless, I am really grateful for being able to feel very blessed.

If you know anything about Kiev or have suggestions on where I should travel once my stay in Ukraine is over (I want to take a week or 10 days and do some Euro-travel), please let me know. I am open and very inexperienced.

Adventure awaits!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Experiences, Oh How You've Changed Me.

In lieu of the jam-packed weekend I just enjoyed, and many new experiences I had, I just had to blog about the lessons I've gotten from what I've seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and contacted. I feel that life is somehow different this week. Like Kevin from Home Alone or George Bailey from It's a Wonderful life, I have woken up this week to a frame of mind and change of scenery that has me, like neither of the previously mentioned characters, simply.. happy.

Let me run through (briefly) what I did this weekend, and maybe you can put the pieces together of why the good life for me is obtained through learning the lessons of new experiences.

I spent the weekend in LA. More importantly, I spent the weekend in a place where Disneyland was easily accessible. Less important, I only visited Disneyland once. Of upmost importance, I used illegal means to enter Disneyland and partake of the goodness of supreme imagination. I lied. I committed crimes that only lawyers know the names of. Let's recap what I did.

I drove down to southern california thursday evening with two friends and bunked up at a friend of a friend's married housing apartment. It was decided in the nightly conversation that Friday would be devoted to Disneyland, and that I needed somehow to obtain a ticket for the excursion. We looked at 97 dollars. We continued our search until we found tickets on eBay for $55. An email was sent out to the owner of the ad--Santos. We did business with a man named Santos. Friday morning came, and we met Santos on the corner of Ball and Harbor. His little office, above the ghetto chevron station, consisted of a large room with a tiny desk in the middle. All windows were blacked out. I was taken to a different room to do business with a woman named "Tracy." There is no way this woman's name was Tracy. She pulled out a manila envelope of small cards and asked me if I was OK with the name "Steve Whittaker." I told her I was, and she told me that today, I was going to be Steve Whittaker. I was told not to answer probing questions from any disneyland personnel, and not to carry any valid ID with me at any time throughout the day. I gave her my cash and did my best drug dealer "do we have a deal?" face, to which she responded with a "I do crime for a living" smirk. I insisted that all in my party refer to me as Steve the entire day. The gravity of the situation did not strike me as I was committing the crime. Looking back, I would not do it again. Don't judge me.
What did I learn? In the short run, I learned that a little justification can satisfy and ease the guilty conscience--to which a dose of entertainment or pleasure can knock conscience right on its butt. In the long run, I realized that taking short cuts and compromising values really just isn't worth the pleasure--yes, even the pleasure of Disneyland. I also learned that crime makes for a worthwhile story.
Ok, one last batch of experiences. These came right out of the oven of relationships. An oven that sometimes burns hot. I spent part 2 of the weekend with a group of friends that one in Provo would classify as "non-member." I like to call them friends. Part Two of last weekend provided me with a grip of new experiences. Let's list a few: 1)My first Designated Driver stint. 2)My first LA night club experience. 3)My first LA university visit. The first two may strike the casual friend (of mine) as a surprise. He/she might say, "Ryan, at a club? How preposterous." I object all you casual friends. It was preposterous, and I was awkward, but I tried my hardest to get the full experience (and yes, I kept all my morals).

The real lesson I learned this weekend, however, was of relationships. I tagged along with two girls whose lives of late have been dampened by the gloom of sourly-ended relationships. And these weren't your "we dated, and I think I liked her, and she broke my heart" relationships. These were "we were getting married and then he devastated me" relationships (at least in the one instance). I heard how disrespectful actions led to heartache and hurt. I even witnessed first hand how the negligently rude actions of one partner in a relationship can really hurt the receiver. I empathized more than I have allowed myself to in a long while. I was honestly very troubled this weekend because of the hopelessness of the dating world and of trusting people.

What lessons did I learn? I learned a little bit about the really fragile nature of us people. Don't let me get too cheesy on you, but respecting the vulnerability of those who love us, really allows us to enter each others' hearts and bring a little bit of happiness and confidence to them. When I woke up Monday morning, I had the spirit of respect in me..and it is kind of dictating my life right now. I hate to say that listening to those bad stories helped me, but it just opened me up and allowed me to choose the path of respect rather than selfishness.

Life is good. The people that surround me are good. I just hope that all new experiences teach me how to be really good to them.

For your enjoyment, these were the "pit stops" I made on the road trip to and fro. I have either a small bladder, or a large thirst.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Technical Foul? Technical Foul! Uh, technical foul?

I have some very big news for this week's headlines, but will save blogging about it until it becomes official. Keep a lazy eye on your blog updaters for a post in the coming days--it may leave you pining for cold weather and slavic landscapes. You've never pined quite like this before. I am well pleased with those who left comments on my last post. Thank you all for that. It's good to hear advice from those whose opinion's you respect, especially when you've indirectly asked for them.

I had work tonight--and they really made me work for my paycheck. For all those inquiring readers out there who didn't already know, I am a basketball official for Provo City Basketball. I call the shots, or the fouls, rather. The players' sarcasm is unrelenting, the arguing is tiresome, and the power is sometimes abused (if we're honest). I had the opportunity tonight to exercise the most serious call/penalty a referee can make. I called..a technical foul.

The game was out of hand, no one--let alone the man in the stripes--was going to calm down the aggressions of these highly tuned athletes (one of them was 5'5'', 400 pounds, and didn't have a muscle on him). As unkind words were exchanged between players on opposing teams, I extended a warning to a particularly offensive hothead and told him that a technical would be his if he continued his behavior. I smirked at my word choice, and joined the rest of the game back on the court. With :30 seconds left in the game, I heard from the sideline, faintly as if on the wind, the cursings and bantings of said player. I walked up to him, placed whetted whistle in mouth, and blew his cursings into obscurity. I did my best NBA referee impersonation and created the letter "T" with two perpendicularly colliding hands, and added a little hop to my skip. I felt like a movie star. Team one erupted, while team two added words of approval to my call. I treaded softly and quietly as I left the gym tonight, with one eye on the dark corners of the parking lot and the other focused on what self-defense moves I might use if team one was seen by eye #1.

I love the little stories people have in their lives. I am certain that's why I like blogs so much. It is the common man's recounting of his humble stories. Enjoy my stories, world. And keep entertaining me with yours. I'll report my news tomorrow once my future is set! (or once my plans solidify).

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Youth Can Be Stressful

If you know me, then you would know that there is nothing better in my life than Saturday morning football. The only thing that can improve Saturday morning football is the addition or subtraction of different variables and conditions to the Saturday morning football experience. For example, when it is very hot--the pleasure experienced by the event is lessened. However, when conditions are snowy--the pleasure is exponentially increased. Exponentially, because chances of blood increase exponentially with each new footstep (uneven surface) in the snow. Today is Saturday. This morning was Saturday morning. Football was played. Tackles were made. And blood appeared swiftly and frequently.

Saturday morning football, though a worthy diversion, is not what brings me back to blogging. There are so many experiences I need to write about so as to glean something from them, but knowing that people read this blog somewhat affects my choice of content. I have thought about blogging on a couple movies I saw over break. There are more man-bag stories to be told. Antioch, in itself, is blog worthy. I feel like a kid every time I go back, and let's get this straight--I am still a child at heart. I do no have anything figured out. The things I thought I had "figured out" about life were mentally debunked in my brief stay back home.

The topic which interests me and exhausts my patience lately is that of choosing a Major, or more broadly, "The Future." In reality, I am afraid of something that does not and never will exist. The Future is just some word someone thought up to define the decisions we will make someday, to distract us or motivate us to make the right decisions today. I don't think very often about the current while in the present, I often think about the current while lost in the future.

What I am basically saying, is that I don't know what I want to do with my life.

In the past 2 weeks I have changed my major multiple times. First, I was content with German and Philosophy. Second, I was wholeheartedly for Athletic Training. Then I learned about Athletic training and started to like Clinical Laboratory Science. Third, I decided that Genetics was closer to what sounds interesting to me. Then, lastly, I decided that I don't want to decide. Wouldn't things, in a way, be much easier if we were hunter-gatherers? You grow up knowing exactly what you are going to be someday and you are good at it when the time comes. Minus the potential loincloth, of course.

If anyone has had inspiration on what I am supposed to be doing with my life, please inform me. Otherwise I may indeed look into becoming a hunter-gatherer.