Sunsets, Sailboats & Santorini

Sunsets, Sailboats & Santorini

This is the first year as far back as I can remember that I did not go to grandma’s with Laur to color Easter eggs. It has always been one of my favorite traditions… along with getting dressed up in pretty, spring dresses for the Easter church service and eating far too many Reese’s eggs … Read more

This is the first year as far back as I can remember that I did not go to grandma’s with Laur to color Easter eggs. It has always been one of my favorite traditions… along with getting dressed up in pretty, spring dresses for the Easter church service and eating far too many Reese’s eggs for a girl to count. Although I wish I was there with my family to celebrate, I can’t say that I’m hating laying out by the pool in the 70 degree weather in Santorini, Greece.

The past few days have been nothing but amazing. Best. Spring break. EVER! And we still have two more days ahead of us. I flew to Greece with my friend Olivia and we were greeted at the airport by Nikos, the hotel manager. He drove us to the hotel, giving us many restaurant and day trip recommendations and Greek 101 lessons along the way. After showing us around, he informed us that he was going to upgrade us to a superior suite! Needless to say, we loved Nikos from day one. After resting at the hotel for a bit, we got ready and went out for our first Greek dinner. We went to a restaurant called Naoussa, where I ordered dolmades, grapevine leaves stuffed with rice. They were… interesting. Not something I would ever order again, but I am glad I tried it. For dessert, we stopped at a bakery where I got milopita, a Greek version of apple pie with cinnamon. Definitely made up for the grape leaves!

sunset

The next day we got the full Greek experience. First, we had breakfast by the pool. Greek yogurt with honey, a Greek cake with jam and orange juice! I now love Greek yogurt with honey and look forward to it every morning. We then made our way to the city center, only about a five minute walk from the hotel. Most of the houses and buildings are all white cave houses with pastel blue, pink or orange domes and doors. The colors and houses make me so happy; they are the cutest in the world. We then took a cable car down to the port, where we got on a sail boat for a boat cruise to the volcano. We got off at the volcano and had over an hour to hike to the top and enjoy the amazing view. I loved this volcano hike much more than Mt. Vesuvius as it was so warm out and instead of snow on the volcano, there were gorgeous pink flowers and large straw umbrella awnings and benches to sit on along the way in case you got tired.

boatcruise

After the volcano, we got back on the boat to go to the hot springs. Once there, people began to strip down and jump in. Now you would think that when I saw everyone’s faces turning pale white when they jumped in and heard their gasps, I would have known better than to get in the water… but it appears that I didn’t pick up on those clues. A lady at the front of the boat saw me hesitating and promised that if I didn’t do it, I would regret it forever. So with that, I stripped down to my bikini and plunged into the Aegean Sea. I can’t even describe the first few minutes in the water. I literally could not breathe. All air was sucked out of me and I was left coughing for air and laughing from shock at the same time. It was the coldest water I have ever felt in my entire life. I was then informed that I had to swim 15 meters to get to the hot springs. So, after urging Olivia to hurry into the water, I began to swim like a fish. Olivia had to turn around and get back on the boat because it was that intolerable, but I was so determined. If only I knew that when arriving at the “hot springs,” the water would be only about five degrees warmer. “Where is it hot?!” I gasped when I arrived near the other jumpers. “Nowhere!” they all replied through chattering teeth. So, ten seconds later they all began to swim back to the boat. Not wanting to get stuck in the arctic cold water waiting in line at the boat’s ladder, I waited for five minutes and tried to build my courage to start back. God was probably a bit confused as to why I was so worried about the small swim, considering how He’s carried me through this entire study abroad experience so far, but I prayed the entire way back that I would have enough breath to make it back to the boat. HOT springs?!?! Yea no. Worthwhile experience? Absolutely. (We were then informed that there were storms and heavy rains for the past three days before we arrived and that may be why the water was so cold. Thanks for the late notice buddies).

donkeyride

Instead of taking the cable car back up to the city center, we opted for donkey rides!!! It was a bit scary as the old, Greek men were a bit rough and pushy and the donkeys literally ran up all 600 some steep steps, but it was one of the coolest things I have ever done. We then did some souvenir shopping and then I ordered my first gyro for lunch! It was so good! I can’t believe I would never try them before at the fair. We then went back to the hotel and relaxed by the pool for the rest of the afternoon before getting ready for dinner. We ended up at the cutest little outside restaurant where we ordered waffles. Waffles are apparently a big deal in Greece! Who knew? I ordered a waffle with fresh fruit and honey. It was delicious! The entire day felt like it was straight out a movie. I had the perfect day in Greece.

gyro

The next day we went to the Red Beach, apparently the only Red Beach in the world. It was cool to see. Along the way we stopped at a little house where a lady was selling homemade wines, honey and other small products. She let us taste the wine and figs, which reminded me of fig newtons from home. That night we ended up at another waffle place for a late dinner/dessert. This time I ordered a waffle with caramel baked apples, cinnamon and honey… with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. SO good! When we got back, Nikos said “Why are you girls here?! Why are you not out? Have fun! I take you out!” So, we agreed to go out the next night for dinner.

That night we got all dressed up and went with Nikos, and his friend George, to Naoussa. He made reservations for 10 p.m. and told us it usually gets very crowded around then since Greeks eat dinner around 9:30 p.m. every night! And I thought 8 p.m. was late for dinner in Italy! He recommended that I try a traditional Greek dish called moussaka, a sort of casserole with ground meat, eggplant and potatoes. I never thought I liked eggplant and I am definitely not a fan of any meat besides chicken, but when will I ever get to come back to Greece? So, I ordered moussaka and loved it! It is my favorite dish I have had here. It reminded me of lasagna, but it was even better.

We sat and talked for over two hours and learned so much about Greek culture. We learned that without donkeys, Santorini would not be the same as it is today. When building cave houses, the Greeks would have to hang by harnesses. There was no way to put rocks on a truck or cart so high up, so the donkeys would carry the rocks up and down the narrow paths. Without them, the architecture would be completely different. Also, most of the buildings have arcs and domes because of an earthquake that previously shook Santorini. The construction of the arcs allowed for more stable buildings.

I asked Nikos if he plans on staying in Santorini for a while and he said he doesn’t make plans anymore. “When you make plans, the gods are laughing,” he said. After much insisting that we were way too full, Nikos and George still ordered two traditional Greek desserts for our table to share. When I tried to give Nikos money for our meal, he said it was an insult and that they covered the bill. George drove us back to the hotel and said goodnight, followed by “be my Facebook friend!”

Social Responsibility Trip to the DR!

Social Responsibility Trip to the DR!

This semester I am enrolled in Dr. Kramer’s Social Responsibility and Personal Well-Being course, one that I already highly recommend. We are reading several incredible books, like World on Edge, full of factoids on how to make the world a better place, and also find ourselves within deep conversation on achieving personal growth within our … Read more

This semester I am enrolled in Dr. Kramer’s Social Responsibility and Personal Well-Being course, one that I already highly recommend. We are reading several incredible books, like World on Edge, full of factoids on how to make the world a better place, and also find ourselves within deep conversation on achieving personal growth within our lives. One of the reasons I was drawn to the course in the first place as well was the spring break service trip to a Spanish speaking country.

Originally we planned to go to El Salvador, but due to a travel warning, we weren’t able to go and are now headed to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. In the DR, our class will be working with West Indies Christian Ministries participating in service for its school and working with kids at the site for the entire week. Although we leave on Saturday at 2:15 in the morning to catch an early flight out of Cleveland, I am stoked for the trip.

I have been itching to practice my Spanish more since returning from Spain, and am glad I can be immersed in another spanish speaking culture. I also plan to document the trip through photo and video, potentially making a digital short or documentary if you will. Who knows! I also am excited to pack as little as possible for this trip to really challenge and stretch myself. I am very excited for the trip, and will share many fotos upon our return!

Later, and have fun on your very own spring break trip! Hasta luego, y diviértete en su viaje de vacaciones de primavera!

Travel Bug: Best Tips for Packing Light

Travel Bug: Best Tips for Packing Light

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A few months ago I was hiking in the Galician region of northern Spain on el Camino de Santiago, and also traveling all around Europe on a tight budget. You can find very cheap flights in Europe, but the costs they hit you with are baggage fees, where if you literally can’t shove, jump, or punch your carry-on into the overhead compartment rack, you will have to check your bag (at a steep or undesireable price). Long story short, I needed to pack for about 10 days straight when hiking and 3 weeks straight over my spring break, all in a lovely Osprey Hornet 46 Liter bag, which is comparable to a larger backpack. So, here is “The Lucky 7,” my general rules to follow when packing in addition to my item lists for two trips!

  1. If it’s on Your Back, it Will Pack – Most of the time if you have a bag on your back, even if it may be a little bigger than standard size, the flight attendant will just look at your bag and pass you up in the line. This may not always work, but remember to try and carry everything you need right on your back.
  2. Plan, Make a List and Check it – Whenever traveling it is good to know where you are going, the weather and climate, etc. It usually helps to write things down as reminders and cross items off once you know they’ve been packed.
  3. Pack Efficiently – It’s true that one person may be able to fit double the items as someone else just because they know how to pack right. To take advantage of the most space in your bag, roll items like pants and shirts and use smaller things like socks and underwear as filler items. When you can, think miniature as far as toothpaste, toiletries and other small accessory items.
  4. Versatility is King – When packing light, if you are trying to minimize items, it’s a good idea to make sure clothes can be worn for different purposes. Pack some pants that can look dressy with a button-up, but also can be pulled off casual and feel comfortable. I highly recommend the prAna bronson pants, my favorite! Try to make sure almost everything can go with all other clothing items in your bag if you can, and maybe lean toward bringing more neutral colors.
  5. If You Debate it, You Won’t Need it – If you keep on thinking you may or may not need an item, leave it out. Always remember you can do laundry pretty much wherever or at least hand wash clothes. This classic mistake might be due to the many seemingly fantastic travel gadgets available, but a good rule of thumb is if you don’t need it at home, you don’t need it while traveling.
  6. Wear it! – If your bag doesn’t fit or you need more space, wear some of your clothes. I once saw two travel buddies in the Stockholm airport literally pulling out half of their clothes in the security checkpoint! Definitely put on the most clunky and heavy things as well as shoes and sweaters so you pass the weight limit. If you’re worried about wrinkly clothes consider buying wrinkle-free wear.
  7. Simplify – Remember that you can always buy things there. Challenge yourself, see if you can survive with the most minimal belongings. The nice thing is too, then you don’t need to lug around a very heavy bag the whole trip!

Here is a sample list of the things I brought with me in my spring break bag where I traveled to around 5 different countries: comfortable walking shoes, sandals, Patagonia capilene baselayer, hat, sunglasses, swimsuit, shorts – 1 athletic – 2 North Face, shirts – 2 dress – 2 undershirts – 1 long sleeve tee – 4 tees, pants – 2 pair, socks – 5 pair (odor resistant if possible!), underwear – 4 pair, jacket – rain/insulator, moneybelt/documents, electronics – cell phone (doubled as alarm clock) – camera – ipod – computer (if need be) – chargers – memory cards, Nalgenes, watch (comes in handy!), ear plugs, toiletries, small quick drying pack towel, notepad, small first-aid, bag locks, chico bags and any snacks if you wish. I would say I overpacked too!

On a different trip, when I hiked for 10 days in northern Spain, I substituted some things out for others: comfortable hiking boots (worn at almost all times), sandals (for at hostels), Patagonia capilene baselayer, hat, bandana, shorts/pants – lightweight convertable zip-offs – 1 athletic, 1 North Face, shirts - 4 pair, socks – 5 pair (boy did these smell), underwear – 4 pair, jacket – rain/insulator, moneybelt/documents, electronics – cell phone (doubled as alarm clock) – camera – ipod – chargers, Nalgenes, watch, ear plugs (necessity for group hostels on the trail!), toiletries, small quick-drying pack towel, sleep sack, hammock, collapsable hanger, playing cards, notepad, small first-aid, bag locks and chico bags. Some other hiking materials were needed on this trip.

Just remember with added fees from airlines, the hassle of baggage claim and the many TSA regulations, being able to carry on luggage is a must and will make your life a heck of a lot easier. There are many instances where people need to get their bag checked, and you do not want to fall into this trap. My one friend on the way to Morocco barely got her bag past security after I saw her pull out Ugg boots, and other heavy items too (see tip #6)! I have confidence that everyone will be master packers next time they travel. Here are some dimensions for your convenience…

American Airways: The maximum dimensions cannot exceed any of the following measurements: 22″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ tall or 115cm (56 x 36 x 23 cm). All carry-on items should be stowed in an overhead bin. You are also allowed one personal item in addition to your carry on.

RyanAir: Strictly one item of cabin baggage per passenger (excluding infants) weighing up to 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm is permitted. (handbag, briefcase, laptop, shop purchases, camera etc.) must be carried in your 1 permitted piece of cabin baggage. Extra/oversized cabin baggage will be refused at the boarding gate, or where available, placed in the hold of the aircraft for a fee of £50/€50. If you are unsure, check at the Bag Drop desk before going through security. You are NOT allowed on personal item in addition to your carry on.

I hope “The Lucky 7″ and my sample lists can help you on your next adventure!

Spring Break Plans

Spring Break Plans

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I’ve never done anything really exciting for spring break. I visited my family in Portland one year but that was about it. This spring is probably the first spring break where I don’t know what I am going to do. I have the chance to go to Florida, home or I can just stay at Mount Union.

If I go to Florida, I’m obviously going to have a good time with my friends, have an actual warm spring break and I’ll get to relax. That doesn’t sound bad at all. The main problem is money because I never really have a lot of that green stuff.

If I go home, it will be snowing like it did last spring break, so that’s no fun. I may go sledding if there is enough snow though. You can never be too old for sledding. I won’t do anything productive other than catching up on movies that I’ve been waiting to watch.

If I stay at school, I’ll be helping the guys who may make it to the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships. My goal is to represent Mount Union one day at that national tournament, and I know if I was training for it, I’d want good drill partners, which is what I want to do for my teammates now. I’d also work as a student ambassador, so I’d be making money and staying healthy.

Most people will be going home over spring break, maybe even on vacation with their friends, but this spring break, I’m most likely going to be doing something productive for the first time ever.

Top 10 Random Awesome Things

Top 10 Random Awesome Things

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Watch the video LAST. If you watch it early, it will take away the excitement of knowing why it is #1 on this list.

I’ve decided to make a Top 10. Everyone loves a good Top 10 of anything and if it is awesome, then who wouldn’t want to read it? I’ve recently been excited about a few things lately, things that have or haven’t even happened yet. Basically, just read this list and I hope something on it makes you smile.

10. Back to the Future: Trilogy. Travel back in time with a Delorean? I’ve seen these movies multiple times and I keep finding new things I didn’t realize before. Good job Spielberg. These movies had action, comedy, romance, time travel and even a dog. Back to the Future is awesome.

9. History section of the library. There are very few people in the history section of the library, which means I am able to get my studying, homework and blogs completed. The history section, it’s awesome.

8. Gerard Butler. I realized that I have a man crush on him. He is always the toughest and manliest in movies, and he always wins. He also was the Phantom in the Phantom of the Opera and has an amazing voice. I don’t sing well. It doesn’t matter if I sing well, it only matters if girls think I sing well and it is a lot easier to get girls when you have a voice like Gerard Butler. Gerard Butler, he’s awesome.

7. Christmas sweaters. They are only in fashion for about a month and everyone notices when you wear one. They are usually made with love or in China, but they are always warm and people are usually uber jealous of your sweater. Christmas sweaters, they are awesome.

6. People who read my blog. I like attention just like any other person and when people read my blogs and tell me nice job, it’s a good feeling. I like writing, but I never see my audience or hear their applause. The only way I know is if there is a comment or if someone tells me they read it. Readers are awesome.

5. Women that don’t wear make-up. Most men would agree, we prefer a woman without make up and also dyed hair. I don’t mind girls with make up or dyed hair, I just have simple preferences. Women without make-up are awesome.

4. Letters in the mail. I’ve already made a post about this, but simply getting a letter from a friend in the mail makes my day way better. Friends that send me letters are awesome.

3. Anything free. Free t-shirts, free scholarships (money), free food, free massages, free Play-Doh, free socks and free laundry, etc. Free stuff is awesome and usually comes at no cost to you, which is what makes it free. Free stuff is awesome.

2. Peaches. I just love peaches. They are awesome. The Presidents of the United States of America even made a song about peaches titled “Peaches.” Peaches are awesome.

1. This video. I love dancing and it is fun for everyone, no matter what style. These people are insane. They are awesome.

This list isn’t the most awesome thing in the world, but I hope it brought you into my little world for just a few minutes. I like to change things up once in awhile. Next semester will be interesting since I have only one class on Tuesday and for the first time I start class at 9 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. This is awesome.

First week back

First week back

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Well, the first week back from Spring Break went pretty smoothly. But, I wish this weather was a bit more consistent though … sheesh.BTW, I hope everyone enjoyed a safe St. Patrick’s Day!

Spring Break is Over

Spring Break is Over

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The past nine days flew by faster than I could believe. And, if you ask me, it didn’t feel much like a vacation at all!

I’m from Chicago, and there are pretty much two seasons – windy and sunny and windy and snowy – each one lasting roughly six months. But this past week the weather has been absolutely nuts. Right now it’s 30 degrees and hailing. But, when I woke up this morning it was 60 degrees and sunny. Two days before that there was a winter storm warning and all of the local high schools were closed. Two days before that it was 65 degrees and I was running around campus in shorts and a t-shirt. If you don’t like the weather in Ohio, just wait five more minutes, it’ll change.

The last half on this past week was pretty hectic for me because it was the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships down in Columbus, Ohio. I went with senior Scott Thomas who finished sixth place, which earned him All-American honors at the meet. He is the first All-American for our new head men’s track coach, Kevin Lucas, who is taking over for legend John Homon. There is no rest between indoor and outdoor track. The Stark County Championships will be held this Friday at nearby Walsh University, and a lot of Purple Raiders will be trying to qualify for conference and nationals in the next few weeks. This Saturday is the first step…

I am looking forward to the start of this week because the Annual Student Art Exhibit will open featuring artwork done by students at Mount Union! If you want check out some of these great pieces they will be on display at the Crandall Art Gallery starting Monday, March 14 and running through the end of the month. Types of art on display include drawing, design, printmaking, photography and sculpture. The Gallery is open Monday-Friday from 8 -9 a.m. and from 1 – 6 p.m. on weekends.

Time to Return

Time to Return

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I’m preparing to head back to campus. It’s the end of spring break, and I am getting things ready back home to go back to school. The most difficult part for me is saying goodbye to my family. We are a close group and I hate not being able to see them every day and talk to them about things that go on in my life and their lives. Another difficult part is when I get back to school I have to be ready to jump right back into the swing of things. Tests and student recitals … speaking of which, if you have never attended a student recital in Cope music hall, I would suggest going. It is a chance to see fellow students perform. I have my first one this Tuesday, so if anyone is interested in hearing a bassoon, come on over to Cope at 10:30 a.m. Hope everyone is ready for the last half of this very long semester, and that it was a good week off for everyone.

Spring Break for Me

Spring Break for Me

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Wow. It’s spring break already. I wanted to relax and take a break from school work. Most students take this time to let everything from school escape them and sleep in. But, me on the other hand, I have gotten up early every day and have gone to elementary schools in my area to observe a music teacher. Being an education major, I am required to observe a teacher for 30 hours. I don’t have enough time in my regular schedule so I’m doing it during spring break. It actually has been quite enjoyable seeing all of the students and being back in a teaching position. Doing this really makes me very excited to teach.

The last part of my spring break will be like other students’, but for the week I’m going to go to school and teach music. Hope everyone else is having a great spring break and comes back to school all refreshed and ready for the last half of the semester.

The Break Effect

The Break Effect

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I’ll be the first to admit it: I procrastinated with homework this spring break.

Now, I’m positive that I am not the only one, but as I was working on some statistics homework, I thought I would make a chart to illustrate the connection between a college student’s productivity level and the amount of time that passes over the 10 day spring break.

Reading from left to right, each day is labeled with a number. The numbers are annotated as follows:

1. The “I’m going to get all my homework done today so I have all of break to relax!” mode.
2. The “It’s Saturday, I can take a break. I mean, I have all week!”
3. “I can’t do any work, Sunday is a day of rest… and video games.”
4. Sleep in until 2 p.m.
5. “Eh, I have plenty of time left. I’ll hit it hard tomorrow.”
6. Slight increase in productivity until what little resolve you started with is gone.
7. “Oh boy. There are still so many things I want to do before break is over. To the lab!”
8. “Last weekend. It’s as if I never had break, I’ll just do my homework on Saturday like usual.”
9. Small amount of work gets done before friends text you with last weekend plans.
10. “Oh crap. It’s all over. No need to worry though, I’ve been in this place before and emerged victorious.”
11. Up until 3 a.m. finishing all the work you had forgotten about and only remembered because you actually opened you books instead of using them as coasters for the past 10 days. Effectively killing all sleep you regained over break.

Happy Monday.

While this was meant as a joke, and I have been more diligent than this, I believe we have all been in this mode or felt similar as days roll by on an extended break period. It is hard to get up the motivation to start work during leisure, but often I realize that I had built how difficult the actual work was in my mind. Once I started and got rolling, I was able to finish most of my assignments with little pain.

Something that I use to help with my slight tendency to procrastinate is called the 30/30 Minute Work Cycle. The basic idea around this work cycle is that you spend 30, uninterrupted minutes (turning off your Internet helps) working on a task. When that time is up, you can have 30 minutes to do whatever you like. Using this system, I was able to get all my work done in a single day, along with finishing the campaign of one of my favorite games. You can read up on the whole idea here.

Here’s to a productive end of spring break!