Thursday, December 30, 2010

Total 2010 Recap

I haven't blogged in ages, and there is no excuse. But no time like the new year to rectify that, am I right?

I wrote in my planner a few days ago "write reflective blog post on 2010". I've been putting it off naturally, because how does one sum up an entire year? It seemed such a daunting task that I actually completed "do laundry", "clean up house from birthday party" and "renew Disneyland annual pass first" -- which are all incredibly painful chores, I assure you.

2010 was an amazing year for me. I think one is doing a grand job living their life if each year surpasses the last, and so far in my 23 years of life I feel I have managed to accomplish this for myself. I'm going to go through the months and try to remember the highlights and accomplishments from this year.

January: This may not seem like a huge deal, but I got my first smart phone in January. Google sent me the Nexus One as a gift, and since I don't have T-Mobile I traded it for an HTC Hero for Sprint and sad as it sounds, it has kind of changed my life. Being able to check email, tweet, do so many social-networky things from literally anywhere has completely changed what it means to be plugged in, and I think it's only helped to create this self brand I've been building online.

February: I registered for my last quarter of college. I spent a lot of time at home really bonding with roommates. I started to realize I was outgrowing my job at the theatre that I had loved for so long. I spent another Valentine's Day alone, which in actuality means Eia and I spent another Valentine's day with our credit cards at the mall. I did a huge zombie photoshoot with NightZero where we shot about 80 different frames for a vignette in a single day. And Luke came to Mexico with my family and I for a lovely week in the sun.

March: Luke came to Seattle and we filmed the Don't Unplug Me and World of Warcraft music videos. Our album "Bmin/E" came out this month. I think this was a huge turning point in my life, to be honest. I kind of feel like everything changed after Bmin/E came out. ALL CAPS went almost instantly from a fun hobby to my legitimate job, and the opportunities that started pouring in were incredible. We had a big NightZero party at our house, which was another good step in the direction of me making more friends in Seattle. Then that month, I quit my theatre job. It was a hard decision, but in hindsight, it was the right one.

April: I saw one of my favorite bands, Muse, in concert for the second time. I don't think I could ever see this band live too many times. It's just such a breathtaking experience. Then on Easter weekend, I went with my parents to a casino for the first time (which was the first of many, surprisingly). Took my second trip to LA of the year. My roommate Justin and I started the "Back to the Future Game" which essentially just means we turn on the TV and hope Back to the Future is on (which we're still playing actually, though we also started one for Spongebob since then). This month is also the month I think I started becoming friends with Ariana, who I had no idea at the time would become one of my best friends. I auditioned for America's Next Top Model. xD I also met the lovely security guard at my local bank this month, who became a regular character in my blog. Hallows and Horcruxes Ball 3 was this month, and Luke and I performed "Lumos Flies" - technically our first live ALL CAPS performance. Also, unbeknownst to the world, I started playing WoW.

May: I started to get to know Tara, who I had no idea would also become a very good friend of mine. Save the Children invited me to come along to Washington DC for Advocacy Day, which was the first time I took any sort of trip because of YouTube for social activism. Luke came out to visit one more time before heading to Wyoming for the summer, and I spent the better part of this month slaving over my Senior Thesis. I watched the Series finale of Lost, bringing a huge chapter of my life to an end. Went on my family's annual camping trip that I had missed the previous three years because of HP events.

June: Graduated from the University of Washington. It felt surreal - simultaneously like I had been in college forever, and like no time had passed at all since high school. I didn't enjoy college as much as I'd hoped, so finishing was a monumental occasion for me, one I was very proud of. Tara asked me to become a permanent writer for I started watching the Shaytards on YouTube. I left for summer tour.

July: Most of this month was tour. I learned so much about myself and my friends on this tour - and for the most part, had a total blast. I went to VidCon, where ALL CAPS got to close the mainstage show the first night. I went to Infinitus, where I got to experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and definitely cried the first time I stepped into Hogsmeade. One of my favorite cousins got married and my family was right there at the wedding cheering him on. I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

August: I blogged every day in August. I went to the Renaissance Faire with my friends and met a whole bunch of new people there I had no idea would become good friends of mine later on. Again, I spent a lot more time bonding with my Seattle friends, after a crazy summer of being gone. Powered through about 4 seasons of Buffy. Read Mockingjay, a heart-wrenching and powerful book I'd been looking forward to all year. America's Next Top Model called me in for a private audition for Cycle 16, but my flight got cancelled and I didn't get to go. My roommate and friend PJ moved out of our house. I continued to get to know Tara and the other new Zaxy writer, Brittney, and we started our semi-regular Zaxy sleepovers.

September: I went to the Bahamas with my two best friends, Eia and Liz and had such an amazing wonderful relaxing time. I got to attend PAX Prime here in Seattle, experiencing a whole world of video games I didn't even know existed. I went to LA again, my third trip in 2010. Luke and I worked on our acoustic album but mostly played Magic the Gathering all week. I got ready to leave for fall tour.

October: Went to my hometown's annual parade, saw my brother in his marching band for the last time (he's a Senior). Most of this month was spent on fall tour, which was possibly even more incredible than summer tour. Getting to spend that much time on the road with my best friends is an experience that's not even comparable to anything else. Got to know Ariana a lot more and started getting really close with her. Broke my toe, went to ZomBcon and had a hilariously wonderful Halloween party at our place in Seattle.

November: Most of this month was NaNoWriMo. Successfully completed my 5th year of writing 50,000 words in a month. Attended Wrockstock 4. Went to LA for the fourth time in 2010 and spent a lot of time with friends down there. Came home and essentially locked myself in my room and wrote for the remainder of the month. Eia moved out of my house, which was sad, but gave me her huge bedroom which is so much better for making videos and recording music.

December: Went to Guatemala with Save the Children, which was an awe-inspiring, life changing experience. Went down to LA for a fifth time, this time for the Project 4 Awesome livestream that was also a pretty mind-boggling thing to be a part of. Met a ton of YouTubers (including Shay and Katilette, which was awesome) and for the first time, really felt like an important member of this community on a larger scale. Came home, spent time with Seattle friends, spent Christmas with my family, had an amazing birthday with my friends at my house, saw the Harry Potter Exhibition and now I'm getting ready for New Year's Eve, the end of this incredible year, and the start of one I can only hope is going to be even better.

I was going to wax philosophical about the tone and feel and themes of my year, but I think this summary is sufficient to stand alone. I'm going to let this all stew, and go into the new year without any expectations or implications. Thanks for coming along with me on this crazy trainride of my life, and I hope you'll stick around to see what the next chapter brings.

Total chipotle burritos in 2010: Only something like 26, I lost count.
Last google search of 2010: "renew Disney annual pass"

I feel like I should go out with a question here -- for the comments, what was your absolute favorite memory of 2010? Also, did I meet you this year? If so, tell me when!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Guatemala Part 4

Dec 3, 2010

Apparently the no heat situation extended to the water as well, because if I wanted a shower this morning, it had to be ice cold. So I opted out (the idea of putting my already freezing body into freezing water just was not my idea of a good morning), and began today's journey a bit dirtier than I normally allow myself to be when I venture out into public, especially when I'll be filming myself all day.

Today was another astonishing day. We had breakfast at the cheese farm (pancakes, pineapple, eggs, black beans, and of course tortillas). We spent a bit of time admiring the fog rolling in over the sleepy valley we were staying in, said hello to the horses and chickens (though none of us were particularly fond of the previously mentioned rooster) and then we were on our way. We drove about a half an hour until we got to a little village set precariously on the steepest, muddiest hill I've ever seen.

First we had to trek up this slippery path that led us to the school and the health center (children walk up that path to go to school, every day! I can't imagine!) and we got to go in and see all the mothers bringing in their young children to have them checked out for colds, pneumonia, etc. The health facilitator was this sweet girl who let me come in the consultation room and she taught me how to test the respiratory patterns of babies. The baby I got to test was pneumonia-free. :)

We left the health center (which was just a building with concrete flooring and two rooms in the back for consultations and injections) to head back down the scary steep hill for some home visits. There were two mothers in the village with newborns, so we went to talk with them, give them hats that were donated to Save the Children, and see their homes. I really couldn't believe the insides of some of these homes.

The first home had electricity (meaning a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling) but also a makeshift sink and a sewing machine out front. Inside the house was basically two beds, a small table and a television, actually. That surprised me the most. They also had chickens walking around the house, coming and going as they pleased (which made me giggle). There was also a pig tied up outside with a water dish. Like a pet dog.

The next house was a bit larger but had no TV, and instead of a sewing machine they had some sort of complex and intricate weaving device hanging from the top of the porch. We talked to the mother of this baby for awhile; she wasn't able to sit up because she'd had a c-section but seemed to be recovering well. She let me hold her baby for awhile, and we gave her a little white and yellow hat with matching booties. I have some footage of Rebecca and I putting the little booties on this infant (they were quite a few sizes too big) and I think that's one of my favorite moments from this whole trip. I'm not sure I've ever held a baby so young, either. I think she was only 15 or so days old; it was amazing holding something so little in my arms.

By this time we were running a bit late (it's easy to do that when there are adorable babies everywhere) so we said our goodbyes and hopped in the cars again. We had a very, very long drive back to Antigua so we wanted to get going early. We wound, turned and bumped our way along and after a quick lunch stop at the Save the Children headquarters, we finally rolled into Antigua around 5. Somehow I got a super sweet room with a living room so I am currently just hanging out here by myself before we all meet at 7 for dinner, our last event together. I have a super early flight tomorrow with Mary Beth, so I'll probably just turn in early tonight after we eat.

Mary Beth and I poked around in the artisan's district a little bit when we first got back and I got suckered into buying a couple more things - but two of the things I bought are Christmas presents, and the other is just a little hand-woven bracelet I added to the growing collection of things around my wrists. I like that all of my bracelets have a story (either from places I travel or bracelets fans made and gave me on tour), so I figured one from Guatemala was a worthy addition.

I can't believe how quickly this trip has gone by, but at the same time I'm a little excited to be going home tomorrow. Mostly because I can't wait to tell my friends and family everything i've seen and to start editing the videos I plan to make with all the great footage I shot while I was here.

It's almost dinnertime! I guess this is it. Coming to Guatemala was amazing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Guatemala Part 3

Dec 2, 2010

Today was incredible.

The morning started at 5 AM for me; I woke up, forced myself to get out of bed, showered and packed my things rather than laze around with the extra time I had given myself. I wandered around the hotel in the crisp morning air, taking in the decaying walls of the monastery, perusing the artifacts and just generally feeling a bit awe-inspired by where I was.

We met up with the entire group out front, climbed into the three separate vehicles we had for traveling around, and began our long, long journey. We drove for about an hour and a half before stopping at a cute little restaurant for breakfast. This place was so fun; they had individual fire pits they'd bring you at your table to keep warm, and I got to try this black bean stuff that looked like a scoop of black mud ice cream but was actually really delicious. The oatmeal was a bit soggy but I just picked all the bananas out (because bananas are awesome). I also tried "eggs on corn" which was essentially two eggs on some corn patties. Not bad.

There was a little market out front where a bunch of vendors kept telling me I was "muy bonita" (probably just to sucker me into buying their stuff) (it worked). I bought myself a pink scarf and a knitted maroon cap and then I bought a bunch of souvenirs for friends and for my mom which I wont spoil here in case they're reading my blog.

Then it was back into the car, where we drove for another good two-three hours before stopping into a small Save the Children office in some town whose name I can't remember. This began the part of the day where I started sleeping in the car (or attempting to sleep) and why I now have a rather large bruise on my head where I kept knocking it against the window accidentally (the only guy on the trip, Andrew, was in the same car as me told me he could hear my head hitting the window repeatedly all day and couldn't believe I wasn't waking up. I guess two months of touring makes you a pretty fierce car sleeper, even on these ridiculously unpaved and bumpy roads).

More driving, then another food stop. We ate at another cute restaurant where I got to try some of the local soda (I got orange, because I gave up pop altogether awhile back but I can't resist orange soda at times) and had some amazing chicken soup and mashed potatoes with green flecks in it. I don't know what the green flecks were, but I am fairly certain they were supposed to be there.

Then we drove some MORE, and finally, finally got to our first village stop around 2:30. We were in a small community right in time for the baby-weighing. All the mothers in the community bring their small children to this big room and line up to have their children's arms measured and then they have to put the babies in these harness things to weigh them (kind of like the things you use to weigh fruit at the grocery store). We got to talk to the women, and they introduced us to everyone, and I got to give a hat to a mother and put it on her baby's head. Then she let me hold the baby. It was a pretty amazing moment, made even more special because the baby's middle name was Christina.

Then we had to go, so we drove more until we got to the home of this agricultural leader for Save the Children. He showed all of us around his yard, showing off his plants and his pigs and his method of raising and breeding goats (which included keeping them in these tree-house like pens up in the air and having a drainage system to catch their urine to use for fertilizer). It was really crazy to see such a different style of living, so up close and personal. They had all these kids running around and the kids were just absolutely adorable. They kept asking me to take pictures and video of them (in spanish xD) and then immediately asking to see it, then completely cracking up when they saw themselves on the little screen. I don't think they have their pictures taken very often, so I was more than happy to take as many pictures as they wanted. I managed to get in a few shots with them, and so far those pictures are my favorite souvenir.

One thing that's been a little difficult for me is the language barrier. Most of the people on the trip with me are at least semi-fluent in Spanish, but I don't speak a word. I adore getting to know children, playing with them, talking to them - but with these kids I've been meeting in Guatemala, I can't really do that at all. I attempted a few hand motions with some of them, but I've been finding the best way to communicate with most of the people I meet in these villages is just by smiling. I did a whole lot of smiling today. It seems to get the message across.

One girl (who was probably about fifteen) at the home we were visiting saw my bracelet that says "Monday" on it and asked me if it was my "nombre" - I had a pretty hard time explaining that not only did it say "Lunes" (Monday), but that "Lunes" was not in fact my name, and why the heck I had a day of the week around my wrist - I finally just sort of dropped my wrist and told her my name was Kristina. I love how people down here say my name. It sounds so pretty.

This was our final stop of the day, so we piled into the cars one last time and began the craziest car ride of my life. First we were all concerned about this apparent mudslide that may or may not be blocking our path to our hotel. We drove through all these insanely windy roads getting higher and higher in elevation until we started seeing all this heavy fog everywhere; I felt like I was in Jurrassic Park or something, it was so scary. I have never legitimately felt like I was going to get attacked by a dinosaur until that car ride. When we finally got to the site of the mudslide, all of us were in shock. It was so wet and slick and goopy and terrifying, and to be honest I'd only ever seen mudslides on TV before. We drove very slowly through it, and then we were back on our way.

We went right through this little town, down a narrow street where we saw loads of dark, tiny homes and children running around and playing and women carrying baskets on their heads and bushels of sticks on their backs. Chickens and cows were just wandering free all over the place, and everyone looked busy. There were no people just hanging out or sitting around, at least not out in public.

It took us about 40 minutes to drive through the town, and that led us to an even smaller road the wound through the hills and parallel to a beautiful stream that followed us for the next forty minutes or so as we made our way to the place that we're now staying tonight. We drove so far, and for so long, that I began to doubt we were really going anywhere. The sheer knowledge that some people live and work so far down a single road, so far away from anything but trees, dirt and their own company is completely mind-blowing to me.

Tonight we ate dinner at the little cheese farm we're staying at; the people who own this place cooked this homemade spaghetti for us, along with tortilla quesadillas. I think we've had tortillas with every meal. I think I'm okay with having tortillas that much. We visited with each other and had a fun little evening and got Rebecca Romijn to sing us the Jewish song she's been telling us about the whole trip. She made us sing the bass part underneath her part though, haha, the "yabba-bim-bams". She told us she once taught Josh Groban that song and had him sing the "yabba-bim-bams" as well. Again I ask, what if my life?

This farm we're staying at has no heat, so I'll be sleeping in my clothes. There is also no way to charge my laptop so I need to cut this short, as it's still just running on the charge from last night. This is so far away from anything even remotely commercial that if I were to go outside right now, that may be the closest I will have ever come to hearing real silence. It's so crazy.

We're not here for long, and we're only making a tiny dent in seeing all the work Save the Children does in this country, but so far it's been just awesome, being here. Now I am going to get under my covers and think about warm things.

Edit: Forgot what I said about silence. Roosters? Really? 3 AM is when they start crowing?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Guatemala Part 2

Later Dec 1, 2010

I arrived in Guatemala after sleeping for most of my 8 hours of flying. The time I didn't spend sleeping were spent playing Puzzlequest on my DS, which is an awesome game and I can't get enough of it.

It took awhile to sort out which immigration booth to go through, where my bags were, and how to find the entrance to customs, but after that was solved I was let into the country with way more ease than I ever received in the UK. A little disoriented, I finally found my group of Save the Children people waiting for me outside the airport, got into our shuttle, and began the forty minute drive to Antigua. It was dark out when I arrived so I didn't get to see much of the scenery along the way (except for a ton of fast food chains including a Domino's Pizza that had a sign claiming it to be "the Dominator!" - which made me giggle). I am really looking forward to staring out the window tomorrow when the sun's out; I'll be doing a lot of that, as our drive is apparently something like 6 or 7 hours.

Everyone on the trip so far is really nice and really easy to talk to. It was all girls for that shuttle so we chitchatted and bonded over all being between 5'9" and 5'11" in height whereas most of the people we'll be working with and talking to on this trip are probably more like 5'.

The hotel that we're staying at is called the Santa Domingo and it's INCREDIBLE. Again, I didn't get to see much of it, as it was dark outside, but it's built around a monastery and a site that's still an active archeological dig, and there are artifacts and museums all over the place, and everything is crumbly and weathered and older than anything we have in America.

There was some music playing off in the distance so Mary Beth and I (she's my main contact at Save, the one who invited me on this trip) decided to wander in the direction of the music rather than turn in for bed right away. We were led along this little bridge path until we found some tables serving hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. After graciously accepting a snack, we continued walking until we found this giant outdoor chapel where there was literally a HUNDRED PEOPLE SINGING AND PLAYING CHRISTMAS MUSIC. We had no idea if these were famous Guatemalan musicians or what, but there were at least a few hundred people in the audience, and the atmosphere was amazing with the high ceilings and the ancient statues of saints behind the performers and the silk banners floating in the night breeze -- and all this was just happening right inside our hotel past the courtyard!

I'm aware none of this trip seems to have anything to do with Save the Children yet, but we're waking up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to head out to the more remote areas where Save has people working, so the philanthropic part of this trip really hasn't begun yet. For tonight, I'm just a girl who's absolutely tickled pink by this beautiful hotel. My room has a fireplace! With wood and matches and kindling sitting out for me! But I don't want to burn down this ancient landmark from the 1500's so I'm not going to use it!

So the thing about traveling in other countries is that you can't always just assume everything is going to be "normal"; specifically the tiny things you take for granted at home might be completely different in another country, causing not so tiny repercussions. Case in point - the "C" on the handle in the bathroom for the sink does not in fact mean "cold" like I assumed, like it was always does at home. I can only imagine it stands for "caliente", because I nearly burned my face off a minute ago while getting ready for bed.

I have to wake up in about six hours so I'm going to call it a night, but I just had to gush about how much I love seeing new places and how I am actually setting my alarm for a half hour earlier tomorrow morning so I can go wander around my hotel a bit. So, to put that in perspective, I am WILLINGLY setting my alarm for 5 AM. Oh traveling. How I love you.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Guatemala Part 1

I know I haven't blogged in a month (exactly a month, actually) but I was doing nanowrimo! I was traveling! I am now going to distract you with lavish imagery about my trip to Guatemala to distract you from being mad at me!

I didn't have Internet during my visit to Central America, so this blog is a few days behind reality. I hope you enjoy hearing about my trip! :)


Dec 1, 2010

I am currently sitting in the Dallas Fort Worth airport, about to get on a plane to Guatemala City. I literally have no idea what to expect for the next three days of my life, despite this trip itinerary I have sitting beside me that just sounds like words as I look over it at this point.

But first, let me back up a little bit.

I haven't blogged in over a month, which I feel terrible about, but I had legitimate reasons. First I was at Wrockstock from November 5-8 (which was amazing, as usual) and then I found myself in LA for another five days or so. When I finally got home I was so behind on NaNoWriMo that I pretty much spent the remainder of the month balancing writing my novel and keeping my sanity in check.

I had a lovely Thanksgiving at home with my family and some of their old friends from North Dakota, Justin and I bought a Wii for our house and set it up, and I hit 50,000 words on my novel on November 30th around 2:30 in the afternoon. After the hectic nature of November and touring with ALL CAPS in October, I was kind of really looking forward to a semi-quiet December at home, but as I'm sure you've all realized by reading my blog, such is not the nature of my life.

I got a call from my contacts at Save the Children about a week ago (the same organization I went to Washington DC with earlier this year for Advocacy Day at the Senate) asking if I would be interested in going on a trip with them to Guatemala to film from my perspective what they're doing down there and to vlog about the experience. I figured it would be sometime in the distance future, with plenty of time to prepare physically and mentally for visiting another country with such a different style of living. However, the trip they were inviting me on was not in fact in the distant future but instead only a week in the future.

Nervous as I was, how could I possibly say so? I couldn't, that's how. The excitement I felt at such an amazing opportunity vastly outweighed the slight apprehension I felt about how little notice I had to get ready.

So… now I am about to leave for what I am assuming is going to be one of the coolest things I have ever done. I will be sure to blog about everything. This is an experience I want to remember in rich, vivid colors, and not let any of the details slip through the cracks of my memory. :)