Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This one time...

This one time, I walked to school and actually started sweating because it was warmer than freezing.

This one time, later that day, I walked home and thought to myself, “Wow, it’s really warm.” It was 72 degrees.

This one time, I came home from school to find the mirror in my room had fallen and broken. Good thing I don’t believe in bad luck.

This one time, I passed my first examen de Español with a very high A. Traeme una cerveza! Jokes…?

This one time, I got out of the shower and had a shelf fall on me AND a heavy bottle of body wash. I was just trying to dry off!
This one time, I went running and saw an otter and four very fat sea lions who were planking on rocks. (Google Image “planking.”) It was funny.

This one time, I bought asparagus from the farmer’s market. I complained inside my head because at home, we just pick it out of the ditches. I steamed it and ate it and it was delicioso.
This one time, I got a personal message from an author telling me that she released her new book and I could buy it for a cheaper price if I hurried. I felt special and I saved $5!

This one time, I watched this video in Spanish class and laughed really hard. If you don’t speak basic Spanish, you won’t get it. It’s people acting out basic Spanish phrases in a very exaggerated way and completely out of normal context. Lo siento. (I’m sorry.)
(¿Que hora es? translates to “What time is it?”)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The week I realized what the word "intensive" means

Two weeks ago, tonight, I was relaxing in Texas (watching Country Strong – probably eating bbq – enjoying air conditioning). One week ago, tonight, I was relaxing in California (surfing the net – eating farmers market strawberries – cuddling in my electric lime colored sheets). That was the life – oh the sweet, sweet life.

Let’s talk about tonight. June 23, 2013. 9:33 p.m., Pacific time. Tonight I am the opposite of relaxed – my brain is frazzled, my tongue feels heavy, and I haven’t checked my hair in a while (it might be sticking in every direction.) My fingers are aching, my feet are crunched up, my eyes are crossing, my back just cracked and made a sound I haven’t heard before.  I am one hot ticket – I tell you what!
According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, the definition for the word intensive is as follows, “highly concentrated <intensive study>. Ok, so what. OK SO EVERYTHING. Capital letters are a must because right now, I would yell if I was a yeller, but I’m not a yeller so I won’t yell.

This past week was my first week of my Summer Intensive Language Program (SILP) Spanish class. It was also the week I realized what the word intensive truly means.
Intensive means:

-          Waking up at 6:24 a.m. and spending the next two hours sucking down coffee and enjoying the only free time you will have that day.

-          Walking 25 minutes from your apartment to MIIS and trying not to get frostbite. People who said that Monterey, California is a warm, tropical paradise were not telling the truth (actually, it was probably just me who said that.) Monterey, California is a very cold place. It is risky to leave the house in sandals. Wearing shorts is probably the worst idea ever. Not having a jacket with you when you are already wearing a long sleeve shirt is an instant invitation to freezing. I have never ending goosebumps.

-          Sitting down in your seat in class, taking out your notebook, binder of paper, textbook, pencil, pen, and highlighter.

-          Trying to understand a teacher who has a very thick Cuban accent and talks so fast my head almost spins off my neck.

-          Trying to understand the Spanish language when you don’t speak Spanish.

-          Trying to speak Spanish when you don’t speak Spanish.

-          Spending your fifteen minute breaks standing in the sun spots because your classroom is an icebox.

-          Spending your hour long lunch sprawled on a bench, in the sun, inhaling food, and remembering that your first language is English.

-          Walking home from school and listening to music so you can remember that you do enjoy the English language.

-          Entering your household, walking to your room, dropping your backpack on the floor, and face planting onto your bed in pure exhaustion.

-          Getting up two seconds later because free time doesn’t exist.

-          Sitting on your floor, sitting at your desk, sitting somewhere with books, paper, and pencils in front of you.

-          Spending 5.5 hours completing your first night of homework.

-          Trying not to squeal with joy when 5:30 p.m. rolls around and it is time to take a break and make dinner.

-          Falling asleep and waking up at 2:39 a.m. to find yourself thinking in Spanish. Every.Darn.Night.

-          Life in Monterey, California

Oh, how I just enjoyed writing all that out. I am living such an intense life right now. You should probably start calling me SuperQuinn or Quinn the Spanish Extraordinaire or even Doctor Quinn Spanish Woman. I am all those things and more. I am a Spanish champion. I am a Spanish professional. {Okay those last two things are definitely not true. Not even close.}
SILP Spanish is the most challenging thing I have ever done in my entire life. That’s really saying something because I have done things like crawled in a very small cave, taught 105 sixteen year olds, reeled in red snappers and puked off a boat, etc. I think I have such an interesting life and I am constantly amused at what I find happening to me. I am currently amused that I am learning Spanish at such an intense level. I am surprised I am still sitting here typing this and not in my bed passed out.

In my first four days of class, I learned four weeks worth of Spanish. FOUR WEEKS. 4. FOUR. Holy smokes. The crazy thing is, I am actually learning Spanish. Last week at this time, I could say things like “Hola!” “Me gusta la playa.” “Si.” I can now say things like, “Hola. Me llamo Quinn. Soy de Sycamore, Illinois. Yo soy la estudiante. Son las doce de la noche. Hay cincuenta gatos en mi casa {falso.} Traeme una cerveza, ahora.” Okay, I have learned a lot more than that, but those are some of the basics.
For all the work that my brain has been put through the last week, I must say that I am really enjoying learning the language. I am constantly amazed at the little connections between Spanish and English. I am also constantly amazed that learning a language is extremely difficult. With every day, I push forward and try my hardest to learn as much as I can. I also fall backwards and feel my eyes crossing because I am trying my hardest to learn as much as I can.

Besides all that, I’m still alive! I’m still enjoying farmers market strawberries (SO DARN GOOD). I’m still cuddling in my electric lime sheets. I’m still being Quinn, just a little more intense version of Quinn.
On another note, I had a great weekend! Who remembers Abby? Who remembers the countless adventures of Abby and Quinn? Who remembers the time we slid down a mountain, or the time we were a forty minute walk from home, next to the ocean, and heard the tsunami warning go off, or even the time we visited another island and jumped off a bridge into the beautiful, turquoise blue waters of the Pacific Ocean? I DO, I DO! Abby was frequently spoken about over on QuinninAmSam. Abby is one of my closest friends, one of my most favorite people, and someone I would gladly travel anywhere and everywhere with just so we could eat allllllll the scrumptious food this world has to offer. ABBY CAME TO VISIT ME! I was one happy Spanish learning lady.

Abby and her incredibly nice, fun, and hilarious boyfriend, Doug, appeared on my doorstop on Friday afternoon and we spent the next 24 hours having an absolute blast! Here’s a little sneak peek of our time together:

Enjoying the beach in Monterey (a 10 minute walk from my apartment!)
Slurping on the most delicious clam chowder while watching seals and sea lions play and swim in the ocean.
Enjoying the Fisherman's Wharf and wondering if seals and sea lions ever lose their voices? They make the oddest sounds - but oh how cute they are! You can find them in the middle right of the picture, sun bathing and piling on top of each other - how comfortable.
So many boats. So many cool photos.
Night beaching it because we could!
Every single time I have lived outside of Illinois, I have lived in this zone. This is getting ridiculous.
We spent all day Saturday at Point Lobos State Park.

I forgot to mention that my friend, Drew, is also here in Monterey! He is taking the same Spanish class as me and is the best study buddy. I don't know what I would do without him! You may recognize him because he was the WorldTeach field director (my boss!) in American Samoa last year! I have loved reuniting with him!

All that brown stuff is kelp. Holy kelp!

One minute you are walking through a luscious green forest and the next you are in the desert. Huh?

Pebble beaches are probably in my top 10 favorite things, ever. Pebble beaches have all sorts of fun creatures that I love to play with.

Whales are my favorite. I would now like a bench with whales on it.

Point Lobos was smothered with Poison Oak (Poison Ivy’s west coast friend, I guess). Let’s hope that five days from now I’m not scratching my eyeballs out. I tried to not touch anything green.
Over the weekend, we saw 2 pods of dolphins, 2 otters, 2 starfish, sea urchins, seals, sea lions, a doe and her 2 fawns, and a whole lot of birds who’s name I can’t remember.
It was a great weekend on the west coast and I am so happy to have reunited with Abby! Now it’s time for me to sleep – I have intensive Spanish in the morning. J

Monday, June 17, 2013

Howdy Y'all: Texas part three/MIIS SILP orientation day

After Rockport and Port Aransas, Jerrod and I spent a few days in San Antonio. We walked the river walk and had a fancy breakfast, we went to a movie, we walked around, we spent the night with Jerrod’s good friend and his girlfriend, we grilled the red snapper (yum!), and I learned how to play Blackjack. I kept winning all the rounds – beginners luck?

Trying to catch the sunrise with my film camera. Taken by Jerrod.
In my happy place in San Antonio. Vanilla malted pancakes, coffee, Jerrod, and a full day ahead of exploring. Taken by Jerrod.

After San Antonio, we headed back to Austin for the last few days before I flew to CA. Jerrod and I spent time with his family (once again, so thankful to have been able to stay with his mom and step-dad!), we walked down Congress Street (umm there was a cupcake food truck! ee!), we went paddle boarding (so much fun!), had more cold brew coffee, and enjoyed our last few days together.
 Jerrod's 6 year old niece took this. Future photographer? I think yes.

Before I knew it, it was June 11 and we were at the airport. Time goes by fast when you are having fun! I loved our trip together and I already told him how excited I am to go back. Yes, we’re doing the long distance thing. We can handle it and we’re both really supportive of each other which helps immensely!
Fast forward to now and I am in Monterey. The past few days have gone by pretty slowly. I am eager to start school, meet people, and have a schedule. There is a lot to discover in this city by the sea and I cannot wait to see what the year or two holds for me.
Farmer's Markets are a plus!
I am no longer in IL.
Foggy and overcast days are perfect for day-dreaming of boats (minus the red snapper puking experience)

Today is my MIIS SILP (Monterey Institute of International Studies, Summer Intensive Language Program <- WHAT A MOUTHFUL) orientation. Let graduate school begin!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Howdy Y'all: Texas part two

Following Austin, Jerrod and I headed down to Katy. My mom’s brother and his family have lived in Texas most of my life, and the two other times that I have been in the state was to see them. It had been at least 8-9 years since I had seen my uncle, and even more since I had seen the rest. Jerrod and I stayed with my cousin, Connie, her husband, and their son, and we were thankful to be able to stay in their beautiful house!

My trip to Katy wouldn’t have been complete without stepping in fire ants (so not fun), eating seafood, or going to see a movie with Uncle Rick. Hopefully I will be seeing them much sooner this next time around.

My cousin, Priscilla, and I. She took us to a bowling alley where you have a waiter bring you food/drinks right to the lane! Spiffy! I was also awesome and slipped and fell on my very first time whipping the ball down the lane.
My second cousins - they are so much fun!
Trying to get everybody to be in the picture and smile was difficult, but we got close enough! Can't wait to come back soon!
Jerrod and I had quite a packed schedule in Texas and after our visit in Katy (holy BIG houses by the way!), we were off to Rockport, a town right on the Gulf of Mexico. There, I met Jerrod’s dad and step-mom, and they took us on some exciting adventures, cooked us some delicious food, and watched me re-discover how to do something I hadn’t done since I was a kid…
On the first day, we went to a nearby state park to go fishing and kayaking (at the same time!). I learned how to throw a net into the water to catch bait. It was kind of tricky but I did manage to catch a couple minnows, shrimp, and even baby jellyfish. After that, Jerrod and I hopped in the kayaks with some fishing poles and paddled out into a small bay. Yep, Quinn was about to fish, and fish I did! I caught six fish. I was so proud. I baited my own hook, I took the fish off the line (except for one – Jerrod helped), and I saw jellyfish floating around me. Let’s just say that when I was a kid I 1) never touched the bait, 2) never touched the hook, and 3) never really felt like a true fisherwoman. I ended up having a blast at age 25 and loved being on a kayak at the same time! [I forgot my camera for this part. Boo.]
The next day, we drove to Port Aransas - we even had to take a ferry to get there. I love ferries! This was also going to be a big day for me - we were going charter fishing! Before I get to any details...
Jerrod and I hung out in a mouth.
We put on some true charter fishing attire (which I must say is comfortable and sun-proof!)
I prepared myself mentally. I was a wee bit nervous.
It took us about two hours to reach our first fishing spot. Two hours! We were way out there. I enjoyed the view – saw some dolphins! – saw some jellyfish! – saw some oil rigs & tankers. And then we stopped, suddenly. They gave us a tiny bucket of (big) minnows and told us to go forth! We were in red snapper zone! Ummm okay. I took that (big) minnow, stuck it right on my hook, let down my line, and within a matter of less than two minutes, I proclaimed, “OH BUDDY. THERE IS SOMETHING ON MY LINE. IT IS REALLY BIG. UHHHHHHHHH. WHY IS IT SO HEAVY? THIS IS REALLY HARD. OOOOOOOOOF.” And then I reeled it up, Jerrod helped me lift it onto the boat. The charter guide came around and grabbed it as it flopped helplessly on the deck. He asked me if I wanted to keep it. I said, “Sure?” and off it went into the cooler. I’m telling you people, I felt like a pro. At this point and time, I started feeling not-so-well. I had to sit down for a while. Was it the sun? Was it the boat? Was it the mysterious turkey sandwich I ate minutes before getting on the boat? I’ll never know. All I know is that I spent about 3.5 hours out of the 6 hours on the boat feeling ridiculously nauseous. I finally became a cliché and spilled my entire stomach over the side of the boat (four times. FOUR TIMES.) Sorry if that’s too much information. I thought it was hilarious. I laughed. And then I fished. I have never had much trouble with seasickness so I blame it on that turkey sandwich. I think I caught a total of four red snapper throughout the whole trip. I didn’t catch a shark (that was my goal), but other people did! Before I knew it, we were headed back to shore and I was ready to wash my hands and take a shower. I smelled like fish.
Jerrod is really good at fishing. He caught a lot of red snapper. He almost caught some sharks but they kept taking his bait.
So, this is me standing on a fish. I am so not a fisherwoman. I caught it (after sounding like a tennis player...lots of oofs and ughs were squealed as I tried to reel it up...those little suckers do not want to be caught...I don't blame them.) I am proud of this picture because this is so me. The stupid fish was flopping around and I didn't know how to pick it up without it sailing over the boat or slapping me in the face, so I stepped on it. "Okay, Jerrod, take my picture." Typical me. Dad and Connor: at least be proud that I caught it!
Enjoying the ride back to shore. I was highly in need of Gatorade. Puking off a boat will leave you desperate for some electrolytes.
Thanks Walter and Lorraine - we had a blast!
The entire boat's catch. There were quite a lot of people on it. There's a limit to how many fish each boat can bring in so these are the keepers. SHARKS!
My first fish and the only one I saved. Notice I was told how to hold the fish - by the eye sockets (it helped that it was no longer flopping.)
Grumpy fish, happy Q. This picture makes me laugh.


Mmm fish. It stunk in there and it was full of men. P-U. I was outta there in search of fresh air. I found some and saw another dolphin. Win! {I took a fish guts picture. I'll spare you with it though because I don't want you to puke. I thought it was fascinating.}
I am so not a fisherwoman but I was proud that I caught some fish. I had a lot of fun and would definitely go on a charter tour again!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bittersweet "see ya laters"/Howdy Y'all: Texas part 1

Leaving is always hard. Moving away from home to Elmhurst was hard. Flying out of the country to New Zealand was hard. It’s the saying goodbye: the choked up tears, the few mumbled words, and that last hug (for a while) that always gets me. Leaving again meant having to say see ya later to all my Illinois friends and family, which was important to me and I made sure to spend my last month catching up with everyone in the form of taco dinners, coffee dates, pizza parties, etc. The night before I left, a big group of the Bolander family invaded Ollie’s because surprisingly enough, mine and Connor’s favorite flavor (peanut butter m&m) was the flavor of the day! It was wonderful to be surrounded with people who continue to support and love me from nearby and afar.
Departure day was creeping closer by the minute, so I got in my last few hugs, had my obligatory packing panic, and got some shut eye for a few hours. I woke up feeling refreshed, excited, and a little sad. I love everything about being home, and knowing that I was heading out on my own made me realize how much I would miss being in Sycamore. Either way, I had exciting adventures ahead of me, the first being a 12 day trip to and around Texas!
My boyfriend, Jerrod (who I met in Illinois), is originally from Austin, Texas. After a little over two years of the IL life, he was ready to head home again via his trusty Ford Ranger. What better reason for me to escort him there before jetting off to California!
We had an amazing trip and enjoyed our much needed time together. It consisted of a lot of driving, a lot of time spent meeting family and friends (including seeing some of my own!), and a lot of doing what we do best: eating. If you followed Quinn in American Samoa, you’ll know how much I love to eat. How lucky am I to have met someone who eats as much as me (okay, more than me), and isn’t afraid to say no when it comes to food? So lucky.
5am departure times aren't so bad when you've got a handsome man by your side!
We drove through St. Louis. I think this was my first time seeing the Arch? We stopped at a gas station about five minutes past this spot. They didn't have bathrooms and the cashiers sat behind glass and got all your snacks/pop/etc. for you. Turns out it was the ghetto. We peeled out of there real fast.

We stayed in Oklahoma for a night with a good friend of Jerrod’s. It was great meeting him and his fiancé, and we were thankful for being able to stay at their home. As we were busy tackling an intense game of Monopoly, a tornado warning was blasting throughout the area (I was oblivious…a good thing.)
I have been to Texas twice, both times when I was in elementary school. I was excited to be back!
We spent a night in Rockwall, TX – had a fantastic Italian dinner- toured the local Hobby Lobby where I got made fun of for just buying Starburst  – etc.

I wanted to buy all the fake food, of course.
The next day, we arrived in Austin and I finally got to meet some of Jerrod’s family! I loved getting to know them and I can’t wait until I can go back and see them again. I had heard many good things about Austin from multiple people and they were all right – Austin is amazing! So many runners, so many coffee shops (eee!), so many places to explore! Adventures are endless in this city and I am already itching to go back and see more.

A few days before we left, Jerrod surprised me with a film camera (eee!). The perfect day for me is to accompany him somewhere while he takes pictures (he takes the most amazing shots). I was even more excited now because I had a camera of my own to use! He took me all over Austin and I just couldn’t get enough of it.
Cold brew coffee at the Buzz Mill was necessary. We fell in love with the BM & it's atmosphere.
Austin is a big tag art/graffiti city. Jerrod took me to this awesome little spot that looks over the whole city. I was in love with all the colors!
Trying to get the perfect shot (what's exciting about film is that you have to wait to see how it turns out!) Photo taken by Jerrod.
Austin - I WILL be back!