Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Nobody looks forward to going home like I do. And I mean NOBODY. My family goes to pick me up (with the dog), then I get home where I find the cat greeting us at the door, my room is all tidy and there is a chocolate on my pillow. My mom does that, she only does it for me because I don't think anybody else would notice. She also puts fresh flowers in my room, so beat that :-D

Funny story by the way... NOT. My plane home was delayed not 1, or 2, or 3, but 5 hours! At first the aircraft was simply late coming from its previous destination. After we boarded there was some "fusilage" malfunction or whatever that is, that only took a couple of hours to clear. Then a family inside the flight decides they want to get off the plane and so it takes another hour to locate their luggage from beneath the plane. Their luggage had to be located and removed from underneath the plane for security reasons of course. So finally we are ready to leave when a woman in first class starts up with an attack of claustrophobia, and no wonder, I mean we'd be sitting inside the plane for 4 hours!!! So it took another while to locate her luggage because she also had to get off.

When we landed the pilot said over the speaker "Ladies and gentleman welcome to Caracas. I understand that many of you aren't very happy with American Airlines right now, but we do apologize and perhaps you can find it in your hearts to come back to us soon." I thought that was funny. I got home at 2am, that wasn't so funny, everybody in the car was tired and cranky.

So last week I finished reading two different books. I love the feeling of finishing a book! sitting there for a few minutes going over everything that happened in my head, I also like to read the last page twice, just to make sure I got it right. The two books I finished were Memoria the mis putas tristes by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Eragon by Christopher Paolini. I read both of them in spanish and I realized I still read significantly faster in spanish than I do in english. I am not sure what to do about that... let me know if you have any tips for fast reading.

Anyhow, where I was getting at, Eragon was simply ok. The writer is very young and you can tell by his style, it was kind of corny at times. But enoug of that, Garcia marquez's book was wonderful! and really fun to read. It was about a ninety-year-old man that falls in love for the first time, with a fourteen-year-old prostitute of all people! His story takes you through his memoirs about being almost a century old and his first love. I mean, the first time most people "fall in love" is probably in their teenage years or early twenties. Imagine falling in love with ninety years of wisdom on your back, one can really choose the right words then. Anyhow, the protagonist is certainly likable and the book was short enough that I didn't have to put it down for too long before I finished it. Five stars.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Welcome to Rocky Mountain National Park

Alright! So many pictures!

Sunday morning after a hearty breakfast we left for Estes Park which is about an hour north of Boulder (with traffic). When we got the the visitors center's backcountry office it was like walking in to a restaurant and looking at the menu. The ranger/clerk greeted us with "Good morning! how are you? now let's see what's good today..." and proceeded to describe the daily specials -aka walk us through which campsites were available and telling us of the gorgeous trails around them- I thought it was really funny, it almost felt like we were shopping for an outdoor experience! Specially since we had to pay $20 to go camping and another $20 to get in the park.

And so we booked us a nice campsite on cub lake. Our camp is setup across the lake in the picture on your left. It took us almost two hours to cover those 3 miles because our backpacks were so heavy :-(

After setting up our tent we left for a 4 mile hike that started up very steep uphill and then went downhill slowly, and then it sort of leveled out. We ended up in bierstadt lake which was probably one of the most beautiful landscapes I have glanced at, and take my word that the picture on the right does it no justice.

When we got there Andre read the wrong time from his digital camera and so we thought it was an hour later than it really was. So we started heading back at a fast pace afraid that we'd get stuck in the dark. When we got to camp (starving by the way) it was only 7:20pm!! it was then when we realized Andre's clock was wrong, but we were too busy eating our delicious dinner to care. I could have eaten a shoe and it would have been delicious, that's how hungry and tired we were. We had brought some of my scrumptious vegetarian chili for dinner (recipe follows) though I should warn you it has this effect of making your sleeping bag a little stinky.

After dinner I read a book until around 8:30pm when there wasn't enough light to read anymore. Then me and Andre were like "soooo.... what do people do when they go camping?" we were suddenly very bored and wishing we'd brought some playing cards or something. It was also extremely windy outside and so all the trees were rattling, it was incredibly loud. Around 11pm we gave up on trying to fall asleep and we started chatting about food (only because Andre was hungry, he is insatiable). Eventually we fell asleep, probably around midnight, only to wake up at 5:30am in a chilly 45 degree weather! I was cursing at the summer solstice for being so close and at Andre for waking me up. After our humble breakfast of an apple, a banana and a cliff bar we headed to fern lake and on the way we also encountered fern falls. It was still really windy that day (and early!) and so I was really cold. Did I mention there was snow on the ground when we got to the lake?

Then it was back to the camp to pack up and head home. During our little adventure we saw chipmunks (actually they are relatives of chipmunks, they have some fancy name), birds of many kinds and sizes and even some elk! like seven of them!

Before we left town I insisted we stopped to see the infamous Stanley Hotel were the movie The Shining was filmed. We weren't able to go inside because they wanted to charge us $5 to park. But here it is:

L's amazing vegetarian chili:

- olive oil
- 1/2 onion (diced)
- 1 bell pepper (diced, the color of your preference)
- 1 jalapeño pepper (chopped)
- 1 clove of garlic (chopped)
- 3 large roma tomatoes (diced)
- 1 can of corn kernels (drained)
- 2 cans of red kidney beans (drained)
- 1 can of black beans (drained)
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons of chili powder
- 1 tablespoon of cumin powder
- vegetable stock

Cover the bottom of a soup pot with olive oil (a couple of tablespoons). The pot must be on medium-high heat. Saute the onion and pepper for a couple of minutes until they start sweating and add the garlic and jalapeño, let it cook for another minute. Salt and pepper to taste.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the tomatoes and corn kernels. Then add the spices (also to taste, feel free to vary as you like). Add the three cans of beans and make sure everything is mixed evenly. Add vegetable stock until the vegetables are ALMOST covered (you don't want it to be too soupy). If stock is not available I usually just use water and then add a cube of vegetable bouillon.
Serve warm and top with cilantro, green onions, cheese, tortillas, etc! the choices are endless!

Monday, June 18, 2007

I've been sleeping 10 hours every night

Can you believe it? I love being on vacation. My friend Cole reminded me to make sure and enjoy it because there aren't any more vacations until I'm done with gradschool. What a pooper that guy... No just kidding! Cole and Robin are great!

Last Friday we went on a hike together to Mount Sanitas. This was a very steep hike although not that long. I would not recommend it for anybody shorter than me because you have to climb through some big rocks and boulders. And the way down was no different.

Another friend went with us on the hike, and that was "Scout", she belongs to Robin's parents and she was lots of fun. Almost everybody we ran into on the trail had a dog! I think I have seen more dogs than children in this town. I believe that fact is true for San Francisco, at least that is what Tammy told me. People in Silicon Valley don't have time to raise a family because they work so hard, so then they get dogs.

Today me and Andre are going to go camping at Estes Park. It seems like a very popular place in Colorado and it is where the movie The Shinning was filmed. We'll be back tomorrow and I'll post again to let you know how everything went!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Exploring new grounds

The title of this post refers to my new blog as much as it does to my new life. I moved to Boulder, Colorado last Sunday morning after a fourteen and a half hour drive from Urbana-Champaign. I arrived into what is a beautiful two bedroom town house. Twice the size of my old apartment (and almost twice the rent, heh...) and only half the people are living in it!
My roommate (a french literature major) and her mom (the landlord) welcomed us very warmly (at four in the morning) and the next day very kindly made us breakfast! (thanks Aubrey, dear). I say "us" because somehow I convinced my friend Andre to drive with me to Colorado in his car. Convincing him wasn't so hard, believe me, as long as i let him stay for a few days.

Sunday we didn't do much because the landlords wanted to fix up a thing or two in the house and they also installed a new fan in my room! yay for great weather and no air-conditioning! So me and Andre spend the day driving around stores getting a few things for my new crib. That afternoon we also spend sometime and the pool. Yes, there is a pool that serves the whole neighborhood. Later int he evening we went to the movies and watched something hilarious.

Enough of the boring details! Boulder is AMAZING. From pretty much anywhere in this city there is a breathtaking view to the mountains. It is a bit overwhelming because it can make you feel so tiny and insignificant. It is incredible what a mountain can do for a landscape.

Monday was un-packing day and so I'll skip it altogether. Tuesday however, was my 22nd birthday! and it was a memorable one. In the morning me and Andre went to Chautauqua Park and did the F loop which was a gorgeous trail and it only took us a couple fo hours (about 4 miles). The views were great although it was kind of cloudy and we saw a deer! That made me really excited for some reason.

That evening I learned that a deer in Colorado was nothing to write home about apparently... and I also learned that my roommate's sister, who happens to live next door was also born on June 12! (only a couple of years later though) and so we bough cake and beer and wine and decided to celebrate. Cole and Robin came over and they brought some of the beer that they brew themselves! are you as impressed as I am? it was delicious too, I definitely got to keep these guys around, thanks to Keenan for making the introduction.

Ok, ok, I know this is already a long post so lets wrap it up. This morning we lounged around for a little while and then headed out to Maxwell Falls. This was a gorgeous hike of about 4 miles or 2.5 hours. It was an easy hike the entire time and you get to walk through this incredible forest. You will follow the river for a great chunk and the falls aren't really that tall but they last for a good 200ft stretch or so. The forest looks right out of a movie, I swear, and if you decide to go a little further after the falls, you can get into Cliff Loop which will take you through a gorgeous landscape full of mountains.

All I'm going to say is that my butt is VERY sore! but I like to think that I will have a rock hard ass in a couple of weeks. Don't be jealous now.