Howdy! Un viaje de nueve meses

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Howdy! Un viaje de nueve meses

Thanksgiving and the Alamo, contd.

December 6th, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

AlamoThe day after Thanksgiving, Russel and I headed out to San Antonio, Texas, home of the Alamo. What a wonderful city with such atmosphere! But I must admit, that wasn’t my first impression. As we followed the directions to central San Antonio, we got more and more nervous. The buildings were continually getting more worn down, dirtier, and more decrepit. But finally we found the Alamo.alamo4

What a building full of history. Russel and I were both slightly disappointed about the lack of respect that visitors failed to show the fallen 170 men of the Alamo. Men from all across the early United States, Ireland, Whales, Germany and Italy. They fought through impossible conditions: 4000 Mexican soldiers marching across the border, against the 200 Americans defending a small fort and mission for thirteen days. There was a comparison made of this fight to the Battle of Thermopolis when the Spartans went against the Persian army with impossible odds. There, they claim that a warrior ran home to tell of the story, where 300 men stood against thousands. But at the Alamo, no one survived. The women and children who were present for the battle were  safely hidden in a room without windows and no sight to witness the ongoing battle outside. A few days later after the massacre, the Mexican army under the command of Santa Anna was defeated by a band of supporters from Southern Texas, the Texians, who defeated the Mexican army in the Battle of San Jacinto in less than 18 minutes. The incredibly history of the Revolution of Texas and the men and women who died there is still intriguing and interesting for the thought that those men gave their lives in an improbable situation to a freedom that didn’t even yet exist.

Alamo2Later, we headed to the Riverwalk, which had a totally different atmosphere than the street nearly 25 feet above. It was lush, romantic and exotic. The walks were lined with sidewalk cafes, and as it began to get dark, the trees and bridges were lit with thousands of tiny Christmas lights. It was an amazing way to spend our last day trip in Texas, and with only two weeks left, definitely an experience worthwhile.Alamo3


Thanksgiving in Aggieland and a visit to the Alamo

December 6th, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Thanksgiving1For the first time in 22 years, I spent a major family holiday away from my family. I thought that it was going to be slightly traumatic; I mean, I know that I’m supposed to be an adult, but there is something about just heading home for the holidays. When we first moved to College Station, we were told that the Aggie family is a very strange and powerful thing. And at that point I thought we understood it, especially when people said ‘howdy’ to us on the street, held open doors and waved as they drove by. But what I didn’t understand were things like Bonfire, and the people who take you in when you don’t have your own family to be with for the holidays. We spent the night before Thanksgiving celebrating with an older couple with whom we had stayed with when we first arrived. After a mountain of delicious turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoe casserole and 2–count them–2 helpings of my first experience with pecan pie… we were truly and honestly accepted as part of the family. It was wonderful.

But now Thursday, the actual day of Thanksgiving, was back to business. The game was at 7, so after a Thanksgiving lunch with another couple with the NSE program, we were off!

Disclaimer: I’ve been to Autzen, and I know what they mean when they say that the architecture of the building is what causes the noise to be so incredible. But I will say, when there is 82,000 screaming Fightin’ Texas Aggies in the stands without specialized architecture, it beats anything my poor ears have ever been up against.

The game was like a prelude to the Civil War the following Thursday: we came out with a bang, scoring a pair of touchdowns to put us ahead going into the second half. But with a missed fieldgoal and some defensive breakdowns, the game ended poorly on the Aggie’s behalf.

This year was also the 10th anniversary of the Bonfire Collapse and mass tragedy, in which 12 students were trapped and killed under a massive 57-foot-high stack of logs only a week before the big game and Thanksgiving Day. Before the game began, some of the memories were rehashed: The UT band raising the Texas A&M flag as they finished their halftime performance, and a massive sense of support from the fiercely competitive rivals.

Thanksgiving2I definitely missed my family this Thanksgiving, no doubt about it. But I also can’t deny the emotion I felt as a family accepted us into their home, and when I saw the support that two schools, who could never be on the same side, join together in remembrance and memorial of a horrible loss that had a major impact on the student body. I wasn’t even here, nor even knew about the collapse, but my eyes still misted over at the thought of the compassion and humanity that is stronger than a 100 year rivalry. It’s something that each of us can take a little something away from.


Intercollegiate Quidditch Update!

November 24th, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized

quidditch2I finally did it! I made it to a Quidditch practice. It was a chilly Sunday afternoon, and what caught my attention as we were headed back from our EMT duties at the Aggie Volleyball game was the three rings, set up on Simpson Drill Field, for regular purposes, the intramural rec sports field. In a moment, I knew what I was looking at.

I found my seat on some high grass, and waited. After a few minutes the players began milling around on the fields, getting organzied into their teams. I was explaining the game to Russel (wait, how do I know how to play Quidditch again? Oh that’s right, I’m addicted to Harrry Potter), about the quaffles and beaters and chasers and bludgers… but then when I got to the part about the snitch (which is a golden ball with wings, very sneaky, that when caught signals the end of the game and the catching team is awarded 200 points, at least according to J.K. Rowling), I wasn’t quite sure how to translate that to actual play (that is, muggle quidditch). In a moment, we found out.

“THE SNITCH IS LOOSE!” the referee yelled out. The rest of the players all had their heads between their knees with their eyes shut. At the sound of the referee’s voice, a brightly dressed lad goes sprinting out of the field, and takes off across the parking lot. The snitch!quidditch1

Ahhh… what wonderful minds college students have… although running with brooms sounds vaguely dangerous…


The Farewell Tour… in College Station

November 24th, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized


For those who are outside or unaware of the dance world, there is approximately a 3% chance that you haven’t heard of the phenom group called Riverdance. They have been around for nearly 15 years, with 2009/2010 marking their last season touring as a group. With tour stops including New York, Paris, London, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the troupe also made it to one other very important place… Aggieland in College Station, Texas!

I couldn’t believe it either. Somehow, Russel and I managed to snag some tickets, and last Thursday I fulfilled a dream that I have had since I was 8 years old. I FINALLY GOT TO SEE RIVERDANCE. A little nerdy? Maybe. A little obsessed? Quite possibly. But I don’t think anybody will argue that the skills of the dancers, singers or musicians that make up the Riverdance touring group isn’t worth the time and money to see live. They even blog about their tour!

It was an amazing experience; the show was about the heritage of the Irish people, from the days of worshipping the gods of nature, to the hard times of the potato famine, to making the immigration to the Americas. There were Russian ballet dancers, modern jazz tap dancers, traditional Irish step dancing, tap dancing, dueling tap dancers and a huge group routine for the amazing finale. At the end my voice was hoarse from cheering, my hands hurt from clapping, and I was mad that I left my tap shoes in Oregon (just kidding; trying to imitate the dancers is futile!). I met another student who has my same obsessiveness with the Riverdance production. She is from Germany, and knew that this would probably be her last chance to ever see them. As we got off the bus, we both agreed (gushingly, if that’s a word) that it was AMAZING. Russel, for his part, definitely got a little of the dance culture, and a large taste of his own Irish history.

For anyone who might have a chance to go see them as they round out their tour on the west coast, I definitely, one hundred and eighty percent recommend it!



Austin, TX

November 10th, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized

capitalThe State Capital of Texas, in Austin, is beautiful. It’s filled with lots of history and a rich sense of… redecorating. Although it’s been redone several times, monuments moved, disappeared, and changed, the history remains solid. The grounds are surrounded by an iron picket fence, each topped with a gold star. It is a replica of the original fence that originally surrounded the capital building since 1853. In the beginning, the officials of the soon-to-be-independent state held a nationwide competition for the design of the new capital. The winners would be paid with 3 million acres of land in west Texas. They declared a Detroit architect the winner, and laid the 12,000 pound cornerstone on March 2, 1885, the Independence Day for Texas.

It was a beautiful day in Austin, the day we went to visit. The grounds were sparkling, people were relaxing on the many lawns, listening to the outdoor concert a few blocks down. We appreciated the many statues, like the gazebo commemorating those Heroes Who Fought at the Alamo, The soldier of the Spanish-American War, and Terry’s Texas Rangers; some of the oldest monuments on the grounds. Russel’s favorite part of the scenery were, of course, the cannons which date all the way back from 1865.

Inside though, was calm and cool. The Rotunda and Dome, like many state capitals, is the highlight of the tour. It is an open rotunda, meaning that on all of the four levelcapital4s, it’s possible to see all the way to the bottom and all the way to the top. What was the most interesting, is that there is a portrait of every governor/president that the Republic of Texas has ever had. And each new term when a new governor is elected, each portrait, as you can see lining the walls, is shifted a section to the left, to make room for the new governor after their term is finished. All of the leaders in the state government of Texas spiral up the rotunda, making their way to the Goddes of Liberty, who is stationed at the top of the dome with a star of Texas in her hand.

I have to admit, although I’m not a huge history buff, I can definitely appreciate the time, effort and sacrifice that went into making the society that we have today. It’s amazing to me to walk in the same steps that men and women, for hundreds of years, have walked. I mean think about it; what would it have been like to be trying to establish your independence as a state and a territory over 100 years ago? To have been a philosopher at the Acropolis, and actually spent time pondering the meaning of the world with the buildings in their full capacity and beauty. It’s amazing to me that we as a society have come so far, and continued on so easily. Times have changed drastically, even over the last 50 years. To have truly lived during a time when the meaning of freedom was the meaning of living; and it’s something that we take so for granted now. It makes you appreciate, just how lucky we have it.


The Best things About Texas!

November 10th, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized

#1:  In Texas, even on November 10th, I am still wearing shorts and my shades to class.

#2:  We have a Quidditch Team. Yes, a real Quidditch team. They play Muggle Quidditch. Check this out. It makes me happy. More to come after I go to the practice on Sunday!


The Scariest Night in Aggieland

November 6th, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized

The Vampire and his Victim

The Vampire and his Victim

In Aggieland, if things are done, they are done big. I mean, we all know how Texans feel; but now with Aggies take it to the next level. The night of October 31st then, for example, is outrageous. Now pair that with Daylight Savings, and you have a 25 hour celebration! Russel and I were invited to a Halloween party, and gladly complied. Of course, we waited till the eleventh hour, when the Halloween Supply Store (Aggie Owned and Operated, of course) had been pillaged by other ghouls and goblins (and the run of the mill nurses, fairies and greek goddesses). What was left was wigs, fake blood, and mustaches… and this is what we came up with.

Jennifer’s Body, anyone? The reaction of our hosts at the party was priceless. I mean, not only did we just meet most of the guests at the party, but we also came in decked out. We definitely made a nice contrast to the 80’s workout fanatic and snake charmer, that’s for sure. Frieda Kahlo though, gave us a run for our money. But that was the best thing about the night! It wasn’t a Halloween where some people got dressed up and others didn’t, people made the effort to have a good time. After the party, we headed to Northgate, which was suprisingly empty; until we got to Daisy Dukes. There, we saw a chicken dancing with a Angelina Jolie, an adorable WWII nurse and sailor, I found Waldo (several times) and a cellphone. I think my favorite thing about Halloween is to buy into the fun. Instead of a person dressed up as a ghost, it’s Casper. LOVE IT.
After dancing our shoes off with the rest of the crowd, we headed out of Daisy Dukes. That’s when it struck us that Daylight Savings was in effect. Northgate, which 2 hours previous had barely held fifty people now was PACKED. northgateIt was fun to be able to go out and see what everyone’s levels of creativity were. I will say though, the best costume that I think I have ever seen was worn last year by an OSU student who was dressed as a jellyfish (that’s Scyphozoa in the Phylum Cnidaria, for us biology fiends). And as this jellyfish floated by me, surrounded by layers of sparkly tulle and ribbons, I was completely impressed. But the Aggies definitely put that costume, and my creative skills to the test.
The one group that both Russel and I have gotten involved with is the TAMEmergency Care Team. Texas A&M is not fortunate enough to have the local fire department right across the street to answer to medical calls on campus within a short response time. So they responded with providing their own EMTs and first responders to support them. They also have their own ambulance, fondly dubbed ‘the Tambulance’. As a ‘medic’ in the club, we are responsible for assisting the EMTs (from Basics through Paramedics) at different campus events. We practice dealing with patients, taking vital signs, and dealing with injuries. It’s a great way to break yourself through into the medical world, and get to see (if you are lucky and the patient is unlucky) some pretty cool medical situations. tamectFortunately, nothing serious occurs frequently. Most of the time, it’s dealing with heatstroke at the football games, and twisted ankles from the bleachers. The best part about it, is that we get to see the events we work at for free! You see, here at A&M, our student tickets to events are not included in our tuition. We have to pay for tickets separately. We had the choice of buying football tickets, not football athletic tickets, or both together. Since we just bought football tickets, that means that we have to pay a few dollars everytime we want to go see a volleyball or basketball game. With TAMECT, it’s great! We’ve been able to watch soccer, volleyball and basketball. And fortunately, the fans are a little less rambunctious than at football, so we rarely have any serious medical conditions to deal with… so we have been able to watch the team ‘saw varsity’s horns off’ more than once! The biggest thing though, especially for pre-med students who don’t do ANYTHING by the way of medical until they actually reach medical school, is that we are provided with some good first responder training, and if we choose, can work toward the EMT Basic qualifications.

In the 11 weeks that I’ve been at Texas A&M, I really have had the opportunity to learn a lot about myself. For example, I’ve found that I definitely study better when there is no noise, sound, computers, cooking, or vacuuming around to distract me. It’s definitely been a challenge; I thought after coming back from Spain it would be easy to come down to College Station and focus solely on school… but then I joined the Triathalon team, the Trap and Skeet Team, and the TAMU Emergency Care Team. I think it’s just ingrained in me to ‘be a part’ of lots of things. The problem is, college is hard. I know, I know, most people figure this out their freshman year of college, but for me, it’s definitely my junior. For the first time, I’m struggling with tests, classes and managing my time. I’m trying (and sometimes failing) to grasp concepts that I’m supposed to be learning in class… and after a first bad test score, let me tell you, whips you into shape. College is supposed to be hard; after this, they are letting us loose on the world, with them to blame when we make the mistakes. Whether we become doctors, lawyers, construction managers or engineers, the health of that patient, the case of that client, and the sturdiness of the building falls back to them and the efficiency and thoroughness with which they taught us. I’m just starting to really understand just why I have to  know that Animalia are differentiated by other organisms by multicellularity, their state of ingestive heterotrophs, nerves and muscles and lack of cell walls. It’s important. Maybe not 20 years in the future, but it’s something that we can look back to, even if it’s just when our kids ask us, “Mommy, why…?” But many of these skills and the knowledge lead us to a better understanding of how life works.


Updated… BTHO Texas Tech!

November 3rd, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

After a HUGE victory against Texas Tech, the Aggies went on to beat Iowa State the day of Halloween. It was a great game to watch… I mean, of course I love my Beavers, but there’s nothing better than a crisp fall afternoon and GREAT football! More to come on these past few weeks… my life has revolved around midterms and hours upon hours in the library…


The State Fair of Texas

October 18th, 2009 · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

The Road to Dallas

What a better way to experience the true lifestyle and heartbeat of a state, than to attend it’s state fair… I mean, how much more southern can you get than turkey legs and corn on a stick, fried peaches and cream, fried cheesecake, fried bread, fried butter… yes, fried butter… fried onions, fried jalapenos, fried pickles, fried bananas, and fried ice cream. The State Fair of Texas, held in the heart of Dallas and home to the Cotton Bowl Stadium is not for the weak of heart… nor those of high cholesterol!

Deep-Fried Cheesecake

The community that surrounds the state fair really reminds me of my trip to Spain, and even of other parts of our country. There are just ways that people have figured out how to do things. For instance, all the bus drivers in Spain respond to your body language, for whether or not to pick you up at a stop. If you are hanging back, and not looking at them, they will just fly right on by. In Athens, the street restaurant maitre d’ will say ‘Come sit down! Best food in all of Greece!’, and if you don’t continue to walk, you will find yourself bottle of wine in hand, a loaf of break, and lots of pictures of octopus and lamb on the menu. Every type of vendor has their special way of calling you in. At the State Fair of Texas, it starts with the parking. The self-designated attendants, who rent their grass lots surrounding the Fair Park for the 28 days of the state fair a year, all have orange flags. You know if they have parking in their lot by the way they snap their flags, and whistle at you, ‘Yeah! Here! Right here!’ and direct you into their lots. It’s a pretty good system, actually. For twenty dollars, you have someone watching your car ‘untih the las’ one isall’ outta he’ya!’

The state fair itself is ginormous. Then, add the 80,000 crazy Oklahoma Sooner and Texas Longhorn fans, and the place is packed with orange, red and the screams from the carnival. The Red River Rivalry (which I read off of the tshirts being sold at one of about 500 booths) isn’t something to be taken lightly. It’s in the livestock barns we really felt at home. The sweet straw, and the sounds of livestock reasons… for some reason, this huge 28 day extravaganza, which includes a permanent Ferris Wheel as well, is almost like being at county fair. It’s Texas, so people are still friendly, still say yessir and yes ma’am. The country music is fabulous, and even the small-time singers aren’t afraid to pick sides… or maybe they are. The livestock and agricultural section of the fair was amazing; they did an excellent job of showing and educating the public about the animals. Each breed of beef, sheep and swine was present, with a stall card briefly describing the history of the breed and it’s place in the tier of Texas agriculture. The Food and Fiber building had interactive booths, milk tasting, and a wine tasting area outside in the amazingly dry, pleasant and warm air. The ENTIRE fair is ran off of carnival tickets… 12 tickets for the deep fried cheesecake, 8 for a fresh squeezed lemonade.

The State Fair of Texas, from the Texas Star 

Football is definitely a topic people reach with the delicacy of politics (although, generally good-naturedly); yet in Texas, most people aren’t afraid to talk about that either. President Obama made an appearance last Friday during a ceremony which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Points of Light community service project started by Bush senior in the 1980s. He arrived amid the picketing and anti-health care rally, full of ‘Don’t tread on me’ signs and American flags. Every week, I find more and more that it’s not often that you find a Texan that doesn’t say what he means… and right or wrong, they have at least found something to dedicate themselves to, a cause for which they can stand up and fight-even if it’s in a way that us West-Coasters may find a little less kosher  or politically correct. There is something to be said for passion, pride and a deep love of country that is hard to find in such a large population as south-east Texas. 4


BTHO Oklahoma State University!

October 10th, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

The beginning of monsoon season, which began Friday with a DOWNPOUR of rain, from 7 am until close to 5 pm. Really, the only difference between Corvallis and College Station is the fact that here, people wear shorts and rainboots, and the temperatures remain right around 80 degrees during all of that precipitation. I, the Northwesterner that I am, had to go buy an umbrella. But let me tell you, once those temperatures started dropping from 80 degrees to 60 in about an hour, the lack of rain falling on my already damp hair was a blessing.

All right, enough about the weather! Saturday’s football game, THE BIG ONE, the Big 12 Season Opener…against OSU– Oklahoma State University that is… color stealers, letter copiers and posers! (Sorry, I just had to get that out, not to mention bravely wearing my bright orange OSU sweatshirt and having to explain to every 5 out of 10 people that I’m from the REAL OSU, Oregon, not THAT place). We fought hard, we fought bravely. Earlier games in the season, when it was an easy game and win, it was hard to see what people were talking about when they said that ‘football was different in Texas’. But after today’s game, it was obvious. The stadium SHOOK with the screams, not yells, of the fans.


There just is something about the game of football though, you know. And it doesn’t matter what part of the country that you play in. After the game, during the press conference that the coach gave, he mentioned something that holds true for all of us, in games of football and in life. So many people were pointing fingers at the quarterback for the passes he threw away, or the defense for not holding the line and allowing OK State to get a 1st down. Others were pointing fingers at the coach’s call to have a regular kick off instead of an onside kick, with short time left on the clock and 5 points down. But Coach Sherman put it perfectly: ‘We didn’t do things right today, we made mistakes and shouldn’t have done those things. But the point is, they scored more points, made more 1st downs, and we did not. And that’s why we didn’t win the football game’. I’m beginning to realize that being a part of the 12th man… it’s more than just watching a football game…

I mean, isn’t this just life? We all try to say, in that Ochem or Biology class, ‘It’s the teacher and how he/she teaches! They ask so much harder questions than the lecture, or I’ve never seen that problem in my life!’ I know that one of the reasons that I’m here at Texas A&M is because I felt like there were just too many ‘other’ things pulling at me, away from my studies. The problem is, I just wasn’t doing things right. I wasn’t studying like I needed to, answering questions wrong, and I shouldn’t have done those things. But it just comes down to focus and our willingness to strive for that endzone. That was something else that Coach Sherman said in the press review. After the Arkansas game last week (a dismal 52-10 loss), the Aggies today came out with much better focus, and it was visible. They didn’t win the ball game, but they were in it. And they weren’t even supposed to be close. That’s what our lives are like, as well. If we focus on the things that are important, and stop pointing fingers at things that we can’t control and prepare OURSELVES, whether it’s by studying harder, doing more practice problems, or taking the time in the library to read more of the text book… It makes me think back to high school sports. I was an athlete, and I spent HOURS AND HOURS at the gym practicing, going over footwork, strenthening my hands and shoulders, making my serve more accurate or working on my jumpshot or defensive slide. That focus and determination, of not giving up was something that I never even considered not doing.

I’m beginning to realize that my education, that is now where that focus needs to be applied. I’m not going to go on to play college volleyball or basketball… but I am going to go on to a career, a career in medicine. But it takes focus, and strength. Regardless of the degree of difficulty of tests, there are answers. I just have to focus, and choose the right outlet. And here, in this arena of life, there are no teammates with which to rely on.

But we do have fans.