I thought I might amuse myself and compare last year's Christmas tree to this years. I suppose that you and I might have both imagined something a little more.... well something a little more this year considering that we are in the states. But lo, that was not in the cards for us, so here he is! A gentle little Cyprus. How fitting. But the happy thing about this one is that it is real, but we won't have to throw it away.
I have also been comparing last year to this one. Last year was, ironically, so much about things. I think that I felt so trapped and constricted in our 6 by 6 pink and red bedroom in our last host families house that I became fixated on things. When we finally moved out, I found a value in simple things that I had never felt before. I felt like I was buying our freedom and independence one fork, one pillow, one bag of flour at a time. Every time I went to town, I came back with new freedoms. A new broom, paint, pig tail buckets... their significance was astounding. (i am almost embarrassed that i used that word on the blog... but nothing else seemed to fit.) We then created the closest thing to a conventional life that we have ever had before, or since. We had a house, a yard, and even a dog and a cat. We had schedules..we went to bed early, got up early, cleaned and cooked almost every night. By the time we left Belize to come home for Christmas, we were practically the closest we have been to regular, functioning humans.
And now we are here. and this year Christmas is so much not about things for us. Things have lost their value to us. The way I see Christmas advertised is almost funny to me. Christmas shopping seems almost irrelevant and the kind of presents we want to give seem so different. We almost seem to be living even a little more simple now then we were last year, in our small apartment. So I think this fun little tree is a perfect symbol of Christmas to me, and i think todd too, this year. It is still 'alive' and still 'sweet' so to speak, but just a little different.
For a little history, when I was growing up I named all the trees in our yard. I stood sadly by the stumps of Wilma and George the cherry trees when they were cut down and even longer by Tom’s, their son, when he followed. I remember talking to the twin tree-bushes who had some stupid rhyming names like Whinnie and Minnie or something. (Try to remember I was like 10.) And it was almost more than I could bear when my parents cut down Elmo, the over grown weed tree. I was the best advocate the line of Paradise Trees in our yard could have ever asked for, and even now if any of them have to be cut down, my dad puts his arm around me and lets me down gently saying, “now, there is a logical reason why this one has to go.” Still to this day when I go home I greet the maple trees in our front yard with a kiss. They are dear old friends to me. Some people have been frightened by my talking to plants and trees, others embrace it. But, none the less, my name means “of the ash tree meadow” after all. And I have always thought the boy from the “Giving Tree” was a spoiled brat.
So if you are wondering why I am telling you this, there really isn’t a reason. Except for that I found this wonderful narrative about a tree in the book, “Endgame” by Derrick Jensen. I love tree tales, i love the one in Aldo Leopold’s book. This one is similar, not near as good and a little less known, but I thought I’d share it.
“… I thought of a 500 year old oak I saw in New York City, on a slope overlooking the Hudson River. I thought of all that tree had experienced. As an acorn it fell in an ancient forest….It germinated in this diverse community, witnessed runs of fish up the Hudson so great they threatened to carry away the nets of those who would catch them, witnessed human communities living in these forests, the humans not depleting the forests, but rather enhancing them by their very presence, by what they gave back to their home. I witnessed the arrival of civilization, the building of a village, a town, a city, a metropolis….Along the way the tree said good-bye to the wood bison, the passenger pigeon, the Eskimo curlew, the great American chestnuts, the wolverines who paced the shores of the Hudson. It said good-bye (at least for now) to humans living traditional ways. It said good-bye to the neighboring trees, to the forest where its life began. It witnessed the laying down of billions of tons of concrete, the erection of rigid steel structures and brick buildings topped with razor wire.
Unfortunately, it did not live long enough to witness all of this come back down. The tree, I learned last year, is no more. It was cut down by a landowner worried that its branches would fall on his roof. Environmentalists—doing what we seem to do best—gathered to say prayers over its stump.”
Nothing “stumps” me more than why someone would cut down any tree for a slab of concrete. And I can’t wait to hear the ‘sappy’ puns in your comments.
This last week I had a wonderful discovery. I was awoken by Todd listening to NPR in the kitchen. The topic was hot trends in times of economic woe. They were discussing everything from what people eat to their taste in music when haad tymes come around. But the part that drew me from my bed was the discussion on the changing trend in what was “hip” for women during these times. The woman was saying that when the economy plummets, girls start wearing their hair shorter and men are drawn more to women with small eyes and less curvy bodies. The idea is that they want someone who looks more grown up, serious, and “masculine” so to speak that will make them feel secure when money gets tight. They even went as far as to say that the playboy bunny becomes a bit more... “straight-ish”. So my friends, guess who just got hot?
You guessed it. I always knew my squinty eyes and 12 year old boy body would get me far someday! It was a long and painful wait, but todd you at last have the trophy wife you always wanted! So as far as I’m concerned, down with the economy!
this is around mile 22. notice i am staggering in the background. we had some helpful encouragement at this point. thanks guys! todd's family and jez and sara kept us going. unfortunately my family couldn't make it. my mom was making crafts with my sister in tooele for super saturday. i was hoping they would have a hand painted "good job" at the finish line, but maybe next year.
jez titled this picture "pumping up the jam." that was all i could muster.
now this is fun. this picture and the one below it is a little contrast between todd's last marathon and this one. creepishly you can hardly tell todd is the same person. he has just changed so darn much.
and the theatrical finish. not todd's best marathon time, but i think the greatest accomplishment is that he somehow stayed with me the entire race. overall it was a great time. i was expecting it to be a little more dramatic, like more runner's trotting and what not. we had a few classic annoying people yelling out motivational one liners like "who owns this marathon?? the people in bed? no we do!" it reminded me of when i worked at wendy's and our manager would yell out while flipping hamburgers.. "Quality is my speed limit!" so. actually we were surprisingly happy the whole time. i kept thinking that at some point i would just wish it was over. that came around about mile 24, but for the most part there was no where else i could think of that i would rather be. i just wanted to experience every step of it. so for all of you who are considering one, if i can do it, so can you. and to all of you who were my inspiration, thanks! it was awesome!
a strange thing occurred on saturday. my little sister aubri was signed up to do a triathlon but found out she had a cross country meet the same day. so she called and asked if i would take her place. the night before i decided what the heck and decided to do it. i didn't want anyone to know who i was at the meet in case i was really bad. i drove sara's car, wore todd's helmet, and raced under the alias of aubri mcswain. if any of you ever decide to tri one, practice swimming.
well, it has been a long while. maybe for the better. but i was thinking yesterday as i rode my bike what a different planet it was from a bikes view versus a cars. i really started riding a bike a lot my last year in college when i totaled my car (the spirit) on the way home from logan. that day stands out so vivid in my head... mare driving by in shock while i stood by the concrete wall on the high way, reaching out to touch the spirit one last time before it got towed but just missing it as they pulled it away, taking all the costumes out of the back at the dump yard(the elf ears, the mexican dress). and suddenly my college experience and my relationship with logan changed. todd lent me team fuji, a bike creed had given him. i rode that bike everywhere. i learned things about logan i had never noticed before. every hill and road had more meaning. the road in front of old main hill, the steep one down to the island, the distance between 2nd and 3rd dam, it all meant more. i planned around riding my bike, choosing stores and banks that were closer. i learned to carry snow cones and italian sodas while talking on the phone. it was great. one thing i learned was how much more personal the world is from a bikes view. i remember riding team fuj to school one cold day and seeing a cigarette still burning orange and smoking on the road. it was so personal and nostalgic. and now that we have pulled out the bikes again, salt lake city is becoming personal too. when i go down a street i notice the houses, the trees, the smell of the flowers and lavender bushes. i can spy on people in their houses and smell what they are having for dinner. i've found little nooks i would have just passed by in the car. but the best and most personal part is the people we pass. i can hear weird conversations in cars. i have awkward moments waiting at lights with other bikers. i hear them yell out when they think they might get hit by a car. i get flipped off. and when i do i can see the anger coming right out of their eyes. and the high light is that we saw a personal trainer and an awkward girl running with weights. i would have never gotten to see their faces that good from a car. so it is all quite fun.
on a different note, i would like to do a thing called "no more pun". i love puns as much as the next human, but there are a few out there that need to stop. these are puns that have lost the fun. the first one is: "wok and roll". fun when it first came out, but now... no more pun. too many asian cuisines have drained the goodness out of this once punny pun.
and i almost stepped on a rattlesnake.
oh, and as for the title, infinity miles per hour. maybe wild bri could model his t shirt on the ravens nest or something. just an idea.
and finally. the final out come. all professional ready for work. can't be *misbe'shavin'!
Another fun thing is that i got to go to the unitas last week with todd! a strange man took this picture for us and emailed it to us after we gave him our email via a little hand held recorder.
basically i helped todd "erase the trace" all week. we hiked a lot of trails, cleared fire rings, and talked to boy scouts about Leave No Trace. This is the contraversal t shirt alina designed and gave to me that i wore as my ... dang it i can't remember the word. not costume, but as the thing i wore to work in. anyway, if you can think of the word let me know. i think it starts with a 'p'. but the main thing is, look close and see if you can figure out why it is contraversal. we will take a vote.
it's hard to know what is blog worthy these days, but i think we will all agree that todd's beard has made the cuts. ever since i went short, he has gone long beyond what i have ever dreamed. it is to the point of double takes from men in stores. the picture hardly gives it justice, considering we haven't bought a camera yet and we are still using photo booth for all of our pictures.
other than the beard, we are just existing. todd started his job and has been gone a lot which is a mix up from our peace corps routine of pretty much being together 24 hours a day. he left again this morning and is doing his first wilderness expedition in the grandydaddy basin. up until now he has just been training in duchesne and roosevelt mostly. so on his days off we tried to think of some exciting thing to do, but considering gas prices, we just spent most of our time going on runs and riding our bikes. last night we went on a little ride with creed that ended up being a 20 mile adventure. it was a little longer than we expected, but it was fun. i am back on the fuji right now, which some of you might be happy about because the twin schwin is in the shop. but it feels good to be reunited, and gilbert i haven't forgotten about the pump i owe you on campus that you won at the raffle.
other than that we have been spending a lot of time with family and friends which is fun, and we love you all!
i have to admit that i have been a little homesick for silk grass lately. but luckily this morning i was blessed with a little taste of my old home. i was awaken early this morning from a pleasant dream where i was being reunited with a long lost friend. outside my window i could hear this. (oh, now i am talking about what really happened, not my dream.) "GET OUT OF MY YARD!" "Brodie STOP. STOP IT! GET OVER HERE!" "What do you have?? A BALL!? my kids don't get balls! MY KIDS AREN'T ALLOWED TO HAVE THOSE!!" first of all. what the crap? and after i wrote it, i realized it sounds a little weird. but to be honest, i have to say that it gave me such a sense of peace to hear screaming outside my window in the early hours. so to that mom with weird restrictions, thank you. and to all the loud kids and crying babies in silk grass in a weird, but not creepy way, i miss you.
but i'm not crying. my eyes are just a little bit sweaty today.
*miss silk grass is supposed to be a pun. get it ? like the pageant, and i miss it. and i am sorry that i am explaining my joke.
sometimes things feel right. then we think that means they will be easy. our last week has been somewhat like a root canal. and almost literally when i was getting 3 cavities filled in belize city. saying goodbye to belize, silk grass, and our friends was one of the hardest things we have ever done. we want you all to know that we love you with all of our hearts. our last night in silk grass was quite fitting. we cried with our neighbors, prayed in a circle holding hands with our branch members, hugged our chess kids goodbye, and sold/bartered every item in our house in less than 15 minutes to loud, dominating, kriol women. next thing we knew, our bed was being taken apart, our stove was getting loaded in a truck, and soon we were all alone in a blue empty house with our sad dog. so we cried for a while, cleaned the house, and slept together in one hammock and woke up about 4:30 the next morning and got ready to go. we had to leave ed. it was one of the saddest things ever. but for those of you who don't hate dogs, he has a new good home. some of our friends came and said goodbye to us at the airport and after a lot and a lot of tears we got on the plane. that's when we came to a strange realization. i guess some people just aren't born to be comfortable with regular. and somehow two people in this world like that found each other and sat on a plane laughing and crying about how it is to be unequipped for human existence. and it feels a little weird to feel so lost at home. but we are so happy to see our family and friends here-- we love you all so much too. so here's to peace corps. thanks to everyone who made it such an amazing, unforgettable, and hard to leave experience. and thanks to everyone here for welcoming us all back with so much love. oh heck, we just love you all.
and yet another photo booth picture. our timing on not having a camera is always convenient. if todd looks less then pleased it is because i just forced him to take this picture, but it is for a good cause, it is to say... HAPPY MOTHERS DAY! to our amazing moms! we love you so much! even though we have been so far away, they have found ways to help us out and to show us their love. Thank you both for everything you do. Thank you for the letters, packages, henious phone calls, books, reading supplies, and mom the kids looked SO cute in their Silk Grass chess tshirts! we know we are not the easy kids to deal with... but thanks for putting up with us. WE LOVE YOU!
(by the way, as i am posting this he is working on it and is really mad. never make a web page if you dont have too.)
I finally got some pictures of mountain pine ridge to upload...
Last weekend our beloved Canadians (the Burgesses) took us to Five Sister Resort in Mountain Pine Ridge National Park. And what better way to thank them than to blog it. Five Sisters was amazing. The first time we saw it was in Jen and Creed's pictures when we found out we were coming to Belize, but we never thought we would have the chance to stay there! The beds were so comfortable we couldn't fall asleep. It was wonderful. and other than a few disputes on how to properly pronounce words like meal and process, we got along with the Canadians exceptionally well. Just kidding, we love them! We can't thank you guys enough for all that you have done for us since we have been here! WE LOVE YOU! Thanks again, it meant a great dill.
ash and todd
every night todd and i used to go running down a dirt road just outside of silk grass, but lately he has been playing soccer every night with the boys in the village. i am too scared to run down the dirt road by myself, so i have started running laps around the futball field. last week i had an amazing classic skating snow ball experience while running laps. it started with cliver and boris saying that they liked to run, and started running with me. as we rounded the corner after the first lap, a line of 4 boys were waiting to join us. i started to feel awkward as i ran around the field with several small boys. as i neared to todd i was thinking of stopping to talk so that i could get out of it, but all the men on the sidelines of the soccer game (including todd) started yelling "faster faster!" so we kept going. as we ran around the third time, small children began running out of their houses yelling "miss ashli!" and soon i had about 15 kids running along side me. as we passed our house, they all yelled to ed. then dog gang started coming out. now i had about 15 kids and a dog gang running laps with me. when i passed todd he just gave me a weird look, and so we all just kept going. then a few bikers joined. now things were really getting weird. there were some close collisions and a couple close dog disputes, but over all the dogs and kids were so happy, that i just kept going. finally i was done running, and all the kids and dogs flooded in behind me into my yard. i didn't know how to rid them, so i just had everyone do a few stretches and sent them all home to drink lots of water. the only thing that could have made it better is if "kissed by a rose" was playing in the background.
Chess in Belize is getting 'royally' out of hand. we are trying to keep each other in 'check', but we are both so far 'pawn.' this last week we have been living and breathing chess. it has 'captured' our every moments. we started a chess club in january, and we had our first official tournament this week and went to a training for it last week. we couldn't even sleep. all 'knight' we dreamt of chess, and every time i woke up, visions of chess strategies would pop into my head. i had about 4 different games going through out the night. the tournament was a hit. our kids are between the ages of 9 and 11 and have names including: ivan, ivor, boris, cliver, henry, and cesar. every night about 14 kids come to our house and shout at our gate asking if they can practice chess. announcing the winners was heartbreaking and figuring them out was a nightmare. there is a reason why the nerds took over chess in the states. we can only take four kids to nationals in belmopan on may 3rd. they are all so cute, and we wish we could have taken them all. but congratulations to the winners: Henry, Jason, and the brothers Ivan and Ivor!
Guatemala was awesome. We were there for Easter and we stayed in Antigua for all the neat celebrations. It was so fun. They covered the roads in amazing colorful carpets made of sawdust, sand, vegetables and the like. Then the 'processions', which were parades of people in cloaks carrying large floats with depictions of Christ and his life would come and trample the carpets. The streets were filled with incense and by standers. Unfortunately our camera broke, and we haven't yet developed our disposable camera. And even then, we were too embarrassed by it to really get good pictures, but check out mica and john's blog (listed on the side) they got some good ones.
Then we went and got Annies. It was an Easter miracle that we even found her, due to our emaculate 15 leg plan including planes, boats, and cars. but we had so much fun and went around to some sweet places. When her pictures arrive, we will post about it. Thanks for coming annies!! we love you.
Then we had our sweet office party preceded by a trip to todd's park with some peace corps friends.
and so now we are here sitting in our regular humaness which feels kind of weird but will probably be good.
(Marcel, Johnny, and Todd)
After months and months of vigorous training, meaning no training whatsoever, the brave 'Croation Haulers' (sponsored by coincidently the Croation Hall--thanks Johnny) embarked on their 4 day journey logically in a lake canoe. Hoping that size alone would make up for the speed of the other weightless racing canoes. They couldn't have been more prepared, except if they had paddled intertubes or carried 100 lbs of food instead of 50.Luckily they had a supaat kroo (kriol for support crew. we've been here for 9 months. and that is what we have to show for it.) The support crew-me, nicole, cat, ashley, alli, shirly, jackie, and matt, were supposed to go ahead, drop off supplies, and set up camp etc. As of the morning of the race, however, the support crew did not have a way to get to the campsites or the drop off points. But thanks to Alli's swooning, just as the 94 boats took off on the first morning of the race, we (the crew) climbed in to fancy, air conditioned SUV's of the British Military. After that moment, they pretty much took over, doing everything from feeding us dinner, giving up their chairs and patrolling our camp as we slept, while we ate their candy bars and cheered while they threw stuff into our teams canoe. It couldn't have worked out more beautifully!
The race started on a lovely foggy morning in Cayo ...
The mornings were always the best part of the day. Everyone would be freaking out running into each other waiting for the gun to shoot and at least 3 boats would flip with in the first 30 seconds. As the day went on, the space between boats would get longer and longer. The first boats getting in anywhere from 2-7 hours before the last boats.
Every night after paddling all day, we fed them lots of food and talked about why the crap they decided to do this. The nights were a lot of fun though. This is one of our more beautiful camps as you can see by the pile up of natural beauty in the background
And it ended in the scenic Belize City. A warm welcome.
And they actually did it. We still are not sure why, but someone had to represent for peace corps. After four days and about 28 hours of paddling total.
Yesterday was our 2nd anniversary, and with all the commotion of hitching rides with the british military, standing in the rain, sleeping in the rain, floating on sticking water and catching buses, i never officially gave my wife anything. I love you honey, the past two years have been amazing, and i look forward to the rest,
and since we hear this song every waking second of our life here, way avoid it,
Last week we showed up unannounced to John and Micah's house, our peace corps friends in Punta Gorda. They kindly took us in, and then on Saturday they took us to the beautiful village of Blue Creek where Jeff and Shella live. It was awesome! After throwing objects at Shella's house to wake her up, she took us around. there were two highlights of the day.....
the second one, (sorry we are going backwards) was Blue Creek. The actually creek, that is. it was awesome there were swimming holes all the way up and then...
see that black hole in the back ground? that is a cave. that we went in. with headlamps. we swam up the cave about a half a mile where there was an 'indoor' so to speak, waterfall. we went without jeff, but he very Smeigally (lord of the rings, for those of you who can't follow my jokes, which is probably everyone but me) joined us by creeping behind and appearing on a rock at the waterfall.
and the first highlight, or should i say, hoglight of the day was when jeff told us that the pigs that are being raised by his school, are energizing the very plant that slaughters them and turns them into bacon by their own feices (dang it, i can't spell that). the ironic and cruel circle of life.
anyway, it was a good weekend. thanks guys.
well, i started finding myself so bored of our blog that i didn't even want to check our blog. so i can only imagine how everyone else was feeling. so anyway. i found myself bouncing down a dirt road long after dark in the middle of a jungle somewhere in central america and i started to feel weird. i hadn't heard from todd the whole day, i didn't know if he would be there to meet me when i got off. punta gorda seems like it is at the end of the world. "where the sidewalk ends" so to speak. and there is a long stretch of not much before you get there. the dust from the bus was making everything look foggy and creepy, by everything i mean lots of leafs and jungle and snakes. my face was almost pressed against the window trying to make something out when i heard a ghostly voice from behind me "friend, you going to punta gorda?" i wasn't sure about it so i leaned back toward my seat. again, "friend, you going to punta gorda?" "yes. are you?" "yes, i'm going to visit my grandmother." this was not the voice of a child, by the way. "oh" i said. "yes, and my cousin lives there, you probably know him" "i live in silk grass." "oh" he said. and then since we didn't have the cousin connection he said no more. i was a little worried he might move up by me, but luckily at the next stop another little guy sat by me. the lights came on briefly whenever we stopped, and whenever they did i would desperately read my book so i had something to think about when it got really dark again. suddenly i noticed the guy next to me leaning forward and toward me. his little eyes reading right along with me. and when the light turned off, he let out an audible gasp of sorrow. and we still had not spoken. this kept happening when ever the lights came on, and finally right before we got to punta gorda, he offered me a flash light, so i gave him a cookie.
and it's valentines day! happy one to everyone, and i love you todd!
The other day as me and Todd rode home on our bikes from Hopkins on the Southern Highway,*racing against the sun, as that movie so justly titled it, we had a strange realization…. we had been hanging out all day with people that we knew. People we know here in Belize. We were thinking how strange it is that we actually have a legitimate life here and we KNOW people. We started out stopping at the bar off the highway as you drive thru silk grass to talk to Todd’s coworkers. At the bar we ran into a retired doctor that we know, Rich, that lives in Hopkins and he took our packs for us in his truck so we didn’t have to ride with them. As soon as we pulled into Hopkins we ran into our Peace Corps friend Christine who was sitting down to lunch. Then we rode passed Rich’s place and got our bags. Then we went to our Mormon Canadian friends resort house to do our laundry. We sat and talked to them for a while and then went and found our peace corps friends in town and had dinner. We ordered pizza from Hopkins Beach Club and when we picked it up it was Denroy who was working and who now knows us personally and asked us how we were doing. All the while as we rode our bikes and hung out in town we were waving at people whose shops we have stopped in or who have given us rides when we were hitch hiking. On our way out on the dirt road out of Hopkins, the driver of the Hopkins Bay van honked and waved. It was our friend Ernesto who we met hitch hiking and now several times since and who we now hang out with on occasion with the Canadians. Then the driver of the bus honked because he is from silk grass and we are usually on his 5 o clock bus leaving Dangriga. I guess what it comes down to is that all along we were expecting to live here, but we weren’t really expecting to have LIVES here. Suddenly it’s like we really live here. Weird.
*Racing against the Sun or whatever it is called, is a feature family film. anyone remember it?
there are a few weird things going on. a boy walked past our house the other day and said "i see that your dog has increased in size. he is beautiful now." the elections are coming up soon too. last night they had a rally in silk grass. it is kind of like 8th grade elections. "where are my girls at!!" that was really said, and all the ladies screamed. the whole thing was blasting into our house last night and occasionally we turned down the ipod to listen. it was henious. todd even got out the binoculars when our drunk neighbor started talking.
i officially started the reading program and i want to thank the boys RIVER RIDGE ROWAN and RYDER (and alina, miranda, and mama janine) for the school supplies! the kids are already using a lot of them, and they have helped so much! the word is getting out and kids are even coming over to our house for crayons! so THANK YOU JOBS FOR JESUS BOYS!! you have helped the kids so much! i will post some pictures soon!
todd shaved his head.
oh it's raining today.
on our face.
but we're not crying. we are just cutting up an onion for lasagna. for only 2. not 50 family members.
and if we are crying, its just because we are thinking about being in belize city and not in utah.
but we're not crying. we are going to be okay, it's just that our eyes are a little bit sweaty today.
inflamation of the tear glands.
we're not crying.
(please see youtube: flight of the conchords rain)