Monday, December 26, 2011

Pura Vida

The last of my Utah days were spent eating all kinds of delicious foods, dancing, laughing, knitting, visiting typical Provo places, and staying up until the wee hours of the morning with my favorite friends. Not much to report, just that it was lovely. It was like TV life...expect for the part where everyone was drowning in finals week horror and I made myself into a constant distraction. Oh well.

On the 13th Provo decided to snow, and I decided to peace out. I boarded a big plane that brought me back to the land of sunshine, bliss, and clammy hands and feet. I finally got to see Blake and Annalee's new place in Miami and meet my niece, Bogie, the flying squirrel. They also took me to eat baleadas for the first time. All I have to say is thank you Honduras! Then I passed out in the back of their car and they drove me to my parents house in Belleview.

We were supposed to leave for Costa Rica the next day. Everyone woke up, sort of got their bags packed, and Dad was even ready to go by 10:30. But, a bank mishap, some traffic, and a bad stewardess later we had missed our flight. So we spent the evening roaming Orlando instead. We hit up Golden Corral and the outlet mall...which probably made us look very much like Brazilian tourists. Then finished off with a bell choir, Christmas decorations, and fireworks at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. When in doubt Disney property always has something that will brighten your day. We went to bed happy, and tried the airport thing again the next morning. We made it that time.

It's fun landing in places where you disembark the plane outdoors using those too-narrow, stand-up stairs. It's fun being a little too warm in December. It's fun having your passport checked in a country where the workers don't stare at and interrogate you like you just threatened everything dear to them. It's fun having a short man shout out your family name to which your oh-so-tourist-looking mother responds. Thus causing a rush of workers to whisk away your bags while you wonder whether or not you'll ever see them again. It's fun renting a mini van where the middle bench is completely detached from the rest of the car. It's fun showing up at a resort where they think your reservation has been canceled. It's fun having everything taken care of while you eat in the sun. It's fun being in Costa Rica.

During the week we floated around on the waves, watched as Blake made friends with all the iguanas and pizotes, attempted to convince our new Costa Rican friends that snow is the most terrible thing on earth, ordered lots and lots of flat iron steak and tres leches cake, went exploring on different rocks, watched Italian soap operas, and slept, and laughed, and got sunburnt, and climbed trees, and looked at stars, and spoke gringo, and drank virgin everything, and slept, and tried to convince my dad that vacations aren't so bad after all.

One of the highlights of the trip, for me anyway, was scuba diving at the Catalina Islands. I just recently got certified and this was my first time not in a pool or a crater in Utah. I was excited, and I was not let down. I'm terrible at remembering names of fish, sharks, and rays, but we saw some of them all while being tossed around by the current. It was great. Apparently the visibility wasn't fantastic, but I don't really have much to compare to. All I know is that being underwater with nothing to listen to but the sound of your's glory. There's nothing to disturb your thoughts, everything to see is new and exciting, and in a non-verbal way there are people to share it with. Then there's the boat ride. Cruising along in the sunshine on the deep blue water and seeing the different views of somewhere you've never been while listening to the random conversations of strangers is happy. Really, it's one of those things that watching as an outsider looks like a fantastic time; and when you're the one living it, it's even better!

My only disappointment is that it took me so long to get certified. This is a beautiful hobby and I highly recommend it. The only downside is that now all I want to do is get back in the water and I don't exactly have the funds to support that desire. So I'll just dream until next time.

The vacation finished out nicely. We even made our flight home with no problems. I got stuck sitting next to a couple beer crazed, California-beach-bum-wannabees, but there are worse things in life. Overall I'm going to have to rack this up as an absolute success.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Remember a few weeks ago when everyone was talking about turkeys, pies, family, and things they're thankful for? That was a good time. Let's go back there for a moment. My Thanksgiving time was chaotic, tasty, sleep deprived, and full of love. Just the way I like it.

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving I helped cook a turkey for a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner with my cousins Lala and Leilane and some other friends. Let it be known that I have never in my life cooked a turkey, and granted my only role was to babysit it while it sat in the oven, I was terrified. Especially when smoke started billowing out of my oven after it had only been in there for 10 minutes! But alas, all was well, the turkey did not explode. Mission accomplished.

Throughout the morning I had a couple adorable visitors. Tiago, Lucas, and Derek are three of the sweetest boys you will ever meet. I taught Tiago how to play Phase 10 and he kicked my butt. Then I took them all to the park and let them show off their monkey bar skills for me.  Right before dinner I brought them back to my apartment and let them help me with the mashed potatoes while rocking out to Disney music. During the potato making process Tiago and Lucas got in a fight over who was the better and faster potato peeler and Derek got a penny stuck between his bottom front teeth. I laughed hysterically through all of this, then wondered if that means that I am completely devoid of motherly sympathy.


So then it was off to Leilane's for round 1 of Thanksgiving deliciousness. I love being surrounded by people I love (I mean, who doesn't?). The jokes are better, the conversation more meaningful, it just makes life a lot more fun. Daniel, Leilane's husband, had never tried candied yams before. Watching him eat them for the first time was hilarious. He took a tiny bite and his face looked prepared for disgust. Then all of a sudden his eyes got the size of golf balls and a huge smile showed up. He was sold. We finished the night with a few rounds of Apples to Apples and pie. Fantastic, right?

The next day brought rounds 2 and 3 of Thanksgiving glutton happiness. The first with some family from my mom's side...

Actually, let's back up for a second. There was a lot of family from my mom's side, about 20-something people. But, both my parents are the 5th of 7 children so family, extended family, and friend-amily is nothing I am short on; and 20-something can still feel like there are some people missing.

Anyway, so we all piled into my Aunt Rochelle's house and talked and talked and talked about gluten free recipes, about football, about politics, about religion, and about the future. I like to talk. I like to listen. This was a pretty good gig for me. Dinner was delicious and oh-so-aesthetically pleasing. It looked like one of those Thanksgiving dinner's you see in magazine. We had name cards for our dishes, leaves on the table, the food was all brightly colored and color coordinated...oh, and the turkey and had cooked with a blanket of bacon on it. Take that.

I'm pretty sure poker, tim tam slams, a Winnie the Pooh marathon, Nertz, and pie were also involved in round 2. Let's get a couple things straight. My family is awesome. They do holidays right. I love them.

Now on to round 3. Dear friends who live far from home and family, Cracker Barrel, and The Muppets. Early on in the semester my Thanksgiving plans were Puerto Rico bound to visit some of my favorite friends, Courtney and Israel. Then I remembered that I'm super poor and couldn't swing that. I was explaining this to another friend, Sean, and it turns out he didn't have dinner plans at all. Neither did my friend Andre. Then Sean mentioned Cracker Barrel and all these things changed from a string of disconnected thoughts into an outing. Cracker Barrel makes dang good food, and they don't make you clean up. So after the turkey coma had worn off a tad from round 2 I went out with them.

Then off to the Muppets. I grew up watching The Muppet Show. In fact the very first time I heard that when you take an elephant and a rhino you get an "ellifIknow" was from The Muppet Show. Great children's humor, am I right? Anyway, I was bound and determined to see this movie. Lucky me Sean and Andre were happy to accompany. If you like The Muppets you should probably go watch it as soon as possible and get your giggle on. Then I'll tell you all about how Animal is the greatest and best Muppet  and how he makes me laugh uncontrollably. Then I might favor your with a round of "I've Got Everything That I Need."  You know you want to hear all about it. Just go watch it. Just go.

So to review: lots of food, lots of family, lots of laughing, Muppets, card games, sweets, zombies (yeah...that was in there somewhere), lots of talking, and getting just enough sleep to get by = Happy Jari. The end.

Bring it on Christmas! 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday lessons: thou shalt think before you speak

I live in Utah these days. I know I've mentioned this before, but normally I'm teasing the state or myself when I mention that fact about my life. Today, however, I'm really happy that I live in Utah. Why, you ask? Five words: Music and the Spoken Word. That's why.

A Louisianan friend from efy found herself in Utah this weekend with a hankering for some MoTab. So we filled Gus with a couple more efyers and off to Temple Square we went. Let it be known that Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing as arranged by Mack Wilberg is my absolute favorite hymn at the moment; and today's broadcast closed with that song. The music filled my soul, found my pride, beat it to a pulp, then left me with the hope that I can be so much better than I currently am. "Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above." I am so grateful to have witnessed that presentation and to feel of the testimony shared there.

Utah, you have your perks.

In fact, Utah, since I'm being nice to you today I'll keep talking about how awesome spending Sunday on Temple Square is. It's stunning. You can't help but be completely overcome by the sheer majesty of the Salt Lake Temple. I admire and greatly appreciate the effort and sacrifices made by early saints to build a "sacred structure where the Lord could teach, guide, and bless" them and future saints.

The visitor's center, also great. It's filled with cute sister missionaries who are such pleasant company and great conversationalists. One even thought that we were all childhood friends, what a compliment. Then we listened to a presentation in Spanish, and I understood it! Happy day in the world? I think so

Another favorite from my Sunday on the Square was watching countless presentations of I'm a Mormon. They are incredibly uplifting stories of real people. Each story ended with the person explaining their different roles in life (fathers, mothers, teachers, publicists, professional football players, olympians, lawyers, friends, painters, etc.) followed by the standard quote "and, I'm a Mormon." Sometimes I couldn't contain myself and would follow up by cheering "yeah you are!" or "I just love him/her." I'm probably not the most reverent person alive, and I should probably learn to think before I speak seeing as this action repeated itself anywhere from three to seven different times. But, ya know, sometimes I can't help myself. My heart gets so full of happiness, and confidence, and triumph, and other goodness...and sometimes it has nowhere to go, so it comes out my mouth.

Stephanie, Michelle, and Sean you are absolutely wonderful. I'm so glad I spent my Sunday with you three. You are all amazing and inspiring people, and I definitely look up to each of you. Oh, and thanks a whole lot for putting up with my ridiculous nature.

Anyway, I guess all I'm trying to say is that my name is Jari Santos. I'm 22 and still learning to think before I speak, I love spending time with good friends at good places, I'm about to graduate and have no idea where my future is headed, I'm loud, I like to travel, I'm a halvsie, and I'm a Mormon.

(I'm sorry that I sound all kinds of crazy, bright-eyed and bushy tailed. But, hey, you're the one who stayed to read. So happy Sunday to you.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Is it bad?

A lot of really amazing things happened over the past month or so. So many, in fact, that I'm not going to blog about them each because that would just be overwhelming. Let's just say that I decided Wyoming is amazing, I drove a 4wheeler for the first time, I started running again, I have awesome roommates and friends, I am a wimp when it comes to haunted houses, I dressed as I pirate, I taught myself how to knit, I am kicking microecomonics' butt, I carved a Despicable Me themed pumpkin and discovered an amazing recipe for roasted seeds, I'm preparing for the GRE next week, and I'm in the process of getting scuba certified. Phew.

Now that that is out of the way, let's talk about how lists are one of my favorite things in the world. They are how my brain chooses to function. Recently I've been asking a lot of rhetorical "is it bad.." questions. They make me laugh and so I'm documenting them here. Feel free to laugh with me or at me, I don't really care.

Is it bad that I eat nutella by the spoonful?

Is it bad that I sat home on a Friday night an watched a National Geographic special on Blood Diamonds by myself?

Is it bad that I choose comfort over cuteness every single day?

Is it bad that sometimes I hope that life as I know it will completely fall apart so that I can justify making creative, daring, don't know where this will take me choices?

Is it bad that I really like high side ponytails?

Is it bad that my taste is apparently too good for American chocolate, so I buy expensive stuff form elsewhere?

Is it bad that I find articles about the developing world so much more interesting than ones about Wall Street or the upcoming elections?

Is it bad that I often eat out alone?

Is it bad that when the temperature drops below 40 it suddenly becomes really difficult for me not to cuss?

Is it bad/immature that my favorite book of all time is Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie?

Is it bad that anytime I read Peter Pan, or Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings or anything of the like that my brain is stuck in a fantastical state for a solid month?

Is it bad that I'm addicted to Pinterest quote boards and read blogs that belong to complete strangers?

Is it bad that occasionally I look at the facebook profiles of people I knew in high school and feel a lot better about myself?

Is it bad that I shower people in compliments and hand out the word love like it's candy for people that I don't even know that well?

Is it bad that I want a Volkswagen van more than any other material thing in existence?

Is it bad that I never want cable, and that I kind of don't even want a TV?

Is it bad that I can sit in front of a fire and be entertained for hours?

Is it bad that I actually like the taste of mate?

Is it bad that I can drink 3 Tim Tam Slams in one sitting?

Is it bad that I think about food more often than I think about my future?

Is it bad that I hold myself and those I love to really high standards?

Is it bad to post all of these things on a public blog?
Too late.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wandering, Sunday drives, and brain vomit

"Not all who wander are lost." - J.R.R. Tolkien

I spent last Sunday listening to General Conference with some of my family. Afterwards I took the advice of a good friend and went for a drive through the Alpine Loop. It was absolutely stunning to be surrounded by all the colors of fall. Something special about driving by yourself when your mind is full of a mess of thoughts is that they slowly seep out and fill the space around you.

You can take them back one by one, process them each from every angle imaginable, and then file them away neatly in your head. So I drove around each bend and let my eyes linger on the yellows, reds, and oranges that make autumn so appealing, and my brain got busy. The only problem is that I never got to the "file them away neatly" part.

I don't think I have words to best describe my feelings as of late so I'm going to borrow and excerpt from the short story Eleven by Sandra Cisneros:

"...what they never tell you is that when you're eleven, you're also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don't. You open your eyes and everything's just like yesterday, only it's today. And you don't feel eleven at all. You feel like you're still ten. And you are—underneath the year that makes you eleven.
Like some days you might say something stupid, and that's the part of you that's still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama's lap because you're scared, and that's the part of you that's five. And maybe one day when you're all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you're three, and that's okay. That's what I tell Mama when she's sad and needs to cry. Maybe she's feeling three.

Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That's how being eleven years old is.

You don't feel eleven. Not right away. It takes a few days, weeks even, sometimes even months before you say Eleven when they ask you. And you don't feel smart eleven, not until you're almost twelve. That's the way it is."

So I'm twenty-two, but I'm also all the ages that it took to get here. A lot of days I wake up feeling three, or seventeen, or eight; and I miss feeling smart twenty-one because I am definitely not smart twenty-two, not yet. I've never been good at being patient, and now is no exception. Especially since my life is currently in teeny, tiny, bite size pieces. In two and a half more months my time in Provo will be over. Four months after that I will graduate from BYU-Idaho.

Then what?

People like to ask me what my life plans are. It's an innocent question. Nobody knows that the second I hear it my insides all tighten up, I fight back fearful tears, and I try to quickly think of the perfect way to phrase my answer so that I sound confident in my future. I'm not.

There's really no reason to stress over it. I know that time will pass, and my future will eventually become my present. And I know that it will all be okay once it gets here. I just wish I knew what IT was.

Somedays it is taking the GRE and going directly into a graduate program (this option is slowly phasing itself out due to deadlines, but it's there). Other days it is serving an 18-month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sometimes it is spending my summer abroad and postponing this whole decision making process just a little longer. It has been landing a job and moving away all by myself. Once I even caught myself thinking that it could be a white dress and a cute boy, then I laughed at my desperation to avoid making a decision and snapped back to reality.

This is the first time in my whole life that my next path isn't paved out for me. It's not even outlined for me. In fact, I'm sitting at the end of this proverbial road that is now branching in a million different directions (people call that exciting, I think intimidating would be a better word) and each new path has a stamp of approval. Each choice obviously comes with its own unique triumphs and struggles. Each one is "good." But which is best? Which is most Jari? Nobody can really answer that question except me, and I don't even know. I normally stick to the "follow your gut" rule, but right now my gut is only concerned with all things chocolate.

Don't worry, I'm not having a breakdown. I know that life truly is exciting. Not only that, but I am so grateful for my education, my beliefs, my supportive family, and the seemingly endless opportunities that stand before me. I am a very blessed young woman.

I'm just going through some growing pains and thought they deserved to be documented. My friend just sent me the quote "what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" Maybe that's the thought I should keep in mind as I go forward.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

On the road again

I'm the nomadic type, it's a truth that I'm happy to accept.

After Brenna's wedding I had the chance to spend a couple days with my dear friend Alexie Lawson, who I love with all my heart. It had been way too long since we had seen each other! So we caught up in the best way possible. We went to Disney World, saw all the glamourous sights of Belleview, Florida, laid in hammocks, ate yummy food, thrift store shopped, laughed, and lounged. It was so very nice.

Then I had to take her back to the airport, and within 12 hours was on the road again. I went on my first ever solo roadtrip. Truthfully, it wasn't that exciting. I wore out all my music, all of Pandora's music, a couple podcasts, talked my mom's ear off, and got a lot of thinking done. If I were driving to see sights maybe it would have been more enjoyable, but as for now I feel that solo roadtrips are a terrible life choice.

Before reaching Utah I got to visit Manassa, Colorado. The little town that my mom grew up in and where I still have quite a few family members and lots of good memories. I spent a couple days relaxing there and catching up with all the family I hadn't seen. I even had a chance to visit Nana's cabin. It's absolutely beautiful up there. No cellphone reception or city lights to distract or confuse you. Just nature, peace, beauty, and quiet. I love how small and yet so important I feel every time I'm up there.

Anyway, I picked up a couple of my cousins in Colorado for the last stretch to Utah. And now I'm in Provo. I guess I live here. It's the first time my bags have been unpacked in months, which is fantastic. Though, I'm wildly aware that this is just a temporary living situation.

It's just strange being a nomad. I visit and stay in some of the most amazing places on earth. I meet interesting people who all have differing views on life. I see family, and I make new friends who feel like family. It's a good life, but one day I hope to have somewhere a little more permanent. Somewhere to house all my memories and adventures. Somewhere to make memories and to feel secure. Because, let's face it, as fun as adventure is "there's no place like home."

In other news, today is my last day as a 21 year old. Which my brain is having a hard time accepting. 21 and I have had our disagreements but overall it's been good to me. I'll be sad to see it go. Especially since 22 still needs to get its' act together; we have internships, graduation, world travels, and grown-up decisions to conquer.

In honor of my 21st year, I give you 21 highlights:

1. Birthday tea party with mandatory fake accents
2. Pack saddle with those beautiful yellow aspens
3. Family Cruise for Thanksgiving
4. Brenna surprising me at the new year's bonfire
5. Making money and learning how awesome my dad and mom are
6. Everything working out for me to live with Christine
7. Late night talks with Nick and Roelien
8. Advice from Christine
9. Piano playing and extravagant dinners at Christine's
10. Phantom of the Opera birthday party
11. Baking cookies at the Alexander's
12. Riding a motorcycle for the first time
13. In South Africa making pancakes when it rained
14. Solo trip to Cape Town
15. Kruger National Park
16. EFY 2011, all of it
17. The internships, those blessed, wonderful internships!
18. Brenna's wedding
19. Eating chocolate and talking with my family on my parent's bed
20. Family trip to Panama City Beach
21. Realizing that I've completed all but one of my "do before I turn 23" goals

So 22, bring it on. You've got a lot to live up to.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Best Friend's Wedding

Allow me to introduce you to this girl, Brenna Richardson. She's one of my very best friends.

We met at youth conference in the summer of 2006 (I think) and both worked on a youth council during our Senior year. I guess you could call us acquaintances; despite the fact that she thought I was obnoxious and talked too much, and I thought she was a snob. Which interestingly enough were fairly good assessments.

Thank goodness for BYU-Idaho with its bitter winters which gave us the perfect opportunity to bond over hot chocolate, Craigo's pizza, and a mutual hatred for the negative degree weather and those horrible bells that would ruin afternoon naps at the dorms. We've been nearly inseparable ever since.

Over the years our friendship has gotten a little ridiculous, I'm not gonna lie. We've rocked matching sunglasses and tie-dye. We've road-tripped from Florida, to Idaho, to California, and to Colorado. We lived together and once, while brushing our teeth in the morning, decided to take an impromptu trip to Vegas instead of going to class. We sing car karaoke and talk about our imaginary futures. I used to be her personal hair dyer. And somewhere in there we may have set a kitchen on fire.

I love Brenna, she is like family to me. She's my bosom friend, "an intimate friend, you know--a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul." (Shameless Anne of Green Gables reference) And I love her dearly.

When I was in South Africa she would stay up really late some nights to chat with me in the mornings my time. In the midst of our conversations about Lady Gaga, Africa, and BYU-I culture she'd squeeze in bits like "I think I like Ryan, I told him that..." which eventually led to

"Yeah, I might have to make it official eventually, dang it."

Then later "boy decided to drop the L word. Yep. I took it fine. But I'm only kind of scared and I think it's the good kind..."

and eventually she caved and said it back. Gross.

It was funny hearing all the stories in stages from my far away place, though I missed watching her fall in love.

Her wedding was a dream complete with a back yard reception and twinkle lights. Her new husband, Ryan, is so perfect for her. I could not have given my little Brenna to anyone better, even if his last name does mean "dead stuff."

It is amazing to me how much she's grown and become since Ryan has entered her life. More loving, more patient, more determined, and more happy than I have ever seen her before. We can still stay up late talking about our imaginary futures and random silliness, but a change in her is evident. I have always been inspired by the strength and confidence she possesses, and that sentiment has become more true as I watch her take on the new challenges and joys of marriage.

I am always excited to watch where life takes my friends and know that Ryan and Brenna are destined for greatness.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

alright, alright, alright, hey!

After South Africa I began the long trek home. 22 hours of travel is longer than any human should ever be forced to endure. I got home with enough time to unpack, do laundry, sleep, repack, and sleep a little bit more. Then I was off to Virginia for three weeks of efy. Eventually I was offered one last session in Amherst, Massachusetts making it one full month of efy madness.

EFY is an acronym that stands for Especially for Youth, and it is a week long summer program for youth ages 14-18 that focuses on uplifting participants based of the doctrines of the gospel as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Basically we take a group of kids each week starting on Monday and sing, dance, teach, testify, and play all week long. Then we return them to their parents on Saturday with new friends, new perspective, and strengthened testimonies. It's a miracle program. I attended in 2004 and 2005 as a youth and started the counselor gig last summer. I liked it so much that I went back for more.

This year the theme was "Believe. Hope. Endure." It is difficult to regurgitate all the wonderful messages that were shared over the weeks, so forgive me for not trying. I will simply say that I am so grateful for opportunities to serve and forget myself. I know that as I make it a priority to assist others and fill their needs the Lord takes care of me.

Highlights of efy month:

  • Happy Birfday Amurica Orientation Dance!
  • Jared, the boy who was just old enough to make the age cut. He taught me not to take life too seriously
  • Having my girls bolt across the field, screaming my name just to come give me a hi-five
  • My kids referring to themselves as Jar-ites
  • Jowling every Wednesday night
  • Seeking the good
  • Secret service for fellow counselors
  • Someone re-rewriting the words from "Jar of Hearts" to "Jari of One Heart"
  • Offering a challenge and not thinking it would be a huge deal, then finding out it changed things for someone: Pray to know the Book of Mormon is true, I promise you'll get an answer
  • Sharing dreams
  • Celebrating random holidays every day
  • Stop and stare flash mobs at dances
  • Remembering how awkward it is to be a teenager
  • Finding out that a girl has a balloon balloons are falling from the sky
  • Adele karaoke, followed by Taylor Swift karaoke
  • Having the company name "Pass the Immortality"
  • Having prayers answered by the service of others. A specific thank you to Jenna Aldridge, Michelle Walker, Kristen Ford, and Esther Harsh. You women amaze and inspire me.
  • My kids telling me that I would be the coolest mom ever...still haven't decided how I feel about that comment
  • Making up a new ridiculous dance move, and having people incorporate it. By next summer the Bernie will be out and the Jari will be in!
  • Counselor slide shows
  • Finding a roommate and new friends for Utah
  • Being reunited with people from Southeast
  • Finding a sauce packet from Taco Bell that said "roadtrip" while on a roadtrip
  • At testimony meeting when kids say things like "Normally when I feel the spirit I get a warm fuzzy feeling, but right now it's like a giant teddy bear giving me CPR."

I loved every single person that I worked with and every participant I worked for. I am so grateful for your examples, for your patience, for your friendship, and for your spirit. If any of your are reading I want you to know that I have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I know it is true. I know the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ and as you read it your relationship with your Savior will grow and you will feel loved. I know that Heavenly Father knows us perfectly. I know that he understands our full potential and offers guidance and direction as we strive to reach it. I know that as we work to keep commandments and hold true to our standards that we receive blessings, even if we cannot see them at the time. It is my prayer that you will each remember that you are a Child of God with divine potential and purpose. Have faith and believe in Christ. Exercise hope through the atonement of Christ, with an expectation that as you do what is right and repent when needed that you will receive every promised blessing. And as trials and afflictions come remember to endure them with humility and patience.

efy, you're just great! Thank you for a splendid summer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Cirlce of Life

I love the Lion King. My sister and I even had matching Simba and Nala t-shirts when we were little; we wore them to do our Barbie Workout exercise video...but that's another story. The only reason I mention the Lion King is because there will probably be a shameless reference to that movie somewhere in this post. I thought you should be prepared.

So with with that said, I give you my trip to Kruger National Park:

My mom and brother came to South Africa to tour around a little before I had to return home. The Kruger National Park was top on our list. This park is big. Really big. 7,523 square miles big to be exact. We were only able to see a small part of it; but even so we were introduced to some of the greatest beauties of my life.

Whenever I say the word "safari" I assume that your minds will conjure images of big trucks and men in hats, khaki shorts, and long socks; and those tour options are available. However, the majority of our trip was spent in our own car driving down whichever road caught our fancy, and hoping that we would see something wild or exotic as we went.

We were royally fortunate.

I do not have the time to recount each wonder that we were a part of. I will focus on the highlight of our trip instead. On our third day after hours of driving and seeing nothing but trees, rocks, and impala the frustrations of being in a car with the same company were beginning to take a toll. We were nearing our destination for that evening and it seemed as though we wouldn't see much before that point. Then an old man drove past and motioned for us to roll down our window, he told us that up the road were three lionesses hunting.

We hadn't seen a single lion yet and the news alone was enough to change our mood, and fill us with new excitement. Another three minutes of driving and we saw the first lioness on our left side. She was close enough that if I really wanted to I could have thrown my muffin out the window and hit her, and I have terrible aim. She was strong, focused, and absolutely captivating. Every muscle in her body was tense and every move she made calculated. For me the most impressive thing was to watch her walk. I instantly understood why lions are considered royalty. She walked with power and command. She knew her purpose and nothing could distract her.

Eventually we left her and drove up a little further to find the game she was pursuing. Our hope was that if we were patient enough we may be audience to the grand event, the chase. Another few minutes passed before second lioness appeared on our right. She was equally as determined as the first. The row of cars were not to annoy her, in fact she used their camouflage to her advantage. Slowly and meditatively she made a large circle around until she was facing the unknowing zebras from the opposite side of her partner. She kept low to the ground using her surroundings to hide herself. Her movements we so quick and perfect that if you blinked you would lose sight of her.

All that was left to do was wait. The row of cars had turned off their engines, the cameras had stopped flashing, everything was silent. The anticipation was tangible. Then it came, the roar. You think it would sound familiar after all those discovery channel specials, but it didn't. I can't even explain the sound. It pricked my heart more than it did my ears. It was the part that lingered as the scene in front of me became a blur. The zebras reared and bolted with the lioness at their heels. In a matter of seconds their direction led them to a small valley which concealed them from our sight. A sort of gurgling sound followed, confirming their death, and the end of the chase.

It was an emotional experience. One that all of us felt the need to retell over and over in different ways before our minds and hearts had fully processed it. For me the roar is still the part that stirs me most, the signal that the chase had begun. It was issued with a type of confidence and tenacity that I was unfamiliar with. There was no doubt that she would kill, but even so it wasn't a violent or hateful sound like a war-cry. It was just bold confidence that filled the space.

The next night was our last in the park, and I found myself sitting outside wrapped up in a blanket thinking about all the different things I had seen and been a part of. Not just on the trip, but in my time in South Africa on the whole.

(Now is where I shamelessly incorporate Disney into my life) As I was sitting out there I noticed that Pumba was wrong in his description of the night sky in Africa. It is not bluish-black. It is utterly and completely black. The darkness of it made the stars seem brighter. The stars are different as well. I started by looking at just one star; and at first I thought it was an airplane because it was blinking so frequently. Not so. The stars in Africa don't just shimmer, they truly twinkle just like the song says. I have admired many different night skies, but this was drastically different. I didn't even realize that such a sky could exist outside of music, movies, or literature.

It was a little overwhelming to be surrounded my so much beauty. Especially when my next thought came in the voice of Mufasa:

"You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become."

Try putting that phrase to context in your own life, it's a little trippy and disheartening. But, as I was coming to the end of my grand adventure it was nice to be reminded that I have so much potential to be great. I don't have time to be distracted and forget who I am or what I am capable of becoming.

So in that moment I decided that I want to be like Simba after his glorious self-actualization when he's running through the desert to claim his rightful place and destiny...a choir singing me on wouldn't be too bad either.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I can be alone, I can watch a sunset on my own

A little history: I've never been someone who enjoys being alone. Even when I'm furious or annoyed with everyone around me I'd still much rather have them near me than be alone. Vacation is a time when I particularly hate being alone and have passed up tons of opportunities to visit interesting places or do exciting things for the simple fact that I would have to do them alone.

But, there comes a time in everyone's life when they must face their fears. Considering that from the moment I stepped foot in South Africa the number one question everyone asked was when I would be visiting Kruger or Cape Town I decided that my time had come, and off to Cape Town I went.

Wednesday (way back on June 15th) was my last day as an intern and I celebrated by staying up late watching movies with friends before catching a 6 am flight the next morning. A wise decision? Probably not. Do I regret it? Definitely not. After waking up slightly later than planned and running into some slow gas station attendants we made it the airport in enough time for me to run through security and reach my gate as the last person on board. I slept the whole flight with my head cradled on the shoulder of the person next to me. I love that air travelers are nice to strangers, and don't say anything when my sleeping habits invade their personal space.

Christine's son, Andre, and his family live in Cape Town and were nice enough to let me stay with them while I was there. They drove me around, took me to see old cannons, introduced me to new movies, fed me well, and kept me giggling the whole weekend. I could go on and on about how much I loved this family, but the point of this post is that I went on vacation alone. So let's fast forward to that part.

Have you ever heard of "Red Bus Tours?" I became well acquainted with them. Being that I didn't have my own mode of transportation I hopped on the big, red, Ms. Frizzle looking vehicle and turned my life over to their tour savvy ways. The top attraction on my list was Table Mountain, and I knew I had to get there when the weather was in my favor, which seemed a little tricky on that blustery day. However, the heavens were kind to me and I was granted a couple hours of sunlit exploration at the top of the mountain. I felt like Maria from the Sound of Music skipping about (and yes, singing) as I took in the incredible beauty of this earth. To be completely honest there aren't adequate words to tell you what it felt like to experience each scene as I walked along. "Majestic" only somewhat describes it. One of my favorite things about being up there was that as the wind brought in fog it felt like I was being whisked away to a mystical and somewhat eerie land. I only let myself bask in that Narnia-esque fantasy for a little bit before I decided I should get back on the cable car before the weather got really bad and I was left to walk down instead.

The next stop for the bus surprised me. Out of nowhere I was at this gorgeous beach front with Table Mountain standing there as my backdrop. I had other places that I wanted to see, but my Floridian heart couldn't say no to sand and salt water just sitting there begging to be explored. The water was disgustingly cold, but there were plenty of rocks I could stand on which let me get close enough without actually having to touch the icy stuff. There are few sounds in the world that I find as soothing as crashing waves, so I just sat there for a while listening and day dreaming. Nothing truly special happened there, I just felt completely at home, which is a nice feeling when you are actually 7855.8 miles (or 12642.6 kilometers) from home.

From there I went to St. George's Cathedral. When I first got there I saw a sign directing to the courtyard and the labyrinth. If you are anything like me the word labyrinth brings with it images of David Bowie with a super mullet, muppets, and songs about dancing babies. I was completely confused about why a labyrinth was in a church and I was intrigued. When I got to the courtyard all I found was a cobblestone floor that had used different color stones to trace out a labyrinth in the center. I decided to see if I could find my way to the heart of the maze, and started walking. It was interesting how meditative that walk was. My thoughts were focused and prayerful, which was something my mind had been lacking in the weeks prior. I found out later that walking a labyrinth in that manner is called praying with your feet. One of the happiest discoveries of my life.

By this point in my day I was tuckered out, which is a bad choice when you are walking around aimlessly in an unknown area. I took random bus stops, bought way too much merchandise at terrible prices from a sweet old lady in the market who won my heart, and I made friends with a man named David then fell asleep mid conversation with him, oops.

I ended everything with a fish dinner while looking out on the water and listening to a group of men sing and play drums on the street.

Moral of the story: I can have fun all by myself, and now nothing can stop me!

[cue cutesy girl-power music and fade to black]

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The love of my life

Ladies and gentlemen I have met the love of my life. He is 25, a little gray and wrinkly but it suits him, he's stubborn, and the boy can eat. He comes from Zimbabwe, his name is Mana (makes you think of the bread from heaven, huh?), oh, and he's an elephant. Sorry, to anyone who is disappointed about there not being an actual romance in my life, but I really adored this elephant.

Riding an elephant is something I've wanted to do my whole life, granted I've been once before but I was far too young to remember the event. Anyway, my friend Brandon found out about this dream of mine, called in a favor, and got me a discounted price for the gig. So I woke up at 4:45, far more excited and peppy than anyone should ever be at that time of day, and was out the door by 5:30.

After driving along with the sunrise we got to this place called Sun City. It had a Las Vegas feel about it, except for that the slot machines weren't all crowded until later on in the day. We met our driver there and then were off to meet the elephants! Brandon and I were the only bookings that day, so we had the whole heard to ourselves. They were gorgeous. I know I don't have favorite animals, but that day I would definitely have proclaimed elephants as the fairest in the land.

We rode around for an hour as the sun still made its way fully into the sky. There was mist everywhere as we rocked along to the rhythm of Mana's steps which could easily have sent an upset baby into a deep sleep.

We saw a couple other animals along the way, but mostly just beautiful scenery, peaceful quiet, and Mana's footsteps which were sometimes interrupted by an uncontrollable need to pull branches from nearby trees. It was one of those experiences that I can't adequately put into words, but these lyrics reverberated through my mind the entire time: "For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies, Lord of all to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise."

After the ride we went to feed them. We could choose to tell them "trunk down" in which case they would bring their trunk right in front of our hands and we could fill it with food for them to lift to their mouths; or we could say "trunk up" and they would move their trunk out of the way and we could put the food directly in their mouths. They were adorable and forever prodding for more food, which I was always happy to oblige. I absolutely loved every second with them. They are gorgeous, smart, and entertaining. I definitely want to keep one.

The morning finished with a breakfast of our own while overlooking the park. Again, it was gorgeous. It was nice to just sit quietly and be a part of the world around me. I treasure moments like that.

I don't know what I did to deserve such wonderful experiences, but I'm going to try and keep doing it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Past the point of no return

This story will not do the actual event justice, it won’t even come close.

So there I was, living in South Africa, when someone decided to turn twenty-one, have a Phantom of the Opera themed party, and invite me. This made me happy.

Turning twenty-one is a big deal here. Unlike back home where the only things that really change in life is the ability to gamble and drink legally (unless you’re a me, then twenty-one means the beginning ridicule for not eternally attaching myself to another person and procreating…but that’s another story) here you get a key. I’m probably going to mess up the explanation of this tradition, and my friends from here can mock me if I do, but my understanding is that you’re old enough to start your own life and so you get a key to represent the “key to your life” or something more poetic than that. I think it’s a charming concept. I may choose to implement it in my future. For those of you who haven’t heard, or guessed, I am going to throw all my favorite traditions together in a hodge-podge and create my own culture. It’s going to be an exciting.

Okay, now that I’ve gone on a few bunny trails, let me tell you about this party. The birthday girl, Kaleela, has some serious musical talent. Coincidentally, so does her boyfriend Travis. So they dressed as Christine and the Phantom and things got theatrical. We were privileged with live performances of Music of the Night, Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, and That’s All I Ask of You. Granted a case of the giggles erupted during the That’s All I Ask of You and eventually the audience joined in, personally I think it added a nice touch to the evening.

Then it was time for everyone else to show off a little “talent” with some Phantom based skits. Just keep in mind that I’ve said before I’m not a performer. My group was assigned the song Think of Me and we had to put together a skit based around that. We decided to just let the song play while we faced away from the audience and did a Dream Girls-esque/miming routine. Moves included the make-out fake-out, hula waves, and head banging. Be my guest, listen to the words and put all of that together.

I haven’t even mentioned yet, the place was dressed up to the nines. It looked like we had seriously stepped into the opera populaire. And of course what is a red, black, and white color scheme without chocolate? Lots and lots and lots of chocolate. Fudge, chocolate fountain, chocolate squares, chocolate mousse, chocolate cookies…basically heaven in culinary form.

I’m a sucker for theme parties. So much so that when my mom was asking what I wanted as going away gifts before moving to college I asked for costumes and party store trinkets. Yep, I’m that cool. Anyway, it was a fantastic evening. And now I kind of want to steal all of these wonderful ideas and throw a party of my own…except for the part where I don’t sing or act.

New idea, how about I have a tutu party for my 22nd. Get it? 22, 2-2, tutu. Just call me Ms. Wordplay, hook me up with Jason Mraz, and we can forget this whole awkward sentence ever happened.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A few things I love

Unfortunately things have gotten really busy around here and I haven’t been able to share stories as often as I would like to. So this will be another round of reader’s digest versions of different things going on.


The house I live in is named Blenheim, after the Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. The original may have been the birthplace of Sir. Winston Churchill, but my Blenheim is a house of healing. Everyone who lives there or ever has lived there has grown in ways they never could have imagined.

The stories of the miracles that have taken place within those walls are astounding. Ask me some time and I’ll share some of them with you. For me it has been a place of friendship and understanding. I have grown to recognize certain talents and abilities I possess and how to put them to work. I have learned how to listen to the pains of another and offer help in practical ways. And most amusing, I have learned how to more honestly speak my mind.

Auntie Christine told me yesterday that she thinks I am a woman who has her head screwed on right. I was very flattered, but I cannot take all, or hardly any, of the credit. At each stage of my life I have been presented with opportunities to learn and grow. Blenheim has been one of the most treasured of those opportunities.


Guess what, it’s not dead. I am treated like a perfect princess by every guy around. The best part is that their manners are so natural, as if walking through a bush in order to open the car door for a girl was as easy and necessary as breathing.

Besides opening doors I have grown accustomed to people standing when I enter a room, boys walking on the down slope of stairs just in case I fall, and there is always a hand offered if I need help hopping down or stepping up a little height. My favorite is probably when someone holds a jacket open for me so I can put it on easier.

So now that I’m all used to these gentlemanly ways I’m going to be sorely disappointed when I get home and have to do everything for myself again. Drat.


When you ride the bus every day you start to see some regulars. I don’t know the actual names of any of mine, so here are the names I’ve given them.

Corn man

Scary Bus driver man

Mr. Helper

Too-old-for-pigtails (pigtails for short)

Steve Biko

Blind couple

Fish eyes

Man voice


I’m not really talented, at least not in an outward way. I can hold my own in soccer, I can play a couple notes on the flute, and I can sing in a choir; but the things I am actually good at don’t really have a good venue to be showcased in. Not a problem.

Being that I myself am not the performer type, I am completely enchanted by those who are. There have been quite a few nights since being here that the TV has been turned off and everyone in the group will stop to listen to one person sing, then another will play the piano, then another will do a monologue. It’s the most wonderful thing. I love these mini talent shows.

I have decided that I want to have a musical home. I want a home where the family gathers around each other rather than the television.

Good food, good music, open conversation, and love. I think that’s a pretty decent recipe for success.

I’m sorry that these have all been little half stories and the true detail of them is missing. All the more reason to hang out with me next time you get a chance. That way I can give you the full story in complete Jari fashion with hands in the air and volume a little louder than appreciated. I even promise to get sidetracked and end up telling you three or four stories instead of just one.