Sunday, October 02, 2005

Who died and made you the village idiot?

I'M HOME!!!!!!!!
What an amazing experience! I'm absolutely exhausted. But I have so many stories to tell that I am writing to tell them to you. I also have all sorts of pictures to add to these stories, but I don't have them yet, so they will have to be added in the next blog.
The picture here is the cast of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," which was my favorite show we saw, and which I will tell you all about later in this blog.
I also highly doubt I will get all of the trip into this one entry, so this will chronicle the trip through Tuesday, and the next entry will be the rest of the trip.

DAY ONE, Saturday
Nothing interesting except for a drive to Salt Lake. And a fun dinner as an entire group plus a few guests at Chili's. Which meant that we waited about 18 thousand hours to be seated. But we did get to see Jeff Parkes, and that was fun. Today was also the day that Christian created the character "Squirell-Boy," a mentally retarded kid whose main energies are directed toward squirells and his bouncy ball, and who was one of our favorite companions throughout the rest of the trip.

DAY TWO, Sunday
We woke up at the butt-crack at dawn, in order to leave the hotel at 5-freaking-thirty in the morning. But the adrenalin and excitement of going to New York City kept us all awake. Following were several hours of traveling by bus, airplane, shuttle, subway and foot. Adventures of that day were Kjersti finding a $100 bill under her seat on the plane and buying dinner with it for herself, Ben, and Kristi, since they were sitting next to her. When we got into JFK, there was some hulabaloo with the gate we were supposed to park in or whatever, so we waited on the runway for about 45 minutes. And it was 45 minutes of insanity! We'd been up since the wee small hours of the morning, traveling the whole time, and we were FINALLY there in New York City, and we COULDN'T GET OFF THE PLANE!!! It was horrible. We did, however, eventually escape, and thus began one of the most stressful evenings of the trip. LIFE LESSON #213: Never take a group of 22 students and faculty from the airport to the city via train, and then attempt to ride the subway from where the train dropped you off to your hotel, but then get off one stop too early and walk 8 blocks through downtown Manhattan at rush hour, trying to keep everyone together. This is especially stressful if everyone is carrying a week's worth of luggage with them, which is what we were doing. JD and Roger were really patient and helpful, though at one point Roger said "I'm never doing this again, this is ridiculous," and to which JD replied "I think several of our girls have cried already." What a night! But the city was incredible, everything I'd imagined and more, and in spite of cumbersome luggage and difficulty staying together, my first experience in Manhattan was unforgettably amazing.
The first thing I noticed was the humidity. I had curled my hair that morning and that was the last time I did it all week. Second thing I noticed: New York is a really dirty city. It's a germfest. Especially in the evening, when all the businesses are piling their trash on the curb in front of their shops to be gathered by the garbage collectors overnight. Third thing I noticed: the noise. Cabs honking, people talking, music playing, street performers, it was crazy! Downtown Manhattan is noisy, dirty, big, diverse, and wonderful! When I first got out of the subway (which is about a thousand degrees) and onto the street, I couldn't stop looking up...the skyline doesn't even look real. The buildings are SO TALL, and there are SO MANY of them. It sort of blows the mind.
Anyway, we finally made it to our hotel, a quaint "La Quinta" in the middle of downtown "Little Korea," on 32nd street, just 10 blocks from Times Square. We settled in a little, and then broke into groups and went in search of sustenance--we were most of us starving. I went with a group to "Little Italy," where they were having a street festival, with all sorts of performers and food. We discovered this great little restaurant where I had the greatest spaghetti bolognese I've ever had in my life. It also cost me $14. After eating, we explored a little bit before meeting the others at the subway station. We all talked about the food we'd eaten and the places we discovered. The other group had gone to Chinatown and found a place called "Green Bo," which was substantially cheaper and also delicious. They described soup dumplings that were so good you died every time you ate one. Mmmm, food. That concluded our first day in the city, and each of us slept soundly.

This day began with me almost steamrolling right over my roomate Brenna, with whom I was sharing a bed. My cell phone alarm went off, but it was really really loud, so I was startled awake to "War of 1812" at top volume. I rolled over to reach over to the dresser and turn it off, and just sort of forgot that I was sharing a bed and that Brenna lay between me and the dresser. I stopped only when her face was a few inches from mine, and I'm sure it was terrifying for her too, because I had gasped and had this startled look on my face, which she woke up to. I realized a few seconds later that my cell phone was on the floor across the room and not on the dresser at all anyway.
That morning at breakfast was another adventure, but I'd much rather this one hadn't happened. I was sitting with a few friends, one of them being Kjersti Parkes, who also happens to be the sister of my good friend Ben. As we chatted, Kjersti asked "What room are you guys in?" "1010, why?" we replied. "Um, just so you guys know," Kjersti said, "you might want to keep your door closed, because my brother saw one of you running around in your underwear last night." *GULP* I'm the only one in Room 1010 who was running around in her underwear last night. In my defense, I didn't open the door, and didn't know it was open at all. I asked "Did he say who it was?" Kjersti said no, he just said "some girl." (As awkward as the situation was, Ben proved himself a pretty cool guy...he KNEW it was me, because according to Mindy he definitely saw, but didn't tell anyone else it was me by name. EVERYONE knew the story, but Ben wanted to make sure I wasn't totally humiliated by the entire group, so he made the story about an anonymous girl. Thanks Ben.) Of course, it didn't change how embarrassed I was, and when he came into the lobby later, I couldn't look at or talk to him for a full 10 minutes.
This was one of the few days we did most things as a group, and our schedule included the Statue of Libery, Ellis Island, and Ground Zero. About a third of our time was spent in transportation to and from these locations, but that's life in New York, eh? The Statue of Libery was awesome, although we had to go through all this crazy security. One thing was REALLY neat...I can't imagine what purpose it served, but one thing you had to go through was this air-puffer portal thing. You walked into this little doorway thing into a little room, and then they'd puff your body with little powerful bursts of air from all sides, from your feet to your head, several times. IT WAS SO COOL! I want one in my house. Riding the boat (the very windy, rocky boat) toward Lady Libery, I looked up at it and thought "How many other thousands of people have done this same thing before me? From the immigrants seeing it for the first time, welcoming them to America, to the tourists that come from around the world, looking at it through camera lenses?" It was just a cool experience. I learned SO MUCH, and both at the Statue and on Ellis Island, I had some very sacred experiences, and my appreciation for those who came before me was multiplied tenfold. I felt a little nerdy, crying over history, so I sort of hid from the rest of the group, which I didn't need to do at all, because I wasn't the only one at all.
When we were on the top of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty (that's as high as you can go--fire hazards, insurance, etc.), one of the tour guides, Doug, told us a little more about the bay and the city. Looking across at the skyline, we asked him if he could please point out where the two towers were. He showed us, and we asked him if he was here and saw it. He told us his story, about how he saw it and how it changed the city. He was across the bay, taking some photographs when he heard the crash, and looked over and saw smoke and fire. He said it was just awful...all those people. He said he's not the kind of person who believes in supernatural stuff, but as he watched the second tower fall, he said you "could sense a wave of death" just sweeping across the city. He said it was overwhelming--he couldn't even breathe. For weeks afterward, he said you could tell when you were getting close to Ground Zero because there was a distinct smell in the air, he's never smelled anything like it before or since. He talked about the dust that covered everything in the area around the two towers, so thick you could scoop it up with your hands and drop it. After he told us the story, we all spent a moment or two looking across at the skyline. He cleared his throat and said "Well, enough of that, that's dreary," and smiling sadly said "Let's talk about something else. Has anyone ever seen a real tugboat?" And just like that, the atmosphere was changed and we all started chatting about the other things we could see from there. But as we left, each of us gave Doug a private smile and a quiet thank you.
When you walk toward Ground Zero, you can tell from a distance what a powerful place it is. Stepping on to the sidewalk around where the two towers were feels like stepping onto the temple grounds. It really is a sacred place. The City passed special laws regarding street vending and performing in that area, so that no one is there except the people coming to see. It's such a quiet place, and looking at it was one of the most powerful experiences of the trip. The only "performer" there was an old old man, leaning against the fence, playing slow and sacred hymns on flute. There's NOTHING there. One entire city block, fenced in and dug out, where once 9 buildings stood. It wasn't just the two towers that were destroyed. Four years later, and there's still rubble. You look up at some of the buildings nearby and they make you dizzy, they're so tall. And then when you think that the two towers were more than twice that just staggers the mind. On one end of the plot, rescue workers made a cross out of some big steel beams from the rubble, and it's the only thing standing in the whole block. Across from it, one of the buildings was still totally destroyed on one side, and hanging from it was a tattered American flag. There's a wall with names on it of all the people who died on 9/11, and looking at it, I just sobbed. I didn't even know anyone there or anyone involved, but it was still so heart-breaking.
Later, Ben told me about his experience there. He went later with another group of students who had been in "Hole in the Sky." About a year after 9/11, a student at BYU-Idaho wrote a play about the tragedy at the World Trade Center, and some of the students on the trip had had the privelege of performing in it. Ben had played a window-washer, who had been working on one of the towers when it had been hit. The play was about a small group of people who were trapped in one of the towers before they fell, and their stories right before they died. For each of the students in the play, performing it in was a sacred and powerful experience. But coming to Ground Zero brought so much more meaning to it. Ben said that he and the others just stood and looked at the hole where the buildings had been, held eachother, and quietly cried, and that they stood like that for a long time. Just before they left, Ben looked up, and on one of the building right next to them, was a window-washer. He said it was just a really neat experience.
It was painful to see, but I'm so glad I have. My testimony was strengthened so much.
Okay, like Doug said, enough of that, that's dreary! As a little story to serve as comic relief, I forgot to mention that this was also the morning that Roger smashed a donut into my face. I almost deserved it for being so gullible, but as we were waiting in the lobby, I was enjoying a delicious chocolate frosting, half-sprinkled donut, and Roger asked me if I've smelled the sprinkles. I gave him a confused look and said no, and he told me that the combination of frosting and sprinkles smells incredible, I've got to smell it. I brought the donut to my face, and of course, the next thing I knew, I had frosting all over my face and up my nose. Thank you, my ever-so-mature proffessor of theatre!
After all this, we all went out to eat, and this time I went with a little group to Green Bo and enjoyed a delicious meal. For a lot cheaper. Those soup dumplings really are divine, and you really do die when you eat them, they're so good. Of course, the others also forgot to mention how floppin' hard they are to eat! Only Bro. Clifford managed to eat with no difficulty whatsoever, but he served his mission in Japan, so he had an unfair advantage. *ASIDE* Bro. Clifford is still relatively new in the dept. and although we all love him, we still don't know him as well. However, on this trip, he told us that from now on, we are not allowed to call him "Bro. Clifford." But somehow, none of us could call him "Richard," and "Clifford" just sounded weird. So he acquired a number of nicknames, which were constantly changing, and always only bore some resemblance to his actual name..."Cliffy Cliffordian," "Clifton," "Cliffordsonian," and "Cliff-Cliffy-Cliffordsen" were a few.
That night, after eating, we went to see an off-broadway show called "Altar Boyz." It was awesome, with great music, and fabulous singing. It ended up being one of the favorites, which is sort of funny because most of us were apathetic about it in the beginning. "Yeah, okay, nothing else is playing, and Roger knows this guy who says it's good, so what the heck, why not see this little show?" It was fantastic, and SO FUNNY. Brenna got pulled up onstage and sung to, and it turns out that the "guy Roger knows" was the CHOREOGRAPHER, so after the show, we got a backstage tour, met the cast, and took pictures with them.
And in the traditional New York City way, we went out for cheesecake after the show. =) Too bad I hate cheesecake. That's okay though, because the chocolate brownie a la mode I had was indescribably yummy.
And that was our first full day in New York City!

And I think this trip is actually going to take 3 blog entries to describe, cause I'm really done writing, and this entry's a NOVEL already. To be continued!!!


Beckah said...

Oh wow! I am jealous but it sounds like you had soooooo much fun! I can't wait to see the pictures too. You should send them via e-mail to me and tell me all about it. And you haven't called me yet! But I'm really glad that the experience that you shared so far was awesome and spiritual and all-around wicked. Talk to you later!

isha said...

oh my gosh yeah!!!! *jealous* but now you'll have lots of cool stories to tell, so that's way exciting! must finish story! me want to here! If only me could actually spell hear!!!! lol

Brenna said...

And six years later I get to re-live that beautiful day! I cried with my cast members at ground zero that day. It was incredible. Of course, then we had the comic relief of Altar Boyz...that I'll NEVER forget! Thanks, Liz.