7/31/2007

My Number One Fear

I don't want to end up living a boring life.

My entire childhood I was spoon-fed things like, "Reach for your dreams!" and "You can be whoever you want to be." Then, BAM, I'm suddenly an adult in an apartment by myself, dating somebody I really love a lot, and thoughts about the future start to creep into my mind. How will I reconcile my two greatest dreams? Using Arabic in an adventurous career, and being a mother and having a family.

Fortunately, I have fantastic friends who tell me things like, "Career and family are not mutually exclusive. You can do anything, Kate." and, "Quit whining. You've been in Provo for waaaaay too long. Stop listening to those Mormons." and, "You told me you wanted to talk to someone about it - try talking to God. He'll listen, and definitely understand." and "Yeah, I feel the same kind of things about the future too, sometimes." and "Remember that time when you told me that you had complete faith that everything would work out in the end? Remember how you told me to remind you of that moment when you would be crying and stressed out about the future? Yeah, I'm reminding you right now." and "I wouldn't want you to be anything but Kate. I love you." and "What do you think you're doing already, right NOW, with Arabic, in this camp?"

7/29/2007

Gastro

Last time I vomited while having diarrhea was a little more understandable/explainable. After all, it was in a foreign country and I had probably eaten something really weird. Here, there really is no telling what got me sick.

I told my friend Matt Cox that it felt like there was a hose attached to my backside.

At the pharmacy, they gave me the same anti-nausea medicine they give to pregnant women. I found this out when the pharmacist asked, "So, are you pregnant?" What made the situation funny was that Matt was standing next to me. Hehe.

7/23/2007

Colorado

I just got back from the most fabulous five days of the last two years.

DANNY IS HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

7/17/2007

The Kate's American Life pre-podcast madness!

Now you can download Kate's American Life as an mp3 to your computer! Wicked sweet!

The ultimate goal is to set this up in a way that you will be able to subscribe to the weekly audio-posts in iTunes as a super amazing fabulous kick-your-trash podcast. This is still kind of a work-in-progress, so check back regularly. Or now you can subscribe to this blog either via your personal bookmarks or via email.

Thanks for reading!

Episode 2: Things that don't Suck in Utah

video

7/14/2007

Maybe BYU Church Leaders are SUPPOSED to be freaks about dating

I went swimming in the pool at the Avenues, and met three very cool girls. One was from the Elms, and the other two were from other apartments in my complex. We got to talking about lots of things, and the topic of strange attitudes towards dating came up.

We swapped bishopric horror stories, like the girl whose bishop went through the male section of the ward director one by one, finding out which boys she would date if they would ever ask. Or the boy who had a deadline for getting a steady girlfriend. "He wanted to give me a deadline, too, but I told him no way." Or the numbers thing. "I will not be happy if they bring up engagement numbers in PEC meeting this Sunday...'Our numbers are down, guys!' It's not a competition!"

So, while some people would have been horrified by these types of things, it actually came as a gigantic relief. After all, there are people who need encouragement to date, and this is the time period of life where these issues start to become of number one importance. It also helped me realize that I'm not alone in thinking that my bishop is totally psycho.

One of the girls said something that caused me to re-evaluate my previous judgment of my bishop's insanity. Something along the lines of, "I think that our Stake must get marriage-crazy leaders on purpose."

I definitely want to give him a second chance, and it's not like my thinking he's a little bit strange would affect my ability/desire to sustain him as my ecclesiastical leader.

Sigh. I guess people just like to complain about dating wherever they are when they're single.

My Sister Sarah Vasicek ROCKS


Sarah is my way awesome, smart, funny, well-read, experienced little sister, and she rocks. She has good taste in movies, books, and friends. She is understanding, and cares about being politically correct. She is one of my closest friends. When we're home, she walks the dog more than I do. She understands all of the old inside jokes, like from Rescue Rangers and "Nobody can pop Rupert's plan to take over CAMELOT!" and she understands the new stuff, like how we're both in the same boat of my-whole-life-could-drastically-change-in-the-next-few-weeks. She ate my middle east beans. Dot teases her about being a wide-eyed baby. Now she is a wide-eyed BABE. Haha. She is the most fantastic artist. Seriously, if Pixar ever hired her, they'd raise their net worth over ten billion dollars. She has good taste in shoes, yet we can also go into places like 'Payless Shoe Source' together, which is pretty much the only American-shoe I can afford - so basically I'm saying she's not a snob. She's an inspiration to me. She's helping me be positive about Utah:
"Utah sucks and is ugly."
"Southern Utah is pretty."
[Thinking about it]
"Okay, so Utah doesn't suck and isn't all ugly."
She likes Trevor. She thinks he's hilarious. She likes Danny. She thinks he's cool. This statement is not meant to say that Trevor isn't cool and Danny isn't hilarious. When I was dating Tom, she wanted to make t-shirts that said, "TEAM DANNY!" on them.

She can stand on her head. And on her feet. She can whistle with her fingers. She can make fire out of nothing. She's like Harry Potter. She glows in the dark.

There was this hallway in the house where we grew up that was really dark. One time when I was walking down the hallway carrying a glass of water, completely in my own mind, and Sarah was walking towards me down the same hallway. She saw me the whole time, but I didn't notice her until she said, "Hi," about four inches away from my face. There was a loud shriek, which came from my mouth, followed by a cold shower of water and me falling down on the floor in shock. Sarah wasn't scared, having seen me the whole time, but when I screamed, she screamed too because she was, understandably, freaked out by the flying limbs, the water, and the loud noises.

The best part was that there was a dead bird in the wall, and that we shared a room, except that Sarah had 1/2 a room, and I had 1 1/2 rooms. One where I slept, and another where I kept all of my stuff.

The moral of the story is never carry a glass of water where there might be dead birds in the walls and it's dark and the carpet is blue (but it's pretty much black because let's face it, eyes can't distinguish hue in the dark).

Sarah is also a talented writer/narrator.

7/13/2007

Why I Love Waylon Jennings

I don't know how I could have grown up twenty years of my life without ever hearing Waylon Jennings' name. What rock was I living under? My friend Trevor made me a CD one time with one of his songs on it from a Sesame Street video called 'Follow That Bird', and I liked it, so I bought a CD called 'Ultimate Waylon Jennings' with a BestBuy gift card that I got for Christmas.

I like what it says about him in the CD Jacket: "he reinvigorated country music, took it by the scruff of its neck and walked it over to Hillbilly Central, reminding the Nashville Sound that its roots were in the lonesome moan of the wind, and the restless urge to keep moving, and a hard stompin' all-four hoofbeat. Thumb on the bass strings."

It would be neat to leave a legacy like that. "She reinvigorated the Arabic language, took it by the scruff of its neck, walked it over to Anti-Islam Central, reminding the Patriotic-borderline-Nationalist Conservative American Movement that its roots were in the pursuit of democracy, the restless urge to Manifest Destiny, and a hard resolution to uphold basic human rights and liberties. Right hand over your heart."

7/12/2007

Congress debates troop withdrawal from Iraq July 10 (Bill 2956)

I study the Middle East. Everything that has to do with that part of the world is interesting to me. I love the language, history, culture, and politics.

I deferred from BYU last semester to go to Irbid, Jordan, live with a host family, and study Arabic at Yarmouk University. This was a unique opportunity to be exposed to the language, history, culture, and...politics.

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to broaden my exposure to opinions. The people I met, conversations I had, articles I read, and understanding I gained caused me to form my own political opinions.

A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq will be a disaster. I do not support a bill that enacts a withdrawal of all American troops by April 2008. However, I cannot support allocating 80% of our forces in Iraq with the excuse that we are battling Al-Qaeda while our terrible enemy builds its strongholds in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I agree with the Democrats - we must change our strategy. I agree with the Republicans - we cannot pull out all of our troops, at least not yet.

My new apartment has C-SPAN. It's the first time in my life that watching this channel has been so interesting. I actually stood up and started screaming in frustration when Indiana's Republican Congressman Dan Burton stood up and argued against the New York Congressman's "our-troops-can't-build-or-sustain-a-democratic-Iraqi-government-
because-it-has-to-be-from-their-own-people-and-therefore-we-
should-not-waste-American-lives-on-a-war-we -can't-win" statement with, "Well, if George Washington could see what we were doing, he would understand because Congress almost gave up on HIM and HIS wars...if we gave up in World War II, there would be thousands of Holocaust victims who would have died."

PATHETIC REBUTTAL. Absolutely lame. The other Republican Congressmen had facts, not incoherent/irrelevant references to 'history'. The truth is, the person whose argument I most agreed with was the Republican Congressman from Indiana, Mike Pence. He doesn't support a withdrawal from Iraq until we can have information about what is actually going on, yet he agreed that keeping our troops there is not the ultimate solution. Pro withdrawal, but not pro precipitous withdrawal. He admitted if we fail in Iraq, we will fail in the entire Middle East, which I think is extremely true. We CAN'T risk that.

Maybe life in Provo isn't going to Suck

Liel and I signed a contract to live together in the Avenues. It was pretty funny - our landlord is an absolute space case. The good kind, that takes care of her apartment, but doesn't obsess about her tenants. She had wanted to sign up two friends together for the two empty rooms she had in the condo she owned, but for some reason decided to sign me on. It absolutely thrilled her when I showed up with Liel on her doorstep, about a week later - "I'm so happy that you two are friends and that you will sign this together!" she proclaimed. "I'm not a liar!"

Liel is an incredible person. We have similar minds. Basically, she's been living at my place for the last week. I would bet a hundred bucks that she has spent more time with me than without me over the last seven days.

She asked the question, "Do you think you have more guy friends or girl friends?"

I thought about it a little bit, and realized that my response two years later was completely different. "Girl friends. I feel very close to my guy friends, but they're hard to keep. They never last. But you, Cindy, Emily, and Alexandra - you have been my close friends for over two years. Guy friends come and go, but my close girl friends stay, and there are more of them."

So all* my friends will be here this fall (male and female), Liel and I will be living together, and DANNY WILL BE HERE!!!!!!!!

Just...TALKING again! My stomach is going insane, there are so many butterflies flittering around. I have never experienced this feeling before. It's hard to describe.

But anyway, the overall conclusion is: maybe this whole thing isn't going to suck after all.

*minus one very important friend from home...

7/11/2007

I waited for a missionary!

What!

He's back!

We talked on the phone for about two hours today!

What!

I was told that it would be awkward, but it wasn't! It was awsome!

We talked about a lot of things. At one point he referred to how I exceeded everyone's expectations, but I didn't understand what he was talking about. "Well, Kate, it's pretty awesome that you wrote me my whole mission!"

It is really awesome! That is a huge accomplishment, for both of us. I am excited for this new phase in my life.

Wow!!!!!

7/10/2007

Reflections on my new BYU Bishop

So, I've been thinking a lot about the interview I had yesterday with my new BYU bishop, and I've come to the conclusion that I dislike him. This is why:

He asked about my family. I told him about my siblings. He found out that my sister is in a rehab center in Orem. He asked if I ever struggled with the same issues as she did. WHY would that be AT ALL relevant, I wonder?

"So, can you afford your apartment?"

Liel wonders out loud what the correct response would have been to this: "Um, actually, I took out a student loan to pay for this...I could have lived in Raintree, but this one was so much prettier!"

"Um, yeah."

Later:
"So, we want to get you dating."
"Um, I don't want to date now."
"We try to encourage our young men to date."
"Just because I don't want to date doesn't mean that I will refrain from all social interaction."
"We'll see."

It gets worse. He asked for my previous bishop's email address so they can talk about me. "I just want to make sure there are no unresolved issues." He even SAID.

Plus, the question, "Is there anything else that you'd like to tell me about?" randomly asked at least three times through the course of the interview, which made me feel like he thought I did something deep, dark, secret, and evil. Which of course, I did not - but even if I HAD, isn't the gospel supposed to be about repentance and forgiveness? Ugh.

Ensha'allah this situation will change, because he will probably be my bishop for the next year.

7/09/2007

Cooking for Myself

My friend Liel says that it's empowering to cook for yourself, and that is totally true. You have complete power, control - absolute freedom when it comes to choosing what to buy and what to make, and when. So far, and it's only been 3 days, I LOVE cooking for myself.

Tonight, Joe, Cindy, Chris, Alexandra, and Liel came over for dinner and a game of Settlers. Just because my best girl-friend is married now doesn't mean that we can't still be friends!

7/08/2007

Ratatouille

I enjoyed myself during this movie. There were sequences where the entire theatre, including me, was laughing out loud. Check it out.

7/07/2007

Am I another Freak living in Provo?

Liel and I slept on the floor next to Allison's mattress. I tend to agree with what I assume is the main reason her mattress lies on the floor, not on the makeshift cinder block enhanced bed frame - comfort.

Allison is the girl whose contract I bought.

Her best friend from high school is Iranian, and got a job in England this summer. She had been inviting Allison to just come out and live with her for the next few months since something like February, but there never was a plane ticket, and things just weren't right.

Two days ago, things became right. Allison found a miraculous plane ticket, and decided to just leave. This timing was insane for both of us.

In the middle of the night, she suddenly shouted, "Where's my passport!?!?!?!"
Liel said, "Don't worry, it's on your desk where you left it."

This morning, as I watched her pack, I started to realize that there is a huge world apart from going somewhere, and going somewhere. I will never pretend that I was Jordanian. However, I did really live a Jordanian life, not an American one with a different background. The Hammouri family considered me their daughter. I didn't have the luxury, or perhaps curse, of being able to randomly shove clothes (unfolded!) from J. Crew into a designer suitcase the morning I was leaving spontaneously on a trip to England. Imagine my Arab friends in the same situation...not even close to a possibility.

Liel later said, "You know, this wouldn't make any sense if we weren't twenty. Like, in ten years, this would never happen."

Instead of being pissed at the snobbism, the richness, the elitism, the wall of difference between our cultures that we willingly build when we do ridiculous things like this - I decided to force myself into bemusement. "Hmmm...isn't she crazy?"

Hey, my apartment rocks! Complaining would be even crazier!

7/06/2007

Miracle

Mary is my mom's cousin. My dad and I slept at her house last night, with the understanding that would be the only night of using her house as a hotel.

I left her house today not knowing where I would be staying for the night, where I would be living for the next semester/year, anything at all about the High School Arabic program I am supposedly working for - whether or not I will get monetary compensation, or college credit, or anything ---- no knowledge about where I would work, or what in the heck I'm doing.

Driving down the street, wondering these things, I noticed the your-gas-tank-is-empty light flicker, and realized that my ATM card was with my little sister in Morocco.

Then, I heard my stomach growl, and realized that without money, eating could be an issue.

No food, no money, no gas, no job, but worst of all, no home.

I wandered campus, trying to find the people who could solve the "job" part of the problem, when my friend Liel called and basically said, "Hey, my friend decided yesterday to go to England for the next two months, and needs to sell her contract."

God cares about his children - not just the big life events, but our daily lives. Everything worked out. I don't know how to describe it.

Later, Liel, the girl whose contract I bought, their friends, and I went out to eat.

Two down, three to go.

7/05/2007

The Best View for Stadium of Fire July 4th Fireworks

Matt, his friend from work, and I watched the largest display of fireworks in the state of Utah from the very best view in the valley - on top of R Hall of Deseret Towers.

I was a Resident Assistant last time I was on campus at BYU. Girls aren't allowed in the guy's dorms. R Hall is a guy's dorm. Right now, it is swarming with EFY kids. We wanted to watch the fireworks from the top, so after an EFY kid let us in to the building, all three of us went together in the elevator up to the top floor.

There were already people up there, including someone who looked like a Hall Advisor with kids - as in, the person responsible for the entire building.

I realized that there was a beach towel in my car, and that with it, our butts might not have quite such a hard sitting surface. So, I descended the 7 flights of stairs and retrieved the towel from my car.

The door was locked, and the EFY kids had vanished. Matt was on his way down to let me into the building, when a brunette and a blonde in EFY-blue polo shirts, carrying clipboards, came down and said, "Hi! Where are you trying to go?"

Let's consider this scene. I'm older than these two female EFY counselors. I have been an RA for longer than they could have ever been EFY counselors, if you can go so far as to compare the two! These girls want to do their job thouroughly, but interviewing every passerby who enters a building cannot possibly on the job description.

"Where are you trying to go?"
"Um, the roof."
"Who are you with?"
"Um, my friends. We're watching the fireworks."
"Oh well, who are you going to be with?"
"Um...my friends...I think the Hall Advisor is up there, too."
"Well what are your friends names?"

I gave the girl a weird look. "Um, Matt Cox, and some other girl he brought...I'm not in EFY, just so you know."
"Oh, yeah, of course - we just wanted to open the door for you, but couldn't without knowing who you'll be with so..."
"Oh, yeah, I understand."

Ridiculous.

But the fireworks made it worth that.

7/04/2007

Mormon Handcart Visitor Center and Museum: Second Most Visited Wyoming Tourist Site

We drove past 287, the road that takes you to the Devil's Gate and Martin's Cove, two historic sites of my ancestors. If we had realized our mistake five minutes after the fact, it would have been one thing - but it wasn't until fifty miles down the road that my dad and I agreed that, "Hey, we must have missed that turn."

Wyoming in general is not very forgiving; the combination of scarcity of roads, vast open land, and high altitude make for long, windy, lonesome journeys. We literally missed one turn, and that cost us nearly three hours: accidentally going too far, turning around, only to retrace our steps when we were done being tourists.

It was worth every second.

I am a direct descendant of Mary Hurren, Mormon pioneer. She was 7 when she trekked out west with the ill-fated Willie Handcart Company.

The full-time senior couple missionaries had a book full of memoirs of various pioneers. Somewhat dubious of anything actually turning up, I flipped to the "H" section of the book, which, if I am not mistaken, was a version of "Tell My Story, Too" (A collection of biographical sketches of pioneers and rescuers of the Willie, Martin, Hodgett, and Hunt Companies 1856) by Jolene S. Allphin of Layton, UT.

There was an entire page about Mary Hurren. The sister missionary photocopied it for me. Here is an excerpt:

"One day, Mary and her friends, Agnes Caldwell, came to a section inhabited by rattlesnakes. They would hold hands and jump over the snakes, thinking it great fun. Agnes later wrote: "It seemed to me we were jumping for more than a mile. Due to the protecting hand of the Lord, we were not harmed."

"...When they had to climb Rocky Ridge, there were eighteen inches of snow on the ground. It was very cold and the wind was blowing hard. Mary and her best friend, Bodil Mortensen, climbed together. After arriving at camp, little Bodil died and was burried in a common grave with 12 other people who had died that day. Mary's father lifted her up so she could see the body of her friend lying among the dead.

"The weather grew colder each day, and Mary's feet eventually froze. When the family finally arrived in the Valley, their first concern was little Mary's frozen feet. They took her to a doctor and he said her legs would have to be amputated or she would die. Her father protested, "This little girl didn't walk a thousand miles to have her legs cut off. If she dies, she will die with her legs on."

"The family moved to Brigham City to make their home and an elderly lady, Mrs. Snider, told them to get some fresh steak and wrap her feet in it and call after three days. Fresh meat was not available where they lived, so Mary's father walked 20 miles to Ogden, gota steak, and walked back. When the beefsteak was removed after three days, Mrs. Snider applied homemade ointment on Mary's legs and feet. Within a few days the rotten flesh dropped off. Mary was able to walk again in two years. Her feet hurt her all her life."

The rest of the story goes that Mary's last words were the proclamation,"My feet don't hurt me anymore!" That may be family lore, but the part about my ancestors being pioneers isn't.

It's a big deal. Do you realize how far these pioneers had to walk? What they suffered? That over 70,000 Mormon pioneers left the country to seek a place where they could worship freely? I had an incredible feeling at Devil's Gate, and later, as we crossed Sweet River.

By far, the most powerful feeling was surveying the valley from the top of Independence Rock. It's an enormous rock in the middle of a valley surrounded by mountains and plains. Thousands of emigrants passed through, including California-bound gold-diggers, Oregon Trail people, and Mormon Pioneers.

They carved their names into the face of this rock. It's hard to climb to the top, but the feeling of seeing the thousands of names beneath my feet, and starting to comprehend the vastness of the journey was worth a three hour detour.

I took away from the experience that at some point, before it gets too cold, my friends and I should come camping here.

7/03/2007

Nebraska

My dad and I drove from the Iowa side of the Mississippi River to Cheyenne, Wyoming today.

This meant that we passed through Nebraska.

Nebraska is part of the Great Plains. My dad called it, "the bread-basket of America." The last time that I was here was over ten years ago, probably on a similar road trip.

We stopped for gas at a trucker's stop somewhere between Omaha and Lincoln. At every stop we've made, it's been interesting to look at the various gas station convenience store collections of CD's. Nearly every place since Ohio has had a smattering of classic country, pop country, motown, and crooners like Barry Manilow. Here, next to Lonnie's Roadside Restaurant (or was it Lorrie's? I can't remember exactly which it was), I found several compilations of "Americana" music. What exactly is that? What does it sound like? It piqued my curiosity, but my dad was less interested in buying me CD's than buying me dinner at Lonnie's.

Inside the restaurant were about a half a dozen truckers, and one or two fellow passers-through. My dad ordered an omelette from the all-day breakfast menu, while I got a cheeseburger. It ended up being delicious.

My dad and I listened to Bruce Springsteen's entire album of "Nebraska" while driving through Nebraska. I wondered what it would be like to live here, how different life would be from Western Massachusetts. Would I be able to live here? Would I like it?

At Lonnie's, there was a small bookshelf by the door with stacks of weather-beaten harlequin romance novels and a sign encouraging passers to take, read, and pass it on. I found a book by Naomi Horton called, "Born to be Bad." On the front, there is a picture of a blond girl wrapped in nothing more than a purple bathrobe, scandalously hiked up to reveal her upper thigh. She is leaning back on a shirtless man in blue jeans, the words "Tall, dark and dangerous" floating beneath. The back cover reads:

"NEVER PICK UP STRANGERS...

"The man at the truck stop didn't look threatening. And all he needed was a ride. Still, Holly Triano knew better than to trust a dark, handsome stranger...

"Col Donovan couldn't blame the pretty young widow for refusing to give him a lift. But he was a desperate, hunted man, and she was his only way back to White Poplars, where he would get revenge at last on the man who had framed him for murder.

"One moment, Holly was heading home to her children; the next, she was being kidnapped by an escaped convict. Everything about Col seemed dangerous, but it wasn't fear that made Holly quiver at his touch - it was desire."

I had hoped to use my internet search skills to find the name of the place we stopped, and whether it was Lorrie or Lonnie's restuarant. What I found was a site of travel tips. A few internet waves later, I surfed into an interesting sub-site about Nebraskan Local Customs. One of them seemed to be picking up hitch hikers, which makes Ms. Horton's book even more of a treasure.

7/02/2007

July 1st Encounters

I was filling up my fast-food medium-sized beverage cup with ice, when a tan man in a green t-shirt in his mid-30's walked by. The whole setup was poorly engineered; they put the main straws, sauces, and napkins that everybody would want easy access to on the far end of the counter, with the coffee lids and teensy-tiny straw-like things in the center, when they are not in quite as high a demand.

I had experienced the same confusion about five minutes before, whilst on my quest for silverware. I gestured my eyes in the direction of the other counter and said, "I think they're over there." The man smiled, and thanked me.

Then, he walked back. "What I really needed was a cup lid!"

"Oh, sorry I misled you." (the cup lids were attached to a rack above the soda fountain.)

"It's okay, I know your type. You're the kind to break dozens of guys hearts. You know, we have feelings, too."

"Reeeeally?"

"Of course!"

My dad and I passed a sign for a town called, "Annawan." I pointed at it, and said, "Annatwo! Annathree!"

Later on, my dad introduced me to Willie Nelson , who I didn't even know existed as a whole CD on my ipod. The best part was I knew several of the songs! "She's a good-hearted woman in love with a good-timin' maaaaan." In turn, I introduced him to Ira Glass and "This American Life" - only to experience a similar deja-vu when he pronounced, "Oh! I heard this on the radio the other day!" I guess this world is small enough for us to run into country musicians and radio show hosts before even knowing their real significance.

Which...I'm not sure exists...