Chewing up the last of the Big Apple

I’m home. What a refreshing, relaxing feeling it is to be home in D.C. again!

I went to NEW YORK CITY!! How awesome was that trip! As hard as it was to go non-stop from eight in the morning until past midnight every night, it was all SO worth it! I saw so much that the days all blur together. I can’t remember when one day started or ended, nor what happened at any given moment. I just have the sights, sounds, smells and feelings that flash through my mind.

New York is such an interesting city! I can’t pin it down. You feel claustrophobic, yet  fulfilled. The city is out of control, yet inspiring. It’s everything you don’t want to see humanity become, yet you end up falling in love and respect it. Our group had quite a few discussions on it, comparing NYC with D.C. We came to the conclusion that only a few of us would rather live in NYC than D.C. But, most all of us could handle living there for at least one year. NYC is so big, though, that it is easily out of the control of any government influence. Sure, people obey the laws and keep to the program. But, the city is so large that the collective decisions of the people controls what the city becomes, not the local government.  It truly is a view of what humanity turns into when smashed onto a small island and has only minimal government influence.

I have to take back what I said before. NYC is best when seen in the early morning, as the city wakes up, or late at night, as the city gets out to relax. It literally comes alive in the morning, and that transition from asleep to active is almost reverent in the change.

Where all did we go following Friday? We took the ferry to Staten Island and got to go by the Statue of Liberty. We also headed to Ground Zero, which I was happy to visit, but they are simply building there so it is just walking by a construction project. We also headed through Wall Street and the financial district, Trinity Church (as seen in National Treasure), Canal Street (where I literally was asked if I wanted to buy a Rolex at least 50 times in the hour I was walking that street. Tons of fun and would be pretty dang sketchy if it wasn’t for all the tourists everywhere. SO many languages, despite being in Chinatown.), movie, we tried almost every night to win tickets to Wicked or other Broadway, but that sadly did not work out for me (my friend won, though!). Sunday we went to church in the Manhattan building, which was pretty cool, then we walked through Central Park again and made our way past the Guggenheim Ballet on the way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art WHICH I LOVED! We only had two hours there, but it was one of my favorite things we did in NYC. I would go back just for the Met, easily. The Picasso, O’Keefe, Dali, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, greek and roman sculptures, egyptian temple, and SO much more! LOVED it. That night we walked the Brooklyn Bridge at night, which was awesome, and then our new friend, Andrew, took us up to the top of an apartment building and we got to see the city at night. We ended the trip on Monday by going back to the Manhattan temple to do an endowment session, then we ate lunch at this AWESOME Brazilian restaurant called Via Brasil (get their Stroganoff. Don’t ask questions, just get it. And be sure to work on your obrigado. I nailed saying thank you in Portuguese.) Following that we walked down to Grand Central Station and the closed UN Building and finally headed home in a bus that was driven by a crazy man who wanted to catch up to the bus that left an hour before us. It was one AWESOME trip.

In the end, I think the greatest lesson I learned from the great NYC is that people are just nice and good. I choose to believe that the world is made up of people who are positive and caring, and are just trying to live the best they know how. They are not self-centered and cynical as the stranger so often gets stereotyped. We had countless opportunities to see people helping other people, serving other people, thanking and sharing a laugh with other people; all whom are strangers with each other. I think that was a big lesson to learn, and what a better way to learn it than in The Big Apple, The City That Never Sleeps, The Empire City, The Crossroads of the World, the one and only New York City!

Snowmaggedon: Day 8ish – Retreat to NYC

Every day this past week has been good enough to write a solid post about. But, each day has also kept me busy having fun in the Snowpocalypse we’ve been having in the DC area. It hit us while we were at Valley Forge last Friday night. Sure, we were warned it would snow 20 inches, and sure it was the topic of conversation as the government planned on shutting down Friday, but none of us Utah students expected two feet of snow would actually slow anything down. But, we were wrong. It came, it snowed, we got stuck at Valley Forge. That alone was tons of fun, then we had to try and drive home through it. A trip that normally takes 3-4 hours ended up taking 7 hours. We got back to DC to find the place frozen over and silent. And that was the beginning of this past week of no work! Everyday we would find out the next had been cancelled due to increased snow storms or needed clean up from it all. It was great! Sure the government was losing millions of dollars from being closed, but we’re a bunch of interns so we didn’t care! Instead we whitewashed each other and pushed cars out of snow banks and hiked through 13 degree blizzards in order to buy beanies from North Face. It was all very memorable and tons of fun.

We got a bit nervous towards the end of the week because we have planned to come to New York City for a while, and the busses from yesterday were cancelled. But, luckily the weather cleared up and we made it to the Big Apple! Dang, it’s huge! I don’t even know all the things we did today. Central Park, Patsy’s Pizzeria, Dylan’s Candy Bar, the famous Apple Store, FAO Schwarz Toy Store, Times Square, Toys’R’Us, more Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza! It has been a blast! Sadly a couple days ago hiking in the snow I twisted my knee and pinched a nerve, though, so it has stunk hiking everywhere and taking so many stairs. But, totally worth the pain! My mom would probably hate the hotel we are staying in, but overall it is good enough for a bunch of college kids (even though all our room has is two beds and a dresser. No closet, no bathroom, and only one electrical outlet. We actually have our entire party of 16 interns sharing one bathroom for this half of the floor! Kinda crazy, terribly sketchy, tons of fun).

So what do I think of NYC after one long, half-day? In short: I like DC more. NYC is amazing, and really is best seen at night when it comes to life. But it feels like one huge monster where anything can happen and nobody would care or notice. There is no unity in the people here, while DC you honestly feel like you have a good idea about everything going on in the beltway. And it feels claustrophobic. Many of us have agreed that there is NO room to breathe and feel comfortable. Everywhere you go you are surrounded by thousands of people scraping the sky with their apartment buildings. I guess Central Park is for healing those feelings, but in the winter even the park seems drained of any powers of respite. Don’t get me wrong, NYC is AMAZING, and has lived up to all of my expectations, but it also quickly reared its ugly side. Within walking 5 blocks from our hotel to Central Park we saw two somewhat serious car accidents, we also saw our first subway rats (we’ve been searching for the Foot Clan, but no luck yet. We know Shredder is out there still), a ton of homeless people, and literally garbage bags piled up on every street we walked down. NYC seems to be a test of humanity. It is too big for local government to truly manage, so it has become what humanity has decided for itself to become. I wonder if that isn’t true for all of us. There is always a limit to how much control someone on the outside has on us, and in the end it is what we choose for ourselves to become.

Anyway, it’s quite late and I have three guys in my room trying to go to sleep, so I should just leave this post as is. Tomorrow is 9/11 Ground Zero, Statue of Liberty Ferry, and hopefully a Broadway show! Wish me luck!

The Dupont Circle snowball fight

Dupont Circle snowball fight during Snowmageddon

We were hit by “Snowmageddon” over the weekend with 28 inches of snow in a little over 24 hours. Here’s a link to a quick video I found of a snowball fight that happened just a 15-minute walk (on clear roads) away from where I live. I guess they organized the whole thing on FB and had over 2,000 people! The article it is from said there were organized snowball fights like this throughout the DC area. Wish I could have been there! (I love the American flag somebody brought!)    ENJOY! Dupont Circle Snowball Fight

God wants to help me not be LOST

The Final Season . . . Supper (Oh, how I love LOST's symbolism)

So I did something tonight that I never thought I would. Anybody who knows me knows how much I love the TV show LOST. I love everything about it and I love hooking people on it as well. Well, tonight was the season premiere of the final season of the show . . . so kinda a big deal for a die-hard fan. I’ve advertised for the past month, and tonight did a huge blitzkrieg in our building to make sure everyone knew about it. The show had a recap from 8 to 9 and then the two episode premiere from 9 to 11. I was planning on going to Institute (since I love our institute here) until 8:45 or so (it can sometimes go until 9:30) and then heading down.

In Institute I had the chance to give the opening prayer where I remember asking for the Lord to inspire Elder and Sister Ellsworth with the words that we, the students, needed to hear that night. I then sat down and started counting the minutes until I got to go downstairs and watch LOST. Well, it got about 8:30 and we were having a wonderful discussion on the blessings of understanding the Plan of Salvation and that we lived with God before coming to earth. Elder Ellsworth then wrote, “Tabula Rasa” on the whiteboard and I laughed out loud wondering if anybody in there knew LOST as well as I did. Tabula Rasa, which means a blank slate in Latin (Thank you, Maria, for taking Latin in high school and enlightening all of us last year), is the name of the second episode of the first season of LOST. Thinking that was incredibly coincidental I kept listening and within a couple minutes Elder Ellsworth asked if any of us knew John Locke. Uhh, yeah, I know John Locke. I know him as Jeremy Bentham as well. Not only are both those names of philosophers, but he’s pretty much the center of the LOST world. Like . . . the CENTER of LOST. The whole storyline revolves around the actions of John Locke and Jack Shephard.

So, I’m sitting there and couldn’t believe within 3 minutes there were two such pivotal references to LOST in Institute class. And I thought, “Could there really be something to this? Is this some obscure way the Lord is trying to grab my attention and tell me Institute is more important than watching LOST?” The coincidence was too great. I couldn’t help it. I had to take it as a sign and listen to what the Lord was trying to tell me. So I decided to wait until the end of Institute, and decided I didn’t need to skip Institute just to watch LOST on TV each week.

I mean really. It’s just a TV show. And this is Institute from some AMAZING teachers that I have always enjoyed. And I don’t think I will get many more opportunities after this to have such an engaging gospel class. Isn’t that a much better trade off than watching a TV show that I can just watch online? I decided it was. So, kinda crazy.

Many people don’t believe in signs. They are too obscure, too vague, too misinterpretable. True that. I agree completely. But, I still believe that we can receive them, and the Lord is probably sending them out A LOT more than I am recognizing. And I sure would like to notice them when the Lord sends them. Because He sends them for a reason. So I’ll keep looking.

. . . all the same, if you haven’t ever watched, just give me 40 minutes of your time :)

D&C 63:9-10, “But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe. Yea, signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God.”

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