ABBA Tribute Band: Arrival!

So my mom called me the other day: "Hi, honey. Who's Abba?" I responded that they were a band from the 70's/80's. She said, "Oh, well I wound up with tickets to their concert. Want to come with me?" Would I ever!

It was actually a tribute band, but was awesome. Before it started, the American flag was presented and so were the theme songs to each of the military divisions (Army, Marines, Air Force, etc) and on cue with each song, someone would march out carrying the flag to that specific division. I love old guys in uniform. When they were all lined up, the older gent who had been announcing each one said, "My that's pretty music...but it's getting really long!" So the music dimmed and stopped, almost bashfully. Everyone laughed, and we were off to a good start.

The singer before the band came out was good, and sang "I Will Survive", and "Respect". She told us all to get up and dance, but being a bit shy at the beginning, not many did. Those who did, though, were golden. Two old guys got up and started dancing together, busting moves all over the place, which rocked just about everyone's socks. Another notable daredevil was about 45 yrs old, and he was just rocking non-stop with sweet disco moves.

Arrival did a fabulous job of covering ABBA's stuff. Like ABBA, they were from Sweden, and it was such a good time, for various reasons:

1-Good repertoire, including "Does Your Mother Know", "Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)", "SOS", "Fernando", "Voulez-Vous", "Money Money Money", "Knowing Me Knowing You", "One Man, One Woman", "Winner Takes It All", "Chiquitita", "Mama Mia", "Waterloo" and "Take A Chance On Me".

2-During "One Man, One Woman", they said that they were performing this so they could see us kiss and hug each other...and as the song crooned on, an older couple got up a few seats away from me and started dancing! I...WILL...be like that...when I'm part of an "old couple" someday. I hope.

3-During one of the songs (Fernando maybe?) The now-dark ampitheater was full of cell phone lights and I added mine to the sea of waving phones. I beckoned my mom to join me, and, after a moment, said, "okay!" and, grabbing her phone, did the best cell phone light wave I've ever seen. Waved it like a princess. I loved it!

4-I had seen two of my friends there, and during Mama Mia, I rand down and danced with Jade, with whom I work and love to pieces, and her awesome friend Aubrey, and company. Needless to say, we went crazy. SO fun!

5-After "Mama Mia", I came back to mom, and convinced her to dance as well...good timing as the next song was "Take A Chance On Me". It was so great. She and I should be on a dance team...no, really. :)

4-As they finished up, they still hadn't done Dancing Queen, and my mom was terribly distressed by this. I told her they'd probably do it as part of their encore, but she suggested we yell "DANCING QUEEN!" so we did. Oh, the good times. For an encore, they did "Summer Night City", "Thank You For The Music", and--finally--"Dancing Queen". We ALL danced to that. (What are YOUR favorite ABBA songs? I wanna know, people. Let's post it.)

5-Costumes of the band were 100% authentic, and sweet. Gold go-go boots: +87 points to the gals. I'd totally wear them. (Pictures WILL come...check back)

6-Guest star: the same guy (older now) who performed with ABBA performed with this group tonight, with the same sweet Gibson guitar that he used back in the day!

So, thank you to Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid. Yay for Abba.

It was a good time. And can I just say how cool my mom is?

So cool.


Adventures In a Mexican Orphanage: Day 1

On Sunday, I returned from one of the greatest trips ever. I was a volunteer with the Kaiizen Organization. It's completely volunteer run, and they take trips to Mexico to help orphanages. It was a great, though very short, experience. We drove down the first day, served for two days, and drove back the fourth day. So here's the first of the travel (b)log:

Day 1: Thursday, June 26

Wal-Mart, 4:47am

We all assembled. From the Utah chapter, there were a fair amount of us. Adam McBride and his car, Pikachu, were my traveling buddies. We met the two other gals who would be riding with us: two sisters Chelsea and Katey Jones. We came, we got free t-shirts and drivers packets, and we departed. Our car conversation throughout the entire trip was fabulous: ranging from topics of family, goals, school, life, super powers....

After we got past the border, the pivotal turnoff t
hat our group needed to take was completely closed off. We lost two cars in traffic, both inexperienced in the ways of Kaiizen, so we wandered around for a WHILE...but the scenery was great! I got a migraine, but Katey, Chelsea and Adam were super nice and very patient with me. I got over the worst of it right before the infamous Taco Stand visit! SO tasty.

Adventures in A Mexican Orphanage: Day 2

Day 2: Friday, June 27
The Beach, 7:15am

So...I woke up to the sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks. Probably one of the best sounds EVER to wake up to. I think I grew to appreciate and enjoy the ocean more this trip than any other, and I think that's why. Anyhow, we got up and went straight to the school we'd be working on. I climbed a fence and kinda...well...didn't make it over as gracefully as I'd hoped. Got a pretty good scratch on my leg. Adam felt bad because he'd persuaded me to do it, but I thought that it was pretty comical (after the initial sting of impact had died down). We had a fabulous and oh-so-healthy breakfast of all sorts of bulk sugared cereal and warm soy milk. Then, it was down to business. We got birthday presents for the kids ready and painted the various school buildings all morning. One accomplishment was the hierarchy of cleaning rollers that Scarlet Ortiz, Adam and I invented. With limited water (one working sink) and tons of filthy brushes, there were only so many hands that could help. For future reference for anyone reading who will someday clean paint brushes and rollers simultaneously with others: Cleaner ones on top, then dirtier, then filthy. That way, water is conserved and the cleaner water flows to the dirtier ones. Brilliance, I tell you. Around lunchtime, we headed for the orphanage, which was just down the street. We came a bit late because of the brush-cleaning process. Anyhow, everyone had started to eat by the time we got there. It was my first visit to the orphanage, and what a sight to see...TONS of adorable orphans, and volunteers as well. Adam and I wanted to sit by some of the kiddos, but couldn't find a place amidst the volunteers. I was just itching to discover which little orphan would steal my heart. However, I didn't have to wait for long. When the shout was heard, "Vamos a jugar!" ("Let's go play!") all the kids screamed and ran out the door. However, one little girl was startled by the commotion and started to cry. She cried and cried, so I picked her up and asked her what was wrong. For some reason, my limited Spanish came easier when I spoke with the little'uns. I found out her name was Dana. I couldn't get her to smile for the longest time, but she clung to me so I kept holding her. Finally, after some poking and my repeated asking of "Donde esta tu sonrisa?" ("Where is your smile?") she started to smile a bit. It got to the point where she'd lead me around by holding a couple of my fingers, but wouldn't let me go for anything. It was the best feeling ever. Eventually I had go let her go so I could go swimming with the other kids and the rest of the group. She was reluctant, but went with one of the gals who worked there back to the nursery. Swimming was an adventure. The pool was like a little paradise. I'm not so much of a swimming fan, but really enjoyed playing with the kids this time. They loved splashing each other, and us, and being splashed by us. There was one little gal in particular, who was sniping me behind her shield of her inter tube. I grabbed a squirt gun and got her back. We continued our little war across the way for quite some time, and eventually were close enough to speak. I asked her name, Eva, and told her mine. It was awesome, because then we just smiled at each other, then promptly resumed squirting. Eventually I pulled her and her friend around on their inter tubes around the pool, spuratically spinning them around changing directions. They giggled and squealed. I also pulled another little guy around, which was fun. These kids rarely get a chance to go to the pool, so it was a fun opportunity to take them and see something so common to me be such a foreign adventure to them. After the pool, the birthday party started. The kids don't get a chance to celebrate their birthdays individually, so we threw them the biggest, bestest fiesta they'd ever seen (hopefully). It was superhero themed, making it pretty much the coolest thing ever. The kids were each provided with masks, capes, and other superhero-esque things. We ate homemade pizza (mmmmmm tasty) and ate two huge birthday cakes, followed by two pinatas. Then came my favorite part of the night: the presents. Adam, a new friend named Will, and I donned our supersuits, becoming the "Trio Alto", or the Tall Three. Joined by Amanda with her Batgirl attire and Kellie with her super awesomeness, we were invincible. Basically, the Justice League of Kaiizen. Between Will's purple fluorescent leggings, my hot pink shiny gloves, and Adam's blue underpants...worn over his pants..., we couldn't be stopped from having a good time. Now we were properly equipped. The volunteers formed a presents tunnel, holding our hands out to each other so the kids could run through. We yelled out each child's name, then they'd come through the line to claim their gifts. After they all received their birthday presents, we watched them unwrap the gifts. I LOVED seeing their happy faces (through the eyes of my superhero mask, of course) as they discovered their new prizes. Somehow, seeing that made all the sweat and sacrifice worth it.

After, we watched a slideshow of the pictures of the day, taken by Kelli Saunders (who also took this one of me and Will in our superhero-y glory). Bedtime came, and this time we camped outside of the orphanage, whose rocky dirt was far less accommodating than the sand of the beach. In the morning, I suggested to the girls in my tent that we make a Facebook group called "Mexican Dogs Keep Me Awake At Night". Indeed, there were a few dogs who were just going at it, conversing several hundred feet apart, with our unfortunate tent caught helplessly in the middle. Around 5 am, I'm guessing, a very outspoken rooster decided to join the conversation, perhaps feeling left out. Though sleep was scarce, I'm glad that at least some animals had a productive night with what sounded like a good discussion.

Adventures in a Mexican Orphanage: Day 3

Day 3: Saturday, June 27
between a hard rock and a broken tent zipper letting in a draft, ridiculously early

I stayed in the tent til I could no longer stand the rooster. It was around 7:15am. Breakfast was ultra fabulous...life can't get much better then chocolate chip pancakes in Mexico. We played with the kids for a bit, then headed out to the school. We had invited the community to a "sports day", where we would teach play together. I'm sure this occurred,everyone the rules of the games, and however, I was occupied elsewhere. Marianne Burton, who is actually in my home stake, was in charge of all the painting, and put me in charge of painting a mural on the side of one of the buildings. Adam, a gal named Christine, and I organized some ideas, and then I sketched it out on the wall. We wanted some kind of fantastical scene with elements that would resemble fun things, but that would prompt imaginative thinking on the kids part.

After scavenging for paint, some old cans were found. Between Adam and his pocketknife threatening the paint cans, the lids were finally pried off. The painting began. Through our morning of work, the sun eventually peered upon our work, making the process a very bright, hot, and sticky job. Eventually, though, we reached an acceptable stopping point in the mural. I put the finishing touch on it: the signature of "Kaiizen", which filled me with great satisfaction.

By the time we were done, everyone at the orphanage had finished their tamales. It was my first tamale ever, and was delicious. When we finished, the kids were outside making ice cream. I got there around the tail end of that, but was asked to get the sprinkles and chocolate, which I did. Upon bringing it out, I was promptly mobbed by about 8 kids, all wanting the goods. One little guy came back for more...three times. I think that there was more chocolate than ice cream in his little bag. Which was perfectly fine.Eventually, the time came to say good-bye to the kids. I was excited to see Dana again, and got my wish. I played with her for a good while, and also with another girl. I stayed mostly with the little'uns and it was so great to see all these sweet children running around playing with the volunteers. This is Cammie Brimhall, with whom I went to high school. Her little friend was kind of shy and really adorable! It was fun to see them interact. Melisa: this little gal was adorable! She was sitting with Dana the first time I met the kids the day before. She has an amazing smile. This is Robert Dixon, and I don't know the little dude's name. It was funny; when Cammie was playing with her little gal, this kid got a big kick out of it and would giggle.
This is Robert's brother Dave, who was face-smooshing. He would pretend like he was sleeping, and his face would smoosh on her head, and she'd giggle and "wake him up". His comment on this picture on facebook was, "I. Loved. This." :)
Then I saw Chelsea holding a sweet little baby when we were getting ready to leave (we basically had to pry the little one away from her so she wouldn't end up taking her home with us). The baby was sobbing uncontrollably, and eventually Chelsea said to me, "She's looking at you!" So I picked up the baby girl and rocked her, humming in her ear. She eventually quieted, but as I put her back down, started to cry again. We told a gal who worked there, who gave the baby a blanket and bottle, and she quieted. I said one last good-bye to Dana, and with a beso and a "Te amo!" left.

We went to Ensenada for a bit, and I got some trinkets for some friends and family. I also experienced another two tacos, and a strawberry-filled churro which was oh-so-tasty.

I liked the feel of a busy little town, packed with vendors on every corner and shops in every possible space. Chelsea, Adam, Katey and I discovered many little stores. Adam bought a hammock from a vendor, and Katey introduced us to the world of tiny little bobble heads of various animals that she collects.

Before we left Ensenada, a little girl with a slew of bracelets and necklaces stopped me, asking for my business. I was suckered into it, asked how much they were, and was rewarded by a funny sight: without missing a beat, she rambled off the prices of each of the different kinds of jewelry: "4 dollars, 2 dollars, 3 dollars, 2 dollars, 4 dollars, 5 dollars..." apparently she knew her stuff. I bought a cool magnetic bracelet/necklace and felt privileged to do business with such an experienced little person.

After Ensenada came the beach. I'm generally not much of a water person, but for some reason, I LOVED the beach in Mexico! Whitney Kluber had one request for my adventures in Mexico: "Stand in ocean, where the water hits about mid-calf, raise your arms in the air, and shout, 'I love Mexico!!!' at the top of your lungs! If you can rope Adam into doing it too, that would be even better". I would never ignore a request such as that, and so it was done. And documented!

I stood for a while, feeling the sand shift under my feet, enjoying the setting sun and sounds of the ocean. After a bit, I decided that I wanted to grab a guitar and play. However, my attempts at getting the guitar were thwarted...by an unexpected visitor.

As I was getting the guitar out of the trailer, which was on the beach, a short man with chipped teeth approached me. He was selling hammocks, and tried his darndest to sell me one. Although Adam had bought a hammock in Ensenada, I had chosen to spend my money differently. Thus, I told the man sorry, and that I had no more spending money left...which was true, or so I thought. Besides, $40 was too expensive for my taste anyway. However, I found out the way that a good hammock salesman could get you to stay right where he wants you.

Wisdom from Mexico: How to retain potential hammock customers
They'll get you to hold one end of the hammock. That way, not only can you appreciate the fine handmade quality thereof, but you're also trapped: Who are you to drop their fine piece of quality handmade work in the sand?

Anyway, he did so, and pestered me for about 10 minutes, repeating his favorite English mantra: "Almost free today! Almost free!" I thought it rather funny, but after a while, I was wondering how I would get out of this one. I shot a couple of glances in Adam's direction, hoping that he'd see me and come to the rescue, but it was to no avail. Finally, I decided I needed to go...for real this time...and gently placed my end of the hammock on the sand and, smiling, still "no, gracias"-ing, backed away, guitar in hand, and walked over to the rest of the group.

To my amusement, I watched the man go over to Adam, and they started to talk. I kept my eye on them, curious to see how this would play out, seeing that Adam had bought a hammock not an hour earlier. Surprisingly, they talked for about 20 minutes. I finally walked back over to put my guitar back, and the man jumped on the opportunity. I said that I only had $20 left, and beside me, Adam muttered, "Careful. He's selling them for $10." I laughed. The man, Santiago, as Adam found out, now offered me two hammocks for a reduced price. As my will to not spend more broke down, I said, "Okay, fine...but I'd only need one IF I did buy one!"

Bottom line?

I now own a handmade Mexican hammock from Santiago himself. Turns out that Adam and Santiago had become bosom buddies over those twenty minutes. Apparently Santiago had drunk too much, and was leaving soon. He had to sell these last hammocks before he left, and also he was going to see a fighting match (??) later. Just throwing that out there.

Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures with the great Santiago. I did, however, get some other fun ones:
We left shortly after our Santiago experience, but not before a fresh mango and beautiful sunset bidding us farewell.

We returned to "our beach"--the one we'd slept on the first night there. The firey sunset was...well...words don't quite come close to describe what it was. It was beautiful, though. The sun was a bright pink, and the closer it got to the horizon, the more unreal it looked. After dark, we had a campfire on the beach and mingled. I talked to Will McAllister and found out he was a movie maker...and once again renewed my dream to be a voice-over in a movie.
That night, we all slept once more on the beach.

Adventures in a Mexican Orphanage: Day 4

Day 4: Sunday, June 29
on the beach for the last time, pretty early in the morning

The next morning, we headed out.

Here's a picture of me and the gals, and another of me and Dave, as disheartened artists because we never did manage to correctly tune the tiny guitars we gave to the orphans.

One of my favorite parts of driving back was as we were driving around a very bendy road. Trees and little homes were silhouetted against the mucky morning gray sky. As we were rounding a bend, all the sudden, it was like a light in the sky just flipped on, along with the hidden beauty of the morning sky. The sun emerged with as much radiance as it could muster on that tired, Sunday morning and it was beautiful.

We only got lost once on the way back, but found an "Adam's Street" which, we felt, made it worth it.

All in all, Kaiizen rocks. Mexico Rocks. So do orphans. And when you take Pikachu to Mexico in the spirit of super heroism and service, who knows what will happen.