Stories of My Life

 

Childhood Stories
 

Funnier than Pirates of Penzance

When I was about four years old my brothers and I were sitting in my brother's room laughing and joking around. We were having quite a riot and then all of a sudden I had a strong urge to go to the bathroom. Well, short story even shorter, I laughed so hard I wet myself. What I would give to know what we were laughing about so hard with my brothers... good times.

The Birth of AnnaBell

While my family was living in Wichita Falls, TX we were blessed with a pool. Next to our pool we had a tree that continuously dropped leaves in our pool. As religiously as the tree dropped leaves my dad cursed it... but he was a good sport and ritually got the net and fished out the leaves. Next to said tree, we had a fine look'n cow cut out of ply-wood, painted black and white like a milk cow. The cow even had a rope tail! When my little cousin, Timothy, came for a visit we got all excited and pointed out the cow to him and how it had a tail. In all the excitement he noticed the cow had a bell too! So for the next 15 to 20 minutes we discussed this amazing creature in our yard and we realized the cow had a tail and a bell. Thus the birth of AnnaBell.

Constructs Galore

As kids, my brothers and I would build cat carrying cages, play pens for kittens with hiding compartments including tunnels to get to them, and once a divider for a pool with holes in it that you could swim through. I have to give props to my brothers for acting as little project managers even way back when and teaching me the tricks of the trade. Kyle and Craig, I hope your fun creative spirits are still alive today.

Texas A&M University
 

First Week of College

The first week of college, what can I say, I was a bit flighty amongst all the confusion of the new environment, meeting people left and right and getting lost in all the commotion. I have to admit I was a bit embarrassed when I introduced myself to a friend three different times before I could remember who exactly she was. Caitlin, I hope you are doing well!

There's a Snake at the Library

My friend Colleen and I were planning a trip to who knows where and the good little citizens and students that we were decided that it would be necessary to keep our academics in mind. So we gave up our Friday night to study so that we could have a fun worry free weekend. It was getting a bit late and unfortunately the library was closed. So we settled on studying at the annex. Well, that was closed too. Desperate for a place to study and realizing that our plans kept being thwarted we decided to try one more place despite wanting to believe that this was a sign from God that we should go out and not study.

While we were walking from the annex to the Student Computing Center we were laughing and giggling at our situation and we looked down at the ground and saw a snake! I think we both nearly jumped out of our skins!!! After calming down and trying to stop laughing we ran into the campus police. We told him about the snake, with much laughter and excitement in our voices, I don't think he believed us but he went and checked things out anyway.

The Day I Got My Aggie Ring

What a proud day to be an Aggie. My brother Craig and I shared this day together and I would not want it any other way except perhaps having Kyle there with us as well and my parents. Although I did not truly understand the symbolism and the meaning behind the ring, now I wear it with pride to remind me what it means to be an Aggie.

 

Aggie Speleological Society (A.S.S.)
 

Introducing Another Member of A.S.S.

This is trickier than it seems, here goes the story according to me.

My friend Lauren and I were talking about friends one day and I happened to mention a name of someone who she thought she knew. I said "Oh, do you know him? He's in A.S.S. with me." She looked at me a bit confused and appalled. This confused me. I then realized what might have caused this emotion of being appalled. She thought I said, "He's an ass..." and I am pretty sure her mind cut off after that. I quickly told her "No, no, no. He is IN A.S.S. with me, Aggie Speleological Society."

Mustang Island and the Three Coyotes

Once upon a time, the assers and the fun people that they are decided that a trip to Mustang Island was needed. So we packed up our sleeping bags and coolers and headed out to Mustang Island.

We got there a little bit into the evening but with enough sunlight to still play around. So we walked through the sand dunes being careful not to disturb them too much and not harm any of the plants on them. Aida, Shannon's dog was also having a blast running around and exploring the dunes and just having a good time.

For dinner that night we cooked on an open flame created by digging a hole in the ground, throwing some brush and driftwood in it, and lighting it on fire. It was time to throw on the burgers and I was getting hungry. About this time the spirit of the wind decided it wanted to play with us. So he sent us a little breeze that continually added a little extra sand to our burgers. I did not care, I was excited to be on the beach eating burgers, and drinking a beer with some of the most fun people I know. These people are amazing and I cannot thank God enough that I found a group of people so light-hearted and fun. It was time to clean up dinner, and to be honest I don't know if I helped at all, thanks guys for spoiling me.

With dinner put away, it was time to put up tents and head to bed. Shannon put up his tent and brought Aida, his dog, inside after dusting her off. The rest of us decided to sleep out under the stars in our sleeping bags. It was a beautiful night with a slight breeze. Slowly we all drifted off to sleep. I had a wonderful relaxing night of sleep until I was nudged awake by a coyote. I really do not have a clear recollection of what I was thinking at the moment, but I do remember one thing that had been engrained in my head since childhood, play dead, and so I did. I had a nice relaxing night after that, but I am not sure the rest could say the same. Apparently the coyotes stayed around the camp site in search of leftover sandy burgers. The boys did not want to wake me up in fear of a "bad" reaction to the unsafe situation, so they kept the coyotes away by turning their flashlights on and off. Thanks guys, I really did not want to be woken up! The next morning everyone awoke safe and sound and everyone lived happily ever after.

Big Bend and 25 Miles

This had to be one of my favorite A.S.S. trips of all time. I had never been on a week long 25 mile hiking excursion and on top of it we were going to a place I had never been, Big Bend. I was so excited about this trip, and the memories will last a lifetime and I hope to make it back.

The first night that we arrived we set up camp in a cozy little spot and I bunked with Jenny that night in her little Charlie Brown tent. It was a cute little tent and I am glad we got to sleep in it. The next day we decided to start our adventure with a hike to "The Window". I really enjoyed this short little hike. At the end of the trail you ended at a split in the mountain, a "window", facing an incredibly green and beautiful valley.

We then headed out to our next destination to continuing on with the twenty five. I knew I was going to be in for a treat. I had prepared and I was ready. I had broke in my boots walking around my neighborhood several times throughout the week with Travis and Amanda's lucky purple back pack strapped to my back filled full of water bottles to account for the weight that would eventual fill my pack. This process allowed me to adjust the pack to fit me. Now it was time to test my skills.

The hike started off really gentle, slow and easy. The shining sun gave a touch of warmth to my face while the crisp, cool air slightly stung my throat when I inhaled the fresh "Texas Mountain" air. The trail continued on. We reached a point where it was time to ascend. We hiked up several exhausting switchbacks and took a short break. We looked at where we had been and where we were at right now. We were proud that we had accomplished as much as we had but we were only half way there. We continued on with smiles on our faces and breathing heavy. Shannon was kind enough to stay back with the slow pokes and cheer us on. Thanks Shannon!

We finally made it to the top. Yea! We set up camp, ate dinner, and went to bed. That night I camped with Jenny and Sarah in my brother's tent that he let me borrow. When three excited girls are thrown in a tent together, great conversation is sure to arise. Earlier that evening someone mentioned something about a sphincter, I had no clue what this was. During our conversation so said sphincter was brought up when Sarah asked, "Is that something you put in your flashlight?" I was so glad she asked this so that it would shed some light on the subject. After Jenny shared with us what a sphincter is, we all roared with laughter and made the rest of the assers jealous that we were having such a good time. Thank you Sarah for your honesty, it was hilarious!

The next day we finished up our 25 mile hike. This was one of my favorite parts of the hike, and NO it was not my favorite because all of it was downhill! Along the descent there was waist high and taller grass with fuzzy tops. I loved the way it felt when the fuzzy pods gently caressed the palm of my hand. We continued hiking and reached our destination. We were then off to go find a camping site for the evening.

After a little bit of searching we set up camp at a perfect spot where we were not visible from the road. We started setting up camp then sat around, talked and relaxed our tired bodies. After a while relaxing was no longer good enough, Travis got out his camera and started playing with flashes and camera settings. Through teamwork and creative effort some of the best photography ever occurred that night. I am glad I did not miss out on this. If you have pictures, please send them to me so I can post some of them. Thanks!

Despite the fact that we all set up our tents, we decided that it would be a great ideal to sleep out under the stars. The cool dry night air drove me deeper into my sleeping bag, but it was all worth it falling asleep under the stars. The next morning we woke up to the most amazing sunrise ever. I will never forget Jenny's words because it is the only way to describe the amazing beauty of what we saw. When she first woke up the first two words she said were, "Holy Shit!" Oh what I would do to relive that moment because no picture would ever capture God's magnificent beauty displayed in that sunrise.

The Night at the Ghost Town

This was an interesting night. I did not know that ghosts towns still exist in Texas!

Before we headed out to the little ghost town where some movie was filmed we went to a small town located close to the ghost town to shop around and eat dinner. We enjoyed a delicious meal an interesting "Hippy Owned" restaurant where scribbles on the table wrote intense feelings about poor politics in America. While we were there we ran into some of Scott's friends who happened to own the local radio station and he told us to tune in later that evening for his show. Later that evening we tuned in for his show and he even gave us a much appreciated shout out.

When we arrived at the ghost town, we introduced ourselves to the owner and Later that night we decided to explore the ghost town and the remnants of the movie set. It was dark and late and I was a bit jumpy with thoughts of my brothers who are tricksters who might jump out of a dark corner any second. I think I might have duped Jenny into believing something might jump out at her as well.

The next day we took a look around the ghost town and the movie set in the daylight. We found an old piano that was completely out of tune and I could not resist but playing "The Entertainer". I felt like was in some old bar saloon in a movie. We talked to the owner and left to go check out the stability of a mine. While we were out there we got to do a little bit of hiking and the boys climbed to the mine and checked it out. After they were finished, we took a tour of the owners land and the mining production.

Midnight Cave

Wow, this is a cave that no words can truly describe. I will give my best attempt.

This cave was gorgeous. Every speleological structure that I ever heard of was there. From fossilized Daddy Long Legs to a Moon Pool. I have never been so excited and nervous to enter a cave before. The nerves came from the fact that this cave had not been entered for over 30 years and it was necessary to be extremely careful so that you do not break or hurt any growth of the cave. A hundred years can literally be lost in a second.

As we were spelunking through the cave, I was amazed at what we were walking through and the slow and steady steps that were necessary to move through the cave. It was a fun challenge and I think I did pretty well.

When we first entered the cave, the first room was filled with hanging fossilized daddy long legs. They swayed gently with the breeze that was blowing through the cave. The webs that were attached were taught and the spiders themselves were a dusty gray. We moved on to the next room that was filled with a stalactites and stalagmites. You had to walk hunched over like the hunch back of Notre Dame to make your way through the cave minding what was above and below you at the same time. This proved difficult because the helmet that you wear sometimes restricts vision. As we continued on, we came to what is called the cork screw. I loved this room because I felt like I was walking through areas of Carl's Bad Cavern that visitors are not allowed to explore.

To get to the Gypsum Room, you had to squeeze through the cork screw. It was a vertical hole that spirals for 2 or 3 meters. The width of the hole is only big enough for your shoulders and there are rocks along the way that you have to mind or you will get jabbed in the side. I am not a bean pole by any means and was a bit nervous trying to make my way through the spiral. I was glad I made it through with no trouble.

After going through one more room, we were in the Gypsum room. It was like sitting in an igloo with the gypsum walls sparkling all around you. It was absolutely gorgeous. Despite the fact that a picture would not allow you to understand the feeling of sitting there, I wish I had more pictures of this part of the cave that I could post.

We left the gypsum room and decided to take a short reprieve. Jenny had brought water and snacks in her carrying sack and shared with me. After snacking and talking, we decided to turn off our headlamps and feel the silence of the darkness. Every time we do this, it is an oddly comforting feeling. All you feel is the coolness of the rock that you are sitting or laying on and the dampness of the air that you breathing. After a while, we turned our lamps back on and started heading back.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
 

Ritual Slaughtering of The Lucky Pig

The first month while I was living in Hong Kong I was invited to attend a hall meeting. It was typical of every organizational meeting I had ever been to except that it was conducted in Cantonese, I do not know Cantonese. I was lost most of the time but they were very nice and would briefly translate what people were saying and some students were excited to practice their English. The meeting structure was typical of any American organization that I ever attended. We went around the room introducing ourselves, said where we were from, and what we were studying. Some of the students who held positions on the floor talked about what was going on that semester.

The meeting continued on and I am not sure what happened, but things really started to liven up. People were getting really excited, bantering back and forth, talking about their pride in the 7th floor (I was proud of the floor too because it had the best view of Kowloon Bay) and they just were really excited. All of this excitement made me feel like a little kid in a candy shop. I looked around the room at the excitement in everyone's faces, their wild arm movements, and the loud chattering of Cantonese filled me with excitement about being and living in Hong Kong. Just as I thought nothing could make this even more exciting, all of a sudden out of nowhere an arm wrestle occurred. This was great; I could not believe what I was seeing!!! I am sure glad I went to that meeting.

The meeting continued and things only got better. This particular meeting was a special event and we were going to eat pig. I was very excited! They brought out an entire little pig baked in deliciousness and wrapped in red cellophane and a gold sticker embossed with Chinese symbols held the celophane together. The art form that they chose to hack the pig meat off was an interesting choice. One of the Hong Kongers chose their weapon, a small hatchet, took a step back and swung at the poor pig with all of his might. He chopped the pig up into several chunks and the feast was about to begin. I am pretty sure all the boys in the room were a bit jealous and excited for the guy who got to chop the pig up into little bits. After the slaying all of our mouths were watering for a taste of the juicy pig. It was amazing. They were kind enough to let me taste the pig skin which is the best part of the pig.

What? We Are Taking the Wrong Final?

What happens through unclear documentation, miscommunication, and two lost exchange students. You would think that a few things would have tipped us off that we were in the wrong room taking the wrong final, but it didn't.

Before going to the final, I checked the web and made sure that I knew the right room and location. It was unclear but I left for the final with enough time that if in fact I was wrong, I could run to the computer barn and check again. Thinking about it now, I should have written both rooms and times down that I found and had them with me. So off I went to take my final.

As the final began, my friend assured me we were in the right room. As I was taking the test, I wondered where our teacher was but reassured myself that a Teacher's Assistant was proctoring the final. I was in the middle of a test and did not have long to think about other things going on so I stayed focused and continued with the final.

About half way through the final, I guess the teacher was asking himself questions such as "Why are they taking the final? I don't remember having two white students in my class." I specifically say "white" because we stuck out like a sore thumb. So he eventually came up to us and asked if we were taking the right test. I was doubtful but my friend reassured both me and the professor that we were taking the right final.

Later we all realized that in fact we were taking the wrong final. We just got lucky and at least took a similar final that covered the same material.

Losing Face, Gaining Friends

The entire semester I was in Hong Kong, there was one class that I dreaded going to because the students had a difficult time accepting me into their environment. I knew the semester was going to be difficuclt, but I never imagined it would be as hard as it was. I knew I was in for a suprise when I found out that the weekly supplemental session was usually Cantonese, unless, even just one student, did not understand Cantonese. In the event someone did not understand Cantonese, it would be taught in English. I was hated from the beginning of that class. Despite the odds not being so great, I was lucky that a French graduate student was in the class with me, it was just unfortunate that she was just as lost. I was hopeful that we would be able to work through any problems that we encountered throughout the class together. My hope soon faded when she found out that she had taken a similar class that was taught in a completely different way and she chose to take a different class. This was a sad day for me. I held my head up high and continued working through the class on my own. I had to have this class to graduate and by God I was going to finish it out.

About three weeks into the class, I was asked by another student why I had not left the class yet like the French Student. I simply told her the truth; I had to have the class to graduate. Not only was the material difficult, the professor spoke his English too quickly and tripped over his own words making things worse for everybody. This issue was resolved when the same girl who had asked me to leave the class asked me if I could understand the professor. Once again I simply told the truth, no. Although I would have approached the situation a little differently, she asked the professor in the middle of class if he would slow down by pointing me out of the crowd, and it was obvious who she was pointing at, and said that I could not understand his English either. He slowed down and I hope things started getting better for everyone.

At the beginning of the semester the teacher reassured us that we did not need the book to pass the class, his notes would be sufficient. By the second week I realized that I needed the book to pass the class so I decided I would buy the book, but it was too late. I called three different book stores and they all reassured me that the entire country was sold out of this book. I did not think this was possible, but in fact the impossible can and does happen. In a total state of dismay, I realized I could rent the book from the library and I trotted off to the library as happy as a lark. I rented the book from the library and super excited until it was time to give the book back. I decided that I would try to explain my situation to the library and see if I could check out the book again if no one else needed it. While trying to explain my situation to the librarian I realized she did not understand a word I was saying because she only spoke Cantonese, so in a moment of desperation I decided to keep the book and take on an entire semester's worth of fees. Although not optimal, I was caught between two decisions, return the book and risk failing the class or keep the book and take on the fees. I kept the book because I feel very strongly about education.

Throughout the semester I had a hard time understanding the material and the teacher's accent did not make things any easier. Thankful for my library book and even more thankful for Mr. Mann, the Teacher's Assistant who graciously spoke to me in very clear articulate English, I studied hard and passed the class. One day I went to see Mr. Mann about some problems I was having, which was a lot, and another student, Leo, came to ask questions around the same time. Although we might be "losing face" by asking questions we asked them anyway so that we could better understand the material. While discussing the issues related to the various problems I realized that it would be more productive if we worked on this in a group. At first it was decided that Leo and his friends would attend a separate study session, I knew that I needed to somehow incorporate myself into this study session so that I could continue learning in a group. So instead of working through all of problems on my own with Mr. Mann, it was decided that I would attend the group session with the rest of the group. The group session was a success and I feel as though everyone got something out of it. Although it was unfortunate that this all happened at the end of the semester, I am very glad that we all met and hope that every person in the study group is succeeding wonderfully.

 
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