Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The RV Life has MOVED!!!!!!

December 28, 2014

HI all!!

If you found me via my RV Life series, I’m here to tell you IT’S MOVED!!!!!

This blog that you’re currently on is my personal blog that stretches back maaaany years.

It’s also been my staging ground for new projects, such as my RV blog.

Well, she’s grown up and gotten her own page now, so go check us out at http://www.xyrv.wordpress.com

Follow, subscribe, read, comment….. and ENJOY!

Thanks so much!
Selena

Day Five- the scariest day. ever.

August 25, 2010

So… today we started out as any other day- waiting around for “Liberian Time” to roll around. You see, if you’ve ever visited a Caribbean Island, you are familiar with “Island Time,” which is usually a SOLID 15-minutes after your appointed time to meet, have lunch, get a massage, etc.

Well in Liberia, TODAY at least… it was THREE HOURS behind the appointed time.

Hilarious.

SO we got up at 6:30a to leave at 7:30a for the Sierra Leone/Liberian border to pick up two of the 500 reformed child-soldiers working on the Greener Diamond (GOOGLE IT NOW!) rice field that was planted after the diamond mine used up the community and left the area. We got up early and had a quick breakfast and waited for our ride.

And waited.
And waited.

At around 10.30 they came by. There were some complications with communication with the Sierra Leone boys since there isn’t the best cell reception while bouncing through the unpaved Sierra Leone roads.. so it was understandable. Sorta.

Anyway, since we didn’t hear from them for three hours, we just decided to head out there ourselves. Meet them at the border, have a fun meeting, etc.

Or so we thought…

We headed out and left Monrovia, watching the concrete block huts give way to thatch huts, and mud walled huts… VERY National Geographic- what I expected to see in “Africa.” There were a few check points along the way- I”m unclear as to what the purpose of these are other than to get bribe money out of random passers by, but that’s beyond the point. We had our passports and were ready to show them…

.. until a big checkpoint asked for our documents… and then pulled Johnny from the car.

Anna and I are in the back, starting to worry. Robert, our AMAZING Liberian driver, hops out and says that he doesn’t think they know we’re in the car. We stay perfectly still, trying to hide behind the headrests or something, until we hear Johnny’s booming TV voice say: “Oh, they’re in the car…”

Shoot.

So we give them our passports, but refuse to get out of the car. (They don’t ask anyway- they can probably recognize that ‘deer in the headlights’ look from a mile away…) Meanwhile, Anna is checking her cell phone reception on both her US and newly bought Liberian phone (no reception to be found…) and slowly pocketing her mace/horn pen.

We were laughing nervously, but also locking doors and seeing if Robert the driver left his keys in the car…

FINALLY, we heard Johnny say jovially “Ok, thanks guys!” and we BOTH let out an audible SIGH of relief. Hilarious…

So we drive on, wary of any more checkpoints, when we come to a huge snarl of barbed wire crossing the road. Thinking it’s another check point, we pocket our passports, and slowly realize we have made it- THIS is the Sierra Leone/Liberian border.

There is a small town that has sprouted around the border office- tin roofed shacks, small restaurants, a one room ‘restaurant and club.’ We get out and have our papers looked at, and we decide to go a little ways into Sierra Leone to meet our boys and escort them over the border. The Liberian custom agents have no problem with this, and one man even offers to ride with us to help us though. (SO nice the Liberians…)

So we make our way across the Monroe River Bridge that separates the two countries. At the Sierra Leone side we stop, and an angry faced young man declares that we can go no farther. Actually, to be exact, he says that our OTHER car, with our other Liberian driver Bobo can go through, but, and I quote…

“The white people cannot go in.”

‘But,’ I thought to myself…. ‘I’m half Asian?!?’

I didn’t really feel like going in by myself, and only half of me, since I”m only HALF Asian, so we turned around and went back to Liberia.

BUT, for the record- we WERE in Sierra Leone.

For a minute…

Anyway, it turned out to be a great day- hanging out in this border town. The nice Liberian side let us film on the bridge (usually verboten in check points and borders to film or shoot pictures, these nice guards saw nothing wrong with it!) and then Johnny gave the kids a brand new soccer ball, which went over very well. He played soccer with them and kicked the ball about a bit. It was all great- until a random angry young man came over yelling at us about how these kids can’t EAT a soccer ball, and what us people need to bring is FOOD not balls… downer.

But we still had fun. And the kids were so happy that it really was amazing.

We sat and had a beer at one of the little restaurants while we waited for our other driver to come back with our Sierra Leone boys. We talked to some local Sierra Leonians about how the country has been doing since the war and what the Greener Diamond (GOOGLE IT- FOR REAL! IT’s AMAZING!) is doing in Sierra Leone, and they were genuinely impressed and thankful, which was a great feeling for Anna, who has worked so hard on this incredible project.

Finally, another three hours later or so, our boys drove across the bridge and we welcomed them with open arms. They were exhausted from their 10+ hour drive on unpaved roads, so we tried to leave a quickly as possible, but the locals had started to take over our caravan wanting candy and attention, so we had to take a quick detour to take one last picture.

One red eyed angry young man (the same one who yelled at us for giving soccer balls instead of food) demanded that Johnny take a picture next to a grave site near our cars. When asked what the site was, he said it was where a mass grave for Sierra Leone soldiers was found.

And it was also connected to the soccer field the children were playing on.

Chilling stuff.

We tried to high-tail it out of there as fast as we could, when we accidently rolled to far though the first check point and got pulled over by the guard. Robert, our driver, silently held his hand back to Anna and asked if we had any cash- a bribe was needed.

Scared, Anna handed over a huge wad of Liberian dollars- about $10 American. After about a 10 minute game of back and forth, the bribe worked, and Robert SPED off, worried that the guards would change their mind, and of the oncoming dark.

Now, we have been in some seemingly shady situations with Robert and he’s been as cool as a cucumber… but now, we saw nervousness in his eyes.

So we were nervous times 10.

What happens after dark, I wondered?

Well, I don’t know what happens to the people, but the potholes on the road, the axel-rattling, teeth jarring, head-bumping ones, become INVISIBLE. We bounced around for the next hour and a half, holding our breath at each check point, until we finally arrived in our hotel…

… at which time I know that Anna and I both considered kissing the floor.

It was a harrowing day, but what hit us the most, as we locked ourselves into the safety of our ‘posh’ hotel, was that what we went though today was not 1/10th of what these former child soldiers that we are interviewing tomorrow have experienced. The atrocities they’ve seen and been forced to participate in chill me to the core. We got a TINY sampling of that bone-numbing fear today. To extrapolate that to what these boys have been though- I can’t even begin to relate….

Africa, Day Four: A Reunion, A Press Conference, and an Interview

August 23, 2010

This morning we drove out to a more rural area outside of the city of Monrovia and met with Anna’s sponsor child that she has been sponsoring through a charity for years. It was very, very cool to see how all the money she has sent through the years has actually helped a young man, who went by the name of Pon Pon.

We drove out to see his school and the area in which he lived. I thought living in the city was destitute- the countryside has NO running water to speak of, so we passed a pump-powered well where people were gathering to fill wheelbarrows full of plastic jugs of water. The huts were made more of the air than of raw materials- a four-sided hut was getting more and more rare.

Yet, the people were still happy, smiling, and surprisingly well dressed, as I had already learned of LIberians and their above-average fashion sense! The people outside of the city were also MUCH more laid back about getting their pictures taken- in Monrovia people yell at you, thinking you are  yet another journalist sticking your camera in their face and making money with their images. In the city, it’s not uncommon to be yelled at for snapping a shot. In the country, however, people were inviting me into their huts for mini-photoshoots!

Anyway, Anna met with Pon Pon, after years of correspondence, and he was very happy to meet her finally. Her sponsorship pays for him to go to school, have a school uniform, at eat a hot school lunch every day. All that for just $30 a month! What a deal. He was so grateful for her and her support, as was his father, who came with him. It was so touching and inspiring!

We interviewed the administrator of the charity, who tells us that since the recession hit the world, sponsorships have all but stopped from the States, which is heartbreaking for the kids. I had already decided I wanted to sponsor a child when, out of the group of kids that always seem to find me and my lolly-pop laden pockets, a little smiling boy with a large scar down his beautiful cheek asked “Will you be my sponsor?” I almost broke down. “Of course I will!” I answered. “Ok. My name is Small Sam.” he replied, with another 100-watt smile.

So now I have a new child to sponsor when I get home! =) I can’t wait to post these pictures of these beautiful children. During the interview they always gather around me, since I”m kind of removed from the cameras and snapping ‘behind the scenes’ stuff instead. That, and I always travel with at least two pocket-fulls of candy. =) These kids were as sweet as the others at the soccer game. It’s funny- they all know there’s candy in my cargo shorts, but not ONE of them reaches in and snatches at it- which they easily could! Sometimes they’re practically falling out of my pockets and not one kid makes a grab for them!

After the interview, I wandered around the village for a minute (much to the consternation of Anna and Johnny, who worried I had been kidnapped!) and that’s when all the locals called me into their huts for pictures- even women breast feeding wanted a picture snapped so they could see themselves in the little window!

We drove back to our hotel and got ready for our  press conference. We had it in one of the side offices at Kimmie Week’s headquarters, and there were so many reporters interested that it crowded out the small room quite quickly! It was fun to meet the local journalists, but there weren’t many photographers around. In fact, two journalists asked me to send them pictures of the event for them!

After the press conference, we met with the Liberian Movie Actors Union, a fledgling union for movie actors Liberia. It was so great to see how passionate this group was about making movies against the odds. Imagine filming a movie in a place where running water is in a fraction of the buildings! The technology for the cameras, editing, sound, etc… just to think how they make that all work is so amazing. And they love what they do so much! It was great to see such determination and passion for film making, even in a country still recovering from a devastating civil war!

We ended our long day with an impassioned interview with one of Kimmie’s staffers, Oliver. He is such a well spoked, well educated young man- all of Kimmie’s staff is amazingly intelligent, passionate, and focused on making Liberia a better place- it’s truly inspiring to talk to any of them. Oliver was here throughout the war and experienced some atrocious things. He is a gifted story teller and I hope that Anna uses some of his amazing story in her films, so I can link to them and you can see how amazing Oliver is! He lost his brother during the wars, saw such horrible things, yet still is fighting the good fight and trying to rebuild Liberia with a positive attitude and message. It is wholly inspiring and it was an honor to spend time with him while we were here.

So many people here have been though so much- ti is amazing how resilient this country and her people are. Everyone mostly wants to talk about how far the country has come- not the awful things they lived though. They don’t want to live in the past, they are intent on rebuilding for the future. It is truly amazing and beautiful.

Day Three- Church, Football, and Sushi?? In Africa?!

August 22, 2010

Today we got up and literally put on our Sunday Best for a service at the oldest church in Liberia. (A Baptist church, for those interested!) It was a BEAUTIFUL service, with a guest pastor from Long Island, NY, of all places, and we had a really good time. The choir was great, and featured one guy who was SO good, I swear he could have been in the Lion King if he came over to audition! So good!

The church’s hospitality division sat us down and welcomed us thoroughly after the service and prayed for our safety and success, which was lovely.The head of the hospitality division, Roberta, then gave us a tour of the original oldest church, where the Declaration of Independence was signed.  Everyone here has been so truly welcoming and happy to talk to us. At first they all seemed shy, but once you approach them, you find that Liberians are generous and very kind.

We had a leisurely lunch, then went out to a ‘suburb’ of sorts, and watched a local football (or “soccer,” for you Americans… =) game, which was awesome. Hundreds of local stood around a dirt field to watch the local teams play, and when a goal was made, everyone would rush onto the field as if the game was won for a few moments, then clear the field and proceed with the game.

We interviewed a local for the Greener Diamond documentary, and I made friends with a HUGE group of children and young adults as I took pictures. They all pressed up against me all around me, like a halo of people, wanting to see the pictures I took, and asking for the candy in my pockets. But once again, so well mannered, polite, sweet, and shy, all of them. Such beautiful people!!

Oh, and tonight, for dinner we bravely all had sushi. In Africa. Which we all thought we would never do- and you know what ?? It was FANTASTIC!

But if I’m dead in the morning you know why…. =)

Day Two- A Tour, A Meeting, A Disco…

August 22, 2010

Day Two started out with us finally meeting out host, Kimmie Weeks.

(Google that name RIGHT NOW. You will be amazed.)

Cliff Notes Version of his life: This young man has done simply extraordinary things here in Liberia. As a teenager, he started advocating for children’s rights, and a 17, published such a whistle-blowing article on how the Liberian government under Charles Taylor was training child soldiers that he had a contract put upon his head by the president and had to flee the country. (And if Charles Taylor, the man on trial currently for his war crimes, is trying to have you killed, you MUST be doing something right..) He went to school in the States and came back to an international charity that advocates for children’s rights that has impacted hundreds of  thousands of people nation wide. He regularly meets with the President of Liberia and advocates for issues with ministers and members of Parliament often as well.

This amazing person is taking time out of his busy schedule to show us around town, and we couldn’t be more honored. He first took us on a driving tour of Monrovia, the capital city where we are staying. It reminded me a bit of Central America, with tin roofed shacks and pot-hole-filled roads, but the people inhabiting these places were stunningly well dressed. Kimmie tells us that being well dressed is a big part of the culture here- if the person only has one nice outfit they will wear it often, yet wash it nightly as to make it look as nice as possible.

He told us a lot about Liberian history- which is fascinating. This is the country that was founded in the mid-1800’s by freed slaves from America- hence the name LIBERIA, as in LIBERTY. Monrovia, the capital, is named after James Monroe, the president at the time of their freedom.

There is so much history here- we visited the first church that was built and is still in use, from the 1800’s, we saw where the pioneers (freed slaves) first landed right off the coast… to see all of these places and hear all of this amazing history was so fascinating. Liberians are very proud of their history and heritage, and it is so apparent when any of them speak to you.

We had our first authentic Liberian food (Dry rice and fried fish, DELICIOUS!) and then we stopped by City Hall on our tour. We actually walked right in because we are in the company of Kimmie and his celebrity- and met the mayor! It was amazing! She was so sweet and inviting- her staff gave us a tour of the newly renovated City Hall, even into the bathrooms, which was something they were very proud of- having running water and soap dispensers was a new addition to the building since before the war!

We were in awe of having met the mayor our first official day here- having Kimmie as our host has already proven invaluable to us! We went back for a quick dinner at Kimmie’s brother’s restaurant (Delicious food!) , then Kimmie took us out to a Liberian club- which, to be honest, felt just like a normal night club at home! Everyone here dresses like Americans, so when you’re inside a nice nightclub, like we were, you could forget you were in Africa all together!

A famous Nigerian actress came into the club so she and Johnny were announced as special guests of the night and people clamored to take pictures with them, which was fun. We stayed out far too late, but had a blast anyway!!

What I did on Summer Vacation (or) My First Trip to Africa (or) Here I am. In Africa.

August 20, 2010

So.

We all know the story of why I’m here.

(If not, please see this: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=423698097709)

But did you know it takes almost an entire DAY to travel here?

That there is only one flight per week here?

That most of the hotels have barbed wire surrounding the property here?

But wait… where is HERE?! …you must be wondering.

Here:

More specifically, the capital. Monrovia.

Almost 20 hours ago, I met my team (Anna-Mieke, CEO of MiaDonna, and Johnny Littlefield, host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) at Newark Airport to embark on this unique journey. We sat down in our seats and prepared for the first six-hour flight of the day, when during taxi out on the runway, the pilot abruptly turned the plane around and brought us back to another gate.

Sighing, I figured it was a typical flight delay (usually something like “Oh, there’s a part that needs replacing in the engine..” which is the LAST thing I want to hear them say. Can’t they just say they forgot the ice cream or something??”) but this time it was different. NYPD came on board to remove an old lady from the back of the plane! (You KNOW how dangerous those grandmother types can be… apparently she accused a flight attendant of stealing stuff from her while he helped her to the loo. Hmm)

Anna slyly recorded the whole thing, and the officer taking the woman off the plane joked- “you know this is already on Facebook, right?” Almost true…

After that, it was the typical six hour intercontinental flight. (Re: Painful as you try to cram yourself comfortable up against a window to sleep) We had a brief layover in Brussels, in which when we went back through security, they found a HUGE fishing knife Johnny had accidently left in his bag and gotten through all of LAX security with!!! I mean, when they took it out, it was like a machete!! Hilarious.

Then we had a surprisingly nicer six hour flight to Monrovia, featuring some of the best in-flight food I’ve ever had. Shocking.

Arriving in Monrovia was so interesting- it reminded me a lot of my trips to Central America- lush vegetation, with slightly run down, yet colorful houses. The only difference was the people- and the fact that a lot of women were actually carrying bundles on their heads! I don’t know why this surprised me. I always had assumed this was a stereotype of some sort.

Anyway, we’re checked into our barbed-wire hotel (with wi fi!!) for the night. Had a nice dinner (Indian food..?) and accidently ate some ice, so if I’m sick, we all know why… Big day of shooting tomorrow, so off to bed for us!

Selena in Seattle! – February 2009

November 25, 2009

So it’s NOW November 2009 and I’m blogging about February of this year… yikes… I need to catch up! I’m going to take this opportunity of being injured to do JUST THAT!

~ ~ ~

I was excited to have the tour go to Seattle for so many reasons.

1) I have loved Seattle since I first visited when I was 9.  So much so that I applied to the University of Washington when I was considering schools and was accepted, but decided not to go there after the 12 hour flight (with layovers) it took to get there from Florida. (Oh, and a boyfriend I had at the time was also a factor in that decision, since he was staying in Orlando!)

B) Randomly, I have a bunch of friends that live there, including one of my closest friends and President of the school when I was VP (see? I’m STILL a nerd…) Steve!

One of my friends, Lucas, is a marine stationed near by! He went with me to our opening night party! Everyone was impressed- hehe.

3) Seattle is just an ALL AROUND awesome town!!

The first weekend we were in town happened to be Valentines Day, so we went to Steve’s V-Day Party! It was SO fun and it’s always great to see Steve. We had to wear these little ribbons to tell people whether we were single (green), taken (red) or “other” (yellow) I don’t remember what the yellow ribbon meant, but I guess it was for people who aren’t sure they wanted to date anyone at the party, and therefore had an excuse like “Oh, see I’m IN a relationship but it’s so new… I just grabbed a yellow one,” and then they can walk away without crushing the persons’ spirit. Needless to say, I wore red.

Steven and I “trying out” his awesome tub!!


The next weekend was eventful and so much fun! I hung out with Steve again and after an awesome lunch of the most famous mac and cheese ever, Beechers (well what other mac and cheese have YOU heard of besides Velveta?!) I dragged him to the Aquarium on the waterfront. It was a cute little aquarium that was small, but fun!



Us being like the statues!

Steve and I in the Seattle Aquarium

That Monday, which is our day off, Kendra and I took a drive out to my favorite wine-makers, Chateau St. Michelle and tasted some really tasty wines!

It would take Kendra and I FOREVER to drain that keg of wine!

(Well, maybe not thaaat long… hehe)

After another week of shows, I went to my first game of WHIRLYBALL!! This sport is awesome!! It’s like if Jai Lai and Bumper Cars had a baby- that’s what Whirlyball would be. It is totally addictive, believe it or not, and SO much fun! Fast paced, competitive, and you really can’t help but laugh at your friends ramming each other with their bumper cars while they’re trying to shoot a whiffle ball into a net. Hilarious.

My Whirly Ball Team!
The picture on the left is a nice pic,

the one on the left is our ‘game face’ pic!

Levi came to visit me in Seattle to

see his first Broadway show ever- and I was in it! =)


Levi and I explore Pike Place Market!

On Wednesday, Levi came to visit for a few days and we had a little ‘make up’ Valentines Day, since he couldn’t be in town for the real thing. We had SO MUCH fun,  of course, exploring Seattle. We visited the Needle, naturally, and Pike’s Market, as well as the Experience Music Project and Sci-Fi Museum and Hall of Fame! (again, nerd… but at least I had a fellow nerd with me! Hehe)

We were really excited to see and go up the Space Needle…


Us rockin’ out at the Experience Music Project!

 

 

We also went to a 9:00 am showing of WATCHMEN, a movie after one of my most FAVORITE graphic novels. (Ok… comic books… wow, the nerdienss of this post is starting to concern me…) It was AWESOME, contrary to popular belief. =) And guess what Levi got me for my Valentines Day present?!? ALL WATCHMEN PARAFANALIA!! It was AWESOME.

My Watchmen obsession went to a whole new level in Seattle… =)

 

 

 

 

On Sunday I played some more Whirlyball (I TOLD you it was addictive!) and Monday hung out with the cubs in our show (the young Simbas and Nalas) but started to feel a little under the weather…. I had NO idea what was coming! For the rest of the week I was completely LAID OUT with the WORST flu of my life! (Actually, the ONLY flu of my life that I could recall!) It was so bad at one point I couldn’t get out of bed to go get my prescription filled! I had to call one of my amazing friends to help me out! Kendra, my ‘Big Sister” on the tour really helped me out later in the week when I was too weak to get out of bed to get food and water! Terrible! I was so sick I had to cancel a trip to NYC between cities and go straight to East Lansing… boo. And you KNOW I had to be near my death bed to miss a visit with Levi! Yeah, It was basically the worst week ever. No pictures from that, sorry to disappoint. =)

And sadly, that is how I ended my AWESOME month in Seattle! Came in with a bang, went out with a cough.

Ew.

Opening Night!!! – September 10, 2009

September 11, 2009

And so my belated blog continues. Since I’m laid up with a strained neck, I figured I’d make the best of it and continue my blog! We’re still in Tempe, 9 months ago *yikes!* and it’s finally my opening night!

~ ~ ~

LK Trailer with Levi 019LK Trailer with Levi 018Levi left the day before my opening night but my best friend Yadhira was flying in the same day so I didn’t have too much time to be sad when Levi left. My mom had surprised me the day before too, so I was really excited for my opening night!

(Above) Levi trying to capture me jumping in front of our LK Trailer… and not succeeding.


Me capturing Levi jumping in front of the trailer just fine….

Kendra had a surprise care package from my sister for me to open that night (even though I had recognized Cheryl’s handwriting on the package earlier that week! Busted!) I opened it and wassurprised and delighted to see good luck presents from all of my friends in Chicago! It was SO sweet and personalized, like for example, my physical therapist Julie, who worked on me when I sprained my back in 2006, send a tennis ball to roll out my stiff muscles! Or Todd, my photographer friend, who always has Wrigley gum at his studio that I swipe, (he gets it for free for shooting for Wrigley so he has a never-ending supply!) sent me lots of gum! It was SO sweet and I loved every single gift!!

Presents 010Presents 031Presents 041

Me enjoying each of the gifts – I sent these pictures to the people who got me the gifts to let them know how much I liked them- especially that Target gift card, on the left!

My first night on that stage is something I will never forget, yet it is also indescribable. I was extremely nervous, first of all, to be in the right spacing at the right time. There is SO much going on in the show that if you’re in the wrong place, you’re liable to get run over by an elephant or something!  But really, I was mostly excited. It was my Broadway debut! (Well, Broadway Tour Debut, at least) At the end, during our standing-ovation curtain call, it took all my power not to just burst into tears. I even got my own personal standing ovation from my cast mates after the curtain fell! I was so happy to be there, and so relieved to have survived not only the rehearsal process but my first show, it was overwhelming. It was such a privilege to be on stage receiving my first standing ovation for my first Broadway show performance. It’s everything you imagine it would be. Goosebumps and all.

Opening Night 006

My Opening Night/Erynn’s Birthday Party!!

Opening Night 007

Us being silly…

Afterwards, a bunch of us went to celebrate and meet my mom and Yadhira. It was a great group of friends, and it was also Erynn’s birthday, so we combined occasions and had a great time. My mom and Yadhira had to leave the next day (such a short visit!) so after sending Yadhira off early, Mom and I had a quick lunch at the closest Vietnamese place we could find. Yum! She also took me grocery shopping, just like kids in college have their parents do because they’re still not sure what they need. I never had that, being in Canada for my first year and then living at home for the rest of my schooling, so I had it now, browsing the Asian market shelves for dried fish flakes for soup and such.

Mom Time 002A yummy lunch with my Mommy!

My last week in Tempe was pretty open, since after my opening I had minimal rehearsals (compared to six days a week earlier in the rehearsal period!) so I took some time to be the professional tourist I planned to be for the remainder of the tour. I went to the Phoenix Zoo, which was extensive and excellent! I spent a lot of time hunting down each animal represented in our show, of course, and had a generally great time roaming around the zoo.

PHX Zoo 023PHX Zoo 056PHX Zoo 057

A cute groundhog ~ A really funny sign next to the bathrooms ~ My cat sleeps like that too!

Also in my last week I wanted to take out my friends that I had made at the Four Points Sheraton where I was staying. The front desk guys were SO sweet the entire time I was there, and not just because it was their jobs! They were just really nice guys. So we went out the night before I left for a little night-cap and snack. They really made my stay in Tempe really nice!!

Four Points Friends 004Me with my Tempe Pals!

Finally, after a four week intensive rehearsal period, a thrilling opening night, and three visits from some of the most important people in my life, I packed up my life and made the move to our next city, Seattle, Washington!!!

Gammage 008Gammage 009Gammage 014

The show’s cast listing ~ My first time on the board!~The Gammage Auditorium

where I had my opening night

and was designed

by Frank Lloyd Wright!!

My First Poster!

Me signing my first autograph on the show poster as a full cast member!

What I’ve done for fun, Part IV!!! – July 14, 2009

July 16, 2009

Sooo… yeah. I’ve been slacking, to say the LEAST! Right now I’m in Canada, but I’m JUST NOW posting blogs about Tempe, which was 7 months ago! Yikes. Well, please forgive my late entries, but I WILL catch up! Until then, please enjoy these back-dated blogs.

~ ~ ~

After yet another week of rehearsals, my friend Kelly, who I met on my cruise ship three years ago when I was a dancer and she was a spa girl, came to Phoenix. She happens to be from the area and was in town to visit her family anyway, so the next Monday she took me out to see the town. I didn’t have a car most of the time, beyond my rentals during my days off, and I don’t know the area at all, so I hadn’t seen most of Phoenix or the surrounding cities of Scottsdale and Mesa. We borrowed her mom’s gorgeous Audi convertible and got to see most of the cities most interesting areas. My favorite was the area around Camelback Mountain. The view even from the side of the mountain was breath taking, the houses on the mountain itself were ridiculously gorgeous. (I think I know where I want that mansion built, when Levi can buy me one! Hehe!)

 Dinner with Kelly and Family 010

Crusin’ with the top down!

That night we had dinner at Kelly’s mom’s house with her family, who were so much fun and lovely to be around. Remember that all I had at my disposal in my hotel room was a coffee maker, and making my ramen was a daily routine for me. So when Kelly’s mom whipped up a HOME-COOKED meal, I was ecstatic! It was delicious, of course, and after we all dozed full of good food watching Little Britain.

Dinner with Kelly and Family 017A yummy, food-coma-inducing dinner!

 It was my last week of rehearsals before I went into the show, and since my best friend Yadhira was coming for my opening day, Levi came the weekend before to see Sedona and some ghost towns. I was SO excited for him to come meet everyone and see what ‘life on the road’ was like.

 Weekend with Levi 018YIPPIE! A visit from LEVI!

 We had a day in Tempe to kill before we could head to Sedona, because I still had a rehearsal to get to, so we hiked Camelback mountain, which was really fun and beautiful, to watch the sunset. 

 
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Weekend with Levi 047

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hiking Duo!

 

Weekend with Levi 039A beautiful sunset made all that hard work worthwhile!

 The next day we set out for Sedona and saw all the sites there. (most of which I had seen the first time I visited, but I wanted to share with him!)

Weekend with Levi 078Levi taking in Sedona’s beauty

 Sedona is really famous for it’s “vortexes,” which are basically mountains that have a certain concentration of energy around it, or something in hippy-talk like that. (hehe) So after we saw all the beautiful rock formations around Sedona. we hiked up one of these vortexes to watch the sun set. It was really beautiful, and there was a young girl sitting on a blanket with tarot cards spread out before her. Curious, I asked what she was doing, and she replied that she was reading cards for donations. I don’t usually hike with a purse, so I felt bad that I didn’t have any money to donate, but she was bored and offered to read my cards anyway. I really don’t subscribe to psychics or mediums, but I thought it was the perfect things to do on a self-described “vortex” mountain! What she told me, though, was quite interesting! I just sat down across from her and didn’t tell her anything, and she proceeded to tell me things that I found very pertinent to my life! For example, one of the major themes of the reading was how I’ve just made a huge change in my life (Could she have been referring to my moving from my hometown to live life on the road?) and that I’ve made the right decision. (Could she have been alluding to my worries that I had left behind Disney and all my friends forever?) She said that I would emerge from this new endeavor a changed person, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. (Did she somehow know I would be playing animals on stage for the next year or so?? Hehe) At any rate, the reading was very fun and interesting! 

Weekend with Levi 088My future is bright, apparently!

Weekend with Levi 074Levi performing his rock-balancing act from Maine in Sedona

 The next day we went to a self-professed “ghost town,” called Jerome. It is also known as the “Most Vertical Town in America,” meaning basically that it was built on the side of a mountain. It wasn’t the ghost town that we expected (I guessed that there HAD to be at least 500 people living there!) but right outside the small bustling town was a ticky-tacky tourist “ghost town” that I, being a true-blue roadside attractions fan, HAD to go see. And it truly did not disappoint.

 Weekend with Levi 115(You gotta read the sign to yourself in a gravely “Old West” voice,

like Levi did to me!)

Basically, it was a huge lot filled to the brim with old derelict cars, trucks, wagons, ambulances, squad cars, fire engines, and even a working steam saw mill! It was very random, but was imbued with character, which to me, is all that matters.

Weekend with Levi 119The front of the park, in classic Old West style…

There was a donkey who pawed at the ground and rang a bell for treats who was instantly my favorite part of the park. The owner, an eclectic man by the name of Don, sported a long white moustache that would have won many prizes in any  moustache contest he entered. He was operating the steam saw mill the first time we saw him, and got to talk to him a bit on the way out in the gift store, where we bought a Christmas ornament of Pedro Pedro Gonzales, which was the name of the sweet donkey inside.

 Weekend with Levi 154Levi and Don

We had to high-tail it back to Tempe that night to watch the show, according to my Dance Captain, Kendra. I wasn’t sure why I had to do this, but I complied, figuring it was all part of the rehearsal. We got a little bit lost on the way back, taking a winding road through the mountains out of Jerome instead of the road we rode in on, but we considered it all part of our ‘adventure.’

 

When I got back to Tempe, we watched the show as usual, but everyone was worried when I walked in the door at the half hour call, as I usually did. “Have you seen Kendra?” they asked, “Make sure you see her.” Worried I was in trouble, I checked in with her and watched the show as usual. Levi wanted to see a movie after the show, but Kendra insisted that we have one drink with her at the hotel before the movie. Thinking she just really wanted to spend time with Levi before he left the next day, I complied. We met at my hotel bar and I walked in searching for Kendra when I saw a beautiful woman at a table who reminded me of my mom.

 

Wait a minute.

 

It WAS my mom! Kendra had been a co-conspirator in my mom’s plan to surprise me for my opening night! THAT’s why everyone was worried I wouldn’t make it back that night for the show, AND why she insisted on having a drink with me- so I could see that my mom had landed just a few hours earlier! Hilarious!

It was such a great surprise because I really didn’t think anyone in my family was going to make it to my opening day, so now not only would Yadhira, my best friend from Rollins, be there, but so would my Mommy! It was an awesome surprise!

~ ~ ~

Coming up next- my **OPENING NIGHT!!!**

What I’ve done for FUN!!! Part III – March 2, 2009

March 3, 2009

So, after surviving my sketchy night at a rest-stop motel (see last blog…) I continued on my solo journey to Arcosanti, an urban experiment in environmentally friendly architecture.

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Photobucket Coolest basketball court ever!

The place is really interesting (read: nerdy) and I really enjoyed it! (Read: nerd). After touring the buildings, I continued up the road to my ultimate destination, Sedona.

Photobucket Welcome to Sedona!

Photobucket Selena in Sedona!

Photobucket Bell Rock

Photobucket A cathedral carved out of the rock!

Sedona is an absolutely GOREGOUS area between Phoenix and Flagstaff that has all the orange and red bands of sand and cliffs of the Grand Canyon without the giant whole in the ground. I only had the day to tour around, so I drove to every rock formation I could find on the map, had my nails done in red-rock colors to commemorate my trip, and watched the sunset from the top of a ‘vortex’ mountain, which is a mountain where certain energies are concentrated… or something. Whatever it was, it was beautiful!

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I went back “home” to the Four Points Sheraton in Tempe and had another week of rehearsals (this was the second week of January) before I had another day off for fun! I had another two days off because of the Obama inaguration on the 20th, so for my fun that week I went to visit Biosphere 2 with Kendra and her parents. (Warning: If you didn’t know I was a nerd, this will forevermore solidify the fact for you. So if you would rather just think of me as normal little Selena, skip this next paragraph… hehe)

Photobucket How I saw the Inauguration!

Photobucket The Election-Day Specials at the hotel! haha!

Photobucket A scary sign I saw on the drive to Biosphere! Don’t worry- I didn’t even slow down! haha!

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I remember studying about Biosphere in school when it opened, and of course the Pauly Shore classic “Biodome” was a middle school must-see, so it was a no-brainer when my dad mentioned that it was only 2 hours from Phoenix. I barely made the tour at 3, and actually had to be personally chauffeured in a little golf cart out to meet the group in the Biosphere, which was funny!

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Photobucket Kendra, Kendra’s parents, and me at Biosphere 2!

The tour was really fun though; they took us through all of the biomes, from the rainforest to the desert to the savannah. We even saw their ocean, which I was most interested in. Basically I just geeked out the whole time, not believing I was actually inside the legendary Biosphere 2. We ended the fun day with an amazing Mexican dinner at a very authentic-feeling resturant, since apparently we were very near the Mexican border! (Ok, so I’m NOT a geography nerd apparently…)

Photobucket Mexican and Mariachi! Yum!

The next day, I went to Taliesen, Frank Lloyd Wright’s school and home in Scottsdale, which is basically a suburb of Phoenix. I had just read “Loving Frank,” a story of his affair with a married woman from Chicago that ended with a murder and a fire (quite dramatic, I won’t give it away, but you should go read it!) so I was interested in Frank Lloyd Wright not only for his architecture, but for his interesting life in general. The facility is absolutely amazing- he truly was a visionary, and I hope to someday hire one of the many students that study there to design my mansion! (Yes, still planning on Levi getting that elusive record deal and getting us that dream mansion!) I LOVE how he used natural light- super energy efficient, even before it was trendy… and it is so interesting how some doorways and entryways are designed to be VERY small, so that you want to travel further into the room, which is his intention in the first place! Genius!

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Photobucket Inside a room where FLW still orders you to sit!

At the desk in the gift shop was a nice guy who revealed, once we started talking about my camera, that he was a photographer who taught at the school! He also invited me behind the scenes to see a display of his work in another part of the school, which was really cool, and then invited me to join him and a friend that night at the Phoenix Art Museum, which of course I readily accepted. (I’ve always talked to strangers, much to my parents collective horror…)

Before the Art Museum, I had a few hours to kill, so I went to Cosanti, which was also designed by Paolo Solari, the architect of Arcosanti which I had visited last week. Once again I was fascinated with the strange, beautiful and different architecture. I even got to SEE Paolo himself, now in his 90’s, shuffling around the facility, as it functions not only as a visitors center and bell shop, but his own home! It was so awesome to see him, even in passing, in person!

Photobucket More classic Paolo Solari architecture!

Photobucket Awesome gift shop dinosaur architecture!

That night Quincy, my friend from Taliesen, took me and another one of his friends, Sarah, to the museum, and it was so much like a movie I couldn’t help but love it. Apparently, he goes to this museum so often that every docent and security guard knows him by name! So ever display we went to calls of “Hey Quincy!” rang out around us. He was like a VIP, and he was giving US a tour! Hilarious. We got to see some amazing pieces, and I especially liked the work of a sculptor and large-installation artist (whose name escapes me, of course) who had a few pieces in the museum. Currently, though, he is working on a HUGE project, and when I say HUGE, it doesn’t even begin to do this project justice. He bought one of the huge craters out in the Arizona desert and is building a MASSIVE installation that will use the light of the sun to create different effects within the crater and the art center that he is building within (and below!) the crater itself. The sunlight, during certain times of the year, will bounce around this art center in the crater in certain ways that will create light shapes and formations around the art center. Amazing, right? Quincy was a great guide, and the night was so interesting, informative, and (my favorite) artistic! It was great!

Photobucket Sarah making some art of her own

Photobucket Sarah, Quincy and me being artistic!