Saturday, August 9, 2014

are you smarter than a 5th grader?

Well, Melanie got her mission call yesterday.  She will be living on the other side of the earth in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  As we replayed the video (which I can't seem to download here) of her opening her assignment, we overheard each other saying "She's going to Czechoslovakia!"
I later learned a few things.  There hasn't been a Czechoslovakia for over 20 years. Does that embarrass me that we didn't know that?  Yes. Yes it does. (although in our defense, she said "Czech/Slovak", it sounds similar, right?) I thought it might have been a country on the Risk game board (our source of our basic geography knowledge growing up), but I just looked up images of current and older game boards and there has only been northern Europe and southern Europe, so I suppose our Czech knowledge really did come from 5th grade geography (pre-1993, when it really was Czechoslovakia)
On the video you can also hear us say it is in Eastern Europe.  Although it is more 'east' than some other European countries, it's really in the central region. The Czech Republic borders Germany and Austria. Rather than geographical differentiation, there are cultural and religious difference between the central European countries and eastern European countries.  Our friend Tom, from Holland, piped in and said it was not an Eastern European country.  I am sure in the next 2 years we are going to learn so much about an area of the world that truly is unfamiliar to us. The only thing I know about these 2 complete countries is that Prague is a beautiful city. That is very limited knowledge. I'm excited to start learning.
Melanie wants to learn 500 words before she gets to the Mission Training Center in December. (One college friend offered her help with the language. She said - I know one phrase in Czech I can help you with: "You a dumb boy!") Tom suggested looking up the famous poet, Franz Kafka. That might be fun to learn some poetry in the language.
When Brady opened his  mission call a few years ago, also with the possibility of serving anywhere in the world, I was surprised how relieved I was when he read his assignment -- Illinois. I didn't realize how anxious I was feeling about the possibility of him dealing with medical emergencies in a third world country or navigating roads and highways in a jungle. Illinois and Iowa were foreign enough for me. He loved the area and the people there.
We went to buy a map for Melanie today and while at the store, we were studying the globes they had on display.  Dave went on his mission to the northern island of Japan, the Sapporo Mission.  It is about 1/3 the way around the globe.  Melanie's mission is about 1/3 of the way around the globe in the other direction.
Although this is a modern and stable country, it is still so far, far away that I feel anxious sending our baby around the globe. She is competent and capable though and I know she will be an amazing missionary and an amazing ambassador for our church and our country.
Let the adventures begin!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

the world of barbershop

Well, Dave and I went to Las Vegas for the International Competition of the Barbershop Harmony Society. There was a lot going on there partly because of the event we attended, partly because we were in Las Vegas, and partly because I was just enjoying a fun getaway with Dave.
Here are some of the romantic things Dave tends to say as we are walking into a vacation resort:
"I'd like to see all the fire pumps for this building."
"I can tell when this resort was built.  These escutcheons haven't been sold since the 1980's"
"I could take this fire hydrant completely apart in about 20 minutes"

I wouldn't say that this resort was the romantic getaway that we would want, but we were attending a big event at the MGM resort. We are terribly cheap about hotel costs, and since we were going to be there 5 nights and since we were here over a holiday, we opted for a less expensive location across the street. Actually I feel like we were staying in a toy box.

We studied the map and looked at where the event was being held and realized we could easily stay diagonally across the intersection and walk back and forth to the event.  There were a few flaws with our plan.  We are staying in the cheesiest, and least cared for resort of all that we have walked into and out of this week (thus the least expensive, perhaps?).  And although we could walk to the event, our room seems to be at the absolutely farthest location on this property, and Dave's rehearsals and performances are being held on the farthest corner of the property of the other resort.  It is literally a 35 minute walk to the event.  In normal weather, that distance is fine, but it is 113 degrees outside this week.  Dave showed me that we could walk through the maze of casinos (from Excalibur, across the walkway and through the food court of New York, New York, then across the walkway and into MGM and through the restaurants, casino, retail stores and another food court to the performance arena.   We can trim off 4 minutes of walking, and stay in the air-conditioned indoors.

There are a lot of odd and interesting things in Las Vegas. There are advertisements on the faucets in the bathroom!

On the way to the restrooms, Dave was distracted by the "please enter here" sign to a beautiful bakery case. After enjoying a perfectly delicious dessert, he headed into the same "please enter here" line a second time. "Well, I do eventually need to visit the restroom, but I'm just trying to be obedient to the signage"

The wedding chapel is in the food court between the Pizza Hut and Starbucks. Nothing sadder than a newly married bride having to leave her wedding venue through hoards of cigarette smoking gamers at the slot machines

It was also surprising who was hanging out in the arcade and casino.  It appeared that there were at least 2 couples one evening that chose to bring their 2 or 3 week old baby.  Really? a smoky, loud casino/arcade? right after childbirth?

Lots of things about Las Vegas I don't particularly enjoy, but the city was redeemed with a great Cirque du Soleil show. Loved it!

The real focus of our week was the chorus and quartet competitions. The performances were great.  There are choruses and quartets from about 20 different states and 6 countries (probably more, I didn't count) all having competed in regional contests to qualify for this event. Two big choruses have won competitions on schedule year after year for decades.  This year, they were competing head to head, plus a up-and-coming group from Sweden was threatening to take a high position too.  It was interesting to see how things panned out.  I was rooting for Sweden, but to no avail.

The quartets have a tendency to wear colors.  Stage type colors -- velvet jackets, orange socks, turquoise suits, straw hats etc. (I just described them as if they wore straw hats with their turquoise suits and orange socks. No. Crazy, but not that crazy.)

You wouldn't know it from the casual attire worn between shows, but see the gold medals around their necks? These two are pretty much superstars in the Barbershop world.

Dave has been in the "Spirit of Phoenix" chorus for 8 years now and their group has qualified to compete at the international level 5 of the last 8 years.  They are good!  They came into the competition ranked 22nd and ended up 16th (always hoping for a top ten, but it didn't happen this year).  I'm curious to know how many choruses were actually in the running in the local level competitions. It's hard to get a chorus to this level. It's even harder to get a quartet to this level of competition, and they have had a couple of quartets from their chapter do quite well in these competitions.