arizona

Back from Summer 2014 Adventures

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[Photo taken near Jackson, Wyoming]

Wow! The summer has been extremely busy and I’ve only had a short break! I’m already back on the road of life onto my next chapter. Ecuador and the Galapagos were amazed and I have stories and pictures to share soon! I also enjoyed visiting Utah and Wyoming. They’re both full of beautiful landscapes and friendly people.

Right now, I’m currently in the midst of resident assistant training at my university, which is why I unfortunately don’t have the time to write about my adventures this week. I’ll go back to posting once a week but I may not be able to upload the pictures from my trip and write the stories in detail until the end of August or beginning of September but don’t worry, I’ve got exciting stories and interesting lessons I learned to share with you soon! Stay tuned!

Farewell AZ- Utah, Wyoming, and Ecuador Bound

I am sitting in my hostel in Salt Lake City as I write this. I would have liked to write a more elaborate post but I don’t have the time right now.

I wrote about what I’m doing this summer in a previous blog post that you can find here-https://jjprevite.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/volunteering-zip-lining-rafting-hiking-snorkeling-and-surfing-with-highschoolers-in-ecuador-and-the-galapagos-islands-this-summer/

In short, I will be spending 4 days in Utah, 21 in Wyoming and a month in Ecuador this summer. Unfortunately, I won’t have time to write any posts but I certainly will when I return to Arizona on August 1st.

So see you then! Enjoy your summer!

Always start early when hiking Humphrey’s Peak in Flagstaff, Arizona

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Always start a hike earlier in the day rather than later. That’s the lesson my friend Jordan and I learned on after our four-hour trek on Monday afternoon in Flagstaff.

Last week, Jordan invited me to hike Humphreys’s Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona, with an elevation of 12, 633 feet. He had already hiked it in March with a few of our friends from NAU(Northern Arizona University). However, during that time, there was still lots of snow on the mountain so they only made it to the first saddle. This time, he wanted to make it to the top.

We left around 10am on Monday and zoomed to Flagstaff. It only took us about two hours and thirty minutes to arrive in the city. We stopped to buy a few snacks for the hike and then headed to Arizona Snowbowl, the ski resort where Humphrey’s trail begins.

We started the hike around 12:45-1pm thinking we had just enough time to make it to the summit. Unfortunately, we should have started earlier.

On our way up, we encountered other hikers who warned us of the strong winds at the top. We decided to keep going anyway. It took about 2.5 hours to make to the first saddle.

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We stopped and ate a few snacks and received a small taste of the strong winds awaiting us. They sent chills down our bodies as we stood on the first saddle. It was as if a giant was standing above the mountain and blowing a breath of icy air towards us. It wasn’t strong enough to knock us down but strong enough to convince us that today was not the day. We were told the winds would only pick up as time passed by and that it may be better to come back another day and start earlier.

We stayed a bit longer and indulged in the beautiful views of Flagstaff before turning back down the trail.

Overall, it was a wonderful day and a great adventure. One day, we’ll start earlier and actually make it to the top!

If you ever have the chance, I definitely recommend exploring Mt. Humphrey! It’s a pleasant trail 🙂

Learning to Tango in Tucson

ice rink

[Photo Courtesy of Google Images]

Leading with your chest, you decide where to take your partner. Imagine you’re standing on an ice rink but without skates. You lead your partner across the ice by taking steps followed sliding your feet while keeping your chests at the same distance as you move. Your partner follows your every move and you glide to the beat as one.

Last night, I learned how to tango. The basics, to be specific and it was my first time every.

From what I’ve learned in my classes, Tango originated in Buenos Aires, Argentina before the 19th century. Depressed men wrote tango songs about their misery, melancholy, loss of dreams, loneliness, love for their mothers and other related topics. The dance itself is a ton of fun and today, exists all around the world.

I had witnessed tango live in Argentina many times and in one of my classes at my university but this was the first I was actually learning it.

I went with a few friends from U of A to a place called Maker House, which is, “a new collaborative artisan, maker, education, tech, and gathering space that opened in the Downtown Tucson Arts District Tech Corridor in the fall of 2013.” It’s super cool! The advisor for the Honors College Ambassadors invited us because he was guest leading the tango lesson and it was free! I brought mate and it was almost like we were back in Buenos Aires. 

I wanted to share this experience because I enjoyed learning to tango and thought you would too! It’s a prominent aspect of Argentine culture and anyone can learn it! Here’s a video teaching the basics, the same basics we learned last night!

Have you ever tangoed before? If not, are there any dances you have learned and would recommend? 🙂

“I Am”-the documentary that will change the way you think about the world

I Am documentary poster

[Photo Courtesy: Google Images]

If someone were to ask you these two questions,

“What’s wrong wrong with our world and what can we do about it?”

What would you say?

These are the two questions Tom Shadyac(director of Bruce Almighty and Ace Ventura) poses in his documentary titled I Am(2010). The film brings us along his personal journey to find the answers to these two questions. He decides to seek out the truth behind life after a cycling accident where he suffered a severe concussion and struggled through a long depression.

I watched this film Tuesday night for a class assignment and immediately after felt impacted by it. Here are the most significant ideas I took away from the documentary and wish to share with you:

Consumerism has taught us to value competition when instead, we should value cooperation

Specifically in the United States, we are taught to spend and buy things because things make us happy. Many of us are told to study a field that will land us a high-paying job-why? Because the more money we make, the more things we can buy and the more things we can buy, the happier will be. The truth is money will only provide temporary happiness. In the movie, Tom talks about buying his first house in Beverly House and remembers sitting on the steps in his living room after the movers leave, thinking to himself, “Well, now what?”

We value competition by seeing who can make the most money and then we praise these people and label them as “successful.” Yes, I agree, they are successful but that doesn’t mean they’re happy. Sure, Bill Gates has billions and billions of dollars but does he actually need that much? Instead of competing to see who can make Forbes’ Billionaire page, why don’t think about helping those who don’t have enough to afford food? Or those living on the streets because they can’t afford to put a roof over their heads? We should instead remind ourselves of community and cooperation and help those in need instead of only worrying about ourselves.

Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature

Whenever we think about Darwin, we think of “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest.” The truth is, Darwin really only mentioned “survival of the fittest” twice and mentioned “love” 95 times in his book The Descent of Man. As humans, it’s in our nature to feel joyful when we see a father reunite with his son or sad when we see a little girl crying because she lost her mom in the mall. We are sympathetic creatures. We feel emotions even when we’re witnessing an experience rather than experiencing it. I think this idea from the film goes along with cooperation. If we can help someone and affect him or her in a positive way, the rush of happiness is going to flow from head to toe inside us. We’re meant to care about others and we should.

Smalls acts change our lives and the lives of others

Last year, I lived in the dorms and I happened to be in the bathroom brushing my teeth while a someone was showering. Then, all of the sudden, I heard the water stop for about 30 seconds and then it continued running. I thought to myself, “Why’d he do that?” My friend Jesse stepped out of the shower and I asked him and he simply said, “Oh, I do that to save water.” That small act I witnessed made me realize, “Why am I not doing that?” That small act affected me in a significant way and made me try to change a daily habit and save water.

Here’s another example: About a week ago, I noticed trash on the ground around campus and thought, “What if everyone picked up trash on the ground and threw it away every time they came across it?” I decided to take that small act upon myself because I realized it’s really not that hard to bend down, pick up a candy wrapper and throw it away. Sure, I don’t stop and pick up every piece of trash I see but I tell myself that if I can pick up at least one per day, it’ll make a difference. The other reason too is that if someone sees me do it, maybe they’ll pick up a piece of trash too. It’s these small acts that build up over time that can change the world in my opinion. Slowly, but surely, we can make a difference step by step. 

Nothing in nature takes more than it needs

The last lesson that impacted me the most is this one: nothing in nature takes more than it needs. If a lion is feeding his family, he will only kill enough for them. A redwood tree doesn’t take all of the nutrients from the soil. It only takes what it needs- that’s it! This is idea is so simple yet so powerful! Why do feel the need to take more than we need? This goes back to the idea of love, community and cooperation. We should love our neighbors and think about the needs of others. It’s not only about us. Sometimes we(including myself) forget that. We just need to constantly remind ourselves to care for others. If we have more than we need, why not be selfless and recognize the power we have and help those in need?

Hopefully this post wasn’t too long or too wordy. If you can’t tell by now, this documentary has important messages that we can all learn from. Here’s a link where you can watch it for free(thanks to filmsforaction.org)! It’s 1 hour and 16 minutes long but well worth every minute 🙂

What are some small acts you do on a daily basis that others might benefit from?

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Why it’s important to never forget being a kid


Molino Basin Tucson Arizona[Photo from top of a mountain near our campground at Molino Basin]

This past weekend, I attended my first camp with an organization called Camp Wildcat and it made me realize something- I forgot what it was like to be a kid.

In my opinion, society tells us to grow up and learn to be mature as soon as possible. For me, that meant right around freshman year. I still acted immature obviously but that’s what I feel like I was told to start acting older because soon I would be an adult.

Now, I’m a second-year college student and after going camping with Camp Wildcat, I feel like everything is so serious. I am 20 years old and I am an “adult.” I have to act “formal” and “appropriate” just about all the time.

I’m not saying that it’s detrimental for society to expect us to act like  adults(we should, for the most part) but if society never gives us room to act like kids, then it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be one. If we reflect back on being a kid, we can remind ourselves of important life lessons that we shouldn’t lose sight of. Camp Wildcat was the catalyst that I needed to remind me what it was like to be a kid and here a few lessons I learned after reflecting back on my experience from this weekend:

Don’t afraid to losen up and be silly

After high school(and usually during high school), we’re taught to be serious and appropriate all the time that we forget to act silly and losen up. At least for me, I know I forget to be silly sometimes and the activities at Camp Wildcat reminded me to let go and have fun.

One of my favorite parts was the reactions we gave to the “skits” performed by different groups based on movies and expressions. In between activities, different groups would perform skits of random things and afterwords, the directors would ask what we thought about the skit. We responded with either some sort of expression or movie reference. My favorite was called the James Franco which was a Spiderman 3 reference from a scene where James Franco is eating pie. The waitress asks how it is and he responds, “So good.” We’d choose one like James Franco and then in unison say, “SOOO good.” They were all silly like that and it was a lot of fun. Overall, it just reminded me to have fun and losen up.

Don’t let your creativity and imagination ever die

Similar to the idea of always being “serious,” we sometimes find ourselves in positions where we aren’t asked to use our creativity and/or imagination. Yes, sometimes a project or homework assignment will have an unexpected turn and we have to be creative their but what I really mean is using your creativity and imagination on it’s own like an art.

A large part of the camp was performing “skits.” All camps have themes and this one that I went to over the weekend was themed Camp Disney so as you can imagine, everything revolved around Disney. Before eating a meal, the counselors made each group perform a skit with another group before they could receive their word. These skits forced us to be creative and use our imaginations.  The experience reminded me that I shouldn’t ever let my creativity and imagination die out.

Never stop wishing, dreaming and believing

This lesson is one that I believe is the most important- never giving up on your dreams, wishes, and beliefs. There are several times when society tells us to settle for a job that pays enough to start a family, start a family and live your life until you die and that’s it. Period. People tell you not to have dreams to high because you might not accomplish them or make them come true. I say that’s bologna!

At the conclusion of Camp Wildcat on Sunday morning, we did an activity called Wish Bracelets. The way it works is you and another person get together a make wish bracelets for each other with the provided string. But wait! There’s a special process:

1st- you make a wish for the other person and tie a knot and they make one for you and tie a knot

2nd- you make a wish for yourself and tie a knot and they do the same

3rd- you make a wish for the world and tie a knot and they do the same

Then you tie it in on their wrist and they tie one on yours and you two finish with a hug. You can make as many bracelets as you want too!

It’s a warm and loving activity and awakens that fuzzy feeling inside your stomach that makes you feel good.  The activity in general is fantastic because the point is to make you think about what you care about the world and reminds you to always think about others(and yourself)!

Just remember this- even though we’re told to be serious the majority of the time in life, we shouldn’t ever forget what it’s like to be a kid 🙂

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*Side note about Camp Wildcat:
“Camp Wildcat is a student-run, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization at the University of Arizona devoted to improving the lives of Tucson’s youth. Over 100 dedicated volunteers provide cost-free activities for fun, friendship and to portray college as an attainable goal for everyone!”

Sharing Arizonian culture with SUSI exchange students from South America

joel vega y thomas de bolivia y peru

[Photo of Thomas on the left and Joel on the right from cultural presentation]

Tomorrow, Joel and Thomas, two new friends, along with 18 other exchange students from South America will head to the East Coast to and to Washington D.C. for two weeks after having spent the last three weeks learning about the culture in Arizona and attending classes here at the University of Arizona.

The 20 students are participating in a program called SUSI(Study of the U.S. Institutes) for Student Leaders. They come from Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay and range in age from 18-26. None of them knew each other before coming here and they all come from different places.  The programs are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with the purpose to “promote a better understanding of the people, institutions, and culture of the United States among foreign students, teachers, and scholars.” The University of Arizona regular hosts these programs twice a year. The students visited Nogales, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, Sedona and a few other parts of Arizona, I believe.

I happened to find the opportunity by chance during winter break when I received an email from one of the directors of the program here at the U of A who was looking for mentors. I remembered I had signed up for the Latin American Undergraduate email list and that was the reason the email landed in my inbox.

I received a spot as a mentor and was paired with Joel from Bolivia and Thomas from Peru for the three weeks that they spent here at the U of A.

We hung out together a few times in Tucson, maybe once or twice a week. I introduced them to friends here one night and brought them to my dorm one evening to show them what it’s like living on campus.

My favorite part was showing them around Phoenix last weekend. Since my car is broken, my dad let us drive his Polaris Ranger. I brought them to my high school and my elementary school and also around that neighborhood to show them where I grew up as a kid. I think they really enjoyed it because they could compare what they saw in movies to real life and see what an “American” high school and elementary school actually look like.

I also introduced them to Arizona burritos(an extremely delicious fast-food burrito from Federico’s), horchata(a sweet drink made of rice), AND Girl Scout cookies-specifically “Thin Mints” that take your tastebuds to heaven. My mouth waters just thinking about pulling one out of the freezer at home and munching on it-MMMM!

From participating in this program as a mentor, from my own experiences and from what I’ve learned at the university, I have realized that the media misrepresents the United States and other countries around the world, which is why first-hand cultural experience is so important and valuable. By learning about a culture for ourselves, we deconstruct the generalizations and presumptions that we hold within ourselves as a result of listening to the media, or one story.

I hope the U of A continues to host these types of exchange programs so I can contribute to improving the cultural experience for the students to come. I also recommend to anyone, student or non-student, to check out the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Programs website because there several ways to get involved with these programs or to even visit another country as the exchange student. It’s a great way to open up your mind and even learn a little bit more about your culture and yourself 🙂

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Post Study-Abroad: New Appreciations at the University of Arizona

photo of the university of arizona

On Monday, I moved back to Tucson to start my second semester as a sophomore at the University of Arizona. I decided to live on campus again in the dorms because I loved my residence hall(Árbol de la Vida) last year. Even though I’ve only been here for two days, I’ve already noticed these once forgotten appreciations of living on campus and going to a large university compared to my experience in Buenos Aires. Here’s a few:

Having a roommate is fantastic(especially one that is Argentinian ;))

While living by myself was enjoyable, I really appreciate having a roommate once again. I always have someone around to hangout with or chat and it’s always a pleasure to start a new friendship.

Living in a residence hall and being a member of a community

I remember appreciating it my freshman year but being here only two days reminded me of how awesome it is to live two minutes away from my friends. Even more so than living with friends, I’ve met lots of really nice and interesting people on my floor and around the residence hall. I enjoy being a member of a community and love how well a residence hall fosters the community aspect.

Access to over 500 clubs and organizations and the recreation center

Now my university in Buenos Aires had a few clubs here and there but they weren’t nearly as boundless as the 500 clubs or more at the U of A. I just joined a new club called Camp Wildcat and will be volunteering to help provide cost-free fun activities for the youth here in Tucson! Furthermore, the excellent recreation center and gym on campus because I can go play a pickup basketball game just about whenever I want and it’s only a 10-minute walk away.

The classes I can choose from are ENDLESS!

I hadn’t thought about this really until this week but attending a large university like the University of Arizona has priviliged me with the opportunity to choose from an immense amount of intriguing classes. This semester, I was lucky enough to find seats in fascinating courses such as The Structure of Spanish, Major Works in Latin America, Heritage Photography, Spanish Phonetics, and Wording Pictures.

Well, hope you enjoyed this week’s post! See you next week 🙂

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Day trip to Sedona, Arizona- Mother Nature’s beautiful red rocks

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Beautiful red cliffs of rock surrounded by small green shrubs and trees in front of clear blue skies and lite up by the warm sun. The air smells fresh like Mother Nature’s breath and the views are amazing, like nothing I have ever seen before.

Then I stop.

I realize how lucky I am to live in Arizona and to have access to theses gorgeous creations of Mother Nature and how much I have taken them for granted these past years. This is beautiful. This is life. This right here, is Sedona, Arizona, a city about two hours away from Phoenix.

My friend Jordan and I decided to spontaneously take a day trip here New Year’s Day and start off the year hiking in Sedona. It was my first time ever visiting Sedona and wow, do I feel like I have been missing out.

Since it’s still winter, it was a bit chilly but not too cold to wear shorts.

We hiked the Devil’s Bridge trail after realizing we didn’t have enough time to make it to the Secret Canyon and back before dark.

The trail wasn’t super long but the end was incredible. It’s a bridge that was created naturally and it looks like this:

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devil's bridge sedona arizona

The hike was well worth it and we even had extra time to explore the area nearby.

sedona arizona

The reason I decided to write this week’s post about Sedona is because I wanted to share my experience exploring Arizona. I like to travel and I know a lot of other people do but I think sometimes we have this idea that we have to leave the state or country to “travel” or explore a unknown place but the truth is, most of us forget to explore the places where we grow up. We don’t need to fly to Europe or Asia to go exploring. All we have to do is find a free day and say,

“Hey I’m going to try and discover something new today.”

The coolest part about the trip- there was no planning, whatsoever. Neither of us had to work on New Year’s Day so we decided we’d make a day trip out to Sedona and that’s it.

Sometimes I think the idea of going here or there or planning a camping trip or whatever it may be sounds so time-consuming and like a lot of work but the  truth is, it isn’t. As long as we don’t think of a planning and going on an adventure as a hassle, then it isn’t. It’s as simple as that 🙂 And of course, everybody knows this but at least for me, I didn’t realize it until I started doing it and it’s fantastic!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post and consider visiting the beauties in Sedona one day 🙂 Feel free to share any comments or thoughts below!

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Post-Study Abroad: Observations after one week in Phoenix

It’s been a little over a week since I’ve been back and I’m really enjoying it. A few things have stuck out to me after having been gone for almost half of the year and I thought I’d share those observations:

Car is my main transportation

I was so accustomed to taking the bus and riding the subway everywhere that it felt weird being in a car at first. Now, I can’t imagine how I would get around without a car!

I can pay with cards and leave cash in the bank

Something I definitely feel grateful is being able to pay with a debit card or credit card. Of course there were many stores that accepted debit and credit cards but I didn’t think it was worth it to sign up since I was only there for a short period of time.

It’s easier to talk to people

WOW! While I did feel comfortable speaking Spanish in Argentina everyday for a long period of time, I can’t explain how easy it feels to speak in English now that I’m back. It’s amazing.

I appreciate my dogs more

I have never realized how much I don’t appreciate my dogs until being in Argentina for almost 6 months. It’s such a happy feeling to walk in the door every day and have two over-excited dogs jump up on you because they love you. Now I certainly don’t take them for granted and feel happy to see their fuzzy faces everyday

Christmas spirit in the air

While there are many people in Argentina who celebrate Christmas, it’s nothing like it is in the States. There in Buenos Aires, I noticed some decorations in various stores for Christmas but not like here. Here, you walk into the mall and there is Christmas music playing and there are decorations everywhere. You see Christmas trees for sale around the city and houses are decorated with Christmas lights. It’s wonderful.

Even though I loved Buenos Aires and plan on going back after I graduate, I’m happy to be home and to be able to celebrate the holidays with my friends and family. Well, that’s all. Until next week! Merry Christmas and happy holidays! 🙂