Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trip To Snowbird

It was an unusually warm morning at the base of the mountain and the sun was beaming. Upon inspection, there were few, if any, signs of wind, ice or long lift lines to be found. The sprawling mountains were set majestically against the blue hue of the sky, and the skiers seemed to bustle with urgency to take advantage of such a utopian day.

It was mid-morning, about 10:30 a.m., and after picking my dad up from the Salt Lake City airport, we headed out for our coveted, annual ski excursion. Our destination, Snowbird Ski Resort, is nestled in the Little Cottonwood Canyon, roughly 11 miles east of Sandy, UT. Finally, we arrived at our destination and began a memorable day that any avid skier would be envious of.

“You guys got lucky,” Carly, a Snowbird lift supervisor, said. “The lift lines are usually much longer, almost as far back as the lodge.”

Snowbird is a challenging resort and this difficulty derives from its large number of black diamond ski runs, attempted primarily by experts. I was most impressed by the variety of terrain and expansive views the mountain had to offer, however.

The favorite section of the mountain for most of the patrons seemed to be Hidden Peak, which fed into some of our favorite runs, “Regulator Johnson” and “Election.” The peak, which is the highest point at Snowbird and measured at 11,000 ft. according to the trail map, offers a wide view of the Gad Valley as well as the Salt Lake valley in the distance.

On one of rides back up the mountain on the “Mid-Gad” lift, we spoke to some fellow skiers who had a distinctly laid-back, western feel about them. We talked about the resort, wallyball, and life in general. Their demeanor seemed to perfectly capture the feeling of being on the mountain that day.

According to the ski resort’s website, Snowbird opened in December of 1971 with three lifts, the Tram, the Lodge at Snowbird and the Snowbird Center. Snowbird is considered prestigious as far as ski resorts go. It has been consistently ranked as the second best resort in North America, being runner-up to the famed Whistler Blackcomb resort in Canada, according to SKI Magazine.

“This was pretty much a perfect day for skiing,” my dad concluded.

I couldn’t help but agree.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bridging the Gap Between Cultures

The city is large and shaped like a giant crater, set 12,000 ft. above sea level. The outer edge holds the poorer section of the city’s population, while the wealthier communities with 15th century Spanish houses and high-rise buildings are in the center, like the nucleus of a living cell.

It was 7:30 a.m. in La Paz, Bolivia and Vanessa Rada was just waking up. She got up, got dressed, and after her usual breakfast of hot chocolate she headed out for Universidad de Mayor San Andres, the local state college she attended with roughly the same student population as BYU.

Rada was studying music and had been playing the clarinet for years. She settled into a seat in one of her typical classes with over a hundred people in attendance and began to listen, while she contemplated the fun weekend of salsa dancing she would have.

It was just another day in the life of Vanessa Rada. Until the day she began her journey that would eventually land her on American soil at BYU.

“Going to BYU has been a dream of mine for a long time, even before there was a possibility of coming,” Rada said. “I wrote a letter to a music teacher at BYU three years before I even applied.”

Despite the desire of Rada and her sister to attend BYU, they didn’t have the money necessary to seize such an opportunity. Then, things in La Paz began to get worse.

Though La Paz is not the capital of Bolivia, Rada said that most major political decisions take place there. This being the case, there were constant riots and political unrest near where she lived and her parents began to worry about the safety and future of their daughters. Then Rada’s parents got divorced and added to her concern.

However, once the decision was made to send Rada and her sister to America, things seemed to fall into place for the family.

“God opened the doors wide for us,” Rada said. “My parents stopped fighting for a while and we got approved for a visa and bought affordable airplane tickets the day we got accepted into BYU.”

After attending BYU-Hawaii in a language immersion program for 6 months, Rada finally arrived in Provo in the summer of 2007.

Rada said that she has had an interest in different cultures and languages for many years. In Bolivia, Rada learned Hebrew, studied Jewish history, knows some Mongolian, Mandarin, Korean, and understands a lot of Portuguese. However, even her experience with other cultures didn’t completely prepare her for the transition to America.

“The hardest thing for me about the move was the culture shock being in Hawaii and Utah,” Rada said. “I didn’t realize how poor my country was until I got there. It was sad seeing people waste so much food while people in my country are starving.” Rada called it a “cultural contradiction.”

Rada also identified additional cultural differences between Bolivia and the United States. She explained that the community she is familiar with is close-knit.

“Everyone knows each other in Latin communities,” she said.

She described the individual nature of people in Provo as “separate and divided.” Despite these differences in culture, Rada is thankful for her chance to attend BYU.

“BYU is everything I thought it would be,” she said. “I have no regrets and I’m very grateful to be here. God has given me this chance to grow to the best of my potential--something I couldn’t do at home. Even though I can’t see my family and friends, this is where I’m supposed to be.”
Rada hopes to graduate with a degree in musical instruction and later apply for a master’s degree in art management.

Discussing her plans for the future, Rada said, “I’d like to be married, keep working on the things that I love, and be able to share my Bolivian traditions and culture with my husband and family.
“People express love in different ways, but we’re really the same. We value our families, we value our friends, and we like to eat,” she said with a laugh.

It’s 10:30 p.m. in Provo, Utah and Vanessa Rada is preparing for another day at BYU.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Obituary

Chase Larson, 21, dies of elation

Chase Larson, a deceivingly perceptive college student known for his long reputed search for enduring happiness, died in Provo on Saturday from complications of experiencing too much bliss and content within his life this weekend. He was 21 years old.

His death came in the wake of so much potential. He finally was recognized as coming into his own after choosing a major and finding a girlfriend. In ironic sadness, the search for euphoria and fulfillment ended late Saturday as his life was cut tragically short on the eve of Valentine’s Day. It can be said with conviction, however, that he “died happy.”

Seemingly soft-spoken and indifferent, Larson never looked the part of an assertive and quick-witted character. Beneath this fa├žade of demureness, Larson enjoyed spending time with friends, playing sports, and had an irrevocable infatuation with music of all flavors. He also always clung to a firm belief in God, and tried to live his life in an according manner.

He was born in Palo Alto, CA on April 9, 1987, but spent most of his life split between Scottsdale, AZ and the Washington, D.C. area. He graduated from Desert Mountain High School in 2005 and was enrolled in his junior year at Brigham Young University at the time of his death.He is survived by his parents, Mark and Melanie Larson, as well as his brothers, Geoffrey and Grey who reside in Scottsdale, AZ.

Funeral services will be held at 4:00 p.m. at Muse Music, the local music club in Provo, Utah, on Feb. 21 where friends and family can come to pay their respects while enjoying his favorite art form.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Wordsworthian Composition

Lines Composed a Few Miles below BYU

Amid the bedlam of the city;
The street lamps, passing car lights, and buildings strewn about,
Stretches the vastness of God’s creations.
Above the hum of restless murmurs and bustling urgency
Transcendent of our current sphere,
Seemingly ephemeral and far from here
Lies the door to infinity.
Numberless angelic musicians strike the chords of their creation,
Staccato stars above,
The flowing melody of ancient streams,
A swaying flower’s fluttering waltz
All alluring and familiar, like an old refrain
Sing together in a celestial symphony
That carries into the boundless expanse of our Master’s dominion.
Oh sweet bliss! Fleeting memories of simplicity and peace abound,
Yet now I search and search and not a sound;
Will my former joy again be found?
How trivial we seem in the midst of such grandeur,
Yet in comparison
Find wisdom, and strength
Through God’s evident concern.
Through chilling frosts of cold in December
Comes the warming thought of a May since past,
And through this notion lights an ember
Where fear and weakness melt away at last.

A Memorable Night of Music

A few months ago I had the chance to go to a Kalai & Benton Paul concert over at Thanksgiving Point in Utah. Aside from the night's magic spell that was cast from the simple facts that: A) I was on a exceptionally romantic date, and B) the Autumn air was crisp and was perfectly complimented with a free cup o' hot chocolate, there was a certain je ne sais quoi about the concert's main act. Kalai, a Hawaiian born singer-songwriter, has a sound that's a melting pot of genres, past and present. Picture a mix between Ben Harper, John Mayer, James Taylor, and Bob Marley and you'll start to get an idea of his particular brand of sound. He ranges from acoustic guitar ballads, to blues, to jazz, to an assortment of reggae-inspired compositions, all the while soaring through fast-paced guitar solos and belting out the chorus in falsetto. He's released five CD's thus far. My current favorites include Acoustacism (mostly romantic acoustic ballads), Crows Feet (a good display of his range of styles and a little more upbeat), and his latest album A Pauper's Hymnal (a bluesy, folksy take on some popular hymns).

Check out Kalai here: