Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Sorry for some reason now Animoto only sends the embedding as 360 so please once again upgrade the quality to 720 when you watch the video.  Just click on 360 and change to 720...the quality is MUCH better!

Korean "Chuseok" or Thanksgiving was the weekend of September 29th so I had a chance to get away for a few days and take a quick trip to Philippines.  One of the first things I noticed as soon as I got off the plane in Philippines is how kind the people there were.  I had read quite a few places that that's one thing people there really pride themselves in and I'd have to agree!
I had tried to decide where to go...I'd heard how nice Cebu and Boracay are with their beautiful beaches, but I've always thought of those as places for like a honeymoon or something, so I figured those weren't really the places for me.  I decided to just head to Manila and then do a few day trips and I'm glad that's what I decided to do.  It was a nice short convenient flight, I left Incheon at 8AM and was into Manila by around noon.  My hotel was really cool and allowed me to check in a little early, so I got all showered up and took a nice nap after an early morning (I had to leave my house at 3AM!).  I figured I could do a few day trips and just get a feel and taste of Philippines in that short time.
The first day there it was rainy in the afternoon so after showering and taking a short nap I went out for a bit around the hotel, they had some cool shops and a nice mall.  I kind of just took it easy, and by afternoon it had stopped raining, so I checked out the hotel pool and just relaxed the rest of the day away...sometimes the best thing about a trip is just being somewhere new and the ease of being able to relax and enjoy your new surroundings.  That evening I headed over to Intramuros which is Manila's oldest district which was established during the Spanish Colonial Period.  The name is Latin for "within the walls" and this area is one of the last remaining places where the old Spanish influence is still visible.
The next day I was excited, I headed out to Villa Escudero in the lovely area of San Pablo City, about two hours outside of Manila.  Villa Escudero is a historic colonial plantation which was founded in the 1880s by Don Placido Escudero and his wife Dona Claudia Marasigan.  Originally they planted sugar cane and grew it there, but eventually their son Don Arsenio Escudero converted it to a coconut plantation and that's what they still grow there today.  Arsenio was a pioneering agro-industrialist and he actually built the country's first working hydroelectric plant in 1937.  I thought that he must have been a genius, having his own power plant in a rural area in the 1930s...pretty amazing.  He and his wife Dona Rosario Adap made Villa Escudero a safe refuge through war, foreign occupation and political upheaval.  On the property there are many different places and things to see.  They had a large church which has since been turned into a museum and many beautiful and lush gardens.  One of the cooler things that they have available there is a ride on a wagon pulled by a carabao.  Now, I have to stop and say I feel a little dumb in the fact that that was one of my favorite things and yet I forgot to even get a picture of a carabao or the wagon! HA!  Anyway, a carabao is basically a water buffalo, but the ride was very cool.  It takes you from the front of the plantation back to the waterfall and small lake.  Now, one of the coolest things I experienced on the trip was lunch.  They have the lunch area set up right under the waterfall from the hydroelectric plant and the tables are actually in the you eat your lunch in the water! HA!  I've never seen anything like it...I was quite surprised when I saw it.  Basically you walk down, take off your shoes and then just get in line for some delicious food.  Like I said, the tables are in the water so as you eat your feet are nice and cool in the nice stream of water flowing over them.  The food there was amazing, it was buffet style so I made sure to make a few trips back and when I was finished I was stuffed!  Above the waterfall of course is a small lake which provides water for the plant.  They have some small flat wooden rafts that you can take out and paddle around the lake.  Around the lake are some cottages where you can actually stay at Villa Escudero.  It's a really beautiful and peaceful scene paddling around the lake, also there's an AMAZING view of Mt. Banahaw in the distance.  Unfortunately when I was on the lake it was covered by clouds, but you can see it in the background behind the main house at Villa Escudero.  After eating lunch and paddling around the lake they also had a short cultural program which featured dances from many of the different indigenous people of Philippines. It was a nice way to end the day there, and I also enjoyed a really nice glass of halo-halo which is a Filipino desert made up of shaved ice, evaporated milk, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, sugar palm fruit, coconut sport, caramelized plantains, jackfruit, gulaman, tapioca, nata de coco, sweet potato, cheese and rice.  Basically its a huge mixture of tropical goodness! HAHAHA!  It was really delicious!
The next day was kind of the highlight of my trip.  For anyone who knows me well knows I really love history and I'm quite a proud American when it comes to our history, especially around the time of World War II.  I have the utmost respect for those brave men and women that fought during that perilous time in the world.  Well, as many of you know one of the most difficult places to serve during WWII ended up being in the Pacific and one of the places was Philippines.  A trip to Corregidor Island was a truly amazing experience and made me even more proud of the American and Filipino soldiers who fought and died to keep our countries free.  The ferry ride from Manila out to Corregidor was about an hour and a half ride.  It was a rainy day and kind of seemed fitting for the occasion.  It seemed surreal to be there in such a famous place.  During the US occupation of the Philippines in 1908 the US established Ft. Mills on the island.  The Army Corp. of Engineers started constructing tunnels and bomb proof shelters around the island.  I won't get into too much history here since the main focus of this blog is my trip, however of course during the Battle of Philippines the Japanese invaded Luzon and the American and Filipino troops which were under the command of General Douglas MacArthur retreated to the Bataan Peninsula.  The troops although they fought valiantly eventually ran out of food, water and ammunition and the fall of Bataan was complete on Apr 9, 1942.  Bataan is just north of the island of Corregidor and this was the last stronghold for the American troops.  For months the Japanese had been bombing Corrigedor and finally the Battle of Corregidor took place on May 5th and 6th 1942.  The Japanese took the island on May 6th and most of the prisoners of war that had been on the island were sent of to prison camps and forced into slave labor.  Of course several years later in Feb 1945 the US and Filipino troops re-took the island in which over 6,600 Japanese soldiers were killed. Corregidor is also of course famous for being the site where on March 12, 1942 Gen. MacArthur had been forced by President Roosevelt to leave the Philippines and go to Australia.  So from the Lorcha Dock he left, of course promising with his words "I came out of Bataan and I shall return."  Years later after the US and Filipino troops had defeated the Japanese MacArthur did in fact return and on March 7, 1945 in a special ceremony he said "I see that the old flagpole still stands.  Have your troops hoist the colors to its peak and let no enemy ever haul it down."
The nice thing there as a tourist is that they have some little shuttle busses that take you around the island and  the guide was very cool and informative.  You can see the ruins of the barracks that used to stand on the island and there are also a few really nice memorials that have been established for the US and Filipino soldiers who fought and died, not only on Corregidor and Bataan but also to all the soldiers who fought in the Pacific Front.  It was a great day, even through the rains (which at times were quite heavy actually!)  I felt very proud of those brave soldiers and it made me really appreciate the free and easy life I live.
The last day I went  to visit the Manila-American cemetery.  I've been to Arlington and I was surprised but also happy to see that this cemetery easily rivals Arlington in how beautiful the grounds are maintained.  There are 17, 206 graves and it was an intense sight to see so many crosses there and know that so many people had perished.  Also on the site is a memorial constructed of limestone quarried near Rome, Italy.  The memorial is in honor of those 36, 285 soldiers whose bodies were never recovered.  There is also a chapel and tower and each of the state seals are carved in the limestone as well.
I had a wonderful trip to Philippines...I enjoyed some wonderful food (like adobo!), drinks and the people there were amazingly awesome and friendly.  I also had a chance to buy about 6 bags of dried mangoes but sadly I ate them all about two days after I got back! HA!  I wish I could eat them everyday...I never knew I liked mangoes so much.

Sunday, 12 August 2012


Earlier when I tried to post my video it was only in 360 quality, it SHOULD be in 720HD, so if it isn't please just click on the 360 on the bottom and change it to 720HD, it is MUCH clearer and looks way better!!

A few years ago I sat down and made a list of some top places I'd like to see in the world and Mongolia ended up in the top 10.  The history of Genghis Khan and the famous Mongolian Empire of the 1200s, the amazing blue skies, vast valleys and wide open spaces, wild horses and the feeling of freedom that seems to be prevalent there.
So, this spring I decided to make it happen and contacted a lady named Daka there in Ulan Bator (the capital city of Mongolia) and asked her to put together a great trip for me.  I told her I wanted it to be as genuine and "Mongolian" as possible, keeping me away from the city and doing as few touristy things as possible.  She was very cool and put together what I felt at the time (and even more so at the end of the trip) was a great itinerary for the trip.
At the time I figured I'd be rolling solo, which never bothers me, but of course it's always more fun to enjoy a fun experience with someone else.  Well, my friend Zablon decided to take a job here at the school and he said he really wanted to go to Mongolia as, it worked out perfectly!  He actually got to Korea on the 25th of July and we did a few things here in Asan like his health check and stuff so he could start teaching for us on August 6th.  The tickets were sold out for the 28th (the day I flew) but we were able to find a ticket for him on the 27th, so he actually flew out a day early.  I was pretty excited Saturday as I made my way to the Incheon Airport...I always feel giddy when I'm about to go on a trip.  I arrived in Ulan Bator just after 10 PM and was quite surprised with how small the airport was.  Z was waiting for me in the arrival area and we were ready to get the trip started!  I met Daka and our driver and they took us to Daka's aunt's house for the first night.  It was really cool to finally be in Mongolia and I was amazed at the night sky there.  Mongolia is a country with a population of under 3 million and the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, and so the lights didn't effect seeing stars like they do here in Korea.  We met Daka's aunt who had a nice welcome dinner for us: some traditional Mongolian milk tea, potatoes, sheep and special Mongolian bread.  She was very kind and one of the first things that I noticed about Mongolian's was their smiles and their eyes all looked to be full of happiness and energy.  After eating dinner we retired out to the ger.  A ger is a portable, felt home that the Mongolians use since there are many nomadic people that reside there.  They are very sturdy and quite easy to put up and take down, they told us that it could be done in a few hours.  It was really awesome and exciting to be sleeping in the ger the first night and Z and I talked about how lucky we both were to be doing this adventure, in a place that as kids neither of us ever could have imagined visiting.
I slept VERY well there that night (and also through the week), I think the fresh air there had something to do with it.  So, we had a hearty breakfast of pretty much the same thing we had eaten the night before.  I'm not much of a breakfast eater, so that was something I had to get used to during the week, as Mongolians really, really want you to eat when they are eating! HA!  So, that morning was soooo lovely, the sun was out, the sky was clear and we hit the road.  Our first destination was the Manchushir Monastery.  At the end of the 17th century Mongolia had been incorporated in the Qing Dynasty of China, at the collapse of the dynasty Mongolia struggled for independence. By 1924 the Mongolian People's Republic was declared and Mongolia came under communist rule until 1992.  The Monastery was an area of several hundred monks and had some houses, as well as a big monastery for worship.  When the People's Republic took over, they attacked the monastery, killed lots of the monks and destroyed most all of the buildings.  They have since rebuilt a wooden monastery which is supposed to be similar to some of the wooden buildings that were previously on the site.  The original big three story foundation remains partially intact.  It was a beautiful area and after seeing the monastery Z and I hiked to the top of the mountain and enjoyed the amazing scenery from the top.  We met back with our driver and headed back to the parking lot.  When we arrived at the van he said "hey guys, I lost the key!" he was smiling and laughing so I just assumed of course he was joking,, he wasn't joking.  For most people who know me, you know I'm not always the best in situations like this, but I was quite proud of myself and I decided that this week nothing was going to upset me or make me feel stressed out, so I said "well, that's cool, do you need some help looking?"  He said he would try and find it (keep in mind we had been walking half the day) and so he took off to look for it.  It was a really nice day and near the monastery was a very beautiful area, so Z and I just relaxed and went over to watch a group of Mongolian guys playing volleyball.  They looked very happy and they seemed like they were having tons of fun.  After about 5 minutes a lady and her two kids came over and started talking to us.  The girl was really cute, maybe about 11 and her mom said she wanted to practice her English with some foreigners.  So, we chatted with her for a minute or two and her mom spoke English quite well.  She asked us what we were doing and we told her we were just waiting for our driver, he had lost the key so we couldn't go anywhere.  After about 30 minutes our driver came back and said he couldn't find it.  Well, him and the lady started talking, her and her husband and family were there for the weekend on vacation with some of her husband's employees enjoying the weekend, and she said they had plenty of food in their ger if we wanted to come eat some lunch.  We were starving and stranded (the driver called his brother back in Ulan Bator (UB) and his brother was bringing the spare key) so we accepted her offer to eat with them.  They had a huge lunch and they were actually eating Korean food! HA!  So, we ate with them and chatted with them, and then the guys were going out for some wrestling matches after lunch.  Apparently Mongolians love wresting, so all the guys were wrestling each other and playing around.  They were all really funny and cool.  Z has a real nice camera and they asked if he would take some nice pictures of their group and then send them after we got back.  We must have taken pictures with them for 20-30 minutes, the whole group, each family, the men, the women, etc. it kind of reminded me of Langston reunions! HA!  Anyway, they were really happy and cool with us, so we enjoyed spending time with them and taking pictures.  Finally our key arrived by around 3 PM and we were back on the road again.  We headed towards Terelj National Park, and it was a gorgeous drive.  The roads there are quite fun, there are some paved roads, but lots of the roads in the country are just dirt and in some areas quite rough.  We made it to the park in several hours and our plan for the next few days was to stay in a ger with a local family there in the National Park.  When our driver dropped us off we followed the lady back off the road, over several streams, and probably walked a good mile back to the little camp.  They had an old Japanese delivery truck where they had like a stove, sink, TV, etc. and then there were two gers, one of their family and then on for visitors.  She was really nice and there were several kids there as well as her husband and some other locals.  She made us a nice dinner and we got ready for bed and slept well.  In the morning we woke up to heavy rain (we had a horse ride planned for the day) which was surprising as beautiful and clear it had been the day before.  The man said there was probably too much rain to do the ride that day, but it was supposed to clear some by the next day.  So, basically all that day we just talked, hung out with the little girls (they were soooo cute, Mongolian kids were adorable), took a nice long nap and ate some of her really delicious food.  The one hard thing there was that I guess most people bathe in the, it had been a few days without a shower for me.  We did wash our hands and face in the river, but the water was WAY too cold to take a bath! HA!  Anyway, we woke up the next day, but the rain had let up considerably and the guy said we could go for a ride if we were ready.  I was a little disappointed that it was still a little too rainy to take our cameras on the ride.  The ride was so beautiful, we were out in the National Park and the mountains and trees there were really breathtaking.  He was a very kind man, he didn't speak much English, but it was fun riding through the mountains of Mongolia with him.  We were gone for most of the morning and then got back and ate lunch before heading to UB that afternoon.        It was about a two hour drive into UB and we ended up getting there just about rush hour.  Now...I have to say, if you think you have ever seen bad roads and traffic, you have seen nothing until you've been to UB.  The city itself isn't that huge only around 1.5 million, but the roads leading into the city were beyond atrocious!  The pot holes there could swallow a small child and I have no idea how the UB residents have not had a major revolt over the roads, it was beyond anything I've ever seen before.  So, we got to the hotel (the only hotel we stayed in all week) around 7 PM and checked in.  I was excited to finally get a shower and when I jumped into the shower, to my dismay I realized that our hotel only had COLD water! HA!  So, that might be the fastest shower I've ever taken.  After that Z and I went walking around the city and found a really nice city square in downtown that had lots of people out and about.  It was cool seeing the square lit up at night, there were several Genghis Khan statues, around the city hall building.  We found a nice restaurant and I had some delicious lamb and potatoes for dinner.  We walked around for a bit more, but frankly, UB isn't most beautiful city I've ever been to.  It was cool in its own way, but there really wasn't much to see.  So, Mongolian travel note for you, if you do go there, don't plan to spend much time in UB, it can pretty much be seen in a day or less.  We were pretty wore out from the drive and had a big few days ahead of us, so we went to bed and then got up early the next day.  Fortunately the weather was beautiful the rest of the week.  We met our driver and hostess Puji (Daka's friend) the next morning.  We hit up the grocery store and bought a bunch of food and headed on our way towards Khugnu Khan Mountain and Khustain National Park.  We drove for a good part of the day, getting a good view of the countryside on our way to Khugnu Khan.  We stayed that night in a ger cam at the base of the mountain and did some hiking that evening.  It reminded me a little of Arizona with the rock formations and remote countryside.  It was some fun hiking, and we found a nice little waterfall.  That night was actually really nice though, I had my first and only hot shower of the week there at the ger camp.  Khugnu Khan is near some sand dunes, so the next morning we went to the sand dunes and they had camels there you could ride.  It was quite fun, the camels were really obedient, but they smelled awful! HA!  We rode camels together with Puji and had a fun time riding around through the sand. Our driver met a guy who worked there with the camels and he wanted us to visit him on our way back in a few days when we were headed back to UB.  That was one thing I noticed about almost all the people there, they seemed really kind and very trusting and open to meeting new people and sharing what they had, which of course I thought was really cool.  After we rode camels we headed off towards the Erdene Zuu Monastery, built in 1585 it is the oldest and biggest operating monastery in Mongolia.  The walls around it feature 100 stupas (or little pillars) and inside the walls are several buildings and temples.  It was fun to see the Buddhist monks there and they all seemed very kind.  We also met several Korean families that were there and they were very happy to talk with us and get some pictures together.  After we finished there we headed to the Orkhon River and set up our tents for our camp out that evening.  The river is beautiful and the weather was so nice.  After setting up camp Z and I decided to hike up a mountain near the river and get some nice sunset pictures, as well as some pictures of the nearby city of Kharkhorin.  We woke up on Friday and started heading back towards UB although we had a nice stop at the Khustain National Park (as well as a few flat tires and a stop at the camel herders house) along the way.  As I mentioned before, the roads there are not the best and we had two flat tires in a matter of about an hour near Kharkhorin! HA!  Good thing our driver was able to get them fixed and it didn't slow us down much.  After the tires were ready, we headed off towards Khustain and like I said, we stopped at the camel herders house on the way.  They lived in a ger and of course offered us some food and drinks (I don't drink alcohol, and that perplexed most Mongolians, but anyway).  They had a basket of what looked like some nice cheese, so I took a HUGE piece and started chewing, I have to say everything else I ate in Mongolia was very good, but this stuff...whatever it was, was about as bad a thing as I've ever tasted.  I was glad their baby dropped some stuff on the floor and so I picked it up and acted polite like I would take it out of the ger, but my main objective was to spit out that stuff! HA!  So, I made my way around the side of the van and spit it out as sneakily as possible.  I might have been some cheese stuff, I'm not sure, but I should learn to always start small and then if it's good eat more, but...anyway.  So, after a few hours we arrived at the Khustain National Park, which was established in 1993 to reintroduce the Takhi (or Przewalski Horse) back to Mongolia.  By 1966 the wild horses were extinct in Mongolia.  Fortunately there were several of the saved horses in Europe and by 1977 some Dutch folks had set up a preservation society for them.  In 1992, sixteen of the horses were taken back to Mongolia and released in Khustain and over the years the horses have reproduced as well as a few more added to the park but the horses are still considered an endangered animal.  They have never been successfully domesticated and they are the only truly wild horse still remaining today.  So, of course they are the main attraction at the park, which is huge!  It was quite hot that day and so the horses were far from the road and we didn't think we'd be able to see them, which of course was disappointing.  So, we made our way to Puji's mom's ger which is quite close to the park.  Her brother and his wife and kids live there with her mom and her brother is a park ranger there at the park.  Well, after we had eaten dinner, he came and said he knew where the horses were, if we wanted to go see them.  Of course we did, we were pretty pumped and after driving on some back roads for some time, we found them and had a chance to get quite close to them and take some really cool pictures.  On the video they are the horses that look almost white, not the big pack of horses in the river.  The Takhi horses were quite calm and Z and I had a chance to walk right down near where they were and get some pictures.  It was really cool, since I think he said there are less than 200 in the whole park.  It was getting dark, so it was a little hard to get great pics, but they were quite calm and I was at least happy to see them and get some decent pictures.  It was a little sad that was our last night there, but it was quite funny too though.  When we got back to the ger, they are of course wayyyy off the power grid out there, but they have solar powered energy, so we had a chance to watch the Olympics that night in a ger several hundred miles from UB! HA! They were very proud of their Olympians, who had won 2 medals by that point (I think they finished with 4 medals, which isn't bad for a country of less than 3 million) and we watched some Olympics for a while.
I always hate the last day before the trip is over...but we made our way back to UB and grabbed some lunch  and hung out at Daka's apartment before we got ready to head to the airport that night.  Z's flight left at around 10:30 PM and mine was supposed to be at around 11:50 PM, so of course we just went to the airport together.  Well, Z's flight made it out OK, but just about the time we were to board our plane, they came and said there were high winds, so the flight would be delayed two hours.  Well, after two hours they came back and said two more.  Korea was actually playing a soccer game at this time, so most of the people didn't seem to mind too much and people were cheering and watching the soccer game. HA!  Anyway, he came back and announced two more hours, and so I think people were starting to get restless by this time.  Finally at around 7 AM our plane took off and I got back to Korea at around 12 noon and then had a 2 hour bus ride home.
The trip was a really awesome experience, I loved Mongolia, loved the wide open spaces and how free it felt there.  It was a good place to unwind and get away from it all.  The people there were so kind, and even though most Mongolians are quite poor financially by Western standards, their eyes and faces were happy and proud and the kids laughter was infectious.  Everyone we met was gracious and kind and left a good impression on me.  It made me think of this quote I had read before:

"We tend to forget happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather recognizing and appreciating what we do have!"

Sunday, 24 June 2012


Hey, I hope everyone is doing well and having a great week. I know it's been a LOOOOOONG time since I've posted anything. I've been busy with Dana working on our school website recently and seem to have little free time these days. Also, we're trying to get my friend Zablon here to the school to help teach this next year. I'm pretty excited about that, it'll be fun on a personal level as he's a very cool guy and also it will be nice on a professional level to have a friend and another solid teacher at the school.
Also, I'm really excited to announce that on July 28th I'll be heading to Ulan Bator, Mongolia for my summer vacation. I've always been intrigued by Mongolia, it's beauty and the wide open spaces there. The countryside there looks amazing and I've got a horse trip, camel trip and jeep trip all planned. Zablon is hoping to get here in time to join me, I hope he can as I think it would be more fun to go with a buddy. I'm HOPING to get a new camera before I go...the one I have my eye on is a little expensive (around $500) but takes great pics and I read that the video recording on it in amazing. Anyway, I will keep you all updated and of course post as many pics as possible when I return.
Honestly, I haven't really done that much besides work and then just relax and take it easy on the weekends. I hate to say that not much exciting has happened lately, but unfortunately it's the truth! HA!
I was saddened to hear last week of the passing of my Dad's oldest brother, my uncle Grant Holyoak. I didn't grow up near him (they lived in AZ and I grew up in CO) but I have very fond memories of my trips there to Kingman during summer or spring breaks. I remember he was always a jovial man and was always very kind to me when I would visit. I remember one time when we went to visit he gave me and my cousin a whole wad of money (not sure how much, but as a teenager I remember it seemed like a lot!) and told us to go to the store and buy some steaks, corn and potatoes for everyone so we could have a great meal. He loved to tell jokes and I remember sitting in their house and I can still hear his laugh, he'd tell joke after joke after joke. Anyway, I will miss him and I just wanted to share my thoughts about him and my thankfulness of having a kind and fun uncle like him.
As always, I like to share thoughts, poems, quotes with you and wanted to share this one tonight.


Look to this day
For it is life, the very life of life
In it's brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence

The bliss of growth
The glory of action
The splendor of beauty
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow only a vision
But today well lived makes every yesterday
A dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope

Look well, therefore, to this day!
Such is the salutation of the dawn

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Growing up Holyoak

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were big things." Robert Brault

A week or so ago, my sister Becca and I were chatting and somehow we got talking about the "good ol' days" There's always been a running joke in my family about pictures, whether it was that my mom was never known as being the best photographer, or the joke that even when the pictures were taken the film was never developed. We used to hassle my mom (and probably still do sometimes) about seeing pictures sometimes with heads cut off, off-centered, etc. Anyway, mom and dad DID in fact develop the old pictures they took and they were stored in a little metal lunchbox. When we were kids we used to take the pics out and enjoy looking at them. So, anyway...Becca and I were talking about that and she told me that mom took the pictures out to her one time and my brother in law Dallas had scanned all the pics into their computer. I asked her if she could send them to me, as of course many of these I had not seen for many years. It was lots of fun to look back at these pictures and remember the life we had in Paonia (and for a short time Arizona)...the good times we had growing up. My family has always been close, not just my immediate family, but also with my cousins that we lived near, we always seemed to be doing something fun or special with Aunt Sharon's family or Aunt Laura's family. I had lots of good friends, and since seeing these pictures I have since e-mailed two of my friends Kevin and Cameron and talked to them via e-mail for the first time in many years.

I remember back in elementary school that always on the last day of school we had a field day. I looked forward to that day about a month before it happened. I've always been very competitive and even though I don't remember being that fast back then, I liked to race and try to win. I remember this picture sitting on the grass with a few of my friends, I can't remember the girl's names, but the other boy is Pete Gentzler who was in my class. Like most American kids, I was into Cub Scouts as a boy, although I never really enjoyed trying to earn badges, I'm not really sure why. I did like some of the things like the Pinewood Derby and going camping. I remember getting my block of wood that would be my car, and my dad helping me cut it, and then I remember I sanded it for hours and hours and hours. I wanted to win so bad. I actually don't recall how I ever did, but it was always an exciting time. In the picture I actually remember everyone's name (me, Grant Arterburn, Colby Hice, Kevin Carville, Dan Shaw, Mike Hansen). The other scout picture is a camp-out the scouts took to a nearby ski area called Powderhorn(me, Mike Hansen, Cameron Winters, Ryan Rowley, Dan Shaw). I think it was one of my first times away from home and I remember my dear, sweet mom gave me a little bag with a note she had written for each day. She told me to open one each morning and read it so I would know she loved me. She put some candy in the note and it made me not so homesick, she's always been so kind and thoughtful like that. The other picture is me practicing trying to be a catcher. My friend Kevin was always a pitcher when we were kids, and I remember he threw harder than any other kid. Actually, I always hated catching (although I loved baseball) but Kevin wanted me to catch for him, so I tried. I got some odds and ends to make my catchers equipment, I always laugh looking at that picture as I am wearing swimming goggles, HA! Not sure why, but anyway. I got hit in the legs and shins many times, and always hated that. Finally I decided I wanted to pitch and I remember mom would be a catcher for ME! HA! I wish I had some pics of her catching, I just remember one time I threw one really low and it bounced up and hit her shin. I felt awful and it turned a nasty shade of purple and black, but mom never was upset and I know she liked trying to help make me a better pitcher.

Birthdays were always a special time, like most kids I loved having my own party and of course loved going to my brother, sister or cousin's parties as well. I never really realized it when I was a kid, but looking at these pictures now, my mom is very talented at making cakes! She always made some fun cakes (like the sports cakes with football,the football players inside the TV) for my brother and I also remember a baseball stadium she made that had graham crackers for the outfield fence. One year, I don't remember how old we were, but my brother Mer and I helped make some little side cakes for Becca's birthday, she probably wasn't but a baby, so I was maybe 3 and Mer maybe 6. Becca said Mom still makes the special circus cake for the grandkids, I think it's on their 4th birthday. I think that's really awesome and I appreciate all the time she spent making those. I always loved the time I got to spend with Papa and Gram Langston. My grandpa passed away March 20, 1981 a little before my 6th birthday, but I do still have vivid memories of sitting on his lap and taking a pic with my birthday cake. Mom and dad always got us some fun presents and it was always a great day to see my cousins and eat some cake and ice cream. I don't remember too many specific gifts, but for some reason I remember very well that my cousin Deb got me a really nice sketch book and pencil set one time. I think she was always good at drawing, and I remember I really wanted to be an artist when I was a kid. My friend Mike Hansen was also very good and I think he had inspired me, when I'd spend the night at his house we'd get out the National Geographic magazines and he'd always have some amazing picture of a big bull elk, my picture of the elk looked like a sideways piece of brown cheese! HA! Anyway, I remember Deb got that for me, and I was so excited, but my pictures never amounted to much, and even though I think I drew something on each page, they were not very good. Another thing I love about kids and birthday parties is how, if they are pure kids, they are so happy with anything. I love that picture with my sister where she has some very small money (looks like a dollar and maybe a quarter she's holding up) and you can see my cousin Darrell in the background with a grin on his face as if Becca had just won the Powerball Lottery!

Another special thing that we did each year was the pinata party. For those of you unfamiliar with a pinata, it's basically balloons wrapped with paper mache and then filled with candy and presents. The pinata is attached to a rope and can be moved up and down, and a person is the blindfolded and tries to swing a stick or bat and break the pinata, once it's broken the candy and gifts spill onto the floor and it's a free for all. That was always SO fun for all of us. We usually did it right after Christmas, I think around my parent's anniversary (December 30th). I don't know if there was a reason for that date or not, and I don't know exactly why mom and dad started doing the pinata party. I need to ask and find out the history, I'm not sure if it was something one of them also did when they were younger, or how that all came about. Anyway, I remember mom would always let us help make the pinata and it was lots of work. After we finished we'd stuff that thing full of candy and presents, sometimes they were almost coming out the top! HA! I also remember that I always had to be very quick if I was going to get any candy, as Mer and Darrell were older than I was and much faster. When that pinata broke there were kids flying in from everywhere grabbing stuff. I remember we would all hold our shirt out like an apron and put the candy in there. Mom always labeled the gifts so even if kids didn't get lots of candy, they always had a gift. I really miss doing that, and maybe we can have a pinata party this year!

Christmas was always a special time at our house, I've shared lots of memories already on my blog about Christmas so I won't type much about it here. I always remember having great memories of presents and family at that time. Mer and I always wanted to catch Santa and I remember one year we hatched a plan to put out some fishing string with bells on it and when he came in, it would ring the bells and we could run down and see him. I think we were scared though that it would be "bad" and Santa might be angry and not give us any presents. I also remember that each year at the church Santa would come and the kids could sit on his lap and tell him what they wanted. I remember Becca was almost always terrified of Santa, but I don't think it ever bothered me. Once I got older and knew it was just some person from church, I always tried to figure out who it was! HA!

One thing I always appreciate about my parents is how they always wanted to be with us and share time with us, whether it was at ball games, birthdays or trips. My mom and dad are two of the least selfish people I have ever met in my life. If they could spend their time and efforts on us, they always did. As I have said before, I know my parents collectively were at probably 90% of my games. Sometimes dad had to be at work, but I'd say my mom came to 99.9% of my games. I know she loves sports like me, so I think it was always thrilling to watch us kids play. One of the most vivid memories I have was the summer before my senior year, we had a summer league tournament down in Durango (several hours drive) and mom came to see me, and then drove all the way back because she had some kind of church meeting that night. About the only time I ever remember her NOT going to a game was a game I chose to play on Sunday. It was the same summer, before my senior year and our team hosted a tournament. We were playing on a Sunday and I remember Mom said if I wanted to play it was my choice, but she would not go since she didn't support playing sports on Sunday. I find it rather interesting that on that day, I had one of my best games ever and hit a game winning 3 point shot at the buzzer against Bayfield and she never got to see it! HA! My parents are good and kind people and I feel lucky to have been in their care as a child. They always taught us kids to work hard, not complain and always do our best. Even when times were tough they still tried to provide good times for us. Two of the pictures here were a family boat ride we took at the Black Canyon. I have no idea how I can remember that trip, since I was probably 5 or so, but I remember riding in the canyon on that boat, with the wind in my face. I was scared I was going to fall into the water. The other trip I remember well was the pic that is quite blurry (no comment Mom! HAHAHAHA) we went on the Durango to Silverton narrow gauge train ride. There again, I have no idea how I remember that trip, but I remember taking pics and also looking out the windows at the snow, even though I'm pretty sure it was winter time. Thank you to my parents for their love and hard work...I know times were not always easy and money was tight, but they were always there for us. We learned that money isn't what makes life, but rather love. I'm reminded of a quote from Henry David Thoreau: "However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul." I'm glad to that I had a great brother and sister to share my childhood with as well as some really cool cousins, aunts, uncles and friends.