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Four Years at the Mount

Summer Travels

June 2014

Summer of adventures

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

Until I was 17 years old, I had never traveled farther than the eight hours it took to drive to the Outer Banks, North Carolina once each year. That was the end of my world, because everything farther away seemed unattainable. Those locales were just places to be looked at in pictures or read about in the news. Until I was 14, I had never been farther than Ocean City, Maryland in one direction and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the other. Needless to say, my family isn’t one for traveling. I get car sick, my mom refuses to get on a plane, my dad is perfectly content sitting on a boat in the river, and my brother and sister are so loud that lasting long in a vehicle with them is a risky proposition.

My first experience really traveling was to a four-day journalism convention in Seattle, Washington, a trip made even more interesting by the fact that I was on a plane going to a strange new place, surrounded by strangers. We detoured to Forks, Washington—during the time when everyone was obsessed with Twilight—and spent the rest of our trip in the heart of Seattle. To this day, my trip to Seattle is the greatest trip I’ve ever taken. This may be because it was my first time in a world so different than my hometown, but everything was so exciting and fresh. The next year I traveled to the same convention, this time flying to San Francisco, California. The attraction of San Francisco didn’t appeal to me in the same way that it did to my companions, but nonetheless, it was sunny and warm. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy just being in California? Until this summer, those two trips were my only experiences outside of the East Coast.

While I loved the time that I spent traveling to Seattle and San Francisco after my freshman year, I vowed to expand my horizons. This summer I planned on embarking on two very different trips. For my first adventure, I went to Florida to celebrate the end of freshman year with my roommate. Fort Lauderdale was beautiful and freeing, and the vacation went swimmingly…well, except for the occasional disaster along the way. All my friend Nicole and I wanted was a hotel on the beach, so being the poor college students that we are, we went with one of the cheapest ones. We didn’t care what it looked like or if there was free breakfast—we just wanted to be on the beach. Well, we got there and we were wrong. We did care. The crack in our door was so wide that we could see the outdoor pool while standing in the room. It probably hadn’t been cleaned in a couple weeks, there were stains all over the bed and bathroom, and there was one single sputtering light bulb in the corner of the room. I could go on about how disgusting the whole place was, but I won’t. Without another word Nicole and I left. So there we are walking down Main Street in Fort Lauderdale hauling our bags. At this point I wasn’t sure if I felt lost or independent, or if I was in some strange place in between. We found a new hotel only two blocks back from the beach that was beautiful. We got food and spent the day on the beach and that’s when we came to our next minor disaster. Nicole got sun poisoning. She couldn’t sleep and barely moved for the next two days. The room smelled like aloe and all we ate was ice cream. As if things couldn’t get any worse, we found bugs, tons of bugs. The room was extremely clean and nice but somehow there were bugs. Herein lies our final minor disaster. I hate bugs. There is nothing I hate more than bugs. They actually scare me; their little eyes are just so creepy. So after a little working we were finally able to switch rooms. After three different rooms, sun poisoning, a random inspection at the airport, a lot of ice cream, and even more pizza, we didn’t spend much time on the beach, but I did surprisingly live through my first experience traveling alone.

I will be continuing my summer of adventures next month in Port Au Prince, Haiti on a mission trip with Global Partners. I can’t say much about what it will be like because I am still unsure of what will happen, but I have already been blessed in so many ways while preparing for the trip. The support and donations I’ve received have been incredible. Just this morning I made it through four vaccines required for the trip. This may seem a small feat to all those not scared of shots, but to those not so tough and mighty, you will understand this triumph. While I’m there, it will be my first time out of the country and my first time with a group of 50 people who I don’t know. I’ll be working with the team focusing on orphan care and vacation bible school. I know this will be so much fun and will change my life. I also know it will be a challenge in a country where a large portion of the population practices Voodoo. Traveling to Haiti will be a new and hopefully amazing experience, one that I can carry back with me when I return home.

No matter how many hours I spend in Rock-it Pizza (my at-home job) answering phones and making subs, or how much time I spend greeting customers at Justice, laying outside, visiting friends, or eating Rita’s, nothing will compare to the thrill of experiencing new places and new people. Traveling, just as the season of summer does, has a freeing sense about it. A place can only be new once, I can only see things for the first time once, and the awe and excitement that accompanies the first time can only be revisited in pictures and memories. So the first time I step foot on Haiti’s soil, I’m going to embrace it and live in that moment, because that’s what traveling is all about.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary

Being Flat

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

It’s finally summer time! The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and people are cheerfully discussing their plans for this exciting time of year. Throughout conversation it seems that one word gets thrown around the most. That one word is vacation, and it is a signal of hope for rest and relaxation. Yet, with tight budgets and outrageous prices on hotels, travel, and activities, how can anyone go on vacation without it costing an arm and a leg? Well it may seem extreme and unrealistic, but instead of paying for an airplane or train ticket, you could just mail yourself. It would be much easier, of course, if you were flat.

In elementary schools throughout the nation and even in other countries, there is one classmate who has been to more places than anyone else. He is extremely popular and his peers thoroughly enjoy sharing their adventures with him. He is four feet tall, roughly a foot wide, and only half an inch thick. His name is Stanley, and he has that desired feature of being flat.

How did he get this way? Well, the popular children’s book explains that while he was sleeping one night a large bulletin board that his parents had gotten for him and his brother for Christmas fell on top of him. When his parents removed the board, they found Stanley had become completely flat. His mother quickly took him to the doctor’s office, but the doctor assured Stanley’s mother, Mrs. Lambchop, that Stanley was perfectly healthy and would be completely fine. Stanley did not mind being flat. It allowed him to do awesome things like sneak into a locked room through the crack under the door, fly as if he were a kite, and avoid a majority of the raindrops when caught in a downpour. However, one of the most notable things that Stanley was able to do was visit his friend in California.

Thomas Anthony Jeffery is a good friend of Stanley’s. His family had recently moved to California, and Stanley missed him very much. After receiving a letter from Thomas, Stanley came up with the idea to mail himself to go visit him instead of having to pay for air or train fare. Stanley’s father, Mr. Lambchop, brought an enormous envelope home with him from work one day, and Stanley got into it. It fit him well and there was even enough extra space for a sandwich his mother made for him. After placing a lot of stamps onto Stanley’s envelope, his parents dropped Stanley into a mailbox around the corner from their house. He arrived at his friend’s house without any difficulties, and when it was time for him to go home, Thomas’ family made Stanley a special envelope and even mailed him first class!

The popularity of the short novels about Stanley and his adventures began almost 20 years ago, and it continues today. The author, Jeff Brown, challenged his readers to send Flat Stanley on a new adventure. There are templates online where you can print out your own Flat Stanley and color him in, or you could draw him to the best of your ability. Jeff Brown encourages his readers to keep a notebook and record the adventures that the reader takes his or her own Flat Stanley on. Then, when the reader is ready, he or she should send the journal and Flat Stanley to one of his or her friends so that Stanley’s adventures can continue on and on. Teachers have picked up on this project and modified it a little. After reading the novel as a class, the teacher informs the class that each student will be able to spend a week with Flat Stanley and document the activities and adventures that the student and Stanley go on. This usually includes writing a few paragraphs or doing an activity while taking pictures of Stanley at a certain place. The journal and Flat Stanley are then passed on to another student in the class and so on. By the end of the year, Stanley has been on many awesome adventures and has spent time with each student in the class. Even if students feel as if they are very different from their peers, they have Stanley as a commonality among themselves.

This project has become a huge hit. Students love having Flat Stanley and sharing his adventures with other students. He has been almost everywhere and done almost everything. There have been pictures of Flat Stanley in airplanes, in different countries, and even with world leaders such as President Obama. Flat Stanley’s explorations are endless, and each student brings a new and exciting activity to Stanley and to the class. A neat addition is to include a map in the notebook to track all of the places that Stanley travels to during the school year. This project teaches students so many different skills needed for school and life in a fun and creative way.

Now, I understand that while this may sound like a good idea for elementary students, it doesn’t exactly sound like something you might be interested in doing. However, I challenge you to keep your own adventure notebook this summer. Whether you make a Flat Stanley and have him join in on the action or not is up to you. Writing down your explorations, activities, and enjoyments makes for tangible memories that can be passed on to loved ones, who can then share their experiences as well. We are only human, and we tend to forget moments even when they mean a lot to us at the time. Writing them down preserves them and allows for the adventure to continue even many years from now. While you may not be able to become flat yourself, you can instead keep something that is flat and give it value and an entirely new meaning by documenting the places you go and the people you meet.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen

A different destination

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

Ahhhh…I apologize for starting my article on an especially relaxing note, but after a long and rewarding year at Mount St. Mary’s I think that every one of us deserves the chance to take a deep breath before our lives get crazy again (don’t worry, they always do). For many of us the summer is a chance to kick our feet up and relax, for others it’s an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, and for still others it’s the ideal time to go out and try something brand new and go to places they’ve never been before. For me, summer is the perfect opportunity to spend some time enjoying the little things in life and discover some new things with the people I love: my cousin Joe and my Uncle Thomas. Every summer, my brother and I make it our sacred duty to convoy up to Syracuse, New York to spend time with our family and do a little bit of traveling with the people we love.

You see, unlike a lot of families, I don’t get to see my extended family very often. Over time, we’ve scattered across the country (predominantly the East Coast) and, as most people are too well aware, time constraints make it so that the days when I get to see my family are few and far between. This is especially sad because my cousin, Joe, is very close to my brother and me, both in age and in spirit. He’s shared some of life’s greatest times with us. When we were younger, we would run around in the backyard, hurling water balloons and shooting squirt guns at each other. As we got older, we shared in some of the time-honored traditions that come with every teenage boy’s existence: girls and crippling awkwardness.

On one of our famous trips, the three of us drove to the nearby town of Canandaigua to sample some of the fine cuisine (in layman’s terms, there was a Philly cheesesteak place renowned for greasy, slobbery, delicious food). The drive up was uneventful enough for our standards. We may have cranked up the rap and rock music all the way up to eleven, but other than that it was a usual drive for three boys with something in their pockets and nothing in their stomachs. We pulled into the parking lot, entered the store and came face to face with the greatest challenge of all: a cute girl working at the register. Now, it was at this moment that thousands of years of social conditioning, biological programming, and intellectual ability should have kicked in. It didn’t. Instead, what happened was that our brains and bodies miraculously transformed into Jell-O pudding and we were left flailing our words around trying to order a drink to go with our sandwiches. After several minutes of gesturing to the fridge full of sodas (and by gesturing I mean we bordered on interpretive dance), I finally smacked my head against my hand and blurted out, "He wants a bottled soda." Our herculean ordeal finally complete, we settled down to eat our sandwiches only to discover that they were just about as uneventful as the drive. To this day, none of us can explain what made our entire collective minds go haywire at the exact same moment, but it’s still one of the funniest moments the three of us have ever shared. Was it stupid? Absolutely. Awkward? Painfully so. Hilarious? More than anything.

And it’s not that we haven’t had our fair share of funny moments with my uncle, either. One of the best parts about driving up to Syracuse is getting to marvel in the glory of our 40-something child of an uncle. Never before has God put so much snark and sarcasm into the soul of a human being and allowed him to walk around this world. He’s the first one to crack a joke, or make a biting remark about anyone or anything; the man would talk back to a tidal wave if he thought it would appreciate his humor. The first time he met my father was during a game of football, after he had been knocked flat on his back by my dad. What followed was an exchange of names and a lasting friendship. One of the first times he met me as an infant he told my parents it didn’t matter if I was smiling, that I wasn’t truly happy, just excited about the attention. He then proceeded to snatch me from my parents and ask me a very simple question: "Do you want to go into the oven, little baby?" Apparently my constant giggling and goo-ing was interpreted as a resounding yes by my uncle, who made a big show of opening the oven and wrapping me up like a loaf of bread to be placed neatly inside. So yeah, the man’s got a good sense of humor.

However, it wasn’t until I’d spent a week living with him in the summer that I fully understood how deep that sarcastic streak went, and how much like us he really is. It was in the middle of the week and I had just woken up from a deep, donut and chocolate milk fueled sleep. I spent most of my first moments rolling back and forth in the sheets like a human burrito, trying to figure or whether or not I wanted to close my eyes again. Suddenly a string of incredibly loud noises erupted from the basement and I heard shouting, gunfire, and a string of expletives. Realizing that my time in a delicious human bundle was destined to brief, I threw the sheets back and sprinted downstairs, not positive what I was going to find when I arrived. What I saw shocked me almost as much as the eruption of military conflict in our basement would have. My uncle, still wearing the shirt and shorts that he had had on the night before, was sitting in front of the TV with the volume turned all the way up and a controller in his hands, playing my cousins copy of Modern Warfare 3. He turned, looked at me and demanded to know how the sniper rifle worked because the game was starting to tick him off. I did eventually show my uncle how it worked, but only after I sat down and took a few minutes to laugh about what I had just witnessed.

You see, while many people use their vacations to go explore exotic locales, or sample all kinds of exquisite food, it’s important to remember that travel can be an important time to connect not just with a location, but with the people that matter to you. While I have been to some strange places and done some pretty outlandish things, it’s always the little things about the people I go with that I remember the most. It’s the stories about people, with people, and involving people that tend to be the messiest, the funniest, and the most important to a successful vacation. Until next time, I’m Kyle Ott. Won’t you sit and read for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott

Homeward bound

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

(6/2014) This is a short, slightly sarcastic guide to packing for your trip back home, a subject that is often ignored under the mistaken assumption that if you made it there, you’ll be able to make it back. I’ve tried to keep my advice broad, as my inspiration for it comes mostly from my recent and permanent trip back home from the Mount, which is really more of a move than a trip.

Step 1: Pack early.

Take a look around your apartment, condo, hotel, or motel room. You’ve just realized that you’ve not only accumulated much more cargo than you brought with you, but that you have also spread it nice and evenly throughout your toasty living space. Panic, regret, and mild irritation may start setting in. This is natural. The best thing to do is start scraping together your belongings into one central location. I typically choose my bed for this, but living room floors, kitchen tables, and the occasional armchair or two will suffice. Have your boxes, luggage, and duffel bags at the ready, then stand pondering for a few minutes how on earth you made everything fit. Give up to a sense of hopelessness and watch TV for a half hour. (I recommend Scrubs for the weary of heart.) Allow the characters’ stories to inspire you. Gain a renewed sense of confidence and ambition and approach your task once again. Pack one box, sigh with a sense of accomplishment, then go to bed. Repeat step for up to one week.

Step 2: Buy more luggage

By now you have realized that you must have been a magician when you packed the first time but you seem to have misplaced your bottomless trunk. Regardless, you must now invest in another box, bag, or pack mule, dependent upon your specific needs. With your new supplies, you are now able to reasonably overflow your other luggage without breaking any zippers, locks, or buckles and now you think you’re ready to move everything into the car.

Step 3: Leave a few things behind

Wrong. You begin hauling everything out to your vehicle when you realize that no way in Hades will everything fit in your trunk. Plus, the more you carry, the more tired you become. You realize that some of the heavier, less practical things must be sacrificed for the greater good and to avoid overweight luggage charges on your next flight, should that be your means of transportation. You carefully unzip the spring-loaded luggage and extricate the complete set of hand painted mixing bowls that you just had to have and realize that you still have to have them. You decide a few of your older clothes can be sacrificed instead and that you’ll swallow the bitter pill of overweight luggage fees. You silently curse yourself for not thinking this through sooner.

Step 4: Enlist help

As you continue to load your car, your luggage seems to grow heavier and heavier. It has. Like the not-so-skilled Tetris master you are, you have constructed the bottom layer of luggage out of your lightest, most fragile belongings. Proceed to empty your vehicle into the parking lot while glancing warily around for any suspicious character that may want to snatch something during this moment of weakness. Begin rebuilding the bottom layer of luggage with your heaviest, sturdiest belongings this time. Grow weary. Run over your own foot with the wheelie luggage a couple times and drop your duffel bag twice, but continue to deny the fact that you need help. Nearly drop those treasured mixing bowls and finally recognize that you may actually need help. Hating the very thought of your own inferiority, you continue to struggle for another half hour before conceding defeat.

You now have two options: call a friend or hire a stranger. Your friend will tease your frailty but willingly help while a stranger is of questionable honesty and requires money you don’t have. The friend it is. Your ego deflates a little as you make the phone call, but within a half hour your truck is packed and ready to go. You chide yourself for not calling sooner.

Step 5: Travel

Road trip time. Whether you’re making your way back to the airport or, like me, just making a short trip across counties, there is one thing that is absolutely essential to driving: music. You now grimace upon remembering that your vehicle is outdated. There is no auxiliary jack for your iPod. Old-fashioned radio it is. Your preselected stations are not as good as usual, and you’re sick of that Katy Perry song. You finally settle on Jack FM when the signal cuts out. Fantastic. The next 5 minutes of the trip are spent hitting the search button for something—anything—familiar. You’re stuck with a country station that you aren’t really into at the moment.

The traffic isn’t bad and the weather is nice enough to roll your windows down and enjoy the breeze…until you pass through the scenic cornfields that were freshly fertilized. You’ve never rolled your windows up faster. Then there’s your trusty GPS, "recalculating…" on your console as you try not to panic about having "arrived at your destination." Apparently, you now live in a cornfield. Fabulous. Eventually you find your way back to a main road, then a familiar town and—praise the Lord!—your driveway is within reach.

Step 6: Arrive home

Once you make it home you’ll be tempted to sit down with a nice cup of coffee or tea and relax. Don’t. This is a false sense of security. Just because you are home does not mean the work is over. Unpack your car as quickly as possible, shoving boxes and bags wherever they’ll fit in your home. Only then should you kick back and enjoy a cup of your favorite poison.

Step 7: Unpack

In this corner we have the defending champion, "Loaded Luggage," and in the other corner we have the rookie challenger, "Tired Traveler." Ding ding! You’ve now sat on the couch for two days with an infinite supply of coffee and tea. You really should unpack. You trudge to your room and the wall of bags is so intimidating you think you’d rather just sleep. Grabbing one, you reach inside and pull out an armful of dirty laundry, which you promptly toss into the hamper. The next bag holds pictures from you trip. You promptly sit down and flip through them, losing a solid hour of useful unpacking time. Finally setting them aside, you look at the clock and realize you should probably go to bed. You have to go back to work tomorrow and don’t want to be too tired. Unpacking can wait one more day.

Pretty much every member of the Class of 2014 is going through this cycle at the moment, not wanting to unpack their boxes for fear that it’ll mean college is really over when they do. My own "Loaded Luggage" still beats me down every day, but it’s time to fight back and unpack. My memories of the Mount will always have a place with me, but I have some new boxes that need to be filled with new memories. Goodbye, Mount. Hello, University of Virginia!

Read other articles by Nicole Jones

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