Introduction to Eventing: The So-Called “Triathlon for the Insane”

By Daria

Since I assume most of the readers of this blog are not horse people, I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce the amazing sport that I am spending this year learning all about. I compete my lease pony, Ella, in eventing, which consists of three phases: dressage, show jumping, and cross country.

In dressage, you ride a set pattern, called a test, and are judged on a variety of factors including the quality of your horse’s movement, overall harmony and balance, and your accuracy in riding the pattern. While it may seem simple, good dressage is very difficult as you have to train your horse to use the correct muscles to carry themselves and stay soft and rideable. It is currently Ella and my weakest phase, so I have been spending a lot of time in my training working on getting her stronger and more rideable.

In show jumping, you ride over a set course of jumps made of poles inside an enclosed ring, You receive penalty points if you knock poles, if your horse refuses a jump, or if you exceed the optimum time. Ella is a jumping superstar, so as long as I help keep her in a good balance that she can easily jump from, we don’t run into issues in the show jumping.

The final phase, cross country, is most eventers’ favorite part. It requires you to gallop through open fields and woods over a course of solid obstacles. Ella absolutely loves cross country, and the main issue I have is making her listen to me and slow down for the jumps when I ask because she thinks galloping is so much fun!

It is a huge challenge getting your horse trained up to be able to succeed in all three phases in one day, but that is what I love about eventing. There are always things to be working on to improve your performance since you need to be able to do so much well to be successful.

The End of the Season

By Emmie

My dance season ended on April 29th and since then I have taken maybe three ballet classes. This was a drastic shift from my schedule the last 8 months where I spent on average 6 hours in the studio a day. As my program ended and I moved back to Colorado I have had a lot of time to reflect on the year so far and all of the things I’ve learned. When I first entered the year I was very focused on my growth but only in the context of dance. I think I really underestimated how much the experience would teach me about myself and how many new perspectives I would have about dance but also life in general.

The last month of my program was very busy. I had a total of 4 performances in April alone. I had a student choreography showcase where I was able to perform pieces that my peers choreographed. Student choreography is always challenging because it is sometimes hard because your peer is now your choreographer but this year I really enjoyed being a part of my fellow artists’ creative process. The second show I performed was a variation showing where we had the opportunity to choose a variation to perform and I chose Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux variation. I really enjoyed this show because I really enjoy dancing that variation and it brought me a lot of joy. My 3rd performance in April was our final end of the year showing where we performed original pieces choreographed by various faculty members as well as Fairy Doll. To put it nicely, Fairy Doll is not a particularly inspiring ballet. This was definitely a challenge that made me less motivated about my dancing. Additionally I ended up having to step in for one of my peers who fractured her sacrum before the show. The final show I performed was Jungle Book with the company. I really enjoyed this performance because it was really fun and I didn’t feel this huge pressure of expectations, I felt like I could just have fun on stage.

The differences between all 4 of these performances are a great display of what my year and relationship with dance looks like. There are times where it’s really rewarding and super fun but there are also times where I feel wildly unmotivated about it. But since I have taken a break the past couple weeks I have been able to reflect on my feelings about dance. I have found that even though I have had challenges I still really do enjoy it and it is still fulfilling.

New Tastes

By Benjamin

Reflecting upon the past year of playing chess, I would consider it a major success — I got to master, made new friends, and had fun. However, studying ferociously and traveling for tournaments has forced me to step away from many other activities I enjoy. Instead of beating my head against the wall trying to solve chess puzzles, I needed to touch grass. For the past few months, I’ve been more involved outside of chess, becoming a gym rat, studying new fields of interest, and trying new things.

Since January, I’ve been consistently working hard in the gym. I’ve been going to the gym before this year, but have never gone consistently because of school. I’m not only hitting weights, but playing basketball and following a religious diet. In between sets, I talk to hometown friends and create new ones who share interests in fitness. It’s such a breath of fresh air to work out everyday and come home feeling extra productive.

In my first blog, I talked about my love for cooking; it’s been my one of my favorite things to do at home! It’s been even more fun cooking for others in my family who have little time to do so themselves. Gaining approval from others for my recipes never fails to make me happy.

I love the creativity of the process. From building a recipe from random leftovers at the back of the fridge to slowly seeing the ingredients come together, cooking has become a creative outlet for me.

Honestly I’ve stayed away from studies for a long time, and as August is fastly approaching, I’ve been needing to slowly get back into it. Recently, I finished the Financial Markets course on Coursera. I learned so many new things that high school teachers have never taught me. I’ve also been dabbling in coding, doing projects with AI and ChatGPT. It’s crazy scary how good ChatGPT is these days, and even if I don’t end up studying computer science, learning about this hot new trend and using it in projects has been really cool.

I can’t believe the gap year is almost over; school is coming way too soon! But the new habits, passions, and skills I’ve forged have made me into a better, more productive student, and will certainly prepare me to become a better student and person going forward.

My Experience in Poland

By Maya

In April, I had the opportunity to go to Poland with the rest of my gap year program. The purpose of the trip was to get a closer look at the intolerance and horror that took place during the Holocaust and appreciate the life that was able to persevere. We visited so many concentration camps, graveyards, and memorials, that by the end, everyone felt numb. Words cannot begin to grasp the overwhelming emotions that grew in my stomach when I saw the book that held the names of four million Jews who were murdered, or the gut-wrenching feeling of walking into a gas chamber. During this week, my brain stopped processing. Nothing made sense. How could it be possible that thousands of people were murdered in the camps every day, or that two in three Jews in Europe had been wiped out by the end of 1945? However, while it was all very emotional to hear about, it was also very hard to connect. It was impossible not to get lost in the numbers, not to feel surrounded by the endless death, so horrible that it felt like fiction. I struggled to internalize everything I heard and saw and to even begin imagining it happening to me. Luckily, going with a group of 200 other teens meant that I was surrounded by a community that felt the same. Every night, kids would get together to discuss and process what they had undergone that day. Having the support of everyone around me and being able to hear their thoughts and share my own helped me make sense of what I was experiencing. Although it was incredibly emotionally taxing, I was so grateful for the chance to go. It helped me better understand my history and reminded me of the importance of remembering and honoring survivors. It reminded me to never be indifferent toward injustice and to make an active stand against it.

Musings About Home

By Georgia

The other day, after a morning spent working and a night spent laughing on the floor of my friends’ condo, I got back to my apartment in a sleepy haze and texted my mom, “I’m home.” After sending the message I paused for a minute and stared at the blue text bubble of words I’d just sent. “I’m home,” I’d written, which was odd because I was not home, right? I was in New Mexico – almost 2,000 miles from my house in New Jersey.

When I got into bed just a few minutes later though, I started to think more about all the places that have held me in their cradles this year, and what makes a place a “home.” Some people have put it simply: “home is where your house is,” or “home is where ‘your people’ are.” Other people reach for something a little more sentimental: “home is not a place, it’s a feeling,” or “home is where the heart is.”

Thinking about the word, “home,” I of course think first of New Jersey where I was raised. It’s a deeply important place to me; it’s very central to who I am. However, when I think of “home,” I also think about my friends’ condo in New Mexico. The first time I came over one of the condo’s inhabitants (that I’d never met before that day) said, “Gigi, this is your home now,” and that was that. I proceeded to spend many joyous afternoons there, and a knot was tied between my heart and that condo. One other “home” memory is from my first couple hours in Bolivia. I was in someone else’s house, with three people that would become dear friends in the coming weeks, but at that moment were still strangers. All I knew were their names and that one was from India, one from the Philippines, and one from Vietnam. Together we fashioned a meal from a mere few ingredients in an unfamiliar kitchen. Even then, in such an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, I felt at home.

It’s April 23rd now and I’m in Japan, where I’ve been city-hopping with two friends I met in Bolivia for the past week. Whenever we get home at the end of the day, I always shoot my mom a text saying, “we’re back home.”

At the time I’m writing this, it’s also the day after Earth day, and I’ve spent some time thinking about how much being outside has added to my life this year. Vast mountains have been my playgrounds, canyons have been my kitchens, and beaches have been my classrooms. Trees have been my rooftops and snow has been my most loving friend. All this goodness cannot be confined to one building, or a few hundred square feet, but when I look at mountains and canyons and beaches and trees and snow – nature – I see home nonetheless.

“We are literally living in Bolivia right now!” my friend Amanda once exclaimed during my backpacking trip earlier this year. At the time I laughed, and considered it such a funny statement, but it was actually one hundred percent true. We were living, and we were in Bolivia. Now, I think that’s my personal truest qualification for what makes a place a home – whether you’ve lived it and lived in it. All of the places I’ve refilled my water bottle this year, taken a shower, played, and slept – those places were and are home. I don’t feign to say these places are “mine,” no, I think we humans more belong to our homes than they to us. I am not claiming to have “collected” many different homes this year. The only home that is certain is the one inside of your own skin, and the rest is somehow both temporary and eternal. The earth’s cradles in which we play and plan are forever, but the tables we eat around and the pillows on which we rest our heads are temporary beacons of this feeling we call “home.”

Welcome to Aiken

By Daria

At the beginning of December, we packed up the barn and moved the whole program down to Aiken, SC for the winter season. Since the cold weather up north is not conducive to productive horse training, many horse professionals move their businesses down south for the winter. Aiken is a winter eventing mecca with a calendar packed full of schooling and recognized events. I came down here last year with the trainer I rode with back home, and I had a great time being surrounded by all horses all the time. That experience is what actually solidified my desire to take a gap year and become a working student for this whole year. While it was a lot of work to get all of the horses and the barn down here, I am so happy to be down here in the warmth and surrounded by horse farms and people.

The show season in Aiken does not ramp up until January, so we spent December settling into the new routine at the new farm and getting all the horses legged up and ready to go. Most of the training horses have been in my boss’ program for a long time, which meant that they worked quite hard through the spring, summer, and early fall, so many of them enjoyed well-deserved vacation or period of light work towards the end of the fall. Once we got down to Aiken, all of the horses’ workloads started ramping up again to get them fit and ready for show season. We also now have a lot more training horses and a bigger team of people to manage them, which has been a great opportunity for me to meet and learn from more people.

I have already gotten to go on a few outings already, including cross country schooling and a great dressage clinic. I am excited to attend my first schooling jumper show this week and then hopefully my first event with Ella by the end of the month. I am super excited for all the adventures and learning the rest of the Aiken season will bring!

Arabian (Days &) Nights

By Izzie

After spending 3 months in Israel at the Bar Ilan Israel XP program, starting formal classes, traveling through Israel and meeting new friends, I had the opportunity to travel to the UAE and Oman. Even though it was just 3 hours by flight, from the minute I got off the plane, I felt like I had been transported into a different universe. Over 10 days, I visited Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Oman.

The most striking part of Dubai was the juxtaposition of old and new. The first place I visited was the Burj Khalifa – one of the tallest buildings in the world.  It was an incredible way to see the modernization of Dubai. Dubai’s economy is driven by commercial real estate and tourism. In just 20 years, the city was transformed from desert to the most modern city, with some of the coolest architecture I have ever seen. The Museum of the Future and The Frame were incredible. We visited Palm Island and learned how the Island was created in the middle of the Arabian Sea. We also visited the Gold and Spice Souks – to better understand what Dubai looked like for centuries. I even got to practice my haggling with some of the shopkeepers.

On another morning, we traveled to the sand dunes in Sharjah – less than an hour drive from Dubai. Understanding the topography of the UAE emphasized to me the incredible development of Dubai in recent years.

One evening I went to Global Village – which reminded me of Disney’s Epcot – but I was able to “visit” countries that I have never been to – such as Iran, Yemen, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Korea, and Japan. In one night, I tasted honey from Yemen, mochi from Japan and rose water from Iran. While only getting a “taste” of many of these places, it further reinforced my wanderlust. There is so much to see and learn.

While in Abu Dhabi, the financial capital of the UAE, I visited the Grand Mosque and the Presidential palace. Both were overwhelming in size and beauty. I have never been anywhere like it. On another day I got to visit Ferrari World, race in go carts and get a behind the scenes tour of the Formula 1 race track. I even got to drive a Camaro in a drag race.

Then I traveled to Oman.  It was truly fascinating to be in a country (technically one of two sultanates in the world) that was untouched by colonial influences – due to its vast desert and mountain range. We visited the opera house and mosque in Muscat and stayed in a converted palace.

One day I hiked Wadi Shab – a 1.5 hour drive from Muscat and swam in a sinkhole.

But perhaps the most lasting feeling I had from this trip was recognizing how many more cultures I want to learn about and places around the world I want to visit. Sitting in the airport in Dubai, waiting for my flight to Muscat, and seeing the departure board, I was struck by how many places I have never been. Dubai was truly a gateway to so many other parts of the world that are now added to my bucket list.

My Argentinian Summer

By Nathan

As you welcome spring in the Northern Hemisphere, I am saying goodbye to an unforgettable summer here in Argentina. This is my 7th month living in Argentina and my experience so far has been unbelievable.

I left off my last blog anticipating the World Cup Final between Argentina and France. This past World Cup played out as perfectly as a movie script. Argentina, the favorites to win it all, lost their first game against Saudi Arabia, shaking everyone’s confidence in the team. Then, Lionel Messi led the team on an unbelievable run to take them all the way to the final. Messi has had a historic career, but there was one accolade, one trophy, that he had always come up short on. That was the World Cup. On December 18th, he found himself one game away from being crowned world champions. The energy in Argentina was electric during all of the previous games of the World Cup, but in anticipation of this final, you could tell something was different. They knew that this was it, this was Messi’s chance to finally cement his place as the greatest of all time, the goat. This game was going to be extra special for me as well. On the eve of the final, my brother from the US arrived at my host family’s house. He was the first family member I had seen in almost 5 months since I moved to Argentina, and we were about to share the experience of watching one of the greatest World Cup finals in history.

I think watching the game took at least 5 years off my life. Argentina played a very solid first half and started the second up 2-0, and everyone was feeling a little more relaxed but not entirely, knowing how long the next 45 minutes would be. It was the 78th minute, and for me at least, I could feel the win coming and let myself think of how in about 15 minutes this whole country would flood into the streets, world champions. But Kylian Mbappe was not going to let Argentina celebrate so fast. Within 3 minutes of game time, he scored 2 goals, tying the game.The air was sucked out of the room. I could feel my host family ache, scared that this was going to be another time when Argentina just barely falls short, a feeling they know all too well. Messi found himself in a similar position in 2014, when Argentina faced Germany in the final and ended up losing 1-0. It seemed like the players let doubt creep into their minds as well, they were playing scared. They survived the last 10 minutes of regular time and then began the 2, 15-minute halves of overtime. In the last minute of the first half of overtime, Messi put Argentina up 3-2. But this lead didn’t last long. Not even 1 minute into the second half of overtime, Argentina gives up a penalty and the game was tied again. As the next few minutes played on, most people accepted that it was going to come down to penalties to determine who would take home the World Cup. Everyone’s heart dropped in the final minute of overtime when France had a 1 v 1 with Argentina’s goalie, Emi “Dibu” Martinez. Dibu made a heroic save and then it was time for penalties. My host parents couldn’t take the stress of watching the penalties, so my host dad put on headphones and started cleaning the house, and my host mom sat alone at a table in the other room. They returned to celebrate with us after Argentina won the penalty shootout, 4-2, and was crowned world champions. My little host brother was crying since the first successful Argentina penalty. We watched the presentation of the World Cup and then joined hundreds of thousands of other people in Córdoba by celebrating in the town square. This was a feeling like no other. Everyone crying, hugging, and singing songs to celebrate the country’s third World Cup, but perhaps more importantly, Messi’s first.

After the World Cup, I was lucky enough to spend the rest of my summer traveling around Argentina and Chile. I spent a week with my host family in Monte Hermoso for New Year’s on the beach and then met up with my brother for a short trip to Buenos Aires. We made stops in the “La Boca” neighborhood (the birthplace of tango), the Casa Rosada (where the president works), and the historic Teatro Colón, we even rode kayaks through the river delta.

I then spent time hanging out with friends in Córdoba and enjoying the last weeks with my host family. One requirement of my exchange is that I live with 3 different host families. At the end of January, during my last week with my host family, we went on a vacation to Mar Chiquita, in the province of Córdoba. It was a nice time to reflect on all of the memories we made together over the previous 5 months.

That following weekend, I moved only 15 minutes away from my original house to my new host family’s house. I only spent a week getting to know my new family before I left for a two-week trip through Chile with my dad. I went to Santiago three days before my dad to see one of my friends who is living in Santiago for her gap/exchange year. I stayed with her host family and they showed me around the city and I got to meet more exchange students who are living in Santiago. Her family also took me to the beach town of Viña del Mar for a day.

I then met up with my dad and we took a guided tour of Santiago. It was really exciting for me to see him after 6 months. We only spent one day together in Santiago before flying south to Punta Arenas and taking a bus from there to Puerto Natales where we spent 2 days taking in the beauty of Torres del Paine National Park.

We then traveled to the North of Chile to San Pedro de Atacama, home to the driest desert in the world (other than the poles). This incredibly dry climate makes for some of the best stargazing in the world. We spent 3 days visiting parks to see the red rocks, Geysers, and even flamingos.

We then traveled through Santiago, back to Córdoba where I was able to show my dad around for the weekend. I was able to introduce him to some of my friends, hike in the mountains outside of the city, and show him around my school.

The time with my dad went by so fast and I was grateful to spend the time with him. I took him to the airport and after saying goodbye got ready for my school’s “last first-day” party. It’s a tradition here in Argentina, that before your last first day of high school, you spend the whole night partying with your classmates before showing up to classes in the morning, welcomed by silly string, drums, and the cheers of the underclassmen. I will continue going to high school here until June 7th when I fly back home to the States. Before I leave, I’m looking forward to a trip with my exchange program through the north of Argentina and Buenos Aires, so stay tuned for updates from that in May!

Exploring New Paths

By Campbell

The past month I have taken a lot of time to explore the state of North Carolina. I have spent lots of time here but mostly at Wrightsville Beach. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have been tying many trout flies, and I decided I wanted to put them to use. For the past month or two, I have looked at the weather in the mountains every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday hoping for the ideal fishing weather on my days off. Finally, the days and weather lined up, and I packed my car with food, camping supplies, fly rods, and my handmade flies. I drove out of Wrightsville Beach at 3:00 am and began my journey. I planned to take one stop, but this didn’t work as expected. I was supposed to arrive in Cherokee at 10:00 am, but unfortunately, after three stops, I arrived at 11:30 am. I drove to a small fly shop and purchased my Cherokee tribal fishing license, which is required for the waters on the reservation. I had never been to the mountains of North Carolina before, but a coworker of mine at the tackle shop in Wilmington gave me some advice on where to go.

I decided to stay in the mountains only for Wednesday and Thursday and drive back Thursday night. My first day of fishing was honestly a sharp learning curve. I hadn’t fished for trout in about ten months and had to take some time to get in the groove of things. After an hour of messing around, honing in my casts, and trying different flies, I caught my first fish. Catching a fish anytime is always rewarding, but this was an incredible feeling. I was in a new place alone and caught a fish on a fly I tied with my own two hands. This made the 7 hours of driving that morning well worth it and energized me. After a few hours of fishing, I caught three more trout and called it a day. I drove for about 30 minutes and found a gorgeous campsite where I spent the night. I quickly fell asleep and woke up early to fish a stream until noon, when I wanted to drive back home. On my second day of fishing, I was making great casts and feeling much more connected to nature. I caught five fish before noon, all on my own flies, and hiked back to the car energized and happy. I drove back to Wrightsville that night and already have plans to explore a different set of mountains this week! Before this year, I never had done much traveling or exploring on my own. This year has been an amazing time for me to grow and become very independent.

Living Aloha

By Ellie

A lot has happened since I last blogged on Feb 22 – about a month since I had first arrived to WWOOF/farm (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) on the Big Island. Now, almost three months into the experience, with only a month left, I feel the proverbial sand falling fast through the hourglass, so let me fill you in on all the deets . . . .

Over a month ago, the head of the WWOOFers left for California. As she is supposed to supervise us, it has made for some uncertain and even disorganized times, which leaves me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, lacking structure and direction leaves me feeling a bit uneasy and frustrated at times. But then I remind myself that it is a good dress rehearsal for real life where much is unstructured and you need to adapt. For me, it has provided a lot of freedom to pick the jobs I want to focus on. Obviously, there is always weeding to do, but I have been learning all I can from one of the older WWOOFers and “master” gardener, Kathleen.

To give you a little backstory, Kathleen lives in the yurt down from me (12 ft away – see picture) and is basically my Hawaii mom and best friend. She has taken me under her wing and taught me so much about gardening. So together, we have seeded tons of vegetables (red beets, radish, squash, tomatoes, cucumber, kale, Swiss chard, arugula) and fruits (cantaloupe, watermelon), and herbs (thyme, cilantro, rosemary, parsley, oregano, basil, fennel). For the soil we use, it is all from the big compost pile which we sift out to get smooth and luscious soil. The trick is adding a bit of goat manure to it, which acts as the best fertilizer. Who knew?

But better yet, she has taught me how to graft. Grafting is important when growing trees. This is because let’s say you have a nice, mature Cara Cara orange tree which has delicious oranges on it, and now you want to grow more of the same tree. If you take a seed from one of the oranges and plant it in fertile soil so it can grow, you cannot ensure that the seed you took will produce the same yummy fruit on the tree. So, to increase the odds and speed up the process, you graft.

This means you take a scion (branch cutting from the mature tree) and merge it onto the stock of the juvenile tree using cloth/grafting tape to secure it. Then, if successful, the scion and stock will grow into one another (takes about a month). The tape/cloth can come off and the scion will start budding, which is a sign the grafting was successful. Only then can you be confident your juvenile tree will eventually produce the yummy fruit that the mature tree (which your scion came from) produced.

Fun fact: through grafting, you can actually have a singular citrus tree with lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges, and any other citrus growing on it! Kathleen told me she once grafted a singular apple tree that had 4 different varieties of apples growing. Isn’t that amazing?! The grafting process makes me wonder if college may be a grafting exercise – or experiment – of sorts, meaning it provides an opportunity to graft (or merge) seemingly disparate things and see what comes of it, both inside and outside the classroom.

Besides learning how to graft, through observation, I am learning a lot more about the land’s ecosystem. How the trees, plants, birds, wild boars, goats, chickens, bees, flowers all work together, and sometimes against one another. For instance, the wild boars are a farmer’s nightmare. They will break into the chicken coop and steal all of their feed and tip over their water jug, and when I bring down the compost for the chickens, if I wait about 30 minutes, the pigs will be there eating all of the chickens’ compost.

But in other situations, it’s quite amazing to see how when nature is balanced, it works really well together. Like how the free-roaming chickens will take care of all the pests. It’s a win-win, meaning the chickens get food, while the plants aren’t eaten. Similarly, fruit that drops from the tree, if we don’t pick it in time, will either be opportunistically eaten by the birds, bugs, mongoose, pigs, chickens, and goats, or if not, it will compost and fertilize the soil.

There is so much beauty in being able to experience and truly connect with the natural cycles of mother earth. Apart from being very grounded in taking care of the land, I feel like I am a deep part of it. Since I’ve been able to connect with my circadian rhythm being out here in nature, I wake when the sun comes up and go to bed when the sun comes down. Growing up in the big city of Chicago, I am able to reflect and realize how out-of-touch I was with my circadian rhythm. I wasn’t able to be deeply connected to nature, our source, which in turn limited my ability to truly connect with my body’s inner cycle. Overall, I feel blessed to be here.

In addition to the utter awe I feel by the sunsets and night skies loaded with stars, I felt the same awe when our three pregnant mama goats each gave birth to two kids. We now have 6 baby goats, 3 girls and 3 boys. They are the cutest, and most playful, creatures. Jeanne, the owner of the retreat and farm, taught me how to care for the goats. Ever since, I have been taking care of them by myself, which feels amazing. In the mornings I cut Ti leaves or Hale Koa to give to the goats. Then I feed them some grain and milk the moms. The moms are sent up into the pasture to graze in the day with the rest of the goats, and at night I bring them back into the smaller enclosure to nurse their young ones. This is imitating the goat’s natural cycle in the wild because the mama goats are with their young at night, and in the morning, they will leave their young behind while they scavenge for good grass/plants to eat, returning to their young before sunset.

Taking care of the goats for about 3 weeks now, sometimes the little ones confuse me for their mama and will suck on my fingers. They are not timid around me anymore and will let me pet them, pick them up, and sometimes if I’m lucky, they will, on their own, come sit in my lap.

Besides the farm side of things, on the weekends I have been going to the Waimea Farmers market, which has sumptuous baked goods and delicious falafel, along with local artists displaying their works, and tons of fresh vegetables and fruit from local farmers. I also love to snorkel, taking the WWOOFer car (which unfortunately just broke down, because it’s so old) to spots around me, or sometimes down to Kona where the snorkeling is amazing. I love looking for shells so I will free dive down and look in all of the crevices, especially for cowrie shells, which are my favorite. I found two huge ones the size of my palm, both of which had creatures in them, so I couldn’t take them. But, a couple days ago, Alli (another WWOOFer) and I went snorkeling in Kona and found this secret cave, which had a ton of shells washed up on it, one of which was a massive cowrie shell with no creature in it… finally! We are planning to wire-wrap some of the shells and make necklaces and earrings.

Another highlight was my mom recently flew to the Big Island on my birthday week (March 17), and we island hopped to Kauai. It was my first time going, and she planned an amazing girls’ trip for us. From kayaking down the only navigational river in all of Hawaii – Wailua River – to a secret waterfall with a swimming hole; to hiking parts of the “Grand Canyon” of Hawaii, aka Waimea Canyon; to going on a boat tour alongside the beautiful Nā Pali Coast and seeing tons of spinner dolphins and humpback whales surface; to snorkeling at some of the best beaches, and so much more. It was so nice to celebrate my birthday with my mom, especially because I hadn’t seen her or any other family in over two months.

With one month left, I hope to continue to embrace each day with gratitude, and embrace all new, and even uncomfortable, situations that come my way, as they all provide learning opportunities.

A hui hou,