Wednesday, August 05, 2009

South Florida in Pictures

One of the gables at the entrance to the
city of Coral Gables (near Miami)

My new Finnish friend, Paula

The view from the Starbucks on Ocean Drive in the famed South Beach district of Miami

"Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous" - homes on the water that you can see from the bridge as you drive toward South Beach Island

I still see a few pickup trucks that would make Wisconsin proud :-)

An awesome chandelier made of bottles at
Cantina's - a Mexican restaurant

Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays) on Calle Ocho (8th St.) in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Two-Week Mark

It's now the end of my 2nd week here in South Florida, and I'm not too much closer to being "settled in", really. But I've had a 3rd interview (yesterday) for the job with South Florida Urban Ministries, and I think there's just one more stage left, which will be to head up to Pompano Beach (the location of the program I'd be coordinating) to meet with some of the other programs that SFLUM partners with in that area, including Rocketown, an awesome-sounding music program founded by Michael W. Smith. That should be done by early next week, and then, hopefully, I get the official offer. I did, however, learn what the salary would be, which alleviated my concerns of it not being sufficient to cover the higher living costs in this area. I'm more and more interested in the position with every step, so it's worth it to be patient as I work through the process. I think it's really a great organization with leaders who are passionate about serving underprivileged communities, and I'm excited to start on a new adventure.

Definitely getting a bit more familiar with the highway system down here, and I can go some places without exact directions now! And though it's fun to have the "talking lady" to keep me company on my drive, I've only used the GPS 2 times - one of which it directed me toward the local roads instead of the expressway and made me late for my meeting!

But, as you can see from this picture, you're never really too far from home - though it was pretty surprising to see cows grazing, surrounded by palm trees, across the street from a shopping mall and movie theater.

Not much else to report, so just going to adding some more pics, most of which I've taken while driving around - as many of you know, I always have my camera in my purse so I don't miss any awesome photo opportunities! Some are cool cloud pics, as I seem to been enamored with cloud formations this year - I just keep seeing so many awesome-looking skies!

Another is a fancy-looking Publix, one of the main grocery store chains down here.

Also a pic of downtown Hollywood (between Miami & Ft. Lauderdale), one of a yacht docked along Las Olas Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale (Las Olas is a pretty popular street, so I've been told),

and a pic of my favorite tree down here - hint: it's not a palm tree!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to Survive in 90+ degrees...

1. Dress properly - put on the shortest pair of shorts or skirt you can find, add a skimpy t-shirt or tank top, and throw on some flip-flops. NOTE: This attire not highly recommended for interviews or church. ;-)

2. Love your air-conditioner - in the house, in the car, in the mall, in the restaurants, in the movie theater. In short, choose activities that are a/c-friendly.

3. If you must be outside, limit it to the 30 second maximum that is required for you to run from one a/c-friendly location to another (refer to item #2). NOTE: The one exception to this rule is if you are at the beach, wherein you are provided with 30 seconds to run from the car to the water to the sand to the water, etc. Bring lots of sunscreen. :-) I enjoyed Hollywood Beach on Thursday, and the ocean was a PERFECT temperature!

4. Be sure to keep the web page always on your browser, and as the temperatures climb, be prepared to hibernate in one of the places listed under item #2. This means you generally have until 10am to leave your house and reach your next long-term, a/c-friendly destination, at which you should remain until after 6pm, after which time outdoor activities may resume - limited, of course, to 30-minute intervals and being sure to consume at least two 16.9-ounce bottles of water during each interval.

5. REMEMBER: It may be this hot and humid in Florida for 2 whole months, but that's nothing when compared to the 5-6 months of freezing temperatures, icy roads, mountains of snow, and grey skies we endure in Wisconsin every year! So, find an a/c-friendly place and enjoy the sight of palm trees lining the shores of sparkling-blue ocean water...ahhh...

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I'm a Miamian!

I arrived to Miami on Wednesday, July 1st, so I'm officially a resident of South Florida, though my driver's license doesn't show it yet...figured I'd wait until I actually have my own address to change that. :-)

Had a 2nd interview yesterday with South Florida Urban Ministries for a Site Coordinator position with their Branches after-school/mentoring program. Really like the program and the founder, with whom I interviewed, so crossing my fingers for that. If it works out, I'd be working (and hopefully living!) up in Pompano Beach, which is just a bit north of Ft. Lauderdale. Though I kind of had my heart set on living in central Miami, I've gotta' go where the job is, right?

Visited Florida Atlantic University (FAU) today to get information on their graduate programs, and I'm looking at both their non-profit management and public administration programs. Though the deadline for fall enrollment passed on the 1st, I'm hoping to just take 1 class in the fall and enroll in the program officially for the spring semester. Have a couple other schools I want to check out, but it's great to know that I have a few options just in a small area.

Though I haven't done too much exploring yet - just a bit of driving around, saw the movie "My Sister's Keeper", and caught a few fireworks while trying to reach the beach by Ft. Lauderdale on the 4th (traffic meant I didn't get to really see them and was instead stuck in the car for 2.5 hours...) - I've already been told that I've entered into "a new culture" here in South Florida. A guy walking behind me on the jet ramp while boarding the plane in Minneapolis told me I was in for "a real culture shock" in moving to Miami from Wisconsin. I guess time will tell how different it really is!

I hope everyone had a fun 4th of July, filled with LOTS of fireworks!!! Keep in touch, and I will be working hard to do the same this adventure around!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Road Trip: Costa Rica to Wisconsin, April 2009

Greetings from Miami!

I hope you are enjoying your summer and taking plenty of time to relax, enjoy the weather, and perhaps even travel a bit! As many of you already know, I returned from Costa Rica in April. However, rather than simply taking a quick flight to Wisconsin, my dad agreed to take the adventurous route with me, embarking on a 2-week road trip from Costa Rica to Wisconsin. Here are the highlights from our trip:

My dad flew down to San Jose, where we spent a day exploring the city, the neighborhood where I lived, and touring a coffee plantation, ending the day with dinner at a restaurant high in the mountains south of the city. We then departed the city at 3am for a whirlwind bus trip through Central America and Mexico, traveling via TicaBus to:
1) Nicaragua - where we visited Masaya Volcano National Park & the oldest city in Central America, Granada;
2) Honduras;
3) El Salvador - our favorite, or at least most memorable!, taxi ride was in the capital city of San Salvador;
4) Guatemala; and
5) Tapachula, Mexico.

In Tapachula, we caught the first of 4 overnight buses as we traveled through Mexico:
*first to Mexico City;
*then to Mazatlan [on the Pacific coast, north of Puerto Vallarta], where we enjoyed a day of relaxing in the city and at the beach before departing at midnight for the
*town of Los Mochis, where we boarded the CHEPE train - after waiting in a crowded room for over an hour and then stampeding toward the train at 7am - and then headed east across the Copper Canyon, which is 4 times larger than the Grand Canyon. After a quick stop (and we mean QUICK! just 15 minutes to shop for souvenirs, eat gorditas, and snap pictures of the canyon) stop at the canyon's highest point [Divisadero], we continued a bit further on to the
*mountain town of Creel, where we enjoyed an adorable hotel for a mere $30 and were loving our first night of sleep NOT in a bus in 4 days.
*The next day, after 2 more bus trips [to Chihuahua & Juarez], we walked across the Bridge of the Americas in Juarez and
*entered the U.S. at El Paso, Texas. We then rented a car and drove to
*southeast New Mexico to start the state-side half of our journey.

In New Mexico, we stayed with a wonderful couple [courtesy of!] and enjoyed visiting
~White Sands National Monument,
~White Sands Missile Range [army base], and
~Holloman air force base (where our host worked).

We then continued northeast to meet up with the old Route 66 highway, which we followed through the
1) Texas panhandle,
2) Oklahoma - we stayed a night in Oklahoma City and toured the moving Oklahoma City bombing memorial at night,
3) Missouri - we spent Easter Sunday in St. Louis at the arch and enjoying a dinner of the city's famed toasted ravioli in the Little Italy district, and
4) Illinois.

In Illinois, we headed off the Route 66 trail to head west into Iowa, where we visited the little town of Dyersville - home of the "Field of Dreams" movie site! Then, finally, it was on to Wisconsin and home, after a wonderfully exciting journey:
*7 countries
*6 borders - 4 crossed on foot
*86 total hours on buses
*3 nights attempting to sleep on Mexican buses
*6+ passport checks by Mexican officials - all done in the middle of the night on the buses
*riding in many different styles of taxis - only one of which made us wonder if we might make it!
*"mingling" with the locals in Central America & Mexico -
~in express buses [translate: overly-crowded mini-van] in Nicaragua
~on the street with friendly Nicaraguans who, after visiting their home, we had to wonder about their "profession"...
~in restaurants
~on hours-long bus rides
~by waking up sleeping bus drivers to get help in looking for lost items - that's one experience I wish not to repeat!
~asking for directions - only had to do this once...haha...
*driving along over half of the historic Route 66 highway, enjoying countless unique - and often downright strange... - roadside attractions, including:
~Mid-Point Cafe [Adrian, TX]
~Cadillac Ranch [near Amarillo, TX]
~the world's largest cross [TX]
~the Blue Whale [Catoosa, OK]
~the Round Barn [east of Oklahoma City, OK] - this was definitely the strangest attraction.....
~gigantic caves [Rolla, MO]
~Scott Joplin's childhood home [St. Louis, MO]

After returning home to Wisconsin, I spent time catching up with friends in the Fox Cities, Milwaukee, and even traveling to South Florida (including a day-cruise to the Bahamas!); job-hunting (initially just for part-time work and later for permanent work in a non-profit organization); and thinking about my next move - both career-wise and literally. After visiting the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area and job-searching in the area, I decided to focus my job-hunt on the greater Miami area. I moved down to Miami on July 1st, and I'm currently at the final stage of the interview process for a job I'm very eager to start.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Welcome to my blog!

Since I have so many wonderful friends and family I want to keep in contact with as I move about and have new adventures, and since my "mass email" idea really didn't pan out (1 email in 5 months of living in Costa Rica...not my original plan...), I thought I'd give this blogging thing a try. So, hopefully by writing short, more frequent notes, I'll be keeping everyone up-to-date on my life on a more regular basis. Wish me luck! :-)