Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Orange Shirt Guy

Here's something I learned from my travels:

If there's not a picture of the place online, it's because it's sketchy and they don't want you to know the truth.

The hotel we stayed at in Dunedin, NZ? It falls into this category.

Now before we dive right into this experience, let's back up a little.

When I went with a large group of students to NZ, we spent the first six weeks in Auckland.

Here, we had our own rooms located in the heart one of the greatest cities I've been to. We had Wifi that would occasionally log us off so we'd have to put in the password again, and we would complain about it. We had one tiny fridge that fit barely any of our food. We'd complain about it. There was no A/C. We complained about it.

Oh, how innocent we were.

At the end of the six weeks, we moved to the southern part of New Zealand to Dunedin. And I mean south.

I mean, look how close NZ is to Antartica. Look at it!

It's close. And it's cold.

So anyway.

We woke up at probably around 3ish a.m.? I can't remember - all I remember is it was TOO early to function, and I hadn't gotten to bed till midnight, so I was one cranky, little redhead.

It was chaos loading everything onto the bus. We had to drag two large suitcases and one carrying bag up a steep, steep, STEEP hill.

Here, allow me to show you, thanks to google street view.

See the bottom of the hill? Now find the SECOND bottom of the hill. Found it? Yup. All of us had to hike up that with two large suitcases and a backpack/purse.

I was hating my life.

I dragged up suitcases with a backpack slung over my shoulders. Thanks to the heaviness of my backpack, the steepness of the hill, and the angle I was holding my suitcases at, I couldn't feel my arms or fingers - and I wasn't even halfway up the hill.

One of my three water bottles (I loose water bottles like a champ, so I just kept a bunch of cheap plastic ones on me at all times) fell out of the side of my backpack and roll down to the very, very bottom of the hill.

I stared at it and pathetically said, "Noooo."

"You have to leave it behind! Go on without it!" yelled one of my friends who was also struggling to drag up his suitcases, as he had grabbed an extra one to help out.

By the time I reached the top, I was sweating profusely, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't seem to catch my breath.

Everyone else seemed to be in the same shape as I was.

We were already behind schedule as we all loaded the bus. From this moment to getting to our hotel in Dunedin, this is all that took place:

-My friend lost her phone and threw up multiple times
-My sweet, sweet professor didn't take into account that there were 26 of us who had to check TWO bags before getting on the flight.
-This left us literally running to our terminal right as they were seating people, and being the last ones to board.
-I didn't sleep a wink
-We got to the airport starving, and had to wait at LEAST an hour for our bus to come pick us up.
- I realized I left two of my water bottles in Auckland, and the other one slid to it's death.
-It was pouring rain.

By the time we pulled up to our hotel, everyone was tired, hungry, exhausted, and . . . well at least I was cranky.

We were all looking out the window to get a glimpse of our new home, when one girl said one thing that altered ALL of our views of the place.

"It looks like an orphanage!" she yelled.

And. It. Did.

Suddenly "a hard knock life" was running through my head.

Everyone laughed and started yelling various comments in agreement. I tried to keep a positive attitude about it, but let's be real here. I was going off of just a few hours of sleep, so everything was just obnoxious in my eyes.

We were dumped off to wait for our rooms to be ready in the dimly lit dining area that looked like it hadn't been renovated since the 1800's. Even the tables looked original.


(these pictures are courteous of the hotel's website, so naturally it looks MUCH brighter and better than it was. The exposure has to be SO high on this.)

You know what it reminded me of?

A VERY classy version of this room in Oliver Twist.

At the end of the dining hall was the entrance to the backpackers room: the room the students would be staying in for the next ten days (or 14? I think 10. I don't remember honestly.)

. . . . yeah the exposure was definitely brought up on this.

Okay so see that arch? See how it's all "open?"

Bull crap. It was filled with the most random junk. Like, chairs and stuff.

Oh and that brown door? See that brown door? You know what was above it that ISN'T pictured here? A painting of a woman's face that looked like a tree trunk . . . and she had blue hair.

". . . this place is haunted," someone said.

This is where I would meet my death. I was sure of it.

Two hours later, our rooms were finally ready.

I was with a group of eight girls. I chose for us to stay in "door number one."

Bad. BAD. Decision. I mean, the other room wasn't great either, but holy crap.

I felt like . . . guys I can't describe to you what this was like. DIS.GUS.TING.

And NATURALLY the website doesn't picture the hell hole that is hidden in the back of the hotel.

Here - maybe this video will do it justice:

So, yeah. We found ourselves living in a haunted orphanage with a fridge that sounded exactly like a jack hammer, a community bathroom, and drug dealers for neighbors.

Us, and the professor whose family's room had mold growing in it were not very happy. The professor who had the newly remodeled room? He couldn't care less. And we rarely saw him anyway.

Psh. I don't respect people who act 14 when they're in their late 50's.

Wow okay, sorry. Sassy Carmen just broke out of her control room. Let's get back to the story.

Within a few days, I had adjusted to my newfound reality of being an orphan, sleeping in what looked like an over-sized closet turned into a jail cell with a door and window that didn't lock properly, and WiFi that only worked for about 20 minutes once every 4 hours (even though they said it should work for one full hour every four hours), and actually started do enjoy being in the town despite the chaos around me.

The drug dealers turned out to be super kind and chill, and we became friends with them. We'd swap stories, share meals next to the jack-hammer fridge, and share a mirror while brushing our teeth in the community bathroom.

Probably four days after we moved in, they moved out and were replaced with the man we dubbed the one and only . . . Orange Shirt Guy.

Orange shirt guy got his name because he wore the same BRIGHT, BLINDING, BRIGHTER THAN A CONSTRUCTION CONE, ORANGE SHIRT (Caps lock emphasizes how bright it was) every. Single. Day.

Orange Shirt Guy first approached me in the evening while I was sitting at the table in the Oliver Twist room, right before our class had scripture study. We shook hands and he sat across from me as I was busy doing . . . something. I don't know what. Doesn't matter. I asked where he was from and he told me Alaska, and was born in Pennsylvania. I told him that I lived for a while in upstate New York, and he asked why. When I told him it was for a religious mission, he said, "What religion?"

"Church of Jesus Christ of--"

"So you're Mormon."

Oh boy. I knew where this was going. His tone and eyes said it all.

"Yes," I said.

He gave a long sigh, and began doing my very favorite activity: explaining to me why my beliefs are wrong, bad, and what I ACTUALLY believe.

As you've been able to tell from my previous posts, this really irks me . . . and happens a freakish amount in my life. But anyway. I politely said that we all have different beliefs, and that that's okay, and I'm sure we could find a common ground.

But he wasn't having that. He then began to say things that didn't make much sense, like . . . at all. I sat there, only half listening to what I "actually believe" because his sentences weren't complete or made any logical sense at all. I began to wonder if he was drunk, but there were no other signs that he was.

Finally he said something about New York and I jumped back in and said, "SO YEAH I LIVED THERE AND ONE TIME I DROVE THROUGH PENNSYLVANIA WHILE I WAS THERE HOW FUNNY IS THAT!"

My friend came to my rescue at that time and grabbed me. I said goodbye, he went off about the Mormon church, and (my personal favorite) said, "Hey - don't talk to my friend I came with. He's like, super horny and is just here to have sex with girls. He'll say the same thing about me, but really it's all him."

"Uh huuuuh . . . kthanksnicetomeetyoubye!"

 and I sat down at the table where we were having scripture study.

"He got in an argument with one of us earlier over the same thing.  He's not all there," my friend said.

"Yeah, that makes sense," I said.

After scripture study, I did NOT want to take a shower in the community bathroom, so I used a private shower in one of the hotel rooms.

On my way back, I walked back to my room with my wet hair, T shirt, no bra, basketball shorts . . . right past Orange Shirt guy, who abruptly winked at me and said, "Hey beautiful."

After running into my room, climbing on top of my jail cell bed, I camped out there and was determined NOT to leave the room, because Orange Shirt Guy was camping out in the hallway and pacing back and forth.

No where was safe.

And that's when I realized . . . I had to brush my teeth.

So what did I do?

I climbed out the window,

ran to the front of the orphanage - I mean hotel -

and used the public woman's restroom in the lobby of the hotel to brush my teeth. After doing so, I ran back to my bedroom window, and climbed back through.

(This is why I don't want bathrooms to combine genders. The female restroom is my escape from men . . . specifically men like Orange Shirt Guy.)

Now. Orange Shirt Guy took camp in the kitchen with the jack-hammer fridge, when my friend (who we will call Jason, though that is not his name) walked in there and struck up a conversation with Orange Shirt Guy.


The following are messages I sent to my friend, mostly to keep myself updated of what the heck was going on with Orange Shirt Guy:


Drug Dealers moved out and was replaced by an anti-Mormon
He keeps hitting on us
This includes him talking to us, insulting the church, prefacing that he doesn't drink while driving, and talking about how horny he and his friends are. 
Later he winked at me on my way back from the shower. And called me beautiful.
My hair was wet and I was in a T shirt and basketball shorts. There was NO way I looked good.
I then had to brush my teeth, but the thought of me sharing a sink with him scared me to the point of where I climbed out our window and ran to the entrance to use a different bathroom. 
I can't be sure, but I think I prefer the drug dealers. 

At this point, one of my friends came into the room.

"Did you see Jason is talking to Orange Shirt Guy? He just told me he was here to have sex with girls!" she said.

He has now told us he is here to have sex with girls. 
Based on various actions, we are all about 70 percent sure that he has some sort of mental disorder. 

Another friend came in.

"Guys, I was outside in the dining room, and you know how that door leading here has a window in it? His friend stood by that window, started doing some sort of body roll, and began unbuttoning his shirt!"

"I think his friend is high. Earlier I saw him just staring at the door laughing."


His friend belly danced for a girl here. 
And then he unbuttoned his shirt while doing here.

Thanks to our paper-thin walls and door, we all quietly sat and listened to Jason's conversation with Orange Shirt Guy.


We are now all listening to this guy talk and wondering to ourselves how we got into this situation. 
He just said, "Jesus was crucified on a tree FIRST . . . and the tree had NO BIRDS NESTS." 

A friend walked into the room.

"Guys - Orange Shirt Guy's friend just DOWSED himself in ax cologne and he was like, laughing uncontrollably to himself. It seriously smells like a middle school gym out there."

"Yeah we think that guy's high."


His friend doused himself in ax while laughing hysterically. As we speak, we can now smell it as it seeps slowly into our room. 

"Oh, that smells AWFUL." said one of my friends, burying her face in a pillow.

A friend walked into the room.

"Guys. Guess what Orange Shirt Guy's friend was doing."


My friend has now stumbled upon the belly-dancing guy leaning against one of the bathroom stalls door. Just leaning there, not doing anything. 

We were then all quiet as we continued to pick up pieces of Orange Shirt Guy's conversations.


"If you work for Jesus, can they steal from you? No. I work for Jesus, and do I let people steal from me? No. I don't." 

"You know how God manifested himself to me? He manifested himself to me by giving my friend breast cancer."


"I own 20 guns."

"Oh, dear goodness," I said. "He's the last person I want to own a gun. Let alone 20."

"I wouldn't worry about it. Half the thing the guy says doesn't make sense."

We listened once again. We heard Jason say, "Yeah" like a New Zealander (which drove all of us nuts), to which Orange Shirt guy responded saying, "What's with the accent, man? How long have you been here?"

We all had to cover our mouths to stop ourselves from laughing out loud.

We kept listening, when Orange Shirt Guy began bashing the church once again. Before he could get his whole response out, someone opened the jack-hammer fridge, filling the room with nothing but the sound of a construction sight.

"A hero we didn't expect," said one of my friends.

At this point, a girl in our room pushed herself off her bed and walked into the bathroom. A few minutes later, we hear Jason yell:


"Hey, I have some files I want to show you later," said Orange Shirt Guy. "Some videos and stuff. I want to show them to you later, okay?"


They returned to our room, and Jason slammed the door shut behind him, resting his back against it.

"That. Dude. Is. CRAZY. I don't know HOW he's allowed to leave the country on his own. HE'S INSANE. THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING MENTALLY WRONG WITH HIM."

He stayed a few moments as we filled him in on everything we saw his friend do, and determined that we would now have to enable the buddy system when going anywhere in the hotel.

Two girls accompanied Jason back to his room as he swung the door open  yelling, "So there I am, two dead bicyclists, all my fault-."

And the door closed as we filled our room with laughter.

The next day came and we informed our professor who stayed in the moldy room of the events. He told us to make sure to always have a buddy when going anywhere in the haunted hotel, and to avoid using the community bathroom at all costs (which we were already under direction to do).

Later that day, we returned to the hotel after being out for a while. We were almost at the dining room area, when I heard:

"Heyyyy Carmeeeeeennnn," in a flirtatious voice.

I stopped and looked over my shoulder to see Orange Shirt Guy sitting on a couch the same orange shirt.

Why, oh why, did he remember my name?! Why did I even tell it to him?

I turned back around an said shyly, ". . .Hey."

"THAT'S ALL I GET?!" he hissed angrily.


We walked through the dining hall, where High Guy sat at the piano playing the same tune over, and over, and over again.

I didn't really register it, until I walked into my room where one of my friends was already sitting on her bed.

"Ugh, I'm gonna KILL that guy. He seriously wont stop playing that stupid tune! He's been playing it for FOREVER!"

"What song is it anyway?" I asked.


Orange Shirt Guy's weird friend is playing the same tune on the piano over, and over, and over again. 
I've never heard the song before, but according to my roommates, the lyrics say, "So let us get drunk, so let us have fun, so let us go out and roam free." It seems pretty fitting for this whole situation.

Later that day, Orange Shirt Guy came up to every single one of us asking where Jason was. Well we knew better than to send Orange Shirt Guy Jason's way, so we kept saying we weren't sure. Cause in reality, the majority of us weren't . . . 100 percent sure . . . where he was . . . maybe just like, 98 percent sure.

Though this didn't work out real well. He chewed out a lot of us for lying.

We kept Jason updated through texts where Orange Shirt Guy was and that he was looking for him. Jason pulled a me, and climbed out the window of his room to go brush his teeth or just leave the hotel in general.

So instead of tracking down Jason, he presented US with what he wanted to show Jason - more Anti-Mormon material. Just what EVERY member likes to see and hear. Cause who doesn't like being chewed out for something they hold sacred?

We were grateful when the day came that Orange Shirt Guy and High Guy left. Finally, we were free!!

. . . . until some friends saw him outside a bar NOT wearing an orange shirt, and he recognized them, and proceeded to present them with more anti-Mormon material which drove one of my friends to tears.

Needless to say, he was not missed. At all.

I learned a lot from this experience: 


Especially if that guy wears the same orange shirt for at least 3 days in a row. 

Sometimes, It's okay to be rude. 

There is great power in running away and avoiding situations, and I excel at it. 

Everything truly does make a good story later. 

Have an awkward day everyone, and if anyone disrespects you, run away. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Diving into an Awkward Situation

I'm one of those weirdos that loves heights.

(Ellen Huish took that picture cause she's a rock star.)

I don't know why, but I get this thrill from standing on the edge of a cliff, building, or bridge. It's like, I'd love to leap off of it if I knew that wouldn't lead to my untimely death.


So most my life, I've just pushed my limits and have gotten as close to the edge as I could without risking my life.

Now because of this weird obsession of mine, I have always wanted to go skydiving. Jumping safely from an insanely high height? Dream come true!

So after months (seriously, months) of searching for a friend to come with me, I was more than thrilled when a friend asked ME if I wanted to do it. Instantly I agreed, and we set up a time to go.

After both of us almost backed out without telling the other, we found ourselves driving down to Nephi, UT (AKA: The middle of nowhere) for our skydiving adventure.

The whole drive down, I found myself feeling the exact same way as I felt on my way to the Missionary Training Center; thrilled, excited, and absolutely terrified while wondering what the heck I was doing and why I even chose to do it in the first place.

. . . . how on earth is it that the feelings surrounding an LDS mission are comparable to jumping out of a blasted airplane?


So, my friend and I made reservations with a company in central Utah to go skydiving.

First of all, I knew there had probably been fatalities in skydiving, but I had never heard of that happening . . . until I signed up to go skydiving.

I had this EXACT conversation FOUR times with FOUR different people:

"You're going skydiving?"
"Yeah! I'm super pumped!"
"I know (insert someone here of some relation or a person of a person) who went skydiving and their parachute didn't come out!"
"Did they die?"
"....their parachute had to have come out then, because you don't just fall from that distance with no parachute and live."

Let this be a lesson to your all: when your friend is doing something, don't tell them the life threatening situations you've heard of. (You're pregnant? My cousin died from giving birth! You're going to Africa? My friend died there!)
You get the point.

Anywho. Where were we?

Oh yes. Central Utah.

For all my friends not familiar with the geography of Utah, allow me to give you a brief introduction:

This, is Salt Lake City, which is the northern part of Utah:

Oooh, yay, buildings, city, trees, mountains, yay!! 

The more north you go, it's more of that plus more snow and residential areas. But that doesn't matter. 

Here's southern Utah, which is most popular amongst the adventurous:


Ooh, red rocks, mountains, national parks, pretty things, yaaayyy!

And then, here's central Utah:

Nothing. Well, I mean there's sagebrush. And dirt. And hills. So, yeah. Basically nothing.

So, we drove through a whole lot of THIS, to get to our skydiving location. As we got closer to the destination, there was nothing but fields were in sight. Just as I pulled out my phone to double check the address, my friend stopped in front of what looked like an oversized garage.

"Is this it?" I asked, and looked over to see a big, red sign hanging from the "garage" saying: Skydive the Wasatch.

I looked at it and said, ". . .This is so ghetto. We're going to die. We . . . are going . . . to die."

Note: from this point on, the pictures gradually get more and more embarrassing.

We parked in a dirt parking lot and got out of a car, where an adorable dog greeted us and showed us the entrance to the "garage." The walk from the car to inside I got a horrendous vision of getting a parachute duck tapped to my waste and being thrown from the airplane and promptly dying.

I didn't even get to tell my parents I was doing this! That's gonna be a terrible phone call for them!

Relief filled me an an audible "oh" came out of my mouth as I walked in to see a nicely set up area with snacks, a fridge, some old couches, a bucket labeled "puke bucket: put anything you puked on here," an office area, shirts, set up area for jumpers, various balls that the friendly little dog was playing with, and a platform to watch skydivers. Nervousness left me . . . but only for a brief moment. It returned when I found myself almost literally signing my life away, as I had to initial lines that said things like "Incase of injury or DEATH I understand I cannot sue the company."

And each time, DEATH was capitalized.

As I signed my life away, a large family came to skydive, including a grandpa who had to be around 70.

"Don't worry everyone," he yelled at the large family. "I brought the DEPENDS!"

He lifted up a large bag of adult diapers while cracking up, and the family joined in the laughter, including my friend and I.

The family roamed around looking around the room, while grandpa sat down next to me with his depends, signing the same papers I was.

"Whoo. Look at that airplane," said one of the daughters of the grandpa. "I think I'll want to jump out of that when the time comes."

I snickered to myself and continued to sign the document, that had rid myself of all good feelings and replaced them with "oh yeah, I'm going to die, and it's not going to be anyone's fault but my own!"

Thanks to said family of ten cutting in front of me and my friend in line, we got delayed 2 hours. Yes, my friends. Two hours in tiny Nephi. Thankfully, we got Wendy's to kill some time. You're probably wondering what this family looked like. Some looked like this:

Wait, Carmen, how did you get that?

I purchased pictures to go with my skydive. I got all my pictures . . . plus theirs on accident. I'm not complaining.

I like to consider this "sweet revenge" even though this is technically the end of my "revenge."

I wish I had pictures of Grandpa jumping. Seriously, that guy was my FAVORITE. Loved him.


Two hours later, my friend and I were introduced to our instructors. I was no longer nervous to jump - I was eager, and almost impatient. Two hours was way too long to wait for a skydive (thankfully we got free T shirts because of our wait). Now the thing I was worrying about most was being strapped up to a stranger and having to make conversation with them as we plummeted towards the ground.

My instructor was a nice little fellow who asked the casual get-to-know-you questions as he strapped me into my gear. He was also probably about 3 inches shorter than me.

Boy did I look hot.

I should make this a fashion trend.

Knowing my instructor and I would get to know each other a little too well this hour, I glanced at his left hand and was relieved to see he had a wedding ring. I don't know WHY exactly, but that made him way less creepy in my eyes.

"Okay guys. Who's going first?"

I raised my hand, and they told my friend and her instructor would get into the airplane first, followed by my instructor, and me last.

"Let's head to the plane."

I literally had no idea how to walk in this weird . . . rope thing that seemed to be imitating some sort of bad swimsuit. Not to mention it was gripping my crotch area so tightly I now have a bruise there.

The four of us climbed into this small, propeller airplane. It only had one seat, which was for the pilot. The door slid up as opposed to out, and the inside looked exactly like the inside of a tin can, only with a cushioned floor. 

I took my seat in front of my instructor, and he closed the door to the side of us. Minutes later, we took off. 

Have you ever walked past a construction sight where there's a jack hammer going off and you can't hear a thing? Or have you ever been in a sketchy hostel with a fridge that sounds just like a jack hammer whenever you open it up, so you avoid opening it and let your food rot in there instead? 

Well that's exactly how loud this plane was. I couldn't hear a thing, so my friend and I communicated mostly through raised eyebrows, head nods, and mouthing words.

I watched as we went higher and higher into the sky, and the scenery got more and more beautiful. We were so close to the mountains! I could see the top of them, and saw that they were covered in trees and slightly red dirt!

And then, the wind grew stronger. The plane started to move up and down and side to side. And I registered I was sitting backwards.

I began to feel light headed and dizzy. My stomach was churning. Curse you, Wendy's fries.

It was bearable right now. Maybe I could make myself feel better.

 I tried closing my eyes, but that just made things worse. So, I looked out the window and tried to distract myself with the beautiful scenery.

The puke bucket I saw earlier started to make a lot more sense now. Scenery is a lot less pretty when it seems to be shaking. 

Minutes dragged by, and I found myself looking out the window thinking, "Are we high enough yet? How about now?"

And it wasn't because of anticipation. Oh, no. It was because I wanted my stomach to go back where it belonged and stop showing up in my throat. 

I looked around the airplane, not sure if it was good to look out the window anyway. I stared at the door and saw a screw rattling. 

Oh, I'm sure that's safe.

I turned my head back to the window, and saw two other screws rattling.

You've got to be kidding me. Am I in danger here?

I could feel myself heating up. Yes, the plane was hot, but this was the kind of heat that I only experienced in times of severe motion sickness - it's like I'm heating up from the inside out.

Guys, I can't even begin to describe to you how awful I felt in this moment. I was shaking, sweating, and my stomach felt like it was turning into slime and sliding back up my throat. I felt terrible. I began to pray that I would NOT puke, and that I would feel better.

I focused on my feet, my mouth draping open like a dogs would.

"Alright, it's time to get buckled up. Sit on my lap," said my instructor.

I think this was the first time I have ever complied to a male demanding that. The other time was Santa Clause.

I scooted back and sat on his lap as he began to strap us together.

Dude, I'm sitting on your goodies. This canNOT be comfortable for you. I thought, but let's be real here. If this was the best way to insure my safety and get me off of Satan's plane, I didn't care . . . that much.

He finished, and I scooted off his lap so that we were now spooning while sitting up.

"Alright, here's what's going to happen," he said into my ear as I focused on not puking. "I'm going to open that door and put my foot on the step. You're going to put both feet on the step, and I'm going to push us off. We're going to do a black flip off the plane, so make sure your legs bend pack into your butt, and your head goes back, okay?"

"Got it," I said as I prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and PRAYED to God that I wouldn't throw up.

"If you keep your eyes open during the back flip, you can see the plane. It's my favorite part. Are you ready to skydive?" he asked.

"Yes!" I said, and I was. I was ready to finally jump from an insanely high height and not have to worry about dying, and I was PUMPED to get off the plane. I was relating so much to the woman I heard earlier - I was ready to jump out of this plane just because of how I felt, and how sketchy it was.

Funny thing about motion sickness, though, jumping off an airplane doesn't help it go away.

My instructor opened the door, and wind rushed into my ears. He maneuvered and put his left foot out onto the step, and I followed with my two feet.

Before I could even register what was going on, we had launched off the step and into nothingness.

(I told you - the pictures get less and less flattering as the post goes on.)

I kept my eyes open for the back flip (which, honestly, it didn't feel like we were flipping at all. It just felt like . . . I don't even know. Nothing.) and saw the silhouette of the plane. The guy was right - it was pretty cool.

And then, we were flying. Well, technically falling.

I wish I could describe to you how it felt but, in the words of my dear friend Princess Jasmine, it was truly an indescribable feeling.

He tapped my hands, which he told me he would do when he needed me to let go of the straps on my harness. I did so, and he stretched my arms out like a bird.

I could hear him cheering as we fell. I opened my mouth and did what I THOUGHT was cheering, but the wind was rushing SO quickly in my face I couldn't hear, and really whenever I opened my mouth so much air POURED into me that I forgot how to exhale momentarily.

Again. Weirdest sensation ever. It did not feel AT ALL like I was falling. I was just . . . I don't know. Flying? Floating? Not plummeting towards the beautiful mountains and fields below me to my death.

Then, my entire body JERKED up.

He had released the parachute.

And my entire stomach churned once again. 

We had slowed down, and were now floating gracefully through the air, and he had me hold onto the straps of the parachute.

I was happy. I was thrilled. I was skydiving. And my entire body was shaking and sweating - and not from nerves or excitement. This was pure motion sickness. As a pair of elders on my mission, passengers on an insanely bumpy airplane ride, and friends with me on a car ride on a winding road through a forest can tell you: when my motion sickness gets severe, I puke. And this? This was the exact same feeling I always experience right before I puke my guts out.

I found myself praying, and praying, and praying, almost YELLING to God, "NO. I WILL NOT THROW UP ON MY FIRST TIME SKYDIVING!"

I'm pretty sure he sent a little guardian angel to pat me on the head and say, "There, there, Carmen. You'll be just fine."

"How are you feeling?" my instructor asked.

"Great! And a little motion sick!"

'A little' was certainly an understatement. Maybe I thought I could trick my body into feeling better if I pretended it wasn't there. And lying to the instructor would TOTALLY help my stomach feel completely better.

He began to give me clear instructions for when we landed. I listened intently while I stared at the mountains, the fields that made the ground look like a giant, green quilt, your grandmother would give you for your birthday, and most importantly — I focused on not throwing up.

My body began to dry heave heavily.


"How are you feeling?"

"Okay. Just sick."

"Let me know if you start feeling worse," he said.

"I will," I said.

Psh. I wouldn't. If I admitted defeat, my body threw up. If I kept psychologically convincing myself I was okay? I would be okay.

Funny. It didn't seem to work.

My instructor pointed out some locations, including a train that was buzzing by. I looked at them, tried to comment on how pretty everything was from up here . . . but I was so focused on not puking.

"Are you okay?" he asked as I started to dry heave for the umpteenth time.

All I could do was pathetically shake my head no. I feared vomit may come out of my mouth if I dared open it. I could feel it creeping up my throat and I willed it to go away.

"If you're going to throw up, raise your arm up and do it under your right shoulder, okay?"

I nodded, and followed his instructions. I leaned to my right and turned my head, and he leaned WAAAAYYYY over in the opposite direction.

I felt bile come up into my mouth, and once again I refused to open my mouth. Not today, not today.

There was throw up in my mouth. I thought about spitting it out, but I feared more would follow if I did.

So. I swallowed it. 

Like a weird sicko. 

"We're almost down," said my instructor, to which I didn't respond.

I made sure the last few moments in the air were worth it, even if my legs were shaking in their little harness and begging for ground to rest on.

"Okay, here's the landing. Do you remember what to do?"

"Legs out together and straight," I said.

"Good. Now, it gets pretty fast when we land. Keep your legs out."

This is how I felt about speeding up, when I was already struggling to keep my stomach down and under control:

We couldn't speed up again! I would throw up! I didn't want to throw up! And I certainly figured the instructor didn't want to be puked on either!

The ground came faster and faster, and the bile returned to my mouth. This time, I just held it in there. My whole brain had shut down and just was willing my body to reach land.

Ground . . . ground . . . ground . . . GROUND.

My feet slammed into the ground. Now, I'd see one person before me land on his feet and run it off. And I was NOT about to be a part of that life. My heels hit the ground, dug into the dirt, and my little booty and legs slid on the ground to a stop.

My instructor began unbuckling himself away from me and began to collect the parachute. I sat there for a few moments, taking in deep breaths as my body seemed to yell at my brain: HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?! WHY WOULD YOU BETRAY ME IN SUCH A WAY?! YOU PROMISED TO KEEP ME SAFE AND NOW YOU PUT ME ON A TERRIBLE AIRPLANE TO MAKE ME THROW UP?!

I swallowed the throw up again.

A little farther ahead, I saw my friend land. I stared at her, wondering if she could tell how terrible I felt.

I pushed myself up, legs still violently shaking and my body ridiculously hot from the inside out. I began fumbling with the buckles around me. I had to get out and be free. My whole body was SO weak and SO shaky, it was hard to click down on the little buckle around my chest.

"Smile!" said my instructor, sticking the GoPro in front of my face again.

And so I did.

He helped me unbuckle and told me to put the harness inside. I nodded and said, "Wait- where do I go? Where are we?"

He pointed at the garage, which was on my left and said, "There."


And I hobbled over, staring at the ground. As I lumbered into the garage I was asked a dozen times, "HOW WAS IT?"

"Great." I said. I meant it, and I'm sure how I said it wasn't convincing in the slightest.

The adventure dies down from here. I thanked my instructor and told him he did a great job, and was glad I didn't puke on him.

"I'm glad you didn't puke on me, too." he said.

I think that's the most romantic exchange I've ever had with a man.

"Has anyone ever thrown up on you?" asked my friend.

"Oh yeah. It's not . . . fun."

We grabbed our pictures, certificates saying we skydived, free T shirts, and loaded back into the car. My friend felt light headed from forgetting how to breath due to the increase wind in her face, I felt pretty sea sick the whole drive home, and we were both just wiped out.

"Did you like it?" one would ask.

"Yup. You?" the other would reply.


Three second silence.

"I'm glad we did it." one would say.

"Yup. Me too." agreed the other.

"And now we know."

"Yup. And now we know."

I spent the rest of the day watching 30 Rock and doing random things around the house, and slowly my body began to recuperate and trust my brain again.

Would I do it again? Yes.

Would I do it tomorrow?

My goal is to do it one more time, preferably in an exotic location (Hawaii, Africa, Jamaica, etc.) and HOPEFULLY not sitting backwards on a plane that can't handle wind.

Would I recommend it to you? Yes. I felt completely safe the entire time during the jump. In fact, the time I felt the lease safe was signing the document that had DEATH written all over it.

And besides, my life goal is everything is either a good experience, or a good story. And this? This is was a good experience WITH a good story.

So yup. No regrets.

Have a very happy day, and embrace the awkwardness that may befall on you.

Carmen Out.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Lion in Utah

Anyone who has been to Boston knows how the people are there; fast-paced, say it how it is, and impatient. Generally speaking they don't give a crap about what anyone else thinks. They're protective, supportive, and fierce.

I guess you could compare them to a lion.

Now let's think about this for a moment.

-If you see a lion in Africa, it is SO COOL! You love everything about them, you don't bother them because they could kill you, and you love being a part of their life for a brief moment in time.

-If you see a lion at the zoo, it's cool. You can view them from a distance and get an idea of what they're like. You don't bother them because they could kill you, and you move along to the zebras.

-If a lion corners you in downtown Salt Lake City, you will be attacked. And you may die.

And that's what it's like with Bostonians.

You LOVE them when they're in Boston! You don't bug them, and you go along with their way of life and love being a part of it.

When they're visiting your home, you like them, you don't really acknowledge each other, and you respect each others space and don't bother each other.

And then when one comes up to you and forces a conversation upon you? Well, it's flight or fight time.

Or in my case . . . you pretend that you're enjoying their company.

Don't get me wrong - Boston is my favorite city in the United States. I LOVE the people, the culture, and would happily adapt to their way of life if I lived there. I'm not scared of Bostonians when I'm in Boston.

Now when corners you? It's kinda scary, and it's livable. When one corners you and begins to hit on you? It's a life-threatening situation here, people.

So here's what happened.

I found myself on the 45 minute train ride back home at almost nine o' clock at night. Now, public transportation at nighttime is a sketchy experience itself, so I wanted to tuck myself away, become invisible, and have some "me" time.

I took a seat on the second level by the window, and cracked open my copy of Me Before You to read.

I hadn't even finished a page when I heard someone say, "Whatcha reading?"

I looked up to see a tall, scrawny African-American guy with glasses.

"Uh . . ."

My mind was suddenly completely blank.

"This." I said, propping my book up and pointing at it.

Like a true gentleman, he sat down across from me and grabbed the book from my hands. He closed it, flipped it around and began reading the back.

So glad he did that before I had the chance to insert my bookmark into it.

"Me Before You, huh?" he said.


After he finished reading the back, he slid the book back to me and said, "So is this your life story?"

I gave a forced laugh and said, "Ha ha, yeah. Wait, what?"

(Side note: Me Before You is about a woman taking care of a paraplegic man and they fall in love. So yes. It's totally my life story.)

"So where are you from?" he asked, leaning forward on the table that sat between us.

"Uh, Sandy slash Draper area? Utah?"

I don't know if it's a gift I have or what, but I could EASILY see and sense his emotion change just by the slight falter in his eyes.

"Oh, so you're a Utah Mormon then, huh?"

Definition of a Utah Mormon in Carmen's terms:

-A member of the Mormon Church who is close minded, nieve, and innocent in the ways of the world. They've never left Utah and don't plan to. They don't associate with those who are non-mormon. They're judgmental in a negative way. Generally speaking, they have dyed their hair blonde at some point in their life. They strive for perfection.

I have worked my whole life to make SURE I didn't fall into this stigma, and to make sure nobody THOUGHT I fell into that stigma.

"If you mean I'm LDS and am from Utah, then yes," I said.

He gave me a large eye roll and said, "Utah just has a very different way of running things."

"So does every other state," I said sounding MUCH chipper than I was actually feeling. "Each place has their own culture."

He did another eye roll and went, "Mmmmm."

"SO WHERE ARE YOU FROM?!" I said loudly through gritted teeth, eager to change the subject.

"Boston," he said, and I registered his slight Boston accent.

"I love Boston," I said, grateful that we had something to talk about that I was actually interested in. "It is such a beautiful city, and my dad runs the marathon almost every year and-."

I stopped. Once again, a subtle shift in his aura and eyes.

. . . and I knew what was coming.

"You had to bring up the marathon, didn't you?" he breathed.

Now pure annoyance filled my whole body. And I braced myself for what was ahead.

"You do NOT mess with Boston. And you know what's worse? They lied to us. THEY. LIED. TO. US."

He paused for dramatic effect.

This guy was honestly catching me off so guard that I didn't really know how to react to anything he said. So, in auto pilot mode I said, "Who lied to you?"


Oh, boy.

"They told us that they were bringing those . . . those TERRORISTS to (blahblah) hospital. We were lined up. EVERYONE was lined up, even journalists, ready to get their hands on him and finish the job. But what did they do? The cops LIED to us and took him to a different hospital instead. They would rather lie to us and save a terrorist's life than tell us the truth AND LET US - THE CITIZENS - KILL HIM!"

Thank you inner Olivia Benson, for expressing precisely what I was feeling/thinking in this moment.

For the first time since this kid had sat down, I finally was able to say that I didn't agree with him.

"I think that was a good decision."

"Why?!" he said.

"I wanted him to have a fair trial. And he got what he deserved."

Good job, Carmen. You expressed your opinion firmly.

He leaned forward again.

"Yeah, well, the old me would've said that too. You don't know what it felts like being there. Were you there? WERE YOU THERE?"

"Uh, no. I was home, and my parents and my sister and her family were there, so it was super scary not being able to be there and not know what was going on," I sputtered at like, a million miles per hour.

"I'm not undermining what you went through-"

Oh whatever you're about to say I guarantee is about to "undermine" what I went through. 

"but you have no idea how scary it was. It was awful. There was a terrorist attack. You have no IDEA how scary it was. You didn't even begin to experience what it was like."

It was at this moment when I was filled with FURY, and a slew of emotions swelled into my body:


I completely shut down and stopped listening until his tone changed and I knew I was safe again.

. . . well kind of safe.

". . . but yeah enough about that. There's plenty of things to do in Boston. The freedom trail, the duck tours, the parks, it's great."

"Mmm. Yeah. Must've been a huge culture shock  for when you came here. It's so different here. I mean, I love Boston because the people there say it how it is, it's so fast paced and . . . "

I trailed off, because once again the annoyance returned to his face. He leaned forward again.

"Have you even BEEN to Boston?" he said in a surprisingly threatening voice.

I leaned forward and my confidence returned briefly as I matched his tone and said, "Four. Times." with a sickly sweet smile on my face.

"Oh! Wow! So you DO know Boston!" he said with pure shock in his eyes and voice.

"So you know how it is," he continued. "People here are so different than in Boston, and it's hard."

"Oh yeah, I believe that," I said, finally sincerely agreeing with him on something.

"And I mean, the dating game is hard enough in Boston, but with how people are here it's just a lot harder for me."

"Oh, yeah. I mean, I'm from Utah and I hate the dating game, so I can't imagine being from Boston and dealing with it!" I said.

"Oh, so you're single?" he said cleverly.

I walked right into that.

". . . . . . . yup."

Oh, why oh why didn't I lie? 

I think because this whole situation just caught me SO off guard, my brain was clueless and my voice was taking control of the situation.

"Excellent," he said smoothly. "I'd like to go out with you. I'm free on Saturday-

-so I'll give you my number, and it's your choice to call me or not."

He leaned forward and pulled my bookmark (a scrap piece of paper that I had written down my next doctors appointment on) towards him and said, "You gotta pen?"

"Uh . . . " I began digging through my bag, knowing that if I gave him a pen, he would most likely leave me be, and I could get back to my "me" time.

"Come on, you should have one."

I know he was kidding. At least I hoped he was kidding. I felt so irked and annoyed. I was grateful I was looking into my bag so I could glare at that instead of him.

. . . or was I really grateful?

"Oh wait! You have a phone! Even better!" he said.

And he proceeded to grab the phone out of my bag.


"What's your password?" he asked casually.

I reached across the table, pulled it out of his hand, and mumbled in a semi-annoyed voice, "I'll type it in for you."

I did so, and handed it back to him.

Now, the wallpaper on my phone was of my baby niece.

"This baby - is she yours or a niece?"

"Niece." I said.


"Carmen. That's a pretty name." he said.

That's when it dawned on me that we didn't actually know each others names.

"Thank you. What's yours?"

"It's in the phone."

"Well if I don't know your name I wont be able to find it in my phone," I said - once again through gritted teeth and a sticky, sweet smile on my face.

He proceeded to get a very annoyed look on his face, show me the screen for a split second, then slam my phone down and slide it back to me.

Thank you . . . so very much.

There was a brief silence.

"Which stop are you getting off at?" I asked, still amazed at how polite I was being. Why couldn't I be sassy when it was appropriate?

"The next one," he responded.

Oh sweet, glorious freedom! How I have missed you!

"I see you're wearing an Orem Institute shirt," I said. "Are you in institute?"

He glanced down.

"Oh, I need to sign up. Thanks for the reminder. I'm a convert to the church."

"No way! How did you find the church?" I asked.

"I didn't."

". . . .Oh. Okay, how did . . . you find the missionaries?"

"I didn't."

Okay, buddy. You're not giving me a lot to go off of here.

"How did . . . the church find you?"

"It didn't."

"Then what's your . . . story?" I asked.

He leaned forward and I recognized his Boston accent coming out again.

"I was in a dark place in life. I prayed, got the revelation that I needed to join this church. I joined, Jesus saved me, and now it's cause of him that I'm gonna live with God again."

"That's an excellent motto," I said.

"It's not a motto. It's the truth," he said very sternly.

I literally had no response and somehow managed to squeak out an, "Oh, okay."

Another uncomfortable pause.

"So what are you doing in Utah? Working? Going to school?"

"I work." he said.

"Where at?"

"If you want to find out, you're gonna have to ask me on that date."

Oh, trust me buddy. I really wasn't that committed. I think I'd be fine if I never, ever found out where you worked.

"Now arriving at Orem Central. If this is your stop, please prepare to exit." rang the Frontrunner voice.

Sweet relief filled my entire body as he stood up to leave.

"So, call me. Hopefully I'll see you on Saturday,"

"Yeah, nice to meet you!" I said as he left.


I watched him trot down the stairs, still expecting him to run back up and say something else to me, or hit on another woman. Thankfully, he didn't come back. And I really was quite thankful he didn't take my number. Or phone, for that matter.

I exited the train at my stop a half hour later, and sped walked to my car. For some reason that conversation had rattled me and I felt the heebee jeebees.

As I drove home, I began thinking about the situation and thought, "I should start wearing a fake wedding ring on public transit just to avoid situations like this. Oh, but Carmen! What if you meet your soul mate on the front runner? You'll miss your chance!"

I keep reminding myself that the liklihood of meeting my soul mate on the front runner is incredibly slim, seeing as the only people who seem to talk to the strangers on the bus are the mentally unstable ones, or . . . just those you're not interested in. Like that Boston fellow.

And yet this weird part of me remains hopeful that maybe , just maybe, I'll meet my future husband on the train.

. . . though to be frank, I could see it turning out to be something more like this:

Have an awkward day, everyone!

And thanks fo' reading. I appreciate it. Like really. I go through these awful experiences and I feel like a reason I go through them is for others to laugh with/at me and share their equally (if not more) awkward moments with me.

. . . Maybe awkwardness is the key to bringing peace on earth. It brings people together.

#FoodForThought #CarmensDeepThoughtForTheDay