17 November 2014

the 5 year report: issue 1

It's hard to imagine Tyler and I will soon be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary. I don't think 5 years is necessarily earth-shattering or an Everest-sized milestone. If nothing else, I am saddened by how fast the last 5 years have gone.

A few months ago over a skype date, my dad said something that I still get choked up about. I don't remember the story exactly, but he was on his milk route and saw a young mom getting her two young daughters out of the car as they went on with whatever activity that keeps families busy. In his mind, he saw his young wife and new mother helping my older sister and me get out of the car, which tugged at his sensitive heart. It is a common sentiment that kids grow up too fast, and one that I share from the opposite side. We truly grew up fast.

I would love to strangle the "wise" people who tell young adults that the best is just ahead. "Just wait until you graduate", they say. "You have no idea how hard it is being in a relationship," pleading for sympathy. And if they're happy: "Your life really isn't complete until you have someone to share it with, let me set you up with someone!" As if they have found their missing link, and now whatever they have must be what everyone else needs. And then you are actually in a relationship and the "advice" shifts, "Just wait until you have your first fight, then you'll really know if it'll work out." "I miss dating, life is so much simpler before you're married." And then you get married and you're finally on the same playing field: you grew up, you are sharing your life with someone and you are a "real adult" with shared bills and a standing date every Friday night. Like a slap, you realize you haven't arrived yet. Now you need kids. Strangers and family alike will tell you when, why, and how much you need them. And it's not going to stop there. As soon as you create and birth a miracle that is the perfect combination of both of you, you're going to get the "Is so-and-so going to get a little brother or sister soon?" (Am I right, parents??) Before you know it, your schedule changes from middle of the night feedings to play dates to cub scouts to track meets. You blink and all of a sudden, you're my dad telling his grown daughter via video chat on the other side of the world that his nostalgic flashback confirms that life truly, seriously goes by fast.

My story isn't unique or earth-shattering. I fall into the ever-cliche "10 years ago, if you were to tell me I'd be here, I would have laughed you out of town" category. When I met Tyler I had moved away from my family to "start my own life", as if space were the only requirement. I was young (I still am, thank you very much) and was somehow surviving on a diet of rice, popcorn, and diet coke. I was barely (if at all) making rent with my random babysitting jobs while running around Colorado Springs with my pathetic resume to every company who might hire a recent college grad with no experience right after the '08 crash. Read: I went on countless interviews over the course of two months and finally landed a less than dreamy job as a cashier for a catering company. I didn't have any options other than saying "yes", but as I set up the salad bar and scrubbed dishes for $9/hour, I knew I was definitely thinking of something better when I had packed up my life to start a new one.

Fortunately, I had a great group of girlfriends, a few of whom introduced me to a group of cute boys who were in their last semester at the Air Force Academy. You know where this is going.

Tyler entered my picture at a Superbowl party. He was wearing a Steelers hat, which he admitted was picked up off the street. I was cheering for the good guy, Kurt Warner, and his underdog team. I was way too into the game, which proved futile for many reasons.



A couple months passed with bowling nights, game nights and trips to the always wonderful Golden Bee at the Broadmoor Hotel and I had grown rather fond of these guys in their final stretch before moving on to better things. I had also counted the register at work wrong a million times, but that was probably my sub conscience reminding me that my work situation was supposed to be better. I was dog sitting for the family I babysat for, and had gotten a voicemail from Tyler (this was back when voicemails scared me and I avoided listening to them like the plague). I listened anyways. In his message, he said he had a little bit of free time and asked if I wanted to meet him for coffee.

This is why I don't listen to voicemails. You find out that the guy you had been flirting shamelessly with for the past couple months had picked up on it and the next thing you know, you're married and have picked up your life 5 times in 5 years. Stay away from voicemails.

I had a minor freak out and took the dog on another walk. When I finally called him back, I had missed my coffee window and dodged what I know now would have been a very delightful bullet. Thankfully, he asked again and I didn't say no to a casual lunch date after church. I don't know why I was so nervous, besides the fact that I couldn't remember the last time I had been on a real date, or eaten a real meal, thankyouverymuch9dollarsanhour. I don't know what I thought our little date would be like, but I found myself more comfortable and relaxed than I had been in a long time. I don't remember covering every factual area of our lives, or having awkward pauses like the ones chronicled in movies or tv shows. When we parted company, I called my friend Waverly and said something that she probably could have guessed was coming, "Well, I wasn't sure if I liked him before, but now I guess I might have a crush on him."

After a couple more dates, I remember feeling like I should fill my mom in. I told her what a great guy he was, but that she didn't need to worry-it wasn't going to get serious, since he would be moving in just a few months. After a few more dates, I called my dad. I told him that I thought it was getting a little more serious than what I had told my mom. I wasn't sure how he would react. But, the same dad who had pulled my sister's boyfriend out of choir in high school to take him out to lunch and the dad who drove three hours to my freshman dorm after I announced I had spent tuition money on a tongue ring, asked simply and ever so gracefully, "Does he make you happy?"

As we were nearing Tyler's graduation from the Academy, I called him from my balcony, even though we had just seen each other. I had avoided the whole "what would life in the military look like" talk because I knew once I found out, I would have to make a decision. I don't know how I decided I was ready for that talk or how I got the guts to ask him, but I did. When he told me, it didn't scare me and I felt relieved. I always thought God had it in His plans that I would marry a Pastor and I would spend my life like my mom: leading VBS and planning potlucks. I didn't necessarily decide that Tyler was "it" after that talk, but I certainly decided that he very well could be. How could I have possibly known that a little fling with the cute wanna-be pilot would turn into so much more? 

There was a rough patch in the beginning of our relationship that lasted all of an hour. Tyler and I had plans which got cancelled at the last minute (a little foreshadowing of my future life as a military spouse?) so a couple friends and I went downtown to talk about it. I remember saying that I could "easily" end our relationship and not feel like I had invested too much. I thought about my life without Tyler and didn't like it. I knew immediately that not only was my life better with Tyler, but I was better with Tyler.

As I have found myself the recipient of more cancelled plans and even more waiting, I know more and more how much he is worth it and how lucky I am to be kept waiting.

Be hesitant to blink. Life goes by so slowly until we see that each day was worth so much more than the 24 hour limit time allowed. I know my dad would tell you to keep your eyes open as long as possible, and even now, as I live each day, I see exactly what he means.



**and for those of you who noticed the title and are curious: I'm not sure how many "issues" there will be in this "series" but I would love to share some of my fondest memories of the past 5 years, and hope you don't mind.**

10 November 2014

Veteran's Day: Are our grandfathers proud?

I wrote this last year on Veteran's Day and while my perspective has shifted a little after living in a foreign country, these thoughts still resonate with me, which is why I have chosen to share them again.

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Like many people my age, both of my grandfathers served our country in the second World War. I knew this from a very young age and while we learned about WWII in history class, wrote papers and took tests on it, I am sad to say that we were never taught what that meant for us or how WWII affects us now, 70+ years later.

It's hard to put ourselves in the shoes of our grandparents, mostly because we're comfortable with the "world" we've built around ourselves. We're okay with liking (or not liking) what we have now and not thinking about the struggles it took for us to acquire those things, tangible or not. A military draft and a population on food, water and gasoline rations isn't something anyone is anxious to repeat. But do we really understand why an occasion so grim will never again be a reality?

We can never understand what it was like to have an entire country's population of young men be swept away in a sea of shaved heads and somber uniforms. We can never understand the anxiety of reaching an otherwise special birthday and instead of celebrating, being ushered away into the confusion and struggle. Now, in a time where we can't imagine not having instant updates or the latest facts at our fingertips, can never really understand the motivation behind leaving work, school, families and lovers for a war where the country wasn't allowed to vote on, (or make a trending topic on twitter) and it's lawmakers weren't permitted to stand behind the battle lines with gavels and lawsuits. We can never understand fighting at such a young age and being blessed to live a full life, all the while watching the world become bigger, better, and yet infinitely more cruel.

We can never understand the how and why 70 years ago, but we'd like to think we're a part of the end result. We'd like to think we can imagine donning a uniform if the end result is the freedom to enjoy a church service on Sunday. We can imagine it in the beauty of a sunset, or the joy of a new baby. We can see the reasoning standing at the edge of The Grand Canyon, or traveling through the Smoky Mountains. We can comprehend the desire to forever feel so serene when we wake up and enjoy the sunrise over a lake with a warm cup of coffee. It's easy to see why there was little questioning in moments so peaceful and majestic.

It's easy to see why our grandfathers stood up to fight for something that was already there, to defend their title of the greatest country on Earth. But what about what was to come in the future? What about the things they didn't know they were defending? The changes in industry, the shutdowns in government?

I am curious to know. Is this world, 2014, what our grandfathers fought for? Did our grandfathers leave their families and watch their friends die in battle for this? Were they really hoping to save a world that would later reject them, as young men, in favor of equality? Were they glad to have risked their lives and their futures for a world of sexting, scandal, immigration battles and political correctness?

They might not have known what they were fighting for, or what their bravery would mean. But we can ask ourselves something more relevant: are they proud of the country and the world they fought so hard to save?

Are our grandfathers proud of what our food industry has done to our health industry? Or what our health industry has done to our democracy? Are they proud that our clothes are no longer being made down the street, employing our taxpayers but in some (now, not-so-distant) Asian country, employing child slaves? Are they proud that they stood up to fight for women who would later murder their own children? Are they proud that the military is now, although well-loved, used as a ploy in lawmakers' and politicians' conniving games?

We may have a hard time connecting the dots with what our grandfathers did long before we arrived, but it's not hard to see that without the sacrifices they willingly made, our lives would look nothing as they do today. They did not fight so hard and risk so much so that their country can dismiss them and their ideals easily as outdated and old fashioned.

A mere "thank you" is not enough. We are very much past "thank you".

Instead of verbalizing it, let's show our gratitude. Let's rebuild a world our grandfathers not only fought to save, but would be proud of what they fought for.

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After teaching English in a high school in South Korea for 6 months, I am even more proud of the country our grandfathers defended. When we first got here in February, I thought it incredible that every head was not only one or two heads shorter than me, but that each one was covered in dark, straight hair. It was like looking down at a sea of black, bobbing lava. I thought how unique it was that everyone was the same. Now, after being immersed in Korean culture (as much as only knowing a handful of words will allow me), there are things I don't care for about the "uniqueness" of Koreans being, in large part, the same. And I think how amazing it will be, when I finally do make it back on home soil, to see not only varying heights but also the beautifully different hair color! And surely you realize that I'm not just talking about how Americans look, but who they are, what they know, where they travel, what they eat, everything. This is not a Korea-bash, by any means. Merely an example of how quickly we take for granted the things we are so used to seeing and having.

How proud I will be to tell my children what our grandfathers did for them.

17 October 2014

natural hair washee

It's a quiet afternoon at school. The students have left for the weekend after a few days of seemingly intense midterms and I am prepared to start classes as usual next week after a few weeks of a different schedule. While sometimes there is a deafening realization that our two worlds are not so far apart, sometimes I feel as though Korea might as well be Mars.

It seems to be a pattern of mine that I agree to do things I'm not entirely confident of what they are. Yesterday about mid morning, another teacher (who I had met through my former co-teacher) came to my desk and asked if I would like to make "natural hair washee" that day at 1:30. I said that I would love to, but I would have to leave school at 3:00 for an event I was helping to plan on base. She said "no problem" and at 1:30, I walked to her room, a little excited that maybe Korean was into pure/natural/organic products. There were 5 other women who joined us, (and a man who was in the room, I was told, to talk in English to me but he sat on his phone the whole time and never actually spoke) and before I knew it, we sat around a table that had a handful of bottles with scientific-looking labels on them. 

And then we were told to stand in a circle, still around the table. Of course, nothing is in English except for the occasional single word that someone spits out and the rest of the women giggle about, like "stand", or "happy". Before I knew it, we were circling our arms and stretching. And then we were breathing deeply and listening to soothing music. Finally, after everyone seemed like they had gotten the kinks worked out, we sat down . We watched a little bit of a slideshow presentation that had clouds and the words "heart" and "happy" and "body" on different slides. Then the host brought a ball of yarn to the table and it was tossed to me first, while she held on to a piece of the string (an activity I recognize! wahoo!) The only words that indicated what I was to say were "make happy, you" Assuming I was supposed to say what makes me happy, I said being outside, and cooking (the real crowd pleaser) then I tossed the ball across the circle, while holding on to a portion. Each person took their turn and spoke for at least a minute. Fortunately, someone was always able to summarize what they said in one word, of course followed by giggling. "Reading" "Watch movies" "Eating" were a few words I was able to pick up on. When everyone was finished, we all lifted the web of yarn high above our heads (obviously that meant my end was drastically higher, so the kink I put in my elbow didn't go unnoticed)

We were officially cleansed and "happy" and after watching some sort of science slideshow that was there to prove to us that what we were about to mix together was healthy for the environment, we were ready to make our "natural hair washee", which I told them is called "shampoo" (oooooohhhhhhhhh. ahhhhhhhhhh. mmmmmmmmmmm. shamppooooo.) We had a LONG list of ingredients that included both light and dark colored syrups and liquids (and one powder) and while I have never made shampoo before, I don't remember recalling that "natural" would mean that many ingredients (or with such strong odors) to clean one's hair. After just a couple steps, we brought our science glass cylinders over to a burner and heated it so the powder would melt. Then we brought it back to the scale and measured the rest of the ingredients, after each one stopping to reset the scale. The last three ingredients I recognized-lavendar, rosemary, and tea tree oil. Thank goodness! After this, we bottled the mixtures into 8 bottles and labeled them. 











We watched a little more of a slideshow and then the host brought out snacks-tangerines, dried apples, dried sweet potatoes and crackers (bought from "Coastcoaa-have I heard of it?"  "hmmm...no...OH! 'Costco!' yes!" followed by much more giggling) At that point, I realized I was 15 minutes past my departure time, so I excused myself and said "thank you" a million times. When I got back up to my desk, all three of my co-teachers asked how I liked making the shampoo. I said it was very fun and interesting, which was not too much of a stretch. It likely would have been a little more interesting if I knew a little bit more about the purpose and why it felt like a little yoga/meditation/science lesson. But fun, and a great break from sitting at the computer while the students slaved over their midterms. 

And while I sit here, after lunch and coffee off campus with a few of the same ladies, sipping a hot beverage with scoops of a fermented fruit that grows in the front yard of school, quince, (given to help find the voice I lost yesterday), I feel as if this is, indeed, one of those moments Korea is more like Mars. And I welcome the weekend, where I can do regular chores, cook Mexican food, and not smell kimchi or be worried that I will accidentally eat octopus or seahorse.


27 August 2014

bali, indonesia

Well July (and nearly August!) came and went in a flurry. This post has taken me days to complete, so thank you for your patience! I hope you can make it through the whole thing, and if nothing else enjoy the pictures...

My main man (okay, only man...) returned on the first or second day of July from Alaska and we proceeded to have an exciting month... my birthday, vacation, our friends from Norway visiting, and our vacation to Bali... my contract says I get 10 weekdays off in the summer and 10 in the winter, but my darling co teacher said before we left for vacation, "off the record" I could take an extra 5 days. And so I enjoyed the extra week and of course waited until Sunday night to plan my lesson for the following week. While we were in Bali, the new Noonday fall line launched and it is simply stunning. I can't wait to show you what our artisans have crafted and the HUGE ways Noonday is growing and impacting so many corners of the world. But first, you may want to hear about Bali...I'm excited to show you these pictures, and hopefully Tyler will work on a video of our adventures.

Bali is still a good 6-7 hour flight from Korea, but both Tyler and I thought it was really fun to be able to sit and watch movies the whole time, since we don't watch any sort of tv here (besides the occasional Jimmy Fallon clip on the computer) We landed in the late afternoon and sat in a few really long lines in the airport getting through customs with the rest of the tourists who traveled the short distance from Australia before we were finally released into the city of Kuta.

Ty and I flew in a day and a half earlier than Pal and Kristin, and for that one day we were apart, my darling husband had his heart set on traveling from the southern part of Bali to the northern, in order to get on a ferry and go to huge island of Java so we could hike into a volcano in the dead of night in order to see blue flames only visible in the dark. Yeah. You're thinking what I'm thinking. I must love him a lot.

Side note: I couldn't get enough of the Indonesian smoothie, called a lassi. Made with some kind of fruit and yogurt, it is the perfect combination of tangy and sweet. I sat sipping on this mango lassi and enjoyed some wifi while Tyler went in search of a honest and cheap/fair driver to take us to the ferry.




Tyler agreed on a price to pay our driver to take us the 3-4 hour trip to the ferry and we got kicked out no more than 20 minutes into the ride. The price was set before we got in the van but as soon as we passed a petrol station, the driver motioned and said that we will fill the van up at the end of the trip, when the tank is empty. Tyler disagreed and said that we didn't agree to pay for petrol and the driver got upset with us and kicked us to the curb outside of town. I accidentally closed my door a little loudly and made him even angrier. Fortunately, there was a taxi driver across the road and he came running over to us and asked if he could bring us someplace. He agreed to the price we were going to pay the previous guy and when Tyler clarified that we weren't going to pay for his petrol, he seemed surprised we would think that.

When we finally made it to the rickety ferry that crammed as many cars and motorbikes into the basement as possible, we went to the top as soon as possible. It wasn't but a few minutes into the trip that we were asked to take a picture with a family. And then another family. And then with them by themselves. It would have been fun for us to get a picture with our camera, but I didn't want to keep encouraging it.





We checked into a hotel in the town of Banyuwangi, got dinner and then were hoping to get some sleep before leaving to hike at 12:30am. Ty fell asleep and I, of course, tossed and turned until our alarms went off. Our bathroom was being invaded by large black ants when we left for the hike and I was worried we'd come back to them crawling all over our luggage so we closed up our suitcases and put everything on the bed. They must have been just a nighttime ant (?), though, because there was no sign of them when we returned, thank goodness.

We hired one guy to drive us up the mountain and another guy to guide us into the volcano. I had no idea what to expect and quite frankly, was hoping to get the hike over as soon as possible so we could head out of the visibly impoverished Banyuwangi and back to touristy, photogenic Bali. We had great timing, naturally, as our hike corresponded with when the local students had vacation and during such was was their tradition to hike this volcano, apparently. So the entire 2 hour hike up, we were surrounded by mostly male young adults, talking, laughing, pushing each other, running past us and then stopping for a snack and smoke break - not exactly what you want to surround you when it's pitch black and you are going up a mountain. And if I thought it would be a quiet, serene hike in the middle of the night, I was dead wrong. There was never a peaceful second. I didn't want to stop for any breaks so we would just zoom past everyone looking and talking about us. But that didn't last too long. Thankfully, when we finally made it to the edge of the volcano, we had passed a lot of the people and only the really hard core ones were still hiking with us.

After hiking 2 hours up the side of the mountain and then along the ridge to the edge of the volcano, we could finally smell the sulfur coming from the depths of the volcano, even if we still couldn't see the blue "flames". We got our masks out and covered our faces so we'd be able to handle the odor of the sulfur. Then we hiked 25 minutes down into the volcano and once we got closer, could finally see the blue flames. They were stunning when the wind was moving away from us, but we could only handle a couple big gusts of the sulfur straight in the face before we had to hike up.

We knew the pictures (and this terrible video) would do nothing to properly show how amazing the blue flames were. But hopefully they help a little. If you're really interested in the more scientific explanation about the sulfuric combustion, maybe this article will help, if nothing else will show better pictures.





    



And as stressful and frantic the hike felt, watching the sunrise behind us and the light take over the dark so we could see where we had been was more amazing than I can say. 



There are sulfur miners who work in the volcano carry out 90 kilos/200 lbs each trip (to make less than 25 cents/lb) - the same trip we had just done (and I had whined maybe once or twice about). The picture below is what they use to carry the sulfur. They get paid extra if they work in the night. A little perspective.
We thought this sign was ironic because there was trash everywhere on the entire hike, even in the volcano.
We made it safely back to Bali and enjoyed a couple days on the beach after meeting up with Pal and Kristin again.







The Balinese people mostly follow Buddhism, so everyday they set out tiny offerings at the front of each business and household and in restaurants. They were beautiful, but sadly by midday were usually trampled by oblivious tourists.

After a couple days at the beach, we went inland to Ubud and enjoyed a few nights at this villa outside the town. We found this gem on Airbnb, but they failed to mention that it also comes with resident lizards. One bigger than I've ever seen in a zoo, and it was on the wall in our room. Terrifying. They do have nets over the bed, but I don't know how much that would protect us if the lizard decided to jump on the bed. shudder.

Our villa came with it's own spring-fed pool.

Walking around the artsy (and touristy) town of Ubud.

I had my heart set on taking a cooking class, which the manager of our villa said he'd arrange for us. What we had read about online was that you'd be picked up and brought to a local market and shown around and explained what common Indonesian ingredients were for popular dishes. Then you'd be taken back to the kitchen where you would help cook and learn how to cook some amazing things. Some places would even give you recipe cards to make the meal back home. Welllllll let me tell you that what we got was laughable compared to descriptions we'd read about. First, yes, we were taken to a "market" to get ingredients. BUT it was a supermarket and our cute little escort didn't tell us unless asked what items she was throwing in the cart. And by the amount of food she was piling in, we thought we were being scammed and were going to be cooking food for the entire hotel. Then we were taken to a hotel (turns out, it was run by the same family who manages the villa we were staying in...ah ha!) on the opposite side of town and past way too many rice paddies and shacks. We finally got to the kitchen and knew what kind of treat we were in for. The kitchen was tiny and not exactly sparkling. The selfie you see below was most of it. And our job, as the cooking class students, was to peel and chop onions and garlic. No joke. Oh okay, and shred water spinach. The two women, on the other hand, were busy at the stove and would every once in a while turn to us and say what they were putting in the pot. lemongrass. garlic. tomatoes. chicken. I finally asked if we could do anything else and we were ushered out to the dining area, where we sat for quite a while. Kristin overheard a German family trying to get food and they were told the kitchen was closed for a cooking class. Yikes! The food was finally brought out and oh my goodness was it a lot. And delicious. There was fried tempeh, noodles, chicken, water spinach, rice, and corn patties (okay, most of it was fried, which was probably why it was so good) but still. We hardly did any damage on what they brought out. And while we didn't exactly get the cooking class we had thought, it was still quite the experience!






I had to take this picture of our cab driver going in the wrong lane around this entire line of cars. As soon as the light turned green, he cut everyone off to make a very sharp right. (they drive on the opposite side of the road)



We got to see some monkeys at the Uluwatu temple on the way to our final villa of the trip. I was almost suckered into paying for an escort to protect me from the monkeys, but my husband overheard him trying to sweet talk me and said it was not needed. But the monkeys really were ridiculous. They are trained to steal things from you so there are signs everywhere that say to not go in with sunglasses or loose clothing or shiny electronics. And if you don't listen to the warnings and the monkeys get away with something, the clerks will charge you to get your items back. Yep. I watched a monkey try to rip a girl's purple skirt off and try to yank a sandal from the bottom of another girl's foot!


The cliffs were truly stunning. We stayed a short distance from here.

Monkeying around...


The not-so-cute monkeys...and my husband trying to provoke him with the stick he was supposed to be protecting me with. There was only one cute monkey and he managed to groom Pal for a little while.


Another lassi in Uluwatu...



This was our second villa, on the cliffs of Uluwatu. Of course, any beach was a little bit of a drive and then a hike down the cliff, but totally worthwhile. And this villa was amazing and very close to a few local restaurants. And look! Do you see? That's BLUE SKY. aahhhh...something Korea has taught us to never take advantage of.



We were told to find this place, called Bingin Beach, where not many people go and the crowd is small and laid-back travelers looking for some good surfing. And we were not disappointed. The view was perfect, the water refreshing and it felt like we were finally on a tropical, secluded island compared to Ubud and Kuta, where we had spent the first part of our trip, along with thousands of other tourists. Being at Bingin beach made me wish I was a tan surfer girl with a few weeks or months to kill doing absolutely nothing. If only.






Our last night we enjoyed freshly grilled seafood while watching the sunset. Not a bad way to go out.




Our flight didn't leave until midnight on Saturday, so we got to spend the entire day relaxing on the beach and doing some last minute shopping and eating. Of course, I couldn't leave Bali without a little sunburn.


It was such a fun trip with our good friends. We always thought it would be great to vacation with another couple and it was even better than we could have thought!


I just had to take this one last picture of Bali trying to rip it's tourists off. It was sad to see how much extra money the island and country gets from people who come to experience their culture, everything from an entrance fee off the plane to a government restaurant tax AND a surcharge, to the taxis and the service charges and finally, this "passenger service charge". It was a great example of the good and bad tourism can do for a beautiful place.