Monday, March 31, 2008

Baby 'Hoo

I attended my first-ever baby shower on Saturday, a joyous celebration in honor of Ethan Lewis and his extraordinary mother, Elizabeth. Ethan, due April 22, was the recipient of much UVA baby pariphanilia, as he will be attending the University of Virginia 18 short years from now.

Ethan is also sure to be an exceptional athlete, which spurred one guest to question what will happen if the little guy receives a football scholarship to Virginia Tech. The crowd quickly dismissed the notion, although the proud grandmother-to-be did admit she'll "put on a Hokies sweatshirt, but I'm not writing any checks!" Good to know she won't be giving money to the enemy. Wahoowa.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Chapel Speech #2

Because it's Sunday and you asked for it. Click below & enjoy.

Miss Whitney J Spivey
Uppingham Chapel Talk
November 2007

Good morning! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Whitney Spivey. I taught here last year and returned to the States in July to pursue a career in journalism. I currently write for Washingtonian Magazine, reporting on people, news, and events around the United States capital. Working for Washingtonian has been an incredible experience and a great introduction into the world of journalism. In fact, since many of you last saw me, I’ve met Ben Affleck, partied with the Washington Redskins football team, interviewed a Mrs. America contestant, and enjoyed more free drinks than you can count on all your fingers and toes. Not bad, huh?

Well, Miss Spivey, you might wonder, if you’re living the good life in Washington, what the heck are you doing back here? Well, let me tell you.

In my last chapel speech, I mentioned something about wanting to marry Prince William. Tying the knot with Will is still high up on my priority list, and so really this visit to the UK is actually one last attempt to become the future queen of England. Tomorrow I am going to London and banging on his door until he notices me.

Only kidding.

The real reason I’m here is because … I miss you. And I miss this place. And it took leaving Uppingham for me to realize just how special it is here. Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I thought it would be appropriate for me to say a few words about how grateful I am to have spent two years of my life here and why you should be thankful that you go to school here.

But first of all, raise your hand if you have absolutely no idea what Thanksgiving is? And raise your hand if you think you have an idea but you’re not 100% sure? Okay, that’s what I thought. This is England, after all.

Very quickly, Thanksgiving is an American holiday that began in 1621 with settlers in Massachusetts. The Pilgrims, as these settlers were called, arrived in the New World (from England!) without food or knowledge of how to hunt or grow crops, but fortunately the local Indians taught them how to survive in their new country. The Pilgrims were grateful and set apart a holiday immediately after their first harvest, inviting the Indians to join them in a celebration of food and praising God. Today, many of the same sentiments are felt on Thanksgiving. Families and friends gather for a reunion, a day of thanks, and a festive meal where certain kinds of foods are served. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie are only a few of the favourite dishes. Often during the course of the day people talk about what they are thankful for or they describe experience of the past year that have caused them to feel grateful.

Thanksgiving is a big deal in America and I realize it may seem strange that I am giving up spending the holiday with my family to be here telling you what you should be appreciative of. But just sit tight for a minute – it’s not like you can go anywhere anyways! Here is a short list of things I think you might take for granted but that you should instead by very thankful for.

First of all, house lunch. Now I don’t know if the food at Lorne House has improved since I left, but regardless, house lunch is something pretty special. When I started my job at Washingtonian in August, I was surprised that most of my colleagues eat lunch at their desks, passing time by surfing the Internet or sending personal emails. I realized very quickly that gone were my days of animated conversation about bops or who was gong on walks with whom. The most excitement I get on my lunch break now comes from a good book, a Starbucks frappuccino, and if I’m lucky, a phone call from Miss Schneider. House lunch may seem routine and boring to many of you, but enjoy this time you have with your friends and really try to gain something from the teachers who sit on your tables. If conversation is difficult today, ask the person next to you what he or she is grateful for.

Here’s another one: games. Never again will I have a job that pays me to be outside for several hours at least three days a week. Likewise, once you go to university, you may choose not to participate in sport. But remember that – despite the weather – you live in one of the most beautiful, open, green places in the world. Next time you’re out on the Middle freezing your little legs off, just remember that games are good for you and that by participating in sport you are not only improving your athleticism, but also your mind, as you are learning to interact with people in a different context than you do in the classroom or in the house. Uppingham has some great facilities and you are privileged to use them.

Continuing along those same lines, appreciate walking to lessons. I miss the days of being able to walk to work. I now spend at least two hours of every day driving into and out of Washington. I listen to the radio, so I am totally up to date on my celebrity gossip and top songs, but I miss being able to roll out of bed, down the stairs, onto the high street and into my classroom. I know the Hill houses seem far away and that sometimes the Middle is like another planet, but really guys, its not that far. Plus, walking is good for you and you should be grateful that you have two working legs to get you around from place to place.

The size of Uppingham is one of the factors that make this place so special. Chances are, you may never again live in a town where you recognize 95% of the people walking down the sidewalk (I’m sorry, the pavement). You may never again live in a county with more sheep than humans. In Washington, we have more asses than humans, but that’s a completely different story.

Moving right along. Prep time. Gosh, I wish I had prep time back in America. I am considering attending graduate school next fall, which requires performing well on a major test with extensive math and verbal components. I try to study but there are simply so many other things I would rather be doing. For example, I wrote this speech instead of memorizing vocabulary words. So basically, if I don’t get accepted to any graduate program, I’m blaming all of you. Seriously though, prep time is meant to help you reach your academic potential. I lived in a boarding house for two years so I know that some of you take it more seriously than others. But honestly, from 7 to 9 PM, be a huge nerd, do your work. You’re not missing out on anything fun because everyone else across the school is subjected to two hours of the silent treatment as well. If you use every minute of your prep time efficiently, I promise you that your marks will improve and you will have more free time during the day to busy yourself with non school related work.

Uppingham as a community. You have, all around you, a network of friends, teachers and tutors who truly care about you – and will for many years to come. This was made especially clear to me at the end of the summer when one of my younger brothers was badly burned in a fire and was in intensive care in the hospital for almost a month. I was amazed at the number of emails, cards, and of course facebook messages I received from people here, offering their condolences and wishing Jackson well. It was an amazing feeling to know that people were thinking about me and my family from all the way across the Atlantic. Be kind to the people around you and keep in touch with them when you leave this place – they care for you more than you may realize.

Another example of this “Uppingham love” occurred earlier this month when the politics students visited Washington. I was fortunate to meet up with the group and was greeted with such warmth and feeling it was as though I’d never left. In fact, as the kids boarded the bus back to the hotel, I think I set a world record for most hugs received on a Georgetown street corner.

And by the way – all you politics kids – be thankful that the drinking age is only 18 here. There were more than a few of you a bit too upset that in America, a person must be 21 to buy or consume alcohol. Good thing there was an Abercrombie & Fitch nearby to help you shop away your sorrows.

And last but not least, be thankful that this speech is over and that you will no longer be subjected to hearing about my obsession with Prince William – at least not until the next time I visit. Thank you and happy Thanksgiving.

We will now sing hymn number ___.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

8th Grade Drama

Andrew (shown at left) goes to school with many of the young ladies on my lacrosse team. I mentioned one girl's name and the conversation unfolded as follows:

Andrew: Oh no
Me: But she seems really nice. Not your type though?
Andrew: My type isn't whales.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Way With Words

My dear friend Buzz has one of the largest vocabularies of anyone I know. But surprisingly he always manages to use the wrong words in conversation. I was speaking to him after a long day at work when I mentioned I was tired and not thinking clearly. His response: "Is talking to me like a fantasy?" Um no, Buzz, it's not. An illusion maybe, but certainly not a fantasy.

Buzz is also notorious for using variations of words within the same sentence: I'm encouraged by your encouragement, I'm impressed by your impressiveness, I'm writing a piece of writing, etc. And my guess is that he won't be amused by my amusement when he reads this...

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Chapel Chat

"I was just thinking about that chapel talk that you gave when you came back, it was one of the talks that I remembered!!! It was sooooo good!!!!" -one of my Uppingham girls. This message totally made my day because making a positive impression on students is what every teacher lives for... especially when they remember your words of wisdom many months later! What can I say, despite a severe aversion to most things religious, I (surprisingly) deliver a killer speech from the pulpit. In fact, I've spoken to the Uppingham community twice now. My most recent chapel talk is saved on Steph's computer (and Steph is down a cave in Wales at the moment), but the first one can be found by clicking 'see individual post' below. Enjoy!

Miss Whitney J. Spivey
Uppingham School Chapel Talk
May 3, 2007

I am 23 years old. I’m leaving in two months, so I feel I can tell you that. Twenty-three years old. That’s only four years older than the oldest of you and only nine years older than the youngest of you. I have brothers your ages and many of you have siblings my age. Although I am a ‘teacher,’ ‘resident tutor’ and ‘coach,’ I am really not that far removed from you, and I hope that over the next ten minutes you are able to connect with something I say.

I came to England on a mission: to meet and marry Prince William (who said anything about teaching?!). This goal had not been realized by the end of my first year working as a history teacher here, so I had no choice but to remain at Uppingham for another three terms. Twelve more months of eating potatoes, driving on the left side of the road and constantly being reminded that American English is not "proper English." Could I survive missing another football season, celebrating Thanksgiving by myself and watching my inbox grow larger and larger as I continue to communicate via email with family and friends? I convinced myself I simply had to deal with such dilemmas in order to obtain my true love.

Alas, as my second year in Great Britain draws to a close, despite recent events in Will’s love life, I realize that perhaps my relationship with Prince Charming is not meant to be after all. I find myself facing a giant void. Without pursuing a prince, how shall I spend my time?

I’ve decided to move on (that’s what Will would want), and despite not marrying (or even meeting) the man of my dreams, I want to fly away from England having really made the most of my time here. I have 61 days left in this country and I intend to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way while building on my experiences of the past year and a half.

And what experiences they’ve been! I came to Uppingham two years ago knowing absolutely nothing about the British school system, besides what I had read in Harry Potter. I expected a stern-faced Professor McGonagall look-alike to collect me from the Oakham train station. Instead I was met by a smiling Mrs Gaine in flowery tracksuit bottoms and a Lodge rugby shirt. I was delighted.

In the days since that sunny August afternoon, Uppingham has morphed from a sort of weird, long-term vacation destination into my home. With the exception of the winter weather and the sports hall, I can honestly say that I love it here. I love the school, the kids, the town. I love the Friday market and the long summer days. I like being able to walk to work. I like feeling a part of the ‘Johnson’s family.” I like the overall atmosphere of this place. I love it because it is so British, so quaint and charming. I love it because it’s so different than the suburban America I grew up in. I love it for reasons that are difficult to explain because I am a foreigner. You, the students, are Uppingham. Your personalities, your interests, your successes and your failures make this school what it is. You are consumed by this institution and may not see things that are blatantly apparent to me, an outsider.

And one of the things I see is that, unfortunately, most of you are quite lazy. As much as I respect each and every one of you, it’s true. You’re lazy. You are spoon-fed by the adults around you – men and women who work so hard to make your time here enjoyable and worthwhile. And yet somehow, all the essays we make you write, all the preps we make you complete, and all the laps we make you run pay off and some university thinks you are a self-motivated overachiever and agrees to let you into a course. And then we throw you a gigantic Leavers’ Ball and allow you to get plastered as if to say well done for all your hard work. On a side note, did you know that the expression ‘plastered’ comes from back in the day when carpenters would mix white wine with plaster so that the material took longer to set. Afterwards, they would drink whatever wine was left over, hence the phrase ‘getting plastered.’ Just one of many random facts you’ll learn by visiting Burghley House!

Anyways, back to my point. I suppose what I’m saying is that in addition to being more appreciative of the efforts others are making on your behalf, don’t be afraid to take the initiative yourself to make your time here more worthwhile. Since moving abroad I have become much more aware of the importance of taking the initiative to make things happen in my life. Since August 2005, I have travelled to twelve countries, been live on Radio One, run two marathons, learned to drive on the left side of the road, gotten a kitten, kept in touch with family and friends 3,000 miles away, and incorporated an assortment of very odd words into my vocabulary (although I will never, ever, be able to say the word ‘loo’ without laughing). Perhaps individually these things do not seem significant, but collectively they have made me a more mature, independent, and confident young woman.

A more specific example – running. Running has always been something I enjoy. Last year I often ran by myself and it was fine. I would crank up the Ipod and run to and from nearby villages. In August, after a summer of working in Switzerland and eating entirely too much Swiss chocolate, I came back to England and needed some inspiration to get back out on the road. On a whim, I joined the Rutland Running Club. I figured if nothing else, it was a good excuse to get out of Uppingham a few times a week. I remember showing up for my first run and being greeted by an eclectic group of middle-aged men in spandex. Right, I thought. Let’s just see how it goes. And over the course of a few weeks I found myself looking forward to club runs – everyone was very welcoming and encouraging of my running. In October I was persuaded to enter the ballot for the London Marathon. This year, over 125,000 people entered the ballot. I didn’t think I stood a chance. But, as luck would have it, I checked my bank statement in December to find that I was £26 poorer and I knew I had gotten a spot. Being American, running in London is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I was eager to take on the challenge. I began training in January and carried on until April. There are certain sacrifices that go along with training for a marathon – shelling out money for good shoes, aches and pains the day after a long run, and budgeting in time to run while on holiday (let me tell you, running in Cairo is not a fun experience). There are however, many perks – being in the local newspaper, knowing I’m improving my endurance, doing well in the Routh, and of course running well on the big day. As many of you will already know, this year’s London Marathon was on 22 April, just about two weeks ago.

I had completed two marathons previously but was still a bit apprehensive on that Sunday morning. After all, a marathon is quite a long way. 26.2 miles. If all of you started running right now, most of you wouldn’t be finished by lunchtime. It took me three hours and fifty-nine minutes to finish the race. This was a one minute and twenty-four second improvement over my time in the 2006 Stockholm marathon. It wasn’t much, but it was a personal best time and I was pleased. I was also physically exhausted and in a tremendous amount of pain after the race and I swore I would never run again. Then I came home and registered for a Race for Life 5k at the end of May. What can I say, I like the challenge?

You may think I’m crazy for running 26 miles in 25-degree weather, but I certainly wasn’t the only one. Miss Schneider and Alice Parsons were there as well, along with 36,000 other people. And the thing is guys, that most of these people are not runners, perhaps they’re not even athletes at all. But they were out there because they wanted to prove that they could overcome a challenge. So many people ran for charities and in memory of loved ones who suffer or have passed away due to cancer or other illnesses. As the granddaughter of Parkinson’s and Prostate Cancer patients, my heart went out to these people – for many of them it was the only marathon they’ll ever run and I just thought they were so selfless to even attempt running so far for such good causes. I can only hope they crossed the finish line as satisfied as I did.

To those of you not athletically minded, you may not appreciate the sense of accomplishment that comes with a personal best time, but please try to understand the general idea behind what I’m saying. I didn’t know when I set out that I would achieve a personal best – I didn’t even know that I would survive the training. But I made a commitment and I stuck with it. I persevered and I am able to stand here today quite proud of my efforts two weeks ago. So I encourage you to do the same. Get involved, try everything, take the initiative to do things yourself and not just things teachers or your parents arrange for you. Even if you’re not sure of the end result, not sure if you’re going to like something or not, not sure what others will think – put all those concerns aside and just go for it. You never know what the outcome will be. The worst that will happen is nothing at all.

A year ago I would have been absolutely terrified of speaking in front of all of you in chapel. And although I am quite nervous today, I look at this speech as an opportunity to grow in confidence and as a milestone in my own personal history of public speaking. Every speech I make in the future will be a little easier because of this one. Speaking to you this morning is one of the last pieces of the giant Uppingham puzzle I’ve been putting together since 2005. So, thanks for listening, but before I go, and while I’m up here, can I just remind you that pants are worn on top of underwear, soccer is played on a field, Hoover was an American president, and trash goes in the trash can. That is all. Thank you.

We will now sing hymn number 18 (Amazing Grace).

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tomorrow Is A New Day

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." -RWE
Something to keep in mind after yesterday's unfortunate tire incident:
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Monday, March 24, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

"All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!" -Lucy Van Pelt in Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz

*sorry for the late post... no internet at Senterfitt Farms :(

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Younger Man?!

The problem with no longer teaching is that former students think they can get away with using my first name and offering marriage proposals: *I would like to point out that I was NOT his English teacher.
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Friday, March 21, 2008

A Fishbowl Funny

I have met more guys named Tim in the past year than I have in my entire life. They are seriously everywhere (not a bad thing, of course!). Only one of them, however, has been described as "that reporter with the curliest chest hair in the business." Thank you Fishbowl DC for enlightening us as to what lies beneath the shirt of one of Bloomberg's finest.
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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lacrosse Love

"You mean you're doing this just because you love us?" -one of my lacrosse girls, upon finding out that no, I am not paid to coach the Great Falls U-15 team.

And yes, I do love them.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Got Milk?

"A child who doesn't drink enough milk is very fragile." -Billboard in Mexico City. Yikes.
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Marathon Man

“If I finish, I’ll do what I always do and have a pint and a fag.” -101 year-old Buster Martin, who will become the world's oldest marathon runner when he completes the April 19 London Marathon (see the BBC article here).

Steph and I plan on breaking this record in 2085 - sans the beer and cigarettes and also not in London (we've already done that one!).
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Monday, March 17, 2008

Are You Wearing Green?

Here's to a long life and a merry one
A quick death and an easy one
A pretty girl and an honest one
A cold beer and another one!
-Irish saying

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
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Sunday, March 16, 2008

WVa Woes

Conversation with my youngest brother:
Me: Let's face it, I'm just going to end up an old maid, alone with 50 cats.
Andrew: Whatever, I'll marry you before that happens
Me: Okay, but we'll have to move to West Virginia
Andrew: You're right, nevermind. Have fun being an old maid.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Remember When

My grandparents were married on March 14, 1948. Tonight my family is celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. Here's my contribution to the event; please watch if you have 18 free minutes and want to see some painfully embarrassing photographs...

p.s. Here's to my first Quote of the Day video (make sure sound is on)!

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Friday, March 14, 2008

101 Dalmations - Almost

I recently received an email from a former student who informed me that "We have had two litters of puppies and have another two on the way, so mum is busy at home. Brings our total number of dogs (including puppies) to 20 ... bit crazy!" Can you imagine?! Ug.
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Frappuccino Fatty

"Do you know why I gained so much weight? STARBUCKS! I was addicted to frappuccinos. I bought my first one at 7-11, drank it in the car, liked it so much that I made a u-turn, went back to the store, bought a six-pack and drank them all." -Mike, a guy who works at my gym (?!) and obviously has a much more serious Starbucks problem than I do.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sidewalk Splinter

I thought members of the carpenters union were annoying when they demonstrated for weeks outside the Washingtonian building on L Street. Their chanting and bucket beating was enough to drive anyone crazy. But apparently excessive noise making just wasn't sufficient. During yesterday's lunchtime wander I spotted them on K Street, where they seem to have implemented a new protest tactic: a giant inflatable rat. Don't really understand how the ferocious beast helps their cause, but whatever...
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008


"I was a really good looking baby. They tried to take me out of Methodist preschool because I was taking chicks behind the alter. Nothing's changed." -Jackson, (mis)remembering his toddler glory days.
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Monday, March 10, 2008

Accented Atonement

"About as hot as a bucket of chicken with biscuits on the side." -Brit James McAvoy describes Mariah Carey, Ryan Seacrest style.

Video can be seen above, although I first heard the wannabe American accent on the radio yesterday morning (yes, I'll admit to being a top 40 countdown listener!).
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Sunday, March 9, 2008

It's Official

O, they grow up so quickly...
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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Real Advice

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." -The Velveteen Rabbit (one of my favorites).
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Friday, March 7, 2008

Too Much Caffeine?

So apparently the Starbucks on Connecticut Avenue is the place to go for political commentary. I had barely walked in the door when the cashier started lecturing me about the importance of universal health care and how it's up to my generation to change the future of our country. The little lady informed me that the "government doesn't need guns to kill people because they're already killing people by not giving them health care." And before she would even consider taking my coffee order, she said "Let me tell you something. John McCain is 71. He needs to go home. Doesn't he have grandchildren to take care of?" Good grief. Tomorrow I'm going to the Starbucks on M Street.
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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Margarita Madness

"My worst fears are realized …" -my boss's email response when I sent him a picture of my giant Mexican margarita and told him I was never coming back to work.

Unfortunately I am back my desk today (but exciting news: my business cards have finally arrived!).

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Reston Weirdos

As Chris notes in this week's Reston Runner Stats & Chats column, Sunday's 20-mile run "was a diverse group featuring the old, the young, the occasional, the constant, and the I-so-want-this-to-be-over." And of course, the very odd (after nearly three hours on the trail, I decided that long runs certainly bring out the most bizarre in people). Wouldn't be a running club without them (us?)!
Amusing commentary from our morning on the W&OD Trail included a conversation about joining the singles club at McLean Bible Church (no, thank you) and trying to explain to Ken that actually I didn't want to be set up with his unemployed son who smokes like a chimney. Finally, someone shouted "look, it’s Whit and Nitwit" during a brief period when Chris and I led the pack. Looking forward to an equally entertaining outing next weekend.
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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Backwards City

The streets of Mexico City are crowded, curvy, pot-holed, and more often than not blocked by an assortment of brightly colored Volkswagon bugs. As part of our scouting trip, Kashmir and I went to visit the International AIDS Society office, which was behind us on a one-way street. So rather than go around the block and then back up the street in the correct direction, our driver decided to reverse the entire length of the road, saying "it's okay as long as the car is facing the right way." Um, but what about moving (very quickly) in the wrong direction?!
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Monday, March 3, 2008

Oh, Mexico

I'm scouting out Mexico City for a future NPF program (and maybe drinking a few margaritas along the way?!) ... so in the words of James Taylor:

"It sounds so sweet with the sun sinking low / Moon's so bright like to light up the night / Make everything all right."
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Sunday, March 2, 2008

My Double-Barrelled Sur Name

"When I first met you, I thought you had a hyphenated last name and that you were married." -our NPF intern. First of all, there is not a hyphen between Jackson and Spivey (although that would be quite posh, wouldn't it?). And second of all, married? Get real.
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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Run Away

"The marshalls also assumed that she was my wife but I assured them that if she had been I would have abandoned her." -one of Peter's funnier stories from the Belvoir Challenge (although from the sound of it, running with Judith was just as painful as the 25-mile race!).

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