sittin’ on a chair at the terminal, wasting time

wheeeew! these past few days have been a chaotic cluster of packing, and rushing around, but finally I’m laid back in LAX waiting to board the final flight to Aukland. I’ll be in New zealand for the next five and a half months participating in Hecua’s program: New Zealand Culture and the Environment: A Shared Future. upon arrival in Aukland i’ll join 14 fellow students traveling from Auckland to Wellington over five weeks. We will stay with different communities where we will learn about and discuss the history of New Zealand’s national identity and culture, and how that ties into sustainability and place. In Wellington internship with a l seven weeks I will also be working on an independent project over the course of the semester on a topic of my choice (likely something to do with community engagement and ecological restoration in an urban setting, I’m not sure yet.) Im exited to experience the great people, places, and challenges this semester holds for me, and to keep you (whoever ya are,) updated. But for now I’m just sittin’ on a chair in the terminal.

The Elephant’s Parade // Elephant Head Lousewort

We camped at Big River Meadow, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. We were assigned to do a plant study; choose a plant to sit with and observe for 1 hour, create a name for it and a creative component and then come back and use the plant ID books to identify the specimen. 

I sat down with, what I named, THE ELEPHANT’S PARADE.

    • still flowering near the creak (Big River Meadow Creek)
    • growing out of wet moss and mud
    • flower buds have closed and seed buds beginning to develop in the marshy areas away from the creek, and more abundant in these areas, it seems
    • the specimen seems to prefer wet and sunny areas and is found with other plants that seem to like the same soil types. The other plants found alongside this one are all relatively the same height, besides the low lying mossy and marshy plants my specific specimen seem to spring up from.
    • found in the mountain meadow (6,000 ft)
    • I do not recognize this plant from the areas we have been, and does not seem to grow in the surrounding forested and shady areas or surrounding hills and mountains
    • hardy root system- when I pulled the root out, it wouldn’t come up easily
      • gnarly looking bulbous root system, white and black
      • leaves and stalk come directly out of bulbous root
      • 1 flower stalk and approx 15 fern like leaves
    • Leaf
      • purple around edges, rest green
      • serrated edges
      • fern-like
      • does not lay flat-whorled around stalk and alternating
    • Stem
      • ranging from 5” to 12” tall
      • uneven leaf growth, all the way up the stem, getting smaller and smaller as you go up the stem and leading into the flower buds then the flowers and then the seed heads
      • it seems that the younger plant has a redder stem and as the plant flowers and makes seeds the stem becomes more green
      • alternating buds and flowers
      • flower buds poke out of leave nodules (green and purple)
      • end of stem is tuberous- might be tasty for an ungulate to eat
    • Flower
      • light floral scent
      • looks like a purple elephant
      • shades of purple
    • needs an abundance of water
      • leaves aren’t grown in a way that concentrate water flow
    • needs lots of sunlight
      • leaves aren’t grown in a way to max sunlight so needs a lot of sun
      • the tuberous stalk and roots makes me think it is good to eat for ungulates
    • flowers allow for only specific pollinators (a certain type of bee)
    • bright purple attracts pollinators
    • bulb allows plant to overwinter (perennials)


So, I took my observations to the books and discovered my lovely little flower was a Elephant Head Lousewort (pedicularis groenlandica). This guy can become a weed in hay fields, and like I speculated it is eaten by ungulates, specifically elk. And a specific bee will pollinate the Elephant Head Lousewort. This flowering plant is a perennial, partially parasitic on the roots of other plants, grows in alpine meadows. The roots can be eaten in moderation, but only depending on its host. If the host is poisonous, then the ElephantHead can become poisonous too. If eaten the roots can be used as a sedative for children and a tranquilizer for adults, but it is not recommended to eat this plant. The Elephant Head Lousewort is part of the figwort family. Many figworts are ornamental, but not this one because of its parasitic tendency’s.  




Writing an essay while watching lightning background dancers

The clouds finally cleared above the lake, after intermittent thunderstorms had drenched our tents. I was huddled underneath the tarp with some of my fellow students. We were finishing our essays, and the time was just before midnight. I needed a break, so I walked 100ft to the edge of the black waters lapping against the shore. Clouds surrounded the high mountain peaks that dipped their toes into the shallow waters of the small snow-melt fed lake.

I turned my nose to the stars. They were bright and twinkling. A bright flash across the sky, a shooting star, burned in my vision. I yelled at the guys, finishing up their essays, to come check it out. Every 10-20seconds, fainter and brighter streaks blasted across the sky, and we remembered that while in the front country the store clerk informed us of the meteor shower occurring this week. All around the mountains that stood like sentinels around this lake gem, dark clouds lit up with flashes of lightning. Thunder rolled, and the contours of the large, ominous and black clouds would be briefly visible. We had a sweet view of the meteor shower, with the lightning background dancers, and the thunderous applause.

The prompt for the essay we were writing was, “What would a sustainable future look like?” Sunburst Lake fed me inspiration to write my essay, I pulled quotes and ideas from the readings we were given. Our instructors had given us a two-inch spiral bound “reader” at the beginning of the two week course. I lugged this thick binder of resources across streams, over logs, up and down mountains, through flowering meadows and finally to this beautiful lake.

Here are some excerpts from the essay written underneath a meteor shower, beside an alpine lake:

“Individuals’ choices and actions will define a foundation for a sustainable future. As individuals begin to realize the flaws that surround, and are braided through our consumer based culture, conscious actions will be made to cut our first-world carbon footprints. I believe that human innovation and creativity will lead the way towards localizing our economies. Through localizing our economies, individuals, young families, entrepreneurs and small business owners will be able to develop a relationship with the place they live. Through their pride of being part of a community that works together and towards a goal for the greater good, they will be called to action to support a global agreement about what the world should do about climate change. This will be a call for consistency in the people of the United States’ morals, and to extend the benefits of cutting carbon emissions to other peoples.

In the United States consumer based culture, where economic growth is prioritized, we as individuals are not happy. As concluded by Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy, economic growth leads to inequality and insecurity. The growth that has been fed by the American public since WWII has never stopped and hasn’t led to any necessarily significant increase in happiness. Although happiness may be considered irrelevant in the climate crisis, I think it is very relevant.
Happiness is relevant to a sustainable future. If individuals are going to make a significant effort to change their day to day lives to live a more sustainable life, happiness and satisfaction must be apparent. According to McKibben, 20% of Americans are flourishing and content, 25% are languishing and the rest are somewhere in between. Thus, I can conclude that the United States pursuit of growthmanship after WWII did succeed in making us wealthier, but we aren’t at all anymore happier. McKibben does say, “Up to a certain point, more really does equal better,” but the amount of riches we have accumulated have well surpassed the amount to maximize our happiness….

(Skipping some paragraphs about some stuff…)

…Society’s one hope for future and long lasting happiness is climate change. Climate change offers a challenge for people to look at their lifestyles, and to really gage how successful their pursuit at happiness is. It is well known the climate change is a man caused phenomenon. Consequently, our carbon-soaked-behaviors are what have led to altering the Earth so drastically that ecosystems are shifting, species are going extinct, sea-levels are rising and ice caps are melting. We are doing something totally wrong here, and our current method of pursuing happiness is drenched in carbon emissions and really not making us, as a society and as individuals, happy. So, as climate change threatens our hope at future and long lasting happiness, and climate change is man caused, we are forced to reevaluate our behavior and to make significant changes…

(Skipping to a section in the conclusion…)

….A sustainable future cannot come from anywhere but the heart. The American vision is the pursuit of happiness, and the continued happiness for future generations. If individuals begin to make conscious efforts to lower their carbon footprints, creativity will be sparked, because we will have to develop new ways of doing things. And as a result of people getting their creative juices flowing, they will begin to actualize their own potential, which will allow happiness to flourish.”

Saturday, June 28th (All aboard the ferry to Wrangell, AK with kayaks in tow)

We were tasked with interviewing another passenger aboard the vessel. I headed straight towards the old woman underneath the stairs with the bright yellow umbrella, blowing bubbles.

Her name was Carla, a Washington native. She told me she has lived a simple life. She told me how she has always surrounded herself with family, and this is key to fulfillment in life. She grew up with several brothers, raised two daughters, and one grandson. She was a nanny for twenty years and has seen many children grow into young adults.

As we look out on the ocean, she points to a humpback whale breaching on the horizon. We stare in wonder, and she remarks that the beautiful places she has lived have also been a huge contributing factor in her happy and simple life. I can only imagine what other beauties I will find in Alaska as I kayak around Wrangell Island. The mountains that surround either side of the ferry are coated with white, wispy clouds that hide the tops of cascading waterfalls from view and it is hard to imagine anything more beautiful than this.

Carla grew up in western Washington. Commenting on youth’s obsession with playing with cellphones and wasting the hours of the day on the computer, when she was young she’d be on the beach gooey-ducking and enjoying gooey-duck chowder with her brothers. Carla also spent most of her adult years in eastern Washington, right near where I grew up in Spokane. This was where Carla raised her daughters. Now she resides on the west coast, helping her daughter raise her son.

Carla was en route to Prince of Wales Island to see her brother. George, her brother, as she described him, is an old man, a poacher and a wino, who lives off the grid.

Words of wisdom spouted from Carla’s mouth and I drank them in like wine. She told me, simply, that people are most happy doing what they do best and what they love. Carla, in her youth and as an elder,  was born to be matron and loved rearing the young ones to be the best they can. George, on the other hand, was a master poacher, elite moon shiner, and has no criminal record.

We shook hands. As my cold and clammy hand met her warm and wrinkled hand, she remarked, “Cold hands mean a warm and kind heart.”

Last few weeks in Toronto

Some of the nicest people I’ve met have been strangers I bump into on the public transit system. 

One evening around midnight, when I was simply riding a bus in order to have a place to read, the bus driver noticed I didn’t get off at the last stop.

“Miss your stop?” he asked.
“Uh, kinda.
“Which one?”
“Mississauga Road,” I said. He raised his eyebrows at me. It was the stop I initially got on on the bus, and somehow he remembered. “Well, I’m actually just riding in order to read a book, if you don’t mind.”
“Nah,” he said, and I turned around to go sit back down. Before I got to my seat, he shouted back, “What book?”
“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence.”
“Oh, I have that one!”
“Really? A lot of it is about this place I’m from, Montana.”

I spend the next hour of that ride talking to the driver. He was a chef, and used to travel across the world. He told me about his struggles starting out as a kid with no experience in the kitchen, and then, like ever other successful person, got a lucky break solely cracking eggs for a good restaurant. When that part of his life was done, he went to law school, and defended criminals in court. To get by in school, he took up bus driving at night, and kept doing it ever since. The pay was good, and it was peaceful.

Everyone I worked with in the lab were so friendly, too. I never minded leaving work late, and I often tried try assist other people with their lab work in order to get to know their research and them as a person. The casualness of talking to someone while pippetting, I’ve found, is akin to talking to someone over coffee. It’s an easy, monotonous act that just begs for conversation, and I’ve made many friends while putting tiny drops of liquid into other tiny drops. It’s a funny thing.

Last weekend, I caught the last train back from the Canadian National Exhibit, I didn’t realize that I had just missed my last bus home. Four other kids my age, along with an older Pakistani man, missed the bus as well, and somehow we all split the cost of a cab and just laughed it off. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the night than having met those folks. 

As I write this, I’m on my last plane back home to Missoula. Today I turn 20, and though I’ve learned so much over the summer, I still can’t feel justified leaving my teenage years. The more I learn, the more I feel like I don’t know anything. I’m so privileged to have been able to learn from everyone at the University of Toronto – Mississauga this summer, and to have ended up with such a great group of people. I owe everything to the people who have helped me in my life, because if everyone had the same opportunities given to them, my story would be nothing special.

As with any place you travel in life, it’s the people that make it. For all the brief strangers that helped me find my way in a large city, that spent their time with me, that helped me be in Toronto this summer at all, I am eternally grateful. I would have never been able to do this by myself, and I’ll never have such a great opportunity again. Thank you.




WorldPride 2014 in Toronto

I wasn’t kidding when I said it was a happy accident.
A month before I left for Toronto, I was playing softball with the fine folks in UM’s physics department. While sharing my summer plans, one of them interjected.
“Toronto? That’s where World Pride is being held this year!”
I couldn’t believe it. World Pride, the largest celebration of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) people has only occurred four times in history: in Rome (2000), in (2006), in London (2012), and this year in Toronto. LGBTQ rights are very close to my heart, and I was shocked to find that two million people would soon flock the streets of Toronto in rainbows and glitter.
The first event I went to was a skit performed by a group of young actors depicting he hardships of being a young LGBTQ person. It took place at Toronto’s famous Buddies in Bad Times, a bar and theatre that have been around for thirty years (unheard of for a bar! Most close before they’re a decade old. This alone shows the importance of Buddies in its community). It was a fantastic show. The struggles of a transgender girl whose parents insist she dress like a boy, the friction between a daughter and her father when he left their family for a man, and the confusions of lesbians who like to dress rougher and boys who like to wear lace were all depicted fantastically.  It was easily one of my favorite parts of Pride. 
And all that before opening ceremony.
To start the ten-day celebration, Toronto brought in Melissa Etheridge, famous among the older crowd for being an iconic rock artist of the early nineties and a proud supporter of LGBTQ rights. She led a fantastic concert, ending the night with the biggest firework and laser show I had ever seen. Throughout the week there were many smaller events that I couldn’t make because of my work in the lab: a dyke march, a transgender march, a vigil for those who have suffered from AIDS, and  a conference held by the Human Rights Council (check???).  However I wasn’t too down about not attending those, because the real party was the last weekend.
It was the biggest crowd of people if ever swam through. Church Street, famous for having the highest concentration of gay bars in the city, was closed down during the entire celebration. Drag performances, where men become their prettiest and their hair becomes the biggest, were happening on stages all along Church no matter what time of day. The first performance I saw had not only good music and a beautiful costume, but the performer also threw in fire breathing. Many others included a performance themed after the popular fantasy series A Game of Thrones, multiple performances to the song I Feel Like A Woman, and even a performance where the dance was a traditional Indian dance. I’ve seen so few drag performances that I was amazed when I saw one based in a difference culture!
On the last day they closed down Yonge street, the most famous street in Canada and the heart of Toronto’s downtown, and held the World Pride Parade. This is when everyone brought every rainbow coloured object they owned and danced in the streets. It was a hot day, and everyone got hit with water guns from the passing floats. Kids were on the sides of the streets selling rainbow flags and pre-cut mangos. I eventually climbed on top of a bike rack to get the best pictures I could. I must have watched the parade for three hours and still didn’t see the end of it.
The night ended with a concert by Canada’s most famous lesbians, Tegan and Sara. They reminded the crowd that in Canada, and soon the rest of the world, it’s okay to be gay.

“Hey, look! An American Penny!”

Today at the site I finished up the NW quad I was working on yesterday. I uncovered the majority of what looks to be some sort of saw in that quad and have started on the NE quad, which contains the rest of the tool. I took my first soil sample, which will later be floated. My fear came true…I didn’t recognize the next floor layer when I got to it. Luckily, I had a good amount of PPT’s on the beginning of the next floor so I stopped excavating. No harm was done and I accidentally did exactly what we’re suppose to do, so it all worked out. Just glad someone else caught it! All in all today’s work at the site went well. I made sure to put my sunblock on and wore a shirt that kept the existing burn mostly covered. It helped that we had a nice breeze today and a few more clouds!

We left the site an hour early today because we were having a number of people from the community over for dinner. After we got all the artifacts checked in, I got a shower! It may sound silly to be so excited for a shower, but when you get that much dirt on you and you’re on a shower rotation it’s pretty exciting! Around 5:30 people started showing up. One man as he was coming up the steps of the house says “hey, look! An American penny!” It made me laugh for a couple of reasons. One, because I react the exact same way when I find a Canadian penny; Two, because it’s still strange to think I’m in a different country (It doesn’t feel like it most of the time), and Three, I have never heard anyone say that before. It definitely put a smile on my face! Carl, the spiritual leader said a blessing before the meal in both the native language and in English. After we all enjoyed a meal of beef stroganoff, roasted veggies, salad, and rolls as well as homemade cookies for dessert, Carl started a session of drumming and singing. This was my favorite part of the evening! After he finished the first song, he says “better get you’re umbrellas out, it’s gonna rain now!” The drum was passed around to a few of the elders, and others explained the dances that go along with the songs. Two of them everyone stood for, I’m not exactly sure why but that’s the etiquette. One that we stood for was a victory song. Others we heard included, both the male and female rain songs, the huckleberry song, wind, goodbye, as well as other unidentified ones. My favorites were the children’s songs. One was something along the lines of “what does the wolf say? hoooowwwwllll! what does the owl say? who, who!” and so on. everyone who knew the song got really into it and it was so much fun to see!

I really enjoyed seeing 3+ generations singing these songs, and just how strong they keep their culture and passing down the traditional language, songs, dance and so on. It was a really beautiful experience.

**I blogged regularly during the field school on a separate blog. I will be posting three of them on this one, but if anyone is interested in reading some more click here **

Last Stretch

oulanka oulanka1 GroupPhoto2014

I am on the last stretch of my adventure in Finland. At the moment I am sitting at the airport getting ready to leave in a few hours. Over the past few weeks I have been taking my terrestrial field course. In the course I learned how to catch and ID ground and flying invertebrates, as well as small animals. I also learned how to ID different bird species. There were close to five different traps for the insects and about three different ways to track or ID bird and mammal species. Besides studying, I got to go on a bunch of hikes around the Oulanka Research Station. During these hikes I got to see a Finnish beach, the Russian border, and beautiful scenery. I also saw a ton of reindeer on this past trip. They were everywhere and really cute. I learned that the Finnish Santa doesn’t fly with his reindeer, they just sled. Speaking of sleds, on one of the hikes I went on I was shown a type of sled that students often take in the winter time to get to school. Even though I really enjoyed this study abroad and would definitely do it again, I am ready to go home and see my family and get ready for classes on Monday.


Shift: Three men of Oman

A young Omani boy sits between his father and grandfather taking a break before the family returns to Souk's circle of selling.

The boy sat in the middle, kicking his legs just enough for his white disdasha to sway. His grandfather sat to his right as he watched their cattle.

If the boy’s father weren’t scrolling through his cell phone the scene’s date wouldn’t be recognizable.

When the boy leaned over his father’s shoulder to peer at the screen I suddenly realized I am a witness to a shift in Oman.

I’ve felt it when hanging out with Omani friends over shisha as the World Cup played on a projector – I knew some would have to hide they’re socializing with western girls who don’t wear the hijab from their parents.

When I began this blog a year ago in a University of Montana classroom it was with the hopes of pushing through my mental roadblocks.

Though that was initially directed toward my illogical fear of technology, it shifted to every challenge that taunts me to exchange a life of seeking out other cultures for something that resembles satisfaction within the safety of routine.

Arabic has been my most recent challenge. Surprisingly, it’s been difficult to learn the ancient language in an over 90 percent white population in the mountains of Montana, where “diversity” consists of a revolving door of international students, barefoot Frisbee players and non-bra wearing women.

So I decided to move to Oman for the summer, almost without stopping to analyze what I would encounter.

It was the last Friday before Ramadan and the Nizwa Animal Souk pulsed with the rapid pace of buying and selling. Ironically, this was where my mind stopped racing.

For the first timeI forgot the fact I should be making plans when I entered the colorful chaos of the Animal Souk. I became just another moving piece within the crowd.

I was finally in the Middle East

A buyer watches the trail of goats parade throughout the Nizwa Animal Souk.

I watched the boy’s father put his phone away, pick up a goat and join the market’s circle while shouting out a price in Arabic. He set aside technology for a moment to step back into a position his father had taught him and a job he was teaching his son.

If done right, the goat would be sold for about 50 rial and killed by sunset.

The dirt spotted animals were a stark contrast to the rotating men who moved like a unit – the few blue and brown dishdashas blurred into the white majority. The patterns were only broken when a man stopped to bargain with a potential customer.

Men discuss a fair price on the final Friday before Ramadan.

While the borders of generational change are still visible within the routine of the Animal Market of Nizwa, my attention was caught by the family aspect. The Animal Souk resembled a school for tradition even while the rest of Oman seems to be developing a stark change from fathers to sons.

Maybe I’ll eventually be able to put into words the shift I feel like I’m living within or the beautiful people and culture I get to explore.

For now, as sleep is limited and words are hard, I will settle with snapshots of the life within one of the oldest markets in Oman.


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The Past Few Days


Block B had an exciting find, a bunch of dog coprolites! Which is fossilized poop. I’ve never seen so many people so interested or excited about a pile of dog poop before! We’ve been constantly cracking jokes at the gal who found them. It’s actually a spectacular find. Not many of them have been found in the Fraser Valley and a plethora of information can be recovered from them. I began working on a new quad, which had a TON of artifacts. In one corner I found a couple hundred fish bones/fragments…it took a long time to pick them all out. I also found another bone awl!! This one is a little bigger and has notches at the base of it. A few larger bones and even a rib (mostly dog, maybe some deer). A tooth was also in this quad. Some of my block mates thought it might have been a human incisor, but after closer inspection it wasn’t. The quad is located near a hearth feature, so the items I found are most likely meal remains and/or discard. I couldn’t believe how much was in such a small place! I had a shower and laundry day that landed on the eve of our day off, so I got to be clean for 2 days! That evening we went into town and hung out at the Legion. It was a much busier night so we chatted with a few locals and played some pool


We all slept in a little bit and then headed into town. We got breakfast at The Reynolds again then ran a few errands that people needed to do. We had planned on going on a short hike up to a waterfall we had heard about, but decided going swimming sounded a bit better. Most of the gang went and we found a nice spot where the Cayoosh Creek meets the Fraser River. It’s the perfect swimming hole. A little protected spot that doesn’t have a strong current and the water is nice and clear. We hung out there for the rest of the afternoon and early evening soaking up the sun and swimming. Then we packed up and went to dinner downtown.


We all headed to the site at normal time but were only there for half an hour before the rain got a little too heavy to keep excavating. Once back at camp we did lab work. I worked on floats and we put a huge dent in the amount of soil samples that have accumulated. After lunch the sun came back out and we were able to start excavating again. It was my night to cook dinner, and that went well. I made my version of 5 On Black’s (a restaurant in Missoula) rice bowls.


Today was really hot. It got to the point where everyone started moving slow and getting rundown by the heat. The worst part is that this was supposedly “mild” and we haven’t seen nothin’ yet. To try and avoid as much of the afternoon heat as possible we are going to be at the site by 6:30am and take 15 minutes off of our lunch break. I finally finished the quad that was chocked full of artifacts. I moved in the Northern most quads of unit 15 and the composition was much different. At first we thought that it was substrate (the foundational material of the area, meaning that there would be no more floors) but it turned out to be this mysterious clay baked material that we’re not sure the meaning and/or purpose of yet.


**I blogged regularly during the field school on a separate blog. I will be posting three of them on this one, but if anyone is interested in reading some more click here **