Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On my wait again.

It has been a long arduous journey to get to India. It's still not finished, but it's drawing closer.

It started this summer, applying for a job in late July, receiving an invitation to proceed further in early August and a preliminary contract the middle of August. The plan was that I would be in India by September 4th. That obviously didn't transpire.

When all the paperwork eventually made it's way from office to office to me, I received it the end of September and applied online for my visa on Labor Day.

The processing time as stated on their website is 3-5 days. That seemed remarkable but wonderful. When I applied for my Korean visa I received it in 4 days even though the processing time was 7-10 days. I eagerly waited those 3-5 days, waiting for the email requesting the remainder of the necessary paperwork and my passport photo. After 6 days I tried to call and find out what was happening because I had heard nothing. I couldn't reach anyone. I tried for weeks but got no where. Finally, I called and someone answered. They asked why I hadn't made an appointment and had I not received an email asking for any additional documents. I hadn't.

I made an appointment for the very next day. This was the middle week of September. When I got there, I was informed I'd filed the wrong visa application so I refiled at the office. Then they needed my resume. I'm fortunate that I have it online so I printed off a copy at the office. Then they looked at my passport which had over six months on it when I first applied but was now just under. They refused me.

Previously, I had gone to the Atlanta Passport Agency and been declined to have an expedited visa because I didn't have an international ticket proving travel. I explained this to them at the Indian agency but they would not take my application so I went to the Chicago passport agency. Luck was with me there and the lady took my passport renewal form even without proof of travel.

A week later, I returned to Chicago, picked up my passport, and reapplied again for my visa. This day was September 23rd. After a week I was again requested for more paperwork. The Indian company emailed it to me right away and I submitted it. Another week passed and I received a call from the consulate (which you can't call btw) stating that they had received the email with the paperwork but it was still processing. Why they couldn't say. They asked if I wanted my passport back. I declined. I didn't know if it was a trick to decline my visa since they can't process it without my passport or if someone was just trying to be nice, but I didn't want them to have any reason not to grant me my visa.

Another week passed and they asked for a future schedule. One doesn't exist because I'm in the entertainment business and gigs get booked as the are requested. And the Indian company definitely isn't going to book me if I don't have my visa yet, so there was no future schedule to provide. The Indian company provided other paperwork to prove the validity of the performances and venues, etc. The Indian consulate was not appeased however, and requested the future schedule a second time another week later.

During all this time I would spend hours on hold trying to call the agencies' call center. The people there couldn't really do much unfortunately, but they did advance my case in the system and put it on "urgency" and whatnot. It's frustrating because the Indian consulates in the United States don't deal directly with the public. You have to go through an outsourcing agency called Cox and Kings Global Services and neither the consulate nor the agency have phone numbers. Only the call center is reachable and you have to wait for hours to speak with someone, which probably won't result in actually knowing more or doing anything.

The second week of November on Friday the 14th. I received the previously forethought unattainable email stating my visa had been approved and was sent to the agency for pickup or delivery. I had already prepaid for the delivery so I started making plans to get to Chicago so I could fly out early the next week when the visa should have arrived. But the visa didn't arrive. I called every day asking where it was and why it hadn't been mailed. The call center didn't know why and could only put my file on urgent. I waited over a week and then decided it was time to take action myself. Monday the 24th, I drove to Chicago to pick up my visa in person.

I walked in at 2:30 p.m. and verified that the agency did indeed have my passport and they had not mailed it off while I was driving there. So I waited around until the 4:00 p.m. designated pick up time. At that time, no line formed, to order ensued, no numbers were given. We all just randomly sat and were randomly called as the workers dug through a pile randomly. And I do mean randomly. There was no organization to it at all.

But there is wonderful news at the end of it all...


However, now I sit in Chicago, awaiting an unknown flight. Thankfully, I have an awesome friend who's letting me crash and wear her cold weather clothes since I only have warm weather ones packed for India. It's from one waiting game to another. The process is moving though....slowly....

Now I just have to get my flight and it will finally happen. I'll finally be in India, performing Bollywood tunes and traveling again!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Traveling Korea/ Japan 2014

Long ago I promised an informative blog with travel links and tips that I spent many days of my life hunting down, translating, calling and sorting conflicting data to travel between South Korea and Japan.

The first thing that I did to really help me was make a spreadsheet with all the information from the various sources. This is a link to that and the picture below gives you a sample.

While I was traveling between Korea and Japan there were some smartphone apps that were extremely helpful. They are also all free!!! I tried lots of different apps and these were my favorite.

Currency ~ Most of the time I didn't need to use a conversion app, but this one would retain the numbers that I'd looked up even once I left an internet source. Most other apps would try to refresh and therefore lose the data I'd previously had. This app came in most handy when someone tried to rip me off and I could show them that I knew what they should be giving me.

Korean Builder ~ My favorite Korean language app. There are the general categories you can click on but you can also start typing (in English) and optional phrases and words in romanticized letters and in Hangul will appear so you can show someone the sentence or word even if you can't say it. It also has the option to use honorific, formal or polite forms. It is a free app so there aren't all the words you'll look up but there are plenty enough to get your point across and you can also update to a full version. This app also does not require internet access which in Korea isn't a huge problem, but nice to know none the less.

Korean Flashcards ~ A nice app for a few of those basics. You can choose whether you see romanticized letter or Hangul or both. And since no internet is required it's also an easy app to use when you're desperate to communicate.

Learn Korean Numbers ~ My favorite Korean numbers app. Korean numbers are tricky because there's two different sets and they use each set for different things and both for telling time, so it's important to be able to reference both quickly. Most apps only have the Sino-Korean set. This app is free and you can practice the numbers as well as practice telling time in the app. Super helpful!

Maps With Me ~ This app lets you download maps of a specific city or country to your phone so you don't have to have a wi-fi connection to see where you are. This app was really really really helpful in Japan where wi-fi is scarce and never free.

Subway ~ This is the number one app for using the subway system in Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Daejeon and Gwangju. The system is super easy to maneuver anyway with color coded number systems posted everywhere below as well as above ground. I travel a little bit and Seoul is an easy place to get around. I did not have the opportunity to use this app outside of Seoul so I can't comment on its effective in the other cities. However, this app is a must have as you can pull up the subway map with romanticized stop names so you can figure out where you are if you don't read or speak Hangul. You do have the option to use it in Hangul as well as Japanese too. The app gives you the fastest route to and from where you'd like to go and timetables for departures. I can't say enough about how good this app is!

Talking Translator ~ One of the translator apps I liked using but it does require an internet connection. It gives you options to hear the translated word or phrase, keeps your history and will even give you daily words in a language of your choice.

Translate ~ Of course Google translate is also a go to translator option but beware to only use it for basic sentences and words because it doesn't translate larger sentences correctly at all. I'm being very serious and have had ample experience when I first moved to Korea and couldn't speak a word, nor could my neighbors speak a word of English. Hours were spent trying to communicate through translator apps and Google doesn't work with anything remotely complex. Talking Translator often did better with longer sentences than Google.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Classical Music in North America ~ how should it be experienced?

This article  called, 10 Things That We Should Change In Classical Concerts, particularly hits home with me because at the very last concert I performed, I was reprimanded by another musician while on stage. What was I doing? Well, the concert was uncovered, outdoors and rainy so many string players brought their cases out on stage. I brought my Mary Poppins umbrella. A couple other members saw it and jokingly suggested I should start dancing and "singing in the rain". In response I took my folded umbrella and started pumping it up and down and doing the leg kick from my chair, which was on the very outside, so I was visible to absolutely everyone in attendance. The reprimand was that I should behave because I'm on stage now. I answered back, and firmly believe, that audiences should see happiness and joy on stage and not always a somber stare from its musicians. There was no discussion because soon the concert began and I respect the protocols to be quiet and attentive for the conductor and concertmaster. But to show an audience that classical music is fun; it's fun to play, it's fun to listen to; it's fun to watch; its fun to absorb, is something I try to do every time I have a chance to interact with my audience. 

What do you think? 

What parts of this article do you agree or disagree with?


This is the outdoor venue at the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock.

This is my usual self, fun, happy and full of life! The photographer took this picture as I was walking on stage.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bruckner Symphony No.7 & a trip to Little Rock

It is funny. I went to type, or swype as it were, the word Arkansas into my phone and it didn't know the word. I wonder what people from Arkansas think...having to add their state's name into the phone dictionary.

I digress. I'm heading to Little Rock this week to play in the Arkansas Symphony! It seems like it's been forever and what a better way to return than with a concert including Bruckner Symphony No.7. I've wanted to play one for a long time so I'm finally getting to fulfill my dream. :)  Last year I checked a Mahler Symphony off my list for the first time and this year it is a Bruckner Symphony. Let's keep the awesome pieces coming!

So for any friends that are in the Little Rock area, send me a note since I'll be there for a week and will have time to visit. And for any of my friends in Chicago. I'm getting to and from Little Rock via the Windy City, so when I return I can spend a few extra days if I'm so inclined :)

Don't forget that you can keep up with me on a more daily basis (it's not quite daily, but more frequent than the blog) via Twitter. There is a feed in the right column of my blog, but you can also follow me here if you have a Twitter account.

It will be nice to escape the growing cold of the northern Indiana countryside, spend time performing and practicing instead of faucet repairing/replacing and gutter removal. And hopefully when I return, there will be an India visa waiting for me!!! Dare I hope? It's been such a long road, but I still hold onto the hope that until they reject my visa, the possibility still exists for my future tour through India and Asia performing awesome Bollywood tunes.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

India seems so far away

It has been a long haul already and unfortunately, I'm writing this update from my childhood twin bed in my childhood bedroom with the same carpet, same wallpaper, same curtains, and even the same sheets on my bed. There's just a few extra boxes and an elliptical machine to remind me I no longer live here permanently....yet.

It was in August that I agreed to a job in India and said yes, I can leave in three weeks when the company in India hiring me asked if I was available right away.

Back then I had 7 months before my passport expired.

I did Skype interviews, sent resumes, videos and pictures and was emailed a nice contract and everything seemed on track...until I tried to get my visa.

I went to the Atlanta passport agency the middle of August to renew my passport just in case and was told that I couldn't do so quickly without an exact travel date like an airline ticket.

Since my passport was not going to expire right away and I didn't want to send it off in the mail for a month and a half to renew it without an exact travel date, I decided to just wait and renew my visa overseas.

After receiving all my documents to apply online I did so on Labor Day and emailed to confirm the next day that the consulate had indeed received my application. They emailed me back the following day affirming that they had received it. Online it listed a set of steps to follow and I had completed step one and was now waiting for an email to complete steps two and three. After 5 days (the website stipulates a 3-5 day processing period) I tried emailing. All my emails were returned undeliverable. The next day I tried calling. There were three numbers on the website. Only one actually rang and I would sit and wait for a half hour plus numerous times throughout the day and on different days and no one would ever answer. This went on for a couple of weeks and finally my agent went to the embassy in the town near his location and was told I should just keep pestering them. Wish I could right?!

So I tried calling again and magically, I got through. About time it was. I was asked if I had received emails and I was like, nope. I can't even email you or call you. I was told to schedule an appointment to complete my paperwork so I scheduled one for the very next morning.

After waking at an ungodly hour to drive to Chicago to get there for my mid morning appointment, waiting in line, being told I had the wrong application, redoing my application, being told I needed additional paperwork, getting that paperwork, and then attempting to submit everything for processing, I was informed that since my passport no longer had more than six months before expiring that I could not submit my visa application. I explained that to get my passport renewed I needed an airline ticket and to get that I needed my visa, but to get my visa, I needed a renewed passport. Oh the joy of red tape circles.

Since I was nearby, I walked to the Chicago passport agency and when the lady called me up and asked if I had my travel dates I started explaining my situation. She kindly interrupted my story and said I couldn't get my passport back today but they would mail it to me in a few days. Whoopee!

I came back to Chicago in a few days instead of having them mail it, picked it up and returned to the visa application office. After another round of more paperwork and yadda yadda I finally got it submitted. The head lady there said she'd never seen a submission like mine. Guess I'm the exception. I shouldn't have been so surprised.

Anyway, I happily left the office thinking that in a week (according to their website and the email I had specifically written to confirm this, the processing time is 3-5 days) I'd have my visa in hand and be getting a ticket to India post haste!

Wrong again...

Turns out the consulate can't decide what they want to do with my visa application so they requested a detailed schedule of my upcoming performances, venues, etc. I'm not going to go into details about how that's impossible to procure, but the Indian company trying to hire me kindly supplied me with more documents to try and appease the consulate here and get my visa processed.

Then I got a phone call yesterday.

It's always scary getting a phone call from a government agency.

They told me they'd received the documents I had emailed earlier that day and still couldn't decide what to do and now the whole department is taking a five business day holiday so they won't consider it again until next week sometime. In the meantime, they asked if I'd like my passport back. The unfiltered response would have been, yes, with my Indian visa inside please.  But the filtered response was, no thanks, I'm not planning on any international travel in the next couple of weeks. I'm really hoping to travel to India the next time I use my passport!

Sooooo, I'm still waiting still waiting still waiting stilllll waitinggggg.............................

Maybe someday I'll get my Indian visa. This has certainly not been easy and not been fun and not been ideal in any way. There is still a good chance I won't even get to India after spending hundreds of dollars, completely reorganizing my schedule for the last few months, and turning down work because of the posted processing times. I still want this gig and hope I get it, but if I do, I think it will be the last time I apply for an Indian visa.

If any of my readers have any tips or hints for Indian policies or visas or for traveling in and around India, especially Mumbai, please let me know.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Quick trip to Atlanta

To complete all the necessary details to head to India, a quick trip to Atlanta was in order.

Atlanta is around a 5-6 hour drive from my adopted dad's home plus you lose an hour. I drove down on Tuesday, but forgot about the hour difference so was an hour late to the Tuesday night contra dance. I'd expected a good gathering since Atlanta has a couple big contra dance weekends, but it was a puny little group. The band far outnumbered the dancers.

Even so, I had a good time and danced my heart away.

Then it was on to meet my couch surfing host. Boy, do I get lucky with couch surfers and hosts. My host was so kind, thoughtful, and helpful. Meeting my new friend was the highlight of my trip.

The following day I drove up to Walmart for a quick turn-around passport photo since they like current ones and the last one I'd had taken was a year ago and it wasn't one I wanted to see on my passport for the next 10 years. I had called ahead and the store said the photo department opened at 9, so I walked it at 9:05 only to be told the machine had just been turned on and it would be a half hour for it to warm up before they could print my pictures. That threw off my timing, so instead of being able to park cheaply near my host's home in Midtown and walk downtown, I waited for the pictures and then hurriedly drove downtown, parked at an overrated lot and made it to my appointment only a few minutes late.

Not having made an appointment to renew my passport before I didn't know the details. Had I known, I would have not bothered rushing. After walking through security, I gave the person at the first set of windows my paperwork and then sat and waited for 45 minutes until my number was called. It was only then that I was told the agency was only for expedited passport renewal. The lady I'd spoken with on the phone hadn't mentioned that when I said I only needed a regular renewal speed. So I'd just wasted money on parking and time sitting. Arg.

Oh well, it was a nice day so I walked back outside and ate a quick lunch so I could have 20 minutes to nap in the car before walking to my next appointment. That all went smoothly and I returned to my car to drive home. Since I had extra time I was able to find FREE parking!!!  And still more time enabled me to get an Insanity workout in before my final appointment of the day.

Then it was back to my host's home where I spoke the honest truth that I'm a terrible cook and that if there was to be any edible food tonight, it would not be made by me. So I serenaded my host on my violin while supper was prepared. I think it was a good trade off :)

The next day was all about the music. I woke up and prepared to have a long day of rehearsal and recording. Unfortunately my accompanist wasn't prepared and so after a few hours of practice we discussed options and went our separate ways. After a leisurely tour through a nice store, Health Unlimited, where I found this card that I now need to print up and put in my violin case so I see it every day,

I returned home to meet my host, walk to Piedmont Park (where I played Death and the Maiden on my phone and zoned out figuring my next plan of attack), grab some tasty Mexican food, and do my Insanity workout. Wasn't the day I had planned but the Duck Pond 2012 Pinot Noir was quite tasty that night!

The next day's plans were to return to Nashville in the evening and since my morning/early afternoon was now free I hopped onto the Meetup website to see if there were any good sports groups I could join for a fun time. Turns out there was a beach volleyball meetup happening at the same park I'd walked to the night before (which is a fabulous park by the way). It was nearby and proper level of play for me. I was thrilled. After saying goodbye and thank you to my host I left for the park. When I arrived (10 minutes late because I couldn't find my contacts), no one was there. So I sat down on a park bench and checked on my phone to see if I was in the right place only to discover that the meetup had been canceled. Boy, my luck this trip wasn't so hot.

So instead of a romping and vigorous game of 2 on 2 beach volleyball, I walked around the park, headed back home to shower and return to Nashville.

A bright sunny day in the active oval at Piedmont Park.

Nibbling away but watching me none the less :)

Not a soul in sight, but some high rise buildings.

Beautiful green lawn as far as the eye can see.

Walking along 10th St. next to Piedmont Park, the streets are lined with flowers and unique houses.

I loved the artsy blue door!

This is one way to never have to mow your lawn...just use ground cover.
It was a rather frustrating trip in many ways, but I now have questions answered and curiosities assuaged. It's time to move forward and focus on what's next: hopefully India, hopefully a couple of symphony concerts, and the day to day improvements of mind, body and soul.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ohio Light Opera 2014

What a summer it's been! What a FUN summer it's been! What an EDUCATIONAL summer it's been! What a PRODUCTIVE summer it's been! What an AMAZING summer it's been!!!

Trying to take advantage of every opportunity, every relationship, every hour and every day can sometimes be overwhelming; especially when so much is packed into so little.

This was my schedule for the summer. Two services a day is quite exhausting when done on a regular basis. Add to that: personal practice both morning and/or night, Insanity workouts, random sport activities, regular late night gatherings, and it turns into a whirlwind of nights and days and days and nights boosted by caffeine, cat naps against the scroll of my violin in the pit during dialogue, and a steady stream of danceish movement and energy to propel you forward and infuse the music with sparkle (a reference to the seemingly only adjective known by the recording director)!

I LOVED IT ALL! Truly I did. There were ups and downs. In exchange for the days and nights of blissful happiness were the days and nights of tears in the pillow and loneliness quote surfing.

Personal growth, personal enlightenment and any kind of change never gets easier no matter how much you want it and do it. But the results are always worthwhile and I'm happy now that I'm stepped back from the picture that was the Ohio Light Opera and see the changes; physical, mental, and emotional that I achieved, began and continued. It's so hard sometimes to see the bigger picture when you're placed in such a small environment.

That little blue dot was where I lived for a while. Everyday I'd walk to either the music building or the Theater or both to practice and rehearse. It wasn't the best of situations since there was no kitchen(ette) but there was a micro fridge that I commandeered for myself and a small microwave and I had a juicer with me so it was manageable for a few months. Unfortunately, what wasn't manageable was the "maintenance". There's a few pictures below of the walls that were removed and the ceiling being torn down. The men working said it was going to get even worse. I simply can't imagine it and I never went back to see.

I won't include the videos that made it impossible to exist due to the extremely loud noise factor. No one besides those being paid to work there should be required to hear that!

They did move all the residents of this dorm to another newer and much nicer dorm for the last two weeks of the summer. I was very grateful for everyone who helped make it possible. It truly was in their self interest to help me maintain my sanity because I'm already crazy, who would dare survive if I was insane?!, outside of during my Insanity workouts of course :)

This summer I enjoyed my hand at T25 for the first time. After sitting still for three weeks, watching far too many documentaries on any number of random topics to occupy my time and let my sprained finger heal enough to continue with semi normal daily life, I joined the kind cast members at the gym who let me start mid way through the summer. Since I hadn't done any activity for a while it wasn't fun breaking back into the workout routine but after a week my body started to respond again and soon T25 became, dare I say, boring? I continued it but when we moved into the new dorm there was a nice facility with air conditioning and a big projector screen and a sticky vs. slippery floor and I didn't have to ask anyone to unlock it or not workout on the weekend because the gym was closed so I followed my addicted heart and body back to Insanity. I was very fortunate to have two wonderful people join me every day and we had a great time digging deeper and screaming and shouting and huffing and puffing and sweating everywhere together. I will sincerely miss my Insanity workout partners :(

A random interesting Wooster fact: there is an unhealthy saturation of skunks. I saw them everywhere, nearly walked on one as I cut through some brush one night (I have quite the long jump when necessary I discovered), sadly shut my window one day while one was nesting just underneath it not 2 feet below, crossed the street to avoid one strolling down the sidewalk one evening, and grew accustomed to the smell as a random odor that was just a part of my daily life.

That's as close as my phone's zoom goes and I wasn't getting any closer in person!
The friendships I made this summer have been such a blessing in more ways than I'm sure any of them know. I've adopted two little sisters, begun a very open and honest friendship with someone that I would never had expected, had some really clarifying and serious talks with another friend whom helped me self inspect without even realizing it, formed a fast and surprisingly close bond with a ray of sunshine that always brightened my day and I only hope that I brightened their's as much. I met a wonderful friend who inspired me that there is a possibility to continue pursuing your passions and dreams and love what you do. I know I follow that path but sometimes it feels like I'm trapped in a dark room with no doors or windows from which to escape. This friend told me stories and taught me lessons about maneuvering through life's changes and curveballs. I hope to keep in touch and learn so much more! In some way, each and every person in my life this summer taught me something: taught me things about myself, things I like, things I don't like, reminded me of old times and introduced me to new ones, and reminded me once again how fleeting life is and how each individual is unique in their own right. I wish I could have spent more time getting to know more of the people this summer, but with schedules, housing arrangements, and personal time, the minutes danced by and I couldn't keep up. I did work hard this summer trying to learn everyone's name, where they are from and who they are. I didn't get to every body but I did get to know many on many different levels and I'm so grateful to each and every one that spent their precious time with me. As I travel, grow older, and learn more of life, I increasingly have become aware of time and it's invaluableness.

Still, there were so many great times playing Cards Against Humanity, watching Whose Line is it Anyway, drinking wine out of boxes in plastic cups, winning beer pong (with the help of my fabulous doubles partner) so not drinking near enough beer, sitting on wooden chairs or sweaty couches and chatting with any and every one about any and every thing; learning, absorbing, sharing, teaching.

Here are a few pictures with just a few people from this summer. Smiles abound and for that, I am one happy girl!  :-D

One of the only pictures from the numerous parties. This was the rep open party, meaning no more rehearsals! Just play away :)

The two bow tie sporting champs for the Fourth of July concert! Don't we look smashing?!?! 

On one of the few days off, a few of us managed to hit the road and attend a free festival in Columbus. It was so much fun and even included 45 minutes of contra dancing!!! WOOT!!!  Nothing better than fun in the sun :)

Enjoying a local favorite at the Wooster Brewery with a couple of the non Pirates of Penzance folk.

Occasionally we had the energy to sneak in a fast dinner between shows and one of my favorite restaurants is/was TJ's. They had quite a variety of vegetarian options that made me a very happy diner...the company wasn't bad either :)

Oh, the fun to be had toward the end of the season when you get a free evening. Splitting the second best barley wine I've had with a friend at my other favorite haunt in Wooster, The Spoon! Yes, they did pour the barley wine into issues regarding bathroom quantities was the explanation I received...
I also did some fun mountain biking at a good single track called Vulture's Knob just a few miles west of Wooster. One would never guess such a trail existed in close vicinity to the tiny town. But I was thrilled and rode it several times. Here are a few pictures and one video that doesn't capture the 12 foot rutted drop into a 90 degree turn but until I can get a GoPro it's the best I have.

After our last romp in the woods, jk, but my mountain biking buddy was a great gift to have this summer!

The one thing I missed the most this summer was dancing. Prior to arriving in Wooster, I had written in all the dances for the summer and emailed myself dance websites. What I'd failed to see was that all the dances were cancelled during the summer months, even in the bigger cities like Cleveland. I was crushed and tried to learn to lead ballroom so as to dance with one of the orchestra girls a bit and that worked somewhat, but I'm just not a good ballroom lead yet. I did get one night of blues dancing at a dorm party where I requested blues music and then wrangled others into dancing blues with me :)  But no contra was had. I hope to remedy this very soon in Atlanta! My soul needs some good contra dancing. Really, the world does revolve around it if you didn't know. And if there was a job as a professional contra dancer...but being a dance gypsy is the next best thing.

Supporting my dancing friends from afar in their Guinness record breaking attempt.
So until I save enough money to join my dance gypsies friends around the country and sometimes parts of the world, I'll have to settle for the next best thing ;-)  Keep reading to find out what that might be and look for another post in the next few weeks with more details!

I didn't travel much around Ohio while I was here, but I did make it up to Cleveland for one overnight when I had the next afternoon off. It was a wonderful time seeing the nightlife of Cleveland a little bit and then walking around downtown the following morning.

A fun night and a beautiful day celebrating my upcoming gig in Cleveland. Somehow I found myself walking down the street, basking in the sunlight singing, It's a Lovely Day Today...not sure how that happened :-p

The last happy Ronda face is to celebrate not just a wonderful summer but a wonderful future for the next six months at least.

I'm celebrating a new job that will not only take me and my violin to India, but also Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand! Six months of travel and performance in Asia!! I can't wait. Here's to more fun stories, more fun pictures, more fun friends :)

I will post another entry with more information of India and my upcoming job. This post was to reminisce of the recent summer and I hope you enjoyed reading about my memories as much as I enjoyed remembering them.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Fun in the Pit

It's been a number of years, but I'm thrilled to once again be in the orchestra pit. This year I returned to the Ohio Light Opera Company and was slightly apprehensive since it was 2006 since I was last here but it has been nothing but rewarding thus far. The people have been wonderful in all aspects. The management, the cast, the orchestra have all been more than I dared to expect and I'm enjoying every minute.

Sadly I have to sit out one of the shows per the contract, even though I asked to play them all :)  This year "Oh, Lady, Lady" is not to be added to my repertoire list. But several others are! You can check out the performance schedule here and come for a visit and a show! Just let me know :)

Besides the wonderful friends I've been making and the smaller the world has become yet again, I've managed to injure my ring finger on my left hand. I'm not sure how it's injured, just that it was strained/stressed/bruised/jammed/??? while playing catch with a football. With the constant rehearsal schedule I'm held to it's been difficult and frustrating to not play for several days. But I hope that by Friday I'll be healed to a satisfactory degree and can play everything asked of me. Not only is there the opening show of My Fair Lady on Saturday but the first rehearsal for Pirates of Penzance on Friday of which I sit principal second. Come on finger, heal!!! Fast!!!

Amidst the rehearsing and performing I've managed to begin regular tennis sessions, Insanity workouts, and mountain biking. I want to incorporate some basketball as well, but free time is a little short this summer. I'm still having an absolute blast changing up my sports and workout routine, making new friends and getting reacquainted with old ones, learning new musicals and reuniting with old ones.

This summer is going to be a summer to remember I do hope! Things are set on the right track and if I can just keep them from careening off into the black abyss I'll be set! Trios could happen, duos could happen, wonderful shows WILL happen, friendships will/have happened. Minutes seem to fly by, but as they do I try to grasp every one and truly appreciate each for the remarkable beauty of life that it is.

I can already tell that this summer will end far before I'm ready for it to, but time is not to be stopped. All I can so is collect as many memories as I can before the minutes all fly by.

I will attempt to take more pictures of the ordinary and recall more tales of the extraordinary for you. Please be patient with me as I embark down this summer's road.

Last dress rehearsal before the season begins!


Update since I began writing this post; I was unwillingly removed from Pirates. It is a very sad time indeed. Guess it leaves a lot more time to focus on cruise possibilities and athletics. After some online research I've concluded my finger was sprained but it is actually healing quite well and as fast as I dared hope. Thinking happy thoughts and trying to focus on the things I can control. This summer will still be fun. I have no intention of letting this hamper my thrill of life. I will simply redirect it :-)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Northwest Folklife Festival 2014

One year ago I danced my way across the contra dance floor day after day and hour after hour.

It's been a year since I danced and I was so thrilled to be back in Seattle for another NWFLF (Northwest Folklife Festival).

I arrived early early in the morning after some delays on Wednesday morning. Unfortunately, my luggage did not. That didn't stop me from spending some wonderful quality time with three very good friends that day. The weather was beautiful and time was spent wandering the streets of Fremont, laying on the grassy hillside at the Ballard locks, and walking through Ballard that evening.

I wish I'd had more time to devote to reconnecting and spending time with my friends. Life is so short and sometimes it feels like time is stolen from me more than just passing by.

Thursday my friend and I headed up Little Si Mountain. My lower back was hurting significantly from excessive exercise and stretching the prior week so I'm positive that it was the slowest ascent and descent I've ever done on a mountain, but I enjoyed being outside nonetheless. The critters were out too. Spotted lots of caterpillars, some deer, a chipmunk, and even a small snake crossing the path. The sun was out and the forest was alive with colors and sounds of summer.

The trail head.

A popular rock climbing wall in the woods.

View from the top. That's not Seattle in case you were wondering...

The trail through the trees. It's soooo green!

Yes, we stopped and stared at each other for a bit. He graciously posed for the camera :)

Friday started Folklife. Since my back was still weak I only danced for a cumulative of a few hours, and only contra dancing that day. It was a day of reuniting with old friends and reintroducing my body to the dance world again :)

Saturday I planned a more complex day. It started with some swing dancing and continued into an hour and a half of Gilbert and Sullivan sing-a-longs! By then it was early evening and I headed back to some contra dancing for the rest of the night.

Sunday started with some contra but soon turned into a fabulous and fun hour of zydeco dancing!! Sweaty and blissfully happy I left to find some food and a Bach sing-a-long choir. Dancing resumed again with a bunch of Scandinavian dances, more contra, outside swing in the rain on the grass and a conclusive night of waltzing. My feet were hurting by the end of Sunday, but my back was no longer. I was eager to rest for the last day of Folklife.

Monday was going to be the most unusual for me that I had planned. I spent some time dancing zydeco in the morning and then a lovely afternoon discussing blues improv for violin and contra dance writing with a good friend. When I went back to dancing it was to the swing stage for the afternoon. I did have one complete contra dance on Monday to complete my contra dancing weekend before heading out to latin ballroom dancing. I shimmied and swirled and swept my way across the latin floor for the rest of the night before it was time to say good bye to everyone I'd just met and all the friends I'd barely had time to share one dance with all weekend.

It was an amazing weekend. Not just for the fun of dancing and the friendships, but because this weekend I broke down some boundaries I'd created, pushed myself out of some comfort zones I had, set goals that I completed, and discovered a confidence that I had long ago lost. I knew this weekend would be magical but still was unprepared for how magical and life changing it would be. I'm so thankful for all the friends I have, all the friends I made, and all the friends I haven't lost while traveling so often and so far without constant contact. I'm still amazed at the generosity, humble kindness, and genuine love they show toward me and am so blessed to have a place in all of their lives, no matter how small it may be (cozy corners are often the best spots)!

Here's to Folklife, Friends, Fun, and many more of these times to come!

Next I'm off to Ohio to perform for the summer at the Ohio Light Opera Company. Come visit. Come see a show. I'll be performing, I'll be dancing (locally as often as possible, but not on stage lol), I'll be outside mountain biking and playing tennis, and best of all, I'll be enjoying life as I continue my pursuit of the cruise ship :)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Walt Disney World 05/2014

It's hard to believe but it's true. Before this month I'd never been to any theme park in my life, and definitely not anything as spectacular as a Disney theme park.

When my adopted dad found out about this rather astonishing fact he told me that whenever I was free he would make my dream come true and take me to a Disney park! It only took a few years before I had an entire free week in the United States, but it finally happened.


I didn't exactly grow up on Disney so some of the parks nostalgia was lost on me, but the charm and excitement and childlike inspiration wasn't lost. I spent five days from open until close walking every corner, eating every treat, riding every ride, and smiling the entire time.

Somehow I managed only to gain a couple pounds, avoid a sun burn and just achieve a nice tan, and fill a memory bank of fun to overflowing!

My adopted dad and I drove from near Nashville all the way to Orlando (in two days) and stayed outside the park in a super nice apartment just 4 miles away. It was so nice to have a kitchen and separate bedrooms and we were so close to the park it was amazingly easy to waltz right in every morning.

The first day we went to The Magic Kingdom. I'd seen some Disney movies obviously, but since I had never been to a Disney park I had no idea that the castle in the movie opening was actually real! It was beyond believable when I walked in and realized I was in a whole new world. As I walked and walked I couldn't believe how big and how real everything was.

 My adopted dad had been there before and so he took charge, steering me first this way and then that; taking me on Space Mountain and Buzz Light Year and every ride in the park it seemed. We stopped for churros and for Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwiches. We stopped for pictures and pictures and still more pictures. The park was so big I was lost for a while. All I knew was that I walked and walked and kept on walking that first day. The ride my adopted dad most wanted to do was Splash Mountain, so we got a fast pass that afternoon and headed over to the ride. It's a cute ride with the Brer Rabbit theme throughout and I did enjoy it although it is not my favorite ride. When we finally got home that evening, I collapsed into bed with the biggest smile on my face. I was getting to experience what it's like to be a kid at Walt Disney World...well, a big one at least :)

Bet you can't guess who won?!?!
Inside the ride on Thunder Mountain!

Prophetic I do hope!

We took a nice relaxing break on the old steam boat Liberty Belle.

Enjoying our (my first) Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwich!

The sign declares it a cruise out front...the lights were pretty :)

Such a long long wait for Space Mountain...all of a whopping 10 minutes! Barely had time to take a picture of the "line".

The second day we went to Hollywood Studios. I rode the Tower of Terror a couple of times and enjoyed swallowing my stomach and being suspended in the air for a second as the ride fell away! Hollywood Studios has the best and newest rides apparently though because even with fast pass it was nigh to impossible to get a ride on Toy Story and the Rockin Roller Coaster. We did manage later that evening and really enjoyed both. I like the Toy Story ride better than the Buzz Light Year one, but the line issue at Toy Story turned my loyalty toward the latter. Rockin Roller Coaster was fun and we did that ride numerous times over the next couple of days. Other than those rides, there wasn't much of interest at this park. I preferred the magicalness of the Magic Kingdom sets to the replicas of major cities in Hollywood Studios. And compared to my first day in Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios was puny. After a long half day, we went home, showered, ate some dinner, and returned for Fantasmic. The story line was rather odd, as it tried to mesh together all the Disney movies to create a half hour story, but the lights and water sequences were nice.

All the screams made me inquisitive to find out what all the fun was to be had!

Getting ready for my Star Wars Tour all decked out in my 3D glasses B-)

Being me ;-p

The Rockin Roller Coaster entry complete with car, guitar and bigger guitar lol

The big boat at the end of Fantasmic with all the Disney characters dancing around.

On board for the Toy Story ride. My worst selfie of the trip, but one of my favorite rides :-)

The third park we chose to visit was Epcot. I have to say, upon entering I wasn't all that excited. It didn't carry the same feel as the other parks had and the rides weren't as fun for me and the activities were all indoors where it was freezing! It was however, flower season, so I enjoyed seeing all the topiary designs and landscaping creations that were done to the Disney extreme.

The topiary Mickey Apprentice.

What do you see? I see an exclamation point landing in a red puddle!

All the beautiful flowers. I stopped so many times just to marvel and awe over all of them.
 After roaming the first circle area for a while, we decided to head to the international circle. Both of us being world travelers, we looked at all the destinations in a different light but had an enjoyable enough time we walked around that circle at least five times. Finally we decided to eat lunch in Japan. I was very nervous having just returned from Japan that the food wouldn't be similar at all, but Americanized Japanese. I was so wrong. The shrimp tempura I'd had in Japan was rivaled by the shrimp tempura at Walt Disney World. The flavors were intoxicating and the shrimp was extra large and they gave me two instead of just one in the bowl. The noodles were not too soft and not too hard. In fact, my adopted dad and I loved the soba noodles so much that we returned to Japan for lunch the following three days! And each day we ate the exact same dish. Now if that's not a recommendation, I don't know what is!!!

This was the other favorite :) The deliciously tasty shrimp tempura rivaling its authentic Japanese competitor I just had a few months prior. YUM

The other thing I really loved in Epcot were the singers in the American Hall. 15 minutes before every show they come out and sing a cappella for the guests arriving. Being a musician I can't help but critique slightly. However, the more I critiqued, the more outstanding they became. Their phrasing and musicianship, their faces and exuberance, their pitch and range, it was all terrific. I loved it so much I went and saw them twice and took a video to listen to again in my home. If they had a cd I would buy it and I wish they had their own show instead of just a fifteen minute blurb before the video. Still, I'll take what I can get!

The Liberty Singers at the American Showcase. One of my absolute favorite parts of the entire park!

The fourth day we rested (sort of). Both of us were tired from the epically long days of strenuous and tiring fast walks around the parks to get to everything we possibly could. We slept in (all of one hour later), and then wouldn't you know it, we went walking, at the outlet malls. At least we weren't speed walking though. We leisurely made our way around a couple outlet mall complexes and browsed through multiple stores. I came away with my second pair of jeans and some socks. (Yeah, I know, I am a big shopper!) After walking all late morning and early afternoon we headed home. Sitting on the couch I couldn't imagine doing nothing from 3:00 until bedtime so I started browsing some pamphlets for other activities in the Orlando area. I found a couple of options and my adopted dad and I agreed on an air boat ride. It was my first (see a trend?) air boat ride ever and I was thrilled to be out on the water, even if it was just a tiny six person boat. The wind was in my hair until we got out in the bayou and started hunting for alligators in the swamp. We saw a couple mama alligators and several little babies swimming around. We got pretty close too. It was cool! Then at the end of our tour the guide drove us onto a sand bank and jumped into the calf deep water to take all of our pictures. Guess who jumped in after him?!  The water felt soooo good and the sand under my feet was the softest ever. It was so refreshing and I stayed out there as long as I could until we had to leave again. And of course, after everyone else saw that I jumped in they all did too...just need a trendsetter right? After the air boat ride and the gator hunt it was dinner and bed time so we could be ready for a big day at the fourth park.

All of us on the airboat.

Father and daughter just, you know, hanging out wading around in the Everglades...

It's a baby!!!

And we found mama...

The fifth day (fourth day at WDW) we decided to try our luck with the Toy Story ride in the morning. Even though we were there when the gates opened and practically ran straight there the line was already over an hour and there were no fast passes available. So instead we settled on a couple rides of the Tower of Terror and Rockin Roller Coaster and I got a tasty treat of a jalapeno pretzel :-p  After lunch...guess Japan in Epcot, we headed to our last park we hadn't been to, Animal Kingdom. I'd been to a safari park in San Diego and really enjoyed it so I was excited for this day. I wasn't disappointed. I saw all the animals on the safari, and also on the nature walks. I enjoyed the rides too, especially the river rapids ride. I went twice and had so much fun that I wanted to come back the next day and do it again!

Ready for a safari ride :)

Beautifully relaxing on a nice summer's day.

Fruit bats dancing around. Love their brightly colored wings.

This is one big dude!

Silently looking out over his territory.

Rhinoceros crossing ahead!

A tower of giraffes...literally lol

Lunch least for the zebras.

Our last day we returned to Magic Kingdom again to reride Buzz Light Year another 4 times (I won't mention who won ;-p )  and return to Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain. With the fast pass situation we ended up only doing the Buzz Light Year ride and then heading to Epcot where we met up with a friend and his son for lunch in, you guessed it...Japan! After lunch the four of us wandered from fountain to fountain as my friend's little boy played in the water. Mid afternoon we parted ways and my adopted dad and I headed back to Magic Kingdom for some Splash Mountain fun. After riding that and Thunder Mountain again we headed across to Animal Kingdom for my last request, to ride the rapids two more times! These two times I didn't get nearly as soaked as the other days rides, but it was still fun and I think I know what my favorite ride is ;-)  Next time I might have to hit the water park!~

This was truly a magical time and this picture perfectly depicts the insane lack of fun, errrrr, good times (for those in fear of my use of the f*n word) at Disney World!!!!

It was an amazing adventure to say the least. I can't wait to return and experience it all over again!

But now it's back to the real world as they say, although my "real" world varies greatly I think from that of others. Tomorrow it's off to Atlanta to see a potential pianist before soaring away to Seattle for this year's Northwest Folklife Festival. Hope to see you all there!