The Recipe That Makes Me


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It was a family vacation to the beautiful state of Hawaii. We went to Oahu for the first half of the trip, but Maui for the second half. It was in February. Not the typical vacation time, but Hawaii is always paradise, regardless of the time of year. The beaches, waterfalls, and jungle were all amazing. But there is something in February in Hawaii that is more special than anything else there: the whales.

Whales migrate down away from the colder waters in the north to stay in the warmer waters of Hawaii during the winter months. They make this trip to breed and raise calves. All these whales concentrated in the warm waters around Maui make for some amazing sights. A friend recommended we go whale watching when we went to Maui, so we did. One of the best decisions we’ve ever made. I will never forget that day. We probably saw a whale within the first fifteen minutes of the tour. From that point on there was probably not a five minute segment where we didn’t see a whale. Giant fins slapping the water. Gorgeous tails poking out of the water. But the most impressive part was hands down the jumps. The whales jumped every couple minutes, getting more air than I thought possible for a living creature of that size. There are few things more majestic. The barnacle encrusted skin gleaming in the sunlight. The ocean spray and the massive splash as they land back in the water. At that point they were basically just showing off. The whales breached about 20 times just during the short boat tour. I am so grateful for that wonderful experience.

The Things You Do That Maybe You Don’t Regret

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Step. Step. Breathe. Step. Step. Each motion a conscious effort. My brain pounding with exhaustion. Sweat dripping down my face. My clothes dirty and sticky. Knees aching constantly. Feet screaming. Everything in me is telling me to stop. Take a break. Give up. But that isn’t an option.

It was a beautiful spring day. Got up before dawn. My family and I drove into the park. We get to the trail head around six o’clock. As my eye scans the horizon and the wonder below me, I marvel at how amazing this planet is. The Grand Canyon. Gorgeous, rich, red rock going for miles, deeply cut into by erosion. The view blew my mind. I was speechless at the size and grandeur of this majestic landmark. I took pictures, but it couldn’t do justice to the awesome scene. After enjoying one of the natural wonders of the world, we clip the belts on our backpacks and start heading down the trail.

I have done many hikes before. I enjoy backpacking and have climbed mountains such as Mount Baldy and Mount San Jacinto. Climbing a mountain starts with going up until you get to the top, then walking down. Up is more difficult, so it is nice to get it out of the way. But in the Grand Canyon, it is reversed. You walk down, then walk up. Walking down is rough on the knees and feet, so you wear yourself out, then have to climb uphill to get out. That is another major difference. If you are climbing a mountain and you can’t go up any further, you can turn around and go down. In the Grand Canyon we got to the bottom without ever wanting to turn back because going down is quite manageable. But then we had to go all the way up. To get out of the canyon, there was only one option.

There was no quitting or turning back.

Heading down the trail started off really fun. I stopped for pictures, watched the sun rise, and every once in a while I would eat a small snack to keep my energy up. However, it was a bit ominous when we would walk by signs reading DO NOT attempt to hike from the canyon rim to the river and back in one day. Each year hikers suffer serious illness or death from exhaustion. Well that was exactly what we were doing. And we didn’t train. And we brought my 10 year old sister.

We reached the bottom around lunch time. It is a completely different perspective of the canyon from the bottom. You can’t even see the outer walls because they are so far away. You almost don’t feel that deep because all you see is the inner canyon walls. We stuck our feet in the river and ate some of the food we brought down with us.

And then we started the hike up. Going uphill is a a very different experience from going down. It is a lot more tiring and mentally draining. Also, the sun was high in the sky and it was hot. The sweat and exhaustion tripled at this point. And it was beyond repetitive. Hike a couple miles, stop at a rest area, and hike some more. But the breaks got more frequent as some of the members of my family struggled more. All I could think about at this point was how badly I wanted to get out of the canyon. It is beautiful, but I had enough at that point.

As the hours ticked by, and my physical and mental pain grew, the sun started going down and darkness was quickly approaching. We wanted to be done before dark, but we still had a few miles to go. It was also getting a little chilly, but that didn’t bother us because we were warm enough from all the exercise. I just wanted to cry, give up, and break down. I wanted so badly to just teleport to my hotel room. I had an excruciating headache and my feet felt like they were trapped under five ton boulders. It took an immeasurable amount of willpower just to take a step. I had no other option but to go up, so I kept on moving. My entire family was struggling. Every second felt like an hour. It is truly impossible to describe the overwhelming emotions, thoughts, and pain I was experiencing during the last couple hours of the hike.

Every time we looked up we thought we were close. Then suddenly the path changed into pavement. We see some lights. Then we step onto the parking lot. The sudden joy was indescribable. We shouted for joy at nine o’clock in that parking lot. WE DID IT! A whole day of effort. Maybe the hardest day of my life so far. 20 miles is no joke. But it was done. We climbed into the car and drove to our hotel. It was over, and I was only a little traumatized.

Lightning and the Rain and the Clouds and the Way Californians React to Real Weather

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Southern California. Almost always sitting at a comfortable temperature in the 60s or 70s. Clear skies. No snow. No ice. Rarely big storms. Very nice, in fact there’s really no place like it on the Earth. But we take it for granted. And when we get real weather it is either really stressful or really fun, depending on the type of person you are.

I love it. I love the rain. I love watching the lightning. I love when it gets a crisp, windy cold right before and after a storm. When it is a rainy day, I will walk through the rain. I don’t mind getting wet because it’s so refreshing and fun. When there is lightning I go outside and just stare at it. There is nothing like the way the lightning flashes and the sky lights up. Tendrils of crackling electricity dart in every direction like harsh roots of a giant tree. A split second of surreal excitement. Nothing like it in my opinion. But then comes the thunder. Powerful rumbling that comes from the sky! So powerful and booming like Zeus yelling down from Mount Olympus.

Some people hate the weather. They live in southern California just to escape it. Driving in the rain can be super stressful. Some people get really nervous and scared of lightning and thunder. Others hate being cold and wet.

To me weather is just another amazing aspect of the beautiful world I am privileged to live in. I love to experience new things and appreciate the things I have. Standing out in the weather just feels fulfilling when enjoying the simple things. It’s peaceful and real.

Essence of Life

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In sixth grade I rode my bike to and from school. Riding this much every day made me pretty confident on my bike. I am a generally cautious person, so I didn’t do many tricks or jumps on my bike. My friends would ride with no hands, but I would always keep at least one hand on the handle bar. I always wore my helmet and was always mindful of the cars around me. I was always hesitant to cross a street unless it was a crosswalk. So I wasn’t exactly the type of person you would expect to get hurt on his bike.

It was a typical school day. I rushed to finish my homework and chores so I could play with my neighbor afterwards. We were riding our bikes around our street. We were particularly interested in the part where the driveway meets the curb. There is a dip in the curb so the cars can pull in. But on each side of this dip you could ride up it like a ramp and jump over the curb. Really nothing special, but it was fun. We did it for like half an hour. I landed it fine every time. I went for the jump again. It’s all a blur but next thing I knew, I was on the ground, tangled up in my bike, with a sharp pain shooting through my arm. I have no idea what went wrong, but I pushed the bike off of me and stood up. “I think I broke my arm. I think I broke my arm!” I looked down at my left arm. It is not straight. “I BROKE MY ARM” I yelled repeatedly as I was crying and slowly walking to my house where I knew my mom was. My friend is shocked and doesn’t really know what to do for a few seconds. Then he ran ahead of me and got my mom.

She just got home from work and now her son broke his arm. I was sobbing at this point, easily the most pain I’ve ever been in in my life. She drove me to urgent care. I was disappointed I had to wait so long. Because it was the first time I was in urgent care, I had some assumptions that it would be pretty instantaneous. It wasn’t. They took x-rays and gave me a splint. I don’t remember them doing much. After we got out of the urgent care, my mom asked if there was anything she could do. The urgent care was next door to a Stonefire Grill. So I had to ask. She said yes and when I got home I was enjoying a delicious piece of Stonefire carrot cake. I was in a lot of pain the rest of the night.

The next day my mom took me to a doctor who specialized in the hand and wrist. The break was actually in my wrist. He numbed up my wrist, then snapped it into place. It was a little traumatizing but also a great story. Then I got a real cast that I wore for the following weeks. Life with one usable arm was difficult, but it was a good learning experience for me. However, I have not attempted that bike trick since.

Solar Eclipse

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A few years ago, my dad traveled to Seattle for a few days every other week. He got to know the area really well and wanted to share with his family the things he loved about it. We planned a two week trip where we would drive all the way up there, enjoy the city, and drive back. It was an amazing trip. I made a million memories. Saw so many cool places, tasted a ton of delicious food, and tried things I’ve never done before. But one of the parts I think about most was actually something from the drive up. We took a scenic route. We saw the gigantic red wood trees. We explored a few of the wonders of Northern California. But our trip was at the same time as a solar eclipse. And the area to witness totality was on our way up.

It was a very small town. Also a very interesting town. A lot of the houses had these massive garages. Inside the garages, they all had private planes. And there was an airfield in this town. The locals just flew around for fun! Very cool. There was one open restaurant that day. A small diner. We waited around 2 hours for a table because there were a bunch of people there. We were not the only ones wanting to witness a full solar eclipse. The food was delicious, though.

It started off slow. We used solar eclipse glasses to see the moon edge over the sun and slowly make it smaller. After a while it started to look later in the day. But still not really long shadows, the sun just seemed dimmer. It was surreal. It got darker and darker. In the middle of the day! Soon the solar eclipse glasses only showed a sliver of the sun was uncovered. Then we reached totality. It was suddenly as dark as night. You could look right at the moon and sun without the special glasses. It looked like a black hole with a bright white ring around it. Dogs were barking. I was speechless. It only lasted a couple minutes, but it blew my mind. One of the craziest things that has ever happened in my life.

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