Thursday, March 31, 2011

New 'Roots' Trailer!

Hey guys! We have a new trailer out for 'Roots of Happiness'!

Roots of Happiness Test-Trailer from Purekix on Vimeo.

Take a look at it, then spread the word to your friends. The more exposure we can get on this documentary, the better! Feel free to post your comments below. It's been an amazing experience, and I'm personally looking forward to the finished product and sharing this wonderful story with all of you!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Wham-bam! I just sent off the last of my paperwork to begin teaching and some side projects in South Korea (pending my Visa) beginning immediately after Thailand! It's a year-long endeavor, which is sure to provide me with plenty of delicious food, pictures, and adventures galore!

Just to paint a small picture of the time-frame I'm working with, here's the schedule for the next month:

April 2nd - Fly to Reno to prep for Thailand
April 6th - Fly to Thailand for Project
April 6th-22nd - Filming and adventures in Thailand
April 23rd - Land in Reno
April 24th - Back to Arizona
April 26th - Off to LA for Visa interview
April 30th - Fly to Korea

Yeah, it's pretty crazy. And maybe impossible. I'm use to impossible though. It should be a crazy ride regardless, and I'll bring you with me. Pinky-promise.

Also, next Monday (the 28th) I begin the Thailand series, complete with video blog and snippets of the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into filming a documentary. You'll be able to see the videos here or via my YouTube channel.

The last two weeks have been light on material in preparation for the coming projects, and for that I'm sorry. I should have some good stuff for you guys here soon. So, until then, enjoy all the adventures life has to offer you! I'm living a dream, and I'm truly blessed to share it with all of you!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Kiwi Chronicles - The Legendary Stories: St. Patrick's Day

This is part of an ongoing series of the semester I spent abroad in New Zealand entitled "The Kiwi Chronicles". You can start the series here. Enjoy!

Everyone seems to have a really good St. Patrick's Day story. I don't know if it's our infatuation with the Irish or the fact that it gives every person ages 18-30 an excuse to drink that makes St. Patrick's Day such a ridiculous holiday. We could probably blame the Catholics, as they already have Fat Tuesday on their repertoire of holidays. That's too easy...and don't worry, I'm Catholic. I can say these things with a degree of certainty.

As I was 19 years old when St. Patrick's Day came around, and that I was in another country where the legal age to drink is 18, I naturally fell into the category of people who celebrate this holiday in a traditional fashion. And, much like those people that fall into that category, I came out of it all with a memorable night and a misplaced McDonald's cheeseburger in my pocket.

It was about a month into my semester at Waikato, and I was finally getting settled into life in New Zealand. I had a group of friends, my classes were going well, and I only had to hate Dey Street Hostel 3 or 4 nights a week. Life was good.

Leading up to St. Patrick's Day, I started noticing signs popping up in my favorite bars around town. Everyone was advertising their festivities for this holiday and decking out their interiors with green banners and Irish flags. I have a huge Irish family on my step-dad's side, so I'm use to celebrating this holiday with banners and flags and tons of green around.

The one thing I noticed that was off was the date on all the brochures and signs. Each pub and bar was advertising March 15th as the beginning of St. Patrick's Day festivities, not the 17th. Now I may not know the day of the week most of the time, but I sure knew when us Catholics celebrated St. Patrick's Day. I had to educate myself, and so on our normal Saturday night out I had a chat with the bartenders. Apparently, St. Patrick's day isn't a one day holiday. It's more like a 3-day festival of drinking and delicious food, culminating in the most holy of days itself. Best country ever, right?

In 2008, St. Patrick's Day fell on a Monday night. I definitely didn't have the luck of the Irish this year, but I was determined to celebrate this holiday proper. For some oddball reason, 19-year-old Ryan rationalized the concept that this would be his first and last night at a bar on a holiday. Oh how naive you were my friend...

I'm not a heavy drinker, or even a heavy partier for that matter. I like going out and having a good time, with alcohol often being either optional or very minimal. I can have just as much fun with a meat pie and a beer as a guy who has the urge to brag about how many Washington Apples he was able to cram down his throat. So, naturally, I had to pace myself through this crazy holiday in an effort of self-preservation.

Most of my peers, however, had the opposite mentality. As I was eating corned beef and sipping on a Guinness on Saturday and Sunday, most of my age group were ordering lines of Irish car bombs and performing such stunts as streaking down bar road or putting underwear on Riff Raff's head (we'll get to him soon). I'm not sure I can top Riff Raff, but I came pretty close to that on Monday night.

That day was pretty laid back like most of my Mondays were. I only had one class in the morning, and would often drink coffee and write on campus just to pass the time. Monday nights I would usually check up on Cottage 27 and see what they were up to, and St. Patrick's Day wasn't any different.

Orchard Park had a different vibe whenever a holiday rolled around. The place was such a tight community that every chance they had they would have some kind of dinner or banquet in the common area. They had a lovely banquet all planned out, with Irish Cream ice cream to boot. What a perfect way to start the night!

With all of us decked in green, the OP crew made our way to the bars for a light evening on the town. I told you I wasn't a heavy drinker, and I was perfectly content with some potato soup and a glass of Guinness. That would be a boring story though, and I wouldn't be sitting here writing a blog entry about that, now would I?
This is the only picture I have from that night.
Most of my friends were burned out from the crazy weekend, and slowly but surely they all found a way to get home. By 11pm or so, I was alone at the bar, eating my soup and drinking a beer as I watched an Irish band play at the pub.

It didn't take long for the local Irish folk to notice my solitude...

After 10 minutes or so enjoying myself at the bar, a older Irish couple came and sat down next to me. They were chatting about their sheep (yes, actual Irish sheep farmers) and all the work they had to do tomorrow, but that they were determined to stay till closing because most of their family was in town. The older gentleman turns to me and notices that I'm by myself. In the thickest of Irish accents, he asks "What's a young lad like you eating alone at a bar like this?". Honestly, I didn't have an answer for the guy. I was sober and just hanging out because I really didn't have anything else to do. Apparently, this wasn't a valid excuse for him, as he told me that was "horse-shit" and that I should come drink with him and his family in the corner booth.

At this point I reached a crossroad in this story. I could have just as easily said no thanks, finished my meal, and went home. I would probably wake up the next morning satisfied with my awesome weekend, and that would be that. I, however, love to hang out with strangers (against my mother's warnings), and so I obliged. With hands shaking a bit, the older gentleman hands the bartender an extra $10 and orders an extra pitcher for me. My repayment to him was to help him carry the other two pitchers he ordered to the booth.

When we finally reached the other end of the bar, it was then I realized why his family sent an old man to get the next round of beers: they were all wasted. Beyond wasted. There was 10 or so people, all about 20 years older than me, swinging mugs around and singing with the band playing on stage. For the life of me, I can't remember their names or the name of the older gentleman. What I do remember is how they welcomed me to the table. 

One of the ladies, she must have been 50 or so, squealed in that high-pitch "Aww, you're so cute!" kind of voice. She was thoroughly convinced that I was 14 years old and that I snuck into the bar. After properly ID'ing me, she snatched the bottle of Bailey's that was passing around the table and started pouring shots. Like I said, I'm not a heavy drinker. I'm also not rude, and so 3 or 4 shots in I started to regret the fact that I was so polite. I know, I's a terrible quality to have.

Much of the time I spent at that table was talking with the old Irish men about Ireland and how much they love it there. They're a very touchy group of people, and the guys would often grab me by the shoulders and pull me in as they talked about the rolling green hills and beautiful women that awaited them back home. Of course I didn't this point, I was too drunk to have any boundaries. I was fascinated by their love for country and even envied them. Why wasn't I more American? How could I be more patriotic? That's dangerous thinking for a drunk man, as the rest of the night would kindly remind me.

At the end of the night, after many stories and good times shared with the Irish, I decided that walking home was in my best interest. Although I lived about 2 miles or so away from downtown, I found the walk relaxing and sobering, and as I had school in the morning I wanted to be responsible and get some good rest. I didn't account for food, however, and upon passing a McDonald's I had to stop in a get some cheeseburgers.

I don't know where my love affair with the Golden Arches comes from. I think it's because, no matter where on this Earth I go, chances are there is a McDonald's there waiting for me. Having a Big Mac or french fries on the menu is my safety blanket: if I get homesick, I can get some fast food. Yeah, I know. I'm a fat kid.

As it was 2:45AM when I rolled up to McDonald's, the actual dining room was closed, leaving the drive through as the only way to get my delicious cheeseburgers. Lucky for me, this was St. Patrick's Day. The entire country was drunk, and a good chunk of the bar crowd was walking through the drive through as well. Imagine, if you will, the 5 or so workers on the night shift sitting in McDonald's bored out of their minds because it's 2AM and nobody's around. Then suddenly, just as the bars close, a horde of drunk college kids line up in the drive through like it's recess time, each of them ordering a ridiculous amount of cheeseburgers. I couldn't imagine. I didn't have I was part of the drunken horde.

It was something like a party in line. People were sharing their drunk stories, where they're from, and why they're here (there's a ton of International kids in Hamilton). Upon receiving my 10 cheeseburgers, and yes I ordered 10 of them, I didn't feel like going home. So I sat with this group of Kiwi guys that were winding down from their St. Patrick's Day house party to enjoy my meal. They were good guys, all students at the university. They were drunk too, and that camaraderie that comes from fellow drunk people is something to be admired.

By 3:30, the place is empty again save for the 4 Kiwi guys and myself. I'm still pounding down the cheeseburgers as we chat. I save the last two for breakfast tomorrow, putting them in my back jean pockets.

Just then, from out of the darkness, rolls the most ghetto Cadillac I've ever seen. In the front are two girls, blaring some God-awful music and laughing hysterically. In the back are two guys, arguing with the two girls in front. The driver was clearly drunk, as they were swerving all over the road. They screech into the drive through and stop at the menu, turning down their wannabe rap just so me and my new Kiwi friends could hear their conversation.

They were slurring on and on about how much America sucked. That's nothing new, as there are many people around the world that aren't too fond of my country. Most of the time, I just try to be an example of a good American and a decent human being. That's the way you change opinions of people.

However, when you're drunk, all that rational thinking goes out the window...

Instead, I took it upon myself to defend America's honor. I started talking louder and louder to the Kiwi guys, just so the drunk girls could hear me. They could pinpoint my accent, and proceeded to continue their hatred for Americans: how we're all fat, stupid, ignorant, and how all our companies are evil. This is all taking place in a McDonald's drive through, so even drunk Ryan can identify the irony of this situation. I point out said irony to these ladies, which they respond with some explicits not appropriate for children and a slew of personal attacks on not just America, but me as a person as well.

I want to pause the story here in an effort to explain my future actions. I love people. I love other countries, and I love traveling. I firmly believe that, when we are abroad, we set an example for our home country. We represent not only ourselves, but where we're from as well.

I am also a rational debater. When you don't play fair, or your argument doesn't make any sense, or you personally attack me as a person, I will respectfully discuss it with you...even when drunk.

Against the advice of my new Kiwi friends, I stood up to engage these drunk girls. I was inspired by the Irish family I met in the bar and their love for self and country. I'd be damned to let some drunk bash my country and myself without some resistance. I was polite, and pointed out to these girls that McDonald's was an American institution. I also responded to their personal attacks on my image and self, letting them know that I didn't appreciate it and that they were, in fact, portraying the typical American that they were arguing about in the car.

Imagine this: a drunk scrawny kid with an emo haircut and two cheeseburgers in his pockets politely lecturing a car of even more drunks in the drive through of McDonald's at 3:45 in the morning.

They laughed at me and started to pull away, making sure to degrade me as much as possible on the way out.

At this point I had exhausted all diplomatic solutions. They insulted me and my country and were drinking and driving away with a bag of food that wouldn't exist if it weren't for my country in the first place. They were irrational, and I had to move on to aggressive negotiations.

So, as they pulled onto the street, I took one of the cheeseburgers from my pocket, unwrapped it, and threw it at their car while exclaiming "For America!"

Apparently I have Randy Johnson-caliber aim when throwing cheeseburgers, as the cheeseburger went straight through the driver's side window and hit the drunk girl driving square in the face. Ketchup and mustard went into her eyes as pieces of burger, pickles, and buns exploded like shrapnel and hit everyone else in the car. From the benches, I could hear the audible squish of the burger followed by the gasps and cheers from my Kiwi friends. Her brakes screeched into the night.

There was a moment where everything stood still. The deed was done. I had the wrapper in my hand, linking me as the cheeseburger thrower. The driver and I were staring at each other, waiting for the next move. The McDonald's employees, stunned by this recent turn of events, just watched.

From behind me, one of the Kiwi guys stands up, his burger in hand, and screams 'run' at the top of his lungs. The back doors were starting to open, and the guys in the back seat were noticeably bigger than me, so I happily obliged. Within half a second, me and the Kiwi guys were in full sprint to the back fence behind McDonald's. The chase was on.

I hurdled the 6' wooden fence like a track star, keeping all my momentum and speed as the big guys in the car started to run at us. The girls sped away down the street to catch us on the other side. It was pitch black on the other side, but I knew we were in someone's back yard. I followed one of the Kiwi guys who had a head start as he made his way to the street. As we sprinted under the street lights, I could see the other Kiwi guys coming up from the darkness. About 30 or 40 yards back came the guys from the car, running as fast as they could. I could hear them cursing at me. In the distance I could also hear the girl's car screeching and driving around, their headlights a good quarter mile away.

One of the Kiwi guys was hysterically laughing during the pursuit. Once he calmed down a bit, he runs along side of me and tells me that they're all going to his place, which is about 1km along these side streets. As long as I stuck with him, I'd be ok. I'd learn the following morning that I was running with a club Rugby team, which accounted for their speed and stamina.

We eventually lost them along the dark side streets, giving us a breather. For the rest of the 1k we would walk, hear the car screech in the distance, and continue running again. We made it to his place safe and sound and, after some celebratory 'we just got away with it' beers, I passed out on his couch.

The next morning I woke up with the last cheeseburger in my pocket and my cell phone alarm going off. The ringleader, Jeremy, was playing some Xbox when I woke up. We talked for a bit, swapping versions of the story to ensure that I actually did all of that. After trading information so we could party some other time, I grabbed my shoes, walked home, showered, and went to class.

My first St. Patrick's Day wasn't the craziest of days, but it was enough for me. How the night played out and the series of events that eventually led up to that cheeseburger pitch is still something that boggles me to this day. If I hadn't sat at the bar, I wouldn't have met the older Irish couple that got me drunk, and I wouldn't have ordered so many cheeseburgers at McDonald's. If those Kiwi guys weren't there, I would have kept running and probably have been caught. If that girl had her window up, she wouldn't have a cheeseburger in her face. Sometimes, I think about how mean that car of people was, and how the only thing I did was confirm the fact that all Americans are ignorant jerks. I also think about how even though it was relatively harmless, to this day that was the meanest thing I've ever done to someone.

Was it stupid? You betcha. Do I regret it? A little, yeah. Do I laugh when I think about it? Everytime. I don't do stuff like anymore, hence why it makes a good story. That's also why, every St. Patrick's Day, I always get a McDonald's cheeseburger. And that's also why, when I'm at the bar, I can easily deny drinks from people, no matter how nice or how thick their accents are.

The true lesson of the story though? Don't drive drunk on St. Patrick's day, otherwise a kid will throw a cheeseburger at your face.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Up and Coming Awesomeness - 50,000 miles!

To start things off, I would like to thank each and every one of my readers out there who are taking part in this blogging-experiment of mine. It's been a fun couple of months journaling my adventurous life, and the fact that I actually get more than one reader on a regular basis reminds me that it's just as awesome to share said life with all of you! So thanks for sticking with me...tell your friends about me...and I look forward to sharing my future adventures with you!

That being said, I have a small announcement. During the month of April, I will be shooting another documentary in Thailand. Yes, that isn't a typo. We picked up another project shortly after Kenya and now everything is bought and paid for and we are ready to roll. We will be filming Muay Thai fighters as well as B-Roll of the country in general and will also be filming the Songkran festival (the largest water fight in the world).

Due to the nature of this project and the extended visit in Thailand, there will be a TON of new content that I'll be pumping your way here in the next month, with pictures and videos galore. I'm filming two personal side projects along the way, and so there won't be a shortage of content for you guys to enjoy. I'll also be abusing my body in terms of eating as much as possible, so if you're like me and hate it when someone posts delicious food that you can't have because it's on the other side of the globe, just skip those pictures.

Also, at the end of this Thailand experience, my Orange Sweater will have clocked over 50,000 miles! That's enough to circumnavigate the globe twice! Me and my sweater will pop some champagne to celebrate when we get back. Stay tuned for many more adventures!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Japanese Pop and MMA Fighters

We all know that the world is kinda awesome. Capturing that awesome, however, is something different entirely. I'm talking about the art of a 'travel video' and representing a place or an experience through images and sound.

Chances are, you don't work on Discovery or the Travel Channel, so making a travel video that's entertaining and inspiring isn't usually on the top of your to-do list in another country (and if you do work for Discovery...I'm looking for a job!). The majority of stuff I see when I'm browsing the interwebs is mom or dad taping their kid at the beach or a very matter-of-fact guy explaining years of history to me in the course of three minutes while walking down the street in Rome or Paris or something.

I like watching this stuff, but most of the time it isn't anything worth emailing to your friends. It doesn't stir any emotion for me or tell a story. It's a cool place, yeah, but I'm not moved by the place alone. It's the people or the purpose of being there that really brings me in. If you're looking for something with a very set story and purpose, watch Anthony Bourdain or anything the Travel Channel has to offer.

Amateur guys, however, are out there all the time trying to create something and stand out above the mom and dad stories. Videos like Where the Hell Is Matt? are not only quirky and goofy, but really stir an emotional response in uniting the world under the one thing that we all have in common: we're human.

Last night my dad shared this video with me that was in the same vein as Where the Hell Is Matt, and I found it share-worthy for all you guys:
This video requires some backstory. The guy who wrote, choreographed, and is the lead singer of this group is a Japanese guy by the name of Genki Sudo. He's a retired mixed martial arts fighter from Japan who's known for two things: his crazy entrance songs and being universally loved. His motto We Are All One echoes like a hymn of peace through the MMA community. Not only is he a practicing Buddhist, but after his MMA career and working with the group "World Order" (the J-pop group in the video), he went on to complete his graduate school studies. Guys: this is what every man should strive to be.

Ladies: he's also a poet. Check out these translated lyrics for the song in the video:

We have opened the veil of the world and heard two voices
One is the soothing beautiful lie and the other the distorted truth that fills the hollows
What is right and what is wrong
Truth is always the paradox
One era has gone by and I awake in sleep
The rhythm of the universe the rhythm of your love
Dreaming cycle Beautiful Venus
The rhythm of the universe the rhythm of your love
Now in this moment I 'dance'
World Order

In terms of a 'travel video', this is one of the coolest ideas I've seen in a long time. Here you have this man and his group with a wonderful message performing in the great cities of the world (he does this dance in other cities around the globe). He presents it genuinely through dance and song, much like all his entrances in his MMA career. It's quirky and fun, and naturally a community has built around him because of it. 

Now I know how insane I sound...trying to find the best of humanity in a J-pop music video. But before you dismiss me as crazy and turn off my man Genki Sudo's video, just watch with an open mind and heart. Think about the lyrics and the scope of human creativity that inspired such original moves. We really are all one...and sometimes we need to be fearless in sharing ourselves with one another.

Plus Genki Sudo has some moves. You cannot deny that.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Kiwi Chronicles - The Legendary Stories: Cottage 27

This is part of an ongoing series of the semester I spent abroad in New Zealand entitled "The Kiwi Chronicles". You can start the series here. Enjoy!

My study abroad experience in New Zealand was marred by very few negative experiences. I was often able to look on the bright side of every situation and turn the most horrible of nights into a story worth telling. I still admire my own optimism...that being said, there is one place that took me 6 months to learn how to put up with the sheer depression that permeated through it's walls: Dey Street Hostel.

Dey Street was my 'home' for the semester I spent abroad, and for pictures of the prison-cell style accommodations I had the pleasure of staying in, check out my post entitled 'Landfall'. Lucky for you, I'm not in the mood to cover Dey Street, so instead I'll talk about my adopted home for my semester abroad: Orchard Park.

Orchard Park's story starts in the States when I was looking at dorms and places to live in New Zealand. I had applied to the dorms with plenty of time to spare, and by all standards I was guaranteed on-campus housing. Every book I read on studying abroad told me how beneficial it was to stay on campus. The people you meet, the support system: it was everything you needed to survive in another country for an extended period of time. I wanted to play it safe.

Needless to say, I didn't get into the dorms, and had to settle for one of the off-campus sites that was recommended by the university. This is where I give Dey Street some credit: they have some killer promotional people working for them. I honestly believed that I was going to be living in luxury...oh silly me. forward to the moment when Emily and Nick invite me to sleep on their couch after the international orientation kick back. I cannot stress to you how this one moment ended up shaping my New Zealand experience. I didn't know these people. I had met them that day, and was completely settled on riding my bike back to Dey Street and settling into my depressing hostel. But that's all in the past, all you need to know is that the night I decided to spend on some strangers couch began an era...a legendary period where I was known as the nomadic Orchard Park resident.

For the six-month duration I spent in New Zealand, I would end up sleeping on that couch 3-4 nights a week. The cottages were set up with 4 bedrooms, with each person having their own room. In between the bedrooms was the living room, which was big enough to house a couple couches and a dinner table. Emily and Nick had two more roommates: Manu and Campbell. Campbell was a native-Kiwi, and Manu was from Germany. Both of them were just as welcoming as Emily and Nick, and it wasn't long before people thought of me as the 5th roommate of Cottage 27.

I really couldn't blame people for thinking that I lived there. I spent most of my free time hanging out in Orchard Park, whether it was between classes or getting prepped for a night on the bars. If my parents are reading this, yes, I did go to class. I was very studious actually, spending most of my day on campus studying or in class. I took a 'light load,' but most of the time I didn't want to bike all the way back to Dey Street. I would stop by Orchard Park to  steal a friend for lunch, or just to kick back on the porch and enjoy the sunshine. It was home to me.

It wasn't long, however, before Cottage 27 started getting a reputation as the 'party' cottage in Orchard Park. It wasn't that we were super crazy or rambunctious as much as the majority of the social events centered around our Bring Your Own Couch night.

Campbell kicking it before the festivities
BYOC was a regular happening at Cottage 27. The concept was simple: on a Thursday or Friday, after a long week of studying, we would have a BBQ in front of the cottage. Campbell was a mean cook, and the infusion of multiple cultures and groups of people really stepped up the cuisine a level.

It wasn't a Cottage 27 event, though. It was an Orchard Park event. I still don't know who came up with this idea, but to gain entry to this little kickback you would need to bring either beer, food, or some kind of contributing item like ketchup and mustard. On top of that, for seating arrangements, you had to provide your own couch. Each cottage had a couch, so there wasn't a shortage of couches or anything. I can only imagine what the Residential Director thought as he saw all his residents taking the couches out of their living rooms, but it was harmless fun. I think he had a parent mentality: as long as the shenanigans occurred in Orchard Park, he could keep an eye on us.

BYOC became very popular, and as night fell and the beers began to flow, the good times were sure to follow.

We would circle the couches around the table and have a proper kickback, letting the worries and stress of the week disappear as the moon began to rise. Nights were mild and long, and beer was cheap. The mix of cultures gave us an unlimited amount of stories to talk about. Some nights it would only be Cottage 27 and myself, and other days we would have half of Orchard Park crammed in front of the cottage drinking and having a good time.

At the end of the night, we would all take the couches back to the cottages, and I would fall asleep on that blue couch in the living room.

Over time, people knew that I was around because I would often park my bike in front of Cottage 27, as I knew at one point I would end up there. It was the centerpiece of our experience there, a home base that people rallied to before we would go on more adventures. That's not to say that Cottage 27 didn't have it's share of adventures Possum night.
Yes, that's me and Campbell drinking in a tree. And I'm wearing a Cowboy Hat
I learned this absurd game called Possum, where you would take beer into a tree and you couldn't come down until you finished your beer. I think people were concerned with us drinking during the day, but it didn't set in until they would come back from a night class and still see us in the tree drinking.
We were all a little crazy, climbing on the roof during BYOC nights. That's what happens when you put a bunch of college kids together in a foreign country: we find mischief to get into. And places to climb. More importantly, mischief... like the Kirill sign night.

One night, I ride up on my bike to see what 27 was up to today, and I see Campbell and Nick working intently on a project in the living room. Somehow they had secured a giant refrigerator box and white paint, and decided they were going to make Kirill (one of our friends who spent alot of time at Cottage 27 too) a sign. Beers were strewn about, and Nick was in charge of the project. Emily and Manu just looked on, often busting up in laughter at the absurdity of this project.

Upon completion of the project (with spelling mistakes and all), we had to mount the sign on the front window. Now understand, we partied and set things on fire and climbed in trees when we were in Orchard Park and never recieved as much as a complaint. Apparently, this sign was so offensive that we were immediately instructed to take it down. We spent an hour devising plans to mount it elsewhere, like on top of the library or in front of campus. Ultimately, it ended up at an elementary school, where kids coming to school on Monday asked their teachers what a 'milkshake' was in this context. Poor teachers...

The best event I had at Orchard Park, however, was at the end of the year dinner that the whole place was invited to. I rode up on my bike, wondering why everyone was dressed up so fancy. Apparently this was a really fancy dinner, and it was a way of saying goodbye to everyone in Orchard Park, as most of the kids were international and heading back to their countries at the end of semester.

I knew just about everyone in Orchard Park, but at the same time I was not a resident. I lived off campus, and although I was part of this community, I didn't feel that it was appropriate for me to be at this dinner. I wasn't invited...and it would be rude of me to stick around.

As I was gathering up my bike and things, I was sulking a bit. It wasn't an insult or anything. I just was reliving the feelings of not belonging to any one group, and that I was ultimately an outsider.

On my way out, the director stopped me and asked where I was going. I told him I was going back to my hostel. He asked if I could stay, as even though he knew I didn't live there, I was considered a resident of Orchard Park. I'm not going to lie...I let a tear out. As it turned out, this was more than just a group of friends I hung out with on a regular basis. This was my family. This was home. It wasn't in my head either, as the guy running the place even felt that I was part of the family.

I met alot of people in New Zealand, but the bond I had with the people in Orchard Park and Cottage 27 was something entirely different. They were there for all the good times. They drove me to the hospital when we thought I had meningitis, and made me sleep on their couch so they could make sure I was alright. 6 months is a short amount of time to spend with a group of people, and to develop such a wonderful relationship with all of them in that time is something amazing. Some days, I miss Cottage 27, and the couch parties and mischief we would get into. Luckily for me, most of those moments are vivid in my mind, and I can cherish them for the years to come.
The Entire Gang