Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ukraina and beyond!

I leave for Ukraine tomorrow. I'm in Boston right now, and in 24 hours I will drive to JFK in New York City with my parents and then they will drop me off. My flight leaves at 5:35 pm, and I arrive in Lviv on the 2nd around 4 pm. 
I'm excited, but mostly trying to pack in as much America as I can get right now. Heck, I ordered a Maxwell Street Polish, an All Beef Chicago Dog, onion rings and a large chocolate malt all for lunch at Portillo's in Schaumburg before I left. I've been stuffing my face full of Chipotle, mexican fajitas, french toast and hopefully some delicious omelettes these past few days, and I'm not done yet. 
Boston in a wonderful town, and I can see why my sisters like it so much. I love cities that are big, but still have a small-town feel to them. Chicago doesn't have that, but Milwaukee does. Plus, Chicago changes too often, and Boston has a more established feeling to it. 
Anyway, I'm writing today to let everyone know that my blog will continue through my trip into Urkaine. I will keep updating this every week while I'm teaching. From the feedback I've heard, more people request pictures over stories, and I would tend to agree. I will still write, but try to shoot more and limit my stories to shorter lengths. You can look forward to more video as well.

Arrivederci! Do widzenia! Do pobachnia!


Friday, August 15, 2008

On Best Man speeches: classy before funny

I was best man in a wedding on August 2nd.  My buddy Tim and I had a blast at the wedding, and I was proud to be there for my friend Ray French, another Rockford native who moved north in high school. Ray and I are very close, and I was thrilled to be in the wedding.

They were married on the lake, and I was happy to partake in a few unforgettable moments. I was especially proud of the comment made by the bride's grandpa when I pulled the rings out of my pocket. The bridesmaids burst out laughing when I did that, and later told me that when I reached into my coat gramps exclaimed "Damn! that's a great best man!"

I learned something about speeches, too. Always be classy. Ray and Sarah are classy people, and I'm not knocking them, but even if the bride and groom are buck-toothed and slightly intoxicated, it doesn't mean the best man or the maid of honor shouldn't be respectful and tasteful. Everyone appreciates that, and that's what people remember. Don't be that guy everyone wants to forget.

To give a good best man speech(this one was my first, so I'm being quite presumptive), remember:
1. be classy
2. make it short(under 3 minutes)
3. you want to make the college buddies laugh, but don't make grandma blush
4. hit the highs and lows: say something personal and touching about your relationship with them, and maybe tie that in with the marital relationship. But make sure to lighten the mood with a joke. No off-color jokes.
5. Make 'em laugh early.

If you want to know about bachelor parties, email me ;)

Congrats to Ray and Sarah, it was a beautiful wedding!

In case you didn't know, I'm home

I'm typing this from my desk in Milwaukee, and, although I had every intention of keeping the blog updated when I returned, the craziness of these last few weeks has prevented me from really sitting down to write. So I apologize. I'll make it up to you.

Here's what happened at the last leg of the trip:
I left Brett on the 20th in Bayeux, France, after we stormed Normandy Beach and had a wonderful talk about the meaning of life in the American Cemetery. If you haven't been there, go. To stand on the beach and see the fortifications(and when the tide is out, there's 100 yards between the water and the foot of the hills) is a life changing experience. I had a wonderful time exploring Normandy, although it was much larger than I had imagined, and best explored by car(I tried to walk). 

I went to Cherbourg, France to catch a ferry to Rosslare, Ireland(an 18 hour ride for roughly 100 euros), and met some french people along the way. I also had to call home to make arrangements for the bachelor party I was hosting on the 31st of July, and felt strangely stupid calling a paintball course in Eau Claire, Wisconsin while holding my baguette and brie cheese. Anyway, I made friends with three French people, one from Caen and a brother and sister from Paris. 

On the boat, I met an American from Pittsburgh, Erin, who was working at a summer camp in Switzerland, and a Japanese guy, Kuya, who went to UW Madison. Small world. A French Canadian and a guy from Liverpool were also in our compartment on the boat, and we quickly became friends. We realized we were all going to Cork, and the next day, Mike from Liverpool offered us all a ride in his ambulance. He had bought it off of a nursing home and gutted out the inside, using it to drive around Europe looking for work. Luckily, Mike(who spoke french and english and looked and sounded like a younger Paul McCartney) was a great guy, and so was everyone else. We instantly bonded.

A couple hours later I drank the best Guinness of my life in a small bar on the south coast of Ireland, then we swam in the Irish Sea, and stumbled into Cork looking for Kuya's friends. I distinctly remember how friendly the Irish were, but once you called them over to help you, they proved mostly useless in direction-giving and other practicalities. Not that I mind, I enjoy their company immensely, but one fellow tried to give us directions at a bar and was clearly beyond his driving limit of frothy pints. Instead of writing down street names or a map, and writing down directions from there, he simply drew lines, half circles for bridges, curly lines for left and right turns, and said "now . . . you go left, and right, and then  . . . f*%$ I forgot, where were you going again?" this continued for 10 minutes. I decided then and there that I loved the Irish.

Later that night, we wandered into Blarney, Ireland outside of Cork, looking for a place to sleep. We considered sneaking into famed Blarney Castle and sleeping with the Blarney Stone, but I had heard too many stories of Irish peeing on the stone for me to stomach it. instead, we wandered into a rugby yard looking to pitch our tents when we stumbled into the rugby house and into Senior Citizens Irish Dancing night. Five minutes later, I'm being thrown around this rugby hall by a burly 65 year old Irish woman and dancing Irish jigs. I pulled my friends into the mix and all eight of us danced Irish jigs until late into the night. 

Ireland was good to me. My great grandmother is from Cork, and everyone asked where my family was from while I was visiting. I crashed on a dirty apartment floor the next night and drank Murphy's Irish Stout, which is sweeter and generally better tasting than Guinness. The last day was the hardest, as myself and the other american had to leave the group. I was sad to go, but all eight of us are staying in touch and doing well. Unfortunately the ambulance, which we nicknamed The Happy Bus, broke down outside of Killarney, Ireland and Mike had to abandon it. 

I flew home the following day and have been doing well in Milwaukee and Rockford