Rachel in Taos

Rachel is spending the June 2009 term in SMU-in-Taos, where the photography courses she is taking will complement her journalism degree.

Dancing with Donna


Learning the art of dancing is not simply a hobby. Dancing over the past few centuries has been a form of expression as well as a main way to become social and acquainted with people of the opposite sex. It’s how young singles got to know each other more intimately. I’m reminded of what Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice said to Elizabeth Bennett, “What do you recommend to encourage affection?” To which she replies coolly, “Dancing; even if one’s partner is barely tolerable.”

Wednesday, June 24

It has been another full day as we all wind down to the few final days. As I munch down on my turkey sourdough sandwich, I think of all the events ahead. I am so excited about going to The Mill for live music and some awesome dancing! But I am getting ahead of myself. Practice makes perfect in every situation. Tonight, a wonderful lady and delightful dancer, Donna, is offering free dance lessons in the auditorium from 7-9 p.m.! Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about not having a partner. My friend, Ryan, agrees to dance with me.

I shower and freshen up. Now I’m off to the dining hall for a quick bite to eat with my R.A. Rachel. She and Ben (another R.A.) get cups and drinks together for the dance lesson. I find that I am so excited that I can barely scarf down what little food I do have in front of me. I am so giddy to dance!


There are a little over a dozen people who show up, and everyone ends up being evenly paired! Perfectly splendid! The pouring rain adds melody and complements the setting. Donna is going to teach us not only some two-stepping but the waltz. I never have learned the waltz so I am super excited!

Donna has us all do the basic waltzing steps around the edges of the room without a partner. I feel as if I am a part of some huge musical on Broadway as all of us move in sync around the room in several lines; that, or our own version of “Thriller.”

Before we pair up, she has us, the girls, and the guys form lines facing each other. The guys approach us as we keep the rhythm with our feet. Our (the girls only) arms are outstretched, and we are to push against the guys’ chests, feeling their frame.

We pair up, listen and learn as Donna teaches us different dance moves to both the waltz and the two-step. Fun times! I laugh as my partner and I fumble to work on framing and timing.

At the end of the night we all look pretty good. Ben, Christy, Ryan, I and some others are planning on going to the Sagebrush Inn to practice our two-stepping before The Mill on Saturday.

Jon McLaughlin’s song runs through my head, “No more sorrow. We might not be here tomorrow. So just live for the moment and dance your life away!”

Peace out, friends!

I hope you continue to enjoy and follow my adventures as I take you through bustling London, fashionable Paris, historic Rome and romantic Scotland!

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Old Blinking Light

015.PEF.jpgDancing in the great outdoors with magical Christmas lights all around, a starlit sky, along with a breathtaking mountainous backdrop, reminds me of the quote from the movie Meet Joe Black: “If food is the prose of a party, then lights are its poetry.”

Monday, June 15

My iPhone alarm goes off for the third time, Bella’s lullaby sounds more annoying than soothing. I groan inwardly, cringing at the thought of getting out from under my blanket to greet the crisp, cold air. I glance at my phone. Great, 5:30 am. Time for me to get up, eat a granola bar, do some homework and workout before my class at 9 am. I am not a happy camper, or should I say, student.

Workouts for me are typically in the mid to late afternoons, after or before class depending on the whim of Professor Hunter. Today is an exception. You see, I need a time frame so that I can use the time I have left as efficiently as possible.

Last night at dinner, Professor Hunter came up to me and told me that we had a full day (on this very day) since we advanced students would not be able to meet that evening due to the fact that we all were going to the Old Blinking Light. Wow, what a name, the OBL. Sounds like a good title for a Nancy Drew mystery novel.

Turns out we had a seven-hour class. Good times. I am so glad I worked out this morning, because I had just enough time to shower and get pretty. Finally! I am so excited to go dancing again! It has been far too long. Two-stepping is fun, although I prefer salsa dancing.

022.PEF.jpg OBL has some awesome Mexican food! I chow down on their chips, salsa, guacamole and queso. Dang! I love really spicy food, but my mouth is literally numb from the pain and on fire to boot! The salsa is so hot that it is like dipping your chips in pure jalapeno juice. This is bad, no amount of Diet Coke is helping the burn. I would know, I am just polishing off my third glass.

055.PEF.jpg Michael Hearne, a semi well-known country musician, plays his guitar and sings as we all spin around the tight confines of the dance floor. I am so frustrated! Why are dance floors always too small?! I keep getting stomped on by high heels. Ouch, ouch, ouch!!! Overall, I am loving it and having the time of my life!

Times like these make me wish for a pair of cowboy boots. I really should invest in a pair since I’ve lived in Texas for only 10 years!

054.PEF.jpgI feel in harmony with all the locals. There are some really intriguing, colorful characters. I almost feel as if the whole night was a movie set; it feels surreal. Some parts of the outdoors take me away to the Shire, in Middle Earth. I pause from dancing to snap of picture of a tree that reminds me of the Party Tree in Fellowship of the Ring.

All good times must come to an end. What a capital evening, indeed! As I lean my head against the headrest of the car I hear Gerard Butler, as Phantom of the Opera, singing, “Softly, gently, music shall caress you. Hear it, feel it, secretly possess you. Open up your mind. Let your fantasies unwind, in this darkness which you know you cannot find: the darkness of the music of the night.”

Peace out, friends!

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Sanctuario de Chimayo: a tribute to the dead

rachel-240-sm.jpg Being surrounded by shrines, lit candles in dark passages and monuments decorated with mementos honoring those who have died, brings to memory that verse, written by an anonymous author, “Only one life, will soon be past. Only what is done for Christ will last.”

Saturday, June 6

We are now heading home from a full day in Santa Fe. We have one more stop to make: Sanctuario de Chimayo. I wish we could stay longer and linger over the handmade jewelry, crafted so delicately by the Indians in the plaza, as well as the unique shops. There is so much color here in Santa Fe! Color brings me such joy. My eyes almost hurt as I soak in my surroundings.

Professor Hunter sets off at the fastest trot I’ve ever seen in the history of my 21 years! I’m the one who usually leaves people in the dust. My classmates and I are hard-pressed to keep up with her. It didn’t help that we just consumed a huge meal at the Blue Corn Cafe.

Jordan spins around at the head of our group (minus our professor, who is still full speed ahead), walks backward, acting as our tour guide, and says the most outrageous, hilarious remarks.

We all head to different cars than what we arrived in. I end up rushing to Clay’s car with Christina (my roommate) and Jordan in tow. Instead of going around to the entrance of the parking lot, they all decide to hop the short adobe wall; quite lithely, I must say. I am embarrassed to admit, even though I have done my fair share of hopping fences, as if I was in a Mission Impossible movie, I am not so graceful this time and end up scrapping the back of my leg. Awkward and ooh la la!

rachel-171-sm.jpg Yay! A bit weary, we have arrived at our destination. Walking through Sanctuario de Chimayo immediately put me in a curious, yet solemn, reverent mood. They say there is “holy” dirt here.

rachel-181-sm.jpg Where to begin taking pictures? There is so much to see here, so many little details that I am afraid to miss. People have taken the time to pay homage to their deceased loved ones as well as place trinkets here. I see and feel such love and grief here. There is heaviness, weightiness here and a sense of hopelessness. It pierces my soul.

rachel-188-sm.jpg I come upon a small clearing filled with rows of worn, stone benches. It appears to be an outside chapel. I squint my eyes as something white catches my eye at the very front of this “chapel.” As I walk toward it, I see it’s a lone, white cap. There is a wilted yellow rose next to it.

I wonder to myself if a loved one had brought this cap here. Maybe their deceased friend had always worn it. Maybe they had placed a yellow rose (signifying friendship) along with it to honor their memory. Such a simple thing, yet it held great depth. Tears well in my eyes and threaten to pour down my cheeks. I am keenly reminded of the recent loss of my own loved one – my grandmother.

rachel-206-sm.jpg I wander around and come to a building with a short, dark, porch-like passageway. There is a shelf filled with tall jars of lighted candles. Psalm 27:1 immediately pops into my head, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

rachel-255-sm.jpg The rest of my classmates have arrived. I spot an abandoned building on a hill behind the church and climb up with Stuart to get a closer look. The inside was very dank and dirty with lots of trash scattered everywhere. There is an old rusted electric stove to the front door’s immediate left. A table is in the center of the room. There are just two rooms.

I walk to the doorway of the next room and see how the light casts my silhouette eerily on the window at the back of the room. A fire must have made this building uninhabitable.

Everyone has finished taking pictures and it’s time to head back to Taos. We arrive back at our casitas around 10 p.m. This has been one long day, yet the experiences and memories will last a lifetime.

Peace out, my friends!

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A day in Santa Fe

R-sky.JPG Being in the midst of such spectacular beauty of New Mexico, makes me want to say along with the author, Jane Austen, “Oh, the glories of nature! What are men compared to rocks and mountains?”

R-Photog.JPG Saturday, June 6

My whole photography class takes an all-day field trip to Santa Fe, N.M. Before we head to the cars from the dining hall, Professor Hunter asks, while chuckling, “Who wants to ride in the ‘cootie’ car with me?”

All of us pause in our conversations and look at her with puzzled expressions on our faces. She explains that students usually avoid riding in her car, just as people avoid the “cooties,” because of the lectures she gives on the way.

We all proceed to load up, equipment in hand, into three separate cars. It is a beautiful, clear day for photography. Upon arriving in Santa Fe, we all stop at a camera shop to buy special paper for printing out our photographs. I am cringing inwardly at the price of $40 for 25 pieces of paper. Ai-yi-yi!

Jump.jpgThe College of Santa Fe is next on our itinerary. CSF is a private college founded in 1859 by the Lasallian Brothers. Professor Hunter points out the importance of colors and the way they bounce and reflect off the surfaces of the different structures and buildings on campus.

Before we leave the campus, my friend Genia and I decide to stand on some random, long line of separate concrete blocks. We encourage the others to each get on one and strike a pose for a picture. Then Genia has the brilliant idea of jumping off them at the same time to get an action shot! (Photo above by Solomon O.)

R-church.JPGI am so eager to get to the colorful, lively plaza in Santa Fe! I never tire of going there. We all stop at a few photo galleries, and I am pleased to recognize some photographers’ work before looking at their names.

On our way toward one of the photo galleries, my friend Dan and I lag behind, eagerly capturing photos. We got some pretty sweet shots! It is fun not to be in a hurry; although we really feel like tourists.

R-SFe.JPGYay! The plaza is in sight! At the middle of the plaza, we pause to listen to a man playing a banjo and singing. Jordan bends down to capture a photograph and the man loudly says, “No picture unless you pay first!” I am a bit disgruntled about the man’s attitude and quickly lose interest in listening to him. I laugh silently and pity a Boston Terrier I spot dressed in a lacy, white dress.

R-stairs.JPGNow to find a comfortable resting spot to hang out until we meet up with our professor at the Blue Corn Cafe. All of us congregate at a cute little coffee shop on the second floor, which overlooks the plaza. On the way out, I have everyone stop for a quick group picture on this cool-looking stairway.

R-photog2.JPGIt was a great day in Santa Fe! We are now headed to Sanctuario de Chimayo, but I shall have to save that for another blog.

Peace out, my friends!

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