Sunday, July 20, 2008

Las Vegas trip with Upward Bound

It seems I've fallen a bit behind in my updates, considering that this trip was almost two weeks ago (from the 8th to the 10th). I blame the whole keratoconus diagnosis thing, which I got just after getting home. But the Las Vegas trip was such fun that I still wanted to put up a little thing here on it.

Every summer after the academic portion, Upward Bound does a fun little trip for all the kids so that they can go tour college campuses and get motivated to continue on with their education after high school. Every year they choose a different location, and apparently this year we got kinda lucky, considering that last year they only went to Salt Lake. Everyone goes on the trip except for the seniors who have just graduated (who went to D.C. this year).

We all met down at UVU Tuesday morning around 9 and loaded the bus, which took us down to Southern Utah to tour Snow College and SUU. At Snow, they made us T/Cs actually run the tour, which was weird, considering that none of us had ever gone to that school. But I was paired up with Jana, who is graduating with her degree in drama, so we had a bit of fun playing tour guide (and making up some interesting facts along the way). At SUU, we decided we were too tired to attempt to go around on the tour with the kids, so all of us on the staff stayed behind and watched t.v. in the lounge with all the sweaty football players who had just gotten out of practice (gross).

After the tour, we all went down to check out the green show at the Shakespearean Festival. I was hoping we could actually catch a show, but there wasn't enough time, since we still had a bit of a drive ahead of us to the hotel. The Festival was fun though; I'd never been before. I thought the whole thing would be a lot bigger than it was. But it was cute in kind of a quaint way (wow, I don't think I've ever used the word "quaint" seriously): costumed merchants were going around with their baskets of "lollies" or other medieval treats calling out their ware in loud, accented voices. A few of the girls and I stopped in front of a Dutch woman who was hand-curling thin strips of brass into little ornaments. Apparently she's one of the only ones in the whole world that still do it, because it was a completely lost art when she started to look into it. Since I collect Christmas ornaments from all the places I go, I bought my favorite one from the little tree she had with all her different ornaments.

Throughout the whole performance, my girls and I were trying to decide if the violinist was actually playing or not...I'm pretty convinced he wasn't. Pity.

It's scary, but I could almost pass for a medieval man in this picture. Very sketchy.

I didn't consciously start doing this, but ever since I started traveling, I've noticed that there are seriously some very strange signs in the world. So I started taking pictures of some of them, and even in good ol' Cedar City, I wasn't disappointed. I got a good little laugh out of the sign above--I wondered at the incident that must have provoked it :)

We spent the second day in Las Vegas touring UNLV, which was an uncomfortable 115 degrees on its campus. Using the heat as our excuse, the staff again stayed behind and went to the bookstore. Ah, I love being one of the ones in authority--you can get away with almost anything. We actually just spent all our time in the bookstore, feeding our geeky instincts. And I even read a few chapters here and there out of this book about the higher education system in America. Pretty interesting, actually. Plus, I discovered a new book I think I want to read---it's about this guy who decided he was going to read fhe entire encyclopedia from A-Z, and from what I could tell, it looked pretty funny.
Before we headed to the bookstore, we just had to get a picture or two with the little statue-man on campus. Tough stuff, that little statue.

The picture below is of all of us female T/Cs (none of the male T/Cs could come, actually, so it was pretty much just us holding down the fort and attempting to enforce the rules).
After the tour, we all went shopping at the huge outlet mall in Las Vegas, which houses some of the top brands in the fashion industry. While I was attempting (unsuccessfully) to look for some new jeans in the Polo Ralph Lauren outlet, this lady right next to me all of a sudden just went completely rigid and went crashing backwards, smacking her head full-force on the bottom of one of the display boxes. I couldn't believe it; it wasn't like a normal faint or anything, because she'd gone completely stiff (it reminded me of how, as kids, we'd play that "Timber" game, where you'd make your body as straight as you could, like a tree, and fall backwards onto a couch). Plus, her eyes were open, even though she was unconscious. It was one of the weirdest, freakiest things I'd ever seen. I thought she'd just up and died right there. I made a frantic little call for help, and started waving my arms so the salespeople would know where to go. The lady came to after about 30 seconds, and stood up all shaky. She had to have had a concussion, because she hit that display so hard, but when she heard they were going to call 911, she just kept saying, "No, No!" and ran out. It was the weirdest thing ever. I felt way nauseous after (I've never been good with seeing other people's injuries), so I escaped out into the heat to try and get the image of this board-stiff woman with wide-open eyes out of my head. I still feel creepy even now just writing about it.

After shopping, we all headed back to the hotel to get ready for The Phantom of the Opera, which we'd be seeing at the Venetian. This was what everyone had been looking forward to most---everyone got all decked out in their nicest clothes and we tried not to sweat all our makeup off on the drive over. Arriving at the Venetian, we tried our best to stay together as a group, but there was so much to distract us---the high, painted ceilings, the indoor fountains, the scantily-clad waitresses strutting around the bar (people seriously WEAR stuff like that?!), the smoky was like a visual overload. Alicia (one of the other T/Cs) was telling us before we were about to go into the theater that this stage had been built specifically for this production, but even that could not prepare me for what I was about to experience--as usual, the play started off with an auction, and when the slipcover was ripped from the old chandelier, the whole theater (which had previously seemed dark and unimpressive) came to life: the chandelier lifted from the stage and joined up with three other parts to make a huge, dazzling chandelier in the middle of the high, vaulted ceiling, and then, simultaneously with the chandelier lighting up, the heavy black drapes that had been covering the sides all came up to reveal the red velvet & gold-plated seats of an "opera audience" that looked so real at first that I had to do a double take to make sure the people inside weren't real.

The show was dazzling--incredible voices, unbelievable special effects that included fireworks and flares and mist and things that rose from the floor and trapdoors and about every other thing you can imagine, gorgeous backdrops and scenery that made it seem as if we were part of a movie, and a performance from the Phantom that was so powerful it brought tears to my eyes. I sat at the edge of my seat the whole show, not wanting to miss anything. I found myself squealing and gasping in delight every few minutes at all the little surprises--like the phantom coming down from the chandelier or Raoul jumping into the lake (and going through a trapdoor) or all the lights rising up from the mist when they reached the phantom's lair or how at one point, they did a reverse-stage effect to make it seem like we were backstage watching Christine bow to an adoring audience on the other side or the double mirror or any of the other hundreds of things that made my breath catch in my throat. I loved every second of it and was sorry it couldn't have lasted all night.

Jana and me in front of one of the fountains
Jana, Alicia, and me right outside the theater. Both of them were/are drama majors, so they were REALLY excited about it all, and gave me lots of backstage insight that was kinda fun.

The girls of Apt 42 (at least the ones that could come)
I wish this picture was better---it's of the fake opera audience on the side.

After the show, the bus driver took us down the Strip so we could see what it looked like at night, and we were lucky enough to catch the tail-end of the fountains show at the Bellagio when we were caught at a red light. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture---it was so exciting I needed both my eyes to take it all in :)

After the show, they took us all to In 'N Out Burger. Fun fact: I've refused to eat fast food ever since reading Fast Food Nation last August, but in the book, In 'N Out Burger was the one fast food place that actually got kudos from the book for their sound business practices and sanitation and stuff. So I was able to indulge myself without feeling grossed out! Hooray!

After that, we all just headed back to the hotel and then just drove back up to Orem the next day. It was a fun trip, and it was fun to see some of my girls again. I seriously feel so lucky, because this is the second all-expenses trip I've been able to take this year because of my work. I'm seriously so spoiled! Yay for good jobs that like to take me cool places :)

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