Dancing Flowers in Carlsbad

There is a slight breeze in the air as my aunt, her family, and me step inside the grounds of the Carlsbad Flower Fields. I fumble with my DSLR for a few minutes while we look at a small spread of flowers. Why am I holding back? Guess I’m rusty. I remember the promise I intend to keep: practice and publish your photography! We proceed to climb onto an orange wagon for a loop around the blooms. Out of the 50 acres of flowers, 30 are in bloom today. The tour satisfies me, but not nearly enough. With the rumbling of the tractor, my shots are blurry and the composition is mediocre.

The first stop we make I beeline for the exit and jump down onto the dusty dirt road. Pictures don’t take themselves, I think and follow my aunt’s sister to the rows of orange, pink, white, red, yellow and purple dahlias. I happen to really like dahlias, and these have fragile, but small vibrant petals. The last dahlia I touched at Orange County Wholesale Flowers was a purple and robust, quarter-inch thick specimen. I reminisce on the weeks I spent last quarter reporting a longform story at the Santa Ana warehouse. Who knew that I would end up with a growing respect and admiration for flowers and the people who help make them beautiful?

I’m snapped out of my reverie as my aunt pulls up in a wagon once she’s done with the loop of the fields. We stroll down the long row of flowers together and look for photo ops. I’m lucky because she loves taking photos on outings and has such a fun personality. I insist that we pose for photos along the walk, and that being silly is a good thing. Not only is my aunt a fantastic conversationalist, but her perspective on life encourages me to be a kinder, more thoughtful person.

We end up joining the rest of the group and wander the rose garden, sweet pea maze, poinsettia greenhouse and a greenhouse full of Cymbidium orchids, which are very popular in California. They are huge plants, but I wanted to see other varieties of orchids too. Maybe someday when I return they will have more plants.

As we head back to Orange County, my mind replays the moments of quiet introspection back at the fields. I think flowers are my new addiction.

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Beauty Lies Among the Ruins

Originally published here
Located in San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, California, the ruins of Mission San Juan Capistrano are a gem to behold. The 7th of 21 California missions, it was one of the best known Alta California missions. Father Junipero Serra founded the mission on All Saints’ Day, November 1, 1776. Father Serra’s Chapel, built in 1778, is the oldest building in California still in use. Inside the peaceful room, people celebrate mass every morning at 7.

A tiny flower sits on the lip of the fountain in the Sacred Garden, a splash of color in the shadows. Trickling water is the only sound you can hear in the late afternoon.

The Great Stone Church is one of the major draws for sightseers. Construction began in 1797 and took nine years to complete. On December 8, 1812 an earthquake caused the walls and bell tower to collapse during mass. It is fascinating to imagine the grandness of the original structure, as it nearly swallows you up the closer you get to the high ceiling.

Adjacent to the old church sits the Bell Wall. Four bells, two small and two large, tolled at mealtimes and at the passing of San Juan Capistrano residents. The large bells are recast from the bells that were lost during the 1812 earthquake while the small bells date to 1804.

Inside the Central Courtyard, the Mission’s men and women would occupy their time with activities like spinning, weaving and leather crafts. Today it is a resting place for visitors to enjoy the flora and architecture, as well as the koi in the pond.

Esther Williams is a California Impressionist artist who has been painting the Mission for eight years. For 40 years she has been perfecting her craft, and finds the Mission an attractive subject because of its spirituality, historical value, and beauty.

Williams likes to paint the koi at the Moore style Fountain of the Four Evangelists, though she finds it a challenge to capture the light on the canvas with evening approaching. She dips her brush into the white paint to add highlights to the fish and the ripples in her painting before leaving.

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TURNING THE TIDE 2.0

Dear all,

Hello! It has been some time since I last sat down and wrote a Blog. I regret not taking the time to write, because so many special things happened over the summer, and I wish I had kept some sort of record on TURNING THE TIDE. To make up for the all the posts I didn’t write, I’d like to take a moment to tell you a bit about my summer, this blog and myself.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m from NorCal and I’m a literary journalism major at University of California, Irvine. Yes, I’m a writer, borne from my love of reading. I am a freelance writer for two startup companies, and plan to move into public relations this fall. This is my final year of college. I’m really excited to use my potential to do good, but I’m definitely nervous at the same time!

Summer highlights:

– Landed my dream journalism internship at the UCI ANTrepreneur Center. I learned the importance of networking, how to listen and how to talk to anyone. This internship helped me find my first public relations opportunity.

– Went on a backpacking trip with my uncles, in NorCal. Want to read more? Check out my article. 🙂

– Had a great time with my friends at the beach on multiple occasions. Having a car is wonderful!

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When I started this blog, I had trouble pinpointing exactly what interested me and keeping readers engaged. I would write about some pretty random stuff. Then, I branched out into writing prompt style posts, which got a bit more traffic. I think the most recent stage was when I wrote about study abroad in Ireland.

Now, I am going to try something new! My new theme makes my blog pop, and motivates me to write engaging content. There’s something deeply satisfying in straying away from a traditional look. Besides the theme, the content will change. From here on out, the blog will focus on photography, student life, careers and current events. Occasionally I will do a writing prompt if I need the practice. I think my new direction will keep me on my toes, since I’ll need to read the news, search for interesting subjects, etc. That said, I’m going to post at least once a week, on Mondays.

To all my past readers, thanks for reading this post and following my blog. I appreciate your patience, and I’m sorry to have left you hanging this summer! I look forward to seeing what you’re up to and will do my best to maintain a presence here on WordPress.To first time visitors, I hope that we can connect. If one of my posts inspires you, please don’t hesitate to comment on it. I’ll take a look at your blog, too.

Cheers,

–Jennifer

On Journalism and Careers

IMG_4677

As a student journalist, I have consistently been doing internships in my field since I started college. Looking back, I’d say that the first internship I had triggered my interest in journalism. I was a rookie reporter at the local paper, that’s for sure, but I learned that I liked jotting down notes from interviews and then turning that information into art for the summer. I had the chance to shadow the other reporters and see how they operated. At the same time, my work had a limited audience, given that I lived in a small town most people wouldn’t know about.

My experiences at my first internship helped me do well in my beginning journalism classes at UC Irvine. I felt like I had definitely picked the right major and that I was likely going to be a journalist after college. I continued to do two more journalism internships to get a feel for the career that I felt I’d do well in. Each had a different work environment and set of skills.

Then, sometime during my junior year in college I started Googling careers related to journalism and one of the biggest (and most promising) was a career in public relations. The pay for a public relations specialist was significantly higher than for a journalist (about $15,000 more of a median salary) and it seemed to offer more stability. I thought about it for a while. I’d get to write, edit, help clients and companies make the most of their businesses, work with the press, give speeches…it sounded like a dream.

I kept reading to see what the requirements were. A Bachelor’s in either journalism, communications, or English…check. Internships in journalism…check. Friendly and outgoing personality…check! I remember thinking, “People actually get paid to do what I would love to do every single day. Count me in.”

Since discovering that PR was a viable option for me, I have also gotten to learn skills outside of my field. I applied for a summer job which I actually took in the fall as a food service worker at the campus dining commons, and have started working at the campus library as a Special Collections and Archives Assistant. It’s nice to make a little money, and I think it’s also an excellent strategy for this generation of students–the more skills you have, the more employable you’ll be in the future.

Recently I landed a journalism internship at the UC Irvine ANTrepreneur Center. I think it’ll be a great opportunity to network with entrepreneurs, students, UCI faculty and local businesses. I will be doing plenty of interviewing and writing, and my work should hopefully reach a wider audience.

Choosing to work on campus was also part of my strategy. You can make it yours, too. Just think: if you live on campus or do not have to drive, it’s a win, and you have the opportunity to see your school a little differently. If you’ve admired the place you’d like to work for a while, you can become a part of what makes it great, and then you can become a representative and even raise the standard.

While everything seems to be falling into place, I’m scared. In one year I will no longer be in school. I’ll be on my own. At the moment I want to go to the Career Center to talk about public relations and what I might need to do differently next year. Interning at a p.r. firm seems promising, but I need to look into it more.

For those of you who haven’t started an internship or gotten a job offer during school, I encourage you to sit down and think seriously about your professional and personal goals. Consider your interests, as well. Write them down and put them in a place you can refer to often. Since I’m not an expert in career counseling I will not go any further except to say read a lot. In fact, read something of educational value every day, whether it is a short story, play, newspaper, magazine, etc. Just read, and I guarantee you’ll come upon one of your interests.

Do you have similar career strategies to mine? What advice would you give students or people seeking a career they feel is a smart move for them? Share your thoughts.

365 Daily Prompt: Road Trippin’

You’re going on a cross-country trip. Airplane, train, bus, or car? (Or something else entirely–bike? Hot air balloon?)

The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon

Photo credit

I am definitely a bit rusty on my Blogging since coming home, so it’s time for a prompt to help motivate me! This question is so perfect right now, since I’ve been talking to my friends about travel and I’ve been daydreaming about vacations.

I like to drive, always have. I find it calms me down. I drive a manual transmission 2005 Honda Accord. I like being in control and driving down the freeway with hardly any cars to my right and left. Before I did my 15.5 hour solo trip down to Irvine a few weeks ago, I had only driven 3-4 hours tops. That was with my parents. I did well on that long solo trip though, thanks to my stack of CDs and the trusty GPS.

If I were to embark on this cross-country trip, first I’d want to see Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe in California. I’ve been to Yosemite before, but two hours is rather short and I did not get to see El Capitan. I’ve always heard people rave about Lake Tahoe. I wonder if it’s worth it. This is why it’s on the list.

My next stop would be the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. The views are breathtaking, I’m told. From here I would travel to the South: San Antonio, Texas for something deep fried to eat, then listen to some good jazz at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and see Savannah, Georgia, the city John Berendt wrote about so eloquently in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Finally, and I’m not sure how I would get there, I would spend some time in Boston, Massachusetts and learn more about our nation’s history and then I would go to New York City, New York.

Yes, this trip could be wildly unrealistic, but it certainly covers all the places I still want to see in this amazing country.

What do you think? Does it sound exciting enough? What is your ideal trip, and what mode of transportation would you want to take?

Jennifer Jopson: Lessons From Travels Abroad

My guest blog for Jered on Live Declared.

Top Five Irish Adventures

Traveling to Ireland soon? Are you struggling to pin down the sites you want to see? Consider these places for your trip. You can visit them all in a week!

1. Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
Known as the “glen of two lakes”, Glendalough boasts a scenic landscape that is hard for anyone to resist. The Upper Lake is a nice place to take pictures and skip rocks, and the walk to the 6th century monastery is both peaceful and mysterious. The graveyard is interesting, as several of the tombstones are indecipherable due to their age and St. Kevin’s Cross and the Round Tower are part of Irish folklore. Glendalough is also kid friendly, as there are grassy areas with natural features to scramble around on. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a hike up to the waterfall. I highly recommend the Wild Wicklow Tour–my guide was friendly, flexible and knowledgeable. You’ll see much more than Glendalough itself.

The monastery at Glendalough is utterly charming.
The monastery at Glendalough is utterly charming.

2. O’Neills, Co. Dublin
One of the most handsome, traditional pubs in Dublin, O’Neills is a gem that not every tourist knows about. It’s not far from St. Stephens Green and Trinity College. O’Neills is a great place to meet up with friends or to soak up the ambiance–they do traditional music every night and the food is pretty impressive. The Carvery is excellent (come hungry!) and the main menu offers something for everyone. While you should also experience Temple Bar, if you like to get away from hordes of people and always wanted to hear traditional music in a pub, this might be the place for you. I took my study abroad friends here and since then we’ve all returned numerous times.

My favorite place to unwind in Dublin.
My favorite place to unwind in Dublin.

3. Galway City, Co. Galway
You haven’t seen Ireland if you haven’t been to Galway in the West! They hold the biggest arts festival in the country and 20% of its population are college students. The main city is walkable–you can see most of it in two hours. Don’t rush, though, as you’ll want to enjoy a meal here and listen to street music. They have a farmer’s market, several fun shops and some beautiful attractions. The Spanish Arch area out by Galway Bay is a must-see, as well as Galway Museum right behind it and the Galway Cathedral close by.

Galway has an artsy feel: do not miss out!
Galway has an artsy feel: do not miss out!

4. Connemara, Co. Galway
Words can’t really express this place. The views are incredible. Driving around the peat bogs and seeing the idyllic-looking horses in the tall grass is essential to the Irish experience. My family drove quite close to Connemara National Park, which I hear is a must-see as well.

Take the Sky Road in Connemara for an awe-inspiring experience.
Take the Sky Road in Connemara for an awe-inspiring experience.

5. The Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
Though the Cliffs are probably the most popular tourist destination in Ireland, they are stunning. You can take a hike along the cliffs, called the Burren Way–for hours if you like. I had two hours to explore the Cliffs, and it was plenty of time for me. I would’ve liked to walk along the Burren Way for a considerable amount of time, but since I was on a tour I made a point to take photographs I’d love and study the various angles of the Cliffs. A word of caution: people do fall off the Cliffs, so stay AT LEAST three feet away from the edge. I’d double that amount in the event of strong winds and rain, because you have a higher chance of losing your balance and slipping. Just use your common sense and don’t risk your life for a picture! I recommend the Wild Rover tour for those of you who will not drive in Ireland: you’ll get two hours at the Cliffs, some time to stretch your legs and enjoy The Burren and two hours in Galway. The guides are fantastic, and the value is excellent for the price. I took the Wild Rover tour to Belfast, the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which I also recommend because unlike the Cliffs, there are no stone barriers at all–you get to walk around it all.

Pick a clear, sunny day to visit the Cliffs of Moher for the best views.
Pick a clear, sunny day to visit the Cliffs of Moher for the best views.

Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts: did I miss something people have to go see? What was your experience like in Ireland?

Escape to Skerries

Dear readers,

My apologies for it being a month since my last post. I appreciate your patience. Finals were stressful (the good kind of stress) and I wanted to prepare as much as I could. I survived my semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland, so now I just have to wait for my grades! I’ll elaborate on study abroad in a future post, I promise. I’d love to share a final set of experiences with you before I do.

Last Saturday was my first day of summer. I was so excited to go to Skerries in North Dublin I couldn’t sleep much the night before. Two months before I had read about Skerries in my guide-book, and while it didn’t go into detail about the town, it did mention Skerries Mills. Also around this time the international and Erasmus student society I was a part of on campus gave us the opportunity to do a clean up project in Skerries. I wasn’t able to participate, but once I started Googling Skerries I became more and more intrigued. I learned that they hold an annual Traditional Music Weekend there, for three days in May filled with dance and instrument workshops in the morning, street music in the afternoon and concerts at night. My host mom took one look at the lineup and said I had chosen well. Clearly, this was a cultural opportunity I wasn’t about to miss.

I decided to plan a trip out to Skerries once my finals were over, as a reward for finishing strong and as a chance to see another seaside town before I left for the States. (I leave this week. It’s bittersweet). My Irish friend Nwanne and I couldn’t have picked a better day to go. The journey was simple, as I took the DART (Irish Rail) towards Drogheda, and the route led me directly to Skerries. The weather was quite balmy, the sky a pretty blue mixed in with a few clouds. I talked with a very pleasant elderly gentleman on my walk into town. He seemed dedicated to the music festival, as he had been there before and knew which bands at the pubs I shouldn’t miss. He’d listened to all their music as well, which made him 100% more of an expert than I was.

I had to laugh at myself soon after when I went on a wild goose chase for a tourist office and a public restroom. Signs in the town pointed in the opposite direction of these facilities, which was at once very frustrating and humorous at the same time. After heading in the wrong direction for the monument (I was one street over), I finally met up with Nwanne. It was so good to see her, as she was also recovering from our chaotic finals schedule. When I asked her what she wanted to do, she let me decide what we’d do that day since this was the end of my study abroad experience. She was up for anything I wanted to do, which I really appreciated.

The first place we went to was Skerries Mills. There are three mills at Skerries; two windmills and a watermill. It is famous in part because it was one of the few mills with both wind and waterpower. I found them marvelous structures, and I desperately wanted to take pictures of them to seal it forever in my memory. We went on a nice tour of the Mills and really enjoyed it. In the huge watermill the guide demonstrated how workers would turn grain into flour, their pulley system to haul the bags of flour up to the next floor and then powered up the mill to show us how all the parts worked together. I thought it was pretty neat. Then we got to tour the inside of the Small Windmill. It was drafty inside, and we could hear the wind howling outside (it was not actually that windy outside, but inside the mill sound became more amplified). Anyway, it was my first time in a windmill!  I liked the Small Windmill better than the Great Windmill because it had a more rustic look and the red door with a fence surrounding it was a nice touch. When we got closer to the Great Windmill, however, I loved how it seemed to effortlessly work with the landscape. The thing that amazes me about these mills is the back-breaking work the men did everyday to earn a living. To think that they faced many trials in order to make the mill more efficient showed their dedication to work. Their jobs were very dangerous and the monotony, I assume, made it difficult to feel a sense of accomplishment.

At the Small Windmill--built in 1500
At the Small Windmill–built in 1500
Hands down the most warm and beautiful day in Dublin!
Hands down the most warm and beautiful day in Dublin!
The Great Windmill of Skerries
The Great Windmill of Skerries–built in 1700

After we’d snapped several selfies and soaked up the sun, Nwanne and I headed back into town. We went to South Beach and sat down in the sand. We looked out to the islands there and had fun watching children chase their parents around in circles until we were nearly dizzy ourselves. We wanted to make it to Keane’s Bus Bar by 5 PM for live music, so we skipped the harbor and went to get dinner and wait.

Nwanne and I at South Beach
Nwanne and I at South Beach

Keane’s Bus Bar has the kind of ambiance that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the early 20th century. The seats were cushy, the tables tiny and several paintings of the Dublin area hung on the walls. We ate our meal with gusto and settled in for some good music. While the band that played was fine, the guitarist was the only one who sang for us. Still, the harp, the fiddle and the Uilleann pipes made the music legitimate and quite colorful. The gentleman I had talked to earlier sat at the table closest to the band, and when he saw me he explained that we had missed a fantastic traditional music session at 3 PM–apparently the whole town went to that one! While I was a little sad, I did not regret any moment spent in Skerries and I happily listened to the music playing. The three small children trying to out-dance each other at the pub stole the show! The band enthusiastically invited them to “play” the Uilleann pipes. Spending time with my friend and with the kind people of Dublin made my day. On my next trip to Ireland, I’ll make a point to return to the quiet and peaceful town of Skerries.

The band at Keane's Bus Bar
The band at Keane’s Bus Bar

 

A Folk Rock Kind of Night

I stumbled across Limerick-based Hermitage Green on Spotify a little over a month ago, and I am so glad I did! Had this not happened, I wouldn’t have been at The Academy in Dublin at their gig on April 17th. The guys are brilliant musicians and have a great sense of humor (they were all for going to the pub with audience members before Good Friday started!) They’ve performed in Australia and recently did a tour in North America and Canada. What I appreciate about this band is their distinct sound: it’s not just guitars. They also pay banjo, djembe, dobro, harmonica, bodhrán and keyboard. Besides the plethora of musical instruments, their voices blend together in an a cappella style that really brings out the harmonies. So in other words, their music is complex and exotic. If you think about the popular Avett Brothers or Mumford and Sons, you can think again when you listen to Hermitage Green. I’m not saying the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons aren’t good, but I am saying that Hermitage Green offer top-notch quality music, and they don’t sound like the typical folk rock bands out there. Give them a listen (I’ve included videos below) and see what you think. Then spread the word if you like what you hear!

Hermitage Green has great potential for major success.
Hermitage Green has the potential to make a name for themselves.
Cillian King killed it as one of the opening acts for Hermitage Green.
Cillian King and his band killed it as one of the opening acts for Hermitage Green.

Got fish? Visit Howth!

With its history dating back to a viking invasion in 819, Howth is one of Dublin’s main out-of-city attractions. Howth sits north of Dublin Bay, and the views from Dalkey and Dún Laoghaire harbors in South Dublin are particularly neat. You can reach Howth by DART (Irish Rail) from the city centre in about 30 minutes.

My friend Anika and I got a great first impression of the village as soon as we stepped off the train. We went into Howth Market, a farmer’s market with mouth-watering bread, sweets and other goods. Anika’s delicious bread had cheese, tomato sauce and jalapeño in it. We really liked seeing the array of shops and restaurants near the habour. Howth Harbour was wonderful! We walked along the west and east piers and saw a seal pop his head out of the water for a minute. It was so refreshing to feel the wind blow into our faces and to breathe in the salty, slightly fishy air. We watched kayakers paddle out to Ireland’s Eye and white sailboats floating far off at the edge of Dublin City. There are few things that are more relaxing than sitting pier side and watching the waves.

While we each had a map of Howth with us, we weren’t sure how close the sites in town actually were, and nothing sounded that intriguing. Anika suggested that we walk for a bit past the harbour, which I thought was an excellent idea. As we started our climb we passed beautiful homes and looked back to see views of the village now and then. We hiked up Howth Head, which is a sprawling peninsula that you could only dream of covering completely if you had the proper footwear, food and water to keep you going. Our boots got muddy but we didn’t mind–running shoes just didn’t seem ideal. I got tired early on mostly because of lack of food and hydration, but Anika seemed to have an endless supply of energy! I liked hiking with her and I’m glad that she motivated me to press on. Plus, the *views only continued to improve the higher we climbed. We figured that we were close to the turn that would lead us to a car park and back down to the village about an hour and a half in. We were right, and we didn’t have to walk far past Howth Summit to find a warm pub to refuel in.

We headed back into town and sat down on a bench to contemplate our trip and rest our feet. We drank some warm cocoa at the first cafe we had seen outside the train station to end the day. We both agreed that while the harbour area and the coastal views from Howth Head were amazing, the village itself wasn’t as beautiful and special as we thought it would be. My advice is to visit Dalkey over Howth, as there is much more to see and it is far nicer as a town. Still, Howth is worth seeing.

One of the things I learned about myself from my trip to Howth was that I don’t have to always travel alone. Here in Ireland I’ve planned most of my sightseeing and so far I haven’t minded doing my own thing.  My hope in this is that I get to develop an awareness of Dublin without limitation. Sounds lonely, doesn’t it? Sometimes it feels that way, but I like to meet people outside of my friend circle and learn about the things that I find interesting here. Having a friend to share yesterday with meant a lot to me. It’s hard to make friends when you’re at a new school and have deadlines to meet, but it is great to have a friend who takes the time to get to know you. Hopefully I can see Anika a few more times before the term ends!

Note: Hover over the photos to view captions, click to view larger

*The view changed rapidly. One moment there was mist over the next 100 meters ahead of us, and then it was clear. No time to take off your jacket!