Cinque Terre

I am staying in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy! it is incredibly beautiful. i can only only use wifi at this bar, so i have to buy a drink. Their Sangria is really good. it’s helping me relax, cause i have been pretty stressed out always thinking of what i need to do next. 26 hours on trains yesterday  to get here doesn’t help. Today i went on a lovely mountain hike from Corniglia to Manorolo, it was intense! i have been nursing a bad headache ever since, but i have bee downing water like nobody’s business, so it’s not dehydration. I was pretty sad today at different points, i spemt all day wishing my family were here! It’s lonely traveling alone here. I can’t believe it took Chris McCandless a year to discover what i realize after a day surrounded by strangers: happiness only real  when shared. Don’t get me wrong, i had a wonderful day today, but it’s harder to enjoywhen you are alone. in Barcelona it was fine because the hostel people wanted to do things together, but this place is a romantic getaway, so it’s all a bunch of couples that want to do their own thing… and two guys that smoke a lot of weed. They were excited that i was from Colorado. After the hike i had an hour and a half till the next train so i went to the beach(i jad brought my one piece necause i had heard this plave has good cliff jumping) and it sure did!! I bought goggles and


Just had a great day in Barcelona!! Saw the Sagrada Familia and the park Guell! Off to Cinque Terre tomorrow morning at 7am!!

Sagrada Familia Basilica

Park Guell


I am staying with a family in Granada that lives on a flat on the third floor with a terrace that goes around the outside of the house. It is a wonderful place and I can see the mountains and the river from the terrace. It is SO HOT in Spain!!! I am kind of getting used to sweating all the time… even though it’s actually quite dry in Granada.

View from the Terrace of our home!

View from the Terrace of our home! Can you see the Sierra Nevada mountains in the background?

My roommate, Katie, and I are so lucky to be with the family we are with, they are amazing. Margarita is the mom, and she is so sweet, she is always taking really good care of us and cooks us amazing meals for lunch everyday (Lunch is the big meal of the day, breakfast and dinner are more like appetizers/small dishes). She has a ton of energy, and shakes her head with animation when she tells stories, she is always making us laugh with her stories. She works for a study abroad program in Granada and is always busy. She is very light-hearted and is so full of life. Antonio, the husband, is a systems engineer, and he is also very nice. We always sit at the kitchen table for at least an hour and talk with the parents at mealtime. Their 7 year daughter is also named Margarita- it is a Spanish tradition to name children after their parents, and traditionally only names of Saints are used. Little Margarita is lots of fun, she gets really bossy and sassy but then is so cute and sweet other times… She has really bad asthma, so the family has a beach house an hour south where they go on the weekends. They said they will take us there when we have a free weekend. 🙂

Mi Familia Espanola! <3

Mi Familia Espanola! ❤

Something interesting: They think that English sound better in songs, so in all the stores, cafes, restaurants, buses, taxis, etc. they play English songs rather than Spanish songs. Makes me feel more at home, and I kind of wish that I could be more exposed to popular Spanish music. There are also a lot of American TV shows on the TV that are voice-overed in Spanish like “Como conoci a vuestra madre” = “How I met your mother.” Then there are tons of dramas and things that look like a big waste of time haha. It sounds like it is pretty typical for Spanish people to eat next to the TV, like it’s always the fifth person at the table, so I am glad our family doesn’t watch TV while we eat.



Word of the day: Bocadillo = Sandwich


This weekend we are in Sevilla, which is about 3 hours west of Granada. It is a much bigger city and has beautiful old buildings and a big river running through the city. It is incedibly beautiful. We had tapas for dinner last night at a restaurant with outdoor sitting on the river. Tapas are like appetizers and are usually about 3€. Last night we went to our first Discoteca! They are really popular dance clubs that everyone goes to. It was funny because we discovered that people here don´t show up to the Discotecas until 2am, so we were sitting around being early Americans for a few hours waiting to see what would happen. I have never been to a club in the US, but the Discoteca was less like a club than I would have imagined and it was just a fun place to dance freely, it was great. We stayed out till 4am, so we are all very tired today…


Last weekend I went on a four day trip to Morocco! Known as Marruecos to the Spaniards and Moroccans, it was a place rich with culture and new experiences! We spent the first day traveling, took a taxi from Granada to Malaga at 3am, then a bus to Algeciras, the Spanish port to the Strait of Gibraltar. We took the ferry (which was like a cruise ship!) across the Gibraltar Strait to Tangier, Morocco. I have officially set foot on Africa!! 😀

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We were on the bus all day and watched Casablanca, which takes place in Morocco, so that was an interesting introduction to the culture. We arrived at a beautiful hotel and relaxed in the hotel pool for the evening before dinner. The meals we had always started with a bunch of vegetables, then there was a main dish of meat (usually chicken), and then fruit for dessert. Lots of watermelon and other melons because that’s what is in season.

The hotel we stayed at in Fez, we were all soo grateful for a nice pool after being on a bus since 3am...

The hotel we stayed at in Fez, we were all soo grateful for a nice pool after being on a bus since 3am…

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The next day we spent at the famous Medina of Fez. It was incredible! Little streets with thatch roofs covering the walkways between the shops, lots of vendors with their little shops. The streets were very dirty and donkeys walked through them carrying goods.

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We went to a rug shop and got a sales pitch rug-show. The vendors were ingenious salesmen, it was very interesting to watch their techniques! They gave us some mint tea called Moroccan Whiskey.

Moroccan Whiskey: Mint tea (because they aren't supposed to drink alcohol)

Moroccan Whiskey: Mint tea (because they aren’t supposed to drink alcohol)

The rug house.

The rug house.

I bought a small bag of Moroccan spices from a spice and oil shop for my mom and a tapestry purse from the tapestry store, where we got to watch them make their scarves and cloths.

Oil and Spice shop where I got a little bag of a spice mix.

Oil and Spice shop where I got a little bag of a spice mix.

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Ceramics shop

Ceramics shop


2013-06-07 09.34.49 2013-06-07 10.19.47We also went to a ceramics manufacturer and a leather shop, where we got to see how they make the leather right there! They give you mint to hold to your nose and take you out on an overlook to see all the pots where they cure the leather. They said that the workers regularly pee in the pits because the ammonia helps the leather cure better!

The tannery in Fez: Smelled awful. The workers regularly pee in the pots to help cure the leather.

The tannery in Fez: Smelled awful. The workers regularly pee in the pots to help cure the leather.

The next day we went to Meknes and had dinner at a lovely restaurant overlooking the Medina of Meknes. They served us the famous ‘Moroccan Whiskey’ again.

Meknes Medina below

Meknes Medina below

Moroccon Whiskey

Moroccon Whiskey

Pan! There is always a bunch of bread here and in Spain.

Pan! There is always a bunch of bread here and in Spain.

We toured the ancient Roman Ruins called Volubilis, which were my favorite! There were incredible… It was the most beautiful place, with so many wild flowers. I could imagine all the walls of the 200 acre city springing up and people walking about with donkeys doing their daily business. It actually reminded me a lot of home, I think the smell of the flowers reminded me of a smell of weeds back home. The temperature and hilly area also reminded me of Colorado. I wished that my family could be there to see it with me!!

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Volubilis: Mosaics that tell a story

Volubilis: Mosaics that tell a story

Volubilis: Roman spa: you sit in the curves in a water bath.

Volubilis: Roman spa: you sit in the curves in a water bath.

This is the room where they suppose the Roman brothel was...

This is the room where they suppose the Roman brothel was…

Volubilis: the three other CSU students that went on the Morocco excursion.

Volubilis: the three other CSU students that went on the Morocco excursion.

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Me sitting in an ancient Roman Spa! ;)

Me sitting in an ancient Roman Spa! 😉



2013-06-08 06.08.45 2013-06-08 06.06.44We also went to this place with lots of gigantic adobe rooms and an outdoor yard filled with arched columns where they filmed parts of the movie 300. It used to be a place where they would keep thousands upon thousands of horses.

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We went to a bath house, called Hammam, where people go about twice a week to bathe themselves. The women and men have different Hammams. It was a neat experience. Us girls were a bit shy in the beginning, holding our towels at our chest since we were only allowed to wear underwear. After we had been in the Hammam about 5 minutes, I felt comfortable. I thought it was interesting how the Muslim women cover all their bodies in public all the time, but then how comfortable they were being naked! It was just a tile floored room with knee-level faucets that you used to fill a bucket with water. We each got a little hand bucket to scoop the water from the bucket and pour on our bodies. They gave us this slimy green clay-like oil to rub on, and then we all got scrubbed down by some women. There were about 5 women whose job it is to scrub people down. You lay on the floor and the spin you around on the tile and scrub every inch of your body, removing your underwear. Surprisingly it wasn’t as strange as I thought it would be. I heard that the boys had a rougher experience though. The men got their backs cracked by being bent and pulled in strange uncomfortable positions…

One thing I thought was strange and really neat was how fresh everything is- including the meat. How the cows are literally slaughtered right in front of you in the Medina and they set the head out on display and then cut up the rest of it and hand it to customers.

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This is a wedding bench, and as I was walking to the bathroom, the guys where were building it convinced me to take a picture with them on it... Don't worry I was with other people, no marriages were going to occur ;)

This is a wedding bench, and as I was walking to the bathroom, the guys where were building it convinced me to take a picture with them on it… Don’t worry I was with other people, no marriages were going to occur 😉


2013-06-07 04.31.49We weren’t allowed in any Mosques, but we got to take a peak inside some of them, along with some of the religious colleges, and they were so beautiful… Moroccan architecture is incredibly beautiful with the mosaics, the colors, the fountains, arches and columns… Being there makes you feel like there is something profound and mysteriously majestic in the air.

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Marruecos was a wonderful experience, I am so glad I had the opportunity to go!


Note: My camera broke, so the photos above and all those that will be posted are from my phone camera…

Left Toledo today and reached my Homestay in Granada! My family is beautiful, Margarita is the mom, and she is great! She is very outgoing and very kind to us. She took us out on a tour of the city and bought us special italian ice cream that is a Granada specialty, made us a wonderful dinner with watermelon and said she is going to buy us plants to grow little vegetables while we are here.

It has been very busy, and wifi has been on and off at the hotels, so Hopefully tomorrow I will have time to upload more about the trip so far. Tomorrow night I leave for a long journey to Morocco though, so we will see how the internet goes there!

SPAIN: Madrid in Pictures

Calle en Madrid

Calle en Madrid




Eduardo and I at the city park.

Eduardo and I at the city park.IMG_8068IMG_8069


Movie Critique #3: I AM

The movie “I AM” is a documentary that takes a look at the problems in the world, what causes them, and what we can do about it. It asks the question: Is there a problem that causes all other problems? These questions are answered by the work of Tom Shadyac, a movie director, as he travels the world to ask the brightest minds these questions. The documentary follows his journey of self-discovery as he realizes that the material possessions and fame of his success as a movie director can’t bring him happiness. After a terrible biking accident where he had a near death experience, he realized that he might have been a part of the problem all along, and that he wants to make a change so he can make a positive difference. The movie looks at our view of ourselves as humanity and how we tend to see ourselves as machines, when really we are not like machines at all. They went to the Heart Institute and learned about the research of the heart and how our hearts can interact with each other. This tells us a lot about our compassion for each other and how we should be caring for each other. Our job is to be a citizen, not a consumer. We have created this system where we see each other as machines, and we model our lives off of this idea. We created the economy in this way, and now we hate it. It is the new monster that we all fear. These systems make us feel separate from the natural world, like we are in control. We have forgotten the importance of cooperation over competition. We have forgotten that our sympathy for each other is what has enabled us to the “domination” of the earth over all other species. We are born to be in community, to be out brother’s keeper, we are all alive… everything is alive. The movie talked about all the negative things we focus on and their negative effects and then turned and looked at what we can do to make a difference. “What is wrong with the world? –I AM. What is right with the world? –I AM.”

This movie is important to the broader layman’s community because it reminds people that the little things they do can build up and make a great difference when people come together with a common purpose. It is a unique movie because people are aware that money and wealth aren’t what are supposed to make them happy, and yet we still chase after money and wealth each and every day. It is a great visual to be able to see a celebrity deny himself the “pleasures” of his riches because they didn’t make him happy. To see Tom give up everything to live in a mobile home park, to humble his life in so many ways is a really eye-opening experience. This movie really relates to any audience, as portrayed by the audience of the premier at CSU last year. When I went to the premier, I noticed that the people lining up to see the movie were an extremely diverse crowd of ethnic origin, age, gender orientation, and social class. These of course were simply by my limited observation, but the movie certainly attracted a wide variety of people. This movie is especially important to college students because we are going to school so that we can gain skills that will get us a job so we can make money for the rest of our lives. Granted not everyone is going to school for a high paying job, but most people hope to have some amount of wealth to live comfortably, and I would venture to say that most people hope to strike rich.

In this way, the movie has a great importance to the layman’s community, and the presentation achieved its purpose I think. Having the movie be from the perspective of a celebrity who has enjoyed wealth and success was a good point to present the film from. It gave a very personal touch to the message of the movie. It made the almost “utopian” ideas it presented seem more possible when it showed a significantly rich man give up everything and completely change his life. It made the movie hit home with a reality of possibility.

I am not sure how scientifically accurate this movie was, as it didn’t provide a lot of information about its different sources. The movie was full of a lot of clips from interviews from people that seemed important, but I didn’t know who a lot of them were and the clips used from each person were so short that it wasn’t clear if the movie was just taking quotes from the interview and placing them in the movie in a way that delivered their desired message, or whether the quotes were really intended to display the same message the movie was trying to get a across at that point. One of the people interviewed was an old man with strange clothes who spoke with beautiful and fluffy language. He seemed to be full of poetry- quotes that he had memorized or something. So they used a lot of his quotes, but I don’t know who he was, although it was apparent he wasn’t a scientist and his information didn’t seem to be coming from any real reliable source other than his own thoughts. The Heart Institute was the most scientific- seeming piece of the movie, but there was still something about the scientists there that made me unsure of whether I should believe what they were saying or not. I feel like the introduction to who they were and the provision of actual scientific data was very sparse if not present. I tried to look up the Heart Institute online, but was unable to find them or their research.

The movie was pretty well argued because it played off of people’s emotions more than their logical mind, which was one of their points: that we are all connected and that out of compassion we should be caring for each other. Otherwise, it was very subjective. It used interviews from different people, but those people were selected by Tom, and he clipped the quotes that he wanted from each of them. He shared his thoughts and experiences throughout the movie, and this made it very subjective and clearly biased from his point of view.

The movie was very broad in the amount of ideas and concepts it discussed, but I feel like the general theme was that we need to stop being so individualistic, materialistic, and competitive, and start caring for each other, living for each other, and seeking REAL happiness. I agree very much with this message. I really enjoyed the movie and the ideas it presented, it was very thought provoking. I really appreciated the way that Tom used his experiences as an opportunity to teach the world something. I think that is important and I definitely took a lot away from it. I believe that we are all connected, and that the compassion we feel for other people comes from a place in us that desires to be in harmony with other people. I don’t think we do a very good job of living this out all the time, but I do think that the desire is there in all of us to be loved and to love. It made me feel like I should be doing something similar to Tom. I should be working towards living more simply, taking “things” out of my life so that I can stop focusing on things that don’t matter.

Why do we focus on wealth so much? Why are we so obsessed with making money? The movie talked about how nature doesn’t take more than in needs. I know that I take more than I need. In everything, from food, to energy, to material objects. I don’t NEED all this stuff, but I get it because everyone around me is getting it as well. I rarely feel hungry, mostly because I think my stomach is disconnected from my brain, but otherwise I think I consume more calories than I need. I am not overweight and my body is able to process it all, but I really don’t think I need as much food as I eat. This conviction came from the part of the movie that talked about how people act on their consciousness. Once we embrace our connectedness, we redefine ourselves and change our perceptions; the world changes. In this way, if I think about all the people around the world that don’t have enough to eat, and realize our connectedness, then I can act on that, and eat less in the hopes that that small act will somehow multiply into a difference of some sort. The movie did a great job of encouraging small acts. Howard Zinn’s quote, “The south changed from small changes and acts” and the clips from MLK’s speech were encouraging in seeing that lots of people taking small actions can really make a difference. This is very encouraging because no matter how many times I have been told that my small actions make a difference, it is really hard to believe that when I feel lost amidst millions of people. “Change happens because YOU are concerned.” Was another quote I really liked, we are concerned people, now we need to follow that with action. None of us are neutral; we all cast our vote every day. Everything matters, so what is wrong with the world? I AM. And what is right with the world? I AM.

Movie Critique #2: DIRT THE MOVIE

This movie was a great reminder of how much life is all around us and how much it impacts our everyday life. Dirt is the “skin of the earth, and it could be considered more alive than we are because of how many living microorganisms are in it. Dirt is considered the top 5cm of the top soil, and it is made up of organisms that have decomposed other living things to return nutrients to the soil. Water, dirt, nutrients, minerals, and all natural things are recycled in the environment. Nothing is taken out that isn’t returned, and nothing is put in that isn’t then used. Human interactions with the environment change this greatly, however. We take things out the environment and make things out of them, that then don’t return to nature for a much longer period of time. The development of our civilization has completely changed the landscape of nature and how the environment around us works. We cover up the soil with concrete and asphalt, changing water movement and nutrient disposal. We change a lot about our environment, and often we forget how important it is to us. Without dirt we wouldn’t be able to grow anything because no nutrients would be returned to the soil. Everything we eat comes originally from the soil. Someone said, “I am that mountain, this [dirt] is my flesh.”

A wine taster that travels the world testing wines said that the most important thing about the quality of the wine is how good the soil is where the grapes were grown. A farmer allows weeds to grow with his crops instead of pulling them because when the weeds grow to full maturity and die on their own they return organic material to the soil. In some cultures dirt is very useful in the building of their houses and in making lots of different products. People plaster their floors with mud daily, make pots out of clay straight from the ground below them. The mud houses are great because they stay cool in the summer, and retain heat inside in the winter. Dirt is seen as holy in some religions that believe that humans were formed from the dirt, “You are dirt and into dirt you shall return.”

The American Midwest farmers settled the land, removed the native grasses and planted a monoculture. This single-species farming gives nothing back to the soil after harvest, and certain nutrients are depleted from the soil. This resulted in the Dust Bowl, where the land was farmed until it couldn’t produce anything.  All monocultures will collapse; diversity is necessary. In regards to pests, if you only have one type of crop, then the pest can adapt to that plant and kill the whole harvest. The chemicals in pesticides deplete the soil also, plus if they kill plants and insects there’s good reason to believe that it will kill us too. Deforestation and development of farming communities have negative effects on the people of that geographical region also. Farmers pressured into buying more sophisticated equipment end up in debt and there have been 200,000 suicides due to this depressive state of farming debt in India.

People connected to their soil can sustain and support themselves. We need to learn how to live within our means and be like a hummingbird.

This video is a great tool for raising awareness about how our ‘greater technologies’ for the greater good can often end up hurting us more than helping us. It reminds people how dependent we are on our dirt and the life that it provides. The broader public should better understand where how the environment directly underneath and around them affect them, and how they could be better using it. The relationship between humans and our environment is incredibly important. Not only does it provide aesthetics that the general public enjoys but it is the mechanism that makes life go ‘round, literally. Dirt allows things to decompose and be returned to the soil. From there nutrients and minerals can be turned into something else that we can enjoy. Everything we have comes from the earth around us, so the better we understand how our relationship with dirt and nature works, the better we can protect the resources we have.

I think that the scientists viewpoints in the movie were valid, although I think there could have been more. The illustrations and stories they used created a great picture for what dirt is and how people interact with it, but there could have been more supporting evidence and data throughout. I thought it was great to hear the indigenous people’s stories and viewpoints on dirt, but there was a lot of story-telling, and not very much concrete science going on. As far as I am concerned, that’s OK because I think native peoples that have a good relationship with their dirt probably understand it better than the typical American. For other people though, it would probably be a good idea to include more data from studies and scientific facts about dirt. It was certainly well argued, although they didn’t include any viewpoints from people that didn’t see dirt as the most important thing on the planet. All the view-points were from people that spend their lives loving the dirt. What might a scientist say who thinks that covering up the dirt with concrete isn’t that detrimental of a thing to do?

I think the central theme would be to seek better relationships with dirt and the nature around us, because it really does affect us more than we are aware. I agreed with this message because I think that we forget all too often where everything we have comes from. We live in our pretty houses built by someone else, who got their supplies from someone else, whose supplies were made by someone else… we buy food from the supermarket not having any idea where it was grown, how it was grown, or who harvested it. Dirt is ugly, empty, and we want to cover it up. I have always enjoyed dirt, gardening and natural systems in general. This movie made me happy because I appreciated their efforts to better educate the public about dirt and how we should be caring for our earth.

This movie better educated me about the importance of dirt, and reminded me of how important it is. I certainly forget about it quite often, and I don’t think about how much I rely on it nor how much life it provides for me. The movie made me pretty excited about looking into building houses with clay and straw, and I would honestly like to try it this summer down on some of our property. It’s a free building material! (minus the straw) I am pretty stoked about natural systems and biomimicry, and I am really appreciating the things we are learning about in this class as I am excited about integrating them into my engineering career.

Movie Critique #1: SUN COME UP

The movie Sun Come Up was a great documentary about the effects of climate change on an island in the south pacific. It tells the story of the Carterets, people whose island is being destroyed by the rising sea water. The rising sea water gets into the soil and kills all their crops. They are surviving on only coconuts. Seeing the imminent danger of their island starving to death, they send out a group of young people to a larger, higher elevation island called Bougainville to seek new land for their people. This group of people spent 3 weeks visiting 15 villages on the island asking the communities to offer them a piece of their land so that their people could come live there with them. This island is recovering from civil war, and is still hostile in areas as people still have fire arms. The Carterets are very peaceful people and are afraid of this new place where their culture will have to survive in memory. They know they must find somewhere to move or they will die on their island. It is a very traumatizing experience for the Carterets, but they receive help from some locals and are able to convince a village of their ability to integrate positively into their community, and they are welcomed to join. Some families start moving over to Bougainville once the scouts return successful in their mission. Although it feels good for them to have found hope for their people to survive, it is little reason to celebrate as they will have to leave the place their people have been for thousands of years…

The presentation of this film was terrific, I felt like it was able to represent the situation very objectively in terms of allowing the viewer to see the effect of climate change on this group of people. The value of this movie to the broader layman’s community is a heart-moving, thought-provoking experience in which people can see the effect that our contributions to climate change are having on other people. The movie doesn’t directly criticize the viewer or climate change, but it allows the viewer the opportunity to compare their own lifestyle with that of a Carteret. The fact that the Carteret’s style of life is 100% sustainable and they are not contributing to the pollution of the earth and climate change and yet are being affected by it is very concerning. Viewers are allowed the space to reflect on this thought through the presentation of this movie.

There were no scientific facts presented, and no portrayal of scientists. In this way it made the movie far more objective than any other documentaries we have seen this semester. It was truly portraying the life and situation of the Carteret people. There was one part where a man from Bougainville used the visit of the Carterets and their story to share his knowledge of climate change with the village, but the video didn’t show what he actually said about it. In this way it was very well ‘argued’ because the viewer comes to the conclusion about the purpose of the movie on their own, which makes it more personal.

This central theme was clear: climate change is real, and it is already affecting people in big ways. Climate change was only mentioned a few times throughout the documentary, which keeps it from appearing to have an ‘agenda’ as some concerned anti-climate change people would say. I thought it served the purpose of demonstrating that whatever you think about climate change, the ocean levels are raising to a point where an island of thousands of hears of habitation can no longer support its people. The message was concerning because it is obvious that these people aren’t contributing to any sort of pollution of the earth, and yet are feeling the effects of climate change while the rest of us who are using enough to require 5 earths aren’t suffering at all. I really liked this movie, and it made me feel sad for people that are suffering for the choices of the people in my country. I knew that water levels on the earth were rising, but I didn’t know that this was already affecting people. This gave me more courage to talk about climate change with people, knowing that if they have compassion for people, they should start looking into their participation in our carbon footprint. This made me think about my own lifestyle and how what I do affects not only me, but people all around the world. This is very motivating as I study here at school for Environmental Engineering, whereby I hope to continue and even improve the quality of life of people here in the United States as well as around the world by creating systems, new ways to engineering products, and structures to live by that will enable us to live sustainably with our earth.