New Years Goals: The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good

We started 2014 by going to the 2014 Rose Bowl Parade.

We started 2014 by going to the Rose Bowl Parade.

2014 was a good year! Now it is time to talk about 2015. There has been a trend for people lately to dis New Years resolutions. I guess if you have no plan on keeping any of your goals that is an OK thing to do, but I have found goals to be an effective way of keeping myself on track and reaching new milestones. I think it is good to reflect on where you have been and where you are going.

If your wondering about the title, yes, I (John) know it is reversed, but I like being upbeat. Who wants to end with something ugly? Most of this is going to be about me (John) but I plan on adding a little bit Denise and AJ gave me.

 

 

 

The Ugly:

This year was not a good year weight wise. In 2013 I (John) zealously tracked every bit of food I ate and I was even starting to add in a lot of vegetables. This year I got a little stressed out about a few things and I developed a really bad chocolate habit. I was really bad about tracking my calories in 2014. I think I ate chocolate almost every day this year. I also didn’t move that much. I only ran two 5Ks this year and looking at my run log I didn’t really do much distance over 6 miles. The result of all that stagnation is that I currently weigh 255 lbs.

In May AJ and John went on a trip out to Hollywood.

In May AJ and John went on a trip out to Hollywood.

Gaining 55 pounds in one year is not good. It needs to be stopped and quickly reversed. Luckily for me this is something I have already done before so I know what to do to go back to where I belong. For this year I have already signed up for the Fontana Days Half Marathon and I am currently in week 2 of training. The miles at this point are low, last week I only did 6 miles total of running and this week will probably be the same. The training plan slowly builds up the length and intensity. By June I think I can lose about 25 pounds and I think a 2 hr. 45 min half marathon is possible. That would put me at a 12:35 pace, not my fastest ever, but this is not about pace. This is about health. I am also limiting the amount of chocolate I plan to consume this year (if you think I am giving it up your crazy). I bought a pick package of full size candy bars and when I hit my goals I will be rewarding myself with a sweet treat. I renewed my subscription to loseit.com, it is a calorie tracking site. There are lots of ways to lose weight but this is the only thing I have found that has worked for me.

Denise said that for her ugly was being out of shape. She is tracking her weight and says that one of her goals for the new year is to run a sub 40 min. 5K (3.1 miles). She says that she is going to try to track her eating and include more vegetables.

The Bad

There were some tragedies that happened this year. Those were kind of out of our control this year so we don’t really count things out of our control as bad. Yes, we would rather they not have happened, but it doesn’t really help you to dwell on things that are out of your control. Things to us are bad when something you could have done didn’t happen and as a result of the inaction you suffered a loss.

AJ with his reading award.

AJ with his reading award.

Bad things for me (John) this year were not reading enough and/or studying. Both Denise and AJ were great readers, but I can’t remember any really good book I read this year. Which is sad because I like reading. I went to the library earlier this week and got some books, hopefully I can spend a little less time on a screen and more on a book. Along with that I want to study more. I am more of a non-fiction reader. I am no longer in school but I do like to be constantly learning. My scripture study this year I felt was a bit sporadic. I did complete my goal to memorize all the Articles of Faith this year, but I have another goal of memorizing a book in the New Testament. I need to get on that one. I am thinking 2nd John, but there a lot of good books out there. Either way reading the bible more just can’t be a bad thing.

Denise said that her bad thing was that she was not yet translated. I (John) am not quite sure how that works out as far as a yearly goal, but when the angelic ministers come knocking out our door I am sure the three days of rest I am bound to receive will be nice (for reference of what I am talking about please see Alma 36:10 (ok, maybe it wont be that restful after all).

AJ said that it was not fun putting a Lego in his ear. Legos are fun, but they don’t belong in ears. Good lesson to learn. AJ has told us that in the new year he plans to get better with his Lego creations. He is pretty good already so it should be interesting to see what he will be able to create during the year.

The Good

AJ and Denise inspecting a cacao pod.

AJ and Denise inspecting a cacao pod.

For me (John again) 2014 was the marked by two awesome things. Travel and money. Those things often go together, but usually it is because travel costs money. We however bucked the trend and were able to both travel and save money. In 2014, I did a lot of investing in the stock market. If you read the headlines it was doom and gloom, but I knew it wasn’t so. I know that negative headlines sell papers, but the truth was it was what stock investors call a bull market. People get frightened of the stock market because they can lose money. Yes, it is true, you can lose money. Sometimes I did that, but most of the time I didn’t, in fact most of the time I beat the market. The stuff I invested in was not boring stuff. I like penny stocks, growth stocks, utilities with high dividends. According to all the experts these are all the stocks you should avoid like the plaque, but I didn’t and it paid off really well. In April 2014 I got the paperwork that our student loans were paid in full. I can’t even begin to tell you the joy it is not to have any debts.

It is a new level of freedom I have never experienced and I want more of it. I am not completely free, I still need a job. I am very lucky to be in the job I currently have, but I am putting my finances in order to where maybe one day I will not need it. I am not saying I plan to quit my job, there is some joy in working. The world is a crazy place and you never know what it will bring and trading in the stock market has taught me that lowering your risk is a good thing. To that end I am building up a solid core of dividend paying stocks. This year I earned about $5,000 in just dividends. These are profits paid to me for being a stock holder. I don’t have to do anything other than own a stock and companies pay me ever quarter. The way I have it set up now is that the dividends are reinvested in the company. So basically there are several companies out there paying me to own more of their company (and people wonder why the rich get richer). Our current net worth is $79,776.22. Not quite the $80K I was hoping for but considering we were in debt last year being off by only a couple hundred dollars is not that bad. I think by the end of 2015 with some active portfolio management I can get that net worth up to $100K (it all about using compounding interest to your advantage).

The second good was that of travel. Travel was surprisingly cheap this year. We took two big trips this year. One was to Aguascalientes to see La Feria de San Marcos and the other was to Belize. To help save on travel we flew on lower cost airlines and stayed with friends and family. We eat a lot of street food when we travel and take a lot of public transportation (or just walk). Sadly, we currently have no plans as a family to travel. 2015 was supposed to be a family reunion year, but there are no plans for a family reunion. I (John) have made a personal goal to save up for one of my goal trips to Mt. Fuji, but that will take a while. I invited AJ along with me and he told me “Papi, Mt. Fuji is a volcano, that’s dangerous.” Yes, it is volcano, but it has been around for a few thousand years. Geologists say is due for another eruption soon (last one was in 1717), but that is a risk I will have to take. I am using some of my investment and business money to put $150 a month into a special portfolio just for this trip. I figure not this year, but by July 2016 I will have enough money to travel to Japan and climb Mt. Fuji. Assuming of course it doesn’t erupt first.

Denise said the good in 2014 was that she was very happy with her scripture study plan. She reads the scriptures and at least one general conference talk a day. Denise was very happy to go to Woodbadge (advanced Scout training) this year and has made a goal to finish her Woodbadge ticket. Which is good because if she doesn’t I am sure her Troop Guide (it isn’t John) will be bugging her. Denise finished 2014 slightly down in weight and is hoping to continue that trend.

AJ said that 2014 was good because he did good in school. He did do well there and even got a reading award. AJ likes reading and can read most books he picks up. He says he wants to improve his reading. He also has a goal to get older, which he seems to be working on every day.

Good luck!

We spent our New Years Eve at Knott's Berry Farm. We have season passes for 2015.

We spent our New Years Eve at Knott’s Berry Farm. We have season passes for 2015.

2014 was a good year. We had lots of adventures and lots of fun. We wish you good luck in 2015. I had a friend who used to tell me “if I get up on the green side of the grass I know it is going to be good day.” Truer words were never spoken. Every day you can wake up is a great day. The Pedroza family is a family of hope. We are by no means perfect, but we try to improve the best we can.

 

 

 

So This is Christmas

Hope your 2014 Christmas was a good one. For the Pedrozas it was a busy one with lots of sights, sounds, and best of all good people. Here are some of the crazy adventures we had this Christmas weekend.

John saw Chinese Art:

(click on the pictures to expand)

christchinesearty

At the CAC (County Administrative Center) next to John’s work there was a temporary exhibit of Chinese art. John got to meet some of the artists at the exhibit who told him that if he was ever in China he could come to any of their shows.

AJ Sang:

christelves

What do you get when you put 40 first graders in a school auditorium with parents and make them sing? You get the glare of 100 flashes resonating in your eyes that make you wonder if you were listening to “Do you want to build a snowman?” or going to a very weird discotheque with singing midgets.

We saw classic movies at Janet’s house:

christmasmom

After a very good salmon dinner we all sat down to the holiday classics of “Christmas Vacation” and “Home Alone”. Nothing says the holidays like watching sewer systems getting blown up and robbers being forced out of houses with blow torches.

We saw acts of randomness:

christmastemple christmastree christmasdance

I (John) don’t know what this building on Highway 71 is but I think I am going to have to investigate one day. It looks like something out of Cambodia. Also, it was very sad to see the Jackman’s tree had fallen down. Hopefully the half that didn’t fall down can grow again. As far as the dancers with the rats goes that was an old window display that was on display at the CCCR (Central California Children’s Railroad). It was supposedly a scene from the Nutcracker. I have seen that play many times, but I don’t ever remember rats with bloody swords, that was kind of disturbing, but I was in the minority because everyone else in line said it was very cool.

AJ got a banana!

christmasbanana

He also got a many other presents including an Angry Bird At-Attack, but let’s face it, no other present is as good as getting a banana.

We put together puzzles:

christmastimessquare christmas1000 christmas1001am

Two puzzles actually. One was a 400 piece puzzle of Times Square. The Times Square puzzle was done in less than an hour. Upping the game, Doris got out a 1000 Masterpiece puzzle of “Bear Corner”. At first glance it looked like a peaceful European village, but if you stared at it long enough (which I John did), you noticed it that it had all these little shadowy bears in it. It was kind of creepy, but considering I (John) finished the puzzle at 1 AM, I could have been seeing things. The point however is that I (John) was victorious!

We ate lots of food:

christmasdinner christdewarsdenise christmasbrown

Is there Christmas without food? If there is I haven’t found it. We had some really good food. We had Salmon, ham, dinner rolls (Doris told AJ he could have one and somehow that got communicated as “take 12″), tortas, peppermint ice cream, and a brown and tan (I know I am such a rebel).

We did some running:

christmaspinguins

I (John) am training for a half marathon in June. Christmas was week #1 for the training. The max run for this week was 3 miles, which you would think after the two full marathons and 4 other half marathons would be a piece of cake, but the sad truth is I am out of shape and it was tough. The good thing however was that I did get my long run in and I am on my way. Lookout Fontana Days 2015, because JohnnyP is back in training mode!

We saw lights:

christmaslights christmascalm

We saw lots of lights. The Mission Inn in Riverside won #1 for nationwide best light display, but I have to say that the lights at CALM (CAlifornia Living Museum) were very cool. I don’t know how many visitors they normally get at the zoo, but I would venture to say it is never as crowded as it was during that light show. To it’s credit, the lights on display were awesome. The train (previously mentioned for the disturbing window display) was also very fun.

Well, that was our Christmas. There were lots of other things we probably did, but I can’t remember them. If you do however feel like mentioning them please feel free to leave a comment. Thank you to everyone that celebrated Christmas with us and we look forward to a great New Year.

Objects of Devotion Conference

In Spain there is a trail called “El Camino de Santiago” (the way of St. James). It is a ancient pilgrimage trail dating back to medieval times that ends in Santiago, Spain, where people say lies the remains of the apostle St. James. From a genealogical perspective this trial holds a lot of significance to me because it traverses the land of the Pedrozas. One of these days I would love to take some time and actually walk the Camino myself.

Unfortunately, I am a bit out of walking range at the moment but there is a saying that says “The Camino provides” and I am beginning to think that is true. I read last week in the paper that there was going to be a special showing of the movie “Walking The Camino: Six Ways to Santiago”. It was $10 a ticket, which was kind of high, but I was very excited to learn more about the Camino so I went ahead and registered for the movie.

I got a comp ticket!

I got a comp ticket!

While researching the movie I found out that UCR was hosting an arts conference called Objects of Devotion at the Culver Center of the Arts, literally in walking distance from work (just two blocks). The registration was free and there were some very interesting lecturers so I went. At the conference I was able to hear many wonderful lecturers and see a lot of interesting art. Then to my surprise at the end of the lectures they gave me a complementary ticket. If that wasn’t good enough after the movie I got to meet Annie O’Neil who is a co-producer and one of the pilgrims in the movie.

This relic (ankle bone) is of Saint Toribio Romo Gonzalez, he died in the Cristero War.

This relic (ankle bone) is of Saint Toribio Romo Gonzalez, he died in the Cristero War.

Some of the photographs of Alinka Echeverria. They are of pilgrims to the Basilica de Guadalupe.

Some of the photographs of Alinka Echeverria. They are of pilgrims to the Basilica de Guadalupe.

This exhibit by Adriana Salazar featured items left behind from a crematorium.

This exhibit by Adriana Salazar featured items left behind from a crematorium.

There were several installations by Adriana Salazar.

There were several installations by Adriana Salazar.

It is said that Pope John Paul II was a devout follower of the Virgin de Guadalupe.

It is said that Pope John Paul II was a devout follower of the Virgin de Guadalupe.

After the film I got to meet Annie O'Neil one of the co-producers. The man on the right is Conrad Frost a UCR professor who has also walked the Camino.

After the film I got to meet Annie O’Neil one of the co-producers. The man on the right is Conrad Frost a UCR professor who has also walked the Camino.

Two curators from the Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City.

Two curators from the Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could talk for a long time about all the interesting things I saw and heard, but I am saving those thoughts for a different time. In the meantime however if you are interested in some of the abstracts you can click here (part 1) and here (part 2).

Buen Camino!

I am a firm believer that if you tell the universe what you want, the universe does a good job at helping you on you out.

I am a firm believer that if you tell the universe what you want, the universe does a good job at helping you on you out.

AJ is Now a Bobcat

AJ the bobcat.

AJ the bobcat.

AJ just got his first Scout rank which is Bobcat. The Cub Scouts start in the first grade for Tiger Cubs but our church doesn’t participate in Scouting until age 8 (AJ is 7) so in the mean time we put AJ in a community pack. Denise is the Tiger Den Leader. There are 8 Tigers in AJ’s den. They have been doing all sorts of stuff like going to the police station, hockey games, and having space derbies. The Tiger cubs actually won the trophy for the space derby this year.

 

Denise helping AJ get his bobcat rank.

Denise helping AJ get his bobcat rank.

The Tiger Den roar.

The Tiger Den roar.

The Tiger Cubs won the Space Derby Trophy this year.

The Tiger Cubs won the Space Derby Trophy this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EDIT: For those not familiar with a Space Derby, they are balsa wood airplanes hung up on a string that are propelled by a rubber band propeller.

spacederby

AJ and the Ontario Reign

The Citizen Arena in Ontario is really big.

The Citizen Arena in Ontario is really big.

Yesterday (12/6) was AJ’s birthday. He turned 7 yrs. old. Before his birthday we gave him several options on what he wanted to do with his birthday and he decided that he wanted to go with the Scouts and watch Ice Hockey. It sounds like a strange choice since our family doesn’t really know anything about hockey. I (John) had never even been to a hockey game, but that is what all the other Scouts were doing so that is what AJ wanted to do so we went.

Tickets were not that bad, we paid $22 per person and we were in the lower section. The game was the Ontario Reign vs. the Colorado Eagles. They are both minor league hockey teams. Talking to Denise she told me that according to the standings the Colorado Eagles had a slightly better standing. Charged I guess with the hometown advantage the Ontario Reign won the game with a 5-3 score.

They had scouts riding on the Zambonis.

They had scouts riding on the Zambonis.

Going to a hockey game was an interesting experience. Since there are no “out of bound” areas the game was really fast. I (John) have been on ice skates before and it amazed me how fast those players could get to the other side of the field and then stop and turn so fast. With all the ice they shaved it wasn’t surprising that they had to run the Zambonis after every period. It was also very interesting how violent the game was. I know hockey is Canada’s national sport. I also know that Canada is a relatively peaceful country. They must vent all their aggression playing hockey. There were several fights during the game. It was kind of hard to explain to AJ why the crowd kept on egging on the fights. I had to explain that just because a crowd of 10,000 people are telling you to fight doesn’t make it a good idea. I also pointed out the penalty boxes on the other side of the field and how the players often ended up there.

It was pretty crazy to see all the stuffed animals being thrown out on the field.

It was pretty crazy to see all the stuffed animals being thrown out on the field.

There were a lot of different forms of entertainment besides the hockey games. At every time out there was a little contest. AJ was really excited to see himself on the jumbotron as part of the “Banjo Cam.” After the first goal the audience threw out stuffed toys for the Toys for Tots program. We even won a free taco in one of the contests.

 

 

(Click on pictures to expand)

 

AJ and John in their seats.

AJ and John in their seats.

AJ showing off his air banjo.

AJ showing off his air banjo.

Final score for the game was Ontario 5, Colorado 3.

Final score for the game was Ontario 5, Colorado 3.

reigngrid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall I think it was a good birthday for AJ. He was pretty tired when he got home. As an added bonus I will end with a birthday interview Denise and AJ did:

This year’s Birthday Interview with AJ, on his 7th birthday.
1. What is your favorite color? Grey
2. What is your favorite toy? Lego A-Wing (The newest toy)
3. What is your favorite fruit? Apple
4. What is your favorite tv show or movie? The Lego Movie
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Black Beans (That required lots of contemplation, he has expressed no preference for them at home–it’s very curious to me.)
6. What is your favorite game? Angry Birds Transformers (a phone app)
7. What is your favorite snack? Chocolate
8. What is your favorite animal? Cheetah & the Pronghorned Antelope
9. What is your favorite song? Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
10. What is your favorite book? Baby Brains (The book we most recently checked out of the library)
11. Who is your best friend? Marley
12. What is your favorite cereal? Coco Crisps
13. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Scooter
14. What is your favorite drink? Chocolate Milk
15. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
16. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? a little black dog named “Black Ruff Ruffman”
17. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Coco Crisps
18. What do you want to be when you grow up? Scientist
19. Imagine that you can become invisible whenever you wanted to. What are some of the things you would do? Sneak away from my momma.
20. I am very proud because… I am seven.
21. If I were President I would… I don’t know?
22. I am afraid to …rock climb
23. Name one thing you do really well? Math
24. Describe what it means to be a good friend. I’m going to help and be a good kid.
25. What is your favorite time of day? Lunch
26. Describe your best day ever? I don’t have a best day… (I asked if this is because everyday is hard, or every day is good. He said it was because everyday is good.)
27. Climbing trees is… cool
28. I wish there were a law that said….. everybody has to be nice to each other.
29. What makes you feel sad? someone that’s not being my friend
30. What makes you feel happy? someone that’s being my friend
31. Pretend that you can fly whenever you wanted. Where would you go? everywhere
32. If I could choose a different name, I would choose…Upside Down Blaster
33. Where do you want to go on vacation? “this is a tough one… to Belize”
34. What is your favorite thing to do with Mom or Dad? have fun!!

Former YMCA Building: City of Riverside Landmark #41

Location: 3485 University Ave.
Date Established: 1909
Date Visited: 6/13/2014

The woodwork on the building is very imposing.

The woodwork on the building is very imposing.

According to the YMCA’s website their focus is to “bring about meaningful change in individuals and communities, we must be focused and accountable.” The Life Arts Center started it’s life as the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in 1909 with the plaque reading “to the glory of God and the uplifting of man.”

The building was designed by Arthur Benton (the same from the Mission Inn) and is done in an imposing red brick, Italian Renaissance style. There are plenty of arched windows and decorative awnings.

When it was first built it housed 25 rooms upstairs which were rented out as affordable hotel space and downstairs there was a gym with a pool. Today the top rooms are rented out as business spaces and the main floor is used for event planning (mostly weddings). In the back there is a small gym called “City Gym.”

The YMCA ran the building from 1909 to 1968 when they moved to a new facility on Jefferson St. Unfortunately in 2013 the YMCA in Riverside abruptly ran out of money and so currently there is no YMCA (there is a YWCA) in Riverside.** In 1974 the original building was bought by a man named Bent Corydon, who had a long running legal battle with L. Ron Hubbard which ended in 1992 with Corydon winning ownership of the building. *

ymphotostudio

A view of the lobby area of the Life and Arts Center.

A view of the lobby area of the Life and Arts Center.

A view towards the Florence ballroom shows a classic brick archway.

A view towards the Florence ballroom shows a classic brick archway.

These stairs lead up to the area that used to be hotel rooms.

These stairs lead up to the area that used to be hotel rooms.

This is the location of what used to be the calisthenics room.

This is the location of what used to be the calisthenics room.

The YMCA cornerstone.

The YMCA cornerstone.

The Life Arts Center is now home to what was the YMCA building.

The Life Arts Center is now home to what was the YMCA building.

A postcard from 1909, interesting to note that the 1907 water fountain was once in front of the building.

A postcard from 1909, interesting to note that the 1907 water fountain was once in front of the building.

A view from across the street.

A view from across the street.

Denise looking at the lobby area of the Life and Arts Center.

Denise looking at the lobby area of the Life and Arts Center.

Towards the back of the building is the City Gym (privately owned).

Towards the back of the building is the City Gym (privately owned).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Brandeis, Gayle (1 October 2012). “From Y to Art: The History of the Riverside Art Museum and the Life Arts Center”. KCET Productions. Retrieved 1 November 2014.

**Robinson, Alicia (18 Januaray 2013). “RIVERSIDE: City wants to see YMCA reopen”. Press-Enterprise. Retrieved 1 November 2014.

 

St. John’s Cathedral, Belize City, Belize

St. John's Cathedral is an easy walk from the city center.

St. John’s Cathedral is an easy walk from the city center.

The first British “colonists” to Belize were not really much into religion but by the late 18th century trade had taken on a more legitimate form in Belize and with it religion soon sprouted. St John’s Cathedral was finished in 1812 after many years of hard work. It was built primarily by slaves with bricks from Europe that were brought as ballast for large sailing ships. Inside the pews and doors are made with mahogany and many decorative altars made out of sapodilla wood.

Outside the cathedral is the Yarborough cemetery which was named after an affluent citizen who donated his property for the site. It is the oldest (modern) cemetery in Belize with graves dating back to 1798.

Today the cathedral is still active with an active Anglican Parrish. When we were there they were preparing for a funeral service. The day was sprinkling (there is lots of water in Belize), but we still had a fun time walking the grounds and looking at the intricate woodwork. In 2009, the cathedral and cemetery were set aside by the government as a archeological and historic site.

The outside of the cathedral is made of bricks brought from Europe as ballast.

The outside of the cathedral is made of bricks brought from Europe as ballast.

A view towards the altar from the back.

A view towards the altar from the back.

The cathedral has an ornate pipe organ.

The cathedral has an ornate pipe organ.

The sign of the dove is often attributed to St. John.

The sign of the dove is often attributed to St. John.

Many of what were known as the " Miskito Kings " (local tribe kingdoms) were coronated by the British at the site.

Many of what were known as the ” Miskito Kings ” (local tribe kingdoms) were coronated by the British at the site.

An outside view of the stain glass window.

An outside view of the stain glass window.

One of the ornate doors going into the chapel.

One of the ornate doors going into the chapel.

St. John's is the oldest Anglican church in the Western hemisphere with church leadership dating back to 1776.

St. John’s is the oldest Anglican church in the Western hemisphere with church leadership dating back to 1776.

An outside view of Yarborough cemetery.

An outside view of Yarborough cemetery.

 

The Government House (former Governor’s Mansion), Belize City, Belize

govfrontThe first meeting of the Government House in Belize was in 1815 when a public meeting on the site was held to decide if the colony should allocate funds to the building of a house for the Superintendent. A sum of 3,000 pounds sterling was set and the building commenced. The first Superintendent to live in the house was Colonel Arthurs who had chosen the site due to it’s downtown location and close proximity to St. John’s Cathedral.

Used as the head of government’s house for over 150 years many notable celebrations have been held at the Government House. In 1815, 1825 and 1845, kings from the Mosquito Coast were crowned at St. John’s Cathedral with celebrations at the Government House. In 1838 another celebration was held at the Government House when, what was then known as the British Honduras, emancipated all of it’s slaves and abolished slavery in the colony. Probably the most poignant of celebrations came on September 21st, 1981, when the Union Jack was lowered and the Belize flag was raised for the first time.

In it’s early days only Belize’s elite were allowed in to the house, but today the Government House is what they call a “House of Culture” and anyone with $5 USD can get in from 8AM-5PM. When we were there Denise and AJ went and looked at the displays available (a lot of local art) and some historical displays. I (John) decided to sit on the portico steps and I read the story about how the Baymen defeated the Spanish armada.

The Girl Guide (Scouts) headquarters are right across the street.

The Girl Guide (Scouts) headquarters are right across the street.

govhousesign1814

 

 

A view of some of the storm windows.

A view of some of the storm windows.

AJ learning about Boledo. A form of gambling that involves a lot of mysticism.

AJ learning about Boledo. A form of gambling that involves a lot of mysticism.

A view of the coast from the Government House. Normally Baron Bliss' boat is here but we didn't see it.

A view of the coast from the Government House. Normally Baron Bliss’ boat is here but we didn’t see it.

AJ and Denise on the portico steps.

AJ and Denise on the portico steps.

Xunantunich “Stone Maiden” Ruins, Cayo District, Belize

A concept drawing of the Stone Maiden.

A concept drawing of the Stone Maiden.

According to legend Xunantunich (pronounced “junantunish”) got named when a hunter went by himself in 1892 to hunt by the ruins along the Mopan river. The ruins were known by the locals for millennium by the locals and people would often prayer in front of a makeshift cross at the main temple known as “El Castillo” (the castle). It was while hunting at this site that the hunter claims to have seen a mysterious woman dressed all in white. It was kind of strange to see this lady by herself but the lady beckoned him to follow him and so he did. According to the story as she slowly ascended the stone stairway she turned and the hunter could see that she had fire-red glowing eyes. She also disappeared straight into a stone wall. This caused the hunter to freak out and he ran back into town. When the hunter got back into town everyone started asking him what had happened to his gun, which he had forgotten back when he had panicked. He told them his story and everyone went to the site to look for this mysterious woman. The gun was found by the cross where everyone had always prayed but despite a looking all around the site the “stone maiden” was never found, but the name Xunantunich stuck and now that is the name of the site.

Denise looks up to El Castillo.

Denise looks up to El Castillo.

In the mid 1890s the first modern explorations of the site were done by a man named Thomas Gann. He was at the time the district surgeon of Cayo and had chosen to settle in the area due to his interest in what he called “the unknown wonders of the indigenous people.”* The first survey of the area was done later by his successor Sir J. Eric Thompson. The majority of the excavation of the site happened between 1959 and 1960 during the Cambridge Expedition to what was then the British Honduras (Belize’s colony name).

Archeological evidence says that there has been a human presence at the site as early as 3000 BC. Looking at the number of ceramics and rate of growth, the height of Xunantunich’s growth happened somewhere between 300BC and 400 AD. In about 600 AD there was another apparent boom period but evidence also shows that Xunantunich may have fallen under control of another local Mayan site known as Naranjo. In 750 AD the site was suddenly and completely abandoned. No one knows why but architectural evidence does show evidence of what could have been earthquake damage to “El Castillo” (the main temple).

The ferry that takes people across the Mopan river.

The ferry that takes people across the Mopan river.

Today Xunantunich is one of the easiest of Belize’s archeological sites to get to being that it is only a mile off the western highway. The site is only 1 KM (about .6 miles) away from the Guatemalan border. When you climb to the top of “El Castillo” you can see down into Guatemala. To get to the site you have to cross the Mopan river. To do so you drive your car on a little hand cranked ferry which takes you safely across the river. The entire drive was paved, which was a first on our travels in Belize. Due to the ease of access we got there very early and we had the place virtuously to ourselves. By the time we left at 10 AM we saw bus loads of cruise people coming in (you can always tell who they are because of the lanyards they wear). When we went it was late September and it was drizzling. This along with the ever small stairs, made for a very slippery climb. We slipped a few times while climbing the slippery plastered steps. Luckily, we did not fall off the temple, because the drop offs were quite steep, but it was definitely not a guaranteed thing!

A brief video:

 

Click the plus sign to expand the pictures:

AJ at the hand crank.

AJ at the hand crank.

This royal grave was found at the site of A4. Mayan royals were often buried under temples, while regular people were buried under their homes.

This royal grave was found at the site of A4. Mayan royals were often buried under temples, while regular people were buried under their homes.

This room was used for spiritual cleansing. The petitioner would start a fire in the pit, pray to the stella, and then bathe in the ashes.

This room was used for spiritual cleansing. The petitioner would start a fire in the pit, pray to the stella, and then bathe in the ashes.

My friend and I slipped on these steps at A4 trying to find an ancient grave.

My friend and I slipped on these steps at A4 trying to find an ancient grave.

From the top of A4 looking at the plaza.

From the top of A4 looking at the plaza.

A view of the Mopan river.

A view of the Mopan river.

The ferry that takes people across the Mopan river.

The ferry that takes people across the Mopan river.

AJ checking out the ball court.

AJ checking out the ball court.

An unexcavated pyramid.

An unexcavated pyramid.

This Mayan servant totally looked like he was walking like an Egyptian.

This Mayan servant totally looked like he was walking like an Egyptian.

This side view of El Castillo kind of reminded me of the old Matterhorn at Disneyland (remember the Sky Ride?).

This side view of El Castillo kind of reminded me of the old Matterhorn at Disneyland (remember the Sky Ride?).

Can you see the stairs in this picture? No railing if you slip.

Can you see the stairs in this picture? No railing if you slip.

We were struggling to climb El Castillo and then I hear "hello papi" and saw that AJ had followed us up.

We were struggling to climb El Castillo and then I hear “hello papi” and saw that AJ had followed us up.

A view from the top of El Castillo. Denise looks like an ant, but she is really an aunt.

A view from the top of El Castillo. Denise looks like an ant, but she is really an aunt.

John with Guatemala in the background.

John with Guatemala in the background.

A view to Guatemala from El Castillo.

A view to Guatemala from El Castillo.

An ancient guard shack.

An ancient guard shack.

Chaq the rain god definitely made his presence known when we were there.

Chaq the rain god definitely made his presence known when we were there.

Denise looks up to El Castillo.

Denise looks up to El Castillo.

This was our "guide" he wasn't officially a guide but as a local he certainly knew a lot more than the official guides did.

This was our “guide” he wasn’t officially a guide but as a local he certainly knew a lot more than the official guides did.

A view to El Castillo from the royal apartments.

A view to El Castillo from the royal apartments.

AJ checking out Stella 1.

AJ checking out Stella 1.

This Ceibo tree describes the Mayan view of life.

This Ceibo tree describes the Mayan view of life.

This clay pot was excavated at the site.

This clay pot was excavated at the site.

A concept drawing of the Stone Maiden.

A concept drawing of the Stone Maiden.

Archaeological evidence says people have been here since maybe 3000 BC.

Archaeological evidence says people have been here since maybe 3000 BC.

The family at the Xunantunich Visitor Center.

The family at the Xunantunich Visitor Center.

Crossing the Mopan River.

Crossing the Mopan River.


 
 
 
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
 
 
 

*Thompson, J. E. “Thomas Gann in the Maya Ruins.” British Medical Journal 2.5973 (1975): 741-43. Print.

Benedict Castle: City of Riverside Landmark #13

Location: 5445 Chicago Ave.
Date Established: 1922
Date Visited: 10/23/2014

The main tower of the castle is very imposing.

The main tower of the castle is very imposing.

The construction of the Benedict Castle started in 1922 and took about 9 years to finish. It is estimated that the total cost for building the castle was about $300,000. Which back then was an amazing sum of money (about the same as $4 million of today’s dollars). The construction was under the order of Charles Williston Benedict. A native of Riverside he left Riverside just after graduating high school and came back a rich man. Not much is known how exactly he made his riches, but it is known that he operated a firm called the Brockmeyer Economic Service which principal activities included stocks and bonds.*

A view of a side tower.

A view of a side tower.

The name today of the castle is the Benedict Castle but Charles Benedict named the build the “Castillo Isabella”. He was looking for a castle like residence he had seen in Europe and wanted to keep in harmony with the Mission Revival theme common with the rest of Riverside. To do that he hired architect Henry Jeckel. Mr. Jeckel was known for building the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles and which his Spanish-Moorish influences was a fitting pick for chief architect.

Despite the expense in construction the house fell on hard times and in 1949 was auctioned for a final bid price of $52,000. The buyers were Tom Perrin and Francis McDowell who retired Riverside residents who resold the land for the use of the Catholic faith. The Catholic church used the building to train priests for the Servite Catholic Order and was named the Seminary of Our Lady of Riverside.* Today the building is owned by an organization named Teen Challenge and is used to house men who are going through substance abuse rehabilitation. The organization also rents the grounds for wedding receptions.

The castle grounds are big. The main house is over 10,000 square feet.

The castle grounds are big. The main house is over 10,000 square feet.

The crest of Teen Challenge.

The crest of Teen Challenge.

In the courtyard you can see some ruminants of it's days as a Catholic seminary.

In the courtyard you can see some ruminants of it’s days as a Catholic seminary.

A fountain in the courtyard.

A fountain in the courtyard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the praise service there was a lot of singing.

In the praise service there was a lot of singing.

Going to a worship service in a big tent was different for us.

Going to a worship service in a big tent was different for us.

When we went we were invited to a praise service hosted by Teen Challenge. While there we got to hear from Laura Johnson who spoke about her missionary service in different parts of the world. It was kind of different from the worship ceremonies I was used to because of the different music and that it was in a tent. It is always good however to celebrate God and the work that they do at the center is very much needed in the community.
*Patterson, T (1964). Landmarks of Riverside and the Stories Behind Them. Riverside, CA: Press Enterprise.