Ok, I’ve been living in Henderson, NV for about 2 1/2 months now. It’s about time I teach you some things about the fabulous Clark County.
- First off, the famous Las Vegas Strip, on Las Vegas Blvd, is NOT in Las Vegas! It’s in the city Paradise, NV. Better or worse?
- On average there are 300 weddings every day in Las Vegas. However, while Las Vegas is known for weddings, its counterpart in the north, Reno, is known for divorces. Nevada was hit especially hard by the Great Depression and in 1931 the state made two major decisions to help the state recover: legalize gambling and make divorce easy. Nevada lowered the residency requirement for divorces to six weeks, the lowest in the country at the time, and thousands of people flocked to “Divorce Ranches” around Reno to put a quick end to their marriages. From 1931 to 1970 more than 325,000 marriages found their end in Nevada.
- Vegas sees about 4 million tourists a year. Of those tourists, about 2/3 gamble, and they lose about $163/day. It’s hard to find a place without a casino, even our local Albertsons has some slot machines.
- Las Vegas is Spanish for “The Meadows”, named for the abundant wild grasses found in the area in the 1800s.
- In the 1950s and 1960s the U.S. Government used the Nevada desert as a test site for hydrogen bombs, many even larger than those dropped on Hiroshima. The mushroom clouds could easily be seen from the Vegas strip and it was even used as a tourist attraction with casinos selling “atomic cocktails” and women competing for the “Miss Atomic Energy” crown at the Sands Hotel.
- There are 155,000 hotel rooms on the Vegas Strip. If you stayed in a different room every single night it would take over 400 years to stay in all of them.
- The MGM Grand has the 2nd most hotel rooms in the world with 6,772 rooms. #1 is the Izmailovo in Moscow with 7,500.
- We toured the Neon Boneyard, which is in downtown Las Vegas (the real one). It was a great tour and I walked away with several “downtown Vegas” attractions on my to do list like: take a picture with $1 million at Binion’s Gambling Hall, visit the Atomic Testing Museum, and view the world’s largest golden nugget, the Hand of Faith, at the Golden Nugget Casino. Updates on these adventures coming soon.
On a personal note, I’ve now had the chance to catch up with friends and family from around the country, from the Bay Area to New York to Boston to Seattle to Chicago.
Inevitably we talk about my trip and I get asked all kinds of questions. The common ones are “What was your favorite country?”, “Where was your favorite food?”, “Are you glad you went?” (Japan, Japan/Thailand, Of course). Others were more creative or required more thought on my part “What advice would you give to someone else going on a similar trip?”, “If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?”, “In what ways do you feel like you’ve changed?” (to put it super simply: do it, nothing, I’m happier and more confident).
Then there are the series of questions about what the hell I did for a year. “What were the highlights?”, “What were the craziest things you did?”, “Tell us a funny story”. I struggled a lot with these. It’s hard to look back on a year and come up with stories at all, let alone one that I could make relatable in any way. I even tried to type out a funny story from Prague and it was so boring to read I took it out. When I was in Seattle I actually met up with two girls I had met on my trip (Seoul and Bali) who did similar trips and we talked about how hard it is to actually share our experiences with friends and family in any sort of meaningful way. As much as I hate to say something like this, for a lot of it you just had to be there.
After being asked these questions a bunch of times and failing to have good responses, I gave the year some thought and instead came up with a handful of “What the f*ck am I doing here” moments that I sometimes reflect on (sometimes with a smile, sometimes in horror):
- Sitting wide awake on a 12 hour overnight bus ride from Phuket to Bangkok while an Indian guy with dreads slept soundly with his head on my shoulder.
- Running after and jumping into a moving vehicle near the Croatia/Bosnia border (all part of the “tour”…).
- Visiting the crocodile farm which was one single layer brick wall away from the school I was volunteering and sleeping at in Cambodia.
- Running out on my fifth grade public school class in Cambodia to squat over a hole in the ground with terrible diarrhea (fortunately I had a co-teacher, unfortunately those squatters didn’t come with toilet paper…).
- Telling our tour guide/driver in Ubud, Bali that we didn’t want to wait an extra two hours to watch a sunset and him becoming furious and driving us back to the hostel while chugging the beers he had bought for us.
- Jumping into an ice-cold lake on top of a mountain in the Austrian Alps.
- Climbing hundreds of steps up Mount Popa outside Bagan, Myanmar while locals used slingshots to keep the monkeys from attacking us (only semi-successfully, I watched a girl get bit).
Anyway, aside from traveling to almost every major city in the US in the last month, I’m just over halfway through my online TEFL certification course. The course has been about so much more than just teaching – it really makes a point of learning about the history of English and the role that English plays as a global language. This was really relatable to me as that’s one of the main reasons I want to teach English. I forget where I heard this…maybe an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown… about how growing up a native English speaker is like hitting the linguistic jackpot. While re-learning (or really learning for the first time) all the ins and outs of English grammar can get overwhelming and sometimes frustrating, I’m excited about learning to become a more effective teacher and anxious to start putting what I’m learning to use.