Random Things I Miss About the DCP

Did you guys know it’s almost been a full two years since I began the Disney College Program?

TWO. WHOLE. YEARS. And so much has changed.

I’ve been missing that time in my life a lot recently–like, a lot, a lot–and it’s hard to explain why I’m missing it so much. I wouldn’t trade where I am and what I’m doing for the world. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be, and I don’t necessarily want to go back to Disney to work (although that option will never not be there).

There are just random things I miss about the experience. And I miss them so much lately that my heart aches.

Why am I so dramatic?!

I think it’s that time of year where nostalgia creeps in and you start thinking about your past and your childhood, and the Disney College Program encompassed the most complete feeling of carefree-ness I’ve ever experienced. I lived and worked at the most magical place on Earth, and I focused on having fun for six whole months. It was hard not to be happy during that time, and naturally you start to miss feeling like a kid 24/7.

In the spirit of procrastination as I work on my final projects of the semester, I wanted to make a list of random things I miss that aren’t necessarily the obvious things, for my enjoyment and for yours.

Enjoy!

  1. My friends (obviously). The people I met on my DCP are my kindred spirits, and I miss them every day. I’m thankful for group texts and Snapchats and Skype calls.
  2. The green carpet in my apartment at Chatham Square. I can’t explain why I miss this, but I do. I’m weird; it’s weird.
  3. The smell of Flame Tree Barbecue during my shifts with Dug and Russell–during lunchtime, my stomach was always growling.
  4. The smell of characters as you hug them. It’s distinct. You get it if you know.
  5. The Tree of Life in the mornings before the park opened. I’d walk to my location and think I was the luckiest girl in the world because I saw something so beautiful sans crowds.
  6. Loop music that I’ve now memorized the melodies to. I’m looking at you, Asia in DAK. Also–the loop music in Adventureland is exactly the same as the loop music on Discovery Island (specifically the Pizzafari area). That music is my jam.
  7. Taking pictures constantly and never feeling awkward. Selfies all day every day. Princess poses galore. Foot pops, silly faces, the works.
  8. Park days where the crowds are low and your enthusiasm is so high and you do so much stuff and skip around saying, “Nobody’s HEEERRREEE!!!” with your arms outstretched to demonstrate the emptiness.
  9. Looking at pins you swear you’d eventually buy–some you do, and then you realize pins are EXPENSIVE. But you still buy some more. Because why not?
  10. Smells. All smells. Even backstage smells. The drive-through at my local Panera smells just like backstage Tusker House and it’s weird and thrilling.
  11. Speaking of backstage…walking toward base at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and walking by an unfinished Pandora with its floating mountains and its mystery and wishing you could see it finished one day (mission accomplished).
  12. Wearing ears constantly. I love ears. They complete any outfit.
  13. Solo park days when you just sit somewhere and just take everything in.
  14. The Voices of Liberty. I LOVE THEM.
  15. Watching Festival of the Lion King multiple times in a single day. Because we could.
  16. Doing the Tumble Monkey’s “Circle of Life” choreography as soon as you exit the Harambe Theatre, and saying “Look guys, I can be a tumble monkey!” to your friends.
  17. Main Street. And Photopass. Stopping at every Photopass down Main Street. “WE HAVE THE PHOTOPASS!”
  18. Scoring fast passes to big-ticket attractions the same day you plan to ride them. Frozen! Soarin’! Mine Train! SUCCESS!
  19. Feeling sweaty and sunburned and freckled 99.9999% of the time.
  20. My Teva tan. I was proud of it, because I never tan.
  21. Pinning my name tag to my blueberry shirt every day and nearly sticking myself with the pin every day.
  22. Exhaustion-driven sleep–the best kind, the most “out like a light” kind.
  23. Talking to kids all day, and seeing those same kids’ faces light up when they meet their favorite character or when they see the parade or the fireworks for the first time.
  24. Festival of Fantasy and reciting the entire opening monologue thing and singing along to the lyrics: DREAMS THAT GLOW / WONDROUS, DAZZLING, BRILLIANTLY.
  25. CELEBRATE THE MAGIC! (R.I.P.) Also crying when Walt Disney said something about remembering it all started with a mouse…who could that be?
  26. Oh yeah. Mickey. Mickey Mouse. I miss seeing him.

That’s all for now, folks. I’ll see ya real soon.

IMG_1192

After receiving my Traditions ears… I CRY. Forever thankful for Disney and the sweetest memories. 

 

Advertisements

Rapunzel Hair

Hair is a funny, funny thing. We become attached to our locks, desperate to find the style that’s right for our faces, for our personalities, for our “aesthetic” we want to portray to the world.

I used to cling desperately to my long hair. There was a point when I had “mermaid hair,” hair so long it could cover…well. You know.

But I’ve always wanted a long bob. Always, ever since I was a little girl. But fear and my involvement in athletics made me wary of chopping my hair–I thought a long bob would make my face appear thicker, or I thought I’d miss braids and long ponytails. I thought my long hair was such a big part of me, and I was so afraid to part with it, even though it’s what I truly wanted.

You know what I finally realized just a few weeks ago? HAIR GROWS BACK. So I cut it. I’m going to try to find pictures of the longest hair and my shortest style and insert them right here:

img_4687

You know what’s amazing? This was my first haircut in which I almost HAPPY CRIED with the results. I WAS SO HAPPY THAT I FINALLY DID WHAT I WANTED! And I’m still so happy!

The moral of the story? Hair (or anything, really) doesn’t define you. You define you. Your dreams define you, your personality, your likes, your spirit. Our girl Rapunzel is the perfect example of a physical thing not embodying your essence–while she didn’t cut her hair herself, her hair was still her defining quality before the chop. When it was lobbed off, she was free of an expectation, free of Mother Gothel’s abusive restraints.

She went from “Rapunzel with the hair that glows when she sings” to just “Rapunzel.” And that’s all that she ever really needed to be.

I’m not saying long hair’s bad. Not at all–mermaid hair (or buzzed hair or blue hair or any kind of hair) is beautiful. I’m just saying to do what you want to do, do the things that truly make you who you are, and become who you want to be. That’s all we can ever do: love the things we love, be nice to people, and find joy in doing exactly the things you’ve always thought you’d never try. Let’s do the things we like and make a little bit of a difference in our little corners of the world.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go shake my head because I love how my new hair bounces when it’s curled.

Best. Day. Ever!

Grad School Update and the Disney Stuff That Gets Me Through it All

Geez. Long title.

If y’all don’t know, I’m pursing my MFA in creative writing (fiction concentration).

It’s crazy. I’m crazy. You’re crazy. Wait, what?

Grad school is tough, but I’m learning so much. I know, know, you guys are probably like:   “Kaila, you’re at school, of course you’re learning a lot.” But learning is not always a given, I’ve found.

But I am. I’m learning. AND I LOVE LEARNING!

As a budding fiction writer, I’m learning that not all I write can be about sunshine and rainbows and happy happy happy. Of course, there could be moments of happiness, or there could happy(ish) undertones to literary fiction. But happy doesn’t always make a good story, and I’m finally finding my groove when it comes to the themes I want to tackle. (You’d think I’d know this by now, but hey. I’m admittedly a novice when it comes to making up stories.)

BUT. I feel like my writing is already improving by leaps and bounds. I’m constantly working on my stories–before class, after class, at home, in the student union, in bed, while Ellie chews on my feet. I’m either thinking about writing, actually writing, or editing writing. I read, too. Not much for fun, but I still make time for a bit of recreational reading. Workshopping is scary/tough/disheartening/empowering. But I’m learning to love the process.

My blog’s taken a backseat, I know, but I’m changing that right now. I miss talking about Disney on the daily–okay, I actually haven’t stopped talking about it, but the subject isn’t as much of a priority anymore. At least in my daily life. I gots school and work and stuffs. Sometimes I tell the students I tutor in the writing center that I worked for Disney (they see my stickers on my laptop), and that’s always a fun icebreaker.

Anyways. Here’s a list Disney things helping me get through my first year of my MFA:

  • Music. Always. Currently been loving the new Duck Tales theme song–Donald’s my favorite, so listening to this while I put my makeup on is a way to start the day, let me tell ya.
  • Club Mickey Mouse! Those kids make me smile! It’s sad that I’m so old that I call 16-18 year-olds kids. Ha.
  • My apartment is so cute, and it’s filled with mostly Disney crap. I’m just now figuring out where to display my Tsum Tsums. Once my living room is sort of decorated, I need to take some pics and show you guys. I love it.
  • I bought Bambi recentlyso that was nice.
  • The anticipation of Coco and The Last Jedi. Goodness I can’t WAIT for both!
  • Ellie. She’s my dog, but she’s got a Disney name, so it works. She got fixed the other day, poor baby, but she’s doing great.
  • My backpack. My Vera Bradley Disney print backpack actually broke (darn zipper), but my student union carries the JanSport DISNEY COLLECTION! I died of happiness inside. I bought the print with Mickey and Donald climbing up a mountain; I’ll insert a link to a photo here.  (Ignore the horrid price tag, I was desperate and it was cute, okay?!) Donald’s face cracks me up and makes my heart happy.

There you have it. A quick list of Disney stuff I’m loving.

I’ve missed you, blog. I’ll try to write more often, because you make me happy.

See ya real soon!

Kids Grown Up

I was so happy and lucky to win a contest on Instagram–I enter a lot giveaways, so to actually win something was such a thrill!

But this wasn’t just any old contest–the prize was a copy of Sophie Jo’s (@sophiejowrites on Twitter and Instagram) Disney-inspired poetry book, kids grown up. 

POETRY. INSPIRED BY MY FAVORITE THING EVER. DISNEY. This literature-loving girl’s heart was SO happy to win an item I’ve been eyeing for months.

First of all, the aesthetic of the book is so simple and clean, and I can’t wait to get more furniture so I can get a little stand for it and display it forever. I have a small collection of Disney books, and this is the perfect addition to my menagerie of magic.

Second of all, the poems are wonderful. (I know I’m using a lot of italics for this post, but bear with me). She posts a lot of the poems on her social media, but there were a few I hadn’t seen before. One poem, “windows and doors,” left me teary-eyed. The persona of the poem captures the essence of visiting my favorite place–I think the poem refers to Disneyland Paris, but I can see my beloved Walt Disney World when I read it. There are some lines that really touched me and conveyed how feel about Disney parks:

“and four went strolling, hand in hand: / through pinks and golds and clouds and swells / of music.” (Such beautiful language that puts me right on Main Street.)

“for days inside my head was calmer.” (YES!)

“he waved at me! / he remembers me!” (Me with any character I’ve ever worked with/met.)

There’s so much more to this poem, but I should stop quoting. Go. Purchase this book to read this poem;  I love it so much. Whenever I get “homesick,” this will be my go-to.

The star of the show, in my opinion, is the title poem, “kids grown up.” This little poem completely describes my everyday existence in every way, and it’s full of humor that any adult Disney fanatic can understand. My favorite lines:

“…then i can / think happy thoughts / and fly, and fly, and / thank my second star that i / take joy in stuff like how to store / my cheese baguette and how to pour / my ~CHILDLIKE~ self into the day…” 

THAT LAST BIT…ISN’T THAT BEAUTIFUL?! I hope I pour my “childlike self” into each and every day.

To Sophie Jo: thank you for selecting me as one of the winners of your contest. I am over the moon about your precious book–it will act as a source of inspiration for me as I make my way through graduate school and work on achieving my own writing goals.

To my readers: CHECK THIS GIRL OUT! I hope she publishes more in the future, because I just love the language she uses to describe my favorite thing in the world.

As always, have a magical day, and please pour your own childlike self into every second of it. That’s an order.

 

 

 

Encouragement

Today, around 10:00 a.m.

Hi, blog! Long time no write. Well, I have been writing, just not for you. Which is dumb, but I’m remedying this problem right this very second! Yay!

Grad school has been a whirlwind so far. Truly. I’ve loved it, but it’s been an adjustment. Ellie and I are finally settling into a little routine (I think), and I’m really good at heating up Lean Cuisines and Stouffer’s French bread pizza.

Right now, my stomach is in knots and I’m just a nervous bundle of energy. Today, I turn in my first bit of fiction for one of my classes.

I’m so terrified, guys! I just hope my piece is sort of up to par with all the PhD and the second or third year MFA students in my class. I just hope that my school didn’t let me in by accident, and that my professor and my fellow students won’t read what I wrote and say, “Holy cow, where did this girl come from? How did she manage to get here?!” I know this is a common thought and fear among grad students–“imposter syndrome,” it’s called–but I hate it! I hate thinking I’m not good enough. I hate thinking that other people might think that I’m not good enough.

Isn’t that silly?!

Here’s where the title of this post comes in: encouragement. I’m going to write a bit of encouragement to me and to all of you.

Dear You,

Maybe you will be horrible. You might not be good enough. There’s always that chance that you won’t be good at something. There’s a chance  you’ll fall flat on your face. 

(Wow, strong start, am I right?)

BUT. Even if you are horrible, why is that such a big deal? If you want to be good at something, just put your head down, work like you’ve never worked before, and you’re bound to get better. You might never be the best, but gosh darn it, you can be your best!

(So much cheese; I cringe. But I’m a huge fan of all things cheesy.)

What you wrote is your very best at this moment in time. That’s all you can do. Take the criticism, take the feedback, and then run with. Get better. Work at it. Keep your optimism and grit and your stupid little Pollyanna smile. 

(I smile a lot. Former cast member probs, I suppose.)

You got this. Work! Know that you won’t always get gold stars, and embrace that feeling of uncertainty. You get to work at what you love to do, and you’re going to get better. 

Sincerely, 

Me.

annnnnnddddd….

Today, around 4:29 p.m. 

UPDATE: The class went well! I did a happy dance in my car before I drove home! I got some great notes and good feedback, and everyone was so nice. I’m happy to be here, and I’m so happy to be learning from such talented writers.

My anxiety has been lifted (for the moment, at least), but the bit of encouragement I wrote this morning is still relevant. I hope it helps you, because my little pep talk really helped me “buck up” and embrace my fears. If I acknowledge my anxieties, I can face them head on and accept them. Why stress about being good enough? What’s the worst thing that could happen?

I hope you have a great day, my friends. Do your best today and every day.

 

 

“Sivako!”

Here I am, fifty-three days post Disney trip, settled into my new apartment, anticipating the start of graduate school, and I am finally, finally sitting down to write about Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

My obvious, general thoughts first: I loved it. It was so cool. I want to eat cheeseburger pods and root vegetable chips every single day for the rest of my life.

Now some specifics. Pandora is one of the most incredible things I’ve set eyes on at a Disney park–lush, green floating mountains looming before and above you, cascading waterfalls, florescent flora and fauna. The transition from Discovery Island or Harambe to Pandora is seamless–it’s as if Pandora has always belonged to Animal Kingdom, it’s like it’s always been there.

The attractions, guys. They are incredible–sincerely two of the most advanced, immersive experiences I have ever encountered. The Na’vi River Journey was stunningly beautiful; I was only able to experience this attraction once on my trip, but it did not disappoint. If you’re a Disney fan reading this blog, you’ve probably seen countless Snapchats and video of the animatronic figure that guests encounter on this attraction. And if you’re not an avid Disney fan and just read my posts for the heck of it (thank you), please open a new tab, type something along the lines of “shaman on the Na’vi River Journey in Pandora in Disney’s Animal Kingdom” in your search bar. I’ll wait.

Good, isn’t it? Really good. Disney imaginears never fail to inspire me with their innovations.

Now. Let’s talk about the star of the Pandora show, Flight of Passage, the most INCREDIBLE attraction I have EVER been on. All caps are NECESSARY.

Minor spoilers are ahead, so skip a few paragraphs if you want your first time experiencing this attraction to be a complete surprise.

The basis of Flight of Passage is this: by linking with your very own Na’vi Avatar, you  have the ability to experience a ride on the back of an Ikran, commonly known as a banshee on the remote planet of Pandora, made famous in the 2009 feature film. You enter a “chamber” that collects some DNA data, and then you are matched with an Avatar based on the results. From there, you enter the flight room, board a flight simulator that looks like a high-tech bike, and don your “flight googles.” When the
Avatar link is complete, you are transported to the remote outreaches of Pandora and are flying on the back of your banshee. You feel him/her breathing beneath your splayed legs. You feel and smell sweet Pandorian wind as you dip, dive, and swoop. You see some of the most beautiful visuals–the floating mountains, other worldly creatures, forests, oceans, and more. The experience is truly incredible. I think I’ve used the word “incredible” fifty billion and a half times in this post.

The bottom line: Flight of Passage is the most thrilling attraction I had ever been on–I wanted to do it again and again and again and again…so on and so forth.

It’s that good.

After my ride through scenic Pandora, I had an overwhelming feeling of possibility. Anything is possible. People–human people, not superhuman Na’vi–created Flights of Passage with their own brain and will power. We, mere guests, were (are) able to experience something so amazing because someone–some people–had the gumption to sit down and figure out how to make it happen.

That notion blows me away.

One of my favorite aspects of the attraction is the smattering of Na’vi vocabulary. My favorite Na’vi phrase is the title of this post: “sivako.” In the native Na’vi tongue, this phrase is equivalent to the English phrase “rise to the challenge.” Our Na’vi guide on the attraction urges us to do just that–with a shrill “Sivako!” we dive (alarmingly and wonderfully fast) into a lush forest laden with dangers and surprises.

You passively rise to the challenge on Flight of Passage, but once you experience this attraction, you long to actively “sivako” in your daily life. Because I experienced the magnificent result of creative brain and will power of Disney imaginears and storytellers, I desperately want to make something–to write something–that has an impact on someone as Disney imaginears have made an impact on me.

In short: I urge you to make plans to experience this world in the next few years. It’s worth it. So, so worth it.

“Sivako,” my friends. I hope you rise to the challenge today and every day. In the meantime, I’ll start anticipating my return to Pandora and to my banshee, who I lovingly named Bertha. I just love alliteration.

Adventures

I just want to share this photo of my pup, and I want to caption it with one of my favorite puppy (and adventurous people) quotes of all time:

Behold, the cutest photo in this world, taken by my sister (follow her at @klemsonphotographydesign on Instagram, people!):

untitled-7

And here’s the caption:

“There’s a great big hunk of world out there with no fence around it. Where two dogs can find adventure and excitement. And beyond those distant hills, who knows what wonderful experiences? And it’s all ours for the taking, Pige.” 

It’s from Lady and the Tramp, and I absolutely love it. And I love little Ellie’s face in the photo–it’s like she’s saying, “Oh! There it is! The biggest and prettiest world I’ll ever know…I’m just…kind of…frightened. Can I go? Will I go? Should I go?”

And, if you’re like me and Ellie, you might think these kinds of things right before you embark on new adventures. I’m about to begin grad school and a graduate teaching assistantship and a new life and in a brand new town and have to meet new people and do new things and shed fear of failure and experience apprehension and step out of my comfort zone all over again so…yes. These thoughts and feelings are quite relevant at the moment.

I’m human–of course I’m afraid of failure. I’ll be working on an MFA in creative writing and I’m already nervous–will I be horrible? Can I keep up with my fellow writers?

Will. I. Fail. Miserably?!?!?

I hope not. And if I do, hey. It’s cool. It’s fine. I’ll be okay. I’ll just work harder and find my way and my place in this big, fence-less world.

There is a great big hunk of world out there with no fence around it, so new adventures will always be limitless. I’m excited to try my hand at this new venture–let’s write stuff! Lots of it! Let it be horrible or wonderful or kind of okay! Either way, it’s a start and a new beginning, and I love those suckers.

You ready, Ellie?

 

 

“Disney Day”

“Disney Days” are essential to the mental health of an avid Disney fan. If you didn’t know, I’m an avid Disney fan…times ten.

I know. Shocking.

What is a “Disney Day?” It’s not just a day spent at a theme park (although it can be). A Disney Day can be any ol’ regular day with an intentional amount of magic and pixie dust thrown in.

Disney fans have a way with “fluffy” words, don’t they?

We (my family and I) had our own Disney Day this past Sunday. We declared it Disney Day from the start–we each picked out a Disney movie and sat down for hours to watch some favorites and some forgotten classics. We took a break for lunch and a treat, and we gabbed and napped throughout the showings.

It was pure, lazy, pixie-dusted bliss.

We could’ve made our day more elaborate, with treats and favors fit for Instagram. We could’ve put more thought and planning into the movies we watched. I could have started a hashtag, worn ears, done my makeup, felt like a presentable human being.

But did we do that? Nope! We just sat down and watched some movies. The simplicity of the occasion made the day so much better–free of fuss, free of perfection, free of a bra. (TMI? Probably.)

Here’s how our lineup developed:

  1. The Little Mermaid, followed by a Lean Cuisine for lunch and a trip to DQ for a vanilla ice cream cone.
  2. Aladdin with bouts of power outages due to a summer thunderstorm. It took us a long time to watch and finish Aladdin. Momma cried because she had never sat and watched it all the way through–she adored the song “A Whole New World,” and she was so proud of Al when he set the Genie free. My sister took a hearty nap.
  3. The Lion King, with bonus features included.
  4. Peter Pan whilst sorting through old photos and memorabilia. I found some old short stories of mine, written around the third or fourth grade. One piece was entitled “The Irish Setter Who Loved Golf.” An Irish Setter is a breed of dog, one I was particularly fond of as a child. It was a work of literary genius, no doubt. Find me an agent, stat! (Ha.)

While this wasn’t a stop-the-presses kind of day, it was one of my favorite. It was a Disney Day for the books–I’ve had some pretty incredible park days, but there’s something about intentionally sitting  and watching movies all day with the ones you love that makes every “monotonous” moment magical.

How would you go about your own Disney Day?

 

EPCOT: The American Adventure

Happy Fourth of July, my friends! I hope you are enjoying a day full of all things Americana–I know I’ll be relishing our sweet freedom all day, munching on chocolate chip cookies and savoring vanilla ice cream with red, white, and blue sprinkles. Throw in some patriotic songs and you have yourself a gloriously patriotic day.

I just love this country.

I’m here today to advocate for my favorite pavilion in all of Epcot. The American pavilion, home to a completely underrated show and the most beautiful entertainment in all of Walt Disney World, is a real gem and a tribute to the American people and the adventurous, innovative, and diligent spirit of this great country. I never leave the American pavilion without feeling inspired to do my part in propelling America forward into the future–the message of this entire pavilion is one of hope and pride, and I honestly can’t get enough.

There are three main activities to do at the American pavilion. First: The American Adventure is a wonderful thirty-minute show detailing events in America’s history that makes America uniquely…American. I love this show so, so much. It’s narrated by Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin, and it’s delightfully Disney-fied. Expect charming animatronics, moving video clips and montages, and an inspiring soundtrack.

Goodness. I get chills just thinking about it. The shows run all day, and it’s a wonderful way to take a break from the stifling Florida heat. We skipped this show on our first trip (ignorance and first-time energy and excitement can do that to you), but now it’s an Epcot must-do. So. good.

The second (and my favorite) activity to do at this pavilion? Listening to the marvelous musical workings of the Voices of Liberty.

THE VOICES OF LIBERTY MIGHT BE MY VERY FAVORITE THING IN ALL OF EPCOT. YES, ALL CAPS IS COMPLETELY NECESSARY IN THIS DECLARATION OF MY LOVE.

The Voices of Liberty perform before almost every show of  The American Adventure, but check your times guide or with a cast member to receive an exact show schedule. There is also usually a board with times listed outside of the attraction.

THIS IS A MUST-DO. I REPEAT. THIS IS A MUST-DO. Make time to do this. Please. I love it so much.

They perform under the “dome” of The American Adventure’s beautiful building (see picture of building below…it’s hard to miss), and guests are invited to sit on the floor under the dome to experience their voices to the fullest. They are an acapella group that sings Americana, folk, and other songs, and I just love them with all of my heart. They are also known to sing a few classic Disney tunes, but literally every show is different. The last time I watched the show, they sang a “flag” medley, the state song of Tennessee, an old cowboy love song, and “America The Beautiful.” I’ve seen many shows, and no show is exactly the same.

Please see this. Camp out and see it. Take a break from the heat, and be prepared to be moved to tears. I often am, and it’s embarrassing but totally viable. The group is so incredibly talented, and the combination of incredible singing and patriotism can do something to you. Again, ask a cast member or pick up a times guide so you don’t miss this incredible Disney gem.

The last thing to see at this pavilion? The building itself has so many things to look at–art, quotes from famous American leaders (including the guy that drew that mouse that one time), and an entire special exhibit. The current exhibit discusses the struggles and the triumphs of African Americans, and it’s so cool. My usual routine involves experiencing the exhibit, watching the Voices of Liberty, and finishing with a showing of The American Adventure. It’s about an hour’s worth of sweet, sweet air conditioning.

I hope you take the time to experience this pavilion the next time you are exploring Epcot. It’s seriously my favorite–I didn’t even mention the food, and it’s delicious, too–and it deserves your attention and appreciation.

I might be biased. I do love America a whole lot.

IMG_6541

Disney Trip 2017: Animal Kingdom Lodge

Jambo, everyone! I hope you are having a magical day.

If you’re not familiar with Swahili, “jambo” means “hello.” I was fortunate enough to say a hearty hello to Walt Disney World for six days last week for vacation.

I was super fortunate to say jambo to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for the first night of my vacation. This DAK-loving girl’s heart was so, so happy. Remember: DAK equals Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Huge shout out to the DCP BFF (and real-life BFF, let’s be honest) for scoping out the best deal in the universe. She’s on her second college program, and she met up with me for a week of epic “staycation-ing.”

Oh my goodness, guys. We had a blast.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, to put it simply, is the most gorgeous place on this planet. This statement might come across as a teeny hyperbole, but I don’t even care. If I ever become a Disney Vacation Club member (#goals), this resort will be my home.

I began my stay at the lodge by attempting to capture everything with my hand-me-down DSLR camera, a camera that’s been in the family since about 2006. It’s still goin’ strong, and I think it did a fantastic job documenting my stay at the lodge. You’ll find some select photos in this post, and don’t hesitate to call National Geographic and suggest me and my skill set for an all-expenses-paid African photo safari.

Ha. I kid. (But not really.)

If you’ve never been to DAK Lodge, you might not know that it doubles as a top-notch zoo. Select rooms look out onto a savannah littered with giraffes, ankole cattle, types of gazelle, ostriches, zebras, the common Disney duck, and so much more. The back of both lobbies (Kidani Village and Jambo House…we stayed in the latter), lead out onto observation areas where helpful animal guides talk about the animals and are open to discuss their own culture. Every single guide is on an cultural exchange program at Disney; they are originally from Africa and are there to work for a year or so. My mom and I once had the most incredible conversation with a guide from Botswana.

I spent a good hour or two in the observation area, taking photos of the animals and taking in the unique vibe  Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge embodies. I fell in love with giraffes on this trip because they ventured so close to us lucky guests. Below are a few photos I’m quite proud of. (Humor me.)

2c78c13a-56cf-48b5-82dc-79ac45d241a9-1125f8b82-7988-4a26-a219-918d27e05522-1de826635-e1e9-445e-844a-523ba9b74c29-1

Aren’t they gorgeous?

Because of this unique experience, I was  swayed to purchase a wooden giraffe mask from the gift shop, perfect for the Animal Kingdom-inspired gallery wall going above my bed in my new apartment. I just couldn’t resist.

After Allyssa (DCP BFF) got off work, we checked in and headed to our room.

Our room! Oh my goodness! The savannah view room was so pretty, and the details were impeccable: woven baskets hung on the creamy walls, wallpaper that resembled vintage maps, pamphlets useful for identifying animals, and so much more. Of course, I wasn’t smart enough to take pictures of the whole thing, but I did take a picture of my favorite element, the curtains. See below:

4b6626b8-42f5-4992-b05c-3ab198e5d3a9-1

Do see a Disney friend embroidered in the dreamy fabric? Friends from The Lion King were scattered throughout the curtains, and I internally screamed.

We ended our evening roasting marshmallows in the observation area (free for all guests; ask a cast member for times), dining at the Mara, the quick service restaurant, and watching the sunset from our savannah view room. The experience was something out of a Walt Disney World ad–the sky was a brilliant red-orange, giraffes and zebras moseyed tangibly close to our vantage point, and Allyssa and I were reunited, anticipating a busy week of park hopping. I was so happy, and I’ll cherish that moment forever.

We checked out the next morning after a wonderful breakfast from the Mara.

I never really checked out of the lodge, mentally. I’m always daydreaming about my stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Kwaherini (“Go well”) for now, friends. I’ll leave you with some more shots of the lodge–maybe they’ll fuel your sense of adventure and spark an appreciation for this beautiful planet we call home.

Maybe you’ll just call your travel agent. Either option totally works.

715f9a82-668a-4f48-84e7-fe27c9732b56-10ac1bad8-5941-405c-91ca-0eadfa70dab2-125f4bacc-4bbf-4853-bf2d-a2a8ff0c88d1-1d78e6bd8-58fd-48c2-8f48-eb08bd69fef6-12ae7a6fc-7d89-4c32-9a5a-610fa377739d-15e0c4bea-731e-4af8-8147-f5dd8be2f798-16c9b88e2-23f2-4d9b-a782-5731e6677aeb-1a8e0d0cd-ef47-4ea8-9a80-6824289b7504-1f1b86f2c-4e4e-404f-9001-6b89094860c9-1