I Traveled To The Island In The Sky, Watched The Earth Change Colors, And Saw The Milky Way

I Traveled To The Island In The Sky, Watched The Earth Change Colors, And Saw The Milky Way

Equipped with two gallons of water, what we thought was enough snacks, and an excitement to explore new lands, we went to Canyonlands National Park.
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One of my closest friends texted me during the school week asking what my plans were for the weekend. I told her the same old same old — hanging out with some friends and doing a lot of homework. She told me she wanted to go camping and I should get to Utah as soon as possible.

I booked a plane ticket for Salt Lake City in three weeks. We took off to the road to Canyonlands National Park early the next morning with two gallons of water, what we thought was enough snacks, and an excitement to explore new lands.

It took around five hours, including stops to pull over so I could take photos of the moon. Neither one of us had service, so we could only listen to CDs in her car, which included country and Disney musical classics. My personal favorites were anything Josh Turner and "The Circle of Life" from the Lion King. Once we got to the National Park, we could not believe how enormous it was. The giant dessert stretched as far as we could see into the horizon and the giant rock formations. A lot of people are not fans of the desert heat, but I love the dry heat. We hiked around the "Island in the Sky" and took breaks to drink our single gallon of water and ate strawberries and bread.

As you can see, the pinks and the blues create a purple wash that looks more like a watercolor piece than real-life landscape. Later, when the sun set we sat on top of our car and looked at the Milky Way. My friend could name just about all the stars we could see around us.

All in all, I have nothing but great things to say about Canyonlands and Utah in general. The weather was hot, I got to stand on platforms thousands of feet above sea level, and saw the Milky Way for the first time.

Cover Image Credit: Erin O'Donnell

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say, "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing.

My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from "Shameless."

"Shameless" is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out of place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum, it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone, however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by "Shameless."

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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'Culling' The Bullsh*t; Taking A Deeper Look At The Antibiotics In The Livestock Industry

You want the truth? Here it is.

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As many people have seen around the internet, one of the hot topics is having cattle or other livestock antibiotic free. This has lead to a movement that is not only incorrect with their basic information, but they are hurting family farms across the nation. This stems from the idea that antibiotics contaminate meat products and will affect the consumer. In this article the main points that "justify" the antibiotic culture will be broken down and simplified. I hope by the end of reading this you will be more knowledgeable about this subject, and will make the best decision for you and your family.

1. "If you don't specifically buy antibiotic free meat, you will buy meat with antibiotics in it."

The FDA has control check on the processing line when livestock is processed. This means that the likelihood of any "antibiotic filled" animal to make it through is slim to none. If by chance a ranch or feedlot gets flagged by FDA, they will be fined with a bill in the thousands. This type of flag will make it difficult for that ranch to ever sell livestock in the normal market again. This is only one of the incentives for ranch owners to stay in the clear.

2. "Antibiotics are used to promote growth"

This statement is false. Antibiotics are used to treat an illness. Yes an animal might gain weight after treatment. But that is because when we are sick we tend to not eat as much. Once you start to feel better, it stirs up your hunger. Antibiotics are and have never been used to promote growth.

3. What happens to the animal on an antibiotic free farm when it gets sick.

Let's do a comparison example. If your child got sick what do you normally do? Take them to the doctor and if he prescribes a medication for them you would provide the correct amount to treat the illness. This is the same way with the livestock industry. Most antibiotics and medication in general are a prescription based. Therefore, a vet will need to sign off on the treatment of the animals. While most ranches will treat the illness and move on, antibiotic free farms need to move that animal off site to another ranch. Some of the time they have a secondary place where those treated animals go to live out their life. Not treating a sick animal is inhumane.

These are only a few of the antibiotic free lies that surround the livestock world. And I am not saying for someone to completely change their beliefs over one article, what I am saying is do your research. From both sides of the argument. Then base your final decision from what you have learned. The agriculture industry has many that oppose that will use fear-tactics to push their agenda. And although we are not a perfect industry, we are a very important part of society. And we hold high standards for ourselves because of that.

Thank you for reading,

if you have a suggestion of what I should talk about next leave a comment.

-Chrystal B.

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