I have not posted on this blog in a long time, because I have been serving as a Peace Corps Education Volunteer in Uganda since November 11th, 2013. Feel free to continue reading and journeying with me on my adventures and experiences for the next 26 months at my new Uganda Peace Corps Blog: mountainsbeyondmountainsuganda.wordpress.com
I just got back from hanging out with a co-worker from Chef’s Expressions; one who struck me as being very bubbly, energetic and funny. But she had some experience under her belt and I appreciated that. We chilled tonight at her place in Towson, and watched Pacific Rim which was as good a Guillermo del Toro film that we were willing to watch that night.
The past two months have consisted of me working the weekdays as a landscaper at Greenfields Nursery at the intersection of Northern Parkway and Falls Rd and working as a caterer for Chef’s Expressions based in Timonium. I have worked in two of the largest service industries and I have loved the work. I respect hard workers and those who are devoted to bettering oneself in a given task and learning how to truly improve. That can apply to a certain skill, discipline, mental capabilities, and physical capabilities. However, I rarely judge anyone based on wealth and perceptions of background alone and that is what has irked me for the past two months. I somehow felt that the guests whom we served and the clients whose lawns we’ve scaped always looked down upon us. It was almost as if they felt that since they were giving us green paper in exchange for our services that they were better than us. I have felt it when they would appear to be uncomfortable looking at us in the eyes or being rude and bossing us around when they felt that something was amiss.
I also hear a lot of crap talk about one of the members on the crew who is Mexican. He is over 30 years old and has a bunch of funny and mainly stereotypical idiosyncracies. Sometimes he’ll burst into a Dora the Explorer song, Shakira song, or shout out a string of random, basic spanish phrases. Despite his less than stellar English, my conversations with him have convinced me that he is very wise. He has instructed me in the ways of landscaping many times and always has this creative solution to landscaping and an eye for aesthetics and completion that not many people have. Then we have the 19 year old who already has a 6 month old baby to take care of who still acts like a stubborn kid who would rather make it big in the music industry rather than compromise for the more stable 9-5.
I work with these two and two guys from Boys’ Latin who are both the foremen and younger than me. And despite my likes and dislikes about them they hold my respect for different reasons and so much more so than the respect I feel towards most of the clients whose grandiose houses and lawns fail to impress. I mean when you think about it, is it more impressive that someone pays some money to people who will get a mis-matched crew of misfits who somehow make a yard look beautiful and professional. We’ve even been judged at the beginning with some customers referring to us as “you people” or asking if our boss would supervise us to make sure that we did a good job. The good thing is that we usually impress our clients enough from their low expectations at the beginning that we get some tips.
The worst people usually come from the high end clientele for catering. Aw man it’s really funny sometimes hearing us being looked down upon or judged simply because we are serving you food. It’s true that most of us would never be able to afford it, but we get paid to serve you food that we are able to eat for free during our meal breaks. And it works out, because the money made from one day catering would still not be enough to pay for one guest at that same event. Tonight was when it really hit me. We were packing up from a catering event at CenterStage and using the elevator to bring our heavy carts down to the first floor, and an older man walked up to me and asked if there were any stairs to get to the fifth floor because “you people” were holding up the elevators. He was an asshole and his reaction just made me laugh. I wasn’t in the least bit intimidated by him and he appeared to be very entitled. And then there was the oe of the event speakers hanging out in the catering makeshift kitchen on the second floor. One of the chef’s asked him what his speech was about and he responded with, “Social justice.” When pressed for more information he just replied with “Well it’s a talk about social justice,” as if the chef wasn’t smart enough to understand the specific bits about his speech. That infuriated me that he was acting hypocritical and not giving someone part of his time because she was a person who was curious about helping and learning more about an issue that she believed in.
And so there are those whom I respect. These are the hard, sincere workers who are true people. I like people who challenge themselves and look for growth and change when things become too stagnant. I like the challenges of thinking on one’s own feet, the smell of good tilled earth, and the taste of butler passed hors d’oeuvres on my tongue. So here’s to the people who work behind-the-scenes for not that much money but have a life much more varied, interesting, and richer than some of the ignorant clients whose vapid interests I usually serve.
P.S. – I found out tonight that this one caterer whom I had served with several times had passed away this past friday. She had always struck me as an odd caterer who always asked such weird questions with redundant answers and sometimes doing things wrong. But she was also involved with high school literature and a girl scout troup that she was involved with. I remember that the last time I saw her I told her that we should exchange emails so that I could learn more about the programs that she was involved in. She was very odd and very weird and annoying at times, but as one of my co-workers put it, “She was one of the constant personalities of the Chef’s family.” I had the pleasure of being a part of this dysfunctional family, and for that I give them my respect. Here’s to you Ellen.
Why am I sad? For this feeling there definitely must be a reason. I am now beginning to understand the feeling of helplessness that comes to most undergraduate students after college. I work these two dead-end jobs that do increase my current skill-set, but I just could never see myself working in these jobs for the long run. I’m leaving for Uganda, Africa in November and so many people are proud of me. I have teachers, professors, friends, acquaintances, and family members all telling me how great I am. But what hurts the most is trying to have just that one person accept you. There is one person whom I know does not like me, and I just cannot get over it. I’ve been much better at dealing with that over the past 2 years, but in this circumstance I can’t shake it off. It hurts because it hits me very close to home. She actually lives at my house; she’s the wife of my dad.
I remember meeting her for the first time in Boston a day or two before the graduation ceremonies. She didn’t talk that much, but I supposed that she was just being shy. When I got to spend more time with her at my old house in Maryland, I assumed that we were slowly getting along. I shared my meals with her and my dad, I would say hi and bye to her, and I would make sure that I hugged and kissed her on the cheek before I left the house. After I had returned from my European adventure at the end of July, I learned that she did not like me. She thought that I was thrifty at the expense of others, spoiled, Americanized and wasn’t thinking about my dad and the financial situation that this family is in. It hit me right in the heart. I did not expect to hear that my step-mother looked down on me. I guess it’s that feeling of wanting your parents to be proud of you, and even though she’s my dad’s wife, I still want her to see me as a stepson who accepts her. So far it’s been difficult.
We barely talk these days. She likes to glare at me or plainly look the other way or ignore me. If I don’t say hi or bye when she comes and goes from the house, then we will not talk. I get the vibe that I disgust her and that she mainly holds disdain and contempt towards me. This is apparent when we are in the same room doing something like cooking, and we both don’t talk. If we do talk, then I am the instigator and she responds in several words at the most.
But what really hurts me is that she sees me as this spoiled person who is selfishly going to the Peace Corps, while leaving behind all of these bills for my dad to pay. That made me feel so guilty. I had second thoughts about whether or not it was fair for me to ask my dad to help pay for my monthly student loan bills while I was volunteering in Uganda. My Peace Corps readjustment allowance would help to pay for about half of the monthly pay, but the other half would need to be covered either by myself or someone else. The original decision was that my dad offered to help, and I accepted. My upsets me stepmom. Her food tasted so good, but I no longer eat it or with her on principle. It sucks, because this means that I can’t eat with my dad too. I wanna be closer with him, but I also want him to be happy with his wife. And he can’t do that as much as he could when I’m around.
The thing is that I feel as if my dad has no idea what’s going on with this situation. I think that he just lets me be to come and go as I please. If I have to sacrifice my relationship and interactions with my dad so that he can be happy with his wife, then I’ll do it. I have been doing it, and I will continue to do it, because I have already put this family through a lot. I have seen myself as a financial burden to this family, but I can make it better. I just need this one last thing; the Peace Corps before I return and get a high-paying engineering job to pay my bills and pay back my parents for all that they have done for me. I am beyond grateful for everything, and even right now I am sleeping in my old room in my old house without having to pay for electricity, water, or rent. And I would do so, if I had the funds at the moment.
So for now I will continue to work to pay my dad enough money so that he doesn’t have to worry about the initial Peace Corps bill in November and the bills every month until I return. I don’t know if I’ll have enough, but I will find a way to make it work one day at a time.
~The Sound and the Fury Appendix, Dilsey’s final entry
I have a great relationship with my aunt. I get home from landscaping work around 4pm-5pm and then park in my driveway. More often than not I get home earlier than my aunt, and have the entire house and kitchen to myself. I have the ability to use the entire kitchen without her glaring at me, or can watch tv or do laundry without fear of my dried clothes being placed on top of the drying machine because I didn’t take them out right after they were done because I was still at work. I appreciate the quality time that we spend together as soon as she arrives home from work: she opens the door, sees that I’m in the kitchen, and then quickly heads upstairs. She does not leave the master bedroom until I am done cooking, cleaning, eating, and then watching tv. I sometimes say hi to her, and she graciously responds by immediately turning her body and face away from me and hurrying to whatever she was doing.
Sometimes we share jokes, like the time she ungraciously took out all of my clothes from the dryer because I left them there after already having asked if I could do laundry that day, and sure enough I had washed my Spring Awakening t-shirt with the saying “Totally Fucked” on the back. I’m sure that we both had a good laugh about that. The best part is the cleaning. She is a very clean and organized person. The stoves and counters are always sprayed, scrubbed, and wiped before, during, and after every individual meal. Now I’m a clean person too, but I suppose that I just cannot keep up with her. Sometimes I forget to put away my clean pots and pans away because they were still drying in the corner of the counter, and they are all piled up into the Lazy Susan where I am allowed to keep my dishes, utensils, spices, and non-perishable foods.
And I’m sure that she has a wonderful family. I was told by my dad that several of her relatives would be staying here at the house for a week sometime in the middle of the Fall, and asked if I could move out of my own bedroom into my brother’s empty room. I was confused as to why I should move all of my stuff from my bedroom into a room that is already the guest room, but I suppose that they would require more room. I have even heard about her sister, because their Skype conversations travel through the thin wall between my bedroom and the master bedroom. Obviously she brags about her new stepson who graduated Cum Laude from BostonUniversity in Mechanical Engineering, who paid and took out personal loans to pay his way through the last two years of college, funded his own internship in Berlin and his Eurotrip, and will be teaching other teachers in Uganda this coming Fall. I can definitely tell that she beams with pride about me when she complains to her sister how my dad does not have the money to help me pay for my student loan bills while I’m volunteering in Africa, how I show up to the house unannounced, how I need to text her to tell her when I am coming home, how I am a spoiled child who should move out and be independent, how I eat her food during mealtimes, and how I am thrifty at other people’s expenses especially my friends.
I like to think that her persona was modeled after the majority of her life living in the Philippines and her spiritual li. Her Facebook is practically covered with scripture passages and quotes concerning how God will provide and take care of us. They all seem to proclaim great wealth and blessings from God coming this way. One could definitely tell that her actions follow this posting on her Facebook wall: “A person’s most useful asset is not the head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an ear ready to listen, and a hand willing to help.” Goodness knows that she is a exemplary model of these traits.
Of course I can’t take all of the credit, because I’m not perfect. I enjoy going out with friends at night, I sometimes splurge and eat out with the money I earned from landscaping during the weekdays and catering during the weekends, I like to smoke every now and then, and it is true that I do depend on my dad right now for medical insurance and a roof over my head. I cannot afford living in my own apartment right now before I go to the Peace Corps in November, and I will need to store my stuff here for the 27 months while I’m away. Yes there is a lot of bills and debt to pay, and maybe I am being selfish for wanting to travel away from it all for 2+ years and fulfill one of my life goals.
However, what gives me comfort is the knowledge that I have a family who loves me. In that respect I am much luckier and more spoiled than a sizable percentage of the world. My dad still invites me to the dinner table as my stepmom physically has her body facing the other way. He still loves me whereas I may only remind her of my dad’s past failed marriage. I am growing closer with my little brother in college, and I am so happy that he is living in a dorm and not at home. And my real mom is doing just fine in her apartment in Timonium. I have a fucking awesome family, and even though my stepmom does not seem to like me, she loves my dad I can respect that. I still love her as my dad’s wife and a member of this once-broken family that endures.
I’ve been back in Boston since Tuesday August 13th but it feels like I’ve been here all summer. The apartment finally looks like it’s reverted back to its normal state with the tables cleared of random papers, the dishes in their proper cupboards, and the sink free from any leftovers. I think that I succeeded in all of my initial goals for my return back to my college town: make some money to counteract the cost of self-maintenance and travel, explore a bit more of Boston, and say goodbye to old friends. The first goal was easily accomplished through the Boston University employment office where I applied for a quickie job. A quickie job through Boston University usually involves a student usually applying for few hours-long job that someone needs. This usually involves something like moving furniture or babysitting or being a translator during a meeting. I applied for three jobs, and was called back by this woman in Newton, MA who needed help moving. She lived around the mile 18 marker on the Boston Marathon route on Commonwealth Avenue. It was one of the most interesting jobs that I have ever worked. Her family was old and rich. Her still-living mother was in her 90’s, the woman was in her 60’s, her daughter in her 40’s and still living with them. The house was a corner house and beautiful. The woman in her 60’s, who was a Justice of the Peace, used to be an art dealer so the house was filled with dozens of professionally framed drawings, paintings, and canvas. The first day I biked the 7 mile route from my house to theirs, and impressed them because they suggested that I take the T instead so that I wouldn’t be too tired. I first met her husband, who used to be an accountant, and we struck up a small-talk conversation. However, as soon as his wife, the justice, stepped in he turned to go upstairs up to his cluttered office.
The justice offered some snacks to me and then told me how we needed to load her rented UHaul van with boxes and bins. I started right away and made sure to make efficient use of the available space in the UHaul. I spent about an hour carrying and packing the boxes away. She was very impressed with my work, and we drove the van over to the new apartment. You see, the family was downsizing from a full-sized family house to a much smaller one. I helped her unload all of the bins and boxes using some bellhop carts, and then unwrapping all of the individually wrapped jars, plates, and pots of porcellain ranging from Budapestian porcellain to the Meissener Pozellan. Her 90+ year old mother and her sister came to help as well. As we were unwrapping, she asked me if it would be alright with me if I worked for a few more hours that day. I agreed, and she quickly asked if I wouldn’t mind working for a few more days at the same monetary rate offered for that quickie job. I told her that I would be free for few more days and would love to work with her. I was fed dinner, paid $140 for 7 hours of work, and then driven home by her sister who was very intrigued with me.
And so I continued working for them at the rate of $20/hour. And it was one of the most fulfilling jobs that I have ever had the pleasure of doing well. I would wake up in my apartment here on Ashford Street, clean it up a bit more, and then head over to Newton to the family house where I would help the justice bubblewrap famous $10,000 oil paintings surrounded by $600 frames, carried more bins and boxes to the UHaul van, and even helped her husband the accountant clean up and organize his cluttered office. That last one was also cool, because I was called by him the night before and asked if I could help him. He said that he trusted me and that there were some documents that were so personal and important that he didn’t want the movers touching them. I was greatly honored by his request to allow me access to his personal items. And so we commenced the cleanup of his office. We moved electronics, papers and bills from the past two decades, and dozens of office supplies.
I learned a lot about that family that day. I learned that they were rich, had many things, but also had each other. The accountant and the justice struck me as hard workers. And I always impressed them with my math and science skills, because the family appeared to be more logically, administratively, and artistically inclined but not so much mathematically and scientifically inclined except for the accountant. The hardest part was parting with the things that they have had. It was hard for the justice, because it seemed that she had a long story associated with the life of the artist of a painting we were wrapping, a vignette connected to a piece of clothing that fell out of a bin we were carrying, or a tidbit about something that I said that reminded her of something. But she was also selling or giving away so much of her stuff. And she would confide in me that I was such a Godsend because she wouldn’t have known how to move her important possessions without someone else helping. The accountant was a larger man and had trouble walking, and the 40 year old daughter was still living at home and was having job problems. It almost seemed that this justice was the matriarch of the family and supporting it with her tireless will.
Literally, it almost felt like both she and I were the only ones doing work. But as annoyed as she appeared to be, and as much as they all bickered as a traditional New England family with its white-collar problems, it still struck me as one amazingly beautiful story about a family going through a tough time before it moved on and grew. Their house was definitely shrinking in size, but that only seemed to bring them closer together. It was cute to hear the justice still call her 90+ year old mother “Mommy.”
I asked the justice what she learned about moving out, and she told me that she learned about how one can accumulate so much stuff that is not needed. She learned that what she needed was just good friends and family and a few cherished things. And so I labored, cleaned, and ate with this family and shared stories. We would mainly just talk about the Peace Corps and my eventual deployment to Uganda, Africa this coming November. She would then ask me about my travels and I would tell her about my Dresden Study Abroad Semester and my summer internship in Berlin and my recent Eurotrip with my two best friends this summer. She talked about her own travels and experiences throughout mainland Europe, and her husband would talk about his travels in Eastern Europe right after the wall fell. And on the rides home, her sister would talk about her daughter’s study abroad semester in Barcelona. We shared stories about our successes and our failures, and a small part of our beliefs.
Sometimes the justice would just stop our working to tell me a 5-10 minute story about a couple whom she had just married. This justice really did not want to preside over “cookie-cutter” marriages. She would sometimes offer her own backyard and parlor room to host the legal ceremony for Massachusetts’ couples. And then she would have a small cake with some candles in order to celebrate for a while with the two. But one of the most beautiful stories was about these two women whom she had married in the Arnold Arboretum. She was with one of them at the entrance and the other woman in the marriage was running a bit late. They had chosen to be married at a specific spot near the entrance of the Arboretum, because that was the spot where they would meet since they both worked different shifts as nurses at different hospitals. But then a group of young college students plopped down at that exact spot. The justice walked over to them and inquisitively asked them why they had picked this exact spot. Naturally the students responded, “Uh, I dunno. It just seemed like a good spot.” The justice then informed them that they had every right to be on that spot, but that if they chose to stay then they would be in the middle of a wedding ceremony. The kids then stated that of course they would leave. And as they were leaving one of them shouted, “You look so beautiful,” to the bride who as already in the Arboretum.
I eventually finished up my last day of work with them, and was then invited to join the entire family, including the sister, her husband, the Barcelona daughter, and a close family cousin called Bunny in order to celebrate the 93rd birthday of the justice’s mommy. It was an emotional meal, because the sister shared a toast about how this would be the last meal in this house after almost 2 decades of family reunions, parties, marathon barbecues, and get-togethers with families and friends. It was stressed that this was a house and not a home and that the home was wherever they all were as a family and where the apartment now is. It was a beautiful toast, and the food was amazing and consisted of cucumber and sausage lasagna, Caesar salad, and keylime pie. The sister had made it all, but she professed that she wasn’t a good cook. I bid my farewells to all of them, and exchanged emails with the justice, the accountant, the sister, Bunny, and the sister’s husband. I promised to keep in touch with my endeavors and to share my Peace Corps blog when I leave. I promised to send them messages from time-to-time, and then I was driven back along the Marathon route of Commonwealth Avenue and back to the land of bohemian musicians, college students, broken glass, and a very different family in a very different home that I was more used to.
I feel stir-crazy, and I haven’t felt this way since that day I was cooped up in my Boston apartment when the entire city was looking for the Boston bombers and the order to remain indoors was in effect. I yearn for something new, something exciting to spice up my life. Here I am seeing the lives of so many other people on Facebook and their endeavors. Then here I am on Facebook literally just eating, sleeping, and dicking around online until something happens. This is the feeling of reverse-culture shock for me. I was inundated with lights, people, experiences, adventures, and sounds for 24 days nonstop until it all came to a halt. I will write about it in a later blog post, but for now I just cannot get over how awesome the adventure was. I think that I am getting bored with the same old same old over here back home, because I have gotten used to the lifestyle of always moving and always adventuring. Maybe it’s similar to how teenagers always want to feel and yearn for that feeling of some sort of exciting emotion. It’s too quiet and dull over here, but I know that these are the last free dog days of summer that I will have in a long time.
However, I still know that I am lucky. In a few months I will be leaving to volunteer in Uganda, Africa for a 27 month Peace Corps volunteer assignment to teach secondary math and science education. It also doesn’t help that I just got back from my Eurotrip with my two best friends 6 days ago. Now it’s just the waiting period between adventures. I am in the process of bidding farewell to my old college life, and in the process of moving on. But I’m stuck in this limbo of life between my mom’s apartment and my old house where my dad and his wife live. It’s definitely not a bad life at all, but I know that there is something greater out there and something better that I could do with my time. And I don’t know if this is a good feeling or not: to have the consistent thirst for newer horizons or to be content at home doing nothing too extreme and staying content just being.
I keep forgetting how therapeutic blogging is, and I there are a few posts that I need to write down in the next few days.
So I guess that I am emotionally compromised for a bit. There are days when I just feel numb and apathetic, then there are days when I just feel as if there are too many emotions to handle. The evening before I had spent performing with my a cappella group, Allegrettos, for the last time ever. It was a small gig at Winchester High School where we have always performed year after year for a few hundred dollars. It was my first ever performance with the Grettos as a freshman in the fall and now it has been my last ever performance with them.
After that I headed to the CAD (computer aided design) lab in order to run some simulations on my Final Senior Design project concerning the test response accelerations of a raised floor system in areas of heightened seismic activity. I setup the simulations on four computers and wrote notes on the screens so that no one would touch them while they were running. I biked back to my apartment and invited one of my friends, Max, over to hang out and chill with me until one of the freshman in my a cappella group came over for a midnight bike riding adventure. We listened to some good music (Dr. Dog and Wilco) and then headed over to one of my other friend’s apartment houses at 87 Linden Street in the Allston neighborhood. His house apartment was pretty cool, and the way you entered into the apartment was through the back door after going on a wooden deck that connected to the second floor.
We entered through the back door, which led to a hallway that housed his bikes, and then entered into the living quarters. Ah it was a very alternative college living area, as one of my friends put it. There was the kitchen with the liquor bottles lining the tops of the cabinets, and multi-colored Christmas lights weaving their way around the bottles, which gave off a very soft glow of dulled colors. The middle of the room had a metal table that was so low that one had to sit down with ones feet underneath it in order to sit at it. Around this table was a very soft L-shaped couch that was awesome to sleep upon, but not that great to lean back with.
Our host, Thierry, at 87 Linden gifted us with delicious micro-brewed beer and some Gin & Tonic with fresh limes. We chilled, and I remarked that his apartment reminded me of a hostel. It had the feeling that it held many stories over a long period of time with a wide variety of people coming in and out of that place. We listened to a very indie/alternative playlist that seemed to fit in perfectly with the chill hostel mood. I eventually left, danced a bit at the White Horse Bar and then headed back to my house where my neighbors were throwing an after-party for one of the all-girl a cappella groups at BU.
I awoke with a hangover the next day, and instantaneously went on Facebook. I scrolled through the notifications, and read that there was a fatal housefire in Allston. I shook my head and thought, “Ah well, not another one.” I then took a closer look at the picture and realized that that was the exact same house I visited last night; 87 Linden. I quickly called my friend, Thierry, who lived at that house and he texted me back that he was alright; however, one of his roommates, Binland, who also lived in the attic with him may not have gotten out. One Binland’s friends, Amanda, called me and asked if I had any information about Thierry and Binland. I explained to her that our mutual host friend was alright, but that Binland was probably the one who died in the fire. I then got confirmation from Amanda around 3pm just as I took a picture of the pink flowers of a tree just outside of the Mechanical Engineering. I promised her on her Facebook wall that I would post the picture of the flowers.
It felt weird knowing yet another person who had died, especially since I was in such close proximity to where the fire happened, and she was probably sleeping already and just didn’t wake up before dying. I remembered the last time we had seen each other, which was at 87 Linden when I was working on an Engineering Economy assignment. Then the time before that was during a Halloween Party in Junior Year when I met her and found out that she was slated to go study abroad in Belize since she was a Marine Science Major. And it was so close to the end of Senior Year too.
I was at a loss during that day, and I biked passed Linden Street, and saw the aftermath of the blaze: the charred remains of a house with police cutting off entry to the street with police tape. I biked to campus, and attempted to continue my simulations for my Senior Design Project of a Raised Floor System. Needless to say, I couldn’t focus. But then my friend from Dresden Study Abroad, Sean Manton, called me and asked if I wanted to go spend a 30 minute break seeing his friend’s art exhibit by the Boston Commons. I naturally assumed that this meant seeing murals, paintings, or floral arrangements. We biked down Commonwealth Avenue northwards to the Commons, and the day was just so beautiful. Dads were playing catch with their sons, girls were frolicking on the grass, couples were going on strolls, and the world seemed normal again. We made it to the Commons and stopped in front of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, located on 138 Tremont Street. It is an Episcopalian Church that had scaffolding that led to the top of the roof in front of the facade. Sean and I pulled one of the fences in order to create an opening, and then climbed up the scaffolding to see Sean’s friend from Colorado who was in charge of a project to put an aluminum Nautilus on the front top of the church. I couldn’t believe that right now I was overlooking all of the Commons on the top of a very tall scaffolding structure.
Sean’s friend, John, explained how this design was desired for over 200 years, but they didn’t have anyone to build it at the time. So then they recently had the ability to commission this design with a new artist using an aluminum shaping plant over in Colorado and then shipping it over to Boston. I explained to Sean that I never had a dull moment with him. I would say that it was the perfect way to take a break from the events of the blaze and my senior project.
We then biked back along the Esplanade, and I couldn’t help but smile at the feeling of sun across my back and people enjoying nature by the Charles. I then happened across Amanda with one of her friends on one of the short piers jutting out from the Esplanade path. She seemed pensive, looking out across the waters of the Charles as the afternoon sun started to set. She asked me how my day was, and I responded that it was good, but not perfect. She then inquires, “What would make it a perfect day?” I then respond with, “No senior design.” However, I knew that this was just a cover for my other emotions, but I knew that she was also dealing with many other emotions as well. I then hugged her and told her to take care as I continued biking back to the lab and to senior design work.
So I would say that this was my atypical Sunday. I did work, and my journey wove through the lives of so many others in many intense ways. Binland’s memorial was on Tuesday afternoon on Marsh Plaza and I honestly could not have felt so many weird emotions. There were engineering friends, two of her ex-boyfriends, old friends, and roommates. Then there was the realization that it wasn’t too long ago when we had all gathered at Marsh for solidarity, support, and mourning for the Boston Marathon Bombings. But together we could join as a community and share memories about those whom we had lost and loved.
Around this time last year the BU community lost Austin Brashears, Daniela Lekhno, and Roch Jauberty. And there have been so many lost since then, and this weekend was just the latest. But we will continue to strive forward, because that is all that we can do. There is life out here and it is good.
“We are the voices of the Ocean.”
And so starts the beginning of the end. I wanted to share the article above, because it resonates very strongly and intimately with me. I have been involved with a cappella since the sophomore year of high school. I was part of the J~Notes at Loyola Blakefield High School, and we weren’t that good. Honestly looking back, we kinda sucked at most of our songs and were reasonably impressed when I helped to arrange the simple Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” with my choir director. I didn’t think too much of this group, and felt more connected with my high school choir, rugby team, musical productions, or other groups that I was a part of.
Then back in Fall of 2009 I started my time at Boston University and participated at the SPLASH event on Nickerson Field. This event allowed most of the active student groups on BU’s campus to attract as many of the incoming freshmen as possible to their tables and get them to sign up for information meetings, auditions, networking nights, or practices. I walked down a corridor of tables around the center of the field. This corridor had tables filled with all of BU’s a cappella groups. I specifically remember this short blond girl, whom I later found out to be named Megan, yelled at me saying, “Come join the Allegrettos!” So I got one of their flyers and decided to try my hand at auditions for a collegiate a cappella group.
I auditioned with “I’m Yours”, got called back for a second round of auditions, and eventually got accepted into the group. It was during that second round of auditions that the Allegrettos performed one of their songs, “Semi Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind. I couldn’t believe my ears; it was just pure awesomeness to hear human voices joining together in some weird sort of harmony in order to recreate a song. The rest has been history, and one that is still hard for me to believe. I cannot stress enough just how much a cappella has shaped my college experiences, and it’s ridiculous to think that these a cappella groups were initially formed by students and all student-run. First of all there are the two 3-hour rehearsals Thursday and Sunday night. Then there are the gigs where we performed some of the songs that we learned in rehearsal.
However, the night that everyone looked forward to was the Night of BU A Cappella hosted by the Treblemakers a cappella group. In one of the larger BU auditoriums, all of BU’s a cappella groups performed two songs. It wasn’t an official competition, but it was a night where every group could be represented in the a cappella community and show itself off to the rest of the university with all proceeds from ticket sales going to the Franciscan Hospital for Children. There have been staples of the BU a cappella community, and then there have been groups that have come and gone throughout the years:
Co-ed: Allegrettos, Treblemakers, In Achord, The Bostones
All-Girl: Terpsichore, Chordially Yours, Aural Fixation, BU Sweethearts
All-Male: Dear Abbeys
Christian: Mustard Seed
Night of BU A Cappella has been one of my favorite nights of the year. It’s a feeling of just being enveloped by such an intimate and intense sound of music. In response to the initially posted NPR article, I think that a cappella has evolved past traditional boundaries, and college a cappella has been proof of that. It has become its own community in college filled with its own drama, interwoven pasts as intricate as some harmonies, and performance opportunities as diverse as voice types. It is impressive to hear a well-produced song on the radio that impresses you, but it’s even more impressive when you can convey that same feeling using only voices. It’s just a different world, because choirs usually sing songs tempered by time and strengthened with the musical expertise of a professional composer.
On the other hand this is all student-run: from the musical arrangements, to group funding, to transportation, rehearsal space reservations, and even group structure. Sometimes I forget that all of these groups are self-run, and that it is through our actions, thoughts, and suggestions that events, performances, and songs occur.
It is hard to convey just how much a cappella has impacted my life. Some of my first real college experiences came from my involvement with the group both through our performances and through our social gatherings. My first ever time getting drunk was with a cappella, my first real college party was with a cappella, and my first time feeling a part of something much greater than myself in college was through a cappella. It had become synonymous with college life ever since I stepped foot upon campus, and I will never be able to convey that feeling of knowing that I would always have this normal routine where I would go to class, go to work, and then go practice with my a cappella group that comprised a large part of my college experience. There have been many adventures that I have shared with my group: running out of water and electricity in bumfuck nowhere Vermont, performing at every Night of BU A Cappella, drunken scavenger hunts, late night practices, singing outside on the streets, tripping the fire alarm at our retreat house in Cape Cod, hosting a cappella parties, being the guest group of the now best a cappella group in the nation (Nor’easters), and travelling to perform at various gigs throughout the Northeast.
And I will end with one of my all-time favorite college experiences. It was the tail end of Freshman Year, and we were asked to perform as the guest group for RPI’s Rusty Pipes all the way in Albany, New York. It was an overnight performance and we sang “Otherside” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The performance was cool, but what I really remembered was how the after-party was filled with old Rusty Pipes alumni and how they all were singing old songs. We were asked to sing one, so we decided to do “Semi Charmed Life” and everyone joined in because the other groups had their own versions of it. As a drunken freshman, I loved every moment of singing in harmonies and rhythms alongside so many other a cappella members from different backgrounds and lifestyles joined together through our love of singing. I have never forgotten that moment, and I will not forget those notes, harmonies, friends, the sand beneath my toes, and the songs with the four right chords that could make me cry.
I know that I haven’t written in this blog for long time, and I’ve mainly done stream-of-consciousness, but I decided to finally spend some of my free time writing here just to keep me grounded and put my thoughts down on paper. I don’t think that I was in the right state of mind to write down my feelings after the events of Marathon Monday/Patriot’s Day. So right now, after the fact I am now able to give life to my thoughts and words as well as to fulfill my role as archivist and historian of these events that have transpired.
On Saturday I was at a party with a friend and I remember having a nostalgic moment with her. We talked about how it is ridiculous that we can literally start counting down the days until graduation, and how classes will end within a month’s time. The talk eventually settled around how we had all travelled around the world and grown from our four years worth of experiences here. I then said, “We have all become displaced,” and our conversation fell silent amid the din of keg-stands, beer pong, and blasting Top 40 pop music. We had come to a moment when we realized that college students and those who grow up in life look for a home. We are displaced in our minds, through our emotions, and in our physical locations when we leave for college and new lands. That realization that college will soon end had already hit us and we are now desperately grasping to share moments among the friends whom we love.
So on Sunday night before Marathon Monday, I travelled from Boston University backwards from the Marathon Finish Line all the way to the starting line at Hopkinton. I journeyed there with two friends, a member of the BU cycling team Michael Wexler and a member of the BU track team Michael Bhat. We biked through the night on the marathon route and eventually made our way to the starting line. We literally chilled there in the almost freezing temperature until the rest of the Midnight Cyclists that had arrived at the Southboro Commuter Rail stop led the first wave of cyclists past the finish line. I biked back the entire way to Copley alongside the hundreds of other professional and casual cyclists who joined together in solidarity to bike the marathon route. I get to the finish line, and it felt like a moment of peace after an arduous journey there and back again. We take some pictures and I head back home to my apartment to finish making several gallons of sangria in preparation for intense Marathon Monday day-drinking.
I sleep well for a few hours and awake to my roommate and her friends pre-gaming in our living room. Before I could even fully open my eyes, I already take a few gulps of vodka and sprite. The rest of the day involves an adventure through the pre-gaming areas of Allston. I made it to a courtyard where hipsters were tossing a Frisbee disk, hippie girls were hula-hooping, my indie friend was taking Polaroid pictures, stoners were drinking cannabis-infused creamer, bros were passing a football, and drunk biddies were belting Beyonce songs.
I drank here for a bit, then left to another place where I got to play Fusion, a mixture of beer pong and flip cup. Ahh it feels like ages ago, but the day felt so wide and so warm. There were friends everywhere, and all were invited to partake in a breakfast of eggs and kegs. I split off from the pregaming a little bit after noon, and walked towards south campus where the runners were going down Beacon Street. There were only smiles everywhere as I weaved in and out of apartments filled with European girls, Lebanese smokers, and cheering frat bros. I walked down the Beacon Street T lines towards Park Drive where the majority of my engineering friends were all cheering, dancing, and laughing with each other. I just felt so happy to be celebrating my last Marathon Monday with the friends whom I cared about and those whom I had shared my college experience with. This place had become my home, and I was sharing this gloriously beautiful day with my college family. These were the poignant moments of hugs with old friends, small adventures of drinking sangria behind garbage bins, and solidarity as a Boston community cheering on an event of almost superhuman endurance and skill.
And then around 3pm we started hearing rumors of a bomb. Most of us dismissed it as fear-mongering and just went about our normal activities of cheering and drinking. And then the texts and alarmed calls started flooding in and people started to take notice. The police started checking people’s bags even if they were unattended for a few moments, and even I got manhandled a small bit as the cops angrily asked if that was my bag lying unattended on the sidewalk.
Around that time, the marathon runners started getting diverted and the cops instructed spectators to start heading indoors. I took refuge inside one of the South Campus apartments with several of my friends and few other BU classmates. It was a very intense atmosphere; with one guy in tears saying how he felt like it was 9/11 all over again. We all tried to sober up as fast as we could, and when I looked out of the window the streets were all deserted and not a single marathon runner could be seen anymore.
I felt distraught, and the tv kept broadcasting the same message on all channels:
“BUPD has reports of an explosion near the finish line of Boston marathon on Boyleston St. Information that people are injured in that area. Please remain out of the area of the marathon route. Remain indoors and return to your residence at this time. More information to follow.”
I then made my way to Marsh Chapel where a few people had already congregated. I needed to clear my head, so I knelt down in prayer by one of the pews. I then made it back west to the Allston area and back to my apartment where I finally got internet access and saw the live-stream of what had occurred. What hit me the hardest was hearing about the casualties and the dozens of amputees. I literally empathized and started to feel like an emotional wreck realizing how so many people who had trained their whole lives for a these moments of joy and celebration could have their entire lives taken away. A lot has already been said about this issue, but there is always more room to share one’s story.
I just didn’t know, all I could ask myself was why? Why? Why did someone do this? What was there to gain from this tragic attempt to steal away people’s joy? I never found an answer that day, but instead I found an overwhelming feeling of the human spirit. All around me there were acts of human kindness, love, and generosity. The technology that we have said distances people from interpersonal relationships brought people closer together in times of crises that could not have happened before. I literally had dozens of texts and calls from friends, acquaintances, and loved ones near and far just to ensure that I was safe. I even got long-distance calls from friends studying abroad thousands of miles away. Then there were the Facebook posts, articles, stories, and pictures sharing how good can come from this evil. And that is what I wanted to share today; the goodness that eventually triumphs over the bad, the love that wins over hatred, and the good works that unite all humans together. The following are links to articles that have demonstrated the overwhelming response of people who have decided to look for the light in a day that was clouded.
“Runners know that timing is everything… And I will never forget that 7 minutes after I crossed the finish line Boston felt the first explosion… I’m so grateful to be alive”
~Rosie Woods (One of my BU friends)
“I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
~Martin Luther King Jr.
“Boston is a tough, resilient town, and so are its people.”
“This tragedy is not going to stop Boston… We will not let terror take us over.”
~ Boston Mayor, Thomas Menino
“There’s something particularly devastating about an attack on a marathon. It’s an epic event in which men and women appear almost superhuman. The winning men run for hours at a pace even normal fit people can only hold in a sprint. But it’s also so ordinary. It’s not held in a stadium or on a track. It’s held in the same streets everyone drives on and walks down. An attack on a marathon is, in some ways, more devastating than an attack on a stadium; you’re hitting something special but also something very quotidian. When we find out who did this, we may well find some fascination with the event—perhaps a foreign terrorist, or a sick American. Perhaps it was someone who spotted a terribly easy target. Or perhaps it was someone who saw a reflection of the human spirit and decided just to try to shatter it.”
~Nicholas Thompson, New Yorker
“As some of you know, I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Brian and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn’t hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded “no.” He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me “you are a finisher in my eyes.” I was barely able to choke out a “thank you” between my tears.
Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I’m reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.”
“Today, in the place I have called home, there is no doubt in my mind where this goes from here. If you have lived in Boston, you probably already know this. If you haven’t, let me assure you, that you need not doubt the strength or spirit of this particular American city. It proved itself in an earlier time, a time it was commemorating yesterday, Patriots’ Day. And the video of people rushing in to help the injured speaks for itself, but it is bigger than even that.
Boston is not the biggest city in America; it is not the most politically powerful. But it has an inner determination and power that only the foolish ignore. Next year, at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, I confidently predict there will be more runners and more supporters than ever before.
The attackers, whoever they are must be incompetent.
They picked on the wrong city.”
~Jim Walsh, 90.9 WBUR
These were just a few of the sentiments that I saw within the past few days. I will say that there is a new-found sense of determination here that has united all Boston students together. In a sense we all felt attacked and knew that what we needed to do was to stay together and hug our loved ones. There is a spirit here that prevails through the tears and sorrow, and through the toil and strife. As my close friend Mitch wrote down later that night:
“Today is a day that should go down in drunken college history. Unfortunately, the events of the day will be remembered for different reasons. Nevertheless, days such as this force us to recall all those important memories with loved ones that truly matter.”
And so in troubled days like these I will walk on the road that Patriots walked upon into the cool spring air and let Boston save me.
So right now I am in my 2pm – 4pm Senior Design class and unfortunately it is one of my least favorite classes. I guess that it’s just that there are so many things to do and Senior Design represents this one last hurdle before I graduate. I honestly don’t think that I am a learning a whole let, except how to work with vibrational computer simulations for response frequencies and how to keep the group afloat. This last semester in college has been one of the most-time consuming semesters that I have ever had to deal with during my tenure here at Boston University. It gets frustrating having to organize events for people and having to get things done since other people have trouble with organizing things.
It’s becoming crunch time and I just have to get through these last few classes, sleepless nights, and frustrations. I know that doing so many things are what gives me energy, but at times I wonder how life would be if I didn’t have so much to do. Right now in our Senior Design class we are going over our Midterm Project Reports. Our group got a B, which is perfectly fine with me. Content-wise we had an awesome report, but the biggest detractor was the organization of the material. I guess what I’m getting at is that I just need to rant about this class and the project. I feel as if I am a busy person, and I love 2 out of the 3 other people in my design group. The problem is just that I have consistently done several all-nighters in order to meet our deadlines. I have committed myself to upholding this group, as well as contributing to helping other groups whom I help to lead. It is frustrating knowing that the group can attain a much higher grade if I had more time to work on the project outside of my other extra-curricular activities. I just need to vent because it sucks being stressed about a class that should be one of the defining moments of my engineering undergraduate career. Instead, it has become this horrible ordeal that I have to experience in order to get to graduation in 1 month and 8 days.
However, just like all of the other stresses that I have gone through; I will make it through this experience and grow stronger from it. Hopefully I will be able to post more updates about life on this blog, and I expect to do so as my commitments start to die down as the year progresses.
There’s something inside of me that’s yearning to break free from the monotony of cold mornings, sunless days, and restless nights. I just feel that there is something so much better and greater than what my remaining classes have left to offer me. I guess that I am antsy to get my diploma and get out of the regular schedule of classes that I am not that interested in anymore. Procrastination has caught up with me and I can no longer focus on important school work, because there is just so much else that needs to be done.
I am tired now. I am tired from the day, but most of all I am weary from my lack of adventure. The usual routine follows every week and I grow tired of it. And the winter weather doesn’t help my mood or the mood of my friends either. I have to shrug away thoughts about the summer and of my past adventures in order to function in the present moment. Yet not a day goes by when I remember how life felt so much more exciting and better than it does now in the dull coldness of my apartment without any heat. I want to accomplish and do so much more, but first I need to clear a few hurdles, such as the promises and commitments that I have associated myself with for this last semester.
I am bursting at the seams. I feel like I am ready to explode with renewed energy, but for now I need to contain myself. My planner is filled with dates and in about 100 days I will be marching down that aisle during graduation in the sunny May weather in order to receive my diploma and know that I made it. The tour was over and I survived. So for now I trudge forward in my projects and work in the hopes that the weather will become warmer and I can feel the sun upon my face and let my love of Boston save me.
I have low self-esteem, and it kills me. It’s something that I’ve been struggling with and something that eats away at me whenever I attempt to do pretty much anything. I think it’s due in part to wanting to improve myself and excel in everything that I do. I was already gifted in my academics since I was young, and at one point that was pretty much what defined me. It was the reason why I quit Freshman Year football in high school, because I was worried about a D on a quiz that I got in my Algebra II class (I eventually ended up with an A for the year). I have also admired my ability to accomplish things and goals through sheer force of will. I will want to accomplish something, and instead of giving up because it’s too hard, I will instead try everything in my skill-set to reach that goal and then feel good about it; partially because I fulfilled one of my expectations and partially because I did something that not everyone could do.
This has been one of my traits that I have kept with me throughout high school and college. I rarely think that my goals are impossible, and I always get a rush from having a vision and then devoting my time and effort towards fulfilling that vision. This has led to many great benefits for me, such as my tattoos, my studying abroad, my Berlin internship, living off-campus, being on several Executive Leadership Boards here at BU, among other goals and achievements. I guess that I got to the age where I saw myself making my dreams a reality. However, this ability of mine to always strive to better myself has its downfall; it makes me an extremely jealous person. I don’t mean it, and I really try to be happy for another person who succeeds and does better than me.
I didn’t realize until recently when I found myself avoiding specific YouTube videos because they showcased someone’s talent that was better than mine. I have to clarify that this doesn’t mean that everyone who is better than me in something makes me jealous. Rather only those people who have a talent that I have also devoted time to are the ones who make me jealous. This includes people my age with my resources who can cook better than me, those who take better photographs than me, those who work with bicycles, those who sing better, those who are better party hosts, those who speak better German and French, who get better grades, who get better jobs, who achieve more, who work more, who get more attention, who have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and who endure more than me. I feel so petty writing this all down, but it’s been something that has been weighing on my heart and something that I realize I struggle with so much. It’s gotten to the point where I know that hubris will be my downfall. I will be unable to grow from the wisdom and knowledge of others, and I will not be able to acknowledge my faults.
I guess that deep down inside it’s because I know that there are so many other amazing people in the world who surround me, and I want to be like them. I want more than anything else to grow and remain dynamic. I want to improve upon my abilities as well as discover new ones, but that can’t happen if I am too jealous and enamored of those with higher skills than mine. With this jealousy also comes low self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence. I sometimes beat myself (not physically) down because I feel that I am just not good enough. It’s a weird thought, because I tell myself that since someone is better at me at something, then I am not really worth that much in that specific area. One of things that I’ve prided in myself has been my ability to be the underdog who rises to the occasion. I am the person without classical music training who is my a cappella group’s vice-president, I am the nerdy kid who played rugby decently well, I was the socially awkward student who now throws parties and is liked.
Looking at this in writing is shameful to me, but I think that it does me good to see how silly and immature these thoughts are. If I can put them out there and lay my faults out bare, then I can move past them and grow beyond them. My friends and other people who know me may find what I am about to say weird, but I guess that I have somehow just gotten used to it; I like myself but at other times I really dislike myself. It’s not some sort of depression or suicidal tendencies, nope nothing like that sort. It’s just that at times I look at myself in the mirror and wish that I could just look a bit nicer, or lose a bit more weight, or workout a bit more at the gym. Sometimes I do my morning routine in the dark so that I won’t have to see myself in the bathroom mirror. I dislike that I can gain weight very easily. I also wish that I liked my body and my face more. As confident as I may seem leading others and going about my business, I feel very fragile when it comes to my self-worth. I dislike having bad skin so much. I randomly get pimples, zits, and random bumps all over my body regardless of how healthy I seem to be.
During the day I usually have this demeanor that all is going well in the world, and I usually believe that. But my apartment here has become my rest place where I can feel in control and safe. I don’t have to be happy and cheerful, and I can just rest. I think that this skewed sense of self-esteem is a residual aftereffect of my struggles last year with how I valued myself with too much of an emphasis on what other people thought about about me. I have been able to grow past that, but my struggle evolved.
I know that I have no right to do it, and that it makes no sense but sometimes when I’m at home here I just curl up into a ball on my couch, bed, or in the shower and just go to sleep regardless of what time it is. The idea is that I can rest my thoughts and forget about life for a bit while I dream. At other times I just feel like I want to cry for some weird, overwhelming reason. I guess that that’s because sometimes I oddly feel lonely and as if I don’t actually have any friends. It’s odd, it’s very odd and I know deep down that my thoughts and petty struggles should not bother me or exist. There are bigger and more important things to worry about, and there are people with much bigger struggles than me. So I will continue to forage on wards and I shall grow past this bump in my life with sincere joy and an attempt to reinvigorate my self-esteem and worth. I’m not too sure how I’ll do it, but writing this down is a start.
The following is a post that I started sometime towards the end of last week:
“Ah so here I am at my kitchen table while my food cooks on the stovetop; I made chicken adobo, herbed mixed vegetables, and brown rice. Honestly I feel as if I am living the life right now. I am sure that I will do well in my classes, I am not that stressed, I have a plan for my life ahead of me, and I am enjoying how the weather is steadily getting warmer. Life is good, and today was just one of those good days when I felt as if everything good was happening. I have been successful in accomplishing my tasks, which included creating a poster for the BU Catholic Center retreat, interviewing for my take on house parties in Allston, interviewing for the College of Engineering, sharing a 12 mile Boston night bike tour with my visiting intern friend from Berlin, and just reached the end of Thursday night when I can finally start to unwind for the weekend that is chock-full of even more adventures.”
It’s funny how quickly one’s mood can change from moment to moment. Right now I need some alone time because I just feel out of it today. It could be the residual effects of last night’s Superbowl activities, or it could just be one of those days where I just am not feeling it. It’s one of those days where I am just not happy with how I look, how I feel, how my workload is piling up, where I stand with my friends, and have the little inconsequential things affect me more than they should. During my senior design class I had moments of ennui (I’m too young for that) where I just saw myself having so much work to do for such a long time and seriously questioning my resolve to get through it all this semester. It was that tiny chink in the armor that was otherwise impregnable against the stresses and fatigues that would have normally dissipated upon impact.
I had a good sleep last night. The apartment was warm, but I worried about the impending electricity bill. My bike lock is rusty and I worried about buying a new one, or having my bike locked to a metal post forever. I then contemplated the lives of great minds and geniuses and how it seems that I will never be able to measure up to them and leave as lasting an impact throughout my life. Then I started to think about whether or not I would even get called back for an interview with the Peace Corps, and if I should still show up to the engineering job fair. Also Valentine’s Day is coming up and I know for sure that I will not have a date for the 4th year in a row, which means that for the past four years I have been single for 93.75% of the time. But I have two other single friends with whom I will share a dinner with along with this great 4 liter jug of white wine. These are the little things that I know are very unimportant in my life and usually don’t affect me as much, but they keep nagging at me. I strive to always improve, but days like these just make me want to just sit in a corner by myself for a long time.
As usual, I understand that I’ll get through this and move forward past it. Even now after writing this blog post I feel a little bit better. Writing and giving life to my thoughts allows for a certain type of catharsis and that has helped me to get through days like these. But the rest of the day looks promising, with one and a half hours of emailing and internet errands, about 2 hours of calculus tutoring, two hours of working out with a friend, and then the rest of the night for a relaxing home-cooked dinner.
Life is still good.
Today just felt like an off day for some reason. I woke up at 8am and it was cold outside. I mean, it was freezing cold outside to the point that my hands started to freeze even though I wore skiing gloves. My professor got confused when it came to solving the 2nd Order Differential Equation for Mass Balance in terms of concentrations of pollutants and that just frustrated me. I screwed up singing a song in front of a group of people, and then I get back home and stress out about how to pay for the Peace Corps when I’m away. You see I called a bunch of different offices today ranging from the Peace Corps national office, to the regional office, to the Federal Student Loan HQ, to my specific borrowers, to Boston University financial aid, to my parents. I finally figured out how to deal with paying back my loans during my leave of absence if I am eventually accepted into the Peace Corps, but it still sucks that I have this dream and it seems so far away. Only a few thousand measly dollars separates me from having the funds to pay for my loans while I am away volunteering,
Usually I have this hope that everything will somehow work out; however, for some reason today I just don’t feel it. I feel kinda spoiled, but it’s one of those days where all I wanna do is just curl up into a ball and sleep forever. Not everyone in the world can say that. I guess that I can start by saving more money instead of spending it as soon as I get my weekly paycheck.
I’m sure that a good night’s sleep in my chilly room will do me some good and help to clear my mind off of some things. I still hold true that things will somehow work themselves out in the end, because that’s how it’s supposed to happen. People are naturally good and everything will work out in the end. It has to.
Ah so here we are at the first weekend of the semester. And it’s a long weekend at that. So far I’ve enjoyed my German class and my other Engineering classes. My commitments are slow to pick up, and I survived the first set of weekend parties in the Allston area, especially after the cops threatened to arrest party hosts in the area instead of giving warnings or citations. Apparently that is more effective at curbing the rate of sexual assaults, armed robberies, car arsons, and stabbings.
Anyways the point that I was getting at was the fact that I have always been confused about the hookup culture. I have hooked up in the past with both guys and girls, but I really never understood it. Now I am not writing this post to talk about the morality of hookups, because I think that that is better reserved for a different time. My problem is that I feel that I have been able to address and confront my own inadequacies concerning my personal issues in life, except for dealing with people whom I am attracted to. Sometimes I am worried about hooking up with them, because I value our friendship too much. Then there is the fact that I would also not like to be in relationships with people because I know that they probably would not last that long for the both of us. So I suppose that I am waiting.
As a result the majority of my hookups have been with people whom I do not know and whom I probably will never see again in my life. I guess that I prefer it better that way because then there is no friendship that I could have broken. But is that what I really want in life? Is it worth it to not take that chance with a friend whom I could have a great future with because I am worried that it may not turn out so well in the end? I think that it is a mixture of that and the fact that I am uncomfortable when it comes to people who may be even slightly attracted to me. Sometimes when I read people’s body language at parties and see that they are somewhat attracted to me, (kissing on the face really close to the lips, overtly laughing to my jokes, hands on my legs during conversations, hugging very closely and tightly for extended periods of time, saying how much we need to hang out in the future) I get uncomfortable because I worry that a hookup may destroy budding, platonic friendship.
It’s my problem: my need for people to like me. If only I could just act without giving two shits about that, but no it’s too hard. I am too addicted to having people like me and I admit it. I mean, I have made great strides with that since last year. However, now it’s the one thing that I want to work on. Maybe I’m still on the fence about the whole hookup culture. But then again I also have felt resistance to pursuing someone whom I would like to just go out with on a date and start a relationship. Many people don’t know this about me, but I have low self esteem when it comes to my worth as a person when it comes to relationships. I never feel like I am good enough for that other person. This doesn’t mean that I hate myself as a person, because that is definitely not the case: I love who I am. The problem is that I thrive on making other people happy, which means that I have trouble dealing with the taking part of a give-and-take relationship. For example, there has been this girl whom I have liked for years. There are so many reasons for liking her and admiring her, but I will never ask her out or even think about hooking up because I love her too much. In my eyes, she’s everything that I would want in a partner, and that makes me want her to be happy; like truly happy. I value her joy so much that I would rather have her be with someone else who would complement her so well in ways that I would never be able to attain. And you know what? I am alright with that and know that that is the best decision for me.
And so what will I do now since I have the professed, platonic friendship of so many and the close relationships of none? I’ll continue to endure forwards through my adventures trying to be the best person whom I can be and see where life takes me. I am a happy person, and maybe society says that we all need that significant other (be it boyfriend or girlfriend) or that weekly hookup. I’m not that talented at either, and I’ll probably still attempt to hookup with people whom I will not know, but I’ll continue falling and rising and fighting.
Over Everything Love.
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
~On the Road, Jack Kerouac
So it’s the last night before I bid a temporary farewell to this old and empty house back in Owings Mills, MD. I have been attempting to finish my reading of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road so that it can be returned back to the library in Maryland before I head back to Boston early in the morning. Once again I start to feel that pang of wanting to move and be dynamic. I just can’t stand wasting away in the same old houses and apartments without actively doing something with my life. I sometimes feel as if I am not using my skills to the fullest: during the school year I never take full advantage of my talents and end up wasting time with procrastination, and then during the breaks all I do is sleep, eat, and think about when things will start up again.
Everything around me is changing and moving beyond any control. When I leave for Boston tomorrow in a 10am Megabus, it will be the last time that I will head there before my graduation. It will be the last time that I say another goodbye to my old Maryland home and welcome the familiarity of my Boston home for the last time before everything changes and starts again anew.
I just feel stuck right now: stuck between the verges of new homes and new lives. I went back to my high school today to give a presentation about engineering in college to two classes of seniors who are taking an introductory engineering course. I couldn’t believe that I was only 4 years gone from their position and that they too would come to understand the glory of life after high school. I guess that I just also have to work on not holding on to things too much. I tend to remember a lot of things in the past, and as a result I tend to get stuck on how things were and how good they seemed to be back then. If I only I could have gone back to those moments with the wisdom and experience that I had now and did things differently. But then again I would never have gained that insight had I not first gone through those experiences with my naivete and innocence.
I started reading On the Road with feelings of joy and ecstasy as I read about the adventures and the Sal’s calling to once again fulfill that wanderlust to move into the unknown. I think that it is a very fitting book for me, because I think that I have always felt this urge to keep challenging myself to tread upon those lesser known paths and experiences. With that comes reckless abandonment, which may have seemed romantic and lofty at first, but then reveals itself to have no real purpose. My only worry is that I will soon find nothing in this world that can fill this aching desire. For Sal, it is to be upon that vast and foreign road filled with glory and mystery. For me, it is to discover that new secret or next part of my life that starts to make sense of this mess. Then again, we all have our ups and downs just like any old road, but this one doesn’t have an end in sight.
The nest stage for me is definitely the Peace Corps, and spending those 2+ years away in a developing country. What’s eating me away is that I made good headway on my application, only to have screwed up and pass the 30 day refreshing deadline. When I last checked on my application it was all deleted and I then had to start over again by scratch. It is a long and arduous process, but I know that in my heart of hearts that it is what I was called to do regardless of what anyone else has said to me. So for the time being, I need to finish my book, pack my bags, and head on to this last stage of my college career and see where that “huge vaulting world” takes me.
Ah and finally after probably two years I finally reach my 100th post, which is not bad for a blog that I started back before my Dresden Study Abroad experience back in 2011. It seems like such a long time ago, but I suppose that as I get older the years start to feel shorter and shorter. After reading one of my friend’s blogs Thinking Outside the Paradox Box, I have been a bit inspired to share something a bit more personal about myself that has not been put out in public yet. It has almost gotten to the point where this sort of story has become trite and overused. People rarely even bat eyelids when they hear about it, and most people tend to then have the “okay, so moving on…” reaction. And everyone else has been more than supportive.
I see myself as being bisexual, with more homosexual tendencies than straight.
The funny thing is that I wasn’t shocked when I finally came to this epiphany, and most of my friends (rightly so) were not shocked either. I guess that it’s because of the way my personality shows itself. I came to this realization about myself on the last night of my Sophomore Year Fall Semester Catholic Retreat. I have always attended the Catholic Retreats at Boston University, because I greatly value my Catholic Faith. Once again, I was asked to be one of the almost two dozen small group leaders who would help to facilitate reflections and post-witness discussions during several points of the weekend long retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine. Fittingly enough, the theme of the retreat was Without Limits. I cannot remember my specific train of thought, but I remember that the apex and pinnacle of the retreat was Adoration during the last night. Adoration is a sacrament of the Catholic Church that is viewed as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof” as written in the Anglican Common Book of Prayer. During Adoration, the Blessed Sacrament of Jesus Christ, the physical bread actually and fully realized and become flesh, is presented to the community in one of those sunburst-like Church relics called a monstrance. The monstrance has a glass in the middle through which the community can see the body of Christ.
It is very hard to explain to people who aren’t Catholic, because we believe that the bread and wine during mass are physically transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We partake in him, and it nourishes us more than any physical meal on this earth can provide. Anyways, Adoration is a time of reverence, praise, and contemplation. It is a time to lay everything out before our God, and have him there right in front of us: physically in the flesh. It is a very intimate time.
So during this time I am contemplating and praying really hard about my own sexuality. I had always realized that I was never head-over-heels for girls as most of my guy friends were. And when I did have a girlfriend in high school I rarely saw her as an object of my sexual desires. But was I sexually attracted to her? Hell yeah. I enjoyed when we held hands, hugged, and kissed. However, ever since I was young I had been somewhat fixated and intrigued by the male figure in ways that boys are intrigued by the female figure. Both sexes attracted and aroused me, but I felt more pulled towards men. Once I had made this connection, I felt that God had something along the lines of “I am so proud of you for making this connection. Now go forth and be joyous, for you have discovered a new, more intimate part of who you are.” I wanted to tell the whole world about this, but I realized that I would rather tell people face-to-face rather than have them all find out about it through the grapevine of the internet. After almost two years, I feel that I have told a sufficient amount of people to the point that I am now more than comfortable to share this on my blog. I think that all successful memoirs, journals, and blogs find their best moments when the authors are at their rawest and most vulnerable. And this is one of my vulnerable aspects that not everyone knows about me for one reason or another.
Ever since then I had been sharing my realization and story with my closest friends. This led to some interesting results. My very best friends said that they accepted me, and would always accept me regardless of what I had told them. One of my other friends was a bit surprised, and said that he had to re-evaluate his personal philosophy of bias against people of another sexual orientation. He said that he always respected and looked up to me, and now that I shared my story with him he feels as if he can still accept me for who I am. Then there were two other friends whom I came out to, who thanked me for sharing that with them. They then expressed their own thoughts about how they too wondered if they were fully straight or not, because they felt that that was how they had viewed themselves their whole lives. Now I had not done anything physical at all with a guy, but within two months these two friends came back to me with stories of their own.
One friend told me his story of sexually hooking up with a guy and realizing that it was not enjoyable and the he definitely was straight. On the other hand, another friend shared how he hooked up with a guy at a party and actually enjoyed it. He now classifies himself as pansexual/bisexual. During junior year at Boston University, I was frustrated with my inability to be with another guy. I definitely knew that I was attracted to men, but I just couldn’t muster up the courage to ask one of them out or even to hook up with one. I was frustrated, because I suppose that I wanted validity that I definitely was bisexual and wasn’t just trying to pretending to be part of a crowd and something much larger. I wanted to belong to myself and know myself better. I ended up hooking up with a girl, which was nice but I really wanted to hook up with a guy. Then one morning I finally mustered up the courage to ask a guy out whom I had been attracted to. We both were engineers, albeit different majors. He was physically attractive, and I heard him yell, “I’m going to have gay sex with my roommate now!” during one of our engineering parties. At first I thought that this was a joke, but then several of my classmates assured me that he definitely was gay. I sent him a long-worded Facebook message about asking him out, and he responded that he was very honored but was actually straight. He then proceeded to commend me for my candor and openness and how any other girl or guy would be more than willing to go out with me if I were ever that blunt.
It’s funny because I have no trouble making friends, but I have all of the trouble in the world with relationships. However, I accept that about myself. It’s because I am a shy person when it comes to matters like that. I am afraid of rejection and afraid of people not liking me. It is a weakness of mine that I have been slow to overcome. My first real experiences with men were during my internship in Berlin. Our group of interns me this other gay student, and I asked him if he could bring me to one of the gay clubs in Berlin. He was more than happy to invite me over one Wednesday night to Schwul in the Kreuzberg area. I was not drunk, and I was very self-conscious being around people my age and older who were very very comfortable with their sexuality. Nothing really happened there other than some mild dancing. Eventually sometime later in the internship I ended up hooking up with a guy. I still don’t know his name but I enjoyed the experience. I felt as if another weight was lifted off my chest in that I was still alive and I enjoyed what I did.
I then came back to Boston for my senior year and I then hooked up with another guy here. By this time, I started to realize why there were so many of my friends hooked up left and right. Many of them were straight, and were not afraid of any bias that against them. However, I still feared what people would think of me.
And now come the focal points of this post: my parents and my faith. As far as I know, my parents do not know that I am bisexual. My mom has stated on repeated occasions how she would vote against gay marriage and how she would be very sad and cry if I told her that I was gay. My dad hasn’t said anything about me being gay, but has asked if I have had any girlfriends since my freshman year in college. I guess that they don’t suspect too much because although I sing and have been in musicals (stereotyped as the realm of many gay people), I have also enjoyed weight-lifting, football, rugby, martial arts, and doing other “typical guy stuff.” Now I don’t believe that there is a distinction or that there should be a gender bias for these activities, only that some of these activities are known for being predominantly associated with certain groups over others.
Even though I am writing on this blog, I don’t believe that they will read it. Instead, I hope to one day talk to them and share this with them, but I don’t believe that I am ready for that yet. I think that that day will come if I eventually find a girlfriend or boyfriend and am in a stable relationship with that person.
Now for the other point: my Catholic faith. The Catholic Church accepts people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, beliefs, and creeds. The difference is that the Church accepts homosexuals but does not condone homosexual behavior. Homosexual desire in itself is not inherently sinful, rather the acting upon those desires is what comprises the sin. It is also written that homosexual behavior will deprive one of heaven: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10, NIV).
The Church has called upon those who have homosexual desires to live a life of chastity. It is a hard life, but it is the life that we are called to lead. A lot of gay Catholics have called this the cross that they have to bear throughout life. However, the words chastity and celibacy are often confused. As James Martin S.J. writes, “chastity refers to the proper and loving use of our sexuality, something that everyone is called to. Jesuit professor of moral theology Vincent J. Genovesi writes in his In Pursuit of Love that the outward signs of our sexuality should be “under the control of love, with tenderness and full awareness of the other.” In other words this stands for “‘honesty in sex,’ where our physical relationships ‘truthfully express’ the level of personal commitment we have with the other. In other words, the goal of chastity is receiving and giving love.” (James Martin S.J.) Celibacy is the abstaining from marriage and sex, which is one of the vows that a priest takes.
I have long since tried to understand the issue on both sides. I feel as if everyone has a right to be happy, and that includes the right to marry the person whom one is in love with. Then I remember that the institution of Marriage, another Sacrament otherwise known as Matrimony, is the physical and spiritual union between man and woman. Others respond with arguments against same-sex unions. There are even arguments against live-in couples who have not been married yet. The same definitely also applies for same-sex couples who also live together, which is also a big no no. In Pope John Paul II’s lectures from 1979-1984, he discussed the Theology of the Body. The core principles were that love is free, total, faithful, and true.
Same-sex unions are morally incorrect, because they are not fruitful. Catholics believe that the institution of marriage was created by God and cannot be changed. It is believed that unlike same-sex unions and marriages, two men or women cannot fully give of one’s whole entire self to the other in conjugal love and sex that in its very essence is a renewal of the vows celebrated during marriage. It is not simply the fruit of childbirth, because this consummation can still morally happen between a man and woman who is infertile. Furthermore, it is stated that men were created to be men and women were created to be women and that both sexes had very special places in the world and the Church for them. Man and women physically, spiritually, and so innately complement each other in ways that two guys can’t. That is the reason why same-sex unions are morally incorrect.
Whoah, so this post has definitely been a mouthful, and as you can see I am very invested in my sexuality and my faith, both of which are essentially intertwined. I had been struggling with these arguments, because I just didn’t believe in them. The words sounded pretty, and it sounded like good rhetoric, but in my heart of hearts I honestly could not say that they rang true even after praying about it. I started to ask about whether or not two people of the same sex could possibly and morally, under the Church’s teachings, live together in a civil union. But then we would have the problem of have cohabitation before marriage, which in the case of the same-sex couple, is wrong. Urgh, why did it have to be so hard.
I was talking with my friend whom I consider to be my spiritual adviser of sorts, and we usually go to a different cafe or coffeehouse every Tuesday morning to talk about life and whatever comes to mind. After I shared with him my story and my concerns, he asked me a very direct question: “Have you ever felt that your bisexuality is a cross that you have to bear as your burden through life?” I thought about it for a while, then responded that it wasn’t. Rather I saw my sexuality as a gift that was given to me and something that gave me joy and made me want to share with the rest of the world because that was part (a small part) of what made me Marvin. I loved many things in life: riding bicycles, a good rugby tackle, acing an engineering exam/project, singing with my a cappella group, cooking for friends, fixing up the apartment, working with my bare hands, hanging out with my friends and family, and my sexuality was a small part of who I was and I did not see it in any way shape or form as a burden any more than my ability to make people laugh and smile.
After reflecting on the events that transpired during my last post, I have decided that I was done trying to find loopholes through the rules and regulations and instead wanted to find out what God really wanted of me. It is a growing process, and I want to know which of my thoughts and actions gives me joy. This will no doubt ostracize me from some of my Catholic friends and the Church, but I will still keep my faith. However, I do believe in gay relationships and unions. I tend to think that sometimes the arguments for or against unions and marriages are just a matter of semantics. I think that if God calls me for something else, then that something else is what I should follow regardless of any strict set of rules and regulations. It is sad, because as of right now if I were to die then I would be going to hell since I have not been to Confession for a few months now and have sinned several times since then. Will I still hookup? Probably. Yet, I still love my faith and God, and I am still searching for many different things and people; it will be a lifelong affair but one that I am more than willing to take.
This has probably been one of the most meaningful posts that I have written thus far, and it is very fitting that it is my 100th post. I’m sure that very few people who actually know me will read it, but I don’t mind because I have finally gotten my thoughts out to the world and they represent me so very clearly and possibly even better than even a conversation with me might yield.
Ah so I finally have time once again to write in my blog. It’s my 99th post, so I am almost at the 1ooth post mark. I guess that’s cool, because I was finally able to find some time to write a bit. I am a bit upset that I haven’t been able to edit or fully devote the necessary time to ensure that my posts are worthy of placing on this blog. Sometimes I get so caught up in other endeavors that I feel as if I cannot focus on this.
So the other day I went to Pennsylvania for a DAAD RISE reunion with some of my friends from Berlin with whom I had interned with over the summer. My friend also invited his other college friends from Drexel as well as some of his friends from his childhood. I decided to make the 2 1/2 hour journey using only Google Maps directions and not using the GPS that I had in my car. I make it all the way to his neighborhood, only to make a wrong turn and get my car stuck in a snowy field. I call my friend and explain to him why I couldn’t buy extra limes, because my car was stuck in a field. We attempt to push my car out, but since I only have rear-wheel drive the car doesn’t even budge. His father comes to help, but it’s decided that he will just pull my car out with a rope the next morning. I end up partying at my friend’s beautifully adorned 2-story ranch house with indoor pool, hot tub, tiki bar, and so many other fine amenities such as one of the most well-stocked kitchens that I had ever seen in my life. We drank all the liquors that you could imagine from Whisky Sours to Bahama Mamas to Gin and Tonics, and then I cooked some white wine cream sauce and red wine Bolognese with kielbasa in place of the ground beef. It was a fun night and a nice reunion, but it evened out with the hangover that accompanied the morning as I traipsed around the house in search of electrolytes.
So fast-forward to the next day and we succeed in removing my car from the field. I bid farewell to my friends and then drive back home. Actually, now that I think about it I don’t know why I’m writing this preamble of a story when the main point of this particular post is about something else. Okay then so let me get on with the story then.
On Monday evening I hang out with my friend Sean at his house because he just got back from his family ski trip and was lonely all by himself in his house. He picks me up and we hang out and talk about random crap and reminisce about Loyola through my narrated guide of our 2009 yearbook. Some of my lines:
“Oooooooh that’s unfortunate.”
“See, now I could totally tell that he was a stoner.”
“I think that he’s doing well in life… maybe?”
“Hooray those two have their senior portraits side-by-side in the senior portrait section.”
“I didn’t know him.”
“Wait, he was in the Black Student Union?”
“Awww I remember these things. Don’t you?”
We were a bit delirious at this early hour of the morning, and many things that weren’t funny ended up being funny. We wake up the next day, make some breakfast of potatoes, eggs, and toast. The following hours were full of us just lounging around and pretending to throw poop in each other’s face as good friends are wont to do. This included piano playing, coffee drinking, yelling colorful insults at each other, and napping. It was at this moment, on this spur-of-a-moment that we decided to go visit Kristin Witte at Loyola University. She is the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry at Loyola University, and she was also a sort of spiritual director for us during time participating in the Archdiocesan events during our high school years. My most memorable time with her was when she was my group leader during this beautiful week known as JAW (Justice Action Week) back in 2009. It’s hard to explain what it is in a few words. The aim of the program was to get young adults acquainted with Baltimore City in a new and more intimate way. It was about living in a church in Baltimore for a week, participating in group activities concerning the different forms of justice in this day and age, as well as actively going out into the community to talk amongst the drug dealers, prostitutes, homeless, poor, hungry, lost, and needy who are often overlooked as most people go to the tourist area of the Baltimore Harbor. So we felt a strong connection to her, and I hadn’t seen her for almost three years so it seemed very logical to just meet her on a whim while classes for Loyola were still out for Winter Break.
did not expect the awesome two hours that I spent in that Campus Ministry office. You see, Sean and I had been struggling a bit with our faith in different ways. I was struggling with reconciling the different beliefs of all of my friends, as my own Catholic faith. I came from a very liberal high school background at my Jesuit High School Loyola Blakefield. I was taught to question everything and to truly develop my own conscience and relationship with God and my faith. The Catholic Center at Boston University was different in the sense that I never truly felt that I was “Catholic enough” for all of the students there. I love them all, but it was hard trying to fit in when I felt that I was not good enough, or that my beliefs or those of my friends were wrong. I also had problems trying to reconcile what I was told about several rules and tenets. A Franciscan priest once told me during Confession that I would be going to Hell for masturbating and that gay marriage is wrong.
A lot of these tenets are followed by the majority of the students who participate in the Catholic Center at BU, but I always found it hard to fully believe in them. I just couldn’t reconcile the differences between my heart and my head. I eventually found a medium ground when one of the brothers from the Brotherhood of Hope told me that sometimes I just couldn’t understand some things because they were mysteries that just couldn’t be understood. So for the longest time that has been my answer that has sustained me, yet kept me thirsting for more.
Yes, I do believe that there are some fellow classmates who blindly follow their faith to the point that they do not question Church teachings at all. There are also those whom I think profess a sense of false piety. Then there are those who just want a casual relationship with their faith and do not feel the need to go to daily mass or adoration or retreats. Regardless of this, I still have the utmost respect for many of my fellow BU Catholic Center students, because I know that in the end we are all still searching for the same thing, but in different ways. There has been some controversy in the past that I unwittingly became a part of. At one instance I wanted to throw an unofficial party for the Catholic Center, but I was approached by one of the leaders and told that if I had alcohol at the party then the head priest would be notified. I did not know that what I was doing was wrong, because I didn’t even want to throw the party in the first place. Rather, I was asked by someone else to throw one so that we could all join together as a community in a social environment away from the CC and have a friendly and social time. It kind of let down my spirits, because only a few people came, but we still had fun playing board games and singing Disney songs.
Then there have been times when some student members were made fun of simply because they did not seem to be holy or pious enough. This upset me too, because that was judgment of another human being. This also did not espouse the Christian belief in loving your neighbor as you would love yourself. I guess that I was also shocked that this sort of thing also existed in a Catholic Center, however good it may be.
During our talk with Kristin, Sean and I both shared our qualms and concerns with our personal faith lives as well as the faith climate in our respective colleges. What she shared with us next was so refreshing that I felt as if I had just discovered my faith all over again. She re-awoke the Jesuit teachings that still lay within our hearts but had fallen quiet and dormant during our four years away in college. She talked about how the Jesuits generally believed in pluralism, in that one religion can be true for some people while others may be true for other people. Every person had their own religion and spirituality with which they could associate with on a deeper level that was not necessarily Roman Catholicism. We even talked about some of the hot-topic issues that the media and the church love to talk about. In terms of sexuality and and gay marriage, apparently Loyola University was very gay friendly. Even the director of music for the liturgy was gay and had been in a relationship with another man. The pervading idea was to form your own adult faith that took charge of knowing about it for yourself and not because anyone else told you to believe in something. The campus itself is very supportive of LGBT groups as well as gay relationships on campus.
I thought back to my high school days as we further discussed the use of contraceptives. Many married people in the world are Catholic, and a large percentage of them use contraceptives, but the question was does that stop them from being Catholic? Once again the Jesuit style of teaching was that we were only human and that we had to come up with our own conclusions about how God wanted us to act in our own personal relationship with him. The Right to Life club at Loyola concerns justice for life at all stages, with abortion not being the main focus whereas in Boston University it is the main focus.
It was not about the rules and the tenets, but more about the idea of love. In St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, he wrote that “love ought to be shown more in deeds than in words.” I had forgotten about the eloquence and the sense that the Jesuits had originally implanted in me that made my love my faith and God in the first place. I was straying away from the initial fruits that had sustained me. This was why we served the poor and loved all students and neighbors regardless of how popular, pious, annoying, awesome, or horrible they were. When Osama Bin Laden was killed and the majority of college students got drunk and celebrated, the President of Loyola gave a small speech at the September 11th memorial on-campus about how one of God’s children was killed that day. And two others were lost in a double homicide in Baltimore that night too. They were still human beings no matter how awesome or horrible they were and that was still sad.
This was the faith that I had missed. This was the faith that made me believe. This was the faith that reminded me that in my heart of hearts I am worth something and loved beyond all measure.
So it’s 3:02am December 26th, 2012, or at least that’s when I started this blog post. I feel as if in past years I would have made a big deal out of writing a blog post the minutes before midnight before my birthday, or during the actual Christmas Day when I could have made some sort of post about being thankful and Christmas spirit.
This usually happens during break; I end up playing a metric shit-ton of video games and eating a boatload of food, while musing on my boredom back here. I don’t know, it’s hard to describe because I feel as if I there is so much possibility and freedom to do things here at home. I have a car and I have a lot of free days to do what I did not have time to do with my engineering classes and extracurricular commitments. I think back to my World Religions class where my professor Doc Wise lectured us on one of the core ideals of Zen Buddhism. He tried to instill in us the idea that we usually live our lives from one hope to the next. In other words, we look forward to some future event and try to “get through” our immediate situation, as we strive for that immediate goal. As high school students, our immediate goal was the weekend. I remember those days when the excitement for the week came from the continual looking forward to the upcoming date, sports game, party, get-together, or other event that broke up the ordinariness that came from everyday life. The problem is that we live for that upcoming date, and we initially live in the moment during that time. But then afterwards what do we do then? If we continued to live for future moments and never looked to the current state of affairs in life, then we would never be content with who we were, just being.
I’m having trouble with that right now during break. Actually, I always struggle with that every break. At first it’s wonderful, because I don’t have to wake up early, make any deadlines, or even think a lot. But I usually spend most of the day wondering about what I can accomplish. The only issue is that I cannot immediately think of anything to do, even though I had dozens of thoughts during the school year. I exhaust my ability to play all the video games that I wanted to play, and the groups of friends whom I now hang out with are much smaller in number than they used to be. At the very least I’ve tried a few new cooking recipes, kept a faithful and daily running schedule, slept about 10 hours a day, rekindled valued and old friendships, and turned 22 years old. I always associated my birthday with the holidays, because that’s when everyone is out of school and when the weather is getting cold enough so people just want to come over and celebrate with me.
The one amazing thing that I can honestly write about during this break is about my 22nd birthday. It started on December 21st after I had woken up from an End of the World Party. I just wandered around after a post-hangover morning when I couldn’t stomach anything, including water. I ended up having a great day biking around here and there and having a great birthday lunch at Trident Booksellers and Cafe on Newbury Street in Boston. Later in the day I hung out at the Catholic Center and shared in some traditional Chinese Tea with a Chinese Graduate Student acting as the tea master. I got a bit of a head rush from the caffeine in the tea. The evening turned out to be much more dynamic, because I ran into one of my friends at the BU Barnes and Noble store, while wandering around the fiction section. This friend was buying his Christmas shopping for his friends and family members. I shared some of my favorite fiction novels, and we spent about 2 hours in Barnes and Noble talking about family, how the typical engineer deals with reading, and how I incorrectly thought that he was dyslexic.
I invited him and one of my a cappella group members over to the apartment around 10pm for some late-night hanging out and dinner. We ate some leftover pork roast, fried rice, and green tea as I welcomed the onset of my 22nd birthday. Ah that was a wonderful night. We chilled for a long time, until around 3am, and I was packing the entire time. As usual there were a lot of laughs and it didn’t really hit me that I was saying goodbye to my 21st year of life and moving on. Fortunately, one of my newly made engineering friends offered to give me a ride to the airport at 3am. I was a bit out of it due to a combination of sleep deprivation, lasting hangover effects, and the chilling. I managed to finish packing, and was driven to Logan Airport, where I was stopped at check-in because I forgot to take my Leatherman out of my backpack carry-on. It felt surreal, because I was so exhausted, that I don’t even remember the journey from Boston to Maryland. Rather, I remember leaving my apartment at 3am and getting back to my old house in Maryland around 10am.
The rest of that day consisted of my playing video games, while checking to make sure that my small group of friends were still coming over to celebrate my birthday with me. I prepared by purchasing a handle of gin, a fifth of cream liquor, and some baked cookies. Now this is the important part of the story. This group of friends are some of the closest friends whom I have in life. I remember meeting them back when I was in 5th grade, and we would eat lunch together during middle school. I’ve shared some of our stories on this blog post: camping in Cunningham Falls, Ocean City Senior Week adventures, visits to Boston, and so many more stupid experiences that I would never trade away. So the group consists of:
Me: the typical Asian who is super social and has crazy adventures in weird places of the world
Tyler: the somewhat socially shy at times, but awesome philosophizer and nature boy
Luis: the player and hardworking guy who would make a great dad
Edward: the edgy guy who’s experienced so much more than most of us
Greg: the artsy guy who honestly is one of the best professionally trained artists whom I know
Sean*: an amazing music and sound production guy who’s worked with local Philly greats as well as FUN, Lifehouse, and Kris Allen
(Sean was a recent addition to the group, because only Tyler and I knew him from high school, and he just sort of started to hang out with us, he’s kind of a weirdo but we still love him)
We’ve stated before that we probably all would not have become friends had it not been for us getting to know each other way back in middle school. In the past year there was a bit of a falling out between Edward and some of the group, because we would plan things last minute, and he also had plans with his significant other. This caused Luis to not hang out with Edward as much, and as a results Luis stopped inviting him to our group events, because he thought that Edward didn’t care as much. This saddened me to see such an awesome friendship slowly fall apart.
That was why I made it a priority to have all of them invited to my birthday celebration at my old house. I wanted to have everyone over again, even though some of the group members were not as keen to see each other again. I thought that my birthday, coupled with alcoholic drinks, could change that. At first, there’s a bit of tension because Luis is not really talking to Edward, but we’re all cordial. The majority of us then decide to take the Metro into Baltimore and then go to the pubs and bars in Fells Point, since they have people, are fun, and have cheaper drinks than the bars in the harbor. It’s too bad, because I can’t remember the names of the two bars that we went to. I remember that there was this large Irish man who yelled, “Slainte” to me as I approached him. We sat down, had a few local beers and then headed over to another pub where Luis’ cousin worked. That was where it started to get rough for me because Luis and Edward made it a goal to get me completely wasted since they both were trying to make it up to me after the fiasco of my 21st birthday party the year before.
I loved it, simply because everyone was getting more and more cordial with each other. Sure, the bill totaled to more than $200 for all of our drinks, but being good friends they picked it up for me. We then hopped on the Metro back home, except that we made a lengthy pit-stop at the Greene Turtle in Owings Mills near my house. At this point, I knew that I couldn’t take anymore drinks without risking another horrible hangover morning. Therefore, I proceeded to drink a few more Irish Carbombs, a shot of tequila, Liquid Cocaine (at least I think that’s what it was called), and an Irish Slut. I quietly threw up two times outside near the woods by the parking lot, and I felt so much better. Honestly, it was worth drinking all of that, and getting super drunk to see the group together again as they treated me out to drunken night. We eventually got back home, and I passed out face-down in my empty bedroom as my friends continued hanging out until about 5am. The best gift that I received that night came from what Luis who said, “I think that Ed and I have patched things back up.” I thought so too, and that has made this holiday break worth it.
end, 8:24pm December 31st
The following is a stream-of-consciousness from yours truly around December 19th when I was still in the midst of working on final projects and papers. Looking back on it now, I laugh at how ridiculous it must have been to have not seen the sunlight for a full week since I did all-nighters in windowless labs with only computers and other suffering engineering students to keep me company.
“I literally just don’t understand it. I feel so stressed by the last two assignments and projects that I need to do for tomorrow. I think that it’s because I have repeatedly gotten a very small amount of sleep every night and that I just have had no time to just sit down and think and be quiet without rushing from one place to another. I’m working on a take home final for my assessment of sustainable energy class, and after that I will work on my senior design paper. I literally feel burned out and just so angry and depressed. And I’ve felt like this for an extended period of time. I just want to hit something or just buckle down and have a quick cry to have some physical and tangible release from my frustrations. I guess that it’s just that I can definitely see the end in sight, but it just seems so insurmountable with these last two obstacles. I feel done with my fall semester and I can almost feel the warmth of a comfortable bed signalling my finishing of work. I have grown to detest and abhor this computer aided design lab with its lack of windows and extra bright lights. My stomach never feels satisfied, regardless of a full or empty feeling. My face has broken out in some stress pimples, which just sucks because no one wants those. And instead of working I’m laying down all of my stress into this blog because I just feel like I can’t go on anymore after this marathon of a semester. I just want peace for a day and sleep. I want the warmth of a soft bed with clean sheets and and thick comforter.
I’ll keep this open just soo that I can rant and get my frustrations out as they come. This will be a rough night for sure and I am in the midst of it.
Now it’s 4:55am and I am almost done the take-home final exam which is a relief. But then I will soon have to shift my focus to the senior design paper that I also definitely do not want to write up.”
It seemed almost as if it were yesterday. Those old days long gone. I remember freshman year when we would congregate on our floor listening to Lady Gag’s just dance while getting ready for the rest of the night. We all would have an early dinner, and then shower in order to get into our best party clothes and see where the night would take us. Every weekend was an adventure and every night was a new trip. If I have learned something in the past few weeks, it is that there are still opportunities to make a fool out of yourself regardless of how others may view you. And then there are those moments when I feel as if I finally did something right in my life. I accomplished a goal of mine and it was great. So now it’s 3:42am Monday morning before the start of Thanksgiving Break, and I just finished entertaining some friends whom I have grown to know since Dresden Study Abroad 2011. One of them had come up from Cornell to visit and hang out around here in Boston.
Sorry, let me start back up one week. So last weekend was difficult because I had worked about 16 hours that week, as well as 6 hours of a cappella rehearsal and planning for an Engineering Honor Society event. The event transpired without a hitch, and then the officers hung out at a bar where we drank some dark stouts and light beers. The night eventually ended, and I originally planned to go to the Machine nightclub. Unfortunately, I had not been able to find any wing people to accompany me. I bike back to my area of the woods, and I will not go into any specifics, but I end up hooking up with someone. Looking back on it, it was an enjoyable experience. I was glad that I did it. I suppose that it was one of those one-night stands where there are no strings attached. However, these things usually do come with baggage, such as this cough that I now have. I do some 3am grocery shopping, and then head back to my apartment for a good night’s rest.
The next day consists of me performing with my a cappella group at this small fundraiser while wearing the same clothes from last night. I hang out with another one of my engineering friends after the gig, and we chill at his apartment and talk about life. He has been introducing me to new music, and I have been introducing him to the engineering community at BU which he has not really gotten to know. I then leave later in the evening, because I have to get the apartment ready for a dinner party for my workmates. We tutor children at some of the elementary schools around Boston. We eat a delicious meal consisting of homemade guacamole, Old Bay sour cream dip, roasted teriyaki pork, brussel sprouts, and nachos from Sunset Cantina. The night revolved around us co-workers playing some good old-fashioned board games such as Catchphrase, Crimes Against Humanity, and Contact. Of course, this was all performed while drinking a multitude of beer, hard cider, and vodka. The added benefit of intoxication led to more creative and unintended results from playing these games.
The night started to wind down for the dinner party, but my neighbors upstairs were in full swing for throwing one of their bi-monthly ragers. Unlike my parties, theirs tend to involve a lot more randos since they advertise it through their friend and acquaintance channels so that anyone can enter as long as they pay $5. I am not a fan nor am I a proponent of this method, but it is not up to me to decide whether or not they can do that. So I walk my dinner guests upstairs to check out the party, but the kegs are all tapped out and the alcohol is all gone. So I walk them back to the edge of BU’s West Campus where I see some friends from the Catholic Center doing some innovative fundraising at 2am. They had set up a table at the border of West Campus and Ashford Street where they had a large pile of PB&J Sandwiches and Marshmallow Puff sandwiches that they sold for either $2 or $1 depending on how much money a passerby had. And they even had a credit/debit card iPhone reader so that those without cash money could pay with the card, which was very cool and appealing to those who had the drunken munchies.
I hung out with them for a bit and saw very colorful people get excited to buy some sandwiches, as well as those who just wanted to cuss out the table for some reason. I eventually headed back to the apartment and hung out with my neighbors upstairs who were all congregated with a select group of friends sequestered in one of the bedrooms. I became involved in a spin-the-bottle game, which may or may not have contributed to my current cough that I have had for the past two weeks. It was an eventful weekend to say the least, and the hookup from the previous night probably also contributed to both my sore throat and cough. Fortunately, I did not have a fever.
I get through the week just fine, except that I am solely focusing on my two midterms and the big BU Night of a cappella show on Friday. I think that I have learned to deal with all sorts of stress at this point. I get to Friday after hastily turning in a take-home exam due at 5pm. I then rush to the College of General Studies on our campus to prepare for one of the biggest shows on our campus that concerns a cappella. It was very emotional for me, because it would be the last time that I would set foot on that stage and perform with my a cappella group along with all of the other groups on the campus. While we were performing, I honestly remembered all of our past performances since freshman year, and I could not believe how much had changed since I joined the group. I was so proud and honored to be part of something so much greater than myself, while also contributing to it.
It was later in that evening that I had the honor of being the host for one of the biggest parties that I had ever thrown. It was the post-BU Night of a cappella party at my residence. Both the basement and the first floor were fully packed, and I steadied myself at the front door in order to play the part as the door warden. I stayed as the guardian of the front door for several hours, and for some reason my neighbors came down and said that they wanted to help me out. Apparently they thought that I threw good parties and wanted to know how I was so successful in my implementation of them. I explained to them that I only allowed people in who were not random, and that my guests were all friends with each other. They didn’t understand that their parties with dozens of random people led to drama, sketchy situations, problems with the cops, and things being stolen.
And every time I left the front door even for a few minutes to actually partake in the party actions, I would return to the front door to see my neighbors overwhelmed by the multitude of people at the front door who wanted to come in. At one point there were 25 random people in my hallway and last year I would have been too overwhelmed to do anything about it. But I had grown since then, so I approached the group, physically blocked the entrance hallway and yelled that everyone who did not know me had to leave right now because the police were coming and they would all be written up. They got most of them out, and then I personally escorted the remaining people away. There were some other instances when random people, who dressed a bit like thugs, wanted to come in. I told them that it wasn’t an open party and that they couldn’t come in. They offered to give me $5 each, and there were 6 of them so in total they said that I could make $30 from just letting them into a party. I declined and said that it was a private party consisting of a specific group of people, and they countered with an offer of $10 a person which would have led to a personal gain of $60. My neighbors were tempted to let them in, but I stood my ground and said, “I’m not doing this for the money.” They laughed and then grew silent after they realized that I wasn’t kidding. Then they repeated their offer, and I still said no. Confusedly, they then sauntered away off of the porch.
Whether they realize it or not, something was learned that night by both parties. I don’t think that they expected to encounter someone who wasn’t looking for materialistic gain. Honestly, that was one of my most favorite nights and one of my most successful parties that I threw during my tenure at BU. I put great stock into my parties, and this was definitely the biggest but also one of the most controlled that I had ever put together. All the a cappella groups were gathered together and it felt so good to have them all joined together in friendly camaraderie as they socialized together after each group put on their best performances. I remember talking to many old friends from freshman year who had shared this four year college journey of a cappella with me. I talked to some of the groups and attempted to rekindle old friendships by saying, ” I remember a time three years ago when we used to hang out together as a cappella groups, and I want to re-establish that connection.” Everyone whom I talked to agreed that there had been a slump where many of the groups had stayed distant from each other for a time in the past two years. I felt that it was finally fitting for all of us to finally come together as one again like I remembered from freshman year.
So right now I feel so out of it. It’s cold, I don’t wanna turn the heat on because that would mean that I will eventually have to pay extra. I thought that I would have so much free time during this study period time, but I’ve just been waking up in order to fulfill my tutoring obligations as well as working on my bicycle which decided to fall apart at this perfect time. But I was successful in changing both wheels and getting back to working condition again. It’s definitely hard to focus, especially with the allure of just sleeping for an indeterminate amount of time, as well as having the freedom to do whatever you want except that there areso many assignment,s projects, lab reports, papers, and due dates.
Then I start to think that life is getting hard over here, but I remember that I have a working bike, two jobs to pay for my expenses, an education, friends, food to eat, a gym to work out in, and life. In retrospect I assume that all of this will seem trivial, but now it feels like so much. Everyone is on edge, but I’m not too worried. I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the other day and it was glorious. At first, I was a bit upset because I accidentally bought tickets for the 3D showing, but I grew accustomed to it as well as the 48fps. I felt like I had been transported back in time to an old land with old friends whom I had grown up with. The movie garnered many mixed reviews, as opposed to the almost unanimous critical acclaim of the original Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I believe that this had to do with several key points. One of them was that the critics were comparing the story of The Hobbit with the grander scale of The Lord of the Rings. Another interesting thing to note was that most movie-goers have given the movie very positive reviews when compared to those on Rotten Tomatoes. I think that this has to do with the fact that while the critics were bogged down by the slow story-line and lack of impetus for Bilbo and the Dwarves’ merry quest, the general movie-goer, who had come to love Middle Earth a decade ago, felt right at home with familiar faces and lands. While I felt that I was able to approach the movie with a more critical eye, I still felt like for a few hours that I was a pre-teen middle schooler whose imagination was running wild with lazy wanderings in the idyllic Shire and epic battles in ancient Dwarven realms. During the time of the movie I felt as if I could forget about life as a college student and go back to a time of fantastical battles of good versus evil. It seems as if I had changed more so than the movies had.
And then later that day in Connecticut Adam Lanza aged 20 killed 26 people in the small town of Newtown. In that day alone, the world drifted its attention to the United States again. Facebook, Twitter, and the media poured the majority of its attention on this event with the the majority of CNN’s front page dedicated to the victims, the attacker’s family, and the history of the small town. Facebook is even worse with statuses trumpeting a need for change in U.S. gun control laws, the thousands of children who died of hunger in Africa, and even jokes about the slayings. I refrained from engaging in any form of debate from these articles; however, I stumbled upon a few statuses and articles that helped me find some sort of peace during this turbulent time of emotions.
Restoring Your Faith in Humanity: These are usually cheesy, but they brought a smile to my face. They were little vignettes of small acts that remind me that while there may be these deranged killers who are idolized by the media, there are also the little people (like Hobbits) whose actions can turn someone’s day around.
I am Adam Lanza’s Mother: It’s the tale of a mother whose mentally unstable son goes through sporadic bursts of violence on a daily basis, but then can be the sweetest, smartest child who ever played in a toy room.
Sam’s Speech: “It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here, but we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t Because they were holding on to something… That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”
I instantly think of this whenever there I hear about something terrible that happens in this world. Hearkening back to my more idealistic middle school days and imagination, it is a call that good will eventually win and triumph. This speech always makes me feel emotional, because it calls to me in my deepest musings and wanderings. It’s the music of Howard Shore reminiscent of the idyllic Shire and the bond of friendship between Sam and Frodo knowing that they will have to make it to the end one way or another.
It’s hard to worry about exams when you know that there are far greater problems in this world. But I see my exams as one of those obstacles that I need to hurdle pass in order to eventually graduate and fulfill my immediate goal of joining the Peace Corps. I want to help the world, and I feel called to do it in that way and through my daily actions. There is good in this world, and that is what has continued to capture my imagination.
It’s 3:23am and I have been working on this homework assignment that cost me $7.50 to purchase online because my professor gave us the link to a Harvard Business Review article that could not easily be accessed online. I also needed to do the homework because it is due today at 11am during class time. I am tired, sleep-deprived, hungry, and not happy. It’s odd, because I feel like I would normally feel good about getting this homework done and taking charge and ownership of my education. But instead I don’t feel right. I’m not too sure about this. I mean, I am definitely sure about graduating and getting my degree in Mechanical Engineering, but I don’t know if I will eventually be able to have a job similar to some of the classes that I am taking. I feel like the majority of my work lacks soul, and if I do infuse my homework and assignments with soul and creativity they just writhe up and die on the page without anyone to witness it.
I guess that this is just one of those trying times that comprise the sum of my education and how I have learned something from my classes. I guess that now I learned about the difficulties in merging two energy companies together and how the dozen or so acronyms contributed to the overall benefit of the company. I think that it would be so much more exciting if I were actually involved in the case study. I guess that I just feel that much more jaded being the only one left in this cold, desolate study lounge while staring at a dry erase board with a hastily drawn turkey, beckoning those engineering students left behind during the break to gorge on a complimentary Thanksgiving dinner.
I just can’t stand this whole thing anymore. I also feel bad because I am being given such a wonderful opportunity to study at this awesome College of Engineering. But I have already tasted a bit of the real world and I am restless to move and grow. I don’t think that I have learned a lot from my classes this year. I may be wrong, but I feel as if the biggest lessons are those that I will be unable to mention in job interviews. These will be the lessons that I learned on forgotten paths far away from the traditional classroom.
I think that maybe I have a flair for the dramatics. I mean, it is quite late/early, my stomach hurts from the emptiness and coffee, and I feel glued to this engineering lounge chair. I had planned to get a lot more done today, but at the very least I accomplished a few things. If only there were more time, motivation, less distractions, and no need for the inconvenience of sleep. Now that I got those feelings off of my chest I can get back to work and finally be done with this class. I think that I needed to rant for a bit, even though the majority of it is unwarranted.
Saturday, October 20th
This is the bike ride that kind of started my Saturday bike rides this semester. I had talked to one of my mechanical engineering friends, Zach, and asked him about whether he wanted to go on a bike ride sometime. He expressed his interest in biking, so I called him up around 3pm and met up with him at his apartment on Bay State Road. I pumped up his wheels, and he told me that he had not ridden on a bike since high school. After a practice run down Bay State Road, we then made for Massachusetts Avenue, and followed it towards the Boston Medical Center. The traffic was a bit rough, especially for him since he had not ridden a bike for over three years, and had never experienced city biking. Fortunately he was a quick learner and was able to keep up with me. I too was slightly worried that I would not be able to guide him on this bike adventure because I did not have a city map. I would make random stops at various intersections so that I could ascertain where we were exactly going. When we were almost right up to the Boston Medical Center we turned left onto Washington Avenue. The streets suddenly became so wide and the weather felt beautifully warm. I felt so full of happiness and could almost sense the endorphins being released. I felt at peace with the world as I zoomed by the South End of Boston. We passed by Flour Bakery and ended up in front of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, which is this beautiful Gothic Catholic Cathedral.
We walked inside and instantly felt transported into a different world as we stared at the vaulted archways and flying buttresses that loomed far above us. Zach and I walked up the aisle towards the altar and got a different vantage point of the entire place, which was deafeningly quiet, and had a certain feeling of serenity associated with it, especially since there was no one else there. We eventually left the church and backtracked our way to one of the most well-known bakeries in Boston: Flour Bakery. This bakery was created by Harvard Graduate Joanne Chang who had a passion in baking and was soon recognized by various cooking magazines and shows. Eventually, she was featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay and beat Bobby Flay with her Sticky Sticky Buns recipe. I remember eating one of these sticky buns during my freshman year at Boston University. About 3 years ago, my family had dropped me off at Warren Towers for my freshman year, and they had done some last minute school supply shopping for me. As a parting gift, my mom gave me a sticky sticky bun from Flour Bakery and then they left to go back home to Maryland.
I remember sharing that sticky sticky bun with two friends whom I had met that night along with two of their roommates. I prophesized that this special sticky bun would bind us together as friends throughout our college career. It turns out that I was wrong, but I am still friends with at least two of them.
So the sticky sticky bun was simply one of the best baked goods that I had ever eaten. It had a warm, dough consistency in the middle while the outside was covered in melted caramel, and cinnamon sugar syrup that oozed onto the sides of the plate. When paired with one of their home-roasted coffees while sitting outside in the setting Fall sun, for a few seconds you felt as if there was nothing wrong in the world for a bit. I guess that that is what I tried to achieve with this bike ride: the chance to physically and mentally escape the confined area of this campus along with the commitments that I have. After having a wonderful talk about life and finishing out coffees and shared sticky sticky bun, we continued along on our bike ride. We then went north through Rutland Street, which allowed us to see the beautiful brownstone apartments of the south end. We then passed through the narrow South End Library Park and then eventually turned left onto Huntington Avenue where we passed by the Museum of Fine Arts. It was around this time that we reached the Back Bay Fens, which is this beautiful garden and pond area that is hidden from the majority of Boston University students because it is kind of out of the way from the straight shot directions offered by Commonwealth Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue.
The sun was shining so beautifully through the tree leaves which were just on the verge of changing colors. So we were able to see the various hues of the leaves as they changed from green to yellow, brown, orange, and red with the setting sunlight sparkling through the boughs. We chilled by one of the bridges that crossed the Fens stream, by sitting on a leaf-covered hill. It was glorious and I honestly felt that I was not in Boston anymore. We then took our leave and biked down the Back Bay Fens to Landmark Center, where we had two options: either follow the Riverway and go south towards Jamaica Plains, or bike northwards up Park Drive and then turn left onto Beacon Street. We chose the latter, and then passed into the realm of Coolidge Corner and then turned right onto Harvard Avenue to make it back to the Allston area where I lived.
Saturday, October 27th
The next day consisted of a bike ride adventure to Flour Bakery and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross again, and then following the edge of the Back Bay Fens all the way down the Riverway to Jamaica Pond. It was ridiculous to even see the pathways by the small stream bounded by small hills of colored leaves and brick/stone bridges. At one point I passed by a stone bridge and there were what I thought were film students filming a girl by the side of the bridge. The weird part was that there was also a live octopus being held up in front of that girl. It kind of intrigued me a bit, because, ya know, octopuses are not that indigenous to Boston.
We continued along the Riverway, and found ourselves biking through the leaf-filled forest pathways until we passed by Leverett Pond and Wards Pond until we then found ourselves faced with the open expanse of Jamaica Pond. The Back Bay Fens, Riverway, and Jamaica Pond which are all part of The Emerald Necklace. This is a green area of Boston that kind of resembles a necklace with The Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park acting as the gems hanging from the Riverway. I have always wanted to explore more of the Emerald Necklace, so I will save those other parts for future bike rides.
We took a small break on one of the benches on the shore of a pathway that wound its way around Jamaica Pond. We admired the view as well as enjoyed a few healthy snacks that I brought with me to re-energize myself. We continued along the pathway and turned eastwards onto Green Street to make a pit stop at Blue Frog Bakery. Afterwards we took the Southwest Corrider northwards and also made a small stop at the Ula Cafe which was located in this brewery complex on Amory Street. We continued on our way up the Southwest Corrider until we made it back to the Northeastern University campus. I honestly cannot even believe that I had never heard or seen of these places before now, and it was too beautiful to put into words.
Saturday, November 3rd
This one was a large group bike adventure. Whereas the past two had been only one or two other people, this one consisted of 7 bikers including myself. We left from the Allston area and went eastwards down Commonwealth Avenue. Then we turned right onto St. Paul’s Street and biked diagonally down Knyvet Square, and down through Amory Field and Hall’s Pond. We then turned left onto Beacon Street until we reached Park Drive, and then turned south towards Landmark Center and the Riverway again. However, this bike ride felt so epic because I was literally leading a caravan of 6 bikers as we wound our way south down towards Jamaica Pond. I actually got chills when biking through the Riverway with this cavalcade of bikes. We eventually made it to the outskirts of Jamaica Pond and took a break on one of the overlooking hills. The weather was perfect: the sun was shining brightly with a strong warmth as the chilly wind whipped around and through us. It was the very definition of a crisp, Fall day. We tossed the frisbee a bit and took a few model pictures before we continued our way around Jamaica Pond.
We then followed Perkins Street and then turned northwards onto Chestnut Street where there were a lot of residential areas. Afterwards, we turned left onto Boylston Street, and then right onto Chestnut Hill Avenue, which brought us through more residential areas, as well as Cthe Cleveland Circle stop near Chestnut Hill Reservoir and Boston College. We alighted left onto Washington where we stopped at Cafenation. It was that local cafe feeling that a lot of us were in the mood for. The funny part was that I had originally planned to bike around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, but I missed it by about 1km. Incidentally, the intersection of Chestnut Hill Avenue and Washington Street was where I normally biked to work at the Winship Elementary School. I always wanted to check out one of the cafes around here, and now I was finally able to share the feeling of a local cafe with one of my friends. As usual, I ordered a coffee to perk me up from the crisp coldness of the outdoors. Ahhh, then we shared a few stories, had a few laughs about the different plural forms of Octopus. Apparently, octopetye and octopussy were not correct. Incidentally, the plural of hippopotamus is not hiptopussy. Afterwards, we biked east on Cambridge Street until it hit Brighton Ave, where we turned right to go back down to the Boston University Campus.
I’d say that it was a pretty successful bike adventure, and yes I was a bit nervous about leading it. But in the end I guess that my sense of directions improved, and that I would definitely be doing it again sometime.