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Apartment Life

Back in Boston

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.

Atypical Sunday

Last Winchester GrettosSo 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 Thierry's Houseremarked 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.


Flowers for BinlandIt 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 Episcopal Nautilusthey 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.

Binland’s Website

“We are the voices of the Ocean.”

Amanda on the Charles

Now and Forever

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.

Worth It

So right now I feel a little bit better and at ease. I am tired and maybe I could justify saying that I am a little bit weary. These past weeks I have been unable to actually get to my bed to make it to sleep. I usually pass out on one of the couches here, wake up at some early time in the morning, and then transfer myself to my bed. The procrastination has kind of gone out of hand. I think that it’s a mixture of thinking that I have so much time to do all of the things that I need to get done, but actually knowing that I don’t really have that much time. It’s the disparity between freshman year and senior year, getting work done and procrastinating, making promises and then failing to live up to them.

What makes this year so much more meaningful is that this will most likely be the last time that I will ever be able to experience this sort of college lifestyle ever again. Soon, drinking or chilling around without have too many cares in the world will become a forgotten memory. But college is worth so much more than that, and I believe that it is important to go through this time in one’s life. I do not think that college is for everyone, but for those who have stuck with it thus far, I know that there have been many things that I have come to learn. I learned that I can deal with large mood and energy swings throughout the different days of the week. Sometimes I will go through a day and feel like crap when I wake up, and then steadily feel better as the day progresses. And then there will be other days when the opposite occurs. I have since been trying to fix my Nikon D40 camera, but I am unable to remove the bottom screws in order to see if I can get the gears up and running again. Tardiness is also an issue, as I have been late to most of my classes, meetings, and work hours. Haha, one of my friends here in the Senior Design Lab just told me that I looked stressed. I mean, it’s true because there is just still so much to get done. I have a preliminary senior design report, a sustainable energy project, a business model project, upcoming a cappella performances, Halloween Costume and party plannings, work hours, and not enough sleep or time to also relax. Fortunately, I have still been keeping my workout schedule, but I have to keep reminding myself that this is only temporary stress and that I just have to take things one step at a time. I have stress, but it’s definitely manageable and all will be well… all shall definitely be well in the end.

Another thing that eats at me is my inability to be early to things. I feel as if I just have a hard time getting to places by the time that I am supposed to be there. Usually this is caused by over-sleeping, but sometimes it’s just because I absent-mindedly forgot about the time or because I just waited until the last possible moments before biking there. Or sometimes I end up fully ready to do some homework on the couch in my bedroom, but lay my head down for a moment and then inevitably fall asleep. It’s a problem that I struggle with, but I still have time to remedy the situation.

Ahhh so now I’ve made it to a hungover Saturday morning after a wonderful night of Halloween shenanigans. Currently I am listening to Ben Howard, eating some faux pasta carbonara, and about to brew some Sanddorn Berry Tea from my private, German stash. Let me first get back to Friday, because I started the day by groggily waking up for my 9am class. I endured through 3 hours of lecture, then met up with my project group. It was an iffy continuation of our project, but it started to take some shape by the end of our meeting. I moved on to hang out at the Catholic Center and get some coffee, and then I biked to Goodwill in order to see if I could buy anything else to help me with my halloween costume. I ended up buying a grey shirt, because one of my possible costumes was 50 Shades of Grey. I then bought some food coloring, flour, and Karo syrup in order to make fake blood, as well as cover my face with white powder in order to look more dead.

I then find my old jedi robes from last year, which was stored under my bed, and I headed over to one of the dorm towers where my a cappella group members were costuming up for our guest performance at Boston College. I get there and everyone has fake scars, fake blood, and white makeup that makes them all look like undead zombies. I get some white makeup and fake blood on my face, and then head off towards Boston College on my bike as the rest of my group takes the T. I get some intrigued looks as I bike several miles to get all the way towards the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and the BC campus, where I got lost for 10 minutes, while trying to navigate a campus that was not a straight line like BU. The performance is successful and the group splits up. I bike back to BU, and meet up with one of my closest friends since Freshman year in order to borrow her camera to take some pictures over the weekend since mine was still out of commission.

I get back to my apartment where my upstairs neighbors were in the midst of throwing one of their very large parties. I pregame with a few shots, and head over to one of my closest Boston friend’s place in order to help him celebrate both his birthday and his halloween party. It was interesting heading over there, because I got to see a bunch of different halloween costumes. It definitely was a night of mischief as the student populace all cavorted through the streets in different outfits and fanfare. I saw, what I assume, is a freshman biddie girl trying to impress someone by dressing up as a Playboy bunny with an outfit resembling a leotard with fishnet stockings. I saw a few ghouls here and there, as well as witness policemen driving up and down the streets, looking for some party to bust or some drunk students to arraign. I get there and enjoy seeing the different Halloween partiers slowly trickle into one of the Linden Street apartments. I am gifted with a homemade IPA, which was brewed by the party host who was also celebrating his 21st birthday. The beer tasted sweet and mild, with some bits of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. I eventually left to go to a party on Verndale near Harvard Ave, where I was able to see even more friends.

One of my good friends from freshman year then had a talk with me. She told me that we’ve come so far since freshman year, and that she is going to be honest with me because she is a little bit drunk. She was literally my first friend at Boston University when I was a freshman. I still won’t forget walking on my floor on 9b in the Warren Towers dorm and seeing her skip down the hallway as she greeted me. I thought that she was a Senior or an RA or someone who knew what was going on, but she corrected me and told me that she was just a freshman like myself. Haha, I remember those days and the friends we had and the adventures and dramas that we’ve gone through together. She then told me that I was the friend who made it through to the end. We were first friends, and our friendship survived all the way to now as seniors. I too was also drunk, but I felt that we both shared a beautiful and powerful moment. We had survived our college years together, and we were starting to look back. We also discussed a bit about how this all would be a forgotten memory before we knew it, and that was partly why I loved taking pictures and writing in my blog. By writing in my blog, I could capture a small piece of what it meant to be a college student, as well as the thoughts that raced through my mind. She was also wearing a dress made out of pages from a Stephen King novel, and she asked me to pull out a page and read it. It said, ”          ,” and those words seemed to fit that moment so well.

We drank more, danced for a bit, and then started to head out. As we were heading to the front door, the music came to a standstill and one of the hosts told the party guests that the party was over and that we should head home. It turns out that the cops had shown up. All of the guests filtered out, and the cops named all of our costumes as we filed past them. We all wandered down Verndale and scattered to our respective homes for a drunken sleep.

The next night consisted of me throwing my own Halloween party. It turns out that having the open basement helps so much with population control, because when people want to cool off they head downstairs where couches, beer pong, and bar area are. Because of this, it seemed as if there were not a lot of people who attended the party. It was the typical party where people showed up in costume, got drunk, danced, and had a good time seeing old friends and making new ones. Towards the end of the night, two of my friends had passed out in the basement. One of them eventually made it upstairs to my guest bed, and the other one wanted to walk back to her dorm room. It was 4am, and I told her that I did not want her walking back through the neighborhood by herself, so I walked her to the main streets. We later on found out that a girl was physically assaulted near my apartment around the time when I walked her home.

Then on Sunday my a cappella group performed at the 2nd Annual Bristol Recording A Cappella Armageddon competition. We then practiced at our rehearsal for a bit and then found out that classes were cancelled for Hurricane Sandy the next day. Oh man that was a rough night because I then had to finish working on my preliminary senior design project that was due that next day. I worked until 5am on Monday, but fortunately was able to bring the report together, especially since one of our group members was kind of slacking.

It may just be naivete, but I believe that these weekend events and adventures of a sort are the times that we will remember the most, or maybe they will be the events that we attempt to remember, but can never really recall due to some sort of inebriation. I’m just saying that I believe that it is worth it to keep going through these college days. All of our regrets, actions, and successes make us who we are for better or for worse. I just think that life is worth it. I don’t know, I guess that the title of this blog post made sense when I started writing it, but now it just awkwardly ends.

On Parties

“The world will be saved by beauty.” This was one of the quotes shared in one of those early morning conversations after a successful party. Let me start by saying that there is a certain bias and stereotype against parties. I believe that the media, movies, books, and tv shows depict parties as places of debauchery, alcohol poisoning, people taking advantage of others, and so many other assumptions. Ahhh there’s just too many trains of thought right now, but I shall attempt to reconcile them all. So parties are an interesting beast. College parties in general are usually associated with the problems with many of today’s young adult population. There are cases of intense hazing, sexual assault, fights, accidental deaths, and even rape. I’m not saying that those thing’s don’t happen, because they do. However, I am saying that people should sometimes withhold judgement for those of us who enjoy partying.

You see, I have long since decided that I wanted to devote my life to service and helping others. My end goal is volunteer in a third world country or developing area as an engineer and help out in whatever way I can. My next immediate goal is to join the Peace Corps right after I graduate from my undergraduate studies here in Boston University. So what does this have to do with parties? Well I attempt to bring my ideals of service to the task of throwing a party. Few people in college will be able to experience what I did last night and this morning. And it wasn’t because I was successful in getting high, getting plastered, winning beer pong, or even hooking up with someone. No, it was the knowledge that I threw a successful party. What surprises me is that I have been to very few good parties during my college years. What I have learned about throwing parties is that the focus should not be on the host, but on the guests. It is about the people whom you love and cherish who should be the focus. Now this may bring the focus towards the materialistic side of things, but the focus is still on the guests.

I remember when I was a freshman doing the typical Allston Freshmen crawl where a large group of friends and acquaintances would walk around looking for an open party to get into. I remember that the goal during those days was to please my friends and get all of us into a party. I guess that the goals for that evening are all different. Some people aim to just try alcohol for the first time, others are trying to impress their friends and show them how they can get them into an awesome party. Others are naturally curious about the situation and others still just want to get laid. Back in those days I fell into the category of trying to please my friends. It was probably 1/3 altruistic and 2/3 trying to get them to like me, because that’s how I derived happiness: from the acceptance and approval from others. Anyways, back then I remember seeing upperclassmen and really hot girls and guys going into parties and thinking to myself, “Aw man, what I would give to be able to get into parties like that or to host parties like that.”

And yet, here I am three years later already a one-year seasoned veteran of throwing parties in the Allston area. And I can say that it is a difficult but rewarding job. You get out of it a similar amount that you put into it. For this beginning of the semester party, the basement needed an entire revamping. The tenants from last year with whom we shared the basement with did not care for the upkeep of the apartment. We would continuously have trash and barbecue tables and leftovers strewn throughout the communal hallway, the backyard, and the front yard. So I had to clean through almost a decade of filth, trash, and crap in the communal basement after they had moved out. Armed with toilet paper rolls, Mr. Clean disinfectant spray, and trash bags, I started my week-long adventure that was the cleaning of an off-campus basement on Ashford Street. The entire ceiling is covered in exposed insulation and spiderwebs and the floor was lined with trash ranging from half-filled wine bottles to smashed red solo cups. I filled up several full-sized black trash bags with everything ranging from articles of clothing to piles of dirt and dust to forgotten blenders, computers, and furniture bookcases.

After a week of diligent work, I had successfully installed a series of lights that illuminated the dark parts of the basement, a bar area, a couch lounging area, a cafe sitting place, and a dance space with speakers and a stereo system for people to dance to chill dubstep while the first floor was retained as the area to dance to more upbeat pop music. After that was set up, I then had to clean the first floor of the house and clear out a bunch of the breakable personal possessions so that they would not accidentally be knocked over during the course of the night. Okay, so the house was then cleaned, but there was no alcohol. So I then had to bike two times to Blanchard’s (which is our local liquor store) in order to buy 5 handles of alcohol (3 vodka, 1 rum, 1 gin), and 3 30-racks of beer. So those went to the freezer and refrigerator as I then biked over to Star Market to buy the 10 liters worth of mixers and 5lbs of ice in order to create mixed drinks in the basement bar area. I get back home, and the final thing to do was to bake the 4 batches of cinnamon bread in order to have some snacks for the party guests, because people get hungry during a party.

So I shower and now I am ready to begin welcoming people to a party. Now I can’t get nitpicky, because my new neighbors upstairs were also hosting a party for three of their friends who were having birthday parties over the weekend. So several of them and yours truly guarded the front door and porch in order to either bar or allow people to enter. So this is the part that I never truly understood until fairly recently: the host rarely gets to reap the physical benefits of a party that he throws. Others may disagree with me, but I believe that it’s a valid statement. Guarding the front door proves to be a very hard endeavor, because you have so many groups of freshmen who attempt to get in. Usually I have to physically bar the door with my body and ask whom they know at the party. The difficult part is that I have trouble knowing if people really are invited to the party upstairs, especially when people are insistent on entering. This is a job that is not for the faint of heart, because you are the final defense against strangers entering into your home.

I had groups of freshmen girls say that they were ready to come in because they ditched the other guys whom they came with. I also had groups come to me saying that they were already marked on their hands with sharpie at my party, indicating that they were already at the party. Sadly, we had to inform them that we didn’t  mark people who entered so they clearly were at the wrong house. We also had the argument given by many people that they had already gained entry to the party and quickly left to get a friend, and so were entitled to enter back into the apartment. The funny part was that they would actually get mad when they were not allowed entry. My neighbors did a great job not caving in under the pressure, but a few randoms came through.

The problem is that the randoms become a problem. Sure, you have the hapless freshmen who realize that it’s a closed birthday party and that they don’t feel comfortable so they leave. But it always seems that at every party we get a group of thuggish-looking people who start messing with the music, making the girls feel uncomfortable, and drinking a lot of the alcohol. These are the people who are the hardest to get to leave, because they act as if my house is theirs and that I am the one intruding. Honestly, you meet many people who intimidate you and you have to deal with uncomfortable situations. But if you are able to weather through them and deal with them, then I feel as if you can grow as a person. So I spent the beginning of the semester party mainly guarding the front door and getting yelled at by cops because I was sitting on my own front porch with some friends. I suppose that it was illegal for us to sit on a porch while we were all over 21 and talking about life, albeit while some of us were drinking out of red solo cups and smoking cigarettes of course.

It may seem like a thankless job, but I believe that I have grown over the past year because of my hosting of parties. I’ve learned a lot about patience and tolerance. Throwing parties has also made me a lot less materialistic, knowing that I risk having some of my stuff stolen or broken. But they’re just stuff, and people will remember these parties as moments when we came together as a class and as true friends to loosen up and enjoy each others’ company without spending too much money. Over the course of the night from 10pm to 2:30am I probably had three drinks. So I had maybe the slightest of buzzes, but nothing that would have made it one of the crazy nights. But there were some highlights. One of them was at midnight when we all sang happy birthday to Mitch and then had him blow out the candles. Another was during one of my brief respites in the basement when I was singled out by my friends Ana and Mitch who stared directly into my face and informed me of my impact in their college lives. I know that this was the drunk them talking, but I felt that it came from the bottom of their hearts.

Another was when one of the guys in my engineering class came up to me and thanked me for hosting this party. The thing was that in his years as an engineer, he never really had the opportunity to hang out and party with us, and he really enjoyed it. And that’s the one thing about being the host that kinda makes me sad: I miss out on talking with my guests, because I have to guard the door against those who would impede upon our right to have a good party. There were some other interesting moments: for example whenever I told a group of freshmen off I would tell them that I was in their exact position three years ago and that I would have given almost anything in that moment to gain access into a party. I told them to stay safe, take care, and pay it forward whenever they themselves hosted a party in the future. This would usually dissuade people, because they respected me for utilizing a sincere tone with them.

Little do they know of the challenges and lessons that they will face head on in the years to come during their tenure at Boston University. Not everything that shines and glitters at these parties remain gold forever. But throughout all of that I have pride. I am proud of the work that I put into setting up and maintaining a party that was not busted by the cops, that most of my guests told me that they enjoyed. I look after my friends, and I think that I have their respect and that they have mine. What has improved in the past year is that I no longer derive my happiness and joy from their approval as much as I used to in the past. As a result, I have become much more content and happier with myself as a person. And honestly I could say that that night… was a good night, and that is a beautiful thing.

Continuing Onwards

So here I am back in Boston. No I don’t think that I found anytime to update the rest of my blog. This is very unfortunate, as it became a memoir of sorts that I want to remember. But as I have often learned, it is extremely difficult to try and remember and document everything even with a camera, journal, and pen handy. So in the chance that I get to document the rest of my Berlin experience, here are a few tidbits:

So we visited Dresden for the DAAD RISE conference, an epic bike adventure day through bookstores, Iraqis who were freedom fighters
and hated the US, attending the opening of a skateshop, and the stumbling into the underground Berlin party scene in an abandoned warehouse, bidding farewell to friends one-by-one as they returned back to the US, exploring the Guinness World Record’s Longest Biergarten near Frankfurter Tor U Bahn stop, bonding with my Norwegian and Mexican roommate, saying goodbye to another dear friend, exploring new bars, joining in chillstep dancing by the Brandenburg Gate for the Hempparade, dressing up fancily, eating a delicious mushroom lunch and exploring the most beautiful park (Volkspark Friedrichshain) in Berlin, having one more epic bike adventure through cafes, art stores, the abandoned art building of Tacheles on Oranienburger Strasse, and sunbathing in Volkspark Humboldthain, getting a tattoo at the Loxodrom tattoo shop that says “endlich daheim” on the Thursday before I left and then eating my last Döner at Mustafa’s, and having the last farewell by reaching the seat of kings at Königstuhl on the northernmost point of Rügen, Germany after sleeping outside in Middelhagen and then staying in a beautiful seaside apartment and biking for 40km as we biked through the unbelievable beautiful and golden seaside forest pathways, and then bidding farewell to my blue bike that had accompanied me on many adventures throughout my time in Berlin. I bid farewell to Germany at 4am when I left my apartment not knowing the next time when I could see that beloved country again.

I started the first day of classes today, and already I just feel so off and odd. I mean, I was living my life and enjoying every moment back in Germany. What am I doing back here in the US? I have one more year of classes and then I can move on right? So much has changed and in a way I feel kind of jaded. Sure, so I haven’t weathered the horrible wretchedness that comes from living a harsh life, but I tasted so much out there. I just feel like going to classes back here is kind of backwards and that I have learned far more outside of classes rather than in them. I returned a little bit more than a week ago only to return to a messy apartment with friends who could not possibly understand what I had gone through, in the same sense that I could not possibly fathom what they had gone through during their own summer.

Now I realize that I actually now need money. Along with the scholarship I may have spent about $1000 during the entirety of the summer including travel, food, and flight to and back from Germany. Now I don’t think that this is bad at all, but now I don’t have much money left. I can barely pay rent right now until I get the loan processed and it just sucks. I had the opportunity to intern over the summer and possibly make over $8000 this summer; however, I knew that if I did not take the opportunity to go back to the place where I fell in love then I would regret it forever. As such, I am so glad to have had that experience that I will be able to bring with me throughout life. I wish that money would not be a problem, because life has been going along amazingly well until I was brought back down to earth by my landlord who reminded me of a rent that is needed for September. So now I return back to the life of theoretical classes, payments of electricity and rent, and the reminder that all it takes is a sick day or week to be unable to pay my electricity bill or groceries. But all will be well in the end, because it always has been. I will take life moment by moment and enjoy it for what it is worth until I can’t enjoy it anymore. So I end this post knowing that somehow I will make this work.

This Too Shall Pass

“Dear Marvin Roxas,

Dear PhD Student,

We are delighted to inform you that you have been matched for a research internship in Germany this summer. This year we had an overwhelming number of candidates apply for this fellowship. Over 1708 students applied for one, two or three of the 705 available projects. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) will grant you a fellowship to carry out a practical training at the following institution: Berlin Institute of Technology, Reiner Lemoine Institute.”

These were the words that greeted me this March 1st Thursday morning when I woke up around 8am. Waking up at this time was actually early, because I normally would have to go to lab at 10am. I had not finished my homework due at noon, I had not finished my lab report due within the next two hours, it was cold and raining outside, and I had not memorized my a cappella music parts yet. I then started the dreary ritual of making some breakfast and checking my email, Facebook, weather, and news sites. To my elation, I found out that I was accepted into the DAAD RISE program to go intern in Berlin, Germany this coming summer. This has literally been my dream internship, because it combines my love of furthering my engineering knowledge and experience with my passion to help those in third world countries. The internship project is the Optimization of Energy Supply Systems on different Caribbean Islands. I can help this world. It is my highest goal to help this world and the people who live upon it.

I have chosen this specific title because of the experiences that I have gone through in the past four days that have forced me to grow up a bit more. Maturity comes from the experiences that we encounter and the life lessons that we take from them afterwards. In this sense, sometimes a ten year old who has had to fend for himself and his family has a more mature outlook in life when compared to a sheltered adult who has had everything provided through life. I definitely do not fall specifically in either of those categories, but I believe that I have taken more charge of my life this year compared with any other year.

I had a good talk with one of my close Dresden friends a few weeks ago. I would say that it was one of those once-a-year revelation talks that allowed me to understand something new about myself. My friend shared with my his collected knowledge and understanding that came from several different psychology articles that he had read from different sources after StumblingUpon. He too enjoys introspective self-reflection just as much as I do. For him, it stems from a lifestyle that incorporates the principles of Zen Meditation. During a home-cooked dinner one night, he explained the concepts and archetypes of the nice guy and the kind guy. His argument was that there was a very subtle difference between both of them, and that it was easy to mistake one for the other.

I garnered the following from our conversation: The kind guy is altruistic and gives of himself to others without letting their acceptance dictate his happiness. In other words, the kind guy’s happiness does not depend on how others see him. He does not need to please everyone and have people like him for his gifts. Rather, he truly enjoys giving things and of himself in for their own sake, and that in and of itself makes him happy. On the other hand, the nice guy’s happiness does depend on acceptance from others. While he may have started out as the nice guy, his generosity starts to become his tool to make others like him. He may not even realize this is happening, because the slope from kind guy to nice guy is gradual. Realistically, no one can be the perfect kind guy or archetypal nice guy, but instead we all fit somewhere in-between. The nice guy starts to realize that people like him because he gives things and sacrifices parts of himself. Then the happiness that used to be innate transforms into a dependent happiness focused on making other people like him. He derives success from the number of people who thanked him for being such a gracious host, or for the people who thanked him for how great he is. With this new-found acceptance his ego grows and his spirit diminishes, because now his own self and confidence relies upon the positive feelings of others. The fleeting friends only like him when he provides, and question him when he seems to not be as generous as before.

These factors can lead to a downward spiral where the nice guy no longer feels confidence in his abilities. He struggles to maintain his nice guy image, and desperately clings to it as the only way that he has become accustomed to act. Another downfall for the nice guy is his inability to be forthright. He takes care not to offend others, and when he sees someone he likes he has a method. He becomes a true friend to that person. If that other person is a girl, then he will stand by her side in times of hardship, he will be a shoulder to cry upon, he will talk with her through the late hours of the night, he will act like a brother to her. And maybe, just maybe she will see that they were destined to always be together. She will one day reciprocate his feelings and since they had such a strong base of friendship then there is no possible way that a probable relationship could fail. However, this is manipulative. The nice guys did not portray his true feelings to the girl, and did not convey his true intentions. Instead the nice things that he did was only to win her affection as a friend, but not as a significant other. Then he will catch her off guard if he ever propositions to her to become involved in a romantic relationship. Her feelings most likely would have been those of platonic friendship and kinship; she would have seen him as the resolute brother who always remained by her side. And now she remains lost without that constant, nice friend to turn to. She might convince herself that she actually does like you, but there is no attractive force strong enough that will allow the relationship to last.

Yes, I understand that there was far more written for the nice guy than the kind guy. That stems from the idea that the kind guy has simple motives that keep his life much clearer and well-kept. I’m not saying that we all should act like kind guys all of the time. I think that sometimes life deserves some indulgences or times when we want others to like us. Maybe this is cheap and shallow, because it probably is. However this becomes a greater problem when we let it dictate and control our lives. I experienced a lot of this firsthand until my talk with my friend that night. That conversation constituted another revelation that usually comes to me once a year. The last revelation came to me last year on the Catholic Center’s Fall Retreat when I realized something so deep about myself, that life started to make a bit more sense. It’s almost as if compendiums of wisdom keep falling on my head and I’m too dull to understand any of that knowledge until I physically stumble upon a situation that forces me to confront them.

Getting back to the theme of the title, Friday March 2nd comes and I am ecstatic to have yet again make it to another weekend. Little did I know that this was going to be one of the most trying but fulfilling weekends of my college career. I endured.

Friday night started without a hitch; I joined some good friends in Student Village I (one of the fancier student dorms on campus), where a dinner of spinach summer salad, roasted salmon, roasted asparagus, and pasta awaited to be consumed. The spinach salad was adorned with pine nuts, Gorgonzola cheese, strawberries, raspberries, and topped with olive oil infused with balsamic vinegar. Vodka cream sauce dripped all over the bowtie pasta and the asparagus sizzled in the oven. However the salmon by far stood out as the most impressive dish of the night. Ground pistachios covered the salmon fillets which were then doused with fresh orange juice. This delightful concoction was then thrust into the oven for a few minutes until the fillets were cooked. These dishes, coupled with my gift of a 4 liter jug of white wine, courtesy of Blanchard’s Liquor Store in Allston, led to a good night enjoyed by all. We shared stories about our friends, talked about the nice weather, and reminisced about good times. It almost seemed as if we did not study engineering. We almost appeared to be normal. As we got deeper into the night, the talks started to get deeper as well. Now I don’t mean the type of talks that probe into the innermost secrets and beliefs of one’s psyche, but rather the kind of conversation that you don’t want your mother to hear. We talked well into the night about hooking up, threesomes, sexuality, and many topics of that nature.

The night came to a close, I biked home, and all was well.

I awoke Saturday, and prepared myself for an a cappella filled weekend. My a cappella group, the Allegrettos, booked a recording studio so that we could record our songs from this semester for a new CD. We recorded Because by the Beatles and White Blank Page by Mumford and Sons. I really felt the songs as we recorded. I remember closing my eyes and singing my bass part for because and becoming lost in the moment and in my thoughts; it was pretty fucking awesome. And I succeeded, usually I feel as if I could not hold my own part in a cappella, but this time I was able to sing my part without a hitch. I felt so proud of myself. The day continued, and I drove back to campus and got ready for one of my friend’s 21st birthday party. She was pregaming at one of her friend’s places near mine before going to the bars at midnight. I had two people over and we were pregaming before going to her pregaming. Things were getting pretty crazy at my house since my neighbors upstairs had invited about 80+ people over for one of their band house parties. It was already pretty loud by the time we left, and I vaguely remember looking out of my bedroom window at the calming, flashing red and blue lights with cops who were entering a house right across of my house.

We got to the pregame, and we all saw some old faces. You see, this girl had studied abroad in Dresden, and a lot of the Dresden study abroad students from that year had joined to celebrate with her. The girls stayed in the kitchen drinking their wine spiked with vodka while the guys drank beer and played Slap a Hoe and Flip Cup. It was curious, that in my crossfaded stupor that I witnessed some beautifully sublime moments. One of my shared a story that he smoked with one of his TA’s. I was also told by another friend later on in the night that something that was buried so deep within him had awoken a little bit the other night when he hooked up with another guy. I mean, these were beautiful stories. I felt as if my friends were bearing part of their souls and selves with me. They were letting me into their personal space as I lay witness to their testimony to life.

So midnight came, the birthday girl was whisked away to the bars, and we followed suit. Unfortunately, not everyone had the patience to wait in a 50+ person line for the bars, so I invited the remaining six people to chill at my house. We entered, and my neighbor’s party was in full force. The communal hallway and basement were packed. We sequestered ourselves in my living room, and continued the conversations about life. One of the conversations concerned the US drinking age vs. the drinking age for the rest of the modern world. The actions of our group in my living room that night consisted of a very tame and normal behavior compared with that of the rest of my partying neighborhood.

I excused myself from my company to use the bathroom, because I had a sudden urge to wash my face. When I exited the bathroom, I saw a police officer walking through my living room. I was extremely confused by his presence in my home. I saw my friends leaving, and the officer asked for my name, ID, and why there were over 100 people at my house. I gave him my name, my driver’s license, and then attempted to explain to him that I did not know why there were so many people at my house that night. I told him that it was not my party, and that my neighbors upstairs were hosting the party. He did not believe me, and said a few choice statements that aggravated me: “I don’t need to ID anyone here to know that they are all underage… Your house is now marked by the police… These kids are drinking underage and one of them can get drunk and be killed tonight.” He then told me that I would be receiving a hand-delivered court order/summons. And just like that, he left. I sat back down on the couch in my room. In my stunned stupor, I passed out, overcome by both stress and exhaustion. I did not dream that night.

I came to around 9am, and replayed the events of the previous night in my head. Needless to say, the hangover did not help my mood. I was worried; I was worried that I would be fined and that I would have a mark on my permanent record. Along with this state of emptiness came a feeling of anger and disappointment. I called one of my friends from the night before, and he recounted the events between my entering and leaving the bathroom. Apparently the cop just walked in through my apartment door from the communal hallway, because it was unlocked. He then commanded my friends to “take a hike!”. My friends stared at him in a confused manner, because they did not even believe that they were doing anything wrong. Honestly we were simply chilling and sharing stories.

I then walked upstairs and talked to my neighbors. They told me that the cop knocked on their door and told them to make sure that everyone leaves the house. That was it. All that they got was a warning.

It took me a while, but I just sat down in front of my desk, played some Ben Howard songs and relaxed. I don’t know the exact moment when I read about it, but I looked up This Too Shall Pass on Google, and it directed me to the Wikipedia site. Reading about the quote’s origin helped to calm me down and accept the things that I could not actively change. Then I had to get ready, because I had to drive my a cappella group a total of 5 hours that Sunday to and from one of our group member’s high school’s for a performance. We drive there, perform decently well, and then drive back. As I shared my experiences from the previous night with my group members, I feel a sense of relief. I’m in good company, we’re laughing and joking about possible CD names and favorite adult websites.

I get back in time to make it to the tail end of the 10pm Catholic Mass. I meet one of my best friends on campus whom I always turn to when I need help, advice, or someone to share my burden with. She has always been there for me, and I hope that I can always be there for her as well. I drive to her dorm, park on the side of the road, and we talk a little bit past midnight in her room. I discuss my new-found confidence and initiative. She reminds me of one of the most lasting things that I have ever imparted upon her: that life is so beautiful because it has its ups and downs, it’s good times and bad times and one cannot totally be happy forever, because it cannot remain that constant. Life requires the existence of positives and negatives in order to have anything to compare one’s experiences to. I eventually leave, and I meet one of the friends who was at my place the previous night. I update him with the incident with the officer, and by this time it is well past midnight. I head out, and realize that my car is no longer where I parked it. In a frenzy, I rush up and down the street realizing that it’s Monday morning and that the streets are cleaned during this time. I look to my right and notice that my car is on one of the towing trucks two blocks away. I run to the truck, and ask the driver where he will take my car. He tells me the towing site, and I desperately stare at my cellphone not knowing what to do. When probed about how much I need to pay for the towing expenses, the driver responds with, “$131.” I felt defeated, not only would I have to pay a fine for my neighbors party, but I also had to pay for the gas to and from Connecticut and the towing bill. He offered to drive me to the towing drop-off site, and I obliged. But as we were passing by my house, I pleaded with him to drop me off there and wait for a bit, because I realized that I did not have enough money in my immediate bank account to pay for my car; I needed to transfer money from my other online account first. The driver told me that he could drop me off, but that he couldn’t wait for me.

I must have looked like a sorry site as I exited the truck, because one of the towing managers who supervised the tow truck drivers approached me and asked, “Is that your car that he’s towing?” When I responded affirmatively, he said, “Un-fucking believable. Get in the car.” He explained to me that the company has a very strict policy stating that if the owner of the car approaches the tow truck while the car is attached, then the car must be released without any expense to the owner. We drove for about 10 minutes looking for the correct lot, and at last we found it. The manager shared a heated exchange with another manager concerning the guy who towed my car and did not return it. After a few minutes and calls later, the manager who drove me told me to cross the street and pick up my car. I ran across the street, entered my car, and then parked it safely in its parking spot. I ran back home, showered, and fell straight into a dreamless sleep.

As it turns out, my recent adherence to the belief in the transient nature of good and bad events turned out to be truer than I thought. Monday afternoon, the same officer showed up to my house and I showed him my personal apartment. I also explained to him that the basement was communal, and I that I did not know those 100+ people who were in the other areas of the house. He told me that he believed me, and that was that. I did not have any court summons or court order, and I did not have to worry about it any longer. Then a week later I flew back to Maryland for my Spring Break and JetBlue airlines lost my luggage. Apparently it got switched with that of another man who was traveling to San Diego. The luggage and baggage receipts were in the wrong place, but the baggage stickers were correct. Then my mom got a flat tire when driving back home from my younger brother’s Junior Ring Dance pre-party. But in the end, all of these things came to an end. The events transpired, there was a consequence, and then life moved on regardless of the outcome. And I believe that if I can learn to deal with that and accept the good and the bad, then maybe life just became a little bit more understandable.

A Reunion of Sorts

So it’s 5:55am and the house has just been cleaned. I had never done a 12+ hour-long party, but this time was the deal breaker. Okay, so I am writing in Stream-of-Consciousness right now, but that can’t get any closer to the truth right? I also think that I am breaking quite a few story telling or blogging rules and laws, but whatever. So it started with a simple text from Charles asking if he could sleep on my couch this weekend. I was in Ingalls and I instantly called him back in order to tell him that he was definitely without a doubt coming over to visit during the weekend. Then everyone began to hype up and talk a lot about the party. So many people approached me during the week in order to tell me how excited they were to come over. So the week sucked and went by, and all that I could look forward to was the coming weekend, especially the party. Charles then arrived Friday evening at 8pm, and I got some preparations done beforehand. I set the projector screen, I set the LCD DIY projector system, and then I made a list with Charles in order to know what to get for the party. I slept easily due to my tiredness and my slight tipsiness.

The next day’s wakeup call came from Charles at 12:00pm. Yes, we had both slept until noon and technically the party was supposed to start around noon. We quickly scrambled, did our morning rituals, and then split ways. I went to Blanchard’s to get the 120 beers, 750mL of Jägermeister (with stag pourer), and 4 handles of vodka. I get back to the house, and I unpack as Charles unpacks and preps the food in the kitchen for delicious Kartoffel poofers, schnitzel, pasta, und bratwurst. Okay, so this writing is hard to do right now. Continuing forward, more and more people began to trickle in. It was great as we all smiled, hugged each other, and knew that we had only come together pretty much for the explicit purpose of partying and reminiscing together. It also helped to have this new concoction called Das Force present during the party. I will not say much

more other than it deceptively did not taste like any alcohol despite containing a large quantity of it.  And these reminisings came through the form of old songs and images.  For a second there I thought that someone had stolen my camera, but it was Charles’ friend, Ted, who found it and was actually taking pictures throughout the night.

There are just too many highlights and memorable moments of the party. One of them was definitely the moment when it was realized that Charles was actually here… (*I pass out writing this sentence and then continue later on a day later*)

There were reactions ranging from pure surprise, to blissful happiness, to plain acceptance. It was funny how many of the attendees would first wave high to Charles, and then realize that it was Charles from Cornell and then run over to hug him. Smiles, hugs, and many tears were shed. It was beautiful, simply beautiful to see everyone come together again to commemorate the 1 year anniversary that changed all of our lives for good.

We had the barbecue grill going out back thanks to Andrew Weiß, and got the burger patties, hot dogs, and veggie burgers cookin’ just like old times on the balcony outside of my room in the Max Kade Haus. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the homemade projector system working, but that was alright because Charles had brought a VGA cable that allowed my laptop screen to also appear on the tv in the entertainment center.

And as I noted, it was great to have people gathered and scattered all throughout the house. My room was, as usual, the smoking room thanks to Manton’s sharing of a certain steam device that brings people together physically and emotionally. Oh and the foods and cakes. There were dozens of cakes, breads, cookies, Desiré snacks (German wafers filled with chocolate and icing), and many mixers.

The usual party songs played throughout the day, but things started to get even more interesting as the night wore on. It was so interesting to see the disparity between the different types of people who came to the party. There were those true, good friends who came because they wanted to join together to commemorate, remember, and party to old days gone by. These people really respected the apartment, and looked out after each other. Then there are those who come looking for parties in order to fulfill their desire to drink for its own sake. They are the ones who change the music without asking anyone else, they’re the ones who don’t even acknowledge or greet the host, they’re the ones who hog and pull out the handles of vodka without asking anyone first. Those are the people who do not make good partiers or friends. You guys, however, do make 1st class partiers, and are always welcome here at 7 Ashford at anytime of the day or night as long as we still call this place home.

This was proven the moment I took a break from being the host and chilled in my room with all of you Dresdners. Emotions ran high when Mitch raised the Feldschlösschen mug and began his rousing speech:

“One year since we… almost one year on Monday… one year since we sat in JFK airport about to leave for Dresden. Everyone remember that? *Cheers!* One year since we had the best six months of our lives… *More cheers* One year since Dresden. Everyone, Prost! Prost! Prost! Yes! Dresden! *Musto says something* Yes, this is not the end. We will keep going, year after year after year… Everyone, prost prost prost prost… *applause*”

It was a speech fit for the old Deutsch Kings of Frederick the Great and his crazy porcelain obsessions in Meißen. But it was and still is this camaraderie that brings us together and makes us feel great. That’s the beauty of study abroad; we were able to experience a radically different culture that enamored us while also bringing a diverse group of Americans together under one roof. We became each other’s support and family. When someone got sick, we all got sick. When someone broke his key in the lock, no one could get into the Max Kade Haus. And when it was someone’s birthday (or the 50th commemoration of a certain Astronaut’s ascent into space) you expected that someone was going to get shitfaced that night. That was what we were all about: drunken frisbee games, group smoking sessions, fucking amazing vacations, late-night WG talks, getting lost, and somehow finding our way back home again. It was the precise mixture of us and our willingness to challenge ourselves that made the experience so great.

This was demonstrated during the later stages of the party. One of the major surprises was enacted after Mitch’s speech: the trivia game created and hosted by the wonderful Maria Zenzola, Sean Manton, and Matt Musto. The categories encompassed everything from different cities to who said what or did what during the trip. The rules were simple, once a question was asked, the first team to have a member stand up and drink from his or her drink had the ability to answer and get points. It was an amazing surprise and so much fun… especially since we were all pretty gone by that point.

But not everything during the party was innocently fun. You guys heard a bit about what happened later, and I want you all to know what happened, because you deserve the truth. After the trivia died down, I left the room and noticed the presence of about 8 more guys and some girls whom I did not know. I realized that another person had entered into the living room, and with Emily and Joann’s help I turned him out. He looked towards his friends, who all looked like thugs, and said, “Well I guess I’m getting kicked out. What about you guys?” They started to laugh and I asked them whom they were with. One of the guys said that he was here with about 12 girls, and I told him that that was not true since he did not know any of us. He especially did not know me. I told Emily to stay by my side, and Joann put her arm around her to support us. I told him that there were a lot of people already here, and that we did not know them. I said that it was a reunion, and he mocked me by adopting a baby voice and restating, “Oh it’s a fucking reunion.” We both stared at each other for a bit, and he told his guy friends that they were leaving “these fucking Asian *racial slur* nerds.” Joann flipped out like I had never seen before. She yelled back towards them with an unparalleled fury, and I couldn’t help but feel pride for having her by my side at a time like that. The guy backed up a bit, and started to put his hand in his pocket. I held my hands out between him and Joann and said that there will be no fighting. Several of our friends then pulled Joann back, and it was just me in front of them. They guy brushed my hand away and said, “Get your fucking hands off me nigga.” I put my hands up and said, “There will be no fighting here.” The guy stared back at me, then turned away and left with the other guys. I then shut the door right after they left, and locked it. I turned towards Emily and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.” Immediately I felt and heard them kicking the door, but I knew that they couldn’t get in. I was so shaken from the experience, and I honestly felt as if I could have been more defiant and forceful against them. I was wavering and shaking the entire time, because I was worried about what could have happened to me or any of you guys if a fight had broken out.

Musto and Cruz then came to my side and asked me what had just happened. I told them the story, and I opened the door to the hallway to notice that the sidewalk salt bags had been cut up and strewn throughout the entire hallway and porch. The thugs also knocked down the trashcans outside. As I stared at the chaotic scene before me, I wondered to myself, “Where do these people come from?” How could you be brought up feeling entitled to crash a party and then threaten the host and then desecrate the house he lived in for no reason at all? But it was in this moment that Mitch, David, Musto, Elaine, Charles, and others joined me in the hallway to help clean up as well as guard against future intrusions. We shoveled and swept the hallways, and then the group returned again. This time, I was still too shaken to deal with them, so thankfully Musto stood before them in the entryway of the hall. They told us that they had no beef with us, but that Mikey, my upstairs neighbor, had done something to their boy and so they wanted to kick in his door. Matt told them that they would not do that. After some talking, they left and we continued cleaning. I later learned that Mikey had called the cops on them the night before when they pulled a knife at the party, broke the front window, and then busted the secondary door panes down.

I have been thankful ever since Saturday that no blood was spilled that night. Had other people been next to me during my exchange with that group, someone would have gotten hurt. I got even more chills when Mikey later told me that they had knives on them and that they were from a bad area in Worcester. I apologize to you my friends, because I would never have been able to live it down if any of you got hurt. And I’m glad that you guys weren’t!

It warmed my heart to know that you guys regarded this place as a home too. You were here by my side guarding it and respecting it. For that, and for all that we’ve been through over the past year, I thank you.

The party then resumed with only the Dresden crowd remaining. Crowd favorites such as Haus am See, Hello, Duck Sauce (Barbara Streisand song), and Mr. Brightside were played. We all danced together. It was beautiful, and we felt no self-consciousness in being ridiculous among each other. That’s how you know that you are among trusted friends. Finally, it was time to leave, and we bid our farewells. Except that unlike most farewells, we knew that we would all see each other again.

The thing is that we probably will never be able to capture or perfectly recreate our first sight of the Elbe at night, the taste of our first Feldschlösschen, the thrill of going to a 5-story club, the wanderings through random towns, or the smell of fresh bread from Netto. But this leaves us with the thirst to seek more. We will never be content staying in any one place for too long. Our experiences individually and together have shaped us to be whom we are today. Our hearts are torn among different locations, people, and memories. And while it is good to sometimes dwell on dreams, it is also good to live presently in the moment and beauty that is each new breath. You guys have earned my respect long ago, and I must say that I am absolutely proud to call each and every one of you my friend. We have all shared different memories together, and while we may grow apart, rest assured that we will always be linked by the bonds we forged together in Dresden, Germany.

Endlich Daheeme,

Marvin Roxas

Weekend of January 20th

Okay, so I made it through the first week of the semester and I’m now starting the second one. To be  perfectly honest the past weekend was epic. There was the typical dancing and drinking party on Friday night which was epic as usual, and then as people left around 2am it started to snow. Ah it was so beautiful and calm as the last party goers left, my friend started smoking, and I quickly got to cleaning the dishes and mopping. And those moments soaking a mop and running across a dirty floor in order to make it shine again are just as beautifully memorable as those spent getting ready for and actually partying.

I then went to one of my job training sessions afterwards. The ride there was absolutely glorious due to the white snow that blanketed Boston in a woolly coat. I had trouble staying upright on my bike, but I eventually made it to the training session and back again. It started to flurry again, but the heat was on inside and the hot cocoa was abundant as I made a delicious cream of mushroom pasta and stuffing casserole to keep us filled and warm as the warmth enveloped us inside our living room. Oh what a great feeling it was to just sit down bundled up in a quiet room with acoustic songs pulsating from our speakers as we looked at the flurries drifting around outside. But that scene soon changed when we realized that someone dropped a chapstick tin down the toilet where it had lain for the past 12. We tried plunging it out, but that only got the toilet paper through. We then used a toilet auger to try and push out the tin. The auger is a 3-ft long metal spring that bends into the shape of the toilet drain pipes when forced down. It did not avail us. So in that pivotal moment, the remaining three of us decided to literally get our hands dirty, and we began removing the toilet from the floor in order to get out the tin from the other end of the toilet. I will not go into much detail here, except that there was a lot of “Oh God! It’s leaking,” “Get the Febreze! God where’s the Febreze?!” But after removing the toilet, using up the remaining paper towels, turning the toilet around more than a MotionPlus WiiMote, and almost getting the auger itself stuck in the toilet, we finally heard the resounding clinking sound signifying the escape of the chapstick tin. It was honestly one of the most epic moments of my time here in Ashford after a 3+ hour long battle with the toilet and its forces.

And the best part was that we were not sober during that entire toilet removal session.

As a treat, I had two other friends show up two hours later to pregame and then go out to hit the bars. And yes, as I drank that night I totally felt as if I deserved it after the arduous work that was done that Saturday. We hit Sunset Grill where my friend Andrew ordered a beer called Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier which was a smoky beer made in Bamberg, Germany. It was funny seeing that here in a faux Mexican bar here in Boston when I slept over in the very brewery that made that beer while I was on my 70km biking adventure.