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College 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.

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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.

http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/linden-street-fire/?utm_campaign=prbumain&utm_source=social&utm_medium=facebook&sf12204665=1

http://www.universalhub.com/2013/nine-residents-rescued-burning-allston-house

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.

http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/linden-street-fire/

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


To Life We Sing

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2013/04/22/178415907/agony-ecstasy-irony-the-fight-for-the-soul-of-college-a-cappella

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

Indian: Suno

Korean: K-Seoul

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.


Marathon Monday

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 Midnight Cyclingthe 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, Marathon Mondaybut 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.

Deserted BeaconAround 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.

http://www.businessinsider.com/inspiring-images-from-boston-2013-4

http://katielannan.com/2013/04/15/the-boston-marathon-is-everything-thats-right-with-the-world/

http://nesn.com/2013/04/boston-college-students-organizing-walk-to-finish-boston-marathon/

http://bucultureshock.com/stay-strong-boston/

http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/04/16/17782438-a-story-behind-the-photo

http://bostonmarathonconspiracy.com/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/gameon/2013/04/15/boston-marathon-blast-help/2086273/?csp=sporttumblr

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/15/if-you-are-losing-faith-in-human-nature-go-out-and-watch-a-marathon/

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/04/photos-stories-kindness-boston-marathon-bombing/64258/

“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.”

~Anne Frank

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.”

~President Obama

“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.”

~Unknown

“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 Allston Sunsetthat 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.

Let Boston Save Me


Self-Esteem

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.


A Blustery Day

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.


Another Day

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.