I have not posted on this blog in a long time, because I have been serving as a Peace Corps Education Volunteer in Uganda since November 11th, 2013. Feel free to continue reading and journeying with me on my adventures and experiences for the next 26 months at my new Uganda Peace Corps Blog: mountainsbeyondmountainsuganda.wordpress.com
I feel stir-crazy, and I haven’t felt this way since that day I was cooped up in my Boston apartment when the entire city was looking for the Boston bombers and the order to remain indoors was in effect. I yearn for something new, something exciting to spice up my life. Here I am seeing the lives of so many other people on Facebook and their endeavors. Then here I am on Facebook literally just eating, sleeping, and dicking around online until something happens. This is the feeling of reverse-culture shock for me. I was inundated with lights, people, experiences, adventures, and sounds for 24 days nonstop until it all came to a halt. I will write about it in a later blog post, but for now I just cannot get over how awesome the adventure was. I think that I am getting bored with the same old same old over here back home, because I have gotten used to the lifestyle of always moving and always adventuring. Maybe it’s similar to how teenagers always want to feel and yearn for that feeling of some sort of exciting emotion. It’s too quiet and dull over here, but I know that these are the last free dog days of summer that I will have in a long time.
However, I still know that I am lucky. In a few months I will be leaving to volunteer in Uganda, Africa for a 27 month Peace Corps volunteer assignment to teach secondary math and science education. It also doesn’t help that I just got back from my Eurotrip with my two best friends 6 days ago. Now it’s just the waiting period between adventures. I am in the process of bidding farewell to my old college life, and in the process of moving on. But I’m stuck in this limbo of life between my mom’s apartment and my old house where my dad and his wife live. It’s definitely not a bad life at all, but I know that there is something greater out there and something better that I could do with my time. And I don’t know if this is a good feeling or not: to have the consistent thirst for newer horizons or to be content at home doing nothing too extreme and staying content just being.
I keep forgetting how therapeutic blogging is, and I there are a few posts that I need to write down in the next few days.
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
~On the Road, Jack Kerouac
So it’s the last night before I bid a temporary farewell to this old and empty house back in Owings Mills, MD. I have been attempting to finish my reading of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road so that it can be returned back to the library in Maryland before I head back to Boston early in the morning. Once again I start to feel that pang of wanting to move and be dynamic. I just can’t stand wasting away in the same old houses and apartments without actively doing something with my life. I sometimes feel as if I am not using my skills to the fullest: during the school year I never take full advantage of my talents and end up wasting time with procrastination, and then during the breaks all I do is sleep, eat, and think about when things will start up again.
Everything around me is changing and moving beyond any control. When I leave for Boston tomorrow in a 10am Megabus, it will be the last time that I will head there before my graduation. It will be the last time that I say another goodbye to my old Maryland home and welcome the familiarity of my Boston home for the last time before everything changes and starts again anew.
I just feel stuck right now: stuck between the verges of new homes and new lives. I went back to my high school today to give a presentation about engineering in college to two classes of seniors who are taking an introductory engineering course. I couldn’t believe that I was only 4 years gone from their position and that they too would come to understand the glory of life after high school. I guess that I just also have to work on not holding on to things too much. I tend to remember a lot of things in the past, and as a result I tend to get stuck on how things were and how good they seemed to be back then. If I only I could have gone back to those moments with the wisdom and experience that I had now and did things differently. But then again I would never have gained that insight had I not first gone through those experiences with my naivete and innocence.
I started reading On the Road with feelings of joy and ecstasy as I read about the adventures and the Sal’s calling to once again fulfill that wanderlust to move into the unknown. I think that it is a very fitting book for me, because I think that I have always felt this urge to keep challenging myself to tread upon those lesser known paths and experiences. With that comes reckless abandonment, which may have seemed romantic and lofty at first, but then reveals itself to have no real purpose. My only worry is that I will soon find nothing in this world that can fill this aching desire. For Sal, it is to be upon that vast and foreign road filled with glory and mystery. For me, it is to discover that new secret or next part of my life that starts to make sense of this mess. Then again, we all have our ups and downs just like any old road, but this one doesn’t have an end in sight.
The nest stage for me is definitely the Peace Corps, and spending those 2+ years away in a developing country. What’s eating me away is that I made good headway on my application, only to have screwed up and pass the 30 day refreshing deadline. When I last checked on my application it was all deleted and I then had to start over again by scratch. It is a long and arduous process, but I know that in my heart of hearts that it is what I was called to do regardless of what anyone else has said to me. So for the time being, I need to finish my book, pack my bags, and head on to this last stage of my college career and see where that “huge vaulting world” takes me.
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.
“Do it! You’re almost there!”
“Go Kara! Woooooh!”
“I believe in you!”
“To the Commons! You can do it!””Just 1 more mile!”
These are just a few of the cheers that were yelled and chanted during the morning and afternoon of the Boston Holiday known as Marathon Monday (April 16, 2012). Many Bostonians deem Marathon Monday as one of the biggest holidays of the year, on the same level as Christmas and Thanksgiving. Indeed, several of my Facebook friends even posted statuses such as “Marathon Mon
My friend from the a cappella group brought his Canon camera that could also record video footage. The quality was exquisite, and looked beautiful. One of our early plans was to have him make a youtube video of the journey there along with the actual bike ride and sync it up with a video and some music. We followed Commonwealth Avenue down towards the Commons, and then wound our way past Downtown Boston to South Station. We got there and two of my other friends from Engineering greeted me. I had skipped out on a Chinatown dinner date with the both of them beforehand.
I quickly dig into my Irish Cheddar, Rosemary, and Cinnamon grilled cheese sandwiches and get my ticket to Zone 6 Southboro which is a few miles away from the Boston Marathon starting line at the intersection of W Main Street and Grove Street in Hopkinton. We wait in the station for about 20 minutes, and then we exit the back of South Station towards the train platforms. My friend from my a cappella group met someone who knew him from dancing and through another mutual friend from a cappella. She too brought her Canon camera, but she did not have it mounted nor have video recording capabilities. I gave her my Facebook information so that she could later find me and look at the pictures that I took. We slowly make our way to an empty train car, and we use the left benches in each train car as the place to leave our bicycles, while sitting in the right sided benches.
It is during this point when I become separated from my Engineering friends, and instead sit two benches in front of my a cappella friend in a different train car. I started to doze off, but then a cyclist wearing an orange-reddish cycling shirt and a interesting-looking hat walked through the different cars and debriefed us on what would happen along with a history of the Midnight Bike Ride. He moved on to the next car, and I quickly passed out from a long day of a cappella recording.
We end up getting off the train at the Zone 6 Soutboro/Falmouth stop and congregate in an empty parking lot. We waited there for about 30 minutes while the rest of the cyclists left the train. In that parking lot, one could really witness the breadth and variety of bicyclists who would be participating in the bike ride. As the excitement continued to build, I looked around and witnessed the wide variety of experiences from Hubway users, bike renters, professional cyclists, casual riders, people dressed in tutus, a unicyclist, a guy on rollerblades, single-gear users, and fixed-gear users. I heard the beating of drums, saw the flashing of bike lights, and felt the warm drops of rain fall on my skin. The rain soon evolved into something between a drizzle and regular rain. We made our way down the street and underneath a bridge into Hopkinton. The street took us uphill, and we were surrounded by hundreds of cyclists of all ages and backgrounds. We got to the top of the hill and zoomed down through the rainy darkness of a wooded street. Even before reaching the starting line, there were already a few casualties. Dotted throughout the route were groups of people crowded around bicycle riders who had popped their tubes, gotten a gear stuck, or needed some extra air in their tires.
Honestly, it felt so epic riding through the night surrounded by a diverse range of people united through the one love of biking. Even now, I get shivers remembering speeding through dark and torturous paths not knowing what would greet me around the bend. Shortly thereafter, we reached the starting line. We paused there for a bit, because one of my Engineering friends needed to pump some extra air into his tires. We took a group picture, set off at the starting line at 1:18am, and began our descent into the dark path before us. There were a few memorable moments that occurred throughout the duration of the bike ride. Aside from the turn onto Highway 16 and a few turns once we reached the city, the ride was pretty much straightforward. The rain eventually let up, and the weather became perfect for nighttime bike riding. The breeze felt cool with a warm and wild wind blowing through our spokes. There were a few spills scattered around the train track crossings and groups of people congregating for breaks around gas stations.
What struck me the most were the people out around 2am on lawn chairs with beers in their hand, starting Marathon Monday off right even before the sunrise. I remember passing by small towns and thinking that I would eventually like to return to them one day and enter into local shops and explore hidden areas. One of the highlights of the entire journey was the smell. Oh my God the smell of the good, damp earth permeating every road. It was during that adventure that I truly felt alive. It was one of those moments when I truly felt like I fully lived out those hours.
I got the good kind of chills rushing through small towns and empty intersections with the wind at my back. It was an interesting feeling where the rush of the moment took you by surprise and you started to understand something a little bit deeper about yourself and the world. Eventually, my friends got split up and we waited about 10 minutes to see if she got stranded somewhere behind. As it turns out, my friend was not used to much strenuous physical activity, and would get tired biking up hills. So we took a small break and I switched bikes with him, and gave him one of my grilled cheese sandwiches. He found it easier to continue on my bike, and I found it easier to continue on his bike. We continued biking along the marathon trail, and would sporadically pass by some cyclists every now and then. Before long, we passed by Boston College and knew that we were almost home. I pedaled faster, and eventually made it to the finish line near the Boston Commons and I cheered because I knew that I had done something worth doing. I participated in a mass bike ride marathon through the night and felt so epic about it. I felt as if I could conquer anything.
We took some pictures, basked in the glory of joining in such an epic experience and made it back home. I walked with my two other friends, because one of their bikes broke two blocks from the finish line. Honestly, that would have sucked had it broken further back along the route. So we walked back to my friend’s apartment by the fens, and I bid farewell to my friends when they got to the on-campus dorms. I speedily biked back, showered, changed into comfortable nighttime clothes, prepared the sangria for festivities once I woke up, and then passed out like a rock.
I awoke to the sound of bouncing ping pong balls and laughter emanating from my stoop. I knew right then and there that Marathon Monday had officially begun. I sprung out of bed, realized that I didn’t have any alcohol in my sangria, so I biked to Blanchards Liquor Store in Allston and bought a full 750mL bottle of red wine, and emptied it into my sangria, which was held inside of a gigantic cooking cauldron pot. I pregamed in the sunny area of Gardner street at one of my other a cappella group member’s apartments. I opened one of my Magic Hat beers, and quickly started to partake in the day drinking that would be the theme of the entire day. Before I continue, I first have to mention my outfit that fit the theme of the day. I wore tie dyed rugby shorts with white spandex underneath, and my Dresden Rugby shirt that had “My drinking team has a rugby problem” written across the front. I felt that Marathon Monday was a suitable enough occasion as any to wear that outfit. So I made my way out with the sangria in one hand and an open beer in my other hand. A cop car drove past me and said, “You may wanna think twice before you do that.” In my tipsiness I forgot that I lived in a country with an open container policy and could therefore not drink outside whenever I pleased.
With the help of one of my other group members, I used one of the IKEA grocery carts with white polka-dots to transport the sangria all the way across campus to South Campus where the marathon runners would pass through. It was funny to think that I only a few hours ago I was riding alone through the marathon track, and now there were hundreds of people celebrating the marathon day. The most fun was seeing everyone drunk and finding an excuse to cheer. Oh my God it was beautiful seeing familiar faces and yelling at the top of our lungs to give encouragement to the runners.
This day was about them, and finding any excuse to day drink. I saw people dressed in their own country flags, I saw runners with names written across their arms, I saw people in costumes (like red solo cups and the sort), and I saw people running with friends and family members. However what struck me the most were those who looked defeated as they half-walked/half-ran along the marathon route. I remember people pointing at them and yelling, “You can do it! I believe in you! Go go go go!” And it touched my heart so much when I saw that runner lift his head, give us a short nod and smile, and rally together for the final push. There was just so much support, and everything just seemed so good. Funnily enough, Marathon Monday rekindled my faith in college students and humanity. Yes, we were drunk, and of course work was one of the last things on our minds, but we joined together runner and crowd in a beautiful union. For those precious few moments, we formed an intimate human bond where the body may have reached its limit, but the hearts and mind were filled to the brim. So yes, I’d say that it was a beautiful day.
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.
So it’s that time of year to finally put things in retrospect. It’s been a wild, crazy year that at times felt as if it would never end. Geez so much has happened and I am having a harder time putting it in perspective. So last year began around the same time as this blog began. I started it in an old, cluttered house where I spent the majority of my childhood and teenage years. I lived there through my grade school years, middle school years, high school years, and then through my vacations and breaks during my first two years at college. I’ve said goodbye to it more times than I can count, and now it will simply become a memory. Pretty much everything that has meaning has left the house or has been donated away. And I believe that it’s good, because I’ve become less materialistic in a sense because I’ve had to say goodbye to so many things. About two weeks ago my mom said that my high school class ring was lost in the midst of my mom moving to a different apartment. A few years ago, I would have felt sad, but instead I did not really feel that strong of an emotional attachment. It’s just a ring, just a piece of jewelry that I would only wear to reunions and fancy ceremonies. And it was great while I still had it, but I can definitely live without it and move on.
There are so many stories from this year that are way too many to count.
So I started off with the journey to Dresden, Germany. And that has definitely been covered in full by my pictures on Facebook and by my dozens of posts and reflections that I have shared on this very blog. I returned to a summer where I mainly looked forward to returning back to Boston and seeing old friends and starting a new life in my new apartment. So I drove through Hurricane Irene and made it to Boston after making a small driving error and ending up somewhere near Rochester, New York. I made to Boston in the late evening as the clouds were breaking and I took the first breath of fresh air that I had not smelled for over 9 months. It had been way too long. After the first few weeks of settling in, painting the entire apartment (along with my roommate’s mom), and getting a solid older boy’s bike (with 20″ wheels), we finally started the semester. And what have I learned:?:
Handles of vodka are cheaper when the plastic ones are bought. Six $12 handles of vodka and five 30’s will almost be enough to entertain 60 friends and their “guests.” I learned that these barely allows everyone to get to the required level of drunkenness that allows for hilarious dancing, amazingly deep conversations, and interesting hookups. I have also ensured that a bucket is kept in almost every room in order to allow for people to throw up with dignity and decorum while the general public continues to “get thur drank on.”
Birthday parties at the beginning of the semester when everyone is seeing each other again for the first time after a long hiatus are epic. Seriously, one of the most epic moments of the year was during the first weekend after classes when my roomie and I christened our apartment with our first college party. Friends old and new from the study abroad group of Dresden to the dorm floors of freshmen year arrived to gather together for the first time to celebrate the birthday of an a friend. The plaster was still on the walls, the paint had barely dried, and everyone was ecstatic to see each other again. And the best part, we survived the first trial of having a successful party without any problems with authorities.
You get used to biking 4 miles on a small bike up and downhill to your classes on a daily basis. Seriously, forget the ellipticals and just get a small bike and your quads will be amazing. But just those, and nothing else.
You can have dinner parties with roast. Honestly, I’ve learned how to make meals for over 10 people given about 2 hours, and it’s just such a rush to get everything ready when all you have for utensils and tableware are 6 spoons, a dozen forks, 3 knives, and a various assortment of different-sized bowls and plates (some of which were permanently borrowed from the Mensa [dining hall] of Dresden). You can also survive off of $10 worth of food on a weekly basis as long as you buy things on sale, in bulk, and from the few days old stale section of the grocery store.
Hangovers after Halloween parties while freezing rain falls down are amazing (it has to be that specific). Seriously, just brew some green tea, sit down on the couch by the windows, read The Great Gatsby and don’t care about the rest of the night except for the fact that you still have to dress up for the rest of the Halloween weekend.
You learn a lot about responsibility especially when whether or not you can eat or not depends on whether you logged enough hours on your work-study and regular job to pay for the utility bill, parking spot rent, parking tickets, alcohol, and then food.
Classes get harder in junior year, and you begin to accept the 50% as a fairly good grade regardless of the curve. And the all-nighters and countless hours spent on problem sets and lab assignments never make you feel worth it. The workload just piled up, and it never seemed to end at times.
But for every hard and difficult moment, there existed an opposite and equal moment that allowed for the semester to become bearable. Moments of bike riding with two friends through the summer tinted pathways of the esplanade to a castle on an island, days spent wild and young upon the steppes of the Boston Commons, adventures wandering the streets of Boston through the night without a goal in mind, and singing in beautiful harmony with a group of friends that you have grown close to.
This year, especially the semester has been a blur, a good blur. The weeks just went by too quickly, and yeah I learned a bit in my classes. But most importantly, I learned how to read and understand people. Actually, maybe not. I’m not too sure, I may be wrong, but maybe I learned to observe people better. Yes, I think that that’s more accurate; I learned how to host people. I shared stories with couchsurfers from countries and provinces all over the world: from the villages of Bulgaria, to a pot farmer from California, to the Spanish and French couples, to the novelist writing about Boston University and Harvard. There was beauty in all the moments this year, even through the discord and the trials. And in the process I have made lifelong friends. I know that this post does not come close to rivaling those of my past years, but it is an important post nonetheless.
Most importantly this year revolved around adventuring and reminiscing. It was about a time of going forward while looking backward at the same time. And it was a reminder that I will once again have that wander thirst to travel to hidden paths that go all throughout the world through unknown dangers that would prevent even the most hardy and experienced of travelers from going had they previously known what had lain ahead. But through all these things, I can honestly say that wherever I go with my friends, family, and experiences I can honestly say that I am finally home.
By: Gerald Gould
“Beyond the east the sunrise; Beyond the west the sea
And East and West the Wander-Thirst that will not let me be;
It works in me like madness to bid me say goodbye,
For the seas call, and the stars call, and oh! The call of the sky!
I know not where the white road runs, nor what the blue hills are,
But a man can have the sun for friend, and for his guide, a star;
And there’s no end to voyaging when once the voice is heard,
For the rivers call, and the road calls, and oh! The call of a bird!
Yonder the long horizon lies, and there by night and day
The old ships draw to home again, the young ships sail away
And come I may, but go I must, and if men ask you why,
You may put the blame on the stars and the sun,
And the white road and the sky.”