Monthly Archives: January 2009

Zhongguo, Here I Come…

I’m currently sitting next to gate B17 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. My flight to Beijing, China leaves in about 2 hours. I have to say, I’m feeling an enormous mix of emotions–excitement, anxiousness, curiosity, exhaustion (I’ve slept 2 hours last night), and joy. Being at gate B17 is funny — 17 is my lucky number. I’m not all that superstitious, but I’ll take a little luck before a 14 hour flight. I like to think that I’m well prepared for this adventure. I do think I overpacked, but that happens every time I fly anywhere. I am really intrigued to find out what the similarities or disparities will be between this wait in the airport and the one returning to the US. That’s too far off now though.

What has me really interested right now is all that is in the news today: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has returned to Springfield to give a statement to the Illinois Senate; the US economy continues to fall into this dark hole; President Obama is acting fast but facing lots of criticism and skepticism already; and Chinese officials have pointed the finger at the US in response to the worldwide economic downturn. In four months, when I return, I will have a whole new perspective on things. I wonder how much the news will shift. I am hoping it will shift in the positive direction. The world needs something to smile about. I am confident we will get something soon–it’s just a matter of time. These are interesting times though. I couldn’t have picked a more relevant time to visit China (the largest creditor to the US). I will soon report on what perceptions and thoughts are over there.

To all my family and friends: thank you all for providing me a smooth and loving departure. The thoughts from all of you have been extremely meaningful. Stay tuned as I’ll continue to report here.

Check back soon. Zaijian! (goodbye in Chinese pinyin)

Acredito que uma pessoa comum pode ajudar muito…

One of the most common questions I am asked by prospective students and faculty is why I decided to attend CC. There of course are several reasons. Obviously, the Block Plan. I think it’s great for a myriad of reasons. I love Colorado. I also like the fact that it’s a small liberal arts school, with small classes, where students develop strong relationships with faculty, often publishing in peer-reviewed journals and assisting professors with graduate level research as mere undergraduates. However, the factor that  most distinguishes CC from other colleges are the students. The students here have a genuine desire to effect change and make the world a better place. It’s inspiring reading the Alumni magazine and learning that my some of my peers, wanting to ensure fair and livable wages for coffee producers and to protect the environment, started their own fair trade coffee business before even graduating. It makes me strive to be a better person in order to live up to this CC standard.

I came across a quotation from a famous Brazilian photographer the other day that does a good job summarizing CC students’ attitude towards this desire to improve our society:

“Acredito que uma pessoa comum pode ajudar muito, não apenas doando bens materiais, mas participando, sendo parte das trocas de idéias, estando realmente preocupada sobre o que está acontecendo no mundo.” –Sabastião Salgado

For those of you who don’t speak Portuguese, my rough translation is, “I believe that a common person can help a lot, not just giving material goods, but participating, being part of the exchange of ideas, being genuinely worried about what is happening in the world.”

I’ll leave on that note, so that I can begin to plan my next project to make this world just a little better than I found it.

Winter Break ’09

Well, my winter break was absolutely fabulous. I have never had a more relaxing time during a school holiday — and I’m going to chalk down to the block plan, which left me with no work over the holidays! However, the very first part of my holiday was not relaxing at all… instead of one day to get home, it took me five! Which would be understandable if I lived in Chiang Mai, but I’m from Victoria BC. As I’m sure anyone who was traveling around Christmas this year can attest, weather conditions were nasty, and the airports quickly became mired in angry and anxious passengers trying to get home for the holidays. Before I left, I was talking with some friends who were flying to Bulgaria and Moscow respectively, for whom it took several days of travel to get home. Little did I expect that I’d be arriving home after they did after several days of sleeping on airport floors!

So, as you can imagine, once I got home (in time for Christmas) I was doubly grateful to be there. After some great holiday time with the family, I did all those great things you do after arriving back from time away — saw old friends, slept, read, and relaxed! I also applied for a summer job at the cafe down the street from my house. Seeing as my friends and I had all just turned the legal drinking age in Canada (19), I also got a tour of every bar and club in town! From which experience I can assure you that Victoria, BC is not currently the hottest clubbing destination in the world, but you do stand a good chance of meeting your old middle school teacher during the bar crawl.

And finally, after four great weeks at home, it was time to return back to Colorado College. It was hard to leave my friends and family in Victoria, but I was also excited to come back to CC… and the leg of the journey back was much smoother! Now I’m back at College, taking a very fun intro Spanish course, and about to go to my first modern dance adjunct class today. Its shaping up to look like a fun and busy term, destined to start off with a punch — this Friday the Student Organization for Sexual Safety that I’m a part of is putting on Speed Dating/Friendship in the new Cornerstone arts center. It’s going to be a riot. And probably pretty funny to watch. Though I’ve been told I’m participating because I’m a member of SOSS…

So. Do you like long walks on the beach?

Me and my friend Hannah, who helps me pack every time I go away. I put stuff into the suitcase, she takes it out! And I still pay overweight every time.

Me and my friend Hannah, who helps me pack every time I go away. I put stuff into the suitcase, she takes it out! And I still pay overweight every time.

Articulating Goals

Although I had a great break, relaxing would not be the word I’d use to describe it…yes, productive is a much better choice. In fact, this past winter break is the most productive break I’ve ever had. I packed up my room at my parents’ house and helped my mom clean like crazy. I also finished my application for the Truman Scholarship, providing financial support for graduate study, leadership training, and fellowship with other students who are committed to making a difference through public service.

The scholarship is uber competitive (there’s only one winner per state) and is a beast to fill out; it has seven short answer questions plus a policy proposal, none of which are easy things to quickly anwer. Luckily, I immediately knew the theme of my application: going to law school to further my work advocating for the Hispanic community. A child of an immigrant, I’m especially interested in immigrant rights issues. I spent most of my first two weeks of break researching statistics and gathering information about possible career paths, law schools, etc. Then, I had to articulate my thoughts into coherent essays. The process was particularly difficult because, although I’m passionate about the subject, I’ve never had to write about it before now.

I’m glad to be finished; it’s a huge weight off my shoulders, and I know this sounds ridiculous, but just filling out the application was extremely rewarding. Believe me, there are several other things I would have loved to have been doing over break besides filling out an application, but let me explain: as a junior, this application forced me to consider what type of graduate school I want to go to, explore law schools, speak with professors at those schools, brainstorm possible career paths, think about the steps I must take now to get there, and work towards a solution to a problem plaguing our community. One of the difficult things about attending a liberal arts school is that you don’t have to ever narrow your options or goals in life, which can lead to a crisis senior year when people graduate with no idea of what they are going to do after college. I, on the other hand, now have a set of concrete goals and a plan on how to accomplish them. So, even if I don’t get this scholarship, I’ve gained a lot from just filling out the application. But fingers crossed that I get an interview – they’ll announce finalists in four weeks.

Even though I was rather productive this break, I had time to relax a little bit. I caught up with old friends, played in the snow, hung out on Pearl Street, and rode my bike. During the first three weeks of break, the weather was freezing and super windy. But when a sunny day sneaked in, Xavier (my brother) and I managed to fit in a bike ride.

taking a quick break before heading home

Go Big!

Hey Everyone, 

It’s the last day of winter break and it’s been 60 degrees the last three days and looks like more of the same for next week.  I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back and see everyone, and oh yeah the weather doesn’t hurt. 

Students from CC are from all parts of the country, including some very cool cities and towns.  There is nowhere else in the world I would rather be than Colorado.  But, every once in a while you can’t help but be a little jealous of where students are from.  However, winter break is a time for other students to be jealous of me.  I skied over 15 days this winter break at some of the world’s best skiing destinations.  There has been so much snow this winter that the December snow record in Vail was broken by 40 inches and January looks to be about the same. 

I don’t think the weather could have been any better for break.  In addition to the epic snow, there have been several days over 60 degrees in Denver.  However, last week was one of my last chances to hit the slopes before lacrosse starts.  I went to Winter Park to ski with a few friends who came out early before class.  Let me preface this with I do much more back country skiing and don’t typically get ‘extreme’.  I don’t spin more than 360 degrees, I don’t flip, and I draw the line with cliffs at about 15 feet.  In fact, I don’t do flips on a trampoline or even in the pool.  However, at Ben Garner’s house in Winter Park we built a jump that started above the house that went through the driveway to a jump that dropped off into about 3 feet of snow.  After watching several of my friends flip, there was obviously no choice but to follow suit.  So, barreling down the hill into the driving I arched my back, looked back, and tucked my knees.  After what felt like time slowing down I was right side up in the snow: back flip accomplished. 

The moral of this story is that with my friends at CC, I try things I would otherwise probably shy away or back out of.  I am constantly encouraged to get out of my comfort zone and seek more fulfillment in my activities.  I don’t think I could have ever predicted the new height of my goals or the scope of my activities since coming to CC. 

Until next time, onward!

Always busy, but always happy

With my departure now for China right around the corner I have been constantly shopping, making lists, calling people, and sending emails. Worse, I spend most of my time thinking about what I need to shop for, or what should go on the list or who to call, etc… So, as per my usual way of doing things, I am constantly busy. 

I have spent a lot of my most recent time shopping for new clothes. My wardrobe has needed a bit of a makeover. Most important has been some additions in terms of dress clothes. The program in Beijing I am enrolled in is a full-time internship. As of now, it seems I will be placed in a law-firm. This means my carharts, fading/tattered khakis, and scuffed brown dress shoes are no good. I have come into a lot of luck thus far seeing as most stores are having unbelievable sales. It has been a bit quiet in some stores–nobody is shopping right now. The economic crisis is very evident at the malls these days. 

On top of shopping, I have spent a good deal of time with a couple good friends. My really great friend from high school attends Northwestern in Evanston, IL, which is only about a half an hour drive from my house. I spent most of last weekend there going to various Northwestern events. I also helped set up and clean up a small fundraiser for a film he’s working on. 

Earlier this week, I drove down to Navy Pier in Chicago to visit with a CC grad from ’08, Molly Adams. She is working at WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio, for there new project called vocalo.org. She showed me around the station today and gave me a good look into Chicago radio. We also caught a glimpse of Ira Glass as we perused the halls of WBEZ! We also held the Emmy that This American Life won. I hope to get down to the city again to visit her at the bar she works at in the city. That CC connection really is good to find!

HAPPY 2009!

I know, a bit late, but what the hell! So far, things have begun kind of with a crawl. The economic situation clearly isn’t getting better. My personal life has changed pace from previous years as I am not returning to CC next week with everybody else. So, things seem to be crawling a bit. We do have a new President of the United States being inaugurated next week. Maybe things seems different and quiet because we are all holding our collective breath for that day. That day when Barack Obama takes office and shows us whether we can believe in his change he so adamantly promised throughout his campaign.

Enough politics… Back to New Years Eve… This is the first year in about a dozen that I can remember not spending the evening with multiple people. The last time I can remember was at my house with my best friend at the time watching TV and popping a bottle of sparkling grape juice. This year, while spent only with my girlfriend, was not exactly the same.

Taylor and me in the cab at midnight!

Taylor and me in the cab at midnight!

We ventured to downtown Chicago (only about 45 minutes from my house) where we ate a dinner far to upscale for the two of us and spent the night frolicking around the loop. We completely failed in finding a bar or party to go to. We were having far to much fun just the two of us. This resulted in our New Years Eve countdown being held in a Chicago cab on the Edens Expressway. We screamed to our driver from the back, “Happy New Year!!” He chuckled and said, “Hey… You were here last year!” It took me a second, but I eventually got the joke. We gave him a hefty tip for 2009 when he dropped us off.

 

Michigan Avenue at night in the loop

Michigan Avenue at night in the loop

Being home in Chicago is a really special thing. I find this city to be so welcoming every time I’m in it. It seems to attract a lot of college grads. I know at least a few CC grads who have ventured this way. Being here makes me hope that I can come back at some point in the future. Not now though. Colorado has far too much I haven’t seen yet.

A Brief Christmas Overview

With half block starting on Monday, I’m heading back to Colorado today. It was a nice two weeks to have all to myself (and family, of course). I finally got a change to catch up on sleep from second block and regain some weight lost through the numerous shows I was involved in last semester.

The second tree that sits in our dining room with candles on it.

So, Christmas was lovely – as Christmas always is. In recent years, my family has rekindled an old (German) tradition from my mom’s side of the family of lighting candles on the tree. This is a picture of last year’s tree sitting in the corner of our dining room. We light it during Christmas Eve dinner with my grandparents – and this year we sat and watched until the candles were burnt out all the way. It’s neat to watch, although it takes a little while.

For Christmas, my older sister is still the one to wake everyone up early for presents. Her fiancee was here for a week centered around Christmas. My family decided we didn’t really need much this year, which resulted in more clothes than usual (but they’re comfy). I did get WALL-E, probably the best Disney movie ever – on my list, it beat out Tron. Then, the traditional Christmas afternoon in my family consists of going to my grandparent’s house (on my dad’s side) for dinner with the aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. This visit is guaranteed to include receiving the annual Hess truck – I have one from every year of my life, plus some I think.

I have to go pack, but I’ll leave with this picture that was a present to my mom from the three of us. The man playing Santa seemed pretty disgruntled by this situation, but you’re never too old to sit on Santa’s lap…

My dad, me, Santa, and my sister.

L to R: My dad, me, Santa, and my sister.