Sunday, July 8, 2012


As a brief disclaimer, this will not be my most interesting blog, as this was not my most interesting day.

I finally slept in, today. I don't think I got out of bed until about 1:00 PM. It was awesome. By this point, my roommates had all already left to go see a movie. I used this time alone to take a shower, dress, and get started on an essay for my Constitutional Law class. Well, to be honest, I didn't immediately start work on the essay; I may have played around on Youtube and Facebook for a little while. I did eventually get down to business, though.

At about 4:00, I went off campus to get some pizza, a drink and some snacks. This ended up being the only time I left my dorm all day.

When I got back to my room, I found that my sister was online on Skype, so I spent an hour and a half catching up with her over over a video call. I hadn't talked to her for a while, so it felt really good to see her.

After the call, I got back to work on the essay. That's pretty much all that I did for the rest of my day. That's not to say that I didn't waste some time procrastinating, here and there, but I didn't do anything else of relevance.

Work, Work, and more Work!

Today was one of the more relaxed days I had in the program. I woke up around 10 am and started adding to my research paper. At 11:15, Aurea and I had Sunday brunch at Mel's. I enjoyed a big breakfast that I knew would give me enough energy to finish and edit my paper.

Pancakes, ham, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and scrambled eggs
Writing my paper was not very hard but the hard part was editing. Every time I write a big paper for a class, I print it out and edit everything. By the time I finished, there were red marks everywhere. But I still felt satisfied. I put in the edits and will print it out tomorrow. Aurea looked over it as well and edited parts. I am glad for her advice and the fact that I got to take a break from working! The topic I chose for my paper was whether United States presidents should be allowed more powers in cases of National Emergencies and I said no due to previous overstepping of executive power in terms of making unconstitutional decisions by previous presidents.

Later, Morvarid, Rowland, Brittany, Aurea, and I went to a Persian restaurant called Persopholes. It had great food; I'd never had Persian food so I was excited to try it! It was a good way to end the day.

Brittany and Rowland
A spread of Persian food
Bread, rice, and chicken
Group photo
Silly silly

Pulling an All-Dayer

My day can be summed up in three words: work, work, and more work. Since I had so much to do, I managed to stay inside my dorm room the entire day. I was even  forced to refuse multiple offers for a break, in fear of getting behind. The worst part is that the reason that I had to spend my entire day cooped up inside wasn't because of a pile of assignments that I had left to the last minute, but one, single project that I had already started a few days prior--my 5 page research paper. 

The topic for my paper is the following:

In Germany, the sale and ownership of Nazi memorabilia is illegal. Should the US limit the use of racist speech of by prohibiting the literature and objects of racial groups such as the Ku Klux Klan?

My argument is that the United States does not have the power to limit racist speech in any shape or form, as it violates that mandates set by the First and Fourth Amendments. At first glance, it seems like an easy stance to defend, but trust me, it isn't. It took me over an hour to find any relevant references, and even longer to figure out how to convey the evidence I found in a way that clearly supports my thesis. 

Writing a paper that based solely on legal arguments is something that I've never done before, so getting used to going so is somewhat of a challenge. However, I also see this experience as a great way to learn. When I go to college, I plan on becoming an English major, so being exposed to new types of writing styles such as this one is sure to help me reach my goal. 

As of know, I have 4 out of 5 pages completed. While that does sound like a lot of progress, I'm worried that I may be running out of ideas. Hopefully, I'll be able to get past my writer's block soon, as this paper is due tomorrow at 2:00 PM. For now, I guess that all I can do is keep calm and try to my best.

A Taste of Home

One word and only ONE word will describe today; work.

Yet another day, although my weekend, I woke up early and read. When the clock struck eleven, I got dressed to go and enjoy brunch with my friends. Like I said on my previous blog, I was really craving some crepes this past week and I was really looking forward to trying some out in NYC! Adrianne did not want any and instead insisted on pancakes or french toast, so we agreed to purchase whatever we choose and meet at one restaurant. In this case, I bought a berry crepe and went to the restaurant Adrianne wanted to eat at. The crepe nonetheless was absolutely delicious! 

 Where I call "home!"
The savory dish was actually one of the only two things I enjoyed today. After relaxing and eating my breakfast (technically it was brunch), I rushed to my room, packed my stuff, and took off to the Butler library. I stayed there all day until they literally kicked me out because the library was closing. By that time I was starving and a friend of mine, Shayon, from class had told me about a Persian restaurant called "Persepolis." He recommended it one day when we were talking about Persian food, and I wanted to try it out ever since. It's been three weeks and I've really been missing my mom's delicious cooking and the endless Persian cuisine I would savor on every day. I asked if my friends would come with me and thankfully, they all agreed to come. I really appreciated it because it meant a lot to me! The restaurant really made me feel like I was back home...

Since all my friends had never tried Persian food before, I wanted them to have a good experience and a good first taste of the culture. They allowed me to choose the dishes for them so I took leadership in deciding a variety of dishes for them to taste. I stuck to kebabs and different rices since those are the most prominent Persian dishes. In all, we ordered 3 dishes, and one appetizer that we all shared. For the appetizer I ordered Mirza Ghasemi, which they referred to as "Eggplant Mirza." It is roasted eggplant purée, mint, tomato sauce, and garlic, which is eaten with bread. For dinner, I ordered Saffron Chicken, Soltani Bah Filet (duo of mignon barg and kubideh kebab), and Shandiz (saffron marinated rack of lamb). Along side the meat I ordered three different types of rice; - polo sefid (steamed white basmati rice), polo baghali (basmati rice with dill and fava beans), and polo shirin (basmati rice with almond and orange). They all did turn out pretty delicious and what I was more pleased about than the food was the fact that my friends enjoyed it. It was a nice way to end the day after working for many hours straight. After all, the only breaks I had today were vital breaks needed to eat. Besides that, today was work, work, and work.

Productivity at its Finest

So I know that today was supposed to be the day each one of us were to devote to work. Did most of us do that? Probably not- well at least that's how it was for me.

I began my day a lot later than usual at 11 AM to get brunch with a few people. After our meal, we decided to go our separate ways to get some work done. So I trekked to my room and began what should have my productive day. But plans don’t always go the way I intend them to and I fell asleep during my study session. After a good nap I awoke to my unfinished work therefore I made the decision to do work at Butler Library. And once again distractions get to me and I did not get as much as I wanted done. I grabbed a quick bite with a few friends who were also in the library before actually cracking open my books and getting some work done.

What frustrates me the most is my own indecisiveness. I have done research done for general subjects that concern my paper which are the presidential legacies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, James Early “Jimmy” Carter, Lyndon B. Johnson, and George W. Bush. The only problem I’m having with my paper what thesis I want to use as my argument. I’ve bounced back and forth between two theses. After a while of trying to figure out what I was to write about, I decided to get a second opinion. I barged- okay not exactly, I knocked politely and walked- into Adrianne’s room for help on my paper. She gave me her opinion on what would be a better thesis and from there I just started writing. And in turn, I proof read her research paper although hers is only five pages versus my twenty-five one.

After a humorous display from Brittany and Adrianne of trying to keep people in the latter’s room, we and a few other people left for dinner at Persepolis. Morvarid was definitely excited seeing that she has yet to have any kind of home tasting food since this trip. I can sympathize, I’ve been craving some Filipino food. We had a delicious family style meal at the restaurant and then we headed back to campus for homework. Now onto my paper..

Remember the Sabbath

My breakfast, although some might call it dessert.
So, according to the Ten Commandments, today is the day we are all supposed to rest. I find this to be a very good idea to live by. But my research paper had other plans for me. I can say that I rested at night; I slept until 11 AM for the first time this trip, but my day has consisted of almost entirely work ever since. Well, that's an exaggeration, but basically, today was dedicated to work and I don't like doing so much work in so little time so I am complaining.
Anyway, at 12 I went out to breakfast/lunch (I don't really say "brunch" that often) at a place called Artopolis, a crepe-serving place a block down from campus. I was with my roommate, a suitemate and a friend of we just sat and talked and ate until about 1, when we headed back to campus.
After reaching campus, the same two guys I had gone to breakfast with offered to play basketball, and I tried to resist the temptation but could not. We went down to the gym and played some 2-on-2 (another kid met us there) before being invited into a 5-on-5 game of current Columbia students. I have no idea how long we played but we finished at around 3:30 PM. After this, I picked up a baseball for the first time in a while and played some catch with another kid on my floor looking for someone else like me who also likes baseball.
Aside from that, I have done nothing but work today. I ordered some pizza a few minutes ago, and we'll see how it turns out, although I did my research and I have high expectations. But now, back to work....I hope I'm not up too late. Sorry for the short blog, but my day has literally been just eating, working out and this essay.

The Last Fun Day Before A Busy Sunday

Our entire trip so far has been hot, sticky, and humid. I'm not really complaining though because regardless of the humidity, I absolutely love the heat! Bay area weather is so cold all the time that I never really have the time to enjoy the outdoors and feel the warm summer heat gently touch upon my skin. Even in the summer I'm usually out with a jacket or at least with a sweater! Whoever said California is a sunshine state must have been Columbus #2 thinking he was in one place when he was really somewhere else. At least, I know for a fact they weren't speaking of Northern California. After all, if you don't believe me, listen to Mark Twain: "The coldest winter I ever had was a summer in San Francisco." 

However, I do like the heat but I hate the rain. Here, it rains quite often but it's usually a quick rain and the warm weather is still maintained throughout the shower. I don't really mind it here, except last night that is. Last night was 100 degrees here in New York while back in Richmond it was only 72. Regardless of the day's intensive heat, it still managed to rain at night! I shouldn't really care because I was already back home by the time the shower started, but the thing was that the rain was also accompanied by violent thunder and lightening. I'm not one to be scared by those because in fact, it fascinates me, but the problem was that it was affecting my Internet here at Hartley. The Internet would constantly disconnect and when it was connected, it would be really slow and unbearable. Nonetheless, for some reason blogger was not working for me either. I stayed up until around 2 in the morning frantically trying to post my blog, but constantly faced barriers. By this time I was exhausted, I worried, and I still did not want to disappoint my organization by not completing my blogging duty and satisfying what was expected of me (blogging every day). Luckily, I e-mailed Don with my friend's iPhone and he told me to call him and explain to him my situation. He understood completely and told me to get some rest and fix the the problem the next morning (today). So this morning I downloaded  Google Chrome and I can now safely say that everything is resolved.
Well first things first, I will speak of today's adventure tonight but specifically write only the things that happened yesterday in this blog post. If you want to know what happened today, you must wait until later (sorry!). There will be no spoilers, although there's not much to spoil since I will only working on my research paper today for the most part. 
Yesterday I woke up early in the morning to get a bite to eat with Adrianne before heading off to visit the world famous New York University. I really wanted to get Crepes at the Artology restaurant, but since Adrianne wanted pancakes from Deluxe, I accompanied her there so she would not be alone. There, i resorted to just eating banana pancakes and cranberry juice, which is fine but I decided I must try the crepes here at least one before I leave! Although that day was not yesterday, I knew I would try them someday soon.
After breakfast, Adrianne and I rushed back to the campus to meet with our cohort and enter the subway together. By the time we arrived to New York University, Mrs.L had already signed us up on the waiting list for the information seminar and it wasn't long until our names were called to attend. Interestingly, I happened to see one of my suite-mates there too! I walked in the door and I just heard someone scream, "Momo!" which is actually the nickname a few of my friends call me. I did not see her in the morning at the suite, so it was really interesting that we both planned to be at the same place even though we didn't know of each other's plans. Small world right?
Anyways, the information session was quite informative but I had already researched NYU so I already knew a lot of the information that was provided. I did, however, enjoy the presentation and the enthusiasm of the admission officer speaking at the session. Later, we divided accordingly among groups for an NYU tour. We went from classrooms, to libraries, to even the dining hall and the entire atmosphere seemed very welcoming to me. I enjoyed not only the school itself, but also the tour. However, we had to leave a bit early because we had tickets arranged for the 9/11 memorial. To be honest, before going I thought to myself "there's nothing there! What would the memorial even look like?" Little did I know how powerful of a message it had and what an impact it had on it's visitors. I'm so glad Mrs.L brought us to the memorial, it will forever stay as a touching memory for me personally. During the 9/11 attack, I was only 5 or 6 years old, and I did not really have a strong memory of what exactly happened. I always knew how tragic the event was for so many families, but it was never something I can sense independently since nothing of the sort ever happened to me. The world and our nation has forever been affected by the tragedy of the 9/11, and nothing will ever return to the way it use to be before. Until I visited the 9/11 scene, I was never as affected as I was after my visit. I could almost sense how those individuals felt and their families. I saw so many people having a family reunion there, perhaps one of their loved ones died in the incident. I saw  a wallet of a man that died in one of the buildings whom called his wife right after the crash telling her he's evacuating and will call her back after he's out. The woman never got a call back, but found his husband's wallet with a two dollar bill; a sign of their love and his proposal for marriage.

Overall, it was a very powerful memorial, and I'm really glad I had the opportunity to visit. After the memorial, we went straight home and got ready for that night's dinner. We went to Oceana restaurant with two over Vassar alums and had a very nice talk with each of our guests. They were both really interesting individuals and I enjoyed speaking to both. they referred to themselves as "Vassar cheerleaders" due to their passion for the institution. As the were speaking about clubs, they told us about how Vassar has such a variety of different and uniquely diverse clubs. They named a few and I asked, "Does Vassar have a Persian club?" They said, "No, but you can start one..." I quickly replied, "Well I guess Vassar needs me now!"
My new favorite quote of the night: "I don't need nobody to give me nothing, open up the door and I'll get it myself."  -James Brown. (One of the Vassar alums mentioned this quote and I quickly jotted it down, I just thought it portrayed my academic responsibility and independence.)

All Too Real

I think I've forgotten what sleeping in feels like. For better or for worse, I have had somewhere to be literally every morning since I landed in New York. While I haven't gotten as much sleep as I'd want in summer so far, I'd still say, though, that always having somewhere to be is, in this case, for better. Every single I have gotten up early on this trip (so basically, every day), it has been to go find out where I might want to go to college, to go study Constitutional Law at one of the world's top universities, or to go out and see the city of New York and the surrounding areas.

Anyway, today, on Saturday morning, I woke up at 9:05 AM. It was a bit later than I had wanted to, so I had to rush a bit, but I was able to shower, run down to Starbucks for breakfast and then come back in time to meet by 9:45 for a trip to New York University. Our group left a bit late, but luckily, we were still able to make it on time for NYU's information session and tour.

It was only about 10:35 AM as we walked the few blocks from the subway to NYU's Admissions Office, but the heat was already reaching extreme levels. I absolutely love the heat, and I still prefer today's weather over a San Francisco 70 degree day, but let me tell you, I'd much prefer 90 degrees instead of 100. Every building we enter is kind of an oasis on these kids of days. And conveniently, the weather had been very cool in the weeks before we arrived; however, New York has gone through one heatwave after another since we've arrived. It's strange, though; I complain, but I don't think I'd have it any other way, because I really love this weather.

Anyway (I say anyway a lot because I go off on random tangents very often), NYU's information session was, for lack of a better word, informative. I was not blown away by any statistics, although the one thing that I absolutely loved was the strong international presence. They have campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, in addition to study abroad programs all over tons of major cities across the world (they have programs in six continents, they said). Aside from that, NYU did not have anything that really impressed me that much. It has plenty of things that I do love, such as an urban location, a perfect-sized student body and a fantastic education. The main drawback for me, though, was that the campus was actually TOO urban. I'd love for the school I attend to be in an urban area; however, NYU's campus is so immersed with the urban area that there is very little open grassy space to sit down. Washington Square Park is nice, and you could argue that this qualifies as green space, but it really is not the same to me as having actually green grass all over your campus, which NYU does not have. In fact, NYU does not have an official campus, which many people may love, although I am not one of those people. For me, it is actually TOO urban. Of course, NYU has fantastic traits which I'm sure plenty of people love; I just don't think it is right for me.
The under-construction Freedom Tower
After finishing at NYU, we hopped on a train to the World Trade Center Memorial. I had expected that I would impacted to a certain extent, as the September 11th attacks will always hold a somber significance in my mind. I was completely unprepared for what I experienced, though. It was one of the eeriest feelings to stand at the base of the exact site of the North and South towers, and to look up and visualize a passenger jet flying into each of the buildings, one 15 minutes after the other. I actually know quite a bit about the sequence of events that occurred on September 11th, and I could even see exactly from what direction the plane would approach in the eyes of someone standing in the same spot myself, only 11 years ago.

The site of the North Tower, looking Southeast. American Airlines Flight 11 would have hit on the left side of this photo.

The site of the South Tower (above and below), looking
Northeast to East. The second plane hit frombehind where
I was standing.
The entire experience gave me goosebumps. I would kind of stare into the water for a few minutes, and see the tower rising majestically into the sky. And I would be looking up, and the plane would approach and hit the North Tower and the giant plume of black smoke would shoot out of the sides of the building above. Of course, I was not there, so I cannot truly say I know what occurred or how it would have felt, nor can I say I feel close to the same amount of pain as those who witnessed what occurred, but even 11 years later, it was all too real for me. It was an experience that I would not have traded for the world, but it still disturbed in the scariest way. And I would stare into the water of the memorial and still have trouble wrapping my head around the chaos of what actually occurred on that day.

After viewing the memorial for about an hour, we returned to Columbia at around 5. I spent my two hours showering, getting a little bit of work done, and relaxing. At 7, we got all dressed up again, and took the 1 down to 50th Street for a dinner at Oceana with two Vassar alumni. Unfortunately, I am not very interested in Vassar, mainly because of its size and location. However, the conversation was fantastic, and I will still be able to utilize a lot of what I learned in other situations. For example, when Ken Miles talked about his time working at McDonald's, he mentioned how working at McDonald's sucks, however, you can still make a lot out of the situation. He said that working at a place like that helped him develop valuable communication skills, and he basically tried to push across the message that you should take away whatever you can get, even from situations that may seem very unpleasant. We also as a group discussed the importance of having a network of people (something that is extremely strong at Vassar) to help open doors for you in the real world, in situations such as finding a job. Also, the food was phenomenal (once again).

Just a couple side notes from today: Drinking 5 bottles of water and 10 glasses of water (so, in all, roughly the equivalent to 10 bottles of water) will really make you have to go the bathroom. Also, tomorrow's blog I can already guarantee will be very boring because I get to spend the entire day in my room completing my essay! Fun......... On a positive note, though, I had a fantastic time today!

Shrimp for a Sardine

It's Saturday, so there was no class today. We decided a while ago, that this would be the perfect chance to visit a few sites in Manhattan. The first stop, was New York University (NYU).

At the NYU admissions office, we attended an info session held by one of the admissions officers. He started by showing us a video about life at NYU. It was good, but it wasn't nearly as entertaining as "That's Why I Chose Yale." After the movie, he went over details of NYU, and described the school's current goal. It seems that NYU is making a major push to create an international education program. They have full time "portal" schools, in New York, Shanghai, (and soon) Abu Dhabi. They also have partnerships with schools in 11 countries. Most students spend anywhere from 1 to 5 semesters abroad.

After he answered some questions, we split up into groups, for "campus" tours. NYU doesn't have a standard campus. It's in a nice area, and surrounds a park, but it's really just a part of the city. The tour guide explained that a very major part of life at NYU is exploring and experiencing what New York has to offer.

We had to leave the tour a little bit early, to make it over to our next stop: the 9/11 memorial. We arrived a little while before our reserved time, so we stopped for pizza. There was a long procession of police cars outside, while we were eating. Ms. L. said that it was probably because someone famous, like a politician or celebrity, was visiting the site.

The memorial was stunning. The design and architecture were really impressive. I know I'm not the first person to make this connection, but it reminds me a lot of the Vietnam memorial. Rather than placing a statue, all the names are inscribed in a long section of stone. The new tower looks especially tall, up close.

At about 4:00 PM, we headed back to Columbia. Oh, I forgot to mention, it was hot today. Really, really hot.

We got back to our dorms around 5:00. I spent the next couple hours in my room. I took a shower and researched for my Con Law essay, due Monday. At 7:00, we all met in front of Carmen Hall, and went down to the Subway. We met Ms. L. for dinner at Oceana Restaurant. Tonight's guests were two Vassar alumni, Ken and Alexandria. There was supposed to be a third attendee, but he couldn't make it. The dinner conversation covered many topics, but one thing I clearly gained from it, was that internships are very important at Vassar. Hundreds of work programs are available, every year, and if I go there, I'll spend most summers interning. Another cool thing about Vassar is that they have very long vacations. Alexandria said that Vassar might have the most vacation days of any college. Sounds good, to me.

I had the Jumbo shrimp, for dinner.
Look how massive these were.

I'll probably stay on campus for most of (if not all of) the day tomorrow. I need to focus on writing my essay.