Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Welcome Home!"

My mood when I woke up this morning was nothing short of miserable. As I said before, there's still so much I want to see and do in the city, so leaving now just seemed much too soon.  

 After about 5 minutes of pouting in bed, I finally got up and said my finals goodbyes to my suitemates. Out of all things about this trip, I think that I'll miss my new friends the most. I've made so many great memories with them, which made having to say goodbye even more painful. We promised each other that we'd stay in touch, and I'm sure that we will, 

When I was finished with my goodbyes, I gathered my luggage and began heading downstairs. While heading down, I met up with a few other friends. Each time it was the same; hugs accompanied with hearty well wishes and sad farewells. 

After dragging my luggage half way across campus, I finally made it to the designated meeting place, the gazebo. Since Morvarid had arrived before me, we decided to pass the time by reminiscing over the past few weeks, and retelling our favorite moments. When everyone had arrived, we took one final group picture on Columbia's campus before pilling into to taxis to the Beacon Hotel. 

When we arrived at the hotel, we put away our luggage inside Mrs.L's hotel room and set of towards Central Park. Mrs. L had plans for us to eat brunch at Boathouse, a lakeside restaurant with a beautiful view of the park. I had ordered  steak paillard and eggs with a potato and gruyere tart. The meal was absolutely delicious and out trip to the park was certainly a great way to end trip. We took a brief walk through the park and then we returned to the hotel, where our shuttle soon arrived to take us to the airport. 

I spent the majority of the 5 hour plane ride either sleeping or watching television. After today's long day, I wasn't up to much else, and neither where the others--just 15 minutes into the flight and half of them were already asleep!
This plane ride marked another first for me; this was the first time I had ever had airplane food; whenever I go to an airport, my mother usually buys me food from one of the restaurants inside the food court. However, since we were pressed for time, we were forced to eat on the plane. All I have to say is, when comedians make jokes about how terrible airplane food is, they are not kidding. I ordered a "hearty meal", which was just a bunch of packaged snacks placed in a box. As weird as it may sound, I'm actually happy that I was able to eat airplane food; it was a new experience, and since my main goal for this trip was to try new things, I really appreciate it.   

When we finally landed, the first thing I did was call my mom. It's funny really, I didn't realize how homesick I was until I finally got back home. My homesickness didn't last for long, though as I was quickly reunited with my mother, as well as everyone else's family members--Mrs. Eisen, Lenny's mother, even bought us lei necklaces! The reunion was really heartwarming, but it was soon cut short as everyone was anxious to get back home. But while I was saying my goodbyes, I ended up doing the one thing that I promised myself that I wouldn't do; I started crying, or sobbing rather. If couldn't tell, I really don't like saying goodbye to those I care about, and after spending a month with my cohort, I've come to care for them all dearly. By the time I had finally wiped away all the tears, I was already in the car and on my way home. 

This past month has been really special to me, and I'll always remember it, both the good times and the bad. New York was great, but now I'm come to realize that home is just as great as well. Right now, I'm safe and snug right where I truly belong--my bed. 

Parting is such a sweet sorrow

And there it is. Our New York City and Columbia adventure is officially over. Right now I'm sitting in my bed at home, drinking herbal tea and shivering from the cold. This is such a different environment from New York that it's crazy. I am glad to be home, but I miss the city vibe so much. I was so used to it and now it's just gone! I know I'll be back one day, hopefully soon.

I woke up early to get a start on packing, and I was happy to have finished before having to go to the Gazebo at 10. I took this time to say goodbye to my roommate Nathalie and my suitemate Nas. I had so much fun with these girls and was glad to have met them. Brittany stopped by before she left for the weekend - saying goodbye to "Texas" as we called her was so sad. I will really miss Brittany.

California and Texas (= 
The cohort met at the Gazebo, and we all said goodbye to Rowland before we took pictures and headed out to the street to catch a taxi cab. Saying goodbye to Rowland was hard as well. I feel like I made two really good friends here (Rowland and Brittany), and not eating pretty much every meal with them, hanging out after class, and going our separate hurts.

We took a van to Hotel Beacon, where we stored our luggage in Ms. L's room. Then we walked to Central Park, enjoying the sights. We ate brunch at the Boathouse, which has a great view of The Lake.

My French toast 
The gorgeous view 

After brunch, we walked back to the hotel so we could get our luggage and Ms. L could check out. On the van to the airport, it finally hit me - our adventure was over. We were leaving New York City. It was really hard to take in but I refused to cry. We got to the airport, checked in our luggage, went through security, and before we knew it we were on the plane and flying back to California.

Seeing my dad at the airport was great. All the families came together by the baggage claim, sporting "Welcome Home" posters and Lenny's mom even bought us leis! It was fabulous.

Group photo of all the families, us, and Ms. L! 
Saying goodbye to the cohort...I can't believe it. I have literally spent every day for a MONTH with these people! Separating was very hard. Tomi started crying and that really almost got me going. I love my Columbia cohort and Ms. L. I really do. In this one month we truly became a big family and I'm so grateful for that experience.

Seeing my mom and sister again after a month was so nice; they both really kept me going with phone calls and emails throughout the duration of the trip. I presented gifts to everyone when I got home and we were all pleased.

And so that's it. My 2 year ILC experience is officially over. Check! 

Cookie's Life Spared, But Not My Sadness

Sorry for the title. If it sounds like I'm trying to be really artsy, I'm not; I am just terrible at titles and this happened to come to mind. Who cares about titles, though! It's the content! Anyway...
My thoughts on today are kind of a jumbled mess at the moment, so I'll begin with the concrete stuff and see whether that can help me organize my thoughts.

Firstly, I stayed up very late (or early) last night. Unlike other nights, though, I did so not because of procrastination but because of my choosing. I was able to watch the sunrise, except rather than miss it by a few minutes I caught a photo just at the right time today.

The reason I stayed up so late is because of today's Debate. I had finished my 6-minute speech at about 4 AM; however, I felt there was room for improvement, which gave me reason to continue working. I have kind of a policy/principle that I follow when I work, a principle that I try to do the absolute best work I can do at everything I do. The goal I am trying to accomplish behind this, at least when it comes to academies, is that I always turn in work that I can be proud of. And I cannot be proud of my work when I know that, had I worked harder, I may have gotten a better result. Anyway, at 4 AM I felt pretty good about what I had written, but for two reasons, one of them being the reason explained above, I continued. The other reason was that I feel extremely passionately against the death penalty, and because I feel so strongly against it, I wanted to make sure I put out my absolute best arguments. This policy of doing more work than I have to can sometimes backfire, and sometimes pay off big time. Today, it was the latter (more on that later).

Actually, after researching for about 3 more hours and finding some more good quotes, I was able to go to sleep at 7 AM. Rather than wake up at 8:45, though, I was woken up by my suitemate at 9:52 as he was walking out the door. I threw on a t-shirt, a pair of shorts, and sprinted out the door to my first class, making it with less than a minute to spare. In class, we discussed the Supreme Court's rulings on Affirmative Action, and the role affirmative action plays in our society. Fascinating stuff, but my mind was on the debate.

I was extremely excited by this debate. I love to debate, but today I would be able to debate about one of society's issues that I feel most passionately about. In arguing against the death penalty, I made two main arguments as to why the death penalty was unconstitutional. Firstly, I argued that the death penalty served no penal purpose more effectively than a less severe punishment, such as a life sentence. I used a ton of legal opinions from certain courses after this to prove that because the death penalty was unnecessary, it was excessive punishment, and thus, cruel and unusual punishment.

Secondly, I argued that "the deliberate extinguishment of human life by the State is uniquely degrading to human dignity," and is therefore cruel and unusual punishment. I don't know if you buy my arguments, because I just tried to sum up a 6-minute speech in a few sentences, but the judges bought it and ruled in favor of Cookie Williamson on behalf of the fact that his 8th Amendment rights were violated. I don't want to sound like I am boasting, but Jeffrey said I gave "an excellent, excellent speech," and it felt pretty good to hear that from him. Additionally, he said that the law probably would rule in favor of the death penalty, meaning that while on moral grounds we may have been arguing the easier case, on legal grounds (the grounds that matter for this debate), we were at a disadvantage. Every single opinion I used in my opening statement was the case of a dissenting opinion or the case of a concurring opinion, just for different reasons. Also, the final thing I'd like to say is that I greatly honor Justices Brennan and Marshall (Thurgood) for their strong opposition to the death penalty.

An hour after class and some very sad goodbyes, our cohort and a friend of ours, Rowland, met in front of Carman Hall for night out in the city. Being our final day in New York City (hopefully until we all get accepted in a few years), we had determined that we wanted to spend it in the best way possible, seeing certain parts of New York, particularly Highline Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. Highline Park, located along the Hudson River around midtown Manhattan. The park used to the elevated tracks for the subway or train many years ago, but has since been turned into a magnificent park. At the park, we also happened to run into Mrs. L and her son, Jon!

After leaving Mrs. L, we got back onto the A train at Penn Station and went all the way down through lower Manhattan and into Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, we found some Italian restaurant under the Brooklyn Bridge and ate there before leaving to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. We had originally planned to cross the bridge at around sunset, but our plans changed with dinner and we ended up crossing at night, Crossing at night was still gorgeous, although for some reason the Brooklyn Bridge did not have lights today or just does not have lights at all, making it impossible to photograph at night. I took same photos of Lower Manhattan, though.

After reaching the other side of the bridge, we walked to the subway and went up to Times Square for one last walk through what is probably one of the most fascinating streets in the world.

We made it back about 10 minutes before curfew, and after getting back to my floor, I spent most of the next two hours packing , writing postcards and socializing with the kids in my floor. I knew that I had to blog, but I will have time to sleep on the plane tomorrow and no class to worry about. So who cares that it is 4 AM, I spent the day debating and exploring New York City.
Lastly, I have to discuss some of the emotions that I've had to deal with. It was very, very sad to walk down the stairs in Hamilton today after completing my final Constitutional Law class. The class has been far and away my favorite class of all I have ever taken. I'll discuss more what the class meant to me in the reflection-type blogs later on, but basically, today was a very sad day for me. My rommmate and I, and my suitemates as well, have all grown extrememly close, and we've adjusted to the routine of seeing eachother every day. Basically, it's all very, very sad. Goodbyes tomorrow (and the ones from today, already) will be very tough; I am not looking forward to them. I can still say, though, that while I may not see many of these friends for a long time, the experience was fun while it lasted and the memories are something I will always keep with me.

Goodbye, New York

Today was our last day of class. In the morning session, we read cases about Affirmative Action. This was convenient, because both the essay I wrote and the debate I would have (later in the day) were on this subject.

I spent my lunch break in the classroom with my group, preparing for the debate. We were the first group to go. We were defending John Baker. John was suing the University of New York, because they didn't admit him, while they accepted his next door neighbor. His neighbor, Juan Lopez, had nearly identical academic merits as John, but gained extra points for being a minority. Our basic argument was that Juan and John came from the same background and had the same level of education, so there wasn't any reason to give Juan special treatment. The two judges, Jeffrey and Luke were split on the decision, so they asked a random student to be the tie breaker. They student happened to be Alec, who sided in our favor.

All of the rest of the debates were interesting too, but I won't go into detail on any of them. Lucas and Tomi can describe in their blogs what happened in their debates, far better than I can.After the last decision was made, we got our essays back. I was very pleased to see I received an A. The teacher who graded it, which I believe was Luke in this case, seemed to like it. He did make a lot of corrections, but almost all of them were about punctuation. Apparently, I should not use contractions in formal writing. I was not aware of that, but I will try to avoid them in the future.

At about 5:15, we all met up in the John Jay cafeteria to grab some food before leaving campus. Our cohort decided to end our trip with a tour of the city. The first stop was the High Line Park on the Lower West Side of Manhattan. This urban park was created from the remains of out-of-use railway tracks. The city renovated them and put in plants, benches and walkways. It's an excellent place to take a stroll, with an awesome view of the city. While there we happened to cross paths with Ms. Lilhanand and her son. They seemed to like th location, just as much as we did.

After parting ways with Ms. L., we took the subway down to Brooklyn. We sat down for dinner at a really nice Italian Restaurant near the water front. The place was great, but it must not be very well known, because it was almost empty. We ate outside. We ended up staying there until night fell.

After dinner we started our trek across the Brooklyn Bridge, into Manhattan. Our goal had been to cross it just as the sun set, but we were a little late for that. The view from the bridge was great, but I wasn't able to get any good photos from it. It took about half an hour to cross, but it was definitely worth it.

We got ice cream on the other side of the bridge: highlight of my day.

After wandering around the area on the Manhattan side of the bridge for a while, we took the subway down to Times Square. We wanted to spend our last day here, really traversing the city. We ended up  exploring some of the most significant locations NYC has to offer.

When we got back to the dorm, I found that I was hungry again. So were many of the other students, so we all pitched in to order a pizza. That's essentially how I ended my time in New York.

It's really hard to believe that this time tomorrow, I'll be asleep in my own bed.