For Future Reference

Alpha Phi PA's during Move-In!

When I was little, all I wanted was to be a cleaning lady – which, to be honest, probably should have been a source of concern for my parents. I used to follow our cleaning lady around the house and watch her as she measured out cups of powder detergent for the laundry; take measured leaps on my tiptoes across the wet kitchen floor and leave a constellation of small dry spots with the pads of my feet. I thought it was the coolest job in the world: going from house to house, tidying, ironing, rearranging the tangible minutiae of the lives of complete strangers.

Clearly, I was destined for greatness. That, or I was just a really weird kid.

In second grade, I upgraded my career goals to being a doctor, without realizing that the basic prerequisites for any job in the medical field include a stomach for flesh wounds and a minimal tolerance for needles…neither of which I possess – at all. I mean, obviously now I can suck it up and deal with it – even if it’s only because it’s not socially acceptable to ask for a lollipop at the doctor’s office past the age of six.

I’ve wanted to be an actress, a singer, Harry Potter’s girlfriend, a lawyer (thank you Elle Woods for giving girls everywhere unrealistic expectations for both hair and law school acceptance rates), Shania Twain, and, knowing me, probably much more.

Now, I occupy smaller and decidedly less ambitious spaces. In the span of nearly two decades (eek!), I’ve gone from being a wannabe cleaning lady to a student here – one of the most prestigious research universities in the nation. And in the span of a year, I’ve gone from an excited freshman receiving countless words of advice to the (somewhat) more experienced sophomore giving it.

I’ve gone from marveling at all of my college “firsts” – first CharMar sub, first roommate (hi Jane!), first day of classes, first hangover, first FFC Late Night, first internship – to marveling at the “firsts” that continue to present themselves regardless of seniority. There is no end to the amount of firsts that can be shared amongst a group of people. Our experiences depend on these details, these firsts, anchoring us and reminding us of who we used to be, even if our innocence has already begun to slip away.

It goes without saying that time flies. It goes without saying that so much can change in a year. But it also goes without saying that, as we project ourselves into the future, those firsts become reference points that ground the innumerable ways in which we can and will dovetail and diverge in the time we have left.

I still sing (in the shower, at least). Sometimes I still wish I were a cleaning lady (like when I look at the appalling state of my closet right now…I look like I belong on “Hoarders”). Although I’ve accepted the fact that I will never be Shania Twain, I’m still holding out for Harry. And God help us all if I ever become a certified medical professional.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, looking back, the future has a strange way of fulfilling itself. So in my very last post as a freshman, I’d like to look back in an attempt to look forward. Here’s to a great year with (and without) some of the most amazing people I know. Here’s to a school, city, major, and group of friends that I’ve come to both know and love. Here’s to all of my ridiculous childhood dreams (and my parents’ unfailing support – love you!). Here’s to sophomore year.

Here’s to the future.

 

Oh, the Places You’ll Go

On the road again

Early on in the summer, I read about a study published in Science magazine in 2010 that analyzed customer location data from cell phone providers and used it to observe human movement and behavior. The results showed that human movement patterns and location can be predicted up to 93 percent of the time because most people tend to stay within the same six mile radius. Even people who travel frequently establish routines from which they rarely deviate. From a public health standpoint, this type of data could help anticipate the spread of viruses. From an urban planning perspective, it could inform models of traffic flow. But from a purely subjective standpoint, I was shocked at how interesting I found this blurb of information, especially since it reinforced that I already knew.

We’re all creatures of habit. Even our most jarring breaks in routine, our most unpredictable moments, can more or less be pinned down to individual tendency. Isn’t that weird? I’m not even saying that because I’m quite possibly (see: definitely) the biggest nerd within my own six-mile radius. Empirically, we’re all just really boring. We are no more than the paths we choose, the chance encounters, the occasional intersection in a plane of parallels and gridlines. Familiarity governs the majority of our daily decision-making. I, for one, cling to the familiar like Saran Wrap clings to everything but the thing you need it to.If you’re anything like me, your daily routine involves a waging an internal battle over whether or not I should go to the gym (my body says no but the entire men’s US Olympic swim team on T.V. says yes), reading, eating exorbitant amounts of food, and convincing customers to buy moderately-priced clothing items at work every other day.

In Baltimore with Joy a couple of weeks ago!

Clearly, I haven’t been jetting off to exotic locales on a whim or scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro. In order for that to happen, I’d have to fulfill my gold digging dream of marrying a Greek oil tycoon and conquer my fear of heights. Or, alternatively, I could switch to Geico and save 15% or more on car insurance. What I’m trying to say is that I haven’t exactly used these past summer months to become a well-traveled citizen of the world. I mean, there are 16-year-olds competing in the London Olympics and here I am wondering if going downstairs to get some hummus is worth the physical exertion (Answer: no).

But with that study in mind, I made it a goal to branch out, try new things, venture to places outside of my bubble of reality T.V. marathons and online shopping. So for the past month, my weekends have consisted of taking impromptu trips to the beach, visiting friends at Hopkins, James Madison University, and the University of Virginia, and spending lazy days on the Potomac River. I haven’t spent a weekend at home since June, and getting in touch with my inner nomad has made me realize that the biggest and most revelatory things that happen to people normally occur when they aim past those six miles.

That’s what college is, right? For some of us, going to college is just one in a series of major life upheavals. For others, it may be the first time they’ve lived in a place other than their hometown. The funny thing about being at Hopkins is that, despite being the epicenter of a thousand different radii – a thousand different trajectories, movements, patterns of behavior – we all eventually settle into the same modes of being. We retreat further into a certain group of friends, our classes get more and more concentrated, and the Hopkins version of “taking advantage of everything Baltimore has to offer” means running to CharMar for a Southwest Chicken sub.

That’s what I’m afraid of – I don’t ever want to stop meeting people or going to different places. I don’t want to be confined by my own geography. So even if I’m not flying first class (up in the sky, poppin’ champagne, livin’ the life – does anyone ever miss Fergie? Because I do) around the globe, I feel like I’m one step closer to the places I’ve been and the places I’m going.

I can’t wait to see everyone at Hopkins in the fall! (For those of you who will have me as your Peer Ambassador during Orientation, I apologize in advance.)

Fine Settimana in Toscana

I just got back from a great weekend (fine settimana) in Tuscany (Toscana) with a few friends of mine. One of them is one of my closest friends from Hopkins, and another one of my closest friends from Milan. It was actually quite surreal for me to see these two semi-separated worlds (home versus school, Hopkins versus Italy) merge and for my friends to get to know each other.

View from the Tuscany house

I’m still working my full-time job at a microelectronics company, and continue to enjoy the buzz of excitement that comes from being in a company working at the cutting edge of the high-tech sector. Every day has new challenges for me to face, and I’m working with a lot of technology and programming languages that I had never heard of before. For those of you technologically-inclined, I’ve been working a lot with an evolution of the S language called R and interfacing it with various software systems used by the company.

Abe strolling through a vineyard in the Chianti region

Honestly, I’ve been trying to slow down a bit over the last week. Summer has gone by too fast for my tastes (as it always seems to do) and I want to live my last month before going back to Hopkins to the fullest. Don’t get me wrong– I can’t wait to be back on campus– but I want to enjoy the things that I can’t get on campus while I still can.

Summer then Sophomore

My summer has continued the trend of being absolutely wonderful. Last week my brother returned back to the States after a two-month long trip abroad, and we’ve been spending time together in Santa Barbara. This past weekend we road-tripped to San Francisco to spend time with our brother and my parents came down from Elk Grove. Needless to say, I’ve loved all my recent family time. It also worked out perfectly that my boss gave me time off while he is away from the office as well.

My internships have been absolutely incredible this summer and I am so grateful to work among such thoughtful, helpful people. I’ve learned so much about myself as a professional and I’m slowly figuring out exactly what kind of career I want after Hopkins.

This summer my friends are scattered across the globe pursuing their passions and applying their academic interests.

I’ve alluded to it many times before, but my absolute favorite thing about Hopkins is the incredible friendships I made this past year. All of my friends have done incredible things this summer and I’d love to share what a few of them have been up to!

My friend Jasmin is always pursuing amazing opportunities related to her major, Global Environmental Change and Sustainability. During the school year she juggles volunteer and intern positions at Baltimore-based nonprofits and companies in the industry and I love that she’s so passionate about her studies. Through her summer internship, Jasmin recently attended the Outdoor Nation Summit in New York City, a conference for young people interested in the environment.

The participants broke up into groups and were given the task to develop an idea of how to get people outside and overcome common barriers people face with engaging in outdoor activity. Jasmin’s team came up with the Outward Challenge, a Facebook based group focused on paying forward different outdoor experienced to young people nationwide. Outdoor Nation gave them $1,000 of grant money to put their idea into action so they can give prizes to the best challengers and continue the program!

Jasmin is 2nd from the left!

Jasmin loved the experience and has met people from every corner of the globe including North Face athletes and corporate team members. Jasmin’s definitely a go-getter and that’s one of the things I admire most about her. I’m 100% sure she’s going to make a difference in the world and I’m glad she’s such a good friend of mine. (Also, I’m super excited because she’ll be living right down the hall from me next year!).

Jorge is one of my dearest friends having an incredible summer as an RA for the Hopkins Summer Program. I was thrilled when he found out he got the position as an RA earlier this year because he is so considerate, easy to talk to and relatable; I knew he’d make the BEST resident advisor. Jorge has loved planning programs for his residents, including: visits to the BMA, trips to the Inner Harbor, movie nights, jam sessions, trips to DC and Hershey Park, cook offs, sports, Rock Band or Nintendo 64 competitions, community service, dances, relaxing on the beach, trips to Towson, going out to eat, and the list goes on!

Jorge's the one in the middle with the fan :)

I know Jorge is the best RA to the kids in the program this summer because he’s the ideal role model of a college student and I’m certain he’s making an impact on so many of them. I hope they know how lucky they are to have met Jorge. I’m just glad I get to spend three more years at Hopkins making memories and going to more country concerts in Baltimore with him!

Claire is simply wonderful. This summer Claire is working as a senior counselor at a day camp in Connecticut that she attended as a child and teenager. A lot of rising sophomores work at the camps they attended as a child over the summer and they all seem to love it! Claire is so sweet and hilarious that I completely understand why her campers adore her as much as I do!

so precious!

Claire lived in Baker house with me last year also and we immediately became friends after move in. We even sat next to each other at the first Baker house meeting (awwwww). I’m beyond excited to live with Claire next year and you’ll get to know her very well if you continue reading my blogs next year since she’ll probably be in every single one :)

My friend Peter is a Biomedical Engineer spending his summer in Belgium doing research on a Hopkins grant! I’ve loved hearing about all his crazy adventures abroad and I am so proud of him for pursuing an international internship in an industry he’s passionate about!

Peter in Belgium!

Peter is originally from Atlanta and was JHU_Joseph’s suitmate this past year in McCoy (I’m pretty sure that’s how we met). We became really good friends when we spent four hours together on the MARC train and at BWI before our respective flights left for Thanksgiving Break and we’ve made so many memories ever since. Peter is so energetic and I love spending time with him! Also, he’s an excellent cook so I’m hoping he’ll make me dinner when my incompetent cooking skills leave me hungry at night.

I can’t believe fall semester is just a month away and I’m looking forward to getting back to Homewood for my sophomore year!

Thanks for reading!

All my Hopkins Love,

Erica

 

Blue jays, Masala, and Chai, Oh My!

I am super excited right now because I will be going to India next week to visit all my relatives! I have a HUGE family…about 30 first cousins and 50 second cousins and a million uncles and aunts…and only two weeks to visit all of them; it’ll be like running a marathon! A majority of my family is from South India, so I will be spending a majority of my time there, speaking nothing but Kannada (one of the hundreds of national languages of India) each day. So if I come back to Hopkins in the fall and say something to you in a strange, bazaar foreign language, it’s because I would have forgotten how to speak English. (Just kidding, that won’t happen!)

In addition to visiting family, I am very much looking forward to all the delicious, traditional, culture-rich Indian food that I will be eating every day:

Like masala flavored french fries...

...and paneer pizza...

...and not to mention, CHAI !!

Although the above are great, I was really referring to something more like this:

An Indian appetizer called "Papdi Chaat"! It is incredibly delicious!

I think I have one more blog to go, so I will definitely share about my trip to India! But for now, something far more pressing has come up. I was scrolling through the files on my computer looking for pictures to use for this blog when I came across this little gem:

candy shaped like a heart (the organ) and brain pencils!

I thought it was really cute so I thought I’d share! Back at Hopkins, during orientation week last year, we had open houses for all the academic departments where faculty from each department spoke about the classes and what each major has to offer. I got the heart-shaped candy and pencils at the Neuroscience open house. If I remember correctly, they had a bunch of other organ-shaped candies you could choose from. They also give out a ton of other cute stuff like brain-shaped stress balls and a Neuro major’s lanyard. The information session is pretty neat as well, so go to the Neuroscience open house during orientation if you’re interested!

Lastly, I took my Differential Equations final exam last week at Rutgers University! It was a pretty sentimental moment for me since it was my last pure math class EVER (from this point forward, the math I will learn will be applied to my major). Luckily, the final exam went well and I feel like I owe it all to the blue jays that sat outside the building hall where I took my exam. Yes, actual blue jays! On the day of my exam, as I was walking towards the classroom, I saw blue jays chilling at Rugters.

Oh hey there!

In the eight weeks I had taken the class, not once had I seen a blue jay walking around the campus until of course, the very last day when I saw FOUR! I was beyond convinced they were there to cheer me on or something. I am not kidding; just the sight of the blue jays gave me a bigger boost of confidence than a Starbucks doubleshot would ever have. And along with all of that, I saw them again during the exam perched outside the classroom window. I swear, I am neither going crazy nor making up superstitious claims in my favor. Those blue jays were there and they were good luck!

You Know What I Did Last Summer? …Good, ‘Cuz I Don’t

Hi Guys! As the title suggests, this summer is all about one thing – doing nothing. It’s weird because I’ve always had a tendency to live my life in a constant state of alarm – if I’m not running around, tearing my hair out and downing expresso shots like it’s nobody’s business then I feel like I’m doing something wrong. So in my gigantic break between finals (where I was that person times 10) and when I get to move back at the end of august, I’m trying to learn to enjoy a slower-paced life. So in this blog, I’d like to clarify exactly what my “doing nothing” entails:

Becoming More Artsy!

Want to guess which one is mine? Nope, not the creative insect... Not the beautiful ballerina... It's the ugly and disproportional Magician! ding ding ding!

I’ve never thought of myself as creative. I know that not coloring within the lines is supposed to be a badge of honor for being different and all, but for me it’s really just been a mark of shame. Therefore I thought I would make strides to fix that this summer and do some crafting! Thus far some of my bigger projects have been an infinity scarf, a self-tiled serving tray and one of those crayon-drip paintings. Enjoy the pictures —

Traveling the Northeastern Seaboard

When you look at a calendar and see a big chunk of blank space, it’s pretty easy to justify making trips to places a few hours away at the drop of a hat. So far I’ve gone down to Baltimore (as you may have read in my joint blog with JHU_Miranda) and made some trips to New York and Boston! I’ve got more planned to see friends in Long Island, back in B’more, and who knows where else before the summer is up.

My Dad's book, a really interesting interpretation of the series that explains a hell of a lot

Reading Books for Fun

I absolutely loved every moment I had during my Freshman year at Hopkins, but there just weren’t enough of them! I brought a lot of books to Hopkins, but didn’t end up reading any of them. I mean, my dad actually WROTE a book about the mythology and meaning of the TV series “Lost” in February and I didn’t even get to reading it until my finals were over in May! That’s pathetic. So this summer I’ve made my way through some great books, like Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (A JHU alum!) and the book of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, with the intention of seeing the movie really soon.

Beautification

I don't make the reveal until I have a final product to present

I’ve got the time and the resources finally to do a little work on me. We’ve got a good amount of exercise equipment in my basement that I’ve been working out on almost every day, I’ve developed a regimen of green tea bags, aloe, cucumber slices and moisturizer to get rid of the dark under-eye circles that have plagued me since before I can remember, and I’ve been hitting up the beach a lot for a bit of a tan! I know that when I plug back into Hopkins life a lot of this will fall by the wayside, so I’m taking advantage of my time while I can!

Exploring Guilty Pleasure Television

My favorite contestant who (spoiler) just got kicked off! I was so upset you couldn't even imagine. Now I'm Team Aylin

My summer shows are Drop Dead Diva, The Glee Project, and Supernatural. DDD Because this Grayson/Jane rollercoaster is turning me into an emotional wreck, TGP because I am and forever will be a gigantic gleek no matter how far downhill the writing goes, and while it’s objectively a terrible show, anybody who has ever watched Supernatural knows exactly why I love it.

Chicken bites and cucumber/tuna/jalapeno snacks

Cooking

Next year I will have a kitchenette! Hooray! Cue the fanfare! Seriously, I am really excited about this fact and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking up little recipes I can do quickly and easily. I’ve experimented making different iced teas and got a pretty great replica of Chocolatea’s Ginger Hibiscus tea, I’ve got chicken bites (my secret is cayenne pepper in the bread crumbs), quinoa salad, and killer vegetarian fajitas. I can’t wait to show these recipes off!

Then of course I’ll throw in the whole “seeing friends, sleeping forever, constantly snacking” thing just for good measure. I’m enjoying this summer immensely and all the time I have to relax, but there’s still a part of me just itching to get back to Hopkins and dive headfirst into my sophomore year.

Everyone is Weird and So Are You

My midterm in Modern Standard Arabic was a little over a week ago, and since that time I’ve been to a wedding, gone to a bowling alley on the 4th of July, and just got back from camping in the Empty Quarter.  I have a little over two weeks left in Oman before a period of 24 hours where I will be flying almost nonstop.  In my last post  I talked about the difficulties of identifying yourself and how from Hopkins to the Strait of Hormuz the way you choose to identify yourself will never tell the whole story.  As move-in day for the Class of 2016 draws ever closer, I remember one of the biggest worries on my mind this time last year was that I was really weird compared to my new classmates.  I wondered if I was going to leave my high school environment and come to a place where I wouldn’t fit in because I came from a weird town and I looked fourteen and I really, really liked watching dubbed Disney movies.   But as I met more and more of my fellow classmates, I noticed something: everyone was both very interesting and very interested in their new classmates.  There was never a quiet moment at meals or in our rooms as we tried to learn everything we could about our roommates, suite-mates, hall-mates, classmates, and de facto Chipotle-deliverers.  Things I thought would be considered strange were barely questioned, while things that were normal to me raised some eyebrows (and I’m not talking about “Vegas normal” here where slot machines in grocery stores make sense.)  I said that my family didn’t decorate with wreathes on Christmas, and my roommate confessed that she really loved opera.  There was a mutual respect in the fledgling Class of 2015 and the established Hopkins community that let you realize two things: 1. you did some things that other people thought were weird 2. everyone else did really weird stuff as well but it was just so interesting.

In a way this experience has repeated in Oman.  Even before we board our plane from D.C., thirty Americans ranging in age from 18 to mid-thirties had to quickly get to know each other.  Even within the same country we’re all so different, so weird, and so wonderful.  “Why are you calling a soda a pop?”  “You lived in Morocco for how long?”

When we landed in Oman and met the university students who would be speaking to us every day to improve our Arabic, the questions continued.  “You live in Maryland?  Is that the same as New York?”  “What is supposed to be fun about an Easter egg hunt?”  The questions always made you think about things you’d never thought about before, like why on Earth people hide eggs on Easter and make small children hunt for them in some strange Hunger Games-esque competition to win the egg hunt and eternal glory/a chocolate bunny.  We also got to ask our own questions, like “What do you do for fun?” “What’s the deal with all this frankincense?”  We were asked to describe things (in Arabic naturally) about ourselves, our hometowns, our families.  In turn, any questions we had about Oman were answered.  Things I’ve learned since coming here:

 

Camels are the leading cause of traffic accidents

There are no napkins, only tissues in boxes.

In Arabic you don’t play the drums, you knock on them.

There are two types of dates: young dates (called rutub and I’ve never seem them before in the States) and older dates (caller temer and better than any I’ve seen before in the States).

It is common to signal “Wait a minute” by pinching your thumb and other fingers together and beckoning by moving your wrist toward yourself repeatedly.  This is not at all the same gesture I’ve ever seen used in America (where you put  up a finger or a hand.)

Western pop music is huge here., which lead to an Adele sing-along en route to the Empty Quarter this past weekend.

 

"Spicy tomato sauce" is salsa. Also the tortilla chips were Doritos.

 

Things by Omani friends have found strange:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches.  They do not even sell grape jelly in supermarkets (they do sell rose jelly, though!)

The concept of tortilla chips and salsa.  There is a sauce they serve with rice that is exactly like a thin salsa, but tortilla chips are pretty scarce.

Tanning.  In general Omanis find pale skin attractive, so much so that most beauty products have whitening agents built into them.  Several of the girls at the university were shocked to hear that Americans will use-self tanners and lay out on the beach in order to get darker.

British accents.

Maple syrup on pancakes.  They have honey but it’s just not the same.

Swag.  Swag certainly exists in Oman and is exhibited, most notably by one of our professors, but any attempt to accurately define “swag” is complex so we have taken to just saying “swag” at every applicable circumstance in the hopes that the word will be as etherial in meaning and as overused as it is in English.

Me in an abaya and hijab after a traditional wedding we attended.

While my previous blog talked a lot about changing identity, I think it’s also important to realize that even if the way you identify yourself changes you’ll still run into situations where you think things might be strange.  Maybe it’s your first day at a new office, maybe you just moved, or maybe you mispronounced a word and ended up being driven to a post office instead of a beach.  It’s going to be awkward at first to try to interact with people when you think you might not have a lot in common, but I think everyone (not just the Class of 2016, although this advice will be helpful come Orientation) could benefit from both recognizing their own weirdness in the eyes of another person and being genuinely curious about the different habits of others.  In a diverse group like CLS Arabic or Johns Hopkins Class of 2016 it’s bound to be awkward at first, and there will inevitably come a time when you can’t wrap your head around something (like “swag” or being handed a box of Kleenex at a restaurant) but as long as you keep an open mind you’ll learn some interesting stuff and hopefully make a new friend or two in the process!

 

I was walking out of lunch when one of the students at the university approached me.  She’d been sitting at the table next to me and asking the American students about American colloquialisms because we’d been asking her about Omani dialect compared to Modern Standard Arabic.  As she drew level with me, she told me that one of the Americans had taught her Janoobi (Southern) American Dialect and that she thought it sounded awesome.  As a West Coaster descended from two New Yorkers, all I could do was tell her that it was very different from my accent/dialect (I didn’t want to get into an explanation of that beloved West Coast adjective known as hella) and I felt like I probably wouldn’t know enough about Southern accents to really understand what she was saying.

She smiled back, stuck out her hand, and said, “What a’ do?”

It was weird.  It was wonderful.

 

 

 

You Can Find Me in St. Louie

So now that I’ve reflected on finals and taken a mock-trip to Baltimore, I guess I should talk a little bit about my summer back home in St. Louis. Take it away, Nelly:

Alright, so maybe that’s not the most accurate depiction of my summer thus far, but hey, in the words of my man Nelly, “I’m from the Lou and I’m proud.” While there was a part of me trying to stay on the East coast for the summer, being back has not been half bad in the least. Here are just some of the things occupying my St. Louis summer.

Different Summer, Same Great Friends

My friends from high school are all across the country doing such cool things — hotel management, journalism, theatre, anthropology, the Marine Corps (Oorah!) — and so getting to catch up with everyone during the summer is always fun. It’s really crazy to see how much everyone changes over the school year, but when we all get back together it feels like we never left. When your days and nights are filled with shaving cream fights, climbing buildings, paint fights, parking lot dance parties, and other various shenanigans, you really can’t complain.

Bonnaroo in a nutshell

Bonnaroo

Just a few weeks after finishing up finals at school, I road tripped to Tennessee with some friends from high school for the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Just imagine listening to amazing live music all day, going back to your tent exhausted and ready to sleep, hearing Skrillex starting a set at 1:30 am, and then deciding to go back to the stages and party for a few hours. It was ridiculous, and definitely an unforgettable 4 days. I actually got stopped by a guy who noticed me wearing something with a Hopkins logo on it just so he could tell me how much he liked the school and lacrosse team. Bonnaroo certainly gathers some great people.

California Dreamin’

I’m really excited to head to California in a few weeks with my dad to see some private art collections and visit some of the area museums. I rarely travel during breaks, and I’ve only been to the west coast once, so I’m really looking forward to discovering all there is to experience. I’ve been reading a really good book called Rebels in Paradise about the rise of Pop art and the role that California, as opposed to New York, played in the arising material aesthetic, so I’m pretty pumped to see some of the areas, galleries, and art in person.

Some Art History Here and There

Since I was unable to find a full-time summer job, (hello babysitting, website design, and working a kickball tournament), I’ve had a lot of time to do some casual research in art history, especially the stuff that they leave out of the textbooks. For example, did you know that Warhol, in an interview, once attributed Jasper Johns’ greatness to the fact that he “makes such great lunches”? Or that early film likely held a strong influence on the emergence of the Cubist style in the painting of Picasso and Braque? A lot of this insight into the artistic community and the relationships between these individuals has been influencing my own art lately, and it’s nice to have the summer to step back and reevaluate my artistic intention. In addition to some light research, I’ve also been formulating some possible exhibition themes that I might pursue once I’m back at Hopkins after having gotten permission from the head of the Mattin Center (the arts department at Hopkins) to do some curatorial work in and outside of the buildings. I’m really excited to see where they may go and so I’m taking advantage of the summer to figure out logistics and ideas.

A sculpture outside of CCAD in Ohio

Well, that’s all I have for you now. I’m definitely enjoying soaking up the St. Louis sun (+ humidity + absurd heat wave) but I’m also eager to head back to Hopkins in just less than 2 months. Moving in with two of my best friends, reuniting with even more friends, an amazing internship, and truly, ridiculously-incredible classes are right around the corner; there’s really a lot to look forward to. In the meantime, I hope everyone’s been enjoying their summers as well and I’m off to continue enjoying mine!

Tan Lines

Showing off our Teva/Keen tans

My skin tone is officially the darkest it has been in my almost-20 years on the planet. How do I know? Well for starters, my foundation that used to match my complexion effortlessly now makes me look like a ghost. Secondly, I have discovered a birth mark on my thigh that has only become apparent now that the skin around it is darker. And finally, I have the most insane tan lines I have ever experienced in my life.

Tan lines are strange things. Over the past few days, I have wondered whether they are badges of embarrassment or pride. On the one hand, they mark hours of sun exposure in this 100 degree northern Baltimore heat, which should be an accomplishment for anyone. However, they are also somewhat awkward, as my stomach and my forearm look like they are parts of two different organisms. So on this lovely morning reclining in my air-conditioned home, I cannot help but question: what should we think about these melanin-induced patterns that appear on our bodies?

Being a summer camp counselor is a much more demanding job than one would think. Apart from wrestling through the post-lunch haze brought on by dehydration and too much peanut butter, other challenges must be met on a day-to-day basis. For example, the feared “break down” of your 6th and 7th graders when they will absolutely refuse to get into a canoe with one another. Or the panic that your camper’s harness is just slightly out of place and they will somehow hurt themselves on the element you are climbing. Such are typical worries in a neurotic brain like mine. However, just like every obstacle, these concerns are just opportunities for great accomplishments (both for me and for my campers).

A few of my campers with their winning raft

Just the other day I had one of these moments. It was my first time ever doing archery at camp, and those of you who know me understand that I do not do hand-eye coordination sports for a reason. My fellow counselor and I went to practice before the day started (so I could at least marginally brief the activity), and with the scowling eye of an experienced archer on me, I was ecstatic to have at least hit the target (at 10 yards away…). With a sheepish amount of confidence under my belt, later in the day I went back to the field with my campers so they could try their hand at the sport. One of the kids was struggling, but with 15 minutes of patient focus and coaching he was finally able to hit the target. What a satisfying situation to have turned my diminished skill at an activity into a child’s greatest triumph.

I wonder if tan lines represent just that– the curious magic of mixing embarrassment and pride. In other words, recognizing your shortcomings but being able to use them for the betterment of others. Because though tan lines are strange, they do represent where we have come from and the things we have done with our lives. And also, just like my birthmark, they reveal parts of ourselves we weren’t sure existed.

Maybe this metaphor is a little too-extended, but all I know is that I am quite proud of these marks and have been showing them off to everyone. After all, as soon as the summer is over I will pale-up pretty quickly back at Hopkins, so why not live it up now? The moral of the story: I may be awkwardly tanned, but at least I am tan!

 

Packing Heat

Pre-power outage // reunited for the weekend!

This past weekend, I took a spontaneous trip to Baltimore to visit Sonu and Joy, who had just finished the first session of summer Orgo at Hopkins. To clarify, I love spontaneity but spontaneity doesn’t always love me. In retrospect, booking a train ticket for 6 a.m. was probably a little overly optimistic, seeing as I missed my train not once but twice (…oopz).

Regardless, I pulled into Penn Station around noon on Friday, after spending an hour sitting in the Richmond train station and another three hours being anti-social in Amtrak’s Quiet Car (I prefer to travel sans screaming toddlers and middle-aged women gabbing away on their cell phones. You know how some truly great love stories start with a guy and a girl meeting on an airplane or train? This might explain why I’m still single).

A few hours later, a quasi-monsoon hit, and all of Baltimore was drenched in darkness. So much for a celebratory weekend, right? I think this was Baltimore’s way of saying, “Congratulations, you survived Organic Chemistry! Now die in a pool of your own sweat.” With no electricity, hot water, or AC in 105-degree weather, it’s truly a testament to the company I was in that I didn’t dissolve into a puddle of bratty desolation. And while I am fully aware that all of this warrants a very big #firstworldproblems, I found that on a scale from one to watching any of the Twilight movies, braving the heat in the midst of a massive power outage wasn’t as miserable as I thought it would be.

With one of my favorite Desi gurlz – Love ya Sonu!

(Sidenote: This is coming from someone who has a notoriously low threshold for pain or discomfort – which is both good and bad. Like, for example, extreme cases of torture for classified information, piercings, tattoos, childbirth, shots at the doctor’s office, and/or fighting to the death in a wilderness arena against 22 other teenagers. Think about the first person that dies in every single horror movie you’ve ever seen – that’s me. On the bright side, you guys will never have to worry about me dying in a tragic cliff-diving accident.)

They say hindsight is 20-20, and I’m guessing this mantra was supposed to be applied to things like dysfunctional relationships, eating a giant tube of cookie dough at two in the morning, and other similarly poor life decisions, but I’m going to go ahead and use it to shed light (…too soon?) on surviving a weekend without power in B’more.

Survival Tip #1: Candles. Technically I think candles are considered contraband // possibly a weapon of mass destruction by the Housing Office. At best they are “strongly discouraged.” Anyways, my advice would be to blatantly ignore that rule and stock up in the event of another power outage or emergency.

Survival Tip #2: Use this opportunity to explore other well-lit, air-conditioned parts of Baltimore. Like Maxie’s (Kidding! Sort of). Unfortunately, half of Charles Village was closed – no Subway, Unimini, Starbucks, Chipotle, or Ajumma’s. So Jane, Joy, Sonu, Will and I went downtown Saturday night and enjoyed dinner at RA Sushi, which was thankfully open and had power (see: AC).  We hit up Fell’s Point for a bit and met some interesting locals who made us laugh // forget about the lack of power back at Hopkins. You’ll probably have to eat out for at least a couple of days, so I took advantage of the situation and went to Carma’s and Donna’s (Turkey burger and sweet potato fries til I die), which I missed immensely while I was away.

Yummy sushi

Survival Tip #3: Oil-blotting sheets. While I know that an extra sheen of sweat pretty much kills any aesthetic motivation, invest in some of these. Unless you want to look like the BP oil spill happened on your face, blotting sheets will tide you over until you can take a decent shower. Which brings me to my next point…

Survival Tip #4: Get used to cold showers. It builds character.

At RA with my APhi loves. Did I mention there was AC?

Survival Tip #5: Eat everything in sight. So this might be more of a personal life philosophy (ALL I DO IS EAT EAT EAT NO MATTER WHAT…loljk) than a survival tip, but chances are that most of the food in your fridge is going to spoil within 48 hours – especially if Maryland state authorities are saying it could take up to a week to completely restore power. Before eating out, try to salvage what you can! By Sunday morning, Joy and Allison (our lovely hostesses!) looked so dejected and miserable that Jane and I ran to Eddie’s and Barnes and Noble to get them healthy, non-perishable food and cold drinks as a parting gift (to be honest I think Jane and I were responsible for at least a quarter of their drink revenue in two days…no big).

We were going to buy them a consolation cake before remembering that cake technically has to be refrigerated...oopz.

Survival Tip #6: Be grateful. If you live in the tri-state area and had power this past weekend, I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hate you. However unbearable the heat, we still had clean running water and a roof over our heads, which is more than the 1.4 billion people living under the poverty line around the world. From a less dramatic perspective, the only thing worse than being constantly sweaty is being constantly sweaty and surrounded by people you hate. Luckily for me, I spent the entire weekend with a really great group of people who still managed to be as ridiculous and fun as ever.

Happy 4th of July!!