Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My List

I feel like the end of the year is a good time to make lists. It’s a time to look back on the year and evaluate: what happened? How have I grown and changed? What were my favorite and least favorite things? I’m the kind of person that needs to take a step back from a situation before I can see it clearly, so I love thinking back on the year and trying to find some major themes or ways I have personally grown.

In that spirit, here is a list (in no particular order and following no particular theme) of some of my favorite things from this past semester.

-This year I've really been able to develop some deeper friendships. It helps that I'm starting to focus more on studying specific things, so I see a lot of the same people in my classes and stuff that goes on in the departments. Since I live so far from home, it means a lot to me to have close friends at school.

-I officially declared a computer science major! I've known for quite a while that I wanted to study computer science, but this semester I made it official. I had to fill out a form with all of the classes I am going to take during my four years to fulfill all of the major requirements, and then ask a professor in the department to be my advisor and approve the form. It feels so great to look at my name in the directory and see "Computer Science" instead of "Undeclared"!

-I'm really bad at asking for help, and can be very stubborn about trying to figure things out on my own. In general, I really don't like approaching professors for help. This semester, between missing a few days of class, planning classes to take, study abroad, and declaring a major, I was kind of forced to talk to my professors more than usual. And, it was really helpful! I want to improve on this, Wellesley has amazing professors.

-For the last few weeks of the semester, my life was almost completely consumed by the final project for my computer science class. My partner and I spent SO many hours programming and testing our game. There were definitely frustrating days; one time our program stopped working, and we searched for about an hour to finally discover that we forgot a single character, which was causing the malfunction. Overall, though, it was one of the most enjoyable things I have done in a long time. I love being hands on and making things that actually work and do something. It really confirmed for me the fact that I want to study computer science.

-I co-led a first year small group this semester as part of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I've been part of Intervarsity since last year, and I love the community I have found there. Leading the group was a challenge, because I've never done anything like it before, but I learned so much and I formed a lot of really great relationships.

-My parent's house in Minneapolis is undergoing some major renovations. (As I write this I can hear noise downstairs from the construction.) In some ways its frustrating, because right now I don't have a bedroom or really any space to call my own (I'm sleeping on an air mattress on the living room floor). At the same time, this project has been in the making literally since we moved into this house about 17 years ago, so it's thrilling to finally see it being done! Next comes painting the walls, and I'm really excited to help with that.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Coming Soon...

Midnight breakfast and primal scream - I guess finals week does start tomorrow, huh? (By the way, moonlight breakfast = one of my new favorite finals traditions.)

Anyway. I promised myself that this week I was going to write a blog post! And I started, more than once, but couldn't come up with the right thing to say. With finals and projects and packing and flying home this week, I don't know when I will have the opportunity to write next. I just wanted to acknowledge that I realize how long it has been, and that I will have a real post soon!

One small thought. This morning in church, the pastor talked about joy. According to Merriam Webster, joy is "the emotion evoked by ... the prospect of possessing what one desires." This time of year can be crazy. For students its finals, for others it might be family issues, money issues, just plain the busy nature of the Christmas season - feeling like you need to get everything done in time, and done perfectly. Joy can feel far away in all of that. But too often we mistake joy for happiness - it's okay not to feel happy all the time. Joy is acknowledging that we might not have what we desire right now, but we will someday. We can hold onto that hope and feel joy in the present, despite our current circumstances, because we know that at some time in the future our circumstances will be what we desire.

Personally, I cannot wait until finals are over and I am back home again, with my friends and family! And I can have joy in that, despite what the last couple days of the semester might bring.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Things I've Seen

As I mentioned in my last blog post, these past few weeks have been full of lots of travelling and adventures. So, this time I just want to share some more pictures.

This was at the start of my trip to New York. It's not a spectacular picture, but I love trains. They always make me feel like an adventure!

Big buildings and things we saw.

This is a random apartment building we passed. I liked the name of it :) (Also, photo credit to Abby)

 The American Museum of Natural History. It's a cool place.

And now, on to North Carolina. Here are some of the banners that were lined up along the fence, welcoming home the Marines.

I got this bracelet before my brother went to boot camp, and I wore it basically his entire deployment.

One night, in an attempt to find the beach on Camp Lejeune, my mom and I got woefully lost. We did lots of driving around that day. One of the most amusing things about driving on a Marine base is all of the tank crossing signs everywhere. At first we kind of wondered why they were necessary. I mean, wouldn't you see a tank sitting by the side of the road? But at around dusk we actually did pass by a group of tanks by the side of the road... They're harder to see than you might imagine.

Finally, by some miracle, we found the beach. This is my mom being happy that we found the beach.

Very soon after we got there the sun began to set. The sky was SO PRETTY!

My attempt to be artistic: taking a picture of the reflection of the sunset in the window of a little blue shack near the beach.

One day we decided to drive down to Wilmington NC, about an hour away from Jacksonville. We toured the USS North Carolina, a retired WWII battleship. It was fascinating, although slightly claustrophobic below deck.

This is my family walking along a river (that I don't know the name of...) in Wilmington.

And now, back to campus. This is the awesome view from our bell tower.

This is inside the bell tower. We have a Halloween event every year and decorate, although the tower certainly doesn't need much help to be creepy...

And finally, this is where I was sitting earlier today writing this blog post. Ah, Harvard Square. A great place to people watch, and a great place to go and attempt to do homework, and then spend an hour writing a blog post instead...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Life of a Traveller

These past few days have been very eventful! During a period of 10 days, I will have spent exactly 3 nights in my own room. Last weekend, over fall break, I stayed with a friend in New York. She was the year below me in high school, and she's currently taking a gap year to participate in a program called City Year (she works in a middle school in the Bronx). I had never been to New York city before, so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to see her and also see the city at the same time. We had a ton of fun! I saw Central Park, Times Square, the Museum of Natural History, Union Square, and went out for some amazing cheesecake (among other things). We figure out how to roast acorn squash and experimented with recipes, and we reminisced about Minneapolis (where we are both from) and our high school.

When you live far away from home, there's something so refreshing about seeing an old friend. Most of the people I see on a daily basis I've known for less than a year, so there just isn't the same level of shared experiences and memories. So, it was fun to talk and catch up! Sometimes I also have trouble accepting other people's hospitality and putting myself at their mercy in a place I am unfamiliar with, so before the trip I was slightly nervous. But, I am SO glad I went. And I hope to get better at doing that.

After break I went back to school and had a total of a day and a half of classes before leaving again, this time for North Carolina. Because my brother was coming back from Afghanistan! For the last few days I have been staying on a Marine base near Jacksonville, NC, where my brother is stationed.

His unit came in on Friday afternoon. It was one of the most exciting and emotionally charged things I have ever been a part of. Emotional in a good way. I couldn't help but watch the reunions that were happening all around me, some of them involving babies so young that it was obviously a dad meeting their child for the first time. It was such a cool thing to be a part of. And, of course, it was amazing to see my brother again. He weighed a few pounds less, with skin a few shades darker and hair a few shades lighter. But, still the same brother.

My mom and brother

Random strangers. But, this little girl was so
adorable! She couldn't have been more than
a couple months old. She wouldn't stop
crying, but her dad wouldn't let go of her.

It's been really nice to spend time with my family. Right now we're watching Sunday afternoon football and waiting for pizza to be delivered to our hotel room. Nothing overly exciting, but very relaxing and familiar. It's the type of thing you take completely for granted, until you haven't experienced it for several months.

In a couple days I'll go back to school, and more than likely be behind in all of my classes because of missing 3 days of school. But, it's been worth it. It's easy to forget that there are, in fact, some things in life more important than class. And family definitely falls into that category.

Friday, September 13, 2013

It's the Little Things

This has been quite the week. I know I keep saying this but this week is the busiest I've had in a long time. For some reason my homework and other obligations this week kept piling on top of each other, to the detriment of my sleep and mental well-being.

However, looking back on this week what strikes my first is the multitude of small things that quietly brightened my days and chased away my stress for a while. A few of them follow:

I have a really great math professor. He's a really nice, friendly guy, and he occasionally stops mid-lecture to tell us funny stories about his family. On the first day of class he asked us for our birthdays, and informed us that he would bring in treats. Well, on Wednesday morning he brought in chocolate chip cookies and cake that his wife had baked for the class. It was so sweet of him! And now I get to look forward to occasional dessert in linear algebra class this semester, which is a big plus.

Wednesday afternoon was our campus org fair (where all of the student groups on campus come and students can see what they might be interested in being involved in). Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, which I'm part of, had a table, and students who stopped by filled out a contact card. On Wednesday night we followed up with the students by knocking on their room doors and bringing them goodie bags. I was both physically and mentally exhausted (this took place from 8-11:30pm) but we had so many awesome experiences. Many of the people were incredibly grateful and touched that we would take the time to seek them out and meet them face to face. We also had a plethora of interesting (and awkward) circumstances, like the time we knocked on a door and a girl's roommate told us she went down the hall to get Cheerio's, so as we were walking down the hallway we randomly accosted the girl eating Cheerio's and she had no idea who we were (but luckily it was the right person!) We just saw so much kindness and graciousness, from the random roommates who had to listen to our spiel to the people we unintentionally creepily ambushed in the hallway outside their door.

On Thursday morning in Latin class we had our first quiz of the semester (which was one of the reasons I was up late on Wednesday night). In the middle of Thursday afternoon, I received an email from my professor letting me know that I did really well on the quiz and just to say well done. I've never had a professor take the time to do something like that before, and it really made my day.

On Friday afternoon (today) the weather was beautiful, so I decided to go on a short walk into town, mostly to stock up on snacks in order to more effectively hide in my room (I was about ready to be done with the week!) On the way I encountered a path I'd never taken before, but it was going in the general direction I was headed so I went for it. On the way movement caught my eye in the underbrush a few yards away from the path, and I looked up to see a doe and her fawn standing there. I stood for at least 3-4 minutes watching them. They weren't the least bit scared, and eventually slowly meandered out of my sight. They were beautiful and magnificent and I felt privileged to have been able to watch them for those few short minutes.

And one final thing happened to me today. Last year I had two wonderful roommates, Katie and Jacqueline, but this year I'm living somewhere else. This afternoon I got a text from Jacqueline asking if I was in my room, and when I said no several minutes later I received a cryptic response that there was a surprise waiting for me. Well, when I got back to my room I found my bed nicely made and candy sitting on my pillow. It was something so small, but made me feel so loved. Amidst the craziness of this week my room has slightly descended into chaos, so it was a wonderful surprise to come back to. (Jacqueline, if you're reading this, thank you!)

Anyway. This week has been a strange amalgamation of really good and really bad. I'm choosing to remember the good. It's the little things that can brighten a person's day profoundly, and I'm grateful for all of the little things I encountered this week.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Another new semester!

Wow, sorry I've been a little MIA lately. When I was home over winter break I didn't write much because I was doing so little and didn't have anything to write about, but much of this summer I wasn't writing because I had too much to do!

I don't even know where to begin...

My last few weeks at home were wonderful, but crazy. My last week at home, among other things, I had three doctors appointments, went to the movies and walked around the mall with friends and family twice, had a sleepover with two of my best friends Ashley and Kelly (actually one of the highlights of my entire summer!), spend a day at the Minnesota state fair, hung out with my friend Alyssa (who I never get to see because she is in the Air Force stationed in South Dakota and I go to school near Boston), got together with my family to celebrate all of our birthdays, and packed every single thing I own into boxes or suitcases. (I didn't get much sleep that week.)

And now I am finally back at Wellesley. My first couple days here were actually pretty difficult, trying to figure things out and adjust to being back while trying to get all of my stuff from storage to my new room, unpack, and buy the things I wasn't able to bring with me (like shampoo). After that things quickly got better, though, as I had a couple days before classes started to relax and start seeing my friends again. I love my new room, and I think I've finally just about finished decorating it to my satisfaction.

This semester promises to be a good (and busy!) one. My classes are Linear Algebra, Computer Science (data structures), Art (2-dimensional design), and Latin 101. I think I will enjoy all of them, and art has already pushed me out of my comfort zone! I think mathematically too often, so it'll be good for me. But I really don't know what to expect, I've never taken a studio art class before!

I'm also planning on continuing to be part of the Guild of Carillonneurs, and I'm stepping up my involvement in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, I'll be co-leading the first-year small group this year. Super excited! I'll probably dabble in some other groups as well, there are so many cool things happening on this campus!

Anyway, it's probably about time to sign off and accomplish something on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. Hopefully I'll have some more thoughts and updates soon.

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Week in North Carolina

So, tomorrow we head back home to Minneapolis. It's been such an amazing week! I really can't remember the last time I laughed this much during a single week. We've had so much fun, even doing completely normal things like shopping.

We played cards. Lots and lots of cards! Skipbo, hand and foot, set, dutch blitz, apples to apples, and five crowns.

We had a BLAST swimming at the beach. The water was warm and the waves were huge, it was a good day.

We attempted to go kayaking, but there were thunderstorm conditions out at sea so the Marina on base (Camp Lejeune, where my brother is stationed when he's not on deployment) wouldn't let us take out any of their boats. But we took the opportunity to take pictures anyway.

We went to the aquarium and saw lots of animals, my favorites being the river otters. Adorable!

We went mini-golfing at this place overlooking the water, it was really great. Unfortunately it started raining, but not until the 16th hole so we were still able to finish.

We had fun with their dog, Juliet. She's such a sweetheart! (and she doesn't normally wear plaid shorts, this was a special occasion ;) )

I guess it'll be nice to be home, but I'm not necessarily looking forward to work and real life again... I won't miss the heat and humidity here in North Carolina! But I will miss the people, and the ocean, and the puppy, and the laughter. I would do this trip again in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Time (And lack thereof)

I have been planning on writing for quite a while. The other day I even made a list of ideas to write about: memories about my grandparents, pictures from this summer, how my life is different working full time than going to school during the year, etc. What I finally decided I wanted to write about was a scrapbook I started working on (during a camping trip with my mom) about my first year of college.

Looking back on this past year made me become somewhat philosophical about time. How it seems like forever since I've been in high school, but I remember graduation like it could have been yesterday. How it seems like years ago that I moved into my dorm, and yet it seems like I lived in that room for a blink of an eye. How it always seemed like the weeks before going would home take an eternity, and yet the time always came sooner than I could believe.

I've been thinking about these things quite a bit these past few days. However, and here's where the irony comes in, despite how much I've wanted to sit down and write and reflect on all these things, I just haven't had time. (Get it? I haven't had time to reflect on time?) It seems like life has just gotten away from me lately. I've been working full time, and after a day of work and my somewhat long commute, I get home and it seems like before I've been able to accomplish anything at all it's time to go to bed.

Mostly I wanted to write to update you on one particular piece of news - tomorrow I leave for North Carolina! While my brother JG is on deployment in Afghanistan, my mom, aunt and I wanted to take the opportunity to go visit my sister-in-law (and have a nice vacation while we're at it!) I am SO thrilled that in less than 24 hours I will be in North Carolina with my family, it should be an amazing trip.

I guess I'll have to share my musings on the nature of time later, for now I should probably go finish packing...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Snapshot of Summer

One thing about having a full time job this summer is that it makes me appreciate my free time so much more.

I had a wonderful summer afternoon with my mom this past Sunday. Let me try to paint you a picture:

The weather is absolutely gorgeous, one of the best days of the summer so far. It is sunny, with big white fluffy clouds in the sky that occasionally provide relief from the heat and sunshine, but with no threat of rain. The temperature is warm enough to make me know for sure that its summer, but as long as I stay in the shade the breeze makes it pleasantly cool.

As I walk down the sidewalk the scents of freshly mowed grass, of aromatic trees, and the subtle smell of a lake nearby drift past me.

As I sit in the grass, its the noises nearby that capture my attention. Birds call out to each other from neighboring trees. Boats chained up on the lake move under the power of the wind, the noise of their moorings like a multitude of wind-chimes on the water. The branches of the trees move with each gust of wind, their leaves joyfully rustling together.

I read my book for a while, but keep getting distracted by the stream of people walking, running, biking, and roller-blading by. I watch them, listening to short snatches of conversation and laughter as they pass. I'm not the only one enjoying this day.

I hold an ice cream cone and attempt to catch all of the drips with my tongue before they reach my fingers. The cold fills my mouth, but leaves my whole body feeling refreshed.

I cannot imagine a summer without days like this.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Happenings

Summer so far has been pretty great. I've done lots of relaxing! I've gotten to see friends (and teachers) at graduations, open houses, and baby showers. It has been nice to catch up with them. I'm so proud of the senior class that graduated from my high school this year! So many of them are doing wonderful things with their lives next year. Although it does make me feel really old...

The weather hasn't been cooperating particularly well in Minnesota this spring/early summer, but I've gotten to spend some quality time outside on those few days it has decided not to rain. Just this evening I spent a couple hours out on my deck reading. The sun was out and the temperature was perfect, weather for shorts and a t-shirt, but not too hot. I listened to the noise of kids playing in my neighbors yard, ice cream trucks driving past, and some kind of sporting event happening at the park by my house. I don't know how many hours I've spend out there reading in previous summers, and the smells and sounds and sights of the neighborhood paired with a wonderful book brings back lots of happy memories. That's what summer's all about for me.

I've had some awesome times with my family as well, from a five day camping trip with my parents to entire days just spent running errands with my mom. I miss those things when I'm away from home! I've gotten some driving practice in (no, I still don't have my licence). I'm getting better, but its a good thing I still have the most of the summer to practice...

The main new thing this summer is that I have a job! Well, I start my job tomorrow actually. I have an internship at a company that does a lot of software development and things like that, I don't know very much about it yet. I've never worked full time before, so this should be an experience. I'm most likely going to major in computer science, so this will be a fantastic opportunity for me to gain some experience and also learn more about what type of job I might want later on. And its a paid internship! That is very important as well. I'm a little nervous about my first day, but also excited. After tomorrow I will have a much better idea about what my summer will look like, because I still know very little about the job or what I will be doing on a day to day basis.

That's about all that's new with me! After a crazy and busy school year, it has been nice that not too much has been going on. I guess I'm glad that my entire summer won't be as lazy, but I sure did enjoy it while it lasted.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

There's No Place Like Home

I'm finally home!

This past couple weeks have been emotional for me, in ways both good and bad. It was an amazing feeling when I finished classes. For the first time I could remember I didn't have any homework I needed to do, and I didn't know what to do with all of my free time. The next day was a big reality check however, when realized that I should start studying for finals and also got sick. The next few days were awful as I attempted to study and take all of my finals while I was miserable with a bad sore throat. When I finally finished my last exam I was thrilled. As I walked out of the testing room I literally couldn't wipe the smile off of my face. However, this time my joy was even shorter-lived as I soon realized I had to pack up all of my stuff and be ready to leave my room within two days. I was thrilled to be heading home, but it never really hit me until I started packing that going home also meant leaving Wellesley.

I think I've mentioned this before, but I don't think I'm ever going to get used to living in two different places like this. It doesn't help that I usually fly back and forth so I can only bring a limited amount of stuff with me (and for the record, this time I brought too much!). I had to make so many  trivial decisions that made packing so much more difficult. How many sweatshirts will I need this summer? Will I regret it if I don't have that shirt home with me? How much stuff can I fit into that box so I will still be able to carry it to storage? If I bring that book home with me, will I actually read it this summer?

Packing was also hard because I know that life will be so different next year. I have really enjoyed this year, and I know that things will just never be the same. Different dorm, different roommate (I will miss you guys!), different classes. Packing all of my stuff made me realize how much I will miss things the way they were this year. Oh, as always I'm excited about the change too, and I'm sure I'll have a wonderful year next year. At this point its just hard to think about all of the things that will be different.

Anyway, enough about that. It's awesome to be home, but I haven't really been able to fully settle in yet. It didn't help that I started to get sick on Friday (again!). Sinus pressure and airplanes are a bad combination, so my right ear hasn't been properly functioning since I got home. I haven't been able to make myself unpack all the way or do much of anything besides sit on the couch. Thus far my summer hasn't gotten off to the best start, but I know once I'm less exhausted and disoriented I will be able to appreciate being here more. It is so great to be with my family again!

I'm hoping to have lots of exciting stories to tell you guys this summer! I'll be in touch.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Endings never come without beginnings

The month of April was a crazy (and wonderful) one. There have been so many ups and downs that I don't even know where to begin. Classes have been very busy as they are wrapping up for the semester. Of course there was the week of the Marathon, which was quite the experience in many different ways (both good and bad). The weather has become nice lately and everything has turned green and bloomed. Wellesley is a beautiful campus on any day, but with everything in bloom it is a breathtaking place to live.

Overall I have really been enjoying life lately. Sure, I've had a couple awful stressful weeks where I'm up late every night so I can finish all of the things I have to turn in. But I've still been mostly happy. Honestly, I think the weather itself has been a huge reason for my joy lately, despite how superficial that may sound. It is nearly impossible for me to be stressed out when I walk outside and the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming and the smell of mowed grass and flowers fills the air.

I am missing home so much right now though. I really want to see my family and friends in person, not just talk to them via texting and facebook and fuzzy Skype connections. I really want some time to relax and not have to think about what exams and papers and problem sets I have due soon. I want to have the freedom to cook my own food and not eat every meal every day in a dining hall (although I'm not complaining about our dining halls, I really like them). I want some time to be less social and not have a plethora of events to go to each week, no matter how fun they may be. (Why yes, I am an introvert.) I really want my own bed and the guarantee of a warm shower every day! (This semester that has been anything but certain in our dorm). I really just need to go home.

At the same time, a rather large part of me is dreading the end of this semester. Don't get me wrong, I want finals to be over just as much as the next person. I will be happy not to write any papers or take any exams for a while. But I will miss some of my classes and professors so much! I have been really lucky this semester.

Lately I have been realizing even more how much I love my classes. I realized it yesterday after math class when we ordered lunch and talked about life and told funny stories from our childhoods. I realized it last week when our math professor baked us chocolate chip cookies and told us the story about how he nearly flunked out of Kindergarten because he couldn't color in the lines. I realized it yesterday when our Spanish professor brought us chocolates and let us go from class early because it was so nice outside. I realized it last week when my computer science professor gave us a five minute lecture about how we might be brains in a lab somewhere being fed sensory data by scientists (long story...). I realized it today when in my classical studies class we got to talk about gladiators (and we also went off on a long tangent about life in the Midwest and how it differs from New England. And how my professor used to own 6 kayaks...) I wish I could tell you about all of the stories I have from classes and professors this year. Then again, with some of them you might not believe me...

Anyway, I just wanted to share some of my reflections about my life lately. Minnesota friends, I will be home very soon! I can't wait to see you all. And Wellesley friends, I am sad we will have to part soon, but I will see you in the fall.

Nothing can end without something else great beginning.

Monday, April 1, 2013

New Orleans!

Over Spring Break (already over a week ago! I can't believe its been that long) I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans with a group from Wellesley Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. It was an amazing trip! It was  also exhausting, and part of me regretted it a little bit when I got back after break even more exhausted than before I left. It was worth it, though.

The main thing we did while we were in New Orleans was work with an organization called Project Homecoming, which is a fairly small organization that was started after Katrina to address the need for houses to be repaired and replaced. It is one of the few such organizations that is still up and running now, many have closed in the years since the storm. There is still so much work to be done. There are families even now (8 years later!) that have not been able to move back to the city. There are also families that are living in substandard conditions because they have not been able to fix their houses. My group was working on a house that was abandoned and had been sitting empty for years. After the storm many families decided to give up their homes or land to the government and move elsewhere rather than trying to fix it themselves. The government owns hundreds of blighted homes and empty plots of land where houses had to be torn down, so sometimes they give these properties to organizations (like Project Homecoming) to rebuild.

It was an amazing (but hard!) week of work. We learned lots (like how to use dangerous power tools and assemble walls and properly put away air hoses so they don't have kinks in them).

Our work site for the week.

I promise, I usually wore safety glasses. Just not
when this picture was taken...

In the process we learned a lot about each other and had some great conversations about our lives, both within our team and with other members of the community. One day we had the opportunity to talk to a couple who live in the neighborhood we were working in, just a few houses away. It turns out that the husband works with another organization that helps families rebuild their homes, especially when they have dealt with contractor fraud. It was pretty chilly and rainy that morning (we were working outside all week) and they brought us hot chocolate and cookies. It was so nice of them! One day we were also invited to the new homeowners current (rather small) apartment for lunch, and we got to hear some of her story. It was really nice to even a small part of the impact we were able to have on her life and in the neighborhood.

We also learned about the city. On Sunday (the day after we arrived) we went on a bus tour. It was nice to see more of New Orleans, but it was very sobering as well. We drove through some neighborhoods that are full of empty lots where houses used to be, or "blighted" houses that can't be lived in and haven't been torn down or fixed. It was difficult to look at all of the marks still on houses listing who searched the house after the storm, when it was searched, any dangerous conditions found inside the house, and whether any bodies were found in that particular house. It was so sad to see those marks because that meant that house has been standing there abandoned for these past 8 years. We also looked at some of the new levies and learned about some of the factors (many caused by human actions) that caused the storm to be so destructive.

This is a memorial showing the water level during
the flood compared to the frame of a house.

Of course, we also got to have some fun while we were there. We got beignets and cafe au lait from Cafe Du Monde. We walked around and took silly pictures and saw some interesting people (including many palm readers and a woman who was using a flaming hula hoop). We spent some time by the river, and I marveled at the fact that the Mississippi river is all the way down there too. (I know that sounds silly, but I'm from Minneapolis, and the Mississippi runs right through our city. I've never seen it from anywhere else before.) We also went out to eat, watched a random dance group for a while while eating our beignets, and generally explored the French Quarter. I love going new places and experiencing new cultures (and eating their food!).

While I was at Cafe Du Monde (for the second time, actually) I also saw a group from my high school (in Minneapolis.) I had known they were going to be in New Orleans the same time as me, but I didn't think there was any way that we would see each other. I am glad to say that I was wrong! It was a fairly short encounter, but they were the first people I had seen from home in a while. It was wonderful to have even such a small taste of home while I was so far away. I have really been missing my friends and family lately, so it was a wonderful time to run into them.

I made lots of new friends on this trip. 19 students from Wellesley went, only 4 or 5 of which I knew before. It amazed me how well we got to know each other after only a week! There is something magical about the combination of travelling, volunteering/working, having adventures, and living in not so wonderful accommodations that cements friendships faster than anything else I have experienced. That is something that we can all take back to campus with us. The trip itself may be over, but many of the things we learned and the friendships we made will last for much longer. That has always been one of my favorite parts about trips like this.

I really wish I was able to tell you all every detail (but I also know that none of you would read a blog post that long!). I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel and have all of these adventures, but even more importantly to devote a week of my time to serving others. It makes me wonder why I devote so little time to serving the community where I am right now. I think experiences like this can be a good reminder to not only serve those far away, but to recognize the needs in our own backyards and do what we can to help. We are all so fortunate to have all of the things that we do, and there is always somebody somewhere, whether in Louisiana or in the room down the hall, that could use our help.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Wonderful Day

I need to get up early tomorrow so I should probably be asleep right now, but I had a really wonderful day today and I wanted to tell you all about it (and I'm sorry for all of you Wellesley students in the middle of an awful week full of midterms, at least there's only two days left!)

Nothing spectacularly wonderful happened today, just a collection of many small things that made my day.

First, the weather. It was so nice out today! Every time I walked out the door I breathed in the scent of melting snow and wet earth and spring. Nothing like a sunny, warm, March day to put a smile on your face.

Second, I didn't have class this morning. I actually don't have class every other Wednesday, but today in particular it felt wonderful to not have to learn anything in the morning. (especially math. I love that class, but I really wasn't in the mood to learn math this morning)

Thirdly, and this may seem strange, I was in a psychology experiment this morning. Basically I used this really awesome 3D computer to solve puzzles for half an hour and then I got $10. It was actually quite enjoyable. (and the Starbuck's gift card wasn't bad either).

Fourth. (I'm not sure why I started numbering these. Oh, well, I'm too far in to stop now!) I only had one class today, and in that class all we did was watch a movie and eat burritos. And it was actually a good movie, too, not one of those boring documentaries that you sometimes watch in class that are supposed to be better than normal class but in reality are just boring.

Fifth. This one is many things rolled into one, but I don't feel like separating them. This evening was smoothie night at the greenhouse, so me and a friend went and got free smoothies (and free mugs!) Then we ate dinner and went to this event called Veritas Forum, which was a very interesting lecture/discussion about emotion in robots and whether a robot could ever be made that had a human "soul". Very deep questions, but also really cool research from an MIT professor about emotion and robotics and even how this kind of technology could potentially be used to help people with autism and other disorders react better to social situations. (and, of course, there was free food afterwards including this really amazing gouda cheese that I perhaps ate a little bit too much of.)

Sixth. I got to Skype with one of my best friends in the whole world, Kelly Klos! Well, until the internet stopped working. That was frustrating. But it was still lovely to talk while it lasted :)

Seventh. (I better end this soon, I'm almost running out of fingers to count on.) I get to leave in three days for New Orleans! My spring break is next week, and I am very lucky to have the opportunity to go to New Orleans over break for a short missions trip of sorts, we'll be doing lots of building and working and serving and bonding and adventuring and I'm so excited!!

Okay, that's all I can think of for now. I will definitely be updating you all after my trip, but bear with me if it takes some time after break for me to catch my breath and get to writing a blog post! I don't know how busy/exhausted I will be after I get back, but based on prior experience I will probably be plenty of both.

Oh, and did I mention I'm excited?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ups and Downs

Its amazing how quickly life can change.

Two weeks ago I was at Wellesley, happy about the day we got off because of the blizzard and loving the two and a half feet of snow covering my windows. That weekend was happy and wonderful and spontaneous and full of lots of fun.

This weekend I am home. Normally that would be a great thing, but this trip was rather unexpected and unasked for. A week ago Thursday my grandpa fell out of bed and broke his hip. He had surgery Friday morning, and just wasn't able to recover fully. They took him off of all of the monitors and everything so he could be comfortable, and on Sunday afternoon he passed away. This week has been hard in many ways. It was mostly hard being away from my family. Even though I knew it would mean missing class and getting behind, I knew that I had to come home.

It has been amazing to be able to spend time with my family, especially because I didn't expect to see them again until this summer. One of my favorite parts has been hearing stories about my grandpa, many of which I've never heard before. For example, when the game Monopoly first came out his family couldn't afford to buy it, so he borrowed his neighbor's game and replicated all of the pieces so he would have his own. He also helped start a potato processing plant in North Dakota, which I thought was pretty cool.

Mostly I knew my grandpa as a missionary. For most of their adult lives my grandparents lived in Africa, mostly in Nigeria and Cameroon. I've always loved hearing the stories about how he would hunt wild boars and hippos, how he helped start radio stations and built schools and delivered a baby or two when he had to. My grandpa was an amazing man, and I've loved this opportunity to learn more about his incredible life.

Anyway, that's about all I have to say. I just wanted those of you who keep up with my blog to know what's going on in my life. And my family and I would still definitely appreciate your prayers!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Road Trip: Part 2

Even though classes started a week ago, I still want to update you guys about how the rest of my road trip went! These first two paragraphs I wrote a few days ago, and the rest is just a summary of the second part of our trip.

So, I've finally found a couple of things that I don't like about roadtrips. One, not everywhere you stay has internet. I know that sounds really ridiculous and "first world" of me, but it was a little frustrating because I was getting important emails about scheduling work and classes and things this semester and I couldn't check my email for almost 3 days.

Second, I don't like being hit by a dump truck. I really don't like being hit by the same dump truck twice. He was trying to change lanes and apparently just didn't see us. (Even after he hit us the first time!) We're all fine and the car is mostly okay, but there is definitely some damage on one of the rear doors. (Good thing we had a rental car and not our own!)

One of my favorite things that we were able to do while we were in Virginia (visiting my mom's brother and sister-in-law) was to go to Luray Caverns. I believe its one of the largest caves in America, and it was spectacular. We went on about an hour long tour walking through the caves, and its hard to even describe what it was like. It felt like we were on a set designed for a movie or something, not in a place that was formed naturally. Here are a couple of pictures, although of course they're not anywhere close to the real thing.

This was actually a pool of water, so the rocks you see on
the bottom are really a reflection.

Another one of my favorite parts was driving through more mountains (Hurray!). My mom probably didn't appreciate it though, because she was the one who got to drive through all of the steep hills and sharp turns and switchbacks. It was pretty amusing to watch our path on the GPS nearly double over on itself as we drove along the road.

Finally, after another 9 hour drive or so (during which occurred our aforementioned run-in with a dump truck) we made it to Boston! Well, actually to a little town outside of Boston called Framingham, but close enough. We arrived on a Thursday night, so all day Friday and Saturday we were able to spend doing various things exploring Boston itself. It was very illuminating for my parents, my dad never having been in the area at all and my mom only having been here once before (in August, dropping me off at school). It was very interesting for me, too, because I don't often get a chance to do touristy things in the city. We visited Faneuil Hall and got a tour of the state house and walked part of the freedom trail (which was a little miserable because the windchill must have been close to 0). We visited the aquarium, got a tour of the USS Constitution (or "Old Ironsides") and ate at a fabulous sea food restaurant. Overall, a very fun (but very exhausting) couple of days.

This is me inside part of the captain's cabin on the
USS Constitution.

My favorite parts of the aquarium were definitely
the jellyfish and sea horses.

On Sunday we finally made it to Wellesley. It was fun to show my parents around, although by that time all of us were pretty tired from the whole trip, so we didn't do much on Sunday. And Monday I started classes. My parents were still around that day, so basically they came with me on campus doing whatever I needed to do, and when I had classes they just found a place to sit and relax for a while. It was a little strange having them there, because last semester they were always so far away, but it was kind of fun for them to experience what a normal day is like for me.

One downside of this trip was that I felt a little overwhelmed and unorganized before the semester even started. The first day of classes came very quickly because I was so wrapped up in our trip, and I felt rather unprepared for it. I'm finally now starting to settle back in and get back into my normal rhythm . Overall though, it was such an amazing experience, and I feel very lucky that I was finally able to go on a road trip like I've always wanted! Obviously I couldn't go into a whole lot of detail in two little blog posts (okay, so maybe they aren't so little) so if you have any questions please ask! My classes this semester are promising to be pretty fun, so I'm definitely looking forward to that! (And, as always, I will update you later :) )