Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review: The Power of Unstoppable Faith


I heard Nick Vujicic speak in person at a conference once, but I had never read any of his books. He was born with no arms or legs, and he has made a career out of travelling around the world giving inspirational talks. I was very interested to learn more about him, so I decided to get this book. I knew it was a short book from the description, but I was still a bit surprised when I got it in the mail and it was a package of 10 little booklets. It was a very quick read, and it ended up being nice to have several of them to share with friends and family (I actually have a few left, if anybody is interested!)

As for the contents of the booklet itself, I wish it had included more information about Vujicic's life. It made me want to read more of his books, which I guess was the point. I understand that in such a short book there wasn't room to tell his whole life story, especially since he does have other books which are a normal length. The focus of this booklet was more about his career as an inspirational speaker, and how important it is to do what you love with your life, despite anything that stands in your way.

I would definitely recommend this booklet. I don't know if it is possible to get it without buying a package of 10 of them, but it is a very quick read (55 short pages) and its was a nice introduction to his life and ministry. Reading this made me excited to read some of his other books.

And So It Begins

So, on Friday I embark on an adventure. I am spending the spring semester (from January through May) studying at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland!

I don't think its really hit me yet that I'm leaving. I've had such a short break at home, and most of it I have been occupied with Christmas and spending time with my family. But, day by day it gets closer. I'm so used to leaving home for long periods of time to be at school anyway, it just hasn't really sunk in that this time I'll be a bit farther away than normal.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited. But, also terrified. I've never been anywhere in Europe, much less traveled there by myself. I've never had to buy and cook all of my own food (Trinity has no meal plan). I have no clue who I will be living with or what classes I will be taking. I don't know a single other person who will be in Dublin. I know that it will be an amazing experience, but I'm worried about the first couple weeks of adjustment to everything.

At the moment, I really don't have a lot of details to share. My first week there, before classes start on the 12th, I will be part of a program where I get to learn about the culture and history of Trinity College, the city of Dublin, and Ireland as a whole (and go on field trips!). But after that, I have no clue what my schedule will be like. I will do my best to keep this blog updated during my time in Dublin!

I've wanted to study abroad for as long as I can remember, I just can't believe its coming true so soon.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review: The Secrets of Life and Death


This book alternates between telling the fictional story of a modern-day investigation into suspicious circumstances surrounding a girl's death and the journal of a historical figure named Edward Kelley (who was actually a real person). It is a well-balanced mix between historical fiction and a more modern story, and for most of the book trying to make the connection between the two is left up to the reader. It makes for a very exciting conclusion to the book. If you are interested in historical fiction or occult/religious myth (not only historically, but also in the present day) I think you would enjoy this book a lot.

Personally I have mixed feelings about this book. I considered not finishing it, which is very unusual for me. For my taste, the themes were too dark and occult. It's the kind of book that I can't read right before I go to sleep, because I feel like its going to give me bad dreams. I did finish the book in the end, however, because the story was so well written and engaging. I really liked the ending, so I'm glad I finished it. This is completely a matter of personal taste (I'm also the kind of person that can't watch horror movies) but if you don't like dark themes you probably don't want to read this book.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Life Update

I have the hardest time keeping people updated on the major things going on in my life. So, I decided to write this blog post!

Family
I guess the biggest change in my family recently has been my parent's house in Minneapolis. This past year my parents have been working SUPER hard to renovate our house, with the aim of renting out the second floor. They did a lot of renovations on the first floor, where we live, and then they put the finishing touches on the second floor to make it a functioning duplex. And now, they are officially landlords. Currently the house is a bit chaotic (moving from an entire house to only one floor of it is hard!) but I'm really proud of all they've done. I've been at college during most of the process, and it's amazing to see the progress every time I go home.

Jobs
This semester my jobs have been quite different than the rest of my semesters at Wellesley. I'm still working at the campus library, but I also have a couple other (paid) projects going on too. I am working with a math professor, grading the problem sets for his calculus II class. It's pretty common at Wellesley for classes with weekly problem sets to have graders, so the professor doesn't have to spend their time doing it. My other project originated this past summer. I attended a Humanities Lab where I worked with a Wellesley professor exploring how to use digital maps to study mythological stories and artifacts (he happens to be an archaeologist as well as a classics professor). At the beginning of the semester he asked if I would continue to work with him, mostly preparing materials for classes he is teaching. Both of these have been very interesting experiences, but I'm finding myself having a harder time this semester managing my schedule, since I have fewer scheduled work shifts and more things I need to do on my own time.

Classes
This might not seem like a major life update, but my classes consume a lot of my time so I like talking about them. I'm taking four classes this semester, which is the normal amount at Wellesley, but my new challenge for this semester has been that two of my classes also have labs. (Basically that means that they meet an extra time each week, for two or three hours, and sometimes there are extra assignments to turn in.) I'm taking two computer science classes, one on computer graphics and the other on computer hardware and digital logic (which also has a three hour lab every week).

This is an example of what we do in my graphics
class. It looks deceptively simple, but it wasn't
simple to program!
This is part of what we do in my
computer hardware lab.

I'm also taking Astronomy 101, which has a lab as well. Astronomy lab is really fun, it has been cloudy a lot this semester so its also been a bit disappointing (its rather difficult to observe the sky when its cloudy). Finally, I'm taking Intermediate Latin (currently we are reading Latin love poetry).

College Major
I have officially been a computer science major since last fall, and that is still something I am very passionate about. There are two other things I am still considering adding on to that - I may be a math minor or I may be a Classical Civilizations major. Unfortunately at Wellesley you can only declare two things total, so I can either do one or the other. People ask me a lot what made me decide to take so many classics courses. I took one class my first year which was really interesting, and then the next semester the same professor (who I really liked) was teaching Latin 101 so I took it, and now here I am reading Latin Love Elegy and making digital maps about Greek mythology... Honestly it just kinda happened.

Study Abroad
One of the most exciting things in the works right now is study abroad next semester. There are still a lot of details to figure out, but things are starting to come together. I will be spending the semester at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. I am quite sure you will be hearing a lot more about this as time goes on! But I honestly don't have a lot of details to share just yet.

And that's about all I can think of right now. As always, I'll talk to you guys again soon!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review: A Short Walk to the Edge of Life



This book is a fascinating mix of history, autobiography, survival story, and proclamation of faith. It tells the story of a man named Scott Hubbartt who becomes hopelessly lost in the Peruvian Andes while trying to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors.

As far as catastrophe and survival stories go, this one is refreshing because he is very honest about the mistakes he made, and the fact that getting lost was his own fault. His Christian faith is also a very important part of the story, and he describes all of the things that he learned and the ways he grew through his experience. It is a powerful story for anybody who has experienced the seeming absence of God in times of need - Hubbartt was lost and very near death, and every time he called out to God there seemed to be no response. However, in the end of the book his faith is even stronger than before, and he is able to look back and recognize the ways that God helped him.

Hubbartt is very clear about his Christian faith being one of the main reasons that he wanted to write this book, but the book is worth reading even if you're only interested in his story of survival or historical aspect of it.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher via Blogging for Books.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pictures (aka Why I Love Boston and Wellesley)

As usual, my plans for what I want to write are more ambitious than the time I have available. I am planning on writing a post eventually with general life updates (like study abroad!) But for now, I want to share a few pictures with you.

This semester I have had a hard time getting off campus. Its just so much easier to stay here, and for the most part I am perfectly content sticking close to Wellesley. But last week I finally got a bit claustrophobic! It has been beautiful here lately (as it always is in the fall) and I wanted to share some pictures from Wellesley and from my excursions into the city. (Remember that you can click on the pictures if you want to see them bigger!)

I found a farmer's market in Copley Square
They intentionally made this skyscraper
reflective because of all the beautiful
old architecture around it.
Boston Public Garden
I had to take a picture of this statue in the
Public Gardens - it was dedicated to the
discovery of ether (at Mass general hospital
 I think). I thought it was a slightly
strange thing to memorialize.
Boston Public Library courtyard
The reading room in the Boston Public Library
This is near my dorm
We had a bizarrely (and wonderfully!) warm
late October day, most of which I spent
outside studying. I thought the sunlight on the
trees looked so striking against the dark clouds.
This is the complex where I live (viewed from the top
of our bell tower)
Reba and I went to the MFA (Museum of
Fine Arts
It was raining, so this was the best picture
I got outside the MFA before I put my
phone away

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Priorities

During the school year I usually don't have much time for recreational reading. Or rather I should say, I don't make time for it. I've just gotten out of the habit.

Anybody who knew me when I was younger knows that I always had a book with me, and in every spare moment I took it out. I always used to read before going to sleep, and I usually read while I ate breakfast. I even took out my book in the couple minutes I had during passing periods at school.

Now, I have a smart phone. Those moments that I used to occupy with a good book more often than not are spent on my phone, playing a meaningless game or checking facebook and my email (again) or reading random articles I find online because I have nothing better to do in that moment.

A couple weeks ago I saw an article online about how to make time for reading books, and it made me start to realize how much I missed it. So, the next day I threw a book in my backpack (although its not like I didn't have enough in there already!). And low and behold, since I had it with me I found time to read it. Anyway, this has become a longer story than I intended. Books have always been an important part of my life, and I'm really excited that I'm beginning to make more time for them, even at school where I'm swamped with other obligations.

Right now I'm reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I've read this book many times before, but sometimes I like rereading an old familiar book. It's like talking to an old friend that I haven't seen in a while, but somehow when we talk its like no time has passed at all. The other day I came across a passage in the book that I really enjoyed, and I wanted to share it with you all.

A very well-loved book, with my
very well-loved bookmark.

[context: This is the moment when Aslan, who becomes the savior of Narnia, is first introduced. Narnia is a country in which animals talk, hence the talking Beaver.]

“And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning - either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you get when you wake up in the morning and realise that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.” (Chapter 7, A Day with the Beavers)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words (and a Day is Worth 1440 Minutes)

I really enjoy sharing with you guys what I'm up to on a daily basis. Another post is in the works of larger life updates, but I had a really great day last Wednesday that I wanted to share with you all!

At Wellesley we have a tradition called lake day. Basically, its a celebration with food, music, and games that is a surprise until the night before. In past years lake day hasn't been very important to me, but this year for some reason I enjoyed the tradition much more. I met a friend for lunch and we headed over to Severance Green and the lake day festivities afterwards. We didn't stay very long, just to get cotton candy and deep friend bread dough (and flu shots, health services decided to take advantage of the gathering). The weather was perfect, and it was a great day to be outside seeing everybody enjoying themselves.

cotton candy :)

I've never gotten a flu shot
outdoors before!

Since the weather was beautiful, after lake day I couldn't make myself go inside to study. I decided to sit out in the Academic Quad, which is an area in the middle of campus surrounded by academic buildings. It's a pretty busy area of campus, so people I knew kept walking past and stopping to talk. Somebody stopped and studied with me for a while, and one of my professors walked past with his (adorable) dog, and a friend stopped and gave me candy. I tend to isolate myself while I'm studying, so it was a nice change of pace!

Later in the day there was an event in the math department called the math games. I wasn't going to go, but last minute a friend and I decided to go together. Basically we were put into teams, and each team was given one of the math professors as a judge. We were given different math puzzle problems and tried to solve as many as we could. There were lots of snacks and dessert (and way too much chocolate!) and overall it was a really fun event. A few of the problems were games, and they actually made us play the game rather than just explaining the solution. A highlight of the event was when our whole team had to go out in the hallway, stand in a line with either a 1 or 0 taped to our back, and correctly identify which number each of us had. It was a surprisingly nerve-wracking ordeal, but we prevailed!

The obligatory group photo

We ate so much fruit and cheese and chocolate that my friend and I swore we wouldn't eat dinner that night. Until we remembered that one of our dining halls was having a clam bake, and we decided we needed to go. There were tons of clams and lobster shaped cookies and corn on the cob cupcakes (decorated with jelly beans and candy to look like corn and butter) and other wonderful things.

Sometimes I forget to take advantage of all the cool things that happen on this campus. I'm trying to get better at that!


so much good (and slightly strange) food!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Book Review: My Irish Table

My Irish Table seems like it is part cookbook and part the life story of Cathal Armstrong, who grew up in Ireland but now owns renowned restaurants in the Washington DC area. If you're at all interested in Irish food and culture, this cookbook is definitely worth checking out. The photography is amazing! And the book is filled with a good mixture of recipes both from his childhood in Ireland and more modern, complex dishes. There is an entire chapter devoted to his mother, and a chapter devoted to recipes from his restaurant.

I have tried several recipes from the book, some of which have turned out very well (like the scones!) However, I would say that this might not be the best cookbook for the casual home chef - there are definitely doable recipes, but some of them make very large batches (like 11 cups of flour for a bread recipe) or call for very specific ingredients that I wouldn't be likely to have around. The recipes are very detailed, which is helpful but also means they're fairly complicated. I do appreciate that he gives notes on which recipes to serve together, and he includes many tips and anecdotes with the recipes.

There are many recipes I would like to try, and of the ones I have already tried there are a couple I would definitely make again. However, there are even more that I can't see myself ever attempting. Overall I would recommend this book, but perhaps more for its anecdotal nature than just because of the recipes.

Click here for more information about this book.


Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher via Blogging for Books.

Monday, August 4, 2014

What I've Learned: Part 2 (And something to look forward to!)

A couple months ago I wrote the first part of this blog, focusing on things I learned in my classes over the past year. When I was writing that post, however, I was thinking about how learning is so much more than academic. This time I wanted to share a few things I've been learning recently about myself.

Now, changing the subject for just a minute. I recently signed up for a website called Blogging for Books. The basic idea is, I request free copies of books from publishers in return for posting a review of the book both to their website and to my blog. Well, I love books, so I thought it sounded like a good idea! I think it'll be a fun way for all of us to discover some new books. If you have any questions you can check out their website (linked above). So, you will see the first post about that soon. But don't worry, after that I'm sure it will only be every few weeks or so!

Now, onto the self-reflection.

Need to be Productive
One way I've noticed myself changing in the last few years is that I always feel the need to be doing something productive. When I'm at college, there is something productive I could be doing literally every minute of every day. When I'm not doing that I often feel guilty about it. That attitude has followed me home. Honestly, part of my summer I have spent trying to change that attitude and truly relax. It hard for me to watch tv, read, or spend time with my family and not feel guilty about being unproductive. Productivity is great, but so is relaxation! That's one thing I'm trying to get better at.

Living for the Future
I tend to look toward the future more than I live in the present. Sometimes this is a positive thing: I always enjoy things more when I've been anticipating them for a while. However, living for the future can definitely be a detriment to the present. When I'm too worried or excited about something that's coming up, I forget to enjoy what's happening right now.

Sleep
I've always wished I was a morning person, but the truth is I'm more productive at night and I have a tough time getting out of bed in the morning. I've been learning more and more, however, that I'm happier when I do get up early and can leisurely get ready and get going for the day. That is one more thing I am trying to improve!

Changing Roles
Earlier this summer I spent about a month volunteer tutoring at Hope Academy, the school where I went to high school. I haven't been back there in such an involved way since I was a student. This might sound strange, but I was rather apprehensive beforehand: I didn't know what it would be like to be back at my high school in such a different role. It ended up being a great experience, and it helped me realize something about myself - I'm growing up, and my roles and relationships are changing, but that's okay. The change doesn't always have to be a negative one. I tend not to reach out to people I haven't seen in a long time, but I know I will regret not reaching out for fear it might be awkward.

I love journaling, because I find getting my thoughts out on paper is helpful in processing them. I think a little introspection is good for everybody. I think we all have so many things we can learn about ourselves!

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Start of Summer

Summer officially starts tomorrow, and this post is about the start of my summer, so I thought the title was appropriate :)


When I got home at the beginning of the summer, I was profoundly tired. A busy semester, perhaps my most challenging finals period so far, and immediately going to New York for a week all added up. In some ways I still feel like I'm recovering, and I have spent many afternoons doing little other than sitting on the couch watching tv or reading. I've had barely any free time for several months, so it feels wonderful to have the freedom to do nothing if I want.

So far, my summer has been pretty laid back. Last week I started volunteer tutoring, which I'm enjoying. As much as I enjoy doing nothing, I also enjoy having a reason to get out of bed in the morning. (I've always wished I was a morning person, but if I don't have a reason to get up in the morning invariably I sleep later than I would like). This week I took my first (long overdue!) trip to the library this summer, and also my first picnic and trip to Dairy Queen of the summer. My mom and I couldn't resist going down to see Minnehaha Falls after all the rain we've gotten recently.

For those of you not from Minneapolis,
the falls are rarely this large.

One of my favorite things to do make crafts and work with my hands. I think I get that partly from my dad, who is a carpenter, and also from my grandma, who spent a lot of time knitting and sewing and doing other crafts. During the school year I rarely have the time, so this summer I have been getting back into crafts and loving it. I'm nearly done knitting a scarf I have been working on for an embarrassingly long time. I almost forgot how nice it feels, the satisfaction of making something with my own hands. I already made a trip to the craft store for supplies, and I have more projects in mind!

You can probably tell I don't have much energy right now to put into writing anything profound. I'm looking forward to much more relaxing and many more summer adventures these next couple months!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Adventures of a Carillonneur: Connecticut

I ran out of time to publish this during finals week. I'm currently in New York, so more travel blogs soon!


For those of you who haven't heard, I take carillon lessons at Wellesley. I know I've talked about the Guild of Carillonneurs before - here's a link to a blog I wrote my first semester about a carillon trip I went on then. (Here's a helpful article about carillons too.)

One of my favorite things that we do in the Guild is go on road trips. Basically, we drive around to different towers and play concerts. Its really fun because every tower is unique, and every instrument feels very different to play. Plus, carillons tend to be at the top of towers, so inevitably we have our fair share of climbing steep ladders and narrow spiral staircases. I always feel like I'm delving into the past and going on an adventure.

The day after classes ended, we took a trip to Connecticut to play three different instruments - one near the University of Connecticut in Storrs, one in a church in New Britain, and one at Yale University. It's really cool that we got to go to Yale - Wellesley and Yale are the only carillons in the country played almost exclusively by student guilds.

Here are some pictures from the day! Overall it was a 13 hour trip, including driving time, playing 3 concerts, and eating lunch and dinner.

A church across the street from the
University of Connecticut

To get to the carillon we passed the clock
and all the gears and machinery

A church in New Britain

The bells from below - there was a thunderstorm going on,
I felt a little foolish for being up in a tower.

Harkness Tower at Yale

I really wanted to climb these stairs, but
we weren't allowed...


Friday, May 9, 2014

What I've Learned: Part 1 (Academics)

As of today, my classes are officially done for the semester! For me this has always been a bittersweet time - I tend to become very invested and interested in what I'm learning throughout the semester, so it can be hard when it ends. Not to mention it can be hard to leave my professors and classmates I have been spending so much time with!

In honor of the last day of classes, I wanted to share with you some of the most interesting random facts I've learned in my classes this semester. A vast majority of my time every week is taken up by classes and homework, but I feel like I don't actually talk to other people very often about what I'm learning. (I'm planning on writing another post soon about other things I've learned this semester outside of classes.) This post might be completely boring to everybody else, but here goes!

Computer Networks
  • I learned that it's really not very hard to do "mail spoofing" - that is, sending email from other people's accounts. The most malicious thing I've done with it is send a friend an email from their own address, but it baffles me that after about an hour I was able to figure out how to do something that could be potentially very damaging. (That class made me kind of terrified in general about all of the security issues with the internet.)
  • I'm a big fan of crime shows, and the impression I've always gotten is that an IP address is basically the permanent identification of your computer. But, did you know IP addresses change quite frequently? In fact, if you disconnect your laptop from one wireless network and connect to another, you very likely have a new IP. (So how do they always find people based on the IP address of their computer?!)

Latin 102
  • The United States has 3 mottoes in Latin (if you look on a dollar bill you can see them). Probably the most well known of the three is "e pluribus unum", which means "out of many, one". The phrase has the strangest context - it is found originally in a poem written about a farmer preparing a dish of food. The quote refers to the colors of the different ingredients mixing and become one. I guess when America was called the "melting pot" they were being a bit more literal than I thought...
  • When Harvard University was established, proficient knowledge of Latin (and Greek) was required for all applicants, and in fact students were not allowed to speak English on campus.

Classical Mythology
  • Maybe this is old news, but I never realized that Mt. Olympus (the mythical home of the Greek gods) is a real mountain in Greece. I guess I always assumed it was made up. Wouldn't they have eventually figured out there were no gods living up there if they could climb the mountain themselves?
  • You know the Disney movie Hercules? I learned all sorts of interesting things about the real story of Heracles (his original Greek name). His story wasn't so much a love story, but a horrible tragedy - because of the jealousy of one of the gods, he ended up going crazy and killing his entire family. When he does his labors and kills all the monsters, it is punishment for the murder of his family. (I don't think I'll ever be able to watch the movie again without picking apart every singe flaw in the story...)

Math (Combinatorics and Graph Theory)
  • Suppose there are a group of people in a room. Assuming friendship is mutual and we only consider friendships between people in the room, it is mathematically impossibly that an odd number of people in the room each have an odd number of friends. For example, there is no possible situation in which there are exactly 3 people in a room who each have 5 friends.
  • There is something called the 4 color theorem which says that any map can be colored with only 4 colors so that no two touching regions are the same color. (Even more interestingly, it can be shown that if the world were shaped like a donut instead of a sphere, 7 colors would be needed. It's actually a lot easier to figure out the case with a "donut-shaped" world.)
see - only 4 colors!

Friday, April 25, 2014

People of New Orleans

As I discussed in my previous post, over spring break I was in New Orleans on a trip called ServeUp, with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I met a lot of wonderful and interesting people from the city, and I want to tell you a little bit about some of their stories.

I'm going to tell you about 5 specific people I met (there were many others, but these are the main ones who stick out to me): Mami, One Love, Ms. Maxine, Maxwell, and Pastor Rob. (Unfortunately I don't have pictures of any of these people.)

Mami and One Love
I spent a lot of my week repainting a house. The woman who lives in the house is an adorable old Haitian woman; everybody calls her Mami. Sometimes I could barely understand her because of her accent. She has a small store in her house, and people from the neighborhood came by all the time to buy things or just to talk to her.

The sign out in front of her house

I didn't personally get to talk to her very much, but we did hear a little bit about her life. She has 7 children, 3 or 4 or whom have died. Most of her children currently live in Florida, so she only has one son living close to her. Which brings me to the most interesting character I met: One Love (Mami's son). He also grew up in Haiti so he had quite an accent, although not as much as Mami. When he showed up on the first morning, he informed us that we should call him One Love, and that he would call all of us One Love because he's horrible at learning names. (And yes, he actually did.)

Overall he had a very loud personality, sometimes in a good way and sometimes not. He occasionally became really angry, mostly at his mother, and none of us knew how to respond. At other times he was happy, in a completely infectious way. He also told us many powerful stories about his own life. I don't feel comfortable sharing all the details here, but suffice it to say that he has had some major medical issues (he told us about many accidents and injuries, including once being shot) and some issues he ran into with the law. He told us he was extremely grateful for us coming to help out his family, because we were the first ones to offer them any help after Katrina. The last morning we were working at the house he told us he wanted us all to carve our names in the wall, but unfortunately we ended up leaving early due to rain and never got the opportunity. One Love is the type of person you actually have to meet to believe somebody like him exists. Our week never had a boring moment!

Ms. Maxine
One of Mami's frequent visitors was Ms. Maxine, we saw her a few times throughout the week. A group of students from a different ServeUp team had painted her house a few weeks before. It was really nice to talk to her and hear the impact their work was still having on her life. Going on trips like this you don't often get to stay in contact with the people you work with. Her story gave me some hope that we were making a real difference in the neighborhood, and that what we did would still be remembered and appreciated after we left. She was SO thankful for what they had done for her in painting her house, as small as that might seem.

Maxwell
One day a couple of us went on a walk around the neighborhood, to see if we could meet any of the neighbors. A man was just leaving his house when we walked by, and we ended up stopping and talking with him for at least 5-10 minutes. He had a really interesting perspective on the city before and after the storm. He said he felt like the city was much less dangerous now, and specifically that there were fewer deaths related to crime and gangs. (Of course, he also told us about a man who had been killed a couple days previously just down the street. Afterwards I started questioning the wisdom of walking around the neighborhood by ourselves...) No matter how much we talked among our team throughout the week about the problems New Orleans faces, there's nothing quite like hearing it directly from somebody who has always lived there. I appreciated his transparency and willingness to talk to us and give us his opinions on the city, and specifically the neighborhood where we were working.

Pastor Rob
The church my group was working with to paint the houses is called Journey Ninth Ward (the Ninth Ward is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city). The main person who was working with and directing us was Pastor Rob. He is originally from New Orleans, but for several years lived in California. He moved back to New Orleans to do ministry there in the summer of 2005, only a couple months before the hurricane hit. His wife was pregnant at the time, and actually gave birth 3 days before Hurricane Katrina, just enough time for them to get out of the city with their newborn daughter. He didn't give us a lot of details about his life, but he did mention the fact that he spent time in prison and in other kinds of trouble. From the way he acts and lives his life now, you'd never know. I thought it was a really amazing testimony that there really is hope, even in individuals (or neighborhoods) that may seem hopeless.

Friday, April 11, 2014

New Orleans 2014


A couple of weeks ago, during spring break, I went to New Orleans, Louisiana. It was a service trip, so much of my week was spent out in the community doing physical work (my group painted a house, others did construction or worked on an urban farm). I've been to New Orleans twice now, and both times I have been surprised by just how much rebuilding work there still is to do. In some of the neighborhoods we worked in and visited, there was certainly evidence of the fact that the population still hasn't recovered from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (Here's some more information about the storm, if you're interested.) Many houses are clearly still uninhabitable, and there are many empty overgrown lots where houses most likely stood 10 years ago.

Now, don't get me wrong, many parts of the city are beautiful and flourishing. Coming into a city like New Orleans as an outsider, I feel like its so easy to focus on the negative, to think about the huge tragedy that happened there. Especially since we went there with the purpose of rebuilding, its hard not to think of the city as a broken place, and a place that needs to be repaired. It makes me really sad that I was never able to see the city before Katrina; I feel like I'll never be able to fully appreciate it because I'm always so focused on the negative aspects.

But, its an incredibly beautiful city, and unlike anywhere else I've ever visited. I highly recommend you visit if you ever get a chance!

Most of my week I spent painting a house. This house, to be exact:

This is after we washed the house and before we started painting

Our leaders put a lot of emphasis on walking around and meeting people in the neighborhood. Hopefully I will be writing about some of the people I met in another post, but here are a couple pictures of the neighborhood I spent a lot of time in:

I love the bright houses
A garden next door (the white wall is a cemetery)

The trip definitely wasn't all serious. I spent time eating beignets (yum!) and hanging out in the French Quarter:






The trip was an exhausting, but amazing, experience. (It didn't help that I was sick for most of it, so I crashed when I got back to school the day before classes resumed.) All that to say, life was a little difficult after coming back! I wanted to update you all much sooner but had many other more pressing things to deal with (like the housing lottery and registration, stories for another time). Please feel free to ask me questions or bring up the trip! I love talking about it, but sometimes I don't even know where to begin.

I'll be writing another blog post soon about the trip, so look out for that!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ramblings

I really don't have a clear idea of what to write about, so you're just going to have to bear with me. I've been wanting to write for a while though.

Spring break starts in less than a week. Wow! It really snuck up on me this year. (Snuck? Sneaked? Oh, whatever...) I only have 3 days of classes left. I'm really excited, because I have the privilege once again of going on a service trip to New Orleans with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I'm looking forward to it, not least to get out of this cold for a while... (Yes, Minnesotans can also get tired of the cold. Lately I've been getting lazy and not dressing warm enough, so I'm feeling it more than usual.) I have a lot to get done before then, because I know I won't have much time on the trip to do homework. So, I'm trying to stay focused for the next few days! Not an easy proposition with freedom looming so close on the horizon.

Speaking of which, it has been an ongoing struggle for me in general to find a balance in how to spend my time. Sleep and extracurricular things are very important to me, as is being overall happy and not stressed out. At the same time, I do have a lot of work that needs to get done!

This past Wednesday was one of my busiest days in a long time. I had a TON of work to do, and throughout the day I kept thinking about which homework I could skip and get away with, and which I actually needed to have done on time. Never a fun decision to make. However, by some miracle at the end of the day I had finished all of my work. And, despite all I had to do, it was an awesome day. I focused on my work, painted my nails, and listened to a lot of Disney music.

I'm still searching for a way to have more days like that. It was the best of both worlds: I was productive, but also happy. I'm a very analytic person, and sometimes I wish life had an algorithm. Couldn't there be a specific sequence of components to add to a day to make it productive and happy? If so, I have yet to figure it out...

Anyway. Happy pi day everybody! A foolproof way to know you're a math nerd: your friends post on your facebook wall in honor of pi day. Thanks guys :) Alas, I did not eat any pie today, but I celebrated in spirit nonetheless.

Despite the cold and snow that still lingers, I have seen definite signs of impending spring! Rarely have I been more excited than when I spied the first new plants of the season poking up out of the ground a few days ago. One of my favorite things about spring is how shockingly quickly the world transforms, and new life comes about. I've also seen 2 chipmunks in the past two days! They tend to disappear at the end of fall and not reappear until this time of year.

This morning I had an unfortunate (but admittedly funny) incident. In my dorm, there's a door between two flights of stairs. As I was hurrying down the stairs, I turned the handle and walked through the door. Except, apparently I didn't turn the handle far enough and the door didn't open, so instead of walking through it I smacked my forehead into it. I was just glad nobody was around to see. I have a bruise on my eyebrow, and I'm hoping it doesn't turn too dark. That would be unfortunate to have to explain...

Anyway, I should get going. I will hopefully be updating you soon about my trip coming up!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow!

Snow.

I LOVE snow.

At this stage in my life, snow is hardly an inconvenience at all. There are wonderful people who shovel and plow the entire campus for me, and I never have to drive anywhere. I'm trying to enjoy it while I can, before I move back to Minnesota and actually have to be responsible and travel places (besides on foot).

Today I had about an hour between class and work, and I couldn't quite stand the thought of staying inside all day. So, I went outside. It was meant to be a very short walk, but I didn't wander my way back to the science center for over half an hour. These pictures are a result of that excursion. (Pardon the terrible phone photography. It all looked a lot cooler in person. You know, when I could see anything through the blowing snow...)

The Academic Quad (Pendleton Hall)

Our beloved bell-tower


Is it just me, or does this make anybody else
really want to run down that path too?

untouched corner

pop of color

poor guy...

I'm really bad at taking selfies


I feel like snow in some way helps people come together. Sometimes it's because everybody is stuck inside together, and sometimes because people need to help each other out. Sometimes, though, it's just a matter of people enjoying the beauty together. I was walking along, pretty slowly, stopping wherever caught my fancy. At one point a girl walked past me, as I was standing just staring out towards the trees and pond. She said something about enjoying the snow, then proceeded to mention she had been taking pictures and that I ended up in one of them. So, I gave her my email and she sent it to me, and we each went on our way. I love the picture, but I love even more that she would stop and start a conversation with a total stranger about something like snow.

That little speck of red is me. 


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Another Post about Airports

Snow and the sunrise in Wisconsin
somewhere

Today I flew back to Wellesley for the beginning of another semester. Overall, it was a fairly eventful day (featuring nearly empty flights, a giant de-icer machine, and turbulence). I also had an interesting experience at airport security this morning in Minneapolis. Before I could even get in the line, they pulled me aside and swabbed my palms, testing the swab with a large machine before I could move on. They then directed me to one of two lines - the other line had normal security procedures, but in my line we didn't have to take off our shoes or coats or take out our laptops. It didn't feel like airport security without shuffling through the line barefoot and scrambling to get all of my stuff back in my bags afterwards. Has anybody else experienced differences in airport security recently?

I had a layover in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and explored a little bit to stretch my legs.

I love how much cheese paraphernalia you
can buy in Wisconsin.

I have often noticed that travelling can bring out the best and the worst in people. There are always the vocal complainers, who make standing in lines and waiting for delayed flights even more frustrating. However, there are also the people who strike up a pleasant conversation, or reach out a helping hand when you're struggling with a suitcase.

For example, there was a businessman behind me in the security line this morning who just couldn't understand why the other line was moving faster. He kept asking the employees about it, and getting angry about the wasted time. In total, our line took at most 15 or 20 minutes. That was still too long for his taste, I guess.

On the other hand, I met a wonderful couple this afternoon. I took the train back to Wellesley, and from the train station it's about a 15 minute walk back to my dorm. With approximately 65lbs. of luggage (plus a heavy backpack), that 15 minutes can feel like an eternity. As I was walking, a woman approached me asking if I was going to Wellesley. At first I assumed she was going to ask me for directions. However, she then offered me a ride to my dorm. They had been driving past and saw me walking with all my stuff and pulled over just to offer help. I probably should have been a bit more cautious about getting in a total stranger's car, but it worked out fine, and I was extremely grateful.

One things airports always mean is change, and new beginnings. Another trip, another airport, another semester.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Rebuilding

I always love being home. This break has come with some unique challenges, however. The first floor of my parent's house (including my bedroom!) is being completely renovated. As a result, I am sleeping on an air mattress in the middle of the living room floor, literally living out of my suitcase. The arrangement comes with its inconveniences, but its so exciting to help with the progress downstairs and see everything come together.

Here are a few pictures from the process!

My dad and brother working on flooring.

Our kitchen with cabinets in progress.

Hanging cabinets.

My dad and I working on my closet!

My mom and the front hallway closet.