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Aug. 12th, 2009

La première note

Enfin, je m'assieds et écris quelques choses en français. Ça fait plusieurs mois je m'avais dit que il faut vraiment je commencer cette exercice. Ce n'est pas facile; ça prend trop de temps, mais c'est une étape très nécessaire à améliorer le français. C'était comment j'amélioré mon anglais, par écriture, donc ça doit être la même façon cette fois.

Je sais bien que les écritures ne soient pas bien. Il y aurait pleins erreurs mais c'est  un début et aussi une mesure je devrais prendre. J'ai encore 10 mois ici au cameroun et j'espère bien le français sera courant à la fin de mon séjour.

Et voilà, ma première note en français. Espérons ça s'améliorerait. Si vous avez les suggestions, j'accueille-les !

Aug. 5th, 2009

Oh Livejournal!

Nostalgia has hit me quite harshly this week. And for the first time in a long while, I thought about livejournal. I suppose I've more or less abandoned it since I began my Peace Corps blog. Throughout this past year, I have revisited livejournal to make some private entries in attempt to document my private life. This week, the wave of nostalgia took me back to old entries from years ago, where I wrote about randome everyday tidbits. I am so glad I did. Going back in time, and reading those writings remind me how I've grown as a person, and also what a wonderful life I lead. I am encouraged to continue document tidbits of life from here on out.

Life is made of those insignificant details and I am trying to keep a document of these insignificance.

W. Madeleine

Apr. 22nd, 2008

childish innocence

1:29am. I’ve spent more time at the library than I have my entire college career. Isn’t senior supposed to be a BLAST? I suppose my definition of blast is slightly different from the norm. This is perhaps my most productive semester/year apart from sophomore year. As I’ve said many times before, I am busy out of my mind but I love it, 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time, I get caught up thinking how I will get everything accomplished in such short amount of time. Everything always gets done, but sometimes I lose a bit confidence. Here I can use a bit of newly learned French: Je dois confiance de moi!

The semester is wrapping up rapidly. I am afraid there are loose ends that I won’t have time to tie. Maybe those loose ends simply don’t take priority in my life, and that’s the way it goes.

I realized I had hardly written on my time working with the Open Doors Program. Today I realized I only have 4 visits left and the semester ends. That realization saddened me as I’ve grown to really love volunteering my time there. I loved the girls from day one and the connection has only grown over the past few months.

The very first day I showed up at Open Doors, I waited in the hallway since I was not assigned to a particular classroom. As I waited, a little girl with the cutest chub came up to me, grabbed my hand and said, “you are helping me with my homework”. “o..k” So off I went. That was my first encounter with Marsilannyis, we call her Marsy. The other three girls in that room are Humaira, Sahara and Maetab. I sincerely hope I didn’t butchered the spelling of those girls’ names, but I most likely did.

That first day, Marsy and I worked on math. She had a worksheet asking her to find areas of parallelogram. Per usual, the math book had some strange ways of teaching these math concepts, this one involved counting boxes. I taught Marcy the way I had learned: (Top+Botton)*H/2. She caught onto the concept rather quickly, but struggled with simple arithmetic. It’s important to note that Marcy is in 4th grade. My heart ached when I saw her attempt to figure out time table by counting her fingers. Over the next few months, I continued to work on homework with Marsy, but often she didn’t have any. The next heartbreaking moment came when I realized she couldn’t read anywhere near her level. At fourth grade, she struggled to read picture books that most 1st graders or even pre-schoolers could master. Once while working on history assignment, I attempted to help her think about her reading and not feeding her the answer. She told me in such honest yet heartbreaking voice, “When I read, I don’t know what I am reading; I just try to say the words.” Those moments were as helpless for me as it is for her. As a volunteer, I had no power to alter activities the girls partake or have any authority. I am just there. Moments like that makes me consider a career in education, but not in a traditional classroom setting.

Marcy and I often have our heart-to-heart. She tells me things that happen in school and asks me questions about college. At 4th grade, she is very concerned about the cost of higher education. She asked how much it cost to go to college, and if it costs a lot of money to live there. I hadn’t the heart to tell her how much it really costs, but rather encouraged her that scholarships are available if she works hard even though the schools are pretty expensive. While saying that, I pray that she will receive adequate guidance and somehow catches up to an appropriate level of skills. Marcy told me she wants to be a teacher, to help kids like her. Children are wonderful, despite temperate tantrums and the desire to play freeze tag ALL of the time.

Working with these girls at Open Door has brought back the childhood innocence, the bright outlook of future despite current condition. My time with the girls has asked me several important questions about my future vocation and brought light to the sad truth of immigrant children with lack of support from public schools.

I shall write more later, but right now I am being kicked out of the library (again).

Apr. 19th, 2008

(no subject)

What an odd day! My mood fluctuated all over the place for no apparent reason. Perhaps the lack of sleep over this past week caused it, because I certainly had good reasons to be chipper and feeling uplifted. Last night was the awards dinner for SEIC. After going through the motion of cocktail hours, where I was not in the schmoozing mood and ended up talking to Brad and Leslie about the Peace Corps for the most part, I went through the motion of listening to a speaker, the president from the DC Children & Youth Investment Trust. Then I went through the motion of eating dinner and was forced to schmooze. At this point, I was going on so little sleep that I really had not too much emotions. I just smiled a lot. Finally, 3 hours later, the awards were announced.

The entire process was pretty anticlimactic. Usually, the awards are announced from the bottom up, but this was the opposite. I wasn't aware of that so when StudioSTL's name was called, I was disappointed, thinking we hadn't gotten the top prize. We went up to the front of the room and Beth gave her speech, Leslie cried and the whole thing was incredible. I couldn't really believe that we had just won $35K and all those Sunday afternoon meetings and me cranking through financial models the day before spring break were all worthwhile. I still have a hard time believing it even a day later. However, on the other spectrum, I was quite confident that we'd bring home the big award. That's how I roll, go big or go home. :P

This has been an absolutely incredible experience. People credited me for a lot of the work, but I felt sheepish for a while. I led the team by organized meetings, set deadlines that we often couldn't quite met (but at least the pressure was there), and constructed a complete 5-year financial forecasting model. But as far as the actual business plan, Beth, the executive director, did the most work. But then I thought how this IS teamwork. We contribute our perspective expertise, to the best of our abilities. I am good at organizing, managing, refining ideas and playing with excels. Beth is good at writing and brainstorming ideas. Other team member such as Emma is great at designing. This is how teamwork truly operates in the real world, none of that "let's divide the paper up and each write a section, then we'll put it together" BS. The division of labor could probably be better defined, but alas! Next time I lead a time to victory, I'll be better about it.

I have learned a great deal, not only about the organization, but myself. This has been a blessing in disguise. I had been given an opportunity to work for a great organization in such capacity that none other fancy internships has offered. I've connected my passion for youth and education with my training in finance and the business world. I have learned and discovered the possibility of making a living doing what I want. When this project began, I remember saying to a friend, "If I can work on school stuff as much as I want to work on StudioSTL stuff, I'd be at Harvard." and "I hope I love work as much as this when I'm a real grown-up, and I don't even get pay for this." You know it's a true passion when you are willing to do it for nothing.

For years, I've wanted to "get out of St. Louis". Everyone who knows me understands how eager I am to leave and to "see the world". For the first time ever, whilst working on this project, I actually thought, "it's too bad I won't be around to work with and see StudioSTL prosper." You know it's powerful when it gives a positive reason to stay in St. Louis. Through SEIC, I learned about social entrepreneurship. I am exposed to an exciting and growing industry. The possibilities are endless as this idea of joining business and good causes is simply brilliant. And for the first time in a while, I value the business school education I've received.

It's been wonderful; unfortunately, I am leaving as the organization is heading to the next new beginning. I would love to be around and see my 5-year model take place and revolve. However, my upcoming adventure can easily incorporate StudioSTL. Specific steps are yet to be determined, but it'll come to me. It'll come to me when I see the first group of Cameroonian kids.

Here is the press release in print on StudioSTL's victory!!
http://news-info.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/11601.html

Apr. 17th, 2008

Corporation

Currently in Social Justice class, we are reading The Corporation by Joel Baken. Last class we watched a documentary film on sweatshops, in particular Wal-Mart's exploitation in Bangladesh. Before the film, the prof. asked that if we've purchased something at Wal-Mart in the past year to stand on one side, if not to stand on another. The result was approximately 50/50. Now, I don't personally support Wal-Mart and quite dislike each and every experience I've had at the store. However, there are some things that are simply more affordable there. Prime example: oil change. I can get my oil changed there for $19.99. I don't know anywhere else I could do that, unless I want to get up at 6am to catch some of those "Early Bird Specials", and I am not quite wiling to sacrifice my sleep. I am not sure if it's the particular socio-economic status of SLU students or other factors, but to never step foot in Wal-Mart seems extreme. I suppose it is very possible if you make a conscious effort and are willing to pay a premium.

After being split into groups, we then had a discussion about Wal-Mart. Again, I dislike the company, but I recognize why it exists and how it has managed to become such a giant presence in not only our society, but many societies around the world as well. The arguments presented by member of the class were rather flawed and an obvious lack of knowledge in the composition of a corporation and the way economy works. It's rather frustrating to hear the discussions. Also, Wal-Mart certainly isn't the only company having sweatshops in developing countries. If the same standard holds true, and people won't shop where goods are produced in sweatshops, then they either have to start making their own clothes, or walk around naked. I hope they all start sewing, cuz I don't want to see people strutting their stuff down the street!

I am not saying sweatshop is good, but coming from Taiwan and having heard stories from my parents who grew up when Taiwan WAS a developing country, foreign factories were perceived as a positive thing for the economy. It's a rite of passage. However, I do believe factory owners and foreign companies involved should demand basic human rights to be honored. The issue of fair wage can be quite subjective, but to not torture and provide proper safe working conditions should be a minimum requirement. I don't believe corporations are evil, but I do believe bureaucracy exists in many top-down management style of the corporate world. The leaders of the of the companies are usually so far detached from the grim reality of bottom-line workers. But this can be the same for governments and any other large organizations where the people up top have no real idea of what's happening to the employees down below.

In Joel Baken's book, he discussed how the corporation is an entity whose only goal is to maximize profit. It isn't a human being, therefore has no moral standards. However, if discussed in such context, aren't governments simply entities that are trying to maximize social profit for their own people regardless social costs to members of other nation? Isn't that what our president and many other leaders of the world are doing? If a leader of a nation is required to hold moral responsibility for his/her decisions, then so should leaders of a corporation.

I am only half way into the book, and I'm sure I'll have more to say as I read on. But for now must head to this class and hopefully not be too frustrated by the discussions.

Sleep? What's that?

I am far too awake for having only slept 4 hours for the Nth night in a row. Last night, after another typical 20-hour day, I actually had problem falling asleep because I was so wired for all the caffeine I've been injecting into my body. Month 4 of the Peace Corps cannot come soon enough. By then, I will hopefully be assigned to a permanent post somewhere in Cameroon. I hopefully will have a decent grasp on the French language and can begin befriending the locals. I will likely have too much free time than I know what to do with. Even if I keep my days productive while the sun is out, I still have too much time after sunset. I imagine for safety reasons, I won't be doing much after Mr. Sun goes home. Imagine being required to not leave my house after sunset. There will not be phase II or III to my day. Glorious life!

Until month 4, which is around August, my life is simply INSANE. Surprisingly though, I am handling the stress quite well and have not had any mental breakdown or anxiety attacks. This morning, at 6am, while being woken by the strong jet of water,I thought, "Well, at least I can have such nice warm shower. In Africa, if I have a bad day, I'd still have to take bucket shower." The simple things in life become a lot more apparent when it's on the brink of disappearing.

I can't lie and must admit some days I drag my feet and just wish I have a few hours of FREE time. Not just free time away from papers and research so I can read for a different class, nor free time so I can go clean my room and pack for PC. But, FREE TIME for ME. I am seriously craving an afternoon at Forest Park in this warm spring weather and drink my bottle of Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, a free afternoon as such currently seems like impossible utopia.

To organize, let's examine what I need to accomplish in the next, oh, 50 days.
By May 17th (exactly one month):
- 50pg APM report concerning $100k of the university endowment
- 100pg Social Justice journal (I can write about anything, so posts in here count.)
- 12pg service reflection paper
- 2pg reflection of something or another (also for SJ)
- 2.5 books to read
- social justice final
- French exam
- French final
- financial modeling final
- econometrics assignment
- econometrics final
- law & economics final
- 15 more hours of volunteer work at Open Doors

*5 days between last final and graduation on May 17th.
(Still working as much as I can to make money...)

Before May 19th
- Pack up my apartment
- Pack for Hawaii trip
- Make arrangement with T-Mobile
- Dentist
- Other Misc. PC tasks (too many to list/think of)

* Hawaii
* Five days between returning from Hawaii and leaving for the Peace Corps

Before June 4th
- Pack of Peace Corps
- Move everything back to my parents'
- 32 hours of Rosetta Stone French training

I am sure there are other things that I am not thinking of, but this is enough to give me a reality check. Insanity. I told you.

Apr. 13th, 2008

Random Writing from Bread. Co.

Sitting at the Bread Co. on this Sunday afternoon. I am procrastinating a bit, since there are more important things to be done, like the APM report. However, I actually have a legitimate reason to be writing since this counts as social justice writing practice. Gotta love that. A bit disappointed since I had wanted to study at the Meshuggah café, but it’s too crowded there. Darn Sunday and brunch eating people. I’m now at the Bread Co. just down the street. The crowd has lessened as time went on. It’s nearly 5pm, I ought to head home for dinner soon and begin my night at the library.

I am going to miss the Bread Co. I always miss this place when I am abroad. Despite of great cafes around the world, there is something about Panera’s food that gives me the craving. Besides Panera, there are lots of simple luxuries of my life that I will miss greatly. Starbucks is another. I will need to live without Starbucks for the next two years. The summer I was in France, I didn’t have Starbucks during the entirety of my stay, but that was France and there were delicious French espresso as perfect substitute. Last night when I was doing laundry, I recognize the pure luxury of being able to put a huge load of dirty clothes in a machine and let it do its thing. I thought of how I will have to hand wash much dirtier clothes in the future. This morning when I brushed my teeth, I recognized the water coming out of the faucet and how convenient that is.

Anyways… last night Katie and I went to see Run, Fat Boy, Run. The movie is a British comedy, not your cinema masterpiece, but cute and entertaining. I love any movie that gives me a bit of good English fix. I miss Europe. This morning I was watching Samantha Brown’s Passport to Europe on the Travel Channel. She was talking about a really adorable city in southern Ireland. I would love to rent a car some day and tour Ireland. What a magical place! I did take a weekend trip to Dublin during my semester in London. I wasn’t a fan though. Dublin was dark and grey and pretty boring unless you like to drink, a lot. The city was also extremely expensive. The day trip to the fishing village of Howth, outside of Dublin, was much more pleasant. The more I watch these travel shows, the more I’d like to live in Europe permanently. Although I don’t know that I’d actually live anywhere permanently.

Last night after coming home from the movie, I spent quite some time researching careers in international development and discovered various opportunities available. The more I research, the more Peace Corps seems like a good move. It’s an extremely difficult area to enter straight out of college. Most internships are unpaid. If I was going to take unpaid internships, I might as well do the Peace Corps! I just hope I’ll survive endure the two years. Future possibilities are endless and it’s quite exciting, really. There are so many wonderful NGOs that I would like to research and discover. I think I have narrowed my focus to education, and microfinance/economic development. The second part still needs some refining, but education is extremely important to me, and I think an important root cause to many problems.

How wonderful it will be to actually have a job that I will want to wake up and work 80 hours a week for! I remember my parents telling me a few years ago that sometimes you have to do things you dislike to make money. I reacted negatively to the comment. Although over the years I have let that comment influence decisions I’ve made, now I truly feel that I am capable of finding a career I can be passionate about and excel at. With the right strategy and planning, and of course strong will, I am determined to have a meaningful career. Yesterday in the office, I overheard someone said, “oh, I asked him how many hours in a day he truly enjoys what he does, he said, ‘oh, most hours of the day’, and I told him, ‘I hate you.’” What’s the point of living if you dislike most things you do? Perhaps I am being totally naïve; we’ll see in a few years.

Anyway, enough randomness, I should move onto some other task.

Apr. 8th, 2008

On Education

April 6, 2008

I’ve had many discussions with friends about education in the U.S. It’s obviously a highly contended subject. Having primary education in Taiwan, I found many pros and cons about the U.S. education; more cons than pros, however. People always said, “the U.S. is land of freedom, and you can study anything there.” That is true, for students in many Asia countries, and perhaps also other parts of the world, your path of study is determined at a young age base on your aptitude towards certain subjects. Once set, there is no going back.

It is true that one can study any subject one wishes when in a college/university. The problem is, most don’t. Unless you come from an upper middle class or beyond, the burden of higher education forces you to study something that will provide healthy return on your investment. Even if you are lucky enough to attend university without paying a dime, you face job prospects post graduation. In the end, this capitalistic nation of U.S.A., getting your dream job is 90% about who you know and 10% about what you know. I was first hit with this reality during sophomore year of college. Nearing the end of the year, I bear with two great internships, seeking new experience for the upcoming summer. I was frustrated because I realized for the first time that all the “big name” companies don’t even bother to recruit at my university. People I know at Wash U are getting ridiculous internships through their parents, if not their university career service. One friend even asked me, “Why don’t you ask your parents’ for contacts?” This was the first moment of reality on class difference. My dad is a factory worker and my mother is a secretary, what kind of “contacts” would I have?! I eventually secured a decent internship on my own, but not anywhere near “a dream job”.

Anyway, getting back to the topic. So yes, if you are not from upper middle class, and you don’t’ have “contacts”, you may want to think twice about majoring in art history. This whole thing about the U.S. being “the land of freedom” is such crock of B.S. in my opinion. Yes, one has a lot more freedom than war-ridden countries across the globe, but my point is that this country is not as “free” as all it’s crack out to be. In the instance of education, in Taiwan, the best schools are public. This gives even the poorest of the poor incentives to work hard and strive to gain admission into the great schools to avoid paying hefty tuition. This is the trend beginning in high school. Since there is admission standards after all education post middle school.

In the U.S., this is completely the opposite. Public school systems are so short on resources that the standards are ALL over the place. How an inner-city school child gets through 8th grade without the ability to form a complete paragraph is beyond me. The fact a 6th grader counts her fingers to figure out timetable breaks my heart. The system is absurd. If you are from an upper-middle class, chances are you attended private prep schools for high school, or you life in a school district that actually has an adequate public school system. Unfortunately, those districts usually require a certain socioeconomic status. My parents could never afford houses in Ladue or Clayton.

So, one goes to these fancy prep schools, where their back-up university choices are my first choice. Even if they don’t go to the highest ranking universities, they are more than prepared when they get to schools like SLU. They breeze through their freshman year and can get into all the honors programs. Okay, even if you are a hard worker, you come from a sub par public school system and still gain admissions to great universities. But wait, tuitions are now 45-50k a year and you can’t afford them. You can’t afford them even if the school gives you 70% in financial aid. 70% of 45k is still 13k a year. You don’t have that. Do you take out loans and let that be a burden for many years to come? Once you cover tuitions and basic room and board charges, what about living expenses? Your parents can’t afford to send you money every month. Do you work two jobs while taking a full load of classes and hope your grades won’t suffer? How many talented people don’t receive the education they deserve because it’s too damn expensive?

The injustice is too great, yet so many are so clueless.

Some luckier people still are able to receive higher education, even if it’s junior college first and then an average university later. That’s still education. What about the kids in the worst of public school systems? Students who can’t write a 2-page paper as a high school junior? What do they do?

An radio program on NPR the other day talked about the math education in the U.S. and how it’s falling behind many countries in the world. The program discussed how all students should know solid algebra by 8th grade in order to excel higher-level math. I thought to myself, I know the timetable backward and forward by the time I was in 2nd grade. I didn’t know anyone that had trouble with their timetable. I started learning algebra in 5th grade. You wouldn’t believe my reaction during my first day of math class in 6th grade in the U.S., and the teacher gave everyone a sheet of timetable questions that is to be complete in 60 seconds. I thought, “what the hell? What is happening?” I wasted a year doing math that I had learned in 3rd grade. Finally, they let me skip the entire 7th grade so I could take Algebra I.

Now, let’s remember I barely spoke English when I first moved here. How is it possible that a student who spoke little English to skipped the entire 7th grade and still excel? That tells you I didn’t need to learn anything in 7th grade. I might as well just skip high school altogether and take classes at the community college.

It’s absurd. If you grew up in that system, you don’t know any better. If you come from a system that’s better, you don’t have a clue how that works. It’s a sad, sad reality. The U.S. that supposedly has such great resources can’t even provide basic public education for students. Academic freedom is great if you have money, if not, you just want to have basic skills that will get you through college, so you can make some money. That’s all.

Spring Break Highlights

April 6, 2008

As of two days ago, I have two months left in the U.S. This means I have less than two months until the end of the semester. I am incredibly behind in my course work, and one aspect is my Social Justice writing exercise. The thing is, I am not required to write about any particular topic. I just need to write. However, life has been so crazy lately that by the time I am ready to sit and start writing, I am so exhausted that sleep is a much better option. I keep telling myself, “oh, I’ll just write it tomorrow.” My writing topic list is now far too long and I must begin the actual process of writing and make small progress. First thing first, I must recap on my spring break trip to New York and Boston with my sister.

Boston

I have never been to Boston, so this trip was full of touristy things. But even then, we managed to avoid 80% of the touristy things. If it were up to me, I’d just stroll around town and never visit a single historic site. It’s difficult to find great interest in historic sites when you’ve traveled through Europe and even great big castles begin to seem boring. To Sherry’s insistence, we visited the Bunker Hill monument, walked part of the Freedom Trail and visited the U.S.S. Constitution. Thankfully, the day was really nice. Sunny sky and all; we had a nice stroll. The ally leading up to Bunker Hill monument was lined with historic houses and big trees that made wonderful backdrops for photos.

Boston is a lovely city with a diverse and young population. The purpose of our trip was for Sherry to do some school visits. In Boston, we visited Boston University and Northeastern. The weather during the Northeastern tour was less than stellar. The rain was falling all day. On top of that, since it was a weekend tour, the group was unusually large. Those factors gave us a negative perception of the school. We didn’t explore the city too much before we decided to hit up North Boston for some Italian food. After wondering through the city, we ended at Quincy Market and was amazed at the selection of food in this indoor space. We went a little crazy; did a little shopping as the weather lightened up. Meanwhile, we visited the ticket booth and spontaneously purchased tickets for “Menopause: the musical”.

Now, what a poor choice that was. The show was entertaining enough, but certainly not for the price that we paid. The show was basically about four fifty-something ladies complaining about having to compete with the twentysomethings. Unfortunately, Sherry and I were probably the only twentysomethings in the audience. While the show was pretty funny, it was also somewhat frightening. It gave me this fear of becoming old. At the same time though, it’s a dramatic depiction of that life change. Quite obnoxious, really.
Post the show, Sherry and I wandered through Chinatown and hit up the Taiwanese “café”, which turned out to be a phenomenal restaurant full of our childhood favorites. We ate so much between the two of us. The server must thought there was something severely wrong with us!

Post-great food, we adopted the tactic of “following the crowd”. Since we were both too busy prior to the trip to do any research, we had no idea where the “hot spots” were. So, off we went wandering the street and if there were crowds going a particular way, we followed. That strategy actually worked surprisingly well. We ended back at the Quincy Market area. The night is much different from the day. Before walking too long, we discovered some bar with live music and wasn’t’ charging cover. This was the weekend of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration and people were nuts! We had only intended on staying for a short while at the bar. The band playing was quite good. Before you know it though, these guys were buying us drinks. Matt, who had recently moved to Boston from Texas, was conversing away. Long story short, we made a new friend in Boston, he gave us money for taxi because we missed the last T, but we couldn’t find a taxi so walked home and pocketed the $20! The next day, we had planned on meeting up with him and his friends for the parade, but the parade was far too crowded. It was a good time to see what the hype was about. Honestly though, the parade itself was average, the crowd was more entertaining than anything. I find great muse in the fact people need to use random “holidays” as excuse to get crazy and drink. Don’t people do that on a regular basis anyway?

Anyhow, we ditched the parade scene soon after the parade ended and wandered around town a bit longer and went to Cambridge. I got into a really strange mood the minute we arrived at the Harvard vicinity. There it was, a school I had longed to attend since the age of 10. I made it there at last, but not at all in the capacity I had hoped for. It’s difficult to describe this sense of disappointment and many “if I can do it over…” regrets. I know those thoughts were futile, but necessary. My ambitions were refueled, and I had the kind of motivation that hasn’t existed in nearly a decade.

We walked through the Harvard campus. It’s grand and austere, as you would imagine a place like Harvard would be. However, it was lacking certain liveliness. Compare to its ancestor of Cambridge and Yale, Harvard lacked something. I can’t describe what that something is, unfortunately.

All in all, Boston is a great city. I am not sure I would ever want to live there. The public transport, the T, is a disaster. I’ve never seen a subway that has such poor design. I’ve navigated through many European cities’ subway system without any trouble, but I spent more time than I care to admit aggravated and lost on the Boston T. Even New York’s subway is sub par to the European counterpart. You would think a city like New York would have stellar public transportation, but now. It’s obnoxious. The stations apart from ones in Time Square and Upper East Side are dirty and gross. There is no indication how long the next train will arrive. How do New Yorkers ever get anywhere on time? To get from East to West side is the biggest pain ever. The more I spend time in New York, the less I like the city.

That rant begins the recap of my stay in New York City. New York was colder than I had hoped. Since Sherry and I both have been to the city, we avoided touristy activities. Walking through streets of New York do not give me the great sense of freedom that cities like London, Vienna or even Boston provides. Few things in New York still maintain the historical façade. Most things are so new and well, boring.

The few highlights in New York were meeting two gorgeous Swiss bankers, visiting Fordham’s campus and the meeting at Columbia. The bankers lived in our uber-sketchy hostel. They were a groups of finance students from Switzerland on a “Networking New York” trip. The uber gorgeous Urus, works at UBS in Bier. He was telling me how I would be so qualified to get a job in Geneva, etc. He gave me his card and every form of contact. Hilarious. I love staying at hostels. In Boston, we met a great lady from Australia who was backpacking through the U.S. and will be moving to London afterwards. We also met a sweet Brazilian girl who was spending her summer vacation working in Vermont. She had me convinced that I should learn Portuguese and move to Brazil when I am ready to conquer South America! Haha.

The day when we visited the two Fordham campuses, the rain would not stop falling. Since Fordham was also on spring break, the campus was pretty dead. First, we visited the Lincoln Center campus and weren’t all that impressed, then took the “Ran Van” and went to the Bronx campus. That one was really pretty and has your typical campus feel. The rain actually added certain charm to it. On the way back to the city though, a girl from the Lincoln center campus raved about the Manhattan location and graciously gave Sherry a tour of the Lincoln Center building. Quite funny. I am envious of my sister for having such great options. Only if I can do it over, but would I really want to? I suppose I have made the most out of what little I had.

I visited Columbia University during our last day. The information session went well. While I think I still prefer the program at John Hopkins that emphasizes more on the economics and language training, I got great application information from this meeting. The admissions guy suggested that I work for another year or two after the Peace Corps service. One because most students have 3-5 years of professional experience upon entering the program, and extra experience would give me better chance. Another is the ability to have a more solid recommendation from a current employer. I had thought about that idea before, but was always afraid of the lag time between PC and finding work. However, now I have more reasons to put graduate school on hold. That, and it’s much more financially sensible to work for a while. We shall see. I am comfortable with that idea, and I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulder knowing I don’t need to worry about applying to grad school while in Africa! Another comforting thing is that the information session made me feel that I really do have a great chance gaining admission to these programs. The business school finance and economic trainings are actually an advantage when applying to these programs since quantitative training is such an emphasis. The fact that I didn’t score so well on the verbal section of the GRE also is less of a concern now. Working for another year or two also gives me time to take more classes in mathematics or brush up on economics. So, all in all, a beneficial meeting!

On top of it all, I had the chance to have dinner with Laura! We had delicious Ethiopian food! I would’ve never thought Laura and I would become such close friends. But because of our “abnormal” choice for post-graduation plans, we share that in common and are able to relate when our friends from college can’t. She is wrapping up her two years of TFA service and is looking to work for one more year before attending law school. I can’t say enough how wonderful to have friends you know are lifelong contacts and can inspire and motivate.

I suppose this concludes the spring break highlight. I must admit even a trip to the East Coast remind me of the possibility out there in the world. It’s sickly easy to fall into a trap when living in St. Louis. The ease to forget the great things life in this world has to offer is scary. More reasons for me to leave, ASAP! For the same reasons, I hope Sherry ends up at a school in the East Coast. She will be expose to such different ideals, and grow in such different ways.

Mar. 31st, 2008

‘With a Few More Brains ...’

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/30/opinion/30kristof.html?ex=1364616000&en=24d7d0f22ed60c65&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

Oh Americans... This reinforce my feeling about that show, "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?". It's hard to be proud to be an American with the kind of statistics listed in this article.

At least I look/am Asian, and people seem to automatically assume I am smart. That's probably a part of American ignorance: Asians=smart. But, I'll take that. :)

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