Saturday, July 2, 2011

Touristy Travels

My camera certainly got a workout today!
When I first heard about the possibility of heading to a street fair, I immediately decided to go to that instead of the Bronx zoo trip I had planned on going to, and which I will still do but at a later date (more on that next week!).
Ciarรกn (my camera; yes, naming objects is silly, but hey, he's got a personality) was happy to be out and about; as we waited for the train at Columbia, I snapped a few test shots to get the settings where I wanted them to be at, and one of the test-photos actually turned out quite well! For those of you at home, if you've always had a irresistible curiosity as to what the New York subway tunnels look like, search no more and just scroll down a bit.

So, now you know what the subway looks like!

Columbia's station is remarkably clean (meaning there aren't rats scampering about on the tracks), especially compared to some of the... more lived-in downtown stations.
But! Moving on to the main event: the street fair! The minute we got into the crowd around the street fair that stretched more than 10 blocks down Sixth Street, I felt completely at home. Despite the heat, despite the traffic noise, despite the incredibly tall buildings looming overhead, despite the "I Love NY" tees in every other stall, I felt completely comfortable, as if I was in a familiar place, almost like strolling down Telegraph Avenue when the vendors are out on the street on a sunny day. Milani agreed with me when I mentioned it: this felt like home. It was a great feeling, especially after a hectic week of up-rooting and adjustment. The shopping was great, inexpensive even by my non-New York standards. I grabbed more than a few cheap pairs of earrings and even bought a fitted sheet for my mattress (note to future Columbia-bound students: they don't give you any fitted sheets in the linen package, so bring some from home!) Everyone seemed like they were having fun, sipping on remarkably delicious one dollar lemonade while perusing the wares of each seller.

Beilul considering some jewelry.

Eric and Will at the street fair.

Just look at those crowds! We certainly weren't the only tourists there, that's for sure.

Some wooden masks for sale on the street.

After everyone had exhausted themselves (but hopefully not their wallets) at the street fair, we regrouped for a moment to come up with a plan for the rest of the afternoon, and decided to become proper tourists for the day. We walked our way up to the Empire State building, dodging scam artists and mildly desperate bus-tour hawkers on our way, to reach the famous building and decide that the price was a little too steep for our student budgets. So, we turned right around, hopped on the subway, and made our way to Ground Zero.
Milani was the one who suggested visiting the famous site, and I'm glad she did. I'd been there before as a kid, and I remember feeling this... weirdness, a big open space filled with rubble and crying people in the middle of a bustling metropolis where they were climbing to the skies in search of more space. The sadness of the event was not lost on me: I had been seven when the towers fell, not old enough to understand the series of events behind that catastrophic day but not young enough to be unaffected by the intense emotional change that happened in this country following 9/11. To my shock, when the five of us reached the site of the World Trade Center, construction was going on; recently work has been started on building memorials to 9/11 on the once-empty space. It was... healing, in a way, to watch this going on. I suppose that for me the new buildings symbolized a sort of shift in our way of thinking: that horrible day was not a catastrophic recent event scarring the country anymore, but was on its way to becoming something perhaps more meaningful and important, the way WWII memorials help us honor those lost in that struggle without reawakening that anguish that had permeated the time. Just food for thought, I suppose.
The original plan was to go see Times Square once it got dark and go atop the Rockefeller Center after the sun had set (the other four ILCers hadn't been when I had gone, and I was willing to see that incredible view again). But after we'd made our way to Times Square, Will said he wanted to see a movie, and we all shrugged and said, "Sure," mostly to kill time until the sun set because, really, who would want to go back to campus and then all the way back to Times Square instead of seeing the Green Lantern? The subway's
After the movie, we became part of the tourist mob that flooded Times Square, an ever-thickening crowd that only grew denser as the sky grew darker. Its quite a spectacular place: neon lights and signs glow even brighter when the sun has set, and the press of people just makes the area seem that much more vibrant and alive. Though we did not end up making it to Rockefeller Center, we did have plenty of time for touristy photos and just generally enjoying the mayhem that is Times Square after dark.

Broadway, outside the movie theatre, by Times Square.

Times Square in all its glory at night.

A Taste of NYC

I had a fabulous day out and about in New York City.

It began at 11 AM, when Milani, Eric, Will, Irene and I met up for a quick breakfast. We then met up with my RA Megan on a trip to go to Summerfest, an amazing street fair near Times Square that encompassed more than 10 blocks. I had a lot of fun and it was a wonderful shopping experience.

After the fair we passed by the Empire State Building and then headed down to see Ground Zero but the area was undergoing lots of construction.

We decided to go back to Times Square and went to the movies to watch the Green Lantern. We had dinner at TGI Friday’s and headed back to the dorms.

As our first week at Columbia comes to an end, I have come to an important realization: I cannot go to school in a city. I feel that the urban environment would be far too distracted with all the excitement of the city – especially New York. With all the Broadway show, shops, restaurants, tourist attractions, etc., I would be so tempted to indulge that I it would be a challenge to restrain myself.

I cannot wait for the tour of the United Nations tomorrow!

All The Attractions


Who knew touring could be so tiring? Today's schedule was already busy before we left, but as we moved to and from in the city we added places to our list and the busy schedule became jam-packed.

It was nice to sleep in a bit and recharge my batteries after my first week of a college level course. For the begging of the afternoon, our cohort went with Megan, Milani and Beilul's RA to Summer fest which was basically a street fair. Summerfest featured interesting stands which sold clothing which lit up when it detected sound, mouthwatering barbecue lamb skewers, and thirst quenching lemonade. Originally when I heard that Summerfest was 16 blocks long, I was awestruck. However, when we arrived I was disappointed because almost each block had the exact same booths, selling the exact same thing. I would say that Summerfest is comparable to the Bay Area's Solano Stroll. While we were walking back, I was so excited to take a little detour to walk into NBC Studios, and see where all the filming takes place. Even though we didn't walk past the lobby I was so happy just to be able to say, I was in the same building that they film shows in!
NBC Studios

After bidding our goodbyes to Megan, our cohort minus Masao set out on foot to the Empire State Building, which surpassed my expectations. I knew it was a tall building, but from the base, it looks enormous. I really wanted to go to the observatory, but we decided against it because we wanted to go to Top of the Rock at night. Next on our list was Ground Zero.

I must say, I don't think the Big Apple is paying much respect to Ground Zero. In my opinion, Ground Zero should remain the way it is to remind people of the damage caused and the lives lost during 9/11. I find it disrespectful to have new skyscrapers being built just yards away from the devasted area.
Ground Zero

Finally, we wrapped up our day in Times Square which was amazing. I absolutely loved how lively the area was and the sheer amounts of people walking around was awesome. It had everything from a group performing Beatles hits, to advocates of Judaism and Islam, and to vendors selling souvenirs for much cheaper than the stores just across the sidewalk. By far, my favorite stand that I've been to so far was run by this foreign couple who sold pictures. The shots they took, or bought were amazing. I loved the tasteful applications of effects such as black and white which made the pictures look epic.
Times Square
Times Square
Times Square


I'd like to begin a series of blog posts specifically focusing on my floor mates. There is something to gain from all of them--something that defines them in a positive way and allows for reflection unto myself to assess the validity in which I possess the same natural trait. Basically, what can I learn from them? Let's experiment.

Today, it's all about Kirby. He's fully Chinese, and he's from New Jersey--a small town kid. Kirby is interesting in that he is so normal. I've never seen such a unique attribute originate from an ill-unique style. I suppose what plays into that is the fact that everyone is trying to distinguish themselves from the rest of the group. Kirby's like the guy at the Halloween party without the costume, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Kirby's got this calm nature to him. In a sense, he's sort-of indifferent to most choices, but he has very reasonable, traditional limits. It's hard to define in a concrete way, so I'll provide an example. Say, another makes a joke about animal cruelty. While Kirby is perfectly comfortable allowing such conversation to take place, and capable of laughing with the group. He wouldn't be able to share in the enjoyment without a "that's bad," or "you shouldn't play around like that" in there somewhere. Again, there's nothing wrong with that. There should be someone there to draw the line, so-to-speak, for potentially sensitive or controversial topics.

I picked Kirby as the first person to blog about because he intrigued me most, and he did so indifferently as his personality would in itself suggest. He's a guy that thrives in group settings. He can pretty much get along with anybody and he's got a natural sense of daring, without the stereotypical thrill-seeker or daredevil persona attached. He's naturally comfortable with people and conversation no matter the topic, but he's not the type to let injustice go without warning.

He's a guy you'd just want to hang out with, because he knows how to keep his cool and keep a conversation cool. I admire Kirby. He's not without flaw, of course. He could come off as a bit nonchalant at the wrong time, or a bit boring in occasional settings, or even a bit apathetic in general. But, for the most part, he is a great addition to the floor, better than most.

As an exemplary bonus, he brought his poker set, which allows me to flex my skills to the entire floor. I can dig it.

He's got a "swag" without needing to openly express it. In a sense, he is the epitome of "being yourself," which is blatantly apparent in a sea of people who attempt to morph themselves into what they think society wants, rather than what they bring to society naturally. I don't exemplify that nearly as well as Kirby does. I'll work on it.

After much reflection and deliberation, Kirby gets an A.

Yes, I will be grading my floor mates.

Tune in tomorrow for my assessment of Ed, the British Bystander.

Weekend Start Off.

Today we didn't do anything academic, howeverwe learneda lot about each other and about exploring on our own.

We started off by heading down to Summer Fest which is a huge fair on the Avenue of Americas. It ad tons of vendors with really cheap stuff. It was super crowded but we ended up getting good things to eat and good shopping bargains! The crowds were huge, and it really made me feel like I was in New York City with the tons of people around.

From there we decided to check out the Empire State building. It wasn't what I expected at all. It was just a building, nothing special. I happily avoided a scam from people handing out CDs and asking for money while others in my group fell victim. At leastthe CD had really good music on it!

We then headed to Ground Zero. This had to have been one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I couldn't help but to just stare and think about what had happened there almost 10 years ago. I could almost picture the towers in my head and see all of the families mourning for their loved ones. How this event effected out history is amazing to me. This is why airports are so strict and why we are over sees. Right now they're building a memorial, kind of like the one a Pearl Harbor, to honor those who have passed away in the tragic accident.

We then watched the movie The Green Lantern to kill time before going to see Time Square at night. It was so beautiful! I could actually get used to all of the commotion and bright lights. No wonder NYC has so many power outages with all the electricity that is being used every day constantly. We walked around to see the sights and local street vendors, then had dinner together. We bonded a lot over dinner and I'm glad we all get along. It's almost likehaving a little Bay Area away from home. I find it really comforting.

Something keeps happening to me that really surprises me. By the way I talk and the words I use, people automatically know I'm from the Bay Area. I'm not sure it's a good thing or not, but when I introduce myself and start talking they know in a heart beat. Kind of strange, but at least I know that what I say or even how I say it is unique to where I come from, even though I personally don't think I have an "accent".

Tomorrow we will see the UN building and hopefully some other sites around New York. By the way, I'm not sure if I can keep up with all this walking; NYC is a pretty big place!

A very long day.

My first Friday at Columbia was a hit!

We started off the morning by waking up at 5:30 AM to head down to Central Park. There was a free show for Good Morning America Summer Concert Series featuring Beyonce. However when we got there the line was unbelievably long and we couldn't get in. Instead we stood outside and listened to her sing. Even thought we couldn't see her, it was a good opportunity to bond with other classmates that had gone on the trip and the RAs that had joined us. They told us about their college experiences and stories about their lives.

The AM session of class was very interesting to me. We started off by finishing analyzing the Federalist Papers and the Constitution. After that we started to discuss a book we have read called Inventing the Job of the President. In the book there is a chapter about each president and with categories about their emotional intelligence, policies, and how they ran their office. I had never thought to analyze each president based on these different descriptions. I found that the emotional intelligence and the cognitive style (how they ran their office) went hand in hand because how they felt personally created their style of running the government.

The PM session was the greatest day of class so far. I finished my outline by 3 PM and instead of being 5-7 pages it was 13 pages. I handed it in early and was able to do whatever I wanted. Instead of leaving I used the time to research more about my topic. I was surprised at how much information I could find on my topic. I'm not complaining because in the end I'll have enough to bring my paper together to make it be spectacular.

After class I went with an RA trip to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had never been to a museum like this and it was amazing how many exhibits the museum had. I met new people and as a group we went to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit. Alexander McQueen is most well known for being the designer of Lady GaGa's clothes. We also saw photographs and European Art.

We explored the city for a little bit, learned how to catch the bus, and then returned to campus. I came home with a huge headache, maybe because of getting up so early or being overwhelmed during the day. Today I am much better and am excited to go to Summer Fest!