Friday, September 30, 2011

How's about some more love?

I     Brazilian sidewalks.
 (And Priya Gill.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dia 29: Voilà!

After Sonnet 29, a bit of yoga, and a breakfast of scrumptious fruits, I ran off to get ready for a bus tour of town. After Papa and Cyprian Uncle set off for a series of meetings, I met my guide, Auberto, in the lobby of the Melia, and we were Brasilia-bound! The first thing I noticed was how effortlessly he intertwined Portuguese and English, constantly alternating between providing background information to me and my three Brazilian tour-mates. It was fun to see how much I could understand of his Portuguese explanations!

Our first stop was Santuario Dom Bosco (Dom Bosco’s Shrine), which looks like a concrete box from the outside and a mystical planetarium from the inside. One feature of the church which I found really interesting is the confessional -- it is entirely transparent, meaning one would look his/her priest in the eye during confession, and also be visible to the entire congregation! (Auberto ascribed this design choice to the fact that no one in Brasilia sins.)


Second on the list was Memorial JK, the tomb of President Juscelino Kubitschek. We only got to see it from the outside, but I hope to go back tomorrow to explore the exhibits inside.

Third, we visited the Brazilian Military Headquarters. The space features an enormous acoustic shell (that round thing in the background), which allows words uttered at a normal volume to be heard as unusually loud by a grand audience standing in the space in front of the stage. (I really need one of these in my room. 18th birthday present, anyone?)


For our fourth stop, we headed across the road to see Burle Marx Square, designed by Roberto Burle Marx, who is said to have introduced modernist landscape architecture to Brazil. Howard Roark would be proud.

Then it was on to Catedral Metropolitana, a (literally) breathtaking cathedral which kind of looks like an onion from the outside. The area behind the cross is full of really neat birthing imagery -- there is a stain glass depiction of an embryo (yellow), uterus (blue), and pregnant belly (green). Wow.


Our sixth stop was Congresso Nacional, which is comprised of an “upside-down bowl" (Senate) and “right-side-up bowl” (House of Representatives).


Seventh was Praca dos Tres Poderes (Plaza of Three Powers), home to Palacio do Itamaraty (Palace of Arches -- Foreign Ministry), Palacio da Justica (Department of Justice), and Palacio do Planalto (Presidential Palace). In the middle of the square is an underground information center with an awesome model of the airplane- / butterfly-shaped town of Brasilia.


Our eighth attraction was Ponte JK (Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge), which crosses the man-made Lake Paranoa. The lake is a really pretty color, and I’m kind of tempted to go swimming there. We’ll see.

The last stop was Palacio da Alvorada (Sunset Palace), the residence of Brazil’s president. Dilma’s garden was home to a mango tree and tons of baby emu, which Auberto likened to both guard dogs and velociraptors. 


What a great overview of the city! Back at the hotel, I enjoyed a yummy Pizza Portuguesa and a great nap before re-editing the Annual Report article I had started looking at on Monday. I then had the pleasure of reading a really interesting essay by a close friend, and giving him my feedback. A lot of it was over my head, though!

When the men returned from their meetings, Papa and I headed to the hotel's peppy gym for what was a very invigorating workout. We then washed up and ran a few errands at Brasilia Shopping Mall before dinner. We ate at Universal Diner, a city-renowned restaurant whose chef has been voted "Best Chef in Brasilia" for the past 3 years. My curried shrimp dish certainly validated her title as such -- Mama would have loved it!


I now sit with Cyprian Uncle and Papa as they chat and I await a repeat of the delicious chocolate mousse I had for dessert yesterday. Boa noite!

How's about some love?

  Brazilian airplanes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dia 28: What could be prettier than clouds?

My flight last night was fairly uneventful, but for my first Portuguese lesson from an awesome co-passenger! Mr. Chang was happy to hear that I have "finally" found a "productive use for socializing."

I read this morning's sonnet at the airport in São Paulo -- what a treat. Sonnet 28 is a continuation of 27, and together, they make up what is probably my favorite so far. Shakespeare records the phenomenon of losing sleep over a lover, but in a way that is precious and unique as he always is. The two are certainly worth a quick read: 

Sonnet 27: http://nfs.sparknotes.com/sonnets/sonnet_27.html
Sonnet 28: http://nfs.sparknotes.com/sonnets/sonnet_28.html

After a very scenic flight, we were in Brasília! The town was planned by the same architect who designed Chandigarh, where my Nani and Nanaji (maternal grandparents) live! Driving around town, I must constantly remind myself that I'm not in Chandigarh. It's eerie. And great.

When we came to our hotel, I (you guessed it) keeled over for a few hours. 

In the evening, Papa had a meeting, during which I exchanged a few messages with my brother Kenneson before venturing to a nearby mall. Since I am unable to so much as cross a street on my own, it was great to meet "guides" Vittoria (3 years) and her mom Norma on the way, and walk over with them. I wandered the 3 floors of Pátio Brazil before ending up in (of course) a book store. I was immediately drawn to a section with works by authors such as Plato, Ovid, and Shakespeare in Portuguese! I spent a few minutes reading a Portuguese translation of Ars Amatoria, up to the part I have translated in Latin thus far. It was a really neat exercise!

I walked back to my hotel and chatted with my sister Laura, who used to live in Brasília! (We find it just ludicrous that she is not here with me, but she too has some marvelous plans for her gap year.)

Soon thereafter, Papa, Cyprian Uncle, and I headed to dinner at Fogo de Chao, the original Brazilian steakhouse. (Steakhouses have great salad bars.) There, I got to meet Makhtar Uncle (who is the World Bank's Country Director for Brazil) and also see Sameh Uncle again! We had a lovely dinner, with my dad and uncles keeping the WB lingo to a minimum, and instead discussing the social issues being faced by Brazil, as well as Latin America as a whole. The challenges that emerged as most crucial are violence, drug use, teen pregnancy, and subtle manifestations of racism. Hearing about these obstacles in this hemisphere was especially relevant to me after having worked with children facing similar issues for the past few weeks at Sasha Bruce.

But our conversation was not all serious! I learned during dinner that Makhtar Uncle's son Mathias is taking Latin at Nysmith -- I hope to be able to meet with him (now dubbed "Latin Boy") soon and chat about this, as well as his other interests. 


The evening was a very enjoyable one, and I thank my uncles for giving me such a warm welcome to Brazil.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day 27: "You've never blended in."

Today, I went to Flint Hill to run a very exciting errand! The school generously donated 10 laptops for Gyaan Ghar last year, which Mr. Lieberman then most graciously agreed to "fix up" for me over the summer, and I have been meaning to pick up since then.

I was greeted first thing by Mr. Callard and Mr. Thomas, both of whom have been very supportive of my decision to take a gap year. It was great to let them know that I made the right choice!!

Entering the school, I met Ms. Kotey, forever my advisor and now the senior class dean, and checked in with her on how things are going at school, while filling her in on my upcoming travel plans.

Next, I was ushered into Mrs. Morehouse's advisory, where two young scholars requested some guidance on how to study for their first Latin test of the year. After we had read through some of the assigned lines, I deposited them at their classroom and caught up with Dr. Marchetti. On the way, however, I caught sight of Ms. Rachel Kernodle, the cutest math teacher on the planet, who also reads my blog every night!! (Way to make me smile.)

I then embarked on a journey to the music hallway, saying "hi" to Ms. Mrykalo and hardly expecting to find the ever-busy Mama Maddox available. To my delight, she was there, and we spent the morning discussing the fine arts program, and sharing a bit of girl talk. (Mama Maddox also reads my blog, so she was all up-to-date on my gap year plans!) At lunch, I got to see Ms. (Julia) Cardone, Mrs. Morse, Mrs. Williams, and Mrs. Chenari. AH!

Next, I ventured to the home of Mr. Fred (Chanania)! After he had berated my worth as a person (because I have horrific taste in educational institutions), he threw me in front of the class, giving me the choice to either teach environmental chemistry or give the class tips on acing the AP exam. Stuck between Scylla and Charybdis, I opted for the latter, and attempted to impart some wisdom on what seems like a great group of students!

I then briefly met Mr. Atwood and Mrs. Krug. How amazing to be able to see so many of one's favorite people in the same place!

After this, I barged in on Mr. Chang and stole a chunk of his planning time for the day, just as Cupid stole a foot of Ovid's meter. It was great to catch up on the latest and greatest in the Classics department, reflect on our Rome trip and Latin Convention this summer, and, as always, be ridiculed to no end! After we had filled one another in, we went to one of Mr. Andino's classes to brief students on the marvel that is Virginia Junior Classical League Convention.

As I headed down to the history classrooms to look for Ms. (TRISH) Deveneau, I found her waltzing down the hallway. We chatted for a lovely long while about my plans for this year and beyond, and I felt enlightened as always after our conversation.

Then, it was time to watch Priya's volleyball game! I got a ride to the middle school with my friend Sahil and watched the game, which the Huskies won just in the nick of time! Volleyball is such an exciting sport. Sharing in my excitement were Coach Rice and Mr. Pryor, whom it was great to see again.


After this, I raced back to the high school to finally pick up the laptops! Mr. Lieberman presented me with 10 beautiful machines, accompanied by 10 cases, 10 chargers, and a wireless router. We discussed setting up video chats between Gyaan Ghar students and those of Flint Hill. Mr. Lieberman has been a huge supporter of my school from the very start, and I cannot thank him enough.

Once home, I did some last-minute packing before crashing for a bit, showering, eating a yummy dinner (thank you, Mama!), and getting ready to gooo! (I wrote most of this post in the cab on the way here.)


I now sit with my wonderful Cyprian Uncle and Papa waiting to board our flight to Sao Paulo. And we're off!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 26: "Coincidences are God acting anonymously."

I got my official sleep attack out of the way early today, conking out in the car en route to work for over an hour, even before I had read my morning sonnet. Today was my day in the office with Vera, and the first time in history when I ended up working later than Papa!!

In the morning, I organized files and prepared cover sheets for a number of employment-related papers, before starting to compile an intern roster and edit another article for the Annual Report. I had forgotten how much I love working at a desk! Of course, field work is unmatchably exciting, but I also appreciate the simple charm of filing, typing, and organizing. In addition, I talked to Melva Williams from SBY's Teen Outreach Program (TOP) about helping her to develop curriculum which would integrate life skills awareness into social studies lessons at D.C. public schools. This should surely be an interesting assignment!

For lunch, I went out with ma sista Jess to Banana Cafe & Piano Bar, a Latin American restaurant which is on the same street as Sasha Bruce. What followed was a beautiful conversation about (nearly) everything under the sun, from our life philosophies to the nitty-gritty of our social lives. Talking to Jess is always so refreshing, and today I even got to hear some of her poetry! I won't attempt to paraphrase any of it here, but, as always, I am so darn inspired by her. As we walked back from our wonderful meal, we saw two vehicles which had the 113, my lucky number, somewhere on them. Jess must bring me good luck!

Back at the office, I discovered that the computer I had been using was locked, and I couldn't access the documents on which I had been working this morning. Luckily, retyping the intern roster didn't take long, and I should have time to re-edit the article tomorrow. Before leaving, I stopped by the office to ask Jim what he thought of my article for the Annual Report. He seemed to really like it, and has submitted it to Executive Director Debbie Shore for review.

I will miss my colleagues while I'm in Brazil, and I look forward to seeing them in a few weeks! I am immeasurably grateful for my experience thus far at Sasha Bruce. Working here, I feel myself becoming kinder and more aware everyday.

Home after listening to a great new single ("Altogether") by my classmate Chloe Angelides on the Metro and a hauntingly lovely song by a flute player live at the station, I went for an invigorating jog. Even more invigorating, perhaps, was my subsequent phone conversation with Dashell Laryea, an incredible FRIEND of mine. I prattled on and on about my job while Dashell gave me some nice esoteric gap year reading suggestions. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Fair Chance, the organization with whom Dashell did his Senior Project in high school, has worked closely with Sasha Bruce, so Dashell was familiar with SBY's programs!

I now plan to check the weather for the week and start packing for BRASIL -- lalalalalalalalaaa!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8K3yuKMGEw

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 25: This world hath made me vicarious.

This morning, Miss Priya invited me to come to her volleyball clinic with her. I got to watch her scrimmaging and practicing skills for what I imagine was a very tiring two hours! I am very impressed. During the players' warm-ups, I flipped through Sasha Bruce's Annual Report from 2009 for a model of what I should be thinking about as I work on this year's report over the next few weeks.

After a brief phone chat with my uncle Ruby Chachu (arguably my blog’s most avid follower) and a quick jog around the neighborhood (cheered on by a gaggle of geese and a butterfly couple), I settled in to work on one of my article assignments for this year’s Annual Report. I now have a good working draft, which I hope to discuss with Jim in the office tomorrow before submitting it to Jill for final edits.

In the afternoon, I headed to Reston Town Center to participate in the first annual Northern Virginia Alzeimer's Association Walk to End Alheimer's. The incredible Iman Karram, a sophomore at Madeira, organized a team called "Forget-Me-Not" to raise funds in honor of her grandfather, who struggles with Alzheimer's. I could talk about this girl all day, but suffice it to say that I truly believe she has the makings of a leader, and I expect HUGE things from her in the future.

I left the event to meet my dear friend (and Varlet #0) Patrick Sanguineti for a dinner to celebrate his 16th birthday! With his awesome parents and Varlet #1, we enjoyed a great dinner, during which I (almost) learned to use chopsticks.


It was great to see my brothers again, and I wish Patrick a wonderful year!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 24: I like air and the sounds things make.

After sonnet-reading, room-cleaning, and laundry-drying this morning, I sat down to write my very tardy Forum article, and forced myself not to get up until it was written. The Forum is the official publication of the Virginia Junior Classical League (VJCL), the organization which raised me just as Rhea Silvia nurtured Romulus and Remus. I was the Editor of the VJCL last year, which means that I was in charge of the publication of the Forum. This year, Nizar Zahed (Varlet #1) has assumed this glorious position, and has thus been, er, reminding me to submit my article quite frequently over the past few weeks. You will have to wait to read the article itself when the Fall issue of the Forum comes out, but you can see the two issues I prepared last year by clicking the links below.

Fall: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5018004/FORUM%20-%20Fall%20MMX.pdf
Spring: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5018004/FORUM%20-%20Spring%20MMXI.pdf

The article is about Certamen, the classics-based trivia game in which a number of nerds compete at both the state and national levels each year. My piece focuses on advanced Certamen at the national level, and writing it really made me think back on all my summers spent training for this event -- literally some of the best times of my life. All this nostalgia must have caused me to expend a lot of energy, because I was planning to rest for a few minutes at this point, but ended up not arising until 2 hours later.

When I did stumble out of bed, Mama and I headed to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, the closest thing to the Elysian Fields I have ever observed in real life. There, we walked for an hour, covering every inch of trail which goes through the park, and even repeating some loops multiple times, occasionally slowing down to take photos with the flora. After our walk, we met a family from Pittsburgh who needed help getting to Leesburg. We drove to Route 7 with them following us, and then gave them directions from there. They were very appreciative and happy!

To pass a bit of time before Mama had to show a house to a client, we went to DSW, where I had to do my best not to purchase a pair of boots whose style was called "Hamlet." (I need to stop judging lectures and shoes by their names! "That which we call a rose . . . " etc. etc.) After getting a bit lost, we arrived at the house in McLean, and met with Viji Auntie, a close family friend, who is looking for a new house. By coincidence, her old neighborhood happens to be called "The Hamlet" -- how cool!

After we had checked out the house (which I really like), we headed to Panda Express for dinner. I now hope to get some sleep to avoid any random nap attacks tomorrow. Good night!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 23: Taking notes is a hobby of mine.

Today, I had the "day off." As a treat to myself, in the car this morning, instead of reading my sonnet, I did my nails and talked to Papa.

I kept Sonnet 23 for after I had arrived in the Bank. This poem is super endearing, with Shakespeare defending his shy, soft-spoken demeanor by arguing that he offers romance through poetry and not word of mouth. In my humble opinion, his written words more than suffice. :)

After my morning latte, I found a room in which to do some "homework." I had a few emails to which to respond, as well as an article to edit for Sasha Bruce's Annual Report, before it was time for this afternoon's "Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Change." This week, the World Bank conducts Annual Meetings with finance ministers from more than 150 countries. Today, these ministers convened at the Bank to discuss COP 17 (the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and the Green Climate Fund, a new initiative which will be a hot topic at the convention. Either the discussion was really interesting or I had imbibed a lot of caffeine, because I had a great time listening, taking notes, and disrupting everyone else there by asking my dad clarification questions every few minutes!

Over a scrumptious Indian lunch in the World Bank cafe, Papa and I talked about our upcoming trip to Brazil. Needless to say, this was an energizing talk. When we had finished, I was planning to attend a talk on the importance of gender equality to infrastructure. However, due to security, I was unable to enter the building in which it was held, and instead listened to a panel on violence as an obstacle to development. I enjoyed listening to Francisco Lloreda, Colombian High Presidential Advisor for Public Safety (who invited my dad to attend the panel discussion), describe Colombia's approach to crime and violence. But I would have to say my favorite part of the session was the chiastic title, "Guns and Growth: Securing Development -- Developing Security." AH!


All this excitement was followed by even more excitement -- EDITING CERTAMEN QUESTIONS! I spent a few hours compiling the questions Woojin and I have been writing over the past few weeks into two coherent, quirky, classy rounds. Once I finished, I stared at a map of Brazil and the sweet "world cloud" shown below while waiting for Papa.


When we finally got home (around 9), I caught up with my other varlet-friend before dinner. I now demand a dense duration of dream-dipped dozing.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 22: "My favorite thing is flying."

Today was full of varied, engaging, rich learning.

After reading Sonnet 22, which is basically a distilled definition of the term "soulmate," I reread another piece of literature important to me of late. On the morning I met Jessie (last Wednesday), a sheet of paper hanging in her room caught my eye. I skimmed it and asked if I could make a copy of it. Since I was in a really good mood at the time, it really resonated with me, because it described perfectly the way I was feeling. I have reread it every day since then, and perhaps the effect it claims to have has really been working?! That or I have just been blessed by almost unreal experiences and unbelievable people these past few days. Either way, it's worth a look: http://www.inspiritess.com/2011/09/osho-meditation-for-the-day/.

I hopped on the metro toward Eastern Market. On the way, I read an Economist book review of Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood, as well as an article on The great schools revolution. Both pieces are applicable to me as a teen and also as an intern for Sasha Bruce, an agency which works primarily with youth and their families through its numerous programs.

Speaking of SBY's programs, today was Intern Program Orientation day!! What this meant was that a group of interns walked, drove, and sweated across the city, visiting the sites of ten of the agency's programs and getting a chance to talk to each site coordinator. What a neat field trip! Stops included REACH and Chloe House (homes for court-committed boys and girls respectively), Olaiya's Cradle (a home for teen mothers), Sasha Bruce House (a 24-hour crisis shelter for runaway youth), and the Independent Living Program. Each site coordinator explained to us the criteria for being accepted to the house, the living arrangements of the space, and the lifestyle of each person living there. We also learned more about third party monitoring, family counseling, sexual health education, and outreach in schools.

At Bruce House (for court-committed boys), we got to see a mural that President Obama helped paint on the day before his inauguration!


After our day of orientation, Ashley Crawford (Davidson '11) and I headed to Union Station to get home. From the train, I called Hassan "Uncle," who works for Yellow Cab (and shares an ancestral village in Pakistan with Papa!), and asked him if he could take me to pick up Priya from school. We got to catch up and I told him about my plans for the year while he updated me on what his family is up to.

A quick snack at home, and I was ready for my next adventure! Tonight was Back-to-School Night for the Newton School (http://www.thenewtonschool.org/), an untraditional place of learning founded by the family of one of my most influential teachers and mentors, Mr. Abraham. The impressive school integrates motion and hands-on activities into lower and middle school curricula to make them more effective and understandable for students with varied learning styles. I have been meaning to visit the school for a while now, to catch up with Mr. Abraham and compare notes on their approach as compared to that of Gyaan Ghar, and I am so glad I finally did! The philosophy is simple -- kids like to move! Passing through a cheery reception, I came to a room which could basically be described as children's heaven. Thick padding covers the floor and walls, allowing students to enjoy the swings, wheels, and balls flying every which way to their full extent. Trampolines and obstacle courses abound. The classrooms are darling, and the ways in which motion is incorporated into "normal" lessons is awesome. Dance, Tae Kwon Do, and Yoga are parts of the students' daily schedule, with music and art used therapeutically as well. I certainly have gained a lot of new ideas to be applied back in India, and I also hope to coordinate a pen pal program between the students of Newton and those of Gyaan Ghar.

Making this long overdue visit was a great way to end the day, but not as good as doing Mama's nails. Now I am ready for bed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day 21: Caffeine and love make the world go round.

The down-to-earth admissions of Shakespeare's Sonnet 21 started my day. Papa and I then drove to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, where I was to meet Gina Bulett at 9. Gina works with Sasha Bruce's Intensive Third Party Monitoring (ITPM) program, so she often accompanies her clients to their court hearings as a supporter and advocate. As we awaited the child she was accompanying today, Gina explained the juvenile court system to me in depth -- what an utterly fascinating lesson.

This morning was particularly chaotic at the courthouse. One of Gina's long-term clients had been arrested for simple assault the night before -- she had gotten into a fight with a cousin. This would normally not be a terribly serious charge, but the court records had her listed as a major, under which circumstances her case would carry much more dire repercussions. After running around speaking with attorney after attorney, we finally found out that the case would not be recorded, since the incident had been a "criss-cross," or occurred among two family members.

Another of Gina's duties at an ITPM is to perform in-school checks for students she is monitoring. When we left court, we walked two miles to Dunbar High School to check on one student, and then took a bus to Browne Education Campus to check on another two. On the way, Gina talked almost as fast as she walked. A whirlwind of energy, she managed follow-ups from the morning case, scheduling for afternoon counseling sessions with multiple clients, and coordination of her own move next month -- all while we walked from one place to the other. In between phone calls, she talked to me at a mile a minute, telling me about her time at Georgetown, explaining various social issues encountered by SBY staff, and sharing her personal inspiration to help this population -- like all the Sasha Bruce employees I have met, she loves the kids with whom she works.

After stopping by CVS to grab some shoe insoles for my aching feet (as well as a sandwich made by a company called "Panache!"), we went to the home of another client, K. She was not there, but we checked in with her mother and invited K to come by later in the day.

Back at the office, Jessie invited me to sit in on her weekly consultation with Ginny, SBY's magic-working Clinical Director. During this meeting, Jessie filled Ginny in on tricky sessions she had had with one particular family. When she explained to Ginny the family's communication style, as well as some of the challenges they are facing, Ginny made a few recommendations on how to more clearly get through to them. Sitting in on this conversation after having observed and interacted with some clients throughout the day was a highly useful extrapolation on the lessons we learned during didactic training last week.

When this meeting was over, I popped over to Gina's office, and K was there! They were preparing for an interview K will have tomorrow with YouthBuild, a Sasha Bruce program to prepare teens for the workforce. During this session, I received a text from the lovely Laura Kambourian, who had come to visit me at work! We were united up the street from SBY, and shared a snack at Hello Cupcake before I gave her a tour of the office. Metrobound, we met with Jessie and I was able to introduce the two! I love when one person I love meets another person I love. LOVE!

We hopped on the train and chattered until Laura came to her stop, the Smithsonian. I went on to Farragut West, and filled Papa in on my ineffably remarkable day all the way home. When we got back, I sprinted to my room and took a 14-minute nap followed by a 16-minute shower, before getting started on this post.

In the evening, Priya and I dressed as "twins" and we all went out to dinner with Sunanda Auntie (Mama's childhood friend) and Monty Uncle, who are moving back home to India in November. It was wonderful to catch up with them, and I hope to see them when I am in New Delhi this winter!

Today was quite a day. I am thankful for every step I take, but quickly running out of positive adjectives to describe my astounding days. May such "shortages" abound in my life always.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 20: "Look at her! She's wide asleep!"

After reading Shakespeare's tongue-in-cheek Sonnet 20 this morning, I finally got to meet Papa’s colleague Ramon, about whom I have heard so much, but whom I had never met before today! We grabbed assorted morning refreshments before going to the World Bank travel office to apply for a Brazil visa for me -- I may be accompanying my dad on a business trip next week! While we waited for the impossibly slow computer system to respond, Ramon and I chatted about languages, shoes, and, well . . . the impossibly slow computer system. It was so awesome to finally meet him! 

When I walked up to my dad’s office, I got to see Maribel Auntie again, as well as meet the incredible Rachel Nadelman!! Rachel first introduced me to the amazing Sasha Bruce Youthwork (amidst piles of work and preparations, including an all-nighter, for a presentation required for her Ph.D program). Rachel met Debbie Shore (founder of SBY) when they rallied together for a D.C. vote, and proceeded to spend ten hours in jail together -- what a way to connect! When she heard I was looking for a children's organization in the D.C. area, Sasha Bruce immediately came to her mind . . . and the rest is history!

After a 12-minute lunch, I raced to SBY and (after a quick chat with Ginny) met Dan Davis, coordinator of Sasha Bruce’s Safe Neighborhoods program. We went to Bruce House (one of SBY’s shelters, which is also D.C.’s Drug Prevention Center) and he told me about the organization’s different outreach programs. Representatives drive around high-risk areas distributing resources and information about the agency’s various programs. I spent a few hours assembling packets containing this information, and also adding specific information about Sasha Bruce locations to “Safe Place” posters which will be displayed around the city.

Next, Dan shared with me a report he is compiling about SBY’s summer programs. He showed me the government-distributed rubric used in D.C. to assess non-profit initiatives such as these -- a very interesting piece of literature, especially to be used in comparison with the metrics used to assess Gyaan Ghar programs.

We then headed back to the main office, where I quickly said “hi” to my girl Jessie and checked in with Vera to plan tomorrow, before meeting Papa at the Bank. On the way, I received a phone call from my friend Ramiya, a sophomore, who had a few questions about the SAT and college admissions process. I told her it is too early to start worrying, but we had a good conversation about the many ways to be involved in one’s high school community.

At night, we donned our Tuesday Best and went to dinner at the home of a family friend. There, Priya and I met two adorable young boys, Siddharth (6 years) and Shaurya (3 years). We had a fantastic time, with Siddy hurling projectiles at me while Priya and Shaurya looked on. Eventually, Babysitter Priya took over while I started to nod off, much to Siddharth’s amusement.


We had a great time and hope to see their family again soon. What a fun night!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 19: Any moment now, I will learn to live in the moment.

Today was both exhilarating and exhausting.

Starbucks and Sonnet 19 preceded meeting up with Jessie and heading over to Oyster-Adams Bilingual Elementary School to help coordinate their mini-walk for the homeless, which will take place later this month. After we met with the administrators and finalized a date for the presentation and march around the block, I got a tour of D.C. -- Jessie style! We drove around Rock Creek Park (so peaceful) before returning to the vicinity of Sasha Bruce. There, Jessie showed me a number of projects, including Barry Farm (a notoriously violent housing development), St. Elizabeth's Hospital (a partially abandoned psychiatric facility), and Ferebee Hope (an inner city elementary school where Jessie will be initiating an after-school counseling program next month). As we cruised along, we discussed a number of key concepts -- gang violence, third party monitoring, and gentrification -- but also took time to laugh and exchange outrageous stories about our respective friends.

After this incredible survey of the area, I walked up the street for a smoothie and some Ovid. Mr. Chang has lent me an Ars Amatoria reader annotated by Graves Haydon Thompson, and I found the introduction absolutely delightful! The arrangement of the notes is great, too, and I am highly amused by Ovid's offensive and objectifying account of how a man ought woo a woman.

I then strolled back to the SBY office in time for the Help the Homeless committee meeting. This group is planning a number of events similar to the one we coordinated at Oyster-Adams this morning, at various schools in the area. It will also sponsor a kickball game this weekend, at which I hope to help!

Later, I headed next door to SBY's administrative office to meet with Jim Beck, the Development Director. Jim took an hour to walk me through Sasha Bruce's development model -- from general organizational structure to specific government funding proposals! Although I am not (yet) a student of economics, the way in which Jim presented the concepts to me taught me so much. It was both fundamental and detailed -- Jim would make a great professor! When he mentioned marketing (including the publication of SBY's annual report), I said I would love to help with this aspect. So, I will be doing a lot of editing and a bit of writing over the next week to help with the preparation of this year's report!

All this talk tired me out! It was time to unwind at Hello Cupcake, where I made friends with Emily, a cashier with plenty of suggestions on cupcakes . . . as well as hairstyles. I considered going home at this point, but the prospect of exploring another Smithsonian museum was too tantalizing.

I somehow found myself at the National Gallery of Art, and learned that it was the last day there for the Capitoline Venus! We were not able to see her over the summer in Rome because she was here in D.C. -- imagine if I had missed her here as well! Lured in by this goddess of love, I joined a guided tour for the afternoon. Our guide covered a number of the museum highlights, and analyzed each from a sociopolitical perspective. What an impeccable learning experience! My favorite artist of the day was Fragonard, a late Rococo painter. I love art galleries.

My feet were crying after this endeavor! I trudged to a patch of grass with a view of the Capital building and Washington Monument and read some more Ovid, before pausing to close my eyes and listen to the city. 


Once home, I caught up with an old varlet-friend before shoveling down my dinner and preparing to hit the sack!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Day 18: Cameras are so literal.

Today's Sonnet 18 was followed by an awesome walk with Mama around our neighborhood. We got some fresh air early in the day, and also a chance to chat: I filled her in on the latest and greatest at my workplace while she told me about hers! We also talked about self-identity -- how one gets it, how one uses it, and how one keeps it. This came up when I mentioned my idea of assembling a "Happy Box" -- a container filled with messages that make me smile, and have nothing to do with "credentials" or "achievements." When I am looking for ways to inspire myself or cheer myself up, transcripts and  résumés mean little compared to that card from an advisor, that post from a role model, or that letter from a lifelong mentor. These are, in short, personal.

When we returned home, instead of working in the yard like I was supposed to, I got to work composing a sonnet which Mama had flippantly suggested that I write about an event at Coldstone Creamery which Laura and I had recounted to her the night before. Here it is!


Sonnet 9 (Ode to a Rose)

When I have fears that I may cease to be,
before my spoon has gleaned my teeming cup,
it seems to me, 'twould be a travesty,
had I not even chance to say, "what's up?"
You served my Laura with 'bundant sweet cream,
but charged her only for the smallest size.
Already, she'd begun to live a dream,
'miring it all--your lips your nose, your eyes.
I said that in your face I saw a rose,
a visage that could ne'er hold malintent.
I urged and prodded, pushed her to propose--
alas, by then, our shame had all been spent.
And yet, by heav'n, our love deserves such fame
as that of any girl who knows your name.


After this facetious fun, it was time to get to work. I spent the next few hours researching and writing Certamen questions for the first tournament of this year, which will take place on October 15th. For those of you who are not familiar, Certamen is a Jeopardy-style academic competition in which teams vie to flaunt their knowledge of the Classics. This activity was an enormous part of my middle school and high school education, and I owe my coaches and teammates an unbelievable amount for making me the nerd I am today. Helping the Senior Classical League write questions for Kick-Off really is the least we graduates can do. Because my area of strength is Language, I wrote a number of Grammar questions for the two sets I am compiling in conjunction with my bro Woojin. I think we have some very nice rounds coming together, and I can't wait to hear what all you JCLers think of them when I moderate at the tournament in October!

Having nearly completed my share of the two rounds, I decided to treat myself to the cultural experience Jessie had described to me on Friday -- the drum circle at Meridian Hill Park! As Papa and I approached the urban haven, we could determine its exact location merely by the amazing rhythms we were hearing from blocks away. When we arrived, the scene of diversity in front of us was unbelievable. People of all ages, races, and income levels had congregated, holding all sorts of varied percussion instruments, to unite in one song. The beat was perfectly organic -- there was no one conductor and no set program. One musician would simply start playing, thereby inviting others to join in. There isn't really a way to describe it (my camera certainly couldn't capture it), so I really suggest you see it for yourself! This spectacle takes place from around 5 to 9 every Sunday until it snows, at Meridian Hill Park in Washington, D.C.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/21/AR2006092100561.html 

Jessie arrived shortly after we did, and, although she hurt her tailbone playing soccer this morning, immediately invited me to dance! We entered the corridor between the lines of drummers, and the energy was unreal. We partied it up for song after song, before finally wrenching ourselves away and heading in the direction of our car. I am so glad we went on this adventure tonight and got to see Jessie, and I can't wait to spend the day with her at work tomorrow! What a magical way to end a marvelous day.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Day 17: I want to live my life in seconds.

Today marked my completion of Shakespeare's Sonnet 17, the last of the so-called "procreation poems," in which he tries to convince an anonymous young friend of his to find a wife and have children, that his legacy may live on. While I am a bit relieved that this theme is passing, I have also gained an appreciation for the numerous ways in which Shakespeare manages to communicate this same message in sonnet after sonnet. In this last one, he urges his young friend to have a child so that people in future generations will see the son's or daughter's beauty, and know that Shakespeare was not lying in his constant flattery of his addressee. The poet also argues that the legacy of one's children outlives even that even of poetry. In honor of this last "reproduction request," I have included a reading of the sonnet, as well as its complete text, below.

video

Sonnet 17
Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill'd with your most high deserts?
Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say 'This poet lies:
Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.'
So should my papers yellow'd with their age
Be scorn'd like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
   But were some child of yours alive that time,
   You should live twice; in it and in my rhyme.

At lunchtime, we took our cousin Resham to Pentagon City Mall before dropping her off at Union Station. There, we got to meet her friend Ashank -- a senior at UVA -- and hear some of his entertaining stories about life as an intern in an investment bank! On our way back to Vienna, we swung by the main office of Sasha Bruce so I could show Priya and Papa where I work. I showed them around with pride, and they loved the area, which already feels like home to me!!

After a quick haircut, we met up with Laura and headed to Tysons for satiation, singing, and shopping. We had a great night, made all the more appreciable after our hectic week. Tomorrow promises to be not quite so relaxing, but certainly just as enjoyable!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Day 16: At last, my love has come along . . .

Today was a day of love.

I started this morning with Etta James' "At Last" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1uunRdQ61M), a ridiculously classy 1961 song, my interest in which stands as a testament to my blooming and somewhat sporadic attraction to blues music. I then read Sonnet 16 (the penultimate of the "procreation sonnets" -- thank goodness!) on my sleepy way to work.

Our second day of didactic training began with an activity called "the adolescent experience." One volunteer, blindfolded, had to navigate around the room, not stopping until she was comfortable. On both sides of the room were lined up people assigned different roles in her life (written on the yellow papers shown below), such as "guy on the corner," "teacher," and "boyfriend," who had to do their best to lure her over to them. On the far end of the room was her "mother" (whom I played), trying to guide her in a straight line, or "do the right thing." Taylor, our "adolescent," was actually able to make it to my side of the room without stopping, and cited as the reason for this the fact that while everyone else was yelling indecipherably, my voice, although not overly loud, was strong, clear, and constant -- I simply repeated phrases of encouragement, positive reinforcement, and love. The point of this activity was to demonstrate all the conflicting and overwhelming influences in teenage life, but it also showed me something else: I have often said that all one needs in life is one friend, and this activity really showed me that. The one clear voice guiding Taylor across the room was all she needed to be successful, and this single supporter allowed her to achieve her goal.


After this activity, we reviewed a number of the concepts we learned yesterday, and participated in a few role play scenarios to demonstrate them more vividly. When we broke for lunch, a few children from the elementary school next door to Richardson Dwellings came into their classroom in the basement and began to chatter. They reminded me of my own students at Gyaan Ghar so much that I could not resist talking to them! After having been dubbed "Hannah Montana" and asked if a banana peel could be thrown at me, we were fast friends. They asked me "probing" questions about my personal life while I told them how much I envy the fact that they get to do homework! One adorable little girl asked me to take her picture:


I later learned that her name was Love. We headed outside, where another student asked if she could braid my hair, because it smelled nice. By the time my hair had welcomed two cornrows and five noses, it was time to get back to training! The module continued with an address by Melissa Varner, a sexual health specialist at SBY's P.O.W.E.R. Program (http://www.sashabruce.org/programs/show/healthy-lives/power-program), and concluded with a reflection on the myriad roles of a counselor outside of counselling.


I headed from Richardson Dwellings back to the main office of Sasha Bruce, where my friend Jessie was just finishing up a session with a new client, Jamar. She introduced me to him as he left, and he read us a poem entitled Love. Jessie and I chatted for over an hour, discussing training and our plans for next week, and then moving to broader topics like ambition, risk-taking, and motivation. I hope to spend more time with Jessie next Monday, and maybe even this weekend at the drum circle at Meridian Hill Park (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meridian_Hill_Park).

Grinning from ear to ear after our talk, I set out toward H Street NW to meet with Papa before we left. At an intersection, I ran into Elena Auntie, a close family friend and gem of an aunt! I spoke a bit about my job, and she about her upcoming move to Colombia, whence she originally hails. When I told her I would be traveling to Latin America, she invited me to spend some time with her on her farm in Colombia -- how amazing! After telling Papa about my day in the car, I came home and promptly crashed.

We now prepare to go out and watch Mere Brother Ki Dulhan ("My Brother's Bride"), which promises to be a brilliantly mindless film.

Love,
Ratna

P.S. Just got back from the movie, and one of the protagonists was named Luv. Just saying.