Day 91: Trying to get a rise out of you, I was the one who fell.

I read Sonnet 91 in the car this morning en route to my favorite Starbucks. Once there, I wrote a message to Iman about college, a message to Daniel about life, and a message to Laura about Daniel.

I really value this quiet morning time, and it was lovely to spend this morning's in the "company" of three of my favorite people. On the metro, I read a Time article by Fareed Zakaria entitled "When Will We Learn?" The piece identifies hard work and good teachers as the two factors most invaluable to an effective education system, and is written in Zakaria's enjoyable, easy-to-read style. I really recommend this six-minute read.

Work today was quite a hustle! Vera is in the process of collecting the components needed to renew Sasha Bruce Youthwork's licensure as a Child Placement Agency. This process is harder than it seems, as the paperwork and documentation is all over the place, and sometimes difficult to locate even once one knows where to find it.

So most of today consisted of running between the office and the admin building fetching files and compiling them into a coherent application. It was a really great insight into how no matter the size of a corporation, paperwork is a must!

At noon, I met with Renee to discuss Papa's World Bank team retreat at Sasha Bruce. (I am SO excited!) It looks like we have a plan for volunteers to help out at the main office, as well as two of the residential programs nearby (one for court-involved boys and one for teen mothers). Can't wait!

Returning from self-declared snacktime up the street, I ran into Jess, whom I had just been texting a few minutes ago! It was great to see my girl and ask her about her day in person before leaving the office.

Once home, I wrote a few more eccentric messages to Laura before contacting 17 of my subscribers to teach them to activate their subscriptions. (To clarify, after entering your email address in the box on the right, you must await an email from "Ratna's 365 Gap Days." After the message arrives, you must click the activation link for your subscription to commence. Thank you for subscribing!)

I look forward to a hot shower and a hotter dinner before beddy-bye!


This is a shout-out to Jannah Trisha Babasa, my 60th official blog subscriber!

Many thanks, soulmate!!

Day 90: I am not in context.

I started today with Sonnet 90 and a LauraLetter. Since Nani's flight back to India was scheduled for tonight, I then headed downstairs to help her finish up her packing. But because of the strike at London Heathrow, Nani will now be departing on Sunday -- hoorah!!

After a delicious brunch, I took a leisurely shower full of Beatles tunes.

These guys are pure genius.

Afterwards, I contacted Renee Forrester, Sasha Bruce Youthwork's Volunteer Coordinator, about planning an event for a group of World Bank staff members. In mid-December, Papa hopes to host a group of his colleagues in a day of service at a local DC organization -- and what better choice than my amazing workplace?

I then checked out two Economist articles on mind-reading: "The terrible truth" and "Mind-goggling" -- the possibilities proposed by these papers are positively perilous! (And I feel particularly penitent for my present propensity for . . . well, consonance.)

After helping Mama organize some papers in her study and briefly reading about the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, I settled in with The Lost Symbol for a few hours.

In the evening, I had a session with a really great clinician, who happens to have the same name as Flint Hill's headmaster -- John Thomas! Now back home (greeted by the welcome sight of a message from Woojin), I plan to hit the treadmill and then help a friend with an essay before turning in for the night. Life without Facebook is fun!

Day 89: As above, so below.

I started today with yoga, Sonnet 89, and a letter to Laura.

I then delved further into Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. Brown's novels are always really exciting once you get into them, and what's really cool is that Priya is reading his Da Vinci Code now as well. The Gill sisters are Brown fans!

Between the book's fast-paced adventure scenes, I started studying for my driving test and chalking out my week. I hope to start rehearsal with Mr. Cosby soon, so we can get in the recording studio ASAP! Click here to watch the first run-through of a song I recorded with Melvin Taylor over the weekend.

In the afternoon, Nani volunteered to help me color my hair with henna. I hadn't done this in a while, so we sat in our front lawn as the sun lowered and she helped me apply the auburn goop!

While I wait to wash this mud-like substance off my head, I'm off for a quick jog on the treadmill, and perhaps another chapter of my novel. :)

Day 88: "The lower you go, the higher you fly."

This last day of my "Thanksgiving break" was exhilarating, enriching, and exhausting.

I read Sonnet 88 (which I really like) on the way to Omar's house this summery morning.

Papa and I then picked up Omar and headed into DC, where we met Jess for coffee at my favorite Starbucks (18th and H).

Talking to Jess never, ever, EVER fails to amaze me, and it was fun to share this amazement with Omar today. He and I emerged from our coffee conversation overwhelmed with optimism and the feeling that no challenge in this world is insurmountable.

On the way back to Reston, my brother Jacob called as he awaited his flight at the airport -- all the best, brother!

When we dropped Omar back home, I got to see the light of my life -- HAMZA AKRAM! We took a family photo and made plans to bring Hamza over to our house next weekend.

I arrived home to requests for a "sisterdate" from my own treasure, the one-of-a-kind Miss Priya Gill. We spent the next few hours at the mall window-shopping, catching up on all the latest in life, and texting Daniel Kim (one of the Gill sisters' favorite friends).

After a quick touchdown at home to freshen up (during which my bro Kenneson called), we again headed out, this time on a very special "errand." This excursion was to Dulles International Airport to see off Laura Kambourian (the world's most precious angel) and Jenn Kambourian (her awesomely supportive stepmom) as they left for Paris. Laura will be spending at least the next month of her gap year in France, and the following four months all over Europe. So, this "farewell" was for the next five months. I of course won't know what to do with myself while Laura is away, but I am so utterly excited for the ineffable adventures she will have abroad. What a brave girl.

One demonstration of this courage is Laura's decision to deactivate her Facebook account for at least the first 100 days that she is abroad. As a bit of a Facebook addict myself, I decided to join her in this endeavor, and so we spent a momentous moment at Dulles deactivating both of our accounts at the same time. (I hope you all will visit me here at "365 Gap Days" and write to Laura and me at and respectively!)

Already filled with saudades as I returned home, it was time for a soulful jam session with Priya on the piano before calling it a night. Here's wishing all of my friends in school good luck for the end of the semester, and my few friends not in school best wishes for their plentiful plucky pursuits!

Day 87: I do what I write; I write what I do.


I got the day off to a great start by having breakfast with my close friend Ryan "Babes" Barbalace. What this means is that we basically talked non-stop for an hour and a half without breathing at all, except to laugh. It was fantastic and I'm so glad he and I are doing such a good job of staying in touch! I look forward to seeing him again over winter break, and hopefully spending a week this summer at his college, Wake Forest.

For lunch, I met my four favorite boys in the world at Fairfax Corner.

James, Zach, Daniel, and, of course, Woojin, are four of the most kind-hearted (and hilarious) guys I know. Naturally, they tease me to no end and treat me like their empty-headed little sister, but I trust and love each of them like the big brothers I now have.

After we had given our patronage to California Pizza Kitchen, Pinkberry, and REI, we had to go our separate ways. I would have cried, but for the fact that I then made the acquaintance of the planet's most precious dog, Monroe (named after Marilyn).

This canine cutie belongs to Katie Pope, whose family I finally got to meet today! They are awesome people, and her mom, who is a producer, introduced me to Melvin Taylor, an incredible artist you should all check out! Absolutely "jazzed" (no pun intended) by the sight of a recording studio and guitarist in front of my eyes, I just had to request a jam sesh! I showed Melvin a song that's been circling my head a lot lately, and here is what Melvin and I came up with:

My lungs reinvigorated with a fresh supply of oxygen, I hopped in KPope's car to head to Bon Chon for dinner. En route, we collected the lovely Laura from her dwelling. Dinner was great fun -- it's always nice to get "the gang" back together!

If I thought I was tired before dinner, I was delirious afterward. But Dr. Pepper always does the trick, and we were ready for an aimless adventure at the mall! From trying on assorted hats to watching KPope get her fortune told to probably making a poor impression on Amr's friend Mahmoud, the night was a blast.

A bittersweet end came when we had to acknowledge the fact that it is Laura's last night in the States for a while. But not to worry -- we plan to execute an excellently erudite epistolary exposition to make up for her impending lack of Facebook account!

After sharing one last customary red velvet cupcake from Cakelove, the night came to a beautiful close. THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EACH AND EVERY PERSON I ENCOUNTERED TODAY FOR MAKING THIS DAY SO UNBELIEVABLE GOOD.

Oh, and yes, I read Sonnet 87 this morning.

Day 86: Teen rang nahi labne husan, jawani, te mape.

After rolling out of bed at noon today and reading Sonnet 86, I went out for a late lunch with my Enviro girls Claire and Anna. When working as interns at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year, Claire and I used to have lunch together everyday. In the spirit of old times, we have been planning to have lunch together with Anna for ages now -- and it was awesome to finally see them both!

Post prandium, we ventured into the Black Friday madness at Reston Town Center for a bit, going crazy (actually, making sensible purchases) at Francesca's Boutique and J.Crew.

Not to worry -- no item in this photograph was purchased.

I was home just long enough to prepare for my evening's super sneaky secret mission -- a surprise farewell party for Laurita Gilbourian! Laura leaves on Sunday for five months in France and other European destinations, where she will be teaching English to children, as well as just being the all-around awesome and adventurous girl we know and love. To give her a proper sendoff, Laura's lovely stepmom Jenn invited a group of us to the Kambourian residence to dress in French garb (or, in my case, Laura's Halloween costume), and hide behind furniture to jump out and "suprise!" her when she returned home from dinner.

Who makes a cuter poodle -- Laura or Ratna? Vote by answering the poll on the right!!

My belief is that Laura was adequately surprised, and not at all tipped off by the bewildered beret-bearing boy (brother Jacob!) on her driveway as she pulled in. It was great to feel the love and admiration for this incredible woman in the room tonight, and also such a nice opportunity to catch up with so many wonderful people!

"Merci beaucoup" to you all for being there -- what a great night!

Day 85: "You speak in poetry."

This morning, Miss Priya decided to follow in her sister's footsteps and start cleaning her closet! For moral support, I put some finishing touches on my own wardrobe, while we both rocked out to the radio. We then went downstairs for a crazy "workout" consisting of barefoot treadmilling (Ratna), random dancing (Ratna), and skilled gymnastics (Priya).

Pooped after expending all this rather aimless energy, we returned upstairs for a sweet snack Nani had made us. After I read Sonnet 85, we went outside to play badminton -- my favorite sport, and the only one at which I'm almost decent. I was actually winning 16 to 7 before it became too windy for us to continue playing.

Then began Thanksgiving preparations. How Priya and I helped out was by staying out of the way as Mama and Nani prepared a lovely meal. During this time, we looked over a "Brief Outline of Roman History" and I pretended to know enough to be able to teach Priya anything at all about this topic.

After a wonderful dinner, I gave Nani an impromptu Bhangra performance (for some reason, Nani loves my dancing) before we sat down to eat pecan pie and play Boggle as a family.

We all of course have so many reasons to be thankful, and I am blessed to have been able to spend this day (and this life) with such precious people.

Day 84: "The rest of the world is sweethearts."

After reading Shakespeare's wonderfully devoted Sonnet 84 this morning, I "hit the mall" with my girl Katie Pope! Intending to get lots of shopping done, we ended up spending most of our time in the food court at Tysons Galleria (which is lovely, by the way, and I never even knew it existed) catching up on one another's lives. Katie and I can discuss anything under the sun, and these few hours of her company were brilliant.

As we sat snacking at Panda Express, we were joined by the day-brightening Jenny Yao and Jacob Seo! Hanging out with my favorite siblings for the rest of the day was a blast.

Here are some highlights:

-- We all experiment with the "Eskimo" look.

-- Ratna can't wait until after the photo to dig into Priya's ice cream.

-- Jacob purchases a beautiful, "fat" scarf that he can't figure out how to wear.

-- We pose outside the only "boy-friendly" stop of the afternoon -- the guys' restroom.

-- We try on ridiculously high heels just to try to be taller than our brother.

-- Priya orders milk "so whole you can still taste the cow."

The day was full of many more jokes, stories, and adventures. It was great to hear about college from all three of these guys, and I am so proud of and impressed by what they all are doing. From Philosophy and Economics to Biochemistry to Accounting, the interests of Katie, Jenny, and Jacob are all over the place! I love being surrounded by smart people with such varied talents -- the one skill they all certainly have in common is bringing out the best in me, and making me beam like no one else can. :)

Day 83: It's time to face the music -- I'm no longer your muse.

Today, I helped out at an annual Thanksgiving Drive hosted by the Laron Landry Leadership for Life (LFL) Foundation. The event was a collaboration between LFL, Sasha Bruce, and Whole Foods.

Landry donated 500 turkeys this year! Before the event began, volunteers gathered, assembly line-style, to bag the turkeys and accompanying sides.

So many bags!!
Once the families arrived, we volunteers kept the traffic moving and helped any persons needing assistance carrying their newly acquired bags.

Amidst the bustle, I found time to get a photo with LaRon (along with autographs for my boys DC and Huge Wooj).

The event warmed my afternoon, and I'd love to volunteer here again in the future, as an excellent way to start Thanksgiving break!


Song of the day:

Diēs LXXXI et LXXXII: Convention is my Christmas.

The 21st and 22nd of November, 2011 were even more glee-full than I had imagined, and that's saying a lot. I won't be able to encapsulate all of the people seen, places gone, or happiness found -- so I'll hit some of the high points. (What am I saying? Latin Convention is just one big high point.)

To back up, the Virginia Junior Classical League Convention is a two-day event which hundreds of students from around the state attend to compete in academic and artistic competitions. But it's always more than that (see my essay "Latin is a lifestyle."). In middle school and all of high school, I was one of those crazy kids running around from event to event, cramming for tests in between taking tests and checking tests I'd already taken.

As a graduate, Convention is pretty different. But not that much. Senior Classical League members (SCLers) are always running, just for different (super-secret) reasons. The group is wonderfully warm and welcoming (to be expected from Latin kids) and it's really fun on the other side of things. (This is for all you kids who just attended your last Convention as a JCLer -- it gets better, believe it or not.)

For example, imagine Kenneson LoudLaugh Chen and Ratna Musella Gill, the infamously loud and crazy JCL duo, actually enforcing discipline during a test session.

Or Woojin and Ratna -- wait, our roles didn't really change: I annoyed my BFF and he got annoyed. I did enjoy helping him with his college homework and SCL campaign, though. Say "salve" to your new Senior Classical League Secretary/Treasurer, Woojin Kim!! (I'm proud.)

I of course can't run through a list of all the people who made Convention what it was, but I was especially lucky to be able to spend some real time with Jannah Babasa, my Certamen soulmate. We were roomies, and also got to run around together fetching coffee for people and (healthy!) lunch for ourselves. She is such an amazing supporter, both as a fan of me (of course) and as a role model for my sister! It was Jannah who was with me when we heard about the crazy awards Priya won this weekend, and she who was freaking out (even more than Priya's own sister) with excitement and pride.

Having had some soulful conversation with my soulmate this weekend, it was WILD to have her on our "Street Certamen" team!! Jannah Babasa, Patrick Sanguineti, and the Gill sisters -- a dream team if there ever was one. We ended up tying for first place with a team of Latin teachers, even though we girls left PSang stranded for the first two questions of the final round (nos paenitet, frater!).

I am so proud (and enamored) of my old VJCL officers board, and really looking forward to seeing the work of the amazing new one elected this weekend!

This is said about each and every Convention, and it's always the truth -- this one really was the best one yet.

Mea culpa!

Carissimi Lectores,

I fully intended to write a post about Latin Convention today, but as I sat down to start typing, I realized I can't miss out on a moment here (the best time of my year) by posting. I will surely update you all after I return home.

Basia mille,
Ratna Musella Gill

Day 80: I am not symmetrical.

I read Sonnet 80 this morning en route to Castra Latina at Flint Hill. This is where students prepare for their tests, perfect their art projects, and polish their creative art performances -- all in preparation for Virginia's state Latin Convention. 

The highlight of my morning was when my BFFL Woojin Kim walked in!! Other high points included a discussion with Mr. Chang on teaching Latin and a session spent introducing a new grammatical concept to the brilliant Christophe Simpson. Nizar and I made our traditional Starbucks run to see Miss Laura, and I had a nice chat with Bassima (his amazing mom) in the parking lot after Castra.

Back at home, I started my (very limited) preparations for a dinner we are hosting tonight, including identifying an outfit and getting some rest. I started this post waiting while Mama had her hair done.


The dinner this evening was a lovely get-together with our friends and family to celebrate how blessed we are to have such wonderful well-wishers. (I would love to write and write and write about the night, but Priya and I have to wake up about four hours from now to travel to Richmond for the convention!) 

Among the many highlights of tonight, one of my favorite moments was having "happy birthday" sung to me in American English, Brazilian Portuguese, and the Spanish of several regions!! 

I feel so fortunate to know the people who were here tonight, and thank God for their presence in my life.

Day 79: Come and open up your folding chair next to me.

Yesterday must have left me more drained than I'd thought, because I woke up at 12:21pm today, perhaps later than ever before in my life.

After eating my lunch (!), I watched the second half of Pocahontas on Disney channel. This film is really intense for a children's movie! Then again, as Laura Kambo once put it, Disney movies are actually movies for adults with animation for children.

I read Sonnet 79 during an ad break, before calling up Dee Dee to discuss our Nutcracker plans for tonight. I learned that unfortunately, she will be working overtime today and won't be able to make it to the show on time! Dee Dee was really disappointed as she had been greatly looking forward to hearing Priya on the piccolo, and especially because she has never seen the ballet before.

To try to cheer her up and rejuvenate her for the long afternoon ahead of her, I packed Dee Dee a snack and set out for the bus stop. While walking, I received a phone call from my brother / best friend Kenneson Chen. We spent a few minutes catching up on current events (i.e. our respective haircuts) before hanging up, looking forward to seeing one another at Latin Convention this weekend!

With superstars Jenny and Angelica after the show.
This evening, the fam (including Laura) went to Flint Hill to watch the annual production of the Nutcracker. Here is my hard-hitting review:

IT WAS GREAT! From the costumes to the technique to the beauuutiful band (shout-out to my favorite flute and trumpet players), the show was a huge success. I had seen it last year too, so it was nice to notice the subtle changes in dress and choreography (I think?) this year. Seeing FHS teachers on stage as the adults in the story is always a hoot, and the little kids who played mini-mice and pocket-sized soldiers were adorable as ever.

I'm so glad we got to see this tonight (sold out show that it is), and Nani said this is the most fun she has had on her trip to America!

Mad props to everyone who was in the spectacular show, and best of success for tomorrow!


Song of the day:


i think too much.

i think too much on metros when i'm afraid to change the song and hurt the artist's feelings.

i think too much.

i think too much on benches when i sip my stale water and connect every lyric to you.

i think too much.

i think too much on weekends when i wonder if cutting my hair enough times will make me stop being seen.

it doesn't hurt.
they all connect.
you still see me.

i think too much.

Day 78: "You think too much."

Ms. Soni and I sport our matching forest green pants.
After reading Sonnet 78 in the car this morning, I received an email notifying me that Jannah Babasa, my Certamen soulmate, will be one of my roommates at Latin Convention this weekend. So my day had been made before 8:00am.

Once in DC, I met the effervescent Monica Soni for breakfast at Farragut West! Monica attends Georgetown University, so catching up in town was perfect for us both. I was so excited to see her for the first time since our high school graduation!! Monica always makes me laugh, and we spent the next two hours animatedly catching up on all things collegiate, giggling away all the while. We plan to meet again soon after Thanksgiving for a special meeting with some International Health specialists at the World Bank -- I sure can't wait!

In great spirits after this uplifting breakfast, I headed to Sasha Bruce House, SBY's group home for girls and boys, to attend Staff Consultation with Clinical Director Ginny Hughes. Here, a number of youth counselors shared their latest "roadblocks" with Ginny, and she helped them brainstorm ways to redirect their sessions in a way more beneficial to their clients and themselves. I of course took copious notes throughout, and learned a lot lot lot.

Around noon, we got a special treat -- one counselor had brought in a family for us all to observe live! As they sat in the den at Bruce House, we staff members sat behind a glass (which appeared to the family as a mirror) and watched them, unseen, as Ginny conducted a session with them.

Sitting in that living room, you would not be able to see me taking this photo from behind the "mirror" -- so cool!

The session itself was spectacular. The family was comprised of a mother and daughter, who were very close, but facing some obstacles in communication. The hour that Ginny spent with them showed us all, as well as the family itself, how close the two are -- it was deeply moving.

At 2, I made a bolt for the metro! I had to be at Flint Hill in time to catch the bus home. On the train, I thought to myself, "Gee, why am I so uptight about being late? I have two hours to get there. Perhaps it is because I used to be petrified when I'd miss the bus in middle and high school. Why am I still scared? I think too much." (Note the BLATANT FORESHADOWING.)

Priya chats with Dana as I frantically dial the cab company.
Once I'd made it to Flint Hill, I picked up Priya from her Latin Club meeting and we dashed to the bus, arriving on time -- only to learn it had left five minutes early today. Searching for another ride, we boarded a different (stationary) bus, where we met Dana, who used to drive me home on the "late bus" sometimes. Five minutes into our conversation, Dana proclaimed, "You think too much." She went on to tell me how stressed out I am, and how I need to enjoy life more. Perhaps she is right. But when the taxi we had to end up calling took an hour to arrive and I was late too late to meet the beautiful girl I was supposed to babysit tonight, I only became more frazzled!

I look forward to a light workout and relaxing bubble bath tonight, and then I'm off to bed. On the very bright side, at least my schedule isn't as busy as Priya's!!