Day 121: "End 2011 on a good note and then just walk away."

I woke up today about to embark on an anamnesis of this year when I received a rather startling email from my sister in France. She had remembered our erstwhile vow to get contemporaneous haircuts this year -- and voila!

Even six time-zone-hours apart, Laura and I are still twins.

Shakespeare had a tough time following this act, but I read Sonnet 121 before giving Ruby Chachu a big ol' "happy birthday and new year" phone call.

Mama and I were then planning to go to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens (prettiest place around) for a walk, but when we stepped outside and found the weather rather blustery, we headed straight to Tysons for some minor freaking out at Forever 21, some major dining at the Nordstrom Cafe, and a wonderful movie!

The Adventures of Tin Tin is a treat. From the romantic animation to the endearing protagonist, this movie is super cute. I would give it 5 stars for sure, and certainly encourage anyone looking for a relaxing afternoon to watch it.

It was also great running into Claire&Anna and Ariana at the mall! After our movie, we picked up some ice cream cupcakes from Coldstone Creamery for tonight and returned home.

I just finished a rigorous run and excruciating ab workout, completing my pre-New Year's resolution to exercise every day leading up to New Year's Eve (at least). Papa's flight home from India was unfortunately delayed, so it's just us three tonight, and we look forward to a quiet night of reflection and thanksgiving. 3pm today also marked the completion of exactly one-third of my gap year -- so far, so good!

Here's wishing you all a 2012 that is blessed through and through.

Smarter. Greener. Better.

Sooo I know I said I was off to bed about an hour ago, but I am proud to announce that I just read the last three articles in September's edition of Scientific American, a special issue all about CITIES! This is the first time I have read a magazine cover-to-cover, and I am feeling accomplished and enlightened.

Most recently, I enjoyed the feature piece where urban leaders and readers of the magazine were asked what innovations they think would make a city substantially more livable. The last blurb on the two-page pastiche is about Participatory Budgeting, which I was able to observe firsthand in Recife this October!

From an environmental standpoint, it's crystal clear that efficiency in cities is going to be a big hurdle -- and also a fun challenge. I can't wait to jump in. Wait up, World! I'm coming. :)

Day 120: If only you were watching.

Extra! Extra! Hear all about it! The latest Melvin Taylor and Ratna Gill original is now out. Click here to hear "Lost and I Like It" -- please leave a comment and let us know what you think!!


After reading Shakespeare's crassly calculating Sonnet 120 this morning, I set out with Priya for an outing with two Jennys and a Jacob.

Left to right: Koala Kuhlthau, Brother Seo, Panda Yao.

The five of us had a great time at the mall, our day spent primarily on eating (with intermittent breaks for materialistic leanings).

Jacob's characteristically crazy Coldstone combination turned out to be really good today (and, as I just noticed, totally matched my outfit!).

Cotton candy ice cream with roasted almonds happens to be the way to go.

Additionally, our little family discovered that we all have an affinity for argyle.

Left to right: Jenny Kuhlthau, Jacob Seo, Ratna Gill.

In the evening, the Js dispersed and Mama met Priya and me at the movie theater for the new Mission: Impossible film. I expected to be writing to tell you all that I confirmed my dislike for action flicks by watching the movie, but Ghost Protocol changed my mind. It has the perfect blend of wit, action, and sentiment -- I certainly recommend it to my readers. (Thanks for the suggestion, Wooj!)

Pooped from the mall's teeth-grinding crowds and the movie's lip-biting action, we arrived home around 10 and I dragged myself downstairs to work out. Before declaring the day's definite desinence, I would like to make a shout-out to a very special person.

The 31st, which has already "dawned" in India, is the birthday of one of my blog's most faithful followers, and the best uncle possible, Ruby Chachu. I hope today and this new year bring him nothing but blessings. Happy birthday to "R. Chach," and to all a good night!

Day 119: But here I am, and here we go again.

Today was my Woojin day!

Awaiting my best bud this morning, I read Shakespeare's 119th sonnet. As I was about to head downstairs in search of something to eat, he arrived in time to introduce me to Panera's "Pick 2" special (and run some of Priya's personal errands, including collecting her glasses from the optometrist and fetching her lunch from Chipotle). I got to hear all about Hopkins from Wooj over our meal, and we discovered the purpose of life: to live. (This conclusion took longer to reach than one might think.)

Back home, Woojin and I had coffee with Priya and Genna (an opportune time for these three to ridicule my hair) before an extended jam sesh. Here is a sample, made possible by the wonderfully creepy team of little sister and little sister's friend:

Everyone already knows this, but today reminded me just how beautiful Woojin's voice is. Seriously, he's incredible and should be famous. Listening to him sing and having the honor of harmonizing with him are enough to make any day.

In the afternoon, Woojin left for work and Mama and I went out to run some errands. Once back, I worked out, read a bit of Ovid, and proudly displayed my Christmas present from HugeWooj in my room.

I noticed as I hung up my new Phineas and Ferb t-shirt that my bulletin board holds mementos from quite a few amazing people I have been able to see recently, including a postcard of Sacred and Profane Love (one of Woojin's and my favorite art pieces); a photo with Mike, Imran, and Erik at Latin Convention; and a dance recital program autographed by Iman Karram -- whom I got to see tonight!

As "payment" for the amazing dance lesson I recently received from Iman, I walked her through the Writing and Critical Reading sections of the SAT this evening. Would it be nerdy to say this was the most fun I had all day? Seeing this standardized test from another's perspective was super interesting -- it was awesome watching countless metaphorical lightbulbs pop up above Iman's head, and we were able to identify cool "hints" and strategies I wish I had known when I was taking it!

Spending time with my little sister is always a blessing, and I can't wait for our next "class."

With work and play out of the way, it's time to catch up with my Priya. Good night, folks!

Day 118: "Just breathe."

Michael takes phenomenal photographs.
I woke up before noon today (egads!) and got ready to spend time with two of my favorite people. Michael Kenneth "Ranula" Velchik and I met Erik "Pep Talk" Fredericksen at Panera for coffee and long overdue catching up (too bad Imran "Errand Boy" Husain couldn't make it!). These two gave me some of the best college insights I've gotten, and really prepared me and pumped me up for Harvard next year! I now know what Freshman Seminar I'm taking, what clubs I'm avoiding, and what books I'm adding to my reading list. These boys have been my role models since I was a wee one, and it's awesome to always have them a few steps ahead of me, looking out for my next move.

Melvin had a field day with his new banjo.

After Mike dropped me off at home, I inhaled some lunch and read Sonnet 118, another one of Shakespeare's sorry excuses for cheating on his lover. Luckily, Katie rescued me from this literary misfortune by taking me over to the studio. The crowd there had very mixed feedback on my haircut -- Melvin asked me why I would do such a thing while Matt complimented the new "do." With these pleasantries (and unpleasantries) aside, we worked on "Lost And I Like It," which is our third original song, and my favorite.

After a philosophical ride home with Katie, I grabbed my book of Ovid and we set off again, this time for Priya's volleyball practice.

Her adorable friend Genna and I now sit in the viewing area chatting when I take breaks from translating. I can't wait to get home so I can work out, pig out, and conk out.

A day-making message from my favorite follower:

you know, i'm always in wonder that you manage to post everyday, and that each post is so cheerful--full of life, love.

everyone has their off-days, so i know you do, too. but you're so positive, and you see the good in even the littlest of things.

it's inspirational. your soul's marvelous. you're marvelous. (i love your blog.)

Day 117: I just haven't met you yet.

Priya and I awoke early this afternoon to a call announcing a surprise visit from some close friends! While waiting for Jennifer and Ingrid to drop in, I read Sonnet 117, page 17 of Ars Amatoria, and one of Grace's college essays. I then called Grace on Skype to review my suggestions.

Just as she and I were wrapping up our talk, my PennPals arrived! It's always great to spend time with Jen, it was awesome to see Ingrid again after so long, and I also had the pleasure of meeting Max, Ingrid's older brother! We enjoyed some nice honey-full tea and had a hilarious conversation ranging from college life and American literature to awkward people and pink ponies.

I hope to visit these girls in Philly soon!
Having bid them farewell, I rushed downstairs for an eight-minute sprint on the treadmill before going with Mama to drop Priya off at a friend's place.

Back home, I concluded my workout at a less frantic pace before tackling some organizing, both online and in my room. I first published two emails Papa had sent me, on Friday and yesterday respectively, about interacting with the students of Gyaan Ghar in Ludhiana (whom I can't wait to see!). Next, I dumped out the contents of my desk drawers and organized them into beauty.

All's well that ends well!
Having helped Mama with a bit of real estate work, I'm off to read some Scientific American . . . the September issue. I'm behind where I want to be on reading, but happy that I've been keeping up with my pre-New Year's resolution to work out everyday during "winter break" aaand really pleased with my new haircut. (But come on, readers, I know the poll at the right doesn't accurately capture how a lot of my bros feel about the new "do" -- I won't be hurt if your vote indicates that you like me better when I look like a girl!) While I go catch up on urbanization, I wish you all a great night!


P.S. Jessie wrote to me while I was typing this post and she says the video I recorded for her was her favorite Christmas present -- thanks fo' everything, sista!

Day 116: Every second is a highlight.

4:39 PM -- I currently wait at Hair Pair as my bro KenChen gets his hair cut.

After breakfast with Mama and my daily reading of William and Publius this morning, Kenneson and I went to Chipotle for lunch and a debrief on the various vicissitudes of our lives. It was great to have an opportunity to just talk, and of course enjoy our usual warbling wordplay.

We then drove into Vienna for haircuts, and when we learned we'd have to wait about an hour, we chilled in the car and poured out our minds some more. During this conversation, we learned that we are both the same Myers-Briggs personality type, and found an eerily accurate description of our respective temperaments which accurately and ironically explains many of our recent experiences. As our appointment time approached, we took "before" shots of our hair for posterity!

7:23 PM -- Priya and I are now recording a song for Jessie Conradi in our basement.

After KC and I belted out some horrific harmonies in his car, we came home and Priya took our post-haircut photo for us. (Vote on the right as to whether you like mine -- the aforementioned video is the best place to get a real sense of how it looks.)

I am happy to report that my hair is still slightly longer than Kenneson's!

9:29 PM -- I finish this post while talking to Varlet #1 online as Mama walks on the treadmill.

After we recorded, Priya and I worked out (I love not needing to put my hair in a ponytail) and then stuffed our faces with pizza (oops). I sent a message to some of my ex-Facebook friends requesting them to like my mom's Vienna Community page before coming downstairs. After I sign off, Mama has promised to tell me some stories about her recent trip to Bolivia and Peru. ¡Chao!

Day 115: All I want for Christmas is Ū.

I arose today to morning yoga and an intense, all-encompassing Christmas prayer. (If you are reading this, I probably prayed for you.) After Sonnet 115 and a page of Ovid, Priya and I watched a variety of Christmas specials on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

Big Time Rush is a fast favorite of the Gill sisters.

Feeling marginally less lazy now, we rearranged some furniture in our living room to make Priya's piano more central -- new sibling music videos to come!

Mama and I then embarked on a "click-and-run" drive through the Town of Vienna, collecting photographs for her Facebook page called "Live in Vienna, Virginia" -- y'all should "like" it! Driving around for more than an hour on zero fuel and even less engine oil was quite an adventure for our nerves.

Back home, I spent a few fun hours writing questions for the Flint Hill Certamen before a relatively rigorous workout and personal preparations (primping) for dinner tonight.

The Christmas dinner we attended was a pink-and-blue-themed party at the home of our wonderful family friends the Setlurs. The night was very merry, full of yummy Indian food and great friends old and new. One highlight for me was meeting UVA senior Anisha Gorur, who is also born on November 2nd! I only know one other person with my birthday (I'm looking at you, Ms. Smerke), so we of course spent the rest of our conversation trying to find as many similarities as possible between us.

Ratna, Anisha, Roshni, and Priya flaunt the pink and blue.

And it was awesome, as always, to see the stunning Neha home from college in Canada! We had an all-around great evening. I now look forward to reviewing a dear friend's college essay before counting my blessings and calling it a night.

Lots of Christmas love to you all.

Song of the night:

Day 114: Don't want no paper ganster.

I woke up wonderfully sore this morning (I love being sore) and Mama and I headed out to find me a pair of reading glasses! I was diagnosed in high school with computer vision syndrome (a fancy way of saying that I spend too much time staring at a screen everyday) and have finally ordered some glasses to lessen the strain on my eyes. In no time at all, I identified a pair that is sufficiently geeky, and we were all set!

They look weirder on my face, I promise.

Back home, Mama and I trekked around our neighborhood passing goodie bags out to our neighbors. I make such a good elf!

After thawing myself, showering, and reading Sonnet 114, it was off to Cosi (again!!) for a late lunch with RAckerman and Sienna.

We got that matching-college-sweatshirt-and-tandoori-chicken-sandwich swagger.

We had a great time, and when Ryan got jealous of me teaching Sienna Latin conditionals on the sheet of paper used to line my tray, he gave me a lesson on Spanish subjunctive and imperatives. Gratias, Raeane!

Si Raeanus laetus est, gaudeo.
Next, back at the ranch (i.e. my house), I worked out with Priya and then read enough Ars Amatoria so that my Ovid reading is exactly 100 pages behind my Shakespeare.

Having procrastinated on some work I need to do by writing to Laura, I now plan to continue the same by having dinner and a movie with my darling sister. Please don't put coal in my stocking, Santa!


Song of the day:

Day 113: All we had for sustenance was that song.

Today was literally my "lucky day," as the number 113 is my favorite number! (As you will see from the photos in this post, I have a bit of an obsession.)

After I had read Sonnet 113, Mama and I spent the morning at the doctor's office, where I got a flu shot and learned more about the nagging headache I always seem to have. Hoorah!

While waiting to be seen, I started the chapter on Plato in The Story of Philosophy. However, my somnolence soon overcame my scholarship, and I ended up napping on the couch in the waiting room for a good hour or so.

Back home, I wolfed down some lunch and some Ovid before sleeping for a short while (yes, again) and then getting ready to record with Melvin this afternoon.

Mrs. Pope picked me up and we headed to the studio, where my challenge for today was to write lyrics for a new upbeat Melvin Taylor original about traveling the world -- how totally gap-year-a-licious! We were all feeling tired out of our minds and rather irreverent today, so the session was fun and laid back. Melvin and I even posed for a "professional" photoshoot! (Evidence to come.)

When we had made sufficient progress with our new song, Matt (also known as the rapper Matt Christian) showed me the fully edited version of the Spanish song we recorded on Wednesday (he claims its title should be "Matt's Song" because it is clearly written about him). Regardless of addressee, it sounds great and I can't wait to share it with you guys! I'll let you know as soon as it's on YouTube.

Back home, I practiced the dance Iman choreographed for me before running on the treadmill, still sore from yesterday. After a super-spicy dinner, Priya and I helped Mama wrap some little goodie bags she will be giving her real estate clients for Christmas. She joked that we Gill sisters resembled elves, so I broke into a realtor-specific rendition of It's The Hard Knock Life, all of which, I am embarrassed to say, Mama caught on camera. (That is one video I will probably not be sharing on here.)

About to doze off again, I now declare the 113th Gap Day of this year . . . adjourned.


P.S. Please share this blog with one person you know today. I'd love to have 113 subscribers by Christmas! I'm at 70 . . .

P.P.S. No, I didn't take all of these photos today.

Day 112: I'm still waiting in line.

Last night, I finally finished Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol! His books are great because they supply an encyclopedia-worth of information on history, language, and culture while also including blood-boiling suspense. This should go without saying, but these books really should be read at a stretch. (I made the foolish mistake of taking a multiple-day break just as the plot was reaching its climax. Oops!) The ending was great though, and zoomed out from the vicissitudes of the action novel to apply the book's themes to humanity as a whole. It's definitely worth a read, especially for DC-dwellers, and you'll fly through it if you're not silly like me!

Today, I got to see my girls Jennifer and Aimee. Each attends the perfect college for her -- Jen is studying nursing at the University of Pennsylvania while Aimoo is a dance major at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. They both love Philly, and their adventures in school are beyond amazing -- after being regaled with their stories, I now can't wait for life post gap year!

I didn't have to fill them in on much, as they have been keeping up with my blog (they check to see if I've posted each night before going to bed -- thanks, guys!!) but it was nice to share some general (and rather rambling) observations about my year with them. Catching up with the friends with whom one has grown up is always a treat, and I wish you both the best for your second semester!

Jennifer and I spent the ride home talking about how cute Aimee is. When she dropped me off, I read my 14 lines of Shakespeare and 14 lines of Ovid before changing into some dance attire, for . . .

This afternoon, I had the privilege of a "private dance lesson" from danseur extraordinaire Iman Karram herself! (Today must have been my dancer day.) I had requested Iman over the weekend to show me some more moves that I could incorporate into the simple combinations I sometimes choreograph for myself at home. After arriving at her studio today, we first stretched, and then Iman performed several of her numbers for me. Next, she led me in a series of across-the-floor drills (with great feedback), and, lastly, taught me a dance to Katy Perry's Firework. I videotaped this last piece so I can work on it at home.

But I left with so much more than slightly-improved technique and a new dance to learn. Throughout the lesson, Iman narrated a number of the small considerations dancers have to keep in mind while performing, things an audience member would never dream they were thinking. In other words, good dancers make it seem so easy! This "behind-the-scenes" insight has made me admire and respect Iman even more -- thanks so much for our afternoon together, sis!

At home, I hit the treadmill before helping Mama format a newsletter that she plans to send to her real estate clients. Now that Priya and I are done hanging out in the pillow fort we just made under my desk, I think I am ready for bed. Can't wait for Day 113!


Song of the day:


I love
when little boys and little girls
stand at the threshold
of the playroom full of toys in our basement.

They all have that same look of something beyond amazement
and it makes me smile
because I wonder if anything will amaze me that much again.

Day 111: "I just play the blues and pay my dues."

Priya and I ended up switching from our Spanish film last night to one centered around Hispanic culture, though not in Spanish. From Prada to Nada is totally a chick flick, but is very well done, and based on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. I really enjoyed the smattering of Spanish, the choice of lead actor, and the happy ending -- but I'm a sucker for romantic comedies. Objectively speaking, I'd give it 3.5 stars, but it was the perfect movie for the night.

This morning, I read my daily dose of Shakespeare and Ovid before finishing up my lyrics for the original song Melvin and I were to record later. Since half of the song is in Spanish and my Spanish is hopeless, I enlisted the help of my bud Ryan Ackerman. Thanks, bro!

As I was concluding my consultation with Ryan, Katie Pope picked me up and we went to lunch. After briefly catching up, we headed to her house-cum-studio, where I recorded the vocals for our new song.

Melvin then added some brilliant layers of guitar to the track, as Matt (family friend and sound engineer) edited the song to perfection. Matt is such a kind and talented guy, and all of us had a great time goofing off together at the Pope residence today!

After filming a few takes of video (the finished product should be up soon), I got to rest my voice and Katie and I went to the movies. We saw New Year's Eve, an outlier even in the oh-so-classy world of romantic comedy.

Our main reason for choosing the film had been the fact that it stars Ashton Kutcher, but we ended up leaving with a lot more respect for Zac Efron. Teenage girl jokes aside, it's a fun film with the same structure as Valentine's Day, and offers an interesting insight into how people view the new year as a time to reevaluate and forgive. I would certainly recommend it as an enjoyable movie that is also appropriately thought-provoking. It can have 5 stars from me!

Having left the theater with tears streaming down our cheeks, Katie and I then headed to South Moon Under, where Katie purchased some clothing for her blog. As most of you can probably tell, I've never had much of an interest in fashion -- but I find Fashion Prowess artistically and aesthetically excellent. You all should check it out!

Katie dropped me home just in time for a rather late workout and a healthy meal. (Over dinner, I had what Priya calls an "existential crisis" and pointed out to the little sis that the two acts that make me most happy are performing music and reading literature.) Having gone through a few iterations of mock District Band auditions, Priya and I are now ready to party it up! In other words, we are going to study some Latin together before going to bed.

Bonam noctem vobis!

Day 110: No, there is nothing perfunctory about it.

I rolled out of bed pretty late this morning, and prepared to have coffee with two very special people -- my bros Nizzy and Woojin. Varlet #1 wanted the wisdom of Poppa Wooj and Momma Rat as he navigates the rather rollercoaster-like college admissions process. The get-together was fun and lighthearted, and gave me a chance to get on Woojin's nerves, as usual. (Of course, he and I coincidentally ordered the same drink -- syzygy status!)

I seem a bit more excited about my coffee frappuccino than he does.
Looking forward to seeing them both again soon, I returned home, where I read Sonnet 110 before finding my sister Laura online! We got to catch up for the first time in quite a while, and both dumped the latest and greatest of our lives on one another via Skype before it was time for her daily French lesson in Pallier.

Tu me manques beaucoup, ma soeur jumelle!
Priya and I worked out after this, and just as I had scrawled a piece about Starbucks this morning and was about to crack open my Ovid as a cool-down exercise, I received an exciting surprise visitor -- the infamous Mr. Chen! My bff dropped by just to say "hallo--er--salve" and be made fun of for his involuntary Indian accent. As is evident below, some jokes were made at my expense as well.

When good Latin goes bad...Kenneson Chen.
Kenneson and I concluded our usual externally inscrutable exchanges just in time to bid Papa farewell as he set off for India. Then, I finally did my Ovid reading before helping Priya prepare for her All-District Band audition. Having been through a few of these myself (though for choir), I assumed the role of adjudicator and walked her through a number of practice audition scenarios. What a band geek!

I plan to spend the rest of my evening attempting to write lyrics for the song I'll be recording with Melvin tomorrow, before settling in for a Spanish film with the hermanita. What a fun day spent with so many of my favorite people.

¡Buenas noches a todos!

Holiday Roast

At Starbucks, I excuse myself for a moment to use the restroom. En route, an obstruction presents itself.

The arm of a woman who just can't decide. She reaches from her spot in line to a nearby shelf, admitting guiltily, "I keep switching between these two!" In her hand lies a small-sized package of Starbucks Christmas blend coffee; on the shelf now rests a newly-deposited large one.

She doesn't know she's talking to the queen of indecision. I couldn't number the times I've "switch[ed] between...two."

Between two schools.
Between two languages.
Between two loves.

"I feel you," I laugh affably, and continue to the bathroom.

Day 109: Mujhe bhi iss baar hua.

After I read Sonnet 109 this morning, Papa, Priya, and I headed into DC for a visit to the bank. A wonderfully warm representative helped us, and I learned that he too took a gap year after high school! Andrew spent his year teaching English in Madrid. After he had helped us with our bank work, he gave me some suggestions on how to polish my Español, including watching movies in Spanish, and frequenting a website called Livemocha. ¡Gracias, Andrew!

With work out of the way, we lunched at Rōti, which Priya and I have classified as the Mediterranean version of Chipotle. It's a great quick place in northwest DC -- I encourage y'all to try it. We then checked out the new World Bank fitness center, which is glorious.

Back home, the Gill sisters "catnapped" before I read some Ovid and enjoyed a fun workout (during all of which Priya ridiculed my choice of floor exercises). 

After quick showers, our family set out for Bull Run Park, where there is an annual lights show.

The drive-thru display of holiday cheer is really charming, and I'd strongly recommend exploring it over the holidays.

At the end of the show lay a small carnival! I had a sudden funnel cake craving, which we satisfied before dropping off a Christmas present (which I am very proud to have wrapped) at the home of one of Mama's real estate clients who lives nearby. 

I write this post in the car on the way home, where we're going to continue the Bollywood film we started yesterday (Mere Brother Ki Dulhan) -- I saw it earlier this year, but it's almost better the second time! Very cute. 

Happy holidays to all --