The end of the week started in grand style, with the fall "jam" of my a cappella group, The Harvard Opportunes -- this is our biggest performance of the semester. I had been feeling under the weather earlier in the day, but am proud to report that this was the most high-energy (and energizing) performance I've ever been a part of. (Videos will be up soon!) What made the night extra special was the plethora of people who came to see me! Almost all of my friends and advisors here on campus were able to come, and there's nothing like performing for an audience you love. Papa even flew up from Virginia to watch my show!
After our awesome gig, we retreated to one Opportune's room to celebrate our success and spend time with former members of the group. It was great to see everyone so excited after our show, and to meet the legends we "babies" often hear about during rehearsals.
On Saturday, I met Papa for lunch in Cambridge, still pumped from our performance. We ran a few errands around town, including purchasing a whole new batch of decongestants for me and beginning some birthday preparations for a very special almost-18-year-old. :)
As the clock struck 11:50, we raced to Reylon's room to be there in time for the beginning of his birthday. As Rey, Alice, Mim, and Gita watched Japanese cartoons in their common room, Javier and I continued to slog away at our math, pausing only briefly for Reggaetonal interludes. At midnight, we sang a slow and torturous refrain of "happy birthday" to Reylon and force-fed him some cake before returning to our homework.
Around 2:00, Javier walked a coy me back to Greenough, where I fell quickly asleep, looking forward to more celebration this morning. This came in the form of a birthday brunch for Reylon at the wonderful Veggie Planet, where I got to meet his friend Colton and spend more time with his roommate Andrew.
We discussed our presents and our futures and managed to reference enough YouTube videos in the process that we had to return to Reylon's room after brunch to watch them all.
I'm now back in my dorm ready for a nap before Latin homework, dinner with Kirin, and a calculus exam. Huzzah!
Well, where I am now, one doesn't have to go looking for education and inspiration. Now that it is literally at every corner, I'm already feeling like I won't have enough time to learn "it all." I don't want to concentrate in anything -- if it were possible, my education would consist of an infinite number of lectures on an infinite number of topics. But until I've designed that "Everything" major, I'll continue to vary my course selection salad as much as I possibly can.
This morning, my math and bio professors breezed so quickly through the material that it was literally risible (though perhaps I shouldn't have been the one laughing).
My seminar on climate change makes me think about my place in the world every time. Latin class drops my jaw on a regular basis.
As it started to snow today, I thought to myself: I could fall to my knees and pray to any part of this experience.
A bit too typical grateful Ratna? Maybe not. It's been not even three months and already the thought that I only have four years here is tugging at me. I already have memories here. I have found some of the friends I was searching for, and the thoughts I've always wanted to think are buoyed by the general tone of support of my peers and professors.
I'm really happy to be here...and now.
It started last night with dinner with my wonderful peer advisor Allie Pace and a phone serenade from Nizar's a cappella group, Naturally Sharp. I returned to my dorm around 10 to an explosion of my twin Kirin, accosting me with chai and donuts and Nic and love, which lasted the rest of the night.
The wonder that is Reylon came over shortly before midnight, along with a trickling in of awesome Greenough hallmates, who made too much noise for a good while as we awaited the countdown to midnight.
real spoken word.
I am blown away by many of the words of the night, from Kirin's note that made me cry, Javier's card that made me smile, and Reylon's craaazy documentary of our friendship. When the other friends were gone, Reylon shared with me a video that journals the beginnings of our ESPP alliance, with inside jokes at every turn. I would have watched it over and over again if it hadn't been so late past my bedtime.
I awoke to the delivery of a cake that looks like it should be in an art museum. Papa, the amateur cake design enthusiast, surprised me with this beauty. I spent the rest of the day trying to find a group big enough to help me eat it. (I found one -- the Opportunes.)
After a morning math class came the best birthday present imaginable -- a visit from Dashell Laryea. Inspired by one of his admirable best friends, Dashell is currently taking a year off from Yale. He's interning with The Philanthropy Roundtable in D.C. until December, after which he'll be working for a start-up company. Cool stuff! This conversation, though shorter than I would have like, absolutely made my day, and left me feeling like I could do anything as I walked into Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, my favorite class of the semester.
Biology is art, and after appreciating its aesthetic value for an hour (that's all I got from today's lecture), I picked up my mail and went out for lunch with my roomie! Dr. Chang found a beautiful Indian buffet close to our dorm, where she took me for a delicious GillChang date.
In a food coma after our lunch, I opened cards from Patrick and Priya before taking history's shortest nap and setting out for the train station!
I am now on retreat with the Opportunes in Walpole, Massachusetts, looking forward to a night of celebrations with my lovely family!
Thank you all for my favorite birthday.
The day started with breakfast with Kirin Gupta, my Indian gap year-taking twin on campus. We got to exchange notes on the "first year of college after gap year" phenomenon, as well as exchange both general notes on our academic interests and expressions of our undying love for one another. Always a great way to start the day.
On the way back to my dorm, I purchased some organic kiwis as a birthday present for my kiwi-loving roommate Eliza Chang! I arrayed these on her desk before walking down to the river in today's 70s and cloudless weather.
Taking place today was the Head of the Charles Regatta, the world's largest two-day rowing event, which takes place right here at Harvard every year. The sun and the crowds and the energy were amazing.
I retreated from the race to a nearby cafe to begin my research project on Sustainable Cities!
This is a report I'll be writing for my freshman seminar (Public Policy Approaches to Global Climate Change) and I couldn't be more excited! Reading about urbanization and urban innovation in the midst of such energizing surroundings was perhaps my favorite part of the day.
Scratch that. My favorite part of the day was what came next! The Harvard Opportunes, my amaaazing a cappella group and second family here on campus, performed at the wedding of Dan and David at the Harvard Faculty Club this afternoon, and the gig was incredible. The wedding was moved outdoors because of today's spectacular weather, and we sang beautifully (if I do say so myself) as we glistened in the autumn sun. Yeah!
Walking back from the quad, I called Mama and described my day to her with breathless excitement, and received a request to blog about it. So, here it is, and I'm off now to have dinner with one of my best friends before watching another one perform in The House of Yes.
Work can wait -- life is great.
My attention in class wanes as the week waxes, but a byproduct of this is that I also wax philosophical. It's almost laughable how lost I feel in some (all?) of my classes right now, and remarkable how okay I am with it. My little sister was talking to me last night about how high school sometimes makes her feel stupid, to which yesterday's Ratna responded the following:
"I have purposely plunged myself into experiences designed to make me feel 'stupid' this semester. My climate change seminar is filled with people who understand the world better than I do. My math class (which, it should be pointed out, is of the lowest level offered at Harvard) feels like it is being played in fast forward every morning. In my bio class, it is impossible to take notes for a second without missing the next ten slides' worth of information (the study of life is killing me). My a cappella group is pushing me to turn around parts faster than I've ever done before (i.e. feel tonedeaf). Even the Latin isn't as intuitive this year."
I guess I could be chipper and say I enjoy the challenges, but it's not exactly the challenge of it all that I enjoy. I just enjoy being here. The information means something to me. It's been an interesting insight into what is important to me as an individual, what I enjoy doing the most (which turns out to be studying), and how happy coffee makes me.
Speaking of which, this whole post might be a product of the aforementioned, and is it bad that I drafted this during class?!
I had received an email informing me of a package waiting for me in the mail room this morning, and, after breakfast with Javier, I hurried to the basement of the Science Center to check it out. Waiting for me was the most attractive and thoughtful gift I've ever seen -- a case for my iPhone. But rather than being composed of neutral colors or adorned with a brand name, this case is a patchwork of photographs taken during my gap year, of images close to my heart.
Tierney Manning is my big sister, one of many amazing female role models I'm blessed to know and have spent time with during the year. When I called her as she was in slumber (she works at the ER and spends days catching up on sleep) to leave her a squeaky voicemail thanking her for sending me the cutest thing I've ever seen, she texted me back saying, "I'm sooooooo glad you love it. I know you were stressed about leaving a chapter in your life and now you can memorialize it!" What an amazing friend. Her addendum to this was, "plus, I miss you and have an excuse to send you a picture of us!" I don't know what I've done to deserve such awesome people in my life (the one who designed the case as well as those pictured on it), but I know that this post could just as appropriately be titled "Could there be a better friend?!" Tierney, you've made my day. Again.
Back up -- what's an Opportune? I've spent the last week auditioning for various a cappella groups, preparing an excerpt from Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah for my short solo audition the first night, different assigned songs for nights two and three, and finally, after much sleepless deliberation, The Chain for my full-length solo yesterday. At each of these audition nights, we were also taught our parts in a fairly complicated background "block" which we were to spew out again after a moment's practice, leaving my mathematically inept mind in a tizzy (music notes are just numbers!).
The process was at times nerve-wracking, horrendous on occasion, but always exciting. And beautiful. I had at least one moment during each of these auditions when I was left thinking, "Music, man -- this is all we have," or something equally all-encompassing (admittedly, these moments were usually brought on by tenors singing in falsetto).
Final Night yesterday was breathtaking. (Almost literally, as members of the Opportunes urged us auditionees up the endless stairs to Lowell Bell Tower, where we perched in candlelit celebration of song.) I cried at least twice, once upon hearing the seniors' speeches about their time with the group through their college days and once when they sang a beautiful song that was a little too close to home. :)
Imagine my glee, therefore, at my wake-up call this morning! I can only laugh at what the bouncy group saw when they looked back at me as I cracked the door open -- red eyes squinting, slightly crusty retainer grinning, flannel pajamas and Flint Hill Yearbook t-shirt soon to be stickily soaked. They made a great hullabaloo, handed me the champagne bottle and a dozen donuts (presumably to appease hallmates awoken at this hour), and stomped away chanting, "WE'VE GOT BABY OPPORTUNES! WE'VE GOT BABY OPPORTUNES!"
I wish I could write daily and tell you guys how the move to college has been the most beautiful transition of my life, but the rampant socializing and sickness that are so quintessential to my existence tend to render this intensity of writing impractical.
Everything is great. This week is Shopping Week, which sounds like we can all run around and take whatever classes we want for a week with neither homework nor responsibility, but actually ends up being mayhem as very few of us currently know what we're doing with our lives...or our semesters.
I was just internally groaning at how the majority of my course load looks like it will require me to employ the left (and admittedly less developed) side of my brain, before I shuffled into my Latin class and staggered out just a bit bowled over by the beauty being poured at the students for no reason but aesthetic appreciation. In my case, this appreciation also led to enthusiastic yelps which served hopefully to convince Anne Marie that this class may be an enjoyable use of her time this semester.
So thank you, friends, and thank you, planet, for my 365 gap days.
This was the perfect way to start my last gap day. Allie was eager and excited to hear stories about my year in detail, and made me go back and appreciate, once again, the incredible experiences I've been blessed enough to enjoy this year, from Brasil to Bogotá to Bombay to Boston. She certainly invited me to think about every aspect of my life as a student and a person, and we enthusiastically celebrated the beauty that is life and love and learning.
A comment Allie made about only having two years left here at Harvard reminded me immediately of Marina Keegan's "Bygones," which I read to Allie at the table, leaving her, as it should have, speechless. My goal was to have memorized the poem by now, but I'm a bit behind. However, as "Bygones" has been one of the most influential and inspiring pieces of writing for me, I decided to do a reading for you all today as I did from Rostand's Cyrano on Day 1.
After my meeting with Allie, I headed to the Science Center for a series of presentations called "How to Harvard." The first of these was to instruct us on how to sign up for classes, and the second was on study tips and best reading practices. The latter was a welcome reminder of how slowly I read (and how short my attention span has become). Javier and I bemoaned our skimming abilities together before going to the Coop, which hosts a delicious array of Harvard gear. We spent nearly an hour looking for an academic planner for Javier, and a notebook that would "feel like success" when he held it in his hands. I was not nearly so ambitious, but did manage to pick up a small treat for myself.
It was back to the dorm after this to start this post before dinner with my very own Anne Marie! I'm so happy to know so many fabulous upperclassmen here, and it was lovely to scarf down salads at Oggi as we caught up on all the summer's Latin drama. Breathless after gossiping endlessly, I returned to my room to meditate before going out again.
I'm now on my way to an outdoor screening of Legally Blonde, a meeting with my proctor, and the First Chance Dance, to which I am proud to be escorting my bro Tina Qian. It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!
Although I still do not understand my math placement score, two wonderful things came out of attending this session.
First, I bumped into Javier Aranzales, Bogotá boy and ballet dancer with whom I'd exchanged some salsa obsession messages via Facebook earlier in the year.
Second, the three of us received news of our Freshman Seminar applications, and each was accepted into his/her top choice! I'l be taking Public Policy Approaches to Global Climate Change, a fact about which I couldn't be more excited.
After this looovely reunion, I gave my girl Laura a call en route to a morning meeting with my Academic Advisor. This was super fun and probably the best part of my day as I got to drool over courses that I'll be checking out during Shopping Week and gush about them to Elaine. My interests are all over the place, so in addition to the obvious Classics and Environmental Science classes, I'll be attending "sample" classes in Sociology, English, Economics, Philosophy, Portuguese, and the like.
After all this geeking out, it was time to fill in Varlet #1 on my time in college thus far. Nizar and I chatted via Skype, meaning that I gave myself a haphazard manicure while trying to recreate for him the magnificent lecture I heard on Tuesday. Soon, it was time to head to lunch (calling Mama and Nani on the way) and more devouring of the course catalogue.
After two plates filled entirely with vegetables, I stopped back at Greenough for a brainstorming sesh with the roomie about what she should take this semester. Running commenced again, as I flitted between Divisional Academic Fairs, visiting the buildings for Math, Engineering, and the Sciences to learn about the Environmental Science and Public Policy major, for Arts and Humanities to "socialize" with some Classics students, and for Social Sciences to find out what the heck Sociology is.
Soon, it was back to the room for more research before a very well done performance called "Sex Signals" delivered to educate freshmen about gender stereotypes and sexual abuse. The actors were absolutely terrific, and had Eliza and me laughing like never before.
Still in splits, we headed back to our dorm for a major heart-to-heart about high school and the transition to college life. We have the most interesting things coincidentally in common! (Not to mention that we inadvertently donned matching clothing today.) Time for some more roomie love and Skype with the sis!
From here, Marcy, Alex, and I headed to a meeting with our academic advisor, Elaine Strunk. Elaine is the Manager for Sustainability Engagement in the Office of Sustainability here at Harvard. This informal lunch in the grass was a great way to learn more about Marcy and Alex and their interests, as well as get to meet Elaine. A funny moment came after our meal when a dining hall worker lectured the four of us on how to properly separate our waste materials from lunch before throwing it out. Preaching to the choir, bro.
Next, I attended a lecture called "What Darwin Didn't Know" given by Professor Hopi Hoestra of the departments of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology and Molecular & Cellular Biology. Though I probably didn't understand half of the talk, I was happy to have the chance to learn something beyond the realms of my intellectual specialty. I made a quick call to Laurita on my way back to Greenough, where I met Helen, my proctor, who then accompanied me to the Bureau of Study Counsel. This group guides students with reading and study tips, and was having an open house today. Another group having an open house was the Wellness Center, where Helen and I gladly went for free 10-minute massages. This was NICE.
Since then, I've been meditating, resting, and catching up on housekeeping items. The rest of the evening holds dinner, another entryway meeting, and perhaps a salsa lesson with the Ballroom Dance Team!
I had breakfast with a very special friend this morning -- Priya Gill! We wanted to say one last goodbye, and to discuss our concerns and quandaries as we both embark on hugely new phases of our lives. We also read a bit of Latin together so that Priya could go home and say, "I studied Latin at Harvard."
Farewells aside, I made my way to our "first official welcome to Harvard" from Dean Shapiro, our Resident Dean. Directly afterwards, Eliza, Dipti, and I attended a brief presentation called "Student Computing @ Harvard" -- while figuring out the college's technology, I also completed my remaining Freshman Seminar applications from my cell phone to make the deadline at noon -- phew!
We then headed over to check our campus mailboxes. Send me love!
I touched briefly back down at Greenough before attending a lecture by Jill Lepore entitled "The Meaning of Life." Suffice it to say that the first Harvard lecture I attended made me cry. Through her at first jocular but throughout brilliant analysis of the board game "Life," Professor Lepore gave us something to think about as we define our lives at Harvard. My tears at the end came perhaps due to the similarities in message of the lecture and Marina Keegan's poem Bygones, my favorite work.
Mind blown by this lecture, I caught up with PSang before heading to dinner with Jude. Over our spinach and sweet potatoes, we discussed various Latin and Greek authors and some of the Classics course offerings here over which we're currently drooling. I made my way over to our second entryway meeting next, during which we played another mingling game and acted out common roomie strife scenarios. We trickled from here into an ice cream social for Greenough residents, where I got to talk to Kevin, a neighbor and German and theater enthusiast! We talked about parallels between Shakespearean English as compared to Latin and as compared to German, and he encouraged me to come out for theater auditions -- I just might have to!
I'm back in my dorm now to meet my 12 o'clock Cinderella blog curfew and avoid being turned into a pumpkin!
We made a super-efficient team, with Priya hanging up my clothes and lugging things upstairs as Papa fetched breakfast and opened boxes while Mama and Nani made my bed and everything around it and I just admired everything.
For the person who did the least amount of physical labor, I sure seemed the most wiped out at the end of our morning moving sesh, and I arrived at the ID Services office looking less than optimal for my Harvard ID photo. The photographer seemed to sense this, as he commented on how nervous I looked, and went on to try to soothe my nerves. Seeing the ID printed was a joy however, and I almost squealed with delight when he handed it to me. I am officially a college student.
At lunchtime, we made the very important discovery that Cambridge has a BonChon! We enjoyed our double-fried Korean barbecue before rushing to a welcome event at Sanders Theatre. This presentation was a welcome to our parents on behalf of the University, and Priya and I perhaps should not have been in attendance. In any case, we rushed from this event back to Target to pick up a few last dorm items before making one trip back to Greenough to put everything in its place.
From here, the family rushed to get me dinner at Panera before my first entryway meeting at 8. I am so happy to have shared this experience with them all, but especially to have had Nani's company and guidance during the run-up to college -- she came all the way from India to drop me off!
Tired and teary, I met with fellow Greenough residents out front for our first icebreaker-and-updates orientation meeting of the week. We received lots of important and breathtakingly exciting notices during this two-hour stretch, and returned to the dorm for an unofficial meeting of our hall. Eliza's out tonight, and I eager to finish these last Freshman Seminar applications -- wish me luck!
At this time, we headed to Boston Harbor to eat lunch at Wagamama and ogle at sky writers adorning the heavens with ribbons of Red Sox pride. Then it was quickly onward to Target for a stop to collect last-minute items like notebooks, hangers, and a mini fridge (everything purchased happened to be turquoise).
In the afternoon, we stopped by Greenough, my dorm, again, and I got to meet my roommate for the year! Eliza and I had talked online, but it was wonderful to make her acquaintance in person . . . and to see our lovely room! The whole Gill squad joined in and we spent the better part of an hour rearranging furniture until we had turned our two individual rooms into one big bedroom / "socializing" room and one cozy study.
We left Greenough tired out and sweating, and returned to our hotel to freshen up, and for me to start this post. We're now on our way out for dinner in Harvard Square!
I listened to music on Priya's amazing headphones in the car along the way, as Nani fed me bowl after bowl of the biryani she had prepared just for me. We stopped briefly in Annapolis to get a photograph of Mama and me at a marina where we were photographed together 15 years ago.
I tried to get sleep at one point, and was fairly successful, but woke speaking a crude Punjabi line from "Angreji Beat."
It didn't seem like long before we were approaching Cambridge, my home for the next four years. We all gaped like children at the buildings and the river and the shops, before locating Greenough Hall and taking a peek (move-in is on Monday). We wove through the campus a bit longer before making our way to our hotel.
We had plans to go out for dinner but scrapped them in light of the fatigue we've accumulated today. We also accumulated photos and memories, and hope to gather many more tomorrow!
After breakfast and some further polishing of my Freshman Seminar applications, it dawned on me that out of the myriad times I've been to the doctor this year, not one was an annual exam. We scrambled to make some appointments and set out for first one and then the other, with haphazard packing shoved in between.
This monotony of chaos was broken in the afternoon by a visit by my beautiful sister Iman Karram to say goodbye. Although she only stayed for a few minutes, we both got to spill our thoughts to one another one last time before I set off tomorrow. I'm so thankful she came to visit.
After my second doctor's visit in the afternoon, we bought some locally grown peaches and then Nani helped me dye my hair with henna. As this goop settled on my head and started to dry, I gave Nani her first iPad lesson, setting up her email, iTunes, Facebook, and Skype accounts. I'm looking forward to spreading my addiction to technology!
Since then, it's been ripping clothing off hangers and stifling sniffles. As Iman and I discussed today, "big changes" don't usually hit me until after the fact. But this one is sinking in suddenly -- I'm going to college!
Song of the day: http://youtu.be/g5sucb2mTAk
During the drive to Jiffy Lube Live, Woojin helped us "study" for the concert we'd be experiencing by playing his "Kelly Clarkson and The Fray Concert Prep" playlist for us in the car. We enjoyed a fancy dinner at Subway where I was nicknamed "The Storm" and we learned of Wooj's Tyler Ward obsession before making our way to JLL. We now sit in the lawn enjoying the air and ambience as we listen to Carolina Liar open for Ms. Clarkson and The Fray!
After a late breakfast, Nani helped me pack, once and for all, my first batch of Harvard apparel, a bag containing woolens galore.
As we set this suitcase aside, I spruced my room up a bit and started a set of applications for some Freshman Seminars that will be offered next year. I first finished my essay for Complexity in Works of Art: Ulysses and Hamlet and then worked on applications for Happiness in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis and Public Policy Approaches to Global Climate Change.
It is remarkable how much my travels during this year helped in writing these last two apps, as I could cite counseling at Sasha Bruce and meditation in Mumbai as two major "experiences" I've had with happiness, and could discuss my work with EPA and TNC in the essay about environmental policy. It's nice to be reminded once again how much I've learned this year.
Next, it was time to organize my shoes for Boston, eat some lunch, write a bit more, work out, meditate, and prepare for some very special dinner guests!
This evening, we had the great pleasure of welcoming Howard and Vanessa Chang to our home for Indian food and farewells. I had a great time hearing travel stories, getting college advice, and making fun of Nizar . . . even though he wasn't there.
Mr. Chang took his Flint Hill responsibilities far too seriously at the dinner table, interrogating Priya about the dress code decisions she plans to make in high school, clearly searching for ways to charge her with a preemptive detention before the school year has even started. The cooking and the company made for a lovely night for all.
I wrap up this reflection as the rest rest. Just two more days until blast-off! So much to do, so little time . . .
We soon cruised over to Rotī and enjoyed lunch at this Mediterranean equivalent of Chipotle before traipsing over to the White House for a photo shoot.
From here, we wound our way to the National Gallery of Art by the most circuitous route possible, soaking in the Washington sights as we did. We soon found ourselves in the East Building, scoffing at most of the modern art. Some pieces, however, appealed to our (admittedly ignorant) fancy.
|A photo of a painting of a painting. So meta.|
Next, we paid a visit to the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden, loving the weather and Tia's suggestion to dip our feet in the fountain at its middle.
|Metal trees are my fave.|
Our last stop in the district was Sprinkles, the underrated cupcake shop of Georgetown (their dark chocolate cupcakes are literally to die for, as several members of our party affirmed today). We purchased a dozen, swallowed down a few, and were on our way.
I prepare this post as Tia watches a Barbie movie, her first in a night of many more. To be honest, I'm excited.