Day 334: Isn't this even a little bit good?

After World Series and the dance last night, we attended our state's last fellowship meeting for this year's convention. Our president Evan Draim did his best to drag out the meeting as much as possible, and it was "with great reluctance" that he finally dismissed us around 1 am.

This morning, I caught one last breakfast with my Latin family, with Mater Hattemer at the head of the table. I started the bus ride home by blasting way-too-loud Reggaeton as my colleagues tried to sleep, followed by a texting storm with both my varlets, who were sitting right in front of me. We stopped for lunch at McDonald's, where I ate a number of desserts that will go unnamed. Post prandium, I exchanged notes on Convention with PSang, of whom I didn't see much this week. I look forward to spending lots of quality time with my Latin sibs during these last few weeks before the countdown to college!

Back home, Priya and I gushed about Convention until we were breathless, as we do each year. I could go on and on about how proud I am of my sister, but suffice it to say that the student has surpassed the master and my little sister makes me feel wildly inadequate on a daily basis.

Said sister and I passed out in unison upon returning to our room, where Priya made some memorable comments about how comfortable our pillows are. We just got up to watch gymnastics and eat dinner before crashing again. To all a good night!

Diēs CCCXXXIII: I just want you to know who I am.

I got up at leisure this morrow and grabbed coffee with my siblings Kenneson, Nizar, and yes, Priya, at Starbucks to debrief about Convention and mourn the fact that Priya wouldn't be playing in this morn's finals. Full of java chip frappuccino, we dragged our feet to the theater to watch the intermediate and upper level finals. After two stressful matches, each of our teams placed third in the national championship. A particularly emotional moment came when each of the upper level players "dedicated" their round to one of the novice team members. Erika spoke into the mic: "I'm Erika Weiskopf from Virginia and I'm playing for Priya."

After the nail-biting excitement of these rounds, my mind was hungry for some meditation, which I enjoyed for a few hours before changing into my "stola" to match my soror, dressing my sister, and setting out for the Roman procession. As the Virginia delegation cheered away, our "Chang family" had an organic photoshoot outside Wait Chapel, courtesy of Ms. Graham.

We then joined our delegation for the last General Assembly, where we were thrilled to discover that Virginia won the spirit competition! After the national officers' farewell speeches, Kenneson and I slipped out and had our dinner before I headed back to Green Hall one last time to participate in the World Series of Certamen. Our team, named Asian-Asian-Asian-Gaul, consisted of Ms. Graham, Mr. Chang, Woojin, and me. My teammates and our moderators made for a very jovial experience, and I just got through with watching finals, in which both Ms. Hattemer and Mr. Williams were competing. I'm off to check out the last dance!

Diēs CCCXXXII: "I like your progressive feminist bob."

Today was a highly emotional day. I sprang from my bed this morning and raced to the food court to meet Priya for a sister talk before her semifinal round.

Let's just skip to the round. It was a mess. The most stressful and contentious round of certamen perhaps in history, Virginia left the room more than a little bit lachrymose, after having lost by one controversial question. The kids played classily though, and they have abundant accolades in their future. I am happy to announce that both the intermediate and the advanced teams made it to the finals!!

We needed some comic relief after the nail biting that came with watching the novice team play, so over lunch, Kenneson helped Michael draft the matrimonial that will be published in the Convention Ear tomorrow to set my arranged marriage to a "dapper Harvard student" in stone. Much laughing could be heard, as usual.

From lunch, we went to GA, where my level of exhaustion finally hit "euphoria" level and caused me to cheer the most illogical things at people onstage. Kenneson and I sported matching J. Crew catalogue outfits.

Dinner was next, followed by an academic awards ceremony which made Priya's sister proud and jealous as usual. I then headed off to practice with the intermediate team before claiming seats for That's Entertainment, the yearly talent show at Convention. My varlets and I spent most of the show trying to catch Kate Hattemer's attention, and now await our late-night state fellowship meeting. I can't believe there's only one day of Convention left!

Diēs CCCXXXI: "Isn't she magical?"

This morning, I woke to the happy news of the arrival of two of my favorite friends -- Velchik and Kenneson! This in itself made the day much brighter, and, having lunched, we headed to the first novice certamen round of the day.

This match was spectacular! Not only did Priya's team earn 300 points overall (there are 400 total in a round) but my lil' sis answered both a history and a mythology question, which are outside of her primary category, grammar!

Rumors about this whiz kid were flying as Kenneson, Michael, Ian, and I went to the food court for a second lunch, where Velchik attempted to arrange my marriage on the spot.

Kenneson and I escaped to General Assembly all too willingly, and were ecstatic when Nora's scrapbook for Virginia won first place! After GA, we enjoyed the most hilarious luncheon with Morgan, Nora, and Niz, during which we laughed harder than we ever have in our lives. Kenneson's antics paired with the 'tude of these girls had all in hysterical tears.

This act was followed by the "magical" performance of Virginia's three teams in round three of certamen. All three teams will be entering the semifinals, and the upper and novice teams are seeded first in their respective levels -- quite a feat, to be sure!

We raced from this euphoric round to get changed for the dance, which is dramatically different from yesterday's for the presence of Mr. Chen, who not only boasts indescribable moves to every popular and not-so-popular song in English, but also is a very impressive salsa dancer!

Please wish our certamen teams luck in tomorrow's semifinal round, which will determine whether or not they enter the finals and are eligible for this year's championship title!

Pax, amor, and Latinitas to all.

Diēs CCCXXX: "Your sister is phenomenal."

Sometimes, you have to start your day twice. I arose reluctantly at 6 this morning to moderate for open certamen, only to arrive at the designated location and learn that the number of helpers was already sufficient. Grumbly at having woken up so early, I dragged my feet back to my dorm and slept for somewhere between another two and four hours.

Eleven seemed like a good enough time to head out for lunch with some SCLers before the first General Assembly of the Senior Classical League. When some serious secret SCL business had been discussed, I wandered into Starbucks with Taylor and we caught up on our respective Convention experiences thus far.

It was then time for the Spirit competition, a torrent of noise and surprisingly coordinated motions which was even more spectacular to observe from the balcony overlooking Wait Chapel. At the end of the assembly Taylor and I hurried to submit our entry to the JCL texting competition. I may have forgotten much of my Latin, but my thumbs are fast as ever!

After GA, Taylor and I hurried to our dorm to watch the opening of the 2012 Olympics, and were caught in a patchy downpour of rain en route. It turned out that the ceremony wasn't showing yet in the US, so we dried off and going to practice against Priya's certamen team instead.

It's not like the team let us answer any questions, though. The novice kids destroyed us in practice. I experienced one of the proudest moments of my life as Priya "Priam" Gill, MY little sister, sat there and absolutely demolished me. I was almost as nervous as the players over dinner, just before their first round of competitive certamen.

Priya and I sat together as we watched the upper and intermediate teams play challenging rounds against their respective competition, all the while holding our breath as my soror amor prepared to compete.

This girl amazes me constantly! She answered five toss-up questions (out of the twenty in one match) beautifully and gracefully, even though the round got off to a slow start for Virginia. I, as her sister, earned a fair number of compliments for her performance -- not a bad deal!

Straight after the round, Ms. Graham and I rushed to chaperone tonight's "Hades Cave Rave" dance. It's an interestingly awkward experience from "the other side," and quite a bit of a disappointment after the salsa clubs of Colombia. At least they've played a few songs with Latin beats! My sister currently rocks out with a circle of friends around her as I sit in a corner and type this post. A long night lies ahead . . .

Diēs CCCXXIX: "Travel, if only in your mind."

I got up pretty late this morning by Convention standards, and meditated for a few minutes before doing some yoga and starting my day at beautiful Wake Forest.

After an oatmeal-and-coffee breakfast with my siblings, Nizar and I headed to intermediate Certamen practice to train with the team. We enjoyed a fun few hours with Ms. Graham and the players before lunch. Then came time for the first General Assembly of the year.

GA is a time for creeds to be spoken, songs to be sung, announcements to be made, and awards to be presented. The one and only Mr. Kim led today's long and ever-so-exciting assembly, which was followed by a meeting for the chaperones and sponsors, which revealed to me some of the sweat and tears that go into the making of this magical convention.

It seemed absurd to eat dinner at 4:30, but that is what it took to be fed and ready for my first duty as a member of the Senior Classical League -- proctoring a test session!

I currently sit in a sea of scantrons and students with interesting questions and sounding cell phones. I wanted to get this post out before attending tonight's orientation for World Series of Certamen -- a competition open to old students and teachers alike! Mr. Chang and I will be playing on a team together, fortasse with Mr. Andino and Ms. Graham. Reliving the (semi-)glory days here!

Diēs CCCXXVIII: "I know who's driving the bus of this conversation."

Priya and I got up at 6 today to get ready for the unpredictable one-week adventure that will leave me little time to write, and the luxury of only one photo per day -- National Latin Convention!

We set out for Winston-Salem with a Wawa break for me to stock up on all the sugar and caffeine I could and a Burger King break for Mr. Andino to comment on how I, as my mama says, "talk more and eat less" at meals.

After I'd caught up with Varlet News and watched Priya dominate some grammar tests, I tried in vain to sleep . . . for four hours. My efforts were fruitless and I arrived at Wake Forest a "wasted toddler."

The sight of my room blew my mind. The SCL dorm, South Hall, resembles a hotel, complete with marble floors, flawless air conditioning, and super fancy towel racks!

After settling in, we set out for dinner, which I ate twice with two different groups of Latin people. Post cenam, Wooj and I went in search of a room for novice level Certamen practice before we encountered, and I was sorely ignored by, THE Daniel Kim and James Jang.

I now sit by the quad as Patrick and Nizar rehearse their trumpet and beatbox routine for the talent show. Looking forward to practice and fellowship and post-fellowship wandering! AHHH JCL!

Day 327: I see the sunny side too soon.

I started this morning by working with Alex some more, doing "reps" of what we've learned so far, and adding some adjectives into the mix. This guy is getting so fast!

A highlight of my morning was the "teaching injury" that I sported at the end of it, a finger gashed open from hitting my hand on a sharp corner of the board while drawing an over-enthusiastic arrow. I also enjoyed admiring the shirts being decorated by Priya's Certamen team.

During lunch, I compiled a key of the opening lines of several of Catullus' Carmina, to help students remember which numbers match up with which key words and ideas.

In the afternoon, I played against the upper team as Evan tried desperately to get me to take a photo of him for my blog (eventually unsuccessfully).

Back home, I tried for two hours to sleep, but my brain just wasn't feeling it. Perhaps I was too excited to see my favorite artist, Ingrid Michaelson, perform at Wolf Trap tonight!

Ingrid's voice is chilling and stunning, and hearing her live had Zane Akhi looking over at me every few minutes to make sure I wasn't crying. My only regret is that I hadn't familiarized myself with some of her newer tunes, but I can't complain, because she closed with The Chain.

After not-so-politely skipping a substantial portion of Rufus Wainwright's performance, we dropped Zane off and headed back home, where Priya and I are finishing up some last-minute purple and gold packing.

We leave for Latin Convention tomorrow -- euge!

Day 326: You do the melting.

Today was quite a busy day at Castra! As the Certamen teams went out on a movie field trip to socialize, I slogged away, tutoring and actually getting some grammar questions against the intermediate players. Alex and I discovered the predicate nominative today, and reviewed some more familiar concepts.

After a day's worth of work (including playing on the "rust belt" team with Woojin), I was rewarded by Zane Akhi, who dropped by FHS just to say hello!

We gushed about our summer adventures, I about Colombia and he about a program for business and entrepreneurship in which he recently participated. I'm so happy I got a chance to see my little brother!

Today must have been fictive kin day! As Zane drove away, Tierney picked me up and we went out for my second Cosi Bombay chicken salad in . . . two days. Talking to her is always inspiring and comforting -- I quaked over college qualms as my big sis spilled about her awesome (literally) job in the operating room at Inova Hospital. Tierney spends her entire day with people who have been dangerously close to death, and had their lives changed by the treatments they receive at Inova. She is surrounded by their intense appreciation for being alive each and every day, and that is what she loves about her job.

Our talk wasn't all serious, though! We shared cupcakes and anecdotes about older sibling woes at Red Velvet -- I'm rediscovering Reston through this girl!

Back home, I fell over shortly and slept for a spell before arising to cries of "dye my hair!" from Priya. This gruesome blue mess was worth it though, as the results are pretty cool!

I'm sleep deprived and must stock up on somnus before the advent of Latin Convention later this week. Bonam noctem!

Day 325: "The world belongs to you guys."

Priya tore me out of bed this morning to help rinse the Kool-Aid from her hair, but was dismayed to find that her hair was as un-purple as ever!

We trudged around for a walk (and Latin talk) for a while before we were both winded and I came in to wash up and prepare for a Latin lesson for a special kid!

Alex Smith is a friend of mine and an awesome Latin student. He's been at a lacrosse camp for the last four weeks, and understandably forgotten a bit of Latin. We reviewed conjugations and declensions by making sentences and fun of Priya.

I had grand plans to work out this afternoon, but my body would have none of it. Priya and I passed out for two hours, before I got dolled up for three people who wouldn't mind if I was dolled up or not.

I met with my varlets and sister in Reston Town Center and we argued extensively over what to eat, before we settled on Cosi for me and Potbelly for the others (not really a settlement).

Our dinner soon turned into Laura and I gossiping and giggling as Nizar and Patrick had bro talk time. An interesting event of the evening was being swindled by some vague and sketchy boys performing "magic" for us (and tricking Patrick out of some loose change).

After dinner and dessert, Laura and I got to have coffee with Patrick's mom Mrs. Flather and her friend from high school, gushing about our gap year and sharing some of our anxieties for college -- these lovely ladies gave us some nice advice and inspiration!

I sit in the car speeding home, and looking forward to studying with the Peach and making spreadsheets with Laura!

Day 324: Look at the pack on your back.

Some days just have trouble starting. Priya and I woke up crushed by fatigue this morning and politely enjoyed our hot cakes from McDonald's. We spent much of the morn in limbo, with Priya attempting to study while I tried to meditate myself out of my funk.

We finally ended up going to the mall with our cousin Divya! Highlights of our spree were chocolate-covered strawberries and four pairs of pants for Priya.

When we dropped Divya off, we got to see the adorable Tia and Taj. Backbends, handstands, and hilarious hula hoops resulted.

We made a stop at the grocery store on our way home, to pick up some Kool-Aid for our task of the night -- dying the tips of Priya's hair.

I'd been looking out to working out all day, so I did a zombie-jog on the treadmill before beginning this post. Time to paint Princess Priya purple!

Day 323: Where's the proof in you?

I arose this morning to another day of Castra, the highlight of which was when Michael, Priya, and I competed against one another over grammar questions. We were soon joined by Mrs. Schearer, Mr. Chang, and Mr. Williams respectively, which made for an exciting match (Adam and I were creamed decisively).

The upper team and I also went over the "research" I had assigned them on tantum singularia, tantum pluralia, monoptotes, diptotes, heteroclites, heterogenous nouns, and irregular comparison of adjectives.

In the evening, Priya and I took a lengthy nap, went for a short walk, and went shopping! We found cute "toga dresses" and stuffed our faces at Panda Express -- a successful excursion!

My sister now requests to embark on a grammar adventure, but all I want to do is sleep. Some things never change!

Day 322: I'll be there.

I made the executive decision this morning to take a preemptive sick day in anticipation of the unpleasant news the tickle in my throat could bring me if I didn't heed its warning.

Early in the day (as in at noon, when I woke up), I received my housing assignment for next year! I will be living in Greenough 311, with Eliza Chang as my roommate!

The next quite-a-while was spent connecting with other people in Greenough Hall and in the Class of 2016 -- what a fun way to get excited for school! The only way to get even more excited was to take a mathematics placement exam.

This fortunately didn't take me long, as I remember little of math beyond algebra (and even that's a stretch) from school. After the test came lunch, mindless television, and attempts at rest. When I found myself exceedingly exhausted but unable to sleep, I decided to bring some life into my life by taking my placement exam in biology!

I finished this 1.5-hour exam in 30 minutes, again due to having completely forgotten this material from junior year. Because I was so "efficient" in doing this, I decided to knock my chemistry exam out of the way as well (15 minutes of picking answers at random).

I promise I'm not a slacker! I am, however, getting sick, feeling nervous and excited for next year, and adding myself to as many Latin American student groups as possible. :)

Day 321: People are my hobby.

After last night's intense and slightly wacky workout, I awoke this morning sore and worried -- about having to compete against my Latin robot of a sister at Castra today!

We played on opposing teams in the morning and when she had answered 4 grammar questions to my 1, I thought it best to stomp out of the room rather than burst into Latin expletives!

Varlet #1 made the morning a bit brighter by visiting his Latin family wearing a t-shirt that happened to match that of Varlet #0 exactly. 

I gave it another go against the Priya Monster in the afternoon and didn't really perform much better. I'm so proud of this kid. 

I went from Castra to the metro to head into the district and meet up with Ben Roth! We enjoyed lattes and bygones as the clouds threatened another crazy storm. 

The skies improved their mood though, and we perched cautiously on wet benches in DuPont Circle to watch people walk by as we chatted about Colombia, China, and college. Can't wait to see this kid again!

I now chill in Chinatown waiting for my girl Jessie to join me at Busboys&Poets for their open mic night . . . 

We sure do love us our poetry!

Day 320: Life is funny.

After staying up late yesterday discussing the meaning of life with Laura (and waking up laughing in the middle of the night), I woke up this morning pumped for Castra Latina! This literally means "Latin Camp," and is a two-week program during which young Virginia Latin students get together to share a wealth of classical knowledge and intellectual energy.

My morning pushed me to switch hats from Spanish student to Latin teacher right away, working with Emily, a rising 8th grade student, on the difference between a predicate nominative and a direct object. The work I did with her reminded me again of the importance of repetition when learning a language, now from a teacher's point of view rather than the all-too-often reminders of this fact that I received while working with Mario.

After this "book learning" from 9 to 12, the fun starts at noon, when novice, intermediate, and advanced teams convene in their respective classrooms to practice Certamen, the classics-based competition that shaped my high school career and continues to tickle my mind whenever I play.

I was happy to note that I have not forgotten much of my Latin while studying Spanish in Colombia, and it was fun to enter the world of trivia and hyper-buzzing once more. It was also a delight to be reunited with so many of my favorite people in the same place -- this classics community raised me!

Woojin with Priya and Priya's sister.

Not wanting to lose all of my Español over the next few Latin-intensive weeks, I returned home, chugged down some lemonade, and plugged away at a placement exam for Spanish at Harvard. It may be because I missed every question without knowing it, but this assessment didn't seem too bad! We'll see in late August!

I now stand on the brink of a big decision -- whether to work out and try to survive the evening, or to crash right away and make up for sleep lost last night -- what a choice . . .


P.S. A life update: I decided to go in for a crazy Reggaeton workout and then a hysterical pizza dinner during which Priya and I communicated in Latnish (a mix of two of our favorite lenguas!).

Day 319: Old tensions take on new dimensions.

I decided to stay home today and do the responsible thing by finishing my expository writing placement exam for college before diving into the world of Latin, where I often lose myself.

I woke up this morning and had coffee and cupcakes with Mama before meditating shortly and plunging into my third reading for the paper, one on commodification of body tissues. I decided that the best way to start the essay was just to start it, and would like to quote from my embarrassingly shallow product a sentence inspired by Colombia:

"It may be the childish and somewhat capricious echo of a gap year spent in countries home to natural beauty beyond measure, but there is something about flying over the mountains of Bogotá and the wrinkles of the Magdalena River that makes one forget about the ecological services offered by the ecosystem and just think, 'wow, we need to protect that.' Certain types of beauty weren’t meant to be questioned or calculated, and therein lies the problem with commodification."

I perused the sources at length and began writing mid-afternoon, finally churning out a working draft by around 6. I decided to reward myself for my "hard work" by seeing my sister Laura this afternoon, and we fortuitously received an invitation to Zumba from the amazing Iman Karram at the same time!

The three of us enjoyed a very high-energy, rhythmic, Latin-inspired workout for an hour, with Iman dancing perfectly and Laura and I attempting to use enthusiasm as a substitute for dance abilities. It was satisfying to solidify my dip into salsa, while also dousing myself in sweat!

Soaked through and through, we raced to Harris Teeter and sprinted down the aisles looking for household staples (like ice cream) after the "we are now closed" announcement had been made.

Nothing like grocery store races to "catch up" with the best friend!

Back home, I scarfed down pizza and dished out stories about Colombia as Laura played the part of the model daughter my mother has always wanted. She shows off her Spanish talking to Brenda on Skype as I finish up this post. ¿Buenas noches?

Day 318: The world is all talk and my brain doesn't stop writing.

Today started (and is ending) with my work on Harvard's placement exam for expository writing, a requirement of all incoming freshmen. The assignment is humbling at best and terrifying at worst, an essay on commodification, or "the moral limits of markets."

60 pages of delicious reading.

This tedious toil started soon after my preparation of Colombian coffee for the family, and went on until we embarked on an exciting outing this afternoon.

Cirque du Soleil's tribute to Michael Jackson was a marriage of French creativity and Jackson's lifeblood. The troupe left me in awe of the human body, while Michael's music moved me to the bone. The second half of the show had an especial "let's-save-the-earth-and-abolish-racism-while-we're-at-it" message, which was very welcome to this little hippie. After the spectacle, we paid patronage to Mama's favorite place on the planet . . .

. . . and wandered through other parts of D.C.

I have little to report about the rest of our evening but a substantial amount of time spent on the treadmill as salty Spanish music blasted. I'm back to my readings now, delving into the issue of surrogate motherhood in preparation for the essay I am to prepare over the next few days. Looking forward to some Latin tomorrow!

Nothing to Declare

They question me at Customs:

How long were you in Colombia?

Five of the most unassumingly lightning-fast weeks of my life.

What was the purpose of your trip?

To drink in a culture, to fall in love with new friends, to bask in Spanish tongues.

What are you bringing back with you today?

The heat of Cartagena, the views of Iguaque, the streets of Bogotá. A home to return to.

Did you receive any gifts while you were there?

Remarkable Rosario, darling "Dijana," mirthful Mauricio.

32% improved Spanish proficiency. Food that made me smile. Music that opened my eyes.

An aunt. A sister. A mother. A river.

Well welcome home, Ms. Gill!

Gracias. Muy amable.

Día 317: "Empezé quererte."

I had a most peculiar night. While Rosario and Diana worked away at the office, I did my best to call a cab, as the sun had set and I was not in the mood to walk the spooky ten blocks home in the dark. Because it was raining and a Friday, no cabs were available. After almost two hours, lots of frantic phone calls, and a few tears as I took one last look at the conference room, my “Colombian Mama” came to the rescue! I got to give her a big hug before leaving, promising to be back soon (with tears in my eyes again . . . ).

Our salsa plans were scrapped as Elena Auntie and I experienced the extreme exhaustion endemic to the unabashed Energizer bunnies that we aim to emulate. We put our efforts instead into magically packing my five maletas’ worth of stuff into one check-in suitcase and one burdensome handbag. This must have taken over an hour, and we crashed just before midnight, with our Osaki take-out eaten.

It seems that the bar of soap in my shower counted down my time in Colombia -- there was but a sliver left this morning as I rose at 5:30 and prepared for the drive to the airport. Maria Victoria picked us up and sped us there, where we ran out of time for breakfast at Crepes & Waffles, and I instead enjoyed my last cafe Colombia at Oma as I sent and received the usual “I’ll miss you!” texts from friends and colleagues before going through security.

Papa was flying through Bogotá from La Paz this morning, and I showed off my Spanish skills (lack thereof) to him briefly before I boarded. And bemoaned the fact that I’m leaving this breathtaking nation!

My first flight was nothing out of the ordinary, but for its insufferable length and the steward for whom I had to pretend not to understand Spanish to avoid being chided for last-minute texts to my sisters Priya and Laura.

Upon arriving at Newark, I consumed some flavorless food, missed Colombia some more, called Mama, finished reading The Power of Now, and started writing this post.

My second flight seemed to land as soon it took off, with classy salsa and tongue-in-cheek Reggaeton to keep me company. I touched down at Dulles to my favorite welcome party!

Priya Gill

We drove off in search of Indian food and enjoyed it after I bestowed upon Mama her puertas, coffee maker, coffee, and keychains.

I’m sleepy and I miss Colombia. Severely.