L’Italiano, il Freddo, ed Nuovo Orario

Sooo the internship did not work out, but that’s alright; there is still plenty of time! My friend Daniel works for a nearby museum doing translations, and that sounds right up my alley.

Allora ho imparato abbastanza dell’italiano già, ma sempre faccio errori. Il mio amico nuovo, si chiama Federico, mi ha mostrato molte cose belle. 

Do, a deer, a female deer
“Here Guido Monaco was born and lived”

Guido Monaco had invented our modern 5 line notation system in music! Ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la-si-do! In addition to that list of famous who-done-its, we have Petrach! Many quote him as essentially starting the renaissance (thank you, humanists!). I must always include Cole and Dylan Sprouse on this list because that fact tickles me absolutely pink.

Among the other things that Federico has shown me, I got to try out Italian hot chocolate. It is absolutely phenomenal. It is so thick that you eat it with a spoon. Try it con panna and you won’t be disappointed. Will post pics soon.

From my favorite caffe

The espresso here is by far one of my favorite things about this country. I am taking at least 3 cups a day (which is fine, I checked). 

This is a heated towel rack. America, get your shit together and follow the European example.

These towel racks are the only thing getting me through this Italian winter. We walk everywhere which is problematic because it is friggin’ cold outside and snows twice a week.

Pictured on the left is a beautiful vista from one of my runs (3 miles) in the morning with Abby, and on the right a large piazza in Eastern Arezzo.

I’ve finally had a normal week of classes, and it is definitely lighter than many of my other semesters, so an internship just seems like the natural choice to keep me occupied here.

I do have to admit that I am already not looking forward to leaving this place, so I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.


Arrival in Arezzo

Here I am! So much has happened since the wheels touched ground in Florence.

Made it past the initial jet lag and introductions. So far, my initial impressions of Switzerland were all very positive. The mountains were absolutely gorgeous (insert picture here).

The Gorgeous Alps

I made many new friends so far, including my roommate Daniel, Abigail (who I go on runs with) and her roommate Lisa (a local who is staying with us at the Monastery). There are many more, and for that reason I decided to join SAC as the chair of programming! I am particularly proud of this because I have never led a position of leadership like this in college, so it seems like a nice cherry on top of all that I’ve accomplished in these past few months. Hurrah for personal growth!

Non e molto difficile fare foto nella citta.

Italian is coming along nicely (very well, in fact), but that’s another post.

Also random: I am really getting into foosball. Hopefully those skills transfer over to real football in the spring!

La chiesa e piu bella di notte!

I’m enrolled in an Art History course with Professor Kirk (as he wishes to be addressed by his first name) and Antonio for Italian and Italy through Cinema. Today was my first really tough day of classes since Kirk really pushed us to analyze the piece with rigor.

On top of all of this, I am looking forward to trying out an internship with Fabio, the chef who prepares all of our meals (alongside Marianne who assists him). How cool would it be to learn directly from an Italian chef?

This semester is really looking up.


Arezzo ’19

I’ve been trying to contain my excitement for this announcement post… 


Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I want to gush a little about the process. There is some part of me that loves preparing for the trip: the paperwork, orientation sessions, figuring out what luggage to take, and imagining my flights ahead of time. I even look forward to the jet lag.

It is not quite apparent yet whether that excitement will ever go away, so I’ll enjoy it while it lasts. Maybe someday it will just become second nature.

This post is mostly going to be coalescing all my thoughts into a single place about the journey so far and where I think it will lead me.

1.) I got the job! I will be working in the main annex center alongside the staff to welcome people, take care of various duties, and help my peers. I am hoping that this job is a way for me to connect with the staff and make friends because, honestly, my only ‘in’ this far is my Nintendo Switch (and I don’t even have Super Smash Brothers yet…). On top of that, this makes my trip so much more affordable. I was not entirely sure whether this trip could be reasonably financed just a few months ago, but now it is becoming a reality. 

2.) The housing assignments came in today. I’ll be with one other guy in a two bedroom unit, so it will be a lot like freshman year.

3.) I’m going on a road trip to NY before my flight takes off, so I am hoping to see some sights and post those along with the rest of my journey to here as well!

4.) Everyone is telling me that my proficiency in Spanish is going to help me out, so here’s hoping!

5.) I’ll be doing research while I am abroad as well, so I get to see where that leads me.

The semester is over, so now I get to relax a little. And find a sublet/move out. And submit more paperwork. 

I guess my work is not really over…


Climate Change – Everyone’s Problem

I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about this topic over the semester despite the numerous instances that it has been popping up.

It is really difficult to imagine the perspective that somebody must have in order to actively deny it as one of the most influential people on the planet, but I cannot avoid thinking that he must have some back up plan in case things really do go downhill in the next 50-100 years. Does he realize that generations down the line deal with the consequences of our actions? Surely his followers understand? How has our distrust of specialists gone so far as to allow for such extreme levels of ridiculous self-blinding?

It does not help the overall cause to quarrel over small details like whether the pole’s ice caps are both melting when the net effect is a 2/3 decrease rather than a whole. That is still alarming.

Many attribute the way these people vote due to fear, so why does this not incite it?

“Why, vested interests in oil, Jacob!”

After a painful amount of lobbying through the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the EPA managed to remove lead from gasoline despite its proven effects on vertebrates (what humans happen to be a part of). So, I guess you have a point.

Despite its credibility from 300-or-so million people at the time, the EPA was quieted for years and, in my opinion, we are still dealing with the rippling effects.

How are they capable of such actions?

This is my hypothesis: They are relatively unaware of how they affect their environment. Such individualistic tendencies puts less emphasis on the consequences of actions on a group of people, but rather on one’s own outcome. They have not been encouraged to see how they affect a group of people, and in doing so have only a mind for their own outcome.

Of course everyone has this tendency, but the difference is the cost-benefit analysis that comes after comparing one’s own needs to that of many. Are my needs greater than that of others?

They do not consider that their actions, or that maybe even humanity’s as a whole could affect the planet. Surely it must be hubris to assume our actions could do that.

But no one snowflake ever blames itself for the avalanche it precedes.

No matter who the true snowflake is, we shall all melt soon enough.




Anti-Muslim camps in Western China, East Meets West & What I learned in Dance

The state of China has been doing some shifty stuff in the Xinjiang province out west.

The Uyghur group in western China is being reeducated in hopes of snuffing out any extremist behavior and encourage devotion to the state; these retention centers have been made legal in the past year and possibly hold people against their will.

Read all about it.

On a lighter note, the #MeToo movement has caught hold in the state under the hashtag “Rice Bunny” in order to subvert the country’s strict censorship laws. Why Rice Bunny?

Despite the current conservative nature of the state, some see the silver linings as a prominent professor was removed from his post after multiple allegations.

As I do, I want to share with you my experience from early October when a Beijing dance company came to the states to perform with the OU School of Dance under the name “East Meets West”.

Recycling some of the dances they had already performed just a few weeks before, “I Rise” and “Skinwalkers”, but a few new collaborative works came from the mix, which featured members from both colleges dancing across the floor in pairs. Their interactions suggested collaboration and friendship.

As expected, their performance was phenomenal. The dance majors spoke of the devotion and intensity with which the Chinese dance company performed, increasing the stakes for OU’s dance company. The mutual love for dance and healthy competition allowed for the two groups to grow and connect; it was clear during the performance.

After a small intermission, a timer brilliantly announced itself in bold white letters against a dark background. Oddly enough, this performance was quite long and cerebral. A repetitious soundbite of unintelligible words were played along with irregular rhythms, and the dancers matched the transgressive nature of the performance; they wore all black and white, and they danced with a single stool. It was quite comedic at certain points, almost turning the seat into a dancer of its own-they did an excellent job with the prop. At some points, the dancers conveyed themselves with a certain cockiness and style that you would believe that you were watching a boy band battle for your heart. The characters went through their own ebbs and flows, growing larger with their ego and shrinking back into themselves.

While I did not understand that dance in its twenty minute entirety, I was captivated.

This semester will likely be my last college dance class 🙁

I have learned so much about my body since January-what balance is, how my body moves through space, and how to stretch.

At first, I  was not sure how to feel about it. Staring at myself in the mirror for an hour and a half in tights? No thanks! (s/o to Peter for helping me get past the class anxiety)

However, this class had some AMAZING benefits of given definition to my midsection because of the heavy focus on abs, back muscles, and supporting obliques that control the motion of your core. If one’s core is not engaged during dance, one can expect to compose oneself as a wet noodle across the floor. My posture has improved leaps and bounds. There is a spring in my step, and I have more body awareness that allows me to move through space with a bit more grace than before (which I desperately needed after being such an awkward teenager).

Balance comes from fine, slow-twitch muscles all over the body. If one ignores the muscles that control the ankle, you can expect to fall over on your face. Interestingly enough, dance was just the right class that I needed to restrengthen my ankle after rolling it; it is completely back to normal despite most people saying that it will have the tendency to roll again. Sure, it has the potential to roll, but dance has given me the strength and awareness necessary to make sure that does not happen again.

Your body does not like to move a lot, so if you’re breathing hard, than you are doing it right. Your limbs might like to compensate for such movements, but don’t let your body be lazy: that is the key point in this class. If your body can be lazy, it will find the way to do it.

It is a natural mechanism to protect oneself against pushing further than one must in an environment which can challenge at any given moment, so be sure to make yourself move.

It is difficult to push yourself as much as a teacher does which makes it so difficult to retain the good form and exercises that are demanded from a knowing instructor (thanks Sara!).

I am SO FLEXIBLE!! That is a skill like anything else, and if it is on the edge of pain, then you’re doing it right. The grunts and moans that you hear from people as they stretch means that it hurts so good. Such a weird concept.

Since the end of my classes, my posture has improved significantly as well as my mood. This exercise is not as demanding as its cardio contemporaries and strengthens your joints (as long as you push yourself the right way and ice if you go too far).

Sometimes a muscle spasm isn’t the worst thing (quick aside: the worst muscle spasm I ever have was in August this semester. While trying to do pelvic raises and clench the booty for best results, I have a double-cheek, agonizingly mind-splitting muscle spasm in my gluteus maximus. It stayed contracted for what felt like 10 minutes, and I was in actual tears). Getting your foot to have the proper point is really just an temporary low-intensity muscle spasm (at least that’s where mine is at the moment).

Try it out sometime, you’ll love it.



Per usual, I attended an event two months back and just now getting around to writing about it!

Ready to dance!

Back on October 14th, I got to attend a ceremonial dance called Garba which is translates roughly to ‘womb’ (fun fact: matrix is the Latin word for womb!) and spans the nine day period of Navratri. It is traditionally from Gujarat, a northwestern state in India where my dear friend Lisa is from.


When we first got there, we ate (never a miss in my opinion) and sat around to chat. Since Lisa and I are wallflowers, we didn’t chat as much as admire the brilliantly colored Chaniya Choli (three-piece dresses) surrounding us. I could feel the eyes of everyone on me… I was the only white person there. Typically I feel like an outcast, so this didn’t bother me too terribly much, but I did worry that I might actually be welcome at all in the ceremony.

Typically enough, all the men gathered to one side near the entrance, chatting and taking admission tickets. The women were dispersed throughout the entirety of the building, huddled into groups of 4 or 5. The adolescent girls followed suite, and the boys sulked outside in the parking lot. Children ran amok, but they seemed to be having the most fun of all.

This continued on for about an hour until the loudspeakers came on. Everyone began filing into the large auditorium room which had an altar with depictions of a female deity sat squarely dead-center. Surrounded by offerings like marigolds and small plates of food, this would become the centerpiece of the dance. We sat at the edge of the room and removed our shoes and socks.

A live band struck a chord, and the dance began. It was slow at first, and only a few women had gotten up to perform. They were in a line moving in a circle about halfway between the altar and the people at the extremities of the room; their movements were repetitive, simple, and almost a bit lazy. More girls volunteered to go up and join the line until it eventually made a full circle, moving constantly one way or the other. Enough people had joined that a few renegades broke the circle and moved inwards, creating another level of complexity. The dance seemed to be evolving as it gradually got faster.

These girls know what they’re doing

After about 30 minutes, Lisa seemed eager to join. She talked to her mother a bit, making sure that it was fine that I participate. I was still incredibly nervous despite being told that it was fine, so she said that she would go around a few times until I felt comfortable enough to join. She disappeared into the concentric lines, identifiable only by her bright blue dress. Each revolution around the circle seemed to take about 4 or 5 minutes, so I must have waited another 10 minutes in indecision, wanting to join but feeling like an outcast. Eventually I got up enough nerve (or her yanking me by the hand to get my immobile booty off the floor) to enter the ranks, intently focused on trying to get the foot pattern down by copying the moves of the women just to my right and left.

They seemed either indifferent or happy enough with my inclusion, so I allowed myself to get lost in the dance. The music was repetitive with clearly eastern melodies in Gujarat, a language that I had absolutely no familiarity with (besides how to say water and a few numbers). I am no stranger, however, to listening to music that I do not understand. I came to feeling at home, and I just focused on making sure that my movements were similar to others. Our dance was simple and faced inwards towards the altar. People really did not make much eye contact or speak to each other, so the dance felt rather isolating but connected somehow.

Eventually I began to lose track of time as the dance became second nature; even the aching of my bare feet on the cold floor gave away to an indifference as the habituation of input set in: this aligns with the intent of the dance. It is a representation of the circular notion of time with birth, life, death, and rebirth; the altar in the center was the only constant among this. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, and while I am not Hindi, I was able to appreciate the spiritual aspect of the ceremony.

Exhausted from the constant motion after lord knows how long, Lisa and I took intermittent breaks. My feet were not happy, but thankfully two semesters of Modern Dance gave me enough callouses to endure. We rejoined and left without regards to anybody else. While I still received looks, they were less often as the night went on. Halfway though the night (around 11 pm or so), we got to eat little sandwiches as a snack to reinvigorate ourselves.

Apparently the ceremony lasts into the wee hours of the morning, but I was sleepy and felt the need to part. Lisa was not interacting hardly at all with her peers, but there seemed to be good reason for that. Just as I was hesitant to join the dance, she was staying close to my familiarity. On top of that, I served as her human engagement ring. As long as we were together, nobody could have known my own proclivities or her relationship status. Near one of the entrances of the room, a line of young men were standing, watching over the event as if picking out prey.

Obviously they did not have bad intentions, but they were seeking out their potential match-made-in-heaven-aka-relatives. This concept is understandably a bit scary to Lisa, so she stayed close to me to avoid the whisperers of the family grapevine.

However, she is a brave girl. We parted, and she went on to embrace her family and friends. After I left, people began to speak to her unprompted.

I had received an invitation that night to attend other events like Divali, but let’s just say that I was not getting out much by the time it rolled around.

Hopefully next year will better.

Until next time (which should be soon),

Happy studies!


Holding Back

I would be lying if I said that depression did not play a role in my college career.

In fact, it played a pretty big one.

I had this misconception as a freshman that I had to be the best in every class (4.0 could still be accomplished after all) which led to a certain estrangement from family my very first semester here at OU. Thank god it still is the only time in my life when I went for weeks at a time without talking to my sister. I am so grateful to be able to look in my parents’ eyes and feel the love and care that they so graciously afford me despite the chaos of their own lives.

I experimented with Goddard at the time, and the experience was lacking. My intake appointment was scheduled two months in advance, and we met rarely. I can’t say the entire experience was wasted because the institution is bad because I was still learning how to formulate all my innermost thoughts, desires and emotions into words that somebody else could understand (my blog has been a tremendously helpful tool with this, too). However, when I went back into counseling just a year later, my experience with the graduate counseling services was so much better. Until it got shut down.

There is so much stigma around depression that it can be hard to believe a student when they claim that their severe depression affected their studies or general responsibilities. I avoid telling professors at all costs my weaknesses because I do not want them to think that I am taking advantage of their generosity and understanding.

That being said, I want to scream to the void that I just cannot keep up with school AND extracurriculars. I simply cannot take 15 credit hours, work for sustenance, participate in research, and go to club meetings/events. My generation seems to define ourselves by what few hours of sleep we get, # of internships that we apply to, and # of clubs that we participate in. How do people possibly balance these aspects of college?

Tangent aside, depression comes in various forms and linked to a variety of events. It can begin due to environmental, physiological and social reasons.

With that in mind, I surround myself with amazing, supportive people that will always have my back. There are many outlets in which to express myself: music, sketching, running, learning new languages, dance, cooking, etc.

I have learned some physical aspects about myself that lead me down the dark path unless I take heed–vitamin D, warmth, and exercise. That is just to name a few, but these three are especially crucial to avoiding seasonal depression.

The one thing that I’ve never be able to quite get right, however, is how social interaction can spur a bout of depression. It’s not to say that talking to people makes me sad, or that spending long spans of time with people is bad.

Since this territory is largely unknown still, I do not quite know how social interaction affects my tendency towards depression. On some level, I am sure that it is fear. This is the kind of fear that we all share: what if others think badly of me? I seem to have surmounted the challenge of liking myself despite what others may think, but I still would like to have solid interactions with my peers. I overthink what to say during small talk situations and end up saying nothing at all.

This builds up over the course of the day, and I end up sharing nothing. I am drained because of this internal struggle, so it has never been easy to participate in a club all semester long.

I must address these issues because it is far to difficult to keep pretending on my blog that all these light and joyful events define my emotional roller coaster that is the college experience.

Now that’s off my chest, I’ll be back soon with your regular scheduled programming of international events from this past semester! I swear I’ve had fun too 😛


Status Update

I’M BORED!!! Let the responsibilities begin.

¿Quien tiene dos pulgares y está listo para empezar el semestre nuevo?

Scrubs is #1 best

Well, besides the boredom that slowly creeps in on unsuspecting individuals between shifts at work and volunteering, I’m doing very well.

For instance, I am still staying in touch with my host father Fernando (eyyyy escúchame una cosa, amiguito!! te echo de menos y vamos a vernos prontito cuando yo viaje a Europa una vez mas), Ignacio from Uruguay (whose English is as perfect and fluid as ever, but I’m not jealous :P), and Valentina from Italy (Ciao amica, io ando ancora practicando!)

I sort of feel like learning a new language is like polishing a ball of mud. It starts off murky and uncertain, not really put together with a coherent shape. With plenty of care, repetition, and patience, one can enjoy something that reflects their hard work.

Continuing this analogy, parts of my Italian are still scattered about in Arezzo. But I absolutely cannot wait to embark on the process of conveying ideas in another medium! It’s so incredibly frustrating and exhausting, but the reward of getting out a sentence correctly without conscious thought is just too sweet to pass up!

Interestingly enough, the Italian way of combining articles with their prepositions has come very naturally to me (so much so that I started to do it in Spanish as well…). I invite you all to do the same–it makes the sentence flow better, te prometo.

This coming semester is going to be challenging since I will be taking three intense mathematics courses (some form of honors research, a senior capstone seminar, and a stat class ~about time~) as well as working two jobs and continuing dance classes and personal fitness.

My current goals are such: continue practicing Italian, work out everyday, continue eating healthy (and easier to cook) foods with lentils, and finish up my mathematics credits.

Hopefully by the end of this semester I will not have burnt out. Thankfully I am taking a colloquium course which I hope very optimistically will interrupt the mathematical flow (propagating waves that represent the distribution of species in a plane over time…).

I feel like this post isn’t far off from that ball of mud. It started without a vision and then became just a stream of consciousness.

Anyway, I haven’t really conveyed enough aspects of my personality with this blog, so I will begin posting pictures of the foods I cook throughout the semester and ones that I make while abroad (because food is an inextricable part of my life).

A presto!


End of Semester & Summer Plans

Generalmente incluyo tres temas sobre los que puedo charlar, pero recientemente no lo hice tanto.

Solo puede significar una cosa: es el fin del semestre!

Quiero jactarme algo… recibí un 100% en mi proyecto de análisis que es mi clase más difícil! Es muy posible que no tendré mas que un B (algo que no he hecho desde el primer año de la universidad).

Prontito voy a iniciar mi nuevo trabajo como barista y estoy bien emocionado! Este verano tengo planes aprender mas italiano, conceptos del hornear, y disfrutar mi tiempo libre.

Entre hacer de voluntario con los aprendices del ingles, trabajando en el café, y ir de vacaciones con mis compañera del apartamento en un cruise en el Caribe, voy a disfrutar mi descando mucho.

Aunque estoy listo para el verano, estoy aun mas listo ver a mi amiga Cecilia quien me abandonó hace un ano para la Universidad en Guanajuato. Prontito reuniremos. <3

Hasta luego, queridos!

(Also the British Baking Show is amazing…)


Out in the Dark

Back in March, I watched the screening for a movie called Out in the Dark. 

It. Was. So. Intense.

It covered the story of a Palestinian man Nimer who traveled to Israel for his graduate career. While he was there, the more liberal environment allowed for him to explore the repressed parts of his personality and meet an Israeli lawyer named Roy.

They fall in love, but Nimer’s family suspects that he is doing more than just education trips. They are extremely conservative, and condemn homosexuality (so much so that they disown family members; homicide is common way to die for gay men in Palestine).

The Israeli government begins to suspect that Nimer’s brother is smuggling guns in order to lead attacks against the nation, and they track down Nimer and begin blackmailing him, threatening to reveal his identity to his family.

Spoilers down below just in case you do want to see this

Nimer resists giving any information from their intimidation, and he goes home to find that his family already found out his secret. They disown him, and his brother kidnaps him and brings him to an unknown location. Thankfully his brother spares his life, allowing Nimer to seek asylum in Israel. Roy realizes that, despite his ties with local mobsters, the Israeli government has the power to cancel Nimer’s student visa so that he is no longer welcome in the state. Roy uses his lasts connections to get Nimer out of both countries on a boat to France.

We are left behind, unknowing whether Nimer is caught by the Israeli coast guard or not.

I like to believe that he does, and Roy is there waiting to reunite. Happy thoughts!

Espero que mires esta película! A mi me gustaba mucho, y uno de los actores es bien guapo 😉

Acabo de terminar mi ultimo examen! Me alegra mucho aunque tengo que ser supervisor en unos minutos por un examen de pre calculo y trigonométrica.

Algo de noticias buenas: recibí una beca del departamento de matemática para el próximo semestre así no tengo que preocuparme tanto! Solo lo que me asusta es que tengo mi Capstone y investigaciones de honors. Después, me voy al extranjero. Eso es mi meta… pensaré en eso cuando las tareas me inundan.