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First off, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! So much has happened in the last several weeks at Harvard. From the Occupy Protests, to the start of college hockey, there have been plenty of headline stories at Harvard lately.

Starting off with hockey, the Varsity Men’s Hockey Team played Colgate in one of their first home matches of the season. This was the first hockey match I have ever seen live, and it did not disappoint. Colgate scored the first goal and seemed to have the momentum, but after a wild second period, Harvard held for a slight 3-2 advantage and then closed out the game with a 4-2 victory. I never thought I would be a hockey fan, but after the game, I know I’ll be attending more games!




Harvard Men's Hockey vs. Colgate

On campus over the past couple of weeks, there has been a pretty big student-run protest, “Occupy Harvard,” our campus branch of the Occupy Movement, which launched in Harvard Yard in mid-November.  When the movement began, students and members of the Harvard and Boston community marched onto campus with an array of signs. The protesters consisted of students, staff, faculty members, and members of the community voicing their opinions about the complicity of growing income inequality across the U.S. It was a very well-run demonstration that was not disbanded by police officers, but protected by law enforcement and the Harvard administration.  At Harvard, we’re encouraged as students to voice our opinions and stand up for what we believe in. The College has stood by this principle as they’ve allowed students to set up tents in Harvard Yard in front of the John Harvard Statue over the past few weeks.   Protesters even celebrated Thanksgiving in the Yard last week.

Student protesters set up tents inside the Yard

While the protesters are still staying in tents in Harvard Yard (where freshmen live), classes and events at Harvard continue to move forward. Recently, I’ve joined the break dancing club the “Harvard Breakers,” which practices three or four times a week.  Check out one of their dance performances! This is something I have always wanted to do and look forward to continuing second semester.

Lastly, I just celebrated Thanksgiving! I was not able to make it home to California for the holiday, but I wanted to thank Alex Steinroeder and his family for inviting me to their house for the holidays.  Alex is a fellow member of the tennis team with me and lives in Holliston, about 30 minutes from campus. It was nice to be off campus for a couple of days.  When I’m on campus, it seems like time flies by, as I’m constantly engaging is athletics, studying, or attending a club event. Being off campus gave me the opportunity to reflect on my experiences and recharge for the last couple weeks of the semester. That’s it for this entry. Thanks for reading, and Happy Belated Thanksgiving everyone!


At the Steinroeder household with their dog George

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Good Vibes

One of my favorite songs of all time is Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys, and it’s been stuck in my head for the past couple of days – probably because Thanksgiving break was crammed with good vibes.  I took the Greyhound bus all the way from Boston to Virginia to visit some family friends, and life was awesome all weekend. The sun was shining, and I didn’t set my alarm clock once. I felt like a love-sponge, just soaking up affection and good food.  Our Thanksgiving feast included all the components of a typical American meal: turkey, cranberries, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, and two kinds of pies.  And at night, we had traditional Dutch treats called Oliebollen!  Oliebollen are little round donuts, filled with raisins and spices.  I almost died of happiness and good vibrations while I ate them.

I helped create this poignant Thanksgiving artwork.

Unfortunately, the bus ride back to school almost took away all my good vibrations.  We stopped in New York in the middle of the night to switch buses – but Greyhound, Inc was temporarily out of bus drivers.  So we waited on the floor in sleepy, grouchy suspense until some more bus drivers showed up at dawn, and I made it back to campus just in time for my morning classes.

Speaking of good vibrations, a few weeks ago the Harvard Global Health & AIDS Coalition staged a ‘Pool Party Demonstration’ outside of Merck Pharmaceuticals, near the Harvard Medical School  – an effective and creative way to protest.  While Merck has been instrumental in developing ARVs and other HIV-related drugs, they’ve refused to join the Medicine Patent Pool so far.  The Patent Pool tries to ensure availability of HIV drugs to low- and middle-income families across the globe, and Merck’s cooperation would be invaluable toward that end (you can read more about the issue here).

Pool party with a purpose.

Listening to speeches!  I’m wearing the hawt green shades.

We showed up with beach balls, sunglasses, and multicolored towels, and set up our waterless pool party in the grass below Merck Labs.  I was impressed with how congenial and relaxed everyone was, while still being insistent about their goals.  We chanted and talked and wrote letters to Merck management, and some Harvard med students gave speeches from inside the blow-up pool (everyone told them to “Get in the pool!”).  The demonstrators showed that it’s possible to be passionate without being violent, and to make your voice heard without being antagonizing.  Of course, some policemen showed up pretty quickly and watched the proceedings with folded arms, but they didn’t seem too concerned.  The demonstration actually got a lot of local publicity, and a  follow-up event is scheduled for World AIDS Day this coming Thursday, December 1st.  If you live in the Boston area, feel free to join in – and no matter where you live, there are so many ways you can show your love & support for those living with HIV this Thursday.

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Sometimes I feel that as Harvard students, we learn to over-plan our lives.  We live by online apps like iCal or Google Calendar, forcing our days into orderly columns filled to the brim with overlapping boxes (color-coded, of course) each standing for classes, extracurriculars, interviews, meetings, deadlines, and of course the eternally vague “others” – those events that annoy our neurotic minds because we cannot fit them neatly into a colored category.  On top of this, we program our calendars to send us reminders on our phones of where we need to be and at what time, ensuring that we stick to schedule and never stray off course.

Schedule of my week… note that I write down EVERYTHING

To see two friends frantically pause on the sidewalk, whip out their phones, check their calendars, and rattle off mutual free time slots in which to schedule “catch-up coffee” or “lunch in the dhall” (lingo for dining hall) before rushing off in different directions because said phones have alerted them of their next commitment is maybe one of the most common sites at Harvard.  I, for one, have become a pro at what I call the “walk-and-shout.”  Here’s how it works: Sally is speed walking in one direction while her friend Joe is speed walking in the opposite direction.  In their hurry they look up and recognize each other, but neither having the time to stop, they strike up their shouted conversation 10 feet away.  As they get closer, neither’s velocity changes.  Instead, once they pass each other, they each turn around and continue their conversation walking backward until neither can hear the other.  Such a conversation is usually ended with a “let’s grab lunch!” followed by one or both parties checking their calendars.

The perk of scheduling – efficiency.  Ever since the doodles of dogs, smilie faces, and hot air balloons in the margins of my notes turned into scrawled hour-by-hour breakdowns of my day, I’ve been able to fit a whole lot more in.  And then as I’m falling asleep at the end of the day, I have fewer of those heart stopping “OMG I forgot to do X, Y, and Z!!!” moments, and therefore I sleep better knowing that I haven’t let the day go to waste.

But is there a moment when scheduled can become over-scheduled?  Have days become 1”x 5” rectangles in our calendars rather than portions of our lives?  By becoming obsessed with not missing a scheduled moment, are we actually missing out on life?

The weekend of the Harvard/ Yale game, I had it all figured out.  I was riding down to New Haven on the Theta bus, getting in touch with my friend from prefrosh weekend Larissa, and following her around for the night.  The next morning, I was going to wake up and hit the game with a bunch of my Theta sisters before returning with them on the bus.  But when a few kinks in the plan emerged (Larissa had an International Relations something-or-other to attend), and I was forced to sort of float… which led me to running into a super old friend and “catching-up”—not in the Harvard, frantic sort of way, but in the real, let’s have a meaningful conversation sort of way.  And when I ended up going into the Game alone the next afternoon because I’d lost my friends in the crowd, I had the opportunity to sit with a friend and her new boyfriend (who it turns out wasn’t new at all… I just hadn’t seen her in a long time), and then later sit with some old friends from Pennypacker (my totally amazing freshman dorm).

It’s interesting how if you were to ask me what I’ve done in the days since Harvard/ Yale, I would have to refer to my calendar from those days to tell you anything except for the one thing that wasn’t on my calendar – the Penguins hockey game I was spontaneously able to go to last night.  There I was, sitting with my two little brothers and little cousin in the best hockey seats I’ve ever had in my life (right behind the goal), NOT writing the history essay I have due tomorrow at 5 pm, NOT writing this blog entry which is horrendously late, NOT calling the friend I was supposed to get in touch with, and having a fantastic time!

It was as the final goal in overtime sounded a Pens’ defeat, as I went home that night and allowed myself to watch a few old episodes of Glee before going to bed, as I ate Thanksgiving dinner with my family this afternoon, that I came to appreciate the ability to slow down and not be over-scheduled.

Breaks are meant to be breaks in our schedules.  And yes, while I may have been scheduled to finish this blog post five minutes ago, and I am going to need to write my history paper before tomorrow morning so I can get up and enjoy all of the early-bird Black Friday specials with my sister before noon, and then I have to meet with some high school friends over dinner and a movie, then meet with another friend for breakfast on Saturday so I can get my haircut Saturday afternoon, before going to dinner with my family and spending time with another friend Saturday night, before returning to Harvard on Sunday and starting up with exams… there is something to be said for taking things as they come.

Maybe this is something that I can be more mindful of in the coming weeks as we close the semester.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Living in New Mexico, it can be somewhat of a challenge to go back for every break – with no direct flights and the resulting expensive tickets, I’m usually stuck back East while nearly all my friends go visit friends and family in their hometowns. For every fear I had coming this far from college of never being able to visit home or of being isolated during the vacations, I’ve found friends who have been more than willing to open their homes and offer a place for me and the plenty of other students who come to our campus from across the nation and world.

This year, my friend Kristen ’12, a fellow Mather House resident, invited me to go stay with her and her family at their home. Days after Harvard-Yale Weekend, which my fellow bloggers have covered from all angles, I turned in a problem set, packed my bag, and took the next bus to Cape Cod with Kristen where her family lives. This was actually my first overnight trip in Massachusetts outside of the Boston area; I’m admittedly very often stuck in the Harvard Bubble where so many interesting events are going on, all my friends are, and a steady pile of schoolwork ensures I remain tied to my desk for much of the week. So needless to say, I was excited to get out and take a small vacation before finals period.

Encountering one of the less boisterous seagulls.

Encountering one of the less boisterous seagulls.

Over the few days, we visited the beach where I encountered the seagulls I only previously saw through postcards of Cape Cod, attended a high school football rivalry game, watched my first episode of Glee (I will admit, I judged this show before watching any of it), and joined Kristen’s extended family for Thanksgiving dinner. Coming from a family where we put hot spices into pretty much anything that hits the table, it was great to also experience the diversity of holiday traditions by visiting friends. The weather may have been cold – certainly a foreshadowing to what is to come in the winter – but the food and company were certainly warm. Joining Kristen and I was another friend from Mather House who was with her mother visiting from Manchester, UK.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving dinner!

Through Harvard’s House system through which upperclassman live, I’ve made many great friends. My only hope now is that they’ll visit my family as well out in New Mexico!

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