Articles by John Kimani

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Amazing! That’s the only word I can think of to describe my first Spring Break. I tend to love all breaks (lots of sleep, no homework, lazing about- what’s not to love), but this one was particularly enjoyable. The timing was also perfect, coming after a week of midterms. I took the opportunity to explore Boston during the first weekend by taking the ‘Freedom Trail’ which is a 2.5 mile trail through Boston that leads you to 16 important historical sites. This in many ways felt like a crash course in American history and left me feeling I knew Boston much better. I also visited China Town and had dim-sum. Ah, the joys of having a huge city a few minutes from Campus.

The next week my friend and I were in San Francisco. What a city! We went everywhere from Alcatraz where we saw Al Capone’s cell room, to Coit Tower which has a most beautiful collection of murals, to Haight-Ashbury which was a center of the hippie culture in the 1960s. Our hosts were phenomenal- they drove us around and showed us all of San Francisco’s hidden treasures. Oh, we also met up with a Harvard alum who took us out to dinner and showed us a grand time. See, that’s something I quite enjoy about Harvard, knowing that wherever in the world you go you’ll probably find people who went here, but I digress. The greater point is that San Francisco was amazing!

A note on being international, I thought San Francisco is supposed to be scorching all year long. In fact I was worried I hadn’t carried enough shorts and sandals. Turns out none were necessary- evidently it’s never really hot in San Francisco and it ended up raining for two days. I had fun nonetheless- I wasn’t about to make enjoying my spring break contingent on nature. Lesson: weather forecasts are there for a reason.

My biggest lesson from break was that all countries including Kenya need spring break (spring or no spring). We might also want to consider throwing in a break in autumn to compensate for all the years we’ve missed spring break (just saying).




I apologize for being a no-show over the last month.  December brought with it finals, January was winter break… but I’m back in full swing. The first week of classes of Spring Semester is officially over.  Shopping week was  tough ; you know that feeling you get when you walk into a store full of amazing stuff, but you know you can only buy so much… it’s never enough. That is exactly what shopping week is like… you get one week to shop any class you want, that is attend the class, see if you like the professor, the material, the kind of crowd it draws, the fit… the whole shebang. But at the end of the week you can only choose about four (though people can choose to take 3, 5 or 6 classes). With all the courses offered each semester, it can be quite the ordeal choosing four. Overall, I’m quite excited about the four classes that I settled on. I’m taking a Macroeconomics class- it’s the kind of stuff I wanted to learn in my ‘Business Studies’ class in high school.  I’m also taking Spanish, a writing class and math. I’m particularly jazzed with my Expository Writing class-not necessarily the writing part, but certainly the part where my writing improves.

Shopping Week

Shopping Week- difficult choices

It’s also time to make summer plans.  It can be frustrating having to come up with a shortlist of things to apply for, completing the applications, applying for funding, etc. But Harvard does make the process easier, for instance you usually have to complete one application for funding irrespective of the summer program you want to apply to.  This can be very helpful for people who apply to lots of programs. I’ll let you know what programs I finally decide to apply to.

Winter in January

Winter in January

For the weather update, it’s February—one more month until the end of winter. Coming from the tropics- where 15C (59F) is considered really cold, dealing with sub-zero temperatures hasn’t been fun I was really scared of the prospect of three months of winter, but I can now safely say it is manageable… but then again perhaps I speak too soon, I’ll let you know if I feel the same way in a month.

Watch out for a post on my winter break … about my travels to Oklahoma City and New York.

I’m officially a fan of ‘The Game,’ a.k.a the annual Harvard-Yale football game, one of our oldest traditions.  The venue alternates between Cambridge and New Haven. This year it was held at Harvard.  It’s more than just a game: it represents an entire week of general awesomeness.  It’s Monday, and there are loads of student groups selling all sorts of Harvard merchandise (okay, mainly t-shirts) all over campus… The same continues through Wednesday, and you know it can only mean one thing- The Game is here. If you’re inclined to creativity, you can come up with your own t-shirt design, and you will probably have people who are willing to buy it. On Thursday, there’s a pep rally featuring a hot student band and lots of free stuff in the middle of Harvard Yard. Friday rolls in, and there’s a New Haven exodus to Cambridge.  Almost every student group on campus holds different mixers with their Yale counterparts. If you’re like me, your evening begins with some improvisational comedy starring your roommate, and then you hit up one or two events hosted by various student groups you’re part of.  Saturday is the day to put on all the Harvard merchandise you have and head to the tailgate (a huge party with a lot of food and beverage right before The Game).

Harvard-Yale Football Game

At 12:00, the  game begins … the cheering is amazing, and the excitement is almost palpable with all the screaming and antics. The whole time, I am wondering why it all seems so familiar until it hits me at the end of the game, when we jump onto the field because Harvard has won. I went to a high school where rugby was huge, and we all made a really big deal of our equivalent of ‘The Game,’ though it happened several times a year since we were involved in various leagues. I had forgotten just how much I had missed the feeling of being in a huge crowd of people all rooting for the same team… the exhilaration when the team wins and everyone runs onto the field. Needless to say, I had an amazing time at what is probably the biggest game I’ve attended at Harvard so far. The spectators can always tell when the players are giving it their all, and they did. Both sides leave knowing we have a date next year down in New Haven  for what is one of the more exciting events in the year—especially when you’re used to winning :).

Okay, this post was supposed to be titled ‘The Morning After’, but I procrastinated, and voila. I had my last performance of David Henry Hwang’s play ‘M. Butterfly’ on Saturday… after over six hours of rehearsal and/or performances every day of the last week.  There is something special about putting so much effort into something and watching it all come together in front of an audience… bonus points if the cast receives a standing ovation. It was my debut in theater, and I had a blast. The plot was amazing, the casting unreal, and the turnout great—we sold out for every performance!  Oh, and I learned a Chinese sentence … that’s a perfectly legit reason for doing anything.

Being a harsh soldier can be tough

M. Butterfly is set in China and in France. The protagonist, a French diplomat in China named Rene Gallimard, falls in love with the ‘lady’ performing the title role in Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. He fails to realize that in Chinese opera at the time, female roles were played by men. The lady is a spy for the Chinese government. Gallimard carries on an affair with her spanning over twenty years and eventually divorces his wife (20 years and the dude had no clue).  He is eventually accused of treason.  The play also has some great one-liners like “time flies when you’re being stupid”—I chuckled every time I said that line.  For your own sake, please get acquainted with this play… it’s simply amazing.

Over the past week I found myself thinking, “I am not doing this next semester.  It’s too much…” But I think it might be too late- I may have already been bitten by the theater bug.  What to do this week? I suddenly have a quarter of my day back. I like to think I’ll use the time very productively to catch up on my work and lots of other activities *fingers crossed*.

I came to college determined to try out things I hadn’t participated in when I was in high school. Theater is one of those things, and I’m stoked I got involved.  Theater kids are a cool crowd. There are quirky moments, but that’s the beauty of it.  There’s never a dull moment.  Moral of the post, try out new things- sometimes they will blow you away.

So one of the things that I like the most about Boston is the fact there is always so much to do, and there are so many other colleges around. About two weeks ago, we had our first Boston intercollegiate African soiree. The dress code was ‘classy’; the crowd was amazing, and the dancing insane. Some of my non-African freshmen friends who had never attended such a party before were blown away.

Other than partying, I have been up to more stuff (of course).  We had our first ballroom competition this semester on Sunday. It was amazing getting to dance waltz, foxtrot, rumba and swing after barely 2 months of learning the steps.  I did my fair share of stepping and got my toes crushed a couple of times, but I had a good time nonetheless. I would post pictures from the event but I have none that I’m in at the moment… I’ll definitely post some from the next competition 3 weeks from now.

Moving on, I have been at Harvard for two months now (yay me!), and about two weeks ago, I had one of my many “this is why I came to Harvard” moments.   Harvard has what we call ‘Freshman Seminars,’ which usually involve a big name in the faculty teaching a group of 12-15 freshmen (sometimes fewer) on an area they are really passionate about.  My seminar is on Negotiation and Conflict Management, taught by Professor Daniel Shapiro. He teaches at both Harvard Law School and Harvard Medical School and is the coolest professor I know.  Last week, our class project was ‘An International Negotiation.’  When we got into class,  Dan gave us background info on a 1990’s conflict involving two countries, and our job was to advise a senior government official  on how he should go about negotiating in order to avoid war in less than a week (all true, by the way). So we brainstormed in groups and came up with all these strategies, and then Dan walked out and came back to class, accompanied by a high-ranking government official in one of the countries at the time of the conflict! (I’m being deliberately vague here: my professor doesn’t want the surprise spoiled for future classes). So each of us told him what we thought he should do, and he responded saying why what we said could or couldn’t work and pointing us to all of the complexities involved in the situation.  It literally felt like we were part of a president’s war cabinet. A week after the class, I’m still excited. Look out for volume two… no vagueness- I promise!

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