Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Junior Fall

I do my thinking on airplanes. This weekend's set of flights was from Boston all the way to India, where I'll be spending my month of winter break, after a fall that was everything that a semester of college should be.

This term was challenging and confusing at first in the "where are my studies taking me and what do I want to get out of college?" department, and ultimately stimulating, exciting, and fulfilling all around. I think I grappled with a number of questions that can be excruciating in the moment (viz. "what should I do with my life?") but that are so wonderful to have the luxury of asking, with the support of such interested and insightful mentors and friends.

These questions led me to throw myself this semester into those activities that I don't question have always given me life -- three stand out in particular:

1. Performing


The fall was particularly generous in bestowing solo/duo performance opportunities around campus, and I got to make beautiful music with Dylan for a Harvard-Radcliffe Modern Dance Company's showcase, and perform a setlist of our personal favorite songs with Gian at the Starbucks in Harvard Square. I was lucky to jam with Sam Pottash at Tuesday Magazine's inaugural Thursday Night Live event, as well as at Lowell's semesterly Coffeehouse. Dylan and I also recently had the chance to record a cover we've had our ears on since the summer, of the popular song Rather Be by Clean Bandit (click here to check it out).

2. Working


There's no better way to procrastinate on schoolwork than via work-work. S&S has been a large part of my college experience since freshman year, and the community blossomed this semester as we added on a team of 13 Harvard grad students and undergrads, who convened every week for high-level, heart-based discussion on global issues that hit close to home. I continued my work on the podcast (which seemed to be the only time I was productive all semester) and we had the honor of doing an interview with Bina Venkataraman, former Senior Advisor on Climate Change Innovation in the Executive Office of the President, which was enjoyable and rewarding.

3. Reading


I found a book this semester that almost rendered ever leaving my dorm room irrelevant. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace takes every combination and permutation of interaction between humans, distills it succinctly into criminally correct diction, and goes on to turn it on its head in the most perfectly cynical fashion possible. Every moment reading this book was a joy and provided the vivid reminder I needed of the breed of love I have only ever felt toward words.

None of these things would be as inspiring, electrifying, and appreciable without close friends to celebrate them with. I feel beyond blessed to know people who have these conversations with me about the things that matter, and help me find meaning, a little at a time, everyday.


I do my thanking on airplanes too. I'm often overcome, when I'm in the air with no distractions, logistical or linguistical, with waves of gratitude for the opportunities I've been surrounded by and the people I've come across in my life. I'm looking forward to taking some time for myself and my books this winter, and cannot wait to see what the spring holds.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Big 21

Every year, I throw a birthday tantrum. When I was turning 4 in India I started crying when my friends wouldn't call me "Dum-Dum" when they sang me the birthday song because my grandfather used to call me Dum-Dum and so that's what I wanted. When I turned 13 and my friends didn't decorate my locker at school the way I wanted it on the day I wanted it (my birthday fell on the weekend that year), I wrote an angsty piece about it and published it in the high school's literary magazine because the episode made me lose my faith in humanity a little bit. Not all years are this dramatic; sometimes I would just curl up in my closet and cry on a birth-morning because there was no way the evening could live up to my expectations.

This year's annual hissy fit wasn't that different. I think what freaks me out every year is that I feel like a celebration that is supposed to be for one's entire existence can never be as magical, spontaneous, surprising, and unique as I feel it by definition needs to be. Today was everything I thought a birthday could never be, the day I'm so scared I can never have that every year I'm tempted to throw the towel in the night before, uninvite friends to the party I was planning and stay inside and pout the whole day long.

This post is going to take it #backtobasics and just lay out the events of my day in classic 365 Gap Days style, gushing with gratitude and "inspiration" at every turn. If that sounds too saccharine to you, I suggest you quit reading while you're ahead. :)

--
November 2, 2014

The first thing to snap me out of my week-long funk on Saturday night was attending EXPerience, this semester's performance by Expressions, Harvard's hip-hop dance company. If there is anything that can make my heart fly out of my chest in elation while I lose my manners and the ability to make interpretable facial expressions, it's the combination of the unreal movements and sick beats that unfolds at a show like this. I was too exhausted by my amazement by the end of the show to even properly congratulate my ridiculously talented friends who had performed, but thankfully Dylan was by my side to escort me out of the hall and ease me back into consciousness afterward.

We retreated to his dorm and my summer roomie made me some soothing tea to sip on while he strummed his guitar and sang to me as we awaited the advent of my 21st. The last chord of Blackbird rung out as my phone flashed midnight and this sweet boy gave me his "happy birthday." We darted out the door to Grafton Street Pub for my first bar experience! I found it only fitting that my birthday cocktail have a Spanish name, so La Primavera it was, flowery and Dyl-icious and infused with cardamom, rose, and grapefruit. We fully exploited the photo opportunity at our hands as we enjoyed one another's presences and the ambiance of the pub, which played everything from Turn Down for What to Dancing Queen, until closing time, and, incidentally, the exact time I was born (2am).

I found myself slightly confused when this same hour rolled around for a second time in the early morning, only to realize that Daylight Savings Time would be giving me a lovely present today!

My next gift was from nature, who decided to send the first snow of the season down to greet the morning of the 2nd. It was tentatively that I planned to venture into the cold and to Peet's to purchase my favorite (mildly addictive) coffee drink, when Pooja and Joe stopped by my room to deliver the very beverage I wanted! I cherished my soy mocha as these beautiful people allowed me to regale them with tales of the night before, for a lovely start to the day.

Then it was off to brunch with three of the humans I've known the longest at Harvard -- my roommate+twin Eliza, my teacher4lyfe Ian, and my besfran Reylon. They put up with my ramblings over sunrise mimosas and delicious Daedalus victuals, and Kirin came by to share her factual and always correct vociferous wisdom with me at the end of our meal.

I stopped at the dining hall to hydrate, and ran into Goretti, Queen of Lowell DHall, who started giving me 21st-birthday-life-advice which included, "find yourself a rich boyfriend!" When I protested this suggestion, we got into a beautiful conversation about youth, love, birthdays, children, marriage, and romance.

My day was already a dream, when in burst my adorable "little sis" Rati, who had braved the snow and taken the T from Tufts to deliver what became the highlight of my day. She and Naveen had collaborated to craft a birthday card so rife with inside jokes on the outside and rich with sincerity and meaning on the inside that it moved me to tears. This darling traveled a distance to utterly surprise me with a gift that at once cracked me up and touched me immensely. She took the time to remind me why I am loved, which in my book is the best thing you can do for someone on a day like this.

Glowing from Rati's words, I met up with Reid for a foray into Central Square to claim the cake that Papa and Priya had collaborated to order for me as part of a classic Gill tradition that originated circa 2006. This year's beauty was a Chocolate Buttercream pastry from Paris Baguette, topped with berries and whole macaroons. The journey gave me time to catch up with one of my favorite people on campus and mentally jot down a host of college bucket list items from someone who has experienced plenty.

Back in my room, I stuffed this masterpiece into my fridge in time to call my actual progenitrix and the reason I am alive! She had been busy posting photos of us back in the day on Facebook all morning (like mother like daughter) and I gave her a quick rundown of the day's beauty before Skyping her favorite child Javier in Colombia and using him as my journal.


Virtual Javier accompanied me back downstairs where I conducted a ritual slaughter&serve of my bakery delight for a lovely circle of close friends. After relishing the moisture of the luscious macaroon adornments atop my baked birthday beauty and the cafe's astonishing attention to detail down to the last candle, I snuck back up to my room to prepare for my last celebration of the day.

This came in the form of a Diwali dinner at the D&D residence, with students from around the college congregating for a lovely pooja and scrumptious meal, home-cooked by the college's seniors, to my palette's amazement! I walked around the event awed by its scale and vibrance, and followed by the ridiculous Sidu&Carl pair eager to give me an adequate amount of friendly grief on my special day.

Post-dinner, I decided that I hadn't been reprimanded/disciplined/teased by Udai enough today, and made him sit with me until I'd had enough of his one-liners and selfie skills. We walked back to our rooms at the end of the day surprised by the brightness of the stars in the recently dreary Cambridge sky.

As I sunk into my bed to steep in this post, a video message popped up on my phone screen, its first frame plain black. I pressed play for a five-minute chronicle of the most raucous, embarrassing, side-splitting highlights of my friendship with Javier. Never have I before giggled audibly to myself alone in my room quite so loudly and for quite so long.

I seem to have managed to surround myself with some of the most loving people imaginable, who know how to express their love and warmth in a way that is unbelievably enviable. I'm not quite sure how this happened, but I don't know how any day could have been more the birthday I always wished for.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nap

When I sometimes lie
shoulders tensed and wrists wrapped under chin
in my bed because 
the future can't find me here

and hear the defeated end-of-day trudging up the stairs
my heart falls
upon the rattle of the key
because I wish the trudging was for me.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Quintessential Summer

This summer has been hands-down the best one I can remember, and I don't say that every year. It serendipitously contained the best balance of home and school, family and friends, play and work, food and fitness, and music and silence I could have designed, had I tried. Resisting the ever-present seduction of travel for a more familiar experience wasn't a simple decision to make, but I couldn't be more glad I decided to look at the people and places I'm used to through a new set of lenses as the days grew longer this time around.

I started June off at home, working remotely on a research project for the Environmental Defense Fund, which really meant following Priya to work on Capitol Hill a couple times a week to ogle at my tenacious sister from any sketchy Starbucks I could find with wifi to sustain me as long as my attention span decided to last on a given day. We gymmed together daily, which I didn't realize would become one of my favorite memories until I missed my flight on the day I was supposed to come back up to Cambridge and the prospect of getting to toss ridiculous glances at Priya on the elliptical next to me was the most exciting way to spend a day I could imagine. We got really into One Tree Hill together and lost many productive hours fitting as many episodes as possible into every day of summer. I finally felt like I got to spend enough time with my fave person on the planet this break, and before I cut the sap, I am going to describe our favorite home ritual: bathroom dance parties. The Gill sisters just happen to have their most functional piece of music-emitting equipment set up in their adorable pink Jack-and-Jill bath, and its presence there facilitates the wildest of random late-night raves when energy is waning or adults are complaining. What happens is, our favorite song of the moment comes on and we lock both the doors, turn the music up as far as is decent, and embark on our self-designed choreography to go along with it. Few things I do in daily life are so fun as this.

We switched up the monotonous euphoria of SisterTime just long enough for Mama and me to venture to New York for a weekend to see the one and only Javier Aranzales perform with the American Ballet Theatre. The rush of the city and the compassion of my friends she got to meet while there -- Ian, Clara, Matthew & Jonathan -- more than made up for our sleep deprivation and museum-invited leg cramps. The trip filled me with gratitude more than anything: for the talented and inclusive friends I'm so lucky to know at this stage in my life.

The exciting weekends kept on coming, with a trip to Virginia Beach with two high school besties -- Nizar & Natalie -- and an absurd crew we met along the way. Reflecting on how we've changed since our days at Flint Hill with two of the most thoughtful people I know (both engineers, naturally) was more than welcome after the crazy sophomore years each of us has experienced.


I barely had time to shake the sand out of my duffle before the coolest set of siblings around paid what has to become an annual visit to the Gill household. Preeti, Rati, and Naveen shook the place up with their endless energy, Boggle prowess, and chocolate chip pancakes. This week was comprised of many a morning-to-night trip into D.C. with Preeti leading the charge while I tried to slow the group down just enough to enjoy a latte in the cafe of whatever museum she had on the agenda for the day. Their visit ended with a lovely night in the city, enjoying the fireworks as we celebrated our nation's independence and the cuteness of Becky G.'s Shower lyrics.

Returning to Cambridge provided the perfect change of pace: settling into a steady routine while living with the combined musical and culinary talents of Dylan Schaffer supplied the perfect summer vibe. I came to call our apartment at 30 Irving St. "The Musicbox" -- I've never been exposed to more music, and after-dinner time generally consisted of mandatory pleasure reading time and some low-profile jamming to Dylan's guitar or piano. When weary after our respective work-weeks, we took the time to cover Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer and Don't Know Why by Nora Jones.

Sidu and I checked out hip-hop dance classes at a local studio, which soon evolved into instead religiously attending amazing Bollywood-themed exercise classes (BollyX) every week, and sometimes dragging Preeti along. I started yoga at a wonderful local practice (The Breathing Room) with my colleague Teresa, all this of course between more-or-less 9-to-5 days "straddling two jobs" at S&S and EDF, right smack on the historic Freedom Trail in downtown Boston.

Dylan was perpetually planning new weekend adventures, one of which ended in Preeti, Sidu, and I traveling to Woonsocket, Rhode Island to watch Forever Plaid, a show that Dylan had been music directing throughout the summer. I was frozen in delight throughout the experience, excluding the few painful moments during which I was selected as the one victim of audience participation in the musical. Nevertheless, Forever Plaid joined my heart in tight harmony so much that I went back the next weekend to see the musical again. Meeting and spending time with the talented boys who were part of the show -- Dylan B., Adam, Gian, Spencer, and Pat -- was a pleasure, and a beautiful way to get a glimpse of Dylan's life at home.


To ring out the end of the warmer months and get away from the buzz of campus one last time, Dylan and I spent our final weekend in West Newbury, where Mr. and Mrs. Chanania, my dear teacher and friend, live in a redone farmhouse with miles of meadow in front, woods on all sides, and the Merrimack River behind. There, we marinated in contentedness with them for a few days, ditching our phones and computers to feast on fresh and local produce over beautiful conversations, sip on the stars from our second floor balcony, bask in the sunshine on the front porch, and be very thankful for their company and our environment. The days were filled with simple but stunning natural vistas and small but wonderful human happinesses. These are the sorts of moments I hope to carry with me through the rigmarole of the academic year, and escape to when it at times becomes overwhelming. This beautiful reminder was the perfect way to end this peaceful, happy, restorative summer break. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy 20th, Preeti!



Good moooooooorning, Preeti!

Today is a very special day!

I hope it's a magical one, and you enjoy it immensely with your inspiring siblings in uplifting Glastonbury!

I also hope all your wishes come true and you get to consume lots of colorful cupcakes.




I know one of your wishes was always to make an appearance on my ecstatic blog, so I thought I'd make that one come true at least.

I hope your trip to Peru was mesmerizing and today is fantastic, and I can't wait to see you back up here where we receive our wonderful education.

Love you, little sis!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The 6 Coolest Things That Happened To Me Sophomore Year

This school year was a toughie! At times it felt like one big "sophomore slump," between hard classes and cold weather and dreary moments. But now that I've vanquished (okay, completed) my last exam of the semester, I wanted to take a second to look back on some of the silver linings of this sophomore year. Here are some of the things I'm proudest of from 2013-2014:

6. I took a philosophy class.

Who would have thought I would take philosophy in college before ever taking a college English class? I knew as soon as I shopped Professor Sean Kelly's Existentialism class this spring and added it to my schedule in place of the Shakespeare course I'd been planning on. It was most refreshing to be taught "heavy" stuff by a professor who was at once so brilliant and so down-to-earth, a trait it's been hard at times to find here. To have a class full of engaging "aha!" moments and many a lecture that eventually proved something simple like "the meaning of life can be love" (at least to me) is a blessing when you're occasionally an angsty college student who can't figure out where she's going and why.

5. I "starred" in a five-minute documentary.


This heading makes me sound way more legit than I am. Basically, I was lucky enough to be recommended by a friend to be featured in one of the student profiles Harvard Student Agencies would put together as part of an app they developed this year with Microsoft, about the college admissions process. What this video project became for me was a beautifully put together mini-summary of this time in my life! What wasn't caught on camera, of course, was how I was often late to the very classes I was being filmed in, with no completed homework to boot. Through the project, I also got to know Lance Katigbak, a good friend and incredible photographer (see sari photo below) who transferred here from the Philippines. As of now, the video isn't public, but maybe if you ask me nicely...

4. I had a mandatory dinner with my best friend every week.

Early this semester, Javier and I realized that no matter how much we wanted to, we weren't going to be able to just be organically caught up on one another's life at all times, so: we made it official. No matter how crazy the weekend or long the day, Monday Night Dinner was the perfect way to tell stories from the week, organize our lives, make each other laugh, analyze poetry, take selfies, and do whatever else we did at this fun but strict weekly obligation. We certainly plan on keeping in place for the next two years (and hopefully beyond!).

3. I skipped the last week of classes and went to Korea.


The one highlight of this year I can't leave out is our one-week sojourn in Seoul! Changing up the pace of student life so drastically before finals was a huge privilege. And of course, getting to be surrounded by the brilliant S&S network made up of amazing (and intimidatingly intelligent) humans from around the world was unreal. And I'll just continue to pretend I was unfazed by the hit my schoolwork took after this trip...






2. I got to work on a book tour for my favorite author's first book.


I truly do consider this to be the biggest "accomplishment" Harvard will ever deal me: I had the honor of participating in a book reading of The Opposite of Loneliness, the first published collection of fiction and non-fiction work by Marina Keegan, my literary idol. There is nothing more powerful than the written word to me, and the magic of getting to read it aloud is something else altogether. I wouldn't be able to describe the energy of the event in words, but I doubt anything else could come close...until they publish Marina's poetry, of course!

1. I wrote down my most memorable moment from each day.


On my 20th birthday, my roommate gave me a daily calendar and an idea she'd read about: a journal where you write the most memorable/happy/interesting/cute thing that happens to you each day. It doesn't have to be long and it doesn't have to be significant, but it's a great alternative for people who don't have the time to journal everyday (or have given up their daily blog habits, ahem). I haven't skipped a day since November 2nd, and this little pocket notebook now provides me with a happy way to look back on this year, for reminders of moments as grand as the 5 I wrote about above...or as little as a smile or a hug or a postcard.

I talked to two of my friends at breakfast today about the importance of reflecting, and how little we sometimes do. What were the six coolest things that happened to you this year?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Eulogy, Alive

As many of you know, I've been lucky enough these past two years to get to know the family of one of my role models, Marina Keegan, and have been working with them on a literary tour for her first book, which was just released this April. Marina is an incredible poet, playwright, author, activist, and human who was killed in a car crash four days after graduating from Yale in 2012. Hundreds of people have flocked to book readings of The Opposite of Loneliness along the East Coast to get, just for a moment, a glimpse of what hearing Marina's words read aloud can be like. I was honored last Friday to be invited to be a reader at one of these events, and to read Keegan's essay The Opposite of Loneliness, which she originally composed as a commencement speech, and after which her book is named.

I was thankful to have a number of friends attend the event, and each and every one was struck by the power and pertinence of Marina's expression, which can be described by no words except her own. That is, you have to read Keegan to realize she understands how to phrase these things we all go through as humans, perfectly and with humor and poignance.

But what struck my closest friends, the ones who stayed on after the event to hug me and meet the Keegan family, was how something like this can bring people together. Not just the death of a brilliant young person, but the celebration of genius after it is gone, and how we come together to appreciate beauty with every ounce of ourselves after we have been re-alerted of its existence and once it seems later than we would have liked. There was more energy in the cramped back room of that bookstore than at a concert, and more love among those strangers than at a family reunion. I assured one friend who pointed out this ineffable feeling that Marina Keegan had the ability to bring people together in this way throughout her life. To make people slow down and savor the very moment they were living, not because they might not have a tomorrow but just because it was beautiful and precious regardless.

Sometimes we forget that. I know I personally ooze with admiration and affection for a lot of people who might not know it. Sometimes we're too busy living our lives to appreciate our lives themselves, or the fact that we have the people we do around us. It's a tricky concept to articulate and it's nothing new but just in that moment it hit us: we need to have gatherings like this while people are still around. I've scoured my inbox for correspondences I had with Marina and today, every email I have from her is something I treasure. I'm so happy I had the chance to tell her what her writing does for me and she had the chance to respond. If I hadn't, I'd regret it.

After my grandfather died, each member of my family went to the florist together and bought a bright bouquet to commemorate his birthday the following year. We walked into the dining room in our house in India and handed them to my grandmother one by one until the table was covered in color. We sat around that afternoon and told stories about his jokes, his songs, and his funny habits. I couldn't help but wonder why we never celebrated his birthday that way when he was around. 

After the reading on Friday my best friend and I decided this is what birthdays (and all days!) should be about -- truly, profoundly celebrating life. We're all quirky little packages bursting with passions and perspectives and eccentricities and inside jokes with ourselves, and we love that about the people we love. I just think we should take the time to celebrate that more while we have each other around. So I for one am going to eulogize my friends while they're alive.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Korea Day 7: Streets of Seoul


We spent today wandering in and out of markets and winding through subway stations and green spaces.

After a hearty breakfast, we patronized Insa-dong, a large market for Korean handicrafts and artwork.

Our group took its time finding souvenirs for those we love and admiring the colors, sounds, and tastes of the city.


When we had run our wallets' supply low and went to the bank to withdraw more, we stumbled upon a Buddhist temple called Jogyesa, which is the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddism.

With Buddha's birthday coming up on May 6th, we took some time to celebrate, looking up at the colorful lanterns covering the place and sitting down for a brief meditation.




At the grand Seoul Subway Station, we stopped for refreshment at a lovely spot called Beans & Berries, where the gang stocked up on smoothies and pastries.

It was back to the bustle of the city then, with a visit to Namdaemun Market, the oldest and largest market in Korea.

We soon felt smothered by the crowd, and required a retreat to nature.



So we took the train to the area where Jisung grew up and took a peak at his old middle school. Nearby lies Yangjaecheon, a stream that flows through the city and has main road bridges crossing above it and walking and bike paths on either side.

Juan and I retired early, rounding out our time in Seoul with a commemorative visit to the food court for chicken curry, just as we started the trip.

We leave tomorrow, and I couldn't be more appreciative for the opportunity to have visited this country in this company.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Korea Day 6: Sunshine in Seoul

We rewarded ourselves for a job well done at the conference by sleeping in till assorted hours of the afternoon today. When we rolled out of bed, it was right up the street to a typical Korean restaurant for lunch, followed by a brief trip on my part to the ethereal hotel gym.

The group then set out for an exciting afternoon of exploring the city. We started at Gyeongbokgung Palace, which we hadn't been able to enter on Tuesday because it was closed. We spent a couple of hours admiring its vivid colors and uplifting courtyards, all under the sunny but not overbearing Seoul sky.

We paid a brief visit to the National Folk Museum of Korea before meeting up with Jen to head to Myeong-dong, a bright and bustling tourist area full of light and tempting street snacks.



We meandered about for quite a while searching for a dinner restaurant upon which everyone could agree. Our #1 criterion was that our meal choice be typical Korean fare, followed by specifications about location, variety, and ostensible popularity of restaurant. After winding in and out of dizzying streets for upwards of an hour, we finally had to settle for a promising joint. It was only midway through ordering that we realized the spot we had selected was Japanese!


Nevertheless, our dinner was delicious and left us ready for a long digestive walk, which we chose to take to Cheonggyecheon Creek. This six-kilometer stream runs through downtown Seoul, providing a beautiful route to walk, sunken below the skyscrapers, through the city.


The theme of the rest of the night was not being able to catch the feel of anything on camera: from the dreamlike stream to the majestic Dongdaemun Gate, these streets must be walked to be sensed. I can't wait to be back soon.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Korea Day 5: Singing in Seoul

Today was the second day of the KEY Platform 2014 conference, which featured a series of modules on business innovation through sustainability. Our S&S speakers were prominent moderators and discussants at today's three panels -- on Big Data, Ecosystem Thinking, and Hyperconnectivity. It was super fun to see all of our colleagues and new friends present, and Juan, Eric, and I were busy at work all day reporting on the conference, snapping dramatic footage of our team members, and conducting video interviews of speakers.


After a long day of presenting and reporting, the team was ready to celebrate! We set out for Gangnam (as made famous by the song) in the evening, which is full of lights and energy, and even has selfie machines on the sidewalks! (Although we couldn't get ours to work long enough to email me our photo...)

We enjoyed a traditional dinner of Galbi (Korean barbecue) and Soju before delving into another Korean favorite -- karaoke.

Ten of us colleagues piled into our own personal room at a local karaoke place, blasted background music, and belted to a slew of songs, varying significantly in both language and genre. Jisung and I had trouble not hogging the microphones as the group jammed along to its favorite tunes.

Once we had showed off enough, Juan got to display his dance skills at a club just a cab ride away.

We enjoyed the beats at Ho Bar for a while before hailing more taxis and miraculously making it back to the hotel without being able to say its address in Korean.

It was great to be able to spend this time with the whole team and we can't wait to be reunited all together again!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Korea Day 4: Sick in Seoul

Today, Juan and I donned our rapporteur hats and dove into the first day of the KEY Platform 2014 conference! He scribbled notes at this morning's Plenary Session while I snapped pictures for the Facebook page I manage for the event.

This morning's session featured speakers from a variety of countries and sectors describing what "innovation" means to them. A highlight for us undergrads was when Heather Henriksen, Director of the Harvard Office for Sustainability, connected to the conference via webcam to describe Harvard's innovation efforts within the sustainability space.


Also exciting to me was the vibe of the session as a whole -- the event has a very futuristic feel, with dramatic lighting and an interesting backdrop setting the scene for the TED-style talks. High-quality, fast-paced videos were interspersed throughout the presentations of the morning, making the event really interesting and different from other conferences I've attended.



After a colorful lunch, Juan and I returned to the action, each attending and reporting on a different Breakout Session with speakers from S&S presenting. I headed to the session on Finance, and got to hear Andrew Park, a Sustainability Manager in Bloomberg's Global Sustainability group, give a great talk on ESG (E
nvironmental, Social, and Governance) Criteria for investment.

Since the afternoon's sessions, I've just been resting, working on articles about conference speakers, and eating pho! I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's "Plug In and Talk" session, where our team of S&S speakers will have a prominent role in moderating, presenting, and discussing.

Until then, a belated happy birthday to Rome, and a very happy Earth Day to everyone who lives on this planet!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Korea Day 3: Sightseeing in Seoul

Breakfast today was all abuzz with the news...that we had made the news! MoneyToday Media did a special on S&S earlier this week, and we all were excited to see it this morning.

After feasting to our heart's delight on the lavish spread of breakfast options, Juan and I trotted off to Kinko's to see if we could manage to print a few copies of our updated brochure. What followed was an amusing series of conversations (mainly gesticulations) that proved definitively that between the two of us, we know eight different languages and not one of them is Korean. Nevertheless, we were able to print a handful of adorable pamphlets and load up on snacks before heading back to the hotel. We snuck in a quick workout before lunch, and then briefly met the CEO of MoneyToday, with whom Jisung, James, and Patrick had a meeting.







In the afternoon, the team set out to explore old Seoul. Our sights were set on Gyeongbok Palace, but the royal palace was unfortunately closed to visitors for the day. So we chose instead to meander around historic parts of the city, paying the president's residence a visit and snapping photos (including selfies) along the way.


We ended up on the lovely street where the prime minister lives, surrounded by lots of cute cafes serving shaved ice and waffles. We settled in Cafe Dal and I watched the others indulge in cold and creamy treats as I soothed my throat with tea.

Next, we walked through Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village, the city's last village with a high concentration of unrestored traditional hanok homes. It was beautiful to observe the intricate old houses immediately surrounding us, with the city's modern skyscrapers providing them a silent backdrop.


After a lovely and long day exploring the town, we're excited and ready to jump into official conference activities tomorrow. Please wish us luck!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Korea Day 2: Somnolent in Seoul

My eyes water with jet lagged fatigue as I type this post, and I've an entire essay in front of me tonight, so this'll be another brief one.

We awoke this morning (some at more normal times than others) to a breakfast buffet unlike any other. At Zest on the 8th floor of our hotel is what looks like a small marketplace but is actually just the array of food options available to start one's day at the Conrad.


After several courses each, we settled down in the lobby to settle some logistics, not without frequent interruptions of "but first, let me take a selfie!"


I put together a quick conference timetable for our team before finding myself in Nirvana, otherwise known as the gym in our hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed a few hours there to avoid beginning the essay I'm supposed to have been writing these past few days. I eventually did start the paper while the rest of the S&S team explored a local fish market.

In the evening, we met up for dinner with Mr. Hwang and Junha Kim, our gracious hosts from MoneyToday. We enjoyed a delicious meal of bulgogi and paused for a photoshoot afterwards of our coincidentally highly lavender team.


Wonderfully stuffed and with cheerful bellies, Juan and I headed home after supper to get to work on our respective assignments, but not before a stealthy trip to H&M.

It's been a relaxed but successful day, and the night will hopefully prove even more productive. Wish my disoriented mind luck and eloquence for this paper!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Korea Day 1: Safe in Seoul

I won't write much as jet lag has begun it's stealthy attack on my colleagues and me, but I will say that I'm settled in the gorgeous Conrad Hotel in Seoul, amazed by the comfort of the place and the generosity of our hosts. 


Our journey began Saturday morning in Cambridge, from where Jisung, Juan, and I flew out and met up with James in New York. 


We all took off together on our 14-hour (FOURTEEN-HOUR) flight on a beautiful Dreamliner plane complete with Bibimpap + instructions and a Duty Free mall in the rear of the aircraft. (Yes, the photo below was taken behind the bathrooms on this plane...)


We've received a warm welcome from MoneyToday here, and made it to our hotel in time for dinner at the adjoining IFC Mall. Juan and I went extra creative and got butter chicken and chicken curry respectively for dinner -- but we know there's plenty of traditional Korean in store for us!


The team's getting rest now before our first big business meeting tomorrow. This is my first time traveling on work and my first time visiting an Asian country outside of India -- so I'm even more exuberant about globetrotting than usual. 


Wish me luck and sweet dreams!