043 Ithaca is Gorges!

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Last weekend, I went hiking with Brandon at Tremen State Park, one of the many state parks in Ithaca. There were several trails leading up to different waterfalls and all uphill (haha). It was a gorgeous hike and it’s about 2.5 miles one-way. There’s also a really cool natural swimming hole at the park that you should check out!


And of course, after our hike, we just had to reward ourselves with Purity Ice Cream. SO MANY DIFFERENT FLAVORS! We kept letting people in front of us in line because we couldn’t decide what we wanted. Definitely going back!


042 Do What You Love

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I often visit “Humans of New York” on Facebook for inspiration. It is a page that has a collection of candid photos taken in NYC. These people often comment on their lives and give advice to whomever is reading them. I came across this photo that I thought was really impressive. This man followed his dreams and is now the editor of one of the most famous magazines, The New York Times. 

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It seems as though the media has heightened the importance of “doing what you love no matter what”. As a college undergrad, there is an ora of pressure that everyone feels to know what they want to do by the end of college. There’s a pressure of getting a well-paid and brand-name job right after these four years. The biggest piece of advice that all my professors, mentors, and friends have been convincing me since I’ve gotten old enough to make my own decisions is to forget about all expectations of doing well in a “respectable” career and to follow my heart. I guess in my case, the epitome of a feasible career is to go into medicine or engineering, with no room for more, and so I can definitely sympathize with those who feel that pressure.

At the same time, however, this “do what you love” mentality has somewhat butchered my work ethic. When people tell you to do what you love and to follow your dreams, they fail to tell you about how much difficulty comes with everything, regardless of whether you love it or not. They make it into an ideal and the very decision to choose to do what you desire is considered the most difficult feat. Despite any stereotype you want to impose on me, I do want to be a doctor. That is what I love. But when there’s a class I can’t seem to do well in or a topic which I simply don’t understand, I feel as though this “do only what you love” mentality has made me lazy. Take biology, for instance. I’ve never been good at it, and these past semesters has proved that. I have little interest in the subject matter and it’s definitely not my strong suit. Instead of working harder, my love for medicine quivered. I questioned myself and what it was that was truly for me…until I realized that there isn’t anything I can’t do. Life isn’t about following your dreams, it’s really about gaining the feeling of accomplishment. Of course no one should be forced into a specific career, but I completely misunderstood the constant encouragement to “do what you love”. The editor of The New York Times, along with everyone else who has said that makes it seem so much easier than it is. Within all his accomplishments, we don’t come close to the many individual failures he probably faced. I liked this photo because we are shown a small portion of his difficulties. He doesn’t ignore the fact that following your dreams and goals actually does come at a price, bigger than anything money-related. I’ve simplified it so much in my mind that whenever I come across some sort of hinderance, I tend to automatically question myself and my wants.

I’m hoping that this summer semester class will be a turning point for that.

041 My Final Days in S. Africa (delayed)

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Better late than never, right?! I apologize for not posting my happenings immediately. My last few days were kind of crazy and I’ve been trying to get settled back in Ithaca. Luckily, I wrote down everything I did everyday in Africa…

Day 13 (Thursday): This was my last day of school. After administering more tests, I went to the local cafe, Delish, to document the DRA results. Immediately after ordering, however, we were informed that the teachers (in my opinion, irresponsibly) let their students out early without warning. The four of us that were at Delish rushed to school last-minute to tutor fifth graders that were asked to stay after school. After I tutored a fifth grader, my assigned two sixth graders, Iron and Siphosethu, came, and I tutored them as well. I didn’t mind the last-minute call to school because it meant I could teach more before I left the program! I wrote Iron and Siphosethu letters in their journals and said my parting words to the school.


Afterwards, we all went to a live jazz show in Cape Town at The Crypt, a local jazz bar/ restaurant, which was pretty cool. I was kind of hoping for more of an African influence, but it was still great!

Day 14: We hiked up Table Mountain, which also has the option of a cable car to the top of the mountain. At the top, there’s a cafe and gift shop and an incredible view. Afterwards, we went to Camps Bay to watch the Spain vs. Netherlands match and eventually made out way to Long Street. It was an incredible game, with the Netherlands winning 5-1. I unfortunately lost my iPhone during the night, and I’m pretty sure someone pick-pocketed me. When I found out it wasn’t with me, I immediately called it using someone else’s phone and it was turned off. “Find My iPhone” was also disabled. What a buzz-kill!

Day 15: Since cage-diving was cancelled (yet again) due to bad weather, I made last minute plans with Stephen to go to the Old Biscuit Mill Neighborhood market. I bought a lot of handmade goodies and they had an incredible food market. We had barbecue steak sandwiches, Belgium pancakes, French macarons, fresh fruit smoothies, and a mushroom kabob. Afterwards, we went to the Two Oceans Aquarium, which was huge. On the car ride back, the taxi driver gave me a hard time. He spoke about how once Nelson Mandela was elected, he resigned from being a high school biology teacher, claiming that, with the loss of corporal punishment, the students would lose all respect for their teachers. But based on how he was yelling and screaming at me once I got in the taxi, I don’t know if he had the right idea of respect. He made me so uncomfortable and, while making eye contact with me through the mirror, made a highly offensive comment on China. He talked about how corrupt the politics in South Africa have become and that Mandela was the reason for the decline in economy in Cape Town. I’m sure he isn’t the one person to think these things, and I’m sure he has reason to believe what he does, but from his previous interactions with me, I just wasn’t feeling it. I packed up my things shortly after and after having Greek food for dinner, I attended my last poetry night with the cohorts, where we watched really well-done spoken word. The last one resonated with me. I’m not sure who performs it, but it’s called “Knock Knock” and the person is very emotional. We also talked about the comparisons between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., and how their goals and methodologies were completely different. We watched interviews of each leader, and I noted that the voice of the speakers reflected what their ideals were; Malcolm X spoke very rapidly and with a lot of aggression, whereas Martin Luther King Jr. was very patient and articulate with his words. We talked about my taxi driver from earlier that day and how corrupt the ANC has become (Note to Self: Look into this more). We talked about “Lollipop Moments” (TedTalk), where all your actions have an unknown effect on someone. It is impossible to know the degree to which you change someone’s life. I wish I had written down my thoughts and the thoughts that were shared that night because I can’t even remember most of the ones that I really resonated with. Somehow, the poetry night lasted three hours. I arrived to our new hostel, The Atlantic Point, with Kyla and met a bunch of students from Hong Kong who gave me brownies and ice cream!

Day 16: I woke up and met the cohorts to go on a wine tour. Our tour guide was the nicest and we visited four different vineyards. The first, Fairview, was so cute. We were able to taste six different wines and I ended up buying a bottle of Shiraz and Caldera, both really nice reds. They also offered an amazing selection of cheese to try. I bought so many bottles of wine. They were so cheap and so good. At the hostel, I played games with the group of students from the night before until 4AM! It was fun! We met a few other people at the hostel and watched a little bit of the France – Honduras game.

Day 17: Kyla and I woke up to go on a Cape Point tour. We saw a ton of great views and went hiking. We rode bikes through the National State Park and got to see the penguins at Boulder Beach. There were so many baby penguins that would be SOOO fluffy. Omgsh. They were all so cute. Throughout the tour, we saw traffic signs for baboon warnings. I didn’t see them until we were at Cape Point, when a few baboons actually came up to me. On our drive back, there was a baboon just chilling on the roof of a car. I really really wish I had gotten a picture. After our tour, we met the other cohorts at a local bar in Hout Bay to watch the game. Germany won 4-0! =)

Day 18: I woke up after two hours of sleep to go to the Greenmarket Square with Kyla. We bought so much stuff. After sending Kyla off to the airport, I went to buy mailing boxes for all my souvenirs. I packed at the hostel and went to the postal office in a place called Woodstock, one of the developing areas outside of Cape Town. After 45 minutes of waiting in line and another 45 minutes of paperwork, the postal worker told me my credit card wouldn’t be accepted if it wasn’t South African…even though it was a Visa international card. It was SO frustrating. I didn’t really know what to do at that point and I was so frustrated at the guy because he literally went so slowly while he worked. He would take breaks to drink coffee when I was at the window with him, and he would be texting the entire time. He started laughing at me when I was showing signs that I was getting pissed off. Anyway, I went to the airport afterwards and it was funny, because I checked in two bags, and the guy winked at me and said, “If you’re paying with cash, checking in your luggage may be less expensive”. I didn’t understand what he was getting at for like, five solid minutes, and kept arguing that I was paying with credit. It wasn’t until after I went through security when I realized that he was trying to get me to pay him. Haha! I had my first Toblerone bar (yum!) on the plane. My first flight to London was a like, a 13 hour flight and because I didn’t sleep the night before, I’m pretty sure I slept 12 hours. I don’t even remember taking off and then I woke up when they were making an announcement that landing would be in an hour. It was crazy. No wonder why I was so jet lagged coming back.

040 A Day in NYC

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Yesterday, I had lunch at Sarabeth’s with a friend from school. It was super cute and has multiple locations, but we went to the one on the upper west side.


I imagined it being a great brunch spot on the weekend! Super cute. Afterwards, we treated ourselves to macarons at Laduree, probably one of the most famous macaron shops in NYC. It was the prettiest display of cookies I have ever seen and I was in heaven! We shared four among the two of us and ate them as I browsed a Longchamp store. I felt so French!


Afterwards, we walked around the Upper East Side and went into all the stores we couldn’t afford – including Bergdorf Goodman. We looked at a shirt that cost $20,000 USD. It was insane. Afterwards, we visited FAO Schwartz and the Lego Store. We made our way down to Jacques Torres, a famous chocolate shop, to meet another friend of ours.


We then visited Big Gay Ice Cream, near NYU and Washington Square Park to try their notorious “Salty Pimp”.



Finally, my friend took me to meet his father, who works at ABC studios. We got to see the set of the studio and watch a live news report. We saw all the backstage work and the computer rooms and it was so cool! When I was younger, my dream was to become the next Diane Sawyer. I think I slightly fulfilled a dream of mine yesterday. It was too cool!


039 A Brief Comparison Between SA and US

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I am back in the States, after 21 hours of flying, and it is currently around 5AM. I guess you could say I’m just a little bit jet-lagged. Although I would like to write a more extensive post about the rest of my South African trip, I just wanted to make a brief comparison between South African living and the US. This only covers the surface.

First off…


Their electrical sockets are rounded and in the shape of a triangle. Each socket also has its own on-off switch, which, if you think about it, makes so much sense. In South Africa, the light switches are on the outside of the bathroom. Meaning you have to turn the light switch on before you enter the room. When I came back to the US, I found myself aimlessly searching for the light switch with my hand before I entered my grandparents’ bathroom. It was embarrassing.


In South Africa, traffic lights are called robots. I was so confused, and somewhat excited, whenever my taxi drivers would speak of the “red robots”.


Driving on the left-hand side of the street was always something to get used to.

SA NM 50 Rand F

The South African Rand (RAN, RND, ZAR).


You can imagine how confused we were when our elementary students were asking us if we had rubbers. Which reminds me, periods (in the English language) were called “full-stops” there.

South Africa Baboons TOPIX

Baboons are actually a huge issue in Cape Town. There are so many laws about them and so many street signs about what to do if a baboon approaches you. They’re super smart and very dangerous. A couple actually came up to me one of my last days. It was actually crazy. They even have “baboon rangers”.

More importantly, however…


South Africans are 30.2 times more likely to be HIV positive than Americans.

Lesotho hospital

They also have a 7.1 times higher chance of dying during infancy.

Weekend-Christine-53 (1)

And are 45 times more likely to experience the class divide. The walk from our apartment complex to this township was literally less than five minutes. The divide is so visible, and yet, it is often ignored.

038 Africa; Day 12

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After administering a few DRA tests to third graders yesterday, I was assigned two sixth grade students — Iron and Siphosethu — to tutor after school. They finished a “Getting to Know You” worksheet I had made in their journals. Afterwards, I read them a story from The Sideway Stories of Wayside School, my go-to read, and asked them to summarize the story. I then asked them what the story made them think of in their lives, and they talked about their own classroom. We then discussed qualities that make a teacher good and bad, and the same with students. I was surprised how engaged they were in the conversation. Afterwards, I had them write creative, fictional stories about their own classroom. Siphosethu wrote a story about a mean teacher who turned her students into monsters, and Iron wrote one, which he titled, “Horrid Henry Rules the School”. As each student read their story, I made the other draw the sequence of events. They were so into it, and I was so excited that they weren’t bored! Haha, here’s a picture of what they drew:


I only meet with them twice a week, which is really sad because I’m only here for the rest of this week. Tomorrow will be my last meeting with them. I wrote a letter to them both, and made graphic organizers for our lesson tomorrow. I’ll post pictures once they’re completed! But I’ve realized I love teaching! It’s so difficult to explain things in such a way that a sixth grader would understand, but it’s also so fun coming up with creative activities for them to do.

After dinner tonight, we watched a TedTalk, featuring William McDonough, an environmental architect who is also the author of Cradle to Cradle. McDonough talks about the importance of design in society and how design can influence and better the interest of everyone. We discussed as a group that although growth in society is initially thought of negatively (such as growth in a population or urban planning), the problems typically associated with growth are actually caused by design flaws. He quotes that, “Design is the signal of human intention”. Thus, every decision should try to benefit society in the long-run, rather than give short-term gratification.

This led to a discussion about what role government has and if that role is being fulfilled by our current political leaders. It’s a great question to ask, and I definitely will admit that I don’t know how to answer. I do think that leaders today have to lead with foresight first, but I admitted that I don’t think the most effective leaders have been a part of the government. Rather, the leaders that I have followed and have changed my perspective on things are my professors, my teachers, and my peers.

“The goal of charity is for it not to be needed.”

037 Samp & Beans

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A huge part of any culture involves food. Although I was a bit disappointed that most of the restaurants in Cape Town serve different ethnic foods (Asian, Italian, Thai, etc.), and not South African, I realized that South African food is mostly the type of meats they use, rather than any particular style of cooking. For example, the Hout Bay Night Market served Springbuck as one of the meat options. I love that typical South African foods are provided by One Heart Source, cooked by a chef, who is native to the area. Tonight, we’re having samp & beans, which my cohorts and I have been waiting for all week! I didn’t even realize how hungry I was until I walked into the kitchen. Here’s the recipe!



Umngusho (Samp & Beans)

Serves 10


500 g Samp – rinsed and soaked overnight

500 g Sugar Beans (substitute: black eyed peas) – rinsed and soaked overnight

Salt to taste


1 Onion

2-3 tsp Curry Powder

2 cloves Garlic, crushed

1-2 Tomatoes

1 Vegetable Stock Cube

2 Potatoes

50 ml Butter


1. Drain the samp and beans and place the mix into a large pot. Add 5-6 cups of water and allow to simmer slowly, allowing most of the water to evaporate. Cook until the samp and beans start to get soft. If it is not soft enough, add more water. Season with salt.

2. While the samp and beans cook, sauté the onion in a little oil until translucent. Add the garlic and curry powder. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato, vegetable stock, 1/2 cup of water, and the potatoes. Allow to simmer until potatoes are slightly soft.

3. Drain the slightly soft samp and beans and add to the mixture. Allow the entire thing to cook until everything is soft.

4. Stir in the butter and serve hot!

I really like this dish with white rice as well.


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Posted in Freshman Year | No Comments »

“The important thing is to never stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day.” -Albert Einstein

036 Africa; Day 9

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After meeting the group at 5AM this morning, we headed down toward 46 Ceres, which is about a two hour drive from Cape Town. There, we had breakfast at the Aquila Game Reserve and started our safari tour. Bundled up in layers, we sat as a large Jeep took us around the bushel-covered grounds. It wasn’t too exciting at first, but then we began to see the animals – up close and personal. Let’s play, “I spy”!