Archive for the 'Stanford' Category

ahoy again

It’s been a very, very strange year. I wish I could get a do-over, but at the same time I’d MUCH RATHER NOT have to go through all that crazy shit a second time. I graduated and transitioned into the real world of unemployment and despair. I went to Burning Man (again). I got dumped (again). I went to war with and cut myself off from some crazy, pushy, confounding, conniving people, stressed to the point that I had to question my priorities, my morals, and the very nature of my character, and sometimes I still have to remind myself why I did what I did. I moved back in with my parents and got a sweet little dog who cries when she’s alone. I’ve got lots of free time now, and I spend it working on two novels I’ve written for NaNoWriMo, tinkering with GarageBand and my resume, learning how to drive, and trying not to get cabin fever.

I realized that the three-year cycle that keeps me ever “transitory” is coming around again, and after a two-week jaunt to NYC in October, the “Empire State of Mind” song is stuck in my head. I really might go back to where I came from, that ghetto-ass Chilltown that my sister and I spent years trying to forget. I think I want to finally live in the city proper. I think I’m finally prepared.

Then again, I’ve got a bunch of loans to repay, and maybe staying under my parents’ roof would be a better idea. I don’t know. I’ve talked to so many people this past month. Some of them are my age, or younger, or decades older, with kids a decade younger than I am. Some of them are still at Stanford, some graduated with me and are still unemployed, some have been working the same insanely cushy job for the past five years, some are my parents’ friends who have been working for the past five decades.

I’ve told each person something different about myself and what I want in a job. Everything I’ve said has been true. Everything I’ve said has been me talking out of my ass. I’ve gotten more advice than I know what to do with.

My sister scared me best: You have a degree that will make you more money than mine will, but because of that you also have more debt than I ever had. Pay your dues.

A thirtysomething friend and father of two put it this way: It’s never too late to do what you want to do.

I feel like my clock is ticking, but this is a recession. Despite all of those newspaper articles on people finally chasing their dreams because they lost their jobs and are retooling their priorities, I need to be making bank.

I’m clinging to hope. A friend currently at Columbia told me about a fellow neuroscience Ph.D. candidate who is in a fairly popular Brooklyn indie band. The guy spends all day at his job and all night rehearsing and doing gigs. Sure, you can always make time. Am I really that dedicated, though?


baby’s first powwow

This weekend, I went to the Stanford Powwow for the first time. It was about time, since I’m a senior and a couple of my closest friends here are native. I asked Ricky (who’s part Mexican, part Pasqua Yaqui and part… I forget) to show me around. It was kinda like being at one of those house parties and barbecues my parents always brought me to in Jersey City when I was little, except that this time I was the token non-Filipino friend that someone brought along– the one on the outside looking in.

Trying not to offend people
I was initially really self-conscious about how I was carrying myself, etc (I normally feel like this when I’m immersed in another culture for the first time). But it took me three hours to realize that I was walking around wearing a black t-shirt with the word “SAVAGE” printed on it in bold white letters. That’s because I’m a fucking idiot.

Omnipresent things that outsiders are hyperaware of and insiders do not notice
Until this weekend, I’d never in person seen full Native American traditional costumes, or seen the dances, or heard the singing. I had also never really noticed the little things about being native: the way dancers rotated clockwise, the crocheting on the footbag we kicked around with some of the volunteers, the feather charm hanging on Ricky’s rearview mirror, girls’ ornate earrings, silver bracelets adorned with smooth blue turquoise, how you can usually tell that a white person is native by the way their skin tans in the sun.

But talking to anyone native about all this shit would be like wandering onto the Stanford campus and talking to a student about how bikes are just so Stanford. “Well, obviously,” the student would say. “This campus is really big.”

Wandering into the realm of “incredibly ignorant”
While I was standing in the forty-minute-long Sno Cone line, a white kid perched atop her dad’s shoulders asked, “Are Indians different from us?”

American Indians,” her father began in his didactic drawl, “may be different, but they are kind of like you and me. Some of them use the same toasters as we do, and the same cell phones, and the same t.v.s and radios. They go shopping just like us, and…”

I honestly had to tune out at this point because it was starting to make my brain bleed. Seriously? Seriously?

Things that remind me of my parents
The Stanford Powwow is basically a huge fair, and since it’s a native event it obviously had a couple of frybread stands with really long lines and really high prices. I wanted to try one, but Ricky turned up his nose in their direction. “I could make frybread at home for free,” he scoffed. “Besides, my grandma’s recipe is probably way better than whatever secret recipe they use.”

Being comfortable with the big “Where are you from?” question
That night I ended up in a bar with a bunch of natives from all over. Many of the introductions involved asking where we were from. When people asked Ricky, he explained what part of Arizona he was from and stated his tribe automatically. As I understand it, he probably would’ve gone into his family in greater detail if the other person had been Pasqua Yaqui. The Native American community is already pretty small, so in a lot of tribes, most people in the tribe are connected to everyone else in the tribe by one or two degrees.

When they asked me, I said, “New Jersey butmyfamilymovedtoCalifornia… and I go to school here”.

Drinking with the natives
I didn’t have much to add to conversations (most of the people I talked to were alums of Stanford’s Native American Association and had stories to swap), but one of the more entertaining things I’d heard all night was a story about two drunk people arguing about whose people was better.

“Back in the day, my people woulda kicked the crap outta yours! My people were making pyramids when yours was still doin’ all that hunter-gatherer shit!”

“Man, shut the fuck up,” interrupted another guy. “My tribe would’ve owned his. We hunted whales. My tribe hunted fifty-foot whales in twenty-foot-long canoes. So shut the fuck up.”

This day and age
I still remember walking out of the bar and onto the patio to a chorus of drunken singing. It was traditional native singing, probably by one of the musical groups that participated in the Powwow, and it was so beautiful. But then I noticed that they were singing in English, and they were singing something that went like:

She’s wearing too much makeup and looks like a ho

But you’re too drunk to notice and will go home with her anyway…


The Powwow was pretty awesome. Too bad I had absolutely no cash on me to buy any of the stuff that was being sold in the booths (Ricky even had to spot me for food). Maybe next year.

(I bought a round at the bar, though. Did I mention I turned 21 in April? That’s another story, and a story I can only tell you in person.)

an interesting lunch date; or, life plan no. 2987213

Contrary to what most people think, I don’t chill with true TCKs (Third Culture Kids) all that much, even though I really like talking to them because they know what it’s like to have been uprooted and different. I guess I’m really close with Aldo, who’s been in similar situations as I’ve been and likes picking up languages too. But, like me, he doesn’t qualify as a true TCK– neither of us have lived with our families in another country for an extended period of time.

I did have lunch with a TCK last week, though (raised in Hong Kong and London, then went to Stanford for college). She was a breath of fresh air since I’ve been living in a hippie house (read: the co-opiest co-op on campus) and needed an infusion of something to combat the American whitebreadism I’ve been immersed in. We’d both been in the Stanford in Paris program but at overlapping times, so we met to compare notes, then started talking about our various life plans after graduation– serious, crazy, location-based, people-based. Which city to live in? (This is a serious consideration, given that our friends are all scattered around the country/globe.) Sick of wanderlust yet? (She is.) Just gonna screw it all to hell and go for the Japanese rock star thing? (That would be me, and that would be a yes.)

There were a couple of similarities in our considerations that made me feel better about my own indecisiveness. One was wanting to be able to visit our old home bases (for her, London/H.K.; for me, Jersey City) without all the fanfare, since the visit usually turns into a sprint that involves meeting up with a ton of old friends/family in a small amount of time. Another was that we both have a serious plan and a crazy plan— she wanted to be a model in her crazy plan, and I still want to be a Japanese rock star. But we’ve both got more serious “fallbacks”– careers that we’ve been dreaming of since we were little. For me, I’d probably end up working in the field for an NGO.

The thing is, she’s sick of moving around so much. I’m not. I think I’ve still got a couple more places to live in before calling it quits. I’m probably going to keep at it until I have a kid, and even then I’d probably send them to boarding school if I could manage it. Gotten used to being a stranger in a strange land, I guess.

Anyway, talking with her (and Aldo, who also has crazy, highly mobile life plans that change on a regular basis) made me realize that I need to decide what to do after college REALLY EFFING SOON. I already know what I want to do– try my hand at the rock industry! (Because I’d definitely regret it if I didn’t try).

So I just need to:

  1. Move to where I need to be— which is TOKYO. oh shit, my parents are gonna get pissed again.
  2. Get to know the local music scene. Which normally entails some bar- and club-hopping.
  3. Start a band. An international punk rock band, to be precise.
  4. Break into the local music scene. Get some gigs, become a rock star. Easy, right?

I’ve got #3 down, but in the wrong place (namely, here). I got #2 down, but also in the wrong place (Paris!). And I would like to get in touch with my host family before doing #1. (I still haven’t heard from them since 2004. omg. Talk about not tying up loose ends.) Also, the plan requires more thought on these questions:

  • How the hell am I getting to Tokyo?
  • How the hell am I gonna make money in Tokyo in the meantime?
  • What the hell am I gonna do about my college loan repayments?
  • How the hell am I going to find and break into this Japanese-international punk scene?
  • Should I get braces now, before I move again?

Among other things.

Shit, I better get started on re-learning Japanese, then. Wait, I still have to finish college first! Then graduate. Then make some money.

One step at a time.

describing a bit of the past and present (and ruminating on the future)

Happy New Year, everyone; I hope it’s been going well. After being slammed with an enrollment hold due to academic probation, an enrollment hold because I forgot to pay my tuition, a lack of housing and a breakup, I’m well-rested and healthy (well, I *was* healthy, but I think I just caught the flu from my dad), and am currently at the Halloween Town world in Kingdom Hearts.

I’m a little miffed that my sister went to Siem Reep and Kuala Lumpur without me. Damn, why couldn’t I just have taken winter quarter off, too? (Answer: Because after six months of being out of school, I would have to start repaying my college loans.) Now I know what it feels like to be on the vicarious end of an adventure.

Stanford is just as I remember it– cold as all hell during the winter, albeit gorgeous whenever the sun’s out. I haven’t seen everyone yet, but the friends I’ve run into look and act the same, only nine months older. The frosh look and act really young to me now, though. It reminds me of when I came back from Japan and returned to high school as a senior and noticed how small the freshmen were.

Speaking of Japan, I’ve found a lot of my old AFS Tokyo friends on Facebook in the past year. It’s fun to see what they’ve been doing and how much we’ve changed, even though we look more or less the same. And it’s awesome to meet up with them because it’s like a blast from the past, a past of which I’ve forgotten so much. 

Last year in SF I met up with Sin Yee, my best friend from Japan (she’s from KL), and showed her and her friends around while we reminisced about karaoke-ing, purikura, a boy named Masa – whom I’ve also found on Facebook – and the day he “married” us in a pagoda in Tokyo. I’m still really sad that all my pictures from that day got deleted when I dropped my camera. They included, among other things, pictures of us and a Ghirardelli Earthquake. ;_;

In Paris, I got to chill with Pascal. (I remember him as the first guy who ever proved to me that guys think about sex 24/7. Ah, les Francais. XD) Turns out he goes to ESCP-EAP – meaning he’s absolutely brill! – but he’s as nuts as I remember: He sat down and immediately started trading Jewish mom stories with my friend Alex (a half-Indian, half-Slovenian Parisian Jew :). It turned into a contest of Jewish mom jokes, but with the French, you can never tell if they’re trying to one-up each other or if they’re just having fun…

I can’t believe it’s been four years since I left Japan. I also can’t believe that I still haven’t contacted my host family. I’d really love to go back and live in Tokyo, but I’d want to talk to my host family and liaison before doing that, and I know it wouldn’t be the same without everyone there. (Well, Diogo’s still there, but he’s like totally fluent now.) Plus, I have a couple more places I’d like hit up before going back. 

Maybe there’s a limit to the number of languages that I can learn and the number of places I can live in. Should I just give up on working in South America and Africa so I can start making a name for myself in the Japanese rock scene already? The prime of my life has been ticking away. I’ve got to start prioritizing.

Wait, what the hell kind of priority is Japanese rock stardom?

elvis is back in the building

It’s strange for me to see my friends from Stanford now. A lot of them I haven’t been in touch with, so when I see them for the first time in who knows how long, I don’t know whether to hug them, kiss them, double-kiss them, wai them, etc. Having the Philippines as my last stop brought back all the Filipino manners I had when I was a kid (before my sister and I got overly Americanized), so now I’m “po“-ing everyone at home and I’ve forgotten a lot of the American mannerisms I picked up from four years of living on a mostly white college campus. I’m kind of scared to conduct myself in front of non-family members now.

But besides that, I’m back in a land where the customer service is fantastic, the people are so effing friendly, liberals rule the intellectual elite, vegetarians are heartily welcomed, and I can speak my mind.


bastille day (and the stanford weather machine theory)

14 juillet, known as the Fête nationale, celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison (which no longer exists, but you’ll see a bunch of tourists at place de la Bastille looking for it anyway), and the death of maybe a hundred people, one of whom had his head sawed off and impaled on a stick. This is what happens when you piss Parisians off.

Anyway, on Bastille Day the president is paraded down the Champs-Elysées and there’s a free 7pm concert on the Champ de Mars overlooking the Eiffel Tower, full of big names and young girls who’ve camped out there in the blazing sun since noon waiting for Tokio Hotel. Trains and buses within a mile or two of the Eiffel Tower are curiously shut down after the concert starts, preventing Metro stops from being super-populated terrorist targets and forcing fat American tourists to walk for the first time in their lives. The concert is followed by fireworks in front of the Eiffel Tower, for those who didn’t have to be carried out of the mob on the Champ de Mars by the Red Cross after collapsing from heat exhaustion.

I think Paris borrowed Stanford’s weather machine last weekend, because it’s been raining for the past three weeks and has begun to rain again today, but on Saturday it couldn’t have been sunnier or more beautiful.

(For those of you unfamiliar with the Stanford weather machine, it is a theory that some Stanford students affectionately use to explain why the weather at Stanford is gorgeous for visiting high schoolers in the spring and incoming freshmen in the fall, but is complete crap between the months of November to March.

There is speculation that Stanford University owns a machine– a weather machine, if you will– that somehow dissipates all rain clouds during the end of spring, the beginning of fall, and all of summer. Any bouts of rain are therefore explained by either the weather machine being decommissioned for repairs, or the weather machine being on loan to a particularly wealthy city.)

So it’s complete crap again today, and I have to go to the Surcouf on the other side of town to buy a new Powerbook G4 adapter to replace the one I lost in Liverpool. I have no idea why it’s still so expensive– aren’t Powerbooks old models already? Can’t I get a price break here? Since when did Apple become so evil?

I’m sorry that these post-May posts have been completely useless and uninformative. I blame it on my power-less computer. I promise that my next post will somehow involve tips on surviving Paris in the summer and how to not die of boredom when you live at the top of a seven-floor walk-up with virtually no computer. Oh, and pictures.


This is a blog of things place-related, by a cash-strapped Stanford grad who's lived in various places and writes about life. She's currently looking for a job in Manhattan or the Bay Area.

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