Sunday, June 19, 2016

7 Things to do (in the 2 weeks) before you graduate

Hola mi casa! Or, er, salut ma maison! ;)

Behold the adventures of the freshly graduated senior. This one:

Or, I guess, not a senior anymore. I think I'm in limbo. I am not officially yet a grad student and I have definitely graduated. So something in between. There are a few things I am very happy I did before I graduated -- and I highly recommend them. So, 7 things to do in the 2 weeks before graduation, here we go!

1. Go on a MITOC trip! Already wrote plenty about it here and here. But seriously, go. It is NATURE, for super cheap. What more can anyone want? :)

2. Sunset sail on the X-Dimension. Guess what MIT owns besides all the awesome boats you can take out on the Charles right from the dock across from Killian? A 43-foot ocean racing yacht which has raced all over New England! As I approached her from the Waterboat Marina, I was immediately impressed with her grandeur and eloquence. Scott, the organizer of most evening sails out to harbor, flashed many a hearty smile as he introduced us new sailors to the boat and distributed jobs (such as tightening the sails - a multi-person job - and steering).

A leisurely sunset ride quickly can quickly turn into a stormy affair :) 
The sail began with a lazy start, with slow winds near the port. But the wind picked up once we passed Spectacle Island and sailed out into the Bay. It picked up so much that even Scott and Ryan, the regulars on the Thursday evening sail, were visibly impressed with the conditions - they were perfect - if they were any better, it would be a storm! The newbies each got to steer, and whether in low or tempestuous wind, it was lovely!

The next sunset sail is soon - check it out! Make sure you bundle up, since it does get quite chilly out on the bay! :)

3. Attend Porch Fest! A day when bands give free concerts right on their porches all over Somerville - it is a festival of music and happiness. There is something for everyone, from heavy metal to jazz to country music. It's a six hour affair, and I made it to the last part, getting to see the awesome musicians of Porter and Union Squares.

A jazzy rock band I particularly enjoyed. 
4. Procrastinate from studying for finals via sailing. Here we go again. Elisa '18 and I decided that sailing is clearly a much better past-time than being cooped up in a sweaty dorm room. :)

Warning: Selfies were never actually as effortless as they appear. 
5. Make a ridiculous amount of salmon for your senior menu. What can I say? If you are gonna splurge, you gotta make it good. :)
Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. But oh-so-delicioso! 
6. Go Moonlight Sailing! I bet you see a trend here, eh? Only at MIT does one get to go sailing in the dark, with the full moon providing most of the quaint, eerie lighting for a leisurely sail. In reality, it's all fun and games until you're steering and have to dodge a boat also coming full speed out of nowhere (see #4). Anyway, on this moonlight sail, we were joined by a couple of young alums from MIT. One of them actually lives in France and came back for the 100 Years Celebration of MIT in Cambridge, while the other turned out to be a... professor. Whoops.

7. Meet Jack Florey. He's the most adventurous and thrilling guy I have ever met. I only regret that I have not met him earlier at one of the Orange/Tangerine Tours during Freshmen Orientation (freshmen, heads up!), but I bet all this anticipation only makes me appreciate him more. :) No pictures for this one, but that's the whole point.

Next up: 5 things to do after you graduate. A bientot, mes amis, y hasta luego! 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Cambridge, Princeton, Taipei...adventures of a travelling cat!

Salut tout le monde!

As promised, I have (finally!!) written a blog post. It only took a trip to the library in a torrential downpour, among other things which I will write about in more detail later - hah! But...since I've procrastinated for so long, I suppose I'll start at the beginning of summer...

Part 1: Cambridge, MA

After finals, I spent about two weeks hanging around campus. It's interesting how different the place feels as people begin to move out and go places for the summer. Spaces quiet down. It seems that even the air is calmer after the 24/7 tension that clings to the walls during finals week. The people that remain let their shoulders drop as they finish their exams, and the seniors especially seem somewhat dazed that they'd somehow made it through. I've often heard the saying that "it's the people, not the place that matters" and being on campus after most everyone has gone made those words resonate with me in particular. It was quiet, yes. But not lonely. Mary and Daniela both stayed with me for a while, and while the thought of having sleepovers is plenty fun, space was a bit tight with three people in my single. I felt that for the first time since January, I was able to enjoy my friends company and go on adventures without the thought of psets and office hours and tests hanging over my head. And the weather, unlike January, was pleasant enough for outdoor journeys and long walks and the like. Sarah and Helmuth have both already posted about our trip out to Worcester, so I won't say too much about that, but instead contribute some pictures of my own:

There was also an evening where I took the Bebs to Porter Square for ramen - Xavi and Helmuth were both quite delighted, I think.

We also went to Chinatown for dinner one night - Moot enjoyed the xiaolongbao!


Among other things, I also took advantage of having free time (!!!wow!!!) to go sculling on the Charles. Those of you that know me at all, know that I love crew. Having been a coxswain for both MIT and my high school, I took advantage of last summer to practice my own rowing at Lake Quinsigamond. Now, I used that experience and took a boat out a few times on the Charles, both on my own in a single (with Brittney '16 from iHouse also in a single), and in doubles with Charlie and Patrick from the crew team. Unlike the boats we normally race in, which have four or eight rowers with one oar each and a coxswain to steer, the singles and doubles are much, much smaller, much, much tippier and also feature each person handling two oars and no one to help steer. Navigating the river was tough, especially since I wasn't used to seeing the course "backwards" as from a rower's perspective, but I kept my balance in those narrow shells and didn't even flip once! The first time down the Head of the Charles course and back (7 miles) was quite the accomplishment for me, especially with no mishaps! I also just really like being on water...

Part 2: Princeton, NJ

Before heading out to Taiwan, I also went down to Princeton, NJ to cheer on our team's boat (V4+) at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association's National Championships, or IRAs. Aaron, Patrick and I drove down together after commencement, and met up with a few other teammates there. 

The drive down...
Waiting for our race

Aaron spotted a turtle!
Our V4+ after their race

After coming back from Princeton, I had one day at home to pack before heading off to Taiwan...

Part 3: Taipei, Taiwan

After a short flight from Boston to New York's JFK airport (1 hour), a long flight from JFK to Taipei's Taoyuan International airport (16 hours), and some truly Jesse moments ("the weight limit for carry ons is 7 kg...your bag is 17 kg...") (waking up and realizing I slept through the second meal and the plane was already beginning its descent), I managed to arrive at 5am local time pretty well rested, and with all of my luggage. A short drive into the city, and I got myself settled in at my grandmother's apartment, where I'll be staying this summer. She is nearly ninety, and gets up to some shenanigans (it must run in the family), but it's always a great time staying with her.

Grandmother <3

The first few days before I started my internship, I went with my grandmother to the local market. It's an outdoor market, with vendors selling all sorts of things, from underwear to fruit to meat to hats to toys to seafood to ready-made lunches. She's been going to that market for I think nearly fifty years now, and she's got her favorite stalls for getting all of her groceries. Tucked away in a few lanes and alleyways of the city, it's definitely a place that tourists wouldn't normally find. 

I also started going for runs in the mornings. There is an elementary school nearby with a (very small) track that I sometimes run around, as well as the majestic Da'an Forest Park. Because it can get oppressively hot here, and also horribly humid and sticky, it's best to do the exercising early in the mornings, before the sun really gets going. I definitely prefer running in 25C weather over 35C weather, which is how hot it normally gets during the day...Hopefully I'll be able to keep this routine up.

Jinhua Elementary School
A cat I met one morning

Nearby the Da'an Forest Park is also the Taipei Public Library. Last weekend, I wanted to go exploring and in search of some books to read, decided to go to the library. I very much enjoy sitting in the library and reading. There's a buzz of productivity that is particular to libraries, and the smell of books and pencils that I quite like. This particular library is comprised of 10 floors and 3 sub-floors (if I recall correctly), and looks out over the park. There are rows of study tables which were completely packed, even on a Saturday afternoon, and making use of space, they even put study stations in the stairwells!

View from the 6th floor landing

Studying in the stairwell

Welp, it seems that I've run out of time to write, and I've been procrastinating this for far too long, so I guess I'll just post what I have now and spare y'all another ten pages of always, I'll post more later!

Love and air conditioning,

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Math, Belgium, yeeeeeee!

Yay for adventures abroad!  I arrived last Monday en Belgique where I’m MISTI-ing for the summer, and it’s gone way smoother than anticipated really!  Well, minus the flights getting here: come to find out, my travel plans were not so well-planned, and I was super tired, hungry and thirsty (you know I’m accustomed to drinking way more water than they’ll give you in those little cups on the airplane).  But I shouldn’t complain–I got here in one piece and recovered rapidly.

Anyway, before I talk more about Belgium, I’ll try to go somewhat chronologically.  After classes were done, I spent a few weeks in Migigigigichchin with my family, which was nice; I discovered that a local college, Adrian College, has a beautiful library, so I spent a certain amount of time there doing math and reading non-math things.  I visited with some friends/family, helped bale hay (worst hay baling experience ever, actually–seven hours in the heat handling particularly heavy bales of hay), went kayaking, etc.  Oh-and I visited Andrei one day.  Sadly, I didn’t take many photos to share with you while in Migigigigichchin, but here are some.

Listening to music recommendations from Caleb (left) and Takumi (right)
My sister the drum major leading the high school band in the Memorial Day parade

Had to remember what corner I parked my car at in Ann Arbor
Andrei!! (actually from December, but I saw him again this time)

On June 5, I left from Detroit at 6:15am to fly to Boston, where I got to see MootMoot and his summer room in MacGregor!  Shout-out to the Moot for helping me out so much with storing some of my things in his room and meeting with me so I could pick some of them up.  Very sadly, Dimitrios is closed on Sundays, so we couldn’t get lunch there :( :( :(  We ended up eating in the Student Center, and on the way out, we saw this bird, which MootMoot identified as a red tailed hawk minus a red tail.
Red (?)-tailed hawk

I was supposed to leave at 9pm that night for Reykjavik, but the flight was delayed a number of hours; I was abnormally anxious and stressed about that whole thing because I’m such a flight noob and wasn’t sure how the connecting flights would work out, but then I found a MISTI France person I know waiting for the same plane, and she, being in the same boat but having more experience with all this, assured me that it would be okay.  Eventually, the plane came, and then I made the connecting flight to Brussels after sprinting through the airport.  (As a side-note, I really liked Icelandair–the whole experience was so Scandinavian: Scandinavian-looking flight attendants, people speaking Icelandic all over the place, the plane was named after some Icelandic volcano, they show you videos of nature and stuff in Iceland on the screens, etc.)

Despite the delays (my connecting flight was also delayed, which is what allowed me to make it on time), the wonderfully kind lady from whom I’m renting a room for June came to the airport with her son to pick me up; they drove me the fairly short distance to Louvain-la-Neuve and even gave me much needed food (quiche, no less!).  I slept a ton, and reported to work the next morning.  My supervisor, Professor Jean-Pierre Tignol, has been very kind and even remains patient enough to speak French with me consistently.  I found out I even have an office!  It’s shared with a couple other stagiaires, but I’ve only seen one of them so far.  This week, I’ve taken care of administrative stuff, explored the city a bit, and worked quite a lot on background reading for the math research I’m doing.  Nancy and her friend Zehreen arrived during the last couple days too, so now I’m not alone!  Plus, my sleep schedule is forming back into shape, and I’ve met some very good people in the math department and in the house I’m staying in, so it’s very pleasant so far.

My room

A forest in Belgium where I've gone running
Spiral staircase leading to my room

View outside the house my room is in

Aggressive sign on a highway just outside of

Friday, June 10, 2016


A Photo of a Tree.

I cooked with a MacGregor oven.

No matches to your query

Last time me and Sasha invade German House together
We graduated. That's pretty much all I have to say on the matter, because I'm still in denial (although I did accept the diploma, as you can see). Matt Damon was pretty good, though. We are not on the MIT directory anymore.

A fin whale
Turns out that Boston is a great city to live in, especially once you eliminate the part with MIT academics from the equation. I got discounted whale watch tickets from MITAC (they were still expensive, but not as bad). Apparently I can get seasick and three hours of cold ocean wind blowing in one's face is not that good for the skin. At least we saw some whales! One beautiful fin whale even took pity on us and swam next to the boat for quite some time.

We also went to Hartford and New Haven (party because these places are accessible without a car from Boston and mostly because of Gilmore Girls). I had never been to Yale before, but I must say it reminded me a lot of Harvard. Yale looks a bit more like Oxford and Cambridge and hence slightly better in my opinion, although I think I prefer our Cambridge to New Haven. 

Although the brochure said touching his foot would bring good luck, I was wary of doing so (Yale seemed just too similar to Harvard)
I also wanted to go see the rock in Plymouth and the Plimoth Plantation (a living history/open-air museum). I'd been planning to go there for almost four years, but I had underestimated what a feat getting there by public transportation would be. I highly recommend a visit to Plymouth, but it's probably best to take a bike with you on the Commuter Rail. For the adventurous, there are small shuttle buses called Freedom, Liberty and Mayflower that run once every hour and any form of public transportation in America is pretty neat and worth the $1 cost. The drivers in Plymouth were extremely nice, though, creating a stark contrast with my first visit to the US (when six Estonians were shocked by driver-pedestrian interactions on Manhattan). 

We also stopped by Helsinki on the way home. It was cold. Turns out Scandinavia should not be visited on Sundays, because it is surprisingly dirty (the people who clean the streets also have weekends off).
Four years = four pieces of checked baggage

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The bike weighs less than the water bottle! (Acadia Day 2)

You may remember a post on here by Anna H '15 about extreme bike riding and bears. This one has no bears, but has extreme bike riding, for sure. ;) 

When Ian '15 mentioned that we are going biking, I imagined you know, biking on a nice bike lane trough some scenic nature views. My imagination was only correct about the latter part. At the bike rental place in Bar Harbor, I realized we are actually getting really sweet and pro-looking road bikes. In fact, Ian and I got high performance ones which really did weigh as much as my water bottle, probably. I am not kidding.

Place: Bar Harbor, ME 
Itinerary: Park Loop Road  (27 miles) 

It took me the first hour to get used to the gear switching. It wasn't very trivial in the beginning - there were four different levers and no indications - and they had to be adjusted constantly with the road incline. Once I figured it out, the ride became quite literally a breeze. Going up the road at certain points was a chore, but quite worth it for the downhill zoom...

Somewhere at the midpoint of our 27 miles, we stopped at the famous Jordan Pond, which seems to be a hit with the tourists. Not for the pond itself, but for the popovers that are served in the only establishment next to it. I didn't know what the whole hype was with these popovers at first. They just seemed like a cross between a croissant and bread - that is, until I tried them with caramel syrup and cinnamon ice cream. That was quite good. LMF, I challenge you to bake it! We'd be a big hit with the tourists, too! 

Actual food was quite good , as well:
Maine-made scallions with quinoa and kale
Along the way there were some pretty sweet views :) : 

Utterly exhausted and with full stomachs, we biked back to Bar Harbor, and right away met up with a group of other MITOC-ers to hike the famous Cadillac Mountain. Apparently it is always full of hikers, but the trail we went up (North Ridge) was actually rather empty save for a few rangers. It was nearing sunset, and we got to see some nice landscapes...

On the way to the top!

Our awesome hiking group! Sorry, Jenny, I chopped off your head :( 
Completely exhausted and completely satisfied, we packed up the tents and the food, and headed back to MIT!