PHOTO JOURNEYS: Auburn Love from New England

An inspiration from Regent’s Park, London

The inspiration for this post arose a few days ago when I couldn’t help but notice that autumn has graced London. The wet and drip of this British weather though has very much downplayed the beauty of its autumn leaves.

Therefore, this week ,Photo Journeys begin not with England, but New England – the beloved Northeastern region of the States to which I’m so attached. I was thrilled 2 hours ago when I found out that my alma-mater – Mount Holyoke College, topped the rank for the best campus to be on during autumn.

Call me biased, but our campus is undoubtedly one of the most splendid in the States (proven by Princeton Review, mind you). The first women’s college in the country, MtHolyoke is smack-dabbed in the middle of a small town called South Hadley (I lovingly/hatefully call “Shadley” for its cold, long winters) in Western Massachusetts.

And yet, you cannot speak of New England in general and our school in particular, without mentioning the gorgeous autumns – what I miss most from my 4 years there. The crisp air, auburn shades, reflections upon silent waters, and the infinite serenity that engulfs you on a stroll around the many lakes and back routes of the campus. Most of the photos here, which I took back in 2008, are of the back routes out and about MHC, I figure the more iconic ones with the buildings are readily available online. Without further ado, here is the Photo Journey series revisiting Mount Holyoke in Fall Shades! Enjoy ❤

Part of the Upper Lake, on a back route that creates a little forest semi-encircling the campus
Mohos (as the colloquial term goes for students) are known for having one of the biggest equestrian facilities in the country, the route that meanders along Upper Lake, through the woods, will lead you to meet the lovely horses on campus
Lower Lake is the more apparent of lakes on campus, sitting right across from the campus center, it shines the most in autumn
This white goose owns the Lower Lake, literally. He has been named everything you could think of, Alberta, Danny, Roberto, Alejandro ….my friends and I call him Ronaldo. Don’t let his elegant stride across the water fool you, the clamorous horn-beaked beast is unleashed once onto the bank, especially if you have food in hand, or if you go near any one of his ‘bitches’ – the familiar black and beige Canadian geese.
This is a little outside of Mount Holyoke, up on a mountain overlooking the Connecticut River, this is what New England autumns are all about!
And here’s me, 4 years ago! 🙂

[Babbles] A J-O-what?


I won’t begin, even though I have, to talk about my lack of commitment to “sprinkling petals” here because that would make this blog, one full of excuses rather than stories.

I’ve lost 2 pounds, about 2 reaching 3 shades darker taking into account the time I’m spending canoodling around on the back of a motorbike, age spots sprouting on one cheek to the next and what not. Note to self: spf 15 ain’t all that great. I reserve well all the scars I had and managed well to acquire none further since the last time I searched for words to pitter patter on this page. I’ve also had that long awaited moment of what Rousseau would call one of those rites of passage: purely in playback: 400 and something names later, D Tran, swift movement, the box of the hat sliding off, heels click one clack two on the stage, hands extending, Pres. Jojo’s mouth muttering “Congratulations”, hands retrieving, hands now grasping onto something new, eyes blurred out by photographers’ flash. And there is was, the ‘passage’ between Jojo and what seemed like finally “the light at the end of the tunnel”…No more slow-mo, it fast-forwarded from there….kabamm, look world! my 4 years of slow mo on this little piece of paper and I can’t even read it, but it’s great, cause here I come …no longer a college student.

For one whole hour, just before the rush of what felt like being ambushed out of the last 4 years of life, just before reality of goodbyes and see-you-soon-but-god-knows-when slapped me across my freshly graduated face, I lived in the fast-forward mode, unaware, still in the lime light in a sense, and completely oblivious to what awaited once the light no longer sparkled, the doors of the institution shut behind me, and my bare self before the coarseness of what is merely the real world.

And it is from that moment when the pain of truth hits, that I began to switch mode. My mind delving backwards, me living in the rewind mode. A purely cinematographic moment, you know in movies when at a wedding, a father has all these flashbacks of when his daughter was 2, 6, and so on or when a couple has troubles in a korean drama, and the guy has these flashbacks of their memories together, the first kiss and such….I had that kind of moment. The place too memorable, and the people too imprinting. It’s hard to say “god knows when”, maybe “i’ll know when” – “see you soon and I’ll know when” …soon. Lol, I promise.

And yes the title does have some significant meaning to it. I started my j-o-b 2 days ago. It’s trotting along well except the hours are kind of odd. We’ll see how it goes and I’ll be sure to update!

Miss yous!

[Travel] A break from the valley

Talk about being cyber spaced out, despite my constant complaint about me not updating myself often enough in the last blog posts, I persist in my own laziness to witness myself delve only deeper into “blog-isolation”.  And so, to say that I was purely busy would only capture a glimpse of the whole picture which entails strokes of laziness, emotional instability, and overall uncertainty about these coming months and perhaps the fate of the rest of my life.

When I really think about it though, there shouldn’t be any reason for me to subject myself to such drama, and envisioning the day when I finish school alone suffices to make joy-wings flutter. The plan for the next two months includes enjoyment and relaxation of the last college courses ever, and spending more of the supposed quality time with friends near and far. Sounds kinda BS-sy, I know, but better to have some direction, than just being stuck in the turmoil that is my current life.

In two days, I embark on a 7-hour bus ride, crossing the continental divide line of North America, foraging against the direction of increase in temperature, to ironically a colder, snow-covered place – Quebec, Canada. I’m going with Alice and Catherine, but we don’t foresee french as being of any help, seeing that Quebecois sounds just like any other foreign language to me. The plan is to spend around 4 days in Montreal and then 2 days in Quebec City. I have no doubt that I will be freezing my bottom off there, and many have questioned my counter-intuitive decision to embark on the Northern hemisphere during a supposedly sunshine-filled Spring Break. Nevertheless, ever since coming back from the Euro-intensive-travel phase, the idea of going somewhere new became one of more noticeable priorities on my agenda for life (dramatic, yes I know) and yet with meager resources, Montreal seemed like the next best viable option. The fact of the matter is also, no matter where I do end up going, it would have been far far away from this valley, and that alone is enough as something to look forward to. No animosity towards the school whatsoever, yet lack of a real cosmopolitan vibe can only last so long.

As a preparation, I’ve been watching some Quebecois videos on YouTube, and have been finding myself stupefied by the incomprehensibility of everything. I can barely pick up a word out of every 5, Catherine told me that it wasn’t just me though, and even French natives have trouble making out what is also supposedly french. Perhaps, they also speak faster in those videos? and so I try to encourage myself, reasoning for the fact that hopefully, this trip will make everything all the better.

Will update on the trip as soon as I get back, no more of being cyberspaced out, I promise. Have a great Spring Break! I miss youZz, yous and YOU. Love!

Photo disclaimer: It has nothing to do with what I’m writing about, we are going to stay near Gay Village in Montreal, though. Oh for the love of randomness!

[Babbles] Of objectives and snow…

Courtesy of Danny-Photobucket
Caution! Snow-eaters!

Yes it’s that time of the year again, the time where life is well balanced between the rustling of papers, the tapping of laptop keyboards, the tiny slurps of bitter expresso, and the occasional yawn or cracking of the muscles. It’s that time of the semester where it’s normal to see bags under sleepless eyes, shaggy pajama pants and 4-direction windblown hair. It’s these days where you witness a girl disappearing into the contours of the library only to see her appear 2 days later, eyes squinting to the long missed rays of sunshine. A bit elaborately described but never overly done, because FINALS are not overstated, they are simply an indescribable phenomenon at this school, too exhausted for words, and too stressed out for descriptions.

This year, my new resolution was to stay away from the library, seeing that with the amount of people who congregate there and insist on planting their habitat within, the place might as well be a risky microcosm of every possible flu viruses available out there. Tough luck! Better not than sorry, they always say. So I’ve gone elsewhere… trying to set the next 10 days into perspective a bit. I have just presentations and papers which is good and bad…the pros: I can procrastinate, the cons: that I do procrastinate. Exams, despite their nerve-wrecking nature, would just be easier for life…I mean, in, out, done, good or bad? it’s done. Papers….oh so there are 5 days left till the paper is due….4 days later: “darn, I should have started earlier”…! What luck

So yes, objectives are to be done by the 16th so that I can leave by the 18th: list of things to do:

– Final Presentation Senior Major Seminar-  Dec 8th

–  Final Paper French Seminar – turn in Dec 9th

– French presentation – Dec 10th

–  Buddhism response papers – turn in Dec 11th

– Draft 20-page Final Report for Senior Major Seminar – Dec 13th – Final – Dec 15th

– Draft 20-page Historical background for independent – Dec 12th – Final – Dec 16th

– Final 15- page Buddhism paper – turn in Dec 16th

– Buy a grill for Mom!

– Dinner and gift exchanging with friends on/off campus

– Packing! this will take a while.

The weather is not really helping me at this point. Yesterday there was real snow for the first time in the season, not counting that one sleet 2 weeks back. I had 2 layers of socks plus boots on but for some reason, my toes were still feeling numb after the walk back from dinner. I since then have retreated to the seemingly thin layer of my comforter to do homework. The wind is raging tonight and pressing its nose hard against my window that is unfortunately huge…I’ve pulled down the curtain, pressed toilet paper against all the opened edges I could find, but despite my window looking like a garbage shoot for disposed paper, the heat escapes while the cold still invades. Someone recently told me that they envied the coldness of where I live, because that someone only experiences one kind of tropical weather all the time…well just letting you know, someone, balance is more desired than extremities!

As always, this year’s first physical snowflakes have taken wonder to our gullible international first-years. They run out onto the green(now white),  awe in their eyes, excitement in the first taste of snow, frolicking mittens, earmuffs, and the occasional pom-poms on knitted hats. Meanwhile, along the frozen Lower Lake, swiftly walk the unrecognizable figures of international upper-class-men, bodies roundish in puffy colored coats, heads covered in never-ending twists and twirls of scarves, and hat. Only the eyes, more of “I’m freezing my butt off” than awe, are  visible, hence the swift, unrecognizable figures gliding in the mist of blurry snow.

On stories of first-years and snow, I can’t help but remember UJWAS – an organization introduced to me when I was a first-year by my Jamaican friend, a senior at the time. She told me of how she and her Jamaican friends, were so fascinated by snow that one day where the sky randomly decided to land 2 feet of it on Mount Holyoke campus. “We were estatic” she said, “then the 2 nd day came, we were thrilled, we snapped photos of ourselves with a Jamaican flag at the midpoint of a storm. Then the 3rd day, and we said, yeah maybe we’ll stay in today….the 4th and 5th  days came, we told snow: ‘it’s cool,you can go now’. Little did we know, snow came and stayed with us for an average of 5 months for each of the next 4 years…Instead of being fascinated, we founded UJWAS, our comfort zone to reminisce days of 98 F back in Jamaica”. So what does UJWAS stand for,  I asked. ” United Jamaican Women Against Snow, of course!”

Oh and beware first-years or not when you open up your mouth to get that first taste of snow! Reference the picture there…

On to the objectives now, wish me luck! love.

[Babbles] Want and Need

Past the thawing ice cream and semi-inedible steak in the dining halls, past all-nighters pulled desperately in search of some logical sense in a paper accounting for perhaps nil of your future career pursuit, past bumping your temple to the point of bruises on bus windows to catch that 8am of distribution requirement, past promenading in Big-Y as a form of retreat, past triple-direction-windblown hair, past residential sweatshirts and jeans muddied with last week’s storm – The line of distinction between Want and Need is blurred, forgotten, Non-existent in decision making and somehow, everything is always rationalized.

Is dinner off-campus necessary or am I just really sick and tired of campus repetition or am I doing it because half of my friends will do the same anyway? Am I spending this money because I’m obliged to? Am I surfing Ebay because I really NEED another top to my already “over-the-top” drawers? No, I technically don’t NEED it but then YES, I must somehow still have it. The truth, no matter how you want to twist or bend it, is that we all possess an inherent nature of multi-wants, that may or may not make us happy and that is shaped inevitably by desperation/laziness, peers, and media.

Take this campus where desperation is an understatement for some, especially in times of school plus social stress. The want to own a car, and spend 1/2 of your normal budget on gas to escape from the valley becomes one of need. But then you have to fork out the time to work for the gas money, which eventually cuts down on the time to escape. Are you really happy? The want of forking out $20 for a meal 10 miles away while there’s one prepaid for you waiting 5′ away from your dorm becomes one of rational necessity. But then you have no money left when it comes time for vacation, and you’re stuck on campus with the food anyway. Are you really satisfied? Laziness here is a booster to the whole process, just as if Desperation were the pirate pushing you to the edge of the plank, Laziness is the sword, poking you to your ultimate end. Peers, as much as they are everything else great to you, are at some point especially when paired with desperation, a reflection of all that you lack in life. Materialistically, the fact that Susan B wore an amazing pair of boots today, more or less, will likely lengthen Molly A’s procrastinating hours on Zappos searching for a pair. And to top it all off, like frosting on an already-sugar-coated waffle ( and you thought the picture was completely irrelevant), there’s the media. Will owning an object that can slice vegetables 40 ways for only 3 payments of $18.95 actually help me impress the other housewives in the neighborhood or would plastic bags that condense my closets to 1/3 of the size that it is, allow me to buy more and fill up the 2/3 that is left? The important thing, will taking money from my wallet to buy what I think will make me happy, actually make me happy or would it just make me depressed looking back on how foolishly I spent?

So are these the societal constraints- the desperation, the laziness, the peer viewing, the media, are they the reason why we are still the sheep in the consumers’ herd, or is the distinction between want and need too difficult to make, or is it both in a cause and effect tangle? And for some of us, why is it still necessary to follow the trend when the certainty of it making you satisfied is only vaguely if not at all secured? Like right now, why am I just wasting all this energy in powering my computer to write a blog of nonsense questions that is making me frustrated rather than just go to sleep and actually not be a sleep-deprived person tomorrow? Did I want to because I’m lazy, or do I need to because I’m desperate in boredom? Desperate times call for desperate measure, what cliche’d rationalization.

[Life Babbles] The light shines from the end of the tunnel


       I am happy to announce after a 2 hour-night sleep that finals are finally over. Despite my not-so-satisfying performance on the last french paper, I am just glad to have it off my list of worries and pains. Packing was a pain, spanning from 11 pm yesterday to 1pm this afternoon…yet I haven’t the slightest idea of where everything is and I can foresee next autumn’s unpacking day to be drowned in confusion like any other year. The worse was the trip to New York- 6 hours of sitting on the Peter Pan bus, plus a lot of “lugging”. The muddy snow sticking to the wheels of my baggage did not help the irritation I got from trying to juggle the weight of my life packed horrendously in the two suitcases. Meeting my friend on the bus, whose love for talk was more than mine for sleep, did not help the exhaustion I felt from trying to hold up the weight of my eyes brutalized mercilessly through two weeks of exams.

        Yet I am in New York now, me, Lanh and Hien, at chi Ha’s cozy apartment. I had never been so happy to see bread and condensed milk as the moment she handed it to us upon our arrival. McDonald’s certainly did not help the empty stomach in pain from the bitter New York night. Now I just need to get through the 24-hour- in- total flight time to come home, to see mom and dad and the whole family, to see the girls, the class, to spend time with C., to eat my heart out…to simply be home and happy for once. Good night…I finally sleep.

[Life Babbles] 9 days through hell to get to heaven

Classes are officially over and I remembered to spare a minute to sigh today in my turning in the final report for Giovanna. 25 pages in all including the appendixes that stole my sleep last week when I was complaining on and on about staying up until 5 am. Yes it’s still the same project. I have never been so consumed and overtaken by a school project. The final exam for the class (and you think it was all over) seems like a piece of cake compared to that humongous loaf.

Only 9 days left….tread through the horror of finals, plummet into the vastness of packing and moving out, fly my way through more than 20 hours of undesirable boredom on a transcontinental plane….and then I’ll finally be home. It seems almost like an eternity away but I’m trying to take finals as lightly and as studiously as I can. 3 more things to do and I should be done by the 17th…I’m forcing myself to, despite the hideous assignment that is the french dissertation. I’ll trudge through and hold dear to heart that my finals are not nearly as life consuming as those of many others.

Hoping to get some Vietnamese food with the girls tomorrow…food to destress, food for the soul…I just want some food other than the dorm hodgepodge of blandness. Bu’n rieu is on the hot list right now and then pho?….then, oh but I digress. Back to hell, *hemm* I mean politics now shall we…