5 Balls

Bryan Dyson, former CEO of Coca Cola, once said:

“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. They are Work, Family, Health, friends and Spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four Balls – Family, Health, Friends and Spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it.”

I had a discussion recently with some friends about the difference between family and friends. One friend said she felt like she could tell her family anything because at the end of the day, family is family. But with friends, she felt like there’s a layer that she can’t divulge because friends change. One moment they might be your friend, another they might not.

I agree that friends can change and that family is often more reliable in the long term. However, just as friendships can be broken, family can also be broken. And if the friends I have are fickle and turn on me if I divulge everything about me, then my gut reaction is that I don’t need them anyway.

I think family is the trickiest. Sometimes it feels as if they are the closest people you have, yet other times it feels as if they don’t understand you at all. In a Chinese family, the most important feelings, such as love, appreciation, trust, are often unspoken. Growing up, my parents shied away from saying things like “I love you” or “well done,” so on the rare occasions that I did hear those words, I would get very emotional. More often than not, my parents point out the negative things they see, such as my supposedly terrible attitude, my unfriendly nature, and my unappreciative behavior. They blame me for starting arguments, even though arguments are a two way street, and they constantly scold me for not appreciating their efforts to help me. I get told things like “I don’t understand you,” “you’re always yelling nowadays,” “I’m helping you, not the other way around,” and the list of unfounded assertions about my character goes on.

And it’s times like these when I feel like family is exactly the opposite of close. If physical distance translates to distance in relationship, how am I supposed to rely on family? Or friends for that matter?

I just don’t understand.

Quito Part 2: July 24-Aug 2

Merrr I’ve been really bad about blogging the rest of my Quito trip… so I’m just gonna lump the last week and a half together into one -__-

In the last few days that the group had together (before Kent and Ryan flew back to Boston), we visited Otavalo (a huge market with all kinds of alpaca/llama fur products), Yachay, and Universidad San Francisco de Quito (had lunch with the president). We also had dinner with Oswaldo Viteri, who graciously invited us to his home/museum/studio. It was craaazy. He showed us collections of Picasso works, his own self-portraits, and even Da Vinci’s own cookbook! He eagerly showed us his most prized collections, danced with Kent’s wife, and played us some pre-Columbian melody on one of his pre-Columbian flutes.

In addition, we met with the Archbishop, who asked everyone in our team (with the notable exception of Kent) “where we were from.” He inquired into our adaptation to the food in Quito, to which Susanna grimaced (having had stomach problems the day before). He took note and blessed her stomach when we departed :D

Otavalo!

Otavalo! Tourist heaven

Interesting dolls I found. I think you're supposed to get them when you're pregnant... but I very possibly could have misunderstood.

Interesting dolls I found. I think you’re supposed to get them when you’re pregnant… but I very possibly could have misunderstood.

Yachay

Yachay

For Kent and Ryan’s farewell dinner, Ramiro took us to Zazu (owned by the owner of Zinc). We had the most amazing dishes, but of course I only remembered to take pictures of the dessert. I was a very, very happy camper.

The whole team at Zazu!

The whole team at Zazu! With the owner himself (center)

Goat cheese flambe! Most delicious flan I've ever had. Favorite dessert of the evening.

Goat cheese flambe! Most delicious flan I’ve ever had. Favorite dessert of the evening.

The next morning, Susanna and I went to the Parque Metropolitano, where we had fun with turtle statues, taking self-timer photos, and running into a herd of llamas (or alpacas?)!

Happy turtles!

Happy turtles!

Susanna and her inspiration

Susanna and inspiration

Our third and finally successful self-timer photo :D

Our third and finally successful self-timer photo :D

Llamas??

Llamas!!!!

BABY LLAMAS

BABY LLAMAS

We also visited the Museo Nacional de Quito. It was interesting.. but we got tired after an hour. It’s no surprise that we ended up in a market in the park nearby.

Gate at the park

Gate at the park

Susanna looking for a belt

Susanna looking for a belt

Love Ecuador's wide variety of fruits and fruit juices!

Love Ecuador’s wide variety of fruits and fruit juices!

That night, Kathy arrived! She stayed with me in my room (seeing as I had a king sized bed), and together with Susanna the next morning, we went on an adventure to hike around Mt. Cotopaxi. We did not anticipate, however, that we would be taken to one of the top bases, from which legit hikers carrying picks and tough gear start. Thus, when we hopped out of the truck, we were bombarded by ice particles, dust, and rock particles, thrown at us by the violent, unstopping wind. Susanna got blown to the ground a couple times and barely managed to regain her stance. After a few feet of daring exploration, we abandoned mission and retreated like wounded dogs back to the safety haven that was our pickup truck. There, we sat gasping for air and laughing nervously about how we almost died.

Snow in the middle of summer? No way, Jose

Snow in the middle of summer? No way, Jose

Trudging back miserably

Trudging back miserably. I guess we made it out more than just a few feet..

The aftermath. Note our red faces, crazy hair, and completely unprepared clothing

The aftermath. Note our red faces, crazy hair, and completely unprepared clothing

So instead, we decided to walk around a lake at the base of Cotopaxi

So instead, we decided to walk around a lake at the base of Cotopaxi

For most of our remaining time, Susanna and I worked, ate, and worked some more. I ate lots of wonderful ceviche, but started longing for Boston and home after a while. Kathy and I hit up a contemporary art museum on my last day. I really liked it!

Ceviche with the sista!

Ceviche with the sista!

Contemporary art museum!

Contemporary art museum!

kinda scary..

kinda scary..

Most genius headphones ever

Most genius headphones ever

And that marks the end of my trip! I had a great time and loved everything – the food, the stay, but most of all, the people. They were all so friendly! Saying goodbye to them and all their exotic fruits was probably the hardest part :'(

Quito Part 1: July 20-23

There are times when I think my life majorly sucks, but there are times when I can’t believe how ridiculously lucky I am. And one of those lucky times was this summer, when I found myself – after a sleepless night of packing LEGOs and a sleep-filled day sitting on a plane – in the city of the skies: Quito, Ecuador.

But why LEGOs? Why Quito?

Well LEGOs because my UROP at the Media Lab is on projecting information onto LEGO models in order to make urban models more dynamic and allow for better urban planning to occur. And Quito? That’s just the city my supervisor is from and where we hope to build our first exhibition of this new urban model.

So this is how Susanna and I found ourselves confronted by security at the Quito Airport (also called Quiport) and asked to open two giant metal cases we had brought, both of which were tightly packed with bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and our LEGO model of the Palacio de Carondelet. The inspectors were confused, asking if the peanuts were cheetos, but they eventually realized we weren’t smuggling drugs in with our LEGOs. They also found our LEGO rendering of the Ecuadorian flag, which probably made us seem a little more legit :D

Santi picked us up and drove us into the city to the Swissotel, where Kent, Ryan, and Ramiro were waiting. Ramiro took us out to dinner at Zinc and fed us wonderfully! There were empanadas and octopus and exotic desserts… After a little while though, it was quite obvious that Susanna and I were drained, so we went back to the 5-star hotel that would be our home for the next two weeks.

A king sized bed for 2 weeks? wondrous life!

A king sized bed for 2 weeks? wondrous life!

July 21: Being a tourist

The next day started our 3-day extensive tour of Quito. Ramiro had arranged everything for us, and all we had to do was be on time… such a crazy feeling to have everything planned for you! The complementary breakfast at the hotel already put our day to a great start – with a multitude of tropical fruit juices, ceviche, empanadas, breads, etc. Then we drove to the TeleferiQo, a gondola that took us up Pichincha (one of the mountains around Quito). From there, we got a great view of the city:

Quito, as seen from Guagua (little) Pichincha

Quito, as seen from Guagua (little) Pichincha

Afterwards, we headed to the equator at Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World). On the way, we stopped for some delicious Ecuadorian ice cream:

Fig + soursop (guanabana)!

Fig + soursop (guanabana)!

IMG_0799

On the equator!

After being touristy at the equator, we drove and had lunch at a place (that I can’t remember the name of) in the mountains. I just remember there being a lot of clouds and fog outside the restaurant, a most delectable soup called locro de papas (potatoes and avocado), and a llama to bid us farewell:

Locro de papas. Such heavenly taste!

Locro de papas. Such heavenly taste!

Llamaaaaa!

Llamaaaaa!

Having filled our bellies to the brim, we headed to Oswaldo Guayasamin’s Chapel of Man. Guayasamin, South America’s most prominent artist, did a lot of art works on human nature and suffering. Some of them were very dark, others sad.

Guayasamin's Chapel of Man

Guayasamin’s Chapel of Man

I really liked this one

I really liked this one

An unfinished work

An unfinished work

"I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw a child who had no feet"

“I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw a child who had no feet.”

His burial place

Guayasamin’s burial place

Afterwards, we returned to the Swissotel to recuperate from our first long day of adventures. Susanna and I were way too full to get dinner, so we headed to bed early.

July 22: Seeing the city

We spent this entire day driving to multiple sites in Quito’s Historic Core and seeing the city from these different points of interest. This often required climbing onto church roofs and scaling domes:

From Itchimbia Hill

From Itchimbia

From Panecillo Hill

From Panecillo Hill

On top of the Church of San Diego

On top of the Church of San Diego

on top of the Basilica de Voto Nacional!

on top of the Basilica de Voto Nacional!

Atop Santo Domingo!

Atop Santo Domingo!

And of course, what would a trip be without food?

Rosera! A drink seeped in rose petals, containing pineapple, apple, strawberries, cinnamon, etc

Rosera! A drink seeped in rose petals, containing pineapple, apple, strawberries, cinnamon, etc

Dessert! Not ice cream cones.. just cream cones

Dessert! Not ice cream cones.. just cream cones

some kind of sacred doll costume delivering yummy looking dessert to people who weren't us :(

some kind of sacred doll costume delivering yummy looking dessert to people who weren’t us :(

After all that food, I could’ve sworn I gained 10 pounds on the spot. It sure felt like it anyway.

July 23: Last day touring

Last day having Julio take us around the city in his van. He brought us to more churches – La Compania Jesuit and San Francisco – and took us to a museum and the lovely neighborhood of La Ronda.

We got to see catacombs...

We got to see catacombs…

and ceilings decorated with pineapples

and ceilings decorated with pineapples

here is me scaling a dome!

here is me scaling a dome!

The neighborhood of La Ronda was really cute

The neighborhood of La Ronda was really cute!

IMG_1011

isn’t it super cute??

Inside San Francisco!

Inside San Francisco! So gorgeous

the courtyard in San Francisco

the courtyard in San Francisco
Ecuadorians really like their courtyards

To conclude our adventures with Julio, we had drinks and snacks on top of a building overlooking the San Francisco square.

waiting to catch the sunset

waiting to catch the sunset

yummy yummmy hors d'oeuvres

yummy yummmy hors d’oeuvres!

Rainbow over the Charles

For the second time, weather.com lied to me and told me there was 0% chance of rain when it was drizzling/raining outside. I decided to go running anyway and was rewarded with the beautiful sighting of a double rainbow over the Charles River. It was absolutely gorgeous :)

The camera on my phone, however, sucks and would not zoom out enough to get the whole thing, so this was the best it could do:

From the BU bridge!

From the BU bridge!

“Halfway done with hell.”

But as much as I dislike MIT at times, it’s not hell. No, it’s far from it.

MIT, you are my second home. It’s been a good two years. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been plenty of downs.. but there’s always enough ups to make it all worthwhile. After all, what are the good times if not for the bad?

This year has flown by so quickly, it’s craaazy. Spring semester was hectic as hell. I dealt with 5 classes – 3 MechE, 2 HASS – in order to be prepared for my year abroad and to come back on track to graduate. 2.005 (Thermal Fluids Engineering) was my favorite; it just made so much sense! My professor – Jacopo Buongiorno – was a great teacher, and the TAs were all super helpful. 2.004 (Dynamics and Control II), on the other hand, was awful. The psets were written by a TA and were always a week or two ahead of material taught in lecture. This resulted in the entire class struggling every week to learn material not covered and to finish problems that often took at least 10 hours. I failed a test for the first time, getting a tragic 13 out of 100. The TA emailed me saying we needed to discuss my performance in the class, which was scary to say the least. But he assured me that if I did average (or better yet, above average) on the second midterm and the final, then I would probably come away with a B in the class. “Don’t worry,” he said. But how could I not? When I went home during spring break, I read all the chapters in the book, the supplementary notes, retook my first midterm, did all the examples I could to understand the material. When it came time for the second midterm, I was more prepared. My second midterm score was above average, and I got a congratulatory email from the professor. The last thing I had to worry about was the final. But somewhere somehow, someone thought it was a good idea to schedule 2.005 and 2.004 finals back to back on the first day of finals week. With CME orientation on the Friday after the last day of classes, I really only had 2 days to study. So for the first time, I nervously went to see S^3. They managed to fit me in 4:30 pm on Friday (after walk-in hours closed), and Dean Henderson calmly heard me explain my situation. He emailed Professor Hover and assured me that things would be fine. I later received an email from Prof. Hover consenting to my request to move my 2.004 final to Tuesday. This allowed me to study for 2.005 on the weekend, and 2.004 after my 2.005 final. And it was a good decision. I did well on 2.005, and I managed to pull an 84 on 2.004! In the end, I got a B+ which was better than I wanted, so I was happy :)

Surprisingly, 2.007 also went well. I just so happened to pick the instructor who graded the hardest, giving most people Bs on their milestones, when other instructors hastily slopped down As. I was pretty annoyed because I kept trying harder each week, only to find another B on my milestone. But midway through the semester, I think he saw me trying super hard and started giving me As, and I pulled off an A- in the class. Woohoo :)

Other than struggling with classes more so this semester than ever before, I struggled with relationships. A lot of my close friends from last year, I don’t see as often anymore. Even though most of us are still excited to see each other, I don’t know if we’re as close. On the flip side, I’ve gotten to meet and know a lot of new people this year, which was one of my goals at the beginning of sophomore year. Among these new people are my roomie and my AXO family line. I’m so glad to have had Estefania as my roommate this year; she is honestly the best. She and I have had the most interesting discussions at 2 or 3 in the morning. As for my family line – the Alpha Stars – I love them so much. Sunanda is just about the coolest big ever, and super sweet too. Jess is the cutest thing ever, and seriously Rapunzel (from Tangled) in real life form. They’re the cutest <3

Lastly, the friend I posted about a while back – the one with whom I felt a disconnect – got better the last half of the semester. I don’t know if anything happened, but everything just got better, and I think we’re good now, which makes me happy :)

Knowing that I’ll be away next year makes me miss everyone and everything that much more, and that much earlier. I’ll miss my friends here so much – without them, I would be nothing. I will miss Syncopasian terribly – what will I do without rehearsals every other day, and Jenny’s stretches, and Max’s temper, and Michelle’s yelling, and George’s smirk, and… Ahhhh there are just so many things and people I’ll be leaving behind… :(

But I guess that’s what this summer is for. It’s for spending time that I don’t normally have during the school year with people I care about, people I love. It’s for exploring Boston, having adventures. It’s for the year I’ll miss while studying abroad in England.

Time to get crack-a-lackin!!