Friday, September 30, 2011

Postcards from Hell,0

I'm back to brooding about the world, humanitarian crises, what can actually be done about it.
I sit in my classes and am distracted by the fact that what we're studying is not abstract theory; the examples are not hypothetical. The suffering is real.
I wade through the stack of books and articles assigned each day and tear up at the heartbreaking accounts found within their pages. These details aren't fictional. The unending hardships aren't conjectured. The pain is real.
I flip through dozens of newspapers and history books for my final research paper and am continually surprised and appalled by my findings. I knew there were horrors in the world; just not the terrible extent of them.

Postcards from Hell is a collection of photographs from the world's most failed states. Read it. It's real. I know people from many of those countries. I love people from some of these countries. This isn't something to read about and apathetically sympathize. The suffering, the pain, the turmoil, the people, the's all so real.

Can anything be done? What? How?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I enrolled in an intense pe class this quarter and as part of my homework I'm supposed to record what I eat each day.

So for today's record:
Cold cereal

Salad (lettuce, eggs, cheese, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, ham and beans)

Cottage cheese and banana
Peanut butter
Bowl of ice-cream
Another brownie
Bowl of pop-corn

I think I'm gonna fail this class.

Chocolate and friends

I desperately needed chocolate today. It was beyond mere cravings; no, it became an all-consuming obsession that would not be stemmed.

So I made gooey ghirardelli brownies.

I needed a pan though, so I headed down the hall to Brian's dorm to borrow one (seriously, I love men who cook).
Later, when our kitchen was filled with the aroma of fresh-baked brownies, Manny from building 8 poked his head in and cut himself a corner. We burned our fingers on the molten chocolate.
As I helped myself to a piece, Matt next door texted with an invitation to share his freshly-brewed coffee. I scooped up another block of chocolatey decadence for him and headed over. He nibbled away on his brownie and I curled up on his couch sipping my steaming coffee and we talked about neuro-science and sociopsychology.

I love the constant flow of friends and casual conversation we engage in. Our door is always propped open, and I never know who's grinning face will appear in the doorframe. We have all perfected the art of gliding; someone will come in, sit down, share in a card game or guitar song or laugh or whatever's on the stove, we'll talk about something amusing or frustrating, and then they'll head out. And I do the same with their dorms. It's like a huge family.

I love us.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Suffering is never just pure suffering..."

"In the dim reaches of misery, insomnia is a constant companion, especially when twenty-first-century people die of nineteenth-century-afflictions..." -Paul Farmer, Haiti; After the Earthquake

When I was in Jamaica I held children dying of preventable diseases. I watched the elderly struggle to breathe when, had they been in the US, their symptoms could have been relieved in minutes. The level of poverty, neglect, and medical inadequacy was heartbreaking and I was overwhelmed by my inability to make a difference. How can you fight against a longstanding lack of investment in medical infrastructure and training? How can you fight to save lives when proper supplies are simply non-existant?

As desperate as the need is in Jamaica, I know communities around the world suffer far worse. Even my finite knowledge of the social, economic and medical devastation Haitians still suffer since the horrific earthquake in 2010 is staggering. Right now, over 200,000 Pakistanis are in urgent need of shelter and attention as massive floods ravage their homes and lands. As we speak, Somalia is enduring one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today; twenty years of conflict and drought have uprooted over a quarter of the country's 7.5 million people.

Millions of people are suffering worldwide, and yet, as Paul Farmer recounts in his book Haiti: After the Earthquake, "Everyone wanted to help, but no-one knew exactly what to do. We wanted to be rescued by expertise, but we never were....[We were surrounded] by arguments and competition between different dispensers of "disaster relief" over the privilege of looking after people who had long been neglected."

It is difficult to accept the awful reality that 1) there is very little coordination between NGOs and humanitarian organizations and 2) life-saving aid is often prevented by tangles of bureaucratic red tape, governments paranoid about protecting their sovereignty, or leaders resisting any semblance of Western imperialism. Governments refuse international aid to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people within their borders or allow millions to starve as they look the other way.

The question can not be "why?", but rather "what can be done?" Maybe I'm naive and idealistic, but there has to be a way to prevent the unnecessary loss of lives...especially on such massive scales as we are currently seeing. What will it take? What needs to be done? How can this be tackled? I don't have the answers. I don't know how any potential solution could possibly work. It feels hopeless. But we were born here and not there for a reason. We are not Somalian or Pakistani or Haitian or Sudanese for a reason. We might not know the answer yet, but that doesn't lessen the significance of the search. We live privileged lives; a blessing that comes with much responsibility.

We can't forget that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


It's 2am and I feel like I'm going to bed early.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Adventures of the Girls in 5202

The dorm is momentarily quiet and I'm snuggled up in our huge, blue, swivel-chair snatching a moment to write. The last couple days have been an exciting whirlwind of activities and I'm so madly in love with university life it's almost obsessive. I still can hardly believe I'm here, but instead of feeling like a tiny microbe in the vast UCSD ocean....I feel like I'm at home. Like I belong. I've made some amazing friends in the past couple days and suddenly I feel like I'm surrounded by people I've known for forever. It's a beautiful scenario of "friendship-at-first-sight".

So much has happened, I've got to post in bullets:
* In an outburst of boredom and friendliness, my roommate Lizzy and I decided to throw a beach bonfire party for our building. We went door to door introducing ourselves and inviting our neighbors to our bonfire which got us some strange glances, but mostly excited "yes!!"es. Through a series of unforeseen events, we ended up building our own fire-ring on the nearby nude beach (no lifeguards or police patrol nude beaches), watched a gorgeous sunset, and roasted s'mores under the dazzling La Jolla stars. There were probably 10 or 11 of us, and we laughed, shared stories, encouraged each other, and had an *amazing* time getting to know each other and becoming fast friends.

* Getting back from the beach and flopping at our dorm (5202!!) where we pulled out guitars and serenaded each other. American Pie, Hey There Delilah, country songs and Katy Perry....we're quite talented guitar players we discovered and might even try open-mic night at the campus pub. We'll see.

* Stealing a huge stuffed fish from our fellow non-frat friend during a crazy houseparty, and then crashing at 5203's room for scotch and philosophical conversation late into the night.

* Yesterday my longtime friend Kayla took me to a Padres game and Switchfoot concert at PETCO park. The Padres lost to the Diamondbacks (5 to 1), but the concert was incredible and we actually got to highfive Jon Foreman!! Front row seats at PETCO park are insane. :D

* Returned from the game/concert in time to get all dolled up for the all-campus UCSD dance under Sun God. We took roommate glamour shots, then 15 or so of our neighbors from 5203, 5206, 5101, and 8201 piled into our kitchen before heading down to Sun God to dance under the chilly stars. Firas and I were "dates" and had an awesome time laughing at the freshmen....they're such babies. We came back to the room to play speed and laugh 'till 2am.

* Tonight we're heading down to Homeplate Cafe for free food, then down to Price Center for a free movie, then back to our dorms for a magic show, then another free movie, and THEN and ice-cream social at 11pm.

* We girls made a bucket-list of things we have to do by the end of the year as 5202ers. It's brilliant...but I'll save it for a post of it's own.

* I'm officially "PB" and you have to say it with the low-voice shoutout at the end. P-BAY! I can thank a very drunk creeper at the campus pub for coining it, but now it's everyone's term of gangster endearment.

* Looking out my window every morning at the ocean. I'm awestruck every time I wake up.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Think. Think and Read.

My dorm room is flooded with light and the maps on my wall are tauntingly illuminated. I have the world at my fingertips and it's easy to get lost in traveler's daydreaming. There are so many countries, so many beautiful, mysterious places I long to see...but for now, these maps will have to suffice.

My roommate and I had a hard workout last night. We spent over an hour on cardio, rowing, and stair-steps and my poor body cried out in protest. I guess it really took it out of me though, because without even trying, I slept in until 10am. It felt divine. I know that once school starts my life will be an insane swirl of lectures, readings, papers, and thinking, so having this week to sleep and bask in the sunlight is wonderful.

For the first time in weeks and weeks, I have nothing to do. There's nowhere to be, no-one to report to, nothing critical I have to attend to, no work, no deadlines, no immediate responsibilities. It's a strange feeling, but I love the peace and stillness. The utter quiet of my day. I can sit and think, breathe in the ocean air, read, write, explore, think...and my soul feels refreshed. I needed this. I needed to just stop and let the world revolve without me for a couple days.

I picked up my books yesterday; 12 books in 10 weeks. I can do this, right? They're thick, heavy, and filled with new ideas and perspectives. I was skimming through them last night before bed and was delighted with how fascinating and varied they are..."Haiti; After the Earthquake", "Tropic of Chaos", "Playing with Fire; Feminist Thought and Action through Seven Lives in India", "The Nazi Doctors", "Hitler's Willing Executioners". These books will be intriguing and difficult, especially the ones for my Holocaust/Genocide class. They're heavy. Full of anguish. Intense. I'm super thankful my surfing class is immediately after that class; I'll need to get out on the waves to think and recover.

I'm going to curl up and read. And read. And think and read.
I really love this.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SD Happiness

I love San Diego. I love being here. I love the weather. I love the sunshine and beach air. I *don't* like not having my Sac people here. But I'm 100% in love with SD.

Today has been beautiful, in every sense of the word. The ocean breeze is gentle as it tousles my hair and I can't help but smiling as I walk around campus. MY campus! I explored the bus system, turned in an application for a tour-guide position (wouldn't that be fun!), am about to explore the bookstore and pick up my books, and tonight I'm hitting the gym with my uber cool roommates.

And I have animal cookies. Life is really, really good.


Sunday, September 11, 2011


This morning I woke up to the sound of the San Diego breeze playing with my string of pearls and I smiled. The street below was shrouded by the ocean fog, but if you squinted at the horizon, you could peer through and see the sea. I live in paradise.

They tell you to never shop when you're hungry, but they must have never been a college student. Since moving into my new dorm yesterday morning (!!), I've been ravenous. Maybe it's the adrenaline of moving into a new place or maybe it's the physical strain of hauling boxes around, whatever it is, I feel like a teenage boy.

It's surreal being here. I look around me; at the beach, at the palm trees, at this incredible campus, at the UCSD bag that's sitting on my table, and I can hardly believe it. Is this me? Really? I've dreamt about being here for so many months, planned and researched as much as humanly possible, and now I'm here! It's breathtaking and school hasn't even started yet. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

And yet, I really miss Sacramento...well, actually, more like the people who live there. It's so hard being away from the people I love; I want to share my day with them, whisper funny things in their ear, laugh with them, explore SD with them, run across the sand to the ocean with them, hug them, and be hugged by them. But they're 500 miles away. It's really, really hard.

A blazing sun is now setting over the writhing blue of the sea. It's an incredible contrast; the flaming oranges and red of the San Diego sunset suddenly collide with the deep, cold blackness of the watery horizon. And I get to sit in my bed and watch it all. In my bed! B.B. King is quietly serenading me - it's a bluesy kind of night - and my phone vibrates with an incoming text. It's hard leaving my friends and family so far away, but God has surrounded me with every possible beautiful thing. Everything I have *ever* wanted, I now have. It's incredible really.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Today is my last day in Sacramento before I move to San Diego for (at least) the next two years. I feel that somehow my subconscience is already missing home because I had the saddest, most emotional dreams last night. Face after face, moment after moment, my dreams were filled with the people I love and whom I know I'm going to miss.

I received a touching letter, unconditional hugs, a smile from a tired face, and quiet encouragement. My dreams were a stream of beautiful experiences and memories - and now I sit and wonder, "was that real?" "Did that happen long ago?"

San Diego is going to be a dream in and of itself; my excitement is growing by the hour. And yet, the part of me that's in denial about leaving my home and friends is now invading even my dreams. Now I'm just waking up and I'm already nostalgic and missing people.'s going to be a long day.