Bold, Beautiful, Barnard

I have been trying all year to decide what my favorite season is here in New York. I love all of them, even the particularly brutal winter we just experienced. The beauty of the snow outweighs all the discomforts of a place with four seasons. Summer, though many complain, is not too hot for me here. I am not going to be in the city this summer, but I have experienced it before. I believe, however, that it is either spring or fall I love the most. Fall has the beautiful leaves and spring has the blossoms. The Barnard magnolia tree is now in full bloom and it counteracts the horrors of final season. These weeks have been busy, but also beautiful.


Vacationette: Brooklyn, Smorgasburg, and Staten Island Ferry

At the beginning of the year I made a promise to myself.  I promised myself that I would go out somewhere new in the city every week. I didn't want to become one of those people who lives in New York, but has no more understanding of the place than the subway from home to work. This has been hard to keep up. It has been my goal to go somewhere fun every Saturday, but some Saturdays become busy and I let walking a couple more blocks in Riverside Park suffice. Lately I have had the intense desire to travel, and I believe some of the painful part of that desire comes from me not taking full advantage of where I live. Today I did a real mini trip, or vacationette, as I am calling them. I realize that if New York was a place I was visiting rather than residing I would make the effort to see these things, so why not do it while I live here. Every Saturday I will try to take a vacationette and every week I will try to post about it. Today I went to Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. I had a cookie dough peanut butter strawberry sandwich, a chocolate covered soft pretzel, and a taco. It was all too good. It is open every Saturday and Sunday in the spring and summer so I will definitely be making a return trip. After that I walked around the Williamsburg area, it is quite different than Manhattan and just that little distance did make me feel like I was on vacation. 
The building below is a bank, which is not very exciting. However, it illustrates a point I want to make about going on mini trips. I was walking along the water and I saw it. I considered whether I wanted to check it out and ended up deciding to go. Sometimes living in the city I get in such a rush I lose the desire to see things I would have if I was a tourist. This is something I want to change.
I took a ferry back to the financial district because I saw the dock and thought it would be more fun  than the subway. With the shining sun and the wind in my hair I didn't want to get off the boat when I got back to Manhattan so I took another boat out to Staten Island, then back again. I don't actually remember the last time I saw the Statue of Liberty, which is pathetic, since I live so very close. That is my resolution: take more real vacionettes and actually appreciate the places I have lost that first sight admiration for (Times Square, however, doesn't count. That place is purely horrible).


The Village of San Antonio

Today my mom and I had the opportunity to visit our friends in the village of San Antonio. We have known Luz and her family for ten years now, since we first came to Panama. One of Luz's daughters, Kenia, is my age. A couple years ago I made a video where she showed me her life in San Antonio and the obstacles she must overcome to get to school. These obstacles include an arduous multi hour journey to school everyday, monetary struggles, and Spanish as a second language. Kenia and her sister Nair were part of the first generation from the village to get an education. Kenia just had a beautiful, healthy baby boy on December 29, 2014. Kenia's sister, Nair, is 21 years old and has three daughters. They are five, three, and two. The five year old will be starting school this March. Nair, too, is in school now. She graduated with a diploma from high school and is now seeking a degree in nursing. Her family sees the importance of her education in the changing landscape of their lives. San Antonio is only a five minute boat ride from the town of Gamboa. This means, unlike some of the other Wounaan villages in the Darien, the people of San Antonio have constant contact with the economy of Panama. One of the largest struggles for the forty person village is health care due to the distance from care and the costs. When Nair gets her nursing degree it will benefit not only her and her three daughters—financially and educationally— but an entire village of people. Nair and Kenia's father, Filipe, calls the work Nair is doing to get a nursing degree "un sacrificio," a sacrifice. Nair is working now on earning this degree, on top of her job working with the frogs for STRI (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) which means long commutes and long days of work and school. The village, however, is struggling with the money to send her to school. They just payed to bring one of Luz's older daughters and her ten children from Columbia to Panama, an expensive, but necessary endeavor that drained San Antonio of their money. That is why I am asking you to consider donating to Nair's education fund. The money she needs is only 3,588. While it is a forbidding number for the village, it is a small price for the monumental improvements it will cause to the lives of Nair, her family, and the rest of the village.
Taking the boat out to San Antonio
 Luz with Nair's youngest

 Luz, Filipe, Nair's two older daughters, and me
Nair was not in San Antonio the day we came, due to her busy schedule of work and school. Above is a photo of her working with the feed for the frogs in Gamboa.


Cartagena, Columbia

Although our ferry ride was less than ideal, Cartagena itself was stunning. It was like being in an old European city with the architecture and gelato places, but with a Latin American twist. Our hotel, La Passion hotel, was the most gorgeous place that either my Mom or I have every stayed. It is in the center of the walled city, but inside the walls of the hotel it is silent. On the roof of the building, near the swimming pool, they serve a phenomenal breakfast with fresh fruit, eggs, toast with jam, coffee, and freshly made juice. Outside the doors of the hotel tourists, mostly European, bustle around holding gelato pops and candy from the candy factory. Locals dress in head to toe white, so contrasting from the colorful edifices of the buildings (and opposite from the New York uniform of black). Bougainvillea poured onto the streets where horse drawn carriages and yellow cabs stayed slow to avoid trampling pedestrians. The city was magnificent and colorful, everything Casco Antigua in Panama could be, but isn't yet.
 Really tried to figure this one out. Thinking he must have a chair apparatus that connects into the bamboo stick.
On top of our hotel.

 We watched them make candy at Swikar, an amazing candy shop. This little boy was so excited, exclaiming, "un otro color!!!"
 There were 10 horse drawn carriages in a line.

This vacation was beautiful, so close to Panama, but in many ways a different world. I would suggest this to anyone. We were right next door to the Paraiso gelato place, which I would also suggest to anyone. The gelato and the ice-cream pops from the pop shop were both amazing. Until next time, Cartagena!


Ferry Xpress

When discussing a mini trip to take from Panama over winter break we decided Cartagena, Columbia would be the most interesting and affordable vacation. Flying, however, was not affordable. So, we decided to take the Ferry Xpress, a new boat that leaves from Colon and runs to Cartagena. People have been hoping for something like this for years. I came in optimistically expecting to enjoy the ride. While it did get us to the beautiful city of Cartagena, (more on that later) the actual ferry itself left more than a little to be desired. We left Colon on time, at seven in the evening on Monday. That night other than some rough waters and terrible food (apparently being vegetarian isn't really a thing in these parts) we felt pretty good about the trip. On Tuesday morning though, everything changed. At eleven we heard an announcement saying we would be docking not at one as planned, but instead at 6:30 in the evening. The news itself was distressing, but it was also quite bothersome that nowhere during that announcement was there a single apology. I'm used to airplanes where the crew apologizes for everything. The trip there was far less than enjoyable, but the trip back was even worse. When we arrived at the terminal at three, the time appointed for us to arrive, they informed us the boat would not be boarded until 9, two hours after the original sailing time. Since the boat gets so behind—due to weather—on each sailing to Cartagena with the quick schedule it can't catch up. Bags in hand and nowhere to go the majority of people, us included, waited at the cruise ship terminal for the boat to arrive. The only upside was that the cruise ship terminal had animals walking around. We ended up not boarding the boat until nearly one in the morning. At that time the mob of angry people waiting had begun to break into fights, one that brought the police in. The boat ended up leaving at four in the morning. Ultimately, our boat which was supposed to arrive in Colon at one didn't make it in until 8:30. All this was with no apology. I have made the Ferry Xpress ride a separate blog post from the rest of Cartagena because it was such a disaster. We loved Cartagena and our hotel. The city was wonderful and we would recommend it to anyone. The boat ride way of getting there, however, was not wonderful. We are recommending to all Gamboa people and anyone else to find another way. In theory it is a great idea, one we have all hoped for for years. However, in practice it leaves something to be desired.
 On the boat
Flamingos in the boat yard wildlife park


Back to Gamboa

Before leaving NYC I knew I loved the city, but now I know for certain that it is my true love. Leaving, only for a month, has been more difficult than anticipated. I miss the bustle and energy of the city I now consider home. Although that is challenging, I believe it is a good thing that I love the place I live so much. While I do miss New York, being in Panama has also been quite nice. I got to choose whether to come to Panama or Washington for break and I am infinitely glad I chose Panama. The weather is warm in stark contrast to the snow on the East Coast. I get to eat my mom's cooking which is a friendly break from the dining halls, and I have more time to read for pleasure. I've reunited with old friends and family. We are soon taking a short trip to Columbia.
Gamboa is a colorful community. Above is the school house.
Since we sold our car the buses are our only real way into town. The Coop Saca buses are colorful, ill-maintained, and crowded.
The canal is right down the street from our house.
These little girls are from the village of San Antonio near our place in Panama. We have been friends with their grandmother since we first came to Panama ten years ago. We are hoping in January to make it out to the village. One of the girls I have known since I first came just had a baby boy and we are hoping to have the opportunity to meet him. These two loved our little tiny Christmas tree. Susan, below, made the basket she is holding. She is only five. This spring she will be starting Kindergarten in a nearby town.



I recently reencountered the letter I wrote to myself in fifth grade that was sent to me on my high school graduation. Since I reread it I've been thinking a lot about what my eleven year old self would think of me today. While I won't pretend my 18th birthday (the day itself, other parts were great) was the best ever, I do believe that fifth grade Angela would be proud.
She would be proud that the first chance I got—which was the day after my 18th birthday—I registered to vote. I went downtown to Canal street and filled out the papers to be a NYC voter. Fifth grade Angela wrote about how disappointed she was that Hillary Clinton was not the democratic candidate, but conceded that Obama would do a fine job. Eleven year old me would be proud that I met Hillary Clinton this year. Also, on the back of my computer now there is a sticker with a picture of Hillary Clinton saying "twenty-sixteen." Mini Angela would be proud. I now have the ability to act on that civil liberty I was so excited about in 5th grade, registering to vote after turning 18. I registered in the afternoon after my last final. I then walked uptown to Columbus Circle where I caught the subway. There is so much of New York City that can be seen in an afternoon walk. I passed my least favorite part of the city, Times Square, but other than that it was all my favorite. Plus in that letter I talked about the economy and the inflated gas prices that according to me made it over four dollars a gallon, so I guess fifth grade me would see it as smart that I no longer drive a car around. Eleven year old me would be proud that I now live in the city I've dreamed of since my From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Akhenaten Adventures days. While studying for and taking finals is definitely not my favorite activity, it is the intellectual stimulation that fifth grade me desired out my classes, but didn't find until college (well, possibly a couple high school classes, too).
Anyway I am 18, officially an "adult" though that means so little. I've been living alone for months. I am excited to vote. Other than that I guess this means I can get my own hotel room.
I didn't really know what photo to attach to this post. I considered one of Rory Gilmore saying "who cares if I'm pretty if I fail my finals," though in my case it was who cares if it is my birthday if I fail my finals. I also considered the picture I screenshot-ed of the happy birthday from google, but found that a little too forever alone-esque. My other option was my screenshot of my snapchat saying "now a registered NYC voter," but I thought I would spare you the lameness. So instead I leave you with a photo of 11 year old me. It is scary and even more terrifying that this was my first blogger photo from when I started this blog. The photo is from 5th grade graduation.

Finishing First Semester

It is hard for me to choose a favorite season in New York City. I have now been here for each season. Spring brings flowers and central park grows leaves again. Summer is warm, but I love the heat. The crisp fall air and foliage are magnificent. Winter brings an amazing holiday spirit, beautiful lights, and snow. I feel that despite nights spent in Butler library cursing my psychology class I really made the most out of my first (of very very many unless I die soon) December in the city.
I went to the pre-taping for the Rockefeller tree lighting with Idina Menzel, Seth McFarlane, Sara Bareilles, and (supposed to  be) Maria Carey. The last on that list actually left us waiting in the cold for two hours before canceling her set due to "circumstances out of her control" AKA rain. I was so glad to get to go to the pre-taping since the actual tree lighting was too crowded and we were unable to see it.
Love the lights on college walk. I can see these from my dorm room.
John Jay dining hall got all decorated for the holidays. My roommate and I had a nice roommate dinner during the Christmas festivities.

I went to see the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. I loved it and though it is a bit cheesy I would love to make this a Christmas tradition.
Barnard has an annual midnight breakfast after the last finals study night. I ended up covering a protest during it for Spec, but before the protest I had a great time enjoying the event with Millie the bear (and above my friend Elena.)
Finally my friend Anna from the summer program at Barnard who I visited in Dallas came to visit me in New York. We went to the Nutcracker, iceskating, Radio City, and other fun christmas in New York things.
Pictured above is the snowy view from my window. We really didn't get any real snow. We got a dusting and Caroline and I set up a fireplace on my computer. The fort sign is from the intense for we built the previous night. All in all it was a great December even if my 18th birthday consisted of two finals and studying for a 3rd. I'll talk more about my birthday in a future post, but for now Happy Holidays!