Thursday, July 31, 2014

tourist/host ~fusion~

As I mentioned in the blog post before this, my dear friend Zach extended his layover in NYC to stay with Ellie and me for two nights. It was a super-packed couple of days catching up and exploring the city together. I'm realizing that this summer I have perpetually been a tourist/host hybrid.

the Coke can says "BFF"

He arrived on Tuesday afternoon. As soon as he had grabbed a snack and a quick shower, we tried our best to go to a free outdoor bluegrass concert that I knew about downtown — but we arrived just as it ended. We got a Chipotle dinner with Ellie instead — something Ellie (who eats Chipotle about four times a week) was just as excited about as Zach (who requested it for his first meal back in the States after two and a half months abroad).

On Wednesday, Zach accompanied me to my grocery store tour in Bed-Stuy. As always, my work partner arrived about 15 minutes late, but this time Zach was there to help me chat with the tour participants before we were able to begin. He shadowed the tour and said he actually enjoyed it and learned some things! People are always surprised by the amount of sodium in canned vegetables and in pre-made soups, and also by the vast nutritional differences between turkey and beef (e.g. in sausage or patties).

Even though I'm not the one who organizes the Bed-Stuy tours, I'm still great friends with the store managers. Today we gave Jon a t-shirt to thank him for his enthusiasm and dedication in helping us recruit tour participants.
This picture makes me laugh every time.

After the tour, Zach and I used Yelp to find a great cheap Mexican food-truck lunch in downtown Brooklyn. Then we used Uber to find a driver who got us to the Bay Ridge Public Library, where Zach's cousin works. The driver was disgruntled that we wanted to go to Bay Ridge and kept repeating, "Let's go to Manhattan. We should go to Manhattan. We pick up your friend and go to Manhattan." And we were like, "Noo, we want to go to the library..." It was 30% entertaining/funny, 30% annoying/weird and 30% awkward.

After playing with Legos and talking to Zach's cousin in the children's section of the library for a few minutes, we caught a train to Manhattan (tough luck, Uber driver). We chilled at a cafe downtown, where we eventually met with another Duke friend. The three of us sat and talked there for awhile and then took another Uber car to Central Park. All these rides were free because the app pays for your first ride up to $30, and also you get a free ride if your friend uses your special code when they sign up.

We walked through lower Central Park and then met with our friend Emily at 72nd street for a cheap pizza dinner. I found vegan pizza! Exciting because I'm currently experimenting with veganism. I'm mostly vegan when I cook at home, anyway, so I'm seeing what it would be like to try that all the time. It's a gradual thing, though, and I don't know that I'd ever do it 100%. I like cheese too much, I think, plus it's just generally inconvenient to be vegan.

That night the four of us — Zach, Emily, Ellie and me — hung out in our apartment drinking wine and eating brownies while talking about things like mopeds and heteronormativity. It was wonderful.

Julian Robertson himself

Today I met with the man who is financially responsible for my entire college experience: Julian Robertson himself. I was a little nervous because I felt vaguely like I needed to somehow demonstrate to him in those 30 minutes that I was worthy of the scholarship, but it was actually a very fun conversation. He asked me how the program could be improved. I said by building and strengthening the alumni network — which has been a priority for the program staff for about a year already. I'm actually looking forward to helping with those efforts when I get back to school, by applying for the Robertson Alumni Council and potentially helping with an alumni newsletter.

48th floor reception room view
His office is on the 48th floor on the lower east side, with gorgeous panoramic views of downtown Manhattan, the Hudson River and the Jersey skyline. Probably the highlight of the visit was Mr. Robertson complimenting my green fingernails and then showing me around the grand office.

I started this morning with a quick check-in meeting in the Slow Food office and spent the rest of the afternoon working from home. This afternoon I plan to just relax after a busy couple of days with my friend Zach, who visited on his way home from a summer in Sweden. He's probably my favorite person that I met while on my semester switch at Duke — but I was abroad the following summer, he was abroad the following fall, and then I went abroad in the spring. So it was even more special to see him this week, and we're both looking forward to actually hanging out regularly next year.

love him

Monday, July 28, 2014


Today after work, I waited in line for two hours and paid $8 so that I could hear random people share their stories at a story-telling event. It was just like stand-up comedy, but storytelling instead of comedy. People put their names in a hat for the chance to tell a short personal story onstage. Ten people spoke in all. They told serious stories: about about relationships in their lives or about learning to accepting themselves — and funny stories: about a childhood prank, or a boob job. Most of the stories were serious with streaks of humor, like a sad story told by an Australian who regretted moving to NYC. They were all riveting and absolutely worth hearing.

*     *     *

I was particularly proud of this dinner, which I made without Sagar's help.
other beautiful food

Sunday, July 27, 2014

the not-quite-daily not-quite-grind

As I mentioned before, my free time in the last few weeks has been pretty dominated by my online class. The final exam was this past Thursday, the final paper was due the Friday before, and the midterm was the week before that. I am so glad to be free of that!

Nonetheless, I still had very fun weekends, including one night when I went to an apartment-warming party with Ellie and then met up with some UNC friends at a speakeasy bar — where I serendipitously found several other friends who I hadn't expected at all to see!

It was an impromptu Governor's School reunion (friends I met at a program the summer I was 17)
Work has been carrying on as normal, with Slow Food every Monday and Thursday, and City Harvest every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. This past Monday I took some Slow Food time to shoot photos at a Spanish tapas restaurant, which was super fun. Last week I met with my supervisor for the first time in several weeks. It was nice to touch base and get some feedback on the work I had been doing so that I could refresh my to-do list and plow forward with new mini-projects.

I've been leading City Harvest grocery store tours every Tuesday (in northwest Queens) and Wednesday (in Bed-Stuy). Those are always fun and rewarding, despite small challenges such as people who show up solely for the free food or people who are way too ADD and wander off during the tour to do their own shopping. Fridays are when we have the discussion program built into the internship. Every week we hear from someone in a different department of City Harvest who talks about a topic like "insight into the major donor" or "gentrification in CH Healthy Neighborhoods." It's always super interesting, and I'm sad that I'm missing the last two weeks of the program (as my internship is ending two weeks early due to my semester starting before the other interns).

cool breakfast, bro.

the cafe/club cycle

Okay, life before the Nickel Creek concert....  Does anything before the Nickel Creek concert actually matter?

My delicious Korean lunch on Friday mattered.

Instead I'll write about the rest of this weekend. Friday was a typical City Harvest office day. I met with my supervisor one-on-one to talk about how to maximize my last two weeks. She gave me some positive feedback on my work so far, which is always nice to hear. After I got back to my apartment, I decided a nap would be nice. I fell asleep around 6 p.m. and pretty much slept soundly until 9 a.m.

That's 15 hours of sleep. Not only had I not realized I was that tired, I didn't even know I was capable of sleeping that much! Three weeks of going going going without a pause, climaxing in my final exam and the Nickel Creek concert, must have absolutely exhausted me. I'm definitely losing the stamina I used to have. In high school and extended parts of the past few years of college I pushed myself way harder than I have this summer. I remember junior year of high school I wouldn't consider it unusual to get four hours of sleep on a school night. In the fall semester of my sophomore year of college I'd average about five hours a night — six was something to celebrate.

I'm definitely accelerating the shortening of my telomeres when I do that.

Only in the past year or so have I really prioritized getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. And more than that, my semester in Spain really taught me the importance of slowing down my life overall — e.g., taking time to sit in the grass and prioritizing chill "hanging out" time with friends.

Anyway, Saturday was beautiful because I woke up early feeling exceedingly well-rested. I spent two hours deep-cleaning the apartment, then cafe-hopped until dinnertime. Realizing that I hadn't spoken to anyone in more than 24 hours (beyond ordering at a cafe), I decided to go out, and had yet another of the wild club nights I never used to think I'd enjoy...

the crumb sanctuary I found under our microwave
this couple was grooving in the most adorably awkward way 
with Mattie and Jasen 

Today is round two of cafe productivity. I have already downed two soy lattes (which unfortunately taste like media law after the solid week I spent with the two during finals last December). After I finish catching up on my blog, I'm going to send out the mentor match assignments for the incoming first-year Robertson scholars. I love working on the mentoring program because I love getting to know first-years! It reminds me of how clueless I was three years ago and makes me feel cool for having figured out at least a couple of things in my life. 

my wonderful detox/hangover breakfast: spinach egg scramble (with onions, tomatoes, avocado and salsa) on whole wheat toast 

high on life (Nickel Creek edition)

The last two weeks may be lost forever in the murky drudges of my memory. I just invented a new use for the word "drudges," for anyone who wasn't fooled by my confident application of said invention.

I'll try to work backwards.

This Nickel Creek concert is one thing I will never forget.

This weekend has been wonderful. Every weekend in NYC this summer has impressed me with its fun-ness. Today I am sitting in my favorite cafe for hours, working on some fun school stuff — not class stuff but other school things, like the mentoring program I'm organizing for new Robertson scholars. Speaking of class stuff, my online class ended this past Thursday and I earned an A, woohoo! It had pretty much dominated all my free time for the past two or three weeks, so I feel that grade is well-deserved. 

I had work all day on Thursday but needed to take the exam between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., so I did the multiple-choice portion in a cafe before work and wrote the essay during my lunch hour. After work I walked to a Mexican cantina near the Slow Food office and bought two $3 tacos, which were a delicious and satisfying reward for myself. I'm definitely making that a lunch spot on future Mondays and Thursdays. 

Then I went straight to Prospect Park in Brooklyn for a free Nickel Creek concert that has been on my calendar since the beginning of the summer. Nickel Creek is probably my all-time favorite band. I've liked them since the boy I crushed on in tenth grade gave me a mix cd with some of their songs on it. That was 2008, and they didn't put out a new album until this May — which gave me six years to memorize all of their songs. So now they're on tour, and I saw them and it was magical. 

The opener, The Secret Sisters, was excellent.
with Emily
The venue was absolutely perfect.
Just a gorgeous evening
with Ellie, her friend Edward, and Emily

The opener turned out to be a lovely surprise, a band from Alabama called The Secret Sisters whom I had seen in Chapel Hill two years ago at an Iron and Wine concert! I hadn't recognized the band name but as soon as they came onstage I was super excited to see them again, because their music is fantastic.

And then after the concert, the food vendor was giving away bowls of free vegetarian food! I was in my own personal heaven. I could have burst from happiness. Or fainted. I hardly knew how to manage it. I just kept saying, probably to the annoyance of everyone else, "I am so happy. I am just so happy."

SO happy
Train delays meant it took us almost two hours to get home (most of which was spent standing in the hot stuffy subway station) and Ellie was miserable but I was still floating on my cloud of Nickel Creek ecstasy so I didn't even mind. My online class was done, I saw my favorite band at a truly fantastic outdoor concert, and then I stuffed myself with curried swiss chard, tomato-breadcrumb salad, and sauteed summer squash. All of this in New York City, where I am living for free — three years after receiving that congratulations email, I am still incredulous of how incredible this scholarship is — while interning for two wonderful nonprofits for the summer. 

To recap, things I love that all converged on me at one point in time:

Nickel Creek
being outdoors
pretty lights
rediscovering great music
free things
finishing a class
beautiful weather

I am still basking in this, in case it wasn't obvious.

My tweets from the night were unsuccessful attempts to use words when words were simply inadequate:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Blog being neglected due to online class. My final exam is Thursday — the same day as a free Nickel Creek concert ahh — so I will play catch-up this weekend.

I know you're all in anguish over my extended silence, but hang in there — my scintillating, captivating narrations will return soon enough.

Here's a happy picture of me and my friends to satiate you in the meanwhile:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Slow Vodka

I think that I have been posting too much about drinking lately, but this was a work event: Two representatives from Grey Goose visited the Slow Food office yesterday to make a presentation on the sustainability aspects of the vodka's production. I learned a lot about how vodka is made and got to sample their new melon flavor — which was extremely impressive in how much it smelled and tasted like a deliciously ripe melon. Apparently using the "aromatic essence" of a flavor rather than an artificially created chemical "flavor extract" for taste is much more powerful and "natural." The explanation for this complicated process went a little over my head, but it was a fascinating presentation.

Today my grocery store tour was entirely in Spanish, which is always a huge mood-booster. The ladies on the tour already knew most of the material in the curriculum, which was great, and I enjoyed trying to help with their questions about Latino food that was completely foreign to me (e.g. black sugar, peeled wheat, various pre-prepared spice packets...). Two of the women were from Puerto Rico, and it always makes Puerto Ricans smile when I tell them my dad grew up there and that I've seen how beautiful the country is.

Finally, here's an non-alcohol-related photo to prove there's more to my summer? Took it through the window of the cafe where I had lunch today:

a new take on the phrase "walking the dog"

Sunday, July 13, 2014

where the lines overlap

Every weekend I'm surprised by how much fun I have. Is that weird? I think I had a lot of boring weekends in Pamplona, so the contrast is striking.

This past Friday, I met up with a huge crowd of UNC friends at the Empire Hotel free rooftop bar happy hour. Then Emily, Sagar, Elijah and I went to a delicious Thai restaurant for dinner. (Ellie was supposed to join us, but got held up at work.) After dinner Sagar, Elijah and I went to a different free open bar, and Emily went to meet up with Ellie at another friend's apartment party.

I love being 21.

UNC crew at Empire Hotel

Andrew (UNC), me, Emily (Duke), Jack (Duke)
UNC friends

On Saturday after brunch I had just enough time to respond to the most pressing of my neglected emails, and then I met up with my old friend Hunter (who lives in Austin and was visiting NYC for the weekend) in Central Park. While I was waiting for him at the southeast corner of the park, I randomly saw an old friend from Governor's School! It was a semi-awkward encounter, but one of those typical wow-it's-a-small-world moments.

Hunter and I hadn't seen each other since October, so we just walked through the park for a couple of hours talking and catching up. At 5:45 I met up again with Sagar and our friend Claire, and the three of us took a train over to a dinner party in the suburbs of New Jersey. Sagar's previous and Claire's current boss was throwing a party for his partner's birthday and had told them they could bring a plus-one. It was great conversation, wonderful food and absolutely perfect weather.

I've finally caught up to myself — it's Sunday. I've spent most of today catching up on emails, working on my online class, and blogging. I watched the World Cup final with Hunter and Ellie and was disappointed that Argentina lost, since my summer there made me somewhat fond for the country. I drank Brazilian caipirinhas while watching the game; I guess it should have been Argentinian maté...


The days following July 4 were super hectic, as I had a midterm exam for my online class on Tuesday which I completely ignored all weekend. So Sunday night and after work on Monday I studied for that pretty intensely. I had to take the 1.5-hour exam before 9 p.m. on Tuesday, but I still decided to take the time to go see the bluegrassy Chapel Hill-based band Mandolin Orange play in SoHo. I took the exam as soon as I got home and then devoted the rest of the evening to cleaning up my cluttered apartment, which I had entirely neglected while cramming for my exam.

Mandolin Orange

On Tuesday morning I woke up grumpy because I had stayed up late studying and not slept much, because it was hot, because my backpack was heavy, etc, etc. But then I led a nutrition tour in Spanish and my day was turned around completely. I still am not sure exactly why, but speaking Spanish brings me an incredible amount of joy. I definitely need a career where I can use it regularly.

My tour Wednesday was in English but was still very fun, as always. These are so rewarding because I know I'm giving adults the tools they need to make well-informed eating decisions for themselves and their kids or grandkids. And that is so very exciting and fulfilling for me! I feel lucky that my parents taught me basic nutrition and raised me on relatively healthy food, and I love being able to share that knowledge with others.

Thursday was pretty slow because I haven't checked in with my SFUSA supervisor in a while and am losing my forward inertia on the magazine project. I'm should hear from her on Monday, though.

Other highlights of the week:
lunch theme of the week
homemade pizza with Sagar on Wednesday
so beautiful. so delicious.
aaaand I received my family's birthday package to me in the mail! It chased me across the Atlantic and back over more than three months: Tarboro-->Spain-->Tarboro-->NYC

Thursday, July 10, 2014

July 4 in DC!

What better way to spend the birthday of a nation than in its capital?! I've heard the NYC fireworks are amazing, but seeing the Washington monument in the glow of fireworks exploding behind it was like a live postcard in front of me.

I have better quality pictures on my SLR but am too lazy to upload those right now 

We started the day with watching the rainy Coney Island hot dog eating contest on TV. The eight-time defending champion won again, eating 61 hot dogs in 10 minutes — eight fewer hot dogs than last year, apparently. Your own favorite vegetarian/health nut here could hardly watch it. ESPN reports that the 61 hot dogs equated to 23,790 calories, 1,189.5 grams of fat and 60,390 milligrams of sodium. That's in 10 minutes, let me remind you. Excuse me while I gag in the corner...

Then we watched World Cup games until the fireworks, basically. The subway ride home was another highlight of the day, because I convinced a random Irish man to share his block of cheese with me and my friends.

Sasha enjoyed it
Ben and Zeena, not so much
On Saturday we all slept in and then again spent most of the day watching World Cup games. Ellie and I made an expedition to Chipotle for lunch, and in the afternoon I spent a lovely hour or two reading Harry Potter in a park.

That evening we grilled out (yay for black bean burgers!) and later went to a really cool bar in Arlington with a huge outdoor patio. Apparently I like outdoor things, who knew!

On Sunday Ellie and I went to brunch with a couple of other girls from Duke before I caught my 2 p.m. bus back to NYC. It was an incredibly fun Fourth weekend in DC, and I loved catching up with all the friends I made on my Semester Switch at Duke! Another fun thing was that I got to meet a lot of Maxwell alumni, whom I'm sure I'll see again if only at the Maxwell-in-DC party next July 4th :)

Pre-July 4 Week

Oxymoronic observations about blogging:
1. The more free time you have for blogging, the less material you have to blog about. It's an inconvenient inverse relation, but not one I've faced this summer.
2. The more life you live, the less time you have for recording it. An opposite situation with a similar outcome.
3. The longer you wait to blog, the less you find yourself able to remember stories to blog about (yet another unfortunate thing).

Not really sure if those add up but it's the #truth.

Another observation is that I get overwhelmed/stressed when it's been more than a few days since my last blog post. I become tempted to over-summarize and/or I worry about forgetting important details or stories. But whatyagonnado. Too busy YOLOing to blog about it, that's a problem I'll take any day.

But in a cut to the chase:

Last week I didn't have Slow Food work; they close the office for the week of July 4. So I got Monday off, but I had to go in to the City Harvest office on Thursday instead of Friday due to the holiday. SFUSA closing that week was actually convenient because otherwise I would have had to ask off work that Thursday due to the switched-up CH schedule, if you're still following that. So Monday was chill but the rest of the week flew by, leaving me scrambling to pack for DC in a rush and leaving my blog thus sadly neglected.

Anyway, quick summary of the week:

Monday I met with Charles Buice, the president of the Tiger Foundation, which shares the same benefactor (Julian Robertson) as the Robertson Scholarship, which pays for my college. His foundation gives grants to a lot of cool nonprofits, so it was neat talking to him about his work and sharing some of my ideas about starting a community development program in my hometown of Tarboro.

Tuesday I led a grocery store tour with two single dads who were touchingly concerned about feeding their families healthily. Even though the tour group was so small, it was still really meaningful and rewarding to me because I knew these men had a lot of influence over their entire families.

setup in the grocery store for my tour participants
posters at a senior center — woo community outreach!

That evening, I volunteered for several hours at the Summer Fancy Food Show, the largest marketplace of specialty foods and beverages in North America. It was a volunteer event offered through City Harvest, designed to rescue for donation all the leftover gourmet food that had been displayed at the show. I was a little disappointed that we weren't allowed into the main hall until after vendors had already started breaking down their booths; also we weren't allowed to eat anything. But it was still cool to see the tail end of the event and participate in the rescue efforts. I also caught the overtime portion of the Belgium-USA game just in time to see USA get eliminated from the World Cup.  :(

the conference center that held the Fancy Food Show was massive

some 200 volunteers to help rescue leftover food from the show — waiting for the show to end so we could swoop in and do our rescuing ~

Wednesday was another nutrition tour day, this one in Bed-Stuy. Sagar came over to my apartment later and we made a delicious sauteed eggplant dish for dinner.

After the normal end-of-week meetings in the City Harvest office on Thursday, I caught a 2 p.m. bus from NY to DC! My roommate Ellie was supposed to take the same bus as me, but took the subway from work in the wrong direction and didn't notice until it was almost at the end of the line. She called me from deep in Brooklyn right before our bus left Manhattan. I immediately started searching online for other buses available that afternoon, but she decided to just jump on a train instead, telling me that she might even arrive in DC before me — not so. About halfway there, her train hit a fallen tree and lost electricity. She waited at a standstill for a couple hours before getting shepherded onto an equally full train headed in the same direction, on which she stood in the aisle for two more hours until they finally arrived at 11 p.m. — four hours after my bus. But this is very typical for Ellie.

While I waited for Ellie to arrive, I got dinner at Union Station and did my online class assignment for the day. When I realized how late it would be before she got there, I got in touch with her friend with whom we were originally supposed to eat dinner and found my way to her apartment at George Washington University. On the public bus between Union Station and GW, I was befriended by a large crowd of fraternity "men" who were in DC for a frat conference. It was like being on a camp bus, with all the singing and joking around.

my delicious Union Station dinner, from a Mediterranean place called Roti that DC loves

Ellie's friend (whom I had never met before) was super friendly, and I enjoyed hanging out with her and her roommates until Ellie arrived. The three of us then went out and found our Duke friends at a nearby bar. After a short time, Ellie and I went home with the Duke guys and crashed on couches in their apartment.

For context: all the Duke people I hung out with that weekend were friends from Maxwell, the selective living group I joined during my semester at Duke last spring. A lot of Duke graduates move to DC, and current students and alumni alike all converge on DC for the Fourth every year. This was my first time joining the festivities, as I was in Argentina last summer.

bonus pic: a delicious pesto meal I made myself last week!

extra bonus pic: a market in downtown Manhattan. adding to the list of why I love NYC...