Monday, December 9, 2013

Some Last Hoorahs

I said my first goodbye the other day to my professor Dr. Jereon Smaers whom I'd met with weekly to work on my paper regarding sociality and brain evolution. I got pretty lucky scoring an independent study at a school this big. No doubt I've learned the most of all my anthropology classes simply through our discussions. I'm so thankful for the opportunity. After leaving his office I felt a wave of nostalgia with the realization that I have a little more than 1 week left here. So strange. These feelings didn't subside at my last ballroom practice when I received a touching card from my team. The first of the goodbye tears were shed. I'm really going to miss being around them all the time.

I went to the city on Thanksgiving Day to see the Macy's Day Parade with several friends. Despite worries of it being freezing and windy, we were sheltered by the big buildings on Central Park West. We got to our spot with an hour and a half to spare. Though the wait was long, it was totally worth it.

A couple days later I decided to go NYC on my own for what might have been my final trip for a while to the city. I leisurely arrived around noon, taking the subway and getting some local coffee and pastry before making my way to the American Museum of Natural History. It was nice because I was on no one else's agenda. I toured the entire building and scribbled off the rooms on my map as I went. My favorite was the early human ancestry room. I knew exactly what each description was talking about and in fact found some facts that were a bit dated. At least I know I learned something at SBU :)

I then walked across Central Park and made my way to Korea town where I pleasently ate sushi all by my lonesome. So much people watching you can't do with another person distracting you. After I made my way to Grand Central Station, a destination I've been meaning to see as it's the background of my blog. I squeezed into a tour group where I heard the city recently spent much time and money cleaning and restoring the building for it's 100th anniversary. The nerd in me was happy. I've been a sucker for historical facts ever since APUSH :)

Finals week is here, and today is Reading Day. Apparently at exactly midnight everyone screams out their window and it sounds like a bloody murder fest. I'll be sure to get a video. For now it's back to studying.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Prodigy Kid Sister

I try to make an effort to call my family at least once a week. I really ought to call more. Time and events get in the way of things, but its always nice to catch up. I called my Dad house phone to find Amy, my little sister, quickly picking up the receiver. She is 6 years old (almost 7) and in 1st grade. Immediately she bombards me with a list of things she plans we would do when I get home from New York. As she talked a mile a minute I took out a pen and paper to try to get some of the things she was telling me:

Dear Rachel, 
First we will have a meet and greet...we will have a turkey dinner and then describe what we we will do some math and I will count by two's to one hundred, cause I can do that now...and my dad told me that I can mayyyyybe stay up until 11. Have you stayed up that late before?

I see how much she loves learning in the way she talks. My dad was telling me in her free time she once wrote something resembling a mathematical proof, explaining how addition and subtraction works. My dad gave it to her teacher who then gave it to the principal. Eventually it made it to the school board. What the heck?! Who is this prodigy kid that is also my sister?? Her knowledge at her age blows me away. Being so much older than her too I take a lot of joy in seeing her grow up. I kind of wonder if it's what parenting is a certain extent. I don't plan to know what that actually feels like for a very long time, but its an inkling of perspective that I look forward to.

Last weekend we had our last dance competition at Brown University in Massachusetts. Jeremy and I moved up to silver as planned for rhythm and latin. Much to our chagrin we were eliminated pretty quickly in rhythm, our first section of the day. There was a point in standard when we were almost immediately cut again. At that point I was so discouraged I almost left the building to blow off steam. Fortunately, the announcers made a mistake in the call backs and we ended up getting 4th in foxtrot. All in all, we also received 6th in quickstep and 4th in latin rumba and cha cha. In hindsight, the entire day was a very humbling experience. We're so used to doing well
and to get knocked down a peg was good for us. We can only move forward from here.

I hear it's close to 0 degrees F back home. Definitely not missing that. But I don't really like how rainy it gets here either. I was warned that the winters are pretty wet on Lon-Giland (native pronunciation..still working on my hybrid accent). It still lingers in the 50's here though and I appreciate those days.

3 weeks til I'm home, where has the time gone!?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

God and Evolution and Stuff

This last weekend was quite eventful beginning with a five hour road trip to the University of Maryland for a two day ballroom dance competition. Jeremy and I have improved a great deal since our first competition four weeks ago. Our hard work resulted in 1st place overall in both Bronze Rhythm and Latin out of about 100 couples each. I think it's safe to say we're ready to move on to Silver level for these categories. :)

Last post I openly contemplated my role in society as both a Christian and an aspiring anthropologist (at least an anthropology minor) in regards to the cultural aspects of life. In addition to this new found knowledge, I've also learned a lot about biological anthropology through class and an independent study.

I can now confidently argue for both the creationist and evolutionist point of view. I realize that a great deal of faith is involved in knowing my God created me and I cannot deny the intense spiritual experiences I've gained through my involvement in the church. However, through scientific evidence I am now convinced that we have evolved from a common ancestor to the chimpanzee. NO, we did not evolve from chimpanzees.

I've been taught that evolution has no end goal; evolution does not preconceive, but that based on ecology and our ancestral response to those environmental changes, ta da! We are who we've become. However, this is where my views differ. I believe there was an end goal and that my God, not evolution, preconceived me. Not only was this body intricately woven into a biological and physiological functionary entity in 22 years, but my entire lineage has been tried, fine tuned, and tweaked for over 6 million years so that I could be who I am today! It's fascinating and seemingly impossible to think our ancestry could be catalyzed with an ice age or that locomotion, energetics, diet, behavior, sociality and ecology all worked together to create the Homo sapiens. To me, this is not an occurrence by chance, but divine influence. 

I still have trouble piecing together my thoughts and beliefs so that creation and evolution can coexist in my evolutionary encephalitic God given brain. Above is a mind map I made for an essay I'm working on regarding social behavior and it's influence on brain evolution. There are obviously many stipulations such as the story of Adam and Eve or the belief that we evolved from an even older common ancestor such as fish. I don't think I'm meant to know the answers to all my questions, none of us are. That is how we've become so smart! I think there is a necessary amount of validation I need for myself and my arguments, but I need not justify any view to anyone else. If you do have questions or comments, however, feel free to pick my brain ;)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Today I was asked by my good friend Elsa (who currently happens to be studying abroad in India) how I thought this trip has impacted me. I had to sit back and think about that for a moment, it's quite a loaded question. I responded with: I think I've gained a better understanding of humanity. We think Rochester is diverse, no way. Everyone has such a unique path in life and a way of doing things. I think I've become more tolerable of that.

My eyes have really opened to the various ways we as humans do life. I've been influenced this semester to think of humanity from an evolutionary standpoint, both culturally and biologically. I've come to find my previous views being challenged and new ideas enlightening me. I'll elaborate a bit on both.

This semester I'm taking a few cultural anthropology classes including an intro course, comparative religion, and a course on how we eat. Our focus usually pertains to primitive societies such as Netsilik Eskimos where we analyze how they used to live vs. how Western civilization has impacted their way of living.

With this, we discuss the ethnocentrism (superior culture mentality) of western civilizations and how that has changed some of the most remote of cultures. A common example of this act being religious mission work.

As an active church member in high school, I've been everywhere from Los Angeles to Guatemala, spreading what I believe to be the truth; Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. The experiences I've gained from mission work have been life changing. No doubt, my most humbling of times have been from going to areas of the world where I am able to serve people less fortunate than myself.

But that's the thing, are they less fortunate? Are these people suffering because I'm not helping them? Or do I just find satisfaction in doing good deeds? 

Many 3rd world cultures have "adopted" Christianity because of the work of missionaries. They engage in Christian rituals such as baptism and communion, but is there a true understanding to them of what these traditions symbolize? So many factors contribute to miscommunications, language being one of the main obstacles. Often times, primitive cultures will hold on to their animistic beliefs; attribution of a soul to plants, objects, and natural phenomena.

I wouldn't go so far as to say mission work is a bad thing. Good intentions and a passion for Christ are what drive most Christians do engage in such acts, from what I've experienced. I just question whether or not it is my place to impose my beliefs upon someone else just because I think they are in need of my help. 
This photo was taken 5 years ago, just before entering my junior year of high school in a rural part of Guatemala on a my first international mission trip. The caption I wrote on Facebook is "Who do you think is the whitest?" As I said earlier, good intentions. Very much so a caption meant to provoke laughter at myself. But there's so much weighted interpretation of that phrase and this photo, it's nuts.

Food for thought. More to come. 

Monday, October 7, 2013


I learned not to want the quiet of a room with no one around to find me out. I want the applause, the approval, the things that make me go 'oh'.

Last Thursday, I was able to drive to Brooklyn with my friend, Courtney (who also happens to be from MN), to see Lorde, an up and coming New Zealand Indie artist. She played at a small venue called Warsaw in Williamsburg neighborhood (Hipster town). I didn't really know her music prior to the show, but sometimes I like that better; seeing the artist live and getting into their music after. Since the show, she's all I've been listening to. Coincidentally, her song Royals hit #1 on the Billboard Charts the same day as the concert. I think what is most astonishing about her is that she is only 16 years old! She writes all her own music and has such maturity for a girl woman her age. No artificial sex appeal, just real poetic music flowing through her. Very entertaining.

If only the people around me could have put their phones away. I swear more people were looking at Lorde through a screen than not. I'll admit, I used to do the same thing until I realized I never go through those pics after. One or two shots, that's all you need. At one point I yelled at the guy in front of me, "You're taking the same pictures over and over! Just enjoy the show bro!" I think he was taken aback, but it made him stop :) Spend so much time trying to capture the memory that you don't even make the memory itself. Be one with the music and don't be a generation of disappointment. K, off my soapbox.

The show was in a predominately Polish area so we tried Polish food! Pierogies and White Borscht! I ordered way too much but it was delicious.

Saturday morning I woke up promptly at 4:30 in the morning to get ready for my first dance competition. Leaving before the sun came up, Jeremy and our friends Napat and Cassie all piled into a car to head 2.5 hours to Princeton University. Unfortunately sometime before the weekend I obtained conjunctivitis in my right eye, leaving me unable to wear contacts for a week and consequentially I was blind while dancing. It was so hard for me to find Jeremy off the floor because at one point every male was wearing a white shirt and black vest. On the bright side, I think my inability to see worked in our favor. We danced 14 styles and placed top 7 in 13 of them. We also won 1st in American Rumba, Cha Cha and Jive. It was a very successful weekend for all of us.

I'd post a video, but we just learned some new content tonight that's gonna be killer if we can master it! TBA

The quote above is actually from one of Lorde's songs called Bravado and it's really resonated with me the past couple days. Dancing has been such a valuable aspect of my life and when I ask myself why that is these lyrics seem to fit perfectly. Though shy as a kid, I've always craved attention. Whether it be because I was an only child most of my life or because I've been on stage since age 3, I love entertaining people with who I am. Even in accordance to my career path, I so thoroughly enjoy knowing I've helped people, and the hope of one day being able to say I've made it in the health field really keeps me going. It's a yearning for me to show the world what I'm passionate about and what I have to offer.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sappy Love and Book Club

So normally I like to tell people I'm a tough cookie and that I don't cry very often. But when it comes to good romantic stories, I'm a big baby. I just watched Safe Haven because IT'S FINALLY ON NETFLIX and I've been waiting to rent it since the day it came out. I balled my eyes out at the end because of the beautiful story and sentimental value it has to me.

I have a friend at the nursing home that I've been wanting to write about. For reasons involving HIPAA regulations, I can't say her name on the internet. However, considering the memories we've created, I don't think I'll have trouble connecting the dots in my head in years to come. I met her about a year ago, when I first started my job. At times, she is restless at night and it seemed upon training that my co-workers had a hard time remedying her anxiety. So I decided to start reading to her. The first book we read wasn't that great, but it was funny because, seeing as how my reading calmed her down, other aids started doing the same thing. All of the sudden, I would open the book, and it would be several pages ahead of what we were at the night before. I'd say to her, "Hey! Have you been letting other aids read to you? I thought that was our thing?!" At that point I knew I cared for her more than the boundaries of my work setting.

I have a particular memory of my time with her that I really cherish. It was the night of her husband's funeral. Well over 50 years they had been together. She had just had not only an exhausting day, but an entire two weeks that had left her fatigued physically, emotionally and mentally every night. Her daughters were with her and I was helping her get ready for bed, a routine I have down to a T from the countless nights I've been with her. I handed her the denture container to take out her teeth thinking nothing of the act but more so trying to be as gentle as possible knowing the fragile state she was in. Out of nowhere I hear her two daughters laughing as they stare at their mother. I look at them, then look back at her as she starts laughing too. I realized that her daughters had never actually seen their mother without her teeth before. I started laughing with them and a lump in my throat formed. I was in the midst of this intimate family moment, after one of the hardest days of their lives. It's almost as if I shouldn't have been there.

This spring I picked a book for us to read: Save Haven. Now, I have read Nicholas Spark's novels before and I'm pretty sure he is one of the greatest romantic novelist of my time! Maybe it's the numerous films that have been produced from his books, but he has a crazy unbelievable way of making a woman cry (Kuddos Mr. Sparks). So biased I was, I was going to make sure NO ONE else would read this book with us.

We would leisurely read, some nights we'd get a number of chapters done, other nights I'd be so busy that we wouldn't have time at all. But it was a constant flow of progress. I knew, however, that I was crunched for time, seeing as how I had to leave for New York soon. I'd work my ass off some nights to guarantee I had a short 15 minutes to read to her. And by the end of August I was clocking out and running back upstairs to finish the last few pages of a chapter. The last day we read I wasn't even scheduled to work, but I was leaving town the next day. The few pages remaining had us both at the edge of our seats and by the end I was holding back tears. I gave her a long hug and she kissed me on the cheek. I tried to avoid thinking that that might have be the last time I would see her, but it's always unpredictable in long term care.

I formed a bond with her. Before I knew it, I was telling her about my boyfriend and family, and what I was working on in school. I've gradually gotten to know her family members by name through pictures and visits. She has taught me how to truly care for someone more so than simple daily routine. I think about her often and ask my co-workers to say hi to her for me. Though a pain in the neck at times, she is funny and sweet, strong and resilient. She warms my soul and I love her for it. No matter if I see her when I get back or if I have to wait until heaven, she's got a place in my heart and memories that will stay with me a very long time.

All that being said, I obviously highly recommend the movie. The book is better, as always, but it tugs on your heart strings nonetheless.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


This week I was plagued with my first cold of the season. It was bound to happen as I don't think I've had any sickness other than the sniffles since last fall/winter. Friday evening I attended my first social dance at Breakin' Out Ballroom in the town neighboring Stony Brook. No doubt that was the source of my illness as we frequently exchange dance partners...and germs. Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun, just as I anticipated. For those of you that don't know (like my parents), a social dance is simply a room full of individuals with the common interest and a source of music that plays varying genres of dance tunes. I usually go with my team so there is a comfort in knowing you'll dance with people you know, but I always find excitement in getting asked to dance by someone I do not know. I love how ballroom dancing connects me to different generations of individuals. I could be approached by a complete stranger in his 50's asking if I'd like to dance swing and for the most part I am be able to follow him. It's a common language, if you will. It has also been a fantastic talking point with my residents back home, as they always reminisce of dancing the jitterbug back in the day with their loved ones. After five long days of battle, my cold is almost gone, thank goodness.

Kicked my butt for 3 weeks, but I finally beat level 147 on Candy Crush. I fist pumped on the bus when it happened.

Before becoming sick I started attending yoga classes at the recreation center on campus. Offered three times a week, these classes fill up FAST! Each class is open for registration online 24 hours in advance and there is always a line of people waiting a couple minutes before hand to see if they can squeeze in. I've taken yoga in the past, but I think I've always followed the stigma that yoga is merely a relaxation technique. It is, but it also left me sore the next day. Not only am I stretching muscles I've lost much flexibility in since high school, but I'm also strengthening muscles just as much as if I were to do push-ups and sit-ups. I think I will keep up with it throughout the semester.

SBU showed The Great Gatsby as a drive in movie in one of the school's parking lots yesterday. A couple National Student Exchange friends and I took the bus and sat on the pavement in front of all the cars. We didn't plan as thoroughly as other squatters who brought pillows and blankets to keep comfortable. While the movie played I constantly had to readjust to relieve sore joints and bones in my legs. It brings me to the sad realization that I am getting older. Back in grade school I could sit "pretzel style" for hours and not get sore. How can it be that my feet cramp if I sit with my legs straight for 2 minutes? Hopefully yoga will remedy that. Perhaps I should have done what the obnoxious girls behind me decided to do: Take a sip of alcoholic beverage hidden in a non conspicuous water bottle every time Jay Gatsby said "Old Sport". Apparently he says the phrase 55 times throughout the movie, so I was fortunate enough to get a British narrated version of the entire movie yapping behind me. Oh well, you get what you didn't pay for.