Victoria, British Columbia


Sunset in the marina


The good ol’ maple leaf

Alright, you got me.

As it turns out, I do occasionally make expeditions into cities; and I usually do so voluntarily. I’d actually say that I quite like cities. In the same way that you can come to understand the environment and geography of a place by getting out into its natural areas, you can come to understand the culture and the people of a place by going into its urban centers. That was what brought me to Victoria.


Leaving Port Angeles, Washington on the ferry


A statue outside of the legislative building

I had just found out that I was going to the Olympic Peninsula to spend Thanksgiving break with my grandfather when an idea crossed my mind: “Hey… that’s right by Canada.” And I was right. In fact, to get to Victoria, British Columbia––the capital of B.C.––you simply need to get to Port Angeles, Washington, which is only 30 minutes from my grandfather’s house. Then, you jump onto the Coho passenger ferry for a 90 minute trip complete with gorgeous scenery. Finally, passport in hand, you’re off on a whirlwind of new adventures that can only be found within the borders of our northern neighbor.


Another parting shot of the Olympic Mountains


Sunset on the British Columbia coast

Let me start out by saying that the city is beautiful. On a clear day, you can see the Olympic Mountains across the Straight of Juan de Fuca, as well as some of the interior topography of British Columbia. Within 10 minutes of downtown, you can see the province’s legislative building, walk the coastline, explore the marina, shop in Chinatown, and visit countless coffee shops. And, if you have a little more time for your visit, you could easily take public transportation two hours out of town and get into some serious, world-class outdoors in the Provincial National Parks.


The legislative building at night


The Empress Hotel at sunset

For me, this trip was kind of an eye opener. Even though I’ve lived in the northern end of the U.S. all of my life, I had never visited Canada. And even though I knew that Tacoma was merely a few hours away from Canada, I had never really considered Canada as a place that I could explore while in school. Man was I wrong.


Sunset, the Olympics, and the marina

I would highly recommend making it a point to explore Victoria and the surrounding area at least once while attending Puget Sound. It’ll be a trip you won’t forget, and you’ll finally get to dust off your old passport.


The Victoria marina

Happy trails,



How to Write 2+ Essays in One Weekend, More or Less



To begin, this is a liberal arts college. There are many many many essays. I am in the politics department (international relations), and in the next three weeks I have to write six essays, ranging in word count from 800 to 6500. Do not despair! for I know how to write these essays, and I can save you.


To begin:

I know it says a weekend, but before the weekend hits, you will need to talk to the professors for whom you must write these papers. Not for anything like moving due dates (although if you have Accommodations, you can adjust the due dates), but for discussing your paper topics. It doesn’t have to been an in-depth discussion, it just needs to be a “Hey, this is kinda what I am thinking, what think?”

This will save you. You will look like you care and that you are putting a lot of time into your writing. You also will come away with feedback: it might be how to make your paper more significant, or giving deeper analysis, or it might change to framework of your entire paper. It even lets you go completely off-book: after talking with one professor, I am now encouraged writing a comparative analysis of international organizations in the Middle East, instead of the original assignment (which was to analyze how well a particular international organization handled a particular issue; being the Middle East, the answer was “Not well.”).

After this step, you may get to the weekend. Here:

  • On Friday night, outline both papers. Some people do really in-depth outlines, which is fine. I just structurally organize paper using section headings, notes on the most important information per heading, and rough word count needed for each section.
  • The word count per section really helps. Use it as goals to aim at.
  • I am a very goal-oriented type of person.
  • Pick whichever essay will be harder/longer. This is the essay to start on Saturday.
  • (If you are a nerd, start writing on Friday.)
  • Just write. If you can’t remember a certain detail, make a note that says “CERTAIN DETAIL HERE” and come back to it.
  • I don’t stop to cite. Ever.
  • I hate citing with a fiery passion.
  • A proper system of citation would be to just say, “It is known,” for every single fact.
  • Write to your word count goals.
  • Reward yourself with chocolate/exercise/a new t-shirt/three hours of Parks and Recreation. It is Saturday. You still have time.
  • You have less time on Sunday.
  • Write the other paper today. It is easier and/or shorter.
  • Lock yourself into a room at the library. Or equivalent
  • Turn off your phone. Allow no distractions. It is best to carry snacks.
  • Remember what your professors told you: make the analysis deeper. Talk about why your essay is important. Try to sound intelligent.
  • I use a lot of adverbs. In general, I would recommend editing those out.
  • Finish your other paper. Stay in the zone.
  • You can take short breaks if necessary. Really short though. Basically only bathroom breaks + one game of Candy Crush.
  • Okay, cite now.
  • If you don’t cite, you will get failing marks on your paper and, at minimum, you will be mercilessly mocked. Cite your paper.
  • I hate Chicago style, but it’s the only one with class.
  • You may be really bad about editing your paper at this point, but it’s okay. The words are probably starting to blur together. It happens.
  • Just call it good.
  • Go eat a snack and go to bed.

Please note that these steps are not necessarily in strict order. You can write more on Saturday, or on Friday night (if you are a nerd/somehow not exhausted from the week). I also didn’t include time stamps: hopefully, you’ll be done before midnight. But if you’re not: just keep writing.


(Or, more accurately: my thoughts following Thanksgiving break)

I went home again this year.

I always go home, because my family lives in Portland, OR, and because my family is very close, and because, in my family, we take food very seriously.

We had six pies this year, for 12 people. This may seems excessive, but understand that Thanksgiving in my family starts Wednesday evening and ends when the last piece of turkey has been eaten (a process which takes days, because we cook a turkey specifically for leftovers). In other words, we go hard.

It is always difficult, though, to switch back into family mode. I have compiled a brief list of Things To Remember when returning home (although I am moderately bad at remembering any of them):

  1. Although my immediate family may have taught me how to swear, they did not teach me how to swear That Much. I have taken to using Certain Words as punctuation, but I have learned that it is perhaps best to tone it down for my family. As it happened, at least four different relatives told me to watch my language.
  1. Many, many people asked me why I was not dating anyone. Someone also talked about certain things their psychiatrist friend and hypothesize about me accordingly (Hi, Mom). It so happens that the simpler, truer answers of “I don’t want to date anyone” or “I’m focusing on my studies” or “Did you know that the majority of terrorism in this country is committed by white men aged 18-45?” are not good enough in this case: it is best to respond by immediately diverting everyone’s attention to someone else. In this case, I turned to my cousin, female, age 19, at University of Montana, and said loudly, “You’re dating a Republican??!!!???” I have no shame about throwing other family members under the bus to save myself.
  1. There was an argument, actually multiple, about politics. I study politics. Many people wanted me to get involved; however, they only wanted me to get involved to blindly back them up or tell everyone else that they were wrong. The best response is to either point out analytical and logical inconsistencies on both sides—“That’s not how government works,” was one of my most used statements, along with my statistic about terrorism, seen above—or say, blandly, “I don’t study American politics.”
  1. Pet the cats.
  1. It so happened that this year my computer’s hard drive failed completely the day before Thanksgiving break. In a weird, twisted way, this brings me to my last point. I have a ton of work to do between now and finals. I have so many very very long essays. But, honestly, work is not for Thanksgiving break. Thanksgiving break is to relax (although Thanksgiving is not a particularly relaxing holiday). It’s to eat food. It’s to spend time with family and high school friends (okay, all 2 of them. The rest of the high school acquaintances are Avoided At All Costs). It’s to be grateful for the small pause—the breath before the rest of school.

Thanksgiving break is also to fix my computer

Thanksgiving with Strangers

Today is Thanksgiving and I’m still on campus. While most of the school is with family, I’m just sitting in my room, typing away. But you know what? I don’t regret not going home.

I had Thanksgiving for the first time without my family in my entire life. My perspectives leader, Gwen, from orientation posted an open invitation in the “Free & For Sale” group on Facebook, inviting anyone on campus over to hangout and eat.

Of course I jumped on it, I didn’t want to spend the night in my room, watching my friend’s fish (I renamed her Ms. Fish McFish). By the time I got to Gwen’s house, there was Gwen, some of her friends from Lewis & Clark and a few other people. They had been cooking all day, so I contributed what I could by helping set the table. After that, I helped where I could and did my best not to seem like a freeloader.


Mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner roll, turkey, green bean casserole, brussels sprouts and stuffing

To cut a long story short, I had an incredible dinner with a bunch of strangers that I got to know a little. I just had a ton of fun and really enjoyed myself. Also we played Settlers of Catan for all of 10 minutes before we got distracted by pie and pretty much abandoned the game.


This just goes to show how awesome the people we go to school with are. Even though we’re all a bunch of strangers, we’re still able to come together over a nice meal.

I think that next year, I might just stick around during Thanksgiving and do this. I’m sure anyone staying would appreciate it. I know I did.

The Real Enemy

In which the odds are never in our favor.


To my dear reader,

If there is one rule of writing that has stuck with me from my high school creative writing class, it is “Show, don’t tell.” If there is one memorable piece of literature that broke this rule, it is Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy.

The rule “Show, don’t tell” is a way to elicit sophisticated description from writers, ensuring a more tangible world for the reader. If a character is mean, for example, describing them as “mean” sounds juvenile and imprecise. Instead, the writer should show the character making snide remarks about their younger cousin’s only bedraggled doll or framing their mother for second-degree murder. Have the character demonstrate their qualities, and let the reader decide what those qualities are.

Collin’s trilogy broke this rule countless times, much to its detriment. I clearly remember the character Finnick Odair in Catching Fire revealing its infamous President Snow’s murderous past. Rather than actually showing the reader Finnick’s words, however, Collins leaves us with a description of a web of vicious crimes too evil to believe.

Why don’t you tell me what Finnick said, Suzanne, and I’ll decide what’s too evil to believe?

And yet for all its faults, I commend the trilogy for its premise and themes, and more importantly, I commend the film adaptations as elegant, efficient narratives that clarified the relevant themes of the (all too often convoluted) books. With Collin’s heavy-handed, poorly paced narration out of the way, the contrast of extreme poverty in Panem’s districts against the lurid consumerism of Panem’s capital, as well as the trauma of violence on children, came into sharp relief.


It is an incredible shame that the trilogy’s awkward prose, alongside the barrage of other youth-in-dystopia stories, have come between the public and the parallels between Panem and our world. As I write this, Chicago’s government and police department come under ever closer scrutiny in light of the case of Laquan McDonald, twisting ever harder out of systematized responsibility for the seemingly endless police brutality. President Snow would be proud.

But not everyone dismissed the relevance of Collin’s work. At the premiere of the Mockingjay Part 1 film, rumors of the Thailand government banning the film began to circulate. The reason, rumors went, was a scene in which the impoverished masses of one of Panem’ districts ban together in a suicidal mission to destroy the dam that supplies Panem’s capital with power. Fearful that the movie would inspire rebellion, just as Katniss inspired the districts, the Thai government removed the film from theaters.

I am not suggesting that the villain of our story is the government. It is not the president, or every policeman. It is not every white person, or every black person, or everyone that is neither black nor white. It is not Syrian refugees or Muslims or Russians or Chinese. It is the President Snows of the world, who make others’ lives their toys so that they never have to play in the Hunger Games.

Remember who the real enemy is.


With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Students in a Changing World

I stopped to think about the world, about life abstractly the other day and I noticed I’m doing so more and more. There has been a lot of chaos and more media coverage of those chaos for us sheltered in the US to realize what is actually happening around the world. Americans seem stereotyped to only care about our country, our problems and our successes and that’s true but that mentality can’t continue in the world we live in today. This is a time of turmoil, and change for positive great change and equality and basic respect for all humans to be achieved, hopefully in my lifetime and I can look back and say I thought critically and participated in making change for the good, for seeing all the bad in the world and wanting to hear people’s narratives to be informed and support action to better the world.

Graduate School Applications

The professor looked down at my personal statements, each changed just a little depending on the school. She asked: “How do you keep track of it all?”

“I forget people’s names.” I replied. Then she laughed because she did it to.

This semester is my last at Puget Sound so I have been trying to figure out what comes next. The question what comes next is a scary one for any senior. The fear it brings on is almost cliché by now. It feels a little like being the guy in the Matrix when he is getting ready to take the blue pill. Only in this case the blue pill is mandatory. You can’t stay in college forever. One day you’re going to have close your dorm room door behind you, give your keys to the RA, and then ask them back because you realize you forgot your shower caddy. But after that you’re still going to have to leave. You are going to have to answer the question of what’s next.

Me, I’m applying for a lot of things, both jobs and graduate schools, and hoping I get one of them. So far, this has been like crawling up a mountain of paper work. I have documents on my computer titled “List of Schools and Deadlines,” “Schools and Codes for the GRE,” “Transcript Policies,” and “Record of Submission.” After I finish writing this post I’m going to have to go to the registrar and ask them to email me a copy of my unofficial transcript because the one I tried getting off the UPS website wouldn’t upload to the graduate school website. Good times.

My strategy for dealing with this is three fold.

One) I forget people’s names. I called my suitemate Aidan instead of Adrian multiple times even after I’d been living with him for half a semester. Anything in my brain that is non-essential gets jettisoned.

Two) Writing myself little notes on scraps of paper and leaving them on my desk to find later. Some notes I have now are “GPA—3.82 + Transcripts” and “letters.” The first is a reminder for me to make sure that I entered my GPA as 3.82 on all of my applications. The second is a reminder to make sure that each of my professors who I asked to write me a letter of recommendation has the correct link.

Three) I take deep breaths. I had a stressful day yesterday and I woke up in the middle of last night with a huge knot in my chest. So I concentrated on breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. To be honest, I could benefit from doing this more often. It gets lost in the scuffle sometimes. Over Thanksgiving break, that’s what I’m going to do next. I’m going to breathe.



Don’t Forget to Explore

Every walk I took last year had a purpose: going to Bartells, the Met, Safeway. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, I suppose, but it limited my impressions of Tacoma. I never bothered to wander around, to explore. To walk down to the water front, to step on the Fall leaves with a purposeful crunch. I was more caught up in the action of Doing Something, to just be.

When I was younger, I would go on walks with my mother, our neighbors, my aunt — we would walk to the beach and I would jump in the waves. We would walk to the park and I would stand on the edge of the bay, amongst the European beach grass, while my shoes became coated in muddy sand, and look out at the juxtaposition of the two nearby towns. I’d watch the cars drive past on the highway, while I walked on the railing of the railroad tracks, my arms outstretched to keep myself from falling.

Somewhere in the years I lost that and somehow this year I gained it back.

I stood on the front steps of the Cushman Substation building and pulled my shoulders up, while scrunching my nose because this is creepy, guys. I stopped at the Little Lending Library on Union Street and looked through it, pulling out a few of the books and reading passages, before continuing on my way. I threw my hands up in the air while walking up a hill, because we were only halfway there. Petted a cat that was weaving through the bars of a house that was up for sale. Wandered through the playground of an abandoned elementary school and read off the graffiti scribbled in Sharpie on the yellow and green plastic structure. I went to the pedestrian bridge and looked down at the trees below, the way the sunlight hit the green and made it more vibrant than usual. All the way to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and back, my hands and nose and head cold, but smiling because look at the sunset. Down to the waterfront, where, standing there in the late Fall wind, you feel like you’re somehow connected to everything.

It’s nearly the end of the semester and I know it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of homework, the stress of college, but don’t forget the big picture and don’t forget to explore.

The view from the Tacoma Narrow's Bridge.

The view from the Tacoma Narrow’s Bridge.

“Home is where the heart is.”

That’s the saying, right? Home is not a physical location, it is wherever you like. Once you choose your home, it’s hard to leave. It’s hard to go someplace else, someplace that isn’t home.

Thanksgiving Break is coming up, so most of the school is toughing out these last few days so they can finally head home to family, friends and free food. I know some people just decided to skip out and headed home early. Me, however, I’m sticking around this Thanksgiving.

My excuse to my family was that I couldn’t afford a plane ticket. That’s not entirely the truth. Between those huge purchases at the beginning of the year and what I get from work-study, I don’t have much. But I do have enough to get a plane ticket without going totally broke. So why aren’t I going home this Thanksgiving?

I’m already home. My heart is here.

It’s true that I spent my entire life in the same house. I have friends that I’ve known literally my whole life. My cat and dogs… well, I miss them like Homer can eat doughnuts, which is more than any human can possibly imagine. Then there’s In-n-Out. As a Californian through and through, I’m not sure if I can make it much longer without my regular dose of a double-double, animal fries and a milkshake.

Seriously, if anyone in California is reading this, please mail me In-n-Out. At least send me a picture with a detailed report of smell, taste and texture. I’ll give you my first, second and third-born children for it. …Yeah I have a problem. Anyway, back on topic.

I have all of these reasons to call that place home, but I can’t, not anymore.

I chose UPS for a number of reasons. Its size, people, culture and individualized attention to name a few. It’s just such an amazing place despite what some people may think. But one of the biggest is probably not one many people have. It’s how much this place has changed me.

People always say to stay true to yourself, to not change. But for there to be progress, there must be change. I love who I’ve changed into. I’ve grown more social. I’ve started rock climbing. As of last Tuesday, I’ve started playing Rugby. I work for ASUPS, not really knowing what I’m doing half the time but having tons of fun. I write for the school blog. I’m still really aggressive, but I’m getting better- I hope. If you asked me 6 months ago that I would’ve changed this much, I would’ve probably just said “You’re funny” sarcastically and returned to my computer.

I don’t want to go back because I don’t want to return to being the person I was before. I don’t want to slip back into old habits and become the old me again. That’s why this is my home now. This is where the new and improved me lives. This is where my heart is.

So while everyone else is rushing to home and back for Thanksgiving, I’ll be relaxing, because I’m already home.

(But seriously though, I need In-n-Out like immediately)

Tired and Grateful: Thankful for the Chance to Work Hard

In six days—yes I am counting!—I will be fling home for Thanksgiving, and the season’s got me thinking about what I am grateful for. And what I realized, strange as it may seem, is that I am grateful for the chance I have been given to work my butt off. I have worked harder academically this semester than I think I can ever remember working. I have read hundreds of pages of complex social theory, history and politics. I have had to think deeply and critically every day. It’s been really, really hard.
And I’d like to say thank you for it.
I love to learn. I get a natural high from complex conversations. And this semester I have been given the chance to learn a great deal, and see the connections between things that I never would have before.
One of my courses, the Latin American Travel Seminar on Cuba, is not generally marketed to sophomores. I’s an upper level course usually reserved for juniors and seniors, because it’s such a heavy workload. I begged the professor, who I had for a history class last year, to let me in.
“You’ll have to work hard. Really hard. It will be your hardest class, and probably harder than anything else you’ll have taken here,” he said.
He was right, of course. It dos have more reading than any other class I have ever had here at UPS, but the readings are so interesting I don’t mind. I pause halfway through my readings as I sit in my living room, my favorite yellow highlighter in hand, and read passages out loud o my housemate and best friend, saying, “isn’t that awesome?” She usually says yes and then reminds me that she is studying too and therefore cannot be interrupted to hear about my homework.
This is what college si about, I think. Finding something you are passionate about and giving yourself to it. I love being a student, because my role in society is to explore ideas.
And that is a wonderful gift. Not everyone will receive that gift, and I recognize that I am privileged to be at an institution where I can be challenged, and to have professors who care enough to push me to be a better writer and thinker. All of my professors, not just the Cuba ones, have helped me to grow this semester and given me the personalized attention that I hoped for when I came to UPS. They’ve given m access to books, movies and articles that have broadened my horizons, and then talked to me about those things as I developed thoughts and opinions about them.
I’m so lucky to have that. So this Thanksgiving, among all the other things I will say thank you for, I am going to make sure to send out thanks for the heavy textbooks and the long nights.