It’s always the things we haven’t done ever or in awhile that we think, “oh, that’s fun! i want to do that!” and for me that was traveling. I was lucky enough to travel to DC this spring to attend the JStreet National Conference with Hannah (pictured in the brunch photo) exploring all of DC’s amazing sights and weather! Honestly traveling is one of the amazing opportunities afforded to you in college. Many clubs have national affiliations with regional or national conferences that host amazing keynote speakers, thought-provoking breakout sessions and you get to meet amazing people from other colleges and parts of the country! Just because you attend a West Coast conference, not everyone who goes to schools there are only from the West Coast! Additionally since conferences are part of club activities or school supported activities (since you’re representing the school) there are many ways for various clubs, student government, finance, academic departments, etc. to subsidize costs of travel! It was my first time to DC and since I didn’t have classes, Hannah I arrived at the conference a little early and stayed later to soak up full days of exploring! It’s the original experiential learning experience!
To many people transportation means different things but usually for college students wanting their independence that means having access to a car! And as I journey from Hawaii to the Puge for my last semester I’ve been thinking about the different journeys that have brought Loggers to Puget Sound.
Some such as myself separated by an ocean must take a plane to travel to UPS, while others who are in the closer vicinity may drive or take a train the Tacoma. Those are on the opposite East Coast could decide to drive or take a train but that may be a longer arduous process than taking a flight to Washington. Some have to take multiple flights to reach Tacoma. Yet there are many, in my experience from California that choose to drive/road-trip a few days with some sights with friends to Tacoma. It’s interesting to imagine all the different modes of transportation that bring us together at UPS.
Transportation can be expensive and a cost that some may not be able to afford which determines how long it takes them to get to our final destination. Some don’t have cars that they can bring to UPS while others do which means they have to drive up here with their car (at least at first). Nevertheless Puget Sound has people from many different backgrounds and communities that we are lucky enough to be able to come here and build friendships with others from somewhere else.
I have many close friends who I never would have guessed hailed from such far away places, my little in my sorority is from Australia, I have a close friend from Germany where her father is currently stationed at an American base, a friend who lived in England for a few years, a former crew teammate from South Africa, Chicago, Illinois, Rhode Island and even closer than I expected such as my friend and freshmen roommate Olivia who lives down the street from UPS! Despite where we come from and how we travel to UPS, we’re all on our way, or already back and I can’t wait to see everyone again! 🙂
Are bugs good? Well I think there’s a whole lot of agree to disagree about it, and I’d say the same goes for the traveling bug. This weekend I went to the National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference in Cleveland, OH and allow me to share with you, it’s not a popular travel option and involves multiple stops and layovers. There are no direct flights from SEA-TAC to CLE so we had our pick of Chicago, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas. Now for those of you with a pretty good idea about American geography, you’ll know that some of these layover locations are nowhere near Cleveland, in the wrong direction or completely past Cleveland, yes but those were the options available. This also opened up a variety of airlines to fly because none was superior and all flew all over the place.
Luckily, or unuluckily so for us a desire to attend the Friday evening keynote speaker meant leaving Tacoma at 4AM to get to our 6:30AM flight and we would arrive in Cleveland at 3:30PM. We decided to fly through Chicago Midway (not O’Hare) and quickly discovered there was more to learn! From Seattle to Chicago we switched time zones and from Chicago to Cleveland we switched another again! We were now in Eastern time, 3 hours ahead of the Pacific Time we were familiar with. Flying messes with your brain, honestly I didn’t know how long we were in the air, how far we were traveling, where we were, what was personal space and how do you occupy oneself squeezed into a prone uncomfortable chair for multiple hours? It made for an interesting day of flying, enhanced more so by it was my first time flying Southwest and across the midwest!
As a Hawaii gal, I’ve only ever really flown Hawaiian Airlines and been in a flying culture very similar to hawaii with welcome smiles, guava juice to drink and meals during mealtimes, but other airlines are not like Hawaiian Air. We flew Southwest this time. First, southwest- you’d think then that this airline would fly to the southern and western-most state of America aka hawaii, but it doesn’t. That doesn’t make that much sense to me. Anyway what surprised me is that Southwest’s fight costs INCLUDE two free checked bags (which we didn’t need only going away for the weekend but that’s a major perk I think!) and no fees to change flights! Beyond that Southwest doesn’t assign seats or charge you for where and what kind of seat you want, instead you buy your ticket and the time you check in determines where you are in line to boarding the plane to select your seat! That was novel to me! And there are no guarantees maybe everyone wants a middle seat, or there’s a big group that wants to sit together in the back or so many babies, or that you may even be able to sit with your group if you checked in at different times.
Overall it was an interesting travel experience, even more so flying back to the PNW and feeling three hours ahead but today’s a Monday so no rest for me, it’s another school day!
By now, you must have already listened to (and perhaps got tired of) the hit song, “Gangnam Style” by Korean celebrity Psy. Despite its fame, most people are not even aware of what “Gangnam” really means, or the song’s true message. While being in Korea during this winter break, I decided to provide you with a little fun fact about this song.
As a Korean, I have lived in and visited Gangnam several times. Gangnam, or “강남” in Korean, is a metropolitan district in the heart of Seoul, South Korea. With its trendy shops, restaurants, bars, high-rise buildings and spectacular nightlife, Gangnam is not only one of the most crowded areas in Korea filled with young Korean folks through day and night, but a “must-go” place for the tourists.
However, “Gangnam Style”, in actuality, is an expression associated with the lavish, affluent lifestyles of the people living in Gangnam district. The song satirically mocks the culture of heavy capitalistic consumption and materialism which followed the rapid economic growth in South Korea. At first glance, Psy’s video does seem to be simply “ridiculous”. However, his work is in fact criticizing the fact that the country once built on hard work and aspirations by the earlier generations is starting to focus solely and excessively on wealth, status, and appearances. The seemingly lighthearted song portrays Psy doing crazy, silly things on the set to appeal to the viewers; but as he drops his clownish appearances in an interview, he admits that “each frame by frame (in his work) was hollow”, just like how he feels about the “current human society”.
What seems to be silly and cheery on the surface of the song actually serves to heavily satirize people’s blinded pursuit for prosperity and status, which is common among neighborhoods other than Gangnam, and countries outside of South Korea. Perhaps, when you listen to this overwhelming, “in-your-face” infectious song next time, you should try having this dark yet socioeconomically insightful perspective in your mind.
“Where are you from?”
As an international student, this seemingly straightforward question is in fact… not so easy to answer. Of course, I could simply say “I’m from Korea” and be done with it – but as any third culture kid like myself would attest to, “home” is not restricted to the country you were born in.
Since I was 5 years old, I have traveled around and lived in multiple countries: Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, and now, the United States. My family, relatives and friends are spread out all across the globe, and due to long years of attending international schools and living in different countries, I thought that I had enough of applying for visas and packing suitcases. I got tired of being an international nomad. So, when I decided to attend college in the US, I thought that I should become more of a “settler”.
Well, at least until I started working at the international programs office here at the University of Puget Sound.
It all started when I walked right into the office and saw the stacks of study abroad brochures. Everyday, students came into office with their individual excitements distinct purposes to travel to different countries. These countries ranged from Chile, Ireland, Turkey, and India to New Zealand. And for the first time in forever, I felt like I was not so “international” after all. The photos looked unfamiliar, the languages sounded foreign, and the program destinations looked exotic and fun. I felt an urge that I haven’t felt for a long time – I wanted to travel again.
When talking to third-culture kids or international students like myself, I often realize a consensus among them: of not wanting to travel so much anymore. All the nights spent learning new languages and experiencing culture shocks after another makes the international nomads want to settle down. We slowly forget that the kinds of life we lived were full of privileges… privileges to be able to travel.
To anyone who has such privileges, I would advise them to take advantage of it, and to go embrace the detours. After all, it would never hurt to have more than one “home” – somewhere half way across the globe.
In late May, two weeks after the school year drew down, I drove south from the San Juan Islands to my home in the Bay Area. The drive, fourteen hours with an overnight intermission in Eugene, OR, began a journey on which I planned to drive quite a lot: some ten-thousand miles all told, on a trip that would neatly circumnavigate the country. The while, I would be researching state energy policy. It was a sponsored trip, a university research grant doled out in a single check for the amount of $2,750. An additional stimulus of $500 was to come at the end of the summer, as soon as I had submitted my research and earned the money.
In June and July, I worked my way from California to New York, beetling by a circuitous route across nineteen states and over thousands of miles of backroad highway. My trip plunged, first, into the sunstroked American southwest. Abbey country: Utah and Colorado, where landscapes are scrubbed Desert Solitaire pinks and purples and where, perhaps by some southwestern ordinance, every bookstore seemed made to own at least one signed copy*.
As a guy who’s only ever lived by a body of coastal water (at the very least by a sound) I was beginning, somewhere in Utah, to go a bit crazy from the dryness. So, like a thirsty migratory bird, I winged my way northeast, stopping first in Texas before traveling up through the soggy South. Misssissippi, Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas. State by state I absorbed then sweated back out the monsoon humidity of the region, the annual baptism of the South in mid-summer.
I arrived in New York in early August, days unshowered and tanner than ever, my skin crisped a yellow mud color. I had spent most nights** sleeping on the road in the back of my Subaru, a stalwart hatchback of some 200k+ miles whose back seats I had replaced with a platform bed. Four nights on a couch in a friend’s NY apartment, then, felt sadly palatial. The couch was not even very comfortable; it was simply not located in the back of my car.
Four nights were all I had in New York. A nagging internal voice kept reminding me that certain parts of my research were yet-undone. I needed to get home, but I was on the wrong coast.
After some ribbing, I convinced another friend, Robin, to make the drive home with me across the three-thousand-mile width of the U.S.-of-A. We would travel through: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin (briefly), Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and, finally, Washington. In Washington we would stop, stay for a week before driving south to California.
As an aside, I have known Robin nearly my entire life. Our mothers met in a pre-natal group when we were yet unborn. We grew up together, in proximity until he moved to the East Coast in the first grade. We have managed a close friendship since then, upkept by summer visits and an annual backpacking trip.
The NY-WA stretch was, is, a long one. According to google maps, the drive alone would require just over forty- three hours of car time. We figured another twenty for sleep/gas/bathroom stops. A ratio of 3-1, driving-to-not-driving. Respectable and manageable. The notion of such speed across such distance had, we thought, a certain sex appeal about it. The appeal of crazy endurance, of comfort foregone for greater speed. Of two rugged dudes racing the very sunset across the spine of the country—of the evening redness in the West—of the lonely flatness of the American interior—of something like that.
And how better to transmit all that steam, we thought, than by an Instagram account?
On the 13th of August, departure day, we make the account. At precisely 1500hr (auspicious because it is the exact time we had planned to leave, which never happens) we pull out from Robin’s driveway. Our first post is a picture of my car with a sentimental caption, and it is yet fresh as we merge onto Interstate 84-W.
Robin takes first shift behind the wheel—first of many, many—and I look out the window, scouring our surroundings for second-post-worthy content. Something exciting, something sexy. I find very little of this: road signs with graphics a touch silly; advertisements one could not imagine would work on anyone; all sorts of funny looking humans, our fellow travelers. But nothing remarkable.
In the aggregate, spoken of in elevated terms—“thousands-of-miles,” “number-of- states”—our journey promised to be grand indeed. Peering around at the highway, no particular thing seemed worthy of it.
Really, though (to be ponderous and altogether less fun), no journey is taken in the aggregate. The aggregate, after all, is an aftereffect; a glittering highlight reel that requires the forgetting of lots of unsexy things—speed limit signs, off-ramps never taken, one-pump stations in anonymous, sad little towns. The aggregate is a retrospective deal. It is only in retrospect that a huge stretch of common driving—a series of McMuffins, refuels, farts—can take on the high romantic quality of the trip, the quest: of the Big, Sexy Journey.
The journey (the Big, Sexy Journey (BSJ)) is the story of whatever you want it to be. You can be who you want, on the BSJ, so long as you have a good imagination and are creative with your camera, pen, etc.
Perhaps on the BSJ you are a drifter type. The BSJ is for you the story of a rambler. You are a study in hip, chilled-out nonchalance. Neck bandanna’d, man-bun pinned up sloppy, obscure tee dusty from the wear-’n’-tear of the road, your vibes are alive, on the BSJ, and resonating in all the right ways.
Otherwise on the BSJ you are a wandering sage, a poet taking the temperature of the Heartland. Or else the BSJ is more cynical: You are a sneering anthropologist, gathering about you a sneering ethnography of the towns (cultural voids) along the highways linking East Coast to West-.
Robin and I finish our drive, 3,012 miles in total, in fifty-three hours, arriving in northern Washington a bit more than two days after departing from New York. We do this by stopping exactly nowhere interesting, except twice in South Dakota—once at the Badlands Nat’l Park and again at Mount Rushmore.
If we had taken more time for own Big, Sexy Journey, perhaps it would have been sexier than it turned out to be. But our BSJ was flaccid indeed. These inane things, among other inane things, comprised it: fifteen gas stations, 1/3 of Steven King’s The Stand audiobook (a 62-hour-long beast), and a nearly constant patter of dull but diverting conversation.
When we turned off the engine for the last time in The Evergreen State, our Instagram account was populated by exactly one more photo than it’d been when we’d left The Empire. The new addition was a picture of a dusky, alien landscape in the Badlands, SD, the only really remarkable shot taken during the entire trip. Not shown: three-thousand miles of westbound highway 90.
Not shown, at least, until now.
Somewhere in Ohio (or was it Pennsylvania?), I started to shoot footage. Mostly from the passenger-side window. Of passing trees, passing cars, the passing road. A gas station. A rest stop. Another gas station. Another gas station. Another gas station…
After working the footage for a couple of days, I made a film of the trip. Having never made a film, this project was a bit out of my wheelhouse, but nevertheless fun to do. The agenda of the film (that is to say the agenda of its creator, of me) included all the usual goals of travel stories: to relay some version of the truth—to make a narrative at once universal and unique—to tell a story.
Yes, this: to tell a story: to string bits and pieces—images, noises, scenes—together into something more than a mere collection of parts.
What departs our travel story from the typical one is the nature of the parts we did collect, those which made the final cut. If other travel stories have a range of parts—some smooth and some sharp, fun because the collection is so eclectic—ours is like a bucket of wing nuts: repetitive, hard to lift, possibly beginning to rust from last week’s rain.
This film focuses on the parts of the drive usually cut from the journey. It lingers for sometimes uncomfortable durations (in mimic of a real drive) on the stretches where absolutely nothing of note happened at all.
This film is very boring; that is basically the point. I hope you enjoy it, though I expect you to not.
*I had left my copy (unsigned) at home and, though I’d already read it, I bought a new one out of a weird feeling of peer pressure, only to not pick it up once over the following months.
**—with the exception of an unmentionable two in Jackson, MI, when the air had been so palpably wet that I caved, rented a motel room and watched Grimm, perhaps the all-time worst show, late into the night.
No, the School for Field Studies did not get a Thanksgiving break. But we go home on Thursday, December 5, so I guess that’s understandable. And we did get a Thanksgiving dinner, despite the fact that (1) as a study abroad program, we’re kind of by definition not in the United States, and (2) half of the staff members are British and are therefore horrified by the thought of sweet potato casseroles with marshmallows. It involved a bit of logistics, because if you want to make something, you have to order the ingredients far enough ahead of time for them to arrive via the infamous food ship, and then juggle the baking of various things with the restraints of having a single functional oven to cook for 50+ people.
In the spirit of recognizing that the semester is almost over, our last two dives were yesterday (diving in December without wetsuits!), so our gear will be ready to be packed up once it’s dry. Those dives, incidentally, are worthy of a blog post in and of themselves – the divemaster said we were going to drop in “over the big blue,” and none of us realized what that was until we backrolled off the boat into the water, let the air out of our BCDs, started descending, and realized that, despite the perfect tropical visibility, there was nothing around us. We descended without a single point of reference, freefalling into a sort of vast emptiness, before levelling off when we hit a hundred feet and swimming up to the wall of the reef, watching it slowly appear through the blue haze. I don’t know why we haven’t been doing that all semester, but at least none of us will ever forget those final dives here.
Final exams are over, data collection has finished, directed research papers are turned in, and research presentations, cleaning, packing, and an afternoon visit to the tiny and uninhabited Long Cay are all that’s left. When we first got to South Caicos, it took a while for me to really accept that this was going to be my home for three months. And now that it’s just about time to leave, it’s hard to accept that I am, most likely, never going to see this place again. I won’t miss the mosquitoes. But I will miss Cerano’s Jamaican jerk chicken.
It’s also just about impossible to picture the transition from 90-degree weather here to 30-degree weather at home in Northern Virginia. I don’t think I’ve felt a temperature below 75 degrees since May in Washington. You know the scene from Cool Runnings where the Jamaican bobsled team flies to Canada – how they feel the icy grip of below-zero temperatures through an open door in the airport and gape in horror? I’m unspeakably glad to not be flying from the Caribbean to Minnesota, like one of my roommates. Call me Sanka, but I somehow suspect that my cold tolerance will be a bit lacking for a while.