In which I learn why Ireland is so green

When you Google Image “Ireland,” this is the kind of thing you get:

ITR-PCL-00045299

post 198 image 2

post 198 image 3

There are two things in common with these three photos:

  1. The scenery is very green, as Ireland is famous for.
  2. The weather is beautiful and sunny.

So I always imagined Ireland as a beautifully warm and sunny country with bright rolling hills and lush grass. I wasn’t totally off: it’s got those rolling hills, that lush grass. As for the warm and sunny part…

post 198 image 15

…I was dead wrong.

post 199 image 11

Honestly, I should have known.

post 199 image 12

And my group was living in a particularly harsh part of Ireland. We were right on the west coast, in a place known as the Burren.

post 198 image 4

The Burren, as you can see, has a very distinctive landscape. It’s composed of crumbling limestone, the remains of an ancient seabed. The rocky hills can get quite tall, with many of them reaching over 200 meters high. And since the Burren is by the west coast– where those Atlantic sea winds come blowing in– the weather can be… unpredictable. 

post 199 image 13

Let me give you an example.

During our first week in Ireland, my group was scheduled to go on a hike on Blackhead Mountain. Blackhead Mountain is located right along the coast and promised impressive views of both the sea and the land. What’s more, we had a local Irish farmer to guide us on the hike. I was excited.

post 199 image 14We took a bus to the starting point. The weather looked warm and sunny when we were indoors, but as soon as we stepped out of the van…

post 199 image 15

Windy as hell. You could open an umbrella and fly away, Mary Poppins style.

But it wasn’t raining, so we went on our way. Despite the wind, I was really enjoying the walk. The Burren has a beautiful and unique landscape. For instance, the rocks are full of huge gaps called “grikes.” If you’re not careful, you could step in a grike– and considering that these gaps can be as deep as your waist, that would not be good.

post 198 image 6

post 198 image 5

The Burren is also home to a distinct mix of flora. Back in the Ice Age, an iceberg dumped a mix of Arctic and Mediterranean seeds in the area. Today, they still flourish due to the Burren’s year-round temperate climate. I never expected to see orchids outside of a rainforest!

post 198 image 7

So, in spite of the chilly wind, I was enjoying the hike. Our hiking guide was incredibly informative and walked at a nice pace, stopping frequently to explain this rose bush or that ancient fossil. About 30 minutes in, we paused so he could even give us a bit of Irish history.

post 199 image 16

He paused.

post 199 image 17

Of course, I looked behind me.

post 199 image 18

post 198 image 8

post 199 image 19

There was a HUGE rainstorm blowing right at us.

post 199 image 20

It didn’t.

post 199 image 21

The storm arrived within a matter of minutes. It came out of nowhere! And it wasn’t just rain. IT WAS HAIL.

post 199 image 22

Horizontal hail, due to the wind.

post 199 image 23

There was nothing we could do but continue our hike. Our guide kept going with the tour as usual. But the wind and hail were so fierce that, even when he shouted, we could barely hear what he said.

post 198 image 9

post 198 image 10

Oh, the joy.

We continued up the mountain, battling winds that threatened to knock us over. Our guide led us to a structure known as the Caherdooneerish Fort. Here, we huddled against one of the ancient stone walls and waited out the storm.

post 198 image 11

We love hiking

We love hiking

After about 20 minutes of soaking misery, the clouds finally cleared.

post 199 image 24

We continued our hike in the beautiful, beautiful sunlight.

post 198 image 13

Mind you, it was still windy as all get-out. The wind was so strong that it almost tipped me over with every step. And you don’t want to misstep in the Burren: remember, those grikes can swallow your leg whole. Alternatively, you could slip and knock your head on some lovely limestone.

post 199 image 25

Seriously, I thought I was going to die with each step I took.

post 199 image 26

It was insane. Incredible landscapes. Outrageous weather. Kids stumbling down the mountain, defying death with every step.

post 199 image 33

post 199 image 34

post 199 image 35

 

post 199 image 27

It was one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on.

post 199 image 28

Because nothing gets your adrenaline pumping better than thinking you’re going to fall off a mountain…for an hour straight.

In fact, I wasn’t even mad when another rain cloud rolled in.

post 199 image 29

And when it started hailing on us.

post 199 image 30

Again.

post 199 image 31

Luckily, our guide was prepared this time.

post 199 image 32

post 198 image 14

Apparently, 13 people could fit under this guy’s tarp. Barely.

Three hours later, our bus picked 13 wet, freezing kids off the side of the road. I had worn two pairs of pants. Both got completely soaked.

post 199 image 36

As you can imagine, we were all glad to get back home. We could take warm showers. Heat up some soup. Huddle under dry sheets and thick blankets, thinking about the windiest three hours of our lives.

post 199 image 37

Maybe I am. But hey, nothing wrong with a little crazy, am I right?

Hello, world!

Uh, hi.

I’ve been gone.

For a while.

Five months, to be exact.

I had reasons! I swear! No, seriously. My life has been a bit crazy for the past few months.

post 199 image 1

And that was only May.

As for the rest of the time, I’ve been occupied doing something else entirely. Remember when I decided, last-minute, to get an art minor? Well, I probably should have planned for it a little sooner than my senior year. I wanted to get this minor, but still graduate on time in the spring. This turned out to be… complicated.

post 199 image 2

Okay, I’m exaggerating. Northeastern offers exactly two basic art courses in the summer, courses I had already taken and didn’t need.

post 199 image 3

The art advisor hesitated.

post 199 image 4

Excuse me?

She was serious. This was a real thing starting this year. If I went abroad for two months to some tiny, tiny town in Ireland, I could get the art minor and graduate by August.

post 199 image 5

Yeah. The situation was absurd. I couldn’t get my art minor at Northeastern this summer… I could only do it in Ireland.

post 199 image 6

I’m stupid.

post 199 image 7

So, dearest readers, that’s where I’ve been all summer.

post 199 image 8

post 199 image 9

post 199 image 10

And man, was that the weirdest trip of my life.

Art does not compute

I’m all arted out.

Can you tell? You probably can. This blog is usually my creative outlet. The fact that I’ve neglected it for so long means that my artistic energies have been directed elsewhere.

Where, you ask?

post 197 image 1

Yeah. In a last-minute, last-year-of-college panic, I decided to declare an art minor.

post 197 image 2

Therefore, I’m taking two art classes this semester. One is called “Conceptual Drawing”…

post 197 image 3

…and the other is “2D Foundations.”

post 197 image 4

This was going to be good. I already knew it.

The first week of class started out slow. The professors kept it basic. My conceptual drawing professor gave us this exercise:

post 197 image 5

Uh, sure. I know what that is. Just kidding, I’m a biology student!

post 197 image 6

Our first project was to use the marks we made and compose a larger drawing from them. Then, we brought the drawings into class. Each student was asked to explain their work, and then received critique from the professor and students.

post 197 image 7

Then, they got to me.

post 197 image 8

Ok, ok. If I’m going to do an art minor, I can’t keep using that excuse. But the truth is, I’m used to hearing people talk about supercoiled plasmids, or carbonic anhydrases, or, you know, the oxidation of glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate. I am not used to all this artsy terminology.

post 197 image 9

What I especially don’t get is how subjective all of this is. I need numbers! Formulas! I took a color theory class last semester. Our first assignment was to paint a color wheel.

post 197 image 10

It’s mostly this conceptual drawing class, really. For some reason, it just doesn’t compute in my head.

post 197 image 11

Thus, I tend to take the class too literally.

post 197 image 12

Another surprising part of art is how time consuming it is. I mean, I should know that better than anyone—a single blog post usually takes between 6-10 hours to make. The time I usually use to blog has been used for my art projects instead.

post 197 image 13

Honestly, it’s more time-consuming than studying for classes! You can often find me in the art studio of my university all day, regretting a particular design choice or composition.

post 197 image 14

It’s been crazy. I’ve been straining a completely different part of my brain, a part that I’ve barely flexed before. It’s a stretch, a challenge for someone like me.

post 197 image 15

And I totally love it.

post 197 image 16

I don’t know how to describe my feelings. Art is different, somehow. There’s the satisfaction of producing something that is completely your own. There’s the frustration of wanting to improve your skills, your ideas, your designs. And there’s the fulfillment of knowing that you made something beautiful. Something that can’t be explained or rationalized, but somehow still has value.

It’s something I’ve never experienced before, in all my years of studying biology—the sense that, for once, I’m doing what I was meant to do.

post 197 image 17

It’s not like much has changed, though. I’m still a biology student. I’m still destined to live in a laboratory, pipetting the same liquids into the same machines. Maybe I’ll even get to go to grad school one day, so I can memorize the theory behind enzyme-lined immunosorbent assays or the importance of bovine serum albumin.

post 197 image 18

But for now, I have the chance to grasp at what I wish I could be. I’ll learn as much as I can, for as long as it lasts.

post 197 image 19

So, if you need me, before I move into the lab—I’ll be living in the art studio, getting paint everywhere.

post 197 image 20

Want to see what I’ve been working on in class? Look below, and follow me on Instagram!

10 hours later… Done my #homework. #art #painting #abstract #trippy #whydoidothistomyself

A photo posted by Vy (@ithinkincomics) on

 

In which a grown man rolls around in the snow

So, like I said before, my long-distance boyfriend is currently on exchange in the US.

Not just the US, but in Boston. At my school, Northeastern University.

How rad is that?!

It’s rad for me, but I think it’s been even more rad for him. The Northeast US is very different from what he’s used to. This boy is tropical, born and raised. His hometown has two seasons: hot, and hot and wet. His university, in Sydney, experiences 300 days of sunshine per year. This summer, he experienced temperatures in excess of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

post 195 image 1

 

As a result, he’s never seen snow. Not in person, anyway. Everyone’s seen it on TV– in those Christmas specials and the Harry Potter films– but he (and most Australians) has never seen snow.

post 195 image 2

Thus, whenever I sent him snapchats all like

post 195 image 23

He’d always respond

post 195 image 24

When we finally found out that he was coming to the US, he was excited. I’m sure you can figure out why.

post 195 image 3

Clearly, he didn’t understand just how horrendous the cold could be. How could he know? He’s never experienced it before. At my urging, and his mom’s insistence, he went out and got winter clothes for the first time.

post 195 image 4

Finally, he arrived in the US. In the middle of December. I greeted him in the airport, where it was heated and warm and indicated nothing of what was to come.
post 195 image 5
Then, we went outside.
post 195 image 6
His face was priceless.
post 195 image 7
He tried to laugh it off.
post 195 image 8
I had to explain to him that, just because it’s below freezing, it doesn’t mean that it’s snowing. He looked like a wounded puppy.
post 195 image 9
But he perked up real fast.
Back in Philly, however, it doesn’t snow all that often. Not as much as it does in Boston, that’s for sure. We’ll get snow a couple times a year, maybe. The boyfriend got over the novelty of the cold real fast, and waited eagerly for his first snow.
post 195 image 10
Then, finally:
post 195 image 11
That night, I went to bed. I’m not sure if he did, as excited as he was. The next morning, I was forcefully awakened.
post 195 image 12
As it turned out, the snow had arrived, and the boyfriend had already gone out to play. As I sleepily ate breakfast, he shared his observations with me.
post 195 image 13
He even took videos.
post 195 image 14
post 195 image 15
post 195 image 16
By now, I had come to view snow mostly as a nuisance. It’s a pain to walk through. It’s even worse to drive in. I commute to school by bicycle, and nothing screws up your trip more than icy roads and snow in your face.
But seeing the boyfriend all throughout that day…
post 195 image 17
…reminded me that snow is, actually, kind of nice.
post 195 image 18
And that, as boring as I find my hometown, other people find it fascinating. It’s strange, being on the other side of a foreign exchange. Usually I’m the one freaking out, you know?
post 195 image 19
Finally, the boyfriend and I went up to Boston. I figured he might like it. It snows a lot more here, so he’d get to see it more often!
post 195 image 20
Maybe a little too often.
post 195 image 21
I, as the good girlfriend, comforted him about the unfortunate weather.
post 195 image 22
Looks like he’s adjusting well.
 .
 .
 .
 .
 .
By the way, the boyfriend is making a USA video blog! Here’s one he made about his first snow. I even cameo in it!

In which I go long-distance for a long time.

Apparently, it started with a game of volleyball.

It was back when I was in Sydney. I had just arrived and moved into my new residential college. The dorm had rented out some volleyball courts at the university gym, and invited all the residents to come and play.

post 194 image 1

I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s when it began.

Although nothing happened until much, much later.

A couple weeks after I played volleyball, some kid approached me as I was going to lunch. Everyone in my residential hall ate in the same dining room. This dining hall always kept tons of fruit that residents could take back to their rooms. I have an unnatural fondness for bananas, so I would often take multiple bananas from the cafeteria.

This kid approached me, clutching two bananas in his hand.

post 194 image 2

It was a sincere attempt to establish a rapport with me, I realize now. It didn’t work. Mostly, I wondered why this kid had a problem with my banana addiction. I completely forgot about the incident and went about business as usual.

It wasn’t until a month later that things began to move. I participated in the residential hall’s talent show, exhibiting my speed drawing skills alongside an actual artist. We needed someone to be the announcer for our act. This same kid volunteered.

post 194 image 3

We had to rehearse for the act, of course. Check the lighting and practice walking on stage and all that. While we waited for our turn at the rehearsal, I started chatting with our announcer.

post 194 image 4

At that time, The Legend of Korra had completed its first season. Fans had been waiting with baited breath for the next season to come out. It had already been months.

post 194 image 5

Clever play, dude. Clever play.

So, I started watching The Legend of Korra with this kid every week. We got to talking. He seemed like a cool guy– likes comics, likes video games, likes reddit, just like me. We became fast friends.

After the 3rd week of watching Korra, he knocks on my door and asks:

post 194 image 6

C’mon. I’m a middle-class American girl who grew up in white suburbia. Of course I was gonna say,

post 194 image 7

Another smooth move. Props to you, kid. Anyway, you can imagine where this is going.

post 194 image 8

We went from acquaintances, to fast friends, to dating. Just like that. For some reason we got along really well. Probably because we were both weird people and total nerds.

post 194 image 9

But it was a doomed relationship from the start.

After all, I was only going to be in Sydney for so long. By the time we started dating, I had a month and a half left in the country. This guy wasn’t American. He wasn’t even Australian. He’s a citizen of Malaysia who is an international student at the University of Sydney.

Even as we continued to hang out…

post 194 image 10

 

…it was tinged with worry.

post 194 image 11

After all, this guy was from the other side of the world. Not an exaggeration. I had to think realistically. I could enjoy the time I had with him now, for sure. Everyone has that overseas romance, right? But once I left, we’d have to break it off. That idea, for some reason, didn’t appeal to me.

post 194 image 12

Well, shit.

So we decided, against all odds, to try a long-distance relationship. This wasn’t the sort of long distance where you get to see each other once a week, or once a month. This was going to be a relationship where you’d see each other never, and maaaaaaybe in the far future you’d get to visit again.

post 194 image 13

The day I flew out of Sydney– well, let’s just say it’s not one of my happier memories. He came to the airport with me and waited until I had to board my flight.

post 194 image 14

At least I wasn’t leaving Australia completely. I dived the Great Barrier Reef after that, then toured Queensland with my friends. Then, I traveled Vietnam with my family. The day that I flew back to Boston, however…

post 194 image 15

It was over. Everything was over. The warm sunny skies of Sydney were replaced with the sub-zero frost of the Massachusetts Bay. I got back to Boston on a Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, I immediately jumped into my new internship. I didn’t have a chance to catch my breath.

post 194 image 16

Like that, the long-distance began.

post 194 image 17

First, we had to deal with the time difference. Even when we were awake at the same time, we’d be busy with work, school, or life. We were really only able to Skype on weekends. We did text and leave voice messages every day, though.

post 194 image 18

Suddenly, I went from never-answers-her-phone girl to always-attached-to-her-phone girl.

post 194 image 19

Those first few months were painful. Anyone in a long-distance relationship knows what I mean. The feeling of missing someone so badly, you’d give up a kidney just to see them again. I would sit around, wondering why teleportation hadn’t been invented yet.

post 194 image 20

As time went on, the pain slowly numbed. I was more and more able to function like a real human being. I really hated to admit that one person could have such a huge effect on my behavior, so this was a small relief.

post 194 image 21

I read fluffy listicles on long-distance relationships.

post 194 image 22

Life goes on. Months flew by. Landmark dates passed: Valentine’s Day, my birthday, his birthday, our one-year anniversary. All spent alone. We sent postcards, packages, physical presents to make up for our absence.

post 194 image 23

I ran my first half-marathon. He finished his final exams. I completed my internship. He landed a part-time job. I traveled Europe with my sister. Things kept changing, but one thing remained constant: Us. We continued to keep in touch. Neither of us wanted to let go, despite all the naysayers.

post 194 image 24

They all had a point, though. Text messages and video chats can only go so far. Relationships require physical presence, and we were severely lacking in that.

Something had to shift. But what? It’s not like I could fly to Australia, or he to America, for a casual weekend visit. There was no way our relationship could continue like this for long. One day, he asked me to talk.

post 194 image 25

He told me the details: for the last few months, he had worked at getting his grades up. That way, he could qualify to study abroad. It’s a long process, though. First, he has to choose the top schools that he wanted to go to. Then, the University of Sydney has to approve one of his choices. Then he needs to wait for the exchange institution’s approval, and then he has to go through the painful process of getting a visa.

Well, he’d only have to do all that if he got approved in the first place.

post 194 image 26

I’ve never been so mad and touched in my life. The waiting began. The University of Sydney took a few weeks to respond. We waited impatiently, hoping that they’d approve his top choice– Northeastern University, my school.

post 194 image 27

Finally, he got an e-mail.

post 194 image 28

Then, Northeastern had to accept him. This took another month.

post 194 image 29

It was a horrible waiting period. The Northeastern study abroad representative was unresponsive and slow. The visa process couldn’t start until Northeastern sent their approval documents. As the weeks crawled on, we texted and worried.

post 194 image 30

And, then, the magic happened:

post 194 image 31

At that moment, we realized that this was real. There was no turning back. He still had to go through the long and excruciating process of getting a visa, finding housing, and booking plane tickets, but it was set. This was happening. We were going to be reunited– not for a week or two, but for a full semester.

post 194 image 32

He flew in right before Christmas, on a 25-hour flight.

post 194 image 33

My dad and I picked him up from the airport.

post 194 image 34

I looked around.

post 194 image 35

And then, I realized.

post 194 image 36

He was right.

post 194 image 37

Despite all those months– over a year– of waiting.

post 194 image 40

Even if it’s hard, it’ll be worth it.

post 194 image 38

 

It sure was for us.

post 194 image 39

 

Help, I’ve fallen and I won’t get up until May 2015.

Schools are always full of sick kids. I mean that literally. College students are stressed, sleep-deprived, and living off canned soup and instant ramen. Then, they get crammed into little classrooms together, where they spend hours coughing and sneezing and trying to understand the exact mechanism of a Hell-Vollard-Zelinsky reaction (whatever that is). Combine that with the freezing, bipolar weather of the US Northeast and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

And I’m part of the problem. I think I’ve been sick lately. Seriously! Call me a hypochondriac, but I’ve been kind of “off” for the last few months. This semester has been unlike any semester I’ve been through before.

You see, before, I was like this:

post 193 image 1

Now, I’m like this.

post 193 image 2

Before, I used to be on top of my game.

post 193 image 3

Now, I’m at the bottom of the 9th inning with 4800 words to go.

post 193 image 4

I used to never skip class.

post 193 image 5

But this semester, I actually skipped a class. Once. Alright, I’m a huge nerd.

post 193 image 6

Maybe I’m getting old. I used to be able to run on five hours of sleep per night.

post 193 image 7

Now, I need to sleep. Like, all the time. I even have favorite spots to take naps on campus.

post 193 image 8

It’s getting ridiculous. When I went home for Thanksgiving break, I was hoping it would go like this:

post 193 image 9

Instead, it was like this:

post 193 image 10

I kid you not. On my first evening home, I immediately took a three hour nap. I woke up, attempted to study for about 15 minutes, then went back to bed for another 12 hours.

post 193 image 11

 

What is happening? I used to freak out when assignments piled up.

post 193 image 12

But now…

post 193 image 13

As for my grades?

post 193 image 14

Basically, I give ZERO F#CKS. About ALL the things.

post 193 image 15

What is the deal? 

post 193 image 16

Some kids get the flu. Some kids get a cold. I’ve been stricken with the most common illness among college seniors…

post 193 image 17

Oh, no! This can’t be! Not the dreaded senioritis! There has to be some sort of treatment, right? I consulted the source of all knowledge, Urban Dictionary.

post 193 image 18

post 193 image 19

Looks like I have another semester before I fully recover. Until then…

post 193 image 20

Is it Christmas yet?

Getting attacked by squirrels in Central Park.

I was sad when I left Sydney. During my time there, I had made some really good friends. One in particular was my running buddy. Despite our cultural differences– she’s from Denmark, I’m from the US– we got along really well. It was one of those friendships that would last a lifetime.

post 191 image 1

She wasn’t kidding. Several months ago, her family planned a trip to New York City this October. New York City isn’t too far from Boston, so I made a vow:

post 191 image 2

And I, too, was serious. My friend gave me the dates that her family would be in New York. I booked the bus tickets. I could only visit her for two days, because school– but it was better than nothing.

post 191 image 3

So that’s how I, Vy, was adopted by my friend’s Danish family for the weekend.

post 191 image 4

And it was an interesting experience for all of us. I’m used to traveling out of the US and having to adjust to new cultures. Now, the roles were reversed. I’ve been to New York countless times since I was young. My friend has never been to the States before.

Watching someone from a different country react to the US with is highly amusing. In the hopes of sharing my amusement, I present to you…

MY DANISH FRIEND GOES TO NYC

And gets surprised by a bunch of things

 

1. Copious amounts of sugar.

Americans, for some reason, like to put extra sugar in just about everything. Other countries are not used to this. My friends were no exception.

post 191 image 5

2. Jamba Juice.

Some foods weren’t as disappointing, though. When I met up with my friend, she enthusiastically told me about a great breakfast place her family went to.

post 191 image 6

Sometimes I forget how many fast-food chains are only common in the US. I was expecting her to name some fancy, NYC-exclusive froyo shop, but no. It was Jamba Juice.

3. Times Square.

post 191 image 7

4. Everything is tall.

My friend hails from Denmark and has traveled much of Europe. She’s seen a lot of cities. She’s even been to Sydney. But they don’t really compare to the skyscrapers of NYC.

post 191 image 8

The scale of everything in NYC is simply bigger. She excitedly described to me some of the stores her family visited.

post 191 image 9

I, the United States native, wanted to impress her even further. At the Rockefeller Center, I pointed out one of my favorite childhood stores.

post 191 image 10

 

5. Everything is cheap (in comparison to Denmark).

By my standards, shopping in Manhattan isn’t cheap. I’m used to being in the ‘burbs, where the strip malls are plenty and the sales are season-round. In Denmark, though, consumer prices are sky-high. America seemed like a bargain basement to my friend and her family.

post 191 image 11

They knew this would be the case, and came prepared.

post 191 image 12

We all felt a bit bad for the men of the group, since shopping isn’t their thing.

post 191 image 13

But, how often would these gals get to shop in the US? They took advantage of the opportunity.

post 191 image 14

6. And finally, the squirrels.

My Danish friend and her family visited Central Park. Do you know that Pixar movie, Up? And the one character, Dug?

tumblr_mxtu0n40JU1qf769do1_250

It was kind of like hanging out with six Dug’s.

post 191 image 15

 

post 191 image 16

I didn’t get it.

post 191 image 17

My friend and her family even tried to unload their ultra-sweet Dunkin’ Donuts on the squirrels.

post 191 image 18

But those cute little guys are feistier than they appear.

post 191 image 19

post 191 image 20

 

 

Yep, it was a fantastic weekend. It was refreshing to see a foreigner visit my home country, rather than the other way around. Though I too had my own moments of surprise. We visited two locations in New York that I had never been to before.

post 191 image 21

post 191 image 27

post 191 image 28

post 191 image 29

post 191 image 30

post 191 image 23

 

The next location was even more stunning.

post 191 image 26

post 191 image 31

post 191 image 32

post 191 image 33

post 191 image 24

And, of  course, it was great to see my friend again. She’s the greatest! I swore to visit her.

post 191 image 25

So, hopefully, we’ll have more of this happening in the future:

post 191 image 34

Central Park!

Brooklyn Bridge!

Brooklyn Bridge!

Top of the Rock!

Top of the Rock!

Because some friendships can span continents!

I have a smelly new friend, and his name is Mr. President.

When I was younger, I wanted a pet. I mean, what little kid doesn’t want a loyal dog or adorable kitten? Unfortunately, my parents didn’t think the same way.

post 190 image 5

It’s true that having a dog is a big commitment. They live a long time and require a lot of care! Even as I grew older, though, I still wanted a pet. My IQ drops at least 100 points every time I approach an animal.

post 190 image 6

I still wanted a pet by the time I reached college. But my parents had a point: owning a dog or a cat is no joke. They cost a lot of time and money. Was I responsible enough to have a pet like that?

post 190 image 7

I just wanted something cute and fuzzy to play with! Is that too much to ask for? I kept obsessing over the idea.

post 190 image 8

This went on for months until my birthday rolled around. This year, my sister bought me a special gift.

post 190 image 9

 

She had bought me a pet cage! And some pet bedding! In other words, the first steps to getting my own pet mouse.

post 190 image 10

I always joked about getting a pet, but I never thought that it could become a reality. Now, the possibility was there. I wanted a mouse. I needed a mouse!

post 190 image 11

So, a few days later, my sister and I drove to the nearest PetSmart. There were only two mice in the rodents section.

The first mouse was white with brown spots. He was sleeping peacefully, curled up into a little ball of fluff.

post 190 image 12

The other mouse was black and lean. He was frantically running on his exercise wheel like there was no tomorrow.

post 190 image 13

You can guess which one I chose.

post 190 image 14

Even the PetSmart employee wasn’t convinced.

post 190 image 15

It was too late. I had already fallen in love with the hyper mouse. The PetSmart employee opened up the cage to transfer the mouse into a box…

post 190 image 16

She was right. Soon after getting my mouse, I noticed that he had some interesting quirks.

post 190 image 17

Male mice, like many other animals, have a habit of marking their territory. This behavior increases when the mouse feels nervous or threatened. This particular mouse is one of the most nervous, high-strung creatures I have ever seen. Accordingly, he pees constantly.

post 190 image 18

To make matters worse, mice usually like to pee and poop in the same location in their cage. My mouse chose a problematic area as his toilet.

post 190 image 19

Yeah. All night, my mouse will poop in his exercise wheel. Then he’ll run in it. By the time I wake up each morning, the wheel will be caked in a layer of trampled poop. Every day, I have to wipe it off.

post 190 image 20

And that smell. He really likes to mark his territory. I stuck boxes of baking soda around his cage. I bought air fresheners. I opened all the windows. Finally, I resorted to drastic measures.

post 190 image 21

Even with the air filter , the smell has only been reduced and not eliminated. I wash his cage weekly and remove the dirty bedding every day. As soon as I do, he makes a point to poop and pee immediately after.

post 190 image 22

What’s even dumber, though, is my mouse’s name.

When I got my mouse, I pondered over what to name him for days. Finally, I consulted my friends for advice.

post 190 image 23

Then, my dad came along.

post 190 image 24

Although I rejected my dad’s suggestion, my dad continued to call the mouse Obama.

post 190 image 25

Then, my mom caught on.

post 190 image 26

 

Finally, my sister picked it up.

post 190 image 27

Out of all the names I considered, this was the one that stuck the most. A few weeks later, I moved back to school and introduced the mouse to my friends.

post 190 image 28

Thus, nowadays I regularly say stuff like this: 

post 190 image 29

And stuff like this:

post 190 image 4

post 190 image 1

post 190 image 2

post 190 image 3

post 190 image 30

Thanks, Obama.

Rome on drugs.

While we were in Europe, I couldn’t help but feel bad for my sister. Why? Well, she chose me as a travel companion. I think she forgot how dumb I am sometimes.

For example: Our visit to Rome. Europe, for some reason, was giving me and my sister horrendous allergies. Everywhere we went, it was a chorus of sneezing.

post 189 image 1

On our first morning in Rome, I had the sneezes particularly bad. My sister gave me a friendly reminder.

post 189 image 2

I checked my medicine bag, which I had hastily thrown together before we left the US.

post 189 image 3

Uh… what was that again? I pulled out my phone. I only had limited internet, but there was enough for me to do a rudimentary Google search…

post 189 image 4

And so my sister and I went about our day in Rome. We trekked from Trastevere to downtown Rome, passing by the Roman Forums.

post 189 image 5

post 189 image 6

We went and bought tickets to visit the Roman Forums and Palatine Hill. It was an incredible place! As implied Palatine Hill is built on a hill. We were able to get a really beautiful view of Rome from the top.

post 189 image 7

post 189 image 8

And the Forums! They were thousands of years old and still relatively intact. It was amazing, imagining what the ruins must have looked like when they were brand new.

post 189 image 9

My sister knew something was wrong, but wasn’t sure what.

post 189 image 10

She decided that I might be hungry. We ventured out in search of food.

post 189 image 11

On the way, we ran into the Altare della Patria, a massive, marble monument built for Victor Emmanuel II. This building is enormous, and absolutely stunning.

post 189 image 12

post 189 image 13

Though it wasn’t in our itinerary, we had to check it out. My sister and I climbed up the stairs, marveling at the beauty of the giant monument.

post 189 image 14

post 189 image 15

At the back of the building was a huge door. My sister and I entered, finding a huge and ornate church.

post 189 image 16

post 189 image 28

The church was completely silent. Besides me and my sister, only a few other people were there. Even the smallest footstep echoed through the entire room. And that’s when my diaphragm decided to betray me.

post 189 image 17

In that church, as I was completely, inexplicably tired and neurotic, I was hit with the worst case of hiccups I have ever experienced in my life.

post 189 image 18

Each hiccup bounced off the walls and reverberated through the room. As my hiccups became more and more violent, people in the church began to stare. My sister grabbed my arm.

post 189 image 19

We ran out of the church.

post 189 image 20

 

In all fairness to myself, Benadryl is an allergy medication. However, one of its side effects is overwhelming, soporific drowsiness. Which explained a lot of my behavior that day.

post 189 image 21

And that’s how I ended up buying two espresso shots at the Altare della Patria cafe.

post 189 image 22

But, whatever. As sleepy and loony as I was, I still had a great time in Rome.

post 189 image 23

post 189 image 24

post 189 image 25

post 189 image 26

post 189 image 27

And I didn’t sneeze once that whole day!

In which firefighters get shirtless to save the day.

Since I’m back in school, I’ve started volunteering again. There’s a really handy website called One Brick that lets you sign up for events and simply show up the day of.

It’s a convenient way to find out about volunteer opportunities around Boston. It usually consists of normal stuff, like working in a soup kitchen or handing out water at a charity run. But last weekend, I saw an event that looked a little bit different.

post 188 image 4

A non-profit called Project Smile was putting on a charity date auction, naming it “Boston’s Largest Fall Singles Event.” With such a declaration, how could I not be interested? Me and three friends RSVP’d for the event.

post 188 image 5

Not that we’d be participating– we all signed up as volunteers. Still, it sounded like an interesting way to spend a Friday evening. Date auctions are one of those things I’ve only seen in the movies. Were they really the same in real life?

post 188 image 6

The event called for “cocktail attire.” So, after class that day, I ran home, geared up, and got my game on.

post 188 image 7

My friends and I headed to the venue, appropriately named “Venu.” Inside, we found a fancy nightclub, decorated for the occasion.

post 188 image 9

There was a silent auction…

post 188 image 8

…a backdrop for photos…

post 188 image 3

…and a table full of vibrators.

post 188 image 10

This was going to be interesting.

I was assigned to the money-handling table. Here, the auction winners would come up and pay for their date. My job? To make them sign a waiver.

post 188 image 11

As we set everything up, more and more people started filing into the nightclub. Soon, the entire place was packed. The bachelors and bachelorettes being sold wandered around, chatting with prospective bidders. Finally, at 7:30…

post 188 image 12

The auction started out strong. Miss Massachusetts was at the event, presumably as the celebrity guest. She was invited to the stage to say a few words. And then, a surprise:

post 188 image 13

Whoa, you can’t just spring that on someone! Onstage, she has no way to say no! What if she wasn’t okay with this?  The bidding began, quickly escalating higher and higher. She is a beauty pageant winner, after all. Man, I was getting nervous for her.

post 188 image 14

Finally, when the bids reached over $300…

post 188 image 15

To my relief, Miss Massachusetts’ own boyfriend had stepped in and offered the highest bid, which ended up being over $300. This was a hard act to follow. Maybe we had a tough crowd that night, but it became hard for the MC’s to get anything beyond the initial bid.

post 188 image 16

It started to get kind of desperate.

post 188 image 17

For one lady, the awkward silence got so bad that the MC bought the girl himself.

post 188 image 18

The MC’s even encouraged people to buy more than one date. One gentleman ended up buying three or four girls.

post 188 image 34

As weird as that sounds, though, I think he did it out of goodwill.

post 188 image 19

Well, and he got some cheap dates with cute girls.

The entire date auction wasn’t a bust, though. No, sir. There was a savior up ahead. The crowd started out lukewarm– but it wouldn’t last.

You see, my friends and I hadn’t signed up for the event just because it was a date auction. We signed up because we saw the flyers.

post 188 image 20

You read that right.

post 188 image 21

Yup.

post 188 image 22

We were interested.

post 188 image 23

The MC’s brought the first firefighter on stage. Not only was he a firefighter, but he was also a paramedic. A double-whammy lifesaver. This was the guy that we had all been waiting for.

You could hear the panties dropping. Or, more literally, the bids escalating.

post 188 image 24

The bids stalled around the upper 300’s. Then, the MC offered:

post 188 image 25

Almost immediately, an old lady raised her hand, pulled out her wallet, and bid $400. High-pitched cheers erupted across the room. The DJ put some sexy music on.

post 188 image 26

Luckily, the firefighter was a good sport. He proceeded to strip down– first his vest, then his shirt, then his undershirt, then: no shirt. The MC even gave him a pink firefighter cap to complete the look.

post 188 image 27

As this was happening, of course, the bids continued to rise.

post 188 image 28

Finally, the MC pulled out the big guns.

post 188 image 29

The crowd went wild, and the rest was history.

post 188 image 30

post 188 image 32

After that, everything seemed to loosen. Bids went higher. The crowd seemed more at ease. And, most importantly, clothes just kept coming off.

"C'mon, ladies."

“C’mon, ladies.”

It was the most awkward and hilarious spectacle I’ve ever seen.

post 188 image 33

Project Smile raised $18,000 in just that one night– all thanks to the shirtless firemen.