Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The One About Hogwarts...

I spent this last weekend at my college’s homecoming for my five-year reunion. Whoa… Five years have flown by since I accepted my diploma at the School of Economics’ graduation. It wasn’t the perfect tv/movie moment I envisioned based on Saved the Bell College edition and Legally Blonde. My name sounded garbled in the department chair’s heavy eastern European accent. Think he even added extra vowels and a couple of syllables… And my poor parents traveled over 4,000 miles only to watch me pushed to center stage (by a faculty member no less…) because I stood in the wings unsure if I were being recognized… Considering that I pulled one all-nighter a week finishing econ papers and problem sets, I should have taken the mic away and announced myself correctly after which the crowd erupted into cheers... Haha! Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda…
Reunion was slightly overwhelming. I was bombarded by a number of people asking the same question – what are you up to now? I started repeating the same six words in an almost rhythmic pattern – Salt Lake City. Three Years. Finance. Depending on how close we were in college, I would elaborate a little more but I was more interested in what others were doing. I found out that my fraternity brother cofounded Instagram – a photo sharing app I recently downloaded to my iphone. Another friend was part of a non-profit organization looking to construct more efficient water-wells in Kenya. I even met up with another classmate who is the current spokesperson for Bare Essentials (I’d actually seen the commercial randomly…). A number of other friends were in graduation school or settling down in their career or family. I was so inspired by how my classmates chose to live their lives.
Walking around campus and looking at the Richardsonian Romanesque architecture blended with elements reminiscent of Colonial Mission Revival (I was a dedicated tour guide, sue me….), I could not help but enjoy flashbacks from my undergraduate years: biking furiously through the quad as the toll of the bells signaled my tardiness, serenading a couple with my college a capella group before a heartfelt wedding proposal and hiding in the bushes behind Memorial Church as a fraternity pledge while our actives looked for us in a game of Hide and Go Sleep (yeah, it’s not hazing…). People say college is the best four years of your life. It certainly was a magical time for me. For four years, I was part of a world where anything (seriously, anything!) was possible. It was Hogwarts. And I, along with 1700 students, felt like Harry Potter in a four book wondrous series of fortunate events. ‘OOOOO-SIX!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The One About Ralph Lauren...

Jet lag is real! I've been completely exhausted since returning from Thailand on Saturday. Oh yeah, I went to Thailand! Haha.
My cousin Ui and I settled on this trip two months ago. And our excitement grew exponentially since that time. Actually... There may have been a slight decline in excitement when our other cousin and third member of the Thailand trio bowed out of the trip the same morning we were supposed to fly out... Oh well, the show must go on! And it did. 20 hours of flight time later (including four layovers) Ui and I finally landed in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is about an hour's flight north of Bangkok and known for the manufacturing of Thai goods like silk, umbrellas, silver and tourist trinkets. We were slightly worried because Chiang Mai was hit by a monsoon the week before and local news reported heavy flooding. But it was as if Fate wanted us to explore Chiang Mai without an Ark because it didn't rain until we left for Bangkok. Ugh, Bangkok... I'm not ready to discuss Bangkok and how the city practically Hangover 2'd us... haha. If you do make it out to Thailand, I insist you visit Chiang Mai. The city, with it's laid-back atmosphere, was comprised of identical looking streets offering ever-changing surprises. On one street sat a whole chain of massage parlors (So cheap!). On the next street, an ornate Buddhist temple (Monks!). I tried to take it all in while riding in our first tuk-tuk (motorized rickshaw) but the various sights and smells (fried pork!) were a blur.

What to do in Chiang Mai? I definitely recommend a tour of Maetmann Camp - kicked off by an elephant show (they paint?! They kick soccer balls?!), Ox pulled cart rides through the rice fields, elephant trek to the local town and back to the camp, buffet lunch, scenic bamboo rafting trip down the near river and a tour of an orchid/butterfly farm. Costing a grand total of $33, this was definitely the most bang for our great American buck.

In comparison, Bangkok was congested and chaotic. After being impressed by our posh hotel lobby and breakfast, we felt completely duped when our room looked like a dumpy motel crime scene from a CSI episode. Our one bright spot was hitting up MBK (one of the largest malls in Bangkok) and being overwhelmed by the amounts of designer merchandise (7 floors of clothes, electronics and furniture!) - whether they were real or great knockoffs was another story... I dare you to NOT buy a leather Mulberry wallet for $15 or two Ralph Lauren polos for $18. Haha!

All in all, it was a great trip. I just wish I slept more. But sleeping is for the grave. And I intend to wear my new Ralph Lauren digs till the very end.

Samoa in December!