Flights, First Impressions, and Faulty Connections

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

One journey, eight months in the making, is finally over, while another, not yet two days old, has only just begun. Since learning about my acceptance into the Shansi program late last November, I have finally taken the plunge to living in rural China. It was preceded by two intense, emotional, incredible, and trepidation-filled weeks at home with some of my closest friends—a great way for me to stock up on memories like rations to fuel these long two years away from the people I love most.

The trip itself went smoother than I had anticipated. Being a little too literal in my attempt to follow my first piece of advice about arriving in China—don’t come with any preconceived expectations—I didn’t bother to check my flight length, nor the time difference between Beijing and New York (it’s a wonder I got to the right airport, no?). But it was a pleasant surprise—the flight was a little over thirteen hours, four of which I spent watching movies (The Devil Wears Prada and The Matrix, both with Chinese subtitles), and barring time eating or using the bathroom, the other nine I spent asleep. In something of a miscue, at least based upon all of my previous air travel experience, I actually befriended a fellow passenger (Yitka would be so proud!). The woman next to me was the mother of a recent high school grad, and was very quick to talk about the economic climate and its affect on this year’s crop of giddy college-goers. She made an interesting point—new college-bound students are less willing than their predecessors to “follow their passions”—unless those passions just happen to be in medicine, law, or finance. Out of practicality for the possibility of finding work after graduation, many are looking toward future job placement as a motivating factor both for their choice of major and their choice of college. She insinuated that application numbers for private colleges are down, suggesting that many students are worried about not being able to pay back expensive loans after graduation and are instead looking at specialized programs in public or trade schools.

This certainly had its implications for me and my fellow graduates. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Class of 2009 found not a diploma within the fancy binding handed out at Commencement, but a bill for four years of faux-preparation for the job market. I was of a relatively few, fortunate bunch who were able to get something going after graduation. It was so disheartening to see dozens of my friends completely strapped for any semblance of employment, spending the summer cooped up in a parent’s house or an apartment that they could scarcely afford. I realized over the course of this conversation en route to Beijing that had I been entering college and not the “real world” this coming September, I would probably find myself in the same boat. There’s little chance I would have stuck with Creative Writing as a major—opting instead perhaps to follow my first passion (engineering) and if I did study language, have done so more out of utility than simple curiosity. I’m glad though that the economic downturn did hold off until it did, and that I was able to pursue the interests that have carried me to China, but that’s not to say that I still won’t inevitably have to put them on the back burner upon returning full time to the states.

In any case, the flight itself was mercifully forgiving, and customs and immigration went off without a hitch. I bid farewell to my new acquaintance and took a short shuttle bus to another section of the airport where I again went through customs and check-in for my domestic flight to Taiyuan. In the three-hour layover, I succeeded in staying awake despite a 4am timestamp. I bought myself an iced tea, curled up with a Chinese newspaper, and listened intermittently to a newscast—reveling in my utter inadequacy. As suspected, and in a complete “déjà vu moment” of my domestic flight from Tokyo to Osaka two years ago, I was unconscious for the flight’s entirety. It wasn’t until the seatbelt lights went off and the passengers next to me started getting restless that I realized we had not only left Beijing, but we had already arrived at our destination.

The front of my house. Apparently, we Shansi Fellows are experts in all things foreign.

I was greeted at the airport by Li Sen, one of the officials of the Foreign Language Program at Shanxi Agricultural University where I will be teaching. With his arrival came my first of two tests. After standing at the baggage claim for well over twenty minutes and watching scores of passengers from later flights retrieve their last suitcases, I finally conceded that my bags were not going to emerge in Moses-parting-the-Red-Sea fashion from the rubber birth canal. I proceeded to confront an airline official and successfully communicated my predicament in Chinese. She sat me down in a badly ventilated gray hull of a room to exchange pleasantries with some of the other airline officials as she went to investigate. They showed up intermittently, almost always preceded by a smile or a giggle, as if only to catch a glimpse of the delusional foreigner who claimed to be living in China’s backwaters for the next two years.

After I was sufficiently grilled by the airline's staff, she returned to tell me that my bags were located in Beijing and that they would be delivered to the post office at the school’s campus the following morning. Greatly relieved, I thanked the woman and went to join Li Sen and the driver out in the parking lot. It was raining outside, and when I asked if this was common in Taiyuan, Li Sen said simply: “only when we’re picking up foreigners.” We drove to a nearby restaurant to have dinner and kill some time before we were to pick up Nick, one of the two senior Fellows, who was to be arriving from Shanghai that evening. It was at the restaurant (or rather, just outside of it) where I faced my second test: navigating the squat toilet in an outhouse whose corrugated tin roof was only partially effective in keeping out the biblical rains. After returning inside, we ate, sharing many small dishes between the three of us—our chopsticks jabbing and poking at Kung Pao Chicken (the go-to dish for newly-arrived foreigners), wood ear mushroom, cabbage, and tofu. Conversation was directed almost solely through Li Sen, as the driver didn’t speak a word of English and I was still too nervous to try out my Chinese in any large capacity.

After we got word that Nick’s flight would be delayed for at least a few more hours, we drove the 40 minutes from Taiyuan to Taigu and before I knew it, I was handed a pair of keys and situated neatly at my house for the next two years. Anne, the other of the two senior Fellows, having arrived a day earlier, came to greet me with her friend Lynn, a former student and current friend. We spent a lot of time talking and getting caught up on each other’s lives. As fate would have it, I had actually taken classes with both Nick and Anne at Oberlin but I didn’t know either of them very well. God knows that after a year here together with scarcely any other foreigners, that situation will change very quickly. As it was, I learned a lot about her last year in Taigu, the ups, the downs, the challenges, and the triumphs. Of course, I inevitably unloaded a bunch of my own fears, excitements, and the usual slew of “what’s,” “how’s,” and “what-have-you’s,” which she fielded graciously. We took a tour of the place, with Anne stopping to “reclaim” some of the odds-and-ends along the way.

My incredibly luxurious bedroom in Taigu.

The house itself is almost shockingly nice. Before arriving, I shuttered to imagine how my living situation might be, but I have been pleasantly surprised in almost every aspect. As far as the houses in Taigu go, those on the campus of Shanxi Agricultural University rank highly, and as far as those go, the foreign teacher houses surely rank among the best. I share a house with another first-year Fellow named James, a fellow New Yorker who graduated from Oberlin two years ago. In our house we share a living room, and have our own separate bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. The bedrooms are very spacious, with room for a queen-sized bed, two closets for hanging clothes, a dresser, a couple of night-stands, a large desk, a bookshelf, a few lamps, a telephone, and a personal heater. The bedroom alone is about the size of my room at Oberlin my senior year.

The kitchen is also quite large and is equipped with a fridge, microwave, laundry machine, hot plate, and yes, a rice cooker. Luckily for me, the cupboards are already stocked with some dry food, bowls, cups, utensils, and other supplies from previous Fellows. Unlike many other places in China, our bathrooms are outfitted with an actual toilet, in addition to a hot water heater for the shower. These small comforts I certainly took for granted both in Japan and back home, but in China, luxuries like these are hard to come by. I have heard stories about Fellows using their bathrooms before and after going just about anywhere because the public options in other places—even in school buildings and student dorm rooms—are less than ideal. As a reference point, I have heard that the student dorms on campus are much shabbier in comparison. In the span of our bedrooms, the college typically crams between three (if you are a grad student) and six (if you are an undergrad) Chinese students. It’s incredibly strange to be in a place where by virtue of our American-ness alone we are afforded so much privilege, and how spoiled we are to be foreign teachers on this campus. However, it is a small comfort to know at least that the Chinese teachers at this university have living arrangements similar to our own.

My shared living room. The disco ball and the huge speakers are remnants of Ben and Beth's (the previous two Fellows) famed dance parties that took place in the house last year.

The living room is truly the nexus of the house. There is a bookshelf stocked with teaching materials and other books left behind by the Fellows—some good and some less than enticing. The TV picks up all of the Chinese stations and even has a VCR—gasp!—as well as a bunch of old movies that we have to work with. There are also a couple of bikes that have been passed down from older generations of Shansi Fellows—some way to commute to town easily and also go adventuring in the nearby mountains. If there’s anything that worries me about the house, though, it’s the winter. It gets pretty cold up here, and sometimes it’s a while before the heat gets turned on. Especially in the winter, Anne and Nick have also talked about there being mice, which, for lack of a better solution, the Foreign Affairs Office has remedied by putting a cat in their house. Their cat is named Mumu, and actually gave birth to four kittens last year, one of which, Boots, also lives in the house. James is allergic to cats, so we won’t be getting one in ours, but hopefully we’ll find some way to deal with that when the time comes.

By the end of my first evening in Taigu, Nick had arrived from the Taiyuan airport. The three of us continued to chat and reminisce well into the night, helping both with recalibrating my body from the jetlag and discovering more about my new environment. We migrated from my house to Nick and Anne's, almost identically furnished (save for a few more lived-in items), and located just a stone's throw away. It sounded like they both had amazing summers, traveling and seeing friends (including some of the other Shansi Fellows) in the long two months off. There’s a lot more about this place that I have learned and experienced since, and thanks in no small part to Nick, I have finally been able to successfully access both the internet and this site. It took about two weeks for the internet to start working here, and combined with general Chinese censorship restrictions, simply being able to post on Blogger has been no small project. But my first impressions of China have been great so far, and I’m so excited to begin teaching and learning more about the university and the people who will populate my new life abroad.

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Living Paycheck to Ticket Stub

Monday, August 10, 2009

Old habits are truly hard to break. Ever since middle school, it’s been the same story—I have always taken on more than I need to or is wise for reasons that continually elude me. In high school, I took roughly double the number of classes I needed to graduate, eventually depriving myself of adequate time in my schedule to go to lunch in between class periods. Going to Oberlin only seemed to exacerbate the problem. I could have graduated a semester early despite enrolling with only 4 AP credits, but not only did I stay for that extra spring, I took a full course load, another 16 credits worth of classes as I had for nearly every semester before that. I rationalized it to myself well—tuition is a flat rate whether you take 12 credits a semester or 16, so I might as well make the most of it, not to mention the fact that I have a hungry curiosity and there are so many interesting classes to choose from. And that’s just the academic side—not to mention work-study jobs and extracurriculars. Like many Obies, it seems as though I had to learn time management the hard way, and it was only after I left Oberlin that I finally appreciated the concept of free time. Or at least, that was until I got antsy for something more.

Despite Chinese class being so intensive, since it was only one class, and since I had absolutely no extracurricular or work obligations at Cornell, I still felt like I had a ton of extra time. I realized that it was the academics in tandem with all of the extra stuff at Oberlin that made me so utterly insane. Stripping all of that excess away at Cornell was like shearing a sheep in the summer, despite that fact that, like sheep, I sometimes start to miss the outer sheathing that is part of who I am. I realized why this is—that doing things, perhaps too many of them at once, keeps me constantly restless, and not being content is the best way to move forward, to expect more from myself and work until I get it. If not for this, I would probably not have changed much from my high school self, which seemed to be frozen in time for the first three years. Keeping busy also gives me purpose, and allows me to sidestep the emotional nerves that perk up from time to time, which, with enough time to properly process, would completely drain me physically and creatively.

A view of the Cornell Cinema just minutes before a film screening. The usher is designated a special seat close to the exit in the back of the theater to make it more convenient to open and close the doors.

And so, seated with a flurry of free time and nothing to fill it, I went about sifting through the great ether of bulletin board listings and announcements that seemed to grow on walls like a fungus. What I overwhelmingly discovered were flyers to participate in surveys and studies. Most were sponsored by academic departments that were willing to pay volunteers to take part in their experiments, especially during the summer, when presumably, students are less busy and more in need of a disposable income. As having fit both of those criteria, I took up the offers, snatching up the little take-away information sheets with names and email addresses. At first, I was incredibly skeptical, and daresay a little nervous, but by the second week, I had already accumulated a stack of six and had my eyes set on more.

It didn’t take long before I got hooked. After the initial wave of emails were sent out, I signed up on list-serves and registered with online study databases. I was enrolled in both the Business Simulation Lab (run out of the Johnson School of Management) and Susan (sponsored by the Psychology Department), the only two active during the summer. I checked the listings every day and signed up for studies as soon as new ones became available. Pretty soon, I was pulling a handful of them a week. I participated in food studies, brainstorming sessions, olfaction experiments, and healthy aging surveys. As you might expect, some of the experiments were more engaging than others. During lunch and after class, I would disappear for minutes at a time to work through logic problems in crowded computer labs, put my nose to a gaggle of squirt bottles and test the efficacy of retronasal smelling, or decide how much money I would be willing to give to a complete stranger. Conversations with friends would inevitably revolve around comparing notes on future studies or describing how past ones went. A half hour of time was prorated at $5 an hour and an hour was upwards of $10-$15. Best of all, those were only estimates—realistically, you could complete most studies in half of the stated time. When all was said and done, I would guess that after a month I had made about $150.

With a veritable part-time job now eating up a good portion of every week, I was satisfied with the extra breathing room in my wallet for miscellaneous expenses and some costs that Shansi couldn’t cover. But the lack of extracurriculars was still wearing down on me—I wanted something I was reasonably passionate about that I could devote significant time to each week. The answer came from an unlikely source. Perusing through the usual selection of periodicals and stray publications floating around the library one day, I came across an advertisement for the Cornell Cinema. It wasn’t my first exposure to the Cinema. In the first week, I had seen a screening of the mildly terrifying Tim Burton film, Coraline, which only gave me nightmares for the first few weeks or so. Even this initial outing, I heard, though, was something of an anomaly—many of the friends I had talked to in my class had never heard of the Cinema, or if they had heard of it, had themselves never been before. My interest in the Cinema certainly didn’t come out of any experience at Oberlin. Though I very early on in my freshman year signed up on the OFS (Oberlin Film Society) email list, my involvement was limited to simply having been to a sprinkling of $1 screenings over the course of my four years. But at Cornell, given that during the summer there was nothing like AAA, TWC, or the BCSL to sink my teeth into, I figured it was as good an institution as any.

My single proudest photographic achievement, done by sticking the lens of my camera in the narrow, pitch-black opening of the ticket deposit. This must have been my tenth or eleventh attempt.

The advertisement in the paper was for an usher position, an unpaid gig, but one that came with a handful of enticing benefits. There was the boon of a free Comp Pass for two to all regular screenings at the Cinema, free popcorn and lemonade during one’s shift, and perhaps best of all, a snazzy “Cornell Cinema Staff” t-shirt. It doesn’t take a particular observant or even close friend to track my extracurricular interests at Oberlin, as almost all of them came with t-shirts that have now become the pride of my active wardrobe. In retrospect, it’s hard for me to imagine what I wouldn’t do for free, reasonably attractive apparel. In any case, I went that afternoon to the basement of Willard Straight Hall, a hulking castle of a building, which housed both the Cinema and the office where I dropped off my application. A day later, I received an email letting me know that my schedule fit well enough that on practically the basis of that alone and the fact that there weren’t presumably many other applicants, I got the job! I would be working one shift a week for my remaining six weeks at Cornell over the summer.

A view of the ever-engrossing Cornell Cinema concession stand.

According to its website, the Cornell Cinema has been cited as one of the best campus film programs in the country, screening close to 300 different films a year. The place was consistently well kept and the management certainly lived up to its good name. On any given shift, there were a handful of employees—the ever-critical usher, concession stand operator, ticket seller, projectionist, and house manager. Every person knew his or her exact role at any given time. As far as I was concerned, the usher duties were quite simple. They consisted largely of getting to the theater 30 minutes before show time, moving the ticket deposit from a dank closet to a convenient position in front of the entrance, ripping tickets and making small talk with patrons, watching the movie, and doing some minimal clean-up at the end. Perhaps the best part of the whole ordeal was what was called the “pre-screen,” the five minutes before doors opened when the projectionist screened the beginning of the movie to make sure that the picture was in focus and the volume was good. I was responsible for standing in back of the theater and communicating minor adjustments to the house manager, who stood on stage in the front, and then relayed those same cues to the projectionist. The sound the film reel made when the picture was deemed “thumbs up” and the screen gradually faded to a grinding halt was truly priceless.

As far of the selection of movies went, I was thoroughly pleased, not to mention fortunate to be working days when, what I believed to be, the most interesting films were being shown. There was everything from big Hollywood titles to indie flicks, and a fair share of documentaries, foreign films, and cult classics scattered in between. Unlike during the greater part of the academic year, in the summer, there was only one film screening a night on weekdays and two on weekends, as opposed to two every day. I was responsible for ushering either one or two films, depending on the day of the week that I worked.

I have an inexplicable obsession with popcorn machines, don't ask my why.

In my first week, I worked a Friday, and saw both the fungus documentary, Know Your Mushrooms and the romantic-thriller Duplicity, starring the dynamic duo of Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. For my second week, it was the animated kid-film Battle for Terra, as well as Watchmen that I saw on my own with some friends, which ended up being quite true to the graphic novel. With week three came Dersu Uzala, the brooding, very slow 1975 Kurasawa film. Week four saw The Silence Before Bach, a retrospective on Bach’s musical life, featuring one of my favorite movie scenes of all time (see video below). With week five came The Garden, an amazing and heart-wrenching documentary on the fate of the largest community garden in the United States. And finally, week six saw both The Soloist, starring Jamie Foxx as an autistic musician-turned-homeless man, and Tokyo! which was definitely one of the strangest films I have ever seen. Three different directors—two French and one Korean, including Michel Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame—collaborated to present playfully apocalyptic, futuristic tales of modern Tokyo.

My favorite scene from The Silence Before Bach. According to me, it is every cello enthusiast's wet dream.

But great and interesting movies aside, the usher gig wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Coupled with the classic loneliness that comes from watching a movie in theaters alone, the job, innocuous as it was, did take a toll on my emotional well-being. Silent hours would pass, especially on weekend nights, with my only confidants being the concession stand operator and the faceless patrons who would smile and thank me as I ripped their tickets in half and put both ends in the deposit (we weren’t allowed to return ticket stubs). There was a certain rhythm to this that I quite enjoyed (I discovered that service jobs do have a particular mindless, carefree quality to them), but more than anything, I wanted some friends to accompany me on the long nights of movie watching past sundown. With the inflated price of movie tickets, though, I oftentimes had to settle for late-night hang-out or study-sessions at a Collegetown café after the film got out instead.

On more than one occasion, though, I staged a protest, collecting a few pristine tickets and pocketing them before they were ripped; later doling them out to friends like bribes for use at a future movie I was ushering. I even managed to crack the color coding system—namely, which color tickets corresponded to which screenings during the week. I considered it my civic duty—as with any job, there had to be the host of necessary benefits that made doing it worthwhile to both you and your friends. It was very reminiscent of the days in New York when Scott took me for the old “Eworks” trick at the Union Square Regal Cinemas, which, admittedly, had gotten us into quite a few run-ins (though all of them price-saving). As a result, some might call this newest indictment “paying forward,” others, “ripping off.” As for me, it was just another day at the office—even if that office was comprised solely of a waist-high ticket deposit and an industrial-strength flashlight.

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46 Things Every (Pseudo-)Cornellian Should Do

Monday, August 3, 2009

Not long after arriving at Cornell, my friends and I decided to go on a mission. Deep in the annals of Cornellian lore (I thought it sounded pretty dirty, too), there exists a certain decree—161 tasks that one must accomplish in order to be considered a true Cornellian. In reality, it’s not that old at all (it was published in 2005 in The Cornell Daily Sun), but from the beginning, I knew that the odds were stacked against me. For one thing, I would only be in Ithaca for two months. Second of all, I hardly knew anyone as awestruck with checking items off lists as I am to want to complete this massive undertaking. I’ve never been one for weekly planners, but anyone who has seen my room can testify to a simple white board that holds the key to my daily well-being—events on the agenda, everyday reminders, people to call, songs to download, and future project ideas.

However, I was fortunate to befriend a few people from my class who were up for adventure. Comprised of a rising senior and two rising sophomores, they had just the right combination of jadedness and spunk to humor the whims of this over-curious out-of-towner. We have functioned similarly to how I’ve tried to function with other friend groups my whole life—as the willful planner and organizer, if for no other reason than staving off the dread that inevitably comes with waiting on others to do something. The true folly of youth is that plans get hatched and cracked in nearly the same breath, and there’s nothing worse than being on the receiving end of having been jilted. And so, what started as a way to occupy the long stretches of weekend afternoon in Ithaca quickly turned into a wonderful way to spend time exploring new places and tallying new experiences with friends.

Though quantitatively, I only scratched the surface of the full list, I feel pretty accomplished, considering that about 2/3 of the tasks are really only possible if you are a student during the school year or in Ithaca during a season other than the summer. Not to mention those things that range from the strange (50. Have lunch with President Skorton in the Ivy Room; ask if he's done with that Dijon Burger) to the downright bizarre (74. Throw a flaming pumpkin into the gorge). I wonder, too, how a list like this could come into being at Oberlin. No doubt ride in the Burton elevator, eat a meal at all nine co-ops, and go skinny dipping in the Arb would rank up there. If nothing else, I think that this is something Oberlin students could definitely go to town on—anyone have other ideas? And now, without further ado, here is the full 46!

First, those things which can be adapted to my time at Oberlin (18):
6. Illegally slide down [Mount Oberlin] on a tray from [Stevenson].
9. Take Psych [100].
13. Climb the rock wall in [Philips Gym].
17. Go to the [Peters Observatory] and gaze at [Saturn].
18. Have a snowball fight in May.
26. Live through an [Oberlin] blizzard and tell your friends how you survived frostbite.

Oh, how I will miss Oberlin winters.

32. Go to a Shabbat dinner at [Kosher Hillel].
37. Take a class you think is impossible just for fun.

For the record, it was Modern Dance during my senior year, which ended up being a great class.

41. Shop at the Friends of the Library book sale.
48. Have dinner at a professor's house.
84. Go bowling at [College Lanes].

My very own bowling ball, "The Avalanche," and the Oberlin College Lanes.

94. Go to an a cappella concert.
115. Get guilt-tripped into giving blood.

And subsequently end up giving blood every eight weeks for the next four years.

117. Drink with your R.A.

Does it count if you were the R.A.?

119. Sing drunk on the [RideLine] bus.
137. See how many people you can cram into your dorm room.
152. Study abroad.

My semester abroad in Japan was one of the highlights of my college experience.

160. Have the courage to tell a professor what you really think of his or her class.

And now, for my two months at Cornell (28):
10. Test out Olin Library's musically calibrated steps by throwing stones on them.
11. Go sake bombing in Collegetown (for the over-21 crowd only!).

I took a trip to Miyake with my roommate and his friend Sam. For my first time, it was shockingly no-frills, but definitely fun. Clearly, this picture was taken before we got started...

12. Order ice cream at the Dairy Bar.
14. Listen to a full chimes concert from the clock tower and guess the songs played.
114. Request a song to be played on the clock tower.
161. Climb all 161 steps to the top of McGraw Tower.

Getting the chance to go to a chimes concert was truly an awesome experience. It helped that even during the summer, there were a handful of concerts put on each week, all completely open to the public. The Chimes have a rich history at Cornell, and the ten so-called "chimesmasters" certainly seem to have a lot of clout on campus—responsible for performing three 15-minute concerts daily during the school year. The instrument looked quite physically demanding, which made it all the more fascinating to see the chimesmaster in action.
A view of McGraw Tower lit-up at night.
One of the other big perks of going to a chimes concert is the stunning panorama from the top of McGraw Tower. This is a view of Ho Plaza.

20. Play frisbee on the Arts Quad.
34. Enjoy corn nuggets at the Nines.
45. Attend an opening at the Johnson Museum of Art.

Though not quite as well-known as Oberlin's Allen, its Asian collection is especially impressive. Ironically, it is also closed Mondays. The opening we attended was for an exhibit called The Art of China's Cultural Revolution (photo courtesy of Jannine Chan).

46. Smuggle food from the dining hall and run for your life as they try to get back your stolen cookies.
51. Play a game of tag in the Kroch Library stacks.

Surprisingly, one of the most fun outings I have had in a long time. It felt strangely refreshing to (silently) run for my life like a nine-year-old again.

60. Sit in Libe Cafe when you have no work to do and watch the worried studiers down gallons of coffee.
64. Go to a fraternity party as a senior; convince yourself you were never one of them.

With no Greek life at Oberlin, I had to at least see what all the fuss was about, right?

65. Pretend you're Harry Potter and study in the Law School library (looks like Hogwarts).

I don't really see it, but, to be fair, I also know next to nothing about Harry Potter.

66. See the brain collection in Uris Hall.
69. Take part in a psychology experiment.
80. Go to karaoke night at Rulloff's on Mondays.

It shouldn't be surprising that we crooned our hearts out to Mariah Carey's "Heartbreaker." Bonus points to the first person to correctly identify the song on the teleprompter.

86. Take an unplanned nap in the library.
89. Eat breakfast at 2 a.m. at the State Diner.

It wasn't quite 2 a.m. when we went, but, as with most diners, it may as well have been.

93. Walk to the Commons and back.

The Commons is a trendy little strip in Downtown Ithaca with lots of shops and restaurants—which unfortunately, I didn't frequent as much as I should have in the last two months. The walk down was surprisingly brisk, even coming from the complete opposite side of campus. But it was hiking back up the massive incline known as East Buffalo Street that really did me in.

96. Eat pizza at the Nines.

Not quite as good as Chicago Deep Dish, but surprisingly tasty, especially for pizza outside of the city (photo courtesy of Jannine Chan).

98. Drink bubble tea.
101. See the library's Rare Book Collection.
108. Eat brunch on North Campus.
121. See how long you can go without doing laundry.
141. Ring the giant bell at the Plantations.
156. Eat at each dining hall at least once.

At least all three that were open during the summer.

And finally,
31. Enjoy Ithaca's two months of warm weather by spending a summer here.

A view of Ithaca from the top floor of the Johnson Museum.

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