06/5/14
2014-06-03

3 Weeks In, Future + Impermanence

“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

As soon as I got here, I remember telling a few people that I was almost overwhelmed by how wonderful my experiences already were. The countryside, the work environment, the kind of challenges and work I was doing. Overwhelmed in the sense that I was already dreading my eventual departure…even on the second day, I knew I would miss this place. It didn’t make sense to anyone I talked to and I didn’t have a better way of explaining it. But this morning I came across this quote, and now it seems very easy to understand.

So far even the challenges and negatives to this experience (which are few) have been things that make me smile and shake my head, and most of the time my smile is so wide “your face hurts the next day”, as the fantastic Bob Log III puts it.

What could beat biking underneath bridges in the dark, singing Bohemian Rhapsody with Matt while my friend Amber sings/translates each lyric into Japanese?

(Okay, well, we haven’t had hot water for our showers since we arrived.)

But what about the street dancers in Antwerp? Or drinking in the park by a giant fountain in Brussels with Romanian friends new and old? What about getting to go on stage and sit on Bob Log’s knee for one of his final songs in the show in Haarlem? Strolling Zandvoort beach with Dora and Matt; getting a dress at the IJ-Hallen Flea Market for 1 euro;  biking past a dozen sheep every day in rolling green hills…. I will miss this place and this time in my life. Photos are a start, but I wish I could freeze a whole moment and put it in glass, á la Mr. Nobody.

2014-06-03

Back to work!

05/19/14
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The End of Graduate School / 6+1 Weeks in Amsterdam

My classmate Matt and I have arrived in Hoofddorp, an area outside of Amsterdam city in the Netherlands. I have to actively stop from smiling; everything here is green, as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing, and because the airport is surrounded by farmland, there are flat green fields and impeccably straight rows of trees that line the two lane roads, equally straight.

Our flight into London was fairly uneventful (tons of turbulence while landing, which I hate) but after a nice fish-and-chips basket and some Pimm’s we were back on the plane to Amsterdam. 45 minutes, that’s all it was! I had time to beat The Nightjar on my iPad before we landed so, you know, success.

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We’re staying in a three level farmhouse that’s been converted into a meeting room with an enormous LG TV and housing space. Dormitory style, we share the second floor with three German/Dutch girls who are studying kestrels and airplanes. Matt has a private room in the front, and I have a three-bed space to myself with a couch! We’ll see how long I can keep my space tidy.

We took a stroll outside since we don’t have bikes yet, walking about half a mile or so to the end of the lane. We noticed that some of the houses on our road have large industrial-looking barns or structures behind them; one of them seems to be a recycling intake or metals factory. It seems the standard around here that your front office is a charming brick farmhouse, even as you construct machines in the back.

Today we are in Enginn’s offices, a mile away from the farmhouse and a clearly easy bike ride. Out the window we see green fields and airplanes coming in to land. It’s all part of the Park 21 area, filled with individually distinct and “green” office buildings, spacious walkways and landscaping, and perfectly paved bike paths separated from the street. I’m overwhelmed (again, must stop smiling) by how beautiful things are. Even the office space itself; clean polished floors with accented orange, the joyful chatter about which coffee machine is best, and a cafeteria that’s as welcoming and bright as an Ikea display. In fact, I get the impression that Holland- all of it -was ordered out of an Ikea magazine.

In the afternoon we go to TU Delft, for a four hour workshop with about six other students and professors. We have a 40 page document that outlines four major projects for the area. We still don’t know what we’re doing, but! Everyone has been friendly and sweet to us and quite content to let us hang out until some magical moment when they think of something for us to do. I think we are waiting for the arrival of Stan? We’re also on the books for a 930am meeting tomorrow with a government official looking to construct a recreational park.

So, Day 1: going great. :)

04/14/14

The Last Semester Stretch

Here we are, the final countdown- the last semester.

This semester has, by far, been one of the hardest I’ve ever had. Sadly, up until a few months ago it was designed to be one that wasn’t exactly easy, but at least doable. I wanted to focus on my project (my thesis) wholeheartedly. Instead, I was placed in a position where I had to finish two major projects at the same time. I’m not trying to whine or complain- I could have tried harder to avoid this, and ambitiously, I tried to tackle it. But I guess I need to remind myself and maybe the outside world that if I seem stressed or struggling, it’s because I’m under a ludicrous workload. I have learned my lesson, cross my heart! When in The Real World, I will make sure to leave ample time to recharge and do nothing. I never realized how difficult it can be and how fuzzy it makes your mind when you never have “off”- when every weekend there’s a task or project to do.

You miss out on birthdays, coffee with friends, or even just naps on the couch where you don’t HAVE to be awake for at least an hour. I’ve done a great disservice to my dog by allowing myself to become so busy, and I’m genuinely sorry for it. I know I need a break soon. I’m hoping this summer, things will calm down for me.

In the meantime……there’s always more thesis work to be done.

03/5/14
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The Two Week Trek to Taiyuan

From February 15 to March 3rd, I was in Taiyuan, Shanxi, China, doing research for my master’s thesis about Taiyuan’s master urban plan.

I had lived in Taiyuan from 2007-2011. The changes I was starting to see at the end of my tenure are what inspired me to focus my research there. I had read a great deal online before I left: new stadium here! More buildings moving south! but nothing really prepared me for standing in the midst of so much breathtakingly rapid development.

It began the moment I left the airport.

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