Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Snapshots of Fleetwood...Or Jocelyn

Last year about this time, maybe a bit earlier in the year, I spent a weekend at a dear friend of mine's mountain house in Fleetwood, NC. The trip was impromptu, freezing, and simple. Emphasis on the simple. We were attacked by mysterious creatures on the notorious hill, adopted and gave away a new pet cat, Chai Latte. We ate Crack Pizza and froze our toes off attempting to look at stars. We played Mexican Train, and I can assure you, Jocelyn did not ride the train. It was a fantastic weekend. When I was browsing through my archives to find a picture to add to my gallery for the week, I stumbled upon the folder with all of the goofy pictures that I took while in Fleetwood, and I couldn't help but feel inspired to do another "photo-essay" like post. So, thank you Jocelyn for being such a willing model and offering such a nice weekend in the mountains.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Healing - Letters to The Column

*This is a follow-up post inspired by Fall Colors

Malea was kind enough to allow me to publish some of her thoughts on her experience with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention community walk. It's not necessarily in a letter format because it was very impromptu. However, I thought it was a great message of hope and understanding, so I hope you guys think so too! Be sure to leave a comment and write your own letter to The Column.

The Letter 

Well, I woke up and debated with myself over whether or not I would actually go because I knew it would be overly emotional for me. But a shower and an hour later, I got in the car and decided I should go and walk, to honor Nyree's memory, and for all the others that I'd known either here or in my hometown that had lost their battle. It was about a 35 minute drive to Pineville Lake Park and in that time, I played a mixed CD that I had made with all the songs on it that made me reflect upon these last 11 months. I got there, parked, and walked to the park which was this nice little area with a pond with an encircling side walk, a playground, and a large covered stage on the side. There was a band playing oldies and a good hundred or so people walking around the pond. Many were there for Jocelyn, others were there for someone named DeeDee, or David, or Michelle, and many others. It was sad but comforting to see so many people come together collectively to support and be supported. I walked and spoke with a few people that were walking for Jocelyn and to see them nod in agreement with statements I was making about how I'd felt in losing Nyree. Instead of only seeing sympathy, they gave me a new sense of comfort in that I was surrounded by many people that knew and comprehended what such a loss felt like. It was quite...healing. On the stage, there was a bulletin board where people could post pictures or poems or mementos for those lost, and not knowing it would be there prior to the event, I dug around in my wallet and found Nyree's memorial pamphlet that I've carried with me since that day, and I pinned it to the board. I walked around 4 times, in honor of the 4 years I had known Nyree, and then one more time to honor the others like Jocelyn and like Stephen May, a boy from my hometown. At the end, they released a hundred or so balloons as the band played Tears in Heaven and having gone alone, I sat down by myself in the grass nearby the other people and let the tears flow as I watched the balloons go up and listened to the music waft across the water. I felt...I'm not sure...stronger, after that experience. I say stronger, because I hadn't felt that much inner strength in this last year. I felt kind of depleted, I'd even fallen in and out of depression, and this, seeing that all these people had faced and were facing the same things I was and are still, made me think that if all these people could recover and carry on as well as they are, then I definitely can too.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Week In Closing VIII

Horrendous news! The poll seems to have malfunctioned, so it is impossible for me to declare a winner. Many apologies. We'll give it another go this week. I'm starting to run on dry with ideas for the poll, so any suggestions are welcome. We'll call this week's poll a tie.

This week at The Column we had two major posts: the introduction to Economics from a Philosopher and yet another Letter to The Column. We'll see how the Economics series progresses, if at all, and please, keep sending in letters!

I'll try another poll this week, it should be up soon. I have no definite plans for the week. Hopefully the South Korea piece will be up soon.

As always, thanks for stopping by! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Weekend in Charleston - Letters to The Column

The Letter 

To the Column, 

Hello there. The name’s Lekhoi and this is my first and hopefully not my last guest post here. 

This past weekend, as part of my fall break, I visited one of my best friends Christopher Jackson (creator of The Column) at his lovely college. I was asked to create a guest post about my experience there, so here we go. 

A Different Living Experience 

Now as some of you may know I am a student at UNC Chapel Hill. Visiting from the outside, it seems almost compulsory to compare College of Charleston to UNC. 

When comparing these two different colleges, one must keep in mind that it really is like comparing apples and oranges. I’m not here to persuade about how one of these is better than the other. The task is merely to compare the college experience at each of these places in relation to the other. 

The sheer size of UNC’s campus is probably the university’s most striking quality to a newcomer. With a campus size of 729 acres and a student population of 18,430 students, some can be overwhelmed by the school’s immensity. College of Charleston offers a much smaller campus that’s less spread out. The way that the campuses are set up in their respective communities is also rather different. UNC sits at the heart of Chapel Hill and makes up most of what the town has to offer, besides Franklin Street. College of Charleston feels more like a small piece of Charleston, with the city being the main attraction of the College. 

The dorms at College of Charleston are also much stricter with security than at UNC. Every resident that entered the building had to swipe their card before going up to their dorm. I myself had to be signed in and out by one of my friends every time I entered or left the dorm. It was also required for me to stay with the person that signed me in at all times, as I was their responsibility. There was also a rule where a guest could only stay 2 nights consecutively with a certain resident, and only 5 times a month. The strictness can be an annoyance, but it does create a closer relationship between the desk assistants/ RAs and the residents. At UNC there really are no rules about signing into the residence halls. So long as you can get inside the building, you are welcome to stay. 

As a major tourist spot, you’ll find a myriad of things to do and places to see in Charleston. King Street hosts a great deal of shops and restaurants that are catered to tourists that visit the city. Nearby areas also have bars, night clubs, and hookah bars for those interested in night life. If you’re willing to make the long walk to the water, you can go to The Battery as well. By the water you’ll see boats out on the water, some well-designed fountains, as well as a string of very extravagant and very expensive houses. For off-campus fun at UNC, Franklin Street is where most everyone goes. There are bars, clubs, and restaurants here as well, but nowhere near as many as you would expect from a tourist spot. Shopping is also not really an option, as your choice of clothing stores is very limited. College of Charleston isn’t necessarily a better college than UNC, but one will almost certainly have more fun there. 

My Personal Experience 

One of the highlights of my trip to College of Charleston was getting to meet Chris’ new friends. As a member of the Honors College, his friends were all fellow Honors students and residents of the Honors College’s dorm. I figure the diversity in personality I found there was in part due to the Honors status of these college students. 

Diversity does seem to be a problem at the College of Charleston though, even in the Honors College, as most everyone you meet is white. This does not mean you won’t meet many friendly faces there though. I met quite a few myself such as Clay, Olivia, Kelsey, Roberto, Madeline, and Jared, just to name a few. Of course, this is my own experience and not something everyone that goes to Charleston would expect. 

A quick summary of the things I did while at Charleston includes taking a tour of the campus, eating Shabbat dinner with the Hillel, going to an outside hookah bar called Tabulli, walking down to The Battery by the water, and going to the club Pantheon. By far, the nightlife was the part of the trip that was the most fun. Tabulli was a very nice place that had a classy feel and relaxing environment. The Pantheon had a rather interesting drag show and lots of lights, dancing, and music that is sure to please the youth of today. 

The best part of my trip, however, was the people of course. I got to see two of my best friends, as well as meet some new ones. Having fun at a large tourist spot is great, but it’s no real fun unless you’re with people whom you enjoy the company of. If given a choice of Charleston or the people, I’d pick the latter in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t consider transferring over to the College of Charleston, but I’d definitely love it if all the greatness of my trip were located next to my own university.

My Response

Lekhoi, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to write such a nice guest blog entry. I had a wonderful time hosting you here at the College of Charleston, and you were very well received by my new friends. I will be sure to tag them in the Facebook post that inevitably post when I publish this article. I think you did a great job comparing the schools in a pretty objective way. You make some great points, and you are certainly right when you say it is like comparing apples to oranges. This letter makes a great tourist advocacy page, as well! I am glad you had a nice time while you were here and you are definitely welcome back, and I do hope you will be kind enough to make another trip. 

I'm glad you love UNC, and would never expect anyone to transfer here. I think that's part of the niceness of CofC - it's like a little capsule. I'll be sure to do my best to get to UNC at some point, but until then, I loved the post. This definitely serves as a great example of a light and easy guest blog post.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Economics From A Philosopher | An Introduction

I'm going to do something a bit different with this post - it's a bit more heavy on my opinion and discusses the big no-no of the Cold War:  Communism. 

I have recently started an Express II College of Charleston course. I thought it would be a good idea to pick up another 3 credit hours for kicks and giggles. First semester freshman year with 18 credit hours and a new job isn't exactly "kicks and giggles," but it's all good and I might as well put my big boy pants on early rather than late. The class is titled:  INTL 290 ST: Social Movements in a Comparative Perspective. I wound up in this class on accident - I really wanted to pick up an Express POLI 101 class to start knocking out major requirements, but when it conflicted with the lovely BGS I was left with two choices: INTL 290 or no Express class. I went for the first option. Additionally, I am traveling to Cuba to may on "Maymester" via CofC's International Scholars Program. The professor of INTL 290 is directly from Cuba. Professor Humberto Miranda has been visiting the USA for 14 years now, and he heads up the CofC exchange program to Cuba. I thought it would be appropriate to get some exposure to a Cuban "worldview." So enough with the background information, because honestly it's boring. Let me get to the purpose of the post. 

Professor Miranda has come up with an equation to explain the world: C-MP-LF=P, where C equals Capital, MP equals Means of Production, LF equals Labor Force, and P equals Profit. Ask Miranda and he'll tell you that every facet of modern life is directly related and connected to this end-all-be-all equation. In many respects, he is right. I'm not really in the position to tell him that he's wrong - he has a Ph. D. in philosophy, so thinking is his livelihood. However, I do think in many respects he has gotten a bit lost in thought and lost touch with the fabrications of a philosophical formula. All due respect to Professor Miranda - he is a fascinating person with fascinating ideas, and he's getting me to think. His goal for us: "I hope one of you decides to go out and fix this mess of a world we live in." (Maybe not a direct quote, but something to that extent) The purpose of this post is to delve into this equation and the implications it does and does not have on daily life. Let's go.

Professor Miranda makes a lot of great points dealing with this "life formula " Rather than explaining the formula step by step, I think it is far more effective to use examples. Example - capital can move but we cannot. What does this mean, exactly? As massive amounts of money move about the world with ease, human beings are stuck where they live. Though there is an "illusion" of ease of transport in the modern world, Miranda argues that we are essentially trapped where we are. Thought this initially feels counterintuitive at first, it does make sense. Think about the loops you have to jump through to even bring aftershave on an airplane. Each checked back is $25 (or more), and airports crawl with TSA, ready to prevent your travels at the slightest suspicion. In Miranda's home country of Cuba, people have needed permission from the government to travel abroad up until this past week. The world, in a sense, is set up to prevent us from moving from one place to another. Think about immigration - not just US immigration. People, in many respects, are simply not welcome anywhere but their home countries. So, with all that said, let's revisit capital. Professor Miranda is spot on when he says that capital moves but we do not. Large amounts of money can be transfered from country to country, businesses outsource, and jobs spring up and dry out at almost a whim. However, if you are stuck in an economic wasteland, then you are, well, stuck.

In addition to this grander idea of capital movement, there is a lot of discussion centered around how C stays the same while P grows. Humberto's rationale (and it's a strong rationale) dictates the MP and LF must be given the shit-shoot. It makes sense. If one wants profit to rise without increasing the amount of capital, something has to give. It is typically easier to cut LF first - drop wages, increase hours, etc. Basically everything within a legal means to exhaust a labor force. Want to exploit the legal system? Hire illegal immigrants. In this case, migration is only favored if it is beneficial to Mr. P.

However, despite some of the very valid points made by the equation, I feel that it leaves out a very necessary human component. For example: Professor Miranda discussed oil companies' greed. They go out and drill for oil, disturbing natural environments, in order to gain capital. In doing so, they gain a monopoly on available capital and extenuate the crisis of poverty, hunger, etc. This angle certainly provides and excellent look at the flaws of our society. But - the same capital-hungry oil companies drilling are the same companies hiring thousands of workers. Cut the capital gained by oil companies, cut the workers at the convenience stores. Cut down on oil, cut down on car usage. Cut down on car usage, people can no longer get to work. So yes, at face value this capital crisis is an issue. I just don't think we can take such a multifaceted issue and boil it down to C-MP-LF=P. Though this formula certainly possesses much value, it is not so simple.

So for now, I'll leave you with the above comments. I will be sitting through another 3 hour course tomorrow evening, so I'm sure I'll have much more to say. This class has my mind gears turning and I look forward to sharing more with all of you as time progresses. For now try to think about how you feel about the equation. As I am presented with more ideas I will definitely post about them when I feel so inclined. Sorry if this post wasn't the juicy investigative piece on communism that you were hoping for, but hopefully it suffices your edge of curiosity.

As always, drop a line with any thoughts, and thanks for stopping by. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Week In Closing VII

This week was a bit slower for The Column. After a very busy week, I thought I'd lay off the posts for a while. Also, I had a good high school friend in this weekend so I didn't get a chance to finish up my South Korea piece. Never fear, for those of you international relations/Asia/history nerds like me, it will be up eventually. And it will not go the way of "Mystery of Music." It's simply a long piece and takes time/motivation to write.

This week we had yet another guest blogger. The piece was fantastic. If you haven't already read "Fall Colors," you should definitely check it out here.

A new photo piece went up called Upwards. It takes about 2 seconds to look at a photograph so be sure to stop by. I had a suggestion about incorporating the photographs as actual posts on The Column, so the format/layout of the "Extras" may change. I still haven't made up my mind yet!

The Column saw a record number of voters in the poll this week. With 26 total votes, Farsi and Polish were neck and neck for much of the race. In the last 42 minutes of the poll, however, Farsi pulled ahead with 46% of the total votes. So much excitement here at the weekly poll. Sarcasm, of course. But really, it's awesome to see everyone getting into it!

The new poll will be up shortly! It will be my last language centered poll (did I promise that last week too?) If you guys have any poll categories that you think would be cool, let me know! 

This week I might be posting up my first college paper on Turkey. I'll be sure to put a disclosure to make sure no one can say I plagarized - I'm a bit apprehensive to put my own paper online in case my professor tries to search for it. He'll find it. Professor Pehl, if you're reading this, it's Chris' paper from class that we're talking about here! Anyway, that's that. It's a no-fun read but I might have some takers.

Finally, we have a project from my Intro to Int'l Studies class and I will be using The Column to carry it out. I'll be sure to offer more details in the next few weeks, but when it goes up it'd be awesome if you guys could participate. There will be a weekly poll associated with the project as well so I'll need help getting lots of the traffic to the blog. But that's the future and I'll give more details when I have them. 

For now, thanks as always for stopping by and be sure to leave a line!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fall Colors - Letters to The Column


To the Column, 

When I was young, I had a spacious bedroom, painted light blue and bordered by floral wall paper. I was a blue loving child. I wore blue. I painted the sky more than anything else. The pool was my playground. My bed, dressed in blue sheets, was where I often floated into dreams that are thought of no more. 

I got a little older and moved a little ways away from land of summer to the fields of winter. I met a girl and she lived in a spacious house and she had a spacious bedroom. The walls were painted light green, and white butterflies suspended by fishing wire descended from the ceiling. She was a green loving girl. She wore green. The forest behind her house was her playground. Barefoot, she treaded through green carpeted lawns and blew the seeds from dandelions mounted with wishes that are wished no more. 

The fall was our favorite time of the year. The smell of crisp air and of hot food both welcoming us into the season. The feel of chill winds, sweeping in like ghosts, and the feel of heated rooms, pushing out the frozen entities. Icy hands reached in between the warm rays of sunlight and clothes fresh from the dryer. Sometimes those hands were more than just winds and intangible things. Sometimes the cold sank into the hearts of those not warm enough, numbing compassion and forging icy minds thatextended words and actions swelling with cruel intention. In the halls, in bus seats, in the rooms where children were taught how the world works, in places meant to be safe. The sight of every shade of red, yellow, orange and brown, cascading to the hardening earth below seemed to mask the chill. Irony existed in the fact that the warmest colors sprouted out of the dawn of the coldest months. That irony went unnoticed in my eyes, until it seemed that the cold had spread too far. 

Another several years and several states and we had a friendship that spanned over nearly 800 Western miles. Fall had come and the ghosts had swept through, their chilled fingers severing the leaves from their stems. The sun descended that day and water dripped from my hair, like a willow following a rain storm. Words pressed themselves into my ear, but I pressed them out, not wanting to hear them at all. The water then travelled down from the roots of my hair into my eyes, where it fell down like leaves from a shaken tree. The girl of green must have been chilled to the bone, the town still wonders why, for to them, it hadn’t seemed nearly that cold. 

Older still, a year distances us now, no longer miles in between. The leaves start to fall and the ghosts have begun to sweep in. Blue skies are still my favorite. I walk through green carpeted lawns to make it to the mailbox, picking a dandelion as I go, letting the seeds blow away with wishes on dreams that I’ve learned are worth wishing upon and I think to myself, maybe it meant something. Maybe our time together was significant in the long haul, maybe not…but the walls of my bedroom and the empty sheets of paper that sit on both of our desks stand as witnesses that there are no words or any artistic creations that can grasp and hold the sense of knowing that at one point in time, that in one miniscule fragment of eternity off in a small corner of the world, two best friends had once lived down the road from each other. Two minds clinging to a fragile sense of the world, two hearts beating where now beats only one. 



*This is a short bit of prose about my relationship with a very special friend whom I had the pleasure of knowing for nearly 5 years. Sadly, she took her own life on November 29th, 2011. I often write small things such as this in order to keep her memory alive and with me. After reading my short piece, I think one might need some explanation for various lines and elements within it. The two beginning parts that focus on color are where I subtly showed minimal similarities and differences between my friend and I. With hers being the longer paragraph, I allude to the idea that this piece, though it begins with my personal part, she is in the character to be highlighted and paid attention to. Also, the fall and seasons and the cold play major parts. The reason being is that she took her life in November, just when it was really getting cold. The cold also plays a part, when I highlight it in the 3rd paragraph, saying that sometimes it reaches into “hearts not warm enough.” We are still not sure of what caused her to take such drastic action, but bullying and peer cruelty may have played part. Though it is very vague, the 4th paragraph is where I lightly address the actual act of her suicide and of my acknowledgement of it. I had come home from swim practice one day (my hair was still wet) and I received a phone call from my mom informing me of what had happened (the words pressed themselves into my ear). The last sentence, after all the explanations listed above, should be clear enough. The 5th paragraph opens up and it’s fall again and the ghosts have begun to sweep in, alluding to the presence of more acts of bullying that have taken place, causing more young people to resort to drastic measures. Though it’s not very noticeable, ghosts and the fall are tied together, as ghosts have been described as cold entities and the fall is the beginning of the cold season. In closing, I tie it together back with the beginning paragraphs of blue and green and also leave a few sentences directly addressing our friendship and what it meant to me.

My Response

There isn't a whole lot to say here. I think this is a beautiful piece of prose and it speaks to many emotions. It is a fantastic example of healthy grieving and activism. I appreciate the attached explanation. I think it's good that you walk the reader through your point of writing. I feel confident that this piece takes yet another step in preserving the memory and sharing the story of your friend.

Thank you so much for taking the time to craft this writing.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mystery of Music

To all of those readers who know me as a friend, you probably are well aware that I am constantly thinking and analyzing. It's almost ridiculous. Many times I have been advised "just stop thinking about it...let it go."And of those times that I have been told this, a bulk of them probably held a pretty substantial truth. Typically, however, the advice goes not unnoticed, but rather left alone. I have such an incredibly hard time shutting everything off that the notion of stopping my though process is almost frightening. This is where the mystery of music comes in.

I have loved music for what feels like forever. Like many kids, my music taste started forming in middle school, when I shifted away from "top-20" hits and moved in a more alternative direction. In fact, the CD that got me started on my whole alternative kick was "Foiled" by Blue October. (PS - it's a great album, you should all check it out) I have always loved learning things. I have a knack for school (suck at sports, it all evens out one way or another). I pick up languages incredibly quickly. School, learning, etc, have never been much of a problem. Music, however, is an entirely different story.

I have tried picking up a guitar a few times here and there, but every time I do I wind up feeling angry and discouraged. The concept of a note and chord are still foreign to me. I know that in theory the concept of playing a note is simple; my mind just won't have it. It took me 4 years of thought and a graphic representation later to finally find a technical explanation of chords and notes that made sense to me. Now, for you music savvy folks out there, you're probably thinking I'm an idiot. Ask me how to introduce myself in 5 languages and I'll spit it out - ask me to play an A chord and I might cry.

It took me a long time to figure this aspect of myself out. I didn't understand how learning an instrument could be so mind-numbingly abstract for someone who loved learning. It didn't add up. On top of that, when people even throw around basic music terms, like "harmony" and "octave," you might as well be speaking gibberish. It means nothing to me. And to be honest, I started to discover that it no longer mattered to me. This was the changing point. The fact that listening to music gave me pleasure was enough. I didn't need to analyze pitch and harmony and tune in a song. I didn't need to be able to identity each instrument and learn chord progressions. It simply didn't matter. That's what musicians are for. I'll learn my Japanese while they write their music. 

The world works that way. Music allowed me the chance to not think, and it still does. So many thanks to all those fantastic musicians out there. This isn't my typical piece - this fits the archetype of the classic blog post. Just thoughts. Food for thought. Fun facts. Whatever you want to call it.

As always, thanks for the reads. Keep stopping by! 

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Week In Closing VI

The week of October 7 surely saw a bit more action than the few weeks previous. I'll do my best to quickly and concisely wrap up the week's developments. If you remember from week I, these posts are essentially my version of advertising my blog for the week. So, yay! 

I started the incorporation of pictures into my posts this week. Seeing as I hardly receive any comments nowadays, I'm having trouble determining what works and what doesn't. So, if you guys like the visuals, let me know! Speaking of commenting - please let me know what you like/don't like. I need suggestions for things like the country studies. I can definitely write up posts about various countries, but reader interaction is incredibly important to me. So, please, keep in contact via commenting.

Also, I've been tweaking the layout and color scheme of The Column this week. I was getting tired of seeing the same thing each time I logged on. I think I've finally found a style that I like, but bear with me. Expect these occasional changes! All of the features that were available (sharing via FB and Twitter, signing up for email alerts, etc) are still available, they may just be in a new place. Hopefully the new layout works for everyone. Thanks for being flexible.

Some new features of The Column include:

  • Two sidebars!
  • Navigation help along the top of the page
  • Pictures along the sidebar
  • Total pageviews counter in left sidebar
  • A "search this blog" function in the left sidebar
  • A running list of poll winners in the left sidebar
  • And updated welcome message
  • Rearrangement of old widgets
Let me know if you have any questions or issues navigating the widgets. 

Some highlights from the week:
  • I had a super awesome person write to The Column this week in the first ever Letter to The Column (see below for details) - be SURE to check out A New Home if you don't read anything else this week! 
  • I posted a new picture page called River View
  • The first country study about Kazakhstan was posted; please, leave a comment with other countries that you all are interested in learning more about!
  • Check out the details and instructions for Letters to The Column; you could be featured on this blog! Be like Madeline and send in some material! I'd love to feature your work! 
Looking Ahead
  • An extensive piece on the South Korean national identity is in the works; the piece will be a mixture of geography, history, politics, and culture. I draw from academic knowledge as well as personal experience to paint the picture of the South Korean identity crisis that I witnessed while in South Korea. I will be starting the coming week with this piece. Keep checking The Column for more information. 

If you haven't already, you should definitely check out the Let's Talk About Drugs Series, starting with Part I.

Also, there will be more to come with the Becoming Okay With "I Don't Know" series, so be sure to check that out too! 

Finally, I posted a piece of creative writing to no avail. Let me know what you think if you are so inclined! 

This week's poll was won by Swahili. Since I've been working on changing the design of the blog, I had some issues with visibility when it came to the poll so I closed it early. A new poll is up and running and will open through Sunday the 21! Be sure to check it out!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A New Home - Letters to The Column

The Letter 

To The Column, 

The feeling of home is classified by my memorization of the dresser drawers. 

To know socks from shorts from bras and pajamas without thinking or looking or rustling through the piles of things that are no longer luggage, but belongings stored away in the categorized places where they belong. 

I am slowly learning that a new home truly is a new home when wafting fingers of smooth jazz from car windows no longer guide my eyelids shut and make me picture those drugged, gnarled-handed street saxophonists of my childhood. The kind you see sitting on milk crates by the Martin Luther King library line, surrounded by the smell of yesterday’s urine and Chinese take-out and cigarettes and the clacking of heeled women who work in federal buildings. I know I am in a new home when jazz has become merely jazz and its meaning is merely an origin from which new story shall unfold itself to my ears and my eyes. 

A new home is a home when I have watched the seasons slowly change into each other, and I stand waiting on the precipice between the two, knowing that the world around me slowly changes itself while I stay the same constant Madeline in her eternal torn decisions between shorts and jeans, sweaters and short sleeves. 

I know I’m in a new home when Eine Kleine Nachtmusik loses its affinity with the Sunday morning pancake music of my lazy weekends in Arlington and simply becomes a part of my Mozart playlist. It is simply sound to be listened to whilst doing homework, music with no connection to fresh breakfast food or to the content smiles of my mustachioed father sipping orange juice over the Washington Post. 

But most of all, home is in the memorization of those dresser drawers and in the churning of my new story from the point of zero, and in my now embedded knowledge of the placement of things. 



My Response

To begin, I think this piece was beautifully written. It's a nice change for The Column. The writing style is bluntly different, and the theme compliments the stylistic components. I think that this topic is also a great one - seeing as many of my readers have recently moved to college, this idea of redefining home is very familiar. I think that you took it in a very interesting light. Rather than speaking of emotions and feelings, you described the tangible changes that signal home. Like the dresser, music, and smells. 

In closing, I really enjoyed this piece. I think that your line about the slowly changing seasons speaks to Charleston. It is hard to put your finger on Charleston. It is a city, a small city, but a city nonetheless. It sees a tremendous amount of tourists for its geographic location. But it's in the south, with the lulling of the south. A slow paced city in a fast paced world. And the seasons would attest.

Thank you for writing, and I hope you have inspired other readers to send in their work. Excellent piece. Great way to start Letters to The Column.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Letters to The Column - How To?

Recently I had a pretty simple request presented to me pertaining to my blog. I was asked if I would consider posting a "guest blog post." At first I didn't really see a point in doing that since the blog is a collection of my own thoughts and opinions; however, immediately following this doubt, I realized that the whole reason I started this blog was to form an interaction between the posts and the readers. So in reality, what would be a better way to interact with my readers than to include their thoughts and opinions directly in my posts? Kudos to you, friend, for giving me this idea. You know who you are!

So begins the next chapter in The Column - Letters to The Column. This will be an entirely experimental section of the blog, and it will only be successful if you, the readers, contribute posts. So this is how it'll work. At any point any reader may submit a piece between 200-700 words to be posted on The Column. Another stipulation must start the post with "To The Column" and end it by signing out with your name, or an alias if you so choose. Also, your post needs a title. If you need some guidance just check out some of the titles I've used. The last rule is to keep it clean. If profanity is used, use it within reason, and keep the topic appropriate. It would be great if you can incorporate why you are writing the topic you are writing on. This can be simple - maybe you just have a fascination for your topic - either way, providing some reasoning helps readers decipher the "why" when reading the posts. Provided that the posts are decently written and appropriate, I will post your letter on The Column and write a brief response. Simple as that!

So, how do you submit. If you have my email address or have me as a friend on Facebook, feel free to contact me there for more details. If you do not have access to me via Facebook or email, please leave a comment expressing your interest and we can figure something out! 

This section will only be successful if readers send in material. You can send it in at any time. It would be cool to have a weekly letter, but that means people have to send them in. You are welcome to send in multiple pieces over time. 

So, let's see where this takes The Column. Let me iterate - this will only be successful if I have people who are interested in writing pieces. Be creative, and I look forward to hearing from my readers! Don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Kaz..Kazakhs...Kazakhstan! [Country Study 1]
Why in the world would anyone want to know about Kazakhstan? Because who in the world knows a thing about Kazakhstan?

Other than dropping a brief line in a recent paper discussing environmental challenges faced by developing countries, Kazakhstan is an unknown to me. We'll start out with location. Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia. Central Asia consists of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan  roughly. Though some would clump nations such as Mongolia or Afghanistan into the Central Asian block, I prefer the list I provided above. The image below provides a visual of where exactly Kazakhstan is on the global scale.  
Source -

In addition to location, it might be important to know some basic demographic information of Kazakhstan. I'll link the site I got the information from so you can verify it if you so choose. 

Capital City - Astana
Other Major Cities - Almaty, Karaganda, & Shymkent
Border Nations - Russia, China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, & Kyrgyzstan 
Nationality - Kazakhstani
Population - 15.6 million (2008 est.)
Most Prevalent Religions - Sunni Muslim (47%), Russian Orthodox (44%)
Government Type - Republic
Suffrage - Universal (18 and up)

Kazakhstan has a very unique blend of cultures. One fascinating aspect of Kazakhstan is that by no means do ethnic Kazakhs vastly outnumber other ethnic groups. Kazakhstan is home to ethnic Kazakhs, Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Uzbeks, & Uyghur. The "state language" is considered Kazakh; however, the "official language" is Russian. This makes Kazakhstan a bilingual nation.

Wikipedia has provided some fun facts on the Kazakh language. For those of you language nerds out there reading this, I'll provide some fun information on the language family. Kazakh is a member of the Turkic languages, and is closely related to Nogai and Karakalpak. Brace yourself - technical words coming up. Kazakh is an "agglutinative language." Hold up, so what in the world does that mean? To put it shortly, an agglutinative language uses affixes in order to alter the meaning of the word. Turkish would be a "more familiar" language that uses this agglutinative thing. Seeing as most of you probably are asleep at this point, I'll move on. Kazakhstan uses vowel harmony, which is also similar to Turkish. Vowel harmony is the changing of vowels in order to create a smooth sounding spoken language. The closest romance comparison would be the conjunction of "de" and "el" in Spanish to form "del," of the French combination of "à" and "le" to make "au."Okay, moving on.

I think that as I continue to become randomly interested in other seemingly random locations around the world, I will continue this trend of making a little country study. If you guys have any feedback on this article, or have any countries you'd like to learn more about, leave a comment. I really enjoy language and culture, so I think it would be a lot of fun to keep up posts about other nations! So we'll make this official - Kazakhstan is the first of many country studies to be done on The Column! Sorry if the writing in this post is a bit choppy - I was halfway distracted while writing today.

As always, feel free to leave a comment. And, of course, take the weekly poll. Now that you've learned all about Kazakhstan, I'm sure you'll want to learn Kazakh!

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to drop a line with a question/comment/recommendation!

A Week In Opening V

Well, it has been quite a while. I am sorry for that. I have been pretty bogged down with life. Between midterms, papers, and applications, I've been pretty booked. Over the weekend I was out of town, doing homework, and sleeping. So, my apologies for a slow blog, and my promise for a more active week to come (I hope).

To be fair, views have been pretty low as well, and this weeks poll was conquered with only 4 votes. Poor old Istanbul took first, but no one stopped by to say much about it.

The new poll will be up momentarily.

Again, I apologize for the lack of all activity, and there are posts in the workings for this week. Keep stopping by and make sure to catch up with anything you haven't read!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Reflection on Reflection?

The follow up of Becoming Okay With "I Don't Know"

Being asked to graphically map my past, present, and future competencies and values was a struggle - not only do I strong disagree that we are "nothing" in the present, but values are so much more than an assemblage of two dimensional lines that make up words. The point of this post is not to say that I devalue investigating my values; however, I find it exceedingly difficult to spell out my values in precise words and phrases. Despite the somewhat unnatural feel that goes along with exposing my innermost values and ideals, I think I have determined several key themes that tie all of my values together.

Reflection in and of itself is a value of mine. Before I can begin to list the values that I find important based on introspective reflection, I think it is important to understand the worth of reflection as a value. Before one can really investigate anything about themselves, they must be disciplined in personal reflection. As I grew up, I was subjugated to the opinions of others and oftentimes I was harshly reminded that the way I viewed the world did not neatly fit into what was considered "normal." As a "tween," I found it very difficult to distinguish between what was and was not important in terms of people's views. This led me to discovering intense self-reflection. Through seemingly unending amounts of personal introspection I learned to ground myself. Before delving into personal morals and values, I found it necessary to acquire the tools for self-discovery. For me, that was consistent and truthful reflection.

Through my journey of self discovery I was in fact able to distill several core values that have stayed with me to this day. Self-integrity, for me, is a must. This isn't to say that I think that all lies are evil and have no moral grounding. That would be hypocritical of me. However, I think it is necessary for one to be honest with themselves. In addition, I strongly value loyalty. Through self-reflection I learned that those people who stick with you will be the ones who have the most valuable insight. Loyalty, naturally, became a value of mine.

Aside from being true to myself and seeking loyalty in my relationships, my framework of values is largely unshaped. As the future unfolds, I intend to expose myself to a wide variety of moral and ethical systems that will in turn help me to form my own value compass. My evolution of self reflection, integrity and loyalty has equipped me with perseverance and an open mind, both of which I consider to be competencies.

With the right combination of a loose footing of values, personal determination and an open mind, my future will surely abound with developing competencies and evolving values.