Always a city girl at heart.

My friend sent me a quiz: “What City Should You Actually Live In?” from Buzzfeed. If you want to take it, here is the link: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ashleyperez/what-city-should-you-actually-live-in

I don’t really put much stock into Buzzfeed quiz results, but found it ironic I got home city as a result:

nyc-buzz

 

A greater sign from above to go back to the Big Apple?

Hell no.

I’m not quite done with this small town yet 🙂

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Thriftshops = Decorating For Cheap!

As the focus of my posts have drastically shifted, you can tell that I’ve got bitten by that home decor bug. I’v always liked decorating my dorms and rooms I have lived in before, but for the first time I have an entire place to populate with items by myself! I’ve found it to be a lot of fun, but kind of frustrating. It’s sort of like a creative puzzle. You want things to look like they belong together, but I personally don’t like the matchy matchy look. Also, even though I’m working doesn’t mean I want to break the bank!

My biggest tip? Visit your local thrift shop.

I found the following goodies at the Goodwill by my apartment.

1. A Malma Ikea mirror for $1.99! It was a little banged up, so I primed it and repainted it to fit my bathroom’s design.

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Figure.  Before! A normal Malma mirror, square and a bit beaten up.

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Figure. Primed and ready for a face lift!

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Figure. Tadaaa! Pretty in pink and shining bright like a diamond.

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Next up, this framed quote! Apparently it was a custom frame and very well done.

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Figure. I resonate with the quote very much.

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Figure. Just in case you can’t read the framed version 🙂

Finally, this nifty candle holder that caught my eye before leaving.

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Figure. It reminds me of a tree!

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Figure. Here it is with an old candle I had.

It can be sometimes hard to see the potential of old or use items versus brand new and shiny items lined up in department stores, but I personally think it adds a story to the recycled piece.

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Figure. Action shot of my two thrifted items flanking the ends of my living room feature wall.

Curious what else is there? Here’s a list:

  • Lovely photographs my brother in law took and framed for me as a 23rd birthday present.
  • A set of 3 floating shelves from Ross, though I have seen similar one’s at Khols, Amazon, and Bed Bath and Beyond
  • My own DIY canvas art pieces. Learn more about them [here]
  • 3 frames I got from Pier One. What’s framed? Blood cells! I got these images from my old college textbooks. Why? Because that’s just how biologists roll and science is quite beautiful.

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Figure. Close up of my biologist blood cell decor frames. Left: Red blood cells with sickle cell anemia formation, Center: White blood cell attacking an E. coli cell, Right: Healthy human Red blood cells.

My Love Letter to Philadelphia

Note: This love letter was inspired by my Criminal Justice class about Cities and Crime. While that doesn’t sound like a positive inspiration, it’s really insightful about what defines a city and what makes one work well and be enjoyable for its public.

Dear Philadelphia,

To my darling ‘illy Philly, “Filthadelphia,” named ironically the “City of Brotherly Love.” We have been together for about 5 years now, and wow what a journey it has been. When I left the big and glamorous New York City after high school, I thought I was down-grading to a smaller sized, wanna-be NYC, nothing super spectacular Philadelphia. But I was wrong to judge you. I was wrong to underestimate how amazing the setting you would paint for me to have my college years in. In you, I grew from a naive and cocky teenager to a humbled adult with a more open mind to possibilities. You have truly shown me what it means to look beyond the tip of the iceberg.

Tip of the Iceberg

Firstly, you made me appreciate my beloved New York City. NYC will always have a great place in my heart because it is my home. It is the place that I grew up, immersed in a plethora of cultures. Here I gained a certain confidence that only NYers can carry just right. However, I never truly appreciated how great NY was until I left it. For then, I became a tourist in my own home city. I shared my bustling world of intricate subway systems, glorious museums, and street foods and fairs with people from the outside world. I realized that the mentality I have: fast and furious, efficient,and intolerant of bullshit was a NYer thang. Being a New Yorker is one of the many flavors that makes up who I am, and Philly if it wasn’t for you I would have never fully realized what that meant.

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But you Philly, you give me true balls. When I moved to you, I learned that NYC may be the greatest city in the world, but it is not the only place to live. There is greatness beyond the Big Apple, even if people refuse to believe it. Philly you taught me to slow down (just a tad bit), enough to not be caught up the in craziness of things constantly happening. I get to choose city events to go to, not feel forced to go because that’s what everyone else is doing. Because of this I learned to cook, clean, bake, sew, truly explore these beloved hobbies of mine to another level. I was able to find opportunities to find new hobbies, volunteer at places, like a city hospital or natural museum, that would have been impossible or too competitive to get in NY.

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Photo from my phone of a 76ers vs. Celts game!

And for the times I did want to go out, as a broke-ass college student I had options. Watching professional NBA games can cause just $20 instead of $80 for nose bleed seats.It’s never too crowded to watch a tree lighting ceremony in between classes. The city is so small, it doesn’t take very long (or much money) to get from Penn’s Landing by the water all the way to my old apartment at the edge of West Philly. Cost of living wasn’t so bad that I didn’t have to work more than a 2 jobs at a time 😉

And the people. Oh dear God the people. The range of people is huge in NY, but in Philly it’s a whole different type of range. Though there are a many shady characters and questionable lurkers of Philly (mostly yelling at odd hours of the night for no reason as I studied in my room), I have also had to chance to engage with some amazing and brilliant people. There is also a never ending spring of future talent in this city that never ceases to amaze me as I meet younger students. Most importantly Philly, you gave me the chance to meet some of the greatest friends I could have ever had. I don’t even think I could have possibly dreamed of better friends who love me more.

Philly you gave me the inspiration to take risks. To walk in the streets with a certain walk, kind of like that gangster walk Jax does from the show “Sons of Anarchy.”

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No matter how tiny I am, I refuse to look intimated in any situation.  I truly grew street smart in since events like muggings, robberies, and gunshots are very real here (as evident by my own almost-mugged situation). I used to dismiss and dislike the rap and the hip hop cultures, but how can you not give it a chance when you hear it blasting in the streets, young kids dancing around in the parks and hanging out to it. The list goes on how you changed me, how you made me realize see that I was truly unaware of even my own close-mindedness.

So Philly, I guess I’m saying thank you. Thank you for everything you have provided me. Thank you for changing and impacting the way I view things in my life. I will  never forget coming back from a 76ers game and seeing a tee-shirt saying “Yea, Philly stinks! It’s because we are the shit!” It’s true blue Philly fashion right there. You are the absolute shit in your own cool way Philadelphia, don’t ever let other cities bully you into thinking otherwise.

And to you specifically University City, Philadelphia where Drexel campus sits: I know that when I leave and come back one day you will be virtually unrecognizable. But I am glad I was here during such a progressive time where the campus is being reconstructed for a better campus life in the future (though man is it annoying to walk around to get to classes). Although this new sleek, shiny, modern design of glass and towering buildings will probably dominate the area after I leave, I hope you continue to inspire your students to go beyond the barriers of comfort.

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Sincerely,
I wish I never had to go elsewhere some days, Christal

Being Almost Mugged

I have had other posts in mind to be written, but well, this one is pretty fresh in my mind. There is no eloquent way to get into this topic, so I will just go straight to the story.

Earlier this week, someone attempted to mug me on the way home to my Philly apartment. I went to go take care of Aniket who was sick and practically bed-ridden with a fever. After dropping off some medicine and giving him food, I started down the ever so familiar main street to my new apartment (yea, did I forget to mention we moved last weekend to a new apartment closer to campus?).

Right by a well-lit area, right next to the hospital, and merely a few blocks from my apartment, I heard quick shuffling. Before I could turn around, I was suspended in air a bit, then choked in a headlock position for almost a whole minute. At first, I thought the person was trying to make me pass out from air loss or drag me into a van or corner. Lucky for me, they underestimated my strength for my height and stature.

I was able to lock my chin down and pull the guy on the ground with me. I lost my glasses. Then, a second guy tried to grab my purse and run, to which I denied him and pulled right back. The two muggers decided to split because it was too much of a hassle to mess with me. I screamed like a siren for what felt like an eternity until (lucky for me) a student I met a few years ago at orientation pulled over in a car and helped me find my glasses and dial 911.

(Image from Hostel 5, the movie)

I was really lucky that I got a way with a few scrapes, a sore, neck, and some bruises. I have all my items still, and I wasn’t inappropriately touched or held at gun/knife point. But in all honesty, if they had asked for my purse to begin with, I would literally thrown it at them. I can always get new things (even if I worked hard for that money), but my life is way more important. I instinctively put up a fight, and I suppose those couple terms of kickboxing and muscle building (while they didn’t help me lose weight) at least strengthened me up.

The point of my story is to bring things that may seem common sense. I have been living in this area for almost 4 years now. I admit, I got a bit lax because I had become familiar with the area. I don’t consider anytime before 10pm to be particularly late. And I wasn’t even listening to music. So suffice to say, I was caught off guard, unprepared and very unlucky to get caught up in a string of recent student robberies.

Some advice on how to prevent a similar mishap?

  1. Try to avoid traveling alone at night. Bring friends with you or get an escort. In Philly we have University City escorts available, all you got to do is call!
  2. Always be on guard and prepare for the worse. I was looking around me as I walked, but I didn’t have a weapon on hand to defend myself quick enough. Carry pepper-spray in your pocket (not purse, like I did). Hold keys in your hands like metal knuckles just in case you have to engage in a tussle.

  3. It never hurts to be educated in basic self-defense techniques. I took a mini self-defense portion in high school (which proved to be very useful during my incident). Simple moves do lots of damage, even if you aren’t the strongest person.

Drexel U: Improv Everywhere’s MP3 Experiment Tour

Earlier this month, I got a Facebook invite by school’s activity board for an event called “Improv Everywhere MP3 Experiment.” Immediately, I knew I had to tell Megan, she was a huge fan of the group. Intrigued? The article quotes her here in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I’m said friend in the article haha.

http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20111110_Acting_silly_to_a_disembodied_voice__A_mass_social_game_comes_to_Drexel.html

Improv Everywhere is a improv group from New York. They so happened to have their first social event in Philly at Drexel University. Participants were asked a few things.

Participant To Do List:

1) Wear a Red, Blue, Green, or Yellow Shirt
2) Bring an deflated balloon
3) Sync watch to master watch on website
4) Download an mp3 file

http://upphilly.com/2011/10/improv-everywheres-mp3-experiment-coming-to-drexel-nov-9/

At a specified public location at exactly 5pm, all participants had to play the mp3. It starts off with music, then you realize that an ominous voice in sky named “Steve” was going to give directions to all the participants for the duration of the 45minute mp3. Oh, and Steve’s brother, “Mark” was the DJ for the event.

The things they asked us to do were pretty crazy. I mean imagine walking around your campus, and a group of 50 some people wearing only primary colors doing the same actions at the same time were surrounding you. Would it freak you out?

Some examples:

  • Taking a nap on the grass spontaneously
  • Following you around in a single file
  • High fiving
  • Intense thumb wars
  • Dancing the same dance to NO external music
  • Human twister
  • Freeze tag
  • Square dancing
  • Epic Balloon Battling
  • Epic Balloon Battling deaths
  • Slow-motion victory dancing/hugs
  • And more!

Really, the list could go on. If I wasn’t with Naomi or Megan, I probably wouldn’t have done it.

The reporter who interviewed Megan said that it was the most overly exaggerated and silly thing he had ever seen done. Looking back at the video, I totally agree. Things do seem a lot sillier when you realize not everyone can hear Steve in the magical mp3. You can actually see me in one of the balloon still shots wearing a green shirt and blowing a tiny yellow balloon.

Happy November 11, 2011, (11.11.11!) Here is are the butterscotch white chocolate oatmeal cookies I made today!

The Addams Family on Broadway!

This seems to be a fitting pre-Halloween post. A few weeks ago, my family and I went to see Brooke Shields on Broadway! Eternally beautiful and full of talent, she played the role of the voluptuous Morticia Adams.

This rendition of the Adams Family actually has Wednesday Adams all grown up, and she appears to have fallen in love with the most normal guy under the sun of NY. I was actually surprised how comedic the show was and really enjoyed the jokes and skits put on. All the actors and actresses (and understudies alike) had absolutely AMAZING voices.

Blurry shot of the cast poster 🙂

The dancing scenes were just as impeccable, but my favorite part of the show were the scenes. It is amazing how detailed and large the backgrounds were! And many parts characters were floating in midair or being pulled away by puppet animal monsters. You would think it looked corny or stupid, but it did not at all! No strings could be seen and the crazy designs of the puppets added to the humor to the show!

If I had to pick my two favorite characters, it would have definitely been Gomez Adams firstly because his stage presence is just spectacular. His voice and the way he moved made me laugh every time. The second favorite character was probably Uncle Lester because broke the audience-performer wall a lot.  Overall, definitely recommend this show!

Brooke after the show!

The actual theatre that we went to was the Lunt-Fontanne by Times Square. It’s a decently sized place, and the seats my mom got were awesome! We were like in the 4th or 5th row. The acoustics for sound were really good as well.

Like true New Yorkers trying to appreciate the city for the first time in a long time, we acted like giant tourists. Lots of pictures, eating pretzels and hotdogs from vendors and shopping. Truly a successful family city trip 🙂 Living in Philly far away from NYC makes me really appreciate the place from whence I came. I hope one day I can come back and live there again.

Tee-hee my most fave touristy pic! Me and the Spongebob off da street!

Top 3 (Non-Science) Lessons from The Academy of Natural Science

Volunteering at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia has been one of the best experiences of my life. That’s what I want to start off by saying.

The other day, I e-mailed the pre-health/pre-med adviser at my university, and it dawned on me that I do not have enough patient care hours to qualify for physician assistant programs yet. Which was somewhat a dismaying concept to realize because I feel like I’m always doing something and never have any free time to myself. Despite the fact volunteering at a museum cannot be documented on an application form, I am so happy that I have given the 60+ hours to the Academy thus far.

When I finally made the decision to nix the whole med-school idea because I knew my GPA was not quite a 4.0 and more importantly a form of payment for the next 8-10 years of formal education would be impossible to manage, I was honestly heartbroken and lost. It was such a devastating blow to me that I had to give up one of my childhood dreams, not because I had lost the will to preserve, but because of money. The best way I could describe the feeling was like when you watch an amazing movie full of secrets and suspense and amazing characters, and it has an anti-climatic ending that was just disappointing and frustratingly not satisfying.

During my interim of indecisiveness for my career path, I had signed up to volunteer at The Academy of Natural Science for a change of scenery. It taught me very many lessons.

Lesson #1: Education of Youth

I like kids very much, however to be frank, I hadn’t ever babysat for anyone in my family (or extended family) because I am the youngest. Volunteering at the Academy, kids are obviously everywhere, and I have found it’s really a joy spending time with them. Children are so much more smarter than adults give them credit for. Their minds absorb fantastic amounts of information. And their excitement for learning can be endearing to watch. It’s this experience that has given me an even greater respect for teachers and professors than I had before. The education of youth starts just like that, as soon as they can sit around in a stroller and look around their surroundings.

I quite like this learning tree model logo I found from the North Illinois University website.

Lesson#2: Love for Science

Listening to these visitors’ kids instead of lecturing them on the current exhibit topic has been so much more for my benefit than I can describe. When they tell me about the plethora of facts on their favorite dinosaur species they know or the latest and greatest news on satellites, planets, and starts in outer space, it completely floors me. It makes me realize that even though I have about a decade and a half more experience in life and years of schooling more than these children, I still don’t know everything. I am humbled.

More importantly,  it also made me realize again my love for science. That in me, I truly, truly am in love with the field I am studying in. It reignited my passion for learning. After freshmen year, I was pretty distraught. I had a difficult time adjusting to living out of state by myself with no friends. Professors were unfamiliar, and they were intimdating. Some I could barely understand what they said. I tested horribly, would freak out and study my brains out, burn out, then test horribly again. Continue the cycle. Then sophomore year came and went, and my grades were decent, but mediocre at best again. I had grown tired of being in school and taking exams. I was more than eager to get out of class and go on coop.

That’s when I started volunteering.

The orientations they gave us were fantastic. They had experts in the exhibits field to train us for a whole day on the subject. And as the weeks went on, I continued to learn and understand more facts about the exhibit. More easily the transition of information to knowledge occurred in my brain. I found ways to assimilate the facts into conversations with visitors. I made up games with kids who didn’t realize that the activity they were enjoy was actually learning in a more interactive way.

Lesson#3: Public Speaking

I never really minded public speaking before volunteering, but I think I have actually grown a fondness to doing presentations. By nature, I am a very shy person and find it hard to approach strangers, but being an exhibit volunteer that had to change. At first, I would politely ask to talk to visitors and actually feel bad for disturbing them. Of course eventually, I learned how to greet the visitors without sounding awkward and how to approach kids so that they aren’t scared or intimidated by me. I’m still very shy around people I meet, but now at least I can keep a conversation flowing if, lets say for example, someone on the train wants to talk to me about the earthquake that just happened (which indeed did happen a few weeks ago. The lady’s name was Joyce, and she has a sister named Carol).

Also, I’ve met some great people! Of course I absolutely adore my volunteer coordinator, exhibit supervisor, and really all of the staff at the Academy. I have never met such a happy and enthusiastic bunch of people in my life. They truly work around the clock to make the museum as great as it possibly can be for their kid visitors.

And as I mentioned before, the kids are great in themselves. They are so much fun to talk, listen, and interact with. As for adult visitors, they had plenty to contribute to conversation with me too! Some had children who went to Drexel as well. Others were scientists coming by to see the exhibit. Many teachers. Sometimes just wandering college students.

I also met one of the coolest kids I know while volunteering there. I met him when he was still in high school, but now he’s a big boy now in NY studying in college in the field of history. His last day was actually the day Irene hit Philadelphia (it was also my last day before my Fall leave of absence). I traveled through the storm to the Academy, too, so that we could hang out and volunteer together one last time. He was my first friend at the Academy.

Conclusion:

Sadly, I think this will be my final leave of absence from the Academy. Which is a shame because the bicentennial birthday of the Academy is coming up and we are doing an exhibit on the ever famous Charles Darwin! However, because I need to beef up my hospital volunteering, I will no longer have time to dedicate to them. But I cannot thank them enough for the valuable experience they have given me. I could definitely envision myself taking my sister’s kids to visit The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philly one day.