Exploration and reminiscence in Yosemite


Waking at 8 am, I laughed at Chris’ having slept in the same position all night. Fei laughed at his hair. But Chris used gel as usual. Then Fei tried to make s’mores and then Jing and I made it too. We then went to the valley, and visited the museum. Saw Native American artifacts, and Chris Brown dancing pictures in the museum. Visited the “Indian Village” behind the museum. Signs informed us some buildings in this village are still used in “the old way.”

We ate lunch. Stopped by Bridalveil Falls on the way to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Climbed to the Vista point, took pictures in the heavy spray. On the way back down to the parking lot Chris, Jing and Fei got pictures on a log.

The climb up from the parking lot to the Grove was 2 miles, according to a sign posted at the beginning. Nic and I were far ahead of everyone else. I had to run part of the way up to keep up with Nic though. Everyone reunited at the Grove Entrance and took photos.

Continued walking up the road. In the Grove it was quite a bit colder than it had been on the way up. Read an information sign that was buried up to its neck in snow.   Went on an icy path to “The Fallen Giant.” Nicola and Fei each climbed onto it for pictures. We marched on a little further on packed snow before turning back.

On the walk down to the parking lot, Fei went to the bathroom but could not find water. The rest of us thought she had heard someone when we saw her looking around the building.

Twisting down the hill around curves we walked into alternating brightness and darkness beneath the shade of the hill and tall trees. Saw a couple of groups of people going in the opposite direction who asked us to estimate how much longer they’d have to walk; we gave them optimistic estimates.

On the drive down, Chris sat in the middle and requested that we talk about something fun. He called for embarrassing or funny stories. I asked him to provide examples. He did so quite willingly. Most embarrassing since he got here: once sleeping in Vic’s room (Vic is one of his best friends here) he made the mistake of going into the women’s bathroom (an easy mistake to make since there are no urinals in Florence Moore, where Vic lives). Once during the second week of school Chris’ roommate, a football player, met a girl from Arizona State. They came in at 2 am; Chris’ roommate picked Chris up and left him, still holding his blanket, in the hall.

At the valley grocery store again inquired after movies (unsuccessfully) and did some food shopping. On the drive back to the hostel exchanged stories of childhood. Chris’ first memory was of a moon through the window of his boarding-kindergarten, thinking of being a college student. Fei’s was of being left on the sofa as a baby, and crying when her mother and brother came in with sodas and didn’t share with her. Jing remembered trying to take some blocks from a school set of blocks to replace pieces she’d lost from her own set. Chris once got into a fight with a girl who tried to bite his face so he pulled her hair. Jing remembered having a kitten that would come when she called.

Conversation moved on to food. On reaching hostel, prepared dinner and ate in the Cafe–Chris and Nicola ordered food and shared with those who ate their own preparations. Back in the room, Fei gave Nicola a massage. Chris got a massage too.

We played Pictionary again. Chris and Nicola vs. Fei, Jing and I—2 rounds, Chris and Nicola won both.

Walked past neighbors playing guitars and singing “La Bamba” on our way to star gaze. Picked out the Big Dipper and maybe the North Star. Back to play Scrabble (Nicola won).



Fei and Jing spend this winter break at Bechtel International Center. They meet quite a few new people, and do quite a few things, going to restaurants and movie theatres, playing piano, singing karaoke all night long, talking all night long, going clothes shopping at the Gilroy Outlets. Their guy friends tell them about the dating world from a male perspective, etc, MRS degrees at Stanford that they know, and so forth. Women get desperate after the age of 26, 27, and so forth. Naturally this generates some anxiety about the fact that so much should happen in the next few years. But there’s also a lot of good fun. The guys said they feel that women have an underground network of information. Fei writes happily that when we share stories of our lives with each other “maybe we are passing along this at this very moment =)!” This day she writes with particular length:

Dear Georgina,

I am at Sweet Hall right now. Jing is next to me, and Murad is at one of the computers in the row behind me. It’s quite cold right now. The walk here was somewhat enduring. It’s 44F in Santa Clara right now according to the weather report. Besides some random people doing email here, there’s also a few people programming still. Oh, the same old Sweet Hall!

Life is pretty good overall. I am quite busy. I work all day (although it seems impossible for me to get to work before 10), and when I get back to Bechtel, it’s easy cooking time or activities time for the Center. Life is planned out pretty full, so at least I feel I am somewhat productive, even though it’s in the mere field of earning a few bucks. The people over at where I work are really nice. I have an office all to myself, and a computer for my use (too bad there’s no connection). I get paid $10/hr for opening envelopes of applications and recommendation letters and filing them. It’s quite interesting, because all the applications represent all different lifes, and they are all there in a few pieces of paper. But the application essays and others make me feel that graduate studies is a very esoteric field, and there are certain rigid rules set already, and the whole thing seems to be very abstract rather than useful. These people just churn out a whole bunch of hard-to-understand papers, and in the end cap their years off with a thesis that it would be lucky if more than one person reads it. But nonetheless, it’s interesting to read about the applicants’ lives. There are quite a few people who seem to have less than desirable records, some with cumulative GPA below 3.0. I guess not the whole world has a straight record. Even though it’s a fuzzie field, all the transcripts I’ve seen would be much worse than our drawmates, which is somewhat comforting (I’m ashamed to say), and brings back some normality in things.

There’s also a four-month-old Yorkshire Terrier running around the office all day. His name is Paco. He’s absolutely adorable. I love holding him around. He’s quite affectionate.

I guess I would tell you a little more about Min Chi, even though the news is already getting old. Jing and I went out to eat with Wei-Ping. Wei-Ping offered Jing a ride to the supermarket (Jing’s quite popular we you can tell). When he showed up Saturday evening, he brought along two friends, one of them named Adrian, and the other named Min Chi. I jumped (well, figuratively) at the mentioning of the name, having heard quite a few things about him. I then proceeded to tell him all the things I know about him, and surprised him quite a bit. Then he became somewhat worried, and suspected that something bad is being spread around campus about him. He then mentioned meeting Georgina (you), and how you reacted interestingly when he mentioned that Ben Mowery is his roommate. He says he knows Jia. (I guess she’s quite popular too). Adrian is not very talkative. Wei-Ping, if you don’t know already lives down the hall from us, Tai-Wi’s roommate. You have drawn a picture of him before. We then went to the restaurant to eat.

Very surprisingly, in that small Chinese restaurant in Mountain View, Li-Cheng sat at a small table across from us. I don’t know if you have heard the story about Li-Cheng, HC’s graphics partner. He made a motion, recognizing my presence when he saw me. I was surprised that he knows me, since I have never spoken to him before. Then as he was leaving, he stopped by the door, turned around, and told me to say goodbye to Huat Chye. (I was a little stunned at the time since I wasn’t sure how their relationship actually turned out). He said he’s not going to be back next quarter because he’s going to start working. HC later told me that he had mistakened me for another Fei who’s also from Shanghai and majoring in IE, but thought he must have cleared that up with me. More interesting part followed, we decided to go to the movie, and I strongly suggested “American Beauty,” as that was my plan for the winter break and I was really glad that it could be realized so quickly. Before we reached the theatre however, I couldn’t help throwing up on Wei-Ping’s window, then all the people got down to comfort me, and asked me how I was, etc. (You know, the usual story, I’m quite used to it =). Then we watched the movie, It was quite enjoyable. It’s a funny, cynical, and philosophical. Min Chi, appearing to be a playful guy, movie-hopped to “The Insider” before “American Beauty” even started. After the movie, he talked about how he heard AB is a great movie, and has received all these reviews and such. Then why didn’t he watch it? I don’t know. In some ways, he reminds me of his roommate. Then on the way back, I threw up again.

The second night that we went out I was much more tolerant of the ride, having requested to sit in the front. We went shopping in Cupertino, the same place that we went to with Yung last year. Jing and I got a whole bunch of stuff while they waited. They were pretty nice people. Wei-Ping seems kind of quiet and depressed while Min Chi is always jumpy. I think WP must be somewhat sensitive to my physical condition in the car. We invited them to have some red bean ice cream. I put it on the glove compartment. As the car swerved at a U-turn, the box fell. He must have thought that the motion and the noise was a premonition of my throwing up, and drove up the sidewalk. The wheel rim then came out, and then we had to gather it. All in all, it was interesting.

HC seems to be doing well. He just finished reading the third Harry Potter book that he borrowed from his cousin, he says. I have no idea what kind of book it is. But I think the winter break is a good opportunity to take a break from all the emailing, zwrites, icq, etc. I’ll see if I can keep my word. Just right now, this guy called Tong, a Singaporean came by, and introduced himself. Interestingly enough, he said he has heard my name being thrown around quite a bit. He said he saw my zwrites in Sweet Hall a few times when someone went somewhere else. I guess it must have been HC. Perhaps it’s a good time to take a rest from all this business.

Okay, he got tired of waiting for us and just left. (I also told him to go away while I write to you. He’s been reading a portion of this message). Jing and Tong both asked if I am writing to my father, it being such a detailed message. This is interesting, but I guess also worthwhile.

This is pretty long I think. It’s already past 12, and I think I better go back. It’s quite cold right now. How’s life for you? Hope to hear from you.


A Meeting of Friends and a Musical in the City

In the morning I went to Carnegie briefly, and then went to the bio library to study only to fall asleep and consequently miss the first couple minutes of lecture. After bio lecture I stuck around that corner of campus got a little studying done in the bio library and then went to bio lab. This ended earlier than it sometimes does so I went to the post office afterward, found a ticket telling me a care package had arrived and got in line to wait to pick it up. Coincidentally, my bio lab partner soon got in line behind me, waiting to purchase some money order.

The line was not that long, but it was as usual kind of slow. I guess it was way too slow for the guy behind my lab partner, because he turned to her and offered to pay her to send a package for him, because he had to get to class. She looked surprised, but did not refuse. He filled out an overnight-mailing form and took of, leaving her with a twenty that would exceed the price of sending by about $5. She said that she would never be in such a rush as to pay someone; she’d just be late. I think I would do the same, and the thought crossed my mind that there was some nefarious item in the guy’s package that would be trouble for anyone who handled it.

But that did not turn out to be the case. After picking up my package, I went to Braun to practice organ for a bit, then stopped at Meyer to pick up some books on my way to Lantana.

I had arranged for a girl from my growth group bible study to meet Jia. The girl, called Jane Zhang, was interested in such a meeting because she is originally from Shanghai and Jia is an international student from Shanghai, of course. So when I got to Lantana I collected Jia from the cluster and we waited for her in our room. She also brought along another girl originally from Shanghai named Ling. Ling already knew Jia from a CS class they’d had together. Fei was also there. When Jane and Ling showed up, Jane talked to Jia in Shanghaiinese (a dialect of Chinese that is spoken in Shanghai). Earlier I had asked Jia to call Jane because I knew she liked to speak Shanghaiinese and thought she might not be comfortable doing so in the presence of someone who only spoke English. This turned out not to be the case, actually.

Ling noted Jane’s fondness of “practicing her Chinese” but she herself spoke only English through most if not all of the meeting; she is like Fei in this tendency to speak English and in the fact she later mentioned (on prompting from Fei) that she does not remember much of Shanghai from her childhood. I think Fei liked her better for that.

Conversation proceeded through dinner. We surprised Jane I think by mentioning that we drew last year with two people who graduated from the same high school as her in San Francisco. Conversation proceeded on various topics, but we had to break off around 6:30, the time that Nicola was to arrive back from a guitar lesson and take Jia, Fei and I to San Francisco to see the musical “Rent,” and Ling had to head off to a class. Jane moved to another table with people she had known previously.

On the way to her room Fei expressed her feeling of guilt because she’d invited Huat Chye to come in our car and then told him no. Jia agreed with her that she had been bad. In the car we moved on to other topics: namely discussing draw preferences. Jia was considering row houses near the dorm of a guy she knows and Fei was all for Manzanita, where some other people she likes will be living next year. Nicola and I did not voice opinions.

The area in which the theatre is located is kind of ghetto-ish. Nicola found a parking space in a lot a couple of blocks from the theatre. When we got out, a dirty and disheveled man approached us, exposing a red arm. He told us that he had crashed his bike and broken that arm and wanted something from us…Nicola refused for us and we hurried away. His red arm and story of being hurt were just a story to make us more willing to give him money…

As we walked up the street to the theatre Fei was considering her shoes, asking us if we thought they were the right size. Jia commented that they were too big; another dirty and disheveled man hanging out in front of a store commented that they were nice shoes and that he could take them off of Fei. We hurried on.

When we got to the theatre we briefly considered and rejected the idea of returning to the car and moving it closer.

The musical itself was entertaining; I think the best part was the music. Nicola said later that it was the best she’s seen.

After the show was over, we saw Huat Chye hanging around waiting for the party that drove him up there to gather themselves: Jia hesitated at first to approach him but then got up the nerve or whatever and invited him to join us, an invitation which he readily accepted.

Surprisingly, walking back to the car (perhaps because we were in swarms of other theatre-goers) was less of a hassle than walking from the car to the theatre. Fei had an idea to go restaurant, but we had difficulty finding an appropriate place that was open. We parked once to look at a place (which turned out to be closed) and were again approached for money…anyway, we decided to just head back. Huat Chye was particularly conversant with Jia on the way back (the three of us were in the back seat). Subjects of discussion included unemployment in Shanghai, the occupations of their respective parents, the appearance of his younger sister and the “Palm” billboard that features a naked woman.

When we got back we had the idea to go to Late Night; Huat Chye declined because he had a paper to write for a Chinese politics class he’s taking. We were surprised because he had earlier said he had no pressing work (while we were driving around “the city”); figure he had just been being polite. Anyway, the four of us went to Late Night. We met some people we knew, including a couple of guys from Castaño who are going to be living in an unfavorably distant dorm next year because they entered the disability draw and did not have a good enough number to be housed in the favorable dorm that specializes to some extent to disabilities. After this, back to Lantana and soon to bed!

A Sunday Afternoon Outing: Fresh Taste

I visited the music library to copy some music for my organ class and then I went back to my room. I was planning to go to dinner, and Jia was going to a restaurant on El Camino so I went with her. Fei joined but Nicola had already planned to go out for dinner with a friend. However, while we were unlocking our bikes we ran into Huat Chye and a Singaporean friend, Sze Yao. They were going to eat dinner at a dorm, and Jia invited them to come along with us instead, which they did. We had dinner at a place called “Fresh Taste” (Chinese restaurant).

Huat Chye and Sze Yao are pretty close friends; at the dinner Huat Chye was wearing a t-shirt that Sze Yao had given him (it makes fun of Singapore’s harsh laws, limited civil rights). When Jia asked them what they were planning to do for Winter Break, Sze Yao was uncertain and Huat Chye encouraged him to join him in Brazil.

We each picked a dish and then shared, splitting the bill. Afterwards we came back and studied. Later in the night I went with Jia to visit Nicola and Fei, then came back, did some more studying, and went to bed, after remembering to set the clock to “fall back” an hour? It’s easier for me to remember this than to “spring ahead” and “lose” an hour!