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Tennis Camp


I’ve been back from Cornell University’s tennis camp for a few days but I never found a good time until now to write something.

Okay, first, the food. It was completely and utterly (excuse the cliché) disappointing. But it was so good. Let me explain. Compared to my school’s cafeteria food… oh wait, comparing Cornell food to my Junior High lunch is beyond insulting to the University chefs. Let’s not go there. Cornell’s dining hall comprised buffet tables with a myriad of cuisines. There was a “Hot Traditional” area with different dishes each day: quiches, pastas, lemon sautéed cod. There were Italian foods, Chinese foods, burgers, French fries, cereals, ice cream, cherry pies, German chocolate cakes, raspberry flavored water, kiwi-strawberry flavored water, Butterfingers Cappuccino, hot chocolate, grape juice, orange juice, and the most heavenly chocolate milk. I apologize if your stomach is now secreting gastric juices and hurts later.

So how is that at all disappointing? I think my expectations were just insanely high. I have never heard anything bad about Cornell food (would I be the first to criticize its “Award-Winning” dining?). Everyone says the food is absolutely divine. My mouth had been watering since the day I signed up a few months ago. I think my subconscious had been dreaming of gourmet lobster stews and Belgian chocolate mousse and acres and acres of smiling pastries waiting to be tasted. So when I got there, yeah… reality check. But don’t let this discourage you from eating at Cornell! The food was delicious. It’s just not the best I’ve eaten. Besides, I just had too high of expectations.

Now, the tennis. I’ve improved my groundstrokes (my forehand and backhand) but my serve got considerably weaker. For you tennis players out there, I used to have an Eastern Forehand grip but the coaches had me use a Continental grip now (it turns out that almost all the students there already used a Continental grip… what the heck?). It has been difficult to serve holding the racquet a different way but hopefully it’ll help in the long run and I’ll be able to get my serve back before tennis season starts.

At camp, we had to play a truly awful game called “Up and Down the River” (even the name is stupid). We had to play to eleven points on HALF a court. If you lose, you move down half a court. Win and move up half a court. First we had to start on the court we think best matches our abilities which is ridiculous because we barely had any idea of how the other campers played. So while I was debating with myself about which court (and there are six courts, the first being the best) I belong to, courts one through five all became occupied. Super. I moved up to Court Four and later to Court Two although there were people on Court Three better than me. Basically “Up and Down the River”  is part luck (depending on whom you play), part skill, and part absurdity. Still, I admit the game has a redeeming quality. It doesn’t help with technique, but “Up and Down the River” tests the emotional aspects of the sport (i.e. not freaking out before a match).

This camp has been my first overnight camp. I did pretty well with organization. I haven’t lost anything there. But the first two nights, I didn’t sleep very well. I probably just had trouble adjusting. The dorm cot is so uncomfortable too (and it squeaks)!

I met some really great friends and have some of their Facebooks. Sad to say, however, tennis camp was just like school – there were cliques and everyone talked about each other behind their backs (I’m unsure if this is proper grammar). Overall, it was a nice experience. I would love to attend again next year.

Have you guys been to any camps this summer?

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Teaching


This summer, I’m volunteering at the St. John’s Senior Center by tutoring elementary school kids. The problem is that I’ve never really tutored anyone before. I have helped some classmates with math problems or proofreading an essay, but that doesn’t really count. So, basically, I have no idea how to teach.

A few days ago, I worked with a boy named Zachary who is going into 1st grade and needs reading help. I had him try to read Young Cam Jansen and the Baseball Mystery:

Courtesy of Google Image

At the Senior Center, there is a long table covered with elementary level books. I had no clue what a rising first grader would read, so I just snatched the first thing I saw, which was the Cam Jansen book. It proved to be too difficult of a read. Zachary attacked every word by sounding out individual letters. For example, bench becomes “buh eh en kuh huh.” Now, obviously you can read… since you’re on my blog – you know that doesn’t work. So I abandoned the Cam Jansen book after seeing  Zachary struggle with the first two sentences.  I began a mission of teaching him how groups of words would sound.

When I started, I thought it would be easy. Just have him memorize the sounds “ee,” “all,” “kn,” etc. Okay, no. It is so difficult. After teaching him “ch,” “sh,” and “th,” he forgot all of them. So I resorted to drawing pictures and making up stories (I thought they were clever, actually). I scribbled a little guy with his index finger to his mouth saying, “Be quiet!” next to “sh.” To help him remember that the K is silent in “know,” I told him a story:

“Okay, so, you are a spy named Agent Z! The letter K is Agent K and she’s on your side. But the letter N is on the other side. He’s bad. Agent K is spying on Agent N so don’t say K because you don’t want Agent N to know that Agent K is there. You guys are spies so be secretive about everything.”

I asked him if he understood the story and he nodded yes. “So what sound do k and n make?” I asked.

“Kuh nuh,” he said. Agent K is very disappointed. I was too. But I smiled and said, “Almost!”

I had to retell the story (blah :(). And then I asked him, “So now, what do k and n put together sound like?”

“Nuh.”

Nuh. Nuh. Oh my God, he just said, “Nuh!”  That had to be the sweetest thing I heard all week. “Nuh.” I would have scooped him up from the metal chair that’s too big for him and held him like Rafiki held baby Simba… if that didn’t make me look like a pedophile. Yes, I was that proud.

The tutoring sessions are only one hour long a day (not counting the half-hour bingo games). From just that one hour, you cannot believe how much I appreciate teachers now (the good ones, at least). I’ve always regarded teachers as adults who take attendance, give detentions,  pass out assignment sheets, and keep order in the classroom. No more of that. They have to teach and teaching is hard work.

And it’s rewarding. Remember how excited I was when Zachary mastered the “kn” sound? That explains it all. 🙂

Dang it, I have tennis camp so I won’t be able to volunteer next week’s sessions. But I am so looking forward to finding more rewards in the little kids I teach (yeah, that sounds wrong) the following week! Did I even mention how cute they are?

I’ll keep you updated about tennis and tutoring! See you later!

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Publication


A few days ago, I received an e-mail notifying me that two of my poems have been accepted for publication in a literary magazine! My. First. Publications. Oh, my God. I screamed and I think I might have also thrown a few swear words if my parents weren’t around. So you get the idea. I was happy.

The literary magazine is chixLIT, which is for girls ages 13-17. You can learn more about it on its website: http://chixlit.com/ Sure, it’s not a big magazine, but step by step, right?

Anyway, changing the topic, in my first entry I wrote about writing snailmail to friends over the summer. In response to that, I got three addresses. Three?! Just three? Cough, cough that means I need more. I’d really like to write to you guys, assuming that I like you (which I probably do). 😀

This a relatively short entry. I sort of like it this way. This way, I can write a little each day instead of typing a 1,000 word entry at 1 AM every five days. 🙂

Thanks for reading! I love you guys!

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Favorite Songs


Hello third entry! Each entry feels like an accomplishment. 🙂

I think that after you get a blog, your mind is on the lookout for anything interesting to write about. My friend, Alex, asked me about my favorite music yesterday. The question didn’t come out of the blue, but my blogging mind jumped onto that and I decided immediately that my next post would be about my favorite songs. I made a list of songs (in alphabetical order) to tell you a little about me, record my favorites at this moment, and recommend some songs to you. You might notice that I listen to music from a variety of genres. I try to be open-minded about different kinds of music. 🙂 I included YouTube links to the songs. Also, I didn’t list multiple songs by the same artist because in most cases, I like a lot of songs by the same artist – the list would be too long! Here it is:

“A Whole New World” from the movie, Aladdin, sung by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kl4hJ4j48s
This is a Disney song; no need to say why I like it.

“As Long As You’re Mine” from the musical, Wicked, sung by Idina Menzel and Norbert Leo Butz
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4tWBetHvsA
This is from Broadway. Again, no explanation needed.

“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrO4YZeyl0I
Lady Gaga is a genius at songwriting, singing, and performance. And she got 1500s on her SATs (the old ones that were out of 1600)! I am gaga for Gaga! I even made a T-shirt with her face on it in art class. Okay, now that just sounds creepy.

“Bliss” by Muse
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMqsWc8muj8
I admit, the first time I listened to it, I didn’t like it. I know, I can’t believe that. Did I even listen to the right song? Anyway, I accidentally listened to it again and my opinion completely changed.

“February Air” by Lights
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ep_VIQjLJ7A
Love the part from 2:15 to 2:48. I’ve also watched some of Lights’s video blog entries. She sounds like a great person to know!

“Hua Xin (Painted Heart)” from the movie, Hua Pi (Painted Skin), sung by Jane Zhang
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGmaWHU0Hww
Last summer, my cousin’s daughter (I have old cousins) showed me this song in China and I could not get enough of it! I’m fluent in Chinese, but not fluent enough to understand a great deal of the song. When I came back to the States, I looked up the lyrics and with the help of my Mom, deciphered the song. The singer’s voice, the instrumental, and the lyrics are beautiful. What else could you ask for in a great song?

“Love Song for a Vampire” from the movie, Dracula, sung by Annie Lennox
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhG8zC4npsE
This is such a beautiful song. I want to watch the movie soon!

“Poker Face (Lady Gaga Cover)” by the Glee Cast
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYkfAjWyOwg
Lea Michele and Idina Menzel are so talented and I loved the original version by Lady Gaga. So, when combined, it is a musical wonder. In the show, Glee, the mother (Idina Menzel) and the daughter (Lea Michele) sing one last song before parting, so I agree with the people who say, “What the heck? Mother and daughter singing Poker Face?” I just like the song out of context. It sounds very nice.

“Red Hot” by Vanessa-Mae
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qn6vnwzpLAI
I love Vanessa-Mae and this song (obviously). I read somewhere that she had the idea for the song when she was young but I can’t find the source or remember what age. That’s impressive if it’s true! I just don’t really get the music video. What’s up with the random guy dancing in the back?

“Sogno ad Occhi Aperti (Daydream)” by Giovanni Sollima
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldPf3yqq3-8
The link goes to Part 1. This song was made by layering cello pieces composed and  played by the brilliant Italian cellist, Giovanni Sollima. The result is a beautiful piece of art. Make sure to check out the music video directed by Lasse Gjertsen (who is really cool) – Giovanni Sollima has six arms in it!

“The Highwayman” by Loreena McKennitt
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2CFM4ev-g8
Loreena McKennitt, whose voice is a treasure, turned Alfred Noyes’s beautiful poem of the same name into a magnificent song. Definitely listen to the song and read the poem! I’ve listened to the song so many times I can memorize most of the poem verses.

“Under Your Spell” by Amber Benson in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXAzNj4KVIQ
I love the melody in this song. And I love Buffy. I haven’t watched it in years though – I should watch all the episodes this summer. Feel free to buy me the complete box set. 🙂

What are some of your favorite songs?

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Pack Rattiness


Hey guys!  This is my second entry! What an accomplishment… 🙂

So today I cleaned my study. Actually, more like cleaning to the max. My parents had me throw away everything I didn’t need. They’ve told me to do that before, but being an ardent, self-proclaimed pack rat, I needed everything and so the trash bins remained empty. Today, for the first time in my life, I was forced to throw everything out! All my notes from old courses that stacked up in closets over the past few years landed in recycling bins. A heap of books I’ll never read are now piled in the garage, waiting to be driven to the public library and possibly find a new home.

My room emptied and I feel really sad. The stupid thing is that I know I would never go back to my old Earth Science meteorology packet or read a random Business Statistics book my mom used a few years ago. Still, I wanted them at hand. My arguments were: “I want to look at the stuff I doodled in my 8th grade American History binder,” “I’m going to read Meals in Minutes, really! I promise I will if you let me keep it,” and “I’m going to use this outdated Roget’s Thesaurus that has pages falling out even though I use the internet each time I need to look up words. I’m going to need it.”

Yes, those are pathetic arguments, I know. And I know that it’s better to be free of the clutter. I have a better organized workspace now. Yet despite the logic and reasoning, I want to dash right now to the recycling bin and retrieve my French Infinitives Worksheet along with everything else. I get this regretful feeling that everything I throw away I kill. I wish I could “resurrect” everything I “killed” and store them all in a huge warehouse. Funny thing is I would probably never step foot into that warehouse if I had one.

Another funny thing is that my gene for “pack rattiness” wasn’t expressed when I was ripping the brains out of the short stories I wrote as a child.  During that time I had contempt for everything I wrote (which I elaborated on in my “About” page). I’m guessing that even pack rats don’t keep things they hate. 😛

I just did some research on “pack rattiness.” I used Wikipedia… not the most reliable source (I once saw and deleted a random sentence about some guy liking homosexuals in the middle of an article about biology) but this isn’t an AP course research essay. I read that the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization created a “Clutter Hoarding Scale.” It goes from “Level I Hoarder” to “Level V Hoarder.” At first, I laughed partially because I found “hoarder” to be a funny looking and sounding word but then I realized that compulsive hoarding is serious, even if it’s only mild with me. An elderly woman died when firefighters could not reach her in a fire because her house was flooded with clutter! You can read what I just read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsive_hoarding

I’m glad to hear that drugs and psychotherapy are used to treat compulsive hoarding. From today’s journey, I discovered a little more about my “pack rattiness” and stretched my mind a little, learning about mental conditions. I just hope no one thinks I’m a freak for wanting to keep some books (yeah, just some…) and I really hope that when I’m older and have more responsibilities, I won’t give in to my hoarding genes and make my rooms look like this:

(Photo courtesy of Google Images)

Yuck. I promise myself right now that the above will never happen. 🙂 Remind me, guys, in ten years.

That’s it for today! I hope you had fun with me on my journey of discovering the meaning and condition behind the label, “pack rat.”

Thanks everyone! Goodnight.

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Summer To-Do List


It’s pretty late and I’m listening to a Spanish song my friend Herbert showed me on Facebook and eating Perry’s Caramel Cup Craze Ice Cream. The last doesn’t sound too healthy… heh. 😛

Anyway, now for the true purpose of this post. Before finals week, I decided that the day right after finals, the first day of summer vacation, I would make a Summer To-Do list. That might help me feel like I’m planning out my time and using it wisely! Unfortunately, I think I was excitedly overreacting about how great it is that I can wake up at 10 and no one would care. So… I forgot about my list.

I remembered my idea just now. And what a happy coincidence! I have a blog now – I can blog my Summer To-Do List! Gee, I love the internet.

Without further delay, I will begin writing my list:

1. Write so much that my fingers fall off. Just kidding, I need them for violin. 😉 But really, I am working on filling up my entire green 5 Subject notebook by the end of summer vacation (that doesn’t include what I write on the computer!).  Actually, that’s not really fair. I filled in two subjects already in the past few weeks. I’ll get more notebooks then!  That will be number two.

2. Buy more notebooks.

3. I’d love to learn photography this summer. I’ll need to somehow earn enough money to buy a camera more decent than the one I have at the moment. Then I’ll beg my parents for money to enroll in a photography course. If that doesn’t work, I’ll fake cry. If that doesn’t work, I’ll really cry. If that doesn’t work, maybe I could Google some online photography articles. THAT has to work.

4. Paint. Last semester in Studio Art 2, I painted for the first time. Before that, I was confined to drawing in charcoal or rubbing pastels. I heard one art teacher say that pastel lays the foundation for painting. Painting to me was a whole step above my level and I was satisfied of staying with my pastel friends. Then, for my art project, I could choose at least four different mediums. I could paint! With the freedom to choose came a spark of interest. During the project, despite frustrating moments, I fell in love with paints. Last week, I went to Michael’s and bought six tubes of paint and a Walter Foster book on Acrylic Painting. Then, as a gift for Father’s Day, I (attempted to) copy Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night and gave it to my Dad. The painting was a real failure (and Mr. van Gogh is crying in death) but I think my Dad was proud of me. And I learned so much from trying to recreate a masterpiece (emphasis on trying). It was like having a master class… almost. 🙂

5. I need to read more books! During the school year, I had been so busy I barely read anything outside of schoolwork. I sloppily piled some books on the carpet floor of my study as a summer reading list. Here are some of the books: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, and The Graceful Lie by Michael Petracca. Hopefully I’ll be able to get through them this summer! I also finished the first book on my reading list a few days ago: The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang.

6. I’m going to volunteer with some friends to tutor some elementary school kids. If you live in my area and are interested, ask me and I’ll give you the information!

7. I mentioned earlier in this post that I love the internet. I do, but receiving a handwritten letter feels better than seeing “You’ve Got Mail!” on your computer monitor. I’m sure you’ve heard a variation of that before – that technology is taking over our lives; phone conversations are a lost art, buried by texting. I’m going to skip the preaching and just tell you my plan for the summer. During my free time (ha, free time in summer), I will write some letters and snailmail them! Feel free to ask me if you’d like one (and if you don’t want to give me your address, that’s a problem)!

8. With more free time, I’d like to watch some more movies. I’d like to see more just for the fun and love of them because really, movies are pieces of art. I forget that sometimes. It would be nice to boost my Movie IQ too – memorize lines by heart and participate in movie discussions without feeling like a hermit – but I’m really looking to enjoy the movies. After all, it is summer vacation! Any good recommendations?

9. Play violin more. A few years ago I really hated violin. I would only practice the day before a violin lesson and cram a few days before All-County or the NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) auditions. I only began enjoying violin after I was able to play higher notes. Perhaps it was because my former violin teacher who was far from encouraging told me that at my level of playing, it would take years to be able to play in 7th or 8th position (in layman’s terms, really high on the fingerboard). Those words made violin dull for me. Getting better at music was a paradise I could not attain. Slowly and with two years of dreadful violin lessons, I got it! Two years. Not five or six. Not years like my teacher said. I still don’t know if my teacher only said that as a (failed) effort to get me practicing. Nevertheless, I became much more confident with my playing. With my newfound confidence, I enjoyed violin more and gave attention to it. Soon, I was able to find beauty behind the sore neck and fingers. This summer, I wish to find more beauty with my violin.

10. Practice tennis. Pre-season begins in two months! I’ll be getting ready at a Cornell University tennis camp (I heard they serve really good food! :D) for four days and in a local Junior USTA tennis team. As for the latter, the more the merrier/hairier/scarier (I wanted to avoid using a clichéd idiom. Now, it just looks stupid…).  If anyone is interested (and knows me and lives in my area, of course), please don’t hesitate to let me know and I will give you contact information. It’ll be fun if you join (unless you prey on teenage tennis players)!

That’s it! Of course, I’ll be doing much more with my summer (like eat and breathe), but those are ten things I will definitely keep in mind. Actually, it’s more like nine… number two isn’t that important. I didn’t even elaborate on it.

What are some of your to-dos for the summer?

I’d like to end this entry with a thank you for reading and a brilliant quote (that is distantly related to my post) by Mahatma Gandhi:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

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