Spring Spirit

Diving Tower

Spring is fast approaching; the weather’s warming up, and it hasn’t rained in a while. You walk around campus and leaves fall all around you. Pretty soon the campus will be blossoming with flowers and I can’t wait to experience my first spring in about 14 years. Back home, there is no such thing; it is either summer, or winter. In the spirit of spring, I took the chance and went to Wakulla Springs along with a group of about 28 people. It was an hour drive to get there and hour drive back. WE tried to leave early in the morning to have more time there but, it was a Saturday. We ended up leaving at around 12:30 and had to stop some place to eat. So we did not really leave Tallahassee until around 2. Finally, we arrive there at around 3 which gave us about an hour before the main event: the boat ride. It is a large park where people gather and enjoy the various activities available at that park like kayaking, canoeing, hiking, snorkeling, swimming, etc. There was a lake, if I remember correctly, the deepest lake in America, well over 100 ft deep at its deepest point. They do a pretty good job taking advantage of that fact. They have a diving tower a few yards high set up at that deepest point which is an awesome attraction. Of course, being the thrill-from-danger seeker that I am, I had to try it out despite the water being too cold. Only 2 people from our group had the guts, including myself, which was pretty sad.

One of the many birds we spotted. This one is drying its wings after it jumped in the water to catch its prey

This park is also considered a wildlife sanctuary.  The boat ride was basically, a tour around the lake for the visitors to see the many critters that lived there. Luckily, we were able to catch a bunch of interesting animals who, had we gone a week or two later, would have migrated according to our guide. Those critters that we saw include alligators, turtles, vultures, a wide variety of beautiful birds and more. Interestingly enough, in this area, the old Tarzan movies were filmed. We passed by the place where in the movie, he jumps out of the lake and climbs a log going out into the lake and does his famous Tarzan scream!

Spring break is coming up soon and weekends included, it will be 9 days long. So where shall it be? Is it worth it to travel 20ish hours to Kuwait and 20ish hours back for 7 days? Or should I go visit some place in Florida that I haven’t been to yet? Or should I visit some of my friends in other parts of America? hmm…

Uncategorized Post :D

So remember how a few posts back I complained about how dark, cold and rainy Tallahassee was? Well today it’s all sunny but painfully hot.

To an extent where my skin, which I thought was more adapted to being in the sun and everything because I am from ‘Karachi’, started turning pink and I had to slather sunscreen on myself, which I normally don’t do.

The FSU Muslim Students Association (MSA) is holding a Libyan solidarity Rally tomorrow at the Florida State Capitol Lawns. The message sent out was “With a total loss of 800 brave civilians, and the number increasing by the hour, the Libyans are struggling to overthrow a 42 year old regime. We as Americans must stand and demand from our government to support the revolutionaries despite and interest the U.S may have because of Libya’s oil reserves. Join us on Friday to fight for freedom, for justice, and to let the voice of the Libyans be heard outside the capitol.”

Honestly I don’t like making political statements anywhere mostly because I am a coward lest my words are misread or something and I find myself in trouble. However the unity among the people to stand together for a single cause is inspiring. The statement made by the Egyptian movement isn’t only about freedom from a dictator but for every single day of freedom. In Egypt it was an accomplishment without violence, Libya however is in a different state of affairs. Nepotism and abuse of power can’t get any one far for long and Gaddafi should realize that it’s time to quit.

Back to college stuff… 😀

Spring Break is finally coming up and I can’t contain my excitement…about time we got a break from all the hard work and dedication we put into our studies. I was hoping to go to Houston however due to my laziness I have not bought the tickets yet and the prices have obviously skyrocketed…so I might turn my head towards Miami once again. However unlike every other college student who needs to party at the beach and therefore heads south for spring break…I need to head north…north of Tallahassee at least 🙂

Even though it’s a very hot day today, the whole student body seems to be out. Today also happens to be the day when I have an almost an hour gap between all of my classes, so heading back to the dorm was not an option. There is a tiny Starbucks shop on Legacy walk which has a nice sitting area outside. One corner that runs parallel to Legacy walk has chairs and tables and power sources, it also has a nice tree over it so you get maximum shade from the sun and a nice wind because it’s a corner. That is the place that I happen to love the most on campus. After every class I sit down there and “pretend” to do my homework or any readings that I may have, but I normally listen to songs and creepily stare at other people. That spot also happens to be a place where sorority girls get together after 12pm and gossip, so sometimes when the gossip is interesting I unashamedly eavesdrop, which is not a bad thing as after all don’t we go to college to increase our understanding of the world?

Happy Reading!

Random observations

Today Americans celebrate forefather’s day which is a federal holiday btw but we are one of the few college students that don’t get a holiday 😦 booo…..

So I won’t beat about the bush…today is one of those days when my mind has totally zoned out due to lack of sleep, despite the two tall caramel macchiato’s that I chugged down and the icy cold shower that I took earlier…..so my mind is completely blank right now and I am going to say that I have a bad case of writer’s block. So today I am going to write about random stuff that I have observed or found interesting over the course of my semester.

First observation: I think that some people just feel delighted over giving random long orders at Starbucks. The, according to me, longest order ever given at Starbucks here on campus which I happened to overhear was Iced, decaf, non fat, no whip, white chocolate mocha Frappuccino. This doesn’t make much sense to me btw     because:

1) I don’t like the idea of coffee which is low on caffeine, it kind of negates the whole concept for me…however I am sure there are many people who would gladly contradict this

2) Frappuccino are already iced i.e. it is coffee blended with ice

Second Random fact: Last night when I was writing my research paper I found out that the famous Tank Man who single handedly stood in front of Chinese tanks in 1989 during the protests in Beijing’s Tienanmen Square is actually M.I.A. Nobody knows his identity or his whereabouts and is therefore also famously called the unknown rebel. According to video footage two figures pulled the man away and disappeared with him into the crowd. A theory is that they could have been from the secret police and that he was just one of those who were secretly executed. Time Magazine however classifies him in Top 100 influential people :O

Third: No matter how much you prepare, you gain weight in college especially if you are on a meal plan and are non-vegetarian. College cafeterias offer a large variety of junk food to load up on all the fats, proteins, carbohydrates and more fats. The poor vegetarian students have to make a decision between salad, tofu and cheese pizza…. However recently I started eating salad and mixing only the chicken piece from chicken burger and fries into my salad. So there are some ways in which people can mix and match food to make it more balanced and appetizing.

Fourth: Boxed dinners are horrible.

Fifth: A normal sleep cycle is actually 90 minutes. This theory is defined under polyphasic Sleep. To maximize frequency of waking activity, college students nowadays are following this pattern. So technically what I understood from this was that you sleep in a way that conditions your body to learn to enter REM sleep immediately when you begin sleeping instead of much later in the sleep cycle. The complete sleep cycle takes about an hour and a half, so you condition yourself in a way that your body gets to complete these cycles and not wake up or be disturbed in the middle of or before the completion of one whole such cycle. I haven’t tried it yet but I plan on doing it tonight. My floor mates however have tried following this pattern and they have reported positive results.

Sixth: Professors hate people eating in class more than texting. I don’t know how to explain that one but I guess if it was me I would hate to see people munching on stuff because it would not only distract me but might possibly also make me hungry?

I Miss My Babies…

Innocent? Nah. Deceptive.

The beat goes on, and the beat goes on…

I miss my babies so I’m writing this song

I’d wake up to the sound of them crying

Get shaken up, on my bed they’re trying

to wake me up. Get up!” they scream into my ear

At which time I decide to use fear        

I shush them and tell them to leave my room

Backfire, they come at me with a broom

With a broom the ‘beat’ goes on, the ‘beat’ goes on…

…until I wake up. So that’s basically how I used to wake up on weekends. It doesn’t really sound nice but honestly, I like it. I start my day messing around with these kids and tricking them into doing the craziest stuff. Even better, I make them call me Sassano, Uncle Sassano. There is nothing better than having a little thing that you can manipulate however you want, even making it say things like “Saleh is the strongest person in the world”. Or the sincere hug full of love that I get from these kids that shows the true appreciation of the time I spend with them every time they visit. I feel soothed for the rest of the night after they kiss me goodbye. Only one thing can beat that and soothe me even more: ice cream!

Having kids around the house is just awesome. You keep seeing things from each of them that just crack you up. They all have their unique ways of being funny. The best thing about it is that I’m not any of their parents, so I’m not technically responsible for them. I get to enjoy them without having to change their diapers or clean up their messes!

I was in bed the other night and before I slept I was thinking to myself, “oh they probably forgot me and don’t love me anymore”. I was surprised when the other night I spoke with my mom and she told me this story… My brother was teaching his 4 year old kid how to be tough and they were wrestling, and fighting for a while, trying to get his son to build some confidence in himself, telling him things like “Look at you! You are strong!” or “Ow, you hurt me” and finally after he was ‘defeated’ in the fight by his son, he asked him “who’s the strongest in the world?” Obviously the answer he was looking for was an enthusiastic and confident “Me!” His answer had all the confidence and enthusiasm alright but it was not “me”, it was “Uncle Sassano!” That’s right, me! I taught them well. Above all though, it was so good to hear that because it proves my thoughts wrong and re-assures me that I am not forgotten. Every time my parents call me on the phone and I hear the ruckus in the background that the kids were causing it makes me want to see them ever more. I miss them more than anything.

Notice: as you can see below this post, in addition to liking and commenting, you can now share any of my beautiful posts on facebook or twitter, email, etc.

The american life: from an international students perspective :D

My advisor wanted me to write about how living in America really is for international students. Frankly international students are not a new or rare phenomenon in the US. The engineering, math’s and sciences departments of almost every university are filled with people of varying ethnicity.

I like studying here. I know that before we, especially the Pakistanis, get to the US we are pounded by scare stories of rigorous immigration examinations. I could deny this because my own immigration went remarkably smoothly (All they asked me was “so you are going to Florida State for your education? I said yes and he said “welcome to the US”, with a smile) but I have had a number of friends who did end up being detained for prolonged hours at the airports. However one thing that I can vouch for is that most of the suspicion is limited to the airports and after you are out nobody really cares where you are from. I have yet to meet someone who debases me based on my identity or religion. Most of the people I have met are genuinely interested in my culture and are keen to learn more about it.

 Every documentary talks about cultural shocks and states that the central problem is the major differences in  values and behaviors between the foreign students and the Americans they meet. I think that maybe for me the  whole cultural thing might have been downplayed because coming to America was not my first international trip. However at the same time, I agree that there is a remarkable cultural difference. Even though, well speaking about Pakistan, my generation is extremely different from the previous ones because I think that we are less antagonistic and more open to change and having different perspectives by basing our opinions on what we see and not on what we are spoon-fed, however the way of life, the family integrations and some of the values we grow up with might seem as a stark contrast for some.

The English can be a slight problem, at first my roommates didn’t understand what I said because they weren’t used to my accent. Even now that they can understand most of what I say there are moments of miscommunications. Linguistic differences make international students stand out more in crowds. I read a funny story related to linguistic problems,

“A person in a media agency was trying to tell them that they had to put an underscore between two words in a website’s URL, but could not think of the right word in English. She stared at the “_” hopelessly, trying deadly hard to find the right word in her mind: “Line?” “Strip?” “That U with a line below it symbol in Microsoft Office 2007?” Finally, she came up with a word which she thought may be most similar to the accurate one. She ended up asking them to please use the “DASH BUT A LITTLE LOWER!”

Moral of the story: even though we have to go through the entire standard TOEFL and SAT English, that is only appropriate for classrooms.

I came to US to get a degree. Initially education was my main goal, it still is now but my goals have shifted a bit and I realized that there are other more important things than just what you can learn inside classrooms and through your textbooks. I have made great friends. There is great diversity here, with representatives from nearly all countries, cultures and languages. My experiences have taught me a lot about the world. Honestly, millions of students come to the US for education. And everyone goes through more or less the same experiences.  I love being here especially because I got to experience a whole new level of independence I otherwise would not have experienced if I had stayed in Pakistan.

valentine schamelintine

Happy singles awareness day!!! Yes like possibly every school/college/university/institute of learning Florida State is RED….the dining halls also stepped up amazingly and served a whole valentine themed lunch which of course meant Italian. I decided to make the most of it and stuffed my face with anything and everything I could get my hands on; where almost every other girl giggled and tried to look pretty I ate like a ravenous animal.

I am not a V-day hater; I actually love all the free stuff that you get and all the sweet deals everywhere. But this is also the day where couples throw pompous looks at you and smirk as if they have unveiled the secrets of the universe. (BTW if you need a good laugh read this post about the worst date ever by Jon A Cuff) .( I can’t take credit for this cause it’s my friend’s idea but) my plan for v-day involves making brownies and watching some sappy weird flick. Maybe they are just taking pity on my single-ness but I think I am going to start a tradition….

For quick facts I googled famous stuff that happened on 14th Feb. apart from valentine’s day and this is what came up!

  • February 14th, 1929 – On the same day that Mickey Mouse made his cinematic debut, Al Capone murdered seven of his mobster rivals in what is still known as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
  • February 14th, 1957 – The Senate in Georgia unanimously approves a bill by Senator Leon Butt which barred black people from playing baseball with white people.
  • February 14th, 1967 – Aretha Franklin records “RESPECT.” In light of the above event, I think very appropriate!
  • February 14th, 1989 – The first of the Global Positioning System is placed into orbit and the world’s first satellite Sky phone opens. In 1990, Voyager takes a photograph of the entire solar system . . . awesome!

About the Yann Tiersen concert…it was amazing! My friend made a YouTube channel and uploaded most of the videos of the concert in it. We went half an hour before time and got amazing seats on the upper deck of club downunder and yes seats! S.Carey from Bon Iver blew me away and though they were not as good as Yann Tiersen I would still totally check them out again. It was a whole new genre I had never experienced before and I strongly recommend it

On another note I did absolutely nothing this weekend except laze around. The only three times I moved was to go out to eat with my friend on Saturday night and have breakfast on Sunday morning AND when I went to the animal shelter to play with puppies with my friends. I had thought that playing with the dogs there would help cover up, to a small extent, the whole homesickness thing that I feel for my dog but it kind of made it worse. It was so sad to see all of them staring at me through their cages and the way they got excited when someone chose them to play with or adopt. The sad part is that these are the dogs that have been left due to neglect by their owners and if someone does not adopt them in a years’ time they are put to sleep. As evil as that sounds the foundation does not have sufficient funding to sustain them and they can’t be left out on the roads. One of the volunteers told me that more than half of those that come in don’t leave alive. It is a very depressing thought. But with the limited amount of resources they have the volunteers there do an amazing job.

I have also been weirdly following the NY fashion week this time. Something I have never done before. Though it’s not just me, it seems that half my dorm is doing the same thing. What fascinated me this time was the huge number of Asian designers who have been getting tremendous recognition at this platform.  Richard Chai and Kuho are two people I actually looked forward to and I have not been disappointed. I am on a lookout for stuff by Naeem Khan, he’s not an upcoming designer though, and he has been here since a long time. For those who don’t know, he is an Indian born, American designer who incorporates the west and east in his works in a very drool worthy collection.

BTW the best anti valentines day joke I’ve heard today till now: I’m ravenous for your love, please pass the ketchup

Post FILC – Memories to Cherish

Wow…just, wow…  I am the type of person who tries to never really have any expectations when he participates in an event or activity, or when he goes out to some place he’s never been to before. I would like to take a moment and thank God for that trait… thank you God! FILC blew my mind! It is probably the best thing I have done since coming to the US. I met a group of around 16 people about a week before the conference, and we met 3 times to work on that poster I mentioned in my last post. Those meetings were successful on two fronts: first of all, our poster got 2nd place in the competition! Second and more importantly, it brought us closer to each other, broke the ice, hammered it, BURNED it… So, anyways, going into the conference I had a basic idea about each of the members of my group, in particular, Oriana. She works with me at the Center for Global Engagement. You know, polite, always smiling, typical front-desk girl. Or so I thought… let me just stop there. I don’t want to, well… what happens in FILC… yeah. Now, it is safe to say that I know my group well and I love each and every one of them!

                The conference started off on a good note. We went through some activities and got to know a little about each of the participants, something like 130 students from 61 different countries.  One of the highlights was not something I expected to enjoy that much at all: kayaking. It was the first thing my group and I did when we were given some free time. They had a shack by the lake with a bunch of kayaks and paddles and life jackets. We enjoyed it enough that both mornings we woke up early to go kayaking and see the sunrise view from the lake. It was amazing but one thing was missing, the sunrise! The clouds just had to disappoint us, but no! We didn’t let some… clouds let us down!  We demanded to have fun and such were the type of people at the camp. They all wanted to enjoy the camp to the fullest and accordingly everyone was so fun oriented and open-minded and social; and that gave the conference a special ambience. So to enjoy ourselves, we played a few rounds of bumper kayaks! The thrill of your kayak wobbling violently and of the possibility of it flipping over after being rammed into by another kayak was intense! For many of us kayaking was a new skill that we acquired and it was quite enjoyable.

                There was no ‘world cup’ soccer tournament like last year, but (coming from me it may sound weird) that was a good thing. Many students wanted to play other sports. In respect to that we had three different sports going on at the same time, soccer, volleyball, and basketball, and the lesser amount of people at each sport made it more organized and gave more playing time to each participant. Since obviously, I played soccer, I can only speak for those who played soccer; it was a great game! as I was told the volleyball and basket ball games were. The conference activities were rounded up with a nice little Dance, and people showed off their different traditional dances and there was a mask competition as the theme of the dance was Mardi Gras. Finally, on the last day the closing ceremony involved words from each of the peer leaders and other participants who received the talking football. A football was passed around and whoever catches gets to give a little speech in front of eveyone, no pressure, about the experience, best memory, gratitude, etc. It was sad to watch the vans leave and eventually to leave yourself, looking back at the camp form the rear window.

                Of particular significance was the presence of Florida Black Bears! Unfortunately, it was always dark when we saw them and we had to keep a distance from them so it was difficult to take good pictures of them. We also saw some beautiful cranes!  Some people saw alligators and frogs as well, a raccoon, squirrels obviously; a nice mixture of animals.

                What surprised me the most, (maybe it wasn’t the most enjoyable thing at the conference, but) the speakers were really interesting. They spoke to us about motivation, leadership, and answered numerous questions that we posed at random in a brilliant fashion.

I could ramble on and on and on… and on about FILC and just how awesome it is but it wouldn’t be enough for you to understand. You have to be there and go through it yourself! Days later and until now people are posting things like “I miss FILC”, “There should be an FILC every month”, “thank you guys for an amazing experience, see you all next year”, and so on. People are already looking forward to doing this again next year!

Post-FILC Effects:

1)      Tons of amazing new friends

2)      Positive, happy attitude – effect won’t  start to fade until maybe a week after the conference

3)      Exhaustion caused by the lack of sleep at the camp

4)      Huge increase in the amount of time spent on Facebook

5)      Ego boost – an ‘I went to FILC therefore I am a leader now’ mentality

6)      Increased invitations to events (goes with number 1)

7)      A new you!

Some day hopefully, YOU will go to the FILC and then you can create your own list!

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