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I nearly made the biggest mistake of my life.

Leading up to the college visit trip I took last week, I was adamant about applying and going to NYU. So adamant in the fact that I was prepared to apply early decision, meaning if I got in I would have to attend.

When I tell you I was saved by a thread I mean it. I was millimeters away from making the worst decision ever.

NYU was not the place for me. I had thought that going to a school without a campus would be fun, my experience this summer in New York made me feel free, and living in New York and attending school seemed ideal. This was mostly because I was with one of my closest friends whose sister went there, so we spent most of our time shopping and eating rather than being students. It was a whole different story at the school. The tour guide talked more about her getting cut from the quidditch team than student life and did many other similar things, making me realize that maybe I wanted more of a college experience.

I had just gone to see Michigan before NYU, where I went tailgating and sat in the student section at the Big House. My friend who goes there showed me around and showed me what it is like to be a student at a big school. I had the best time and realized that this is something I can’t go without in college. I also thought the traditional campus layout would make studying easier, everything was just more simple.

These two factors combined and made me realize what an idiot I had been. Judging my college choices on a fun week I had without considering schools, sheerly basing the biggest choice I will have made in my young life on location.

I feel super relieved I changed my mind about applying to NYU early decision, and that I went on the tour as the feels at the schools were different than the ideas in my head of what they would feel like. It feels surreal that I was that close to making such a big choice based on nothing.

PC: Knight Photography

James Webb

So, as many of you already know, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launched a couple weeks ago. Now that might not seem like such a crazy thing, but it most definitely is. This telescope is the most complex telescope humankind has produced to date, it has the ability (hopefully) to see the first light emitted from the Big Bang 13 billion years ago. Now that fact is confusing to some, how can we see back in time? Well, basically, light has a speed of 299 792 458 m / s to be exact (approximately 670616629 mph). We measure this in terms of distance, as lightyears. Say a super bright lightbulb is turned on somewhere ten light-years from earth, it would take ten years for the light to reach us so that we could see it. Now if we take that principle and scale it up, the further we look, the longer it’s taking for us to see that light, so if we look at something 13 billion lightyears away, then we are seeing 13 billion years in the past, and since the universe is constantly expanding finding something 13 billion lightyears away is not very difficult. Anyway back to JWST, it will be in an orbit we have called “L2” which is just behind the Earth so it will constantly be in Earth’s shadow, it will be 1.5 million km (1 million miles) from the earth, which is far past the moon. From that orbit, it will take pictures. A lot of pictures. Of course, our time with the JWST is limited so NASA has allocated certain hours for researchers for an approved project. This telescope will bring in a new era of research, we may learn the origins of the universe, and if not we will still learn so many things from this telescope. Things like planets with potential life, we will learn about the formation of galaxies, and many many more things. I am excited to see the pictures this incredible telescope will take.

James Webb Space Telescope: how our launch of world's most complex  observatory will rest on a nail-biting knife edge
Webb's Orbit

Photo credit: Space. Com

Homesick

“Do you miss home?” “Do you miss your parents?” As an international student, these are the questions that I receive most often from people. My answer has always been no, and inexplicably, I’ve never missed home while I’m in a foreign country.

But that answer has changed recently.

During Christmas break, I lived near the LA area, where large Chinese community exists. There, you can find almost anything from China and other places in Asia. I never knew that there could be such a place in the US.

When I had authentic Chinese food in one of the restaurants, I suddenly realized that I do miss home. Or more precisely, the two years of my life in China before I came here. I miss my old school, my friends, and my hometown Nanking. I had a sudden urge to book a flight and go back at that moment. But after 5 seconds, I remembered that my friends are not in China either, they are in Germany, Ireland, Canada… just the same as me.

The feeling of nostalgia was something that I never experienced, and I now I finally understood how other people felt when they say they missed home.

Photo Credit: https://www.welikela.com/

Face First into a Desk

When I was a wee boy, I had uncontainable energy and need to be moving. This symptom of ADHD never ceased, including the time my dad had taken me to his work office so he could make sure his files would be safe before our family went on vacation. My attention was not on my dad’s files at all, as one would expect of a six year old. I was focused on my dad’s rolling, cushioned, and spinning chair. I was more than focused by this chair, I was enticed. In my little six year old mind, I had to jump on this chair, I didn’t have a choice. It is a well-known rule to young children, that if there is a rolling, cushioned, spinning chair, you have to spin. So, that’s what I did, I spun. A six year old reached terminal velocity that day with the help of his also little brother. But this record promptly switched to a vault record as I soon went flying across the room. I must’ve been in the air for minutes until I speedily barreled into the corner of my dad’s conference desk. I was physically stuck on the desk for a few moments before falling off and causing further trauma to my head by banging it in a recycling bin. At this point in time I started teleporting between settings, ending up in beds I didn’t remember crawling into, or rooms I didn’t walk into. Eventually, I ended up in front of a screening of Batman: The Animated Series. I didn’t know how I had gotten there, but I just knew I didn’t want to leave. Sadly, I was put to sleep as the intro was ending, I soon woke up with 23 stitches in my small nose. I didn’t know 23 stitches could fit onto a nose, let alone a six year old’s nose, but I didn’t care. All I cared about was how cool I would look going back to Kindergarten.

Swivel chair definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary

photo credit:Pinterest

The Great Schuette Adventure

photo credit: Colorado Ski Country USA

Crested Butte, Colorado. The best place to ski during the winters and get bitten by ants in the summer.

The duration of my vacation was about two weeks and it started with driving to TacoTime. The closest TacoTime was at a Vegas truck stop, the food made my stomach hurt. After eating the deep fried burritos, we started driving to St. George, Utah.

The view was spectacular and the climate was hot, like once I stepped outside the car I felt as though I was going to die from heatstroke. My sister and I swam in the pool, she tried to drown me. The next day we went on a hike on the outskirts of Zion National Park. The hike was called Spring Creek and it was in a slot, the different colors of the rocks were breathtaking.

After the long hike we explored St. George. We went to a couple of thrift shops, we did not find anything cool enough to buy, and visited Brigham Young’s winter home. We learned all about the Mormon church and were even approached to join, but we didn’t convert.

The next day we went on a small walk to Dixie rock and drove up Kolob Canyon. We made a couple of pit stops because pictures or it didn’t happen. Eventually we made it to our one mile hike to a lookout spot. While walking back to the car we heard a rattle, we almost got attacked by a rattlesnake.

After a couple of hours, more like nine hours, and a McDonald’s pitstop we made it to Grand Junction, Colorado. I tried Dairy Queen the first time, not worth the hype. We finally made it to Gunnison.

Our trip consisted of hiking, hiking, and more hiking. We hiked down the entirety of Crested Butte Mountain during a lightning and thunderstorm. The weather was bipolar, either too hot or too rainy and stormy. I toured my first college, Western Colorado University. The campus was gorgeous and the school had lots to offer, but Gunnison is the most boring town in existence.

My mom, sister, and I all went rafting. Every time we are in Colorado during the summer we go rafting, and get the craziest photos. Our family met us in Colorado and we went to an insanely late dinner, our reservation was at 9 O’clock pm. We went to a place called Slogars, they specialize in fried chicken.

Overall the trip to Colorado was amazing, but it was time to head back home. We drove to Bryce Canyon, Utah. It was two Best Westerns and that was basically the town. The food was not good, like LAUSD’s cafeteria food was more edible. In the morning we went to hike the Peekaboo Loop trail. It turns out that since there were mudslides before the trail was closed we illegally hiked a trail.

My mom found a nice restaurant in the town over, and the food was actually edible. We ordered pork chops, burrata, bread (OMG the bread was to die for), crab mac and cheese, french onion soup and a carrot salad. We could not leave without getting dessert, so we got three different options: chocolate bourbon mousse, cheesecake, and a rhubarb crumble.

The next day it was time for us to head home, we drove and drove and drove until we home. The trip was amazing but being home and sleeping in my own bed was exhilarating.

capstone pt. 12

That all changed when she brought me to the ocean

In those rich minutes the light was warm gold,

viscous, she let it in

floating in the sodium and the waves.

Rocking back and forth

I fought the ocean,

that colossal blue,

as it pulled the warmth from my heavy limbs,

Suspended four inches from the plexiglass surface,

blowing fat bubbles that distorted your reflection.

Time changed that though,

and warm gold became cool to the touch

sad skin

No matter how warm

Rubs against mine

Like pruned fingers

on paper

One month in Africa

In October I will be going on a one-two month-long safari in the Masai Mara, Kenya. I have visited Africa several times now for my photography expedition, but they usually only lasted between 1-2 weeks. Now I am ready for something bigger. I am incredibly excited, but part of me is also very nervous. One month of getting up at 4.30 am every morning, being on safari for about 11-12 hours a day can be very tiring and intimidating. But it is what I love, and I am more than excited about this adventure. Every day being out with these amazing animals, taking pictures, and sharing them with the world, what an absolute dream!

I have met so many amazing people through my photography: guides, other photographers, and even scientists. We all have the same passion; protecting these beautiful animals and sharing their beauty with the world to conserve them for many more generations to see.

I believe animals can teach us so much and they can help people. For me, I am just happy when I am among wildlife, all my stress is gone and I just feel relaxed. Doing my photography has helped me a lot through hard times, and it never fails to make me happy. Getting feedback from people who admire your work is so motivating and it makes you proud to have come where you are now.

picture by author

Ode to Trees

Watching the world as time flies

From beginning to end

Standing strong in tough times

From cold winters to hot summers

Watching us grow old. 

Swaying in the wind

Providing cover in the rain

And shade in the sun

Providing a place to rest

A place to ease the pain

We don’t appreciate it

How lucky we are

They gave life to us all

The sweetness we cut down with greed

One by one they fall

As will we

Image From Arbor Day Blog

capstone pt.7

This trip turned all that thought inward at times

It forced me to really think about what i was feeling,

and to sit inside my heart

so that my hard wired head could stop

and i became content to be in my own space

content to sit within myself as I moved. 

content to just watch as the world changed around me

merely maneuvering my truck from idea to idea

it forced me to process things by writing them

but it also gave me the space to think things through in conversations on the phone

but that depended entirely on cell service 

the oaks

wrinkles

white walls

metallic beige

flying roaring

cutting

white walls

warm animals 

in half motion

motioning

in motion

you latch on to these moments, these images, as they race in your head, as they take tight turns, as a force like gravity pulls and pulls you away. you find yourself empty save the quiet conversations and the warm silence. the moments that make you you. but how ‘bout I move them? 

how ‘bout i reorganize the pantry

pull the back towards the front

pour it all out

how ‘bout when you feel those candlewarm memories

in your stainless vaccum

you feel them.

you feel the road, the car

the pull

you feel the moment, the memory

fading

into the fog

Pushing through

About a year and a half ago I got a brand new mountain bike. I was like a little kid, getting all excited to ride around with it. The town my school is in is like a mountain bike paradise. There are many amazing trails for every level of skill. I started with some easy trails and each week I would go a little harder and harder. I could feel my muscles and stamina building up more and more. When the pandemic started, I was out on my bike every single day. It was my way of getting my energy out. I just hated sitting at my computer all day doing school work and I needed some way to release my built-up stress. Mountain-biking really helped me with that, and I had a blast every time I was on the trail.

During summer I left my bike in America while I went back to Germany. I came back to the U.S end of January and hadn’t biked at all since I left the U.S. I got my bike but being at boarding school made it hard for me to go biking. in mid-April, our outdoor-ed teacher announced several new overnight camping trips that were going out throughout April and May, one of those being a mountain bike trip. I was excited but on the other hand hesitant. I wasn’t on this list yet but I was able to sign up for it. I was hesitant because I was just so out of shape and hadn’t been biking in almost a whole year. I decided not to sign up because my anxiety just took a hold of me. I was really sad and still contemplating if I should just go. The day before the trip the outdoor-ed teacher came up to me and asked if I wanted to join on the trip as I had my bike in my room.

I decided to just get over my fear and said yes. I was nervous that I would be the one slowing them down the whole time and that I would always be the last. The next day we left campus and made our way to the campground. It was absolutely beautiful. In the afternoon we took our bikes and biked down to a waterhole. It was all downhill and it was absolutely amazing, I felt happy and just free. We swam for a while, ate dinner, and then it was time to return to the campground. I had biked that exact trail before and knew that the way back was an absolute pain because it was all uphill. There was one van driving back to the campground, but three of us had to bike back. I decided I would just push through it and bike the way back. 

The last time I had biked that road up I had to stop about 6 times to take a break because I was so exhausted. We started biking up the road and I felt good. We kept going and going uphill and I was very surprised that I wasn’t exhausted at all. I just kept pushing and pushing and then we made it to the top and I had a wave of happiness come over me. I was so happy because I improved so much from the last time I biked up that hill. It was an awesome trip and I am excited to keep mountain biking.

picture by author