SAFE WAYS TO ENJOY LIFE DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

2020 Version (hopefully the last ever version of a blog post addressing surviving a global health crisis)

​Hey guys! Long time no talk. We’ve all been experiencing a whirlwind of emotions, current events, and not-so-swift societal changes for a longer duration of time than one might prefer.

 

Since March 13th-ish, I’ve been working full-time remotely from home alongside (virtually) many of you. Though I am considered one of the lucky ones as my financial stability has not been compromised from the global health crisis. I hesitate to say we are in this together because the reality is that current events have impacted each individual in wildly different ways. While yes, we are all experiencing the global pandemic together, and trying to work together to protect each other and our families, the personal impacts and perspectives are broad to say the least. My deepest gratitude and best wishes are sent to you all during this time. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for your thoughtfulness as we navigate a new world together.

Current events have stirred up a lot of uncomfortable feelings – anger, frustration, fear, and anxiety – to name the most unpleasant ones. I feel a change coming (but I don’t know if the outcome will be good or bad). To quote the world renowned author, an Indian political activist Arundhati Roy:

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

Unfortunately, I’m no psychologist or therapist. I don’t have the answers to the world’s problems but, I am managing to survive and have a few hobbies I have found to be a little therapeutic for me and would like to share, just in case anyone needs that extra boost to provide more meaning to their daily ritual while coping with a global pandemic. Let me stress these are things I’ve personally found to be enjoyable or helpful and may not be for everyone! Plus there is still a chance that these hobbies are just manifestations of a nervous breakdown like Ben Wyatt in the show Parks and Rec when he loses his job and invents Cones of Dunshire, an extremely involved nerdy board game (no offense) and also tries his hand at claymation movies and loses it when he realizes he spent like a month on 3 seconds worth of his movie.
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Yoga of all kinds

​1. I’d hate to be *that girl* but ummm, it really is a game changer and I encourage anyone to at least try it. I’m talking about yoga! I know – it feels like everyone suggests yoga for every ailment these days! But it really does help balance you mentally through self discipline and learning to tune into *what your body wants*. Yoga isn’t about being crazy flexible and balancing in weird positions. I mean it can be if that’s what you want but yoga practice is all about ~what feels good~. Everything else comes next.

 

I really enjoy the free YouTube videos Yoga with Adriene (and Benji!). I’ve linked her here. She offers hundreds of videos varying in length, difficulty, and theme. Her themes can be general like learning the basics to yoga or it can be more specific like hip and joint targeted practices, back pain, anxiety, even kids yoga! I like going to her playlists because she has them divided up by length. If I’m feeling like a shorter, deeper yoga practice, I peruse her 20-30 minute videos. If I want something more rigorous or perhaps more variety, I peruse the 30-45 minute playlist.

Plus side: she has a super cute doggo that is in almost every video and she has beautiful house plants, haha. I also personally find her to be a personable and relatable human being.

It’s easy to do at home and only requires your ~self~ and a yoga mat or blanket.

 

While we are here, the breathing practice that accompanies yoga I find to be very helpful in managing daily anxiety and stress. It slowly teaches you self discipline, focus, and attentiveness to your body and what it needs. It is a way to slow down and learn to shed the worries of everyday and just be. It is connected to meditation but this is something I still have not mastered and admittedly don’t practice too often.

Plant care

2. I got a plant. Lol. It was a $3 grow kit at the front clearance section of Target. It was an Impatiens kit and came with everything but water to grow them. I got it right before everything started closing down and wanted to start growing it in my new office here but just a few weeks later, we were sent home. I decided to grow it at home even though my cats have killed pretty much every indoor plant I’ve ever had and any prior roommates’ plants (sorry about that).

 

I managed to perch the small pot directly onto the window latch, high enough where the cats couldn’t reach. It grew over the next month and then the next and it just looked like weeds. I transferred them over into a bigger pot and put little pieces of vegetable and fruit scrap in the soil to promote fertilization in time. They began to bloom about a month ago and I just transferred them over into another bigger pot and this time I added a food spike.

Maybe it sounds super lame but I’ve enjoyed taking care of the little plant, making sure it gets enough sunlight but not too much, watering it when it needs it, and encouraging growth and blooms. It’s been a delightful experience and I was so happy when I saw the little flower buds and their unique colors! I added a few friends with time. I can’t do anything too luxurious since I’m in a smaller apartment now but I have sunlight driven plants lining our front porch and that brings me enough joy for now.

Anyway, I know a lot of us have already invested time into plant care during quarantine so I know I’m not alone!

Daily excerise

3. Whatever that means to you. It can be yoga, running, swimming, walking, biking, etc. I encourage avoiding gyms if you can for public health and safety (that includes protecting you! ️). Besides it’s so beautiful out! I like to bring my mask and have it around my neck and I choose routes that I know will not be heavy with pedestrian traffic. I wear the mask when I approach others. Some days if it’s cooler out, I can wear the mask for my entire exercise without any issues and I find that easier; it’s a little less to worry about running into someone without being prepared. I know this can be awkward to picture for some but, it truly is effective as we see up here in the northeast (and in contrast to what is happening in the south) and what we see over in Europe, China, and throughout Asia. Wear a mask if you can during your daily exercise if it’s outdoors and in public, for just a little while longer!

Stepping off my soap box now, I have enjoyed taking time to get to know my neighborhood by taking new routes in my runs and walks and recommend this to anyone really at any time, even without a pandemic. This could be especially important for anyone new in their area/region like me! In some ways I feel more connected to my community (especially because it has enabled me to meet neighbors!)

Maintain daily routine

4. Encourage a normal week schedule. Humans are creatures of habit and to an extent, we thrive in environments that have structure and purpose. Working remotely from home was a huge adjustment. At first it was kinda nice, felt convenient, easier. But then I started to abuse all of this time I was now spending at home. I started sleeping in all of the time, getting distracted by the pets or TV instead of working, cooking or cleaning instead of working, or calling family and talking about the pandemic instead of working (lol). And then I’d go through bouts where I would just work. Constantly. My work is all right there at my desk three feet away from where I sleep. It began to be all I thought about. ​

 

​It cycled through like that. Lacking motivation and then either feeling behind or feeling energized and compensated by working a lot – sometimes at the sacrifice of physical activity. So I find encouraging an as-normal-as-possible daily routine can be crucial. I like to run in the mornings Monday through Thursday and begin work around 9:30am. Just having that one part of my schedule defined really helps layout the rest of what needs to be done. I’m also a big list person (as you’ll see here) which helps, too.

Check in

5. Find something you enjoy and find something that provides an outlet for you. This can be the same thing, if it so happens to be. For me, that is running. For you it could be reading or writing or cooking. This is up to you but it’s something I highly suggest checking in on regularly. “Have I been doing things I enjoy?” and “Have I been able to process this new life properly?“. Idk, the questions don’t have to be that philosophical, I’m just saying to check in with yourself every now and then and make sure you are dealing with new adjustments okay and if you’re not, consider what might help you do that and speak it aloud, maybe to someone that can help will it into existence with you.

 

Lastly, try to remember to shut off Netflix, shut off Tiktok, and spend time outside safely, maybe even sniff the crap out of your face covering so you can get a small whiff of those blossoming trees outside. ​​

To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.
— ​Arundhati Roy

DIY HAIRCUT FOR LONG HAIR

Welcome to my first DIY blog post!

It’s going to be really short because I am not one to start my own DIY projects. So, I don’t have my own DIY to share but rather the tips and tricks to a pre-existing one that I’ve found extremely useful. It began a few years back when I really needed my hair trimmed but I couldn’t afford a hair cut. 

 

As a disclaimer, I love my hair. I LOVE it. I love having long hair and am very, very picky about who touches my hair. I don’t even like hair dressers that try to tell me how to cut it – the last time I took a hair dresser up on a suggestion to “cut all my dead hair off” I looked like Dora the Explorer going into my freshman year of college (never again). This led to a big hiatus from going to the hair salon.

A few years back, I was in Clemson, SC with hair that hadn’t been cut in over a year and I was needing a trim badly but I didn’t want to go to a new salon and I certainly didn’t want to pay for it. I googled DIY haircut hacks and found a good sample of DIY hair hacks for long hair. This is the one I use exclusively because it’s super easy, quick, and pretty hard to mess up!

There are some really nice perks to doing your own hair, specifically using this technique:

 

  • Buy TWO utensils but virtually pay nothing for any future hair trims! 
  • You pick the amount you want to cut
  • Get a great, layered hairstyle in less than ten minutes
  • A perfect V shape style in the back
  • You get to pick when you cut your hair and how often without breaking the bank 🙂

Whenever I see those dead ends growing out of control, that’s when I start considering doing this trim again. But, as this great influencer in the video mentions, for other hair styles, it’ll probably be best to leave it up to the experts ;-). For now though, this has kept my hair in tip-top shape as a ~baller on a budget~! 

Here are the utensils I use!

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The cut-razor comb – $5.99 at Sally’s Beauty! This thins and fluffs the hair edges. I use this after trimming the dead ends off.
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Procare styling shears (5.5in) – currently on clearance for $10.19 at Sally’s Beauty! This is what I use to cut the bulk of my dead ends off.
You’ll also need a hair straightener, a hairbrush, 3-4 small hair ties, and 1-2 regular-sized hair ties. I use a regular towel underneath me to catch any hair and just shake it out later for easy clean up. The actual trim time takes me about ten minutes but it would fair to say the first time will take the longest because you’ll be scared (lol).
This is really all you need to cut your own long hair from home, as long as you don’t mind and/or want layers! Below, I share some photos I took after I cut my hair.

Happy hair cutting!

 

SCIENCE V. RELIGION

Is science an attack on religion?

Short answer: No. Science is not an attack on religion.

For this post, you are going to hear a lot about Carl Sagan. He was a brilliant astrophysicist who had a way with connecting the public to science. Neil deGrasse Tyson was taught by Carl Sagan. The movie Contact (that has major religious undertones!) with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey is based on Carl Sagan’s book Contact. He wrote several other books including The Variety of Scientific Experience which focuses on the two topics and how they relate: science and religion. I recommend reading this book if you are interested in a different perspective on how to embrace both. 
This is not a celebration of my faith or anyone else’s. This is an essay discussing a different outlook on science and religion than what we popularly know of. Carl Sagan was one of the American scientists to really capture the beauty and human empowerment that we can achieve if we can learn to embrace both science and religion together.
Sources today:

Science is not an attack on religion. I’m going to make some hard-to-swallow statements:The Big Bang theory (not the show) does not suggest there is no God.

The evolutionary theory does not suggest there is no God.

After all, Pope Francis himself suggests these theories don’t prove there is no God but rather that these theories require that there be one. I think that is a very powerful thought. These theories are still being developed, too. This isn’t the final hour but rather just the best guess we humans have at understanding what we have observed. What we provide in these frameworks is what is consistent with what we know and what we observe – there is always room for improvement and even change.

Science is the pursuit of knowledge and truth. It seeks to understand the world around us. For many individual scientists, their pursuit is inspired by their desire to get closer to God and to understand the Heavens. For some it is a quest to understand God’s existence. For others it is a journey of fulfillment; seeking to understand everything they sense, regardless of what religious realms they might uncover.

Scientists often feel a deep connection with science. We may even describe it as a religious experience.

The term [‘God’] means a lot of different things in a lot of different religions. […] To others, for example, Baruch, Spinoza, and Albert Einstein, God is essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe.
— Carl Sagan

It would be fair to point out that some scientists may even interpret the laws of nature being either the consequence of the existence of a God (i.e. gravity belongs as a inner working to a God) or as the essence of their God (i.e. their God’s powers emerge in the form of nature’s laws).
I would agree that it would be too soon to mark all scientists as athiests. Scientists tend to have minds that are swayed when presented with empirical evidence.

No decent scientist will try to convince you there is no God.

Because we simply do not know enough about the Universe to make such a statement!

If we say “God” made the universe, then surely the next question is, “Who made God?” If we say “God” was always here, why not say the universe was always here? If we say that the question “Where did God come from?” is too tough for us poor mortals to understand, then why not say that the question of, “Where did the universe come from?” is too tough for us mortals?
— Carl Sagan


But in order to be able to embrace both religion and science, we have to be open to learning new information and most importantly, we need to be comfortable not having all of the answers.

We are only human. We do not know anywhere CLOSE to everything there is to know. We may never know it all….

I am extremely uncomfortable with dogmatic atheists, who claim there can be no God; to my knowledge, there is no strong evidence for that position. I’m also uncomfortable with dogmatic believers; to my knowledge, they don’t have any strong evidence either. If we don’t know the answer, why are we under so much pressure to make up our minds, to declare our allegiance to one hypothesis or the other?
–Carl Sagan

For some of you, faith is all you need and I think that is beautiful. You are someone who is so loyal and confident to your God and your God is lucky to have someone like you on their side because you show strength and power. However, I urge you to always remind yourself of the extent of what you put your faith into. Let’s not forget that the Bible was written a very long time ago. It was written and edited hundreds of time since its creation. There are some things we have gotten wrong in it. Just like how scientists have gotten many things wrong before, too.

Remember when we found Pluto and we thought it was ten times the mass of the Earth? Today we understand it to be 0.2% of the Earth’s mass! And remember when we thought that because the Earth is made of dirt and rocks, that the stars had to be made of it, too? Today we understand that stars are hot balls of hydrogen and helium! Remember when we tried to measure the speed of light by taking lanterns on top of mountaintops and trying to time the on/off of the lights? Haha! Today we understand that light can travel the Earth’s surface in seven seconds! Remember when we legitimately thought the Moon had intelligent alien life on it? And then Mars? I mean really. Very distinguished and beloved scientists believed plenty of outlandish things. Not to mention we have used science for really, incredibly inhumane things (ahem, nuclear weapons, biological warfare, etc.).

Science is not perfect. A decent person won’t tell you that science has it all figured out and that religion has it all wrong. Though we have presented evidence over time that says, “Hey, you know how we’ve been interpreting the Earth as being merely a few thousand years old? Well we just found evidence [tons of it] that suggests it is much more exciting and dynamic than we thought!”

This evidence in no way suggests there is no God. It just means we are learning about our world. We are learning that we are only human and therefore, we do not hold all of the answers. If you want to think of it this way, God has given us clues along the way to help us grow closer to him. He has given us this information. He is helping us understand our own, collective purpose. Sometimes he even does things to save us from ourselves.

He can manifest himself as laws of nature. He can manifest himself as the Big Bang that led to the existence of this Universe. He can be the divine intervention in the evolutionary theory that ignites genetic mutation. He can be all of these things.

Science doesn’t say He can’t be a part of this newfound evidence. ​

My guess is that there has to be some deeper explanation. But that doesn’t mean the explanation has to be what the people themselves report—that they went to heaven and saw a god or gods.
​–Carl Sagan

Do you agree that worshipping can be different for everyone? Do you agree that branches of christianity stem from varying interpretations of statements in the bible? This is the same thing. Science and religion are not mutually exclusive pools of thought and the two topics have quite a lot they could learn from each other.

For one, religion can provide science a deeper meaning in research endeavors. Human values and scientific goals should be at the forefront of any endeavor, and never with malice.

Science has something to share with religion in how to interpret evidence and seeing beyond the surface, revealing the inner workings of life itself, its beauty, and what it has to offer us. Science can help awaken our religious experience as we walk through life.

This is a learning moment for us all. Not one of us has all of the answers. We are simply all searching for the answers in different ways.

Merging science and religion can be a powerful, unstoppable force. But currently the two are at odds globally, which can have devastating consequences. Over human history, religious conflict has killed so many and scientific advancements have been taken advantage of costing the lives of many more.

This is not necessary.

It is not the teachings of any God and it is written nowhere in the scientific method. Moving forward, let’s be mindful of our experiences and the information we absorb. Whether you are a religious scientist or a religious science skeptic, keep these things in mind to help yourself (and others) to grow their relationship between science and religion:

1. There are many real mysteries that not even science can explain. Go deeper. Keep asking questions. But most importantly, be okay with not having an explanation. Do not invent explanations that have no support.

Imagine our ancestors looking at the moon, the planets, the stars and making up stories to answer their need to understand. In many cases, the stories involved deities, such as the moon as a god. Now is that myth about the moon deeper because it was wrong? Should we waffle, and say, “Well, if we can redefine what we mean by a god, then we can still call the moon a god?” No. Let’s admit that the moon is not a god and move on. It seems to me that it is a much greater achievement to understand what the moon is really about—4½ billion years old, cratered by enormous explosions in its earliest history, a desolate world on which life never arose.
​–Carl Sagan

2. Be kind to others even when they don’t think like you.
3. Be skeptical. Ask for verification (constantly!).

 If someone claims a thing happens in a certain way, you do the experiment to check it out, to see if, in fact, it works as claimed. You examine the internal coherence of the idea. You test its logical structure. You see how well it agrees with other things which are reliably known. And only then do you start accepting new ideas.
​–Carl Sagan

4. Be more open to science and religion. After all, just look at all the advancement we have made in science. We have extended life expectancies, developed life saving equipment for thousands of medical conditions, developed communication that has made the entire globe more connected than ever before, we have sent humans not only into space but on the moon for Christ’s sake ;-). Religion has brought us a deep sense of purpose, community, and morality. We are in touch with what is right and wrong. We discuss what is right and wrong and how to establish moral code all of the time. We grow as a species in both respects because of this.

In short, ​pursue truth while practicing love. 

My deeply held belief is that if a god of anything like the traditional sort exists, our curiosity and intelligence are provided by such a god. We would be unappreciative of those gifts (as well as unable to take such a course of action) if we suppressed our passion to explore the universe and ourselves. On the other hand, if such a traditional god does not exist, our curiosity and our intelligence are the essential tools for managing our survival. In either case, the enterprise of knowledge is consistent with both science and religion, and is essential for the welfare of our species.
​–Carl Sagan

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Practice

TRAVELING ON A BUDGET

Yes, it is possible to travel on a budget! ​

A really, really tight one even. Many of the details I’m sharing I learned from Kirsten, one of my dearest friends from high school whom I visited in Europe in summer of 2019 (and she’s pregnant with their first child!! Due in August 2020). She really knows how to get the most out of traveling and being a tourist and it helped me immensely when I came back and wanted to explore my new area in Cambridge. Much of this will apply to travel plans to outside of the country but a lot of the tips and apps I used are still very relevant in your home country. I used the apps a ton when I first moved to Cambridge!

Step 1: Start saving!

Depending on your income, you’ll need to sit down and figure out how much time you need to save up before planning a big vacation. It’s doable, you just need to have a little self control with a temporary tight budget anticipating future travel expenses. 

 

For example, I started saving up in January 2019 and spent two weeks in Europe in June 2019. I saved about $3,000 after having bought plane tickets which were ~$800.00 per ticket, round trip, and that did not include checking baggage or meals. It also did not include airport parking expenses which I also paid ahead of time to reserve a spot. So, in total, I spent around $4,000 to travel to Europe for two weeks. I paid for the plane tickets and parking in February of 2019 and continued to save (and be incredibly frugal) up until June. I managed to have saved up about $5500, which got me through Europe, miscellaneous expenses, and that odd summer gap when Clemson stops giving graduate assistants a stable income (so I was able to pay all of my bills on time, yay me!). Side note: Yeah – Clemson pays their TAs a yearly salary but within a nine month period, so we do not get paid over the summer unless our supervisor has funding. Luckily, my supervisor had funding so I was a part time research assistant over the summer and it helped me scrape by until school started back up (and thus, the stable income started back up, too). It may sound awfully daunting to save up that much in a short period of time if you consider yourself already living on a tight budget but trust me when I say having these experiences abroad are unforgettable and totally worth it! Also, if you can plan even more ahead of time, you can give yourself ample time to plan a really nice, luxurious vacation. 

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Don’t feel guilty either. You deserve this.

Step 2: Begin a detailed itinerary.

Write down where you want to go, how much transportation, hotels, meals, and miscellaneous expenses will cost; make a section that reminds you to do certain things like check to see if your bank charges foreign transaction fees, call your cell phone service to make sure you don’t accidentally run up your bill while roaming. In the same itinerary, list all of your expected expenses and overestimate them all. Tally them all up and use the total figure as a marker to save up for in preparation. 

Example Itinerary

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Now, the itinerary serves many purposes. If you’re traveling alone, share this itinerary with loved ones before heading out. If you’re traveling with a group, you can make sure everyone is on the same page with plans by sharing the itinerary around – even better if everyone contributes! If you’re traveling in a group, you should still share this itinerary with loved one before heading out. You just never know. For example, on my itinerary I listed all of the places (including hotels) where I was staying, phone numbers and addresses of friends I was staying with, just in case. 

Step 3: While we are on the topic of safety, make digital copies of your proof of citizenship, plane tickets, and plane itineraries.

I made digital copies of our passports, state-issued IDs, and airport itinerary. I had a copy, Noah had a copy, I printed out a copy, and I share these with my family as well, ya know – just in case. Did I go overboard? Yes, let’s remember ya girl has OCD but still, these are good things to do. What if you lose your passport? What if it’s stolen? You’d like to get back home, right?!

This ends the segment of preparing for travel. Now, you’re somewhere in Europe. How do you get around? How do you know where to sight see and explore?

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First of all, your cell phone, while traveling abroad and whether you like it or not, becomes your best friend. You’ll probably want to invest in two things (but are optional, I made it without one but sometimes, barely):

 

1. Mobile cell phone charger. Get a cheap one from Walmart for ~$10.00. The one I had is small enough it fits in any size purse. It’s good for just one full charge but I would just be sure to charge it each night before another day of adventure.

2. Mobile hot spot. You might very well want to get this and do everything only on wifi. This way you have no worries of running up big cellular service bills for roaming when in Rome. I did not have one at the time but some AirBnBs we stayed in let us borrow complimentary mobile hot spots (one was a Wuawei!!) but I wouldn’t bank on that being a norm. Most United States cell phone carriers bill A LOT for roaming. You can Google your provider and their roaming policy. For example, Verizon does a $10 “Day” pass that lasts 24 hours and lets you use your regular mobile plan anywhere in Europe. But, if you there for 2 weeks, $10 per day adds up. So, I only did the day pass on days I was traveling (flying from U.S. to Belgium and back) and that was it. Otherwise, I only got connected when I was on WiFi. There are other options but I found the day pass to be the most convenient.

There were 3 apps I used religiously in Europe. 2 out of the 3 are free.

CityMaps2Go.

Seriously a must. Here’s everything you need to know about CityMaps2Go:

 

  • Download free city maps. Yes, the entire city.
  • First city map is free. After that it is $20 for unlimited free city maps forever. One time $20 purchase. I recommend this route.
  • Once the city map is downloaded, you can mark any restaurants, memorials, tourist sites, beaches, whatever you want on the map and it will save it for you to come back to. 
  • After downloading the city map, it is accessible with or without data or Wifi. This is a huge plus if you’re traveling abroad! It also accesses your saved locations without having connection services.

It saved my life so many times. I used these maps as GPS for most of my time in Europe which is how I got around without using data so often. I really recommend this app when traveling abroad! Since I’m a pro customer for life with that $20, I used it when I first visited Cambridge, too. Oh, and when you are connected to Wifi, you can browse the other tabs in the app to see popular places people like to visit like famous artwork, where Van Gogh lived, what house Anne Frank hid in during the Holocaust, and more.

GetYourGuide

Have you ever caught yourself in a new city, wanting so badly to explore, but coming to a halt because literally all you can think of to do is go to a new restaurant to eat? But you just ate. So what else is there to do? I did the same exact thing until Kirsten showed me the way with these two apps, the first being GetYourGuide. Here’s everything you need to know about GetYourGuide!

 

  • Absolutely, 100% free!
  • Requires you to use either data or Wifi
  • Browse guided tours, boat cruises, brewery tours, Holocaust memorials and tours, museums, horse back riding through beautiful landscapes, those really popular hop-on hop-off bus tours, and more on this app. Of course, if you decide you want to go a on boat cruise or any other of the available activities, this will cost you money. But the app is great for comparing prices of a certain activity and, once you’ve decided, you can book your activity through the app. 

I used this app to book an Anne Frank tour in Amsterdam while we were there (and Kirsten used this app to book us many other tours and activities!). It was a guided tour that took you throughout the city to major spots where history took place in the resistance against the Nazis. The tour ended in front of the Anne Franke house, where she hid for the last two or so years of her life, before dying (likely of an illness and/or starvation) in one of the concentration camps. Maybe you’re not into history, and that’s fine too, there’s plenty else to do like visit tall towers and castles that are beautiful and loom over their ancient yet prosperous cities. I found it especially heavy that Amsterdam would make golden stones to place in front of the old locations where Holocaust victims’ houses sat. Not all of the homes still remain, though a few still do, and the golden stones are a part of the walkways directly in front of the buildings, new and old. The golden stones include their names, birth and death year when available, and the concentration camp where they died. It’s an awful yet necessary reminder. In fact, here’s an example of the golden stones below.

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Well, ok, I guess they’re bronze.

Rome2Rio

This app is particularly useful in getting around in any city you are in. You can plug in where you are and where you want to go and it’ll check all of the available public transportation options in that city and help you get there! Here’s everything you need to know about Rome2Rio:

 

  • 100% free
  • Requires Wifi or data
  • Works like Google maps but pulls from all local public transit and ​gives suggestions on where to explore at the final destination.

These are the things that got me through Europe on a budget with a United States cell phone plan. I hope these help you in preparing your next trip! Maybe one day you can share with us all of your favorite experiences, too!

A few nostalgic photos are shared from my Europe 2019 trip below!

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2019: YEAR IN REVIEW

I had a really exciting, productive last year! I hope you did, too. Let’s celebrate together!

2019 was a wild ride from start to finish.

 

In January of 2019, I began writing my application for the Chandra X-ray Center predoctoral fellowship (subdivision of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) that I was offered later in May that I accepted immediately and then prepared for the rest of the year, and now am just days away from starting! This same month, I had to prepare to re-take the one written qualifying exam that I failed the first go-around in August 2018. It was my second (and last) attempt to pass the classical and statistical mechanics exam – and I did! This meant I could continue to pursue my Ph.D. I almost forgot – this was the same time my first paper was published!

That same spring semester of 2019, I prepared to defend my Master’s thesis on a candidate for cosmic ray acceleration (I’ll do a post on that very soon!). Additionally, it was my first semester as a full time research assistant which means NO teaching duties of any kind! 

In March of 2019, I turned 25. Woo!

In April, I successfully defended my Master’s thesis. However, I forgot to apply for graduation at the beginning of the semester so I didn’t actually earn my Master’s degree from Clemson U until just a few days ago (I applied for graduation in fall 2019). I should receive my diploma in the mail in the next couple of weeks!

In May, my parents made the big move to a new neighborhood in Williamsburg. My sister and I grew up in the suburbs of Hampton, VA where my parents’ lived up until this spring. They had been itching for something new and a little more along the lines of their needs and they seem really happy where they are now!

In June, Noah and I travelled to Europe for two weeks to visit and explore with our two good friends and we visited over five countries! I planned this trip for us as a way to celebrate the many accomplishments I had in the spring semester and to wish us all more adventure, fun, and progress for the rest of the year to come. It was our first time ever leaving the United States and it was awesome to get out of our comfort zone and experience completely new things.

From August to November, I finished my last semester of electives towards my PhD and prepared for the move and new-ish research project in Cambridge, MA. During this time, my sister and her husband got new army orders to prepare to be stationed in Kentucky in spring 2020. This is great news as they have been stationed so far from us since Dale, my brother-in-law, has been in the military. They first lived in Fort Drum, New York and later Alaska. Now they are back on the east coast! In addition to their moving closer to us, they have a wonderful new family with the Brantley addition, my nephew. That little twerp is seriously awesome. He is so well-behaved and good natured about things. He smiles pretty much all of the time. He LOVES dogs and animals and his Auntie Jordie (me)!

In December, I officially moved my pack, Noah, Ruca (the beagle), Mars (the tabby cat), and Bella (the black cat) up to Cambridge. Noah was offered and accepted a job with the USPS in Cambridge. So we are still transitioning but things are starting to wind down as everything falls into place. Most of all, we get to spend time home with family for the holidays.

I’m so grateful for so many people and opportunities that made this year so special to me.

My family and friends kept me sane. My parents helped me financially, emotionally, mentally, etc. with this move. I don’t know if the move would’ve been possible without them. Noah has been a great, loving, and supportive partner through it all. I have amazing mentors in my field: Marco, Stefano, and Dan to name a few. They have taught me what I know and continue to work closely with me on my PhD research. I am also so thankful for the ladies in our departmental office and the department chair for all of their hard work and help in getting me transitioned with the fellowship, both in person and with the paperwork. I have been blessed with an outstanding support system in my career! I can’t wait to see what my new research community at the CfA has to offer.

New Year’s Resolutions & Continuing Goals

I know. It’s a little cliche and sappy but it’s always good, in my opinion, to share your hopes and dreams with others to help keep you accountable and to even remind yourself of why you want certain things for yourself and others. I’m sharing goals that I want to accomplish in the next year (or maybe more) as well as goals that have been carried over from 2019 (and maybe earlier) into 2020. 

 

  • Keep cooking meals at home and branch out with new recipes (please, no one take that as a hint to get me a recipe book. It takes up space and I just use a Google kitchen display for recipes!)
  • Keep studying. Even things not pertaining to my field. I already don’t do much theoretical (aka MATH) work in my field. I want to stay sharp so I’ll need to make sure I do this in my own time.
  • Become fluent in Spanish. I’ve taken Spanish all of my life and I STILL cannot speak it fluently. I’m getting there-ish though (not really). Spanish books for learners would be an awesome gift though instead of a recipe book….
  • Publish 3 new papers by 2020. I have 2 still in the works but should be wrapped up very soon, I hope, and one more that should manifest from my CfA research project early on.
  • Maintain good health and diet. I have been an avid runner since I was about 19 years old. Ruca and I run regularly now, about 4 miles 4 days per week in addition to a 30 minute work out routine that I developed myself over the years. I am not the greatest when it comes to diet so I’d love to work on that through cooking at home.
  • Stop complaining. I’ve realized I’ve gotten stuck in a rut of complaining. a lot. I’ve also noticed it puts me in a worse mood by focusing on the negatives so much so, in 2020, I’m gonna zip my lip and go with the flow. 
  • Join the equity and diversity group at CfA. As always, I find it hugely important to speak up for your marginalized peers and to make sure you understand how you can actually help. 
  • Find new ways for educational outreach in Cambridge area. Being an active scientist that engages with the general public is another important note for me. I want to keep actively fighting against misinformation. If anyone has ideas on this one, that would be great! Shoot me a message on the contact form or even include it in your response below.

Now it’s your turn!

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Or something that you overcame this year. Celebrate your malleability, adaptability, and willingness to improve, change, and embrace the good and the bad!

 

What are your hopes, dreams, and goals for 2020 and beyond?