Sunday, July 15, 2012

I Love the Weekend

I pray a lot.
This morning, the Lived Religion class and myself took another study trip. This time, it was to a predominantly African American church called Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church. I was very excited for this trip, because I've never been to a church where there is gospel singing. I knew before-hand that a church like this was going to have a lot of passion, flare, and a whole lot of "hallelujahs". Partially, I was correct. Nonetheless, I was still utterly amazed by the fervor in all of the church people's hearts and voices.

The sense of community in Watson Grove was, no doubt, extremely present. Coming in, I was not just greeted by friendly handshakes--like the people from the synagogue--but hugs as well. Not being afraid to just shout and praise God really showed their boldness--that they could care less what others thought about their arms raised in the air as high as can be. Everyone at the end of the service held hands as people were being blessed, and you could really feel the passion and yearning for God in their hearts. Many parts of the two hour service nearly made me cry, but I think I was holding the tears a back a little. I could just tell that many of the people in this congregation have been through a lot in their lives, and to see them at a church to always make sure to be close to God, was just very  uplifting to me.

The sermon was my favorite part. The pastor, being very young, was surprisingly much better than I thought he would be. It's not that I didn't think the sermon was going to be good; he is just very young (late 20's-early 30's). The zeal in his voice was undeniable. His analogies to the word of God were so creative and made so much sense to me--and especially to the people in the church. He spoke about what outreach really means. Outreach isn't bringing people to church; it's bringing the church to them. He mentioned that you can't be afraid of taking risks and getting out of your comfort zone. The way he spoke and presented himself at the podium was almost as if he was performing a spoken word poem. His sermon kept climaxing, until eventually, he started to sing, and that's when you knew that the sermon was over. I'll most definitely go to a church like this one again back at home sometimes. It was way too fun, and it made me feel very pumped up after leaving.

Anyway, I guess my wish came true today, because it was a beautiful, partly cloudy day! It was great, because this time no rain was going to stop our Sunday excursions. I went to the Frist Art Museum, where the special exhibits were quilts. Honestly, most of the art was either creepy or very amateur looking, which made my friends and I wonder how pieces of art like these made it into an art museum. I couldn't take any pictures, but I was able to in the kid's section of the museum. That part was definitiely the most interactive and hands-on, so here's a picture of my dream home--made of blocks--with my two friends, Elizabeth and Amber.

A church along Broadway
Well, we only stayed an hour there, so the museum was still very entertaining. The rest of our time in downtown was devoted to just exploring Broadway. I passed by plenty of restaurants and bars with live music, and of course, we just had to stop for some ice cream at Mike's Ice Cream Fountain. I tried an ice cream called "Super Hero", which was very--well I guess--normal tasting. At the end of the road, there is a beautiful view of the river, the Tennessee Titans stadium, and the bridge. The beautiful sky was a great bonus. 

The "Batman" Building and the beautiful sky
Along Broadway

Behind me, to the right, is the Tennessee Titans stadium.

Coming back from our excursions, it was free-time in Hank Ingram House. My friend, Eric, and I wanted to freestyle rap battle. Eventually, more people wanted to hang with us, without realizing what circle they were entering--a rap circle. Soon enough, the rap battling ended, and we played a variety of games like "Never Have I Ever" and a very fun game called Mafia. That much free-time today with friends was a great reliever from everything, and we shared so many laughs.

It was nice to hang out with a different circle of friends and meet more new people. Perhaps I'll know the entire student body of VSA by the end of this program? That would be pretty cool. I just realized I didn't say one word to Hannah or Yessenia today. I said maybe a sentence to Narges. Well, I just hope the girls are doing good without their "lone wolf". Now don't take what I just said the wrong way; I'm glad my cohort and I are being so social and making friends. It's been really fun here.
Alexa, Elizabeth, Amber, and Anna
 Tomorrow, class starts up again. I'm going to play basketball again at the Recreation Center with "the guys" at 6:30 AM; that should be fun. Good night!

Relaxation Nation

Ah, Sunday. A day for relaxation, a day without classes, a day to unwind before the hectic week starts again. It really was a calm day. However, the humidity was horrible. I don’t know if it was because I went to the zoo and I was outside the whole time, or because I am still not used to the 95-degree weather. Either way, I was pretty much exhausted by 5 PM when I came back.
The day started out great, and I woke up effortlessly since I had my first full 8 hours of sleep. It was glorious and I only woke up once or twice throughout the night – which is good for me since I wake up around 6 to 10 times throughout the night. Anyway, as I was on my way to breakfast, I noticed that there was not one cloud in the sky. It was sort of nice to this change in weather after this weeks’ rain. Now that I think about it, I am grateful that my walk to church this morning was sunny and not pouring.
This morning I attended the Belmont United Methodist Church. I have never been to Methodist Church before so I wasn’t really sure to expect. The church I attend back home is called the Hilltop Community Church and is much more of a ‘liberal’ Christian church in my opinion. This one however, seemed a little more ‘strict’ to me. All the people weren’t very lively and the music was very slow and almost sad. I don’t know about other people, but I like going to an energetic church with music that makes me happy. Besides this though, church was really nice, and I enjoyed the sermon.
The inside
Once we finished our quick walk back from church, I changed out of my nicer clothes into a T-shirt and jeans for the trip to the Nashville Zoo. I was really excited for this trip since I love animals of all kinds. To my surprise, they actually had baby snow leopards and a 5-week old giraffe. I’m a sucker for baby animals so these little creatures definitely made my heart melt. The zoo also had meerkats - my favorite African animal of all time! I’ve love these animals ever since Meerkat Manor came out on Animal Planet years ago. Overall, the zoo was definitely a great way to spend my Sunday afternoon.


So many flamingos...
Back at the dorms, I found out there was a college question seminar thing going on in the 6th floor. It was a sort of informal meeting with the proctors (who attend Vanderbilt) where we get to ask questions. Basically, a lot of the answers by the students were already answered for me at the dinner I had with Vandy Alums in May. One thing I found out though, was that Vanderbilt gave a lot of freedom to its students – even more so than Georgetown. For example Georgetown colleges are hard to switch from while Vanderbilt colleges are easy to switch from.
After this session, I went to my proctor meeting. Here we discussed the plans for the week. Apparently, we have this thing called Proctor Night on Tuesday, where we get to hang out with our proctor group and basically do whatever we want. I think this is such a great idea, and I’m really looking forward to our bonding time on Tuesday. I also found out we will be having a dinner with the Dean on Wednesday. This is a really cool opportunity and I hope to learn something from it.
Now that this relatively peaceful weekend has come to an end, it’s time to start another adventurous week tomorrow.


Anna ( my roommate), Katarina, and I at the Country Music Hall Of Fame 

There aren’t very many bad things I can say about the summer program at Vanderbilt. The people here are all friendly, the city is lively, and the campus is beautiful. However, there are a couple of things about Vanderbilt Summer Academy that is slightly irritating to me: the scarce amount of free time we are permitted and the restrictions placed upon us.

Although I understand the reasons behind the tight restrictions we have, I still wish we were given a little bit more freedom. According to some of my friends who are natives here, Nashville is a dangerous city, so the people in charge here at VSA have no choice but to assign us boundaries. “ They need to make sure we don’t wander into a bad part of town.” However, there are some days—like today—where we are imprisoned in our dorm building. It irks me because I want to have some time to explore Nashville and see the rest of the Vanderbilt Campus.  

Despite the lack of free time, the organized events here at Vanderbilt are pretty fun. Today, for example, I went shopping with a group of friends after our visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Honestly, the Hall of Fame itself was not too interesting to me because I am not a fan of country music, but I enjoyed visiting the little shops downtown. There was no class today, so we had a lot of time to kill, but we were mandated to visit one of four locations: the Country Hall of Fame, the zoo, the art museum, or an old plantation here in Nashville. Everyone of the groups came back earlier than expected, so people had time to take a shower and hang out in the buildings, but we were not allowed to leave the campus.

Now that I have spent an entire week here, I can say that my perspective on things is beginning to change. For example, I did not think I would miss my family and friends back home this much. I was homesick for the first few days of camp, but that feeling began to dwindle as I grew more comfortable here. It stills comes and goes every once and a while, so I sometimes feel conflicted as to whether or not I would want to go to school here for college.

Before I end my blog tonight, I would like to mention that all the girls on my floor know that I blog. In fact, my roommate Anna ( who is probably the best roommate in the history of roommates) reads my blog every night. 
My friends and I created out own cowboy outfit. Purple boots rock. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis is in the building!

Country Music Hall Of Fame 

Mysterious Masquerade Masks 

A beautiful white dress worn by Taylor Swift at one of her concerts.

A Beautiful, Relaxing Sunday

Matthew and I seated in the pews.
It was a beautiful Sunday here at VSA. Weekends are the best, because we get to sleep in. After getting ready for church, we headed to breakfast, and then met with a proctor to head to Belmont United Methodist Church. There were only three students, and four in all including the proctor. It was a short walk to the church, and it looked like a part of the White House on the outside. With many white columns, you would never think it is a church. We entered the large building, and the first thing I saw was a pipe organ.  The pipes were beautifully arranged, and on the sides of the church were colorful stained glass windows. It was a traditional service, and it was very nice. It consisted of many elderly people, so there wasn’t really a contemporary aspect to it. Nonetheless, I did like the service, many members were very welcoming, and I hope to go back next week. I appreciate the fact that VSA offers us a chance to take part in religious life here in Nashville.

After the hour-long service, we walked back to the dorms to have lunch. I enjoyed the popcorn shrimp and fries. I’ve noticed that I eat potatoes almost everyday, either tater tots, or French-fries. I’m not eating very healthy here, but I really should. College life is going to be crazy eating cafeteria food everyday.
My roommate and I! 
After a good lunch, I chose to go to the Nashville Zoo. It was really cool to see all the animals, but unfortunately it was over 90 degrees. I especially enjoyed seeing the baby giraffe; it was super adorable. I was also amazed to see many flamingos and the baby cougars. To take a break from the heat, we went through the amphibian and aquarium exhibit. Fortunately, it was air-conditioned! I had the opportunity to see some tarantulas and some tortoises that literally looked like stones. I really enjoyed our trip to the zoo, since I haven’t been to one in so long, but I can say the San Francisco zoo is way better.   
The beautiful flamingos!
The awesome 5-week old giraffe!
We returned to the dorms, and relaxed a bit inside before we headed out for dinner. The special tonight was some type of Asian food. I decided to try it, but it wasn’t very good. I’m glad I got some jerk chicken, popcorn shrimp, and a salad to satisfy myself.
The before face, isn't as nice as the after face..

I decided to go with Yessenia to the College Board session. A panel of four proctors who are currently in college were available to answer questions. Many things that were said, I recognized were said at the college tours and information sessions I’ve been to. There wasn’t anything that stood out to me from Vanderbilt; I have a feeling it is similar to Duke University. Nevertheless, it still is a really good school, hence called “The Ivy League of the South”, so I will keep my options open.

After the many college information sessions, I have a good idea of what important aspects to consider when choosing the right college. From class sizes to internship opportunities, I must keep an open mind to colleges here on the South, East, and of course in California. I feel like I've had more exposure to schools here than back at my home state. It's crazy, because I haven't been to any UC information sessions, except one back at seventh grade. I haven't had the opportunity to ask UCs the important questions I have now. With a lot of information on colleges here, I must go back home and weigh out the options. My college application process is already not too far away, and I am very blessed to have this Ivy League Connection experience.

One full week here at Vanderbilt has finished, and the experience has already broadened my horizons to the world. New cultures, new people, new friends, and new adventures.