Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Welcome to Providence, Rhode Island

2:00 AM, Pacific Standard Time, my radio clock goes off. It startles me not because it is an alarm going off, but because of the fact that the radio announcer is speaking Spanish. I could have sworn that I set it for another station, but I suppose that it must have gotten stuck there. 

I jump out of bed, full of energy because I know that today is no ordinary day. True, I don’t usually get up at two o’clock in the morning but that is not what makes today special. Today I know that I am going to go the East Coast for a once in a lifetime opportunity. I know that phrase is used a lot, but I cannot think of any other way to describe the experience that I am going to have in the New England area. I think to myself, “For the first three days I’ll be touring world renowned universities and then my cohort and I will actually be studying in a world famous university!” I rushed to the shower, got ready, and before I knew it, it was two thirty. Got my hair ready, checked my luggage to make sure I had all that I needed, and then at three my parents, sister and I left. I said goodbye to my grandmother who had been working very hard these past three days hemming some shirts that were a bit too big for me. We drive and my sister and I talk a bit about video games, her boy band, and how later today her concert will start. I hope she has a good time.

We arrive at three twenty, the first ones there, besides Don and Tracey. I’m happy that we have some time to kill. Don checks my bags, I sign a form, and I move my luggage to the shuttle pickup area to throw it in the back. We shoot the breeze until all the boys arrive. The bags are weighed, Don gives us a pep talk and a few warnings, and then we take some pictures. They came out pretty nice, even though I’m sure each one of us was pretty sleepy. Then the shuttle arrives, and I know that it is time to depart. I say “See you later” to my mom, dad, and sister. I don’t like to say goodbye. It implies that I won’t see them again. But I will, and so I boarded the shuttle. So my adventure begins.

On the way to the airport, though, the driver asks Tracey, “Where are we going.” I don’t know about you, but I kind of like to know that our driver is taking us where we want to go. Tracey tells him, and then he is quiet for the rest of the drive. I look out the window, seeing the West Coast pass me by and ready to embrace the East. The drive doesn’t feel that long, and we get there at about five.

We join this long line to check in our bags, with all sorts of characters around us. There was this man behind us with this wild hair and mopey face, but I just thought it was too funny. After check in, there is another big line at security. We wait patiently get through, and at six we head over to our gate. We literally just sit down when we are called to the line. We board Southwest for Chicago, Illinois and then we will transfer to a flight for Providence, Rhode Island. We leave at about six thirty, and man do I love it when a plane takes off. The G-forces you feel as you are thrust into the sky is just surreal. That we can literally be across the country in one day is amazing.

The Indian man that I sat next to was nice enough, and mostly slept for the flight. We also talked briefly about my Kindle Fire, but nothing more. He mostly just wanted to keep to himself and read his four or five newspapers that he had brought. To each their own I suppose. Then we landed at Midway airport in the windy city. We got a bite to eat, a drink, and then boarded our next flight. Damian and I sat near the back next to this Navy veteran who had served from 1958 to the late 1970’s. He is a wise man, yet very outspoken; he was fun to talk to. His name was Boyd.

Damian and I talked with him about politics, wars, China, submarines, and Boyd’s family. He told me a lot about the various 60 Minutes episodes that he watches and where he learns quite a bit about the world, definitely more than the news. He talked about how his submarine was sent to spy on the USSR during the Cold War in 1958 after Sputnik had been launched to keep the US informed. He was also on duty in a submarine when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He was in a submarine that could fire ICBM’s with up to five thermonuclear warheads. If they received the orders, they would attack the USSR and potentially kill hundreds of thousands. The day after the assassination they were put to battle stations, and Boyd was ready for World War III, should it come. Thankfully it was just a drill.

He was the engineering chief on the submarine and was in charge of keeping the nuclear engine running. We then shifted over to talks about drone warfare, pulling out of Afghanistan, and how wars aren’t going to be fought the same way as when he was serving. I liked hearing what he had to say on drone warfare because that is one of my seminar classes and to hear someone who was in the armed forces talk about it gives me another pair of eyes to look through. It was fantastic to hear this man’s stories about Beijing and Hong Kong, how he met many different Chinese women, and how five US dollars at the time could get you a lot in China. I wish I could have kept talking to him. But alas, all good things must come to an end. We landed in Providence, which I was excited about, said “until next time” to Boyd, and we went our separate ways.

We then grabbed our luggage, and headed outside. The air was humid, but not as bad as I had imagined. I like it to be more humid than it was, but my comrades were happy just the way it was. The air was sweet smelling and reminded me of visiting the Oak Alley plantation just outside of New Orleans.
A shot of the Providence area. I love all the trees around here.
We got a cab and checked in to the hotel, killed an hour checking out our rooms, and then went for dinner.
Off to dinner!
We found this place called CAV, which in Italian means antique and small food, or at least that is what the first page of the menu said. We talked, ate, and had a good ol’ time. I had poulet aux poires, which is French for chicken with pears. The chicken was so flavorful, grilled not to be too dry and it had a hint of rosemary. The pears were soaked in red wine that gave it a nice pear-wine fusion of taste. Finally, it had sautéed Asian chive dumplings which are so unique. The exterior was crunchy and covered in a thin, sweet film that added so well to the chives. It was magnifique as the French would say.

For desert, I had crème brulee which just melted in your mouth. It wasn’t too sweet and just had a creamy texture where I loved every bite.
But overall, I got to get to know my fellow travelers a little bit better. We walked home, and Damian had been saying that the streets in Providence were so empty.
Where is everybody?
I figured it was because all of the college students had gone away for the summer, but even at night they were still pretty lifeless. We got back to hotel at about nine o’clock Eastern Standard Time. I would like to note that for the remainder of my trip until I return I will be giving time in Easter Standard.

All in all, not a bad first day. The planes were loud, but the company was good. The lines were long, but the wait was worth it. The time it took to get our dinner ready was longer than we expected, but that allowed us to savor it all the more. Tomorrow, we will go on a Brown University tour. I can’t wait, but getting up tomorrow will be tough. With the help of my friends though, I’m sure we’ll push through. Good night and see you tomorrow.
The town at night.


There's nothing quite like waking up at 2:45 AM to leave for a nineteen day Ivy League Connection adventure to Yale/the East Coast. I expected to follow up that first sentence with something snarky like, "It's a perfect kind of hell - the wind chill burying your body in a blanket of cold and ice-o-lation." However, I got up relatively easily, well, for sleeping 4 1/2 hours, and grabbed some quick bites of homemade banana bread before leaving the house. I took extra care to check my room one more time - I wouldn't be seeing it for a while.

After we all arrived and filled out our paperwork, we took our departure group photo (so graciously provided by Don to you a couple posts below this one) and headed off. Our airport shuttle driver rolled in at 4:25 - five minutes late - and proceeded to ask us where he was taking us. After Tracey graciously mentioned to him that since he was an airport shuttle driver, he might want to take us to SFO (San Francisco International). We all thought that sounded like a great idea. I said my last goodbyes to my dad (who'd stayed up all night) and Don (short-sleeved Hawaiian shirt and shorts waving in the soft breeze), and we headed off, one of the only vehicles insane enough to be driving in the middle of the night, a low wind dabbing the shuttle and the hum of whatever makes noise at that hour.

After informing the shuttle driver what airline we needed to be dropped off at ("Geez, how much is the ILC paying for this?" were one of the many thoughts running through my head), we waited in line to drop off our luggage - a half hour line. "Why are so many people here at five in the morning?" I asked everyone. No one had a good enough response. 

And so began our aerial odyssey. We had all been told to meet new people and have new experiences on the plane rides there, so I was interested in what interesting and exciting people I would meet. On the first flight to Chicago, I sat next to an Asian man who promptly stashed his carry-on below the seat and closed his eyes. So much for conversation. While he dozed, I indulged myself in on-demand episodes of my favorite TV show, Parks and Recreation, and reviewed through some Yale readings. If you learn nothing else from my bloggings (though I hope you do), please make it a point, if you watch TV, to catch Parks and Rec. It's the comedy version of The West Wing and a brilliant political satire (which makes it sound boring, but it's actually the funniest show on TV). In one episode I watched, the main character, Leslie Knope, sets up a rival girl scout troop to the existing boy scout troop, but chaos ensues when the boys want to join the girl scout troop because it looks like more fun. The commentary on "separate but equal" doctrines and Millennial attitudes actually gave me lots of food for thought for an upcoming lecture on Frederick Douglass and seminar on social capital. So it goes. 

I ended up having a short conversation with the man after he woke up as the plane headed to the gate. I started talking to him about the Ivy League Connection, but he asked me if I knew an Andrew Goo. He was a big tennis fan, he said, and he wondered if Goo went to my school. I conceded that Goo actually went to the school two blocks away - in the Albany district. The unfortunate turnaround of my ILC pitch to the amazing Albany was sadly humorous, but I went with it. Don't worry, Albany, you have a special place in my heart; you just didn't in that conversation.

We had just enough time to grab a bite to eat and then get in line just in time to board our connecting flight to Providence. I sat next to a tired-looking mom who threw her carry-on under the seat and shut her eyes. I later found out that Damian and Liam had gotten to talk to a Navy veteran who worked in a nuclear submarine and went under the North Pole to spy on the Russians. Of course they sat next to him. For more on this fascinating man, check out their blog posts! 

We walked through the beautiful, but small, Providence airport and got our bags (of course, at the end of the carousel), proceeding to the exit. I expected to be blasted with hot East Coast humidity. Luckily for me, we came out to an 82 degree sunny day. The humidity wasn't as bad as I expected, and it would be wonderful if it stayed like that for the next eighteen days. The shuttle from the hotel never showed up (What was up with transportation today?), so we took a taxi to Hotel Providence. 

Tracey asked us to choose between the 5th floor and the 6th floor room. Liam and I decided on the 5th, and headed up to...the Herman Melville suite! We walked in to a luscious living room, followed by two comfy looking beds and two televisions. I could get used to this. I unpacked and started looking up the Providence dining options that I had gotten earlier in the day. (Muchos gracias to my dad, David Ko, and my aunt, Donna Ko, for taking time out of their day to get those to me!) It turns out that Liam and I were the only ones to get a suite - the odds were ever in our favor, I joked. 

After little debate, we decided on, well, we couldn't decide, so Tracey and I used the electronic concierge assistant in the lobby to pick Cav, a short fifteen minute walk away. As we walked there, thanks to Google Maps, we noticed how eerie the streets were. There were hardly any people walking
"When was the last time you did something
for the first time?"
around anywhere. I joked that "the population of Rhode Island must be, what, twenty?" We eventually made it to the restaurant and walked in to - one table occupied. "Where is everyone?" I thought to myself.  Well, regardless of patronage on a Tuesday night, the food was sublime, especially after eating that soggy mess of a lunch - a "Chicago-style hot dog." Was the soggy element inspired by the Chicago rain? Anyways, we decided to start off this more delectable meal with two appetizers: pistachio crusted crabcake with Sriracha aioli and taro root chip, as well as the butter poached Maine lobster with crispy noodles, shallots and sauteed Shittake mushrooms in a lobster sherry fumet. The crabcake was light and went well with the aioli, while the lobster was poached with great flavor.

As we went through the bread and butter while waiting for the main courses, we reflected on the day's travelventures and proceeded to head into random conversation-land (which, if you read yesterday's post, is in the same vicinity as Nowhereland). My entrees were pan seared scallops and shrimp, finished with lobster butter and balsamic reduction, served over lemon zest risotto with julienned snowpeas. I'm an East Coast fan because I'm also a seafood fan, so it was a treat to dig into fresh seafood! The risotto was a little rich for me, but it still went well with the scallops and snowpeas. We closed off the evening with dessert - and I went with the blackberry merlot sorbet. To say it was short and sweet should say enough. 

We walked out of the restaurant, all of us content with our first official meal together. We walked down the alley and through the quiet streets of Providence, ready to blog - and realizing that my joke about the population of Rhode Island being only twenty five might not be too far off.

Follow us on our college tour throughout this week! Send me feedback by commenting below and emailing jandakocompany@yahoo.com. And for a more intimate look at my Yale experience, follow me on Instagram @joshthebosh to see a more visual Ivy League Connection.

Capitol Ghost Town

Finally, after many essays, e-mails, miscommunications, and waiting, I am here on the East Coast for the first time in my life. I never fell asleep the day before we left. If I hadn't stayed up all night, my father would have never gotten up because his alarm clock failed to go off. I woke him up, telling him that it was almost 3:00 AM. He threw off his blankets with some profanity and got dressed. I began to pack some last minute things and I threw my luggage into the van. I got to El Cerrito High School at about 3:45 AM and had my luggage weighed, some forms signed, and some pictures taken. It was absolutely freezing outside, but the shuttle finally came! In the van my cohorts and I spoke of our classes, teachers, and our seminars. I found out that I have a few seminars with Josh. 

When we got to the airport we had more waiting in the freezing cold weather to do. After about half an hour we finally got to the front of the line. The personnel threw our luggage onto the belt and we proceeded to enter SFO. We crossed the custom and security and bought ourselves a little snack. Our trip had one stop in between our starting point and destination. We were to stop in Chicago, Illinois, then board another flight to Providence, Rhode Island. Needless to say, I was exhausted. I sat in the corner window and took a photo of the view I had. I wanted to speak with the woman who sat next to me, but she seemed a bit distant and worried, and I thought it best to leave her to herself. Without any Internet, conversation, or entertainment I became pretty bored. I started thinking and staring out the window looking at the beautiful scenery.

Finally, after a while of thinking the pilot announced that we will be landing. This excited me quite a bit, because I had never been to Illinois at all. I stepped off the plane and followed my cohort and chaperone to our next gate. This time, I knew that I would not be able to fall asleep. During the flight, we flew over New York, then Rhode Island. I was shocked to see so many houses that have swimming pools in their backyard, and so many trees. It's not something that you see very often in suburban Northern California.

The entire time I was on this flight, I was speaking with Liam and an elderly Navy veteran name Boyd. I learned that Boyd was fairly liberal when it came to politics, he is from Kansas and moved during the Dust Bowl, and had a 99 year old sister along with some adopted grandchildren. Now, to be honest, I hadn't expected the ex-Navy man to be so liberal. I don't know why. He told me and Liam of the adventures he's had, like going to the North Pole, staying in China for a few years, and his time in a nuclear submarine. He was a fascinating man, with many fascinating stories. He's lived for a long time and had a lot to share. He kept me entertained for quite a while. Before I knew it, we had landed in Providence, Rhode Island.

We got off the plane and went to collect our luggage. Not surprisingly, my luggage was one of the last ones to come out. We waited outside the Providence airport for a while, but our shuttle was nowhere to be found. Ms. Tracey went into the airport and called us a cab. After a few minutes of discussing my 9th grade Geography teacher, our taxi came. He drove us to the hotel that we are staying in, Hotel Providence.

On our way to the hotel, I was shocked to see so many cars. For a small state, Rhode Island sure has some heavy traffic on its highways. I looked out and saw some nice houses and then some not so nice houses. Though even the highway was packed with greenery, I realized that there are many people who live in not so nice neighborhoods, the type of neighborhoods that plague the WCCUSD name. I've been to the scarier parts of some places and know that there are a whole bunch of dangerous neighborhoods, but seeing one from across the country made me wonder about how many people are actually forced to live like this. And I also wonder more about how we can fix this. But I'm sure the program will help me find an answer in a few days.

We finally got to our hotel. Hotel Providence was beautiful on the inside. There was artwork, a big clock, and a fancy restaurant that made everything looks beautiful. Josh and Liam decided to room together and Eric and I decided to room together, while Ms. Tracey gets her own room. Eric and I made our way up to the room and were confused as to why the door had two room numbers on it. We put in our key, opened the door, and found that there are two rooms behind the door we had just opened. Our room and a stranger's room. A door that led to more doors seemed a little strange to me, but I can't complain because this place was nice. We opened our door and found a medium sized room, with plenty of outlets, a great view, and one television. 
The room that Eric and I are sharing.
After exploring our room I layed down on the bed and looked up only to see some strange thing on the cieling.  I exclaimed "Is that a security camera?!" both Eric and I were surprised to see something like this attached to our ceiling. I couldn't help but argue in my head that this has to be an invasion of privacy. A few minutes later Josh called about what restaurant we wanted to go to. We were to meet at 7:00 PM in the lobby. Eric and I both agreed that we didn't really care for choosing. Preparing to leave was our next course of action. We finished preparing a bit early and surfed the hotel's cable and found nothing to our interest. Afterwards, we left.
The evil security camera fixated on the ceiling above my bed that Eric and I deemed to
be a normal random light.
When we arrived at the lobby we all decided to go a restaurant named Cav. It was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Our walk there was interesting. I noticed that the capitol city of Rhode Island, an urban area, had no one walking its streets. It was nothing like San Francisco where there are always people around. This place seemed like a ghost town compared to San Francisco. We also got a bit lost on our way there. We probably took a wrong turn, but I'm not sure since Josh was in charge of getting us there. After a few turns and some critical thinking we found Cav. It was hidden in a little open lobby area in between a few buildings.

What interested me about Cav was that under its canopy were the words "Restaurant" and "Antique." I thought that this would be quite the interesting dining experience, and it was. I walked in and saw a bunch of antiques from around the world, be it Asia, Africa, Europe, or the Middle East.

We sat down at the table and ordered two appetizers, the crab cake and the Maine lobster and noodle. Then I proceeded to order the duck, Josh ordered the shrimp and scallops, Liam had the chicken and pears, Eric had the filet mignon, and Ms. Tracey had the salmon. To say that this dinner was delicious isn't enough. I was in awe. The crab cake and it's sauce was very different. The crab cake tasted, well, like a crab cake, but the sauce was sweet, tangy, and spicy and very good. The Maine lobster was fresh and it's noodles and sauce were great as well. My duck was absolutely delicious. I don't know why they even gave me a knife! It was so soft that only a fork was needed. We finally finished our entrees and got to dessert. Liam and I ordered the creme brulee, Eric had the Concorde cake, Ms. Tracey had the Tiramisu, and Josh had the sorbet. The creme brulee was delicious. The burnt sugar at the top was nice and crunchy, and the bottom portion was soft, rich, and creamy. I was extremely pleased and I think my cohort was too.
The lobby of Hotel Providence.
The delicious duck that I ate.
We finished our dinner and walked back to our hotel. We said our good nights and decided to meet at 6:30 AM tomorrow to tour Harvard. I can't wait!

Day One: Providence

What A View!
Well here we are. After a long day of travelling we have arrived in Providence, Rhode Island. This is my first time in the smallest state of the country, but lets start from the beginning.

My day began like any other... well not quite. I dragged myself out of bed at three in the morning, showered and headed out with my dad to meet the others of the Yale cohort at El Cerrito High School. We took photos, went over details, said our goodbyes, and before I knew it we were driving to the airport. We had to wait in a long line to check our bags, I think because we got to the airport before it actually was open. The wait was not that bad though, and once we checked our bags security was a breeze. We got a pastry each for breakfast, and arrived at the terminal just in time to board the plane. I was exhausted for this entire process, but far too excited to notice.

The "Security Camera" in our Room
The plane rides and layover are a blur. They were full of reading, doodling, napping (only on the second flight, I was too excited on the first one), and socializing with my neighbors. I met two people, one on each flight. The first one was a middle aged woman who was travelling to Chicago on a business trip. She was a lawyer, and explained to me her take on the ups and downs of her profession. This was great because law really interests me, and it was good to hear from a professional lawyer what law school and practicing are like. The second person I met was a man who did not divulge much about his personal life or why he was travelling, but we had an interesting conversation about the book he was reading, Plato's Republic, which was a central reading to the ILC course I took last year at Cornell. It was great to get to interact with adults as equals. All good things must end however, and before I knew it we had arrived at the Providence airport.

J'aime filet mignon
We exited the plane and retrieved our luggage without incident. I was expecting blazing heat and uncomfortable humidity to strike me the second we stepped out of the airport, as was my experience previous times visiting the East Coast during summer. I was wrong, the weather was perfect. A clear blue sky and temperature in the low eighties with no wind. I hope this weather continues!

Yum Desert
I am sharing a room with Damian at the hotel, and it meets all the standards that I have come to expect from the ILC. The room is spacious, the beds are comfortable, the bathroom is large (and clean), and there is a great view. There is a rather disconcerting fixture on our ceiling that looks like a security camera however... and its pointed right at my bed. I will just have to sleep facing the other direction.

Josh took charge on finding us a place to eat dinner and did an excellent job. It was a small, but fancy restaurant called Cav about a half mile away, easily within walking distance. The atmosphere was excellent, and I had a lot of fun getting to know my cohort better. We ordered a crab cake and lobster dish as appetizers, and were so hungry that we forgot to take pictures before we dug in. Then I ordered a steak dish for dinner followed by a slice of chocolate cake for desert. The meal was an excellent way to start our week of fine dining.

Now I am back at the hotel room with Damian, the only sounds are of both of us furiously typing away and the air conditioning in the background. Tomorrow we head off the Boston to tour Harvard and visit the city, although I am not a fan of large cities I am looking forward to visiting it and I really appreciate all the important history to our country that took place there. It is getting late however and I am exhausted. We have another early morning tomorrow; we leave the hotel at 6:30 AM! Come back tomorrow to read about our trip to Boston and my impressions of Harvard!

Yale Departs

Two Hundred and Thirty Days.  That’s how long it’s been since the Yale cohort interviewed for their scholarships and were selected to attend the Young Ivy Scholars Global Strategies course at Yale University.

What they earned that night was a scholarship where The Ivy League Connection would pay their way and help prepare them for this rigorous course.  After that, though, it was up to these four young gentlemen to apply to Yale, be accepted by Yale and then prepare themselves to succeed at Yale.  A tough undertaking.

In a recent communiqué from Yale we were informed: "We received approximately 450 applications for regular decision, bringing our total number of applicants -- from over 60 countries -- to just over 1240. To give you a snapshot of the competitiveness of our applicant pool, the median SAT score among applicants, not just admitted students, is 2160. Of course, the students we admit to the program are not just very academically gifted. We look for students who have strong leadership potential, who will gain much from the program and contribute very positively to the program community, and who will ultimately give back to their school, local, regional, national, and even global communities.”

We’re proud of our Yalies and we know they’ll succeed at Yale.

This morning, though, they gathered in front of El cerrito High School braving the chilly 57ª temperatures.  The slight breeze made it feel cooler than it actually was.

Of course, after some paperwork was filled out we held the “weighing of the luggage”.  With one of the Brown-II cohort’s luggage just two weeks ago we had a new record for the lightest bag at 18.3 pounds.  Our Yale chaperone--Tracey Singh-Poole--topped that this morning with a 17.8 pound bag.  Considering that the bag itself had to weigh 5-6 pounds, it begs the question just what it was she packed to last nearly three weeks.  She even packed three pairs of shoes.

The group was issued hard copies of their itinerary and contact info and were reminded about their blogging responsibilities.

After all of the talking was concluded, the Yale cohort took the last group photo of this season.  We’ve snapped thousands of photos of our ILCers this season just while they’re here in the Bay Area.  Our ILCers have also snapped many more thousands of photos to add to their blogs and share with friends and family.  Here in the ILC we truly love our photos.

Finally, the airport shuttle arrived, was loaded with their luggage and then with the cohort.  At 4:27 they were off to SFO and by 4:28 the thoughts running through the heads of those of us left behind centered around how quickly we could return to our nice warm beds.