Thursday, December 31, 2009

what a year for a new year.

I really loved 2009.
No, like, really.

In January, I started off the year sipping cocktails with my best girlfriends from high school, started the last semester of my undergraduate career at Villanova, and joined thousands of people in Washington, D.C. to witness President Obama's inauguration.

In February, I celebrated my 22nd birthday, cheered on Villanova as they made their way towards the NCAA championships, and crossed my fingers as I sent in my application to my volunteer program.

In March, I got to be Ashley's date to NYU's Violet Ball, drank a pint of Guinness before 11 am on St. Patrick's Day, spent my entire spring break writing the final draft of my senior thesis, and drove out to Detroit with my roommates to watch Villanova in the Final Four.

In April, I attended my final classes as a college student, shut myself up in the library as I finished my thesis, and found out that I'd been accepted as an Augustinian Volunteer in the South Africa program.

In May, I celebrated the end of classes, spent senior week in a celebratory haze with my best friends, graduated magna cum laude from Villanova, celebrated some more, and moved out of the poor excuse for a house that myself and seven other girls came to cherish... and back home.

In June, I spent ten days eating feta, drinking Mythos, and soaking up the sun in Greece with my best friends from high school; visited family & spent Bloomsday in a very Joycean fashion in Dublin; and returned to France for market-fresh dinners on the patio, bike rides among the sunflower fields, and some Parisian joie de vivre.

In July, I was reunited with some college friends for apple pie & beer on the 3rd of July, and quit selling books in favor of three very random weeks working at a summer camp in northern New Jersey (and would not have traded it for the world).

In August, I drove to Newport, RI with Colleen & Wil for a very flannel & beardy weekend at the Newport Folk Festival, spent a week getting oriented with my fellow Augustinian Volunteers and community members going to South Africa, and started my job at ADROP in Philadelphia.

In September & October, I came to accept the fact that my life no longer runs on a semesterly schedule and sank my teeth into some really good reading (for pleasure!).

In November, I spent a weekend in New York City and got to see Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch in a show at UCB, then flew across the country with Colleen to whet our west coast appetites visiting Becky in San Francisco.

And in December, I finished out my time at ADROP, ate huge Christmas meals until I was fit to burst, enjoyed a very beautiful snowfall, and began to make preparations for my trip to South Africa in just one week's time.

What an amazing year. Though I think New Year's Eve can be a bit overhyped, I must say that today, going into 2010, I feel so blessed to be where I am. I'm surrounded by people I love, with a fulfilling decade behind me and a new adventure about to begin.
Here's to you, 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

merry merry!

I've been quite remiss in blogging lately, but I chalk it up to the busyness of the season, and my efforts to spend more time with my family when I'm home instead of in front of the computer.

We drove to New York City yesterday to get our fill of Christmas cheer; we went to Bryant Park & watched the ice-skaters, visited a few exhibitions at the New York Public Library, sat in St. Patrick's Cathedral and admired the beautiful creche, and had delicious coffee and hot chocolate on the 8th floor of Saks. We finished up the day with dinner at The Spotted Pig, and after walking through the West Village from the subway to get there, I've decided to save all my money and one day, move there. What a great little neighborhood.
There's also nothing better than wandering down a street, the scent of something amazing in the air-- and find yourself standing at Magnolia Bakery.

It was a great day, just one of many we've been having since Meg finished up school and Niamh came home from Villanova. My presents are wrapped (in brown paper with pretty ribbons), my flannel plaid nightshirt is laid out, and tonight we'll go to Christmas Eve mass and then to celebrate with some family friends. Tomorrow brings a full Irish breakfast, presents being opened, and cooking and eating the rest of the day away, finishing up with a movie all together.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I had been wishing for a snowfall before I depart for summertime in South Africa, and I got what I wanted! Our region was hit with about two feet of snow from early morning hours on Saturday until this morning. It's really beautiful, and although it forced me to reschedule my farewell party, I'm really enjoying the wintery scene outside my window.

Here's a little collection of songs I've been listening to this weekend; I think they make for a nice wintertime playlist. Enjoy the snow!

Click here to see the playlist.

Monday, December 14, 2009

doctors without borders.

Every Thursday night in high school, Mum and I would settle down in front of the TV, like millions of other moms and daughters, to watch ER. I really loved it; I fell head over heels for Noah Wyle in his role as Dr. Carter, and, in his final days as a member of the cast, his character traveled overseas to do humanitarian medical work with an organization called Doctors Without Borders (or Medicins Sans Frontieres).
I was spellbound. Though you wouldn't know it by the large volume of paperbacks on my bookshelf, or by my college diploma and degree, I dreamed for a long time of going to medical school and becoming a doctor. I've always loved helping people, and I saw medicine as a field in which I could be a professional "helper". And who knows, maybe one day I'll relearn biology and science and don a white jacket, but I'm not sure my English degree will be much help.

Nonetheless, I really got interested in MSF. I did some research online, and in college, applied for a few internships in their New York offices (to no avail). I get their monthly newsletter by email and have a map of the world hanging in my bedroom that they sent me, marked with the quote by Nicolas de Torrente, executive director of the group: We find out where conditions are the worst-- the places where others are not going-- and that's where we want to be.

So when I found out that a documentary had been made about the organization, I was eager to see it, and tonight, at 7:30pm, it's being shown in 450 movie theaters nationwide. It's called Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders.

Here's the trailer, and if you're interested, you can head over to their website to see what movie theaters near you are playing the movie. There are even rumors of some Oscar activity... I can't wait to see it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

san francisco!

This past (extended) weekend, my friend Colleen and I took a trip out to the west coast to visit our college roommate Becky who is living and working in San Francisco as a volunteer.
I'd been there once before, years ago, with my family, but didn't remember much of my trip. This time around, I absolutely fell in love with the city.

San Francisco is one of the coolest, most interesting cities I've ever visited. It's cosmopolitan without being flashy, artsy without being (too) pretentious, and its location in the northern part of California and on the ocean means the weather is a bit more interesting than elsewhere in the Golden State. It also happens to be the site of 826 Valencia, the first of Dave Eggers' writing centers for kids (disguised as a pirate supply shop!) and McSweeney's, his venerated publishing house. Visiting those two sites was one of my favorite parts of the trip, but I decided they deserved a blog post of their own sometime soon.

Photographic evidence:

I finally got to try In-N-Out! It was pretty delicious, but as a french fry connoisseur, I was unimpressed by their attempt. Luckily, In-N-Out has a reputation mostly for burgers, not french fries.

We hung out in the Mission a lot, the neighborhood where Becky lives. In the background here, you can see Mission Dolores, the mission for which the area was named. I was also pretty happy about including a palm tree in this photo.

We warmed up one night after a walk around Fisherman's Wharf with Buena Vista's famous Irish coffees.

We danced at a bar called Holy Cow! (or tried to...)

Then we napped in a park with the Tanners and the rest of the Full House cast...

...after getting pretty silly at a brunch at Lime in the Castro, featuring bottomless mimosas for SEVEN dollars.

I made Becky take silly jumping pictures with me at the Palace of the Fine Arts in the Marina district.

Coll attempted to swim to Alcatraz, but the Pacific Ocean is just way too cold for that.

And of course, we posed with the Golden Gate Bridge, our last sightseeing stop on a fantastic weekend.

It was such a great trip, mostly thanks to Becky, who was an absolutely amazing tourguide. She knew exactly what we'd want to see, gave us lots of options, and knew lots about the city she's come to call home. Seeing her living with her volunteer community also made me really excited for my new adventure, just a short month from now, when I'll be moving to South Africa to start my volunteer year. I'm also really glad I got see Beck before I leave; a year is a long time to go when you're thousands of miles apart.

Thanks, Becky!
I miss you already.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

coloring for a cause.

I saw this and just had to share, as most of you are probably like me & scrambling for Christmas gifts for the people you love.

For the indie rock lover in your life, who may happen to also need some good old-fashioned coloring therapy once in a while, comes.... the Indie Rock Coloring Book!

Released by the Yellow Bird Project, based out of Montreal, the coloring book features artwork inspired by musicians including The Shins, Laura Veirs, and Bon Iver-- and the profits from the sale of the coloring books goes towards charities chosen by the musicians involved.

I'd love to color a picture of Devendra Banhart's beard!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


In about twelve hours, I'll be coasting through the air on my way to... San Francisco! I'm headed to the west coast to visit Becky, my best friend (and roommate) from college. But it's doubly great because my other best friend/roommate Colleen is coming too! We're meeting up at Newark tomorrow morning & we have the makings of a delicious picnic to eat on the flight.

Becky is spending the year as a Jesuit Volunteer in San Francisco, so I'm excited not only for our reunion but to see a slice of her volunteer life as well. She's got a lot of great things planned... I'm most looking forward to In-N-Out, Irish coffees, seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, and bottomless mimosas at brunch on Saturday. Yum.

Stay well & have a great weekend, friends. See you on Tuesday!

Photo courtesy of / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

getting Nothing for christmas.

The "holiday season" is a very exciting time-- the prospect of bundling up against cold weather, family-friendly Christmas movies on weekend television, and the comfort that comes from being surrounded by evergreen and tinsel decorations, twinkling with tiny lights. Personally, I look forward to Christmas especially for the quality time I get with my family. Most years, my parents and two sisters are the people that I spend the few days with (the majority of our extended family lives overseas). We order extra Netflix movies, Mum makes dozens of her delicious mince pies, and we hole up with good food and each other's company to enjoy a few days rest from school and work.

I can't say, though, that I remain unaffected by the other side of Christmas; that is, the decorations in the mall, the special deals on electronics and other gifts, and the small joy that is a red Starbucks cup. I'm as subject to clever marketing and advertising as the next consumer.

But, this clever site brought me back to reality. Check out the one of the most-wanted items this year & see if it changes your mind about the things on the Christmas list you still insist on writing to Santa, all these years later.

Found via The Uniform Project (another site I highly recommend-- an interesting project!)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

a personal reflection, on world AIDS day.

Today is World AIDS Day, and though it was commemorated in full force at my university, this is the first year where I've been forced to think about the reality of the virus. In just a few weeks, I will be living in the country with the largest percentage of HIV positive people in the world. Though there is some hopeful news (like this and this), the fact is that of the 33 million people infected with AIDS in the world, 22 million of them live in Africa, and the so-called "Dark Continent" is often overlooked in favor of issues closer to home.

On a more personal note, I'm really struggling to come to terms with the fact that today is the first of December. As I told someone over the weekend, when I thought about going to South Africa, I was content to mark the time passing, then suddenly realized that I had only two months to go! Just when I'd accepted that fact, time had slipped by and now I'm on the brink of my last month at home before I leave for South Africa.

I've been reflecting a lot on life and the choices I've made thus far, and how I can choose wisely and have the best life possible in the future. In talking to AV alumni, especially of the South Africa program, I've just gotten so excited to meet people. I know the country will be beautiful, and the culture will fascinate me, but even since beginning work at ADROP last August, I've really come to appreciate the simple interactions that life provides with people from all walks of life.
When you work in a city (even if you don't live there... yet), you're surrounded by strangers from the moment you leave your home until you return at night. You walk alongside them on the street, get into very close quarters together on the train or subway, and they serve you coffee and deli sandwiches when your energy dips. I love that about cities-- the interactions with strangers that serve as a reminder that we're all just going about our days next to each other.
I can't wait to feel similarly about the new people I'll encounter in my year abroad as an Augustinian Volunteer. In a conversation with Emma, an AV alum who served in South Africa in 2008, I mentioned something about how amazing it must be to have such an uncommon experience every single day. She agreed with me, but then said, "You know, it starts to lose that after a while. As time passes, that "experience" just becomes your everyday life."

I think moving to South Africa will be a series of highs and lows. Though volunteering won't be the same type of experience, I remember vividly the pattern that my emotions followed during my semester abroad in France.

There's the inevitable excitement a few months before, then a bit of nervousness as the date of departure approaches. There are the final goodbyes with friends and family, and the inevitable tears shed at the prospect of a year without face-to-face interaction with the people I love the most. There's the exciting trip itself, and the feeling of landing on foreign ground, knowing that as time passes, it will inevitably feel more like home. And as the weeks go by, there's the routine to slip into, to help numb homesickness and nervousness and fear, and the new friendly faces that become a foster family away from home. There are the moments when I'll look around, at the three girls I live with and at our surroundings and think, "Wow, look at us. These people are our reality and this is our everyday life." And then, before I have time to notice the passing of time, it will be over. December will come again and with it, the promise of a return home, to tell stories and share experiences with friends and family-- and maybe even a stranger or two.

So today, I've got Africa on my mind, and not just because it's World AIDS Day. Today I can see a major global crisis and my personal ambitions tied up in a life that will begin in just over a month. I hope that at this time next year, I can look back at today's reflection and feel like I've made a small difference, even if just in myself.

Image courtesy of the ONE campaign


Rabbit rabbit!

Happy December everyone! Sorry I've been so absent lately; I finished up November with a delicious and relaxing Thanksgiving & a weekend in New York City.

Now I'm getting ready for the end of the year with lots of Sufjan Stevens Christmas music, a trip to San Francisco this weekend with my best friends from college, and attempting to prepare myself for my move to South Africa. Whew.

Photo courtesy of