Snapshots of my Philadelphian Summer

My sincerest apologies for not posting more this past month; there’s a lot to catch you all up on! I am living in a house in West Philadelphia with two housemates (one is the landlord and is in an Argentinean tango band; the other is a Haverford alum who is working towards a masters in architecture at Penn) and two cats. When I haven’t been interning with the Mural Arts Program, I have been working in the admissions office at Bryn Mawr, and when I am not doing that, I’m likely hanging out with friends in the city. I am pretty lucky in that many of my friends are in the area for the summer or have at least been for a short while so I’ve had a chance to see them. What’s also been great is that I’ve been getting to know Mawrters who I didn’t know as well during the school year who are also in the area!

One of the greatest parts about living in Philadelphia is the FOOD! In the past month, I have had Indian, Mexican, Indonesian, Ethiopian, Thai, Burmese, Chinese, Malaysian, Lebanese, Greek, Japanese, and great brunch food! I have countless restaurants that I still want to try. West Philadelphia has an extremely diverse range of food options so I am pretty lucky to be able to walk a few blocks from my house to find delicious food. It’s a great way to bond with friends, especially since there are so many affordable options in West Philly.

I’ve also really come to love cooking for myself. I cooked for myself for half a semester in Denmark so I already had some experience but it’s actually been much easier here in the U.S, where all the ingredients are all in English and I am familiar with the measurements. Sometimes it can be exhausting and just seems like too much after a long hot day but I’m proud to say that I have never succumbed to ordering take-out for just myself or cooking microwaveable food (NOT that there is inherently anything wrong with either of these things, it’s just more affordable and more fun for me to cook my own food!) One of the big reasons I chose to live in West Philadelphia over Fairmount (where my internship is located) was the proximity to grocery stores. I live near three grocery stores which each fulfill different niches for me: Aldi (for dirt-cheap dry goods), Shop N Bag (still very affordable, where I do most of my grocery shopping), and The Fresh Grocer (more expensive so I go here when I need fresh produce or want a treat) The most challenging parts of cooking for myself are: A) buying groceries that won’t expire before I can eat them , B) coming up with new dishes for one, and C) having to cook not just a main dish but a side as well. It’s also really upsetting when something turns out terrible and you have to eat it anyways or throw it away because you already used so many of your groceries and you already took so much time to make something (like when I made pesto pasta with chicken and asparagus yesterday and I accidentally poured ALL of the salt on my meal…). I usually rotate between: fajitas, stir fry, pasta, sandwiches, and for sides: cooked vegetables and salad. Lately, I have gotten more creative and made things like potato leek soup and nasi goring udang (Indonesian fried rice with shrimp). I’ve even started baking more, making things liked nutella filled chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cake for a friend’s birthday.

I am also  at a unique advantage in that I live on the border of “University City” and “West Philly” (which seems to be divided by 52nd Street). I get to see two very different sides of West Philadelphia, something that I really love since most college students only ever stay on Penn’s campus and never venture out. West Philadelphia has had a history of crime and violence but things have changed a lot for better and for worse due to gentrification of the neighborhood by University of Pennsylvania but there has also been a lot of revitalization of neighborhoods for themselves. One of my favorite examples is the community garden that is right under my El stop. Every Thursday, they have a farmer’s market and I love buying fresh strawberries there to enjoy on my way home!

Most days don’t tend to be incredibly exciting for me: go to work, come home, cook dinner, clean, up, sleep, but having friends nearby breaks up the monotony! My friends Megha, Kriti, and Alisha live less than a mile away so we usually get together once a week and cook dinner or go out to dinner. My friend Amelia came to stay with me before she left the country for Japan and Malaysia so we had a delicious dinner and hilarious photoshoot altogether! I also got to see my friend Rebekah before she left for South Arica to study abroad so we made a final dinner together and ate gelato! It was super hard to say good-bye to my friends going abroad but I know they will both be having incredible adventures and with any luck I might be traveling too if I am accepted to an international fellowship program after graduation. I am hoping to visit Amelia in Japan; a country that has always been on my bucket list to travel to.

Photoshoot at my friend Megha's place

Photoshoot at my friend Megha’s place

A few weekends ago, I went down to D.C to visit my friend Colleen! Three years ago, I worked at a summer camp for military youth in Oregon and Colleen was my cabin partner. Together, we managed 18 eight to nine year old girls and we’ve been good friends ever since, always making sure to see each other breaks. I was ecstatic that my friends from home would only be a few hours away from me for the summer! I was in less than DC for 24 hours but we still had a blast! We found a great pizza shop on H-Street for dinner, had stuffed french toast for brunch the next morning, explored the National Mall, and wandered through the museums. I had only been to D.C twice before: during an eighth grade East Coast trip and for one day earlier this semester when I came to see Obama’s inauguration so it was great to just explore and see it as a city and not just a tourist site. I’ll be going back to D.C again this weekend to see my friend Alia and to explore even more of D.C since less than 24 hours is definitely not enough.

Visiting my friend Colleen in DC

Visiting my friend Colleen in DC

I also got the chance to celebrate my lovely friend Elizabeth’s birthday for the second year in a row. The three Bryn Mawr girls from Indonesia got together and went out for Greek food and ice cream on Friday and then met up with a big group of the friends the next night. I am eagerly awaiting my birthday now when I can finally go to 21+ concerts and join my friends on more outings. A lot more people will be back for DLT training on my birthday too so it will be a great chance to reunite as well.

Me and the birthday queen

Me and the birthday queen

The same weekend, my friend Alia and I met up with fellow Mawrters Maddy and Jennifer to see Monsters University, cook lunch, and go out to Franklin Fountain afterwards.

Ice cream treats at Franklin Fountain

Ice cream treats at Franklin Fountain

Last weekend, I was extremely fortunate to be able to see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time from the U.S side! Elizabeth and I went to visit our friend Paige in Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore. We played in the waves (sadly it was just as cold as the Pacific is…), laid on the beach, visited a lighthouse, explored the tide pools, and ended the day with Blizzards from Dairy Queen. It was a wonderful day, and I have the sunburns and sand everywhere to prove it!

Paige, Elizabeth, and me at the Jersey Shore

Paige, Elizabeth, and me at the Jersey Shore

I’ve also been going to lots of ~*free*~ concerts! The radio station 104.5 puts on free concerts at The Piazza in Northern Liberties every few weeks during the summer. I’ve had the chance to see Royal Teeth + Metric and Capital Cities (it started pouring rain before we had the chance to see Cold War Kids sadly). My sister is coming to visit in the mid September and she’ll get to come with me to the last event of the season! For Fourth of July, since Philadelphia is where it all started, they have a huge free outdoor concert and fireworks so I got to see John Mayer and Ne-Yo! The night was soured though when complete chaos broke out in the crowd when someone set off a firecracker. Mob mentality  is a scary thing. This past week, I won a pair of two free tickets from Campus Philly, a non-profit that connects students in the Philly area to the city, to see Yo La Tengo and Belle and Sebastian at The Mann Center. I brought my friend Kriti and we had a blast! It was the perfect kind of music for an outdoor concert and we had a great view of the city by the end. Next weekend, Elizabeth and I are volunteering at the Xponential Music Festival in Camden meaning we will get to see a bunch of bands for free, including My Morning Jacket, Wilco, and Bob Dylan! I have no idea how I’ve been so lucky these past few weeks, usually I never win anything.

Belle and Sebastian at The Mann Center

Belle and Sebastian at The Mann Center

Speaking of being extremely fortunate and lucky, I had the opportunity to hear Hilary Clinton speak at Bryn Mawr last week! I will know have seen both the Clintons speak in person since Bill Clinton came to Bryn Mawr my freshman year to campaign for the Democratic PA senator candidate. I was originally on the wait list but enough people didn’t show up so I got off the stand-by list and actually got to see her speak in person! I was absolutely delighted since my sophomore year, I was invited to the initial Women in Public Service (an initiative to involve more women in the public service sector) meeting where she was speaking but I couldn’t go since I had too much work since it was finals week. This time around, she was the keynote speaker for the Women in Public Service Institute, a conference that brought together female leaders and activists from around the world to discuss peacebuilding and development. Hilary was incredible and eloquent in her speech; stressing the importance of having 50% of the public sector be represented by women by 2050. Sadly, she did announce her candidacy for president but nevertheless, seeing her was inspirational and an experience I will never forget.

Hilary Clinton at Bryn Mawr (photo credit: Hannah Smith '14)

Hilary Clinton at Bryn Mawr (photo credit: Hannah Smith ’14)

That was a super long post but I feel like I’ve finally caught everyone up on all the thing I’ve been doing these past few months! Stay tuned for an update on my projects with Mural Arts!

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