Presenting at Tri-CASC 2019!

My growth and engagement in Asian community issues came full circle at Tri-CASC this April! The conference held on Swarthmore’s campus and organized by students in the Consortium was created around panels, performances, workshops, and speakers regarding issues of Asian and Pacific Islander identity and community. Among the conference’s values, the ones I understand it to be the most, read:

A place of solidarity, pride, and love for the API/A community … progress the critical dialogues occurring at our individual campuses to build coalitions and further understand the nuances of the many API/A experiences … acknowledge how API/As have also been complicit toward systemic injustices … leveraging the collective power of the various API/A communities … continue to weave API/A narratives into the complex racial fabric of America and deconstruct systems of power.

Months ago, my friend Shannan Stafford ’19 and I were asked to run a workshop on authenticity & gatekeeping in the community, and among the chaos, we organized our ideas, communicated with the organizers, and prepared to facilitate conversations on how we imagine “Asian identity” and from where those imaginations originate. Because we both identify as Black and Asian (and because our friendship bloomed from those shared understandings—we had mutual friends, held similar space, but never crossed paths until our friends connected us & we had a class together last Spring!) we wanted to re-direct conversations of authenticity to learning how to recognize those strains in our own circles. For us, there needed to be more emphasis on communally embracing people who may not match how we envision “Asian.” We looked to make room for other Black Asians like ourselves, Pacific Islanders, Southeast Asians, South Asians, known artists & performers who are not often thought about as members of our community, as well as for that internal and eventually political work.

Of the panels, performances, and other workshops I was only able to catch part of a panel on Asianness. The panelists drew from double migratory experiences, mixed identities, transnational origins, and practices of Muslim faith, to inform what they imagined as acts of solidarity for American communities of indigenous and black folks. We had two session blocks that went smoothly, we were able to enjoy the cool weather (there were students tabling free clothes and playing music!) and we were fed well with a flavorful catered Korean lunch.

One of the most heartwarming parts of Tri-CASC, for me, was having the chance to connect with pasts and futures in the spirit of coming full circle. Four or five years ago, I was part of a summer program at Philly’s Asian Arts Initiative for Asian woman writers, run by two sweet Temple students. The photographer at the conference was one of those students! I was able to reconnect with her as well as meet an incoming Bryn Mawr first year who expressed interest in my club, Multi*. From Swarthmore’s train station I headed into the city to meet my friends while listening to a playlist of artists with Black & Asian heritage, an idea a fellow presenter and friend of mine gave me when they recommended me a song. Many of them, including H.E.R. (who’s pictured above!) were featured in our workshop to reorient how we imagine the API/A community and who represents us in art & popular culture. Shannan and I are certainly not the first. There are many projects such as Blasian Narratives that do the same work! Because the conversations around communities expand beyond conferences, I’m hopeful for their futures.

Performing the Diasporic Body: An Exercise in Openness

Do performances ever make you so spent that you rush back home to drink water? That was my experience with Lela Aisha Jones’ “The Diasporic Body: Black/African Release, Restoration, and Revival”: feeling like all the water was removed from my body, and I had to work to get it back.

my notes: shared to match the vulnerability of the dancers

On Friday I parked my bike and entered a circle of chairs laid out in a small room adjacent to the main theater. I remember thinking that the performers would be dancing on our level – an intimacy I hadn’t expected from this event, where I’m used to having elevated stages and comfortable distance. There were papers and pens left under our seats. The piece opened in song as the artist’s introduction; we were encouraged to keep quiet through transitions, make note of feelings, think about ancestors, and left with the expression “We hold our experiences in our bodies.” Four black dancers joined Lela and collaborated in matching jumpsuits. They moved to anxious, recorded car noises, and projected footage from dancing protests in Philly for the movement of Black Lives Matter. They grooved to slowed down old songs. They returned to old movements: expressions of pain or anger, exchanged looks of understanding, ones that resembled the communal intimacy of hair or moves that embodied healing. The piece opened in song & ended in celebration. We danced; audience members who identified as black were invited to dance with the performers & given flowers by Lela. From some of us grooving contained in our seats to sharing each other’s energy loudly, it made for a sweet moment as I danced with one of the performers, Jasmine Stanton ’20, from my year.

the flowers I received while dancing

Because it was for one of our Community Days of Learning, Lela nudged us into some movement exercises: to close our eyes, stand and put out one movement embodying gratitude. Then one embodying pain. We then shared our movement with another person and learned their’s, taking some responsibility for their hurt, and moved around the room embodying the move of the last person we met. Audience members and performers exchanged questions and shared experiences as we felt comfortable, and organically, we began to connect with others in the space and engage in dialogue. Many of the comments captured the power that art has to create healing remedies, as reflected in Lela’s Black/African Release, Restoration, and Revival.

The experience certainly released, restored, and revived. I am someone who holds my emotions in my body; more literally than artist Lela Aisha Jones may have meant. But for that reason the exercise in openness was something I didn’t know I needed.

Overwatch League Lore: A Valentine’s Date with Esports

I made the local train in the early evening, and the city felt on the edge of color as our trio swam through the vibrant streets. Now I look back and imagine the inside of a video game. They’re complex, creative, immersive, and interactive in the way that a lot of things are. Even though video games are often associated with children, we’re capable of learning a lot from them; I had to learn to appreciate them pretty late in life. Now I embrace being bad at certain things (I’m bad at video games) and loving them anyway. I loved Philly before but I hold a new pride for my city now (and understand sports fans that much more. Go birds.) I think of people as having lore in their histories. Overwatch League certainly has lore. And my esports origins began over a year ago.

Philadelphia Fusion isn’t the only team I learned to love… I also root for the Los Angeles Gladiators!

More than the day of love, Thursday, February 14th marked the return of the Overwatch League to international screens, after a six month off-season that left fans eager to carve time out of their schedules for live streamed games or local events like the one we were headed to and had promised to attend. Last year was the premiere season of a league formed around the game Overwatch. From the three-year-old multiplayer game emerged an entire franchise; young professional players represent cities from Shanghai to Houston, compete live at an arena in Los Angeles with the matches broadcasted free of charge to audiences watching from home. The league bloomed its inaugural season from twelve original teams in 2018 (holding the hearts of passionate, seasoned fans who for months followed them through everything imaginable), to a total of twenty entering the ring this year, (eight buzzing from their first chance to perform, and the original twelve making efforts to hold their ground).

Philly is one of them. Last summer, they took their underdog roots to the Season One Grand Finals in New York’s Barclays Center. There they competed to hold the name of Season One Champion. I took to the seats and streets to support my team under orange lights, sleepless but energized, surrounded by loved ones seven months in the making. Here, at an opening day party to watch the first-game rematch from Fusion’s home city, I celebrated brotherly love that I found in new local friends, passionate crowds rooting for a team that embodies my city’s spirit, and this colorful video game that opened many moments of learning and appreciation.

I made the local train in the early evening. But (re: lore) how did I get here?

My partner in crime, Sandy Liang ’20, made the leap with me into this unfamiliar world when we became regulars last January. For our dogged city Philadelphia to announce a team in the Overwatch League was, for us, unimaginable. So of course we had to support them. We eased our way into the waters: I watched their first match from my PS4 where I had been playing badly for maybe a year now. Sandy learned the names and histories and relayed them to me confusingly. I let the professional element absorb. We learned how to use Discord to join the team’s individualized server, we crushed fears to engage with the growing community there, and we made a place for ourselves.

We laughed online and met people at events like this. From usernames and animated icons we learned more about people than our roots in this mutual interest: people like us who grew up in or near Philly, others on the east coast without hometown teams,

Discord is a platform created for video game communities to engage privately or publicly.

who are just visiting, or who dream of or plan to move here in the near future, people in Europe or Asia who feel the Philly energy somehow, their work, their pets, and more. I’ve reconnected with friends from middle school over our love for the team. People have recognized me or my merch at Bryn Mawr, on evenings looking for dinner in Chinatown, and even at conferences in New York. Months of communal stressing about matches, either online or returning to now-familiar places to watch together, created organic local and international friendships. They have expanded beyond Philadelphia Fusion to spending Thanksgiving and New Years with these friends I made online, cooking and laughing and reminiscing. (The friends I mentioned, who I explored & watched horror films with during fall break? The same sweet friends I met here.)

We celebrated this return to the stage with a return to Xfinity Live. The place had become a home for us, from meeting the team there during their first Homecoming last May to having impromptu dance parties during our playoff games in July. We brought Hannah Chinn ’19 for her first esports experience and our friends brought adorable Valentine’s gifts, covering the table among community name tags and pins we had made for the Fusion local fan club. The moment was pretty surreal: together we remembered a full year of highs and lows and changes, friendships that grew alongside the team as we had the chance to engage with them and one another online and then off. We remembered places where we planted our roots. We remembered easier and uncertain times, learning moments, and wholehearted exchanges like the giving of holographic Valentine’s cards.

LA in June | with Sandy Liang ’20 and our friend Elyse, taken by Robert Paul

Needless to say, Fusion won the rematch (they had lost the Championship; but who says there’s never a chance for comebacks?) That’s what the team embodies: a city underrated, a fighting spirit, a community capable of going to the ends and back.

Temple University’s Inclusive Leadership Conference 2019

Image result for temple regional rail

Photo by Betsy Manning 2018

I warmed up early Saturday morning to make a trip to the city for Temple’s Inclusive Leadership Conference. Eight of us from the CDA cohort met at 8:30 a.m. to receive our pink one-way tickets & catch the train, complaining halfheartedly about the wind the whole way there. We exchanged laughter about our Friday evenings and daydreamed about coffee. The train ride in was comfortably sleepy.

The organizers energetically welcomed us with more enthusiasm than we could imagine on a Saturday morning, full of high fives in response to “Bryn Mawr” and Philly language that felt like home (“Ard bet!”) The conference programming was found on an app named Guidebook that we were all encouraged to download; on it were listed all of the workshops (with descriptions!), locations and times so that we were able to choose & customize our own engaging experience. It was pretty cool and really helpful when I needed to refresh myself on what was available to me. They gave us these neat bags with everything we might need for the conference, and we headed inside the main room for light breakfast, jars of pins reading from pronouns, to identities, to promises for allyship, and eventually welcoming remarks made by Temple alum and Pennsylvania State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta.

I made note of the things he said that I found most interesting. Malcolm emphasized to us that diversity and inclusion were not enough; instead, he expressed, we should move towards making our work about diversity & invitation. He said something that really resonated with this: that “everyone wants to talk about bringing different people to the table until they have to give up their seat.” In his words, we “gotta unplug the whole game.” Malcolm told us that it’s not our responsibility to change the whole problem; but for that reason we can each make change within our own spheres of influence. Our friendships, intimate relationships, families, our circles are all, to an extent, within our ability to change and act, something easy to forget but sometimes comforting to remember. The spirit of “Random Acts of Inclusion!”

Image result for howard gittis student center

i forgot to get a photo of the student center! here’s one by Daniel Craig on PhillyVoice.

Of the workshops I attended, many of them orbited around the idea of how our language can operate towards change. We learned tips for making our everyday language reflect the values we hold towards openness and inclusion, how to make conversations more accessible, and how to channel that into uncomfortable or difficult topics. I found it heartening to see how some facilitators put those things into practice; one of them underlined that although he was presenting his work to us, if something was unclear it was because he wasn’t clear. He was always open to the addition of things he may have missed. People were able to bring their hard experiences into the space and be thanked/applauded for their vulnerability.

our complete lunch!

My favorite workshop of the day however was named “Navigating Access in the Performing Arts,” that featured a panel of local performing artists or behind-the-scenes organizers of places created for marginalized communities, such as the Project Coordinator advocating for inclusion of artists with disabilities and the Event Coordinator for Philadelphia’s Asian Arts Initiative. The panel was made up of mostly women of color, of which the majority were black. They each brought an individual perspective of how their organizations talk about access, as well as how they’ve navigated access to the arts in their own professional experience.

Ang Bey from their website | by Enoch Purnell Photography

We named various kinds of access, from economic access and elitism in the realm of performance art to physical space and the audience’s comfortability in it. Each organization thought through how they could include things like sliding scales for cost, language access for non-English speakers and ASL or closed-captioning resources for folks who are hard of hearing, making performances sensory-friendly and physically accessible in different communal spaces, and more. Here we talked about the small pros of having your language & your work reflect your values; Melody Wong recommended asking the simple question of “Why do we do it that way here? Why don’t we do it this way?”

One moment that I loved was when Ang Bey, a black non-binary performer recalled experiences of making a production they were on more inclusive for various gender identities. The production of Twelfth Night was held in West Philly’s Clark Park & made open and free for people to attend. They remembered that as an empowering communal moment.

The conference ended at 3 p.m. and the eight of us met briefly before heading our separate ways. Alma Sterling ’21, Hannah Chinn ’19 and I made a detour to Chinatown to enjoy our free fare to the city and the winter sunshine, taking boba and sweet buns for the road.

Fall Break: Odds & Ends

Warm returns from a much-needed fall break! Unlike the one in Spring, fall breaks make me feel less energized academically but enhance efforts to relax and celebrate my favorite month. For some fall means escaping to islands or other urban hearts or loved ones abroad. For me it means being okay with fall breaks being hard, and healing.

Though I remained pretty local, mine was full of oddities. I added a banana leaf and a pin with many eyes to my jean jacket collection; I read half a novel for my Black Horror class in a coffeehouse (the book was odd; I’ll talk more about it later!); sweet friends & I visited an oddities shop on 4th named “Strange and Unusual,” bought familiar cassette tapes at the nearby Repo Records and Federal Donuts for the train ride home. We returned to Mando’s place in South Jersey for a cozy, festive witching hour with her pup, her two black cats, & the laughter from the Taika Waititi film “What We Do in the Shadows.” Other friends visited me on campus or met me for dinner. I bowled an unimaginable strike, collected many hours of Netflix originals & made a trip to my West Philly home.

fall breaking bread

One of the neatest things about not leaving for short breaks? There’s a lived-in quiet on campus where people feel rested. I ended my break in the cozy company of friends. They shared a meal upon returning from an art festival, but it had the communal warmth of inhabiting campus in the absence of dining hall hours or academic routines. One of them brought me a printed poem for my room and they filled the space with music and creative energy. They offered me leftover bread from La Colombe and evening comfort.

Weird things: The sharp energy changes to adjust to week-long breaks, ideal fall weather in Philly, the not-getting-used-to-feeling-uprooted, driving through the creek at night on our way back with friends. The book I’m reading for Black Horror has unreliable narrators and witchcraft and family lineages and heartbreak, but somehow among the realities and unreality my fall breaks are historically odder. Just the idea of having it marked on a planner and still feeling it creep up on me, too brief but long enough to throw a groove makes fall break my most welcome & least loved. (Below: South Street haunting, my cute creature vampire pachimari, the novel for Black Horror, and the tape on which the first song is named “Supernatural.”)

But because it’s fall break, I make efforts to enjoy October and the unusually ideal Philly weather. I sleep (a lot) and I make plans and I make notes for when I return when needed. (Make therapy appointments, make plans for eating, make…) There are a lot of upcoming things to celebrate! From the AMO Night Market to ideas to dance performances, fall semester is full of richness.

My Spotify is pretty private to me, but I’ll share a mix I made for this month and the oddness it captures. Happy October, and I hope you enjoy its sweetness!

Multi*… Haircutting…and Junior Dreams

Junior year has fulfilled many of the things I’ve been hoping to do in my time here, even though we’re only a month into fall semester. Not only have I established my place on campus in a variety of ways (and after two years I finally feel like the earth isn’t always moving to collapse), but I’ve been lucky enough to cross some items off of the internal bucket-list I have worked on since arriving here. I’m not going abroad this year (too many jobs, too many major requirements), a choice that, for me, means I have energy to channel to the mark I make on this place and my remaining time here. I had imagined a bucket-list post that never came to fruition… but now, here we are!

One thing I’ve been wanting to do is create a club on campus, and what originated as a brain-child between pals became a reality late spring semester. Now I have an established one that I co-created with a friend! Named Multi*, our club is made and meant for students who may or may not yet identify as having multiracial, ethnic, or cultural experiences, encompassing those from transnational backgrounds, mixed families or upbringings that are otherwise complicated in some way. We are making an effort to emphasize the club’s openness; the description is ambiguous for a reason, because beyond ourselves we were hearing a lot of confusion and uncertainty from other students regarding AMO spaces, belonging, and needing a space to talk through and heal from liminal identities. The visual below is from our first meeting this semester, and the image at the top of the post is from our interest meeting last spring!

We’re hoping to meet every other week for the fall semester, and our meetings have been taking place on Tuesday evenings in the Campus Center pool room. For now we’re focusing on small, intimate conversations about things like perception and space, language, family, and diaspora, but if all goes to plan we will be collaborating more with other affinity groups in the near and far future. Either way, despite the road bumps existing without an e-board, learning how to budget, and growing our idea from the ground up, Em and I are extremely excited!!

On a less formal note, last weekend my friends hooked a left on their way to Senior Cocktails in Erdman to stop by my room and trim our hair together. Using a razor kit one of us found in a free box, and with two of us already having gone short over the summer, we sat in circles on my floor to the calming hum of razor noise.

I’ve had my fair share of tiny, heartwarming moments here. But there’s something about how easy it was to cut our hair on a Friday night, like some overdue Bryn Mawr chop without the newness, and still having it be messily sweet.

Here’s to experiencing new things Junior year. < 3

Hell Families

One of Bryn Mawr’s most unique elements is its emphasis on inheriting. On history. On generations of students whose experiences are merged by colorful traditions, by chosen families, by legacies continued and changed. Though Welcome The First-years Week came and went in mid-February I’m always thankful for the family I’ve chosen here.

There are expansive family trees; it’s weird sometimes to imagine that I am the fifth child among others who have chosen to love my only hell mum, that she chose to love my grand-hellers who chose to love people in the same way that my two, sweet kids have chosen to trust me. Because students can choose multiple parents I am connected to others through mutual love of them, to work closely and collaborate and create an experience. People are brought together from the unlikeliest of places. And so the traditions are inherited, and passed, and the connections continue.

rnm spring ’18 hell family photo; anika varty (back) is arianna bernas’ (right) hell mom, & arianna and i co-parented morgan this year!

Much like real families there are whole lineages I’m not familiar with, names I can’t recognize of relatives who have left before I arrived here and left their legacies with me. There are traditions I claim whose origins I can’t entirely trace. There are secrets and tensions and heart-warming memories even beyond my understanding and the four, short years I’m inhabiting this place. Hell families aren’t for everyone regardless of the fact that they may be chosen, and that’s okay. People grow apart, or are found after the one and a half semesters you have a chance to admire and trust someone. (There are people I’ve grown to love who aren’t related to me; I’ve learned that these family relationships may not be the most important ones I have here. And that’s okay.)

Don’t get me wrong, I love my hell siblings (they know who they are!) but I wanted to highlight the generations above and now below me that I’ve had the chance to love and get to know especially this year.

Thank you for grandpa comfort in Uncommon, that lizard meme you knew I’d love & every impromptu hangout… (Amala)

my grandheller: amala someshwar (’18)

For the mum-love & laughter talks and cozy, poetic inspiration… (Kamara)

my hell mum: kamara dyer-simms (’19)

For every honest reach-out, for dancing with me always & especially in the back during Goodhart performances… (Morgan)

my eldest hell child: morgan fernandez (’21)

& thank you for the hair-pats, the Filipino understanding and the always being ready for adventures. (Jess)

my youngest: jess saludades (’21)

I may not know my haunts well or become close with the first-years who eventually grow to trust and see something in my hell children. But there’s something sweet in seeing my own traditions changed and knowing that someone else admires the people who chose me as their parent.

sweet in a tree

 

 

 

 

 

I Double-Declared!

I’m celebrating the experience of having finally declared! One year of realizations, almost two semesters of near-certainty, and months of unnecessary delay later.

Having entered into college dreaming of majoring in Psychology, and having spent the entirety of my first year realizing that Psychology may not be for me, I was the only person surprised when I set my heart on Sociology and English. Especially English;

english house explorations | hannah chinn ’19

Sociology made sense (I loved the social elements of Psychology more, and if every Psych course was my Spring ’18 Psychology of Diversity class I probably would have never left), but I had been resisting my love of English for as long as I can remember. English has always been my best and most-loved subject. Most of my mom’s sweetest memories involve me reading or writing, and it was the thing I received most recognition for growing up. For some reason I could not have imagined majoring in English; in fact it was the last thing on earth I wanted to do, regardless of two English professors my first semester at Bryn Mawr practically begging me to major in the margins of my essays, or how many papers I wrote like English ones, or the fact that I couldn’t imagine college without English. I’m only just learning to admit that all of the signs were there, all along.

unexpected english majors run in the hell family | my hell mum, kamara dyer simms ’19

So, here I am. Laughing, now, that for reasons of ease I declared my English major first.

It was the professors in the English and Sociology departments as well as older Sociology-English double majors who eventually put an end to my stubbornness. I have so much love for English House, the professors of color I met in my time here, and those who have also chosen to make these majors their home (Hannah & Nolan, whom I mentioned in this post, are Sociology-English double majors too!) The process of declaring was pretty simple; a meeting with my dean, a tentative list of planned, intended courses, and reaching out to major advisors to finalize my choice.

I collaborated with fellow banter blogger Rachel (who is a junior and double major in English and Spanish!) to interview each other on our experiences as a double major. Here she offers more nuance to my experience of the English department, flavored with loving another language and learning abroad.

Maria: How did you choose? What did that process look like for you?

Rachel: I knew I wanted to study English since I was in high school, so it was very easy for me to declare an English major relatively early in my sophomore year. I figured that since I planned on taking at least one Spanish class per semester, in order to keep my language skills from getting too rusty, I might as well also minor in Spanish. My advisor suggested I double major, but I dismissed the idea until this year when I got back from studying abroad. At that point, I had so many Spanish credits it didn’t make sense not to major.

four english majors (anika varty ’19, hannah chinn ’19, em prozinski ’19 & little old me) | photo by dex coen gilbert ’21 at a haverford hangout!

M: How do your majors complement each other?

R: In my observation, the Bryn Mawr Spanish department focuses a lot on literature analysis. In some ways, the skills I use in my Spanish classes are similar to the skills I use for studying English literature, but having to express myself in a different language uses an entirely different part of the brain. If I didn’t study Spanish, I think it would be easy for me to get stuck in a rut, without having to stretch myself as much. In general, I see ideas from my Spanish classes pop up in English readings, and ideas from my English classes come in handy for my Spanish assignments as well. I’m sure this is the case with most humanities subjects—after a while, you start to make connections and see patterns everywhere.

M: How does your experience of both (the departments, the skills you use, etc.) contrast?

R: I wouldn’t say there’s a sharp contrast between the departments. Both have very kind and helpful professors and both tend to offer an interesting mix of classes every semester. The only real difference between them is that the English department has its own home in English House, which is definitely a big plus!

M: Nearing the end of your Bryn Mawr career, what were the most rewarding moments of your double major? What did you love most? Are there any things you would change?

R: Studying abroad allowed me to integrate my majors more fully than any other experience I’ve had. I would strongly recommend studying abroad to anyone who has the opportunity—I had a lot of trepidation, but I’m so glad I did it. Not only did my language skills improve, but I now have a personal reference point for many topics that we talk about in class that would otherwise just be theoretical.

I wish I had taken a wider variety of classes, especially my first year at Bryn Mawr. I remember I got really obsessed with studying poetry, and I was taking three poetry-themed classes one semester. It’s great to dive deeply into your passions, but there’s no harm in exploring new avenues as well.

One thing I want to point out about Spanish classes at Bryn Mawr is that the focus is generally on the academic material rather than on conversational skills. Many students feel comfortable reading a novel, or a piece of political theory, but still get flustered when someone addresses them in Spanish. I would say that Spanish classes here are a means of investigating Spanish-speaking cultures and literatures, as opposed to studying the mechanics of the Spanish language. The Spanish department at Bryn Mawr is really excellent—I’ve loved all my Spanish professors here—but the focus of the classes was surprising to me when I first arrived.

M: Any advice for undeclared students?

R: Explore as much as possible. Try not to take more than two classes per semester in one discipline (no matter how much you love it!) because you’ll get burnt out and overwhelmed from working just one part of your brain. Allow your intellect the space it needs to grow and move in new ways.

Check out my double-major insights, and be sure to give Rachel love over at her blog!

Returned & Reanimated

I’ve returned to Bryn Mawr after a sweet and re-energizing Spring Break! Another break spent at home in lovable, historical, complicated West Philly.

In an endearing way, this one was pretty reminiscent of my posts leading up to and following fall break this past October. My mama made me leche flan (an ode to my post celebrating Filipino food and heritage!) and warmed my heart. I inhabited so much space at coffeeshops; I realized that as a learner I work best at the self-curated pace that breaks allow (but also prayed that I wouldn’t lose fuel, another element of my bond with breaks that I learned the hard way).

I explored holes in the wall that I normally wouldn’t have the chance of visiting, much to my Philly native annoyance. But there’s something nice about loving and learning a city you bloomed in in new and unexpected ways, about a place not losing its magic. (Sometimes my heart feels weird that I hold all of my histories here; I can’t imagine living anywhere else, but admittedly there are times I regret having chosen to live near home for college, where all of my sour growing pains can melt together so easily just by inhabiting one bittersweet place. There’s a richness to Philly’s urban charm, though—I’ll probably never get used to learning that there’s so much I haven’t yet learned.)

On the Thursday near the end of break I paid a visit to ReAnimator Coffee for fuel in the form of coffee and a cozy place to work. Their West Philadelphia coffeeshop is one of many locations in the city (and their newest!) but was recommended to me by a new friend for its nearness to home. Afterwards, I really loved exploring the fairly unfamiliar area where the weather was warm and local pizza places aplenty, wearing my well-loved Star Wars themed shirt and listening to Kevin Abstract.

from a blog post about reanimator coffee; click the image to read it!

On Friday, I went bowling with old pals at Lucky Strike in the heart of the city. For some reason I had never known it existed despite having passed it all the time to browse the art store next door. Though pretty expensive, the place houses pool tables, a bar, and an array of other games to choose from for warm, hosted parties. We spent two games warming up and re-learning how to bowl before heading over to Hiro Ramen House, a cute hole in the wall that’s pretty easy to miss. I had been there once before, and employed that knowledge to lead us there for a moment out of the cold.

lucky strike, philadelphia (click for image credit!)

ReAnimator may have been on my imaginary list of holes in the wall to visit when I have the chance (and I’m really happy to have crossed it off!), but one of my recent dreams is to return to one of my favorite places from high school! Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse opened in my junior year; it was a dream to see a comic book & coffee shop opened in my city by a black woman. The owner, Ariell Johnson, meant for it to be a haven for people of color who love comics, and the colorful and welcoming space holds works made by artists from marginalized communities. The comic-coffee amalgamation, and Ariell herself, embodied (and still does) all of my dreams.

For the last few months of Spring semester, I’m hoping to remain focused and channel this newly-made energy into ending it full of color. My return to the Philippines in May requires that I tie up my finals and move out of my Erdman home earlier than expected, so I’m remaining hopeful & keeping organized for warm, sweet, summer plans!