the wonderful world of veena.

27 August 2011

what i learned this week.

First week of classes are finished!  It was a crazy, hectic week, but it's been interesting as well.  I learned a lot - as I'm sure I will every week - so I thought I could start doing a weekly [or bi-weekly, because we all know I get distracted easily] post about all the various things I learned, both school and non-school related.

Here we go for the first week of school:

1. I've been bitten by the school bug.  For the first time, possibly ever, I am excited about being back in school.  I think it's because even though there is a lot of reading, there is a lot of practical stuff that we will be doing as well.
2. I really like having my week stacked at the beginning - with the way my schedule has worked out, I have 2 classes on Monday and none on Thursday, save for a few workshops.  I know a lot of people enjoy having one class every day, but I love finishing Practicum on Tuesday and knowing that I am over halfway done with my week.
3. My time management skills are going to be tested more than ever before.  Along with classes, we have speakers most nights [some of which I write the blog posts for], I'm baby-sitting 3 afternoons a week, I want to volunteer at the Clinton Presidential Center and Arkansas Children's Hospital one Saturday a month, and we have kickball every Sunday.  College football starts next weekend.  And I already know of 2 potential weekends I might not be in town.
4. I don't think I'll ever get used to how small Little Rock is.  After hour-and-a-half commutes to and from the Boys' Home these last 3 years, I still can't get over the fact that I have a 12-minute commute to school.  It's amazing, and something I hope I never take for granted.
5. We get some awesome speakers.  Through the first week alone, we had Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on Monday, anti-bullying activist Rick Phillips on Tuesday, and a panel about the West Memphis Three - including all 3 defense attorneys and the prosecuting attorney who agreed to the plea bargain - on Thursday.  I'm well on my way to beating Fernando's record.  Wish me luck.
6. I need more clothes for school.  I'm currently on a rotation of 3 dresses, 2 skirts, and various tops.  It's still too hot to wear dress slacks, and will continue to be for a while, so I guess it's time to go shopping.
7. Time for reading for fun has been seriously scaled back.  I'll be lucky to finish 2 books this entire semester.
8. I think I'm going to become a library-goer.  The main branch of the public library - although only open until 8pm - has a cafe and fountain on the 5th floor, which makes it feel more like a quiet bookstore than a library.  Right up my alley.
9. Living with fellow students is going to be good for keeping me on task.  The other night I sat in the dining room and read while Taylor and her classmate Cassie were studying in the den for their med school test, and I got so much done.
10. I have resigned myself to the fact that many Friday nights are going to be spent studying at home.  If it's what I have to do to keep Saturdays free for football, then that's just what I have to do.

That's all for this week.  If I learn a super lot again next week, we'll have another post.
Happy Weekend!  Think of me writing critiques for Practicum while you're out partying.

24 August 2011

double duty.

Throughout the year the Clinton School, in partnership with various organizations throughout Little Rock and Arkansas, brings numerous speakers to the city to speak on issues ranging from education to sustainability to food, averaging about 2 to 3 speakers per week.

This week itself I have been lucky enough to see Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as well as Rick Phillips, Executive Officer for Community Matters, a California-based organization dedicated to stopping the epidemic of bullying throughout the country.  And tomorrow is a panel about the West Memphis Three case, including appearances by all three of the defense attorneys on the case.

Once a speaker visits Little Rock, a short write-up is posted on the Clinton School's Blog for viewing by anyone who might be interested.  Along with these posts are articles about various other things happening at the school, including information about current and former students, faculty, and staff.

Usually the posts are written by Ben, the Director of Communications, but occasionally he allows students to help out with the writing.  I volunteered to write the post for Rick Phillips' speech last night, and it is now posted for anyone who would like to read it.

Hopefully I'll have get the opportunity to write a few more as the semester goes on.  If I do, I'll be sure to post the link on here for anyone that is interested.

22 August 2011

day one is under the belt.

And what a day it was.

Paranoid that I would sleep through my alarm, I bounded out of bed at 7.06 am, showered, got dressed, got all my stuff together for the day / evening, had a little breakfast, made my sandwich for lunch, and was out the door by about 8.12.  Which was earlier than necessary, but I would always rather be early instead of late.

My morning started with Leadership, which went by really quickly.  I have been agonizing over my attention span, or lack thereof, these past few weeks, trying to figure out how I'm suddenly going to have to start sitting still for 2- and 3-hour classes.  Luckily most of the classes are discussion-based and involve a lot of group activity and / or moving around, as opposed to just being a straight-on lecture.  My morning class flew by, and suddenly it was a rush to print out questions for the afternoon, scarf down my sandwich, and head over to Sturgis for the afternoon.

After lunch brought us Communication & Social [Ex]Change, which went pretty well also.  I was dragging a bit at the beginning, but that was mostly the after-effects of lunch.  Those super long lunch breaks at the Boys' Home got me used to having naps, so I'm having to adjust my schedule a bit and try to get on a proper sleep schedule.

Once that class wrapped up, a few of us just hung around Sturgis until it was time to head over to the Statehouse Convention Center to hear Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano speak.  And once she finished her speech, answered a few questions from the audience, and then held a mini press conference, she came and hung out with the Clinton School-ers for a bit and answered a few of our questions.

Luckily we wrapped up right before the torrential downpour, so I at least managed to get into my car before the skies opened up.  By the time I strolled into the house at about 8.40pm, I was exhausted and hungry, but I was at least dry.  A bit of dinner, catching up some emails, sorting out my stuff for tomorrow, and now it's time to get a little reading done for Friday before crashing.

And doing it all over again tomorrow.
If I'm still alive once noon on Wednesday rolls around, buy me a drink.

20 August 2011

we survived.

Orientation Week is officially over, and we all somehow managed to survive.  Everyone kept saying that Orientation is the busiest week of the year for us, and if that's the case, I'm pretty sure I can now do anything I set my mind to.

It was an absolutely exhausting week, but it was also really good.  I am not used to full-time days, and sleeping on an egg crate on the floor was just not conducive to good nights.  Luckily my bed came on Thursday, and I am now in a much better frame of mind.

A few highlights included:
  • a faculty-sponsored dinner at Gusano's.
  • free food all week [I bought one meal for myself.  awesome].
  • an Arkansas Travelers game at which Jordan and I pretty much came up with our life's mission.
  • a Class 6-sponsored cookout at a beautiful house overlooking the river.
  • a visit to historic Central High School.
  • an opportunity to write on the Main St Bucket List wall
  • a fun night at the Town Pump with some of my classmates following the Dean's Reception
  • a crazy party courtesy of Snap, Crackle and Pop
  • a tour of the Clinton Presidential Center [I found my family's brick!].
  • Britney and me already being branded as the Class Clowns.
  • meeting the cool faculty and staff of the Clinton School
  • hanging out with my awesome classmates, who I think are going to be great influences over me for the next 2 years, as well as with some awesome Class 6 kids, who I think are going to be great role models.
Like I said, I am exhausted, but I am also really excited for what the coming years are going to offer.  A chance to study the effect of school gardens on childhood obesity as my Practicum project; an opportunity to travel anywhere in the world I wish to go for my IPSP; and a chance to make a difference for an organization either here in Little Rock or anywhere in the world for my Capstone.  It's going to be a lot of hard work, a lot of long nights and weekends spent reading and studying and writing papers and presentations, but I think it will be completely worth it.

Now I just need to finish buying school supplies.

16 August 2011

second day of orientation, and already the juices are flowing.

Tonight, while at the Arkansas Travelers' game here in Little Rock, two of my classmates and I got into a discussion of how we could make a minor league baseball team a really strong fixture in a community.  Ideas included greening the stadium, using it as a venue for other functions [not just parties, but also as a resource / training center], using it to support local restaurants and eateries, and a variety of other ideas that were banded about over the span of a few hours.

It was crazy, and we definitely had a few ideas that were obviously too bizarre for words, but honestly, I have to say that it's not entirely far-fetched.  If we found the right team, with the right owner, in the right town [I voted for Chattanooga], it could actually work really, really well.

I know it seems early on in the going, but it's nights like these that re-motivate me and remind me why I love doing what I do.  And it's so nice to be surrounded by so many other motivated people.  I am really excited for what the next two years have in store for me.

And to think, the entire thing came about because Jordan harmlessly mentioned he would one day like to own a minor league baseball team.

14 August 2011

and away we go.

Today is our first day of Orientation for the upcoming school year.  Yes, it's starting on a Sunday.  Today is a day for meeting-and-greeting, a day for our entire class to come together for the first time and begin the process of getting to know the people we're going to be spending the majority of our time with for the next 2 years.

Today is going to be a pretty simple day - just some introductions, going over the schedule for the week, meeting the Deans, and having a brief reception in the evening to kick off the week of activities.

And then there's no looking back.

The week ahead is going to be full of preparations for the upcoming years.  We will be learning about our Field Practicum placements; we will be touring UALR to see all the facilities we will have access to; we will be discussing the book we were assigned to read over the summer; we will be attending various receptions; and we will slowly begin learning about the new world we are entering.  There are a few fun things thrown in, too - Arkansas Travelers' game Monday night, a faculty dinner Tuesday night, and a cookout with Class 6 on Wednesday night - but mostly it's going to be chock-full of information and discussions and getting ready for the scary world of graduate school.

Wish me luck.  If I survive this week, I think I can survive anything.

12 August 2011

dressing like a grown-up.

One of the things I loved about living and working in India these past few years was that I never had a real dress code.  Obviously for the Boys' Home I had to be covered up, but I was comfortable in salwars, and it also meant I never had to put too much time into my appearance.  And even when we would go out, the extent of my dressing up was skinny jeans and a nice top.  There were rarely occasions when I needed to get more dressed up than that, and if there were, I had my lucky dress and a few saris, so I would rotate those.  I don't think I ever spent more than 15 minutes getting ready for anything.

Not anymore.

I'm so excited about starting grad school next week, but the one thing I am not excited about is the dress code.  Yes, that's right, we have a business-casual dress code for grad school.  I understand the reasoning - it's because they get a lot of famous people and dignitaries randomly showing up, and we need to look presentable if and when that happens - but that doesn't mean that I'm excited about it.  Especially because it necessitates purchasing an entirely new wardrobe, and we all know how much I loathe shopping.

I managed to pick up a few things in Bangalore when Tommy had their super awesome, super cheap sale, but obviously I can't rotate clothes here the way I did in India.  I've slowly been procuring a few new things here and there, but I'm still nowhere near having enough clothes for the year, or even the next few months.

And then.  Last week we got an email detailing our Orientation activities for next week, and on one of the days we have to wear business-formal.  Meaning a jacket and blouse for women.  A jacket?  I definitely don't own one of those, and had somehow not even thought about the need for one.  [luckily, I wasn't the only one.  all the other girls I've spoken to are equally flustered]  So now that is added to the ever-growing list of clothes that I need for school.

Today I went to Target, to see what all I could get from there that's not as expensive as buying at fancy stores.  I lucked out, and managed to get a few pairs of dress slacks, two cardigans, and a few pairs of nice shoes.  Including my first ever pair of grown-up, man-eating, power-woman high heels.  I'm not yet sure if I can survive an entire day of wearing them.  But I definitely felt a small part of my soul shrivel up and die when I realized that I needed to buy them.

So from now on, if you see me during the week, you will no longer be seeing the Veena who strolls around in shorts and t-shirts from Old Navy.  Instead, you'll see the new Veena who wears dresses and nice skirts and cardigans and dress slacks and ballet flats and high heels.

But on weekends, you'll still find me in my Razorback garb and my pajamas.
Gotta keep some small part of my soul [and reputation] intact.

09 August 2011

super secret surprise.

This past weekend I took myself on a little road trip over to Nashville.  I was wanting to head over there sometime before school started so that I could see all the peeps [Lindsay, Steve, Catherine, Drew AND Lizzie all live within a mile-and-a-half of each other!], and when I looked at the calendar and saw that Lindsay's birthday was on a Thursday, the only thing I could think was: surprise visit!

Once I realized this was the perfect idea, I called Steve to make sure they didn't already have plans in place to head out of town over that weekend, and I proceeded to tell him of my amazing plan.  This, however, was a bit risky, as Steve, bless his soul, is just not known for being able to keep a secret, especially one as exciting as this.  But I put my faith in him, and he pulled through, only resorting to tell Drew the morning I was driving over.

We decided it would be super-fun for me to surprise Lindsay at the Jackalope [Steve's brewing company] tap room on Friday evening, and the timing could not have worked out more perfectly.  I actually left Little Rock a bit later than planned, due to some issues with furniture not being delivered, but that meant that Lindsay was already at the tap room when I arrived.  And she was surprised!  So surprised, in fact, that she started crying.  It was really sweet and also really funny.  And then Steve gave me a t-shirt.  So it was a successful visit to the tap room.

Lindsay, Catherine and I shared a very nice dinner on Friday night, catching up and gossiping.  Saturday was spent driving around looking for hot chicken places that were open; we finally ended up at Bolton's, where the chicken was almost too spicy for me!  I was beginning to worry that it might not be possible.  Saturday night we went for a comedy show [Jay Pharoah from SNL] at Zanies, for dinner at Burger Up [they had burgers with jalapenos, so I was sold], and then to the Melrose for drinks.  Sunday we spent most of the day watching Food Network in our pajamas before rousing ourselves to play some Smarty Pants on the wii and then venturing out for a late lunch once Catherine finished work.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.  It was so good to see everyone and be able to spend some good quality time with all of them, and even the weather cooperated: rainy and cloudy for most of Saturday.

Now for my next adventure.  Suggestions?

[I unfortunately took no pictures.  I took my camera with me, and then didn't take any pictures.  I suck at life.  I know]

04 August 2011

calling all Bangaloreans: concert for a good cause.

I haven't bragged about my third-born on here, so I'm taking my opportunity now [warning: shameless plug to follow].

Shonali and her friend Aditi have started their own event management company, aiming to combine concerts and other events with social change.

Their first major event is called Music Mouth I and is already gathering attention throughout the city.  Three bands - including one of my favourites, Something Relevant, coming down from Bombay - will be playing at Kyra in Indiranagar, and instead of charging a fee, the cost of admission is the donation of at least 30 notebooks that will be distributed to children in government schools throughout the city.  Even if you cannot attend the concert, donations are still welcome and encouraged.

So mark your calendars for next Saturday, the 13th of August, and be sure to spread the word to friends, family, and fellow music / education lovers.

Shon, I'll be there in spirit.

ps  Any friends in the US who wish to donate notebooks, let me know, and we can sort out something!

03 August 2011

peace out, yeddy.

It happened last week, but there was a lot going on, and I didn't get a chance to mention it.  Yeddyurappa, the Chief Minister of Karnataka for the last 2.5 years, resigned in the midst of yet another scandal attached to his name.

Earlier in the year it was being involved in a land scam, but even though everyone knew he was involved, nothing could be proven.  Well, they finally got him as part of the illegal mining of iron ore that's bringing down some of the wealthiest people in India.

He's also generally just a bit slimy.  I saw him at a ribbon-cutting at Cubbon Park last year, and he looked like that creepy uncle from Monsoon Wedding who put on a good face in front of everyone but was secretly feeling up one of the nieces.  Gross.  I made sure to scrub myself extra hard that evening.

And when I left Bangalore, I said I wouldn't return until either he resigned or was voted out of office.  I just didn't think it would happen so soon.  I hope they don't vote someone equally as stupid into the position before I return.  If only I could vote there.

best friend bonding.

Yes, that's right, I finally made it up to Charleston to visit the best friend.  We did stick to most of our traditions - Qdoba straight from the airport; one night of getting sloppy drunk; at least one tourist attraction; and lots of harassing of other people - but we also played it by ear a bit.

On Friday night, we went to a showing of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark down by the pier.  We talked through the first half of the movie before deciding we were probably annoying people and should therefore leave.

[they even had a beer tent]

[the very beginning of the movie]
From there we wandered through downtown, spent some time at the Blind Tiger making fun of the girls in their fancy dresses, and eventually made our way to Mac's.  They had a live "band" and a Grilled Mac 'n Cheese Sandwich.  It was heaven in between two slices of toasted bread.

[the "band" at Mac's. they were pretty entertaining]
On Saturday we met Ashley for lunch and then spent most of the afternoon sleeping off the results of the previous night.  We managed to make it to Gene's in the evening for some beer and cider, some cheese fries, some Jumbling Towers [fake Jenga], and some making fun of Gary.

Sunday brought us brunch, complete with $7 carafes of mimosas.  Always a good way to start a Sunday.  Then we decided to be tourist-y and took the ferry out to Fort Sumter - pretty cool place.  And did you know that the crescent on the South Carolina flag is not actually a moon, but is in fact part of an old military uniform?  Who knew.

[we had our own Sunday Funday in Charleston. take that, Prakash-a and Morgan]

[cheers to best friends]

[it was very, very warm]

[the ferry that carried us to and from Fort Sumter]

[the suspension bridge]

[the sky]

[view looking out from Fort Sumter]

[the flags flying over Fort Sumter]

[one of the cannons]

[apparently Maryland was a bad egg. ha!]
It was a great weekend - albeit very warm - and it was great to see Mindy after such a long break.  I'm glad to be back in the same country [first time in nearly 4 years!] for such an extended period of time.

Next time it's her turn to come to Little Rock.