My Year-End Self-Analysis

Per the advice of LifeHacker.

Done while listening to Neil Young’s “Harvest” Album


  1. Started a relationship with a wonderful woman
  2. Graduated Georgia Tech with a BS in Electrical Engineering, a Spanish Minor, an International Plan and Co-op Certificate, and a 3.06 average
  3. Took my sister on a cool trip to Spain
  4. Had a fantastic cross-country roadtrip
  5. Summited Half Dome
  6. Drew up plans with Kelsey for Entropy
  7. Got a fine job in Beijing
  8. Started the AIESEC Beijing Trainee Committee
  9. Started BrainCanvas with King
  10. Learned a good bit about my ancestry and shared it with the family
  11. Had a wonderful Blue Plate Special shift on WREK


  1. Didn’t get distinction for graduating
  2. Lost out on my bid for the MindValley traineeship
  3. Didn’t make it into the NOI BootCamp in DC in July
  4. Didn’t get the Eben Tisdale Fellowship
  5. Didn’t make it past the first round in the Unreasonable Institute selection
  6. Got no job offers from the career fair
  7. Fell off of good updating for BrainCanvas
  8. Haven’t started learning Chinese
  9. Started, then stopped working out again
  10. Poorly handled turning down the AIESEC Official Expansion Mongolia invitation

Five Pictures to Sum Up 2009

  1. Revolutionary Beers at City Tavern
  2. Spain Trip 2009 304
  3. California Roadtrip 2009 433
  4. img_9344
  5. img_9075

Looking Forward to NYE 2011

  1. Making Waves in Washington, DC
  2. Working Out my Body, Mind, and Soul
  3. Learned Conversational Chinese
  4. My Writing is Referenced in Influential Publications
  5. Making Music Regularly

Gone Ramblin’

It only just hit me that, oh, I leave for the airport to go to Spain with my sister in a few minutes.

The first time I went to Spain it was like this huge movement and upheaval, but the next time I left the US for another country – to Istanbul, Turkey – it was more like sitting down in a room for 15 hours and then walking out in a new place. It wasn’t a huge upheaval, it was just there. I think that’s when I truly realized that travel had changed me at the core.

I like that a lot. I hope my sister will come to understand the same thing.

In the Dam, for the weekend…

Amsterdam was a great time. I flew in and met Jeremy and Mischa at Schiopol airport at about six in the evening on Thursday, and Mischa in his extremely hospitable way bought our train tickets and gave us a large, well-worn map and showed us exactly how to get to his flat in the Jordaan district. This didn’t keep us from going too far and making it to the Central Station, but with our handy-dandy map we were able to make it to Best Thai restaurant, where we enjoyed quality Thai food in the company of AIESECers and trainees alike. Jeremy made it to his hotel smack-dab in the middle of the Red Light District, well-located indeed.

The next day Jeremy and I did the tourist thing in the Dam, going to the Rijksmuseum (disappointing because they are renovating the main hall until 2010 – at Jeremy’s suggestion we would have just stood and waited until 2010 came), experienced gezelligheid at a cozy koffe huis with a canal view (what DOESN’T have a canal view in the right part of the Dam?), and wandering the Red Light District both during the night and the day. What an odd piece of the world it is. I support the purpose of the Dutch policy on the Red Light Districts (which are not just in Amsterdam) and it is very interesting to see the actuality of nearly-naked women (slightly over half of whom are attractive) tapping their all-glass window and enticing you to pay their rent. But there are also the many prostitutes who sit at their stools, bored and unsmiling, which quickly washes away the novelty and boyish grinning one would associate with such a place and replaces it with a feeling of mixed sympathy, slight discomfort, and a sincere understanding of the phrase “Not In My Backyard.” Add in the fast-walking immigrants who mutter “coke, ecstasy” as you pass by, and De Wallen is not exactly the headiest district in town.

The next day was the excellent AIESEC Amsterdam reception weekend. We started the day off adventurously touring the city on a contraption called a “Stepbike,” which is essentially a scooter but with the wheel orientation and size of a bicycle – so you stand in the middle and use one foot to push off. Since it’s closer to a bicycle’s construction, the stepbikes allow you to go about two-thirds as fast as you could on a bicycle, making for hilarious hijinks along the canals as we zipped around in masses of twenty, imploring me to hum “The Ride of the Valkyries.” We stopped in the middle for a gezellig time having a beer on the corner of a canal. That night they pulled out the big guns as we had a dinner and a few hours of pre-party in the upstairs room of CafĂ© Heffer, where the LC has their meetings. That is amazing. Then it was off to the crown jewel – a boat party. Best reception weekend _planning_ ever (Mountain Mayhem still struggles for best event ever). And as a major cool bonus, I met their LCP Jaan – based on the fact that he went to high school in Guntersville for a year. Really nice guy, and he appreciates and knows North Alabama.

On Sunday we went to the Heineken Museum, which is a cool experience, but we were unable to go to the Van Gogh museum due to time constraints. I’ll definitely return to Amsterdam sometime in the future though, so there’s always then.

The most important thing I learned, though, was after I’d been back in Spain for a couple hours. I had the mentality, due to my long weekends and the fact that being in Europe is far from being in the US, that I should see as much of Europe as I can. However, a minor culture shock upon my return to Spain led to a small amount of regret that I had left at all. I saw and did some cool things in Amsterdam for a few days, but the value of what I experience in Spain is so much heavier and important than jetsetting and not being really a part of that culture. As Pepe’s girlfriend Davinia said, “Puedes ver mucho, pero conocer nada (You can see a lot, but understand nothing).” That’s the concise truth, and it’s one that I will commit to with a new appreciation. With the exception of next weekend’s trip to Roma to visit my mother and sister, and my trip to Romania for ITC (Hooray!), P. Rhea will be sticking around Spain to savor the culture that abounds. At least until June opens up.

Let’s talk about Spanish nightlife.

Wherever you live, whatever you do at some time, the time comes to move on to the next activity, and you know when that is without looking at the clock, or by looking at it. I’m talking about the mundane here – dinner, afternoon nap, sleeping, going out at night. When you come to Spain, you will have that same feeling, at the same time. But you will have to wait three hours before it is time to do it.

The Spanish take their comida – lunch in our sense – at 2:00, when siesta begins (which lasts until about 4:00). They take their dinner (la cena) between 10:00 – 11:00. And then there are various “going out” exploits for drinking and such. The real nightlife begins between 3:00 and 4:00, and lasts until between 6:00 and 7:00. I am not lying.

Billy said last night, “All right guys, let’s go out to the discoteca!” It was of course 12:30. Far too early. I tried to explain this to no avail. We all went anyway. Billy had the idea that I should change my hair to be more “European” by getting a “Faux-hawk.” I need not repeat what I told him he could do to himself. He also lampooned my form of dress. He had to “tool-ify” me (my words, of course) so I would be more acceptable visually among the Spaniards with their euro-mullets and their ambiguous insults to Americans. (Not hating on Spaniards here at all – I dig them quite much.)

The discoteca is of course not my idea of a good time, neither at home nor here. But the time comes when I must experience it at least once, and where better than here on a Saturday night. The tapas bars were chock-full at at 11:30, and we were still in our apartment, having eaten three hours prior. We went to bars/clubs between 12:30 and 4:00. The first one was shite, in my opinion: electronica-pop and the meaningless gyrations of so many hips, with so many eyes focused downward. The second one was much more to my liking: decidedly more “spanish” music, but certain others hated its authentic nature, and so we left again. By now it was finally time to go to this place with an 8 euro cover charge, called “Coco Loco.” Although I lamented the price which was about 16 euros too high for my entry, I have to admit – it was rather happening. Apparently THE place to be in Grau de Gandia between 4:00 and 6:00 this morning.

I never smiled the whole time because I was not having fun, but nonetheless I complicitly waved my hands in the air and sweated in my corduroy coat – chic in certain circles in the US, the object of derision among the striped-shirt crowd. I was glad to go to sleep.

I cannot make this entry any longer unfortunately because I have to go, but those time issues are interesting ones. And I probably won’t go to a discoteca again. Tomorrow I look for apartments and such. Wish me luck.