oslo photo journal

Oslo is the last segment of my spring break travels. Happy heart happy stomach…the city is very metropolitan and urban, a sharp contrast from the coziness of Stockholm. This modernity is especially reflected in the architecture. Scandinavian design/art/architecture is quite renowned, and I hope to research more about these things!

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Mall complex by the water

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This (above) is the Oslo Opera House. The building is a collection of diagonals, with glass lining the facades. To the side, visitors can walk up the slope created by the slanted facade to a beautiful outlook of the water. On the slope, I spotted a child playing in the snow with his father. I had to capture this moment, in an attempt to remember the contagious happiness I felt from watching this kid. My friends and I all trekked up the slope, with only a few casualties on the slippery spots of the snow. As I got to the top, I was laughing and trying my best not to slip with my friends. It’s this simple moment that I remember the most.

I hadn’t stopped to fully appreciate this spring break trip with my friends until this point in time. I’m not sure I can fully describe it, but I was overcome with a feeling of thankfulness and simple lightness of the heart. Did that make any sense? What I mean is my heart felt full, and this arbitrary experience is one that is imbued with meaning and kinship for me…

Perhaps this is travel’s allure. I am fascinated by the way places on the map can carry specific, ineffable feelings and experiences. These locales have memory.

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I am so thankful I got to experience this spring break in an eye-opening, heart-filling location with my friends! Until the next adventure.

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stockholm photo journal

Timestamp: March 5-7

Two months later, I am finally sitting down and reflecting on Spring Break. I can’t remember much about Stockholm to be honest. The city has a quaint, old-city charm. I stopped at almost every alleyway to take a picture because I have a strange enamorment with small, cozy spaces, especially those created by warm and colorful streets. Reminiscing already…a small Asian girl clad in 5 layers of puffy clothing, stomping through the streets of Stockholm in her oversized snow boots and floppy black beanie…twas a good time.

Please enjoy the warm colors and sights of this city!

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As a side note, traveling with a large group of people has taught me the magic of compromise, understanding, and kindness…

slow saturday hanging out with laundry hamper

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Trying to live slowly because time is passing by too quickly. It is 2pm and brightly disorienting. The sun makes me sleepy. I just had brunch with my friend at White Dog Cafe, and the food was delicious, but it was a mistake to eat solely waffles as a meal. My laundry is done, and my folded clothes are sitting on my bed, dissipating heat and waiting to be neatly tucked back into their respective locales inside my closet.

… fast forward …

It is 12:35am, and I am listlessly sitting in front of my computer screen, indecisive about which homework assignment to work on tonight…wasting time…I have receded from weekend fun these past few weeks to catch up on schoolwork. I feel like I barely get by, living by the seat of my pants, deadline to deadline. Yesterday was the first computer science diversity summit at Penn. With the rest of staff (I’m a teaching assistant for a CS course), I attended this event, unsure of what to expect. I walked out with a heavy, hopeful heart. Heavy because fellow peers’ accounts of sexual assault, microaggressions in the work setting, and TA misconduct at office hours made me so deeply upset. Hopeful because there are people who genuinely care, and that’s why this summit is happening in the first place. The base level of decency as a human being should be simple acceptance and inclusion of others. That’s why I’m always so disconcerted when people go out of their way to antagonize and alienate other people.

The summit left me with a lot of think about in terms of how I can be more encouraging and engaging with my students in my recitation, practice inclusivity, and be mindful of the unique experiences of underrepresented groups, experiences that I’ll never fully know or understand the pain of.

On a slightly related note, I usually stray away from being political or involved on the activist front. Navigating these spaces of complexity and deeply rooted pain is daunting to me. I feared I’d say the wrong words, that my speech wasn’t “PC” enough, and I doubted my singular actions as one tiny Asian girl human could make a tangible difference. But I want to change that static mindset. So what if I slip up and don’t sound very PC? Or don’t serve as the perfect model in the activist sphere? Any speech, any attempt at advocacy for others is worth more than doing nothing. I feel quite lucky to have been incubated from many of the experiences I heard during the summit on Friday. The least I can do is lend an ear, a thoughtful head, and a voice to those who might need it.

flåm, norway – in the land of the giants

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And we’re off! This spring break, I traveled through Norway and Sweden with my college friends. We procured very cheap flights ($350 round-trip) by booking well in advance (6 months), but whatever was spared in the flight price was consumed in food costs. The cost-of-living here is no joke…

After a long journey of delayed flights and travel complications (5/8 of our group was stuck in the US with ticket booking issues thanks to Priceline), I made it to Flam with my friends Abhi and Luke. We drove 5.5 hours out to Flåm, a village in southwestern Norway. As exhausted as I was, I kept staring out the window excitedly…gazing out towards the landscape, I thought it understandable that Norwegians are some of the happiest people on the planet. To be so close and deeply connected to nature, the mountains, the fjords–it must be a panacea soul. 2 hours out from the airport, the scenery changed drastically. I felt like I had been dropped into another world of endless snow and unknown space. As the night wore on, it seemed as though we were driving into a void of darkness…

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day 1 in Flam: took a train up the mountain and back down in the morning. We embarked on a snowshoe hike with the reward of a clear view of Aurlandsfjord in the afternoon. I certainly understand why Norwegians have such mythical tales that are inextricably threaded with the touch of nature. Deep in this pocket of Norway is another world…a land for giants…

All throughout Scandinavia, I saw this motif of the troll. Souvenir shops carried a wide array of troll figurines. After getting past my initial doubt (I wouldn’t exactly call the trolls “elegant” or “beautiful”), I found these troll trinkets to be rather cute…back in the day, the vikings explained natural phenomena as simply the work of the trolls. “And if you look hard enough, sometimes you can see a troll’s face or footprint carved into the side of the mountain” (our guide)

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In Danish, the word “hygge” conveys the sense of quaint coziness. It is a word used to acknowledge a special feeling or moment. I couldn’t help but think of this word as we walked by all these simple, geometric houses with slightly bright/muted-colored houses. I admire this value of slow living and being fully present. I wonder what the bleak, harsh winters are like. People who live here must do what they can to deeply appreciate the day-to-day and maintain faith that the darkness/coldness will part eventually.

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On the drive down from the mountain we hiked, our guide explained an intriguing aspect of Norwegian culture. There is this concept called “janteloven” (or the Law of Jante) which dictates how people view personal achievement. The Law of Jante criticizes individual success. If you are exceptionally skilled, you are not to believe you are above others or anything special.

I was so curious about this concept that I googled it after getting back home. Interestingly, this prevalent mindset throughout Norway stifles start-up culture. But the Law of Jante lines up well with my own beliefs: the importance of humility and hard work. I can’t imagine a collective, like-minded set of people that all operate on this value.

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Takke, Flåm for making me wonder what other magical locales like this are out there…the world is big. 

self-portrait of a head-in-the-clouds, 14-year-old chaser of light

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Hello my name is Annie Su, and this is what I used to do 5 years ago. I had a phase where I was completely enamored with the concept of self-portraits and levitation photos. Looking back, it seems sort of silly: I would set the timer on my mom’s oversized DSLR and hastily run to a spot and pose. Back and forth. Running here and there, stomping through the grass, and chasing fleeting sunlight at 7pm. I kind of miss these days when I would take on weird projects and whims like this. Whatever my mind was set on, I’d follow through. I used to sew these small animals and squishy pillows in my free time after taking Home Ec in middle school. Maybe I could have been a master sewer by now…

Anyways here’s a throwback to me and my golden days of childish fun + narcissism.

parking garage sunset

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Good night! It is currently 12:31am, and I’m writing from a tranquil, well-lit study space far from home [present]. There’s a strange feeling of satisfaction and secrecy in writing a blog post in such a serious, formal setting, like my own small secret. Only 4 more days until spring break–I’ll be traveling to Norway and Sweden with some friends from college [future]

These past few weeks have been filled with procrastinating late into the night, stealing bits of time to read whenever I can, and lying in bed when I feel like I don’t want to actively participate in the real world. I’ve discovered the magic of carrying books on me wherever I go. Surprisingly, I have many pockets of time each day that I would normally squander. I’ve been trying fill that liminal time with books–interesting passages and enticing stories [past].

I don’t have the mental/artistic/creative capacity currently to weave in gracefully all the corners of experiences that I’ve really cherished these past few weeks into a Cool Story or Beautiful Paragraph, so I will just dump the jumbled noodles of thoughts I’ve collected these past few weeks:

  • REMOVE THE ARROW if you are shot—not just wonder why you were shot. -RELS 173
  • “You find certain writers who when they write, it makes your own brain voice like a tuning fork, and you just resonate with them. And when that happens, reading those writers … becomes a source of unbelievable joy. It’s like eating candy for the soul.” -DFW
  • I realize everything Naval Ravikant said that resonated with me was tied to Buddhist doctrines.
  • “The coded structure of push notifications makes it harder to prioritize a value of personal focus; the coded structure of likes makes it harder to prioritize not relying on others’ opinions; and similar structures interfere with other values, like being honest or kind to people, being thoughtful, etc.” (from a medium article for which I cannot find the link) // thinking lately about the way I use my phone and how I can derive meaningful ‘time well spent’ as opposed to letting my phone become a vaPid vOrteX
  • recent read, rated 5/5: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
  • “People who are not well-differentiated tend to be quick to react, becoming so flooded with emotion they have to run away from a situation or suppress important parts of themselves in order to keep the peace.” -from a NYT article, “How to Stop Rushing Into Love” // I don’t think I’m well-differentiated
  • “In an essential caveat that teases out the nuance of her point, Riding notes that rather than selfishness or narcissism, such thinking about oneself is the only way to conceive of one’s place within a larger world and therefore to think of the world itself. ” –Brainpickings on Laura Rider‘s letters to a young girl on being herself // I think this bridges the gap between the polarizing selflessness spelled out in Buddhist doctrines and the need for some sense of self to exist in the physical world
  • the sudden realization that I’ve forgotten how to simply walk. I’m perpetually rushing to a class that I’m late for, or seized by a sense of time running out.