Friday, November 6, 2009

Stanford Duck Syndrome

I so often feel like I don't belong here. Almost every day that thought crosses my mind that I shouldn't be at Stanford with all of these super-smart people. Not only are they smart, but they have all already done such cool things in life - internships with the best companies, patent applications, volunteer work, and research. AND they're articulate, social, and fit right into the physically fit, healthy-eating California lifestyle. They have already read ahead in the textbook and are able to correct the professor if he makes an error while writing on the board in class. They can ask well-worded thoughtful questions at the end of a presentation. They all seem so confident and self-assured. In short, they've got their "sh**" together. I do not have it all together!

However, there is a diagnosis for these feelings I am having. The Stanford Duck Syndrome. I look around at everyone - well-dressed, put together, and on top of their game and I feel inferior. How is it that for everyone else this stuff is effortless but for me it's such an intense struggle? The secret truth is, everyone is struggling. The image of ducks on a pond is the perfect illustration for this discrepancy between perception and reality. While ducks appear to glide easily along the surface of the water, beneath the surface they are paddling like heck.

I recently experienced this in my thermodynamics class. I have felt so intimidated all quarter. As I feverishly copy down the notes during class, trying to sort of understand where the professor is going, other students are knowledgeable and smart enough to correct him or ask really advanced questions. Then my midterm came - the one I compared to entering the ring as Rocky in my previous post. Then, faithful readers, the midterm grades came. Did I get my butt kicked by the test? No. I did really well on the midterm! - top of the class in fact. How can that be? Well, maybe I know more than I give myself credit for. Maybe the other kids don't know quite as much as I give them credit for (I give them a lot of credit!) Or maybe by the grace of God I did well on this midterm. I think all three statements are probably true, but the last one is the real reason I did well on this test.

I could launch into a whole discussion about the evils of comparing yourself to others but I'll keep it brief. My value and worth as a person cannot be found in the perceptions of others, in grades, physical fitness, or in the number of facebook friends I have (467 actually). My true worth is given to me by God in my identity as His beloved child. That He loved me so much to pay the price for my sins on the cross so that I could be forgiven is the sweetest truth, the best news that I could ever hear.

And though I'll probably still be the one duck that paddles a little crooked and struggles a little more than the other ducks, the fact that we're all paddling toward a common goal of learning and causing positive change in the world totally changes the way I see Stanford. I'm able to say "Ok, what can I learn from all of the amazing peers I have? What can they learn from me? What can we all do together to change the world? And thank you God for this amazing opportunity and phase of my life."

Friday, October 30, 2009

We're not in undergrad anymore...

I just finished my first round of Stanford midterms. I had a linear algebra test Monday and a thermodynamics test this morning. This morning while biking to class to take my midterm, I had the song "Eye of the Tiger" in my head. When I started to think about it though, the Rocky movies make a good analogy to midterms. I was heading into the ring against this midterm exam and odds were that I would get my butt kicked. Rocky usually went into the ring as the underdog as well. So did I get my butt kicked? By the grace of God, not really. It still wasn't great, but not horrible either.

Now though I'm getting ready to have a fun, relaxing weekend with friends. So far in grad school I've been less worried about the perfecting the details of my classes than I was in undergrad. As a result I've been a lot more relaxed and I have spent a more time investing in friendships and Christian community.

Well I'm going to go celebrate being done with tests by baking brownies and going shopping for the supplies I need for my halloween costume!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Refurbished blog and update

Thanks to anyone who still reads this! I took a break from writing over the summer but now I'm finally at Stanford for graduate school. I even refurbished the layout and put up a new picture to reflect my new environment and this new phase in my life.

I had a great drive out here with my mom. We loaded up the corolla and started down highway I-43 at about 5am, Sept 5. Our trip was as follows:

Day 1: drive from New Berlin to Denver, CO. This was a long and very boring drive, especially through Nebraska. It was so boring the only scenery I took pictures of was windmills and haystacks! We stayed with Patty, Tim, and their boys for the night.
Day 2: Spend quality time with Patty and Tim! Church and hiking.
Day 3: Drive to Colorado Springs to see Larry, Kathy, Joel, and Annie for another hike and a Labor Day barbecue.

Day 4: Drive Hwy 70 west through the mountains (scary!) and arrive at Arches National Park in Utah around midday.

Finish the day by arriving in Las Vegas for the night.
Day 5: Final 9 hour trek up through a very boring California landscape until we reached Stanford around 6pm.

Stanford Memorial Church

We moved in and met my roommates - one, Sharolyn, is chinese-born but went to high school and college in Canada. The other, Sonia, is U.S. born but lived most of her life and went to college in Ireland. It's fun talking about different social customs, language (variations of English) and culture. We get along really well and I'm so thankful for such nice roommies.

Mom and I went on Saturday to see the golden gate bridge! It was so foggy! Afterward we went down to the Henry Cowell Redwoods state park to see some big trees and then went to Santa Cruz to see the beach, boardwalk, and sea lions! We had a great dinner overlooking the ocean.

I'm so glad to finally be here after such a long week traveling. We even took some pictures on campus to celebrate finally being here! (Me of course in my new Stanford shirt!)

Soon I'll write about orientation week, my new friends (2 other Mechanical Engineers from Wisconsin!), and my first ever Division 1 football game as a student (see title picture for preview).

My first day of class is tomorrow and I'm about to head off to a welcome barbecue put on by one of the Christian campus groups. They're promising food, volleyball, kickball, and good fellowship!


Thursday, May 14, 2009


I'm leaving my house here in an hour to go home to the states. My mamatica is out on an errand so I'm alone with my suitcases. She left a CD of Jesus Adrian Romero playing that I woke up to every morning when I FIRST stayed with her, with Justine on our trip in 2007. It's all very surreal.

It's like I said to a student of mine after my last-ever class here a few days ago. He said how lucky I am to get to travel around and experience a different culture, and have friends in a different place - basically be part of two worlds. I said yes of course, thanks to God a million times for this experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything. But since I'm leaving I also reminded him of the negative side. My heart is in all different places and no matter where I am I'll always be missing people who are far away. I have a real family in the united states, but I also have people here who are (and even refer to themselves as) my mothers, aunties, brothers, sisters, and friends.

Please pray for me and for Yanira, my mama tica, through this transition.

The next time I post it will be from the U.S. of A. or as I now prefer to call them the EEUU (Estados Unidos)

Here's a picture we took after my last youth group on Saturday night:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Thunder Rolls

Hey everyone,

The rainy season officially started over the weekend and it has poured every day since, like clockwork. Loud thunder, lightning, and torrents of rain coming down noisily on the tin roofs. During my classes at the project I can barely hear my students even though it's a one-on-one teaching environment. We're still saying "¿Cómo?" "¿Qué dijo?" (Huh? What did you say?) Also, umbrellas are suddenly "like gold", as Candace puts it. The best birthday present you could give someone with a May birthday is an umbrella!

Also, Costa Rican supserstitions about water, getting wet, and things with temperature and feet are especially serious these days. Today Yanira told me that the waters of the first rains of the season are worse for your health than "normal" rainwater. She had a sniffle and said "Look! And I got my feet wet two days ago! These first rainstorms are dangerous for one's health."

The weekend before last we went to a restaurant up on a nearby mountain. The road was in disrepair and I started to feel carsick from sitting in the back, going up switchbacks, and over so many bumps. I had a headache and didn't want to eat too much. Yanira scolded me saying it was my fault for having walked in the house without sandals the day before! If only it were that easy to avoid carsickness.

I can't remember if I've mentioned it before, but Costa Ricans have "allergies" to all kinds of things - clouds, wind, cold, onions, rain, etc. Anything that might make you sniffle. Our pastor has allergies to open windows and ceiling fans when we play cards. Today, Yanira prayed before breakfast as she always does and while praying for her sister she got teary. After the prayer she said "Look! Praying gave me allergies!"

The rain also gives me another positive thought about going home. It's springtime in Wisconsin, whereas the summer here just ended. I will go from summertime to summertime and will have successfully dodged winter except for the months of rain at the start of my stay in CR and the month I spent in Wisconsin at Christmas.

It's also kind of neat to think that I'm going through a similar life change along with everyone who will graduate high school or college this year. I know one year here is nothing like four years at a school, but it's neat that we're all marking off our final days, trying to make the most of our time, wrapping up final projects, and saying farewells. In my case it's trying to do one last act of service for people who have most impacted me while I've been here, and also get one last picture with them. I made raspberry bars for Nathalia and David, Aaron and Candace. I made a cheesecake for Steve and Georgiana and I'll be babysitting their kids tonight so they can go out on a date. This is really helping me focus on others and make the most of my time instead of dwelling on how sad I am to leave. I still need to do things/bake food for Flori and family, Jonathan and Amy, and Yanira and Fernando. I'm thinking white chocolate popcorn, potted plant, and a nice note for each group. What do you think?

To help my transition, Yanira is having a party here at the house next Tuesday. I'm sure there will be dancing, food, and lots of laughing. You're all invited, for any that want to make the trip :)

Talk to you soon, see some of you very soon!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Slowing down

First of all I want to give a shoutout to my uncle Jeff, who's birthday is today. Happy birthday Jeff!

Now to continue with my post... My life is somewhat slowing down now that I'm the only intern at the project. It's not that I don't have things to keep me busy, but I'm used to going from one thing to the next all day, every day. This has its benefits and drawbacks. I am getting enough sleep and having time to read and relax when I'm not teaching. However I've also had a lot of time to dwell on leaving, and that makes me sad.

Pastor Jorge already asked me to say a few words in church this Sunday, which will be my last Sunday here. I'm pretty nervous about forgetting my Spanish in front of everyone but even more nervous that I'll just start crying and it won't matter what language I remember. It kind of hit me in church yesterday, while I was thinking about how great the worship band sounds, that I won't be here in two weeks to enjoy it anymore. That soon I'm going to say final words of encouragement to my students, take take one last picture with everyone, and say goodbye for a long time.

I know God will go with me though, and I know wherever I go He will be my joy and fulfillment in life. I can just look back at how hard I cried on Sept. 19, the night before my flight to Costa Rica to begin this whole adventure. I was crying and scared to begin what came be the best months of my life so far. God has certainly taken care of me and will not cease to do so, ever.

A few pictures:

Me and my Spanish teacher, Nuria:

Me and the Griffith family: Amy, Caia, and Jonathan:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Water update...

So after updating last I called Nathalia and David to come and help me. David is very handy and has lots of tools. After having a good laugh at me for "destroying the house" David used a vicegrips to grip what was left of the valve top to open it. Once he opened it though, water started coming out the top of the valve! Definitely something that wasn't happening before. Looks like we now have TWO water leaks on our property. The valve is situated in a coffee-can-sized-hole in our driveway, and the hole quickly filled with murky water, making it impossible to see the ruined valve at the bottom. David was eventually able to situate it so that the valve is open for us to have water in the house but not too much water is coming out in the driveway. My job now is to fill all of our pots and pans with water, take a shower, and wash dishes quickly before attempting to close the valve and then heading off to church. I'm just thankful this wasn't the 12-foot geyser-type water leak that someone else on our street had a few weeks back.