I was in line to be interviewed at the US embassy last year for my visa, and this guy behind me and I chatted a bit. He was from New Zealand, currently a student from Columbia. When he saw I was headed to Cornell, he told me that Cornell had the highest rate of suicide incidents across the Ivy League schools. I remember being told about this when I got to Ithaca also, along with warnings of how the winters got very, very cold.
Coming from a busier place like Manila, I found Ithaca relatively much smaller and also kind of secluded especially if you don’t have a car. Also, I could only imagine how much pressure there is on the students to stay and excel in such a prestigious institution. People traveling from all over the world, a lot of them with only one shot at it. Like me, I guess, on some level. I admit that this is something that added to my constant nervousness during the first part of my stay there. It was a great experience to share my art for conservation and to learn, and I was so happy to be there, but I also knew I only had one shot at it. I couldn’t disappoint. I had to nail it. It’s like seeing how beautiful the gorges and riverside trails on campus were, then you notice that the bridges all have nets around them.
I arrived in the summer, and the Ithaca I met was this sunny city with stunning trails and parks and lakes and gorges. The flowers and vegetables were thriving full on; I felt so ignorant and slightly shamed because I’ve been staying in the metropolis all of my life. Birds in all colors: the blue jay, red northern cardinal, bright yellow goldfinches. Also, since it was a college town, Ithaca is progressive in its own way. Highly intellectual, but also weird and dorky.
I had been very homesick and tried to hide away during the first days, just because it was tiring to be a stranger and be on my toes constantly. Then I saw that the city quietly had its arms opened wide to me all along. The sun and birds. All the people I met who turned into friends. The kindness of strangers who taught me how to be myself, do my thing, relax, ask for help, and above all, have a lot of damn fun. Despite my nervousness and the pressure of doing good work, despite the nets under the bridges, despite the impending winter. Everything was special and important, but nothing was too precious, and that was perfectly fine.
And so. Last couple of things before the photos:
a) I did learn a ton of things, and I keep thinking of how Ithaca taught me this and that, but then I think it was more about encouragement than education. It wasn’t “This is how things are. Do it this way and it’ll work out.” but more like “Gurl, we believe in you! Do your thaaang, we got your back.”
b) It only snowed for a total of 3 days while I was there. Heh.
The room I got to work in along with Chris, Karen, and Andy from multimedia had the nicest view huhu. It faced the pond, and we could watch the geese land, the heron wait patiently, the trees change colors. Like a screensaver, but REAL. Haha.
Desk situation. The paper block I had to work on was 18x24in and I died. I had been so used to drawing for much smaller books so I really had to hustle with this project. In effect, I learned so much about watercolor and how it behaves on this scale, and about my personal process, too. Also please notice the abundance and variety of beverages I needed to operate on some days.
On some days, I sent, what else, but fan email! To people I really admire and wanted to meet or just say hello to. Jessica Hische replied and it made me so happy haha. I had emailed her after listening to her YDMN podcast interview.
CELFIEZ, on the bus, in the woods, with the clouds, to assure my friends and family that I’m a-ok.
Apple Fest! It had been raining when I went and it was SO COLD. I took a nap on the bus, and missed my stop. The bus changed its route while I was asleep and I woke up not knowing where I was exactly haha. But I drank so much hot apple cider and ate so much apples that day, woo. The next day I had coaxed Misaki out of the house to go back downtown. The weather was so much better. I ate more apples hehe.
my Collegetown Bagels name………..
The Friends of the Library sale, which was basically a big bargain sale of old library books. We got there at 4AM (I have never woken up that early to shop ever wow), and found that people camped out there overnight. Very true friends of the library.
Chris recommended Richard Brautigan and I got some of his books from the library sale.
Nice and quiet pre-sunrise walk in Sapsucker Woods with Misaki, during the last day of her internship. Misaki was my first and maybe best friend in Ithaca. She’s so smart (Physics phd, whattup), and talented, but most of all, so very humble. She looked out for me, especially in the beginning of everything when I had been so clueless and confused. She had been my wingman, and constant reminder not just of our inside jokes but also of the quiet little things in life that bring contentment. I wish I could get to see her again, maybe in Japan, who knows!
Celebrated with Misaki when she finished her internship! Had brunch (rabbit sausages, mmm), then walked most trails on campus. First stop was the suspension bridge.
Cascadilla Gorge Trail, goes from the campus down into a few blocks from the main downtown area.
Then we took a bus to Buttermilk Falls State Park and hiked for most of the afternoon. We had ice cream and Vietnamese food after, and then watched Goodnight, Mommy at Cinemapolis, the local theater that shows mostly independent films.
First time to carve a pumpkin! Mine, Aleta’s, Misaki’s.
When it first snowed, I was outside by the compost pit, and I thought all the white stuff on the ground was mold.
Age of License by Lucy Knisley. Read and re-read this one because it was so pertinent.
Goodbye leaves. Also, too many layers of clothing.
Halloween preps. This place called Party City is filled with costumes and props and decorations and I can’t even. And it’s in business the whole year. “People have so much disposable income for…stuff.” was the first thought I had when I went haha.
Figured that I should learn a new skill from Ithaca before I left, so I asked Diane to teach me how to knit! Here was my first practice strip. I’ve made a couple of cowls since!
Most of the scenes in the book are in the forest so I had to draw as much trees as I had to draw eagles and feathers!
Sometimes I cook good, healthy lunches, but on other days it’s a muffin, some popcorn, and a fruit cup.
Halloween costume party at the Lab. I went as a pumpkin. Also wore this dress I got from Petrune, a vintage clothing store downtown. The dress is from India.
I moved houses that day, too. The 4th time since leaving Manila. During my last two months in Ithaca, I stayed at Karen’s, who’s also from multimedia. She lives with her husband John and her two sons Sam and Leo a few blocks from downtown, so I got to explore the city more before I left. It’s a block from Gimme! Coffee, and a few more from the Ithaca Commons (which is kind of like BGC High Street). Theirs was a very lively household, a lot of art (both Karen and John were filmmakers), books, live music (esp. from Leo, who played the piano everyday), science experiments in the kitchen (Sam makes propellers out of soda cans, and he also made me a ring out of a quarter), and hockey! So thankful that they had me over.
First halloween costume ever. I had planned on going as Margot Tenenbaum, but it felt so weird being blonde, so I went for the next logical idea which was to go as an eraser. Went to a friend of a friend of a friend’s party, ate too much cookies and carrots, and danced.
The next day, more music, more dancing. St. Lucia opened and they killed it. To my surprise and semi-fascination, the auditorium was only half-filled, and most of the kids were taking videos instead of…being…in…the concert.
Gave a presentation at the student parade during the Lab’s board meeting! I had 90 seconds to present my project to the Lab’s board members, woo. Had a cookie afterwards. Also, look, Liz is a full head taller than me. Later that night, during the dinner event, I sat at my assigned table trying to eat my steak in the most demure way possible because I was seated beside the lady the building was named after.
Saw Postmodern Jukebox play at the State Theater. They did a slowdance cover of The Strokes’ Sometimes.
First hockey game ever! Went with Karen, John, and their son Leo. All of them play hockey, zo cool! This was Cornell VS Colgate University. Cornell won. The Paris attacks happened that night; it was hard to concentrate on the game in between reading the news.
Open Season group show at Standard Art Supply, the better art supply store downtown. The show poster doubled as a paper target. Out back, they gave you a pellet gun to shoot the poster with. I think there was a cash prize for the person who scored the most.
“No dad, but I made a pretty cowl!”
I think these summarize Ithaca BEST. Over dinner, I met the people who made the poster on the left, then afterwards we all went to the lecture on the right.
Daily lunch walk with Chris and Kathryn and the Goldsworthy cairn in Sapsucker Woods.
Daily lunch walk in the woods, snow day edition.
What happens when you leave Liz and me in Michaels, the arts and crafts supply store.
Suddenly, I was on my last few weekends in Ithaca. Argos with Andy, his girlfriend Shailee, and their friends, then saw Punch Brothers at the State Theater. They played a one-mic set, so damn talented. Later that night, I thought I had left my house keys inside the house, and was on the verge of going to the 24-hour grocery to wait for the morning haha. The keys eventually fell out from somewhere in my coat, whew.
The day Andy (in gray) left for Brazil! I never got to see him again after this day. He works as a producer for the Lab, and he was my first ever office roommate before we moved to the sunny room.
Went downtown for Ice Fest and Chowder Fest (yes), and saw Thomas, the guy who gives Misaki and me vegetables! He told me he’s been to the Philippines before to work with IRRI.
Giselle Potter exhibit at eye gallery. Also met Julie, the gallery’s owner, and I showed her my website hehehehehe.
Last push. Channeling sepanx thru Gondry.
Last few days in Ithaca meant taking awkward photos with officemates. Chris, Karen, and John, the multimedia program’s director.
Geocaching (basically scavenger hunt 2.0) snacks. During my last few days at the Lab, Chris and I tried to figure out the geocache site in Sapsucker Woods.
The was the first clue to the decode, coordinates for where the next clue will be. We never found it. It had always been cold, gray, and rainy when we went, and we got grumpy easily haha. Coincidentally and as if on cue, Chris texted me this afternoon to show that they found it today!
Inside Kip’s Barn, where the Lab kept old footage and equipment.
Party bus! Route 41 bus with Liz, Misaki, Noah on the upper right who was a web programmer at the Lab, Jane, and the beeeeeest bus driver in Ithaca, Mike!
Last friday in the Ithaca! I went home, worked a bit, took a nap before supposedly going out later that night to have one last friday night out. Woke up hours later cozily tucked in bed, my phone lighting up to missed messages from friends asking where I was haha. Manang na manang.
Karaoke for Jane and her husband Thayer’s last weekend in Ithaca. We finished our projects around the same time, and I can’t repeat enough how happy I am to have met her during this internship. I sang Nancy Sinatra’s Sugartown, barely made it through Walk This Way, did Karma Chameleon with Karen, and lastly, Rolling in the Deep with Jane! Haha.
One of the few snow days I had.
Last lunch no. 1 with Liz, this very precious lady. I’m going to miss all our jokes, stories about how we grew up, and lip syncing narrations of things happening on the streets. Earlier that day, over coffee and breakfast, we had been giggling as per usual and the two ladies beside our table told us they’d been in a giggly mood also, and that we should carry on with it because it’s a very simple act but also very profound. One of them told us a story of how she had gone to see the Dalai Lama at Cornell one time, and somebody asked what the secret to happiness was. The reply was the very simple and profound “Be kind.” It sounds so Hallmark-y now that I’m writing about it, but it was a nice moment with Liz and those two equally giggly ladies.
Last lunch no. 2 with Chris, my usual lunch buddy. Most days we’re out by the pond with sandwiches and late 20s existential crises and life plans. There had been exceptions though. Like that one time we sat outside Ned’s Pizza freezing our butts off, eating pizza and fries (“We have no rice here.”, the pizza guy told me when I asked for fries). Another time, upon our boss’ suggestion, we found ourselves having buffet lunch at this Indian place. The Indian part was the actual suggestion, the buffet part was our decision. For our last lunch together: greasy asian food from the one of the saddest malls ever, both good and bad for the heart and soul.
Last Argos night with Kathryn, Chris, Tom, and Karen. I was supposed to fly out the next night.
But my flight got cancelled! And on my new flight the next morning after my original departure date, the airline took me off the flight because of the fog and because I had too much stuff with me. My uncle, the same one who drove me to Ithaca in July, agreed to pick me up instead. More time for last goodbyes! These lovebirds got me coffee and breakfast (mutant banana) before I left.
Done. With temporary DIY waterproofing.
Bye for now, Ithaca. Thank you for the sun and snow and everything in between. I’ll see you again, I know it.