ITH, part 1 here
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.
Continue reading “ITH, part 2”