back in quarantine

the journey east

Hello friends, long time no post. I am writing from a windowless hotel room in Guangzhou, China, where I will be for the next two weeks, losing track of day and night and becoming increasingly greasy and bloated from consuming takeout nearly every meal. Oh, the things I do for freedom…

So, how did I get here? And why?

pt.1: i am suffocating eom.

For those who are not aware, I decided to take a leave of absence from MIT this semester (and possibly for the entire year, depending on whether my dear U.S. gets its shit together) and will be working at a startup in Shenzhen, China. After hinting about this in past blog posts and several months of grueling contemplation while enduring hours of Zoom fatigue, crippling anxiety, and the 100+ degrees, 700+ COVID-cases-per-day shithole that is Riverside County, I came to two conclusions.

1) MIT will not be the same this year, and I would rather pay tuition for the full, lively, pset-with-friends-in-the-lounge-until-5am and bake-300-cookies-with-french-house experience, than a watered-down, remote version spent either in an isolated and expensive apartment in Boston or, god forbid, the shithole that is Riverside County.

2) I needed to get the f out of this country. At least for the time being. For every time I read the news, I come to experience what I can only describe as a mix of frustration, resentment, disillusionment, and pure awe at the sheer stupidity of the leadership of this country. Fall 2020 is going to be a storm.

pt.2: preparing my escape

You know those Facebook moms that love commenting “If you don’t like this country’s policies, why don’t you just move!!! >:(” to anyone who dared to criticize their beloved administration? Well thanks to Karen’s brilliant revelation, that’s what I decided to do.

For the sake of my mental health and better days ahead, I decided to return to, ironically, the place where COVID originated. China had basically controlled the pandemic at this point. There were still some new cases here and there, each met with a cytokine storm of lockdowns and testing, but life was pretty much back to normal. I would be able to work in person, travel, and meet up with friends in semi-crowded restaurants without the fear of accidentally killing someone’s grandmother.

After many rounds of emailing, attending every LinkedIn/portfolio/resume review workshop that the MechE department had to offer (because for a MechE student, I had an embarrassing lack of actual MechE experience), and the help of a very kind MIT alum, I found work at a product development firm at the heart of the Shenzhen CBD. Despite being a little confused at what the company saw in me, I was excited – for the first time, there seemed to be an end to this mindless limbo that began in March. I just needed to get to China now.

Traveling to China in the middle of a pandemic was no easy feat, especially with Americans banned from half the world’s borders and all. Luckily, I still had a Chinese passport. Not so luckily, there were only a handful of flights available due to escalating U.S.-China tensions. I can dedicate an entire blog post to just how I managed to secure a coveted and grossly overpriced plane ticket (fun fact: I now follow every major Chinese airline on Weibo, have a spreadsheet dedicated to tracking current and upcoming routes, and have acquired a Pavlovian reaction to the refresh button), but I will cut the chase to September 11th.

pt. 3: 24 hours in an N95

hello darkness my old friend

LAX was quite empty that evening, save for the line at the check-in counter of China Southern that extended to the back of the terminal. Oof. Convinced that I would catch COVID on the flight, my parents had equipped me with an extremely uncomfortable N95, a regular surgical mask to go over it (and a pack of 100 backups…), a face shield to go over that, several bottles of hand sanitizer, and an entire grocery aisle’s worth of alcohol wipes. Looking at the check-in line, I seemed to be only the median in terms of protectedness – several passengers were clad in full bunny suits, reminding me of the training session I attended in the cleanrooms of MIT.nano. Ah how I miss psetting on the glossy benches of Building 12…

Check-in and TSA went pretty smoothly, with constant hand sanitizing and wipe-downs after each human and object interaction. At the boarding gate, I presented my green WeChat health code – an airplane symbol generated after 14 consecutive days of error-free symptom logging – indicating that I was fit to fly, which was one of the several measures that the Chinese government had implemented to reduced the number of imported COVID cases.

yay for leg space. nay for everything else. (peep the bags of snacks on the ground)

The flight itself was a literal pain in the neck. I was fortunate to have purchased a seat that offered plenty of leg space, but the increased comfort was more than mitigated by the N95 that was cutting into my cheeks, neck, and the top of my ears, as well as the face shield that fit a little too snugly and gave me a headache. I was determined to sleep the entire flight, but the protective gear made it difficult and awkward. I lifted up the straps of my N95 every 30 minutes to prevent my ears from becoming raw, and each sip of water was followed by several minutes of mask adjustment. Crew members, also dressed in bunny suits, took our temperature every four hours. Instead of meals, we were given a bag of prepackaged snacks, though I and most others avoided eating during the flight.

14 grueling hours later, after which I could hardly feel my ears, we finally landed in Guangzhou. Normally I would be excited, but the hours ahead were not exactly something to look forward to. We were each given a number that indicated our exit order. Upon exiting the plane, each passenger had to fill out another WeChat health code, consisting of a highly repetitive set of questions that were basically different ways of asking whether or not we had COVID.

And after that, we stood in line to get tested.

Oh boy, if I thought that the past 20 hours in an N95 was uncomfortable, well, that was before I experienced the nasal swab. My best description of the sensation is probably too graphic for you children reading this, so all I can say is, anatomical diagrams of the nasal cavity will now be viewed in a completely new light. Oof #2.

After the horror of the testing station, I passed through the temperature-sensor-laden customs gate, grabbed the bags that carried my entire net worth, and headed to the queue where all passengers were shipped off to various hotels, where we were to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine and obtain two negative tests. The thing about quarantine hotels is that you literally have no choice over where you get to stay. Staff in bunny suits would lead groups of passengers to random buses destined for different subdistricts in the city, and often people would not discover the name of the hotel until they’ve arrived. Real sketchy. I had read stories of people placed in anywhere from 5-star luxury suites to literal nests of cockroaches. Oof #3.

My luck that day was mediocre at best. Though there were no cockroaches (yet), my room had no cell signal whatsoever, terrible WiFi, and a “window” that opened into the hallway (which I’m pretty sure is a fire hazard). My hotel also did not offer any meals, so I would have to order takeout every day. Rip abs.

But, I mean, no pain no gain, right? And already, I feel like I’m gaining back bits and pieces of normal life. It was refreshing to see crowds of people carefreely gathered on the streets during my bus ride to the hotel and to receive takeout without having to aggressively wipe down the container. Taking off the N95 after nearly 24 hours seemed to signify a relieving end to both my long journey back and the past six months of anxiety, dread, and uncertainty.

I’m not sure what the next few months will hold, but I welcome this new kind of uncertainty and the adventures that are to follow. Here’s to one last post from quarantine. :’)

(update: I have since switched into a room with real windows, but there is a pillar outside blocking about 75% of the view. Oof #4.)

quarancooking pt. 2

more food yay

Happy July! With a fresh month comes another round of quarancooking — one of my few sources of pleasure these days as the weather continuously hits the 100s (and the number of COVID cases in my county continuously hits the 700s. RIP). Starting work has given me less time to cook extensively during the weekdays, but I’ve made a goal of doing something a little more extra every weekend (followed by photoshoots from every angle of my dining table). Hopefully, both the food and camera quality can be reflected here. 🙂

Just a quick disclaimer: my recipes tend to feature a lot of eggs because 1) eggs are great (easy to cook and a good source of protein!) and 2) my parents have lowkey been hoarding them, so we are always in excess of eggs about to expire. So get egg-cited for some egg-cellent egg recipes (sorry vegans) 🙂


  1. Jian Bing (Chinese Egg Crepes)

I have been craving 煎饼果子 (“Jian Bing Guo Zi“) since my favorite stall in Beijing closed down three years ago (and even more so after one of my ESL students from Tianjin described it in detail during a discussion of “What food do you miss most from your hometown?”). If you haven’t been fortunate enough to try one, a Jian Bing is a popular Chinese street food that consists of a thin crepe topped with eggs, a sweet sauce, and different fillings, and folded several times before serving. Although the fillings can be quite personalized, the most popular one is baocui, a crispy fried cracker that adds a delectable crunch when you bite into the warm, scallion-egg-filled goodness. Unfortunately, specialized equipment is often required to master the traditional Jian Bing, so these egg crepes are the closest that I’ve gotten to recreating one of my childhood favorites at home.

I used the recipe for Dan Bing (Taiwanese egg crepes — another traditional breakfast item), but flipped the pancake so that the egg layer is on the outside. I made the sauce out of equal parts of sweet bean paste, hoisin sauce, and oyster sauce. My filling was simply pork sung, but feel free to be creative. The traditional cracker can be replicated by deep-frying wonton skin, but my reservations about deep frying prevented me from trying that out.

Although this definitely was not a real Jian Bing, the pork sung with the sweet sauce complemented each other quite nicely. The batter was a little too doughy, so allowing it to crisp up further on the skillet before flipping would be preferred for next time.

2. Scallion and Pork-Sung Pull-Apart Bread

In case you can’t tell, I am a huge pork sung fan, so when this recipe showed up on Subtle Asian Cooking, I could not resist.

One of the things I miss most about summers in Asia is the abundance of Asian bakeries. I was never much of a sweet tooth growing up (and frankly, I hated the disgustingly sweet items found in the bakery section of U.S. supermarkets), but I would gladly devour any taro bun, red bean toast, or Swiss roll. I can probably dedicate an entire post to my favorite pork sung items (and the best bakeries to find them), but since the aromatic bakeries in Asia are but a dream away, I will just leave you with my own mediocre attempt at making one. Although for once, my baked good did not look terrible, the bread itself was a little dry, and I skimped on the butter so the pork sung was a little too crumbly. Hopefully, I will be back in Asian before I need to make this a second time.

3. Omelette Roll-Ups

And more eggs! Yay protein! This is a quick-and-easy recipe is perfect for a lazy meal. Start by making an omelette, adding whatever toppings you prefer. Then, before the eggs start to set, top it off with a tortilla. Once the egg finishes cooking, flip the whole thing over to toast the tortilla for a bit, then roll it up and you’re done! I added a little bit of bacon, onion, spinach, and red bell pepper to mine.

4. Potato Mochi Pancakes

I have recently acquired a new bag of glutinous rice flour, which means more mochi-inspired recipes! These pancakes are a great way to enjoy that one potato that’s been sitting in your pantry for a month, not to mention being fun to make and satisfying to pull apart. I baked about 200g of potato until soft (though steaming may retain its moisture better), then mashed it together with a tablespoon of glutinous rice flour (feel free to add more — in fact, you probably should, as mine were not chewy enough) until a soft dough is formed (feel free to also add a sprinkle of sugar and salt at this point). Divide the dough into individual balls, flatten each ball with your palm, add your cheese of choice, seal it, and panfry until golden brown.

Overall, the starchiness of the potato meshed quite well with the melted cheese and the hint of sweetness from the sugar. My only advice would be, as mentioned before, to add more glutinous rice flour, as the texture of the dough resembled more like mashed potatoes and less like mochi. For a sweeter version, you can also use sweet potatoes instead (and maybe upgrade to a red bean paste filling. yum).

5. Matcha Mochi Brownies

And yet another recipe from Subtle Asian Cooking! (definitely check out this group if you’re into cooking Asian or fusion food). These were very simple to make and fortunately not too sweet. The matcha flavor complemented the chewiness of the glutinous rice flour well, with the texture closely resembling some of the nian gao I’ve had for Chinese New Year.

As for the actual recipe (since many have asked): combine dry ingredients (130g of glutinous rice flour + 60g of sugar + 1 tsp baking powder + 1 tbsp of matcha powder + pinch of salt) with wet ingredients (1 egg + 2 tbsp oil + 1 cup milk of choice) and bake at around 375F for 40 minutes. They come out with a nice (and aesthetically pleasing), crinkled crust at the top. 🙂

6. Noodles with Salted Egg Yolk

And finally, one more egg recipe to spice up any noodle or rice dish: homemade salted egg yolks. There are many ways of making these, but my dad had favored a traditional method from his childhood, in which eggs were marinated in a saltwater brine for a full month. They are then boiled and eaten with congee (not unlike the salted duck eggs from Chinese grocery stores), but I made sure to save one to consume raw.

The yolk was perfectly cured with a wonderful almost-crystallized texture — a great touch to my noodles (packaged ramen seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, and furikake). But if you don’t have the time to marinate eggs for a full month, simply cure raw egg yolks in either a bowl of salt or soy sauce and mirin, and they should be ready in a few days!


That’s it for quarancooking pt. 2 folks! Hope it was an eggs-hilarating read! (sorry again lol)

I do have more dishes I want to share, so perhaps I will do a more specific feature next time (or maybe an entire post dedicated to my sad sourdough attempts. who knows). Feel free to message me for full details of these recipes, and let me know if there are any cool dishes I should try next!

random life updates: 20, brass rat, and code overload

Just some snippets from the past week as the days begin to blend together.

Update 1: I am no longer a quaranteen

(please bear with my endless quaran-memes. as long as the pandemic is still ongoing, these are not going to stop.)

So I turned 20 on Saturday. Yikes. Being stuck inside my house was definitely not how I envisioned my last months as a teenager. What happened to all the excitement that CollegeTimes’s “20 Things You Need To Do Before You Turn 20” said I should experience? Thanks, coronavirus.

Although I highly doubt the pandemic is the reason that my life has not been as… interesting as the article seemed to imply. I mean, the first item on the list is “go streaking” for god’s sake. (In fact, the entire article is very questionable and honestly a little dangerous, featuring things such as “go skinny dipping”, “have a one night stand with a stranger”, and “shamelessly go day drinking” — and I’m not even halfway down the list.) For someone with a rice purity score that’s still higher than your typical confidence interval, it is probably no surprise that the first 19 years of my life have been rather… uneventful in the social sense.

But questionable activities aside, I honestly feel pretty old. Growing up, 20 always seemed more like a milestone in the transition into adulthood than 18. (After all, 5-year-old me thought I would be married at 20. gg.) Sometimes it seems like the weight of memories have already gotten so heavy, and I am only two decades in. How do actual adults manage to bear the gravity of a million pieces of compressed experiences, to contain them without their minds becoming a hyperbaric chamber? Is this why some people are so forgetful?

Reflections aside, this birthday did manage to temporarily break the mindless rhythm of quarantine life. I ordered takeout, walked around the Mission Inn (the only semi-interesting place in Riverside), and had my first social interaction in three months with someone outside my family for a game of tennis. Later in the evening, I was surprised with some boba (ordered by a friend from two states away) and a Zoom call with some of my closest MIT pals — a reminder of the good people in my life, even with the distance. Seeing everyone’s faces definitely elevated my longing for our days back on campus, and I can only hope that this time next year will harbor even a semblance of normalcy.

May quaran-twenty be the only quaran- in my twenties.


Update 2: My Brass Rat finally arrived (!)

(And I guess 5-year-old me had been right all along)

I am truly the last person in the class of 2022 to receive my Brass Rat. With high hopes for a possible Ring Delivery in the fall (RIP), I had held off on filling out the delivery form until the last minute. Well, one crushed dream, two emails, and three weeks of waiting later, I am now typing this with a Ultrium ring on my finger (and a rose gold one tucked away for special occasions). The ring itself is a little big on me (RIP 2.0), but I appreciate how well the design turned out and the amount of detail that was captured on the bezel. My favorite part is the Boston skyline (especially the mini Citgo sign), which is a little reminiscent of my view across the Charles River from my room in New House. So close, yet so far away (literally).

I’ve been finding it harder and harder to “feel” like an MIT student lately, but having the Brass Rat on my finger is somehow giving me some much-needed connectedness to the entity that is MIT. I recall someone saying, “MIT isn’t a place, it’s a people.” Apparently, it’s a ring now too. 🤷‍♀️


Update 3: Remote work involves far too much coding

Being involved in three remote labs is finally giving me a sense of how being a Course 6 must feel. Between using Python and R for data processing, developing neural networks for even fancier data processing, reconfiguring my Arduino code from last summer to drive a microfluidic system, and random bits of web development for more (unrelated) microfluidic systems, I seem to spend my days perpetually looking things up on Stack Overflow.

As someone who literally took their first programming class last semester, my current work is definitely a huge step out of my comfort zone. I’m happy for the opportunity to finally become more proficient in coding (something I’ve always struggled with), but I can’t say that I enjoy working at a desk for 8 hours a day. I need some movement, some occasional change of pace, and ideally some opportunity to use my hands for tasks other than typing.

I miss my days of working in the lab, even with the occasional half-dissected mouse and failed transformation. How long has it been since I last held a pipette? Too long.


…. And some mini-updates:

  • Finally tried the cauliflower gnocchi I got from TJ’s three weeks ago! I pan-fried it with some garlic and kale and it wasn’t half bad. (wasn’t incredible either, so the novelty of the item is probably not worth a second purchase)
  • On a similar tangent, my oat milk from TJ’s got moldy even though it is still well before the expiration date. 🙁
  • Watched Endgame for the third time. Still love the final battle scene. Still sad that Iron Man is gone.
  • Took three naps on Wednesday. Oof.
  • Going to try making matcha Taiyaki with a Taiyaki pan that I got for my birthday (shoutout to Cindy!). Stay tuned for some (hopefully) yummy content for my next #quarancooking post. 🙂

quarancooking pt. 1

Being stuck at home all day has given me ample time to experiment with the various recipes I come across online. In fact, I have compiled a list, updated practically daily, of all the delicacies that I plan on replicating, from Asian desserts to breads from four different continents (did I ever mention how much I love bread?) to an entire sublist of Southeast Asian cuisine reminiscent of my travels last summer.

With that being said, here are some things that have come out of my kitchen looking presentable enough to put on a blog (only a small fraction of what I’ve actually cooked, but sadly I am quite terrible at plating food).


Everything Bagel Challah: One of the more visually pleasing breads that I’ve baked (unlike the biweekly deflated sourdough), this dense and eggy braided loaf was inspired by no other than MIT’s Challah for Hunger, a student organization that sells freshly-baked challah weekly with the proceeds going towards charities that fight global hunger. The first loaf that I ever ordered from CFH was one of their ever-evolving (and oh so creative) weekly specials — the everything bagel challah — and I have been craving it ever since. This was my attempt at replication, using their own recipe as a base and adding a wedge of Laughing Cow’s creamy swiss spread (because I didn’t have cream cheese) and a generous amount of TJ’s EBTB seasoning.

Salted Egg and Pork Congee (with scallion pancakes): Congee (or rice porridge) is perhaps the universal comfort food amongst Asians, whether served sweet with some azuki beans and rock sugar or made savory with leftover soup. Growing up, my parents exclusively prepared sweet congee (either with mung beans or plain with sugar), so I was amazed by the variety of savory variations served up at the Singaporean hawker centers. Unlike the soupier porridges that I enjoyed as a child, the steaming bowls that I devoured last summer were thick, umami, and usually consisted of some type of protein (sliced fish and pork were common), combined with a freshly-cracked egg at the bottom, and topped with dark and light soy sauce with ground white pepper.

Featured here is my own version of the thick hawker congee that I miss dearly. I used the Woks of Life recipe for pork and century egg congee, but substituted the century eggs with salted duck eggs instead. I also doubled the amount of rice as well as the cooking time to get the thick, creamy texture. My own bowl was topped with some more salted egg, peanuts, pork sung, and, of course, the classic combination of soy sauce and white pepper. I contemplated on whether to crack the raw egg in or not (to add to the Authentic feel), but opted not to since now is probably not the best time to risk Salmonella.

Overall, the pork and salted egg combination came out well (though arguably not as classic as the century egg variation), but the pork was a little dry and the rice-to-other-ingredients ratio was a little too high. I paired the congee with some scallion pancakes (made following Mike Chen’s video), which enhanced the traditional Chinese breakfast vibes but may have been too much of a carbo-load. Some youtiao would be nice for next time!

Mango Sticky Rice: Another one of my favorites from last summer, this traditional Thai dessert is the perfect end to an afternoon of sunbathing on the Ao Nang beach (or a morning of CADing at CREATE ). Despite having the truly authentic version in Krabi, there’s something about the $4 mango sticky rice served at the NUS cantine that drew me back time after time. Perhaps it had to do with the simplicity of the plastic container, the smiling lady at the counter, the rice that was sometimes green… idk. My attempt at recreating was mediocre at best since I omitted most of the sugar, used light coconut milk instead of full-fat, and did not have access to any juicy Thai mangos, but it did the job in satisfying a long-term craving. Next time, the real thing! (hopefully)

Shakshuka: I didn’t know what shakshuka was until college, but it has since become one of my favorite quick-and-simple recipes to pan out (and pairs well with my sad deflated sourdough). I remember when half of French House traveled to Israel last IAP, which resulted in no less than five shakshuka menus in a single month upon their return, from the traditional egg-and-tomato combo to variations such as green shakshuka, sweet potato shakshuka, and red kidney bean with ground beef (for that added protein). That’s when I learned how versatile this dish can be, so I have been experimenting with new ingredient combinations myself, drawing from the limited number of western groceries available in my kitchen.

The skillet featured here is a copycat of Tatte’s summer shakshuka (one of the best in town!), with some corn, feta, and fresh mint. The spice ratio was a little off and the excess liquid from the tomatoes poached the sides of my eggs, but the feta and mint combination definitely elevated the flavor profile. Next time around, I shall serve this with some toasted challah instead, just like how they do it at Tatte’s! (A bakery that I miss dearly — seriously, there are no good bakeries in Riverside. Is a fresh croissant with bougie matcha latte too much to ask for??)

Strata: Basically just eggs baked with bread (or any source of carbs — the one featured in the photo actually uses flatbread). Sundays have been affectionately termed #StrataSundays due to how often I make these after my long runs. Not only do these flavor bombs of egginess provide great post-run nourishment, but they are also incredibly easy to make and customize. Just break up some stale bread (more deflated sourdough anyone?) into a baking dish and top it with eggs beaten with your choice of ingredients (I usually use onions, spinach, bell peppers, bacon, and cheddar), then bake for about 15 minutes, and, bam, you have a nice, filling, and relatively healthy dinner. (Also works for breakfast, of course, but I tend to prefer eggs for dinner).

Kimchi Grilled Cheese: And yet another way to use my sad sourdough! I was really craving grilled cheese and had an entire jar of kimchi on hand, so I decided to add an Asian twist to this traditionally American comfort food. Lightly butter your sad sourdough, add your cheese of choice (Mozarella and Swiss in my case) with about 1/4 cup of chopped kimchi, and toast on a skillet until the cheese has melted and the bread has reached the desired crispiness. For more flavor, I also added a couple of drops of hoisin sauce and just a sprinkle of pork sung, but feel free to be creative!


And that’s it for #quarancooking part 1! Part 2 will come once I develop better photography skills, but, meanwhile, tell me about your favorite food and any other recipes I should attempt! 🙂

zoom anxiety, charettes, and trader joe’s

Now that the semester is over and I can actually procrastinate productively, I’ve made a goal of blogging more consistently. One post a week. Or so I tell myself. Let’s see how long I can keep this up.

With that being said, here are just some interesting tidbits from the last two weeks, in this weird time between the end of classes and the start of summer work where I’m kinda just… there.


1. Zoom anxiety really hits

Now that social interactions have been outlawed, it seems that my social anxiety has been replaced by Zoom anxiety. They say that quarantine is an introvert’s paradise, but I find Zoom calls even more socially tasking. They require more engagement (no more idleness or staring off into space), seem more personal (just my floating head vs. the world), and encompass my least favorite aspect of social interactions: conversing for the sake of conversing, without the enjoyment or distraction of an actual social setting.

A quick Google search told me that I was not alone, though each article seemed to assume that the anxiety was fueled by obligatory virtual happy hours and superficial interactions with colleagues I secretly hated. Bold of them to assume that I had a such a robust social circle to begin with. No, it was not the French House wine nights or SciOly sessions that I minded, but one-on-one interactions with project partners, research supervisors, and even close friends. My Zoom anxiety is exponentially exacerbated when there is only one other person on the line. Lacking the buffer that a third individual provides, awkwardness consistently prevails.

The realization of how much I dreaded these occurred fairly recently, when I noticed that a pervading sense of anxiety seemed to swell up in my chest hours before each scheduled Zoom call, followed by an enormous sigh of relief when they are over or canceled (and the continuation of the cycle as the next calendar reminder looms closer). It feels as if my body is overreacting, but the thought of having to somehow convey everything I need to express through words alone, without body language, and intonate my syllables just enough to mask my usually-monotonous voice (but not enough to sound superficial or overenthusiastic) is exhausting. And this is combined with the fact that I no longer have a valid excuse to end the interaction, because “sorry but I want to go to bed because I’m tired and being locked up in Rivershit California in a global pandemic is eating me alive” is not socially acceptable (yet).

In conclusion, Zoom anxiety really hits and I will probably need to relearn how to normally function when this is all over.

(A spider fell on me as I was typing this and I screamed. Just thought you guys should know).


2. Charettes (“a time-tested approach to community-centered design that we are delighted to borrow from our colleagues in architecture and planning.” Thanks President Reif.)

So I attended one of MIT’s community charettes on Tuesday. These are basically two-hour brainstorming sessions among members of the MIT community to develop a solution for reopening the campus in the fall (how many undergrads to invite back, who to prioritize, etc.). It started off as a mass Zoom call during which we were divided into breakout rooms of 8-10 (with some technical difficulties) and tasked with proposing an ideal two-semester model and three-semester model for the 2020-21 school year.

While it was definitely insightful to see the various proposals that admin has laid out and the “creative solutions” that have come out of this, I found that it was difficult for me to contribute meaningfully to the discussion, especially with my own personal interests so entangled amongst it all. It was one thing to curate a plan of action from a purely objective point of view, but another when every decision made will have a profound effect on my own community and experience. When they asked, what would your ideal model be? I could not answer, because, frankly, none of the models were ideal. There was not a single option that would sufficiently preserve the quality and uniqueness of the MIT experience, preserve the autonomy and solidarity of the communities that have been fostered with interactions that are no longer possible. And it was painful that developing any form of the solution involved essentially picking the “least of the evils.”

That is not to mention the dozens of uncertainties that still remain, like the cost of housing if all undergraduates will be in singles, the cost of a mandatory meal plan if cook-for-yourself communities are no longer permitted, whether in-person research would be possible, whether clubs would even exist… In the end, I could only half-ass a two-semester plan that sounded somewhat reasonable (minus all the logistical uncertainties noted above) while contemplating my own escape. A gap semester (or year) is probably inevitable for me at this point, because more Zoom anxiety is not worth 50k in tuition.


3. And finally, my once-a-month trip outside my neighborhood: Trader Joe’s!

You know that your life has sunken to a new low when a trip to Trader Joe’s becomes the highlight of your month. But living in Cambridge has probably made TJ’s one of my favorite grocery stores, from their relatively reasonable prices (gg H-Mart) to health-conscious labels and ever-changing variety of specialty items (the Everything But The Bagel seasoning is godsend). I enjoy strolling through their cozy aisles, carefully selecting the items for my next meal prep while browsing through the curious assortment of coconut almond butter, dill pickle hummus, and kale gnocchi. The local store was a little crowded for comfort and had long sold out of the ube mochi pancake mix that I so desired (after seeing all the posts on subtle asian cooking), but I nonetheless enjoyed selecting my own, non-Instacarted vegetables for once and the sliver of normalcy that accompanied the act. Oh how I miss my post-run TJ’s trips back in Cambridge, complete with the sore biceps and bruised metacarpalphalangeal joints from lugging everything back to New House.

Featured items from my haul (not including the copious amounts of broccoli):

“Better than real milk” – blogilates
(everything is better than real milk to me. this is pretty good though.)
it seems like you can make anything out of cauliflower these days. got this out of curiosity.


Life in quarantine is still as dull as ever, but hopefully, I can find the motivation to blog more about the random, mundane, yet somewhat-interesting-if-you-haven’t-left-your-room-in-days things going on. Also trying to post all the #quarancooking I’ve been doing because it’s one of the few sources of enjoyment during these times. Stay tuned.