Thursday, March 18, 2010

Introduction to a New Chapter in Bryan's Life

This week I found out that I had been accepted to The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Of the schools that I applied to this year, it was absolutely my first choice. It was also the school I didn't think I would get into due to the extreme ridiculousness of the SAIS students and alums that I have met.

Anyway, I got in, and I'm very excited. The program I applied for spends the first year in SAIS's Bologna, Italy campus and then the second year is spent in the Washington, DC campus. It will be cool to live abroad (something I didn't have a chance to do as an undergrad) and it will be cool to be a student again. Mostly, it's cool to be successful again. In the past year I've dealt with a lot of disappointment and uncertainty (thanks recession) and it's just really nice to know what I'm doing for the next year or two.

Thanks to my sister Jennifer who helped me study for the GRE, to my old professors and employers who wrote me sweet letters of recommendation, and to my friends and family for supporting me in my quarter-life crisis that ended up in me moving across the country to pursue an interest in which I had no experience.

So yeah. Come visit me in Italy. I leave on August 26.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Birthday Suprise!

Last Wednesday my girlfriend Katharine was very excited to show me my birthday present: a tenor trombone that she had some how managed to rent for a month. She told me to practice it in preparation for a surprise on my birthday (the 4th). The surprise was way cooler than anything I could have expected.

Katharine had found a jazz club near my house called HR-57 that has jam sessions multiple nights a week. A rhythm section plays jazz standards and different horn player can come up and riff with them. On Thursday, my birthday, she and I and our friends Lindsay and Jimmy went to HR-57 with a bottle of wine (it's BYOB) and my trombone.

I was a bit nervous at first, but I had a few chances to go up and play some jazz. It has been a really long time and I've missed it. I miss music in general and finding this opportunity for me might be the best birthday present I've ever gotten.

I absolutely want to go back and take full advantage of my month-long trombone rental. Maybe I should see if I can get back my Real Book that I left in California...

Despite what Jeremih might say, I highly prefer Birthday Jazz.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mustache Bash!

This Saturday I had a birthday party. I bought a ton of mustaches and had a bunch of friends over and we partied it up.

Our house walls were decorated with different famous mustachioed men (and women) and I was surprised to find that I have enough friends in DC to decently fill up a house party! I also discovered that night that my next door neighbor has the same birthday as me and was also having a party. And she went to Cal. Weird.

Not too much to say about it all except that I had a lot of fun and that I'm a big fan of this song right now.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Waking Up to a Phrase

I woke up this morning with just a wisp of a song in my head. It's like when you want to remember a dream, but all you can remember is a green sock or a concept.

I spent the whole morning thinking about what the song could be while I was getting ready for work. All I could remember is that it had some kind of reverby bass line and a person with a weird voice singing. Finally, another thought popped into my head - I heard this song while sitting on the floor of a Santa Cruz co-op talking about music to some guy!

As I walked to work, I went over our conversation in my mind, reconstructing it. I finally came to the song through a long chain of other songs...

We had discovered that a Newton Faulkner song that I liked was actually a cover of the song from the theme of "House" called Teardrop.

The guy then shared another cover of "Teardrop" by Jose Gonzalez. We got to talking about Jose Gonzalez and how we both liked a song of his called "Heartbeats."

Turns out "Heatbeats" is also a cover. The original "Heartbeats" is by an electro-pop duo called The Knife. I YouTubed it on my iPhone as I was walking to work and was satisfied with the weird riff that had popped into my head while I was sleeping. I hadn't heard this song since we had talked about it until today.

You're welcome for some music.

Making a Difference for a Family

Hello to friends and family who might read my blog from time to time. If you follow me regularly, you might know that I don't always have a penchant for inspirational or heartfelt words, so I'll paste my friend and fellow UNHCR colleague's plea below. My only comment is that I've met this man, and he has a very compelling story.

Dear friends and family,

As many of you know, I worked for the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for a year after I graduated college and have since returned to the agency this winter to assist the Caribbean Unit with their response to the January earthquake in Haiti. Throughout my time working with the UNHCR, I have interacted with hundreds of refugees and asylum-seekers but I have never felt moved to ask others to help fund-raise for an individual.

Last week, however, a refugee from Rwanda named Julius Tumushabe came to our office and I happened to answer the door and begin speaking with him. After only a half-hour conversation, I knew that he was someone I wanted to help in any way I could, even if it meant trying to personally raise funds. Upon investigating more about his history and speaking with the attorneys which represented him, my feelings that he was a very special case were confirmed.

Julius, who was born in Uganda and is a citizen of Rwanda, was persecuted in Rwanda by government authorities for his political opinion. He was arrested, beaten and tortured, his oldest son and niece were murdered, his wife was raped in front of him and he himself was shot during his successful escape from armed soldiers. After the last attack on his home in 2003, his family disappeared and Julius presumed his wife and children were dead. In 2004, Julius was able to enter the United States where he was granted political asylum in October 2005.

Thankfully, Julius had discovered that his oldest daughter Ruth, who had been sleeping over at a friend’s house on the night of the attack on his family home, was alive in Rwanda. Ruth was finally reunited with Julius 2 years ago. However, his wife and the rest of his surviving children were still missing at the time.

In early 2007, Julius discovered, after thousands of dollars spent on private investigators, that his family was alive in a refugee camp in Uganda. Julius quickly filed petitions with US immigration for the rest of his family to join him in the United States. The petitions were finally approved in February 2009, six years after he came to the US.

Julius’s family lives with an acquaintance in Uganda, but Julius himself supports them entirely on his own. He maintains 2 jobs while studying to continue his professional career in the health field. His current lack of funds to finance his family to come to the US is prolonging their separation and threatening to inhibit their reunion as his family's visas are set to expire this summer.

Since Julius is a recognized refugee in the United States, the UNHCR is unable to commit to assisting him at this moment because much of their funding in the US office goes to help persons who are still in the process of seeking asylum or being resettled. His previous attorneys from AYUDA, (a local non-profit), were so touched by Julius, however, that they are taking it upon themselves to also personally fund-raise for him, one stating that “Julius, more than any other client, has affected me personally because of his very tragic past and his hope for a prosperous and peaceful future.”

The cost to fly his four family members from Uganda to the United States will total several thousand dollars. While I recognize there are a world full of needs to contribute to and it is very difficult time financially (both realities I am well aware of as a volunteer for the UNHCR), I believe some people cross our paths for a reason and all we can do is try our best to support each other in any way we can. Therefore ANY contribution—whether monetarily in any amount, by sending this message on, and/or through thoughts/prayers—would be greatly appreciated and will go straight to helping Julius and his family.

If you are willing and able contribute, checks can be made out to me (Laurelyn) and I will write a check for the tickets, or you can make the contribution directly to “Julius T--” and send to:

I've been inspired by Julius' story and unlike some things on TV, I'm sure exactly where this money is going - to the family of a brave man from Rwanda. Well, rather to an airline company (great. I ruined it), but you get the point. I've edited out Laurelyn's full name and address for privacy reasons, so please contact me if you'd like to help.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Seen in DC #6

Black snow. I think this comic explains it best: