Thursday, August 26, 2010

Retrospective on a Significant Year in My Life

I'm sitting writing this in the international terminal of the Washington Dulles Airport. Almost a year to the day, I flew into this airport into an unfamiliar city with an unclear future. That was the day I began this blog. Since then, I have made a lot of friends, had a lot of really great times and created some unforgettable memories. Most importantly, I realized that I am capable of steering and shaping my own life path. The Bryan who flew into Washington DC on a muggy day last August was unsure whether he could be successful in an attempt to pick up his life and change it. The Bryan flying out today is confident that he has done so and can again.

Sappy stuff aside, I am extremely excited for this new chapter in my life but I am pissed that Dulles charges you for wireless access. Maybe the Europeans are more amenable to my semi-socialist (a.k.a. cheap-skate) views when it comes to wireless internet access.

An interesting observation: When I flew into DC, I brought a ton of bags. Flying out, my life consists of a 22 lb. suitcase, a carry-on suitbag and my UNHCR backpack. Amazing how much money I wasted shipping stuff I was to get rid of anyway.

Oh hey, I'm moving to Italy! (The details)

So I finished my econ final on Tuesday and I realized, "Hey! I'm moving to another country for a year!" That is obviously a big deal for me, but there are some significant things that should concern you (my family, friends and randos who stumbled upon this blog):

1. My American phone is going bye-bye. I'm putting the number you know in storage. If you want to call me, you have a few options. Call my google voice number (202) 596-8385 and I can talk to you from my computer or you can leave me a voicemail. You can text me there as well! You can also find me on Skype (my s/n is bkschell). I stole an old USB camera from my parents' garage, so I can video-chat you as well either through Skype or Gchat.

2. My blog is going to change. Not that much, but it seems dumb to call this "Bryan's DC Adventure Blog" when my new adventures are definitely not in DC for the next few months. This is an open call for suggestions for a new name. Alliterations are preferred.

3. I'm going to be sending post-cards! Email me if you want me to send you one, and from where. Heck, I might go somewhere in Europe just to get you a post card, so go wild!

4. Come visit. I am willing to pretty much go anywhere in Europe or North Africa to meet up with you if you're willing to fly across the Atlantic. I know it's expensive, so if I don't see you, don't worry, we'll still be friends. (But how awesome would it be to go skiing in the Alps with me this December?)

Friday, August 20, 2010

New York, New York

For my second-to-last weekend in the States, I went to New York. Good way to do America, right?

I took the bus up early last Saturday to celebrate my best friend Duncan's birthday. His girlfriend (fiancee, actually) Amanda planned out an awesome day for him and was cool enough to invite me along. We began our day with a sail down the Hudson River on a sailboat Amanda had booked. Good marriage choice Duncan! After the sail, Amanda and her cousin went shopping so Duncan and I went a speakeasy that was hidden away in a hot dog restaurant in the East Village. I'd talk more about my awesome experience there, but I was asked to Please Don't Tell. We went to dinner and then hit up a martini bar. Sounds fun doesn't it? It was. Also expensive, but that's New York.

That night I got a text from my good friend Bryan (not me, the other one) and I realized that I was about to leave the country without seeing any of my other friends in New York. Sunday morning, I changed my bus ticket from a 10:00am Sunday departure to a 7:00am Monday departure. I had lucked out anyway because Hillary Clinton was speaking at SAIS so my Monday class had been postponed. In the midst of an econ class, I can tell you that the marginal utility I get from Hillary Clinton is nowhere the marginal utility I get from my friends, so I stayed in New York.

Sunday morning, I also went to a service in Brooklyn where my friend Matt was playing with the Revelation Gospel Praise Team. Lemme tell you, that guy just goes from from one awesomely-named band to another. Then we went back to the East Village and bought food for my AMAZING REUNION DINNER! We had a bunch of school friends over at Matt's and had some general good times.

I am going to miss all my New York people, and hopefully some of them will come visit me next year. Monday morning, I took the early Chinatown bus back to DC - or so I thought. After a nap, I awoke to find our bus in Philadelphia's Chinatown. Then Baltimore's Chinatown. There are downsides to riding a Chinatown bus. I arrived back in DC around noon and started a new week of economics.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Some Hard-Earned Shellfish

Three weeks into my pre-term economics classes, I've gotten to know some very awesome SAISers.

After a particularly nasty mid-term on Thursday, a bunch of us picked up some beers and headed over to a fish market in southwest DC for a seafood celebration.

Pounds of fried shrimp, bags of lobsters and a 1/4 bushel of crab later, I went back to studying with a full belly and a satisfied mind.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Seen in DC #7

Hank Paulson's office!

When I interned at Goldman, he was CEO. Now he's a Fellow at SAIS. He's obviously following me around.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Welcome to SAIS! Now, Learn Economics.

Look at this book.

Now, look at this book.

These two texts have been my life for the past two weeks. I got into DC after a fun, but very tiring trip to the Bay Area and started school immediately the next day. Although I hadn't even gotten around to buying a notebook or pens, our professors got down to business by tilting our heads back and pouring in economics.

This is SAIS's pre-term economics program, advertised to students as a way to knock out some of the intermediate economics requirements and get back into the swing of school before classes start in the fall. Being overly confident, like I usually am, I decided to take both offerings: Intermediate Microeconomics and Intermediate Microeconomics. How hard could it be?

Hard. Tidal-wave hard.

I am pretty much taking the equivalent of a year's worth of intermediate economics in the course of a month. Every day since I've been to DC, I've woken up early, trekked to the SAIS campus studied econ for two hours. Then I've attended 2.5 hours of macroeconomics lecture. Then I've studied more over lunch. Then I've attended 2.5 hours of microeconomics lecture. Then I've run off to 1-2 2 hour TA sessions. Then I somehow find time to complete problem sets, study for midterms and read chapters for two classes that are both going at a pretty accelerated pace. I then leave the SAIS campus around midnight, sleep on a couch, and repeat.

I'm surviving, kind of. Pending the results of my macroeconomics midterm, which I should get tomorrow, I think my head is just barely staying above water. I definitely have 5 people to thank for that:

1. Joe, who is also taking both macro and micro with me (we both have come to terms with our poor choice in class scheduling)
2. Rachel, who talks with me through every micro problem set and keeps me working
3. Amber, with whom I've formed a symbiotic relationship of macro studying, work-checking and sarcasm
4-5. My Mt. Carmel pre-calculus and calculus teachers. I'm drawing a blank on your names right now, but I'm going to find my yearbooks and send you hand-written thank you notes. Somehow, all the math I learned 8 years ago is still in my head and I am extremely thankful for that.

I only have two weeks of this yet, and on the other side of that tunnel is Bologna, Italy...


Seriously, I thought this stuff only happened on TV...

When my parents and I arrived at Eileen and Cole's wedding, we realized that what we thought was the wedding site was actually the reception site. The room, which had a big picture of the couple for people to sign, was empty and the ceremony was only 30 minutes away. We asked the wedding planner where the actual ceremony was, and she told us it was on the beach across the street.

On our way to the beach, we picked up two elderly ladies also on their way to Eileen and Cole's wedding, as well as a girl my age who probably didn't want to walk to the beach in high heels. We arrived at the ceremony and sat down. I was kind of surprised how few empty seats remained, considering there was still a good 20 minutes until the listed start time. The two elderly ladies were escorted to some seats in the very front, so I figured they were family.

It was a really pretty set-up - right on the beach with the audience facing the waves and a guitar/harp duo playing some beautiful music while we waited for things to start. I snuck a glance at the nearby beachhouse where I could be tasty hors d'vours waiting to be eaten. While we were sitting (I had to sit in a different row than my parents because of a lack of free chairs), the wedding officiant came up and talked about how this was to be a Jewish wedding and described some of the customs that went along with this. This perked my interest as I didn't know that Eileen was marrying a Jewish guy. I was about to tweet about being excited to do the Hora when the music changed and the bridal party emerged.

The second I saw the maid of honor I knew. I turned to my Dad, who was looking at me from a row up and mouthed "WRONG WEDDING!" my eyes wide with fear. I turned and looked at the girl behind me who also thought she had been at Eileen and Cole's wedding and we shared a look that said, "We have to leave, but here comes the bride! How can we? We need to leave!"

My parents, sneaky as they are, had sat in the far aisle, so they had already slipped out. The girl and I took advantage of everyone standing up for the bride to climb over two rows and make a quiet and only semi-rude exit. The poor old ladies just sat in the front row, enjoying the show, taking pictures and getting bad looks from the bride's mother.

We eventually all made it out and got to the right ceremony with more than enough time to spare, but wow. I don't even know if I learned anything from this, but it makes for a good story.

Wedding #6

You'd think by the end of a 3 weddings in 3 weeks marathon, I'd be tired of this stuff, but instead, I just get more and more pumped as my friends celebrate their awesome love.

After a week of straight studying, I took a weekend flight to San Diego for the wedding of my oldest friend Eileen. I've known her since I was five years old and she's lived 3 houses up the street from me for my whole childhood. Having known this girl as a 10-year-old, I can tell you, she's had this day planned for a while.

Her guy is named Cole, who I had the chance to meet this summer while I was in San Diego. Upstanding young gentleman if I can say so myself, and his personality is perfect for Eileen (she likes to be in charge, but likes a guy who'll stand up for himself).

After a minor detour, my parents and I arrived at Eileen's wedding which was super colorful and located on a military base in Coronado (which is on the San Diego Bay). The reception was super great and I ran into an old friend that I hadn't seen since high school (two, actually). I unfortunately had class on Monday morning, so after the dinner, the first dance and the speeches, I had to cut out of the reception, board a plane, and take a red-eye flight back to DC, where I arrived just in time for 9:00am class.