Saturday, January 8, 2011

Year in Review: A Look Back at 2010

365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, one year. To think, if it weren't for a few natural laws, these numbers would be nothing more than that, just numbers. And yet, we each use these constants to measure the progress of our lives. How much have we grown in the past year? How much have our lives changed? In a way, I'm grateful for this cyclic nature of life -- it forces us at certain intervals to step and reflect.

Growing up, my plans for the future only ever went up to the year 2010, and even that always seemed impossibly far away. 2010: The year I would graduate college, the year I would enter this "real world" I had heard so much about, the year I would be forced to be independent, and in many ways, the year I would have to say goodbye to those last vestiges of childhood. Sounds kind of terrifying, doesn't it? Well it was. 2010 was a year of many emotions: fear, yes, but also love, wonder, happiness, anxiety, and so many others.

Just before January 1 of last year, I found a present for myself in a random bookstore in New York. It was a five-year journal. Each page is assigned a day of the year, and seven lines of each page is allotted to each of the five years. (Complete the first seven lines on each page in your first year, start from the beginning going through the second seven lines, and so on.) I knew that the year ahead would be one of the most memorable of my life, and so I've been very persistent at keeping up with it, bringing it with me everywhere I travel, and even defying the laws of my personal nature by not losing it. It chronicles a number of monumental experiences that this last year has encompassed: exploring eastern Europe with Robyn, living atop a bookstore in Paris, visiting friends in the UK, spring break in Cancun, my final semester at Cornell, senior week and graduation, backpacking through Europe yet again, starting a new job, moving to Africa, and traveling the world over. I did the calculation the other day, and in one year, I've managed to spend time in 20 countries spanning 4 continents. During my travels in Asia, I heard an old Chinese proverb that seemed to relate particularly well to this past year. Roughly translated, it says "to go 1,000 miles is to have read 10,000 books". In that case, I've done pretty well for myself this year.

Here are some of my most memorable entries from 2010:

Jan 1: First day of a new, rather important year. It was a strange day in Odessa, Dickensian even. Odessa started out dead and later, a thick fog descended on the city. I wonder if I'll ever come back here. (Ukraine)

Jan 2: Left Odessa for Chisinau today. Long, sketchy train ride ensued. Robyn and I got to the border and discovered she was missing the necessary documentation. Got through alright though. Spent the evening at MallDova, ate like kings. (Moldova)

Jan 9: Another superb day at Shakespeare & Co. Spent the evening gallery hopping in the Marais, the hip, trendy part of the city, and then after closing, saw a blacksploitation movie with most of the staff. This place already feels like home. (France)

Jan 22: Last day in Europe, and an eventful one. Had lunch at Google with Sian, hung out with Sam, explored the National Gallery, and had a delicious traditional Indian meal with Sam's family. I can't believe it's been four weeks and classes start on Monday. Time for another hasty transition. (England)

Jan 26: First day of classes of my last semester -- pretty scary. I keep hearing about my friends who have jobs locked down about to enter the real world. The Real World -- I'm putting that one off as long as possible. (US)

Feb 18: A pretty typical day at Cornell: class, nap, studying, meetings, and then out. Pretty typical day for everyone except me until this semester. This normal college life things is pretty sweet. (US)

Feb 27: Day one of the birthday marathon. Lunch with Dan Tracy, nap, birthday dinner #1, hockey game, and then a classic Deb & Co. birthday pregame. Finally topped off the night by sledding down the slope with Stef. Awesome. (US)

Mar 16: What a beautiful day. Submitted my paper, probably aced by entom prelim, awesome tea date with Kathy, and productive Kyoto Now! meeting with Fil. All topped off with another hysterical night of Latin Dance with Stef, Alison, and Dan. Life is beautiful. (US)

Mar 26: Last day in Cancun, bittersweet. I feel about ready to go somewhere else, but what the end of spring break means for me and my college experience is terrifying. I'm just comforted that I squeezed so much into this last half-semester. Carpe diem! (Mexico)

Mar 28: Couldn't have asked for a better way to start this half of the semester. Woke up to an email from Nelson, and I got it! Product management/business development in Ghana! All topped off by a Ben's Best pastrami sandwich and a painless drive back to Ithaca with Donna and Amanda. Here we go! (US)

Apr 18: What a fun day. Holi and roof chilling with Krebs, Jack, and Zack, followed by the Flaming Lips' surreal, awesome show and trivia at Rulloff's. Had so much fun just chilling on Krebs' roof blowing bubbles, eating fancy cracker snacks, and taking photos. Loving life. (US)

May 30: Commencement! Ahhh! I can't believe the day has finally come! The ceremony was nice, and I got to sit with lots of my best friends. Went to the history and honor society reception, and then out for a really chill last night out with friends. (US)

June 28: LONG day of transit. Didn't sleep a wink during the night and then a 12-leg trip to the vineyard including almost every form of transportation imaginable. Looks like it will be worth it though. This place is stunning and the family seems incredibly caring and genuine. Spent the afternoon stacking wood and then a big dinner with the other WWOOFers. Just about everything I could have hoped for. (Italy)

July 11: Slept in while Jason went to the Uffizi. Good decision. Marveled at the David once again and met these cool couple of girls from San Francisco. Had aperitivo with them at this cool student bar and then wandered around looking for a bar to watch the final World Cup game. (Italy)

Sep 7: My first day in Accra. The Google driver, Daniel, was waiting for me at the airport, thank God. Unloaded my stuff at my hotel and then off to the empty office. Thankfully the receptionist was expecting me. Tried to catch up on things, ate some Ghanaian food, and went home. The hotel is okay: no hot water, shoddy Internet, but a big, comfy bed, TV, and cleanness. Lots to get used to here... (Ghana)

Oct 3: First day back in Europe. Spent the afternoon wandering around the charming city of Dublin. Beautiful parks, lovely restaurants, such little poverty. Oh! And I took the greatest shower of my life. What a contrast to Accra. Have I been living this way my entire life without ever realizing it? (Ireland)

Oct 18: Day of travel from Zurich to Accra. Got up at an ungodly hour, missed both of my trains, but got there nonetheless. Arrived in Accra and actually felt like it was home. Spur of the moment meet up with other expats, so glad it's turned out to be easy to meet cool people here. (Ghana)

Oct 24: What a wonderful day at the beach. Beautiful landscape, friendly people, no connection to the outside world, and total peace of mind. Life doesn't get much better. Got back around 4:30, grabbed some dinner, and recharged for the week ahead. (Ghana)

Nov 5: Thank God it's Friday. Catching up on things and my first debrief with the Trader team. Had a really nice TGIF with the team and a great dinner with Gabe, Ariana, and Co. Such good conversation. I love nights like this. (Ghana)

Dec 4: On the plane the whole day, finally got to Singapore in the late evening. When did this become my life? And the hotel... Fast Internet, good food, good shower, gym, laundry, amenities. I'm in heaven. (Singapore)

Dec 25: Awesome day! Chatuchak Market in the morning -- very cool. Made some good purchases and ate THE BEST PAD THAI EVER. Dinner at Cabbages & Condoms. A little less sex-health-oriented than expected, but really nice ambiance. Went out with Kathy, Jess, and her cousins. None of us paid for a single drink all night. Fun times. (Thailand)

Dec 31: Last day of 2010, and yet, without the winter weather, it hardly feels like it. Spent the afternoon in Fisherman's Village eating and drinking and writing, a throwback to roughly a year ago this time. Reined in the near year at the infamous Full Moon Party and had fun meeting random people. Hello 2011. (Thailand)


Rigione, Stephanie A said...

I'm going to pretend that you just wanted to keep all of your awesome posts about our friendship off as to not make people jealous ha. Also, were are the posts about you, me, and Daines in our fav Johnson school class? ha

Life is a great thing--- and you got to end it while travelling with the most amazing girl ever.

New year. New adventures.

Randy said...

Another great post, Ben! Here's to another great year in 2011! That is a good proverb!

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fang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fang said...

Impressive, Ben! p.s good job translating, it's 行万里路,读万卷书。
Happy New Year!