23 May 2010

Just sittin' on the dock of the Bay...

...well, not yet. But Mumbi and I have a city excursion planned tomorrow that should include Fisherman's Wharf. So...does a pier count?

We have been taking it easy today, resting up from a full week and getting ready for an agenda tomorrow that includes a "celebration" at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, Heart of the City Farmer's Market, sea lions at Pier 39, the Ghirardelli factory at Fisherman's Wharf, Jack Kerouac Alley and City Lights Bookstore, and Chinatown. Phew! Check back with me later to see how much of that we actually cram in.

Since my last entry, I've spent a lot more time at Stanford. Thursday was another busy workday with the King Papers Project on which I edited that same darn stack of 3 months worth of 1961 papers that I have yet to finish and "researched" bios and death dates and such for people mentioned in the papers. At lunch, I ate the food that I had packed, but I supplemented it with frozen yogurt form Fraiche, which was a fabulous decision. I got pomegranate-flavored yogurt with organic brownie pieces, homemade mochi, and agave nectar - mmm! And in the afternoon, since it was our last day, around 3:15, we screened an as-of-yet unreleased documentary on the effect that music had on the Civil Rights Movement. It was wonderful! If I were a teacher, I would show it in my classroom.

Friday, we went back to Stanford, but not to work. We had been invited to attend the "Globalizing Black History: Intellectuals, Politics, and New Approaches to Transnationalism" conference. We all went to the morning session and then decided to go to downtown for lunch to The Creamery, which has legendary milkshakes. (I got Peanut Butter Cup.) That afternoon, though I had sincerely enjoyed the talks in the morning, since the conference was optional and I hadn't read the book that they were discussing, I decided to take some more time to explore campus, since I was only to be back one more day (this coming Friday). I mailed some postcards, viewed the gorgeous chapel, and wandered around, connecting familiar areas to each other via sidewalks that I hadn't noticed before. Then, Mumbi and I met up and took the CalTrain back to our hotel, where I cooked both sweet and savory sweet potato fries for us both and made a 2-egg spinach, cheese, and sundried tomato omelet with pico on top for myself. (Yeah, I was pretty impressed, too.)

It's now time for bed, seeing as how I'm going to have to wake up to make the commute to church in the morning. Be on the lookout for a more reflective, intellectual entry coming soon!

19 May 2010

"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

[As I "labored" today, I realized that Dr. King was truly a wise, wise man. I was struck by how telling his speeches and other communications were - not just of those times, but of what was to come. I am honored to have been given the opportunity to intimately examine so many primary sources that are of the degree of historical significance that, before - as I mentioned with the Free Speech Movement and Berkeley - they hardly seemed real.]

We started work at the King Institute (formally the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute) at Stanford University today! I LOVE IT (there seems to be a theme developing on this trip...)

Our boss, Tenisha Armstrong, is very organized. She was waiting for us this morning with filled informational folders, bagels and cream cheese, and staff introductions. After a quick introduction, breakfast, and hello with the employees of the Institute, we went over our individualized schedules, and training commenced.

Somehow, though I was on the original list, I didn't make it onto the record of students working today...or ever, really. But never fear! That just gave me a free pass to more flexible, personalized, more interesting jobs. For instance, instead of "fact checking" or "newspaper" today, I proofread and transcribed! Both of these were tasks that I adored - the proofreading due to my closet (well, I guess not so much anymore) love of all things grammar, never mind that fact that I was privy to such confidential information as will be published in subsequent volumes; and the transcribing because I was literally looking at some of King's typed speeches and then typing them, errors and all, on Word so that they could be entered into the database. COOL, eh?? ALSO COOL: when we came back from lunch, we were greeted with a surprise: the chance to meet Dorothy Cotton, Civil Rights Activist and Friend of Dr. King! (I just gave her that title myself.) We were lucky enough to hear a brief introduction and were able to ask her a few questions before she had to go. I only wish that we had more time with her - (and, to switch gears, I hope that Charles Townes - in his office at Berkeley - is next!)

Other than our lunch break, we worked straight from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. - a bit more intense than our 4-hour Berkeley work days, to say the least. The type of work is also very different, though - as Dr. O'Rourke said the other night, we are getting to see the two extremes of the continuum of "preserving and providing the public access to the rhetoric of social activism" - did you catch our course title in there? Ah, yes, now it all makes sense! Aha! So, on one hand, we have an immeasurable amount of incredible raw material at our fingertips in the form of as-of-yet-unrestored (and therefore unplayable) reels of tape; on the other hand, we have volumes upon volumes of organized information ready to be released to the world - about six volumes, currently, to be exact. (The Institute is putting its finishing touches on the next volume of the Paper Project; we are helping with that as well as researching for other future publications.)

So, always willing to take a break for social activism's sake, Ali, Katie, Michael, Lyndsay, and I extended our lunch break a bit and ventured to the law school to hear a panel discussion on Arizona S. B. 1070. It was very one-sided, but still, some good points were made. Also, it was nice to get to see a bit of campus, though we saw more at the end of the day, at which point we headed to the bookstore on the main part of campus.

The above-mentioned five plus Megan decided to stay in Palo Alto for the evening to attend a Mere Christianity Forum-esque gathering with fellowship and free food that Katie had read about on her iStanford iPhone app. It turned out to be more of a dinner and Bible study than anything, but it was really nice to get to connect with some Stanford students and other members of the community - not to mention the food was delicious, and we brought some back with us!

After missing the train by about 2 minutes due to our inability to find a bus stop - oh, the joys of public transit! - Megan and I created a train station workout this evening before Mallory and I engaged in some intense conversation all the way home - an hour later than we had anticipated, which caused me to miss "Glee," but oh, well, life goes on...and so does Hulu. ANYWAY, we made it here eventually, and now, I am tired! Goodnight!

18 May 2010

UC Berkeley & the H. K. Yuen Social Movement Archive

I spent today and Friday in Berkeley, California! If anyplace in California is more my home than San Francisco, Berkeley would be it.

Actually, the entire group was in town, and it was for academic reasons. After a three-hour commute using many various forms of transportation, we arrived at the University of California, Berkeley's campus around noon on Friday, at which point we went through an orientation of sorts. Some things that we learned were reiterating what Dr. O'Rourke had told us, some things muddled the point of our trip a bit, and a few were actually helpful. Because our boss man had to leave early, though, and because we were so hungry after a journey of unprecedented length, we didn't begin work on Friday.

Instead, Mumbi, Michael, and I decided to spend the day in the town. We lunched at the Free Speech Movement Café, which I found to be really neat: in addition to delicious café food, there are informative posters and pictures everywhere in commemoration and celebration of the actions of Mario Savio and others during the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the early 1960s. It was so neat to be in the café and then visit Sather Gate directly afterwards; being in such a legendary place with a tradition of leadership and activism really made history come alive.

I met up with Andrew for a quick hello and picture at the gate - how often are he and I both going to be in the Bay Area at the same time?? Michael, Mumbi, and I then spent the rest of the day wandering around campus and perusing Telegraph Avenue, looking at hats, books, incense, jewelry, and more, on and off the street. The weather was gorgeous; the usually cold temperature had warmed up to the point at which I could even take off my jacket comfortably, let alone stop shivering. Eventually, we made the three hour commute home, exhausted yet satisfied.

Today, we all set off better-prepared - electing to take the faster CalTrain rather than the more interesting bus - and ready to work...since we had yet to really do anything yet. We were split into two different transportation groups this morning; I was in the later one that arrived around 10 - after a quick Starbucks run. We got right to work, since we knew what we were doing. However, you, the reader, do not know, so I will tell you:

To make a long story short, a Chinese immigrant named Hoh Kun Yuen was pretty much obsessed with recording audio files of activist speeches and news. He had equipment running 24/7 throughout the 1960s and '70s. He is now dead, and all of his reels are now boxed in a very unorganized fashion - many of the reels have corresponding notes, but said sheets may or may not be attached or somehow clearly related to said reels. These dozens upon dozens of boxes and thousands of hours of tape were donated to the Ethnic Studies Library at Berkeley. Our job is to piece the puzzle together and figure out what goes where; more than that, even, we are simply recording an inventory. It's tedious work, yes, but it is absolutely fascinating to be copying down a list of obsolete news stories and then all of a sudden come across a Martin Luther King, Jr. sermon from 1963...for example.

We spent 4 hours working today; the rest of our day was spent, again, taking in all that Berkeley and the Bay Area have to offer. That included my first visit to Yogurtland - ahhhmazing! - a few hours in Moe's Books - a used bookstore of nearly Strand proportions - and, of course, a forever-long commute. Due to some mis-timings, I had dinner at Peter's Café and dessert at Chuck's Donuts, both in Belmont, CA, at about 8:30 and 9:30, respectively. If those are not hometown traditions, then I don't know what is!

In Conclusion
I am more than a little jealous of UC Berkeley students for the college town that they have around them. As our boss told us, there is a restaurant for just about every ethnicity of food within a half-mile of campus; there are plenty of coffee shops and enough used book stores that I could lose days at a time; street performers and vendors abound. Such diversity is evident by even walking down the block or from one campus building to the next: in my two days on and around the campus, I have seen many different ethnicities, social classes, and traditions. I do not think that I could ever tire of living in Berkeley - and especially not anytime soon.

14 May 2010

Leaving my heart in San Francisco

After what seemed like days and was really only a few hours, I finally made it into the city.

I don't know how I'm ever going to leave.

Yesterday, I got to our hotel around 7, and by the time I had eaten and attended our little group meeting, it was about 9:30. I proceeded to hang out, stay up, and read up on the City by the Bay (thanks, Mom and Jane.) Finally, at a very late hour at home but a more reasonable one here on the West Coast, I deemed it an appropriate time for sleep.

I was wakened this morning by a phone call inviting me out on a grocery run. Thanks to my unfortunate need for a shower, I almost missed it; luckily, I caught the group in the parking lot that was headed to Trader Joe's. I spent a good bit of my weekly budgeted food money in one morning, but my logic is that these victuals will last me for the next three weeks, so it's worth it in the long run. Anyway, I LOVE that grocery store - so many organic and natural foods, and such friendly staff! I wish we had them back east...or at least, back home. Like that's going to happen...

As I was watching the news and unloading groceries around lunchtime, I got a call from my roommate, Mumbi, who was hanging out in the lobby with some other classmates. One such classmate was Zach, who's originally from San Mateo, just north of here (Belmont) and very close to the city. The group had planned to go into the city for lunch, and I jumped at the invitation.


We had lunch at La Taqueria in The Mission. The restaurant looks questionable from the outside but has apparently won many awards, as evidenced by its multiple Zagat ratings and rec in my Lonely Planet. The Mission itself was one of my top destinations, so I'm glad that that's how I began my city tour.

Actually, we drove in through the Embarcadero, just to get an idea of the layout and diversity in and between the different neighborhoods and districts. After the Mission, we drove through the Financial District, Pacific Heights, and the Castro, not necessarily in that order. In Pacific Heights, we saw the Mrs. Doubtfire house! I realized today that I forgot my camera connector cord, so I won't be able to upload photos until after the trip...unless I get really creative, which I have been known to do.

Anyway, Megan, Mumbi, and I cooked a delicious dinner for ourselves after we got back (sweet potato/onion/rosemary egg scramble, toast, and sweet tea - we missed it already! - at Megan's inspiration), and then Mumbi and I headed out with the earlier group and the addition of Zach's friend, Hannah, a former Furman student, as well. We took BART to a cable car (for free, because we're "locals") to the Buena Vista, which is a restaurant Fisherman's Wharf famous for their Irish coffees. Too bad we got there after they stopped serving food, which meant that those of us under 21 weren't really allowed in...so we left. We walked back in the direction in which we'd come; at that point, it was fairly late, and we didn't want to miss the last train back. We retraced our steps, transportation included, and finally arrived back safe and sound a few hours ago.

Tomorrow, we're planning to go to Berkeley - by the time we get through all of the public transit, I can't imagine that we will be able to get much done, but I will keep you posted! More about our proposed jobs later - they do sound neat.

13 May 2010


4 hour layover in Washington-Dulles: $10 (I got hungry!)
45 minute delay...AFTER passengers have boarded: $$$ (lots of fuel burning!)
sitting next to a fellow South Carolinian, seeing gorgeous mountain vistas through the clouds, and having the incredible sensation of a water landing only to find that you have, in fact, touched down on the Left Coast: PRICELESS


12 May 2010

It's about that time

In about eight hours, I will finally be en route to SAN FRAN! I am so looking forward to getting to see this city - for the history, the music, the art...I am trying hard not to get too excited, but I am just sure that I will love it.

I've been diligently - okay, sporadically - reading my two gifted guidebooks and looking up things to do and see online. I know that I will be doing work during the day, but I expect/hope to have a good bit of free time, as well.

Tomorrow will hold nearly 11 combined hours in airports and airplanes, but that's okay, because [if all goes according to plan] I will be in the "City that Knows How." (Yeah...I don't really get it, either.) I AM SO EXCITED!