Tuesday, December 22, 2015

General life update

Hey, guys!
So it hasn't been all that long since the last time I invaded your blogger home pages and Facebook newsfeed with my blathering, but I wanted to include a few pictures/stories about things that have happened to me more recently, and just sort of a general life update, as the title of this post would suggest.

So, let's begin.

1) Saturday solo adventure in Madison - November 21: 
Beloit is about an hour and a half by car to the south of Madison, Wisconsin's state capital. Due to its proximity and the availability of discounted, $9 roundtrip bus tickets to Beloit students through our Residential Life Office, it's a place that Beloiters frequently visit on little weekend day trips for concerts, conferences, or just to get up and out of Beloit for a little while and be in a bigger city.
I'd been wanting to go myself for quite some time, and I'd tried to get some friends of mine to go with me, but since that particular Saturday, it had been a while since I'd gotten out of Beloit and I really needed to, I decided spontaneously to just buy myself a bus ticket and go it alone when no one was free to come with me.
I needed to get far away for a little bit, to push myself, go on an adventure, and just get out of my comfort zone a little. I figured it could also be good practice for when I'll be doing much the same thing in Turkey next month.
After one fairly painless and uneventful 90-minute bus ride, I was dropped off on the University of Wisconsin Madison's campus, right in front of a major art museum.
Over the course of the day, I had lunch at a Nepali restaurant called Himal Chuli, walked over to the Capitol Building, which I explored, as well as the nearby Wisconsin State Museum, stopped by one of the lakes, hit up a coffee shop and a used bookstore, and finally got dinner at a Russian restaurant called Paul's Pelmeni before catching the bus back to campus.
It was a really fun day of introspective reflection and solo adventures that introduced me to a great little city. I would very much recommend visiting Madison.
I had lunch in a Nepali restaurant called Himal Chuli.

The inside of the Capitol Building.

From the outside. 

Just a street in downtown Madison.

One of the lakes. 

A used bookstore I stopped in. 

Incredible icicle shot by the lake. 

The capital tinted with the light of the sunset.

2) Thanksgiving in St. Louis - November 25-28:
One of my personal annoyances when it comes to Beloit is the shortened Thanksgiving break - we didn't get Wednesday off. However, that not withstanding, I met my parents and my sister down in St. Louis for Thanksgiving.
Since I don't think I've elaborated much on this, my family is going to be moving to St. Louis next summer, after my sister graduates high school, as she will be attending Washington University in St. Louis, where my father recently took a job.
This was my first time seeing our future city of residence, and although I didn't get to see quite that much of it because of the shortened break, I must say I liked what I saw.
Aside from spending Thanksgiving together with my family, we also explored the city together a bit, checking out the Wash U campus, the City Museum, the Central West End, and so on.
Though Ann Arbor will always be my hometown, I look forward to exploring St. Louis further over the coming months and getting to see what it offers in greater detail.  
Took this in O'Hare on my way.

The descent into St. Louis.

The inside of an old, Christmasy train station. 

The big Christmas tree inside.

From the City Museum.

The Washington University in St. Louis campus.  

From the Aya Sofia Turkish restaurant I ate at with my parents. 

The descent into Chicago on my way back to campus. 

The very festive O'Hare that welcomed me back. 

The lights on the trees, as seen from the moving inter terminal train. 

3) Finals:
I survived. And I daresay, I did good. Straight A's for the first time since middle school.

4) Home for the holidays:
I've been home in Ann Arbor since the 15th, and I've been enjoying myself greatly. I've hung out and caught up with many friends from high school and such, and have just generally been doing my best to settle down and immerse myself as much as I can in my hometown and the rhythm of day-to-day existence here while I'm in town. I went to my high school's first ever Alumni Day (first ever because mine was the first graduating class) and reunited with all my best friends. I've also gotten together with them a number of times subsequently at two holiday parties, as well as seeing the new Star Wars movie (which, as a side note, was fantastic) with my two good friends Chathu and Riley. I also met up with Mr. Garcia, my former lit teacher, to whom I'm still quite close. It's been lovely to reconnect with everyone. :)
Not to mention, the holiday spirit - ever aware of the painful homesickness that dominated December during my exchange in Egypt back in sophomore year of high school, I've been cherishing the holiday spirit as much as possible, doing my best to be festive and enjoy the Christmas season in every way I can. :)
(If you'd like to read a relevant post about holidays I wrote on this blog in 2013, or enjoy a quick flashback to my Egyptian Christmas of 2012, feel free to click on the appropriate link.)
A cool wall map from a night we dined at the Blue Nile, a delicious Ethiopian restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor.
A candid Snapchat shot of me and my friend Jaylen. 
A blurry selfie with the Nerd Herd on Alumni Day.
5) Turkey preparations: 
And now, not much more time stands between me and my imminent return to one of my favorite places on the face of the Earth - Turkey.
All the bookings have been made, plans are being set, the visa has been obtained, and I am ready to go. Suffice it to say that I'm brimming with nervous excitement, and cannot wait to be on my way. :)

Here's my little update for now. I'll be back in a while.
For now, everyone take care, and happy holidays to all!
Much love,

^Signing off today by sharing a few videos made by this guy I found on Youtube named Kirby Henry, who is originally from Minnesota but seems to have lived in Japan for a long time, and translates songs into Japanese and covers them. Cute, talented, multilingual, and musical. What's not to like? ^_^

^Loved this latest vlogbrothers video.