I Stand With You

I don’t normally post things like this but after the events of today, I felt the need to say something, anything at all. The events of today have hit home in such a diverse and varied way that I could no longer stay silent.

First there are guns. This is a complex debate – one with many different sides and viewpoints – and while many of us wish it could be solved overnight, there is no easy fix. Everyone has a different idea of what to do with gun laws, quoting facts and figures from other countries around the world as well as quoting our own constitution. My personal opinion: I do not like guns. But I will not let that persuade me from listening any less to advocates of other gun-involved solutions. However, I will stand by one statement: Guns are not the answer and never should be. To those against gun violence, I stand with you.

Then there is the Islam piece. It is so upsetting to unfortunately still see the lack of understanding between Islam and extremism. They are not the same and they never will be. Extremists may be of any religion, any political viewpoint, any personal or violent agenda. The man who attacked those in Orlando was an extremist. His actions should not taint the Islamic religion, a religion that has led so many individuals to helping human kind in such a wonderful way, such as Muhammad Ali who we have honored in his recent passing. Violence is not one of the five pillars of Islam and should never be confused to be one. To my Islam friends, I stand with you.

Again and again we have voiced the anthem: the conversation on mental health needs to be far louder than ever before. As someone who has dealt with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues throughout my life, I know first hand there is no easy answer to this. Mental health problems are difficult. They hurt. Even admitting to them or acknowledging them is a difficult step. We are so inclined to sweep them under the rug and hope that they do not resurface. But they always do. In this time, we must work even harder to offer help to those who need it and reach out for help if we need it ourselves. To those who have dealt with mental health issues and continue to fight through them, I stand with you.

An issue that has barely been raised during this time, but it still fresh in many of our minds following the Brock Turner verdict, is violence and abuse. The ex-wife of the Orlando attacker described the abuse he put her through, with no voice to prevent it except via divorce. Far too many women I know, myself included, have dealt with harassment, assault, abuse, and violence, with no voice to speak out against it and no safe environment to share their stories. In the wake of the backlash regarding Brock Turner’s verdict, it warms my heart to see people uniting and pushing back to say “this is not okay”. But this just one case, and the road to ending abuse is just beginning to be paved. To all women and men who have dealt with abuse and harassment, I stand with you.

And here’s the big one. The nightclub was a gay club. The conversation would be different if this was any place else. But hate continues. And even when great strides are being made to make the world safer and better for every single individual, there are those who cannot tolerate the happiness of others and strike out in ways that hurt so many more. As someone who is bisexual, I am very comfortable in myself. I have never been loud about my sexuality but I am comfortable and open about it. It has taken years to get to this point, with many roadblocks along the way, but I finally believed we had turned a corner as a nation to true tolerance and even acceptance. It has been so long since I have felt such heartache and sadness that such hate still exists against one group of people. People who just want to be loved and be allowed to love who they want. I stand in mourning for all those lost in Orlando and across the country as hate continue. But never before have I wanted to raise the Pride flag so high and say that I will not be afraid and I will not stand down and I will not let hate smother me into silence. As Pride month continues, let our voices be hard strong, loud, and together. To all those in the LGBTQ community, I stand with you.

Thank you to the police, the FBI, the various heroes of the story that are often forgot in the media. The responders who transported victims to hospitals, who rescued those held hostage, who accounted for those lost, who responded quickly and effectively to this and other recent tragedies such as that at UCLA, and who prevented more from occurring such as at the LA Pride Parade today. To those silent heroes, I stand with you.

Lastly, to all those who lost loved ones in this tragedy, you are not forgotten. Your loss has sent ripples across this nation that hopefully will turn into waves that will bring about real change. A tragedy like this is the worst in the nation’s history and that should not be taken lightly. You do not deserve the grief you are being put through. To all those who have lost someone, I stand with you.

Consider this a quiet anthem calling for change, calling for action, calling for a stop to these tragedies that continue to breed hate across our soil. But in the face of this sadness, we must stand together and unite our voices into one chorus. Make this world better, not worse. Inspire love, not hate. Stand together, not apart.

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Yosemite, CA: My Half Dome Story

Six days ago, I conquered Half Dome.

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It feels unreal to say those words and part of me is convinced that it really isn’t real: did I actually climb Half Dome? I must be dreaming. But it’s real. Really real.

It seems that every person who has climbed Half Dome in Yosemite has their own story, so I figured I would add my own to the mix. But let me start from the very beginning.

Around March, an old friend of mine asked me out of the blue if I was interested in visiting Yosemite and climbing Half Dome with her this summer. She was coming to California for a week or so and Half Dome had been on her bucket list for ages – she was eager to finally accomplish this task. I, having only recently emerged in the outdoorsy/hiking/adventure community, had never heard of Half Dome or knew of its legendary hiking stature but was eager to embark on another great adventure. After some extensive research, my anxiety about the hike began to rise dramatically and I worried if agreeing to this had been such a good idea (see my previous post). Each hiker who had accomplished Half Dome had drastic and dreadful stories, stories that could scare away even the most ambitious of hikers, but somehow I was able to convince myself to go on this journey regardless.

And so, last Tuesday, my friend Tori and I set out for Yosemite, crashing at an inn on the outskirts of Yosemite that night before venturing into nature’s sacred grounds on Wednesday morning. Throughout the days leading up to our adventure, we had been continuously applying for a Half Dome permit using the 48 hour lottery process. This permit allows the group to climb the cables on Half Dome and is given out on a completely random lottery basis. When we first failed to receive a permit for Wednesday, we were disheartened, wondering what our options were if we actually didn’t secure a permit during the duration of our trip. But luckily, on Tuesday evening, an email rolled in confirming our permit for Thursday, June 18, 2015. Immediately we were filled with excitement and nerves.

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When we arrived in Curry Village early Wednesday morning, we ambitiously decided that we would warm up for Half Dome the following day by climbing Upper Yosemite Falls. Considered “very strenuous”, Upper Yosemite Falls is a 7.2 round-trip hike, averaged to take about 6-8 hours according to the Yosemite hiking guide. With such a short mileage, we thought “this can’t be that bad” and set out, eager to experience the fresh air, towering redwoods, and impressive cliffs that made up Yosemite.

Boy, were we wrong. First, we set out at about 11am, leading straight into the hottest part of the day, which to our demise was in the 90s (Fahrenheit) and felt even worse with the thinner air of higher altitude. At the bottom of the trail, a sign warned hikers of the extensive switchbacks that this trail took but fresh into the park we ignored the warnings and ventured on. Quickly, we realized why so many hikers before us cursed any and all switchbacks for their hard-on-the-knees incline and endless monotony. Like damn, this trail was ridiculous. During the last third of the hike up, our motivation started to fail us and no matter who we passed as they headed down, they all seemed to say “just another 40 minutes”. After what seemed like eons, we reached the top and enjoyed the stunning views, letting the spray of the mist from the waterfall cool us in our exhaustion. Long story short, the hike ended up taking about five and a half hours (including a 40-50 min stop at the top for food) and took a lot more strength and endurance than we anticipated.

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Coming off the Upper Yosemite Falls hike, both of us were a bit shaky: if we had barely survived this hike, how were we supposed to tackle the 12-hour, 20-mile beast that was Half Dome the following day? Sure enough, when we woke up Thursday morning, bright and early at 4:30am, each of us independently freaked out (Maybe we shouldn’t do this. It’s not too late to back out now. WTF, we’re crazy, what have I gotten myself into?). But by 5:15am we were on road, leaving Curry Village by the Happy Trails trail, munching on a breakfast bagel.

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The great thing about the Half Dome trail is that it’s nicely portioned out into distinct milestones that really makes you feel like you’re making progress (as opposed to the endless switchbacks of Upper Yosemite Falls). Once we reached the actual trailhead, the first leg is the 1.5 mile paved-road hike to the Vernal Falls bridge. This portion had it’s steep sections and it’s flatter sections, but the big thing we learned early was to really pace ourselves: one step in front of the other, never letting ourselves get out of breath. The other thing we established early was that it’s okay to stop every 20-30 minutes for a quick break to grab some water and to stop every hour-ish for a 5-10 min snack break.

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From Vernal Falls, we followed the Mist Trail up toward Nevada Falls. Even though it was early in the morning, there was plenty of morning light to illuminate our way along the steep steps, but definitely be advised, this trail is not for the light-hearted. While the steps wind next to the waterfall, exposing miraculous views of water’s power to carve it’s way through a mountain, this isn’t a sight-seeing trail as every foot hold is a careful balancing act. In the bottom corner you can see some of the winding staircase that makes up the Mist Trail, although most of the trail is not so friendly or fenced in.

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At the end of the Mist Trail, it was just a bit farther before reaching the top of Nevada Falls. A number of people were resting here once we reached the trail split so again we took a break before venturing on knowing that only a couple miles remained to the top. From Nevada Falls, the trail wound a bit into a sort of mini valley where a few campsites were located and the trail leveled out to almost completely flat: just a simple walk in the park. This gave our legs a nice rest before we entered the dense forest switchbacks that led to the sub-dome or quarter-dome.

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So far the trail hadn’t been too difficult, especially compared to the steep switchbacks of Upper Yosemite Falls the day before, but the forest switchbacks put our energy level to the test. Again, we paced ourselves and took breaks regularly to ensure we conserved our energy. During one of these breaks, we were able to peer through the trees to see the upcoming cables stringing their way up Half Dome and it all became real. This was Half Dome and we were about to conquer it.

When we surfaced from the trees, we found ourselves at the base of the subdome. Unlike the dense forest, the subdome was almost extremely bare of trees – just sheer rock rounding upwards toward Half Dome itself. Like many of my fellow hikers, I found the subdome almost as difficult as Half Dome itself. There are no cables here to keep your balance and there are any number of paths to take to summit the dome, with still a steep slope eager to pull you down with one false step. But again, we paced ourselves and watched our footing, making it to the base of Half Dome itself.

Now, before we embarked on this journey, I had read that the cables are far more intimidating and terrifying-looking than any pictures you might come across. And holy shit, was that true. Standing there, with my lungs starting to strain for oxygen at the high altitude, with Half Dome looming up in front of me, I honestly wasn’t sure I would make it. Aside from when I first woke up, this was my first moment of doubt all day. I mean, these things looked like death just waiting to happen.

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A couple who had been hiking nearby us all day – passing us as we rested and resting as we passed them – was already at the base of the cables, looking up and thinking about turning back. After a five minute psych-up though, we convinced ourselves to go on. We had come this far and couldn’t turn back now. I wouldn’t let myself live it down if I gave up now.

So we pulled on our gloves (tip: bring your own gloves that fit) and started up the dreaded cables. And, pardon my French, but holy fuck was it terrible. Being almost 6 ft, Tori was able to tackle the cables head on, focusing on leg strength to push her up the sixty degree incline and using the cables more for balance. But for me, being a measly 5 ft 2 in, it was a completely different story. My short legs required me to take much shorter steps and, at times, the cables came up near my shoulders and head, requiring a whole different set up upper body muscles that I had not prepared for. It was almost about 40 minutes of heavy panting, pure agony, and perpetual “YOU CAN FUCKING DO THIS MEAGHIN KEEP GOING” thoughts to keep me going.

But at 11:11 (I’m not joking), I summited.

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Pictures really can’t do it justice. It’s actually breath-taking (and not just because of the high altitude/thin air/lack of oxygen). It’s stunning. Majestic. Powerful. Gorgeous. You can see for literal miles. You are eye level with snow-topped mountains, rising above them on this outcropping of rock that you fucking climbed. This, I believe, is what it feels like to stand on the shoulders of giants.

Let’s be real – I got up there and I cried. I’m not totally sure what it was – an outpouring of relief, happiness from the beauty around me, or pride at proving myself wrong when I thought I really couldn’t do it. Because I did it. And it was all worth it.

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After about an hour resting and refueling, we ventured back down. Despite the height of the cables compared to little me and even with my fear of heights (did I forget to mention that?), rappelling backwards down the cables was far easier than ascending. Once on the bottom, descending the subdome was far trickier since no clear path quickly presented itself. Slow but steady, we did reach the base though and continued back to the forest switchbacks that had led us to the amazing peak.

From this, it was a pretty uneventful descent. As with most hikes, descending was much faster than ascending, although also much tougher on the knees and feet. Since the hike had been so well sectioned, each time we reached a point of interest (Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls, etc.) we knew we were one step closer to a shower and a bed.

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By the end of the day, we had hiked 20 miles in 12 and a half hours. God were we happy to see our tent.

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Overall, I would highly recommend Half Dome. I know it’s on many adventurers’ bucket lists but if you work for it, I know you too can do it, whoever you are! Hit me up for more Half Dome tips and tricks and never stop exploring!

Life Between the Waves

Land! As the LA Harbor fades beyond a veil of fog, the gentle peaks of Catalina rise out of the horizon. “Hoist the foresail!” Three of us run forward against the salty spray of the ocean. We’ve caught the wind again.

Where did this all begin you ask? Well, as part of my last semester of university, I decided to utilize my last few free units and take a sailing class. The first half of the class is spent in the classroom, learning about types of vessels, navigation indicators, and who turns away in a “you’re coming right at me” situation – basically, the rules of the road, or should I say, sea. The last portion of the class though, before the final, is a two-day sailing excursion from San Pedro harbor to Catalina Island.

Thus, under the guidance of our Captain (who is also our instructor), I and four other sailing class students sailed to Catalina! And when I say “sailed”, I mean sailed. We hoisted and lowered all the sails, plotted our course by hand, and even steered our sailboat for a majority of the journey! While we still couldn’t have done the trip without the constant direction from our Captain, it still felt like we were in control, holding the ship afloat amidst varying winds and guiding the ship through various manoeuvres as sails were adjusted.

When we first set off, we were all a bit nervous, questioning our ability to raise and lower sails or even wondering about the threat of seasickness. Due to some high winds near the coast, we began our journey on a 50-60 degree tilt as the boat leaned with the wind and we got our first taste of real sailing. It was simulataneously exhilarating and terrifying because even though I knew our Captain was a professional and would never capsize the boat, my brain still freaked out everytime the boat swung closer to the water.

After a while, however, the winds calmed and we enjoyed a peaceful ride to Catalina. If you’ve never sailed before, you’d be as surprised as I to learn that once you’ve caught the wind, most of sailing is just steering the boat and maintaining course. With so many of us on board this led to a fairly peaceful journey – blue waves, warm sun, and the quiet of being the only breathing souls for miles. Even as I was holding on against the tilt of the boat, there’s something so calming of being out amongst the waves, just you and your thoughts.

It puts the whole world back into perspective for you – we are tiny little creatures amidst a world full of so much beauty, danger, and excitement. Sailing really proved that to me.

After a night’s sleep in the Avalon Bay at Catalina (with the boat gently rocking us to sleep), we journeyed back LA, running the motor for most of the trip as the wind had officially died down from the day before. It was incredible to imagine sailors from centuries past piloting vessels through month-long voyages, navigating without any electronics to verify position calculations or trying to sail when there was no wind to be found. Luckily for us, we did have the luxuries of modern technology and we returned safe and sound.

Overall, the entire experience of sailing was eye-opening and exhilarating. While I may not throw away my current career plans for a life between the waves, I would eagerly sail again. And I encourage anyone who has even the slightest interest – give sailing a shot!

Adventure vs. Anxiety

Today I’m going to talk about why I haven’t been posting anything recently, why I’ve been so stressed out, and why I hate making large life decisions. It’s a simple word – we’ve all heard it and used it in less extreme cases and really it’s something so simple and psychological I sometimes want to just smack myself for letting it stop me. Did you guess yet? It’s anxiety.

Anxiety is one of those things that no one ever wants to talk about (which is ironic that I’m talking about it on my entrance back to the blogging stage). According to Merriam-Webster, anxiety is “an uneasy state of mind”. In plain English, it’s the thing that makes you want to stay in at night instead of hanging out with friends, or it’s the thing that makes your mind run at a thousand miles an hour, or it’s the thing telling you your blog posts are crap and you should find a new hobby (cough). Anxiety is really quite annoying.

But you know what? My blog posts aren’t crap (or maybe they are) and I want to keep sharing them with the world regardless. Who gives a shit if they’re not as prime as some of the bloggers I look up to? They’re still mine to share and mine to love and nothing else matters. Anxiety be darned.

As much as I joke about anxiety though, it’s a real, confining thing. Recently, a friend and I have been making plans to go camping in Yosemite over the summer. When we were discussing our schedule for the few days, she mentioned she wanted to hike Half Dome and told me I should start training and arm conditioning now. My brain went, ‘Training? Arms? Aren’t we just hiking?’ After some quick Googling though, I learned that Half Dome is one of the most iconic and difficult hikes in Yosemite. And why train your arms? Well because the last 400 ft of the hike involves you pulling yourself up by some cables attached to a rock, requiring a fair bit of arm strength.

Huh.

My first reaction to this idea was “Wow! This sounds awesome! I’m gonna do it!”, quickly followed by, “Shit, that looks terrifying.” A bit more Internet research and hiker testimonials has now put me right around “Okay, it’s manageable but it’s really hard but OMG what am I doing I’m going to die.” And thus I’ve hit my wall. Because I am so convinced that with some regular training I can conquer this hike, and with a bit of fear-of-heights-swallowing at the end, I believe I could even finish the cables section and get to the very top, I am so determined to do this hike. But this also doesn’t stop me from having a panic attack about every other day about it. What if I slip and fall? What if I get a muscle cramp? What if I let my friend down? Whatifwhatifwhatif?

That’s the root of anxiety – the questions that buzz through your head at a million miles per second, making you want to call your friend and tell her you can’t do it, even if you know you can. It’s a life-freezing thing that stops you in your step, freaks you out, and makes you want to hermit away from the world until it’s too late to accomplish the things you missed out on. It’s debilitating, it’s annoying, and it’s heart-breaking.

One of the hardest things about this whole anxiety-blocking-my-hiking-dreams thing is that I absolutely love hiking. I’ve only really gotten into the activity in the last year but it has swept me up in its path. Just this past weekend I hiked Escondido Falls and, while most of our group stopped at the bottom of the falls, I dare-devilishly ventured to the top of the falls with a few other girls to witness a grander waterfall and feel more accomplished than before. I’m constantly looking for new iconic hikes to expand my hiking repertoire. Between the exercise and the return to nature, hiking has become the perfect activity for me. And then anxiety has to get in the way of all that.

People hate talking about anxiety, along with many other mental illnesses and instabilities, but I’m all for starting the conversation and making it louder and louder so that everyone can understand the struggle that accompanies these things. That’s a blog post for another time but for now, I making myself a public pledge: I will not let anxiety stop me from accomplishing my goals. I will post my blog posts even if my brain says they’re crap and I will do the Half Dome hike this summer. I can do it. And so can you.

St. Louis, MO: Make the World a Little Bigger

So last weekend, in honor of our lovely presidents who generously gave us a long weekend, I traveled to St. Louis to visit Washington University. Okay, fine, I actually just took a weekend off to travel and visit a friend there – why not! So anyway, while everyone else was home being cutesy and romantic for Valentine’s weekend – cooking homemade dinners and sending chocolate and rose sales through the roof, I ventured from LA to St. Louis to spend Singles Awareness Day with another single friend for an adventure weekend filled with Mardi Gras and plenty of tourist attractions.

Adventure, as I like to call it, has become a huge part of my life recently. In an effort to get out of my comfort zone and really experience all that the world has to offer, I’ve started encouraging(forcing) myself to explore, try new things, and DO things. This isn’t to say I didn’t do this sort of stuff before but it wasn’t until recently that I really started putting my heart into it. It’s become such a part of my life that if I don’t get out and do something different or unique or new at least once or twice a week I begin feel restless and almost anxious.

It all started with my “LA Bucket List”, a list I created at the start of this past school year listing off all of the places, activities, restaurants, etc. that I hadn’t gone to or experienced since living in LA. Many of these things were quintessential LA things that I’m amazed I somehow avoided up until this year – LACMA, Griffith Observatory, Umami Burger. But with the dawn of my last year in college and with uncertainty if I’ll ever move back to LA, I felt compelled to complete as many of these experiences as possible before I left. Thus began #adventurefridays. With a number of my friends also not having class on Fridays this semester, it was the perfect day to do some exploring while most people were in work or school. I’ve already crossed a number of items off my LA Bucket List and hopefully will continue to in the coming weeks – I’ll keep you posted!

Which brings us to St. Louis. I had booked this trip months ago to visit my friend Annie, essentially returning the fun favor of when she visited me in LA last year. It was honestly one of the best travel weekends of my life – the ideal balance of work and play, excitement and relaxation. We kicked off the weekend with Mardi Gras, a giant party and parade in the streets filled with too many beads and beers to count. After an exhausting day celebrating though, we countered the weekend with plenty of tourist attractions, including the famous Gateway Arch and City Museum, forcing ourselves to trudge through the 17 degree cold (something I had no experience in being from California) to experience the sights around us.

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I could go on and on about this trip and how truly great it was, or I could tell you how stupendous my Annie is for letting me sleep on her floor for three days, but really I’ve led you through my rambling thoughts for this long to come to one point: we should make the world a little bigger.

With the onset of global travel, Internet, and social media, people continue to talk about how the world is getting smaller and smaller. Globalisation has caused cultures to mix and people to stay more connected than ever before, shrinking the world down to digestible 140-character chunks of information from one side of the globe to the other. Air travel allows anyone with a passport to start their morning in California and end up in Hong Kong before 24 hours has even passed (if we’re ignoring time zones). Yes, these things have connected us all in an amazing and complex way but what I realized this weekend (on my short 4 flight from Missouri to California – a journey that would take days by any other form of travel) is that even while the world may be “shrinking” it still is by no means small.

While the internet connects us in incomprehensible ways, there is nothing that beats traveling and actually seeing the world for what it is. There are over 7 billion people on earth, 196 countries, and who knows how many things out there to experience. It is so easy to get sucked into a comfortable bubble of location, a comfortable bubble of schedules and convenience and “I’ve done this before but it’s fun so let’s do it again.” Even if you live in a diverse area, you may still feel like your world is plenty big enough. But are you going out and experiencing it?

The world is so much bigger than our minds can comprehend and while we may be able to pull up pictures of the Taj Mahal from our computers at home and imagine what that must be like, it is not the same as going there and experiencing it in person. So instead of sitting inside today (like I am right now to write this post), I challenge you to go out and do something different, something you’ve never done before. And I challenge you to keep doing these different things, to get a sense of how much is really out there – a challenge to make the world a little bigger.

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Serial-ly Addictive

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!

Like many other armchair detectives, I’ve recently become engrossed in the widely popular podcast Serial. I’ve always been a fan of murder mystery-detective-type stories. From Agatha Christie’s famous whodunits to the BBC’s Sherlock to watching way too much Criminal Minds with my roommates, I’ve always enjoyed piecing together the various clues of a case — determining motive, analyzing evidence, and ultimately solving the cases. Maybe it’s the problem-solving aspect of mysteries, but I love hearing every detail and angle of these cases, trying to beat the clock and solve them before the answer is revealed. I can’t say I’m good at it, but it’s still fun.

So when a friend mentioned the Serial podcast to me about a week ago, I figured I’d check it out. A 1999 case of a high school girl murdered by her ex-boyfriend (or so they think). Sounds pretty interesting, right? For those of you who haven’t listened to this series yet, a little background: The podcast reviews the 15-year-old murder case of Hae Min Lee, a high school senior, murdered by her then-recent ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. Adnan became a suspect when his accomplice Jay Wilds testified against him, explaining Adnan and his own (Jay’s) role in the murder and burial of Hae. However, Adnan stands by his innocence and as the narrator begins to open up the old case, the messiness of the trial tumbles out and giant questions about the murder case arise.

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As many critics have said, Serial is extremely addictive in nature. The podcast is structured so that a different angle is viewed each week, slowly building up a case as the police might. First, motives and alibis, then witnesses, then evidence, and so on. It keeps you on the edge, wanting to keep listening so you can hear more clues and keep trying to piece it together. While I didn’t necessarily enjoy the narrator injecting her own thoughts and opinions every so often, she raised a large number of hard hitting questions that made me continue to re-look at the case in more and more different lights. By the end I wanted to take all the testimonies, suspicions, he-said-she-said’s, and toss them away to look at the case from the ground up, facts and hard evidence only.

Why do I say this? Well, after listening the first few episodes you’ll know that there are an extraordinary amount of inconsistencies, lies, conflicting facts, and confusions within the case itself that it’s hard to figure out how the case even came to a conclusion in the first place. With who knows how many maddeningly different timelines along with straight-out poor handling of the case facts, the whole situation could not be more confusing. Constantly, there a pieces of evidence that are brought up only to be pushed aside later and forgotten. The whole case, in my eyes, was handled terribly. Instead of analyzing all different possibly explanations on how the murder could have occurred and who could have been involved, police and prosecutors jumped straight to one conclusion and forced evidence to fit the timeline.

My biggest problem with the case is the lack of focus on DNA evidence. As someone who is science-minded, hard facts like DNA should be the basis of any investigation. Skin samples under the victim’s nails, strands of hair, any DNA evidence left on things at the scene of the crime should all take priority, matching DNA to suspects or those involved rather than just assuming they must match. In the case with Hae’s murder, almost no DNA evidence was every actually examined, and for what reason, I have no idea. If the skin under Hae’s nail doesn’t match Adnan’s but matches someone else, shouldn’t we examine this other person rather than pointing the finger solely at Adnan because he was the ex-boyfriend?

Similarly, the lack of actual hard evidence makes the whole case extremely hard for me to digest. Now, I haven’t read the case files or gone through the records with a fine tooth comb, but from the brief mentions during the podcast, it sounds like hard evidence like rope and empty alcohol bottles from the crime scene were largely ignored. The conviction was turned out solely based on witness testimonies, many of which conflicted or changed throughout the course of the trial, without any basis in hard factual evidence. It blows my mind.

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Coming down to it all, you’re probably wondering, ‘Well, who do you think did it?’ Honestly, I really don’t know. I haven’t done all my research on the case to make a firm judgement. But from the podcast, I heard enough to determine that the whole case seems fishy. I can’t say if Adnan is lying or telling the truth, but my brain keeps going back to episode one, where the narrator points out that people tend to forget the details of the days that are completely ordinary — a point that tells me that Adnan probably wasn’t involved. I also can’t pin down Jay, who’s constantly changing testimony, timeline, and involvement in the crime makes me really question him as a reliable source, even if he claims he was just trying to protect friends and family by keeping them uninvolved. His whole story sounds extremely wrong to me. If I were to make a conclusion, I would say a third person was involved — someone who maybe had a grudge against Adnan for some reason and used Jay as an accomplice (like Jay says) but threatens Jay enough to get him to frame Adnan as the murderer instead of the third party. Or maybe it simply was a random murder.

Unfortunately, Serial season 2 won’t be covering the continuation of this case, despite me eagerly awaiting to hear more about the development of the DNA evidence. In any case, Serial gave me a new perspective on murder mystery cases and I encourage anyone who enjoys on-edge whodunits to check out this podcast. But be forewarned, you might lose about 12 hours of your coming week gripped by this addictive series!

I’M BACK!

And with food to boot! Specifically a pasta back filled with the richness and goodness of grandma’s cooking.

Last August, I said I was back in action, ready to report to you with food and photos and feedback on life. Unfortunately, I bit off more than I could chew and choked through a semester of difficult classes, two jobs, and student organizations, leaving all my free time for sleeping (and maybe a bit of Netflix). But here I am again, hoping this New Year’s Resolution sticks better than previous ones!

So today let’s just focus on food. FOOD. If you’re like me and are just coming back to college, getting back into cooking-mode can be a bit of a struggle. First, you come back to your apartment and there’s no food. So you haul your booty to the store and buy way too many groceries without any idea what you’re going to make from all these random bits and pieces. Then you sit in your apartment for three days, munching on toasted bread because you have no motivation to actually cook after three weeks of being spoiled with home-cooked meals. And then finally — finally — on day four you become desperate and you find yourself with a few empty hours and you COOK. BAM.

Or if you’re like every other non-college student on earth, you cook like normal and wonder why we students complain so much.

Anyway, I’m a college cook so congrats to me for forcing myself to be productive and cooking something! This was a pretty simple recipe but filled with lots of different ingredients and plenty of leftovers to keep me well fed. If I had all the time in the world, I would have used all fresh ingredients but instead — let’s reiterate — I’m a college student and am as lazy and broke as a sloth (yes, think about it, sloths are broke too).

So, without further ado…. Cheesy Chicken Pasta Bake!

STEP 1: You guessed it – ingredients! As always, we begin with all those puzzle pieces that make up this delicious meal. If you are feeling ambitious, feel free to use all fresh ingredients and save the world from a few more cans, but until I have days to cook and hundred dollar bills to just toss around, I shall continue with cans:

  • 1 and 1/3 uncooked pasta (I recommend: penne or spiral shapes)
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 jar (aka 14.5 oz) spaghetti sauce
  • 1 can (aka 14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (aka 14.5 oz) corn
  • shredded cheese

STEP 2: P-p-p-prep time! Luckily this recipe has extremely little pre-cooking preparation needed. Make sure to cut your chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and finely chop your basil if you use fresh leaves like I did. Other than that, just drain your diced tomatoes and corn to avoid any excess water and we can get cooking!

prep

STEP 3: In anticipation of later steps, heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

STEP 4: Cook your pasta as directed on the package. Usually this involves boiling some water and tossing in your pasta for anywhere from 7-11 minutes. Once cooked, drain and set aside.

pasta

STEP 5: In a large (and I mean large) pan, heat your olive oil on a medium-high heat and toss in your chicken and basil. Mix and turn the chicken pieces frequently for even cooking and let cook for about 3 minutes.

chicken basil

STEP 6: Turn the heat low and add in the diced tomatoes and spaghetti sauce. After mixing it all up, turn the heat back up to medium-high or high and bring the mixture to a boil.

tomato

STEP 7: Finally, add the corn! (Easiest step ever, right?)

corn

STEP 8: If you’re smarter than me and actually have a giant pan, mix your pasta from earlier into the chicken-tomato-corn mixture. Then pour the whole mixture into a casserole-type dish, sprinkle a bit of shredded cheese over the top, and stick it in the oven! It may look like not everything will fit in your casserole pan but I promise it will! Bake for about 20 minutes.

pasta bake 1

cheese

STEP 9: After making sure the cheese is well melted (but not burnt), pull your pasta bake out and DIG IN!!

final

Now you have plenty of food to stave off hunger until you can regain the motivation to cook again! Here’s to hoping you’ll hear from me again extremely soon! In the meantime, NOM ON!!