The Margarita Experience
My ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

A few days ago, I was nominated to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (Shoutout to Carmen Wong for the nomination!). ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a neurodegenerative disease where motor neurons from the brain to the spinal cord and spinal cord to the muscles progressively die. As this happens, those affected become slowly paralyzed physically, but not mentally (still being able to think, express emotion, and communicate). There has been no evidence of preventive measures or cures. 

By the time I had been nominated, the ice bucket challenge was on the high road, taking over Facebook feeds and news headlines (of both backlash and praise), raising 22 million USD, and having celebrities and billionaires passing the challenge to one another. Amidst the entertainment and frustration came 3 articles that reminded me what this challenge is all about and essentially defined why I wanted to do it (beyond the nomination):

  • Read this to try to understand what it is like to be the daughter of someone diagnosed with ALS. 
  • Read this if you want a list of 10 “empathetic experiences.” Some include:
  1. Pick up a 10-pound weight. Now imagine it’s your fork and move it from your plate to your mouth repeatedly without shaking.
  2. Sit in a chair for just 15 minutes moving nothing but your eyes. Nothing. No speaking, no scratching your nose, no shifting your weight, no changing the channel on the television, no computer work. Only your eyes. As you sit, imagine: this is your life. Your only life.

  3. Put two large marshmallows in your mouth and have a conversation with your friends. How many times must you repeat yourself? How does this make you feel?
  • Lastly, watch this if you want to know what it is like to spend the last few years taking care of family members then realizing that you will soon be the one who needs to be taken care of.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion so this is just mine. In short, I accepted the ice bucket challenge because:

a) I didn’t know about ALS and this social media campaign challenged me to take the time to discover the facts (I’m sure I wasn’t alone)

 b) Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. This number may be minimal compared to other causes of death but that is not the point. No one is exempt from witnessing and experiencing loss from an accident or a disease. As someone who has found so much support and hope from organizations and people that understand and experience cancer, I can only hope that we can provide the same for those who have been inflicted with ALS.

Finally, c) I am living in a world where people all over the world can stay connected through a phone app, travel halfway around the world in a day, and share/create experiences and ideas with a bit of perseverance. With all of this, we are still fighting the same wars, losing people to the same diseases (and more), and living our lives the same way as if the world has always been this comfortable. Yes, I enjoy the cute animal vines and buzzfeed articles; yes, I am guilty of going to work, going home, doing chores, and starting the next day the same way. But what then is the point of having instant access to everything, to everyone, if we distance ourselves from what is happening 20 hours away from us. What is the point of our smartphones if it has turned us into people who panic during a blackout, who bump into a pregnant woman carrying groceries, and who sit comfortably on the T while an older person struggles to balance. If there’s anything this campaign has done, it has brought back the human spirit and has woken us up from our bubble and putting our time, money and effort into something that is uncomfortable, spontaneous, unifying, humbling, and most of all, bigger than ourselves.

So essentially, thank you to everyone who has taken the quick minute of their daily lives to participate in this movement. May the generations after us find these crazy videos in our archives and be proud and inspired of what we did with 2 minutes of our time.

In addition to donating to ALS, I will be donating to Gawad Kalinga

1) Because this organization is providing quarterly reports on what has been done, what is currently being done, and what the plans are for Typhoon Haiyan. 

2)The Enchanted Farm is such an awesome endeavor. While I am still figuring out my own social entrepreneurship journey, I am more than happy to support such an amazing one. 

Kim Champlin, Kyle Ley, and Veronica Limcaoco, you’re up next for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge! #icebucketchallenge #alsicebucketchallenge #strikeoutals

Petition for Professor Horn

Below is a story I have written for a college Professor who was denied tenure twice. For anyone that has ever had an amazing professor, that has ever been lost and guided, please sign this —>  Petition for Professor Horn. To learn about my story, read below:

September 2010 - Denise Horn entered the room with a big smile on her face, not at all daunted by the 200 pairs of eyes, mostly freshmen, starring back at her. She welcomed us, told us to keep our laptops, and the rest was history. I left that class intimidated, intrigued, and curious. We talked about conflict and politics, globalization and gender, the ever changing world that we were expected to take in our hands. With her straightforward prompt and genuine support, I and 31 Northeastern University students did just that.

My dialogue of civilizations program to Bali, Indonesia was one of the most amazing programs I have ever experienced at NEU (and I have done plenty). Students of different majors and backgrounds came together through our shared passion to change the world. In 6 weeks, professor Horn made each of us believe that with empathy, respect, and determination, we could.

During our first 2 weeks, we met a prince, the founder of a museum (that was also a social enterprise), and the head of a school. We danced the Legong dance and crossed rice paddies in the rain. After learning and loving this beautiful country and its people, we were partnered with students from a local university for four weeks. Factors that could have brought about conflict -language barrier, economic background, and educational expertise - brought about conversation. Professor Horn had challenged all of us - Indonesian and American students alike - to think of the bigger picture; of the unjust social issues that we, and possibly the generations after, experience. We were in class 6 days a week from 8 to 4, with countless hours before and after spent in internet cafes or research sites. Other students from other dialogues have bragged about the big buildings and the fancy restaurants (which I appreciate just as much). But what we, all 32 of us, have bragged about are the hours spent sitting in a circle with our Indonesian counterparts, taking turns playing the guitar and sharing life stories (though we did eat merrily).

After our last 3 frustrating, exciting, and overall gratifying weeks, 10 groups of students stood proudly together presenting our economic, efficient, and sustainable solutions to HIV/AIDS awareness, youth unemployment, substance abuse, and many more - theaters managed by the youth, buses to transport students from local village and a customized mentorship program were just a few of the amazing ideas shared with community leaders that day. I know that at the very least, my group mate took our 52 page bilingual business plan to his supervisor, still hoping to implement our program.

Professor Horn taught us to dream big, work hard, work from the ground up, and today, many of us are doing just that.  Of those 31 students who I went with, one started a social enterprise and at least five are working for one.

If Northeastern University is truly committed to becoming a leading educational institution, then for the sake of your former, present, and future students and all who are investing in them, pay less heed to the beautiful buildings and the extravagant fundraisers. Pay heed to your people and the stories they will build and share. Pay heed to the fact that at least 32 students (and we are only one dialogue group, of the many other classes and groups Professor Horn has led) have the confidence and skill to pursue dreams bigger than their bank account.

For my story and the story of others, I am respectfully calling on students far and wide to fight for the reconsideration of the denial of tenure to Professor Denise Horn. 

Please sign this —> Petition for Professor Horn and spread the word.

Thank you!

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1. push yourself to get up before the rest of the world - start with 7am, then 6am, then 5:30am. go to the nearest hill with a big coat and a scarf and watch the sun rise.

2. push yourself to fall asleep earlier - start with 11pm, then 10pm, then 9pm. wake up in the morning feeling re-energized and comfortable.

3. erase processed food from your diet. start with no lollies, chips, biscuits, then erase pasta, rice, cereal, then bread. use the rule that if a child couldn’t identify what was in it, you don’t eat it.

4. get into the habit of cooking yourself a beautiful breakfast. fry tomatoes and mushrooms in real butter and garlic, fry an egg, slice up a fresh avocado and squirt way too much lemon on it. sit and eat it and do nothing else.

5. stretch. start by reaching for the sky as hard as you can, then trying to touch your toes. roll your head. stretch your fingers. stretch everything.

6. buy a 1L water bottle. start with pushing yourself to drink the whole thing in a day, then try drinking it twice.

7. buy a beautiful diary and a beautiful black pen. write down everything you do, including dinner dates, appointments, assignments, coffees, what you need to do that day. no detail is too small.

8. strip your bed of your sheets and empty your underwear draw into the washing machine. put a massive scoop of scented fabric softener in there and wash. make your bed in full.

9. organise your room. fold all your clothes (and bag what you don’t want), clean your mirror, your laptop, vacuum the floor. light a beautiful candle.

10. have a luxurious shower with your favourite music playing. wash your hair, scrub your body, brush your teeth. lather your whole body in moisturiser, get familiar with the part between your toes, your inner thighs, the back of your neck.

11. push yourself to go for a walk. take your headphones, go to the beach and walk. smile at strangers walking the other way and be surprised how many smile back. bring your dog and observe the dog’s behaviour. realise you can learn from your dog.

12. message old friends with personal jokes. reminisce. suggest a catch up soon, even if you don’t follow through. push yourself to follow through.

14. think long and hard about what interests you. crime? sex? boarding school? long-forgotten romance etiquette? find a book about it and read it. there is a book about literally everything.

15. become the person you would ideally fall in love with. let cars merge into your lane when driving. pay double for parking tickets and leave a second one in the machine. stick your tongue out at babies. compliment people on their cute clothes. challenge yourself to not ridicule anyone for a whole day. then two. then a week. walk with a straight posture. look people in the eye. ask people about their story. talk to acquaintances so they become friends.

16. lie in the sunshine. daydream about the life you would lead if failure wasn’t a thing. open your eyes. take small steps to make it happen for you.

Before I fell asleep last night, I had no idea how this day was going to go. I just decided to sleep (without setting an alarm!) and merely hope that I wouldn’t be stuck at home for my first fourth of July.

Almost didn’t make it with so many security issues and crazy pricing but thanks to 5 people (all strangers to each other) who all just kept saying ‘yes’ to everything from walking from city hall to the esplanade to spending 5 hours laying/sleeping/chatting along the esplanade… i got:

  • a free popsicle and energy drinks
  • to watch crazy street performers
  • to listen to the Boston Pops (and Ellis Hall, Ayla Brown and Howie Day) and sing along to “Ain’t no mountain high enough!” 
  • to drink a giant pina colada
  • to watch an amazing fireworks show :)

woot! thank you guys! Hope everyone had a great day :) 

every child deserves a champion - Rita Pierson

Wise words from my statistics professor: “Numbers may be helpful, even essential, but no one likes being treated like one.”

Today’s highs and lows

LOWS

1) I am out of shape. I am already feeling the ramifications of my (insert embarrassing number) sit-ups :| Must. exercise. soon.

2) Last to pick for proctoring - guh. and this is already with NO class. 

3) ‘Ultimatums’ in my head 

4) Missing a meeting tonight :|

5) Being unable to focus / being so distracted by too much social media - must stop. once this week is over, i will: leave my phone more often, read more books, and turn off my computer. 

HIGHS

1) Lunch experiment -  pasta + spinach sauteed in garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. nom nom. simple and scrumptious. *bow*

2) Going down my checklist!

3) Class cancelled - one hour in the sun! yes!

4) Gracious and happy people here at the YMCA. 

5) Groupme and Facebook threads :)) 

A woman walked passed me and said, “HI!” … why did it take me so long to say hi? Am I just so used to keeping my head down and keeping to myself? Sad life. 

My Coolest NEU Co-op experience with ProWorld Ghana!

sarapressman:

At every chance that I’ve had, I’ve tried to just stop and take a moment to look around because I know that when I leave Bali, its just going to feel like a faraway dream. It’s hard for me to put into words exactly how I feel at this moment and about Bali in general, but I just have such a…