In which firefighters get shirtless to save the day.

Since I’m back in school, I’ve started volunteering again. There’s a really handy website called One Brick that lets you sign up for events and simply show up the day of.

It’s a convenient way to find out about volunteer opportunities around Boston. It usually consists of normal stuff, like working in a soup kitchen or handing out water at a charity run. But last weekend, I saw an event that looked a little bit different.

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A non-profit called Project Smile was putting on a charity date auction, naming it “Boston’s Largest Fall Singles Event.” With such a declaration, how could I not be interested? Me and three friends RSVP’d for the event.

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Not that we’d be participating– we all signed up as volunteers. Still, it sounded like an interesting way to spend a Friday evening. Date auctions are one of those things I’ve only seen in the movies. Were they really the same in real life?

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The event called for “cocktail attire.” So, after class that day, I ran home, geared up, and got my game on.

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My friends and I headed to the venue, appropriately named “Venu.” Inside, we found a fancy nightclub, decorated for the occasion.

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There was a silent auction…

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…a backdrop for photos…

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…and a table full of vibrators.

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This was going to be interesting.

I was assigned to the money-handling table. Here, the auction winners would come up and pay for their date. My job? To make them sign a waiver.

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As we set everything up, more and more people started filing into the nightclub. Soon, the entire place was packed. The bachelors and bachelorettes being sold wandered around, chatting with prospective bidders. Finally, at 7:30…

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The auction started out strong. Miss Massachusetts was at the event, presumably as the celebrity guest. She was invited to the stage to say a few words. And then, a surprise:

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Whoa, you can’t just spring that on someone! Onstage, she has no way to say no! What if she wasn’t okay with this?  The bidding began, quickly escalating higher and higher. She is a beauty pageant winner, after all. Man, I was getting nervous for her.

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Finally, when the bids reached over $300…

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To my relief, Miss Massachusetts’ own boyfriend had stepped in and offered the highest bid, which ended up being over $300. This was a hard act to follow. Maybe we had a tough crowd that night, but it became hard for the MC’s to get anything beyond the initial bid.

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It started to get kind of desperate.

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For one lady, the awkward silence got so bad that the MC bought the girl himself.

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The MC’s even encouraged people to buy more than one date. One gentleman ended up buying three or four girls.

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As weird as that sounds, though, I think he did it out of goodwill.

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Well, and he got some cheap dates with cute girls.

The entire date auction wasn’t a bust, though. No, sir. There was a savior up ahead. The crowd started out lukewarm– but it wouldn’t last.

You see, my friends and I hadn’t signed up for the event just because it was a date auction. We signed up because we saw the flyers.

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You read that right.

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We were interested.

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The MC’s brought the first firefighter on stage. Not only was he a firefighter, but he was also a paramedic. A double-whammy lifesaver. This was the guy that we had all been waiting for.

You could hear the panties dropping. Or, more literally, the bids escalating.

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The bids stalled around the upper 300’s. Then, the MC offered:

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Almost immediately, an old lady raised her hand, pulled out her wallet, and bid $400. High-pitched cheers erupted across the room. The DJ put some sexy music on.

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Luckily, the firefighter was a good sport. He proceeded to strip down– first his vest, then his shirt, then his undershirt, then: no shirt. The MC even gave him a pink firefighter cap to complete the look.

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As this was happening, of course, the bids continued to rise.

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Finally, the MC pulled out the big guns.

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The crowd went wild, and the rest was history.

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After that, everything seemed to loosen. Bids went higher. The crowd seemed more at ease. And, most importantly, clothes just kept coming off.

"C'mon, ladies."

“C’mon, ladies.”

It was the most awkward and hilarious spectacle I’ve ever seen.

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Project Smile raised $18,000 in just that one night– all thanks to the shirtless firemen.

I’ll take any excuse to dress up in costume and ride on a boat.

Last weekend, I went on a cosplay cruise.

That’s exactly what it sounds like. A boat full of costumed otaku, doing whatever it is otaku do. It was being hosted by Boston’s local anime store, Anime Zakka, who kindly reduced the price for us.

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What a deal! Dozens of the most hardcore anime dorks in the same boat? That had to be a good time!

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I really wanted to go, but I really didn’t want to go alone. Luckily, my friends were interested in coming as well.

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Alright, I may have pestered a couple of my friends into going. Hey, that cruise was a great bargain. And the more, the merrier! Thus, last weekend, my friends and I woke up bright and early Sunday morning to get ready for the cruise.

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The cruise was taking off from the Boston Harbor, which meant that we had a nice, long ride on the subway to get there.

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We arrived at the port.

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We had indeed gone the right way.

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A Madoka crossplay from Madoka Magica.

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A police Stocking from Panty and Stocking!

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Anime Zakka had rented out the entire lower deck for the cruise. Although the deck has a capacity of 200+ people, they restricted the event to 100 tickets to avoid overcrowding. My friends and I got our own table.

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As promised, there was food…

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Aladdin from Magi.

Hatsune Miku.

Hatsune Miku.

…and a cruise in the Boston Harbor.

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That wasn’t all, though. There was a Yankee Swap, where people bring in anime-themed gifts and exchange them anonymously between attendees. There were no guidelines on the event page, so I wasn’t sure what to buy. I went with a keychain of one of my favorite characters.

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What I didn’t know was that people would be going all out. 

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Though I wasn’t the only person to bring in a small gift, I ended up feeling pretty guilty at the end.

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Also unexpected were the people on the boat. The nerds might have occupied the entire bottom deck, but the upper two decks were taken by perfectly ordinary people who just wanted to enjoy a cruise on this lovely day. Little did they know that they would be interrupted.

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But, the most unexpected of all?

How normal it all felt.

I always go to conventions and enjoy them. Yet somewhere, at the back of my mind, I’d feel ashamed. Every judgmental onlooker gave me a twinge of shame. I really am a dork. People think we’re such losers. 

It’s true. People do think we’re such losers.

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But, that day, there was no embarrassment.

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On the contrary, I felt pretty alright.

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I mean, who cares? Really, we were just a bunch of friends enjoying the beautiful weather. In costume.

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On that day, I cosplayed and didn’t feel like a freak. I felt like it’s OK to like what I like. I was on a boat and having a great time, just like any other person. Just because I like anime doesn’t mean that I should feel less about myself. Just because I like comics and cosplay doesn’t mean that I have to be a socially awkward, stereotypical dork.

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Though I can see where the stereotype comes from.

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I guess I’m an awkward turtle after all.

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But even awkward encounters can lead to great things.

My friends and I with Haruka Nanase from Free!

My friends and I with Haruka Nanase from Free!

Anime Zakka, if you ever host another cruise: I will be there.

I might run like a snail, but at least I can run for 13.1 miles!

When I arrived at my first half-marathon, I didn’t think I was nervous.

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Maybe it was because I had been having a ball. The past few days had been pretty awesome, after all.

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My family even came to Boston to see me, adding to the fun.

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When I think about it, though, I bet I was pretty nervous.

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But I managed to keep that nervousness down, mainly because my family was with me. At my insistence, we arrived at the start zone an hour early. We spent the time taking photos and messing around.

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The race was set to begin at 7AM. The closer it got to the start time, the more crowded it became.

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Finally, only a few minutes remained before the start.

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That’s when it truly hit me. Today was the day. The time was now. This half-marathon that I had spent the last 5 months training for was about to happen.

The runners lined up, the national anthem was sung, and then…

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There were so many runners that for the first minute, I didn’t move at all. Finally, the crowd surged to a walk. Then a jog. Then, finally…

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Off I ran, joining the stampede of runners through downtown Boston.

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Dozens of people strode past me, but I didn’t care. I knew from the start that I was slow. I would finish this race at my own pace, no matter how fast people were!

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Each mile had a timer set up, allowing the runner to see how much time had elapsed. I guess I was letting the people around me set the pace, since I was running a lot faster than usual.

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Alright, I’ll confess: when I started training back in January, my pace was around 11:30 per mile– really freakin’ slow. By the end of my training I had reduced it to 10:30 per mile. But now I was running a good 30 seconds faster than that, out of nowhere. What’s the deal?

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Maybe it was all the runners around me, maybe it was the adrenaline. Whatever it was, at each mile marker, I didn’t seem to be slowing down. I pushed on without pause.

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Well, ok. I did stop at the many water stations set up along the route. Volunteers handed out cups of water and Gatorade. However, there were not enough trash cans to keep up with the water consumption. Cups were simply tossed aside in massive piles.

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In spite of these stops, I kept up the pace.

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I kept it up even as my legs started to burn.

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And as my breathing grew steadily heavier.

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By the tenth mile, I had pretty much had it.

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The maximum I had run before the half-marathon was 12 miles. So when I reached that 13th, final mile, I was out.

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But at the end, I had a surprise waiting for me.

My family was waiting faithfully for me at the finish line, that I knew. Since they couldn’t follow me during the rest of the race, I tried to keep them updated. I kept my phone with me during the race (to listen to music, the ultimate essential for running) and also sent them periodic texts.

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As a result, they were ready for me.

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My sister ran along the last 200 yards or so of my half-marathon, taking photos like a madwoman. My mom and dad were lying in wait as well.

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I was too exhausted to model for long, though. My sister got plenty of unflattering shots.

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Though amused, I didn’t slow down for my family. I couldn’t. Not after running for so long. I had to finish strong!

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And thus, in 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 20 seconds, I finished my first half-marathon.

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At the finish line, there were bagels, chips, and bananas waiting for us.

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And, of course, our medals.

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It was hard to believe that this run– this darned half-marathon that I trained for months to complete– was actually over. I had actually finished, with a personal best! I met up with my family, who congratulated me.

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Completely and utterly sore, I limped triumphantly to the car, where I proceeded to lay on the ground.

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A week later, I’ve finally gotten over my soreness. I still carry that little medal wherever I go, though. I’m the girl who hated running, after all. I’m the one who could barely run a single mile a few years ago. I know, I know: half-marathons have been done so many times before, by people much faster than I am. But to me, that little medal– it’s kind of a big deal.

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I have never seen so many rainbow accessories in my life.

Massachusetts is well-known as a liberal state. I mean, the abolitionist and women’s rights movements started in Boston. Massachusetts was also the first state to legalize gay marriage, a fact that its residents hold with pride.

A lot of pride.

Last weekend was the main weekend of Boston Pride Week, a seven-day festival celebrating LGBTQ culture. My friend and I, never adverse to racking up more volunteer hours, decided to help out at the event. I’d never been to Boston Pride before– in fact, I haven’t even heard of it before now.

On Saturday morning, I traveled out to City Hall Plaza with little expectations. My friend and I arrived early, so we decided to take some time to peruse the many booths.

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I admit, I’ve never been involved with the LGBTQ community. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the number and scope of organizations set up around the square.

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And these organizations were very generous. It was freebies abound!

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Ok, so we didn’t get just condoms.

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Ok, ok, there was other stuff too.

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After collecting free stuff for an hour or two, it was finally time for our shift. We checked in at the volunteer tent and donned our badges and t-shirts. My friend and I were sent to the end of the parade route, where we were to make sure the floats didn’t run anyone over.

This was a valid concern.

Because it was packed.

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The Boston Pride parade is a huge thing, as I found out. One of the head organizers announced that it was the second-largest LGBTQ parade in the nation. I believe it. Thousands and thousands of people lined up on the street to watch the paraders march by.

And there was a lot to watch! Apparently, the parade doubled in participants this year. I had a prime spot to enjoy the three-hour parade.

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Big companies came out to show their support.

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Religion gets a lot of rap for promoting the hatred against LGBTQ people, but several churches marched in the parade.

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I wish I was that fit.

The mayor of Boston has announced that he won’t be running next year, so tons and tons of mayor-hopefuls showed up in the hopes of gaining supporters.

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I’m impressed that she walked the whole parade in those heels!

Even Jason Collins, the NBA player and also the first American professional athlete to come out, showed up.

Which was really cool. Actually, the whole parade was really cool. The cheering from the spectators was deafening. It was amazing to see so many people support a community that has been stigmatized for so long. Here, people could dress up, strut their stuff, and just have a good time. Hey, I’m no stranger to people in costume.

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After the parade, my friend and I returned to the volunteer tent.

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The headliner?

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We shook our heads. I was imagining that Carmen was some drag performer famous in the gay community. We were led to the side of the street where we waited for Carmen to show up.

A limo pulled up.

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The doors opened, and Carmen emerged. Except instead of a man in drag, as I expected, a guy in Red Sox gear emerged. He looked kind of familiar…

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A woman followed him. Suddenly, I recognized them. And my jaw dropped.

It was Karmin!

Karmin, the musical duo responsible for the song Brokenhearted and also known for their covers of Look At Me Now and Super Bass. I happen to be a big fan of them. And now they were five feet in front of me!

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I think the lead singer, Amy, saw my shock, because she cracked a grin. As a volunteer, I couldn’t ask for photos– but walking beside them to the stage was already cool enough.

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They’re just as good live as they are in studio. The performance was awesome.

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If you can’t already tell, I thought Boston Pride was awesome. Really, it’s an incredible event. The entire time, I couldn’t get over just how many people were there. How many rainbow flags were flying around Boston. How many people could accept and embrace those who are different from them.

Sure, there was the occasional aggressively heterosexual family:

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…but it seemed to be the minority. For this weekend, anyway. As I learned from older volunteers, this wasn’t always the case. The first Boston Pride was 43 years ago– and, as you can imagine, things were a lot different then.

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So, the next day, when I worked the Boston Pride Block Party, it made me very happy to how many people showed up.

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Since, you know what? I’m straight. My friend is queer. We share a friend who’s bi. This weekend, all of us– and also the gays, the lesbians, the asexuals, the transgenders, everyone, no matter your sexual orientation– could come together and have a good time.

We’ve come a long way. It’s still a while before the discrimination ends, of course. But here, at least, people have finally realized– in the end, Boston just wants to party!

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I’m on a boat!!

Boston’s weather is rather unpredictable. Last year we had a winter with temperatures in the 50’s. This year, we’ve gotten those cold, wet, autumn-esque days all the way into May.

But last weekend, we finally saw a bit of warm weather. The sun was up, the temperatures climbed to the 90’s, and that uncomfortable stickiness had entered the air.

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For some reason, a lot of Californians attend Northeastern. I happen to be friends with a few. Last weekend, they wanted to get away from the heat. I did too.

We decided to head over to the harbor.

The Boston Sailing Center happened to have an open house this weekend, you see. Apparently if we headed over to Lewis Wharf, we’d be able to ride on a sailboat.

A sailboat!

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I wanna ride on a sailboat!

So did my friends. We jumped on the T and, at my friend’s lead, used our smartphone navigation skills to get to the sailing center.

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My friend safely navigated us to the port.

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Unfortunately, we were not the only ones who had heard about the free sailing. There was a long line of people waiting to sign up and fill out the waiver. And after we got through that line, the organizer informed us…

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So we plopped down in the shade.

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And waited.

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And waited some more.

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I was impatient.

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I pulled out my camera.

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And finally, after about an hour and a half…

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By this time, we were all exhausted and dripping sweat, so we enthusiastically boarded the boat. Now, I don’t know what we were expecting, since this boat ride was free. The sailing center was giving hundreds of people rides that day. Would this ride even be good?


If you’re as stupidly excited as my friends and I were, anything would be good. 

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We pulled out of the dock.

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Our captain let us unfurl the sail.

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The boat began to tilt under the force of the wind. I almost fell off.

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Any hairstylin’ I tried that day had long since gone.

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My Asian superpowers activated.

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It really was a lovely day. The ocean spray, the cool breeze, the sun, the exhilaration of almost falling into the sea with your fancy camera… everything was aligned. It was the idyllic summer afternoon. Since I’ve been working all the time, and the weather’s been erratic, I hadn’t really noticed. But on that sailboat, I finally felt for the first time this year that

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And then I went to work on Monday and it was cold and rainy again.

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Of course.

Dear Boston: You are a moody little bugger and you need to make up your mind. But it’s okay. Because sometimes, you give us days that will last in our memories forever. (Or at least a for little while, until I forget it.)

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Though I stand by the fact that Boston is too darn windy for its own good.

They caught him! Now Boston can go back to partying.

The police caught the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing!

Things were getting tense Friday night. The police had searched all of Watertown and concluded that the suspect might have escaped. The MBTA opened with limited service, and people sheltering at work were encouraged to go home, so I decided to head into Boston.

Right before I left, though, my friends started a message on Facebook:

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Somehow, we all ended up listening to the police scanner. It was obvious something was happening. My friends and I were almost expecting another explosion. The police kept telling other officers to get out of the line of fire, calling officers over to a certain area…

And then: radio silence.

If you’ve seen the news, you know that the rest is history: the police cornered the suspect and captured him alive. The suspect is now in the hospital being treated for his wounds. Boston and its surrounding towns could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

So we did.

Boy, did we.

Shortly after I met up with my buddies at Northeastern, we received a message from one of our friends.

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We complied, walking across campus to see what was going on.

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Well, as The Sun managed to document…

This many.

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Northeastern kids were packing Hemenway Street, despite NUPD’s best efforts to break up the crowd. Well, they weren’t trying that hard. After all, we were celebrating their efforts.

My friends quickly joined the chanting and cheering.

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Yup. I admit, I went there.

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The residents of Hemenway were hanging out their windows, waving flags and blasting music.


People ran around dressed in patriotic attire.

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A random kid managed to climb up a tree, wave his flag, and lead the crowd in some traditional American songs.

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Some policemen actually drove their motorcycles straight through the crowd. Everyone clapped, cheered, and high-fived them as they drove by.

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My favorite moment was when my friends and I managed to start the whole crowd singing the national anthem. It was a crazy moment– as soon as we started, people joined in, and soon the guy in the tree was conducting the crowd.

Yup, I was in the middle of that fist-pumping mess!

What really surprised me, though, is how non-destructive this rally was. We didn’t flip any cars, start any fights, or break any windows. In fact, the crowd dispersed rather peacefully after concluding that the police didn’t need any more trouble for the night. Though there was a lot of beer, and beer cans, thrown around the crowd.

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I’m no zealous patriot, but I felt pretty proud of my city. Northeastern wasn’t the only place to celebrate. Watertown took to the street as well. Hundreds of Bostonians paraded down Commonwealth Ave, police stopping traffic to allow them to march. In a tamer form of remembrance, flowers, notes, and gifts have been left at the bombing site.

I’m sure that, as the suspect recovers, more details will start to emerge. We don’t know if anyone else was involved. We’re not sure of the brothers’ motives behind the bombing. Investigations will be done, I’m sure, as there are still so many questions still unanswered.

But for now, Boston can feel a bit of relief. I know I do.




Edit: Cool, there’s video! Below is a video of the Northeastern students cheering on the police:

And here’s the national anthem:

Boston is on lockdown.

My city is locked down right now. Boston and the surrounding suburbs (including where I live) are totally shut down. There are thousands of officers operating out of Watertown, and they’re on a giant manhunt for the second suspect of the Boston Marathon bombing.

The police have been urging all residents to stay indoors, lock the doors, and answer to no one but a uniformed officer. At the moment, I’m sitting at home hoping and praying that nobody else will be hurt.

I apologize for the lack of humorous posts lately– I guess it hasn’t been a humorous week.

The professionals can report it better than I can.

Report from CNN

CBS Livestream

Boston Police

Stay safe, everyone.


I wish I could write something inspiring and eloquent about what happened yesterday at the Boston Marathon.

I can’t.

I’ve been watching and reading the news all day, but finally had to stop. The blood-splattered concrete and torn limbs were too much. I know I’ve only been in Boston for two years, but I feel like my home has been attacked. I’ve walked down Boylston so many times. Only last year, I was right at the finish line, cheering on the runners with everyone else. My friends were thinking of spectating this year, but didn’t go. We were lucky. Not everyone was.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by the bombing. The injured. The deceased. Their families. The witnesses, crowds, and runners. The brave first responders, volunteers, and their families. I know that they’ll be in my thoughts tonight, and for many, many nights to come.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my time here, it’s that Boston is a stubborn city. We’ll help each other through this, and come out as strong and resilient as ever.

Thank you to those who messaged me, asking if my friends and I were safe! I was at work at the time, far away from Copley Square and the bombs. 

How I ended up living with a family I found on Craiglist

So I’m living with a family I randomly found on Craigslist.

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I didn’t ask for this, mind you. I didn’t want to resort to Craigslist. But– as I soon discovered– Northeastern is no help at all in this particular situation.

Here’s the problem: I’m on co-op right now. My co-op is in Waltham, a suburb about a half hour out of Boston. In traffic, maybe longer. Here’s another problem: I need a car to get to my job, since the commuter rail station is a pretty far walk from my work. The final problem: Since I’m working full-time, I’m paying all my living expenses myself.

To live on campus, then, would be impractical. I would be farther from work than I’d need to be. I’d have to pay the (very high) Boston rent. I’d have to pay for the expensive parking pass.

I love living with my friends (and miss it, to be honest) but remaining there would have been unreasonable.

I needed somewhere else to live.

So, after I was hired last October, I decided that the best course of action would be to use Northeastern’s off-campus services. I couldn’t be the first kid with this problem. I know kids doing co-op in Allston, Framingham, Everett, Newton… all suburban areas that are not quite T-accessable.

To the Off-Campus office I went.

post 108 image 2So that was no help.

Next, I decided to look into Northeastern’s Co-op Connections office, supposedly designed to serve off-campus co-ops. The office only consists of two people, but I hoped that they could help.

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What about the kids who had previously worked where I would be working? They had to find a place to live, right? What if I contacted them, saw their living situation, perhaps took over an apartment when they left?

I contacted my co-op advisor to see if she could help.

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Finally, I turned to my hiring company. They have a LinkedIn group exclusively for co-ops. If I could get on that group, I could get in touch with kids who could help!

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I was cornered. Thus, I had to turn to…

Craigslist is an website that works like the classified advertisments in a newspaper. Anyone can post listings for housing, jobs, services… even dating! Most of the users are well-intentioned people with genuine needs. However, Craigslist has become notorious for the large amount of scammers that also roam the site. Most infamous is Phillip Markoff, the so-called Craigslist Killer.

You can see why I wanted to avoid it. Now you see why I had to resort to it. I started browsing the housing section, looking for available apartments or sublets. Here’s an example of one of the more dubious posts I found:

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And I started e-mailing people. And calling. But all the results were a little dubious…

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I ended up putting up my own ad on Craigslist asking for housing, resulting in people e-mailing me their places themselves. I set up appointments to go look at my options. With a friend, of course– meeting people on the internet alone is never the best idea.

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I mean, I had options. Reasonably priced options, close to my work. None of them seemed great, though. And then I got a last minute call…

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After we both confirmed each other’s identities on Facebook, I jumped on the T to meet this family. They were looking to rent a room in their home that seemed to have it all: a nice house, a safe neighborhood, parking, and utilities included.

But, I’d be living with a family. Wouldn’t it be awkward? Could I get along with them?

Well, I know what being an exchange student is like. And then it pretty much decided itself for me after this conversation.

And that’s how I ended up living with a random family I found on Craigslist.

(They’re pretty awesome)

Do you have BOYFRIEND? And other conversations with Japanese girls

I’m a bit dumb, so I chose to get tutored in Japanese this semester instead of, say organic chemistry or calculus. No matter. I got a tutor kind enough to tell me about this event:

The event was at Showa Boston, a language and culture institute located about three miles away out in Jamaica Plain. Showa Boston is actually just a branch of Showa University, an all-women college located in metropolitan Tokyo. Students hoping to improve their English skills can ship up to Boston to study abroad. Showa Boston’s location is a little isolated from downtown Boston, though– it’s nestled out among trees and grassy hills and suburban neighborhoods. Thus, Showa Boston is trying to connect to the local community. They want their students to connect with Americans. To practice English.

Thus, they decided to invite freeloaders (like me) over for free food.

I’ll take it.

So I hopped on a bus, and an hour later, I found myself in a room packed with Japanese girls. I was with my tutor and two other guys, but we ended up splitting up– doing so would give more students the chance to practice English. I wandered over to the food table alone and tried to make myself a rice ball…

After clumsily slapping together some poorly made rice balls, I awkwardly asked to sit down at a table. Three girls sitting around me were brave enough to strike up a conversation. However, their English was a little shaky. Still, we all tried our best:

We chatted some more:

And then it somehow turned into this…

And then into this: 

I'm a cynic. It's true.

And since they were getting the chance to practice their English, I decided to take the chance to practice my Japanese.

I spent the rest of the evening speaking in half-Japanese, half-English. The girls were merciful to me, though, and used only English. (My listening skills suck.) We discussed celebrities, movies, music, Justin Bieber and the Backstreet Boys… typical girl talk. And at the same time, I couldn’t help but notice the culture gap. America and Japan are worlds apart in terms of politeness:

Overall? It was a bit awkward, a bit nerve-wracking, and totally awesome. The three girls I met were really nice. The food was tasty. I got to test out my substandard Japanese skills. And now I’m more excited than ever to go to Japan. Only 18 days until I leave! But who’s counting?