Tuesday, December 20, 2011 1 comments

First Semester - Done!

I wanted to update this blog more often but alas I was not very good about because of school. Until I came to Columbia you know, I never understood the meaning behind a vacation. After 2 weeks I usually wanted to go back to school and I didn't really ENJOY my breaks. For the first time in my life I can say, this is not the case. I have never been worked so hard in my life and I finally understand why people look forward to vacations! The day that I was done with finals I was in awe. I thought, "I'm really free?!" It felt good! Since Monday I have been seeing friends, sleeping late and going out. What a wonderful feeling!

So to update you on things that have happened. A lot has happened. Well something major. Henry's grandpa passed away last Monday. He was 87 but an awesome individual. He was a survivor of WWII. He was in the US Navy and he survived 5 days at sea when the USS Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine in the Pacific ocean. He was only 19 at the time. I suppose since that time he worked hard to live life to fullest, and that he did. He was a skier, a golfer, a sailor and a traveler. He shared 60 years of marriage with his wife Sandy before he passed away and had 3 children. I was very glad to have gotten to know him and to spend time with him these past 7 years. He was truly a great person and he will be dearly missed. RIP Donald.

Since Henry's grandfather passed away, there have been concerns regarding his grandmother. She has the early signs of dementia and she must be going through a really difficult time right now. Everyone was concerned about her living alone in her house but we don't want to put her in a home right away because enough change has taken place in a short period of time. Henry and I were asked a while back if we would consider living with her temporarily in the suburbs. After having a long and serious discussion, Henry and I agreed that it would be best and the right thing to do to live with her. We are the only ones who have the flexibility to do this and we really care about her so we are going to do it. It may not be the easiest commute for me to Columbia, but I will be living there for free with Henry and we will be helping a dear family member. As you may or may not know, family is VERY important to me and one of the things that I value the most. As messed up as my family may be at times, I could never leave them in their darkest hour if they needed me. Hence, why they tend to stress me, because I CARE.

Finally, there has also been talk of marriage. Henry's family has been sort of nudging and asking when he will propose. It's kind of crazy to think but he and I have been dating for 7 years and next year I will be 25. Wow, a quarter of a century old. Also, in the summer I will working in Indonesia! How exciting! Looking forward to the adventure that lies ahead. It'd be nice if he actually proposed before I left but everything in due time. I used to be really impatient when I was younger but I have learned the virtue of patience :)
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 0 comments

There is a Light at the End of this Tunnel

Feeling a lot better. Things seem to be turning around and I am thankful for that. I am also feeling really fortunate for the friends I do have and for the support network that the Rangel fellows have given me. They have really been helpful at this time and I feel blessed to know that these people will be my future colleagues at the State department.

So on to happier news...I bought my mom's plane ticket and she will be going back to Nicaragua. I love my mom but this will be a huge load of my back. She is able to live a better quality of life in Nicaragua and as long as she is in NYC she will continue to be unhappy. I will not be able to support her if she stays in NYC. Plus, even though my step dad has colon cancer he is fighting and seems to be doing better. She will be with him and it will give her something to do while he is able to support her with his business. He isn't rich but they live modest but comfortable lives in Nicaragua.

My sister started her taxi driving job last week. I had given her startup money and it seems her hard work is paying off. She is finally making enough to pay her bills and she is in a much better mood. I feel relieved. I was able to have a candid and rational conversation with her and she really seems to be thinking about her future. We will be opening her first bank account next week and are looking EMT programs she can apply for next spring.

I am not sure if you know this but this semester I was an editing assistant and production assistant for the Journal of International Affairs at SIPA, a reputable and well known publication. This journal has gone to print and it looks beautiful. I felt really proud to have been a part of that and am looking forward to having a copy in my hands and seeing my name in it.

I am so glad to have made the friends that I have at SIPA. So far, since Friday I have been putting in between 3 to 4 hours everyday on Economics and things are starting to come together and to solidify. I am going to grab this Friday's econ exam by the balls and get that B average! I am not going to let my grade slip below a B in this class. Although I must profess that economics has gotten exponentially harder from the time that I took my last economics exam (there are three in the semester). I will make sure to reward myself by getting a drink after my exam with my 2nd year SIPA student/Rangel fellow Marissa who is just absolutely awesome and who I deem a great friend and my informal mentor.

Wish me luck! This weekend I will start working on the 20 page paper I have due in exactly one month's time. No worries though, I already started doing research for it. :)
Wednesday, November 9, 2011 1 comments

Korean Ballads

You know I'm not doing well when I start to listen to sad Korean ballads. Henry used to complain that I listened to too many sad ballads or instrumental (background music) but I find it's my way of coping. For some time I was okay but it seems that I need it again. Feelings of hopelessness and depression come to mind...However, I tell myself that I've been through worse and if I have made it this far I'll be okay. Sometimes I just feel so tired...tired of working so hard and still feeling like I am far from my goals. I want financial stability...I want a family that can fend for itself and isn't prone to being preyed upon by people with ill intentions. Is this too much to ask? I wish I could cry but its hard for me. Sometimes I think that I come off as distant and all knowing to my family. Apparently, my sister thinks "I have it all"...I guess I've been really good at deceiving them for the past 7 years.

In undergrad I had to work two jobs and paid my tuition through scholarships and loans. I babysat, worked in a pizzeria, delivered packages, worked as a Sunday school teacher...It was a lot because I not only had to take care of school expenses but also living because my family never had a dime to spare as they have always lived paycheck to paycheck. I know that if I hadn't gotten this fellowship I'd be thinking twice about graduate school as I really don't want to add to my 40,000 debt from undergrad. However, this year I've had to help my family with money because they are behind on bills and can't afford food...I've been paying one of my mom's credit cards while paying for my phone bill, health care, tuition and just living. I don't even have income right now. I'm pretty close to having to taking out loans again. Of course, my dad is in another country because my parents are separated and although he doesn't have much to spare because he needs money to live himself, he's been helping by giving $200 a month...but that's not nearly enough.

In addition, my mom's depression and nerves are getting worse. She's taking everything out on my sister and I don't like it. She's told my sister that she can't believe she's her daughter and that every year instead of growing her mind she is shrinking it. This is all because my sister lost her job and she didn't go to college. Well, excuse me but not everyone is motivated enough to go to school. Not everyone wants to make sacrifices and to take out loans. Not everyone is me. I don't like people especially my own parents making my sister feel worse than she already does. She's a misunderstood young adult still trying to find her way in the world and I know that she is trying. She just started a job this week as a taxi driver and she is working at night. Yet, my mom frowns down upon it. Why? It's income. She's working and trying to move forward. Also, my mom seems to be having memory problems. She gets so nervous she forgets things. She sometimes can't stop crying and is very angry. While I understand that she had a difficult childhood where she worked since she was 9, grew up without parents and had to survive an earthquake, it's still difficult for me as her daughter to deal with this behavior. Yeah and she stopped taking her depression medication.

I try to take a deep breath and look at things from a different angle. I know grad school is manageable. I have been managing it fine so far. Of course, compared to my life overall grad school seems easy.
Friday, October 14, 2011 0 comments

Grad Students are Sad People

Ok, nearly half way into the semester I have realized....the grad students around me are sad people. Seriously, what is wrong with these people? Stop complaining and stop making excuses, please! They say, "oh I'll do x, y and z when I get a handle on my schedule" or "maybe next semester". My questions is, why not start now?

Take some risks, even if they are calculated risks. Who cares if you sleep a little less or if you don't think you are good enough? If you want to do something set forth and do it. People who don't even have all their limbs or who don't have our first world luxuries have done so much with so little...I think that the issue here is that, many people lack perspective, that, or in their frenzy tend to forget what's important and why they are here. Good grades are important but what did I intend to do upon entering a premier university? I want to make a difference and I want to make an impact on this world. I can't do that if I allow my workload to stop me from enjoying and living life! Or perhaps, I am thinking more like a second year student already?...
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 0 comments

Grad School - A Time Mangement Challenge

So, it's week 2 at SIPA and although I wish I could say I am on the ball...I feel more like I am on the ball sometimes and other times, I am failing at not falling off. Without a doubt, graduate school is INTENSE. Lots of options, lots of reading, lots to do! The conundrum lies in finding the balance between the assignments, the activities and resting. I have often heard it said that one can have 2 out of 3 things but not all three. You can't have a social life, do well and rest - apparently, I have to choose two..I am hoping to make sure this is not the case. I am only taking 4 classes this semester, possibly 4 and half (one class would be a short course) but the classes I am taking are all core requirements (unless I get into the short course, although I am trying to see if I can get it approved to count towards my security concentration). Meaning, I MUST take them to graduate.

Today, I was talking to one of my colleagues and we both agreed, what is the point of taking as many classes as one can? Now I understand that we are paying a flat rate, (so whether one takes 12 credits or 18 it is the same cost). However, I refuse to completely isolate myself and have no social life. No sir, not me. When I graduate, I doubt people will care about what classes I took at SIPA. The way I see it, I should be learning but I should be happy while doing it, despite the obvious stresses accompanied with a graduate level workload. Since I am not taking the maximum number of classes this semester I can actually do things I find fun or interesting, like joining the International Affairs Journal, going out with other SIPA people or just spending time with my boyfriend.
Monday, September 5, 2011 0 comments

Grad School Orientation - DONE!

Orientation was interesting yet overwhelming. So much information was being thrown at me, from the math camp (more like math boot camp) that week, to registering for classes, networking events, getting my business cards etc. I felt drained everyday I would come home and usually had a headache. My friends joked that if I came out with a headache (sometimes felt like a migraine) someone else may have had a meltdown. Classes haven't even started but without a doubt, Columbia will surely kick my butt. I will do my best as I have to maintain a 3.2 for my fellowship but must get a 3.4 or higher to apply and qualify for a 2nd year fellowship at Columbia to supplement my Rangel fellowship. I already started a study group for one of my classes.

I have also been working on my application for next summer's US embassy internship. After much thought and research I realized Burma isn't the right place for me. My first choice is actually Jakarta, Indonesia, my second is Bangkok, Thailand and my third is Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. I really do hope I get Indonesia though, as it would be a good place to do some thesis research, so we shall see. Either way, things will work out. By the way, I am taking my foreign service oral assessment (a sort of all day practicum comprised of 3 parts) this month on the 23rd. If I pass, I'll be done with my requirements for the foreign service and will be a Foreign Service Officer after finishing graduate school!

Currently, I am taking 5 classes. Economics 4200 (a year long course that is required), Politics of Policymaking (my mpa core requirement), War, Peace and Strategy (my int'l security requirement), management and governance of developing countries (a management class- I have to take one but I can choose from 5 different types) and East Asian Security. In addition, I am taking a professional development workshop for .5 credits that is required. I may drop one of these classes, most likely the management and governance one because I heard it's horrible and everyone I've talked to hasn't said a single nice thing about this class. However, I wanted to see how bad it was for myself because the material itself seems interesting.
Thursday, August 4, 2011 0 comments

Goodbye Congress...

Today was my last day in Congress! Sad to leave my colleagues but looking forward to what awaits me. Today is also Obama's 50th birthday and to celebrate I went to Z burger which was selling 50 cent burgers and 50 cent birthday cake milkshakes in honor of this special day. I went with Tasha and my colleague Jheanelle.It was delicious! The service was great and despite the long lines and tons of people, the staff was friendly. One more day in DC and off to NYC Saturday!
Saturday, July 30, 2011 0 comments

Sunny (2008) Korean Movie Viewing

Yesterday, Lisa (a Rangel fellow attending Princeton for grad school in the fall) and I went to a free showing of the movie, "Sunny" at the Korean Cultural Center which was sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea. They also had a free Korean dinner and you know I was happy to eat delicious free Asian food!
The theater was packed but it was well worth it. The movie was touching, insightful and dynamic. There was not a single dull moment as even the non action sequences were laced with emotion. I was amazed at how much I was able to gather when it came to the film's depiction of Viet Nam during the Viet Nam war. There were scenes where the Koreans were fighting the Viet Cong and all of a sudden the Vietnamese go under trapped doors into tunnels. I hastily whispered to Lisa, "those are the Cu Chi tunnels!!" I recognized them from my visit to Cu Chi while I studied in Viet Nam. I think that this movie portrayed a very realistic depiction of what Viet Nam was like at this time.

A truly enjoyable film, here is a synopsis in hope that you will want to watch it too!
With the film Sunny (2008), acclaimed director Lee Joon Ik departs from his usual male-centered films, such as The King and the Clown (2005), to tell the personal story of Soon-yi, a simple woman from a small town who journeys to Vietnam in 1971 in search of her husband, and herself. Sunny, as she is known, is dedicated to her husband and her family, despite her unhappiness with her lack of freedom in a traditional family. When her husband is suddenly deployed to Vietnam, to which South Korea contributed a sizeable number of troops who fought alongside American forces, Sunny is compelled to follow him, although her rationale is not always clear. As she journeys into a warzone, she joins a band of entertainers to make her way, and her search for husband and her true self becomes more difficult than she could ever have imagine.
Friday, July 29, 2011 0 comments

Emmania Has Pharyngitis!

For the past two weeks I have had several lumps on my neck. Of course, things got worse the second week when I had to take ibuprofen just to get out of bed every morning to go to work. Closer to the end of the second week I not only had to take ibuprofen before I got to work, but once I came back home as well. Then yesterday, I felt worse than I have in the past two days. I started having difficulty swallowing, felt cold and totally exhausted. I kept wondering if I should go to the hospital because all these days I was trying to see a doctor but it was made nearly impossible because I am not from this city. The places I went wanted me to wait a month for an appointment as a new patient or would only take cash (no insurance) in order to tend to me right away. I thought to myself, "this is ridiculous...I have health insurance and on top of that I am going back home in a week. I may as well try to tough it out until I get back". Alas, I couldn't hold out anymore and decided to go to Howard University Hospital.

At first I was ambivalent about going because I had heard that they take anyone, regardless of if you have health insurance and so my initial thought was, "I am going to be here for a while". However, I was greatly mistaken and happily so. I got there at 7:30pm. By 8pm I had been seen.They took my vitals and noted I had a fever, several lumps on my neck and my heartbeat was fast. By 8:15pm they started to take blood, a culture test and a urine sample. By 8:40pm they put me on morphine and antibiotics which helped tremendously. I actually felt like myself. By 9:30pm I was diagnosed with Pharyngitis and am now on antibiotics, steroids and pain meds. If you don't know what pharyngitis is:

Pharyngitis is caused by swelling (inflammation) of the pharynx, which is in the back of the throat, between the tonsils and the voicebox (larynx).
Most sore throats are caused by a viral infection, such as the cold or flu. Some viruses can cause specific types of sore throat, such as coxsackie infection or mononucleosis.
Bacteria that can cause pharyngitis include Group A streptococcus, which leads to strep throat in some cases.

I have to give a shout out to Howard University Hospital because it is by far one of the best emergency doctor visits I have experienced and believe me, I have been to plenty of hospitals in my lifetime - what with my heart surgery, gallbladder removal, tonsil removal and eye surgery. One year when I was 12 I even developed chronic pneumonia in the summer and was admitted to the hospital. Anyway, the staff there was professional and nice. I have really difficult veins but the first nurse got it in 2 tries. The second time they needed more blood they sent someone who is really good with difficult veins and he got it the first time and I was very happy.

Let me also tell you guys a story about the significance of Howard University Hospital because I honestly think it is amazing yet unbelievable. Freedman Hospital which preceded Howard U Hospital played a significant role in the training of Howard University medical students and in providing quality heath care for the African-American community of Washington, especially during the era of segregation. Equally important during this era was its role in providing specialty training for African-American physicians. In that few white hospitals accepted black interns and residents, African-American physicians who completed postgraduate training did so largely at one of six black hospitals: Freedmen’s; Hubbard in Nashville, Tennessee; Provident in Chicago; Homer G. Phillips in St. Louis; Kansas City (Missouri) No. 2; and Mercy-Douglas in Philadelphia. Among the white hospitals that accepted blacks were Cook County in Chicago, Harlem and Bellevue in New York City, and Cleveland City Hospital. The other thing you won't find in many places even online is that during segregation it was the only hospital that cared for and looked after African Americans in the tri-state area during the era of segregation. I know no one wants to think about that terrible time in our country's history, but guess what, it happened and we must remember so that we don't do things like this ever again. We can't treat people like they are subhuman because they look different from us, they cry, feel pain and bleed too.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 0 comments

Emmania is Going to Burma!

Today I had a greatly productive day. I have been working on submitting two book recommendations, my CV and a writing sample to Columbia's International Affairs journal for their 2011 fall/winter issue on totalitarian governments. I am hoping this works out. I will know by Aug, 5th if I was chosen to write a book review on one of my book recommendations.

I also met with my FSO mentor who works in the East Asia and Pacific Affairs bureau at the State department and she is fantastic! I told her that I was torn regarding my overseas U.S. embassy internship for next summer but after talking to her I have decided to go to...BURMA! I know it sounds crazy and yes, the military dictatorship there still squelches dissent and democratic freedoms, but this is why I want to go even more. When I told my mentor that I wanted to return to Viet Nam but mentioned Burma she reminded me that I can go to Viet Nam at any time during my career, but that Burma is a unique experience like nothing else. I believe her. The more I read about Burma, the more I am intrigued by its predicament and sheer beauty. It looks like Asia before globalization took hold and it is breathtaking. This country has been so isolated that it is quite unlike anything in Asia, and not necessarily in a negative way. In addition, I am considering doing my thesis on Burma as my concentration is International Security with a regional focus on East Asia.
Here are some pictures to entice you, in hopes that you will have an interest to visit some day too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 0 comments

Visit to Organization of American States

The Organization of American States is the world’s oldest regional organization, dating back to the First International Conference of American States, held in Washington, D.C., from October 1889 to April 1890.

Today, the OAS brings together all 35 independent states of the Americas and constitutes the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 0 comments

The Wealth Gap Is .75 Miles Wide (NY Mag)

(Photo: Joerg Reichardt)

New York has one of the richest and one of the poorest congressional districts in the country … and they’re right next to one another. What money looks like from opposite banks of the Harlem River.

Economic disparity has been climbing for the better part of a century. But since 2007, the divide has been starker than ever, with the richest .01 percent taking home 6 percent of the nation’s income, a figure that has practically doubled in the past decade, and the top 10 percent now controlling two thirds of Americans’ net worth. According to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, New York City is home to one of the wealthiest—and the most impoverished—congressional districts in the country. Although NY 14, mostly Manhattan’s East Side, and NY 16, in the Bronx, are geographic neighbors, the two districts, in many other ways, couldn’t be farther apart. On the pages that follow, we sought to capture a picture of the state of income inequality today, as seen through perhaps its most glaring juxtaposition.

Photo: Courtesy of Congressional Representatives (Serrano, Maloney))


Representatives Carolyn Maloney and José Serrano on the impact of the recession, New York’s unemployment problem, and what would happen if they switched jobs. By Alex French

What’s the most mportant issue in your district?
Carolyn Maloney (Democrat, Fourteenth District): The economy and jobs.

José Serrano (Democrat, Sixteenth District):Whatever is happening nationwide always manifests itself much more dramatically in the South Bronx. Always has. When people are talking about 5 percent unemployment, we may be talking about 10 percent unemployment.

You differed on your votes for TARP.
Maloney: My friends who work on Wall Street were calling me all day long, practically screaming—they could see us going off the cliff. The TARP vote, in my opinion, evaded a great depression and instead gave us a great recession. If I had it to do over again, I would. It was probably the least popular vote that I ever took.

Serrano: I’m the only New Yorker who voted no. I felt, as I do now, that we had to be careful not to be bailing out the people who were responsible for the mess in the first place. I knew the people who live in the South Bronx weren’t going to get any kind of bailout.

How have budget cuts affected your agenda?
Maloney: I like infrastructure projects. I have the two largest construction projects in the entire country: the Second Avenue subway and the East Side connector. They were the only ones of their kind not to get hit with the budget ax.

Serrano: It’s a constant battle here to try not to cut programs dramatically. I could talk to you about that for about ten hours. In my district, I was able to get a lot of federal dollars for programs that trained and provided services for people and, at the same time, created a lot of jobs. Unfortunately, earmark became a bad word.

Your districts are right next to one another, but far apart economically. Whose fault is this disparity?
Maloney: A lot of the proposals now being put forth by the Republican majority will clearly make these disparities worse, not better. They’re talking about ending Medicare as we know it.

Serrano: Whose fault is it? This is not about blame. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to go in that direction. It’s about getting people to understand that there are folks who need a boost. They’re willing to work, but we need to provide the opportunities.

If you swapped districts, how would your job change?
Maloney: I think it would be pretty similar. I’d wake up every morning and instruct my office to respond quickly and effectively to the individual concerns of my constituents.

Serrano: There are overcrowded schools, environmental issues, effects of the war. I don’t think it would be that different.

Illustration by Mark Nerys

One Family’s $2,222.98 Is Another’s $539.50

A study in two household budgets for a single week. By Eric Benson

Nicole Dewey is the executive director of publicity at Little, Brown. Her husband, Bill Seely, is the V.P. of marketing analytics at Publicis Modem, a digital-ad agency. They have two sons, Declan, 2, and Trace, 5. They also have a full-time babysitter, Tova.

Subway, $2.25
Coffee and banana, $2.30
Cosi, $9.80

Subway, $2.25
MetroCard refill, $50
Chelsea Thai, $10.50
Taxis, $21.50

Salad and soda, $8.97
Mansion Restaurant, $37.50
Taxis, $30

Subway, $2.25
Taxi, $18.80

Tova (expenses for children)
Drink and chips, $3.50
Drinks and cookie, $6.10

Small coffee and banana, $2.30
bánh mì sandwich, $7.25
Taxi, $15.70
Almond milk, bacon, bread, and grapes, Gristedes, $25.77

Subway, $2.25
Hale and Hearty Soup, $9.30
Taxis, $28.10

Pull-Ups, $12.99

Bus, $2.25
Cookies for assistant’s birthday, $17
Dentist, $125
Tea and almonds, Starbucks, $4.58

Subway, $2.25
Taxis, $44.60
Sound-therapy system for Trace, $246.95
Chinese food, $23.65

Snack, $3.20
Ice cream, $5.75

Bus, $2.25
Salad and soda, $8.97
Taxi, $14.30

Subway, $2.25
Amy’s Bread, $5
Taxis, $23.65

Chips and drink, $3.50
Toilet paper, $5.43

Mansion Restaurant, $31
Drinks, York Grill, $19
Laundry and dry cleaning, $105.45
Weekend babysitter, $120
Monthly trip to Trader Joe’s, $221
Target, $280.41
Chico’s, $179.73
Dinner and dessert, Le Zie, $124.24
Taxis, $33.12
Buses, $4.50
Car service, $10

Snacks and drinks, 7-Eleven, $12.73

Mansion Restaurant, $36.65

Drinks, 7-Eleven, $9.14
Diner in Greenpoint, $30
Taxi, $11
Car rental for Mother’s Day trip, $142.80
Bus, $2.25

Weekly Total: $2,222.98

Solymar Arias is a student at Monroe College and a mother of two, son Elijah, 7, and daughter Ja’Leah, 1. Her mother, María Aquino, a school aide, lives with the family.

Bagel and coffee, vending cart, $2.25
Fruit and water, Jerome Avenue Grill (the JAG) at Monroe College, $2.95
Banana, water, and Lay’s chips, Met Foods, $1.85
Elijah’s snack, $2

Mayo, spiced ham, Swiss cheese, hard salami, and turkey, Met Foods, $16.99

Bagel and coffee, $2.25
Granola bar, water, and fruit, the JAG, $3.20
Banana, water, and SunChips, Met Foods, $1.85
Gallon of milk, $3.49
Elijah’s snack, $2


Bagel and coffee, $2.25
Water, yogurt, and granola, the JAG, $2.50
Elijah’s snack, $2

Sandwich and soda, El Valle, $6
Beef patties, milk, sugar, hot-dog rolls, bagels, and bread, Met Foods, $30.74

Bagel and coffee, $2.25
Macaroni and cheese, veggies, and teriyaki chicken, the JAG, $4.95
Elijah’s snack, $2

Coffee and oatmeal, McDonald’s, $4.51
Soup and soda, El Valle, $7
Shrimp-with-broccoli and soda, Chinese restaurant, $7.25

Tortilla chips and soda, Met Foods, $6.24
Elijah’s snack, $2


Solymar and María
Monthly trip to BJ’s, including Pampers, baby wipes, paper towels, pancake mix, butter, beans, spring-mix salad, and Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs, $408.98

Ice cream, Met Foods, $3
Elijah’s snack, $2

Ice cream, $3
Gallon of milk, $4

Solymar and María

Weekly Total: $539.50

The Unemployment Diaries

He’s a financial analyst who’s been on the job hunt for fourteen months. She’s a former caretaker who hasn’t had work for six years. As Told to Cole Louiso

Mitchell Weisenberg
Age 36

My last major role was as an equity analyst at Rockefeller Financial. Then, based on my skill set and what was needed at the firm, I was moved to the equity-trading room. It wasn’t a good fit; after several months, they let me go. At first, I felt a sense of relief to be getting out of there and not doing something I didn’t want to. Then it sunk in. I’m a people person, so not having a job, not having somewhere to go, just sitting in the kitchen—that was really hard.

Luckily, I got married recently, and there was a wedding that I had time to help plan. After that, I took several exams, including the Chartered Financial Analyst exam, an important credential for analysts. Once I started preparing for those, I felt a lot more optimistic. I was also able to find people in similar situations on message boards and found a study group. That camaraderie really saved me. I took the test about a week ago, so fingers crossed.

I’ve met with about 50 temp agencies and headhunters. It’s no fun to look for a job on the web. I sent my résumé to networks like Monster and company websites, which resulted in two interviews. That gets your spirits down, when you’re not getting a response. We’re definitely more conscientious about our spending and being wasteful. I have financial support from my family, and my wife is a therapist, so we have health insurance. But sometimes I think, How am I going to make this happen?

Roxanne Hunter
Age 53

I worked as a caretaker for a company that helps the mentally handicapped. You teach them goals. You teach them how to do things for themselves, like brushing their teeth and going to the store. I also worked with low-functioning adults. But things were going on there that shouldn’t have, and I wasn’t involved, but they let me go. I got into a similar company and passed all the tests and took their training and worked one day, and then they let me go. When I was younger, I did some time upstate. Once they took my fingerprints, they saw I had a felony.

It’s hard to get a job. They’re not supposed to discriminate, but they do. Before, I was going out every day. I went to about 100 places and filled out résumés. I even went to McDonald’s. “We’ll call you.” That type of thing. I collected unemployment for a year, I think. Social Security is $595 a month. That’s no money. Food stamps, it’s $200 a month, but we eat $200 worth of food in a week, if you buy meat.

I refuse to go on welfare. Just wouldn’t do that.

But my family’s helped me all these years. I live on the third floor of my mother’s house, and when I was looking for work, they gave me carfare. About a month ago, I applied for a job at the laundromat. They called me and told me they had somebody else. I’m not being disrespectful, but at this point, I’ll shovel shit.
Saturday, July 2, 2011 0 comments

NYC Housing, Financial Woes and a Random Thing or Two

On Thursday night the Rangels watched Empire of the Sun. This movie was really well done but depressing. At least I learned about something I didn't know. It focused on the Japanese internment camps in China where the British were held during World War II. If you have not seen it, I encourage you to watch it. Later that night I went out for a drink to McFadden's with Ashley and Jake. A cute white guy hit on me. I didn't quite know what to do about that...This summer is the first time I am actually going out regularly; I've never really done this "going out" thing before.

I got Friday off because my office is just that awesome. Half way through my internship I feel comfortable around everyone and I think they do with me as well. Their personalities are coming out and I love it! Although I don't see myself in Congress at this time, I think that I will miss this job. Not so much for the job, but more so for the people.

I've been looking for apartments in NYC because I need a place to live while I am attending classes at Columbia. However, I was very discouraged by what I had been seeing. Given that my budget wasn't that large for NYC living, I was looking at rooms yes ROOMS in an apartment with roommates I don't even know that were between $900 to $1100. The other thing was that all these apartments were at least a 20 minute commute to campus despite them being in Manhattan. People keep telling me I have lost touch with reality, even my own dad said it, when it comes to NYC living; Maybe they are right. Anyway, my ever supportive boyfriend told me that maybe I should talk with his parents who live in Manhattan to see if I could live with them and could just help around the house with chores and the like in exchange for housing. Having them tell me they'd be happy to host me was a huge relief! Although my fellowship covers $20,000 of tuition, Columbia is $40,000 a year and I didn't get any additional financial aid from Columbia... I can see how they keep this school "elite". It's always been my dream to attend Columbia but I shouldn't be surprised that although I've been accepted that it wouldn't come without some sacrifices. Thankfully living with my boyfriend's parents means that I can put the money I was going to spend on rent towards tuition which would greatly limit any loans I'd have to take out.

I am starting to feel a little depressed. The reality of my finances is slowly starting to weigh me down. I still owe $40,000 for undergrad, I pay health insurance monthly, my cell phone, part of my mom's debt and just being able to live... Let's just say, I've been eating a lot of sandwiches!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 0 comments

Senate Hearing: Dream Act 2011

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security
Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
Dr. Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness


Senator Cornyn stated that the president failed to lead in immigration reform. He believes that the Dream Act has weak protections against fraud and can’t be a standalone bill. He thinks that our federal government is not securing our borders. He stated that this bill is a band-aid and does nothing for border security. He also thinks that it does not reduce the likelihood of illegal immigration. Although the bill would limit eligibility to young immigrants already here, critics like him believe there would be pressure to pass the law over and over again to help future waves of immigrants. Sen. Cornyn also accused Democrats of cynically pushing the Dream Act to gain favor with Latino voters in advance of the 2012 elections.

Senator Feinstein stated that according to a UCLA study, “dreamers” could contribute up to 1.4 trillion to US economy over a 4 year period. She thinks that borders are more secure now than they have been in the past 10 years. Border security forces have increased from 10,000 to 20,000. It doesn’t make sense to use border security as an excuse.

Secretary Duncan stated two reasons why we should pass the Dream Act:
1. Issue of fairness
2. Economic prosperity, helping “dreamers” to establish economic security that will contribute to the U.S. economy. It also goes against our national interests to not pass this bill.
He stated that so far 13 states have offered in state tuition for undocumented students but he believes that this is not enough. College still remains unattainable to many undocumented youth. We need to educate our way to a better economy.
Two things the he believes the Dream Act won’t do:
1. Provide students amnesty, as it is conditional and is a 6 year process.
The legislation would allow immigrants under age 35 at the time of the bill's passage to obtain conditional legal status if they can prove they were 15 years or younger when they came to the United States, have lived here continuously for at least five years, have displayed good moral character, have never been convicted of a felony, and have graduated from a U.S. high school or been accepted into a college or university. Within six years of receiving conditional permanent status, the young immigrants would have to complete at least two years of college in good standing or serve honorably in the U.S. military for at least two years. They would also have to pass tests in English and American civics.
2. He believes that the passage of this bill will not limit student loan opportunities for U.S. citizens.

Secretary Napolitano believes that the Dream Act is important to military readiness. She told senators that Congress hasn’t given her enough money to deport all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. That’s why, she said, she makes criminal undocumented individuals her top priority. She also stated that 71% of those deported in 2010 were criminals.

Senator Durbin recounted how he has brought the Dream Act as an amendment to a bill and then as a standalone bill. Yet, he believes that no matter what he does those who want to say no, will continue to find reasons to say no. He stated that to address the possibility of fraud, the bill establishes a criminal penalty of 5 years in jail for fraud.

The Morton memo that was issued a few days ago which was directed to all ICE officers, agents and attorneys, is laced with a lot of ‘shoulds’ where prosecutorial discretion is urged when handling illegal immigrants. The big question is, ‘how do you make sure that “dreamers” aren’t deported?’ Napolitano stated that they are currently working on a process (whatever that means). She stated that there are gray areas. For example, if someone committed a misdemeanor, we need to take a comprehensive look at the applicant in regards to what else they have done and contributed.

Sen. Cornyn asked Secretary Napolitano if the administration would be open to any possible amendments to Durbin’s bill, and she stated that they would be happy to look at any recommendations that Sen. Cornyn may want to contribute.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 0 comments

Best Day Ever!

Did I just meet Ultimate Fighting champion Jon Jones, did I get to watch Aung San Suu Kyi testify before the foreign affairs committee, did I get the hook up by being on the VIP guest list for the U.N.H.C.R.s' party at the W hotel POV, and did I just have a memorable night with some of my Rangel fellows? I think YES. Best day ever!
Monday, June 20, 2011 0 comments

An Interesting Project and Some Answer

So I meant to post this on Friday but I kind of forgot, ahahaha!
Anyway, after being sick for nearly a week with God knows what, I came in to work last Friday to finish what I deemed an interesting project. I had to look for grant opportunities for an organization called Presbyterian Senior Services that was losing a lot of money this year and was in my congressman's district. They do some great work where they provide grandparents who are raising grandchildren with a home, counseling and educational programming. For a variety of reasons these children are unable to be taken care of by their own parents and so their grandparents have stepped in to take care of them.

Needless to say, I think I found them some possible funding. Let's keep our fingers crossed! Our senior citizens and children are among the most vulnerable and we need to help them!

Check them out!

I also went to a Gastro Intestinal specialist in order to figure out what was going on with my digestion and I am glad I went. Apparently, I am just experiencing what tends to happen to some people after having their gallbladder taken out. My liver is still producing bile but doesn't realize that hey - there's no gallbladder there to store it! Anyhow, the specialist went on to explain how surgeons don't usually like to talk about the what ifs or to deal with possible issues. The surgeon just told me that everything would be back to normal but that was a total lie. There is no way you are going to be okay just like that when an organ has been removed. On the upside, by going to a specialist I was able to obtain a treatment that seems to be working well. The only downside is that I will probably be drinking this stuff on and off for the rest of my life. It's alright, it's like you're on a special diet and then you are not, and then you are and so forth...haha... In all seriousness, I am just happy to be alive and to have such a simple treatment to deal with this. There are worst things in life and this is definitely not so bad.
Saturday, June 11, 2011 0 comments

A Slow Weekend Was Needed

Yesterday some of the Rangels and I went to Yards park to relax. We got some food, took in the sun and just listened to some Caribbean music (basically reggae). It was very chill and enjoyable. Later that night, some of the Rangels came over to play Risk with my roommate Ashley (she's the one with the cute flower dress below).
If you have never played Risk, the primary object of the game is "world domination," or "to occupy every territory on the board and in so doing, eliminate all other players."

I suppose that is what diplomats in training do when they want to stay in and have a fun time. I think it's kind of funny since we have to promote peace and collaboration among nations!Sadly, I didn't play with them because I was trying to finish my security clearance application. It never seems to end!

Unfortunately, this morning I woke up sick. I had some professional development stuff to do today through our program with the rest of the Rangels from 10am to 4pm. I survived, but not unscathed. My throat is killing me and I feel weak. While everyone is out today celebrating gay pride with Grant, I am here alone :( It's okay though...I made myself some ramen and drank some dayquil. Henry is keeping me company over Google chat. Good dutiful boyfriend.

At Yards Park

Playing Risk
Monday, June 6, 2011 0 comments

Tired but Still Going!

I am feeling pretty exhausted. Still happy but physically and mentally drained. I'm off to bed in hopes of feeling well rested in the morning. I take the FSOT tomorrow. Totally do not feel ready to take it, but oh well, it wouldn't help me to worry much about it now. Focus!
Tuesday, May 31, 2011 0 comments

3rd Week in DC

I am glad that as I have gotten older I have realized how important it is to try not to think negatively of things just because they don't quite go as one would expect them to. We are still in session at Congress but things seemed a bit more quiet today (2nd week). People at the office seem to be warming up to me and I think that's a great sign. Even though they were like robots last week, at least they were always polite and professional. Now they are polite, professional and a little more talkative, yay!

Next Tuesday I am taking the FSOT and will need to schedule the Oral Assessment soon so that I can get a date for that before the end of my stay in DC. The days are busy and long but I feel good. Tomorrow afternoon we get to meet Charlie Rangel! Such an awesome old guy.

As usual, having a blast with the Rangel Fellows. Tomorrow I am also meeting Salvador (one of the Rangels) at 6am. We are off for a 2 mile run before the work day begins - should be enjoyable! It feels great being around smart, young, motivated people -like me! Oh, how I missed this!

This is what I see every morning as I walk in to work!
Wednesday, May 25, 2011 0 comments

This is Reality

My brain feels like it's going to overload. Exams, training, learning the job on the Hill and"math camp for Columbia U". I've been writing so much on a daily basis that I seriously think that it will get to a point where it's just going to feel like I'm doing a chore.

What have I learned so far? I probably never want to run for public office and deal with constituents. Really, you are writing to me because you are concerned about us purchasing bottled water?! I apologize for not caring but I don't think I'd enjoy being at the mercy of "constituents". Not to mention, everyone is so busy that sometimes I feel like I am talking to a robot. I ask a question it responds and that's it. No time for intellectual conversation, and those damned alarms! Every time members have to vote on the floor, the alarms go off. Plus, let's face it...it's just not a sexy career. Now State, that's sexy.

Note: Please don't misunderstand though, this does not mean that I hate my internship. I simply don't have a strong sentiment toward it. However, I am glad to be doing it because it just confirms to me that this is not the kind of career that I would want to pursue and I wouldn't have known otherwise. Got to always look at the positive!
Monday, May 23, 2011 0 comments

Survived My First Day @ the House of Reps

The day went by fairly quickly today with the work that I was given. It was my first day but they already had me working on constituent correspondence. I worked on 8 letters and I am sure that with time I'll probably be able to churn out a few more once I have a better grasp on some of the pertinent issues. No one letter was the same and they all had to do with a different topic! Doing my research in order to answer the constituent appropriately was pretty time consuming.

It seems as though everyone is very busy at Serrano's office where I am interning. I didn't see people take many bathroom breaks...and they seemed glad I was there to work on some of the things that had begun to pile up - such as constituents' emails.

Something that I will probably try not to do again is to eat in the cafeteria. $11.50 for lunch? I think not!! I had a nice affordable sandwich that I made myself for dinner. I need to wake up earlier to make sure I bring a sandwich every day to work.

Traveling to work was fine because luckily enough I ran into someone who understood the metro a little better than me, but coming home I got lost! Poor Grant (one of the Rangel fellows in my cohort) got lost with me because he knew even less than I did. However, I am happy to report that we were able to get home within an hour. I will try not to miss my stop or get on the train going the opposite direction next time...

I can't believe I have a floor meeting tonight. Seriously, how old am I? 18?! I think not. What are they going to tell me that I don't already know? "OK kids, don't light your bed on fire and don't bring in any turtles!"
Sunday, May 22, 2011 0 comments

1st Week in Washington DC

Time flies! It's already a week since I have been in Washington DC. Living in a dorm isn't as bad as one would think it would be. It' s true that I have not lived in a dorm for the past 2 years, but as I am familiar with dorm living it just makes me nostalgic of my undergraduate days. I also like small spaces...maybe it's because I grew up in NYC?

We met some outstanding people this past week. Every day just reinforces my desire to serve my country. I feel like I'm finally in my element. There's lots of work to be done but I feel it's good productive work. Even after a 13 hour day I have the energy to hang out with friends. I finally understand when people say. "I can't believe I am getting paid to wake up every day to do what I love".

Rangel Fellows from my cohort at a Welcome Dinner

Having lunch with Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Donovan,
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs