Family Flying In, pt. I

September 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

Two weeks ago, we had two different family members visit our home from out of state. I was originally going to publish these two stories as one post, but it turned out that I had a lot more to say than anticipated, so I cut them into two.

COUSIN 1

Jerry is the son of my dad’s youngest sister [my 老姑]. Hailing from New Jersey, Jerry is a senior in high school who came over to continue his college visits. Having already seen all the east coast schools worth looking at [Columbia, Princeton and many more], he already had more than his fill of universities, but his parents push very hard for excellence, so he came for three days.

I hadn’t seen Jerry for at least five years, so the 6-foot-tall 17-year-old who greeted me in the kitchen was a definite surprise. I mean, we’re friends on Facebook, but from that I could only tell that he was pretty active in his school’s fencing team. Yes, his school has a fencing team [wtf?], and apparently training for three years in the sport is enough to warrant an almost-guaranteed acceptance into schools like NYU based on fencing connections. [Damn…badminton got me nowhere!] I mean, of course he has to be smart too, but there’s no question that my lawyer aunt and super computer nerd uncle [read: rich family] would have kids with perfect grades.

Anyway, our first dinner with Jerry was a pretty lively affair. Even though he didn’t talk that much, it seemed like his presence significantly improved the mood in the house. I don’t know if he was some kind of good-luck charm or if it’s because we were extra-conscious of our family’s image in front of him. Just from our initial brief conversation, though, I could tell that he was a very likable and mature young person. Also worth noting is the fact that his house hadn’t had electricity for two days due to Hurricane Irene.

I was charged with the task of driving Jerry to Notre Dame on Wednesday morning. He had a scheduled tour at 10 a.m., and taking the time zone difference into consideration, that meant we had to leave the house at 6 a.m., and on the way back, I had to drop him off at O’Hare so he could catch his flight home. Awesome. I was pretty taken aback when my parents first sprung it on me, but I figured I would cherish the rare chance to spend a day with my cousin and visit Notre Dame for the first time myself.

Thankfully, CZ volunteered to come along to check out the Notre Dame business school, so we pretty much had a mini road trip. I couldn’t sleep the night before, so I made the drive on a mere 4.5 hours of sleep, but we managed to get there in one piece. Because of all the hype surrounding the Fighting Irish, I always thought Notre Dame was a big school, but it turned out to be a quiet Catholic school tucked away to the north of South Bend, Ind.

The buildings were very beautiful and almost castle-like. The visitor center, which a pretty blue vaulted ceiling, made me feel like I was walking into Hogwarts. The professors are also quite friendly, as a few of them approached us at various times during the day to ask if we needed directions. [We did.]

Eck Visitor Center

Gold dome!

After Jerry embarked on his tour, CZ and I set off on our own adventure, which was basically a self-guided tour. As we strolled across the quad, she observed that there was a stark lack of socializing going on. There seemed to be very few students to begin with, a rather extreme contrast for the two of us, who both attended large state universities.

“There should always be people walking around,” CZ said, “but it’s so empty here!” At 10:30AM on a Wednesday, the campus seemed too quiet.

The students who did make an appearance outside appeared to be automatons, as they all plodded along alone, each lost in his or her own world. It sounds extreme, but among the 40 or so people we saw while walking along the quad, only two other people were actually walking together and talking. CZ and I pretended to walk separately in an attempt to blend in better, ha ha.

We visited the basilica, the grotto, the student union and the Mendoza Business Building. People were definitely coming out of their shells by the time lunch came around in the student union, so maybe the students at Notre Dame are simply non-morning people to the extreme [like me! I’d totally fit in here!].

CZ really wanted to attend a mass service, so we both partook in that for the first time. It was quite interesting, though we snuck out as everyone was taking communion because we didn’t really know what to do.

Humongous basilica thing

The football team prays here before every home game

Water cooler for holy water?

The campus convenience store has a jelly bean wall! Jealoussss

After Jerry’s tour and subsequent meeting with Notre Dame’s fencing coach, we went to lunch at a Cambodian/Thai restaurant that I had scouted out on Yelp. [Though the restaurant itself is unassuming, the panang curry was DELICIOUS.] It turns out that my cousin isn’t too different from my brother; his palate is almost entirely American, refusing to eat curry and harboring a pointed disinterest in rice. Like my own mother, my aunt had to learn to cook American food to feed her son, while her 13-year-old daughter Victoria, like me, adapts to eating anything.

With our stomachs full of yummy food, we dropped Jerry off at the airport without a hitch and made our way back home, where I took a much-needed three-hour nap.

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