Saturday, December 31, 2011

AIESEC Winter National Conference, San Francisco, Arrival and Day 1

I am currently at AIESEC's Winter National Conference (WNC) in San Francisco. I made my way from Vermilion after wrapping up a mad amount of errands, packing shoddily in about an hour, and dropping off the car at  the mechanics because it had a gas leak. My grandma and I enjoyed lunch at the new food court in Great Northern Mall and she then dropped me at the airport. I arrived two days ago after a very smooth 5 hour flight. Fortunately the gentleman next to me saw me peeking over his shoulder at his movie and turned on the subtitles. Not the happiest movie (Schindler's List) but it passed the time.  After landing it was catch the shuttle to the airport say hello to everyone and bed.

The first full day James, Varun, Ruth, Paul, Frank and I headed into the city. We caught the train in then explored the downtown area. It was very clean with beautiful buildings and I was very impressed. It was overcast so the coffee shop on every corner made sense. We stopped by the Art Institute for James to check out a grad school so the rest of us grabbed some breakfast. I had this delicious bagel with pesto garlic cream cheese. Have to remember to make that!

Soon after, Ruth's uncle picked us up and took us to see all the sights. The first stop was Lombard St. which is the "most crooked street" in the world. Basically, because San Fran is so hilly, it has a bunch of switchbacks down this residential street. The houses are beautiful but there are tourists there all the time. Expensive houses that get their pictures taken all the time? That might get tiring but they have a great view! We walked Lombard Street then the area a bit and stopped at the Academy of Art which overlooks the Bay and appears to be in an old monastery. The overlook from the top offered great panoramics of the city, Alcatraz, and other landmarks.
Frank, Varun and I looking down Lombard 
House on Lombard

From the overlook we headed toward the bridge but made a pit stop along the bay to listen to the Water Organ. Basically the same concept as a conch shell, a group of artists put pipe off of a point into the bay so that people could put their ear up to them and hear the sounds of the sea. It looks strange but was a neat unknown spot on the water. 
Panoramic over the City, Hey Varun!

Alcatraz looks great in the haze
Water Organ

Of course after the Water Organ we headed to the bridge area and walked around, saw the gift shop and walked part of the bridge. Its amazing that an idea as simple as a bridge has become so iconic for the West Coast and attracts so many people just to have the chance to see it and walk it. I am glad AIESEC gave me the opportunity to check yet ANOTHER thing off my bucket list.

We were all famished after all our touring so Ruth's uncle took us to this little sushi hole. Looking at it and smelling the fresh fish, I might not have eaten there if it wasn't recommended. However, the sushi was awesome! I got California role with real crab and salmon with papaya. Amazing!

Real Crab California, Salmon Papaya
After just one day I love San Francisco, even though it was super hazy as you can tell from my pictures. It is a great city with neat architecture, interesting landscapes, lots of parks and plenty of coastline. I could get use to it and would love to live there at some point! As long as the salary is right to compensate for living costs!

The day was wrapped up by heading back to the hotel to begin the conference in the evening. AIESEC OSU did our "role call" dance to Did I Mention I Like to Dance? by Flint Flossy. It was funny but not as good as our dance at Fall RoKS to Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden. The night was concluded with a pajama party to kick off the conference. 5 more great days of conference with wonderful people ahead.

We are all here to become GREAT by CHOICE.

The Berk Family Christmas

 Christmas this year was interesting for my family.

 I stayed down in Columbus later than normal because I was wrapping up my internship at Victoria's Secret. I have had an amazing 9 months with LimitedBrands and the Victoria's Secret Stores as an Intern for the Stores Human Resources department. I have grown personally and professionally with them through the opportunity to work on many different projects and day-to-day HR activities with an amazing group of individuals. I owe a huge thank you to Shannon, my manager and friend. Also the rest of the team that was so inspirational, supportive, and  fun to be around in general! I  hope to be lucky enough to work with them again in the future!

My last days were fun but sad as I knew a chapter of my life was coming to a close. In a way I suppose it is risky to leave such a great company and venture off into the world. But as I see it, while I am in Panama I will continue to gain skills and make myself a better employee for when I return, fingers crossed to LimitedBrands!

During my last couple days in Columbus I completely moved out of my sublet with Bethann. I had an amazing quarter living with her and I am lucky to have such a great friend. I also got to spend some fun evenings with my boyfriend and his friends enjoying the holiday season and being among fun people.

Christmas Eve-Day I drove back home with my car piled high with all my belongings. I arrived home in the afternoon for a relaxing rest of the day with my dad. We agreed that Christmas and opening presents would not feel right without mom so we decided to postpone that until she could be with us. We spent X-mas eve having a delictable dinner of shrimp linguine together. He's such a good cook!

Later we headed over to the Rini's for the annual Christmas Eve party. Being there was the perfect opportunity to catch up with old but great sailing friends and find out what everyone is up to. The fun-fact from the night is that Colleen and Mike Rini are now expecting their 6th child! A little crazy but a beautiful blessing as they already have 5 wonderful children. I believe they are single-handedly repopulating Vermilion. Instead of sail camp fundraisers we'll be having "Put a Rini through College" funds.

Christmas was very leisurely. We slept in and headed over to my Grandma Berk's. She hasn't been doing well lately so one of the best presents was that she was out of bed and in her favorite chair. Plus, there was a bit of a full house with visitors whom I don't get the opportunity to see much. It was great spending time with my uncle Jim, aunt Betsy, her boyfriend -and the added surprise- Betsy's boys stopped by who I haven't seen in over a year! Whats even better than that is Jim fried up some Lake Erie Perch for a mid-day snack in good ol' Berk fashion. Yum!

We stopped by another family friend's to visit before picking up my uncle Doug who is recently a grandpa. His daughter Tara hand the first Great-Grandbaby on my mom's side. I hope to get to see him soon! The second surprise of the day happened when we got to Medina with the rest of the Ryals family. My cousin Laura got engaged on Christmas Eve to her boyfriend Dustin. I am so happy for them as they both deserve the best. So much excitement on that side of the family!

The 26th was relaxed as my dad and I prepared for mom's arrival. We decided to head toward the airport to find me my promised Christmas gift (a nice digital camera) and to pick up mom once she landed.

The 27th was our family Christmas since we finally had the 3 of us all together. We slept in then opened presents together. The rest of the day was spent preparing for the friends and family we were having over that evening. Plus, my boyfriend made the trek up North to join us for a few days and I am oh-so-glad he did. He made it that much more fun and everyone really enjoys having him around, me most of all. I do have to mention that I beat him in ping-pong even though we are closely matched. For the few days he was up, I was victorious (haha, have to make sure you're reading : )  The evening with friends was wonderful and it ended with card games and some snowflake jello shots in good fashion.

All-in-all, although it was a strange Christmas for us with many novelties, I am so thankful we got to spend that day together and with close friends and family. It was pretty much the perfect day. Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

panoramic of our belated Christmas gathering

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Graduation Present

For my graduation present, my parents wanted to finally take advantage of my mom's flight perks and go somewhere as a family. My vote was for Mexico so we could have warmth, a beach, and maybe see some ruins since I've been studying them so long. First destination was Cancun, second was Acapulco.

Unfortunately my dad only had enough vacation days left for Christmas, so on Saturday the 17th my mom and I hopped on a plane and made it down to Houston. From there, we were on the standby list down to Cancun and ended up getting bumped from 3 flights. At that point we started looking at other options but every single flight to anywhere coastal in Mexico was overbooked by like 8 people. Who knew so many people travel there right before Christmas? Either way, we switched gears and hopped on a plane to Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.

We got in just before sunset and headed to the Comfort Suites, right by the water. The first night was low key; drinks at the hotel bar and dinner at the Guy Harvey restaurant. We shared the Red Snapper, Cayman style. Yummm.

Day two we woke up, got breakfast and headed down to see what the water was like. What was initially a brief look at the perfect blue water turned into a 2 hr beach stroll without sunscreen and we both got a little pink. But it was worth it.

First walk on the beach!
Our Hotel
Cool floating table I want to make!

That afternoon we hopped on a "bus" to the northern end of the peninsula to the Green Sea Turtle Farm. We went expecting to see a few turtles but man were we plesently suprised! The first area we walked up to was their breeding lake with a beach adjacent to it. They had over 400 adult turtles 20-45 years old in there and all about 3-4 ft in length. It was packed and they were so big!
Already impressed. we started wandering around this big lake area, and one of the tour guides came up to chat with us. Because the place was having a slow day (no cruise ships at port) he guided us around the whole place. He took us other to the handling ponds and showed us every age from 5-7 months up to 3 years. After those ages, we couldn't really hold any because they'd be too big. He also showed us one name "Sparky," the oldest at the farm, who had laid over 100,000 eggs in her day! All in all, it was an awesome experience to visit the facility. They even had additional attraction that we didn't pay to see like a snorkel lagoon to swim with turtles and other fish plus a window into the predator tank and a water-park for the whole family.

Mom and I both really loved the patterns on the backs of the turtles at their different ages. They were so pretty and unique. Plus the designs on the backs on their heads and fins were neat too. The surprise at the end of our little tour was awesome. They brought our a bucket of the babies hatched over the summer so they were all about 5-7 weeks old and so cute!


That night we watched the sunset on the beach in front of our hotel and wound up in the hot tub. There we met a family who had just landed and were getting excited about all their plans for the week. We told them that we were going snorkeling in the morning and they decided to join us.

The next day we woke up, ate breakfast with our new friends, rented gear and a car and headed to one of the beaches. The great thing about the Cayman islands is that the reefs are only about 100 ft off the beach so you can swim out and all the wildlife is nice and shallow. You can see everything or swim down and get a closer view without actually scuba diving.

My proud moment of the trip was finally learning how to pop my ears. I had to do it while sky diving a few weeks ago so i got my confidence up. I was always scared to do it but now i can finally learn how to scuba! and to think that was the only thing holding me back from doing it.

Halfway through the day it started to rain so we snorkeled a while longer then called it a day and went into town for lunch and shopping. Again all shops were open but not busy because no ship were in. We got went to one of the many jewelry stores and just had some fun trying things on. I found the gift i'm going to give myself after a few years of working. A gorgeous right hand ring in the shape of two leaves as pictured here. In LOVE with this ring!

At night we decided to take a drive around part of the island and go out to Rum Point. On the way we got some Jerk Chicken from a roadside stand and stopped at an outlook on the south side of the island. Rum point was quiet but very beautiful and would be tons of fun during the day.

Our final day we got up early and went snorkeling again before we had to have the car back. We went to this little cove and swam around for a while but there wasn't much to see under the water. So we hopped in the car and went to Cemetery beach which had a great close reef. Plus it was sunny again and was perfect snorkeling. I totally need an underwater camera.

The rest of the day we spent on the beach and flew out later that day. All in all a great mini vacation with my mom!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Endings and Beginnings

Two weeks ago today I graduated from The Ohio State University. The ceremony was awesome. E. Gordon Gee was hilarious as always and made it really special. Our speaker was Cheryl founder of Cheryl's cookies. While she did not give us all cookies at the ceremony, she did give us some great advice from her experience as an entrepreneur. She encouraged us all to "create something where previously there was nothing."

I really like that idea and look at my post-college life that way. Not in an empty depressing way, but in a way that is full of opportunities. This is a new start. There are infinite things I can do from here. I can create whatever I want for my life from this point on because I am just getting started.

All that being said, I am happy to say that I graduated with a plan already in motion. Three days before graduation I was "matched" to an AIESEC (pronounced "eye-sek") internship in Panama with the Baru Brewery (Cerveceria Baru). For those of you who know me well and know how much time, energy, and passion I've put into AIESEC at Ohio State, you should know that this is the culmination of my AIESEC experience and I couldn't be more excited for a cooler opportunity. I will be working in the HR department of the brewery and focusing my efforts on Recruitment and Selection as well as Succession planning. All excellent experiences and I get to spend winter in the SUN! The internship, as of right now, is scheduled to last two months starting January 16th and going until March 16th.

Between graduation and departure, I have a lot scheduled and plan to document all my experiences leading up to the Internship, during it, and after so everyone can know what I am experiencing. I hope you read along with my trip, I look forward to sharing this with you all! Feedback and comments are of course encouraged. I have created this blog for myself and for others where previously there was nothing to formally document my post- graduate experience. Consider this my first post!