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MIT student blogger Yan Z. '12

Outside the box by Yan Z. '12

In which I start a new life at pika, etc.

My top left desk drawer hates society, government, and everything dear to civilization. No matter how gingerly, how mildly I tug it open, the entirety of the drawer declares mutiny and goes madly deskless. It takes on average 20 seconds to wriggle the drawer back into its proper place on the hierarchy of desk assembly, and it took me at least 45 seconds to spell “hierarchy” successfully, but it’s summer after all and I’ve had a harsh life. Why complain? I can afford the luxury of reattaching drawer to desk every time I want to misplace my pen again.

Yesterday I moved myself and three suitcases out of my dorm room, bidding soft silent goodbyes to its aquamarine paint job and donut-shaped walls. Its contents eviscerated, my room would soon smell sharply of antiseptic and dry post-vacuum air. By then, I had hit the road in a rented SUV headed for the woodsy heart of residential Cambridgeport, my home for the rest of the summer. My inherent vagrantism and psychological attraction to unexplored spaces screamed that I should move to pika, and I was like, “okay, whatever.”

(My friend Sondy at pika is urging me to share the following video filmed outside my door on moving day at Random Hall. At personal expense, I am obliging her request to post her charmingly Australian-narrated footage in public. Watch until the end; there’s a small surprise.)

(The Curious Incident of the Box in the Night-time was performed at least four times on various floors of Random Hall, until my tortured knees developed speech abilities and started to complain vocally.)

I realized pretty quickly that I might as well be living in a chapter of Walden, preferably one with strong influences of Mark and/or Shania Twain. (Can you feel my enthusiasm for American literature?) pika has one of those cozy, rustic great-American-novel-setting houses with a wild garden in the front yard, a treehouse and tire swing in the back, a homemade roofdeck shyly peering over the Cambridge skyline, wicker chairs and two cats on the porch, brown rice and sweet corn on the stove, and dog-eared sofas and blankets everywhere you turn, including upwards (try the 2nd-floor porch). It’s a house that you can wrap yourself around and snuggle close to on a warm summer night. It’s a house that nudges you to ignore the rigid grammar of academic life and enjoy your summer in lowercase: spontaneous gardening projects, rambling bike trips, communal cooking, bad movie nights, casual conversations lingering in the humid breeze over the porch, fresh pears, long walks on the beach, et cetera.

In the past 30 hours, I have: made my bed, eaten two grapefruit and a few grapes (to be linguistically fair, you know?), sailed on the Charles River, attempted a few non-canonical maneuvers on the Charles River, incurred panicked yells from the boathouse manager, removed self and sailboat from the Charles possibly forever, undesked and redesked my desk drawer at least four times (see above), watched Will Smith drive a motorboat and kick Eva Mendes in the head (not in person, sadly), run on Memorial Drive alongside half-marathon racers, thickly slathered homemade hummus on homemade black bean burgers for a sublimely salty and nutty-textured dinner, napped in the sunshine while flipping through a library book, awoke to the rampant scent of hot waffles, braved the perils of frying a batch of organic green beans large enough to feed twenty, and walked to Harvard Square in the middle of the rain-swollen night. It’s kool not to have skool, yo.

And this is what I come home to:

I’m living in a room titled The Coke at pika along with two roommates. We have a couch, a bunk bed, a wall of mirrors, and a loft elevated six feet from ground level. I, lover of thrills, immediately staked out the affectionately-named Crazy Loft.

As a sign of territorial possession, I have marked my bed with authentic Star Wars bedsheets. Twelve year-olds everywhere will tremble in envy.

The view, however, is not intended for the weak of stomach, or the faint of heart, or the scared of heights.

The Coke is nestled with meditative spaces. Elegance in simplicity. Yesterday afternoon, as slender sunbeams streamed onto the wooden floor, I had an infantile desire to play with light, carve and bend it until it arced across the room in luminescent bridges. Instead, I took a nap.

Summer goals: Take more pictures. Caress the tiny, teasing details. Let the light simmer until it turns the world soft and tender. Strain and serve.

Also, learn to become a better sailor once the boathouse rescinds my restraining order.

27 responses to “Outside the box”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Another great blog!

    Enjoy your summer!

  2. Anonymous says:

    restraining order? really?
    also, i am jealous of that loft.

  3. Paul says:

    Simmons is also paint-friendly! The only caveat is that you have to make sure the person who has your room is okay with your paint job, or otherwise you have to paint it back to normal.

  4. Yan says:

    @ Somebody:

    Thanks! Hardly any of the clutter is mine, so it’ll probably disappear once the former occupants move out. Or maybe not, and I’ll end up inheriting a roomful of stuff.

    MIT charges you separately for summer housing. It’s often cheaper to just live in a frat/independent living group over the summer.

    @ Nathan:

    I’m at Random for at least another year, mostly because I want to see at least one generation of frosh learn how to survive their first year.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Another enticing entry :D

    Do people in MIT have the liberty to paint their rooms or they came like that? It’s quite beautiful (:

  6. Yan says:

    @ Julio:

    The majority of MIT students who stay on campus for the summer stay in the same dorm. You’re not guaranteed that you’ll stay in the same room, but it’s doable.

    @ Anonymous:

    Depends on the dorm. Random, Bexley, Senior House, and EC are paint-friendly. Burton Connor is also okay with room painting.

  7. Somebody says:

    U have an awesome room! Its cluttered to the max but still full of natural light, amazing.

  8. Photon says:

    @ Somebody

    All of those boxes and all of the mess on the desk with the Apple laptop is mine. It’ll be gone within two weeks, maybe sooner if I can get my act together.

  9. Somebody says:

    Does it cost extra to live at MIT over the summer?

  10. '12 says:

    have fun at pika this summer! i am jealous of the good food you will get!

  11. nick torres says:

    God, I wish i could go to this school in 2 years

  12. I love the room and I love the bunk.. T_T I wish my room looks like that. Hehe..

    I love the pictures too. The colors really stand out especially those “trinkets” thingy. LOL.

    Stay safe!


  13. NathanArce says:

    Julio’s question reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to ask~ Yan, do you plan to stay in Pika or move back to Random once the summer is over?

    Anyway, Pika does seem pretty awesome. Yes, in part because I love Pokemon >.Julio’s question reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to ask~ Yan, do you plan to stay in Pika or move back to Random once the summer is over?

    Anyway, Pika does seem pretty awesome. Yes, in part because I love Pokemon >.<

  14. NathanArce says:

    (and sorry if you’ve already answered that question somewhere, but I haven’t seen it)

  15. NathanArce says:

    Awesome reason. Then you’ll get to see me struggle sometimes even if I don’t get placed there =P

  16. I want a loft very, very badly. And a wall of mirrors. I once again swoon at your photography.

  17. Julio ('14?) says:

    It’s funny how both of us watched the same movie in the last 30 hours.

    By the way, nice box trick/maneuver .Snake would be jealous.

    PS: In summer, do MIT students have to forcefully leave their dorms? If so,when the summer break ends, do they get to return to their former rooms? Or they are placed in a new room/dorm?

    I would appreciate if you/someone can answer my questions smile

    ~Julio (’14?)

  18. Anon says:

    Yan Pitbull Zhu.


  19. JonTec '13 says:

    Slender sunbeams… an image that makes me think. I love it.

  20. Yan says:

    @ Anonymous:

    Dearly do I wish that you had used a tinyurl. Oh well. I shall learn to deal with my catastrophically marred page width formatting.

  21. ominous says:

    AWESOME pictures!

  22. CCS says:

    Enjoy your Summer Yan.

  23. Gregory says:

    First I must say I loved the video.
    You are a very funny girl.
    Second I am so very proud of you,
    for making it in to MIT.
    Please Please continue your education.

    Oh I love you photos of home LOL.
    Good luck and have a great summer

  24. NathanArce says:

    I’ve… never seen a spambot bother with that many posts at once.

  25. Yan says:

    @ Nathan:

    It happens semi-regularly. I usually manage to delete them pretty quick.

    @ Gregory:

    Yep, still blogging.

  26. Gregory says:

    Will you be Bloging next Year I hope you check this from time to time.

    Good luck
    I have enroled At MIT
    OMG this is going to hurt
    I am an old man.
    I Have an ASoc In Communications
    BA in computer sciences
    And my master In mechanical enginering from School of mines in colorado
    And I still can’t spell LOL

    Ok Love ya all see you soon
    Doing the summer stuff to make up for lost time