Esther Tong: A Night for Taste

wine tasting event Upenn

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Posted on May 11, 2015 by Esther Tong

 While most seniors in college are still struggling with their thesis and looking forward to all the senior week activities and graduation, psychology major students are the group who people are jealous of because we are always the one’s who starts our own celebration first.

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 While most seniors in college are still struggling with their thesis and looking forward to all the senior week activities and graduation, psychology major students are the group who people are jealous of because we are always the one who starts our own celebration first.  Every year, psychology department would hold a wine tasting event for seniors a month before the graduation. The interesting part of the wine tasting night is, not only you get to taste different red and white wines that brought from the faculties, enjoy the cheese and food throughout the night, but also you get a chance to win free bottles of wine at the end of the night. Every faculty from the psychology department would pick a bottle of wine they like but the students would not know who bring what wine. The rule of the game is that the students would get a paper which include the description of each wine which includes the taste of the wine and why that person like it. After tasting, students need to match the wine with the faculties. The person who guesses the most right would get to take the free bottles of wine home.  it was a really fun night. Professors got to share their life and interests with the senior students. The competition was intense and students communicated a lot about their own ideas of each professor’s taste like. Apparently, I wasn’t able to capture the winner of the night, since she is busing taking photos the whole time!                        

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Every year, the University of Pennsylvania’s Psychology department  holds a wine tasting event for seniors a month before  graduation. The interesting part of the wine tasting night is, not only do you get to taste different red and white wines brought from the faculty, enjoy the cheese and food throughout the night, but you also get a chance to win free bottles of wine at the end of the night. Every faculty member from the psychology department would pick a bottle of wine they like but the students would not know who brought which wine. The rule of the tasting is that the students would get a paper which included the description of each wine, which includes the taste of the wine and why that person likes it. After tasting, students need to match the wine with the correct faculty member. The person who guesses the most right would get to take the free bottles of wine home.

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wine tasting Upenn

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 While most seniors in college are still struggling with their thesis and looking forward to all the senior week activities and graduation, psychology major students are the group who people are jealous of because we are always the one who starts our own celebration first.  Every year, psychology department would hold a wine tasting event for seniors a month before the graduation. The interesting part of the wine tasting night is, not only you get to taste different red and white wines that brought from the faculties, enjoy the cheese and food throughout the night, but also you get a chance to win free bottles of wine at the end of the night. Every faculty from the psychology department would pick a bottle of wine they like but the students would not know who bring what wine. The rule of the game is that the students would get a paper which include the description of each wine which includes the taste of the wine and why that person like it. After tasting, students need to match the wine with the faculties. The person who guesses the most right would get to take the free bottles of wine home.  it was a really fun night. Professors got to share their life and interests with the senior students. The competition was intense and students communicated a lot about their own ideas of each professor’s taste like. Apparently, I wasn’t able to capture the winner of the night, since she is busing taking photos the whole time!                        

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It was a really fun night. Professors got to share their life and interests with the senior students. The competition was intense and students communicated a lot about their own ideas of each professor’s taste. Apparently, I wasn’t able to capture the winner of the night, since she was busy taking photos the whole time!

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wine tasting event

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Photography and Text by Esther Tong, Copyright 2015

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About the Author: Esther Tong is a senior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2015.

                       

Angelo Munafo: Young Hustlers

gambling at UPenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Posted on May 9, 2015 by Angelo Munafo

The extracurricular scene at the University of Pennsylvania is very diverse, to say the least. We’re all familiar with the multitude of dance, a cappella, theater, comedy, cultural, and business groups that call this campus home. We’re also very familiar with the abundance of fraternities and sororities that claim a quarter of the freshmen class as recruits every year. One social venue you might not be aware of is Penn’s “underground” poker club. This small group convenes in the basement of Harrison high-rise once every week to whip out the cards, chips, and (yes) cash for a taste of some good old-fashioned gambling fun.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

underground poker games at Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

The first thing I noticed about the scene was the sound. Letting my mind zone out, I was quickly overwhelmed by a sea of clacking poker chips. Players incessantly fiddle with the pieces in their fingers, dropping them like a slinky within their hands and restacking them on the table over and over again. Whether this funny habit be a nervous release or some expression of anxiety over impending results, it is definitely the mark of a group of amateurs, and one group member whispered to me that no professionals “fool around” with their chips like that. The second thing I noticed were the quirks of individual participants; one guy had his lucky Yankees hat, another his lucky pack of Five gum, others had their traditional Dr. Pepper or Brisk Tea, and yet another guy sauntered in with a massive Chipotle burrito (replete with a full bottle of Tabasco). I also learned that some players are known to always pop in headphones, using music to block out extraneous stimuli and silently focus on their own game.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

underground poker games at Upenn.Photography by Penn student Angelo Munafo, Copyright 2015.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Though playing for real money, the atmosphere in the basement room is surprisingly casual, and the game evokes a sense of camaraderie among a group that clearly knows each other on a personal level beyond the poker table. For starters, this coalition of passionate card players makes due with their surroundings by playing on the felt surface of pool tables instead of proper poker tables. Players toss cards and chips into the center of the table with impressive precision, as turns shift around the horn at a remarkable pace. As a non-poker player, it was nearly impossible to decipher what was going on given the lack of verbal signals. Though varying in skill levels, everyone at the table at least had the rules and flow of the game down pat. Players trickle in at their own pace, and the game expanded from five to ten players over the course of my time observing. At a certain point, leaders decided to split the group into two tables to maximize the number of hands everyone would get to play. Players often make non-descript jokes about the cards they have, occasionally sharing their hand with neighbors in hopes of a reciprocal gesture. This sense of good will is evident in the “semi-professionals” who join the undergraduate game less for piece of the action than for a relaxing break from the high stakes games they play at local casinos and poker houses.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

underground poker games at Upenn.Photography by Penn student Angelo Munafo, Copyright 2015.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

underground poker games at Upenn.Photography by Penn student Angelo Munafo, Copyright 2015.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

underground poker games at Upenn.Photography by Penn student Angelo Munafo, Copyright 2015.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Upon entering the room, an older African American gentleman grandly announced “look who’s here!” while throwing a handful of hundred dollar bills into the air. This mysterious “regular” began recounting his prior night’s game, in which he feared a poker buddy of his would get shot for flaunting thousands of dollars in cash in front of a rough North Philly crowd; as it turns out, that infamous friend showed up at our game later in the night. With years more experience and even a World Series of Poker stint under his belt, this enigmatic yet gregarious figure certainly exuded a degree of confidence and “swagger.” The students looked up to him with deference, his mere presence commanding the room’s attention. However, his aura is not to be mistaken for arrogance or condescension. To the contrary, I watched firsthand as this older player took a couple undergraduates under his wing, offering them strategic tips to improve their game. My friend, who frequents the Penn Poker Club and helped me discover this hidden gem, informed me that such tutelage is characteristic of this high-rolling, rumored-to-be grad student.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

underground poker games at Upenn.Photography by Penn student Angelo Munafo, Copyright 2015.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

All in all, my visit to poker night was full of interesting developments. Certain members of the club seemed particularly uneasy having a camera in the room. The group expressed a desire to remain anonymous, reflecting the semi-illegal status of their game and a concern that future games could be shut down if the right University authorities caught word of it. Despite the negative connotation that gambling begets, in reality, their activity is totally harmless and should be embraced rather than shunned. Let’s just say that there are many things going on under Penn’s nose that are a thousand times worse, so it would be a real shame if the powers that be chose to single out this cunning group of “young hustlers.” I completely understand the wish to have their individual identities remain anonymous, as I myself hope that this healthy, self-run competition remains a vibrant part of extracurricular life on Penn’s campus. An interesting niche, indeed, the student poker crowd comes from all walks of life—young athletes, “techies,” engineers, geologists, and entrepreneurs were among the represented parties on this particular Thursday. Intelligence was a common denominator. I feel privileged to have gotten the chance to watch this fascinatingly bizarre dynamic unfold.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

underground poker games at Upenn.Photography by Penn student Angelo Munafo, Copyright 2015.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Photography and Text by Angelo Munafo, Copyright 2015

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About the Author: Angelo Munafo is freshman enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2018.

Michelle Chen: Cat Walking to Freedom

drag queen at Upenn drag show backstage portrait

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Posted on May 6, 2015 by Michelle Chen

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Recently, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBTQ) Center at Upenn hosted one of their most exciting events of the year: the QSA Drag Show.  Getting the opportunity to get backstage and preshow access, I was able to get a unique glimpse into the small, but boisterous community.  The center acts as a home away from home for those sexual and gender minorities at the University of Pennsylvania.  One of the representatives said, “ the Center welcomes those that question their identity, in the process of coming out, or proudly identify as LGBTQ.”

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

drag show makeup back stage

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

 

They offer peer mentorships, safe spaces to study and socialize, and a calendar full of events like this Drag Show.  As one of the oldest and most active LGBTQ, the center hosted events to serve UPenn’s students, faculty, and staff like its Queer Factor week.  One of the participants in the Drag Show, Eric, told me, during the last week of March, they host events that range from learning about LGBT history at Penn, discussions with queer writers, performances by Ulanday Barret who is a disabled pinoy-american transgender poet, chats with a queer pastor, film screenings of “The Normal Heart” that tells the story of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York in 1981, and showcase of research on queer theory.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

transgender student, Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

I had the opportunity to watch the screening of Mala Mala, which tells the transgender experience and powerful transformation through the eyes of nine trans individuals in Puerto Rico.  As I was watching the film, I looked around me and it was easy to see that all the people in the room were riding an emotional roller coaster as they watched these LGBT advocates fight for their own personal and community acceptance.  Many of these performers themselves have been in through triumphant highs and devastating lows as they lived a life of self-discovery.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

transgender students, Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

During the drag show, as the participants flaunted and cat walked down the runway, they were not only doing it as part of their character, but also to showcase to the Penn community the problems that LGBTQ communities face and how they need to be united together as friends.  Each of these performers showcased their inner diva, royalty, and their true face at this show.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

transgender student, Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Photography and Text by Michelle Chen, Copyright 2015

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About The Author: Michelle Chen is a senior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2015.

Alexis Borden: How the Other Half Lives

portrait of impoverished young black boy in Philadelphia

 

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Posted on May 4, 2015 by Alexis Borden

One of the major problems in Philadelphia is Poverty. Twenty-eight percent (28%) of Philadelphians live below the federal poverty level, including 39% of children, 27% of work-age adults and 17% of seniors. The United States is the richest nation, yet millions of Americans live below the poverty line. The word poverty provokes strong emotions and is a topic most people don’t fully understand. Poverty is arguably the most far-reaching, long-standing cause of chronic suffering there is. For a recent assignment, I decided I wanted to take a look at poverty and homelessness. I wanted to get a glimpse into how the “other half” lives. I see homeless people all around UPenn campus and typically when I see them I ignore them but for this project I sought them out.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

poor woman in North Philadelphia

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Poverty has many faces and changes from place to place and can be defined in multiple ways. Most people have a mental image of what they believe poverty and homelessness looks like based on their everyday interactions: a man sleeping on a steam vent, or panhandling for spare change on a street corner. But homelessness, like its causes, varies wildly from person to person and city to city, and touches many people who don’t fit traditional stereotypes. Five decades since President Lyndon B. Johnson began his so-called War on Poverty, poor Americans continue to struggle. Nearly a quarter of people in poverty have jobs, but their pay is so low that they still don’t have enough money to meet basic needs like food, shelter, clothing and health care. About 1,500 families become homeless every year. I visited Project Home on 1515 fairmount avenue and witnessed first hand what great shelters like this can do for people. 

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

impoverished white female Philadelphia

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Poverty takes on a whole new face when it applies to children. Poverty and homelessness hits children the hardest. They need to grow up healthy but a lot of them don’t have this possibility. The worst thing is that hunger doesn’t affect only children’s’ health, but also their development in every way- emotional, physical and spiritual. Children are the most frequent users of emergency shelter, outnumbering adults almost 2 to 1. Although childhood is generally considered to be a time of joyful, carefree exploration, children living in poverty tend to spend less time finding out about the world around them and more time struggling to survive within it. Poor children have fewer and less-supportive networks than their more affluent counterparts do; live in neighborhoods that are lower in social capital; and, as adolescents, are more likely to rely on peers than on adults for social and emotional support.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

african american child Philadelphia

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

african american child Philadelphia

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

boarded up homes, Philadelphia

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Poverty and homelessness has been a consistent problem throughout history. No matter what the median income, unemployment or overall prosperity level is, there will always be people who are homeless and hungry.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

homeless man digging in the trash, Philadelphia

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Photography and Text by Alexis Borden, Copyright 2015

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About the Author: Alexis Borden is a senior Biology and pre-med major at the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2015.

UPenn: Took Back The Night

Take Back the Night Poster Upenn campus peaceful protest

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Posted on April 27, 2015

On a recent Thursday evening, as the sun started to set on Penn’s college green, students began to gather there in solidarity. The reason: Take Back The Night, a nationwide peaceful protest that focuses on eliminating sexual and domestic violence. A poster making session had been held the night before at the Penn Women’s Center, and numerous brightly colored signs were created for the cause. The signs were distributed to all of the students, faculty, and other protesters who joined the Take Back the Night rally and march. A small speaker series took place at  six pm on the stairs of college hall. Despite the vivid neon posters that littered the grass around them, the atmosphere was surprisingly somber and thoughtful, as the partakers listened intently to the shocking statistics and stories of sexual assault.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

peaceful protest college hall Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Immediately following the speakers, the energy suddenly reversed from solemn to lively. Protesters quickly filled in the ranks and began to march behind the Take Back the Night leaders. The massive protest looped throughout the entire campus with the beat of drums, and sounds of shouting and chanting filling the air. It was remarkable to witness the passion of these students, teachers and others alike, standing up and speaking out against sexual violence. But up to this point, I had felt like an outsider to the event, walking on the peripheries and hiding behind the lens of my camera.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

student protest at Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

It wasn’t until I was forced to put my camera down that realized my true purpose of being there. Photography was not permitted at the final installment of Take Back the Night, so what is not pictured in this article is the beautiful candle light vigil that took place at the end of the walk. The steps of Wynn Commons were filled with supporters and survivors and candles and blankets were passed out to everyone. At the center of the small stage, a single microphone stood surrounded by a semi circle of flickering candles. Anyone was invited to go up and share his or her stories. The ambiance in that mini amphitheater was like nothing I had every experienced before. The stories that were shared evoked diverse emotions; unbelievable sadness for what these individuals had endured but also great inspiration because of the bravery it took to reveal their experiences.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

take back the night. Student protest at Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

As I sat there on the cold stone steps, listening to the stories, watching the delicate flame of my candle waver in the wind, I understood what a truly exceptional event this was. Not only does Take Back the Night advocate for the abolition of sexual abuse and assault, but it also provides a setting for those seeking solace and support, including myself.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

take back the night. Protest at the U of Penn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

April 13th, 2012. That was the night I had the opportunity to take back because of this wonderful and empowering event. Although I was not able to find the strength within me to share my story at the vigil, I walked away from the event knowing that I am a survivor and not a victim. For too long I have blamed myself for my rape, for putting myself in a vulnerable position and allowing such an awful experience to happen to me. But after sitting on those steps of Wynne Commons, listening to other survivors break the silence to end the violence, I realized that what happened to me was not my fault and that I am, in no way, responsible for my assault. Attending Take Back The Night was one of the best experiences of my life. I had the chance to take back a night I never wanted to happen and replace it with the amazing memories I made at this peaceful protest.

Editor’s Note: The author elects to remain anonymous.