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Author: Morgan Strunsky

A Traveler’s Guide to the Galaxy

A Traveler’s Guide to the Galaxy

Life on the Outer Rim got you down? Sick of moisture farming and blue milk? Drop those power converters and listen up! We’re Lucas-Williams Inc., the galaxy’s leader in interstellar retreat planning, and we’re here to help you get far, far away for a long time. Here’s a list of our top five destinations for the traveler looking to trade two suns for one killer vacation.

1) Hoth

Tired of sand? Try the snow! Located in the secluded Anoat sector, the frigid planet of Hoth boasts some of the best ice-boarding conditions in the galaxy. Year-round snow makes for year-round fun. Impress your friends and shred the slopes of the Clabburn Range—Hoth’s most prominent feature—, or scale Shyloah’s Crest for a view like you wouldn’t believe. Be sure to make it back before sundown, though: with temperatures known to plummet to -60°C at night, you’d better not forget to pack a winter coat! Looking for fun the whole family can enjoy? Visit the expansive tauntaun petting zoo and make a furry friend. Or, for you thrill-seekers out there, make the short journey over to Wampa Mountain for a rare, up-close look at the gargantuan wampas in their natural habitat—wouldn’t want to miss out on that!

2) Coruscant

Credits burning a hole in your tunic? Maybe the urban scene is more your speed. Zip on over to the Corusca Sector, to the galactic capital of Coruscant. A booming cultural hub, Coruscant boasts towering skyscrapers as far as the eye can see. Hungry for a bite of something new? Forget the posh penthouse bistros and overpriced eateries; swing by Dex’s Diner, instead, and try home cooking done right. Located in the heart of CoCo Town, Coruscant’s bustling industrial district, Dex serves up favorites like the tasty Shawda club sandwich and the rich Sic-Six layer cake. Looking to embrace one of the city’s tourism hot spots? Take an air taxi to Monument Plaza, and see the planet’s only uncovered mountaintop. While you’re there, stop into one of the plentiful shops and restaurants that line all four sides of the plaza. If historical significance is more your forte, why not visit the enigmatic Jedi Temple, home of the wise and powerful Jedi Order? The Force sure is strong with that place!

3) Spira

Nothing beats kicking back on a sun-kissed beach, sipping a blumfruit cooler, and watching the waves roll in. Make this dream a reality and spend a spell on Spira, in the Lytton Sector. Sporting over 4500 luxury hotels, there’s never shortage of room to plan your perfect getaway. Why not stay at the galaxy-famous Aspre Plunge Resort on Ataria Island? Plummeting 100 meters down into an underwater trench, the Aspre boasts dining and dance halls, various spas and clubs, and a number of shopping centers that cater to every taste. Stop by the fully-functional casino and try your hand at the Spatz table, or play a round of high-stakes Sabacc. For your viewing pleasure, the transparisteel windows that line the hotel offer panoramic vistas at all levels of the structure. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, rent a minisub and explore the Shinkai Abyss—the deepest of Spira’s many ocean trenches. Maybe you’ll be the lucky one to find the next big forgotten shipwreck; they’re just waiting to be discovered by explorers like you! Rooms sell like flatcakes, so book today!

4) Felucia

Press those khakis and dig the pith helmet out of the closet, because safari getaways are all the rage. Situated on the Outer Rim, Felucia is part of the busy Perlemian Trade Route. Join a group of equally-intrepid adventurers on a planned trek through the dense jungles. Mount a tee-muss and uncover the myriad of secrets that lie hidden in the underbrush. Keep an eye out for the benevolent gelagrubs, or pick some nysillin to take home as a souvenir. The friendly locals are always excited to see new faces! Visit the only place in the galaxy where roughing it isn’t so rough after all.

5) Naboo

Maybe you’d prefer a quiet weekend away from the hustle and bustle. Naboo, found in the Chommell Sector of the Mid Rim, is the place for you. Lush hills and expansive plains hide within them the coveted Lake Country. Famed for its natural beauty, Lake Country boasts bucolic meadows, surrounded by cascading waterfalls and carpeted with wild flowers. Take a swim in Lake Paonga and visit the submerged Gungan capital of Otoh Gunga, a city made entirely of luminescent bubble-like structures. While you’re there, try the infamous Otoh Gunga specialty: a dessert so potent, it is said to take at least four hominids to consume. Hope you have a sweet tooth! With amenities this perfect, you’ll never want to leave!

So the next time you’re itching for something new; the next time you think “I sure could use a break;” the next time you’re looking for a transport going anywhere: drop us a com at 1-327-GET-LOST. We’re Lucas-Williams, Inc., and it’s our job to help you forget about your job.

Viet Thanh Nguyen offers a glimpse into the life of refugees

Viet Thanh Nguyen offers a glimpse into the life of refugees

There are countless reasons one can think of on why many people choose to move far away from their mother land, be it to pursue one’s distinguished career in a promising foreign market, to settle down with a local, or simply look for better economic status. However, the term refugee would still be such an unfamiliar concept to most Americans until waves of Vietnamese refugees arrived in the US after the war just to be greeted with reservation, doubt, and even denial. Viet Thanh Nguyen, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his fiction “The Sympathizer” was a refugee himself. He frequently re-emphasized the importance of distinguishing between immigrant and refugee in his interviews. Undoubtedly, he has never failed to remind himself as well as his audience of his own status as a refugee through his works. What it was like to embark on the one-way journey to escape the Communists just to find themselves caught in a world of capitalism and the Western way of life countercultural to their own Asian ideologies is captured lively in The Refugees, a compilation of eight short stories.

Seeking refuge is probably the most despondent state of being an émigré one can imagine. One not only risks facing death during his escape, but is also confronted by the very real possibility of being deprived of a country, a home, and most importantly an identity. In “Black-eyed women,” the ghost of a boy—a loving brother and a dutiful son—is believed by his mom and sister to have swum thousands of miles from where he was murdered by pirates to the west coast of America, just so that every now and then when it pours at night he can visit his beloved in the old soaked well-worn clothes. It was revealed later that his younger sister – the protagonist was also “killed” in the incidence, or wraithlike, her existence being insignificant and only in the living’s mind could she find herself trapped with personal traumas many boat people share.

The book provides an account of the difficulties Vietnamese refugees had to face once they set foot on America, be it rebuilding their family or growing up in a country that presents so many cultural clashes with their Southeast Asian upbringing. The individual stories at first glance are bits and pieces of memories and experience that are completely unrelated with one another, but on a deeper level they are interconnected by a single thread woven by the characters’ Southern Vietnamese identity, their refugee status as well as their trouble adapting to a not-so-welcoming American society.

Nguyen in his interview with NPR admitted that “War Years” incorporated the most autobiographical materials among the eight pieces and thus reflects his family settling down in America and his upbringing quite precisely. The story depicts his struggle growing up balancing his two identities, one wild and trying to fit in with the American society and the other trying to conform to his parents’ expectations of a filial Vietnamese son. His parents, representative of the larger community of Vietnamese refugees, always tend to shrug off their own self when dealing with Americans and become completely different people from at home speaking their own language. The story also revealed a dark side of the contemporary status quo “that the politics of the war was not won, the war was not finished. People might like to think the war is done when a ceasefire is signed, but for most people who live through a war, it goes on for decades.”

In “I’d love you to want me”, Mrs. Khanh is a dedicated wife to her demential husband who would more often that not innocently break her heart by calling her Yen, a woman’s name long buried in the deepest part of his subconscious mind. Their sons and daughters, born and raised American, have their own lives and hardly contact their parents. All the communications among family members are carried out through a messenger, Mrs. Khanh’s youngest son, who would insist from time to time that she give up on her job at the local library, the only place she could comfort herself with a sense of purpose in life. At the end of the story, she gave up her job at the library and gave in to her husband persistently calling her another woman’s name.

Above all these grueling and discouraging circumstances, there always come tints of joy and comfort: the excitement Liem finds in his first experience with the Western world, where they can start a new life with a new identity, where they do not have to betray their sexual orientation in “The other man”, or the ecstasy of the boy in “War years” when he received five dollars from his conservative mom to finally do what he imagined a normal American kid would do: buy junk food at a 7-Eleven.

The book is filled with intertwinements of bright and dark, good and bad, pessimism and optimism, peace and calamity. The reminiscence of a childhood in beautiful countryside of Vietnam “follow my father down our village’s lanes and pathways, through jackfruit and mango groves to the dikes and fields” is also smeared with stains of memory flashes of a haunted country viciously struck by war, with ghastly images of “an upper half of a Korean lieutenant, launched by a mine into the branches of a rubber tree; a scalped black American whose eyes and the exposed half-moon of his brain glistening above the water; and a decapitated Japanese private groping through cassava shrubbery for his head”. In “Father land”, Phuong’s half-sister, Vivien, who escaped with her mom post-war, on her first (and last) homecoming trip reveals that her life in America is nowhere as wealthy as Phuong and her family in Vietnam imagines. That shatters the rosy lens Phuong used so religiously to look at the Viet-kieus (Vietnamese abroad) and disillusions her dreams of coming to American for better prospects.

That said, there is always light the end of the tunnel. That the Vietnamese was so admirably resilient even though the war mostly tore their lives beyond repair has been proven to be true by refugees and their children. The Refugees not only vent a desire for survival but also an aspiration for a better life, where they could provide their children with a carefree and protected upbringing, something they never once had. However, certain parts of the book also serve as a reminder that the negative impacts of the Vietnamese diaspora on this ethnic group are still very tangible in modern American society.

Making the most of JYA

Making the most of JYA

For many of us who will be going into our junior years at Vassar, we recently found out that we will be spending at least part of that year in a different country! For me, I’ll be heading to Italy and it’ll be the longest I’ve been both without my family and outside of the United States. If you need some convincing about studying abroad and why I think it’s an invaluable experience, hopefully my blog here will do the trick.
Firstly, when in your life will you ever be able to leave the United States for months at a time again? We’re in our twenties; we’re about to go off into the world and try to do amazing things which will undoubtedly take a lot of our time and consequently result in more responsibilities. Right now is really the only time when an opportunity like this will be provided for us and I’m extremely grateful for it.
Secondly, if you want to gain a firmer grasp on your foreign language skills (assuming you’re going to a country in which the inhabitants don’t speak English) then this is the best way to immerse yourself in that language. As someone who’s been studying Italian for a couple of years now, I’m thrilled to be able to study at the oldest university in the world in Bologna. When I go, I’m going to make a commitment to speak English as infrequently as possible. Maybe I’ll just walk through the city and get lost, taking in the language at every corner.
We’re going to be able to live in a country whose culture may be very different than our own, and that is essential to one’s education. As much as we can read about other nations in books, nothing can substitute actually going out and doing our own exploring of the world. I am especially looking forward to the cuisine in Bologna. There is so much beauty to the world with regard to architecture, different types of social interactions, history, art, and more. We’ve been given this time to really become knowledgeable about how people across the globe live, and what better way is there to learn about the world then to actually see it?
One of the biggest suggestions that I’ve gotten from friends who’ve studied abroad is to go out and have adventures! What’s the point of spending time in Europe or Asia if you’re just going to hang out with other Americans? Not only should you explore the immediate area, but if possible, try to see other countries. If you plan to study abroad in Europe, there are so many different cultures so close to each other. So have a pretzel in Munich, a beer in Ireland, and pasta in Italy while you can!
While you’re enjoying your time abroad, it might also be a good idea to keep a record of what your doing. Take a ton of pictures from start to finish, or maybe even keep a journal. That way when you go home, you can share your experiences with family and friends. Nowadays, it’s so easy to create a presentation that will allow those close to you to experience a little of what you did. More importantly, you’ll be able to look back on your experiences later in life and remember all the fun adventures you had and all the friends you made.
Studying abroad creates memories that will undoubtedly last a lifetime, and I don’t plan to pass up the opportunity. Buon viaggio!