The Smithsonian Experience

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is a place of wonders, which is especially valuable nowadays as it contained exhibitions of the past pandemics. By paying a virtual visit, I learned about the history of fighting the past pandemics and how people who were caught in it moved on with their lives.

        My first impression of visiting a museum virtually is that it is rather “Stationary” in comparison to being there. Although I got to see the pictures and panoramic views of the exhibition, the static images did not open my mind to let me think of each event and their consequences. Which inhibited my memorization process. In an actual in-person museum there would be people casually walking around looking at the postings while tour guides would lead groups through the halls, teaching them each issue comprehensively. This is better compared to virtual visits in my opinion since the atmosphere is curated for people to learn and the explanations those tour guides usually give provides ample detail. There is one issue which needs attention—there are no exhibits for COVID-19. History is not just writing down and memorizing events in the past but rather it is an account of the combination of both events in the past and issues in the present. As of the time of this essay, people around the world are developing vaccines and issuing preventive measures to reduce the spread of COVID. The hard work of the doctors and nurses who initially found the disease and patiently cared for their patients have become the missing link as the reports never mentioned them. I propose the Smithsonian set up a special exhibit only for COVID-19 since it is fundamentally different from other diseases in the way that it killed more people than any other contagion in history and it represents a mutated part of the SARS virus. By having such an exhibit not only will future generations remember the work we have done to save humanity but also pay their respect to the medical personnel who risked their lives to find a cure.

        I would say that the outbreaks exhibition focused on persuading and teaching both students and families or communities who are affected by a certain disease to understand that they can alter their fate if they work together, as a posting on one of the walls read: “It takes people from many professions and walks of life, working together, to fight infectious diseases.” (Smithsonian, Outbreak Exhibition) If in the near future there is a day the pandemic ended and museums reopened to the public, this particular exhibition would be documentation to the bravery of the human race and the teaching ground for future generations. It will be possibly the most iconic place in the museum as the postings of collaborative effort of the international community indicates a possible shift in politics. In a world where the hidden dangers can be life-threatening to the very existence of humanity, we humans always survive by utilizing our intelligence combined with our team effort.

Auburn: The past and the future

Right now, the fall semester of the year 2020 is about to end and I am a senior looking to graduate within half a year, looking back to the diverse experiences I had at Auburn truly brings back my memories. 

For starters, I came to this institution with the hope that I could recover from the damage I had done with a 1.7 GPA since I was studying pre-med at the previous school and I dropped out because I could not understand a single medical term. Auburn gave me the feeling of being welcomed from the start. When I first stepped on campus the buildings here were drastically different than that of my previous school in Massachusetts despite some buildings such as Samford hall and Comer hall are similar to the traditional style of buildings of early America. Students and faculty seemed occupied as they hurriedly walked past our orientation group, I did not know where my classroom is so I stopped and asked a person who was having breakfast on a bench if he knew where it was. He pointed out that it is situated in a specific part of the building and you can only access it from the back door, he even drew a diagram to guide me through the steps. When he was sure that I would not be lost again, he continued on with his breakfast. That day around noon I went to the Korean restaurant across from Samford hall to have lunch with a couple of my friends, the little joint was called Seoul BBQ, and I could still remember that it had the most amazing chicken soup I have ever tasted. It was also where me and my ex first found one another. As time went by the original ground where the restaurant used to be now stands a branch of the BBVA bank, symbolizing the transformation of the economic structure of Auburn.

            This is just one example of the change in Auburn, another one would be the rerouting of tiger transit. I have been here long enough to remember the time when West campus line still went through the apartments on magnolia avenue, when I was still in Auburn global housing at the Grove, I would take the tiger transit to school with 3-4 stops along the way. Students from different communities on magnolia avenue would either wait patiently for the bus or run consistently to catch the bus. It was a scene which I would never forget. However, since the introduction of the new route for West campus line, students who lived on magnolia avenue after the complex of Logan Square often found themselves driving to school since another unfamiliar line had replaced the West campus line. This change in transit service is to accommodate people who are living near the Grove but have no basic transportation. Time is the only continuum to measure the progress of change within a society, people change, so do cities. It is always good to change and adapt to a new environment and a new standard of living. 

Auburn is a college town with a spirit, but part of that spirit was based on slavery. The correct way to address such an issue is to work with the African American community in thoughtfully changing the Auburn landscape to a racist free society. Not just by tearing down buildings or altering their names to fit certain regulations. I look forward to seeing more change done over Auburn and the university campus. 

A New Perspective ?

  Beyond the Wok—A new face for Chinese food?

       Landscapes are places where people visit daily, some of them we never pay much attention to since it became familiar to us. But even a slight change in the shape of the landscape can alter our mood or perceptions for the day, so how do landscapes make you feel?

       Beyond the Wok Chinese restaurant is a place located a few blocks from downtown Auburn adjacent to the CVS on south college street. Despite having visited an abundance of eastern style Chinese restaurants in the area, I still get the sensation that this restaurant intrigues me in some way. For starters, the ceiling and the walls are painted orange to represent Auburn, there are slogans on the wall which read: “Go hit’em big blue!” and “Cheers for Auburn!”; the floor is moped clean with tables neatly organized into rows, hand sanitizers can be seen standing on top of every counter in the shop. It all indicates the cleanliness and the standard to which the food was prepared. In some similar restaurants instead of clean woks and backstage prep stations you can easily find food packages being place near raw food and some chefs picking up food from the ground and pours them into the wok again.

       From the most direct way of approach, music chimes can be heard from every direction casting off the walls, light shadows hang to the walls as if they were cute animals. Utensils are neatly packed for each customer and the aroma of the fresh ingredients firing up in the wok was something which reminded me of home and how my mother used to cook. Since COVID-19 is still around there isn’t much of a customer base for dining in, most people would get takeout as the food tastes almost the same as on a plate. I caught some distant chatter between two people arguing what is the best way to use chopsticks, one said to hold it with one hand and slice through the food, the other defended that one stick in each hand can serve as a fork and a knife. The atmosphere seemed light.

       Since we are both ethnically Chinese, I spoke in mandarin about the restaurant with the owner, he told me the only thing he is trying to improve is the visibility of the workstations to the customers. He plans to install windowpanes in front of those woks so the customers can see how their food is prepared. He further stated that he had visions for the restaurant that some day in the future it will become the most amazing joint near downtown Auburn. Their chef’s dedication to the authenticity of the dishes will for sure impress anyone looking for an home style cooking and dining experience. In the past when I relate to the word “Chinese Restaurant” I always think of people from Hong Kong or Fuzhou trying their best to speak English to their customers and the prep stations are always a mess. However, this restaurant hired some Auburn locals as servers so there would not be a translation issue. This small joint almost unnoticeable to the eye completely changed my perception, I sincerely hope it will alter the traditional views of the westerners to Chinese food as cheap and horrible to swallow to the new standard of Chinese cooking and hospitality.

Object Biography

An insignificant object

      Nowadays people are surrounded by natural and artificial objects which either serve a purpose in their lives or as pure decoration, people would sometimes utilize the object and harness the benefits within, while others simply sat on top of shelves covered in dust. what I have chosen is an object which is invaluable to me in my daily routine—My Laptop.

      This specific laptop was made in the United States by Hewlett-Packard group, which is a computer making giant who shares the market with Dell and MSI. Since the laptop was deemed a “Gaming Laptop” it came in black with red lighting illuminating around the keyboard. It was put together by joining the monitor with the gaming inspired keyboard which took place on an assembly line. Although it might be outdated as gaming laptops have developed rapidly through the years, it is still one of the most sought-after products on the market. When I first purchased it three years ago I did not dare to think that such an electronic device would have a significant meaning to me since almost every single paper I ever wrote was stored in it. It was an essential part of me so I would also keep a personal diary to not forget what I’m thinking now, sometimes these impulsive ideas might become a task I need to complete. During the COVID-19 era the laptop greatly increased my ability to do the assignments for school while also having fun in the process, much of the hand writing had converted to typing, and much of the going out for a walk had been turned into watching YouTube videos about the outside world. This device brings me joy and quality of life—the two points which I value the most, so I had it placed directly in front of me on the desk to make sure I could sit down and have some fun. I even bought a large monitor to compliment the small screen size which caused the words to be unusually small.

A COVID-19 Story

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, China became the epicenter which caught global attention. I was lucky enough to have a couple of my family members go to Wuhan and support the medical team there since they were surgeons. Although the situation in my hometown Xi’an was manageable, the people in Wuhan suffered great losses.

      When the TV footage of Wuhan central hospital was broadcasted everyone was shocked, people there seemed to be furious, they were shouting, screaming for help, and occasionally lying on the floor due to the pain. Doctors and nurses ran around trying their best to sooth the patients even though they were dressed up in nearly 30kg of protective gear. At first no one saw the epidemic coming, some of the officials from higher up even tried to cover this pandemic as a seasonal flu. The medical team would ask for help, but the response they got was the outside help would be here within “a couple” days. But the entire city of Wuhan was in lock-down and no one can either enter or leave.

      It was until other provinces also started to show symptoms of the disease that the central government paid attention to the pandemic. As a response to support Wuhan, my mother along with my aunt was sent there as the helpers of the Clinical Laboratory team. Their basic work each day was to test as many people as they could and identify the ones who need treatment. “It was a heart-breaking scene” my aunt said, “thousands and thousands of people were brought to Wuhan central hospital where we were stationed to test for COVID-19, some of them died even before testing began.” Soon after the first wave, medical equipment fell short and the PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) were not enough, each doctor could only receive one mask and one pair of gloves per day. It was suicide even to work with the patients. My aunt further stated: “I saw doctors hanging on to their last breath to complete the surgery and collapsed in the operating room once the operation had finished.” Yet the Chinese media still claimed it was nothing to worry about. A dozen doctors lost their lives fighting on the front-lines and hundreds more of people’s lives were lost.

      When the west caught air about what is happening on in China they scorned and said such losses happened because China is a developing country with limited medical technology. However, when the western hemisphere was hit with the virus, their media exclaimed “How can this be possible ! How can China have such low death rates ? ” It’s not that our death rates are low, it’s just that we went through such a stage united. “President Trump stated that this pandemic is the democrat’s evil scheme to interfere his election, I definitely doubt that. And I don’t believe he would be able to make the virus disappear if he got reelected.” my mother claimed. That was the most interesting part of the interview. People who work on the front lines should be respected as they are the saviors of humanity.

The Presence of the Past

Since I had administered this Presence of the Past survey to my roommate, I thought it would be an interesting idea to make some comments about it. in the survey, there were quite a few questions which are on the spot by asking my roommate to think about the past, both in his family roots and in his leisure time what he had done and what he had missed. Then pick out a favorite moment and savor it. Questions like this one can not only immerse us in our memories but also teach us the moral of remembering who we are and where we are from. As habits in a person’s life could often influence their perception of the world and lifestyle.        However, something else did caught my attention as there are some imperfections to this survey. There are specific questions asked about African Americans and Hispanic Americans, but the Asians seemed to be the one left out. Another issue worth mentioning is that in the end of the survey some questions are just too sensitive to certain people. Such as asking how much their family made within a year. What I would have done is add questions for Asians while asking about basic information about those candidates. Such as name, school, favorite movie etc. That’s all I can conclude about the survey.

Zongru Han