the long lasting fruition of a summer initiative

when i think back on last summer, i’m always quick to remember it as a summer of great personal accomplishments, from making a great deal of money through website designs and the successful experience as commissioner of the hoching basketball association. one thing i realized today, however, was that i was the beneficiary of a summer accomplishment that did not belong to me, but instead, to my friend and mentor, jay mung.

i first met jay at butler when i was a freshman. novi introduced me to mung, who seemed like any other passive asian american engineer except his distinctive semi-grunge style of dress. as a sophomore, i saw the chinese students club thrive under his leadership. i still did not know him too well and only occasionally exchanged words during late nights at butler.

when summer rolled around, i happened to check his profile on AIM one day and saw that he had a link to something called ‘Weekenders.’ it was a text-based website, with no design whatsoever, that listed various low-cost or free activities around the city. this, of course, was entirely of mung’s creation. the Weekenders program offered people who happened to stay at Columbia over the summer or people who lived in the area to meet up and attend events which ranged from a new york philharmonics concert to lunch at nobu’s during restaurant week. i began talking to mung on AIM and asked him about his Weekenders while i shared stories about my basketball league. when shakespeare in the park made its run, i decided to give Weekenders a try and told jay that i would join him and whoever else would be coming that day.

the shakespeare in the park experience was thoroughly pleasant. waiting on line early in the morning for the tickets allowed me to meet min, who i would soon find out was also to be an RA at Wien Hall, and it also gave me an opportunity to hang out with a different crowd, sipping on cheap red wine in self-assembly clear plastic wine cups and throwing the frisbee around. henry v starring leiv schriber was more entertaining than expected, and i came away satisfied with the new york freebie.

the presence of my friend andy also helped me to have a memorable time, allowing me to dispense my new york / shakespeare knowledge to a willing listener throughout the day. what made the day complete was mung’s offer to drive us home after the play in his white stick-shift honda accord coupe. not only did it save us another uncomfortable sleeping night at brian’s room, it allowed me to see the sheer selflessness that it takes to really earn one’s respect and to be called a leader. mung, who lived an hour away from edison in cedar grove, dropped off his friend jenny, also from cedar grove, because of her parents’ request that she be home asap, and then proceeded to drive me and andy to edison before driving back home to cedar grove. i wondered if i would’ve been able to do the same thing.

i’ve heard and used the compound term “community-building” countless times this past year, especially in my involvement with KSA and in my failed bid for CCSC e-board. i’ve often gotten sick of the term because of the political nature of being in the position to “build” community or to “bring people together” where attendance figures and budget reports overshadow the human connections that are supposed to be made. but i guess i’ve tapped, somewhat unconsciously, into my experience of the summer and from the lessons i learned from mung – that beyond selfish motives, such as attaining power or recognition, a genuine love for just getting to know people and sharing with them should be the driving engine for community-building.

i’ll be staying in the city this summer, and while mung will be traveling around the world and getting set to work at his consulting job, perhaps i should continue the Weekenders program and give this ad hoc community building effort a try. thanks for the inspiration and the valuable lessons, mung.

3 thoughts on “the long lasting fruition of a summer initiative

  1. mungrovy

    you are too good to me peter! sorry i’ve been so MIA lately my friend. keep on doing what you’re doing and i’ll know you’ll go places. you’re my bro!

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