One of two things wakes me up every morning: either the sun streaming through my window or my alarm going off. Today it is the latter, with a jarring noise at 6:43am, 43 because if it is an even or “normal” number, my brain assumes that I have plenty of time to roll over and catch a few more minutes of sleep. Today, as I reach over to turn off the alarm on my phone, I groan because the night before we had gone pretty hard at the climbing gym. I groan again when I look at the screen and read that it is Saturday.
Fortunately, today is a special Saturday; I have a very busy schedule. This was the second day of my Counter Threat Financing workshop, the second of four weekend workshops dealing with money laundering and financial crimes. I have a jam-packed 9-5 day of learning about how to stop the financing of threats to national security. And I am up this early because I need to study for my 9am test, because I spent the night before at the climbing gym instead of studying…
As I roll out of bed, I put on some music. Today starts with the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, because life is going pretty well right now, then it is time to switch to my “Summer Hits of the 90s” Pandora station, which is my usual go-to. I spend the next twenty or so minutes getting ready and then I make coffee, grab a banana and my notes and head to the back porch to study for a little while I enjoy the amazing Monterey weather, very little is more enjoyable, for an Iowa boy at least, than sitting outside in February, without needing a jacket. After a bit of studying, I head to school.
I get to class earlier than most people so I can run through a quick study session with the other students who got to class early. Class gets started and we settle in for one of my favorite classes offered at our school. The morning passes pretty quickly, and when class is dismissed at 12:30 I head out to meet up with my friends to go to the local Indian buffet. This is a poor life choice (what’s worse is that we all know that it is a bad choice). The food is delicious, the company is almost impossible to beat, but the food coma that comes with eating this massive amount of food is going to make our afternoon very difficult.
I have been pretty lucky/blessed (depending on your point of view) to form a very tight-knit group of friends. I have been friends with some of them since the econ-boot camps in August. While others I barely knew two months ago. This particular group, Nate, Jamie, Ali, Aileen, Emily, Diana and I make up one of the best examples of what I love about MIIS. Jamie, Ali and Emily are all International Education Management (IEM) students who come from various backgrounds and will be graduating with their IEM Masters Degrees which allow them access to a truly staggering array of jobs. Nate is IEM and Masters of Policy Administration, Diana is Non-Proliferation Terrorism Studies, Aileen is International Policy Studies dealing with Trade while I focus primarily on Human Security and Development. We all get to talk about what is going on in the world and share our view of it from each of our unique lenses rather than remaining siloed in our own way of thinking. This group doesn’t even scratch the surface of the ways we all interact between the master’s programs or language study groups (five different languages studied in this group alone) though.
Before I know it, or would like for it to be, lunch is over and we all start heading our separate ways. For me, it is back to class to listen to experts explain how they helped bust or find money laundering or criminal networks. While the lecture is riveting and very educational, at our first break, I have to run to Plumes to grab a couple cups of coffee to balance out the food coma. Back in class, I get a text message telling me that the practice field we usually use for our newly created flag football team is being used for something else this week and that they will have to move to a new location, in case anyone reaches out to me. The time in class flies and before I know it we are being dismissed for the day.
I have one hour to get to the store, make dessert, grab my suit and get to the “classy dinner” that my friends Nate and Jamie have made for Ali, Mallory, Jeramie, and me. The various friends making dinner for each other is a great tradition that we have started recently, it lets those of us who aren’t in a weekend seminar help out those that are, and I get to showcase my culinary abilities to boot. Nate and Jamie made a Thai influenced chicken curry, in part because of Jamie’s time living in Thailand, which is fantastic. Then we had a cheese course (because this is what we think is required of a fancy dinner before the symphony), and lastly was my dessert of homemade chocolate covered strawberries.
At this point it is time to head to the symphony. We pile into the car and head to Carmel’s Sunset Center for our $10 tickets that we bought through MIIS and, after meeting up with a number of other MIIS students, enjoy an amazing concert, which concludes with Dvorak’s 8th. After the symphony, everyone heads their own way, but since we are dressed up, Nate, Jamie, Ali, and I go to grab a martini on Alvarado Street and then, after much begging and pleading, and my friends finally relenting, head to the beach.
When we get there it is chilly, the sand is no longer warm from the sun, but you can hear and see the waves crashing against the beach in the night, see a million stars in the sky, and you smell the salt in the air. We all take our shoes off and start to walk down the beach talking about the party where we really got to know each other, how our friendship grew, and how we all ended up at MIIS. The walk is full of inside jokes, most of which weren’t even jokes to us two months ago. Which is where my day ended: walking along the bay, in a suit, feet in the sand, surrounded by three great friends as I suggested that we roll our pants up and wade in the bay. When the others protest and say it isn’t a good idea, I smile and say, “Maybe, but who’s stopping us?”