Andante con moto


A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

-Henry David Thoreau


The breeze was the perfect kind of nippy.  The kind of circular air that spins the hairs on your back up straight like little keratin needles.  It tugged on the water ever so slightly, rippling millions of miniature chasms into the once still lake.  I too left my own interruptions on the lake that day.


Two months ago, I received an email from a family friend: “Free Kayaks”.  For a teenage boy who has been locked up in his home for the past two months, being able to get out and kayak seemed like the liberating opportunity of a lifetime. On an impulse, I replied yes. So this year, I got two kayaks.

My kayaks, or “the ‘yaks ” (which is what I like to call them)

“Haha.. did you know that kayak backwards is kayak…”  Being able to kayak actually required a lot more work than my preliminary analysis determined.  I had to buy equipment for my car to haul the kayaks along with the paddles and the life jackets.  All of the equipment ended up costing more than the kayaks themselves were worth.  Getting the kayaks for free required me to get equipment, but getting the equipment cost the same as getting the kayaks. I think that is the real palindrome.


Growing up in nature, living and just being outside is instinctive to me.  As a cub scout, I would go on camping trips and kayaking journeys with my friends and family.  I grew up going to the Drumlin Farms summer camp every summer, coming home lathered in dirt and dust, smelling like your neighbor’s mulch.  One of the greatest experiences of my young life is that I had the opportunity to go on an overnight kayaking trip.  A few years back, my friends and I packed everything we needed into waterproof bags and stuffed them into kayaks as we headed to wherever the river took us.  For four nights we paddled, docked, and camped, and I was the happiest a kid could ever be. For the first trip out with my own new kayaks, I knew exactly where my destination was: Horn Pond. Every weekend when I was younger, I used to walk around the pond with my family and my dog Petey. Now every Sunday morning, I get up at 7am and head down to count herring running up the spillway of the pond connecting it with the upper Mystic river. Not much has changed from my old memories of Horn Pond.  Much like its water, the pond has stayed still throughout the years.  It is a place that is surrounded by busy commercial streets and crowded sidewalks, yet on the inside it remains untouched.  It is the single place where my dog Petey does not bark.  I think he is also too busy reminiscing on the eternal nature of this place.


My dog Petey at Horn Pond.  He’s a pretty funny guy.


There is something so charming about breaking the stillness that covered the lake like a sheet, splashing the clear water into a flurry of bubbles and mud.  It is acting out the will of motion to create a disturbance and progress entropy.  The ripples of water bouncing off my paddle with such purpose and vitality.  Andante con moto.  Watching it all even back it is inevitable, the soft chirps of birds return and the water is flat. Watching the natural equilibrium ultimately pull what motion I create to rest, everything settles.  It is a calm sense of conclusion, a finale that repeats the past.


Sitting out there on the lake by myself, I began to feel very introspective.  I began to feel what Thoreau meant when he said, to “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams,” or when London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”   In the beginning of this year, we discussed “Into the Wild” together in class, and at the time, I thought McCandless was a crazy man, that his goals are reckless and idealist.  To quote my summer reading essay, I said the “motivations and the actions he [McCandless] pursued in achieving them were neither noble nor cautious.”  And yes, his actions were extreme, but now I understand that his goals are far from being so.  


This year has been a hecticly productive year for me.  I have reached a vast majority of goals that I set for myself and have even accomplished things that I would have never thought possible.  Awards, recognition, sports, companies, clubs — I have been so caught up in work, and as cliche as it may sound, I really lost track of who I am working for.  Being alone, paddling myself forward for the sole task of moving me where I wanted to go in a body of water is all I needed to do, to clear my head and to ponder things I truly want to accomplish with the actions and the ripples I create in this world.


When we understand string theory, we will know how the universe began. It won’t have much effect on how we live, but it is important to understand where we come from and what we can expect to find as we explore.

-Stephen Hawking


In 1867, Sir William Thomson proposed that all matter was fundamentally made up of vortex rings.  He claimed that strings broke down our molecular model of particulate matter.   I enjoy the idea of a rubber band, full of potential energy.  The thing about potential is that it is a really precarious state of existence.  If you pull on a rubber band too hard it snaps.  If you pull and let it go, it shimmers and echoes and resolves, much like any other waves.


Could we just be our own kayak on the lake, breaking waves upon an unknown plane? There is rippling occurring all around us, waves of matter and light and gravity and sound. Pluck at them. Create the music of the universe.  Andante con moto.


I am proud and grateful to have accomplished a lot this year.  But, I think that the biggest accomplishment I took away this year outweighs any award, any outer recognition.  Through this covid-19 crisis, through these social pressures, through getting a kayak, I found myself.  I learned that my purpose in life is not to keep dwelling over finding a purpose.  It is to sometimes be the log carried downstream, and to sometimes be herring pushing upstream.  It is to reach for fulfillment and settle for peace.  But all in all, it is to never forget that the only person sitting in the kayak is you, and no matter where you want to go, you are the only one that can paddle it forward.


This year, I have tested out the waters.  I have broken the plane and created waves larger than myself, a tsunami from a mere kayak.  I have played the strings around me and torqued them and spun them.  Created sound — some resonated and some were hollow. But most importantly, I have sat and watched the ripples form and even out, slowly but evenly, with movement and with life.  Andante con moto.

The Concord River.


On Chung•Hyo•Ye

KSCPP National Essay Contest Honorable Mention

History is very much a cyclical being. After waves of instability, the world falls back into the equilibrium of instinctive values. No matter how much society progresses, it still must stand on the foundations of moral virtue. It is the virtues of Chung, Hyo, and Ye that form this comprehensive moral structure.  

Chung is the dutiful devotion to country and people. In the collection Chung•Hyo•YeChung•Hyo•Ye, Chung is characterized through the loyal actions of conscientious citizens including Pak Jesang, Sadaham, and Choi Yeong. This principle is the key adhesive to the polar and divisive American society that we live in. “We the people” the Declaration of Independence states in large, curly yet unassailable letters. Without the dutiful patriotism and individual sacrifices of the governed, our society would not function. Currently, we live in a society corrupted by capitalist interest and greed. Chung is fading. This virtue can be revitalized through the selfless actions of all members of society to push a human agenda not personal credences. Our representatives must not repeat the faults of Yi In-i’m and Yim Gyeon-mi and steer the government for the people, not private interests. Citizens must be respectful of the strenuous nature of being an elected official and respect those who are coherent with the views of the people. Our modern society needs Chung to continue a society based on the greater good. Maybe it is not to the extent of establishing a national loan system like Eulpaso, but every citizen has the right and the responsibility to create positive change.  

Hyo is filial devotion. This principle is more valuable than ever in our world today with the development of the nuclear family. With fewer children and more means of travel, families are becoming more separated than ever before — especially with the high divorce rates creating disparaged relationships. There is a higher reliance on Hyo in our modern world, and it is up to the youth to fill this demand. The public must take up their responsibility to visit their elderly loved ones and care for them. Additionally, we must visit those who do not have families at nursing homes and veterans hospitals; everybody deserves the comforts of communal interaction. Our people must adopt the selfless virtue of Sim Cheong and be grateful toward guardians — for the wellness of others is the betterment of oneself. In our modern society of fractured patriarchal relations and many orphans who find no figure of love — Hyo must be stronger. These children should find a positive role model to look up to and care for. It is our society’s job to act as these role models and provide parental support to those who lack it. It is these two classes who need Hyo the most in the modern world: the elderly and orphaned. Furthermore, it is our duty to provide Hyo and an outlet for Hyo for those who need it.

Ye does not stand for KanYeWest, rather it is the virtuous way of life (whether the two are correlative or antipode is subjective). This principle may just be the most important of the three as it encompasses all that is outlined in the “tales of filial devotion, loyalty, respect and benevolence from the history and folklore of Korea.” Ye means to live the most with what little you may have. Ye means to pursue big dreams under small circumstance. Ye means to live a happy life while creating happiness for others. It is the cornerstone of the American Dream and Yeis a mandatory virtue in achieving personal success. In the present day, Ye must continue to be practiced in every aspect of life. One must consider the goals of a community over the personal aspiration — to follow JFK’s proverb: “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. One should also indulge in the beauties of nature and preserve nature’s everlasting persistence. Ye means to be the rose growing through the cracks between cement. Ye means to be the tiger protecting its cubs from the dark and scavenging for food to feed its parents. Ye means to be the bee which day by day retrieves honey so that the beehive can prosper. One should also strive for happiness. America is a country that secures “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Living to the fullest of Ye means that we must take advantage of these given freedoms and continue to create freedoms for those who do not have them.

No matter how “modern” our world today has become, we cannot ignore the universal and timeless virtues set through the folklore of Korea. Chung・Hyo・Ye illustrates these seemingly idealistic values into realistic anecdotes. While some of these stories may seem more fantastical than concrete, this collection sets forth an impermeable set of morals in describing a virtuous life and collaborative community. Chung, Hyo, and Ye are philosophical foundations that should be considered in modern decisions no matter how large or minuscule the matter. These values act as retaliation against greed, ego, and contempt. It is no doubt that if people begin to comprehend and apply these traditional Korean virtues that our world will once again become whole. Moreover, these ancient morals will provide a basis for modern reform. Maybe it is false that modern problems require modern solutions and that we as a society must refer back to a life of benevolence and modesty through Chung・Hyo・Ye.


What is Your Nationality?

Scholastic Gold Key


The name is Matt Masahiro Tengtrakool, male, 16 years old, Massachusetts, USA. The definition of nationality is, “the status of belonging to a particular nation.” Belonging is a broad term. Yes, one can belong to a place. Nevertheless, one can also belong to a multitude of nouns: a person, idea, or thing. Based on the given information, please choose the following answer that fits his nationality the best. 


First and foremost, his name is Matt, a very run-of-the-mill name — almost boring.   Matt is short for Matthew, meaning “gift from God” in Hebrew, and referencing Matthew the Apostle in Christianity. Now, his father had an interesting path through religion, growing up training to be a monk at a local temple. In his teenage years, he was sent to a Christian private school in his town. Nowadays, he lives an almost agnostic life. However, often he will say, “Matt, I swear to god! Did you just spend $15 on Clash of Clans?” Matt does not know what god he would swear to. On the other hand, Matt’s mother is a misguided woman.  At times, she denounces religion, yet continues to watch old men preach sermons on “How to find your spiritual guide” videos on Youtube. Matt would characterize his parents as confused.

His father chose the name Matthew. “It will help him fit into American society better,” he argued to Matt’s mother, “an easy name will help him make friends.” His father’s name is Danai Tengtrakool. Get Danai-ed, is one of Matt’s favorite phrases. Danai immigrated from Thailand at 16 years old and spent his high school years in Malden, Massachusetts.  

Matthew was the fourth most popular boys name the year Matt was born. There were three other Matthews in Matt’s fourth grade English class: Matt P, Matt C, and Matt D. All of whom were white. Additionally, there are many famous Matthews: Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford. However, Matt T. is none of the above.  

Matt is American, not necessarily Anglo-Saxon. “What is your nationality?” asks his history teacher. Internally, he replies American, for he was born in Newton, Massachusetts, USA, and has lived in Burlington, Massachusetts, USA, his whole life. Yet, externally he is wary if this answer fits the prompt.  


Middle names are often overlooked and underappreciated. Many people do not even have a middle name. In many cases, middle names represent the marginalized side of one’s ancestry or the oppressed peoples in history. 

Masahiro (真広) is a Japanese name. When Matt was younger, he concealed his middle name. He subconsciously believed that this name was something that should be hidden, that it should be kept as one’s personal identity but not one’s external expression. “What is your middle name?” his friends would ask him, as kids do in elementary school. His friend Kevin would reply for him, “it’s Ma-sa-hiro.” They all would be exclaim, “Wow! You’re like a massive superhero.” Yet, Matt did not feel like one. 

Originally, his mother wanted him to have the first name Masahiro. She was always trying to infuse as much Japanese culture into him as she could. According to her, Matt’s family is from a long line of noble Samurai Warriors. The closest Matt’s felt to having Samurai blood was when he karate chopped a wooden plank in the third grade. Matt’s mother is an unwavering full-blooded Japanese. She forced Matt to go to Japanese school for 9 years and, as a consequence, Matt is fluent in the language. It is quite possible that this strong presence of Japanese culture in Matt’s life stems from the pride she takes in her last name.  His mother’s name is Hiromi Mino. She kept her last name through marriage. At a young age, both of Matt’s grandparents on his mother’s side died. His assumption is that his mother felt the obligation to shoulder their culture in order to continue her parents’ legacy.

Matt’s usual answer to the query “What is your ethnicity?” is Japanese. 

They always respond, “Do you mean like California rolls and anime and Naruto and those Chinese letters and hibachi and instant ramen?”

Matt responds, “Sure,”  for he likes cherry blossoms, torii gates, the politeness of the country, the cleanliness, the architecture, and yes the instant ramen.  


Tengtrakool (teng-tra-cool) is like a rambutan, daunting at first sight but turning out to be sweet and leaving a tangy aftertaste. Yes! it is like that Pokemon, Tentacool, and just in case Matt forgot, his 10th-grade Chemistry teacher reminded him of this every day during attendance for the first week of school. Tengtrakool is a mouthful. Matt’s swim coach created the alternative of “techtron.”  

Matt’s grandparents on his father’s side were born and raised in Laos. Matt made a presentation in history last year called “The covert war in Laos, America’s Secret War,”  which included a panel on his relation to this subject area. His grandparents were alive in the middle of this covert theater of America’s war on communism, along with the Laotian civil war.  

“I never knew you were Lotion” one of Matt’s friends exclaimed.  

Matt’s grandpa was a rich businessman who had a monopoly on ice. The business model was simple: hot climate, people need ice. Matt has seen pictures of his grandpa in his prime: driving fancy cars, living a luxurious lifestyle, and basking in his youth. At this time, their last name was Teng, indicating further ancestry tracing back to China.

This Teng lifestyle came to a swift end as the Laotian civil war struck and the communists took power.  Needless to say, the family packed up the kids and as much as they could take in one suitcase and headed to Thailand. The communists set limits on money that could be taken out of the country, so his grandparents made a difficult decision: they buried their money in hopes of returning to retrieve their lives’ savings. 

To quote Matt’s grandfather, “I no like communist, they come an take yo mony, you business you know. Then they gonna come an getcha you.”   

The family lived a life of destitution in Thailand, and to cover their Laotian past, they changed their last name to Tengtrakool. “Trakool” was an added flare that reflected his grandfather’s enjoyment of being excessive. What they did not consider was that MatthewTengtrakool does not fit the Twitter username length, or the sheer panic Tengtrakool would cause in substitute teachers staring at it on the attendance sheet.

“My nationality is Thai,” Matt will tell people. They will usually respond with, “Oh yea I support you 100%, China has no right claiming authority over your people.” When he corrects them and tells them it is Thailand, not Taiwan, they proceed “Oh! like Bangkok haha, do you get it?” 


Matt Masahiro Tengtrakool is a name like an eighth, quarter, half. It has an interesting imbalance: an imbalance of heritage perhaps. It is a reflection of the strain between one culture and another. Or, it is also an illustration of a meshing. A cultural melting pot that consists of sushi, Pad Thai, and McDonalds. Matt looks down at the bubbles on his standardized test. He thinks to himself: What does it mean to be American? Can one be foreign, yet not born abroad? Should nationality be as relative as identity? What are the boundaries between ancestry and nationality? For if nationality was a multiple-choice question, he believes the best answer is all of the above.


The Forward Vehicle of Time – A Collection of Poems

Scholastic Gold Key


On evolution 


Life likes linear, 

Yet, your eyes have curved,

your hair misplaced.

What have you become?

Your sole imprinted with the marks of time,

changes with the shades of soul.

Why would you do this to me?

Stay, I told you, Wait,

but you never did

want to be predictable,

I told you,

Never change.




The autumn leaves,

fall faster,

by year,

and I can’t keep up.

The sky illuminated,

by far fewer stars,

then were seen 


I now denounce the giant lollipop,

“Oh! What a waste you are.”

it lays un-appetizingly,


Happiness becomes foreign,

evasive to the palm,

grab it tightly,

it’s slimy.

Who knew how quick a candle

turns into molten wax,

it molds regret,

Caution, hot.

And in all, this moment they say fleeting,

and I feel its undertow softly,

pull all what’s left of me

deep, deep out to sea.


Still photo


Our eyes trace the constellations, in fear

of finding the boundaries of our love.


The grass we lay in is wet, with the tears

shed lamenting years without one another.


Let us stay here, at this ledge 

where the deep sky meets the long grass.


At the border of our deepest regrets, and

our pungent sense of presence. Now. Here.


Where we, for once,

hold time at our will.


Perpetual Motion Machine


I was always scared of churches,

they embody death. 

My father would console me,

“Nothing lasts forever.”


This I contest!

For how does conservation of matter,

relate to that of one’s soul? and

if nothing lasts forever,

where may I find home? for if

I am temporary in the 

test of time, what’s the

point of storing all that 

haunts my mind, and my 

hands feel light when I

imagine they’re gone, for 

I am here and here is now, then

where am I when here is past, and

what’s the point of praying for

time to be kind, when it

never stops, is always primed.

There’s no real beauty in the

world we see, except the 

impermanence of time, that

never ceases to be, for 

life is our one great endeavor,

this is my desperate attempt

to live forever.



The Virtual Renaissance

New York Times Student Editorial Contest Finalist


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it great social disorder. Many call it a “new normal.” Society has finally fully embraced technology: all commerce displaced by virtual retailers, all communication performed via social media, and all 3 a.m. TacoBell orders executed by delivery. 

Is it possible that we find it easier and safer to live virtually? Could these temporary emergency measures mature into lasting societal norms? And is this the beginning of our virtual renaissance? One thing we do know is that history loves to repeat itself.

In the 1400s, a plague-recovering Europe found itself on a new societal foundation with a revised perspective on the world. Accordingly, Europe erupted into a Renaissance of aesthetic expression and socio-political upheaval. As Khan Academy describes, “With so much land readily available to survivors, the rigid hierarchical structure that marked pre-plague society became more fluid.” People emerged from their homes, and they began to harness something that they relied on throughout their arduous quarantine: the power of the individual. 

We can draw many similarities to today. National and local quarantines across the globe have placed people in an “unprecedented” environment. Trapped inside homes and apartments, we have to rely on technology to function in almost all facets of our lives. Kevin Roose, a technology columnist from the New York Times, describes that “The virus is forcing us to use the internet as it was always meant to be used — to connect with one another, share information and resources.” We are entering our own age of discovery, finding that the novelties of the outside world have been provided at our fingertips all along.  We replicated most of the functions of the real world in a virtual setting. 

In a very Renaissance-esque way, social organizations are addressing educational and digital inequity by providing laptops and internet access to poor communities. (New York Times)  It seems that while we are all confined at home, we begin to recognize the drastic differences in what “home” is to so many people.  As a result, technology has become the great equalizer with education, living assistance, and communication developed through the demand for technology infrastructure. We see that in a time of separation, activists have harnessed the internet to form reform movements and online communities, fighting for equality through advocacy and lobbying.  Hope during the pandemic is stronger than ever. People have harnessed their devices, video calls, and social medias to expand their individual powers.

Instead of dipping into humanism and the fine arts, our Renaissance subsists through technology and artificial means. Michelangelo has stated that “A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.” It seems that our canvases are tablets and screens. The COVID-19 pandemic was the push for many markets to digitize, and it has created massive economical and political upheaval. 

The times we live in are far less “unprecedented” than commonly branded. Now is the perfect opportunity where we can harness history to act in the present and create a more preventative future. The virtual renaissance is in full gear, and we must embrace it. Then, we can forge our own version of the Statue of David and paint our own Mona Lisa.

Marcus, Hannah. “What the Plague Can Teach Us About the Coronavirus.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Mar. 2020,

Roose, Kevin. “The Coronavirus Crisis Is Showing Us How to Live Online.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Mar. 2020, Accessed 23 Mar. 2020.

Scheiber, Nelson, and Hsu. “’White-Collar Quarantine’ Over Virus Spotlights Class Divide.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Mar. 2020,

Woodville, Louisa. “The Black Death (Article).” Khan Academy, Khan Academy,