OF THE HOUR
AZIZ NAWROZIE VOLUME I • ISSUE II
OF THE HOUR is an artistic endeavour to combine the dynamic fields of photography and design with the art of candid interviewing, canvassing and exploring the human condition through personal testimony provided by friends, family, strangers, and everything in between.
OF THE HOUR
AZIZ NAWROZIE VOLUME I • ISSUE II
hat are three qualities every human being should have? Compassion is a good one: the ability to empathize with other people and see things from their point of view. I think the ability to think things through rationally is important – it’s important not to take everything at face value and think critically upon what you’re presented with. The third should be the ability to enjoy life because the other two are more important toward interacting with others and I guess maybe survival. But the third is for self. Of those three qualities, which do you think you embody the most? Rational thought. What do you enjoy most about engineering? I think engineering is a very creative craft even though people don’t see it as such. Engineers are basically inventors. These days you don’t have inventors, you have engineers. And also, engineers solve problems. It’s a very wide area of learning because you can make things, you can work with other people to help them make things – it’s the bridge between science and applications in real life. There’s a saying that my engineering teacher said that science and engineering are almost the same, but if somebody asks you to do something that doesn’t exist yet, science will just be like,“It doesn’t exist yet, we don’t know.” But engineers have to make it work. And that’s the difference; it comes down to creativity and making ends meet, or figuring it out. Do you think that’s also a quality you apply to your life? The ability to always find a solution to your problems? I guess I deal with problems better than some, but I’m not sure if that’s because that’s what I do or because that’s the kind of stuff you do as an engineer. I think that’s a good quality, to see a problem and always be able to see a solution no matter how horrible it seems. What type of engineering appeals to you most? I personally study mechanical engineering.
I’m pretty confident that that appeals to me the most. Mechanical engineers do things like fluid flow and thermodynamics – they’re the ones who do aerospace and robotics. I tell people, as a mechanical engineer I get to build guns, robots, planes, gun robot planes, everything in between, and a tiny bit past that. What is one of the most important lessons you’ve learned from your experience as an engineer? One of the most important things I’ve learned is that everyone has intuition, everyone has feelings, and it’s important to take them into account, but numbers don’t lie. The decision-making process as an engineer is void of personal feelings and intuition. You look at what options are available to you and what you hold most important and you weigh them. At the end of the day, one number is bigger than the other and that’s what makes engineers so efficient at what they do. So in that sense you act as a scientist, basing everything off of results? Yeah. Between engineers and scientists, I think it’s a very blurry line. Scientists are all about theory and engineers are all about application. But engineers are obviously men of science, just as scientists are. If you were to rank your interests, what falls just below engineering? Food. I love food. I eat it every day. Tell me about one of the best places you’ve eaten recently. I actually won a free ticket to [Prosciutto di Parma Palooza] and it was a competition between all these chefs to see who could make the best dish using prosciutto and they all did really well, let’s put it like that. Recently I’ve been on a diet so I haven’t been eating the most scrumptious of foods, but everything there was so warm, welcoming, and supple. It was such a great experience; you could feel the love. Do you cook at all? I do cook from time to time.
“OBVIOUSLY THERE’S AN ENTIRE BOOK OF THINGS YOU CAN CALL NEW YORKERS OUT FOR.”
If you were to pick three staple ingredients to use in a recipe, what would they be? On what merit? We’re going for versatility Definitely garlic. Garlic is in almost every culture’s food and it always is a good addition. If you’re thinking, “I should add something,” add garlic. Also, I want to say a protein but I can’t stick to any good one. For versatility you want one that’s more of a blank canvas. Possibly salmon, possibly a white meat like chicken breast, but I’m not sure I’m a good enough cook to nail that one. Eggs. Eggs are also very versatile and you use them in a lot of scenarios. You can have them straight, you can mix them in, they add a lot of interesting effects when you whisk them together, beat them, and fold them in, etcetera, etcetera.
and I just went there immediately. It’s a cookie inside a brownie and [it’s called the “Brookster”]. Everything there is good, but that one cookie inside a brownie was worth the bike ride.
Like if I accidentally don’t hold an elevator or something like that. So not that often, and when it happens I feel extreme guilt. I show them my puppy dog eyes – “I’m sorry I closed that elevator on you.”
Have you given in to any of the recent crazes that have gone around NYC? Yeah, the cronut. I’m actually not a fan of the ramen burger, I didn’t even try it. For the cronut I actually waited in line a couple of times.
Do you find it hard to get people to really open up in the city? If I didn’t have any friends in New York and someone said, “Move to New York and make friends,” I would have a really tough time. But having friends in New York, once you’re comfortable in the city, it’s like your home and it’s very easy to extend that network of people you know or friends that you have. I think it’s really difficult if you feel isolated in the city. But as someone who has been here long enough and is very comfortable, I feel like meeting new people and making new friends isn’t that difficult because I have all the resources available to me.
Was it worth it? See, that’s the problem. The worst part is that it’s not a clear answer. Sometimes it’s definitely worth it and that’s why I would wait a second or third time in line, and I have, maybe because I really liked it and I really like baked goods, but I also acknowledge that waiting in lines is just what it means to be a New Yorker. I tell people that waiting in lines is the New York experience. So waiting And you’re from D.C. originally, Are you big on dessert? Yes, of course, who says no to that in line for something doesn’t really faze me correct? that much so I don’t really weigh that in as Yes, I’m from Maryland just outside of D.C. question? a deterrent. And which part of Maryland, just to be There are some people who may surprise you. Let’s go back to the seasonings. What other things is New York notorious technically correct? for? I’m from Montgomery County. Pick your top three People who are always grumpy. Obviously Salt, pepper, and garlic powder. there’s an entire book of things you can call When you came to New York, presumably New Yorkers out for – and let me preface for school, did you experience any I feel like that was a cop-out That was fully a cop-out. Actually, I do a lot this next section by saying that I usually challenges acclimating to the culture of mixing around with different seasonings. don’t have any road rage; if someone cuts of the city? If I were to give you three outside of those - me off and I’m in a vehicle, I usually take it I had very few challenges acclimating to the well, actually I would leave garlic powder in really well. But after living in New York for city. I loved it. A lot of people who come to because I use garlic a lot and it’s a good way a while, I have the worst pedestrian road the city need some time to adjust to it, but I of adding in a measured amount of garlic. rage. If someone is walking in front of me was so blown away by the way New Yorkers You don’t need to worry about whether it’s at a stroll, scuttling along, I am like, “What live their lives that I just threw myself into fresh or it’s been dried or how big the head are you doing with your life? Why do you it. I would stay up late and go out to see so is; you measure a teaspoon and it will be a have nothing so pressing that you are not many things. Coming from an area that is teaspoon. I really like the flavor of chipotle; in a dire need to get there and why do you not completely urban, but not completely I think that smokiness is really good. I have to ruin my life because of it?” I will suburban, it’s really enticing to see a place guess a green herb would also be a good hop into the streets or I will stare at the like New York that’s so culturally dense. idea: maybe mint, maybe dill. You want a back of their head trying to singe a hole in Upon one or two blocks you can find so fresh ingredient. Mint is really good, but I it. When I get in a car, you can rear-end me much story and so much history in every don’t use it a lot in cooking, but in drinks twice and I will just be like, “Excuse me sir, single nook and cranny – it’s so appealing. I think we have some sort of spacing issue That just drew me out. You just go and try and dessert. here.” As a pedestrian though, not the kind and see as much of it as you can. When you’re exposed to it, it’s really overwhelming Now that we’re back to dessert, give me of thing I would repeat. and everyone reacts differently and my one good recommendation on a dessert Do you ever find yourself on the other reaction was extreme curiosity. I wanted to in NYC that people need to try see and know it all and to be of the city. So I think it’s called Baked and I think it’s in side of the table? Red Hook. I saw it on TV and saw that it I always feel really bad whenever I realize in that sense, I didn’t have much trouble was in Brooklyn and just got on my bike retroactively that I ruined somebody’s day. acclimating because all of that trouble
was replaced with curiosity and a sense of adventure.
Do you travel at all? I actually do not travel very much at all. In fact, the answer is almost a complete
study engineering and physics separately at Stevens Institute and then you get two Any desire to travel? degrees from two different institutions, Oh yeah, I would like to see everything. which is pretty cool. Also, finances lined up Once I can, I will go visit as many places with NYU. as I can and try everything. I want to go to Europe; I want to go to London. It’s an Any plans once you graduate? alpha city, which means it’s one of the When I graduate, hopefully I will enter the largest cities, huge population. I guess workforce. Engineering is really interesting in the same sense [I want to visit] Tokyo. in that as someone who has a bachelor’s Tokyo would be interesting because I live degree you do a different kind of work from in New York so I have seen this metropolis someone who has a master’s or someone and it’s developed in its own place and who has a PhD. So going straight through time and London and Tokyo have developed school getting all of your degrees right away, completely differently, but they’re also huge you sort of miss some stuff. Some people cities. It would be interesting to see how don’t get master’s degrees when you’re in they differ and how the culture’s reflected engineering, which is sort of weird for a in the city and also how the city is reflected science field. But with a bachelor’s you get in the culture. Besides that, I’ve pretty experience doing a lot of lower level stuff much only seen my little part of Maryland in the sense that you don’t need a master’s and New York. I would like to see the most degree to understand it, but it’s still the kind barren landscapes, the highest peaks, the of stuff you won’t get a chance to do if you places where people live, the places where get a master’s, so it’s very important to try people cannot live; I’d love to see it all. it. So I know that what I want to do is to get a degree, get experience working, and then Was NYU your top choice? – I’ve always wanted a master’s or a PhD so NYU was my safety school. I wanted to go to I will probably go back to school, it’s just a Caltech and MIT was a close second. I had matter of “in what, for what.” Some people a lot of so-so schools. I really like Caltech. advise against going into graduate school I thought the campus was great, the faculty until you’ve really seen what engineering is was really awesome, really small campus, like. really targeted, I thought it was a really
“no.” Until the end of high school I traveled once or twice – I don’t take vacations and I don’t take trips very much for recreational leisure. I’ve visited colleges, but other than that New York is the kind of place in which you don’t have a need to explore other cultures because you can just explore New York and that’s almost as if you’re visiting a new place. I’m also very anchored here; I have a job and I have school, so I’m very
great place to go. I had a lot of friends who had gone to Caltech and they only had good things to say. MIT is also a fantastic environment for learning, it’s obviously an amazing place. Also, you’re really close to Harvard, Wellesley, Tufts, all these colleges in the area; it’s such a great incubator for great ideas and meeting amazing people. I ended up going to NYU mainly because of the program they have in which you can
Do you see yourself moving away from New York at any time in the future? Ideally, I would not move away in the near future, but as someone in a STEM field, there’s a giant pool towards Silicon Valley and the West Coast. It’s really hard to find a job, especially in engineering, in New York, because there’s not that much room for large-scale production or the design of new products. Factory manufacturing, even machine shops, wood shops – there’s no room for that in New York compared to California. Silicon Valley was somewhat built with laboratories and space for invention in mind. New York has a giant need for software design, but then again Silicon Valley does too. If you are in any kind of technology development field in Silicon Valley, there are just so many more jobs open to you and they are in constant need of new people and are constantly growing. It’s just more likely that you’ll find a good fit in Silicon Valley, or in California, or even elsewhere. New York versus elsewhere: there are more jobs elsewhere, that’s just how it goes.
cemented where I am.
Are there any companies that you’re particularly interested to work for? I have very few requirements for where I want to work as an engineer. I think the only real requirement is that it has to be something I would enjoy doing because that’s what a career is, it’s what you enjoy doing in life. If it’s an interesting problem and it’s challenging, I will happily do it. It doesn’t matter how glorious it is or what
field it’s in as long as it’s engineering-related and interesting to me. Up until now I’ve worked at a lot of startups because New York has a lot, but I wouldn’t mind working for a giant company if I got to do something that was very gripping. Do you have any siblings? I have a sister and a bunch of half sisters. My mom and dad had an arranged marriage and they were just not compatible people so they divorced when I was in second grade. After they divorced, my dad got married again. My mom hasn’t remarried. My sister lives with my mom and my dad lives like half an hour away. What was family life like growing up? Very interesting because I come from a very culturally rich family. It’s the kind of life in which getting an arranged marriage is normal. It’s nice to have a family life that’s really entrenched in a different culture because it’s really interesting. We didn’t celebrate Christmas when I was little because we’re not Christian and when I was little I was like, “That’s so weird,” but now it is what it is; we celebrate our own holidays. You do different things for comfort, you eat different foods, but it’s really cool and that’s what family is to me. You treat everyone with respect, when your elders tell you to do something, you do it – that’s just the way of life. It’s not like if your parents say something unreasonable you argue with them, you just do it and that’s it. It’s odd to bring that one thing up in particular, but it really translates and changes the way family life happens. How does that affect your perception of American values, if at all? Coming from a really conservative Asian family life, it’s sort of odd to see people who don’t respect their parents as much as I was taught. The concept of “not,” or yelling at your mom in anger, not cleaning your room when your parents tell you, it just wasn’t a possibility growing up. It’s sort of odd, but I guess nowadays when I give people respect and treat them how our relationship dictates I should treat them, it’s a lot more frustrating when they don’t treat me with similar respect. But with American values you do what you think is right and you do what you think you should do, whereas in my family you do what you’re told and you have faith that other people are out there for mutual net benefit. It’s an interesting dynamic and it was really cool seeing both growing up.
How close are you with your sister? She is six years younger. We’re pretty close. We didn’t talk too much because I was always busy in school or doing something, but we got along, didn’t fight, and we’re really good friends. She’s in the middle of her senior year of high school, a very exciting and precious time. Just seeing the hoops she’s jumping through now, I’m glad my hands are cleansed of that mess. Academically, we have very different aspirations. I have to respect what she does with her school or career path – and that’s not to say that I don’t, I’m just saying it like that because I’m not super anchored in what she’s doing in school. My parents had no idea how school works in America. When I applied to college, I did that myself. I thought, “Okay, this is going to cost money, I’m going to go learn things, I’m going to get a degree, that’s pretty much something you have to do,” and all this stuff I learned myself. And I guess I extended the same expectation to my sister because I don’t help her or sit her down to tell her what to do. If she has questions, I’m there because that’s a nice resource to have that I really didn’t have, but it’s her prerogative to do what she does. In that sense, we don’t talk too much about day-to-day responsibilities, academics, and such. And obviously, she lives almost four hours away, but we do talk from time to time and whenever we do it’s always really fun and great. I miss her. Is there anything you regret from having to go through everything so independently? Or are there things you wish someone had told you? Looking back, there are a lot of things that would have been better had I done them correctly the first time, but I think part of who I am is having made all those mistakes up until now because nowadays you watch out for mistakes. If you’ve been burnt, you watch for the fire and having someone tell me about this and that would have made me not as sensitive to those kinds of things. Whenever something happens or I’m doing something new, I’m always paying attention to make sure I’m not making a mistake or doing anything stupid. I also approach things humbly; if I don’t know what I’m doing I will ask for help. I guess it’s sort of nice that I’ve had all those experiences up until now because without them I don’t think I would be able to do that. How do your parents feel about where you are in your life? My parents tell me that they’re very proud of me. Academically, my parents have played next to no part, although they’ve been supportive. “Whatever you
want to do, you can do it.” It just happened by chance that I really liked engineering, which is one of the top five paying fields, currently. That’s just their luck. Also, I’m very competitive, I’m very motivated – jeez, it sounds like I’m bragging – I’m very stubborn. When I want to do something, I am going to work very hard to do it and it just so happens that I decided to get a college education and get a job.
end of story.” So it was a rude awakening for me and for my sister to see divorce happen. It was very fragmenting. That was a big experience in my life and after that I had to understand that these kinds of things happen and you just have to be ready for it and you have to be strong. You can’t always depend on other people to be strong for you and for you to have a shoulder to cry on; sometimes you have to be the shoulder.
Is there any challenge that you’ve faced as a family that sticks out in your memory? When my mom and dad got divorced that was a big challenge because divorce doesn’t happen a lot, especially in an arranged marriage. When you have an arranged marriage, divorce seems like the kind of thing that would happen frequently because you never know how things are going to work out and if things don’t work out … marriage isn’t the time to figure that out. Marriage isn’t the time to meet somebody and get to know them for the first time. So I personally think arranged marriages are backwards in that sense, but it’s tied back to “What your parents tell you to do is what you do.” My mom and dad are the least compatible people I’ve ever met. It’s not like they hate each other – at the time they hated each other and frustrated each other to no end. It’s just that at the time they realized that they just couldn’t live together. It’s a difficult decision, especially because in our culture an arranged marriage is like a binding contract. That was tough. I was oblivious to it. They fought and would be angry at each other and I didn’t really think about what it meant. I thought, “They’re married, that’s it,
At the time of your parents’ divorce your
that our parents were separated. Whereas I lived with parents who lived under the same roof and at one point they split. She was just used to them always being like that. How has the experience of your parents’ divorced impacted your outlook on marriage, if at all? It has impacted it a lot. I see marriage for what everyone else sees marriage as, which is that final step, maybe more so than people who haven’t grown up with divorce, although that’s sort of unlikely these days. I would never consider hopping into a marriage if I wasn’t sure and I would take extra precaution to ensure that I was sure. I don’t want to get myself in a position where divorce is the way out. If something happens to a relationship, you have to put effort in and fix it. Divorce shouldn’t happen. I think that’s what it taught me.
“I was oblivious to it. They fought and would be angry at each other and I didn’t really think about what it meant. I thought, ‘They’re married, that’s it, end of story.’ So it was a rude awakening for me and for my sister to see divorce happen. It was very fragmenting.” sister was one, is that correct? She was very young. So how did she come to understand the divorce in later years? She had it a lot better than I did because she remembers none of it and I remember all of it. For her, it was just something that was happening for her at the time and so as she grew up and understood what it meant to have a family and to have a mother and a father, it was just another trait of our family
In terms of a support system, what did you fashion for yourself? Absorbed myself in my Pokémon cards. I’m kidding. I didn’t take it too well, obviously. I actually visited the guidance counselor because she heard that my parents were getting divorced so I talked to her a bit and that helped a lot because in the divorce there weren’t too many people who pulled me aside and were like, “Hey, how’re you doing?” especially in my family. There was nobody who had real knowledge of what to say to somebody whose parents were getting divorced. But the guidance counselor – that was her job, to make sure you feel comfortable during troubling times. She calmed me down a lot, more than what anybody else said as things were happening.
“You’re one little drop in the sea and I find comfort in that because at the end of the day, we’re all people: we all have things that we enjoy, things that scare us, things that make us angry, and things for which we feel. And it’s great to be among people, among my New Yorkers, because that’s my family away from family, and it’s mine.”
say that brings me comfort. It’s like having Are there any quotes you live by? “It is not that I must succeed, it is that all a sense of pride in nation. That’s my sense of pride in nation, it’s what my people do others must fail.” and I enjoy doing the things we do. If you have your own family traditions: pancakes One more time? As a joke! I said this to somebody on the Sunday morning, you do this on this holiday spot, but I like the ring to it: “Laziness is – that’s your culture, your microculture. slow suicide.” I like that because if you can do something but you choose not to, that’s Any particular traditions that are most sort of your way of waiting around for the nostalgic to you? world to end. Whereas you can really carpe Whenever we have big family occasions, a diem and go out and get what you want and couple times a year, when the whole family gets together and everyone eats and has tea do what you want to do. and everyone catches up – those are always Earlier you were talking about culture really great and filled with so much warmth as a means of comfort, would I be and love and because there are only some foods that you make when those kinds of correct in saying that? I really like having a culture to my family things happen. There’s a congee dish that that’s so different from what is around you make only when there’s something great because it’s really interesting and also happening – it’s almost like a blessing food because I enjoy being part of something – and that brings good memories because that has been around for a long time that’s it’s always around in times of happiness. entrenched in tradition. I guess you could My mom would make special dumplings for
me on my birthday and so on the day of my birthday, when I’d get to sit around with my grandma, my mom, me, and maybe some aunts, we would make dumplings and that’s a great memory. What is the most comforting thing to you about New York City? I think it’s comforting to be surrounded by so many different people in an urban jungle where everyone is living their own life and has their own aspirations, their own dreams, their own people for whom they care about – you’re just surrounded in this sea of people and you can just drown. You’re one little drop in the sea and I find comfort in that because at the end of the day, we’re all people: we all have things that we enjoy, things that scare us, things that make us angry, and things for which we feel. And it’s great to be among people, among my New Yorkers, because that’s my family away from family, and it’s mine.