Saturday, June 27, 2015


Gilded and glossy.
I woke up late today. Then again, what else is new? With only fifteen minutes to change and pack before meeting up with the others, I'm surprised that I didn't end up forgetting anything at the hotel (to my current knowledge, at least).

On the taxi ride to the train station, Mark and Saba and I knocked out until Mark's phone alarm went off unexpectedly just as we pulled up to the station. The station itself was the most beautiful train station I've ever seen in real life. Maybe it's because it was the first train station I've ever seen in real life, but still, it seemed almost overly exquisite. Once inside, we endured the crazy Starbucks line to get breakfast. I settled for a coffee and felt like a complete newbie as I lingered a little too long around the cream and sugar table struggling to figure out exactly how much I needed while I burned my tongue trying to conduct taste tests. 

Instead of being smart and taking a nap during the train ride and then drinking my coffee, I drank my coffee first and found myself unable to fall asleep. Although I wasn't exactly wired or jittery, I wasn't tired. Figuring that I could make the best use of my time reading, I did just that. The train ride felt much shorter than I had expected anyways. 

We surprised the hotel with an early arrival. As it turned out, our rooms weren't ready so in the meantime we walked to the nearby pizza place to order Philly cheese steaks. Despite the fact that they weren't the best Philly cheese steaks in the world, they were pretty darn good and the staff were also really nice.

Interestingly enough, our table talk was super in-depth and we covered all the hot topics from gay marriage to the fast food industry to corruption to racism. The most interesting part of the conversation was the spontaneity of it all. One minute we were talking about how tasty (or not tasty) our sandwiches were (or in Ms. Thrift's case - salad) and the next we were talking about police brutality and the different opinions and background associated with the phrase "Black lives matter."
I believe we sat at the restaurant for around two hours and only ate for a quarter of one. 

When we got back to the hotel, they still hadn't sorted everything out and new problems concerning payment methods arose. 
Locust Walk
So, we sat around for a while in the lobby (by "a while" I mean a little over two hours) until it was finally time for the University of Pennsylvania Tour led by Ms. Dyana So, a student who would be a senior in the fall. Ms. So quickly shared that she was also an Ivy League Connections (and Pinole Valley High School) alumna, glad to see other faces from the Bay Area. She walked us through the campus in a complicated web and I lost my sense of direction and location almost immediately. The whole air of informality was comforting and I felt more inclined to ask questions and make comments, an inclination that I hadn't felt at the Georgetown University tour mostly because of the sheer size and lack of intimacy in the group. At the same time, Ms. So was very articulate and detailed in answering our questions and explaining the history of the different buildings and lifestyle that UPenn provided, marks of an experienced tour guide, no doubt. (She was also skilled at walking backwards, a common prerequisite for all aspiring tour guides.)

Changing up the group arrangement a bit.
Shortly afterwards, we went to Distrito, a unique "modern Mexican" restaurant where the decor and furniture were as eccentric and colorful as the food, which was delectable by the way. Ms. So met us there as did Michael Karam ('17) and Samantha Antrum ('15). Although I didn't get to talk to Ms. Antrum very much, I did have the pleasure of talking with Ms. So and Mr. Karam in fairly great detail. Both gave erudite pieces of advice on college and shared their own personal stories and involvement with UPenn, Ms. So on how touring UPenn during her ILC program stuck out to her and Mr. Karam on his spur of the moment decision to apply loosely based on a nice picture on the university's website. The entire dinner and their own stories served to testify to the commonly huge amount of passion and genuine love for learning found in the students attending schools of the Ivy League caliber.

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