Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Grass is Greener on the Other Side

Photo at ECHS before departure
To be completely honest with you, I'm not too sure of how I should start my blog. I mean, how can you simply explain with words how beautiful the Lincoln Memorial was, or how moved I felt walking through the Vietnam Memorial at night, or how hilarious it was when my cohort member Mark hit 49 pounds at the check-in scale? I believe no amount of words or adjectives can explain how amazing today was, so I've included pictures.

It was 2:50 in the morning when I heard my obnoxious "William Tell Overture" alarm go off. I thought it must be a mistake, it's far too dark to be awake, and I was too tried to even consider moving at all. I stayed in bed for another 10 minutes, until my father knocked on my door urging me to wake up. That's when this whole long day began.

My father and I headed for El Cerrito High School, and it was pretty funny since we 4/5 of my cohort arrived there at the exact same time. I got out of the car and immediately felt the pang of the chilly Bay Area Weather. Don had the parents sign the permission slips, gave us our name tags, offered various health bars, and weighed our luggage. Afterwards, Don instructed us to head toward the front entrance of ECHS to take a photo, and to my surprise, he already had risers and a whole backdrop set up. We all said a sad goodbye to our parents (although to be completely honest with you I feel that they were a lot more sad about our departure than we were)  and boarded our shuttle to the SFO airport.
Columbia Cohort 2015 pre-departure
When we arrived at the airport, we were immediately able to check-in our luggage. Probably one of my favorite moments from today was when Mark was having his luggage weighed, and it was over by 2 pounds. And when he was nearly ready to panic, he took his hands off of his luggage and he made it to 49. The luggage gods were definitely on his side.

My cohort and I walked to the security-check area, and luckily Mark and I were TSA "pre-approved" and were able to skip out on the long line. When we all gathered back together, we ate at a Mexican restaurant called "Andale", and had our breakfast at some tables. Shortly after, we boarded our plane and headed to Dallas, Texas.

We were each given a separate seat assignment, and I was seated in between two ladies. The one to my left seemed to prefer keeping to herself, however I was able to spark up a bit of a conversation with a nice lady to my right, who happened to be a native of New York. From our conversation, I was able to learn that she was visiting her son who was doing work for IBM, and she informed me of some interesting things to do in New York, and suggested that I try some authentic tea and pizza from the area.

After a quick stopover at Dallas, we boarded our plane and headed to Reagan Airport in Washington, DC. We picked up our luggage, and a shuttle took us to Georgetown Holiday Inn, where we were all able to take a quick 30 min break from walking and lugging our things around. After settling ourselves in, we all met up at the lobby, rode a taxi, and took a quick monument tour around the area.

Selfie at Reagan Airport 
Our shuttle bus to the Holiday Inn
Our first site visits were the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Seeing those two beautiful pieces of architecture in real life was just so surreal. Up until this point, I have only seen these monuments on the internet or on television. But getting to see them through my own eyes was truly amazing.
Group Photo with the Lincoln Statue
The Lincoln Memorial
We walked down the path a bit, and saw the Vietnam War Memorial. At first I was puzzled as to what I was looking at-- to me it was just a wall with a bunch of names etched on it. However, after some explaining from Ms. Thrift, I was truly able to understand the solemnity of the Memorial. The Vietnam War was the longest war that the US was involved in. Over 58,000 names of those who passed as a cause of the war were etched into that wall, and family members are able to "etch" the names of their lost loved ones on a piece of paper. The wall goes down 3 acres and is made of black gabbro; this stone is reflective, so you would be able to see yourself in the wall with all the names. This is meant to symbolically bring the past and the present together. I also learned that the wall was created by Maya Lin, who was an undergraduate student at Yale during the time that she created the design.
Jumpshot in front of the Lincoln Monument
Columbia Cohort in front of the Washington Monument (somewhere there in the background)
My cohort and I were also able to see the Korean Memorial. This memorial featured the many faces of those in combat during the war etched into the wall, and also included a fountain and statues of soldiers. The was was a break in the fountain and the walls, as to symbolize the "break" between South Korea and the communist North Korea. I found the symbolism in the monuments so moving and was truly amazed by all of the thought that went into their architecture. All throughout the memorial were fields of healthy green grass. Coming from the now barren California, this was a sight I was no longer used to. I guess the sang is true, the grass is indeed greener on the other side--the other side of the nation, in this case.
The incredibly green and healthy grass
Afterwards, my lovely cohort and I were able to visit the newly-built Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. When you walk through, you see that it is really one giant rock, however, it is split in the middle, as to symbolize a change in the way people thought (lots of symbolism here in Washington DC).  Inside the memorial are various quotes from MLK himself engraved into the walls, as well as a phenomenal sculpture of MLK facing the river. However, if you take a step back, you notice that MLK's statue fits in perfectly with the break in the rocksI read every single quote to myself, and tried to image MLK saying it himself. What an honor is must have been to witness his motivational words.

My cohort and I were also able to visit the Roosevelt Memorial, which I believe was my favorite from today. By the time we saw the memorial, night had already fallen, so we were completely reliant on the lights along the path and structures to guide us along the way. How ingenious these architects must have been. Every single light only magnified the beauty of each fountain, wall, and statue. If you think the memorials are pretty in the day, check them out at night, they are all rather astounding. After walking through LED-touched walls and magnificently shaped statues, my cohort and I spotted this mesmerizing fountain where we were able to relax for a while. I'm not sure what it is about water that makes it so relaxing. There were 5 tiers to the fountain: the top tier's water was very calm and smooth, but the lower down you go for each tier, the more crazy the water becomes. However, at the very bottom of the fountain, it recycles the water back to the top and travels through the cycle again. I tried to relate this to my life, as we all endure "cycles" , however as crazy as it may become at times, we will always have a chance to return to a chill level in our lives. (Not sure if that makes sense, I'm currently typing my blog at 1:30 AM eastern time)

After walking through the Roosevelt Memorial, we spotted this absolutely gorgeous spot where we could sit and see the spectacular view of the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial, with each pieces of architecture reflecting on the water. This is undeniably the most beautiful view I have ever seen. Everything in that moment was completely relaxed, as if nothing could ever shake the stillness of the atmosphere. Just seeing the reflection of the lights and traveling cars and the moon and sky really makes you appreciate the world that you live in. There is truly so much beauty around us.

By that time, it was already 10 PM, and we hadn't eaten since our stopover at Dallas 6 hours prior. The six of us split into two cabs, and met at the library 3 blocks away from our hotel. Most of the restaurants had closed, so we were forced to just eat at Safeway and enjoy whatever food they had to offer. We thought that this was just a last resort, however; this turned out to work out for the best.

My cohort and I felt so spoiled. We were able to get whatever food we wanted, which included two chickens, two different kinds of potato salad, two sandwiches, a piece of red velvet cake, as well as a sampler platter of 12 slices of cheesecake. Along with our own choice of beverage. I felt like we were all truly living at that point.

We all returned to our hotel, oh sooooo very excited to start our blogs. We all met up at Mark's hotel room, plugged in our laptops, and ate our fried chicken and cheesecake like the cohort family we have just started to become. Like my fellow cohort Izabel said to me today: "A cohort that gets fat together, stays together."

Every single moment of today has honestly just been spectacular--I wouldn't take back a single moment of it for the world. I'd just like to thank the Ivy League Connection Program for providing me with this absolutely life-changing experience, and I am ecstatic for what the next 23 days has to bring for us.

1 comment:

  1. The Vietnam Memorial was such a puzzling concept when first proposed. When we looked at the drawings it was so difficult to fully understand what the memorial was all about.

    Once it was completed, though, it had such a powerful message and has resonated with so many people. You owe it to yourself to look it up on the Internet and read some of the stories associated with it. It's become one of the most popular memorials in DC.