Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The ILC’s Maiden Voyage to Vanderbilt: Travel and its Importance

It has truly been a long day, but there has been no stop to the excitement felt here. From waking up at 4:30 AM, pulling my mother and brother from bed to make it to El Cerrito High School on time, to actually arriving at the school early.

Upon our arrival at the school, in the midst of the low fog, my cohorts and I gathered together with our families and Don Gosney to visit his famous table of supplies with which we gathered what was needed for our journey. Items varying from laptop security tables to umbrellas lay across the table for us to take on the trip. Some seemed unnecessary of course, but through Don’s funny stories of past trips where students chose to ignore a certain item, like an umbrella, then ended up soaked because of their decision really showed me that it’s better to be safe than sorry in dealing with supplies.

After going through the selection of supplies, we moved to the guessing game that is “How much does your bag way!” I volunteered to go first because I felt confident that I was under the fifty pound limit. I wasn’t, it took the removal of 4 shirts and 2 tries at the weigh-in to finally meet the limitation. Everyone else had passed with flying colors.

We then proceeded to take a nice group picture, as our ride showed up. We were in for a pleasant surprise; we left in style with a white stretch limousine.
We arrived at our gate without having any problems and got on the plane in the same manner. After getting settled in our seating arrangements, I began to engage in conversation with my seatmate Ms. Ranida a San Francisco native who was flying to the Midwest to be with her family. We began to talk about travel, where she’d been, her experiences while being all over the world, the people of the world and our similarities, even ways to travel specifically by airplane, but one important thing we talked about was the importance of travel.

“Travel everywhere whenever you can.” That was the only words of advice she had given me in our conversation. I immediately thought of one of my purposes for being on this trip, to show people that there is more to the world than just California. Travel allows you to learn languages, cultures, more about yourself, and the world around you. 

Media can be a distraction when it comes to certain people, nationalities, or even ethnic groups because the media portrays the world from their perspectives. Travel allows you to gain your own perspective instead of having to listen to others. Even though Cuba is a place most Americans are discouraged to go to because of their ruler’s communist affiliation; I’m sure most Cuban people wake up in the morning, eat their three daily meals, enjoy conversations with friends, hate homework, and overall want to treat people how they want to be treated in spite of race, nationality, or socioeconomic factors. I want to thank the Ivy League Connection for helping me unlock a powerful tool which is often underrated.

Thinking about my World Religions class I realize why there are field trips, simply because there are some things you can’t learn in the classroom. In the words of St. Augustine, The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page,” and thank you for helping me discover more pages like this:
 Julia, Aiyana, and I in front of our Travel tool for our time in Atlanta

We're Almost There

Today was the day that the Vanderbilt crew finally took off for their adventure to the South.

We met in front of the El Cerrito High School at 6 in the morning to pick up our loaner items from Don, which included laptop security cables and more. With a few parting words from Don himself and a group picture, we were ready to set off on our journey.

As we stood in front of the school awaiting a shuttle van to bring us to SFO, to our huge surprise, a gleaming white limousine pulled up. We stared in shock and let out squeals of excitement (well, at least I did), and climbed in. The inside was just as impressive as the outside—there were dozens of shiny glasses and bright neon lights that lit the automobile from the inside-out.
It was my first time riding in a limousine, and the experience made me realize what first-class really meant. We, at this moment, are being given an opportunity that some students could never even dream of having. This whole trip, from the college visitations to the actual summer courses, is truly a privilege, and that is why we are all here—to be the ambassadors of our community. Our experiences and our knowledge that we gain in this trip, which are to be recorded in our blog, serve as the eyes in which our peers and fellow students look through. It is our job, therefore, to learn as much as we can about these colleges in the South, and to gain as much knowledge as possible so that we may pass it on.
The plane ride to Chicago, Illinois was a rather uncomfortable one. I could not fall asleep and was too restless to read the book I brought with me, Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. In addition, I received a seat by the window of the plane, which at first I thought was very fortunate to have. However, the man sitting next to me fell asleep throughout the entire plane ride. I needed to go for a bathroom break, and I was considerate of him, waiting patiently for him to wake. I thought to myself, "I'll just let him sleep for ten more minutes, then I'll wake him up so I can get out to the aisle." However, I could not bring myself to disturb him, nor the lady next to him who was also in deep slumber. I hope next time, I get placed in an aisle seat so that I may move about as much as I please.

At long last, we arrived at O'Hare International Airport. Unfortunately, our plane was delayed for about one and a half hours because its air conditioner, apparently, was not functioning correctly. We began to fear that we would be stranded in the airport until the next day. With that thought in mind, I suddenly remembered that I had packed Colgate Wisps in my backpack, which are essentially mini travel-sized toothbrushes that are disposable. Aiyana and I decided to amuse ourselves and clean our teeth while Kye sat back and laughed at us all the while.

Finally, after a more pleasant plane ride, we stepped foot onto ATL in Georgia. It was dark out already; because of our delay, we were on the road to our hotel by 9:17 PM.

The beautiful Omni Hotel is connected to the famous CNN Center. I hope we will be able to visit the Center and tour it some day while we are in the city.

It was a long, exhausting day of traveling, and we have yet another important day tomorrow as well. We will be visiting a few local colleges right here in Georgia, which include the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory College.

I am tired, but am awaiting a less stressful and enjoyable day ahead.

From Luxury to Lingering

I was starting to think that this trip was not going to start off nice for me. This foreboding came from a problem with blogging the night before on my new laptop. I was worried that I would not be able to blog for the trip because my computer refused to let me post anything on Blogger. After an emergency trip to my house by Don Gosney at 11:30 or so last night, we figured out the problem: Internet Explorer. From now on, Google Chrome will be my source of internet in order for me to blog. All is well.

After a mere three hours of sleep, it was time to get up and get ready to meet at El Cerrito High School. Don weighed our luggage and gave us the borrower items we needed for the trip. Before we said our goodbyes to our parents, our ride to the airport arrived. No, it was not a large, bulky van like we expected. It was a luxurious, white limousine. We would be riding to the airport in style.
It was surprising how many people were flying out of SFO on United just like us. It makes me wonder where they’re all going, and what their story is. Though the check-in lines were a bit lengthy, going through airport security was quick, and I set off no alarms this time.

After a breakfast of Burger King, it was time to board the plane. All four of us sat in different rows, each granted with the pleasure of a glorious view from a window seat. However, the one flaw with that seating arrangement that Julia learned, was trying to leave your seat for a bathroom break. Since I didn’t have much time to sleep the night before, I was out in a heartbeat when I sat down in my seat, and didn’t wake up for a couple of hours. I honestly don’t even remember taking off.

Because we had a connecting flight to Atlanta after our arrival in Chicago, we tried our best to reach our next gate in time. However, there was no need to rush. We could’ve crawled on our hands and knees with all of our heavy luggage, and we still would have made it to the gate before our plane took off. We were supposed to leave around four, but our plane was delayed about an hour and a half because of a broken air conditioning system in the plane. As we sat, we talked to a business man waiting for the same plane. When we told him about the colleges we would be visiting, he congratulated us on our successes, and added in that he loves Georgia Tech (which we’re visiting tomorrow). Julia and I decided to pass the time by trying our her new transportable toothbrushes called Wisps.

Stepping off the plane at the huge airport in Atlanta, I was ecstatic. We are finally here. Our trip has finally begun! Driving around in our new rental car, staring and squinting at the buildings in the dark, trying to spot our hotel was an interesting experience. What’s cool about our hotel is that it’s attached to the CNN center, so there are newscaster signs and CNN logos everywhere. I hope we can tour the center before we leave Atlanta. We think we also saw Emory and Oxford colleges from the car. I thought it was strange to see them in downtown Atlanta, and not set to the side in a sort of suburban or less populated area. But we’ll see what the campus looks like tomorrow morning on our tour.

Though the time difference here in Atlanta is only three hours off from the time back home, I am utterly exhausted. Even though I pretty much slept through 90 percent of all the air traveling we did today, I am ready to sleep and awaken to a day of college exploring tomorrow.

A Stretch Limo is What They Deserve

Today was a rarity in that our Vanderbilt cohort was able to gather for their departure while the sun was up.  It may not have been up very high in the sky but, unlike most of our departures, at least it wasn’t in the middle of the night (or, as our military people refer to it as: “O dark thirty”.

Our three Vanderbilt team members—Kye Duren, Julia Chang and Aiyana Hedeen-Garrett from Pinole Valley HS—arrived early and ready to get down to business.  Their chaperone, Pinole Valley HS Assistant Principal Yolanda Bulls, joined in and we were good to go.

As a precaution we always weigh the luggage so no one is surprised once they get to the airline gate and are hit with the $50 overage charges.  It took just a little bit of shuffling but everyone’s bags made the cut.

Unlike the previous day’s airport shuttle—which proved to be too small for the group (one of the group had to be driven to the airport)—this time a shiny white stretch limo pulled up so our Vandies could arrive at the airport in style.

Before settling in at Nashville for their Comparative Religions course, though, our rising stars will stop off in Atlanta for some site tours of the local colleges.

Before that, though, our intrepid travelers all told me how anxious they are to start their blogging because they know that’s what their fans are looking for.