Sunday, July 17, 2011

The ILC’s Maiden Voyage to Vanderbilt: A New Reality

I was overjoyed to eat breakfast with Ms. Kronenberg and Ms. Bulls today at the Pancake Pantry. It was encouraging to see face from home again; especially with my mother demanding I call her and her standing threat to cut me off if she doesn't hear from me tonight. As Julia, Aiyana and I were debriefed about our classes and our experiences, it brought me back to my reality in a sense that I wasn't at VSA forever, I was going home. I had another year of high school to finish, another season to play, more tests to take, and more Speech and Debate tournaments to attend among other things. As the conversation shifted to discussing personal statements to colleges, I was also moved by the fact that I didn't have that much time left before I’d be sending my admissions packet to a school like Vanderbilt.

I pondered these thoughts as we visited Opryland home of the Grand Ole Opry house, even dreamed about them on the way to the humble abode of Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson called the Hermitage. Named as a place far away from the land of hardship, turmoil, and politics in which Jackson worked. My thoughts about the uncertain future followed me even there, in and out of the museum on and off the Mansion’s property.

After we returned to school, we enjoyed a break by participating in our campus carnival. There was Popcorn, water guns, shaved ice, various games, and even a dunk tank where students can send their proctors for a plunge.

I returned to my hall to collect my laundry. I almost felt like saying a small prayer before visiting the hectic washroom, with all the students racing for washers and dryers. I was surprised, after hearing stories of kids waiting for hours, I only waited about 20 minutes in total for both a washer and dryer. I had a smile on my face and a sense of pride in my step as a gathered my laundry because no matter where I went to school I knew now at least I could handle my laundry.

We then prepared for our dinner with the Dean of Residence where we’d meet some Vanderbilt admissions counselors. I say some not all because I missed the original meeting with the counselors due to the untimely occurrence of my injury. Anyway my initial impression of Mr. John Nesbitt was that he was a cool guy. He wore wayfarers, a colored shirt, pleated shorts, and nice shoes. He greeted me so warmly that I was amazed. It was very easy to talk with him, because he was interested in our district, our school, and most interesting of all me. I immediately returned to the thoughts about my mental college clock, but with new perspective. No matter how much time was left on that clock, I’d still have people to help me with whatever needed fine tuning. I now feel very reassured about my college plans especially at Vanderbilt.

Sunday Crunch

I jumped out of bed after an early morning wake-up call from Ms. Bulls. Apparently, I had slept through my alarm by pressing the darn snooze button at 6:30 this morning.

I met Aiyana on my way to the communal bathrooms, and soon, we were both sitting outside our dorm building awaiting Ms. Bulls and Ms. Kronenberg, as well as Kye who lives one floor up from ours.

Breakfast at the popular Pancake Pantry was delicious, although it did not live up to my expectations. The place is constantly packed with eager customers that begin to form a line circling the block daily about eight in the morning. Luckily, we arrived at the Pantry much earlier than the rush hour and were seated promptly.

I ordered a simple serving of sausages and eggs, which was accompanied by a plate of fluffy buttermilk pancakes.

After breakfast, we decided to visit The Hermitage, the home of the seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson.
The feeling of stepping on the same wooden floor that Jackson walked on and staring at the same intricate Paris-imported wallpaper that Jackson looked at nearly two hundred years ago was phenomenal. It truly was a fantastic historical experience.
Inside the Heritage Mansion was much larger than the outside of the building would suggest. Beautiful paintings of the Jacksons adorned the walls and original furniture kept the home from looking too abandoned from its previous owners’ absence. We viewed the Jackson family’s drawing room, dining room, and even the very bed Jackson took his last breath on.
We also had the opportunity to view a smoking house as well as a cabin where some of Jackson’s slaves resided in.
It was indeed a trip back into the past, and it was wonderful to have spent it with Ms. Kronenberg and Ms. Bulls as well as Aiyana and Kye.

We told Ms. Kronenberg and Ms. Bulls our goodbyes as they dropped us off back on Vanderbilt grounds.

Lunch was again in Rand Hall, and we then headed over to a carnival that was scheduled on the Wyatt Lawn later in the afternoon.

It was such a beautiful day to be out on the fields of green grass as well as get some healthy exercise.

We had fun playing Frisbee and kickball, and we also partook in clumsy potato-sack racing, which was also very exciting.
Afterwards, we were awarded a bountiful three hours of free time until the Dean’s Dinner at six in the evening.

The Dean of the Commons hosted a wonderful dinner for the Vanderbilt Summer Academy in the backyard of his house, which is situated on the beautiful campus itself, right next to Hank Ingram.

I am grateful to the Dean for the enjoyable supper and fun time we had.

I await tomorrow with excitement to dive deeper into our studies of the Islamic faith, as well as my new ArĂȘte class.


VSA allows students to sleep in until noon on Sundays. There are no activities planned for Sunday mornings, unless you count breakfast. But ILC students are always supposed to be productive! So, since Ms. Kronenberg was in town, we decided to have breakfast together at that Pancake Pantry Ms. Bulls had wanted to go to for about a week. We had high expectations for this eatery since the line can reach around the corner of the restaurant and down the street. We all climbed into the car and headed out at around 7 in order to beat the rush of people. Again, “early bird gets the worm” seems to fit for everything now. We got a table, and didn’t have to wait at all. I ordered scrambled eggs, hash browns, and buttermilk pancakes. The pancakes were pretty good, but not astoundingly phenomenal like the line suggests. Ms. Kronenberg thinks it may just be the hype that makes it so crowded.

Kye, Julia, and I talked about our classes and the material we are learning. We told them about the students in our class and in the program. We learned that other college summer programs have thousands of students, but VSA only has 133. College applications and essays were also discussed over our breakfast of pancakes.
Breakfast didn’t take too long, and we still had about 3 hours until noon. The three of us teens passed out in the car since we only got 6 or so hours of sleep the night before. We woke up occasionally to see the Grand Ole Opry, and the mall that famously flooded by a nearby river and has yet to be reopened since the incident.

We ended up going to the Hermitage in Nashville, which is the plantation and mansion of former president Andrew Jackson. The property is huge, with about 1000 acres. We saw the inside of his house, which is just beautiful. The wallpaper was imported from France in honor of his wife, that depicts Greek mythology that shows a story as you walk through the house. His original furniture is still in the house. We passed by the rooms in which he and his family slept, and even the bed in which he died in (R.I.P.).
The outside tour consists of the “backyard” area where the slaves stayed and the chores were being done. The cotton plants, though they do not still exist on the property today, were mostly in the front yard, and far in the backyard. The gorgeous garden that was created for his wife is also home to the cemetery where both he and his wife are buried under a gazebo. To the side, a cemetery holds the remains of his family members. It's nice to visit these historical landmarks. When I visited the Hermitage, I couldn't help but think, Andrew Jackson climbed these stairs, Andrew Jackson sat right there in that chair, Andrew Jackson walked these same trails.
We said goodbye to Ms. Kronenberg who is flying out tomorrow morning. We met up with our proctor group and ate a lunch of deli sandwiches and fries.
VSA planned a carnival for the afternoon. It was outside on one of the many fields at Vanderbilt. There were games like Frisbee, tug-of-war, dodge ball, croquet, racquetball, a potato-sack race, and soccer. They had activities like face painting, chalk drawing, and water fights as well. There were snow cones, popcorn, and great music. But best of all, there was a dunk tank just for the proctors! We participated in mostly all of the activities and games, and had a great time. The only little downside was getting bitten quite a lot by mosquitoes, but they seem to be infatuated with me wherever I go, so sadly, I’m getting used to always getting bitten. It’s not cool that just as my other bites are disappearing, I’m getting new ones.
Dinner was hosted by the Dean of the Commons, who lives in a pretty large house right next door to Hank Ingram, our dorm building. We dressed up and went to the barbeque in his backyard, which surprisingly fit all of us. Burgers and hotdogs were the only main dish being served. Ahhh, the struggles of being a pollo-pescatarian (yes, that is a real thing). I ended up asking the chef for a veggie burger so I wouldn’t go hungry. I have never had a whole veggie burger before, only a little bite-sized sample from Costco. Honestly, the veggie burger wasn’t that bad, and I didn’t end up going hungry! We also had some peach cobbler, which was sweet and tasty.

I’m planning on relaxing in my room with Julia while watching a movie on Netflix. I am definitely going to get some sleep before class tomorrow. The school week starts once again!