Friday, July 29, 2011

Simply Floating

It was a sad parting this morning as Aiyana and I said goodbye to our friends before we embarked on our journey back to Atlanta, Georgia.

I honestly did not know what to expect when coming to Vanderbilt—the last thing on my mind was meeting people who I would admire and adore as much as I do with the people in my proctor group. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and experience VSA with each and every one of them, and they have become part of my everyday life. Leaving is difficult and at times tearful, but I now know that throughout my lifetime I will meet some amazing people, and all I can do is enjoy the moment and cherish the happy memories.

On our way to Atlanta after breakfast, we decided to take a detour to Ruby Falls, where a beautiful waterfall is hidden inside an intricately carved cave. At one point, we were 1,120 feet underground, with the mountain towering above our heads—a comfortable thought indeed.

We made it just in time to the CNN Worldwide Center to catch a tour explaining the works behind the broadcasting of news.

Afterwards, we decided to visit the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the world. It was very fun observing the exotic fish and enjoying the vast, beautiful tanks that held thousands of gallons of water.

It was a great note to end the day on.

The ILC’s Maiden Voyage to Vanderbilt: “Just Keep Swimming”

It feels so foreign, not being in Hank Ingram House playing with cards with classmates and proctors, but being alone in a hotel room preparing to go home. Vanderbilt was my home for the last three weeks and I felt its Southern Hospitality throughout its inviting campus. I’m glad to be off a set schedule, but at the same time the schedule allowed us to see everything the school and the community had to offer. I’m also glad to be out of class or not having the responsibility to wake up early during the summer; because in most instances my World Religions course wasn’t a class to me, but a precious opportunity to learn about something interesting from an expert in that field. Another thing I’m ecstatic about is the fact that I get to see my family even though I must temporarily leave the family I called my own for three weeks, full of smart motivated kids full of different interests and desires. I truly enjoyed getting to know each one of them including staff, my TA, and my professor.

To accomplish the goals we had set earlier in the trip, to see the sites of the cities in which we stayed, we had to leave earlier than the other campers, at about 7:00AM. We were quite exhausted from staying up late hours into the night signing autographs and blogging and then waking up early that we fell asleep throughout our whole ride to Atlanta, excluding breakfast and our trip to Ruby Falls in Lookout Mountain. Yes, I literally mean inside Lookout Mountain. Within the Mountain are caves, one leading to a waterfall over 120 ft high submerged in about 1100ft of solid limestone. The Falls are a beautiful attraction, but not the only one; the path to the Falls have many beautiful and unique rock formations like the onyx column and the leaning tower.

Upon our entrance into the city we immediately went to the CNN center to explore the eight stories of innovation and history. When one enters, they immediately notice they house the largest unsupported elevator, only being held by its start and end point, it spans the whole eight stories. I learned how green screen and Teleprompters work along with the stressful and intense life these dedicated broadcasters lead in order to inform us about what’s going on.

After leaving the CNN center we began to make plans to head to the Georgia Aquarium and the Ocean Voyager, the largest indoor habitat for animals. When we had finished checking in at our hotel we headed for the Aquarium, which on our first approach looked empty. Then we noticed the multitude of people in the courtyard waiting to buy tickets or to enter into the building. When we had purchased our tickets and were admitted into the building, we saw the vast amount of exhibits: Georgia’s waters, coral reef life, fresh water animals, cold water animals, dolphins, and the famed Ocean Voyager exhibit. It was amazing; we saw a huge array of animals including whale sharks, manta rays, beluga whales, otters, penguins, fish, shellfish, and even sea anemonemone (anemone) according to Nemo of “Finding Nemo”, also Nemo’s species of clownfish.

This brought me back to the words of Dori that stay with me through any circumstances especially regarding school and college “just keep swimming.”

Las Aventuras Continuan

Our proctor group had pulled all our mattresses to the common area of our floor. The plan of pulling an all-nighter was not all too successful. A few of us lasted until 4, and I and one other lasted until 5ish. We watched videos on YouTube, ordered too many pizzas at 3 AM, played Uno, had unhealthy snacks, and took tons of pictures. Sadly, I passed out with only one hour left to go. So close! After that golden hour of sleep, Julia and I quietly packed up the rest of our stuff and put our mattresses back on our beds in our room. We then said our tearful goodbyes to the girls in our group. As my friend Kristen put it, leaving VSA is bittersweet. We love all of the new friends we made, enjoyed our freedoms, and learned so much, but we missed our friends and family back home. It was our time to go, but I’m so glad I had the chance to come.

The second I got into the car and was settled with my comfy pillow and warm blanket, I was out like a light. Ms. Bulls did not like that we weren’t energetic and lively so that she could talk to us, since she had no one to really talk to for quite a while. But I didn’t wake up until we found an old-fashioned-timey country breakfast stop called Cracker Barrel. When we got back in the car I fell asleep again, only to awaken in Chattanooga, Tennessee at a spot called Ruby Falls. It’s a cavern that contains a 145-foot underground waterfall located more than 1,120 feet beneath Lookout Mountain’s surface. The cave was ominous and the waterfall was beautiful. Apparently, it is still unknown where the source of the waterfall is coming from.

After yet another nap in the car, we awoke in Atlanta, Georgia. When we were in Atlanta three weeks ago, we had planned to visit the CNN center but had run out of time. So Ms. Bulls took us to see the CNN Headquarters today before checking into the hotel. We went through the tour which took us through the different recording studious and research stations. Being a reporter or newscaster, or just working for a broadcasting station in general, is a very hectic job. Time, dedication, and passion are greatly demanded at CNN.

After a quick break at the Georgia Tech Hotel, we headed over to the world’s largest aquarium, the Atlanta Aquarium. Ms. Bulls let us explore all the exhibits while she rested and took in the smooth jazz music being played by a live band in the middle of the building. The best exhibits of the aquarium included the blue whales, beluga whales, otters, penguins, and of course, all the strange fish. The jellyfish and seahorses are always cool as well.

I appreciated the fact that Ms. Bulls wanted us to experience as many of the attractions in the South as possible. We visited some truly amazing and fun places today. Tomorrow, we leave for home. I am looking forward to seeing my cats again and meeting up with my friends. Pinole, California, here I come.

The ILC’s Maiden Voyage to Vanderbilt: Looking Back on VSA

This is the last night of VSA and the feeling of sadness is among all of the students. We had to say farewll to our teachers after class today which was a big wake up call.

We had the longest class day ever, visiting the Sri Ganesha Temple, and then returning to the class to finish presentations. Overall I truly enjoyed our time together as a class especially with Dr. Dunn, who we learned is Christian, opened my eyes and allowed me to be exposed to so much more about religion than I had learned previously. I truly appreciate him for his help.

At the Closing ceremony, solemn faces had spread into the Rotunda at Wyatt waiting to be addressed by Ms. Pitts and Dr. Stambaugh. They gave us encouraging words about conquering college and how well we had done in our VSA classes, saying that in an experience with one professor he described his kids as completing the work of a Junior or Senior in college, passing with a B-. Our proctors came and presented some students with superlative reward; Julia Chang won one with her proctor Malika.

Later we enjoyed our dance In which we allowed ourselves to let go on one more Friday. The dance brought back memories of our first dance and our first week. How I didn’t know what to expect when a mixer was announced and how I didn’t know what to expect from this program either, but it has been a truly rewarding experience and a blessing; even in spite of my problems to maintain my health.