Monday, July 7, 2014

First Stop St. Louis

The Chicago cohort
Waking up at 2 AM was a big struggle for me because I went to bed around 11 PM, so I just had three hours of sleep. When I was finished getting ready to leave to ECHS I checked one last time to verify that I had all of my stuff packed.  I thought I had everything but at the airport when Alie asked me if she could take a picture of me with my cohort while we were eating breakfast she couldn’t turn the camera on so I grabbed it and checked and I then remembered that I had left my memory card in my brother’s laptop (sorry Don, no pretty pictures for today; but Alie has a memory card that she can let me borrow for the trip that’s why she’s the best chaperone).  

When I arrived at ECHS Don was already there like a pro with his desk and with my cohort and chaperone.  He weighed my luggage to see if it was under 50 lbs.  

After Don finished weighing all of the luggage he gave us instructions about the trip and told us what our responsibilities were. On top of that he gave us some tips for the dinners that we are going to have this whole week with the alumni of each university we will visit.  After he finished talking, we went to take pictures and then we said goodbye to our parents and headed out to San Francisco International Airport.  

I was glad this day arrived because I was ready to get on the plane for my first time.  I didn't like it! This is probably because it was my first time but what I really did like about the airplane is the moment when it takes off because it feels like you are on a roller coaster and you feel that adrenaline in your body. Another thing I like is the clouds because they look like snow and it seems like you can walk on them. After I finished admiring the sky I fell asleep on the airplane - not the best sleep, but at least I got to rest for a little bit.  When we arrived at Phoenix we were speed walking to catch the other plane to St. Louis. When we got there we found out that they were changing a tire and we waited about 20 minutes until we could get on the plane. 

Chicago cohort at the luggage claim
The flight from Phoenix to St. Louis took about 3 hours.  When we arrived we went to go get our luggage but it took a long time for the luggage to come out.  When we got all of our luggage we went to get a shuttle bus to drop us off at our hotel.  

When I stepped out of the airport doors to get on the shuttle bus the hot air slapped my face and I felt like I was in a sauna - but worse. I have never experienced hot weather like this ever before.  Just in the time standing waiting for the driver of the shuttle bus to finish putting the luggage in the back I started sweating - that’s how hot it was.

When we arrived to the hotel we checked in at the front desk and we got our rooms. The girls needed to share rooms but luckily I got a whole room by myself and it felt good because at home I share a room with my two brothers. I didn't get to enjoy my room because Alie gave us 15 minutes to put our stuff in our room and go get a snack so we could head out to the Memorial Arch Park.  We went walking to catch the metro link train to take us all the way to the park. After we got there we needed to walk to the park but it was about two blocks away.  

The Getaway Arch
The Arch is so beautiful and it is so incredible and shocking that it was man made because is very huge and high.  My cohorts and I took some pictures of the Arch and we took a group picture, too. After that we went inside the museum to learn a little bit about St. Louis’ history and the history of the western expansion.  One fun fact I found out was that after Mexico won their independence from Spain the Santa Fe Trail was established for trading goods and the St. Louis economy depended much on the Santa Fe Trail trade.  Then Alie assigned us to share facts we learned with the rest of the group so we could share information and so we can be more comfortable talking to each other.

We got out of the museum and we needed to choose if we wanted to come back to the hotel and change or go straight to Anthonino’s Tarvena restaurant that she had made a reservation at already. We all decided to go eat so we would have time to blog and get to rest for tomorrow’s tour of Washington University, because it is at 8 in the morning. The restaurant food was good; my order was a grilled chicken sandwich. We talked more and got to know each other more and I am starting to feel more comfortable around them.
The Ravioli Appetizer

Flying, the Gateway Arch, and Fried Ravioli

So much has happened today. I don’t know how I’m going to describe it all in one blog.

The day started at 2 AM. I double-checked my luggage, then woke up my family and drove to El Cerrito High School. There, Don talked to us about things we might need and things we’ll be expected to do. Finally, we finished at around 4AM and went onto the airport shuttle.

Once we arrived at SFO, we grabbed breakfast and took a plane to Phoenix. I have to admit, I really enjoy plane rides (even the ones with turbulence and people in front of you backing their chairs on you). After we arrived in Phoenix, we rushed over to another gate, where our plane took us to St. Louis. 
Waiting at the baggage claim at St. Louis.
An interesting thing that happened today was when Alie, our chaperone, found out the man she had been sitting by was a Washington University alumnus. He recommended great places to see near campus, and though we were all pretty tired by that point, the promise of seeing the St. Louis Gateway Arch, Basilica of St. Louis, and Old Courthouse was enough to wake us up and keep moving.
The Gateway Arch
We took the Metro to the Arch. It’s so impressive! I was in awe over its massiveness. Because we didn’t have a lot of time, we didn’t go up into the Arch. Instead, we looked around the museum, saw the Basilica of St. Louis (though we couldn’t go in—it was closed for renovations), and saw the Old Courthouse (we didn’t go in there either—it was closed).
Old Courthouse
A horse hard at work.

Though that was kind of a triple whammy of disappointments, the museum was really cool (both literally and figuratively). There were multiple talking mannequins that I felt were at once impressive and creepy, and therefore had to take a picture of them. We were also able to go to Anthonino's Taverna, where we tried the fried ravioli that was on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It was so delicious! The outside was a crispy shell, while the inside was a creamy, steaming filling that oozed out once you cut it open. My pasta con ricotta (ricotta tossed with pasta topped with almonds) was also tasty, though the combination of bread and fried ravioli was so filling I could only finish half my pasta.
My enormous mountain of food!

Afterwards, we took a cab back to the Charles F. Knight Conference Center where I scrubbed sweat and airport germs off, and am now uploading pictures and finishing up this day’s blog.

I can’t wait for tomorrow! We’ll take our first college tour at Washington University and have a fancy dinner with Washington University alums. I can’t wait!

Some first impressions:
1.) It is so humid!! It’s like I’m in the Philippines! We’re definitely blessed with great weather in the Bay Area.
2.) Green trees and lawns paired with brick buildings make for some great scenery.
3.) Thunder is scary, as is lightning. We heard multiple claps of thunder and saw bright streaks of lightning dancing across the sky while at Anthonino’s Taverna, though the temperature outside was still warm. 

A Day in St. Louis

After what felt like the quickest plane ride, we landed in Phoenix, Arizona and we caught a flight from there to St. Louis, Missouri. The plane ride felt like it was short because I was asleep for three out of the four hours that we were in the air. The journey was fun for me mostly because it has been about three years since I've last been on a plane and I was excited to be back in the air again. Our only hiccup was when we landed in Phoenix, Arizona and we had to switch planes. We had about 30 minutes before the next plane was going to take off so we all let out our inner speed walker and bolted for the next gate. Luckily, our plane had a flat tire and our flight got delayed. After this, it was a smooth ride to the city of St. Louis.

Getting out of the airport I realized something very very quickly, it is extremely hot and humid in St. Louis. I took a deep breath in hoping that would help me organize myself a little bit better but it only made me a little more uncomfortable since I breathed in really stuffy air. The weather over here reminded me of how it is back home in Nigeria, keeping this in mind, I figured that I could handle the heat and humidity so I decided to suck it up and put on a happy face.

After being shuttled to our hotel, we got our room keys and went up to freshen up a little bit before we went out and about. Later, my lovely roommate and I Alexa made our way over to the snack room to meet up with the rest of our cohort. Once we were all accounted for, we made our way down to the train and rode it to the Gateway Arch. This arch is the tallest man made monument in the United States standing at 630 feet and was built as a monument to the westward expansion of the U.S.. Under the Arch and down a tunnel, you can make your way into a museum built under the Arch. Around it too were other touristy type things to do but the museum was my favorite because of the way that it was organized and the way that they paid attention to detail. 

As our day began to wind down, we decided to go out to Anthonino's Taverna and we had what I feel was the best pasta I've ever eaten in my entire life. 
The Gateway Arch
We were all pretty tired so we decided to call it a day and head back to our rooms and get ready for tomorrow. 

In the morning, we have our tour of Washington University and an info session after that. I'm really excited for this because we only got to see a glimpse of the university and I would really like to walk around more and explore the school. Later tomorrow night, we have our dinner with an alumni and some students who are currently attending Washington University. It will be interesting to see how all of their experiences at the university differ and to see what they personally got out of attending Washington University. As I will be going into my senior year next year I am eager to listen to whatever advice they have and any tips they are willing to give on applying to college next year. 

St. Louis - Day 1

Today was the first day of of our trip, and it was a very long one too. My day started at two in the morning and is still going. Much of our day was spent traveling, whether by taxi, metro, plane, or shuttle. We still, though, managed to spend some time learning about and wandering around St. Louis, Missouri.

The Chicago Cohort at Baggage Claim
 Once we got to St. Louis, we took a shuttle to our hotel, which conveniently is right beside the campus of Washington University, which we will be touring tomorrow. Tonight, I am rooming with Oyin, although eventually I will be rooming with Dani and Victoria as well so everyone will get to know each other better. After we checked into our hotel, we quickly changed into cooler clothing and headed out to see St. Louis. 

One thing about being on the east coast in the summer is how different the weather is than in California. In the Bay Area, summers are pretty tame because of the lack of seasons, but on the east coast, summers are hot, humid, and unpredictable. Thunder storms can happen at any moment.

The Gateway Arch
 Once we were more appropriately dressed for the weather, we took the metro, which I saw as a simpler version of BART, to the downtown to see the Gateway Arch. I had never heard of the arch before coming to St. Louis, but seeing it was amazing. At 630 feet and the tallest man made structure in the world, I could barely look at the whole arch without being blinded by the sun. We learned that the arch was built to symbolize the westward expansion of the United States. One question our whole cohort still hopes to find out by the end of the trip is exactly how such a huge monument was constructed. Of course, we took many photos under the arch, and then we entered a museum which had exhibits about the westward expansion. The group split up and each of us brought back a fun fact or observation, which was helpful because the museum had so much information to take in, one person would not have been able to take it all in in such a short amount of time. This was also helpful because it showed us what caught our attention and what part of this history we were interested in. 

We had never really gotten a chance to rest, so we were all exhausted at this point, and about ready for dinner. We had a reservation at a Italian/Greek restaurant, which we soon found out was in a small Italian district. As we drove to the restaurant in the taxi, Italian flags could be seen hanging everywhere, and even the fire hydrants were painted red, white, and green. We arrived early for our reservation, but it worked out well, because we just sat in the patio of the restaurant and looked at the menu. As it turns out, Aly had seen this restaurant on a food network, and we decided to order one of the appetizers that was featured on the show. We eventually were moved inside to the actual restaurant, and just on time too, because we could start to hear thunder rumbling in the distance. The meal was delicious. We started out with the featured appetizer, toasted ravioli, and then I ordered and zucchini pasta with eggplant, goat cheese, and marinara sauce. We were all full before we knew it and decided to head back home. 
The Toasted Ravioli Appetizer

It was a very long day, but we managed to accomplish more than I thought we would be able to. I am looking forward to tomorrow, when my cohort and I will tour Washington's campus, as well as have a nice dinner with alumni and admissions officers.

The Amazing First Day

Today was an interesting day where Oyin, Dani, Jimmy, Alexa, and I were getting ready to leave on our way to Chicago. Getting on the shuttle that was supposed to take us to the airport was actually cool because it was big enough to have space and not be cramped up in there. After arriving at the airport, we got our bags and hurried to get on the plane to Phoenix. After getting off that plane, we had to switch to another plane to St. Louis.
As we arrived in St. Louis, we had to go and get our belongings and arrange for another shuttle to pick us up and take us to the hotel. After the shuttle came we took our things outside and was surprised by the weather change from when we were in the Bay Area to when we walked outside in St. Louis. It was terrifyingly hot and stuffy when we walked out. Me having a big jacket on from when it was cold to that moment of heat was not good at all. The heat could almost be compared to a sauna but just a little less heat.

So after all of the stressful stuff, we checked into the hotel and got our room keys. We finally went to our assigned rooms and freshened up a little before we went back out to explore. We all met at the pantry room where there was snacks and drinks. Finishing up on getting snacks, we left and got on the metro to go see The Gateway Arch. It was awesome to look at seeing that it was so high. So we looked up The Gateway Arch and found that it is 630 feet tall. That is amazing how high it was and we all wondered how it was made. After admiring The Gateway Arch, we went to the museum and Alie had us find a fact or something we liked about something in the museum.

My dinner (Americano Burger w/ bacon)
Lastly, we walked around and found us a cab to go to a restaurant to eat at. We ended up going to a place where they had Italian food. Surprised by the thunder without any rain, we went inside and sat at a table for six. After being filled with food, we were all tired and ready to go. So we called a cab to take us back to the hotel after we ate. Finally getting to the hotel, I went to my room, took a good shower, blogged and getting ready to go to bed.

Chicago Departs

It was dark and it was chilly, as you would expect at 3:00 AM here in the Bay Area.  It was only 56º this morning but it felt cooler.  Dark is dark so there’s no equivocation on that one.

Shortly before the designated arrival time for the Chicago cohort a couple of our brave souls arrived to pick up their loaner items—in particular, their laptops, 
As is the custom, luggage was weighed, luggage tags affixed, itineraries distributed, important but dull and repetitive admonishments were dished out by yours truly and the group photos were duly taken.

The airport shuttle arrived plenty early and people were pleased to see that it was roomy enough for everyone.  This was an unusual shuttle in that it was large enough to seat 14 and tall enough for people to stand inside.  There was also plenty of room for luggage.

Someone commented that it looked like a party bus and we chuckled a bit.  When the doors opened, though, and we saw the neon blue running lights, we were convinced that this truly was a party bu 
At the appointed time the cohort hugged their parents, the cohort boarded their bus and off they went.  Within seconds the parents were back in their cars headed back to what they hoped would be their still warm beds.  As soon as I hit the PUBLISH button, I’ll head back to mine.

The Day of Departure

Preparing for this trip to Chicago was very stressful because I had to make sure that I had everything I needed to go to Chicago. I am excited and grateful to have the opportunity to take this trip to Chicago and also to visit other colleges on the way. My cohort and I will be visiting Georgetown, Washington University in St. Louis, and Northwestern before we arrive to Chicago. I am looking forward to meeting everyone today at El Cerrito High so we can be on our way to the airport to catch the plane.

I really hope this experience will teach me to have more responsibility and gain more knowledge about things I will learn while at The University of Chicago. I can't wait for the mind blowing experience with all of my cohort.