Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Honk Twice For a Valet

Greetings from Providence, Rhode Island! Brown Cohort #1 met up at El Cerrito High School at 3:30 AM this morning in an extremely chipper mood. Although I only got two hours of sleep, I was energized by the excitement of starting my 4-week long adventure with the Ivy League Connection. The flight to Chicago (Midway) was Frank’s first time on an airplane so after its rough landing, we all applauded for him and his new experience. We speed walked to our next gate so we could pick up our new boarding passes to Providence. I was in agony pulling around my heavy carry-on, which had my laptop and notebooks inside, but I stayed strong and marched from one end of the Chicago airport to another.

After a light lunch of sandwiches and Panini, we boarded our flight to Providence. We were already exhausted from sitting from the previous plane ride but Kathleen, Andrew, Ms. Larson, and I continued to sleep for the next two hours. Frank spent most of his time in the air looking out the window and doing AP summer assignments, while Erinn read a million pages of Eon, an adventure fantasy novel.

Providence is flat and woodsy from the airplane window. Our much smoother landing welcomed us to an overcast and breezy city. So much for the humid and muggy weather warning, but I’m sure that is coming a bit later in the trip. After a bit of a wait for our rental car, we packed up all of our luggage into the huge Tahoe and we were off to our hotel. A friendly Rhode Islander instructed us to drive up to Hotel Providence and honk a few times for a valet. How fancy!

Dinner was located down the street at Local 121. The dim-lit café was classy and relaxing. We were seated on a circular couch with a table in the middle. I ordered the Ramp Pesto and New Potato Pizza. It was light and delicious, a perfect welcoming dinner to Rhode Island. Although I rarely eat out, I thoroughly enjoyed myself with the good food and great company.

Although we were told we would have individual rooms, we ended up grouping together as roommates (with the exception of Ms. Larson). Kathleen, Erinn, and I are located in Room 526 – the Melville Suite. We’re winding down the day with a small “blogging party” (Frank’s idea) which we intend to have every night for the next 27 days. Writing a blog on a hotel bed in Rhode Island is comfy and inspiring. This is a college town. Our hotel is right across from a small university and the various art stores and restaurants grace the streets with mellow excitement. Plenty of the buildings here are made of traditional brick, but more modern buildings light up the view from my hotel window.

I like it here. I can hear a murmur of a live concert happening somewhere downtown. It’s time to rest up for our big day tomorrow: tours of MIT and Boston University. This opportunity to explore the east coast would have not been possible without the Ivy League Connection. Thank you to Don Gosney, Madeline Kronenberg, and Charles Ramsey for seeing us off this morning. Thank you to everyone that supports the ILC. I’m building memories out here. The saga continues…

Greetings From Providence

Today was the day. The one we’ve all been waiting for. Our group met at 3:30 AM in front of El Cerrito High School to take a shuttle bus to the Oakland Airport. After I woke up from three hours of sleep, my mother drove me down to the school. Everyone had already arrived with their belongings. To my surprise, everyone, even I, was wide awake. There were no drooping eyes in sight. I grabbed my loaner items from Don’s table of everything, and Don weighed my suitcase to make sure it wasn’t over 50 pounds. I was a bit nervous because to me, it felt really heavy. I guess I’m just weak because my luggage weighed only 39 pounds, the second lightest of the bunch right after Erinn’s 37 pounder. Don gathered us around and gave us a list of contacts and the combination for our laptop security cables. As always, we took a group picture before we left. We then said our goodbyes and hugged our parents. I won’t see my mother for more than a month. I sure will miss her cooking—and her of course. Our shuttle left at around 3:45 AM, 15 minutes earlier than expected because we were all on time. I’m so proud of us.
To sum up our plane trip: it was tiring and tedious, or arduous, like Andrew would say. Personally, I despise airplanes. I have the tendency to get air sick, an extreme misfortune if I want to go to college on the East Coast. I appeased my air sickness by sleeping most of the time. I could never read or even do homework on an airplane like the other four did. We transferred at the Chicago Airport, where we rushed to grab lunch and board the airplane once again. When we landed in Providence, it hit me that after months of planning, we were finally here, in Rhode Island, ready for an experience of a lifetime.
The hotel we are staying at for five days, Hotel Providence, is nicely adorned and has great service. I share a room—a suite actually—with Erin and Erinn. Erinn won the fight for the pullout sofa bed and left me and Erin with the two regular beds. We dropped off our belongings and headed out to dinner. We went to a local restaurant near the hotel called Local 121. We sat around a comfortable round table and enjoyed “locally harvested food and drink”. My cumin flavored carrot puree with cilantro infused sour cream really hit the spot. The dinner was a great way to wind down from an exhausting day.
Right now, we’re sitting in our room working on our blogs while watching “The Voice”. Since we are experiencing trouble with Wi-Fi, only one person can connect to the Internet at a time using the sole Ethernet cable. We’ll turn in soon to get ready for the long day ahead of us tomorrow.

Away we go!!!

We made it to Providence!
Erin, Andrew, Frank, Kathleen and Erinn prior to our
departure from OAK

What a day! After viewing the photos that Don posted, it feels like that all happened days ago. It has been a very long day but we have arrived safe and sound to Providence, Rhode Island. Overall, we had a very smooth journey. Erin, Andrew, Erinn, Kathleen, Frank and I were all able to sit together on both flights, which was nice. We landed in Chicago a bit ahead of schedule but we still had to eat lunch and catch our connecting flight with only about an hour of time. So, good thing I had my running shoes on! We high tailed it from Terminal A to Terminal B just to make it on time to take care of all of our business before our next flight. We had a nice lunch and then boarded our final flight to Providence!

Upon our arrival, it was much cooler than we anticipated. We picked up our luggage at the baggage claim and proceeded to head to Avis to pick up our rental car. Finally, we all piled into our Tahoe SUV and were on our way to Hotel Providence! The hotel was only minutes away from the airport, and with my trusty co-pilot, Andrew, we were on the right track. We immediately checked-in to our rooms and then went to dinner at Local 121, which was a restaurant that was recommended to us by someone in guest services. All of their food was locally grown. It was fantastic and really was a wonderful meal to complete the day. Everyone seems so excited to be starting this journey after the many months of preparation, planning and eager anticipation.

This is such a unique experience for these students and I am so happy to be here with them and support in any way that I can. Tomorrow we visit M.I.T. and Boston University. We will have dinner at L’Espalier with two alumni from M.I.T. and Brown University.

With that, I am off to bed! It was an early start for us all. Until tomorrow!

On an Airplane

Yesterday I finished packing for my trip and saw the final hours I would still be in Hercules. Surprisingly, the day went by extremely slow, and the only relief I got from the time was sleep that lapsed four hours in a relative second.

Waking up at 2 AM and seeing the sky was actually refreshing. The moon was full and bright, and my mother had told me that when the moon is full and you are on an airplane it is beautiful, but I didn’t have the chance to see it because by the time we were departing the sun was rising for the day. There was also a striking difference between the world I left and the world I came to; in the morning there was no one and the road was empty compared to the busy roads that lead to our hotel, which were traffic filled even though rush hour had yet to become.

Although we arrived at the airport at 4 AM, check-in was fast and the wait was nonexistent. I do regret that I misunderstood one of the worker’s directions, I assume; instead of going through the regular detector, I went through the full body scan. I don’t really recollect the event much, considering I thought it was natural, but Kathleen and Erin wondered why the workers thought I was suspicious enough to have the full scan.

While reaching cruising altitude and descending to the runway, I noticed that, although we were on this adventure, everyone else was going on with their daily lives. I don’t know if I felt insignificant to the world at the moment or I would continue on with my life ignorant to other peoples’ adventures as well, and I continued on with my book. I was probably the only one that didn’t sleep on the plane ride, but I did get through half of the book I started this morning.

On our transfer in Chicago, we decided to get lunch. While, walking—running—we passed three McDonalds, so I guess the argument that even when you are away from home, home is still there. We traveled 600 miles away and there is still a McDonalds at every corner. My child insecurities still surface and that is one of the purposes of the trip, so then I don’t have similar doubts when I go to college.
While getting our rental vehicle after landing, we looked out of the plane station to see a New England Lemonade truck. What interested me wasn’t that there was a lemonade truck, yet was different from the Ice Cream trucks that I hear every day, but the condition they were in. I can only see old cars when my parents drive past the Richmond Landfill, and the cars are usually in bad condition.
My expectation when I arrived in Providence was of complete difference. Once I saw the landscape, I thought it looked like Oakland. There was the difference that it was a lot greener; there were trees everywhere, and coming to a construction site, I saw more trees being built. I do miss the yellow hills that I see in Hercules, and strangely, there are no hills in Providence.
The area around the hotel is wonderful. I really want to explore every corner because it offers so much. It has a farmers market, a book store, a art district and so many more activities. I only have 5 days, and I will make everything count.

Altogether we got a lot of stuff done today more than I can write; from 2 AM and three time changes, we got to Providence with plenty of time to waste. Now it is the end of the first day, and I was worried that 4 weeks was too much.

a bene placito

Today was an extremely exciting day. We started off the morning at El Cerrito High School, arriving around 3:15 to receive loaner items and to weigh our luggage. Our heavy suitcases were stuffed into the shuttle. We took a group shot, got into the shuttle, and we set off for the Oakland airport.

The airplane rides were uncomfortable, but everyone was filled with excitement to finally start our journey. On the plane, everyone used their time wisely. Ms. Larson slept, Erin read a book, Andrew watched a movie, Erinn read a book, I did summer homework, and Kathleen kept herself away in my blind spot.

When we finally arrived at Providence, we jolted to the hotel and got together to eat dinner. We ate at Local 121, a restaurant that only uses local ingredients in their food. Our dinner was relaxing, and a good way to wind down from the long day. We exchanged intellectual conversation and went over our plans for the rest of the trip.

In the end, we all decided to regress to our hotel rooms to hibernate.

We're all very eager to visit colleges this next week, and exuberant to be in the Ocean State.

The Saga Begins

What a privilege and an honor it is to be part of the first Ivy League Connection group to depart for the 2011 summer. I look forward to having a great learning experience not only at Brown University, but at the multiple colleges we visit, the admissions officers that we meet with, and general learning of a foreign place in the Rhode Island area. I woke up this morning at around 2:30 AM. Most people would suspect that I would be tired, but I could hardly wait to get out of bed because I was just so excited to begin the journey of a lifetime. Last year around this time when I was leaving for Cornell University I was nervous, yet anxious at the same time. But this year that dose of nervousness was replaced with confidence knowing that I am fully equipped to academically compete with anyone. A large part of this reason is because of how well our ILC family has prepared me.

We all arrived at El Cerrito High ready to leave for Providence, Rhode Island. The looks on my parent’s faces were of a dual nature. On one hand their expressions showed extreme happiness knowing that I was going to receive one of the best educations that any high school student could receive in 28 days. But they also showed some feelings of melancholy because they would not see me for a month. As they and I know, this is part of the maturation process that every teenager and their parents will go through. We said our goodbyes with an overabundance of hugs and kisses. We rode the shuttle to the airport and from this moment on we all realized that our journey has finally begun.

The airport process was not as arduous as usual. The only minor problem that I faced was in seating arrangement. My cohorts and chaperone were assigned seats of B 25-29, but my seat was B-49. No one is certain as to how this happened, but it made no difference once we were on the plane because it was open seating, so we all sat together. Our flight went from Oakland Airport to Chicago Midway Airport. I was relieved that there were no weather interferences with our flight schedule, compared to my experience last year in which my ILC group was stuck in O’Hare Airport for 23 hours. We had about an hour layover before we finally flew in to Providence, Rhode Island.

We arrived in Providence, Rhode Island exhausted, but enthusiastic to see what this wonderful region of the country has in store for us. We arrived at our quite quaint but beautiful hotel: Providence Hotel. We quickly got settled into our rooms and headed to dinner around the corner at local 121 Restaurant. Because we were all extremely tired, we went back to our rooms and got some rest. I am excited for our college visits in Boston, MIT and Boston University, it shall be fun.

They're Off! Brown-I Departs

At what point in the process can we say that the Ivy League Connection is past the point of no return?  Surely we can turn back after the interviews and even after the dinners with the alums and sponsors.  Even after our cohorts come before their city councils and the School Board we can always turn back if need be.

But once the airport shuttle leaves the parking lot at ECHS we are probably at that point and our cohorts know for sure that they’re really on their way.
Don offers a wide variety of 'loaner' items for our travelers.  From laptop
security cables, Ethernet cables, USB cables for their cameras, card readers
for their cameras, umbrellas, surge protectors, extension cords, alarm clocks
flash drives, desktop lamps and even laundry bags, Don's one stop bazaar

table offers that last minute shopping experience.

All luggage is weighed so our
intrepid travelers aren't hit by
the ridiculously high
overage charges.
Such was the case at 3:46 AM on this beautiful morning.

We had asked our cohorts to arrive in plenty of time to pick up their loaner items, get their last minute instructions, weigh their luggage and take the obligatory group photo.

If nothing else it seems that we’re getting our ILCers properly trained in showing up on time.  Every one of our students arrived plenty early—early enough so that we were finished with all of our tasks early enough so the airport shuttle could depart nearly 15 minutes ahead of schedule (because we all know how much fun waiting at the airport can be).

Even before our ILCers arrived, though, Don was paid a visit by a patrolling police officer checking to determine why this guy in the loud shirt was standing outside the local high school at three in the morning.

Excitement was in the air.

Despite the early hour and the fact that this was a time of day better suited to catching some zzz’s, our ILCers were wide awake and ready for their adventure to begin.

Why are we still here? Why aren't we moving?

Despite the early hour and the fact that this was a time of day better suited to catching some zzz’s, our ILCers were wide awake and ready for their adventure to begin.

Many thanks to Joann Miller for the use of some of her great photos.
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