Sunday, July 22, 2012

Finally Here!

After congregating at 2:25 AM El Cerrito High School in what now seems like such pleasant weather, boarding two planes, and getting exhausted from lack of sleep, my cohort and I finally arrived to the East Coast.

We decided that the sleep on the plane was enough, so after checking into the hotel, we immediately set off to wander and explore DC. Right before that, we stopped for a bite of food, since we were all starving. We ate at a Turkish restaurant about two blocks down from the hotel.

Jobel, Julia, and Roger - starved and tired (before the food arrived). 
Mr. Litvin with what I have labeled as the most disgusting drink in the planet - Pickle and carrot juice?!
Immediately after eating, we took the shuttle to see a plethora of monuments and other tourist attractions, including Washington Monument, Lincoln Monument, Vietnam memorial, Korea memorial, etc. In total, we walked about three to four miles today, which is basically recording setting for myself and some of my other cohorts. 

After walking for some five hours, we were all starving. However, the fact that it was Sunday night made our options very limited. We ended up choosing to eat BBQ.
We ended the day with a late night excursion to Safeway because we were all hungry, even after Turkish food and BBQ. 

Overall, as tiring as today was, we are indubitably had a great first day, all thanks to the Ivy League Connection and Mr. Litvin. All of us cannot wait for what the next week has in store for us! 

A Smooth Beginning

On July 22, I arrived at El Cerrito High approximately 2:20 a.m along with my cohorts. We checked the weight of our baggages, discussed travel plans, and then took group pictures. Shortly afterwards our shuttle to the airport arrived. Here we said our farewells and headed off towards the airport. I had mixed emotions during that time but overall I was enthusiastic. 

Humidity is my enemy.

My first experience riding an airplane wasn't bad at all. It felt like a roller coaster during the take off. I wasn't able to get much sleep because of the crowded conditions but it was manageable. We switched airplanes a few hours later at Denver, Colorado. When I arrived in Washington D.C, the humidity hit me right in the face. 

It was a little strange knowing that I was a few thousand miles away from home but it didn't actually feel too far. Once we unpacked at the hotel, we ate and then went sightseeing in D.C. We saw memorials, statues, the Washington monument, the capitol, and several other attractions. It was so humid and exhausting that all I could think about was drinking water. Water Water Water! It was surprisingly difficult to find a water fountain but fortunately I found one later. We were walking for hours and soon darkness overtook the skies. We weren't able to make it to the White House but were able to catch a glimpse of it on the way back to the Holiday Inn.

Today was a productive day. Everything went according to plans and we had a smooth beginning to a long summer. I'm excited for what the next few weeks has in store.

What To See in D.C.

In the wee hours of the morning - 2 AM to be exact - I rolled out of bed and headed to El Cerrito High School along with my mother. After going over several aspects of our trip with Don, we loaded ourselves into a shuttle and took off to SFO.

The journey to Washington, D.C. required a transfer flight; both sets of flights were tolerable. 

The first glimpse of Georgetown was a pleasing one - flower baskets overflowing with color hung from the lamps and the historic buildings created an atmosphere of charm. We drove through town in our taxi and arrived at our hotel, the Holiday Inn, in the late afternoon.

We decided to seize what we had left of the day to visit the National Mall. I was bubbling over with excitement - this was my first trip to the east coast, and the myriad of historic sites to visit was extremely tempting, especially after having completed AP United States History last school year. 

The Mall was unexpectedly vast. I glanced at tourists on bikes with a pang of envy as we hiked our way to the various memorials, but then again, the exercise and stretching of the legs was probably needed after hours of sitting idly on the plane. 

Standing before the detailed statue of Lincoln to the sleek Vietnam Veterans Memorial was an awing moment, and it opened my eyes to the dedication and pride all those who have served gave to ensure a better future for our country.

Standing in front of the breathtaking Washington Monument.

Abraham Lincoln.

View of the Monument from Lincoln's memorial.

Walls etched with the memories of U.S. involvement.

The exterior of Jefferson's memorial.

It was a wonderful way to begin our experience in the east coast; there is so much that it offers, and I am anticipating what tomorrow holds: a tour of Georgetown University and our first dinner, and perhaps a glimpse of the White House while we're at it.
Skull&Bones 2

… And three months later, 22nd of July, 7 a.m. PST, flying over Nevada and Utah, basin and range. Got an hour of sleep in after a painless check-in and boarding, although Tanya had to give up a carry-on case—overhead bins overstuffed already.

Kids are crashed out. The reunion giddiness and adrenaline rush of preparations and departure have coursed their way through: summer highlights, check, AP results, check, Yale readings, check, sing a song together , check, shuttle ride over, time to get in some lines. What are we doing/where are we going tonight, when are we eating. Questions old as time. Traveling time.

Time to land in Denver. Luckily, gate to DC flight is right next door. Tanya goes right back to sleep on the floor.

Roger and Jobel wait till we board.

In DC, we catch a minivan cab to our hotel, unload, and grab some Turkish sandwiches down the street at the Divan Café. No more Turkish food, says Tanya. I respectfully disagree, licking my chops.
We catch the hotel shuttle to the Mall, and make the big round: 


to WWII, 

to Vietnam,

to Lincoln,

to Korea,

to MLK, 

to FDR,

to Jefferson,

to Capitol.

To barbeque!

And cab it home. 

No rest for the fortunate, though. Time for some electronic regurgitation.

And The Last Shall Be First

It was a dark and stormy night...

Well, okay, it wasn’t so stormy but it was definitely dark when the 2012 Yale cohort arrived at El Cerrito High School at 2:25 AM to gather for their departure to Yale University where they’ll dive head first into their vaunted Grand Strategies course.

This is a full year’s course crammed into sixteen days where they pretty much learn how to take over the world.  For all intents and purposes, is there really any difference between taking over another country and taking over another business--except that the former may shed less blood?  It’s all about the strategy.  In any case, our Yalies will assuredly come back either basket cases or as future leaders of our community--there’s no in between.  No matter which, it will be the thrill of a lifetime for our four students.

Before they check into their dorm rooms at Yale, however, they’ll visit Georgetown University, UPenn, Columbia and Vassar to learn more about what these schools have to offer.  Even though they’ll be studying at Yale for 16 days, while attending their Grand Strategies course they won’t have much of a chance to check out Yale as far as a school to consider attending.  So, before they actually start their course there, they’ll take the tour, sit through an informational sessions and speak with admissions officers.

Site visits are fine but there’s so much more that can be learned by interacting with people who have an intimate knowledge of actually attending these schools.  While they’re back east our Yalies will also be dining with students, alums and admissions officers from these schools so they can ask the kinds of questions that may not come up during the typical site visit.  Not only will they be learning about the schools but they’ll also be able to pick the brains of their dinner partners about the admissions process where the secrets to getting into these fines schools can be passed on to our ILCers.  And, of course, when they return, these four ILCers will tell hundreds more of their classmates at their schools.

Although a warm 57.5º with the promise of much warmer temps once the sun rises, at least a couple of our Yalies and their parents seemed to be shivering.  They may have claimed it was because they were cold but the thrill of this trip had to play a part, too.  Or maybe it was just their fond recollections of the warm beds they just left and their desire to return before the bed grew cold.

Their bags were weighed, final instructions were given (blogging, photos, security, blogging, itineraries and blogging), the group photo taken and off they went at 2:55 in the AM.

As difficult as this course is, I’m betting that all four of our Yalies will think they’re in heaven compared to the never ending harassment they endured as they prepared for this trip: the daily Reading Status Reports where they had to keep me informed of how they were doing with the 2,630 pages of reading material required of them before getting on the plane (down from last year’s 3,812 pages) or the never ending pestering about their blogs.  Yes, Yale will be a cake walk by comparison but will we ever be thanked for preparing them for this ordeal?  Only time will tell.

Our Yale cohort may be the last of our ILCers to head east but right now they’re first in our minds.