Monday, June 30, 2014

1 out of 27

I was surprised that I didn't wake up with bloodshot eyes and dark eye bags this morning after a sleepless night. The only thing that kept me awake was the prospect of finally leaving for the East Coast. The Vanderbilt cohort was also leaving with us, which added up to twelve groggy teenagers. Who converged together in front of El Cerrito High School. At 3:50 in the morning. It was exciting, really.
Colorado Mountains and Clouds
Don worked efficiently to weight all our luggage and had us attach nifty luggage tags that he had for us. To prevent our luggage from becoming mixed up among the two cohorts, we were also instructed to tie a specific ribbon color onto our bags so they wouldn't end up in the wrong place. Once all the members of the cohorts arrived, Don began a general discussion. A new Penn itinerary was distributed and rules were reinforced with past ILC horror stories. And of course, there would be no departure day without a group photo. After the pictures, our airport shuttle arrived and it was time to leave. Saying goodbye to my family and the Bay Area was bittersweet, but I knew for a fact that I would have the time of my life during those wonderful 27 days of being in the East Coast.

The 8:00 AM plane we took to arrive at Washington D.C. was a 5 hour period of life contemplation, daydreaming, and .....Anagramarama. As Julia Shebek and I fangirled over the technology on the plane, such as the personal TV screens for in-flight entertainment, we stumbled upon a game called Anagramarama where you basically had to find words in scrambled letters. Oddly enough, that was how we started a conversation with the woman who was sitting next to Julia. She was a friendly and curious woman who learned that our cohort members were going to the East Coast to study at UPenn for an Ivy League Program scholarship—after thinking that we were part of some sort of high school competition. Sadly, she moved from her seat next to us to sit with her husband before Julia and I were able to catch her name.

The sight of Washington D.C. from high up in the plane was beautiful. It was literally like a whole new world for me. Once we landed, our shuttle drove us to our hotel in Georgetown. The ride was actually quite exciting since we were all able to finally view our surroundings at ground level. We even spotted a few landmarks from the shuttle, such as the Washington Monument and Georgetown University. As we cruised around the city towards the Holiday Inn, I couldn't help but stare in awe at the houses with such elaborate architecture. The town was very active and diverse as well: people were biking, jogging, shopping, and just enjoying the warm sunny day. In Bay Area terms, D.C. was almost like a super upgraded version of Berkeley and San Francisco mashed together.

We dined in at Leno's Pizza for a lunch and dinner meal (or “Linner” as what Mr. Hillyer called it) and ate until we were all stuffed. But fear not. For our three hours of walking and exploring D.C. surely posed as a good enough work out for each of us.We boarded a bus called the D.C. Circulator and arrived at our first destination: The White House. The building seemed so surreal and beautiful. Pathways were bordered by tall trees while pedestrians and tourists sat on the benches—all with a perfect view of sculptures and the White House. Fireflies were scattered all across the lawn and it was my first time seeing them! We continued our tour and visited the Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, World War I and the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial, the Capitol Building and more. As we walked around and captured pretty pictures, Mr. Hillyer explained the history of each site along the way. I even learned that the reason behind Washington Monument's flashing red light was to prevent plane collisions with the building.

World War II Monument
Each and everyone of the memorials and monuments were amazing, but I do have a few favorites. The World War II Memorial was huge and probably one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen. Visiting the memorial at night was the best idea ever since the lights would brighten the water and give it such an ethereal glow. Another one that I particularly liked was the World War I Memorial. Although this memorial was extremely tiny compared to the one for World War II, I still enjoyed the peaceful ambiance of the memorial and the simple, yet beautiful, architecture. And how can I forget the famous Lincoln Memorial? Climbing up the many steps towards Lincoln's statue scored us a perfect photo shot of the Washington Monument. I have always seen pictures posted online of the Lincoln Memorial, but I had never truly grasped the whole historical feeling until I actually got the chance to see it tonight. Lincoln's giant statue was situated in the middle with two gorgeous murals on both the top left and right sides of the memorial. On the wall to our right was the famous Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address. Our adventure around D.C. was definitely worth it.

It is only the first day of our East Coast trip and it was already packed with so many wonderful experiences. I can not wait for what is in store for us tomorrow.

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