Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Adventures Continue...

Boy, have I been up to a lot.

It's been 22 days since I arrived, and I've been keeping so busy! Throughout this summer, I have the following to work on:

  • a summer reading assignment with Shakespeare's Othello for IB Senior English
  • a summer reading assignment with Orwell's 1984 for my Theory of Knowledge class (which, I believe, consists mainly of philosophical discussions)
  • the second semester of my online English class
  • driver's ed classes and driving practice to get on the road towards my driver's license!
  • studying for the SAT (a national standardized test that I need to send to colleges when I apply)
  • preparing for my final season of speech and debate
For the latter, I will be participating in my favorite event, expository speaking. It is where I get to choose whatever topic I want to talk about, write an eight minute speech about it and memorize it, make accompanying poster visuals (it's amazing what elaborate visuals people can come up with, it's the main reason I enjoy participating in this event so much!), and you give it in front of judges and the other competitors, and the judges score them to find who was ranked the highest. Anyway, I knew that my topic senior year would have to relate to my exchange somehow. I couldn't figure it out while I was on exchange, but I knew I would have some sort of flash epiphany at some point. And I did! I will be speaking about how the USA idealizes and romanticizes France and how, in turn, France idealizes and romanticizes the USA. This ought to be fun.

I recently took a trip to my favorite American city (that I have seen, anyway), San Francisco! I won't spend too much time talking about it, but I will say that it was a satisfying trip. My family and I were reunited with my grandma, we stayed in the Westin St Francis (a hotel with quite the history behind it), and my sister and I fulfilled our quest of doing purikura, the fancy Japanese photobooths that can be found in Japantown.

Just one of the many elaborate photos we decorated

I heard French many times during my stay in this global city. I even found a tour van catering to the French, and I had to ask the guide for a picture! (in French, of course...ANYTHING to speak it again.)

Our Pikachu always travels with us! Notice the fog engulfing the top of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Our hotel had a glass elevator so we could look out over Union Square. This was the view from the 30th floor.

I've spent a lot of my time back in Oregon so far seeing old friends again. I recently saw some friends from my group at school, and it was like I never left...we were happily chatting with one another like before, they eagerly asked me questions about my year, and we all gushed about how excited we are for senior year together. They're glad to have me back, and I feel truly lucky to have such a great group of friends to come home to. 

My gang from school wasn't the only group I was looking forward to being reunited with. There is another group I was probably more stoked to see than them...


Nah, this wasn't the rebound reunion yet. Hailey (a girl I have taken to doing outrageous outdoorsy adventures with) wanted to celebrate her birthday with fellow exchange students again, so she invited us to go on a hike with her along the scenic Columbia Gorge!

From front to back: Nadine, a girl who just got back from Russia on a college exchange; Sam, rebound from Austria; Erin, rebound from Thailand (my birthday buddy!); Amanda, rebound from France; Emily, rebound from Peru (my speech buddy!); and Hailey, rebound from Ecuador. Wow, it feels weird to call them "rebounds from" instead of "outbounds to"...
Anyway, we hiked at a trail called "Starvation Creek Trail." (Yeah, that's what it was called.) I don't know what's with this recurring theme of fearing for my life whenever I do nature-y stuff with Hailey, but some of the trails were pretty perilous. They were narrow, gravelly, with no barriers to prevent people from falling off the edge. I have terrible balance, so going down the switchbacks terrified me beyond my wits. And I told myself, "Nothing on exchange was as scary as this!" (Parentheses: When I once said "I don't think there will be anything as scary on exchange as facing all these waves in front of us!!", I was pretty much right.) All these ghastly scenarios would form in my head whenever my foot slipped even slightly, stopping my heart for an instant. I told myself, "So this is what it's like to force your mind to take over your fear." 
All the horror aside, the majestic views were totally worth it! (Since I forgot my camera, I took these lovely photos from Sam.)
On this climb, we came across an outlook jutting from the side of the cliff. We chilled there a bit, the wind whipping across our faces and cooling us off after the tough uphill hike.

The hike up Starvation Ridge was dubbed Oregon's most difficult trail. I believe it.
Erin peering over the edge at the outlook

Looking to the left...

...and to the right

Pioneers and speech buddies, spreading our heroism over the land.

Another one of our scenic spots was a waterfall! As the trail map showed earlier, this waterfall was called Hole in the Wall Falls.

Sam somehow made it to the top and got a picture from there...

Aw, yeah!

These pictures are enough to explain why I love the Pacific Northwest, and how good it feels to be back! If I had known how difficult the hike would be, I probably would have declined Hailey's invitation. However, I now know that sometimes it's better to just tackle challenges without any expectations, focusing instead on the success that will come after the hardship. The spirit of the exchange student lives on in me, and I will eagerly accept every new adventure and opportunity that comes! 

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