Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Best of Ithaca and Chicago

I can't wait for my travels over the summer! I will be going to Chicago a sprawling metropolis with a population of 2.722 million and Ithaca a beautiful "city" tucked into the country side of up state New York with a population of 30,720. I am so happy that not only will I be studying at Cornell and visiting University of Chicago and Northwestern University, but I will be visiting two beautiful regions of the country. Here are seven and a bit places I want to see when I am in Chicago and Ithaca.

  1. Millennium Park - I really want to go to Millennium Park because it is really interesting and beautiful. It has many Beautiful Attractions like the Cloud Gate which to be honest, I love because it is shaped like a bean. I think this would be amazing to see because the park is in the middle of the city, it is gorgeous, it doesn't require a lot of time, it's free and right next to the lake shore, Chicago River and other beautiful parks so if we don't like it we can walk to other places . 
  2. Art Institute of Chicago- I will acknowledge all the downsides of the Art Institute of Chicago. It costs a fair amount of money ($82 for all of us), we probably won't have enough time to thoroughly enjoy all that this amazing museum has to has to offer, but I am still holding on to the hope that possibly that there will be the time and money because the Art Institute of Chicago nothing short of spectacular. This museum has paintings that I only dreamed of seeing. Artwork such as "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat, "American Gothic" by Grant Wood and other amazing paintings by Pablo Picasso,Georgia O'Keeffe, Claude Monet, Edward Hopper and Vincent van Gough. I would love to see all of these amazing pieces of art. 

  3. Willis Tower Observation Deck- The reason why I want to go to Willis Tower is because it is gargantuan and the view from the glass deck is unbeatable. There is no better view of the Chicago skyline than from the top of it. 
  4. Finger Lakes- I know this one is broad, but I can't wait to see these beautiful lakes. I looked it up and there are many beautiful trails, parks and towns on the shore. Cayuga Lake isn't far from Cornell and walking next to it is free and guaranteed to give us some nice photos. 
  5. Ithaca Commons- What really caught my attention with the Ithaca Commons is that from what I see it is one of the only big shopping canters in Ithaca and it looks fun and cute. It reminds me of Bay Street and it seems like the perfect place to buy gifts for family back home. Another bonus is that it is close to Cornell. 
  6. Waterfalls and Gorges- Ithaca is in a beautiful part of the globe that includes many gorgeous waterfalls and gorges that have many trails and places to picnic, read, walk or swim. These places would include Ithaca Falls, Cascadilla Gorge, Robert Treman State Park, Buttermilk Falls State Park and many many more. I love hiking and I am a major nature freak and love the idea of walking to a beautiful waterfall on the weekend  and reading a book while listening to the rush of the water. 
  7. Up State New York- If we are able to travel outside the Ithaca area there are many places I would love to visit. Places like Seneca Falls where there was a conventions where some of the smartest women at the time discussed women's rights and created the influential Declaration of Sacraments. I also want to visit Syracuse University. It may not be Ivy League, but it is still an amazing university (where Joe Biden went) and has one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Speaking of amazing colleges with beautiful campuses, Williams College. This will most likely not happen because it is three hours away (same distance as Niagara Falls) so we would have to give up the falls so this is super unlikely, but I can dream because this college is one of the greatest liberal arts colleges in the nation. Finally, Niagara Falls. Nothing said.These falls are the most famous and beautiful water falls in the world. They are three hours away, but I have hope that we will have the money so we can see these natural wonders.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When In Ithaca

One of the things I'm most looking forward to this summer for myself is to experience new places, new people, new food, and new opportunity. That comes from being able to not only visit and study at one of the most prestigious universities, but all the places we'll stop along the way and in between. Never would I have thought I would be able to go to Ithaca, and when I found I was I jumped onto my laptop to see what was in store for me, and I compiled for myself a bucket list of places I would love to visit this summer. 

Ithaca Commons. 
Ithaca Commons, one of the first places that caught my eye when looking up fun things to do close by the university. A pedestrian mall in downtown Ithaca, I love malls and the closest I've been to something like this is Bay Street in our local Emeryville. Ithaca Commons offers a variety of shops, galleries and restaurants, with a wide range of selection. A scale model of the solar system, the Sagan Planet Walk begins there, and what intrigued me most was that during the summer local musicians and entertainers often put on free concerts and performances, something I would love to experience.
Finger Lakes. 

Finger Lakes, a funny name when I first started reading about it, and came to learn that it got its name from how the lakes are narrow and long, like fingers. It's actually a wine county, but the lush green that surrounds it drew me in. Absolutely beautiful. You can see some from Cornell University, and the forests that surround them. Fishing is practiced there as well as yachting and draws in many because of the great history behind them. Known as the 'burned over district' where many religions were formed as well as holding pre-Iroquois habitation, it holds many great food scenes and museums. 

Cornell Plantations. 

The Cornell Botanical Gardens, also known as Cornell Plantations maintain four gardens on Cornell's central campus. It is referred to as one of the 'hidden gems' in the state of New York and specializes in trees and shrubs native to the state. it would be a lovely way to spend the afternoon, just being able to bask in the natural beauty. It has several collections of trees and in general is a great place to study, do yoga, or simply take a walk. This was one of the places I was unsure about but looking more in depth makes me excited for all the nature that surrounds the campus.

Ithaca Falls. 

There is no way I could go to Ithaca and not see a waterfall, or two, or more. Ithaca Falls even has a trail where one can go hiking, I've never been on a hike before but that's even more of a reason to go. Not too long which is also perfect for me. waterfalls are something unique to Ithaca, it has so many in various locations and I intend on seeing as many of them as I possibly can. I truly enjoy nature na being outdoors, so I know this will for sure be a yes for me. 
Cascadilla Trails.

The Cascadilla Gorge Trail is truly a display of rock, water, and trees. It is a tremendous variety of creek and forest habitats condensed into a small area. There is a stone trail up the stairs behind one of the halls and the climb isn't too difficult either. Cascadilla creek is a cascade of waterfalls which are enjoyable dramatic. the creeks drops about 400 ft past nine waterfalls making it quite the sight. Anything which involves something new like a hike but isn't too draining is calling my name, and I think it would be interesting to see how I went about tackling this. 
The sky deck.

Along the way we will be stopping in Chicago to visit some universities. When I heard this Willis Tower came in mind, which once held the title for tallest building in the world. It's what comes to mind when I think of skyscrapers. This 110 story tower is most famous for it's glass boxes extending a little over four feet from the sky deck. Not the best for someone who has a fear of heights but a great way to feel the rush and brag about later. Looks insane, and I believe my trip to Chicago will be incomplete without visiting this amazing structure. 
Millennium Park. 

Millennium Park, in the heart of the city of Chicago, most famously known for being home to the Cloud Gate, stainless steel sculpture, offers more than this unique piece of art. It also features the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Crown Fountain, and Lurie Garden. These major artistic highlights as well as the scenic food variety and cultural facilities are what make up the alluring essence of what the Windy City has to offer. It would be a great opportunity to grab a hotdog or two while exploring the glorious architecture and admiring the stretching skyscrapers. 

Researching these few sights to see, as well as many others make me look forward to this summer and all that is to come with this trip, I know it will be one to remember. As the days go on and I think about it more, the more nervous and excited I become for this new experience. Ithaca, I'm coming for you!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Big Adventures Ahead

Part of the reason behind my excitement to get out of California this summer is having the opportunity to travel, explore new places, food, and culture. 

Cornell is located in Ithaca NY, which isn’t exactly a city. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Some might consider the lack of urban excitement a disadvantage. I however, am more than ecstatic to be surrounded by its lush forests, waterfalls, and gorges. As cliché as this might sound, I look forward to forming a deeper connection with my surroundings on my trip out east.

With the help of the Internet and former ILCers’ blogs, I have compiled somewhat of a bucket list of places to go and things to do on my trip to Ithaca.

Ithaca Falls
First and foremost, I want to be able to visit Buttermilk Falls State Park, Robert H. Treman State Park, Triphammer Falls, and Ithaca Falls. All four of these locations are home to breathtaking waterfalls and gorges, and they look like the perfect places to take hikes, swim, read, and have picnics.

I would also like to see Finger Lakes while I’m in Ithaca. The region, consisting of a group of 11 lakes is not only home to spectacular views, but also a very rich history. Seneca Falls, the birthplace to the Women’s Suffrage movement lies at the lakes northern end and it would bring me great pleasure to be able to get near where it all began. 
Finger Lakes

Yet another place I would consider visiting is the Wilder Brain Collection, an actual display of some of the most interesting and famous donated brains, including that of an actual murderer. In 1925, American author Helen Hamilton Gardener donated her brain to the collection to show that women’s brains weren’t in any way inferior. Who knows, seeing it firsthand might convince me to donate mine. That is, if they want it in the first place.   

Last but not least, I want to get a taste for authentic New York style pizza. I’m not exactly sure if Ithaca will be the right place for it, but of all things I’d be devastated to miss out on that experience.

The Cornell Cohort will also be visiting Chicago, which is quite the opposite of Ithaca. There’s an endless amount of things to do and places to visit there and despite having never seen it in person, I am already convinced that I will love the city.

Penguins- Shedd Aquarium
When in Chicago, you guessed it; I’d like to be able to get my hands on some deep-dish pizza and a hotdog or two. Walking through Millennium Park and taking a picture in front of cloud gate is also a must. I don’t know if we’ll be able to visit Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute of Chicago, or the Adler Planetarium, but I’d be more than grateful to get even a tiny glimpse of any of them.

 If anything, I want to experience looking out of the observation deck outside the 103 floor of Willis Tower. The wind ensemble band students at El Cerrito High School visited Chicago last year and pictures of them enjoying views extending to four states have persuaded me to want to do the same.
Views from the SkyDeck at Willis Tower
Evanston, Illinois home to Northwestern University is our other stop. Prior to my research, I did not know a lot about the city. I have however learned some things including the fact that there is an escape room at Lock Chicago, which might be a great way for us to bond as a cohort.  

Inside the Charles Gates Dawes House
It also turns out that the city is home to a great deal of historical houses including the Frances Willard House, Emil Bach house, and Charles Gates Dawes House.  The Charles Gates Dawes house in particular seems to me like an interesting place to visit, considering its original owner worked on the Dawes plan, was our 30th vice president and a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

I could list every single place that I want to go this summer, but I’m afraid that it would be too long of a blog. My insatiable desire for travel is closely related to the fact that I haven’t done as much of it as I would like to. For this reason, I am hoping that the places I go and things that I learn as an ILCer will be the start to an exciting new chapter full of adventure for me.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


4:30 am, rally day. Walk-out rally, the last one of the year. It's where the seniors run out onto the field at the end of the rally to celebrate graduating. I got up and dressed and was at school somewhere around 6:00 am to help decorate the gym with posters, streamers, and blow up balloons with the rest of the leadership class. The day went by pretty fast, rally was a success and we were done with clean up around 5. Javaria and I walked down to the Plaza and grabbed some coffee for a quick pick-me-up. Well, I got coffee and Javaria got hot chocolate. We walked to Barnes and Noble just to sit after such an eventful day, and to warm up. We talked about the excitement for the next school year as well as what the summer would hold for us, and our shared identities and the conflicts that arise because of them. Somewhere in the midst of it Robson texted us saying he was at the Plaza BART station. We walked down and were greeted by Deven who was also there early.

We were all talking about leadership events going on because Robson also had a rally, and were explaining to Deven how intense the recent elections had been for us. While waiting for our train to arrive, we were talking about different household pets we would like to have, and Robson was sharing his love for snakes as well as some of the places we would like to visit once we head back east. Then we were off to Downtown Berkeley. I was the only one who was really familiar with Berkeley, it was like a second home to me so I lead the way to House of Curries. We took the route through campus and I was playing tour guide, sharing all the fun facts I knew about the different spots. It was a walk I take a lot, but this time was with new friends which shows me how far I've come and what I have accomplished.

We got to House of Curries and grabbed menus and I wanted to sit outside on the balcony so we could take cute pictures. It was a little windy but totally worth it. Javaria and I were telling Robson and Deven what everything was and what the best stuff was. After figuring out what we all wanted, I of course got aloo palak (which is basically spinach and potatoes) and naan. Devin shared more about his high school experience as well as what it's like being a music teacher for 8th graders. I have a little brother who's currently in 8th grade so I could definitely relate.

I realized the sun was moving so I suggested we have our photo session somewhere on campus because it had a lot of greenery and aesthetically pleasing buildings. So I suggested we get going, we walked back up Telegraph and Robson and I were sharing the mutual dream we have for being able to attend Berkeley. I told about my summer programs I did there and he was sharing how his sister actually went there. I was asking him how excited he was about Junior year since mine is coming to an end and he didn't seem too ready for it.

We walked through Sather Gate and in front of the Campanile where we were taking photos on the grass. Deven was hilarious, and was on the ground trying to take our pictures as well as get some funny ones in. We were doing a bunch of different poses on the sidewalk and trying to take some 'candid' photos of us laughing and talking. We walked up the stairs where we were trying to see the bridge but it was too foggy, I was taking a bunch of pictures of everyone when they weren't looking, attempting to catch the sunset. Javaria was doing a bunch of poses which I was trying to mimic to no avail. Once she started shivering, we though it would be a good time to start walking down to BART as it was getting late and our parents would  be expecting us home soon.

The walk down was pleasant and I noticed a well lit spot underneath the entrance of BAMPFA with a plain white wall. I'm all about simplicity so I asked Deven if we could have one last round of photos since it was on our way down anyways. Bart was pretty packed and we were standing instead of sitting which was fine, everyone else was just trying to get home and I remembered SF State had a department graduation the same night as well, because I saw some people with their caps and flowers, it's crazy to think that that will soon be us.

We got to the Plaza where Javaria's dad picked her up after a while. Robson left to Barnes and Noble because he was meeting his mom there. Deven and I were trying to direct him since we go to the Plaza a lot. Deven was really nice and stayed with me until I got picked up, I was asking him a bunch of questions about his music experience as well as sharing the little amount that I had which I learned from my Physics and Math teacher. I said goodbye to Deven as I walked to Starbucks where I would meet my mom and waved to Deven as he reminded me to check my emails because we would be meeting again soon for dinner. I was glad the day was finally over, I had been up and around all day but I was glad because it was with a purpose. I'm glad our dinner in Berkeley was chill because I really got to know more of the people who will be part of this next chapter for me.


All of our food.
My meal is the one at the bottom
Friday was an exhausting day. I got up at four in the mourning and went to school. That day was rally day. I am not the biggest fan of rallies so I tired to fall asleep, but alas, rallies are super loud and obnoxious so I could not fall asleep. After school I had a dentist appointment so I ran out of school immediately.

After the dentist, which is always scary, I left to the El Cerrito Plaza BART station to meet my cohort. We meet up and went on the extremely loud BART train. Once there we just talked about the ILC, what we are going to do in Cornell and I talked about my love for reptiles. We got off the super loud train at downtown Berkeley and walked to our restaurant. We walked through the UC Berkeley campus which was beautiful. There were A LOT of trees and flowers. There were also really old looking buildings next to really futuristic looking ones. It was kind of weird because I can look at one building and feel like I am in ancient Rome or middle aged Europe then look to another building and feel like I'm in "The Jetsons". 

The Campanile
After our pretty walk we made it to our restaurant called the House of Curries. It took me forever to order because I was so hungry that I could eat anything. When I finally decided on what I was going to eat we ordered and  it was delicious. I forgot what I ordered, but I am pretty sure it had lamb in it. We further discussed what we were going to do on the trip, what places we'll visit, Javaria, Noor and I talked about the courses we were going to take. The rest of our conversation was just small talk. 

Deven taking our group photo.
After our yummy meal we went back to the campus to take a ton of photos. We basically wandered around a little and took many photos. We went to the Campanile and posed many many many times. We tried taking "candid" photos and photos were we looked off into the great beyond. I got to see much of the campus. Noor and I talked about how much we wanted to be accepted by Berkeley. Please let that happen universe. We had a fun time taking pictures and talking, but we had to go home since it was basically sundown. 

We headed home on the very loud train and made it to the BART station safely. Friday was loads of fun and I got to know my cohort members and my chaperone even more. I can't wait for all of us to go to Ithaca together! It is going to be so much fun! Watch out Cornell!

Cheesin' Mad Hard at the Campanile

I literally and figuratively woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  

The first half of my day was mostly focused on preparing for a walkout Rally taking place at El Cerrito High School. I was required to be on campus for Leadership at 6:30 AM sharp to help with decorating the gym, blowing up balloons, and managing activities and announcements. This normally wouldn’t have been as big of a deal had the mental and physical toll of trying to keep my asthma at bay and eyes from closing shut not made it very difficult for me to be present.  

Rally ended at exactly 3:45 PM, but we were officially done wrapping up around 4:00.
Deven and Robson trying to decide on what to eat.

Because both of my parents were busy with a speech and debate fundraiser over at Cal, I couldn’t get a ride home to freshen up for the meet and greet at 6:00 PM. Instead, Noor and I headed over to the El Cerrito Plaza to spend the remaining two hours.
We stopped at a Starbucks along the way to revive ourselves through caffeinated drinks. Noor ordered coffee, whereas I stuck with a good old cup of hot chocolate. I’m still at the ‘"coffee is too bitter for me" stage.

Afterwards, we went to Barnes and Noble. Stepping inside of the bookstore felt like being wrapped up in a giant warm blanket. Because both of us were exhausted and cold, we found somewhere to sit down and spent the rest of the time talking about college applications, junior year, and our hopes and expectations for the summer.

Share a Coke with Noor.

Several engaging conversations later, Noor and I received a text from Robson notifying us of his arrival at the El Cerrito Plaza BART Station. On our way there, we spotted Deven. Together we purchased Bart tickets and made our way up the escalator into the train.

Noor really does know her way around Berkeley; she singlehandedly guided us from the Downtown Berkeley BART station to House of Curries, an Indian and Pakistani restaurant located on Durant Ave. near Cal.  We arrived there in little time and made ourselves comfortable out on the patio. 

It took Deven, Noor, Robson, and I a while to figure out what to eat. We were provided with a menu packed full of delicious options. I ended up settling for the usual: palak paneer, pakoras, garlic naan, and a coke. The meal was exquisite- satisfying and full of flavor and I’m glad to have called it my last one before Ramadan started.

Deven shared details about his background and lifestyle with us throughout the dinner and we got to know him a little bit better. It turns out that as a cohort, we agree on a lot of the same views, which is a nice advantage because we will certainly be spending more time together. It was evident to me that the four of us would get  along well.

At House of Curries
During our time spent in Berkeley, Noor, Robson, Deven and I took lots of photos for our blogs. Many of these pictures were taken on our walk over to Sather Tower after we had finished eating. I was gratified to see the sun setting and nature everywhere around us but realized then, being the only one shivering, the great extent to which I am sensitive to cold weather.  Thank God we’re going to NY in the summer and not the winter.
Our cohort struck poses in front of anything that looked like it could be a nice enough background near the campanile. The area surrounding Sather Tower had picture perfect lighting and scenery. My iPhone camera certainly didn’t do it justice, but between Noor and I, we ended up capturing some really funny and special moments.  

Deven took a horrendous picture of me sporting some really awkward facial expressions. The others thought it was hilarious and had already dubbed it photo of the summer. I was not amused for obvious reasons. Here’s hoping that the photo doesn’t make it on the blogs. I was warned that it would, but I definitely don't think that the Internet is ready for that.

Soon enough it was 9:00 PM, time to head back to the El Cerrito Plaza BART Station and part ways. My dad was there to pick me up when we arrived approximately ten minutes later. The best part of my day had come to an end, but I was feeling immensely fortunate to be spending part of my summer with people I was capable of having a great time with.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Interesting Board Meeting

Today was a nerve racking, but exciting day because today was the day of the school board presentation. That day at school was like any other day and before the meeting I had to rush home and get dressed then I had to rush to King Elementary School for my mom's work then rush to Lovonya Dejean Middle School for the board meeting itself. 

Once there I meet my chaperone Deven Halcomb and meetup with my Cornell cohort. We talked about various topics and telling many stories from our lives. Then at 6:30ish it was showtime. we sat in the front row with the banners of the respective universities we will be attending. The meeting opened with a group of teachers who requested the board a raise in their salaries so they can afford to live where they teach. I personally support their cause and they made many important and well articulated points. I even saw some teachers that teach at my school. After that there were many public comments, 33 or 37 or something like that. The majority of them were about the Serra Adult School. I can't really have well formed opinion on the issue because I don't know exactly was is going. I have no clue if the school is moving or closing down or what else, but many of the adult school students and supporters made powerful statements.
The teenagers on the right are me and my fellow cohort members. To the right is our chaperone Deven Halcomb and Chicago's chaperone Tori Sciacca I believe.
After the super long public comment our presentation began. I was super nervous and was starting to wish I wrote a speech. Don introduced the ILC super quickly because we had a very short amount of time. Then Evan went up to quickly thank everyone present, the board, Don etc. Then it was my turn. I didn't have a racing heart or sweaty palms I just felt nervous. But I started speaking and I didn't stop. It all flowed naturally. But I started stuttering when Don was giving me the signal to wrap up. So I finished up and was relieved when I stopped talking.
Me speaking at the presentation. I was so nervous!

The board meeting was fun even though I was nervous. I learned a lot about what was going on in my own community. I found speaking fun and exciting. Afterwards we took group pictures. My mom and I had our picture taking then immediately left because we were starving. Ican't wait for the journe that lays ahead. Watch out Cornell!
Me and my mom after the school board meeting