Final Stretch

Day 80 of #100inPDX

You’re out for a night on the town, making new friends, laughing until it hurts, enjoying a nice buzz that you won’t regret tomorrow. You keep meeting interesting people and yelling jokes over the music. Your favorite songs play, one after the other and you don’t even need to acknowledge them as your jam; the dance floor is yours. You look at the clock: midnight. Last call isn’t for another two hours but that doesn’t matter. You’ve had your fun and can go home knowing you had a wonderful night. You’ve reached the night’s peak and should go home with the memories of the best moments, before your feet start to ache, cabs become scarce, and you angrily crave your bed. Leave on a good note.

Day 80 in Portland is my midnight.

I can’t stress how fulfilling my time in the Rose City has been. Portland is packed with beautiful nature, mouth-watering food, hoppy beer, cool hipsters, and enough activities to keep yourself busy. The summer weather is perfect (Humidity? What humidity?), everyone is visibly please with the sun, and not having a car means frequent scenic walks around the city. My job has been an unparalleled learning experience. My network is full of Portland-transplants eager to hike, run, eat, drink, and explore together.

The best way I can describe this feeling is that Portland is a great city, but it’s not my city. It’s filled with dope people, they’re just not my dope people. My people are on the east coast and this summer really highlighted how important they are to me, my sanity, and how balanced I feel on a daily basis.

So, what am I going to do for the last 20 days of #100inPDX? I’m going to grab an energy drink and plow through until last call, of course. I said it was midnight, not that I was an insane Debbie Downer.

The last few items on my to do list include:

  • Ride the Intel shuttle plane. I AM RIDING THE SHUTTLE RIGHT NOW!
  • Santa Clara and San Francisco for the weekend.
  • Conduct a Teen User-Centered Design workshop at work. This is my brain-child and personal summer project.
  • Celebrate my 27th birthday with my best friend, Makkah!
  • Road trip to Vancouver, BC
  • Visit the Portland Zoo
  • Go wine tasting at an Oregon vineyard
  • As many brunches, day parties, dinners, and happy hours as possible…

That should keep me busy for the final stretch :)

Houseless in Portland

My first encounter with the houseless of Portland was after a carb-filled dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery. I walked out with a leftover deep-fried cuban sandwich that wouldn’t taste good the next day and would end up in my trashcan. But I hate leaving behind good food, so I asked for it to be boxed. Divert the inevitable for at least another day.

On my walk to the bus, I passed a houseless man on the corner. I recognized him along this route and if he’s not sleeping, he is pleasant. Those are his two modes: asleep or cheerfully bellowing well wishes. He said “Have a good evening!” and I instinctively asked “Do you want this sandwich?” Thanked me repeatedly as I walked away. I glanced back to see him open the sandwich and take the first bite. It felt good.

My second encounter was very similar. I purchased a massive breakfast sandwich on my way to work and knew I wasn’t going to finish both halves. I wouldn’t dare throw it away, so I calculated when I would have time to eat it. I had lunch and dinner plans, I doubted the egg would be good the next day, and I was too full to reasonably finish it then. Coming to terms with throwing it away, I walked by the same cheerful, sleepy man. This day he had friends and they greeted me with a chorus of hello. “Do you want this spicy egg sandwich?” I offered. “Thank you! We will share it.” he answered, followed by a chorus of thank you’s and well wishes. I looked back to see him open the sandwich and offer it to his friends first. It felt good.

Today was hot. I spent the day moseying around coffee shops, shopping at second hand stores, and running the overrated adult errands. A few blocks from my house, I prayed the blocks would get shorter; my book bag was heavy, the large package of toilet paper was sticky in the heat, and I purchased too much fruit from the farmer’s market. It was a pretty miserable walk and finally walking beneath a tree, in front of a 7-11 convenience store, I smiled at how relieving the shade felt. I would’ve loved a slurpee, even though I didn’t have enough hands to carry it.

Sharing the perfectly cool, shaded area was a houseless man. “Hey! How are you doing?” he offered enthusiastically. I commented on his optimal sitting position and admitted that I didn’t have any change. He waved off the money-talk and insisted I “stay cool”. This is an opportunity to do good, I thought. I bought a bag of Doritos, an apple, a super gulp slurpee, and a slice of pizza from 7-11 and handed it to the man outside. “Aw, you didn’t have to do that, that was really nice. I appreciate it.” he said and accepted the food with a wide grin. Further down the block, I stopped and watched him assess the contents of the bag, nod and smile. It felt good.

Sometimes, I feel small because my goals for change are lofty and will take years to accomplish.

I like this feeling because it’s a reminder that I can make immediate change and have impact. Sometimes, I feel small because my goals for change are lofty and will take years to accomplish. Shaping an industry, influencing the next generation, and contributing to the development of technology I’m passionate about take time. It’s nice to know that along the way I can do little things to change someone’s day.

#Wellesley2010

Wellesley 2010 5-year Reunion

Day 30 to 32 of #100inPDX

A tent in the middle of the Academic Quad. In a past life, I trekked through the grounds headed for hundred-year-old buildings to sit in classes that would stretch my mind. I saw the quad covered in crisp orange leaves, fresh feet of snow, spring flowers, and summer grass. Once upon a time, I sat in that very quad with a black robe and purple accents, celebrating an accomplishment four years in the making, with 600 other women who will. Now, I stood in a tent in the middle of the Academic Quad with dozens of Wellesley alumnae dancing to guilty pleasure music and running into familiar faces.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun played. Cyndi Lauper whispered the lyrics over a belting tent-choir. This was a space of love, acceptance, sweat, and bad singing; where being yourself was encouraged. We were who we were and during Girls Just Want to Have Fun was no time to apologize for our shortcomings. I turned and ran into another 2010er, we hugged. A genuine hug that said ‘It’s SO good to see you! How ARE you?’ The hug could’ve been superficial and I wouldn’t have been upset; that’s what reunions were supposed to be, right? Fake interest in people you haven’t thought about in years. That’s not what this was though and when I realized, I lost it. I cried.

At that moment, in a tent in the middle of the Academic Quad, surrounded by my Wellesley sisters, I realized that moments like these were far too rare in the world. Earlier that day, I sat in the Zeta Alpha society house, an old stomping ground, and navigated a conversation about the importance of meaningful friendships, the politics of gender, and campus updates in the last five years. The ZA house wasn’t mine (insert purple + gold hearts for TZE!) in college, just like Wellesley is no longer mine now.

But this conversation – the ability to dive deep into gender politics and come up for air to laugh about old memories – was all mine. I feel “so Wellesley” when I debate the nuances of my passion-topics and feel my brain stretching. I feel “so Wellesley” when I am less concerned with the way I will be perceived and more concerned with asserting my opinions. In all honesty, I feel “so Wellesley” all the time because it extends far beyond a geographic location or place in time. That is the Wellesley I love.

I’ve always felt at home at Wellesley, seeing myself reflected in the space. There’s something about returning to a place so frequently associated with unimaginable amounts of stress, competition, and type-A-ness, because it frames the way people share their stories. We graduated five years ago and by now certainly expected to be financially secure business leaders, but in reality, we’re in our mid-20s, struggling to claim our destiny, true desires, and fullest potential – life is a rollercoaster ride right now. I want everyone to know that there is a place for their narrative at Wellesley. There is a space for “I quit my toxic job and am working on what’s next”, “I’m behind on my PhD journey” and “I’m just living life”. I carefully asked “Where are you living right now?” Mostly because everyone is scattered, but also because that’s a question not loaded with implications.

Anxiously anticipating things you’re not ready for: the mid-to-late 20s plight. There’s something beautiful about hearing your classmates’ accomplishments, journeys, and realizations and listening to their journey. To fully understand their journey without comparison, judgment, or speculation. My classmates are pursuing or finishing advanced degrees, law school, business school, and med school. They’re single, dating, engaged, and married. They live a dream life abroad, a rent-free life at home, or a grownup mortgage life in a quiet picket-fence neighborhood. I don’t see my path reflected in every story, but I see similarities in the foundation. We are all driven, brilliant, considerate women that carefully consider our place in and impact on the world. We also love impromptu dance parties. That’s all the comparisons I want to do, because that’s all there is to do.

Returning five years later is Twilight Zone meets Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I spent the better part of the weekend grasping for the words to describe the way I felt and feel about Wellesley College. I may not have all of those words now, but I do know that Wellesley changed the trajectory of my life and made me a woman of which I am proud. #Wellesley2010

GORGEous

Gorges

Day 24 of #100inPDX

I went to the Columbia River Gorges for a sunny day of hiking. A gorge is a narrow valley between hills or mountains which is also code for numerous hiking trails and beautiful scenery. The Columbia River separates Washington State to the North and Oregon to the South and is perfectly situated between the two major mountains. You get beautiful glimpses of Mount St. Helen (in Washington state) and Mount Hood (in Oregon).

Aside from remembering the geographic location of the mountains (I have yet to master this), I find it easier to identify these active volcanoes by sight. Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 killing dozens, clearing acres of land, and causing the overall devastation one would associate with a volcano eruption. As a result, Mount St. Helens has a flat top with no peak.
Mount St. Helens

Mount Hood, on the other hand, hasn’t erupted since the 1860s and has a pointed peak.
Mount Hood

We drove up to Crown Point Vista House for this panoramic view of the gorge. That’s Washington state on the left, across the river.
Columbia River Gorge

This really is a story best told through photos, because there are only so many times you can say “amazing”, “gorgeous”, and “stunning” before the words lose their meaning. I spent most of the hike in awe of nature and it’s amazing, gorgeous, stunning beauty so it’s only right that this blog post follows the same trend!

The Evergreen State

seattle

Day 16 to 19 of #100inPDX

I took a weekend-break from life in Portland to visit Seattle, Washington for Memorial Day.

TRAIN RIDE
Train is my favorite mode of travel. It’s less stressful, reliable, with significantly less hustle-and-bustle. Recent events aside (cough crashes cough), I love taking the train. So, when I heard that the ~3 hour train ride from Portland to Seattle was breathtaking, I knew exactly how I was going to get there.

The train route follows the water line, which is generally less developed than traveling through land. The result: traveling through thick stretches of forest with stunning glimpses of the water every so often. If you have the opportunity to make the trip north from Portland, DO IT! Get an East-facing window seat, put on slow jams, and ride out.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
I arrived at the King Street Station around 6:30pm – enough time to see a bit of the city before sunset. I walked the mile from the train station to my hostel and saw a cluster of shops, bars, and restaurants. When I arrived at my hostel, took one look around, I opened the computer and wrote Seattle is a dreary, hilly city, and I am not impressed. SPOILER: This isn’t my final opinion of the city. Let’s unpack this impression a bit, shall we?

HOSTEL. First things first, I decided to take the cost effective route and stay in a hostel. Hotels were outrageously expensive (read: Memorial Day weekend) and my usual go-to (read: AirBnB), offered no financial relief. This was my first hostel experience since studying abroad in Brazil seven years ago. It’s not a problem, I thought, I should be out seeing the city, not crammed in a hotel room! What does it matter if it’s a hostel? Common sense failed me here.

I could go into great detail, but the bottom line is that I’m past my hostel prime. The minor inconveniences (e.g., shared restrooms, high foot traffic, etc) that are exciting when traveling internationally lost their allure. I spent most of my time in the hostel annoyed and I take responsibility for that. Saturday morning, I packed my bags, checked out of the hostel, and moved to my friend’s couch. I’m not past my couch prime.

DREARY. In all honesty, Portland and Seattle have similar weather: overcast, chilly, constant threat of rain. Seattle weather, however, gets called dreary because I didn’t fall in love with the city the way I did Portland. I never said life was fair.

HILLS. Seattle is a surprisingly hilly city, making walks and bike rides a game to find the path of lease resistance. On a city tour, we learned Seattle’s First Fathers arrived to find a large sea-level beach area and an elevated section with thick timber forests. They built the first city at sea-level (that failed for pretty obvious reasons) while they harvested and exported the timber. As they reinforced the sea-level land, they took earth from higher up and brought it down, creating a hilly situation. This is my interpretation of the situation, but I’m sure Graham of Bill Speidel’s Underground Tours would have a much better answer.

ACTIVITIES
First impressions aside, I enjoyed Seattle for one major reason: the people. I met a friend at a conference that’s studying (MS-HCI) at the University of Washington in Seattle, and spending the summer in Portland. We vaguely agreed that I would visit Seattle at some point this summer and settled on Memorial Day weekend. She was a wonderful host, showed me a good time, and I am certain that without her I would have cut my time in Seattle short.

Monet at the Space Needle

NIGHTLIFE. Disclaimer: I haven’t been to a nightclub in years. We went to Corbu and Tia Lou’s on Saturday for what ended up as a really fun night. Then I remembered that lots of things are fun when you don’t have to pay a cover and end up in someone’s VIP section drinking their champagne. And that’s about all we need to say about that.

TOURISM. Pike Place Market is a fascinating and overwhelming farmer’s market in the center of the city. It’s a curious mix of locals buying groceries, tourists poking around slowly, and children running off ice-cream-induced sugar highs.

Space NeedleSeattle is a charming city from 520-feet above ground – thanks, Space Needle! We had lunch in the Space Needle’s revolving cafe and went to the observation deck for views. Pro Tip: This is the best deal! If you eat at the restaurant and spend at least $25 (a very easy thing), you get free access to the observation deck (normally $26).

There’s also a great view of the city from Kerry Park, a residential area with jaw-dropping views and homes with the price tag to match. It was a cloudy afternoon when I went, but we were able to see everything within the city limits. I’m sure you’d see more of the mountains on a clear day.

Before my train back to Portland, we went on an Underground Walking Tour of Pioneer Square. As I mentioned earlier, Seattle started at sea-level and for the first few decades, the city worked to raise the city ground. I wouldn’t do the full story any justice, but here are some of my favorite facts:

Seattle was built and rebuilt a few times due to things like fires, icky sewage complications, and waves of new people. Each time they rebuilt the city, they made the same mistakes. Fascinating how blatant these mistakes are today, but then again hindsight is always 20/20. After the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, that wiped out the entire business district, Seattle rebuild the area (now known as Pioneer Square) 22-feet above the original ground level. That area functioned as the first indoor mall for a while before being condemned. Now it’s an awesome walking tour.

Seattle’s Founding Fathers were all about making money. The Yukon gold rush attracted a lot of attention and Seattle was conveniently located on the route. The city made insane profits selling materials to gold seekers (on their way North) and appraising gold (on their way South). This really put Seattle on the map.

After a while, the city wanted infrastructural things (a police force, water system, etc.) which meant they needed to put some taxes into place. They did a census to see what professions the city’s 25,000 citizens held and found that 1) Seattle was a male-dominated city with 10 men to every 1 woman and 2) there were about 2,000 unmarried women working at “seamstresses” (this, friends, is a code-word). The top seamstress establishment, run by Madame Lou Graham, only served high-end clientele (e.g., politicians, businessmen) and required that all lady-workers could read and write, played an instrument, knew current events, and spoke at least one foreign language. Her business changed the face of Seattle, as many of the women only worked there for a few months before marrying wealthy men. Upon Madame Lou’s death, she had no known heirs but mandated that her entire fortune (the equivalent of $7.1M today) go to public schools. To this day there isn’t a school named after her for political reasons. Shame.

There’s so much more to Seattle’s history, but I’m feeling a cross of I’m-not-doing-this-justice and you-have-to-be-there. So let’s just say that Seattle history is interesting and if you let the guys from Underground Tours tell you, its also hilarious.

All-in-all: fun, worth-it trip. Next up: Vancouver, BC and Mount Rainier (fingers crossed)!