Tuesday, July 29, 2008


So I went to Philadelphia this weekend. That involved a lot of organizing, and up to the day before I was still not sure it was going to happen. There was the VRE train, the Metro, the Greyhound, and a ride from a friend that all needed to be arranged. Not to mention lodgings with someone I've never met ... a fellow intern of John's. She ended up being quite nice, luckily!

The trip was kind of a whirlwind, because I didn't have a lot of time to be up there before I had to come back, but I did get some pictures.

My first clear sight of Philly from the bus.

City Hall. I'm not positive, but I think it's Penn on the top.

Me in front of City Hall, sitting on a giant checkers piece. The hat is from John--it has the name of his paper on it.

View from Kate's place -- a highrise dorm at U Penn. You can see this big cemetery in the foreground, and the Schuylkill River in the background. (John tells me it is pronounced Skookle. Who knew. The internet tells me it is Dutch for "hidden river.")

City lights at night. I took tons of pictures of them, on every setting my camera had, and it was quite interesting to see how differently they turned out.

It was a good trip, but there was a lot I didn't get a chance to do. Getting together with Dr. T., for instance--there just wasn't time. I also didn't see the Liberty Bell. So I'll have to go again sometime. Till then, I'll be content with the interesting parts of the city I did see.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Moved in

Okay, so I'm here finally. I've actually been here for a few days, but blogging seemed low on the priority list after getting groceries, cooking food, overcoming jetlag (not much is open at 4 a.m., unfortunately) and finding something to sit on. That last is an ongoing process, but I have high hopes. Right now my dresser and my couch are both the same thing, a suitcase filled with (neatly folded) clothes. My weight keeps them well ironed -- sort of -- as I sit on them.

I like my little town. I like it a lot. I could live here forever ... if everyone I loved lived here too. I wish you all did. I have a church just kitty-corner from me. Sean tells me it used to be a Catholic church, but the parish outgrew the building and is now about a mile away. That's a real shame--I would love to be able to walk across the street and go make a visit.

I also have the railroad track passing right by. This might sound like a bad thing, but I actually really like trains. I haven't quite gotten past the stage of running to the window sometimes when I hear the train whistles, and watching the little gate go down and the train come roaring and rattling down the track. Luckily they don't blow their whistles at night. So far a train has only woken me up once. Last night I unconsciously took the bells at the crossing for my alarm clock.

I like cooking for myself, though it is time-consuming. I didn't want to just live on Hamburger Helper or something--I wanted real, if inexpensive, food. That's led me to create some weird dishes out of my few ingredients. It also makes me quite eager to walk out to the grocery store again and get myself some salt and maybe some other seasonings.

And I'm liking the tutoring: such sweet kids.

Okay, they're closing the coffee shop. So long and I hope to post you some pictures soon.

Seen in a coffee shop...

"Notice: Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Leaving home ....

It's strange. A week ago, I was very melancholy, thinking how sad it will be to leave my home. Today, I'm excited. I think about arriving in my new apartment and I'm just thrilled. I guess I just needed time to mourn what I'm leaving before I could look forward to the future.

Life will be pretty different out there. I'll be responsible for so many things, from paying my own water bill to teaching kids Latin. Dealing with my students' parents may be a challenge. I know summer tutoring is sure to be difficult--trying to rehash the whole year's work in four weeks. I'll be reliant on walking and buses to get everywhere--maybe I'll get more in shape.

I really look forward to having my own place. Sure, I'll be sharing it with my wonderful roommate, but it'll be more mine than anywhere else I've lived. We'll decorate it how we like, make our own food, potter around and keep it clean. Yes, I even look forward to cleaning it!

I also have a lot of friends out there. Who knows how often I'll get to see them, but I'm sure at least every once in awhile I'll be able to have them over for dinner or something. And I will be closer to John out there, though still three hours away. Hopefully I'll get to see him from time to time.

I have all kinds of resolutions to start when I get out there. I'm going to go to bed and get up earlier--much easier when I don't have to wait for everyone to go to bed for the house to get quiet. I'm going to get more exercise--in fact, this one I won't be able to help, as I'll have to walk just to get to the grocery store. I'm not going to eat so much junk food--again, easy, as I can't afford to waste money on stuff that's not good for me.

All I can do is pack up the rest of my stuff and ask for your prayers. I'm taking flight, and I hope I soar.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Can Get Anywhere Without a Car

The above statement has been my motto, as I plan to singlehandedly solve the gas crisis and save a bundle on car insurance all at once. This coming year, I don't intend to own a car. I'm moving out and I will live in an apartment close to my work. Everything I really need is nearby. And there is public transportation out there, of a fashion.

But my confidence was a little bit shaken this past Friday when I came home from Wenatchee, across the mountains, by bus. The plan was to take a bus--which I had originally thought was a train, because it was on the Amtrak website--to Seattle, and then another bus half an hour after we arrived that would get me to Maple Valley. I must point out that there are only two buses from Seattle to Maple Valley: at five-ten and five-thirty. Since the bus was scheduled to come in at 4:30, I didn't have any worries.

I left my grandparents' cabin at 10:30, and got to the bus station before noon. The bus left at 12:50--only twenty minutes late. The bus was completely full, and there was no air-conditioning. The people around me were all complaining about how late the bus was and how hot it was. But I didn't see any reason to gripe: it was about what I expected out of a bus like that (not a Greyhound bus, but a similar company).

Across the aisle from me was a couple who had just hitchhiked from Acapulco. They were from Vancouver and had decided it was time to go home. Unfortunately, the part of their trip that was supposed to be easy and predictable had been full of snags. The bus they had been supposed to take the previous night (and had had tickets for) had been full, so they had slept in the bus station and finally gotten on this bus that morning. Out of food and money, they were starving and ended up being fed carrots and Cheetos by other people on the bus.

But I didn't worry too much. The bus wasn't that late, and I figured it would pick up time as we went. After all, it takes 2 1/2 hours to cross the mountains, and the trip was scheduled to take 4. Of course, I didn't account for the fact that half the trip across the mountains is uphill. It was an old bus, and it slowed to almost walking pace climbing those hills. We reached Everett too late to get my hitchhiking friends on their connection. It was probably Saturday before they ever got to Vancouver.

The drive from Everett to Seattle was the worst. Starting out, we were only a half-hour behind. The bus driver grumbled, "Why is there so much traffic?" It was obvious to me: it was four o'clock on 405. Enough said. There is always rush-hour traffic on that road, and on Fridays rush hour starts at noon.

More people were let off at a "Greyhound Station" I hadn't known existed--I had made my plans from the Amtrak station, so I didn't dare get off there. I probably should have, though: the Amtrak station was some distance away, and the traffic was barely moving. At this point I moved up to the front and chatted with the driver--there were only about five people left on the bus. The driver couldn't understand why there was always so much traffic in Seattle. It seemed he was used to it, and accustomed to the fact that he was always an hour late.

While I was at the Greyhound station, my dad called from the bus I was supposed to catch. "The bus is leaving now," he said. "Are you going to make it?" I did not make it. But there was still the 5:30 bus.

We arrived at the Amtrak at 5:20. I had ten minutes. My instructions were to go a short distance north to find the bus stop. But I didn't count on the fact that the road above was about a story higher than the level of the parking lot. "It's easy," said the bus driver. "Go into the train station and take the stairs."

It is not a very big train station, so I was surprised the stairs weren't readily obvious. I finally found them behind a set of glass doors bearing the sign "Stairs Closed." Dragging my rolling suitcase and lugging my heavy laptop case, I hurried out of the building, out on the lower street, and took the steep hill up to the higher street. (Seattle, for those who don't know, is not on a level. At all.)

I came panting up to the road and discovered it was 3rd. The intersection I needed was 3rd and King. I didn't see the name of the cross street, but I saw a bus stop. I paused to look at it, but there was no sign of my bus, the 143. "Maybe it's a block further," I thought, when I saw the 143 heading exactly my way. I stood expectantly, waiting for it to stop--and it breezed right by in a hot gust of exhaust.

While I was on the phone with my dad again, near tears, I glanced up and saw the road sign: 3rd and Jackson. "The 143 stops one block down," the commuters standing around commented helpfully. But the next time it would stop there was tomorrow morning--or maybe even Monday.

My dad said I should take the 101 to Renton, and he would pick me up from there. "I think you have to take that from the bus tunnel," he said.

"Where's the bus tunnel?" I asked.

"You want the International District station," he said. "Either that or the Pioneer Square station."

Idiotically, I answered, "Okay," and hung up. In my defense, I had just seen a sign labelled "International District" and thought it might have something for me. It didn't. I trudged on a little further to the next bus stop. The sun was boiling hot, and my laptop case strap cut into my shoulder as my rolling suitcase bounced on the in the sidewalk.

I found a 101 stop. With a symbol next to it, attached to a note that said "From five to seven, stops in the bus tunnel." But where was that pesky tunnel? I only knew one entrance to it, in a different part of the city, but what I did know is that they are not always marked. Again I turned to a nice-looking commuter. "Excuse me, sir." He eyed me uneasily. Maybe he thought I was trying to ask him for money.

He was relieved when I only asked for directions, and pointed me north. He was pretty sure it was that way. I went a block or so when I ran into a cop, and thought I could get further directions from him. He, however, pointed me in the opposite direction. I trudged back the way I had come, passed the nice direction-giving commuter, and took the turn (uphill) the cop had suggested.

No sign of a bus tunnel. I walked further and further, block after block, uphill and down again, passing creepy guys in doorways and pouring out sweat. I passed a beautiful park, and saw signs for Pioneer Square. I had come up a whole stop from where I had started. Finally, at my wits' end, I decided to stop somewhere, get inside for a minute to rest, maybe get some directions. A Starbucks looked promising--but it was closed. Finally, I ducked into a flower shop. The middle-aged proprietors told me there was a tunnel entrance on the side of their own building. I was afraid of walking right by it again, so the gentleman walked right outside with me, pointing out the pink railing on the side of the building. There were stairs there, and I walked down thankfully.

After some observation of signs, I discovered a number of things. First, I had walked by at least three entrances to the bus tunnel, one of which was actually inside the Amtrak station. That would have been useful to know. Second, I found my bus, and which way it would go. Thirdly, and most comforting of all, I discovered that the fare was actually equal to the amount of money in my wallet. I had been worrying all afternoon that I was a quarter shy.

The bus was crammed to the gills, the aisles full of standing people. But at the sight of my suitcase and my weary face, a man gave me his seat. After a long ride, I finally saw my dad at the Renton Transit Center, and he drove me the rest of the way home. It was about 7:30. The whole usually two-and-a-half hour trip had taken eight hours in total.

However, I am undaunted. That, and I still can't afford a car. So I will remain a public transportation user, but keeping this in mind. You can only get anywhere without it a car if you:

1. Don't care how long it takes. It has to not matter how late you are. And you have to be sure enough of this that you don't get stressed out when you're late.

2. You have to keep enough change to pay for all the transfers.

3. Keep smiling. Every time you're delayed, think of how much money you're saving, and how maybe if you try hard enough, gas prices will go down. (*snort*) Hey, you never know.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy to be here

This week, I'm at my grandparents' house in Eastern Washington. It's absolutely beautiful here ... I have always loved the desert hills. I'll be very sad to leave here and go back to the East Coast, where the beauties are tamer.
Last bits of sunlight touch the hills on the Fourth of July.

At the airport, looking at the ridge.

My grandpa took me soaring--flying on an unpowered glider--and it was lovely. The view was terrific, but we didn't get a lot of lift and so didn't go very far.

The Columbia River and Rocky Reach Dam. It's hard to get an untilted picture in a tilted plane. Even my unsuccessful efforts made me a little queasy.

We weren't the only ones soaring today. Two other gliders were trying the same air we were, and having about the same success. Apparently the haze was blocking some of the sun's heat, so thermals weren't forming the way we needed them to.

We may go to the lake later in the week, and if we do, I'll try to get some good pictures from that too. I'm just drinking in all the beauty, so it can tide me over when I'm living in the city in a flat area. There's a part of my soul that lives off mountains and wildness, and it certainly will miss this place.