Tuesday, June 18, 2013

And the Journey Begins

My day started at the unearthly hour of 2:30 AM. At first, I awoke groggy and bleary-eyed, but once I remembered what my morning was soon to entail, previous lethargy soon gave way to never ending enthusiasm and excitement. When my mother and I arrived at El Cerrito High School at 3:15 AM, we were met with the sight of a rather large group of people. This was because the Ivy League Connection had decided to send of two of its cohorts on the same day, with the two departing parties consisting of both Columbia cohort and Cornell cohort.

I was shocked to learn that my suitcase was the second lightest of either cohorts, weighing in at a measly 24.6 pounds. For a moment, I was worried that I had under packed and I inwardly considered returning home to pack more clothing. However, after a bit of deliberation, I was reassured myself that I was more than ready for the upcoming weeks.

4:30 AM marked the arrival of our airport shuttle. In order to accommodate this year’s abnormally large numbers of kids, the Ivy League Connection had rented a bus to transport us to the airport. After loading the bus with people and possessions, we gave our final goodbyes to our parents and loved ones.  

After arriving at the airport, Mr. Chan-Law instructed us to check in our bags and obtain boarding passes. Once everything was settled, we promptly made our way through security and towards our designated gate. On the way to our gate, Mr. Chan-Law had bought us breakfast. I had chosen a simple meal, a turkey sandwich coupled with a bottle of orange Fanta.

It wasn’t until 6:45 AM that we finally boarded our plane and began our three hour journey to Chicago, Illinois. During the plane trip, I busied myself by rereading the last portion of Isadore Sharp’s Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy. In an effort to improve my social skills, I also made light conversation with those around me, with the subject matter mainly consisting of our respective travel plans.
We landed not long after 12:00 PM, and after gathering our luggage, we quickly made our way to our hotel. On the way there, we were able to get a few sneak previews of some of the city’s most popular sites and attractions, including the Chicago’s stunning Navy Pier.  

After about forty minutes of travel, we finally arrived at our hotel, The Drake. The Drake is a gorgeous hotel whose luxurious décor and charming aesthetics reminded me of those described in Sharp’s book. However, despite the hotel’s beautiful ornamentation there was a one major mishap; the hotel had failed to prepare all of our rooms in time, resulting in Rochelle, Tamilyn, and I having to room with the other girls until our own lodgings were finalized. This arrangement lasted over an hour, wherein the other girls and I passed the time by drafting our blogs.

Once our housing situation had been resolved and everyone was settled, we gathered in the hotel lobby at 4:35 PM for lunch and sightseeing. For lunch, we went to foodlife, located within Chicago’s famous shopping center, the Water Tower Place. Foodlife is a restaurant that takes a new, innovative spin on dining; it is a buffet-like restaurant compromising a several different food stations, with each station each specializing in a certain cuisine. The customer is free to wander around the restaurant, choosing various foods, and purchasing them using a special card. When one if finished eating, the customer is to present their card to the cashier, who then uses the card to calculate the total cost of all their meal. When I entered the restaurant I found myself amazed by the wide variety of foods being offered and as well as slightly overwhelmed by all the choices. Ultimately, I settled on yet another simple meal—a slice of cheese pizza with a chocolate chip cookie as dessert.

With lunch over, we set out on a tour of Chicago’s Park District. Each park was a breathtaking sight, each incorporating a unique style of landscaping and architecture.  The parks we visited included Millennium Park and Grant Park. Once we had concluded our sightseeing, we returned to the hotel and receded back into our respective rooms.

Overall, today was a tiring yet enthralling day. I’m sure that the weeks following today will only prove to be more frantic, with our schedules already becoming more and more hectic by the day. I intend to make the most out of each moment, so that I may better both myself and my peers with the knowledge I am sure to gain from these experiences. 

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