As I sit down to compose this post, I've been awake for eighteen hours. That doesn't usually feel like a lot, but since today was departure day I had a 2:50 am call to El Cerrito High School, two flights, and an evening of sightseeing in St. Louis largely on foot. That sort of day can have an impact on a person.
I arrived at ECHS about 2:49 in the morning and spent the next hour receiving luggage tags, having my suitcase weighed, getting a revised itinerary and reading packet, taking cohort photos, and generally being checked over for travel readiness. In the midst of all this activity I also took several pictures with my parents and three siblings, who came out this morning and stood in the cold for an hour to see me off. I look forward to doing the same for them in the coming years.
Once the shuttle bus came, we loaded our luggage into the bottom, hugged our families goodbye, and were off. At four in the morning there is little traffic, and so the trip to SFO was short. Although we shared the bus with the Colombia cohort, we stayed separate in order to focus on discussing the details of our itinerary.
Once at SFO, we checked our suitcases and went through security. Every one of our group but Mr. Chan-Law and Katelyn were ushered through security in a side room quickly. All we had to do was put our bags on the rolling belt and walk through the sensor. We were grateful that we didn't have to remove our electronics from our bags or take our shoes off, but mostly we just couldn't understand why we, rather than others, had been chosen for the fast lane.
Once Katelyn and Mr. Chan-Law were done with regular security, we went to wait for an airport restaurant to open for the day so that we could get breakfast. By the time it was ready for business and we had ordered, Mr. Chan-Law was beginning to sound slightly apprehensive about making the boarding time. However, our order number was called in due course, and we made it onto the plane on time. I learned today that it's easier to have a carry-on with wheels when you're also juggling a backpack and a weak cardboard takeout box with a cheese omelette, toast, and potatoes inside. My duffel bag was a bit cumbersome.
Inside the plane, we had difficulty finding space for all our carry-ons, and had to store Jun's way in the back. However, long before takeoff we were seated and eating our breakfast calmly. I had an aisle seat, with Mr. Chan-Law on my right and Kevin to his right with the window seat.
The flight itself was uneventful. We arrived in Phoenix early, found a bathroom with a short line, and went immediately to board for the flight to St. Louis. There was a large group of other teenagers there in a band of some kind, and most people seemed to take us for part of them. For this flight I had the window seat and Kevin the aisle. In between us was an unknown woman who slept most of the flight. I, too, tried to sleep, and succeeded twice for a few minutes. However, I also caught some nice scenes out the window.
Once in St. Louis, we had quite a wait for our luggage. Once we had the luggage, we waited a while for the shuttle bus which was to take us to our hotel. When the driver finally arrived and we went outside, we were immediately overwhelmed by the heat. Once inside the shuttle and driving towards the hotel, I found it difficult to take my first glimpse of the city because the large TV at the front of the bus was placing videos of old Michael Jackson performances.
We arrived at the hotel withing a few minutes - it's located on the campus of Washington University and is very posh. Thanks to the fact that each room has only one bed, each cohort member got his or her own room. This, plus access to the hotel gym and a pantry/snack room, was an unexpected luxury.
|Most of my lovely room|
After Mr. Chan-Law settled the checking-in issues, he gave us forty-five minutes to freshen up for sightseeing. I changed into shorts, put on sunscreen and a hat, and met everyone in the lobby and the appointed time.
We walked to a metro station and took a train which was like a cross between an AC Transit bus and a BART car a few stops, where we alighted and began walking. We saw, and took pictures with, the breathtaking Gateway Arch, and strolled through the Westward Expansion Museum there. After walking many more blocks we found the stadium of the St. Louis Cardinals, which was awash in red for a game day.
The streets around the stadium are filled with Cardinals-oriented restaurants and bars. We had dinner at one such establishment, which was just across the street from the stadium. Almost every patron except for us was wearing a red Cardinals shirt, the walls were covered with Cardinals artifacts, and the bathroom had baseball tiling, red paint, and bats between the mirrors. However, until about two-thirds of the way through our meal, the large TVs played the US's world cup game against Ghana. When the US scored, the diners erupted into a chant of "USA! USA!" When our country won the match, the show switched to covering the Cardinals game. The restaurant was swamped, and the service was a bit slow. We therefore waited quite a while for our shared dessert of a hot brownie and vanilla ice cream, but it was worth it.
|In this photo you may note a perceptible red theme.|
|My mac n' cheese was delicious, but so rich that I couldn't finish it.|
After dinner we walked to a different metro station and came back to the hotel quite footsore. Although I can't remember ever being so exhausted, today was one of the best times of my life and has marked the beginning of what is sure to be quite an adventure. Before he set us comparatively free for the night, Mr. Chan-Law told us to be sure to blog and sleep. Having accomplished the first, I will now move onto the latter.