That's not all, though; after blogging and going to sleep at 5, I slept only one hour and woke up at 5:45 AM to go out to the gazebo and meet some of the friends that I've made the past three weeks. We were all delirious with lack of sleep, talking running around playing soccer at 6:30 AM, but the reasoning behind getting up at this ungodly hour is perfectly sound, in my opinion. From 6 AM, we have about 3-6 hours (people's planes left at different times) left to spend on Columbia's campus, and, this being the last time (for a while) that you will see many of these people, why would you spend those hours sleeping? Ideas about getting up early don't sound as nice in the morning, though. My roommate was actually the one who annoyed me enough into getting up; my initial reaction was to pull the covers over my head and tell him to gout by himself, but he annoyed me enough into being too awake to go back to sleep, and by then, the idea sounded much nicer. So there were about 8-10 of us, some heading to Spain, some to Utah, and some just across the Hudson River, and we all stumbled out under the gray morning sky into the quad and just sat talking, laughing, and running around. The experience had a sad truth behind it, the fact that we would be seeing each other again for a very long time, but we were all happy and soaking up as much fun as we could get out of our final hours together. I would spend the rest of the day with about as much energy as a sloth, (according to Jose, one of the kids out there with me, a sloth spends 22 hours of the day sleeping, 1 hour eating, and 1 hour looking for a place to sleep) but getting up at 6 AM was well worth it.
At about 7:45 AM, I left these friends and went back up to my room to pack. I had not started, of course. I began organizing everything I had in the room, and once everything was organized and on my bed, I began the tedious and complicated process of stuffing double-the-size-of-my-suitcase worth of stuff into my suitcase. At about 9:45, I was done. I went down the hallway, upstairs, and all around saying my goodbyes, which were very tough. Finally, I said goodbye to my room/suite mates, who turned out to be some of the coolest people I have ever met, and who I'm sure I will stay very close with even as the years pass and the long distance keeps us apart.
Later, after meeting with the cohort and leaving our bags at the hotel, we went to Central Park for a nice walk and brunch by one of Central Park's many beautiful lakes. Central Park, as usual, was gorgeous, and the spot at which we chose to sit down and have brunch was simply amazing. The restaurant jutted out onto the lake, and sitting down to have brunch there was a very scenic way to end our trip. After brunch, we slowly walked back to the hotel. We stopped once at a fountain, where I would fall asleep sitting down with my elbows on my knees and my face in my hands, and once in a shady area near Strawberry Fields, where I fell asleep on the park bench as we rested. Apparently I looked funny enough that the guy selling water nearby took a picture of me as I slept. I was out cold; I had turned into a sloth for the day and no longer had much energy for anything.
After returning to the hotel for a little while, we all got into the van that would take us to the airport. I slept (again) on the ride to the airport, although this time I can say that the six of us all slept. The rest was kind of a blur, not because airport life moves so quickly (on the contrary) but because I was so tired and because airport activities can kind of put make your mind shut down. We boarded the flight, and after takeoff, I decided that I would go to sleep as soon as I was allowed to get my sweatshirt out of the overhead bin (maybe 10 minutes into the flight). Instead, I was unable to make it even 10 minutes without falling asleep, and I woke up about 20 minutes later with drool on my shirt. If I am not careful about how I sleep, I always end up drooling on myself. Always. Of course, on planes, I am careful to make sure I don't do this, but this time I hadn't expected to fall asleep.
After putting on my sweatshirt, I fell asleep again, only to be woken by Adrianne telling me that drinks were coming around. Basically, I drank my water and ate my chips for a few minutes and then went back to sleep. I woke up once for some strange reason, but aside from that, I slept undisturbed for a good 4 and a half to 5 hours. It was an exhausted sleep, and I did not dream. When I woke up, we were about 20 minutes outside of San Francisco.
My mom was jumping and down, my sister waving a poster she had made, and everyone showing a general sense of excitement, but the feeling that washed over me at that point was relief. It's not that I needed to be saved from anything; these have been some of the the greatest three weeks of my life, but I really really missed my family and my home here in the Bay Area. I know that I love New York City, and I love Washington DC, and I love the East Coast in general, but the Bay Area is my home, and always will be. Even if it greets me with some 60-degree summer weather and a blanket of fog.
Anyway, I hugged my family, smiled and laughed with everyone, and after taking some photos, said my goodbyes to everyone. I talked with my family the entire ride home, and we went out to dinner, and now here I am, sitting in my room tucked into my nice warm bed. The windows are not open. I am wearing sweatpants, not shorts, and I am tucked under multiple blankets, not just a white sheet. Yet, even as I'm now adjusting back to the arctic summers of the Bay Area, I feel at home, and for that I am happy. My family is only a few feet away, and I feel relieved.
And I guess that sort of concludes my Ivy League Connection studying and traveling experience. I don't feel I am done, as I will remain involved over the next few months trying to share what I've learned with others, and in a few years hopefully, trying to cheer my sister on as she pursues her dreams studying somewhere her in the East Coast. It was a truly amazing experience. I'm searching for the right words to describe this, but so much has gone on in my life the past four weeks, that no one set of words could sum up what we've done and how it has affected us. I'd like to first thank my family, who supported me, talked to me and cheered me on through this entire process. Even 3,000 miles away, I never felt far from their love. I would also like to thank Aurea, Morvarid, Adrianne, Tomi, Lenny and Mrs. L, who were the main reason these three weeks were so much fun! I often forgot I was here to study or to tour colleges or learn, with some of the laughs we shared on train, the subway, while at dinner. You guys all made this awesome. Most of all, though, I'd like to thank the donors and all those who help to run the Ivy League Connection. As cliched as it may sound, this literally would have been only a dream and would never have happened without you. The money and the time invested in us has provided a supporting hand to me, to all my fellow students, and to our community. To reach out your hand to us comes with no self-interest; it is solely for the purpose of changing the lives of others, and as one of those lucky enough to benefit, I say thank you.
Well, I guess that's it. My Dad already walked into my room and found me asleep with this laptop in my hands, but I guess I've made it to the end awake. I am looking back, and while the journey was amazing, I believe it ended appropriately. I am happy.