Friday, July 26, 2013

The Journey Home

Today I woke up at 6:45 for what I thought would be my last 3-mile run of VSA. When I got down to the lobby, it was very crowded, with people leaving for an early flight to Houston, Texas. Perry (the 3-mile run proctor) was nowhere to be found. I waited about 10 minutes, and then headed over to the Commons Gym. My last 3-mile run turned into my last exercise bike ride. After the workout, I took my last VSA shower and went to my last VSA breakfast at 8. At breakfast I had various people (students and proctors) sign my VSA yearbook. This was a very teary time for a lot of people. Although I did not cry, I was still sad that VSA was truly over.

Me and my roommate Michael
Around 9, I headed back to Hank to finish packing. I was fully packed by 9:30, but I still had an hour before Mr. Mannix would show up. Right around the time I finished packing, my roommate’s parents showed up to take him home. They could not carry everything at once to their car, so I carried a bag for them. I had a very nice conversation with his parents. They asked how Michael was a roommate, but they mainly wanted to know about how I found VSA, and where I want to go to college. I told them all about the ILC, and that I want to go to Vanderbilt to study music and engineering. They wished me the best of luck with the remainder of high school and college. After they loaded the car, Michael and I took a picture together. He said one last goodbye to his friends, and was off.

My empty room.
By the time he left, it was 10:00. I ended up hanging out with the 3rd floor proctors until my time came. I had them all sign my book (if they had not already), and we talked about our favorite parts of VSA. Around 10:25 I said my goodbyes to the proctors. I almost cried when I said goodbye to Hugh. If I had spent another 15 seconds on the goodbye, I would have cried. Just thinking about while writing this makes me sad. Hugh made my non-academic experience 10 times better than it would have been without him. He was always friendly, tried to accommodate my requests, and would periodically check in with me to se how I was doing. I still remember the first thing he sad to me, “Welcome to VSA. You’re going to have a great time here. My job is to make your experience the best possible. Let me know if there is anything I can do.” These little things really make a big difference, because it shows that he truly cares. Without these things, my goodbye would have been almost entirely unemotional.

Some of us put our name tags on Hugh's door.
After saying goodbye to Hugh and the other proctors, I grabbed my bags and headed out. It was really depressing to see my empty dorm room. By 10:30 we were all down in the lobby. Mr. Mannix showed up, and we checked out (collect medicines, look through lost and found, and turn in room key and meal card. After that, we said our last teary goodbyes to the students in the lobby. By 11:00 we were on the road. Our first stop was the Vanderbilt Bookstore. As you may have guessed, we bought Vanderbilt gear: hoodies, T-shirts, hats, bears, etc. The ILC was kind enough to pay for out hoodies.

After our trip to the bookstore, we visited the admission office, to see about attending the 1:00 PM info session. The website said the session was full, but we went by to see if they could squeeze us in. They said no. There was already a long wait list for the info session. They told us that we could attend the 2 PM tour if we wanted to. We decided against the tour, as our three weeks at VSA have been a huge tour.

The Athena Statue is so god-like.
Our next stop was the Nashville Parthenon. I had no idea just how huge the building is. The only pictures I have seen are from the front, but the sides are three times as long. Inside the Parthenon is just amazing. Seeing the exhibits was cool, but the best part was the enormous statue of Athena, which was dressed in gold. (It probably was not real gold, but it was gold in color.) The size of the statue really made Athena seem like a god, towering over us minuscule, worthless mortals.

After visiting the Parthenon, we ate lunch at Pancake Pantry. Surprisingly, there was no line. We walked in, and were seated immediately. As soon as I saw the menu, I had no idea what to get. They had 23 varieties of pancakes, and they all sounded so good. I ended up going with the Blueberry Pancakes. I know I could have gone with something more obscure, like pancakes infused with potatoes, but I figured they would probably have the best blueberry pancakes of any restaurant, as pancakes are their specialty. I was correct: They were the best blueberry pancakes ever. The pancakes had just the right texture: not to stiff, and not to soft. The blueberries were evenly distributed. (I have had blueberry pancakes where one pancake has 30 more blueberries than the other.) Also, the blueberry compote was a nice touch. That way you could drown your blueberry pancakes with blueberry sauce, instead of maple syrup. (I’m not a big fan of maple syrup, so this was perfect for me.)

Blueberry Pancakes!
The AT&T "Batman Building"
After eating at Pancake Pantry, we decided to visit Downtown Nashville. Although we had already been downtown during VSA, it was still very enjoyable because we visited different places. We started by getting on the pedestrian bridge over the river. From here, we got an excellent view of the city. We could really see the mixture of new buildings (like the “Batman Building”) and the older, brick buildings. Mr. Mannix told us that Nashville is in the process of becoming a large city. Many of the old brick buildings are being torn down so new ones can be built. Mr. Mannix believes that in 10 years, Nashville will be like LA: a huge, crowded city. After seeing more of Nashville, I agree. There is construction everywhere, and it’s a beautiful city. Both of these translate to more people moving there. Also, Nashville is the Music City. This draws a lot of musicians and audiences to the city. During our walk downtown, we visited a record store, and a handmade music poster store. The poster store was very interesting. The whole back three quarters was workspace, with a huge press and lots of shelves. The front quarter had posters on display, as well as two cats sleeping. One was behind a box of posters, and the other was sleeping underneath a tent sign. I would never have guessed that a handmade poster store would have cats, as I would be worried about the cats getting into the back section of the store and causing problems. 

After visiting downtown, we headed to the airport. Once we arrived, Mr. Mannix turned in the rental van. We then checked our bags, and went through security. Once we were through, we had an hour and half before our plane would leave at 6:50 PM. We were all tired, so we mainly just sat there. Some of us fell asleep, but I did not. I decided I would sleep on the airplane instead. At around 6:20, we got dinner at Quiznos. We did not have quite enough time to eat it before boarding, so we ate it on the plane instead.
Heading to LAX!
The plane ride took four hours, so we arrived in LAX at 9:10. Unfortunately, our connecting flight to Oakland was delayed. It was supposed to leave at 10 PM, but it was delayed until 11:00 PM, putting us back at Oakland at 12:05 AM. It's good to be home!

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