Sunday, May 22, 2016

Abstract to Tangible

Summer is rapidly approaching, as is my cohort’s trip to the University of Pennsylvania. It was only today, after meeting with our chaperone, that this realization finally struck me. In slightly over a month, I, along with my fellow cohort members, will be headed across the country to UPenn. Right after this revelation occurred to me, I was absolutely stupefied. I sat at my desk, stunned, trying to comprehend the implications of this realization, grasping to find a way to make sense of the situation.

Only several hours prior, I had been excited that we would get to meet our chaperone, Mr. John Hillyer, an AP U.S. History teacher at De Anza High School, and that he would be bringing along a special guest, an alumni of Stanford, Columbia, and Oxford Universities. Although I am typically not very punctual, I arrived at Zachary’s Chicago Pizza on Solano Avenue in Berkeley only a few minutes after 5PM, nearly half an hour before we were supposed to meet. By my standards, this was fairly shocking (another item to add to the list of today’s surprises), and I was unsure what to do, as the notion of being early is still relatively new to me. Finally, it occurred to me that I should take pictures, so here are some of the results.
View of Zachary's (center) from across the street, with the Pegasus Bookstore directly to the right. 
Right in front of Zachary's.
I was rather uncomfortable taking pictures of the restaurant, particularly because of the strange stares I was receiving from the diners inside the restaurant, so I was relieved to see Diana walking towards me and readily agreed when she asked me if I wanted to go to the Pegasus bookstore right next to Zachary’s. 
Inside the Pegasus Bookstore.
Inside Zachary's.
Shortly thereafter, Allonna, Kamillah, Mr. Hillyer, and his special guest, Ms. Liz Sanders, arrived, so we entered the restaurant and were quickly seated near the door. Mr. Hillyer advised us to order first, since the food would take a while to be prepared, so we heeded his advice and began searching the menu. Eventually, we settled on the Caesar and Greek salads for appetizers and the Za-Curry pizza and a deep-dish Barbecue Chicken pizza. 

Once we had ordered, we began our conversation with self-introductions. As if I didn’t have enough surprises in store for me today, I soon found out that Ms. Sanders is the daughter of my AP Calculus teacher, Mr. Sanders. In retrospect, it seems fairly obvious, as they share the same last name and because Mr. Sanders had previously informed us that one of his daughters had attended Stanford, but I didn't realize the connection until she told us. After introducing ourselves to one another, Mr. Hillyer began to describe what the East Coast (particularly Pennsylvania) was like during the summer, as Allonna, Kamillah, and I have not yet experienced an East Coast summer. According to him, the weather fluctuates regularly, interspersing between sunshine and rain, and tends to be muggy, unlike the pleasant weather we have here in California.

At about that time, our salads arrived, so we put our conversation on hold to start serving ourselves. I opted for the Caesar salad and certainly did not regret my decision, although the Greek salad looked appetizing as well (I suppose that's why they're called appetizers). As we finished our salads, the conversation resumed, with Mr. Hillyer discussing the various aspects of life in Philadelphia and Ms. Sanders talking about her experiences at Stanford and Columbia to inform us about highly selective private universities. While we talked, the rest of our food arrived, one by one. First was the Za-Curry pizza, followed by the cheese one, and finally the deep-dish barbecue chicken one. I decided to try both specialty pizzas, which were both quite tasty and unique in flavor.

Although the food at Zachary's was great, the company I was with was indisputably better. Everyone was lively and engaged in the conversation, and I had a great time with them. The dinner also helped me realize that we'll be leaving for UPenn very soon and turned an abstract notion into one that is quite present and nearly tangible. Up until the dinner, everything had merely felt precursory to the real experience. However, this has made me even more excited for the summer and I am looking forward more than ever to the trip.

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