Sunday, May 22, 2016

Building Bridges

On May 20, all of us attending The University of Pennsylvania met our chaperone, John Hillyer, for the first time. It was hard to believe that we were meeting him so soon. Time has been moving faster than a blink of an eye. It scared me but the thought of attending UPENN and going to the East Coast gave me a rush of excitement and curiosity outweighing my nerves. Our meeting place was at Zachary’s Chicago Pizza on Solano Avenue in Berkeley at 5:30 PM. Zachary’s is my all-time favorite pizza parlor. It has been at least six months since I have been at this welcoming, street-style restaurant. Hearing the news prior triggered flashbacks of all the mouth-watering deep-dish style pizzas they have and sent a wave of pleasant remembrance; I soon grew hungry and eager.

Don graciously offered to give me a ride to Zachary’s. I took his offer appreciatively; knowing how my mom is with time, I knew I would have been late. We arrived to the restaurant around 5:10 PM. To burn some time, Don and I cruised around Albany and Berkeley until it got closer to the meeting time. He showed me some of the million dollar houses in the residential areas. The neighborhood was peaceful and the houses were gorgeous. I cannot recall seeing such stunning homes before, it was slightly hard to believe people could afford to live there. I thought to myself, “I wonder what it would feel like living in such luxurious places like those.” The styles ranged from modern designed to old-fashioned one car garage homes or small one-story homes to massive two-story ones; I was left in awe.

As 5:30 PM drew near, Don swung by Zachary’s again to drop me off. By then I saw familiar figures of my UPENN cohorts – Allonna, Chris, and Diana – standing patiently communicating with one another in front of Zachary’s waiting for everyone else to arrive. I thanked Don for the nice mini tour and ride as I carefully got out his car. John walked up casually with his surprise guest, Liz Sanders. I didn’t recognize him as I first glanced at him, but as they came closer to us I realized who he was, answering my mental question of “Why is this tall man approaching us so casually like he knows who we are?” Soon after, we all headed inside of the famous pizza parlor.

Zachary's on Solano Avenue in Berkeley

Zachary’s is a small place, but can fit a reasonable amount of people. The waitress seated us near the door and politely handed us our menus. John, thinking strategically, advised we order our food first since it takes around forty-five minutes to make the pizza. The menu had so many scrumptious choices to choose from; making this decision was a challenging task that required extensive thought. We all agreed on what to order by the time the waitress came by to take our order. John confidently ordered for us the Barbecue Chicken deep dish pizza, the weekly special – “Za-Curry’s” Chicken Pizza, thin crust – and a small cheese pizza for Allonna with some healthy appetizers: Greek and Caesar salads suggested by Chris.

Chris and Me Sitting Near the Door
After ordering we all introduced ourselves and started speaking to one another, getting to know each other better. John shared with us that he is an AP US History at De Anza High School and attended school at Chico State. He began telling us about what the life is like on the East Coast, all the things that he’s experienced in the past with the ILC and college, some of the possible university visits, what we should expect while being there, and what he expects from us as our salads arrived. Some of the stories seemed to blow me away. For example, he was stuck at an airport in Texas for twenty-four hours with the past UPENN cohorts due to a massive storm. I can’t even imagine how terrifying or horrible that must have been. From all of his stories, I’m most interested to see other than all of the prestigious universities and marvelous traveling visits on the East Coast is “the Target of all 7/11’s” Wawa. I’ve heard of it in vlogs (video blogs) that I watched a few years ago from people on the East Coast. The way it’s described, it seems as if it’s a luxurious mini market that has a wide variety. When we come across one, I’m absolutely going to explore the inside and snag a delicious snack.

Liz is a current AP Literature teacher at De Anza High School. She also taught at El Cerrito High School for one year. She had attended undergrad school at Stanford and Graduate school at Columbia; she is also an alumni of Oxford University. She told us about her experiences at Stanford and Columbia stating how different the environments were. She enjoyed both schools but the city life was more for her. Astounded I was from the choice of schools she was enrolled at, I knew I wanted to attend schools as reputable as Stanford, Columbia, and Oxford. As I thought about it, I realized that I was going to attend a similar school, UPENN, even if it will only be for a few weeks. Listening to Liz and John retelling their college life stories made me think to consider doing what they did in the future when I begin to apply for colleges or go on site visits and tours – try picturing myself attending the university and living around the area.

The dinner was going fantastic when Chris and I suddenly started feeling a bit cold. We sat closest to door being the cause of our seemed spontaneous chills. Every time someone opened up the door or left it open, a cold draft of air would creep its way to our table and give us a cool sensation that grazed our skin. I didn’t know how long we would be able to tolerate the cool breeze, especially since we both had on thin button-ups. Thankfully the feeling soon disappeared as the waitress came out with the hot pizzas as it warmed up the room.

Close Up of Zachary's Barbecue Chicken Pizza
She placed the pies on wooden stools that were the height of the table and courteously served us each a piece on our white saucers. The food looked delectable. The Barbecue Chicken had barbecue sauce drizzled all over the pie with chunks of tomato, cilantro and chicken on the inside and cheddar and jack cheese. The “Za-Curry” Chicken Pizza had pieces of curry chicken, onions, and golden raisins with and mozzarella cheese. It was hard maintaining my patience and self-control but I was able to hold it down. The food tasted even better than what I remembered. I felt somewhat ashamed at how I could forget about pizza this satisfying, even though it had been only six months.

The evening soon ended with all of stuffed and satisfied. I brought some of the leftover pizza home for my mom and sister to share since no one else wanted to take some of it with them. I felt so accomplished and more informed about getting to know my cohorts, chaperon, and special guest a little bit better. The experience of us all eating and talking with one another so comfortably  foreshadowed what I can assume it will be like between us in the future at Penn. That night, I built bridges with people that I know are outstanding people and who I can turn to for advice, help, or just to have a fun time.

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