second year life

I’ve been absent from the blogo-sphere for the past two months–and as I’m glancing at my to do list, I’m realizing that I may not resurface for a while. Here’s a few of the things that have made the last months so crazy.

– Snorkeling in a kelp forest on a marine science field trip (I wore a wet suit for the first time!
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This is kind of what it looked like underwater!

sunlight streaming through the water, kelp flowing in the current…the ocean is beautiful

-Camping in the rain on Mystic Beach–it rained, per usual. I wonder if I will ever go camping when it is NOT raining!

except even in the rain, this isn’t a bad view! There’s also a rope swing on the beach!

-We had our first regional day of the year, North America Regional Day…I did a sunrise hike, jumped in the bay to celebrate, and dressed up for the show (which featured SNL-like skits about Pearson)

-APPLES APPLES APPLES (I spent a sunny afternoon picking apples from the old orchards in Metchosin, then I made applesauce, and I volunteered at the Metchosin Apple Bee Festival…by volunteer I mean giving away dried apples while eating copious amounts of them myself. Yum!)

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving! I am super thankful for the three day weekend but more importantly for: sharing a warm and cozy room with wonderful roommates, spending an afternoon chopping vegetables and chatting at a local soup kitchen, and pausing at least once a day and thinking “I really love this place”

p.s. these aren’t my pictures

Being Back is Great

Yesterday, downpours in Seattle, cloudy skies in Victoria, and friendly faces sprinkled in between welcomed me back to this wonderful corner of the world. School doesn’t start until August 27, but my co-year and I are staying on Race Rocks for 10 days–painting, observing seagull behavior, and soaking up the beauty of this place. I am so thankful to the Pearson community (especially Chris, the kitchen staff, Courtney, Guy, and Christine) for helping to facilitate this experience. You can read more about our days at Race Rocks by clicking on this link.

We have ten days on this island, a refrigerator full of vegetables (including the world’s biggest zucchini), and the possibility of a cold sponge bath (but no shower). It’s amazing that in a place this small, there are infinite questions to ponder and things to watch. Baby seagulls are learning to fly, and they’re still a bit unsteady. The sea lions spend most of the day barking, climbing on top of each other, and there’s the occasional gnashing of teeth. I really love this place.

I always find the end of summer bittersweet, but driving back to campus was so exciting! BEING BACK IS GREAT!

P.S. but if I’m not in school on the 27th, it’s because I became a sea lion and spend my days napping, eating, and making lots of noise (not unlike what I do now)

#appreciation

I’m writing this on an airplane between San Francisco and Chicago, two stops on my journey away from Pearson for the summer holidays. I apologize for the radio silence on this blog. I have tried, in fits and starts, to blog about the last parts of my first year at Pearson, but somehow I fail to capture the intensity of these times, emotions, and experiences. Here’s my attempt:

A single word can offer so much meaning in describing a place. From Day One, when my bus arrived to the outstretched arms and excited shrieks of (then) complete strangers, I have called my time at Pearson “intense.” But now, as I write from the other side of my first year, I realize that I didn’t really know intense…my definition of intensity intensified intensively, if you can stomach that much word repetition in a single sentence.

In what ways is Pearson intense? At first there are so many faces and countries to learn and combine with each other. Then once I oriented myself in this sea of faces, I came closer to them. I saw the pores, the scars, the beauty marks, and the contradictions. I examined my own face too, though I found very little time to be alone. Coincidence orchestrated many of the encounters that brought me close to the people around me, and she must have been up all night to ensure that I would have to fight to find time to breathe, to process, to synthesize. I shared a room with four people, a bathroom with twenty five, a house with forty, and community with one hundred and sixty. Academics came into play as well, and as I came to know the IB, I realized that I myself would not simply BE at Pearson: I would have to make intentional choices, with my time, energy, and words, to maintain and nourish my core. I chose to focus on living mindfully. Sometimes things worked out…I woke up early and swam in the pool, I did my homework, I laughed over instant noodles and cups of tea, and I mulled over interesting ideas in a comfortable way. For some of the time, I struggled, perhaps because of intersecting and overlapping of challenges. At times, my own decisions and personality were the cause of this stress—I stayed up late, so I couldn’t cope as well the next day. I spent hours studying, but I missed the chance to bond with friends, and I felt disconnected. I didn’t prioritize exercise, and I felt my energy waning.

But at Pearson, I realized the extent to which external forces—primarily, the force of the community at Pearson—affected me. For this reason, if I were to choose a second word to describe Pearson, I would choose “community.” Just as my time at Pearson has changed how I define the word “intense,” my definition of the word community has also changed.  We live amongst one hundred sixty teenagers and thirty-ish adults (mainly teachers, their spouses, and administrators) in a forest next to the sea. Yes, we are allowed to leave campus—and I often do, whether for activities, runs, or trips to town. Yet I rely almost entirely on the Pearson community for support. All of my peers, whether my best friend, someone I hardly know, or someone I struggle with, live within a two minute walk from me. Some of my teachers live on campus, and even if they don’t, they eat in the dining hall, attend village meetings, and are very much present in the community. Interacting 99% with Pearsonites and those connected to the college creates somewhat of a bubble in the woods. I don’t feel trapped by this bubble per-se, as its surface is permeable, but I do feel surrounded by it.

The feelings of those around me really do affect the color of the bubble on any given day—whether when I’m looking through it, I see blue, cloudless silk, or aggravated black puffs. There have been really difficult times this year—incidents and conversations that have challenged and sometimes broken the bonds between us, disillusioning us of the ideals that once united us. We’re affected by many of the same things, and when our stresses overlap, the collective mood on campus can be hard to differentiate from my own mood. There’s a definite upside to this—that when times are good, the joy is infectious—and that’s what I’m so sad be leaving. I will miss the energy, vibrancy, and spontaneity of our time together. When the sun is shining at Pearson, both literally and metaphorically, it’s not just shining, it’s beaming.  The applause at the end of a regional day, the cheers while our newly IB free second years jump into the bay, the silence at a musical café as someone reads a poem. The collective joy, when it pools up, spills over and makes me feel enthusiastic and alive to the wonder of this place and its infinite possibilities.

Pearson—an intense community, and one that I treasure. The last two days of school exemplified this description—rare was the person who could find time to sleep in between packing, letter writing, and goodbye-ing or the person whose heart didn’t feel heavy with outpourings of grief and love.  I won’t write about the traditions that mark the end of our time at Pearson, but now that I’ve experienced them, I feel immense gratitude for the group of people who are moving on to new adventures—Pearson College Year 40, my second years.

My second years made Pearson the place I experienced during these past ten months. They took me to town, to the beach, to Matheson Lake. They showed me their favorite spots, invited me to events, and showed me how to lead in this context through their example. Some of them became my best friends, and others merely passed me on the path, a ship on a parallel course. Even with those that I didn’t know well, I still feel that we shared something, an experience of the collective that links us.

While there’s a small part of me that says “I can’t imagine Pearson without you,” the rational part of me knows that my second years are the reason that I feel so passionate about this community. PC 40, along with the guiding hands of our teachers, raised a community from a disoriented group of newcomers. Because of this community, I imagine with great optimism the next year of school. I believe that PC 41, my year, will be great second years, because we had such wonderful role models, who set such a positive tone for us.

I know that we’ll never be gathered in one room, one space, one campus again, and of course, I am sad. But what I can’t stop mulling over is my gratitude: thank you, PC 41. I love you, as a year group, as individuals, and I am so proud to call you my peers.

#appreciation

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A Marine Science Story

We spill out of the bus, trickling down to the beach, by way of the forest bath. The tide: ebbing, conversation: flowing. We scramble over rocks, trying not to lose our footing or loosen any barnacles. The waves fold softly onto the coal grey sand, briefly rendering it shiny and liquidy and melting away our footsteps. I trace the path of the waves, walking out further when they recede and retreating with their return. We peer into tidal pools, gently overturning rocks, pointing at the path of a sea star.

We move further along the cove, in pursuit of the last looming boulder, marking the drop into the sea. Water gathers in the space between the rocks, and we bring our faces to the surface, in pursuit of a lined chiton or a sea cucumber. The sun settles gently into the sky behind our backs, casting shadows. We are speaking the universal language of awe, as well as the less profound (but equally global) language of selfies.

Laura, our teacher, pauses and tilts her head towards the golden clouds hanging over the mountains. She inhales the salty air that now feels normal in my lungs and exhales, releasing the words “ah, paradise.”

Yes, I agree with Laura. This is paradise. And also, just another Tuesday evening in our lives at this idealistic, adventurous place. DSC_0625

As we make our way back along the curved bay, a seal tracing a parallel line in the water, I form a pie (of sorts) with my feet. I reminded of the hours I spent on the beach or the side of a lake, making pretend sand/mud pies with my friends. My friend asks me “Did you do that too when you were young?” And so I learn that some fifteen years ago, a girl in Ethiopia also made pretend pies with her friends and played house.

We are here now, standing on a beach in the sunset, transported to this coast for a two year stint in which we are supposed to “make education a force to unite people, nations, and cultures, for peace and sustainable future”…I look out over the forest, the rocks, the sea, and think about how long this place has been here. I think of the community that first saw this view and called it home, and about how truly small each individual is to time, to nature, to cycles, but of how big this place (Pearson, Metchosin, the Pacific Northwest) feels to me in this moment. And yet even though we are small, we are leaving beyond huge footprints on these places, and I know that my footprints (the waste I create, carbon I emit, water I use) are only deteriorating this ecosystem I am learning about. Pearson has prompted me to wonder: how we can live in a more sustainable way? How we can tread more lightly, and preserve beauty and balance?

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Weekend on Race Rocks (aka Three Days on a Semi deserted Island)

Sometimes, our lives give us moments that prompt to pause and say “I never could have imagined myself doing this.” By looking to our hands, feet, and surroundings, we appreciate the seemingly random combination of circumstances that led us to this reality. During the weekend spent with my advisory group at Race Rocks, I had several of these “I never imaged myself….” moments. Race Rocks (click here to learn more) is an island ecological preserve in the strait of Juan de Fuca, just a short boat ride from school. Pearson is in charge of caring for Race Rocks, and as students, we can also spend time there.

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the island!

Race Rocks is mostly deserted, at least of human inhabitants (it is teeming with animal/plant life though!) A permanent care taker, called the eco guardian, lives there alone and collects environmental data, in addition to maintaining the island. We were shown around the island by the current eco-guardian, Nick. The island is the size of two soccer fields, and there are two houses and a lighthouse, a helicopter landing pad, and various other buildings. Race Rocks is named for the way the tide ‘races’ past the rocky outcroppings, as it is funneled from the Pacific Ocean into the Puget Sound. These currents make Race Rocks a unique place for marine life–from seagulls to three types of sea lions, anenomes, crabs, etc.

During the weekend at Race Rocks, there were numerous unexpected adventures. I loved learning about the systems of the island–all the energy used there is produced on island. Seeing a desalinator in action was particularly interesting. The desalinator is housed in what was once a nuclear fallout shelter. (Oddly enough, the shelter is only big enough for two people, and in the event of a nuclear disaster, the care taker would have had to leave behind their family to hide inside). On Saturday afternoon, we built a scaffolding and cleaned the side of the house where we stayed. It turned out that none of us in our group of six had set up scaffolding before…somehow though, we managed to put it together, clean the house, avoid injury, and laugh the whole while.

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the scaffolding and our very clean house

Word on campus is that there is a secret room on Race Rocks, and we were determined to find it. After searching the entire house, we finally discovered a loose floor tile, that led to a creepy basement of sorts. We read the names of many of our classmates on its cement walls and left ours behind too. Shortly before leaving on Sunday morning, we stumbled upon a dead octopus! For a few marine science students, this was quite the find! I’m grateful for the time we spent exploring the intertidal zone–the animals that live there spend part of their day exposed to the area, part underwater, and they are fascinating. Here is a picture of the octopus and an anemone we found!

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Noemi and I with the decomposing octopus!

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ANENOME!!

When the weekend came to a close, I half hoped that the boat wouldn’t come to get us, and that we would be stranded on Race Rocks for a few more days. Though I have visited Race Rocks before, spending more time there, learning about the systems of the island, and becoming fascinated with the wildlife and surroundings made me love this place in an entirely new way. I was lucky to return for part of Easter weekend, and I am excited by the possibility of spending more time in this beautiful place.