Two weeks ago, I arrived in Berlin, Germany, the city of hole-in-the-wall cafes and miscellaneous shops, historical monuments and tourist attractions. The city where graffiti paints the streets, which are lined with well-dressed twenty-somethings smoking cigarette after cigarette.

The city where people young and old gossip over coffee, talking late into the night, until their coffee fades into wine. The city bursting with history – where every grand, old building comes with stories about the war and battles that ensued years ago.

And it was this city, that, for those two weeks, I was lucky enough to call home.

Berlin Streets — Photo Credit:

I was going to stay with a woman named Alda, my mom’s best friend and an old family friend. She took care of me when I was a baby, but I hadn’t seen her for eight years. I had no idea what to expect.

The second I boarded my plane in Portland, it hit me. I had an 11 hour flight ahead of me, I was going to a foreign country – a different continent – and just then I realized what I was truly getting myself into. I didn’t speak a word of German, and already on the plane, everything was in a foreign language.

When I stepped onto that plane, still in the U.S., I stepped out of my comfort zone.. And looking back, it was the best decision I could have made.

Eleven hours and two flights later, I landed in Berlin. It was late afternoon local time, but for me it felt like the middle of the night. I was in the middle of a busy, bustling airport, and I knew no one. I felt like I was in a movie, in one of those scenes where the camera just pans around and around, turning all the commotion into one big blur.

I finally spotted a familiar face – Alda’s housemate, Bogdan, a 26 year old from Romania – who was there to pick me up. We took the metro back to the apartment – public transit is the most common form of transportation in Berlin. Over the few weeks, I learned to navigate the various subways, busses and trains.

It was about 45 minutes from the airport to the apartment. On the ride, Bogdan told me the ways of the city – where it was cool to hang out and where to avoid – and he pointed out the various attractions that make Berlin the city it is.

The Berlin TV Tower — Photo Credit:

I got my first glimpse of the Berlin Wall, as well as the Berlin TV Tower, which, aside from being a TV Tower, is also the tallest building in all of Germany. It looms over the city, and, I learned, can be seen from almost anywhere. It resembles the Space Needle, with a huge sphere about halfway up, in which there is a restaurant. Anyone who is lucky enough to get aboard the elevator gets to go to the restaurant, which supposedly spins slowly, providing diners with a 360˚ view of the city. Sadly, I was not among those who were lucky enough to get that experience.

However, there is no doubt in my mind that I lived Berlin to its full extent.

Back at the apartment building, I discovered that Alda lived on the fourth floor. That meant eight flights of stairs, and 88 stairs exactly – I counted. I soon grew to despise those stairs. Somehow, we managed to lug my suitcase up all eight flights, and after countless hours of traveling I had finally made it.

I was so happy to see Alda after all this time. She herself never had kids but took care of me, so I’m like the daughter she never had. She obviously remembered me better than I did her, though we grew much closer over the following weeks.

During my first week in Berlin, Alda had exams, so I was mostly on my own. We ate breakfast and dinner together, but for the majority of the day I was left to explore the city.

The Berlin Wall — Photo Credit:

I didn’t know a thing about the area, but with a map in one hand and a transportation ticket in the other, I set out.

Alda lives in East Berlin – the more laid-back, hippie side of the city. My first day there I fell in love with the vibe – the people, the culture, etc. – everything and everyone was so relaxed, and anything seemed to go. I fit right in.

Over the next few days I explored various neighborhoods, and got a feel for where I was and what was near me. No matter where I went, there was at least one coffee shop on each block, and an abundance of cute shops. I did some shopping, and I think, at this point, I was made of coffee.

I fell in love, however, with one particular part of town. It was about a 15 minute metro ride to get there, to this one funky street, where the buildings were plastered with years of peeling posters, and graffiti coated any open surface. This street had shops and restaurants from all cultures, and littering the streets were every type of person imaginable.

Photo Credit:

Next to this street was the Spree River, a river that flows through Berlin. This one section though, was my favorite. Berlin is filled with bridges, but the one that crossed here, the Oberbaum Bridge, was by far the most beautiful. On one side of the Spree River was this street, and on the other side was a portion of the Berlin Wall, and the East Side Gallery, an open air art gallery created by the wall itself.

Between this street and the wall, this river was my favorite place to spend time. I liked to sit at the waterfront, at a little park filled with people laughing and talking, drinking and just relaxing.

Oberbaum Bridge — Photo Credit:

I brought a journal with me on my travels – a leather-bound book filled with all of my thoughts and observations – where I’ve documented every single thing I’ve done. I take it with me everywhere, and it was in this neighborhood, at the waterfront, that I most enjoyed writing.

While I spent a lot of time walking through streets and exploring shops, I also spent a lot of time in parks. I visited multiple throughout the city, and all were beautiful. I loved to just sit and write, as well as people-watch and take in everything around me. It made me feel connected the city and everything around me.

A few days later, Bogdan’s brother and his friend came to visit. They were two 20 year olds, and so the house was full. (Alda has yet another housemate – Daniel – but I rarely ever saw him, so he doesn’t really count.) I didn’t spend too much time with them, given that they mostly spoke in Romanian, but one night we went to this city-wide pride party, and it was an experience, to say the least.

That day, Berlin had held its annual pride parade, known as Christopher Street Day, so naturally there was a party afterwards. It was to this party that everyone filtered after the parade, and it was filled with characters. There were countless people dancing and singing, people in crazy costumes and lack thereof. It seemed as if the entire city was there. The party was celebrating pride, but people of all shapes and sizes, and from all backgrounds were there – people just came to party. It was crazy, and an experience I’ll never forget.

My second week here I was able to spend more time with Alda. She insisted I see all that Berlin is made of, so together, we explored all that it encompassed.

We did some “touristy” things – we went to museums, and saw famous buildings and monuments; we even took a bus around to see some of these features. I had to have one day of being a true tourist.

Brandenburg Gate — Photo Credit:

There was more to my stay, but if I wrote each and every thing I would end up with 100 pages. But to sum it up, I got to see and learn about history, meet friends, new and old, eat incredible food, and just overall, experience Berlin.

And I don’t think there’s much more I could have asked for.

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Bad Singers

I have spent the majority of this year singing at random times, even though I know I’m musically impaired.

But why are some people ear-splittingly bad, à la moi?  Yahoo explains.

Some people’s brain simply can not perceive notes correctly, which produces the sound of a dying cow when singing (or, at least, for me).

But the shape of your vocal tracks are also a factor that can determine whether you’re a Sugar Motta (Glee, look it up) or you’re a Streisand.

20% of people can’t control their vocal muscles, they’re too powerful (the latter is not a scientific fact).

But there is hope! For those who simply have trouble matching the pitch of a song, vocal training can improve this.

Or, you can accept your tone-deafness and own it. You may not be cast as Glinda in Wicked on Broadway, but that’s true even for people that can sing, so don’t take it too hard.

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It’s Almost Over

I can almost see the finish line

We are so close to summer, the only thing in the way is…finals. *hiss*

Now I am sure that you are sick and tired of hearing high schoolers complain about how long the year is and how we are so excited for summer, but this year has felt like torture

As I approach finals my stress levels, which have been at a pretty steady 8/10 throughout the year, have escalated to 11/10 the past week and I don’t see this changing in the near future.On Friday, we have math

Math, I hate you.

That’s all I have to say about this satanic subject

On Saturday is history

I already took this final ahead of time, thank goodness

On Sunday, I get a break

In reality, I don’t count it as a break because I will probably have my head buried in books trying to not fail my next final

On Monday, its English

Oh English

I actually really enjoy English but not today…not today

On Tuesday, its Spanish

No me gusta…at all

The final exam…Wednesday, Science

I’ve basically given up on this one

With a full week ahead of me I ask for your prayers.

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This is the end

Today is Thursday, May 26th, 2016. Today is the last academic day of school. Today is the last day of my junior year.

Tomorrow is the first final. One week later is graduation.

Three months later, the next school year will begin. I’ll be a senior. Time is ticking, and we are nearing the end. Everything is coming to a close.

Photo Credit:

It’s surreal. All the seniors will be gone, replaced by my class. We’ll be the oldest. The top of the top.

I’m aware of all that is happening, but it hasn’t really hit me yet. I’m waiting for that day.

Technically, this is the last blog I ever need to write. Next year will be so different.

I’m only a junior now – the middle child – neither the oldest nor the youngest. But this is the end, and soon I will be the older child.

It’s so close, I can almost touch it.

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Last. Blog. Ever.

Tonight, I am writing my last blog for the Ojai Valley School Journalism class.

I have has such an incredible experience here at OVS, and a part of that was being involved in this class.

Being given the opportunity to express my opinion on whatever I feel like has been amazing. Blogging has been an amazing outlet for me and writing articles has allowed me to strengthen my writing skills in a fun manner.

I would like to thank Mr. Alvarez for his incredible support for the past two years, academically and personally. He is truly one of my favorite humans in the entire world, and he is someone I would do nearly anything for.

This time is bittersweet. Leaving high school, and the journalism program, will be upsetting; but I am growing up and moving on, and that is a beautiful thing in itself.

I cannot wait to share my experiences in college with my family, friends, and former teachers. I wish everyone at OVS the best, even Harley.

I will be forever thankful for my time here at OVS.


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Just Gender Things

From the moment a baby is born, they’re wrapped in either a pink or blue blanket. Since before they can talk, they either wear dresses or overalls. Before they can read, they’re watching Disney Princess movies or superhero movies.

A pair of siblings go to the grandparents’ house for the weekend. The grandma takes the sister to the kitchen. She compliments her dress and asks her to fetch the chocolate chips from the   pantry. While they put the cookies in the oven, the grandfather and brother yell at the football game. The ref called the play wrong.

The teacher sits down with her kindergarten class and asks what all the kids do that weekend. Most of the boys recount of their soccer games and “throwing the old pig skin” with their dad. After all the boys have talked about their weekends, the girls talk about dressing their Barbie dolls and mothering their baby dolls.

As the years go on, a pattern starts to form. The boys keep playing soccer and the girls keep dressing up. The boys can run free, while girls are trained to style themselves and look nice. These stereotypes aren’t always true, but the amount of pressure society puts on these activities really makes a difference. Children are having a skewed vision of gender. Girls are supposed to be soft and delicate, while boys are allowed to be brave and strong.

This set of societal views is better known as gender roles. Gender roles isn’t some idea feminists came up with to create a problem. Gender roles is the phenomenon that girls have to be feminine and guys have to be masculine. This is extremely harmful to everyone.

Teenage girls are ridiculed for being bad at sports, but it’s not their fault that their parents bought her new dolls instead of a new soccer ball.  Teenage boys have to be strong and are ridiculed for crying.Girls can wear jeans but guys can’t wear dresses and skirts. If a girl is domestically abused and reaches out she is seeking attention and when a guy does he should have enjoyed it. If a girl plays sports, she’s trying to get a boyfriend, but when a boy would rather go to choir he’s made fun of.

The term “stay-at-home mom” is much more common than the term “stay-at-home dad.” Men are praised for being good business men, but women in authoritative positions are called bossy. When a mother is professional she should spend more time with her kids, while a successful father is one that’s just doing his job. If two parents split, the mother is more likely to take full custody because of her gender.

These stereotypes may not even be apparent, but they sneak into conversations and are just reinforced. Grandparents are raised with these ideals and it’s reflected in how they address their grandchildren. This issue can’t be stopped unless conversation is brought up about it. Talking about gender roles, no matter how small, can have a great impact on stopping these stereotypes all together.

One instance is when Target combined the girl’s and boy’s toy sections to non-gendered toys. Even something as simple as where a toy lands on a shelf can spark great change. Now a little girl may spot a toy truck instead of picking a plastic doll and her little brother could become the father of a Cabbage Patch kid. Gender roles shouldn’t define an individual or the way they’re viewed.

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Cannes Fashion

Cannes 2016 is coming to a close, and as the celebrities, or more likely, their assistants, pack up their designer gowns, suits, and shoes, and prepare for their next red carpet here are my favorite looks.

Sonam Kapoor

Kapoor announced that her Ellie Saab dress would have an Indian element to it, and this dress did not disappoint.

Bella Hadid 

While she may not have graced the red carpet in this look, that does not make it any less gorgeous. Hadid’s fresh, dewy makeup, sleek ponytail, and simple white ensemble are a perfect fit for summer. Christian Dior’s property behind Hadid doesn’t hurt either.

Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney

Power. Couple. Alamuddin’s pale yellow gown is one many could not pull off, but, obviously, Alamuddin is not one of those people.

Victoria Beckham

Posh always kills it, and this masculine inspired piece is no exception.

Blake Lively

While Lively was as Cannes promoting her movie The Shallows, she also happened to promote the Cinderella movie when she arrived on the carpet bearing a striking resemblance to the princess herself. But, Lively pretty much is a princess, so I’m not surprised.


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