“At a certain season of our life we are accustomed to consider every spot as the possible site of a house.” (Thoreau) Write a description of your “home” or your many “homes.” You may write about the home you have or the home you dream of having in your future.
I’ve lived in one house for my entire life, nestled in between two mountain peaks that form the Ojai valley. There are only seven houses on my street, but it was an entire world to explore for my neighbors and me when we were five. We used to walk down to the end of the street and admire the sunset illuminating the overgrown grass and painted white fences. Home, to me, is the smell of the pepper trees that lined the end of the road, forming a green and red arch, as if to welcome me to the end of the cul-de-sac. Sometimes I wish I could go back to those days, when time passed so much slower, when it felt like summer all year long.
For as long as I can remember, the ocean is where I find peace. I can’t exactly describe why, but Solimar Beach is a magical place. Home, to me, is poking my toe in the center of a sea anemone, giggling as it squirts water back at me, as its turquoise and bright green tentacles stick to my skin. Home is my dad lifting me up onto his shoulders, then scouring the tidepools, searching for different creatures. As we wade further out into the shallow water, he teaches me about the tides, then we stop for a while to watch the sun sink below the horizon. Solimar is the place I will always want to return to for the rest of my life.
I like to think that, someday, I will make a home everywhere. I’ll sit on the balcony of my tiny apartment in Madrid or Barcelona, peering through my neighbors’ laundry, hung up to dry on clothes lines, down at the bustling city below. I’ll enjoy the morning sun as I sip coffee with condensed milk – a flavor that I despise now, but I think, someday, I’ll come to enjoy. I will smile, knowing that I’m there alone. I’m not sure how long I will be there for, probably not more than a year. After that, I’ll move on to somewhere new. I’ll live in a rainy forest along the Oregon coast, then I’ll go work at a school in Argentina or Chile. I’ll work on a ranch in Mexico, outside of a small fishing town. I don’t really care where I go; I just want to see the world.
It is true that home is where the heart is, but my heart is everywhere, I think. Growing up in a tiny town has made me appreciate the things that are routine. I love the fact that I could probably draw a map of my hometown purely from memory. It’s incredibly comforting to know a place so well that it becomes a part of you. But it has also instilled in me a desire to leave what is comfortable, to explore and to experience every place, culture, and way of life that is different from mine. A home is a place where you can come back to time and time again, and know that you belong, where you would go to without any hesitation. I’m lucky to have places like these.
I can’t wait for this summer. You know, in the past, people have always told me that junior year is gonna be harder than all the other years. But I had no idea that they were actually right about that!
I’m mentally and now even physically so exhausted that I don’t want to do anything but sleep. But guess what! I can’t!
That’s why I can’t wait for summer. I can actually sleep then. I won’t have anything to do but read, ride horses, go for runs with my dog, probably study for the SAT, go to my summer journalism program, and travel. I’m so excited to travel!
In the US everything seems to be so far apart. If you go on a two hour train ride here, you get to another city in the state. But if I go on a two hour train ride from my hometown, I end up in another country. I can’t wait to go to Paris, to Amsterdam, Berlin, to Greece.
I also really can’t wait to ride my horse again. I am so glad that I get to ride at my school here, I am so thankful for that, but it’s so different from my barn at home. I can go there whenever I want, I can stay there as long as I want, go on trail rides through the fields and forests, and I can actually get lessons. So, obviously, I can’t wait.
Of course I’ll miss all my friends here, as always. I’ll miss the amazing weather in California, and the amazing avocados and oranges, that simply don’t taste the same in Germany. But I can’t even tell you just how excited I am for this summer!
Contrasting the small, quaint towns where I’ve grown up in California, New York City was a breath of fresh, exciting air with life awaiting at the end of every corner walked.
My first night in New York was magical. I arrived around 10 at night, and looking out the window I was in awe of all the city lights illuminated in the distance. I couldn’t see all of them yet, but I knew they’d be tall and magical.
The cab ride was no different. With the hood of the roof of the taxi cab rolled back, I felt small as I saw the bright city lights tower over me, skyscraper after skyscraper appeared for the whole hour of driving until we arrived at our Airbnb in Greenwich Village.
At 12:30 we finally headed outside for dinner, and every restaurant was open. At TWELVE THIRTY at night, every restaurant was open, while in Santa Barbara anywhere but a bar is usually closed by 10 pm at the latest. You’re lucky if anything is open in LA.
But New York City is just filled with amazing life and even more amazing food. Every single restaurant I went to had artichokes, and I love artichokes. It’d be a miracle if I found them at a restaurant excluding Sea Fresh and Cheesecake Factory in California.
But that’s just one food item. We ate at a different restaurant every single night. From small vintage American diners playing 2000’s throwbacks to luxurious, high-end Italian restaurants or steakhouses, every place was delicious.
But one place that sticks out in my mind is BlackTap. The small, bar-seated burger place only fit thirteen people. The place had an hour long line, but when we refused to wait and came back a calmer day, we finally understood why the place was so popular. The food was phenomenal, but the true wow factor of the place was their milkshakes.
The milkshakes were insane. From cookies supreme to the birthday shake, these shakes towered over the cups they were put in with overdoses of sugar and sweetness. I had a cookies & cream shake which left me in a sugar coma for the rest of the day.
Though most of my memories of NYC occurred in a restaurant, there are so many more that they’d be difficult to count on my fingers and toes, but I’ll name a few.
The Saturday after we arrived, I eagerly ran over to Washington Square Park from the place I was staying to participate in a massive pillow fight on National Pillow Fight Day. Hundreds of people piled into the park with pillows in their hands and grins on their faces in a fight to the “death” in a friendly, but intense, pillow fight. It was one of the purest experiences I ever had the privilege to take part in. Feathers exploded into the air, laughter silenced the playful screams, and pillows were thrown.
I did many more things in New York City. I walked around the city so much that my feet had blisters that hurt to the point that I’m still limping now (it was worth it), I visited three universities and absolutely fell in love with NYU, and I explored every inch of Times Square. However, by far my favorite were the three broadway shows I went to.
First I went to the Book of Mormon. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I didn’t listen to the soundtrack prior to going, but the performance exceeded my expectations. First, it was the most hilarious show I had ever been to. It was completely satirical about the Mormon faith, but it was executed perfectly with amazing acting, and catchy songs that are still stuck in my head. However, the musical is highly offensive so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone highly religious or offended easily by extreme stereotypes, but it’s definitely worth paying the money to go see.
The day after I went to go see Kinky Boots. The night before I had a midlife crisis because my NYU tour and Kinky Boots show were planned at the same time. I shouldn’t be melodramatic, but when my aunt told me that they’d just go see Kinky Boots without me, I almost died. I had been excited about that show for months, and I had been dying to go see it since Brendon Urie starred in it. Thankfully, we were able to exchange our tickets for the night performance and I was able to experience the magic of Kinky Boots. I had heard nothing but positive reviews, and when I went to the show I left happier than ever. It was original, unique, and just saying, those men walk better in six inch heels than I ever will.
Completely last minute, my Aunt and I headed into Times Square and snatched last minute seats to The Lion King. Somehow ending up in the seventh row of the center orchestra, I was ready for three hours to experience one of the most iconic shows on Broadway. I was shocked how much effort was put into the show. The costume design was crazy. I didn’t know where to look during the opening number when people dressed head to toe in animal costumes walked down the aisles singing the Circle of Life while walking onto the stage. Everything about all these shows was amazing.
I could go on about my trip in New York for hours, but this is just a glimpse of it, and I am dying to be back there soon.
In January, I got the chance to miss three days of school and head up to Vancouver to watch the production of my favorite tv show,The 100. Now I probably know what a lot of people were thinking: this girl went on vacation to meet Bob Morley? Actually, yes, but while I did get to meet my favorite actors, eat sixty five dollar filet mignon, and find out so many spoilers for the show – and no, I’m not sharing – I also learned so much about the filming industry that I didn’t know before.
A one minute scene that seems so well put together takes hours to be made. Literally, one small scene, and it won’t even be the entirety of it. I went to the outside set for one day, and they filmed the same scene for hours, and when I left they were still filming the same scene. It was absolutely fascinating how they did it. They filmed from every angle with multiple cameras. They’d have the same actor repeat the same line a hundred times just to capture a different detail of their face from a different angle from multiple cameras.
The CW has the weirdest rules. For starters, actors could say any cuss word known to mankind, but they aren’t allowed to say the Lord’s name in vein. Also, actors aren’t allowed to show side boob in the shows. At all. So, basically the dresses lots of actresses wear at movie premiers would not be allowed on any of the tv shows from The CW we know and love.
They usually don’t rehearse. Apparently they get their lines, have fifteen minutes of their own time to figure it out, and then get in front of a camera. That’s a part of the reason why there are so many bloopers, and so many retakes of several scenes. Their rehearsal is the filming.
The camera makes people look bigger than they actually are. Not fatter, just bigger. When I met the actors, they were so much smaller than I expected, because they were a fourth of the size of what they look like on screen. They weren’t short or tall specifically, just tiny. It was definitely not what I expected.
I’m pretty sure that I learned a lot more things from that trip that I couldn’t have ever learned inside of a classroom, but that’s what I remember off the top of my head.
The first time he saw her was in an airport. A Petri dish of festering emotion and sickening crowds. He’d caught a wisp of her trailing at the corner of his vision, it was only a glimpse, but as he straightened himself back to forward, he knew she wasn’t just a figment of his travel addled mind. As he took a breath and grabbed his bag, a woman in a tight pencil skirt and a ponytail that seemed to pull at even her toes, came and rammed into him, sending him rocking back onto his heels, his brain rattling around like a drunk entering a dark apartment.
He continued toward his connection flight. Through the stifling heat and the crying couples, the chauffeurs with the fancy polysyllabic names spewed across expensive card stock, the pilots walking around with more purpose in their gaze than the entirety of the travelers bulging around them. The click of heels, the swish of slippers and everything fuzzy. He hated flying. He hated the people rushing around like plague bacteria happy to infect the next and the next. He wished he had a storm of anesthetic to clear away the sappy couples, the reuniting, the departing, the people too important to even breathe.
The people with screaming kids were especially bad this time. He flew all the time. He flew in winter. He flew in summer. He flew in spring and sometimes he even flew in autumn. He found his terminal, it was crowded, with lines already formed and spilling out into the walkways. Making irritable people even more irate.
“No Todd I told you it was 6:30. How long has my mom been stuck in JFK?” A pause. “No Todd it’s not okay, it’s not okay at all. She’s eighty! And she’s been stuck in JFK for five hours!”
Now there. There is a relationship that is moving fast, slipping down a slippery slope. It’ll be done in three months tops. He put an earbud in and turned his attention to another airport conversation. His own.
“No, mom, it was delayed. I’m still in Dallas.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Yes I’ll make it back in time.” It was getting dark. His head was rattling with every breath he took. “Thanks, bye mom, I love you.” He was going to hang up before she said anything else. He did.
He could psychoanalyze himself, he was cynical, very much stuck, but he wasn’t going to do that. There was no fun in that.
There was a blip. It seemed as if someone had set the world back a half-minute or badly spliced an old movie together. He blinked. Pursed his lips to one side. That was definitely sleep deprivation and yet, there, there was that baby’s cry again. He inclined his head toward the sound but it was gone, lost in the cacophony of other airport noises. He turned back to forward, only to move six inches forward and hit another abrupt stop. He really hated airports. He ran a hand through his hair making a bad situation worse.
“Oh for God’s sake, how long can this take?” A stranger breathes out. He was a small wiry man with the barrel chest of a Doberman pincer. A contradiction in every sense of the word. The man was innately untrustworthy in his eyes, yet somehow he couldn’t help but agree with the man, a vaguely troubling notion. He shoved the other earbud in, content to cease in his airport judging.
By the time he reached the back of the plane he had exhausted all of his music, which wasn’t saying much. He had very little music, and even less photos. He didn’t have much of anything on his phone, in fact.
He was in the farthest row back, cramped by the window, stuck between life-preserving plastic and the man with the dog’s chest. He could feel it, this flight was going to be obscenely long.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.