Foundation Week!

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Farmers market at Civic Center <3 <3 <3 Overlooked by City Hall.
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One of the great things about living in San Francisco is the mainstream friendliness to the queer community! These were found in Bed, Bath and Beyond.
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During Foundation Week (orientation), we were given four hours to complete a series of challenges around the city. One was to make a human pyramid in Dolores Park!
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Selfies are an important part of any college experience.
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San Francisco sunset from HQ balcony! <3
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City Hall at night. Spectacular view.
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First class!
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Major goal this year: Cook most of my own food––from scratch! Here are bags of chopped veggies from the farmers market, with some chicken stock bought in bulk from Costco, just waiting for me to get a free hour to cook it in the communal kitchen.
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After Convocation, a big group of us went out to dinner and ended up at IHOP (not my first choice but when you’re with friends…), where Chris (New Zealand) and I got the Funny Faces I had in my childhood with my grandparents when we’d make the 14+hr trips to Texas to visit. Technically only for kids but our server made an exception. :)
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During Convocation, the staff waited for the welcome speech to end in an alcove off the main floor… which was unfortunately situated under a giant Hunger Games banner, reminding me of HG training… scary.
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Palace of Fine Arts! Location of Convocation.
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View from the Palace of Fine Arts. <3
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To my rhetorical “what on earth are you up to,” I got back a cheeky “we’re creating a fire hazard!” You’ve got to love them all dearly.
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Ocean Beach! We held the closing ceremonies of Foundation Week here at sunset. You have to hand it to Student Experience, they really know how to pick their venues!
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A week ago, they were strangers. Now I look at this picture and see my fam.
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California ocean sunset, the stuff of legends.
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Selfie time!
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Tried to take a picture with the sunset, got my outline. Still pretty chill.
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And… because it’s Minerva, of course we had color changing fires that evening once s’mores were done cooking. Look at these flames!

Week 1 in San Francisco, check!

I get no end of pleasure from telling people I live in San Francisco.

Which is fortunate, really, since my phone has been blowing up (relatively) with calls from pizza companies and law offices looking for people I’ve never heard of. No, I couldn’t have ordered that pizza, I live in San Francisco. No, I don’t know whoever didn’t return that lawsuit information, I live in San Francisco.

Oh, by the way––I’m a resident of California living in San Francisco.

:D

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One of the coolest things about this city is how queer-friendly it is. There are rainbow flags all over. Gay men pass holding hands and kiss in hallways waiting for the elevator in ritzy apartments. I saw this sign here and had to snap a pic because I’m so proud that places like this exist in the U.S.

The last week, I’ve been participating in RA training for my dorm. RAs, or Resident Assistants, provide peer support to fellow students living in the resident hall. (Which is the entire school at this point, all 160 of us.) This ranges from being a resource to students and providing info on the city, programming, academics, rules, etc. and being a link between the student body and the school administration.

It promises to be an awesome learning experience for me, as well as a lot of fun! I do enjoy knowing what’s going on and taking a leadership role, so this role seems pretty perfect to me. Training has been intense––in the last week, I’ve become first aid and CPR certified, participated in two peer counseling  and suicide prevention workshops, made name signs for all my residents, been woken up by the fire alarm going off 3 nights in a row (they’ve fixed it now I think, good practice though), gone through building safety lectures and pop quizzes, identity exploration, icebreaker training… and so much more. Oh, and we had to build most of the furniture from IKEA in the building by hand! #somanyskillz

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I love how you can just look down a street and suddenly the world is falling away, overlooking a whole ‘nother part of the city in white and grey and light blue….

It’s midnight, now, so I’ll head to bed now and just leave you with some more photos and a revelation.  I have to get up at 7am tomorrow, and I’ve still got to read some Game of Thrones tonight. I’m halfway through the third book, and THE RED WEDDING JUST HAPPENED OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD–

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Where Whole Foods is the first level of an apartment building (left) and Safeway has vintage-esk signs that remind me of bowling alleys in Tucson. Hills in the background, as always. 

So. Revelation.

I guess I can’t really speak for all of Minerva yet, or the other students, since we haven’t started school yet and the other students haven’t arrived yet.

But there’s something about this whole thing that is magical.

And in a way, the part that is so magical about it is how normal it seems.

I feel like I’ve been a part of this organization, that I’ve been with these other RAs, for the last 10 years. It feels like a natural extension of myself. I enjoy being around the people. I really like, respect, and trust the adults working on the project. My fellow RAs are the most mature peers I’ve ever met.

Part of this ease of mind comes from the fact I think I’ve finally stopped fighting myself. I haven’t started over completely in a while. I’ve lived with my family for almost my whole life, and for the past ~8 years in Tucson, Arizona. Even when I spent a year studying abroad in Panama, I clung to home and family. (I was 16 and had never been away from home before. And by clung I mean I kept myself updated on the occurrences back home, and had the mindset I would be returning. I was not always on my phone, don’t worry. :P )

Last year, I went to my in-state university in Tucson, where my dorm room was 5 minutes walk from my dad’s office, and old friend groups were easily accessible.

But now… now I’ve left home with the intention of moving out completely. I’ve grown, I have my individuality and independence. I know how to take care of myself, and well. I know who I am, and more importantly, I have a good idea of who I want to be.

It feels like my entire life so far has suddenly paid off. All the hard work I’ve put in over the years shows suddenly in this moment.

I miss my friends, family, and town, but it feels so healthy to be able to shuck off all identities and impressions and obligations I no longer want to keep as a part of “Phoebe.” I can be whoever I want to be… namely, myself.

Hmm, I think I said that in a previous post. I just really like that sentence. :)

And I’ve accepted all the parts that make Phoebe, Phoebe. There are still some that I work ever day to change, obviously. But I accept them, I acknowledge them. I’m honest with myself and about myself. All those self-love workshops really did hit home––they just needed a full restart to kick in. That makes me happier than words can describe, so with that, sweet dreams, world.

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This here building is the San Francisco Unified School District building!!! What!?! This was the third school/school admin building I saw today that looked like a legit castle. I mean I know Arizona is like last on the list of states that give money to education, but this is almost ridiculous. Ridiculously cool, that is!!

Lost and Found | Adventure x Adventure

July 10-13

Logistics:

Travel: Taxi: Purple House Hostel—>David bus terminal($1.25). Bus: David—> Lost & Found hostel ($3.50)

Lodging: Lost & Found hostel ($12/night to share a big bed in dorms, otherwise $14/night dorm).

Activities: Bus from waterfall ($1)

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Clouds drift from overhead, rushing over the crest of the mountain behind you into the valley in front.

The Lost and Found ecolodge is my favorite hostel in Panama. Set in the top of the mountains between Changuinola and David, in the Chiriqui provence, the hostel is the only traveler destination for hours. The closest store is some 40 minutes walk away, next to a restaurant and some stands selling fresh fruits and veggies.

Once you’re dropped off by a bus from Changuinola or David, there’s another 10 minute hike uphill through the forest. Amazingly, all the supplies and building materials were carried up the same small trail you use today when they were building the hostel. Today, strapping, local boys can be spotted bringing up huge crates of beer, food, snacks, and whatever else the hostel needs.

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Here’s Ally in the main center of the open-air hostel, when we prepped our bags to go and paid the tab for our stay there.

What I love most about Lost and Found is the sense of community that grows between travelers (and staff) that comes from being the only visitors in the area. You wake up together, eat breakfast together, go on hikes or do the treasure hunt together, eat a family style dinner together cooked by the hostel (for $8), visit their rescued kinkajou Rocky together, go to the bar together. Some people even sleep together. ;) And many groups will leave together, to go to Boquete or the Bocas islands. It’s a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of most other hostels, where people you meet disappear on the regular.

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View from the dining table during family dinner of the valley and sunset.

The best way to get to know people is to go on the hostel’s treasure hunt. It’s a full day activity, taking you up steep, steep hills, along a sort of cliff edge, to a beautiful valley lookout, across deep streams. Deciphering clues is easy enough that you won’t get lost, but you definitely have a bit of a search for the clue itself once you get to the right spot. Upon your return, you have to put together a special story from clues hidden around the hostel, and if you share the story at the bar, there is a ritual and prize waiting for you!

My other favorite thing is the weather. Where I lived in Changuinola a few years ago, the humidity levels never seemed to drop below 99.9%. (Just kidding––they often got down to 90%.) This trip Ally and I traveled along the coast of Costa Rica, where humidity levels were similarly high. Up in the mountains was one of two places I stepped out of the shower (mercifully hot showers, too) and felt clean and dry. (The other place I felt like that was Hostel Bekuo, in San José, my favorite hostel in Costa Rica. Hmm, are you seeing a trend here?)

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Two friends eat lunch. Note the conveniently placed hammocks in the background. XD

Unfortunately, this hostel brings heartbreak along with the joy. I always connect with the people here so much that it’s hard to move on. (I also met a boy so there you go.) Something I learned this trip was that I actually don’t really like traveling. I like living. Existing. Being. I like being those things abroad in new environments, with new people, sure. I love going abroad, don’t get me wrong. But I really enjoy being somewhere for long enough to understand the place on a plethora of levels, instead of just spending a few nights there. Social, political, financial, social justice, shopping trends, you name it. I’m curious about how everything comes into play in a place. Just as important to me is experiencing it with other people who you will continue to have a connection with in the future. For example, traveling with Ally this trip was wonderful, because we live right next door to each other and share our friend group. I’ve seen her many times since we returned, and we can look back on and reflect on our experience, grow even more. Relive the best (and the worst).

That’s how I want to travel from now on: not just going somewhere for the sake of having been; instead, exist in a new place with friends by my side.

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We found this crazy beautiful waterfall some two hours walk through the backcountry of Panama from the hostel, relying on vague local instruction, because we had a Peace Corps volunteer who’d lived nearby for two years with us and had heard about it. It was great to joke with her about everything you experience in Panama living there long term. 

Good thing I’m on the plane to San Francisco to begin my journey with Minerva as I write this, huh? A year in San Francisco, then a semester in 6 different cities across the globe with my entire college class. It’s going to be an amazing four years. If you haven’t heard about Minerva, my college, check out my blog post! Some of my finest work, if I do say so myself. :)

 

Paso Canoas | Adventure x Adventure

Crossing the Costa Rica—Panama border, and city of David

July 9

Logistics:

Travel: Uvita—>(border town) ($3.40), taxi —> Paso Canoas ($2.50), bus—>David ($2.50), taxi—>hostel ($1.50).

Lodging: Purple House Hostel in David ($9/night)

Activities: $9 – Costa Rica exit tax (suspiciously $9 instead of $7).


Pictured above: Ally on one of our long bus rides.

Awesomely, our Swiss friend from the hostel was headed in the same direction at the same time, so we got to ride the bus with him for two hours and talked, before he got off to catch other bus. 

We went to the town that was nearest the board, whose name I forget (probably like most travelers), and caught a taxi about 10 seconds after we got off the colectivo bus (a local bus that makes regular stops instead of direct).

Crossing the border was easy, it took about 45 minutes. There’s a $7 exit tax to leave Costa Rica, although somehow we ended up paying $9. We didn’t feel like fighting over $2 each though, since it was a battle I’ve never heard of anybody winning. The only snag came when it was my turn and the officer noticed that I had a visa for Panama in my passport, from my year of study abroad there two years ago. With the special stamp comes a identification card that gives you temporary resident status, which we had to return when we left the country, and the officer want to know why I didn’t have it. I explained the situation a few times, she went to talk to a superior, and luckily I was let through without issue.

(Short history of other immigration run ins: When we first arrived in Panama in 2013, our passports were confiscated and we were held in the airport because of an identity mixup within our group on their part––they thought our program leader was going to be with us, and then assumed it was one of the exchange students, and thought she was trying to fake her ID because it was hers and not the woman they thought she was. Another time I was going near the border with some friends, and ran into an unexpected border control checkpoint. When I showed them my passport, the officer saw that I had been in the country some 10 months without a new entry stamp, which is illegal. He didn’t seem to understand what the visa stamp permitting me another 6 months in country was, and I had to go over it with him, pointing out the expiration date and everything. I don’t know if he’d ever seen one before. Luckily, he eventually let me through without problems as well, although after that everybody in the back of the bus who only heard me arguing with him over my passport gave me funny looks after that.)

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Here is a fun Harry Potter gif! Because I don’t have any other photos of this trip because I was too busy looking. Also I think about this moment ^ all the time. It’s so gooooood. 

Once we got on the bus to David, I realized I had been a fool to ever say that Costa Rica looked so much like Panama. How could I have forgotten the uniqueness of Panama? Bars, bus stops, and shops were all painted in familiar brands once again (Atlas, Movistar, Más Mobil); many women dressed in the bright style of the indigenous group Ngöbe-Bugle. Once we reached Concepción, a town about an hour from the boarder, I was in familiar territory. There was the bus stop where my Norwegian friend and I waited for our double date to pick us up on Valentine’s Day when I was visiting her after an orientation. Here was the stretch of by-the-hour love hotels shaped like castles. The David bus terminal I had been to countless times. As we walked down the rows of departing buses, each bearing the name of the city or town they were going to, pings of sadness went through me as I remembered a face of an exchange student friend who lived at the end of that bus line. Suddenly, I realized I had never been more alone in Panama. It was good to have Ally at my side.

We stayed in the Purple House. I felt very safe there, liked the owner and volunteers, and there was only two other travelers in the hostel. Everything was indeed purple. However, it was sort of grubby, which is what you get for $9 a night I suppose.

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Ron as a lion. Not a Lannister lion, just a regular lion. 

The awesome part came when Ally’s Panamanian friend she met while volunteering in Costa Rica picked us up to catch up, and we ended up picking up another friend and going out. To Boquete! Whatttttt! I did not realize that Boquete was so close to David. Only like half an hour! Boquete We got a huge plate of food for $3 at a local eatery (got to love Panamanian prices), then went to a gringo bar. There was a lot of 40-somethings there for the live band covering 80’s hits. I was wearing my University of Arizona Global Studies shirt, which caught the owner’s eye. She came over to introduce herself as a alumni of U of A! What a coincidence. We talked for a bit, I told her I was 19, etc. etc. Later, when I went in to order another drink, she saw what I was doing. “Oh, that’s the beer menu,” she said. “Can I get you the food menu?” I had to laugh (inside)—habits die hard, apparently, like not serving alcohol to under 21-year-olds. (Drinking age in Panama is 18.) After going to another restaurant where Ally’s friends were playing, it was time to go home. It was one of the best nights in Panama. :) Moral of the story: make friends and keep in touch!

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#Throwback to when I crossed the Costa Rica/Panama boarder (at a different crossing) the first time, in 2014, with some school friends to buy ice cream. Note how old and rickety the bridge was–sometime you had to step over large holes!

Uvita | Adventure x Adventure

Logistics:

Travel: Quepos —> Uvita ($4)

Lodging: Toucan Hotel ($13/night: dorm room, $10/night: hammock)

Activities: $2- waterfall entrance. $6- National Whale Tail Park.

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The mangroves (I think that’s what this is) look rather ominous, don’t they?

 

A few hours from Quepos is the small town of Uvita. It’s not much of a tourist spot, although there is a center for tourist information. The “bus station” is just a covered stop and there are few destinations to choose from. My guess is their main traffic is people in rental cars.

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We stayed at Hotel Toucan, a very beautiful place with dorm rooms running along the side to create a covered open area 100 feet wide, with an open air kitchen, a sort of hammock garden, pool table, and tables for their restaurant. The first night we slept in a dorm room, but the second the place got filled up and we had to sleep in hammocks. I was worried about mosquitos, so I wore long pajama pants tucked into the thickest pair of socks I had, and my light jacket. Soon, however, I was trying to cover up to beat the cold. I even got my damp towel off the clothes line. Sleeping in a hammock was interesting… I ended up sleeping across two or three of them so I could lie flat. Ally was to my right in her own hammock she brought with her, and a little to the left was a guy from Switzerland we had befriended and had chosen to sleep outside from the beginning.

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View of the hotel from the kitchen. I slept in the striped hammocks.

The first day, we borrowed bikes from the hostel to go up a hill to a waterfall. It was a free rental, woo hoo! *shakes head* I should have been more suspicious when the receptionist said it wasn’t a problem if they broke or anything, just if they were lost entirely. Riding up was a workout—the bikes were heavy and the tires flat, the dirt hill steep. We ended up walking the bikes up part of the way. The waterfall was worth it though. From the left, water poured down some 20 feet in a natural rock shoot some other travelers were using as a slide. (One of them even went head first down it!) The clear, blue water formed a sloping pool surrounded by high, black rock, and framed with deep green leaves the size of or bigger than my hand. The stream ran through some large rocks, creating a series of pools, before it poured down into another large, flat pool. The slope of the creamy sand drifting off as the green-blue water deepened, the smooth surface of the water, was surreal. I spend several minutes just standing at the edge, water to my thighs, imaging myself a part of the perfection all around me.

An hour or two later, the sky began to turn grey. We were just heading into the rainy season. If it rained one day we’d have a dry day the next, if it rained in the morning we’d have a dry afternoon, and visa versa; the day we went to the waterfall was clear all morning. Figuring rain was soon to come we headed down the hill on our borrowed bikes. Just as the first few drops began to fall, the brakes on my bike blew out as the chain completely lost grip. Calling to Ally to pick up my flip flop which had been lost with the brakes, I gritted my teeth and put my feet to the ground to slow my speed, which was only increasing as we sped down the hill. Rain fell harder as I dismounted and found the bike beyond my abilities to fix. I ended up pushing it the last two minutes, while the rain soaked us both (Ally refused to leave me behind, the Gryffindor). Later I found I had acquired bruises with control over my speeding bike.

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View of the beach through the binos. Looks rather vintage, no?

The next day dawned clear, so we went to the nearby Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, or Whale National Marine Park. The “free shuttle” turned out to be the hotel owner in her van! We were going to see the mystical “whale’s tail.” You see, on the coast of Uvita, a rocky outcrop forms a double curve that looks like the tail of a whale from the land, visible for only two or three hours at low tide. Going onto the tail was amazing. You look to your left? Waves. You look to your right? Waves.

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Here I am! Loving this backdrop :D
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Alllllllyyyyyyy
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There are so many pictures of Ally on my phone rn

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Water to the left, water to the right…Ally to the middle?

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Lunchtime

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Life under the water

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Awesomely, when we walked just inside the tree line down the beach, we found a flock of some 20 scarlet macaws! I snapped the below above through my binoculars. :)

 <3

Note- the sand dollar that was at the very top was one I found on the beach by the trees. I left it there, a little ways from where I found it, as a sort of dream catcher, a place to send worries and cares to leave them behind. Feel free to send your worries there too. :)

Manuel Antonio National Park | Adventure x Adventure

July 5-6, 2016

Logistics:

Travel: Bus: San José —> Quepos ($9), $1.21 round trip to Manuel Antonio from Quepos.

Lodging: $12/night- Wide Mouth Frog hostel.

Activities: $16- foreigner entrance fee to Manuel Antonio National Park. (Locals pay $3.)

 

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This is the most beautiful and interesting butterfly I’ve ever seen. From above, the wings bring images of brilliant blue diamonds scattered on black velvet. From below, scarlet rubies lit from within across the black night sky.

Manuel Antonio National Park is where I want to get married, I think.

Hear me out––you could get married in the traditional, friends and family fly in to your wedding in beautiful Colorado, big ceremony, hopefully not too much drama, honeymoon. Or––you could fly to Costa Rica with your closest core friend group and your fiancé, get married in a national park, foil capuchin monkey attempts to steal your cake because you’re an environmentally responsible badass, take a few days off with your new spouse to enjoy the wonders of the surrounding area alone, then meet up with your friends again and backpack through Central America together celebrating friendship and starting your life as a married couple together and with your fam.

Mic drop.

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The husk of some unknown insect, found on the ground.

The park is that amazing. I’ve spent three days there in total, one with ITE and the other two on my own once Ally and I started traveling on our own. Luckily, I had a pair of binoculars I was borrowing from ITE, and that made the experience twenty––no, fifty––times better. ITE paid for a tour guide named Johan Chaves to show us the park; I highly suggest that newcomers take a tour guide with them on their first visit to the park. They’ll have a tripod binocular scope, and the best will know not only where to find the animals and what their names are, but how to interpret the surround world for you. Do some research beforehand, because not all tour guides are created equal, and this is one place I’d suggest going for quality. I was able to go the second and third time without a guide and find all sorts of creatures, because I knew what to look for. Seriously, get a tour guide.

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The view from where I ate lunch, at the very top of one trail. A french family gave me some of their fruit when they saw I had brought only a baguette and two bananas. :)

When you first enter the park, you’re on a wide, gravel car trail. You probably won’t feel like you’re in the park yet and most people just speed walk on by. But wait, keep your eyes out! Directly to the right of the front gates is a patch of what I believe were banana trees. There, we could see evidence of a tent making bat, who will bite the stem of a leaf several times, causing it to weaken, fold over… and create the perfect little home for the little bat. But the adventure truly begins before you even go through the park gates. There is a small bridge over a stream shaded by a thick tree past the parking lot and tourist ware-sellers. There, we saw a deer and her fawn, a Jesus Christ lizard (named for their ability to run on water!), howler monkeys, assorted birds… a little further down the road I saw more howler monkeys and a sloth.

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Who doesn’t love some good mushrooms on trees? (Note my profile picture, taken in the Santa Catalina mountains by Tucson.)

As you go on, keep your eyes out. Some things I saw (many again and again, like the sloths):

  • two toed sloths
  • three toed sloths
  • agoutis
  • howler monkeys
  • wrens (birds)
  • squirrel monkeys
  • white faced capuchin monkeys
  • iguanas (spiny-back and brown)
  • forest crabs
  • other types of crabs
  • snakes, assorted
  • frogs, poison dart
  • water birds
  • raccoons
  • toucans and toucan-ish birds
  • ants
  • lizards, assorted
  • “wild dog” lizard
  • orb weaver spiders
  • butterflies! so many
  • pink cup fungi
  • fungi, assorted
  • dragonflies
  • turkey vultures
  • black vultures
  • king vultures
  • deer
  • hummingbirds
  • wild, animal feeding, trash leaving, animal harassing humans.

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Many of these creatures were very easy to spot, which is why the park is so popular. It’s like a giant “rainforest for beginners” manual… :P get it?

Sadly, many people are just there for the beach. They come in with their swimsuits on, towels over their arms, and make a beeline to the water. (Why they come here and pay the entrance fee is beyond me; the beach is very lovely, but so is the beach right out side the entrance?) Unfortunately, there is quite a problem with white faced capuchin monkeys and raccoons stealing food there. Right now, the park is making efforts to reduce the amount of human food they get, but that just makes the animals go into junk food withdrawal. Waves of raccoons and monkeys bands of three or four will sweep the beach, grabbing anything not severely guarded that may contain food. (Like sunscreen.) The best way to drive them off seems to be shouting at them. It’s really important that they stop eating the food after all, because it’s not good for them and it creates too many interactions between human and wild. But some tourists see you shouting at the monkeys and will start muttering, in voices just loud enough to carry, “oh, the poor monkeys! Why are they being so mean?” This drives me crazy. If people like you wouldn’t feed them in the first place, we wouldn’t be having this problem. The monkey doesn’t need your food to survive. If you give them your candy bar, you are literally harming them. Don’t. Feed. The. Animals.

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Fun Fungi XD
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Beautiful red cup fungi. My favorite plant in the park. :)

But everything else is awesome. There are a couple of trails that branch off from the main trail. One loop leads to a small waterfall, others curve between the edge of the land and the water protected by the park. The trails are paved, and while steep at times, very doable. The further you go into the park, the less people you’ll see, especially once you pass the turn off for the beach. In the back corners of the park, you’ll startle agoutis burying their harvest and sloths hanging directly above the trail. In the evening, I even found howler monkey families settling in for the evening, grooming each other and hanging out with the babies and older ones. It makes you wonder how often they see a human passing by on the trail.

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One of the more secluded beaches at the park.

Spectacular. I suspect I will be visiting the park every time I come to Central America from now on. :)

P.S. Also: we met two cute boys our age from Germany named Fabian and Valentin (pronounced Valentine) at our hostel. Fabian and Valentine. What even is the world

La Fortuna | Adventure x Adventure

Thought I’d do an adventure by adventure recount of my trip… enjoy!

La Fortuna | July 1-3

Logistics summery

Travel

Bus: Montezuma—>Paquera/Ferry ($3.60); Ferry—>Puntarenas ($1.60); Bus Puntarenas—>San Ramon ($2.60)—>La Fortuna ($4.35) ––> San José (~$3)

Lodging

La Fortuna: Hostel Backpackers La Fortuna ($15/night, prices vary with promotions), La Fortuna Backpackers Resort ($12/night, prices vary with promotions)

San José: Bekuo ($10 for women’s dorm, $9-11 reg. dorm)

Activities

Expensive. Mostly tours available. Highly recommend Cerro Chato hike ($12) and free hot springs. (Round trip taxi was $7/person between 4 people.)


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Ally hangs out in the misty waters of Cerro Chato. At one point she swam out too far to see or hear… but she always comes back safe. She’s such a Gryffindor. :)

There is a strange consortium of hostels in La Fortuna. Called Hostel Backpackers La Fortuna, La Fortuna Backpackers Resort, and Arenal Hostel Resort, all with similar signage and logos, they make no secret of their connection to one another. They’ve got good ratings in the Lonely Planet guidebook, and a friend had gushed about the one she stayed in, so Ally and I decided to stay there. Easier said than done; we were informed upon arrival our first choice was full, so we were escorted to their second hostel… which was also full. Luckily, the last one had a few open spots! But at $15/night because their promotion had just, just ended… It was dark and we were tired, so we paid and hit the pool table. Later, we would be informed the hostel was booked full so we had to move to their sister hostel. Luckily, they were running a promotion now for $12/night… but stopped the next night when we went to pay. I talked them into letting Ally and I pay only the agreed upon price, though. Another example: friends who booked a tour through the hostel paid an extra $20 than the others who went on the same tour through different booking locations. The entire thing felt like a scan, although most of the individual workers were kind. That didn’t keep others in our hostel being kicked out as we were because of overbooked beds even though the beds themselves were empty that night. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The next day, we went out with our roommates-turned-quick-friends from Sweden and Switzerland to a waterfall up a hill. The Swedes had a rental car which they graciously shared with us. Upon our arrival Ally and I discovered that to our horror the entrance fee was some $14. As Ally’s daily budget was $16, we turned around to some hot springs we were told were close by––and free. Our friends promised to meet us there. They actually caught us before we had arrived at the (cold) river, because we had taken shelter from the rain for a while (Ally did exercises as Ally does) and stopped to watch toucans, which we pointed out to the lead guide for a horseback riding tour of some 20 or 30 that was coming up behind us.

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Volcano Arenal. One of the rare moments it wasn’t clouded over (wet season).

On the walk down the hill, we passed a tall blonde youth heading up, who we now believe was a fellow youth traveler staying in our hostel we spent the next two days with. It’s a small world when you all go to the same places. The entire trip we would meet the same people over and over again, sometimes in another country. The beaten path is very clearly defined in Central America. (Especially Panama. One woman’s serious rhetorical question: “What else is there to do in Panama but Panama City and [the archipelago of] Bocas [del Toro]?”)

Also while walking this hill, we stopped and bought a fridge magnet from a shop. The shopkeeper then took us into his backyard to spot birds lured out with some papaya from his kitchen, poison dart frogs, and see his work area. One of the kindest men we met on our journey. :) And we felt transported back in time when we randomly stumbled upon one of the hotels we stayed in the first time we were in Costa Rica! Ally and I went on the ITE trip four years ago, and stayed in this hotel surrounded by dinosaurs made of plants. Seeing the place again was surreal. They seemed to have lost a lot of business––nobody was around, everything was overgrown and dirty. A part of me wishes we hadn’t found it so it would have lived on forever pristine in my memory.

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View from the Cerro Chato trail.

The next day was rainy. From the time we woke up to the late afternoon, water poured from above. With our new English friend, we made “biscuits,” or as we call them in ‘murica, cookies. Chocolate chunk cookies. They were delicious and the one time I baked anything those 6 weeks. That evening, we went to a natural hot spring with our cookie friend and a Tico from the hostel. They were lovely and warm and urban. Much of it was regular river, but parts flowed through abandoned infrastructure turned graffitied concrete playground. At one part, a concrete lip under the water created a cave with air you could go into by ducking under about a foot thick waterfall. Most of those enjoying the springs were locals, families. They brought tall candles to light after dusk, turning the stream into something misty and magical.

Thankfully, the next morning dawned––and stayed––clear. We were both tired of La Fortuna, so we decided to head to San José for transfer south. It was a beautiful place, but everything was built around tours. They seemed like fine tours with over a hundred options at least, but were also between $45 and $120 each, far beyond what our budgets allowed.

Before we left, we hiked Cerro Chato, a shorter volcano (I think) next to Arenal. It was a grueling hike up to and then over the lip to a lake covered in fog. There was a lot of mud, and there was a lot of pulling ourselves up the trail with the help of tree roots and vines. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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There is something about the streets of Costa Rica and Panama that separates them completely from streets I see in the U.S. Maybe it’s that the houses are always colorful, with a distinctive design featuring columns and tilted roofs.

Finally we were on our way! We stayed at Hostel Bekuo in San José, my new favorite hostel in Costa Rica. (Traveler’s Tip: Don’t pay more than like $10 for a taxi to Bekuo from any bus station. I’ve paid $5 and $6 for first Ally and I, and then myself.) It’s clean and very fashionable. They’ve got a great pool table, outside areas in front in back, TV lounge, and everything is open and bright. And cheap, too. :)

Next adventure: Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park, July 5-6

Hello from Montezuma!

June 29th: Journal post
Hello from Montezuma, on the Nicoya Peninsula!


^on the beach! Sorry, but this may be the only picture because the wifi everywhere is pretty bad. :/

My friend and traveling partner, Ally, and I have now spilt from the ITE group and are on our own in Costa Rica. The group left Monteverde to fly off from San José three days ago while we left for Puntarenas after hiking through some trails in Monteverde. We stayed at Hotel Sol y Arena, which was a bit of a godsend for past me. Unexpectedly, we arrived in Puntarenas after dark (which falls about 6pm) without a plan for a place to stay since we figured we’d just walk around and find a place once we arrived. I was nervous about the lack of a plan and the dark, about being robbed, of being lost. But this hotel was just 20 yards from the bus station, lit up in the dark, and I pulled Ally towards it. The cost was only $20/night for a two person room. Later we found out after exploring the next morning that we’d found the cheapest option by $10-40 by chance. We fell asleep after splitting a granola bar about 7:30pm. 

^The beach in Puntarenas, around 7am. 

The next morning we walked through Puntarenas, which is a long strip of land surrounded by the pacific, to the ferry terminal, back, and again to the terminal with our backpacks, about 45 minutes each way. I’ve quickly fallen into the habit of greeting most people we pass, and it paid off when we actually got blessed by a woman sitting on her porch as we walked by and said good morning. I’m not reglious, but there’s something nice about a stranger wishing what they believe to be the best to be with you. 
It was amazing how many public parks there were. Parks in Central America are common, I think––most larger towns seem to have several. Large spaces with tens of benches and walkways and a central monument, often a basketball court. An interesting practice here is to paint the bottom four or five feet of trees white. In one park we passed, the trees were painted all sorts of beautiful colors! We bought three lines of sweet rolls for a couple of dollars for breakfast and ate them on our walk through the town, quiet at 7am. 

^Painted trees in the park.

^Huge water towers in Puntarenas. Two of four were leaking. 

Our ferry to Paquera left almost at 9am on the dot, right on schedule, as had our bus to Puntarenas. (For those who claim Tico Time makes everybody and everything late; it’s not true. :P ) It was like a party cruise, with a DJ and everything! And only $1.60 for the ~hour trip. 
^View from the ferry.

Then a bus to Montezuma, mini-exploration of town, and eventual settling at Downtown Hostel, a art filled international chill space by the beach. We’ve ended up spending three nights here, enjoying the vibe and travelers. There’s a series of waterfalls nearby, and you can walk for presumably miles along the beach. My favorite combo: Hiking in the morning, read and rest in midday when the sun is highest, and walk along the beach in the evening to talk and watch the sun set. 
Everything has been going really well so far––nothing stolen or lost, friendly travelers and ticos––with the exception of a fall I took yesterday when crossing a rocky outcrop on the beach. Engrossed in my thoughts, I stepped a little too close to the edge and the rock suddenly crumbled away, leaving me blinking at the ground in a ~three foot deep and wide seashell filled crevice. It all happened very fast, and somehow I cut my left pinky toe pretty bad and scratched my left thigh, my belly, and my back, and little spots all over my hands… How, I don’t know. :P But it’s all good now! There was a lot of fuss at the hostel and all the adults brought out their medical supplies, so now I’m all taken care of. In other unrelated news, Ally jumped off a 50 foot waterfall into murky waters and has not a scratch. XD
This morning Ally and our roommate are exploring a new waterfall, while I stay here to write, rest, and take pressure off my toe so it can heal. The hostel is pretty quiet; most are off taking advantage of the beach or have left. I’ve eaten the free pancake breakfast twice now, since it goes to 11… which is practically lunch time, right? Heh heh heh… 
We’re off to the town of Nicoya tomorrow, where we will try couch surfing for the first time! We’ve been messaging with the host for the last few days, he has 17 really great reviews on the website, and we’ve both promised to leave the second one of us feels uncomfortable, so I feel pretty good about trying this out. I mean, I knew as little about my host families when I moved in with them for a year. We’ll see! Mom, dad, you’ll be glad to know I do not plan on hitchhiking despite others suggesting it’s easier, cheaper, and faster than the bus. :)
¡Pura Vida! as they say here in Costa Rica, which I’ve heard used to mean pure life, good luck, good bye… and omg we’re in Costa Rica!
-Phoebe

Day 1: Arriving in Costa Rica!

June 14th.1pm Costa Rica time.

I’ve made it! After almost 21 hours of travel, I’ve made it to the hostel I booked at the airport this morning. I feel a little strange, partly because the familiarity of a Central American city is oddly home and foreign, and partly because I’ve only slept two times for about an hour each. O.o
Now I’m at the Alajuela Backpacker’s Hostel, a budget lodging venture on the corner of a busy street, looking out onto a pawn shop, a vape shop, and a cute children’s park. I’ve been watching the traffic move; I’ve learned to expect the whichever possibility seems most expectedly unexpected. Sometimes cars stop, other times they don’t. A few pedestrians will walk without looking, others wait at the corner for a clear opportunity to cross safely. 


^View from where I write this.

I’m sitting in the hostel’s lobby area, as check in is not until 2pm. I might venture out, but it started to rain not too long ago and my umbrella is in my (big) backpack…which is somewhere in Miami? American Airlines said they’d drop it off here when it arrived. I checked it in Tucson voluntarily as to save myself from hauling it for 20 hours who knows where. I will never let go of my bag again. All I really want to do is sleep and change clothes, but as neither of those options are open right now, I will blog.

Honestly, last night (this morning? Time is a blur), sitting in the completely silent and closed Maimi airport I began to have a few doubts about the trip, mostly when I realized that I had minimal ideas on what to do when I got to the airport, and no idea what to do once I left it. 

Lesson Learned: While traveling, find a hostel ahead of time if you’re not familiar with the landscape. Book if possible. Make the process easier on yourself by downloading an app like HostelWorld if you’ve just a phone. Do this when you have reliable internet. Don’t wait for, say, the Miami airport. XP

But it all worked out okay. (Positive reenforcement for leaving things to the last minute. Just like studying––they try to get me to study, but it’s hard to make myself do it when I still get As.) I booked this hostel for $15/night (more than their ads online say it would be and more than I really want to pay, but it’s close to the airport), and wrote down a list of what I was most afraid of. Then I wrote a list of ways to conquer each fear. 

(In case you’re curious: mostly, I’m afraid of being broke. I don’t know how to be without money. I’ve worked odd or regular jobs since I was a freshman in high school and my parents gave me an allowance, and since I always saved it, I’ve almost always had money. Suddenly, the prospect of going on this 6 week long adventure and having to pay for associated costs was a stressful thought when Minerva looms over me. Luckily, my parents have contributed quite a lot, and they and my community SoCo have made it possible for me to go on this trip. It literally would have been impossible otherwise. On that note, my GoFundMe is still up and accepting contributions! http://www.gofundme.com/phoebem)

The best part of my day, the part that assuaged all my doubts about traveling to Costa Rica alone, was walking out of the airport. As tens of men suddenly started trying to get me in their taxis, my old habits and skill sets returned. I waved them all away casually, without thinking about it. Four years ago when I first visited Costa Rica, I had been overwhelmed by the mass of strangers talking to me in a language I could barely comprehend. The hostel’s website had mentioned something about a five minute bus… So naturally, I asked a taxi driver where the bus to Alajuela was. He gave me good instructions; the bus stop was close enough we could see the buses passing. After a bit of verbal stumbling––I have practiced Spanish very rarely over the last two years, and not in the transportation domain––I got on what I was told was the right bus. Unsure of public transit customs, I asked how much it was. It was some huge number I didn’t recognize, and I remembered with almost fear that they used Colones here, where the exchange is some 500 to the dollar. I can barely count that high in Spanish. “I’ll just take a taxi,” I said, and made to hop off the bus. Everybody was watching as the driver called after me, “hold up, they’ll change you twice as much than they should!” I stepped right back up. “You’re right,” I said, took a deep breath, and pushed forward. With the help of an English speaking woman who knew where the park was, I got off at the right “stop” (bus stops are more of a vague concept here than a concrete structure (literally heheh)). She told me to walk two blocks behind us and then three to my right. I thanked her and started of, head held high. On that bus, hearing the Spanish all around me, the brightly colored houses, the street venders selling all sorts of things, the driving unlike anything else I’ve experienced, I felt a part of me come home. 

So there I was, walking down this unknown (unlabeled) street in some part of San José, Costa Rica. (*Note: I found out later that I wasn’t even actually in San José, I was in Alajuela, a town close enough to San José buses run there for 535 colones–a little over a dollar–every 15 or 30 minutes. But still not San José.) I was on my own, with no plans to meet up with my group until the day after next. The Maps app on my iPhone is my savior in Tucson, but here it knows nothing. Instead, I had vauge directions I could only hope led me to the right place and weren’t the product of a joke or misunderstanding. (*Note: Again, later I found out there were two children’s parks, one 6 blocks away that was much more popular and by rights I probably should have received directions to that place when I asked. Sometime I wonder how I get/do anything.) Ticos––Costa Ricans––of all ages passed me. Many men stared at my chest or my face and called out to me: “princess” and “beautiful” and even a “welcome.” (Not as bad as Panama though, nowhere near. The youngers made eye contact and looked away. They younger they were, the longer that contact was held. I never seem to catch the women’s eyes.

(Hmm. Reading this over, ready to post, I realize that it’s no wonder my mom worries about me traveling. I have given her good cause. :P)

Just when I was considering hopping into one of the many taxis, I turned the corner onto a park, and the hostel appeared before me.

Now it’s almost 5pm, when the bar opens. I plan on checking it out, either as a place to just escape the gasoline fumes that permeate the first floor, or as a place to meet my fellow travelers. The main reason I’m doing this trip is to meet them, after all. Other tourists.

I have the rest of today and tomorrow here in San José, before I meet ITE early Wednesday morning. Today I will use to recover from my long trip and hopefully this cold that’s getting worse, and then tomorrow… I may do more of the same. The gas fumes are overpowering while walking around the city, causing my throat (already sore) to swell. It depends on how I feel tomorrow morning, I guess, but based on experience I doubt I’ll feel much better for a few more days if not a week or two.

Bar’s opened. Good night!

Millennials and the One Young World Environment Summit

Last week I was a delegate to the inaugural One Young World Environmental Summit. Due to prior fundraising obligations (@SoCo fam), I was only able to attend Day 1 and Day 2––but boy, were they interesting.

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Aren’t we cute? Ironwood Tree Experience represent! I think this was one of the last times we were all together during the conference because everybody found friends immediately. :)

Day One was for check in and opening ceremonies, at Biosphere 2. We got to look around for an hour, had dinner (best ice cream ever), and listened to the adults tell us about OYW and how awesome youth were. (Church.)

 

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Closed growing environment that can be used in space / on Mars. (!!)

Day Two was held at ENR2 on the University of Arizona campus. My homeland! Funnily, we just held our AZMUN conference there, so there was some deja vu. It was good to be back at what use to be “home,” too.

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The ENR2 building, newly built.

Okay, so, we knew that Day Two was going feature speakers, while Day Three would have more problem solving. But I don’t think any of us were prepared for the sheer number of speakers. We started about 8:30am that morning. There were two or three 10 minute breaks, 40 minutes for lunch, but other those breaks, we didn’t leave that one lecture hall until 7pm that evening.

I’ve gotta say, I was impressed with the fortitude of my fellow younglings. For a group of 16-30 year olds, we took a solid stream of adults sharing with us their life’s work without  discussion or Q&A pretty darn well. Each speaker was given courtesy and an ear, and was clapped onto and off the stage.

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Alejandro Toledo, past president of Perú

The speakers were pretty amazing, luckily. See the full list here. Jennifer Gray, CNN meteorologist, kicked things off, and was followed by the likes of Alejandro Toledo, the first indigenous president in Central America; Robert Swan, who was the first man to walk to both poles; Ken Kragen, of Hands Across America, who brought in a marching band; Adrian Grenier, actor and cutie; Minister Jan Pronk, President of the Kyoto Protocol; Christine Harada, Federal Chief Sustainability Officer; Ron Garan, NASA Astronaut… the list goes on and on. (Really.) Also, please be aware it doesn’t escape my attention that there were 6 more men speaking than women, and that the vast majority were white.

Here’s the video of Robert Swan’s talk about walking to the North and South poles. It. Was. Hilarious.

 

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Taken from my friend’s snapstory.

My favorite talks were given by Dr. Leyla Acaroglu (watch her TED talk here), whose energy and graphics brought us to life, and my hero, Erin Schrode, who is running for Congress in CA at age 25 as a feminist and environmental activist. She’s the real bae.

I learned a lot, filled pages and pages of my notebook with key points and ideas (some more off topic than on. Anybody at Minerva interested in starting a Waffles of Imagination club where we eat waffles and come up with solutions to world problems? I have the rough draft for a poster!). A major, reoccurring theme was that of the importance of storytelling to amplify your idea for change or increase awareness of a problem. The better said, the more compelling and attractive. I will be implementing this lesson into all further projects of mine. (Like this blog. I try to have interesting photos, humanizing jokes, etc. so that the reader will engage and hear my message.)

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I mean, what could be better than waffles and fulling your civic duty at the same time?

It was all extremely inspiring. Here were tens of people who easily fit my idea of a hero, sharing with me everything that made them passionate, encouraging us each to grow, take a stand, make a change. But unfortunately, the other main theme was the word “you.” Many of these speakers loved the concept of a generation of youth who would step up and take charge, who would fill undefined shoes, come up with solutions adults have no ideas for, and would save the world with their youth-ness.

I assume this is to be done while filling a resume, participating in after school sports and clubs, babysitting, doing the dishes, attending the most challenging university you can get into (and pay for), and not complaining. Not giving up. Most importantly, and this is a conclusion I’m drawing from the repeated statements made about how “youth” will be the change makers and saviors, you cannot grow old or you will just be one of the adults, who everybody knows can’t make change anymore.

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“The Good News: Millennials will drive adoption of sustainable practices in the future.” Could you call this ‘responsibility-shifting’?

Idk, maybe this pressure has been felt by all the previous generations too. To be perfect. To solve everything. I’m just a kid, what do I know? :P

Sometimes it’s nice to be told you have the power to fix everything. But as anybody who knows a teen probably has already figured out, lecturing really isn’t the best way to go about empowering–or engaging–youth. (So much so that Minerva likes to brag about how they’ve banned lectures!)

What irked me personally was how that few solutions were offered. For example, we were told to keep companies responsible. Great! I’m down! Let’s do it! …How? What next?

It’s not that I lack direction, focus, passion, desire to make change. It’s just that I’m 19. I’ve lived in the U.S. for only 18 years. For 15 of those I probably didn’t make much sense. I know things––you know that, I know that. But I’d love to hear what you’ve learned after working for 30 years as an activist. What tricks do we use? How do we make them listen? What can we say that will be the most impactful?

Unfortunately, I hear that Day Three of the conference, the day of action and talking and discussion and problem solving, wasn’t all that interactive either. I was hoping there would be workshops on learning hard skills like how and when to sue companies for breaking agreements. How to fundraise for organizations abroad, or travel there yourself. How to be a good storyteller.

Anyways, all this reminded me of the Vlogbrothers’ wonderful video and article on the term “millennial” and how adults treat young people in general. Watch and read below:

John’s article: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/stop-patronising-young-people-and-start-listening

In this case, One Young World wasn’t badmouthing us, or disempowering us. But they were still patronizing. They weren’t listening. They were willing to tell us we were now responsible for the world, but they wouldn’t teach us the skills we needed to do this, or meet us and shake our hand.

I loved many of the speakers. But I wish we had time to discuss, to ask questions, to stretch our legs. I wish we had been taught hard skills, been given the answers humanity has already figured out. I wish they had listened to us. I wish my voice had been heard.


Find out more about One Young World and their upcoming summit in Canada (which you should totally still go to if you have the means, and not only because it’s in Canada): https://www.oneyoungworld.com/