Hi! I’m Michael, and I’m placed this summer at Friends of Trees, a non-profit focused on building communities through tree and green space plantings. If anyone is in the Portland area in the winter and has some free time on the weekend, they are always looking for volunteers for their plantings. Meet your neighbors and help Portland (or Vancouver or Eugene) become a little greener! You might even meet Garry Oak…
Now done with our second full week in Portland, I think all of us have really gotten used to our placements and the city of Portland itself, already feeling comfortable with the city and knowing our way around. We had a pretty busy and eventful week this week. Tuesday, we had our first group dinner at Le Happy, a wonderful little crêperie. While we all loved our savory crêpes (I had a tasty pesto chicken crêpe), the desert crêpes were to die for. And as someone who has taken French for 7 years and who has probably had a crêpe at every French party I’ve had, I’ve had my fair share of crêpes. And these were très très magnifique. Between the chocolate fudge brownie, blueberry honey, and flambé crêpes we shared, we all left feel very satisfied. It has been a recurring theme throughout our time here that dessert is the most important meal of the day.
Wednesday was Fourth of July, which meant no work! Or for Emma and Caroline, just another day of no work (they went shopping at Nordstrom for four hours on Tuesday while we were all still at work, though they have since worked very hard since). We went to the Waterfront Blues Festival for a little while, where I won a free movie ticket! It was a little too busy for all eight of us to find a place to sit together, so we decided to go to the movies and saw Ted. After that, we went back to the waterfront to watch the fireworks. It was quite a spectacle, and being so close to them really upped the excitement factor. I was able to snap quite a few pictures of the fireworks, including this one with the Hawthorne bridge casting a shadow on the finale. Friday we worked with Hand on Portland at the ReBuilding Center. You can read all about it in Caroline’s post!
However, the most eventful day for us was Saturday, when we went to Oxbow Park to learn how to make FIRE!!! using only friction. Ranger Dan gave us each kits of only tools fashioned out of cedar wood and one piece of string. But before we could actually make fire, we had to make a tinder bundle by taking the underbark of the cedar bark and pulling it apart into a fine, soft bundle of fibers that would provide the kindling for the fires we were about to start. It was the consensus among our group that mine was the best, being the softest and looking like golden angel hair. I was Dan’s assistant for the demonstration, and unfortunately I was pulling on the bow too high up, and I did not make fire. Yet. We then partnered up and tried making fire for ourselves. It involved basically having two people pull on the bow connected to the spindle stick, spinning it quickly over a fire board, itself over a piece of cedar. Eventually, after enough tiring spinning, a small coal forms, which can then be placed on the tinder bundle, which, with a few blows, bursts into a full-fledged fire. After splitting into partners, some other kid and his dad were the first to make fire, but Charlie and I were the first out of our group to make fire, shown above. It was so satisfying to finally see our hard work pay off and know that I can create something as basic but necessary as fire without matches. The pairings of Suellen/Kitman and Austin/William also made fire. Unfortunately, Caroline and Emma were not able to fully make a fire, and thus would die first in the Hunger Games that is DukeEngage Portland. They have been duly mocked for their failure every day since. After making fires, we made our own kits to take home with us. I for one cannot wait to try it out at home and impress my family by showing off my new fire-making skills. Once we were finished with the tiring work of making fires and fire kits, we cooled off in the creek, which was very, very cold, but actually felt pretty nice on a hot day (Summer doesn’t begin in the Pacific Northwest until the Fourth of July).
Because we as a group decided to go completely vegetarian for two weeks, as well as discuss the pros and cons sustainability-wise of a meatless diet, and because those two weeks started this Sunday, we decided to have one big last meat dinner on Saturday. That night, we all went to dinner together at Mother’s, a restaurant that served as a very worthy last meat supper. Caroline and I split a grilled salmon with ratatouille (like the movie!), steak frites, and bacon mac-and-cheese. Like I said, we love to eat. For once, we were too fully to even have dessert, which never happens. Though we did look at the dessert menu.
And so we began Sunday, our first day of vegetarianism, by going to OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science of Industry, which was a ton of fun for all of us and our inner children. We spent just about the whole day there, solving (or, sometimes, trying to solve and giving up) puzzles, learning about the Earth, human body, animals, natural disasters, and just about anything else you can think of. I have always loved science centers, being a frequent visitor of the Pacific Science Center of Seattle, where I’m from. And OMSI did not disappoint. Even though I already knew a lot of the information there, the interactivity and just all-around fun of the whole experience made my day. Also, it seemed like the entire group was really into it, whether it was comparing grip strength or flexibility to spending over ten minutes on trying to solve a puzzle. I even ended up buying a syringe pen from the gift store.
And so we continued being vegetarian. While it has only been three days now, I think we have all been OK with it. None of us has cheated and had meat, and we all seem to be doing just fine, having lots of pizza and pasta and vegetables. I think the biggest challenge so far is just remembering not to have or order meat, when it can be so easy to forget. I’m actually kind of excited about it and exploring some more meatless dishes. I hope to maybe learn a bit more about a vegetarian vs. omnivore diet, and how what I eat impacts the environment. Also, I’m interested in how I feel after the two weeks, whether I feel hungrier or healthier or different in any way. I’ve heard from a few people that they feel much healthier after going vegetarian, whether more energetic or clearer skin or no more migraines, and I’m curious to see what, if anything, happens to me.
And so we continue this great adventure…