This week unfortunately marked the half way point for our Duke Engage program but thankfully also marked the conclusion of our two week vegetarianism bout. While not eating meat was a struggle for some of us (cough cough Charlie), I found it much easier than expected due to the fact that Portland is such a vegetarian friendly city. Of course, we also had to give vegan food a try, so for our weekly group dinner we ate at a “raw” restaurant called Blossoming Lotus. I ordered a falafel wrap that was vegan, gluten free, and completely uncooked. I must admit, the food was much more satiating (and expensive) than I expected.
Here is a list of some other unexpected findings after four weeks of living and working in Portland.
- I ran a red light while riding a bike (Mom–don’t worry, I’m still alive).
- Tofu is actually starting to taste good.
- I ate at my first Olive Garden. Their bread sticks are delicious.
- I can now identify over twenty different species of invasive and native plants.
- Working at SOLVE can be quite dangerous. I stepped on a bumble bee hive while monitoring in the field.
Austin, William, and I rented bikes for the summer so that we could explore downtown more easily. I cannot believe how bike friendly (and just plain old friendly) Portland is, especially compared to my hometown of Los Angeles. There are actually specific streets designated for only bikers and buses. Portland has also designed some of their streets to create a safer distance between bikers and moving vehicles by using parked cars as a buffer. What baffled me most though was that drivers will actually stop to allow bikers to pass in front of them. Portland natives are some of the nicest people I’ve met. When trying to load my bike onto the Max (the light rail), I’ve had multiple people get up out of their seats just to help me with my unruly bike. While commuting to work one day, Emma accidentally left her wallet on the Max, but thankfully someone chased her down to give it back to her. Oh, and did I mention cars will also stop to let people J-walk? (Not that I’ve ever tried that before…) We even had one man profusely apologize to us about stopping his car in part of the crosswalk.
There were many “firsts” to be had this week for some people in our group, including first midnight movie premiere, first time stepping foot into the Pacific Ocean (west coast best coast), and first time camping.
On Thursday night we got in line at 10 pm to see the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, which was well worth it despite being exhausted and nearly delirious for work the next morning. On Friday, we volunteered with Zenger Farm, helping them weed chard and butternut squash. We were glad to see that the potatoes we had hilled a few weeks before were doing quite well! Saturday morning we drove to the coast to a place called Cascade Head to help The Nature Conservancy maintain their hiking trails. After hiking 3 miles up the hill, we had an absolutely gorgeous view of the ocean from the top which was well worth it. We even saw elk grazing along the way!
After a hard day of work and another hour worth of driving and listening to Call Me Maybe and One Direction, we finally set up camp at Siuslaw National Forest. While the boys struggled with putting up their tent (they even had an Eagle Scout amongst them), I’m proud to say that we set up our tent in no time.
For our last vegetarian dinner, we ate chili, potato soup, and rice. Naturally, to conclude our camping experience we roasted marshmallows over a fire and made s’mores. We miscalculated how many marshmallows we would need so we decided to play a game called chubby bunny with the extras. Emma and Suellen tied! (Teams SOLVE and METRO are now neck and neck).
After a not-so-good nights sleep, we packed up camp and drove to the Oregon Coast Aquarium where we saw sharks, seals, and sea anemones. The highlight of the trip was finding the “Hairy Otter” shirts in the gift store. For lunch, we stopped at Rogue Ales Public House for our first meat dish in two weeks. Emma and I ordered clam chowder, fish and chips, and a side of bacon to top it off. Oddly enough, while everyone was handed a fork and knife for their meal, the waiter gave Austin a pair of chopsticks to eat his hamburger with. Last but not least, we drove to the famed Tillamook Cheese Factory where we sampled many different types of cheese and of course tried their delicious marionberry pie ice cream. The most interesting/frightening fact I learned at the factory was that their blocks of cheddar cheese pass through a metal detector for extra security. I can’t wait to see what other adventures are in store for us in the next few weeks!