Winter Quarter kicked off at Wednesday January 3rd. I had new subjects with a new schedule and new instructors. Back in November I was lucky enough to get into all the classes I wanted. Photography, criminal justice, creative writing and two sports, badminton and aerobic walking. So far, I really enjoy all those classes. I’ve already learned so much and we’re not finished yet. Like for creative writing I have to write all sorts of English poems. It was quite a challenge at first because I can’t make a decent poem in Dutch either. But it turned out to be a really cool thing. And for criminal justice a retired Washington state highway patrol officer came to speak in class. Which was super interesting! For a photography assignment I decided to walk over the campus, to get some good shots of that for myself as well. Which I did on a Sunday, so it wouldn’t be as crowded and awkward.
The campus life office also became active again after the break. In the second weekend of January they organized a snow tubing trip. We first drove about an hour west to the Snoqualmie ski area where most of us saw the first snow in the season. Some even saw snow for the first time in their life! They created this hill, where we could slide off with a big inflatable tube. Like the ones you see in water parks. Everything went smoothly and within two hours time we felt like kids again. It was a lot of fun!
The following weekend they organized a snowshoeing hike in the same snowy area. We would literally put on some sort of shoe beneath our regular footwear and tie it together with straps. This way we could walk in the snow without ‘sinking’. And it was really cool. Even though I have been in snow lots of times before, I had never done anything like this. Often after trips like these we would stop for food on our way back to school too.
After all of these events it was time for the first ski trip to a skiing area called Crystal Mountain. We left the campus very early in the morning, at like 6am, to get to the resort before most traffic. We quickly got our rental gear and hit the slopes. Because it was my first time skiing after two years, the fact that I didn’t have my own ski’s and the heavy snowfall the days before, it was really hard to get used to it all again. But we soon got to know the area. After a long day almost everyone slept on the bus ride back.
The weather for January was quite warm, but also rainy. Kind of the same as in the Netherlands actually. In the meantime, I skype home about once every week, mostly on Sundays. Which is nice to just talk about the past week and what’s ahead. Because at the moment I only have one more month left! Which is crazy! I’ve seen so many places and beautiful sites. And I’ve met people from all over! Let’s make the most of it, while I’m still here. Because I am not finished yet.
Wednesday December 27th started off with a little drive to Yosemite National Park in Eastern California. Once we got there we went to the visitor’s center to request some information. Because this park is huge. We decided to start with an easy hike near the visitor’s center which led to a waterfall. There were a lot of people there who all climbed onto the rocks to get a closer look, so we followed. Afterwards we took a free shuttle to a more moderate hike. This also led to a waterfall but on our way up, we had the most amazing views. We were pretty tired after such a full day and we definitely want to see more of the park someday!
The next morning started with a drive back to the coast. About halfway through we had breakfast at Denny’s! Eggs, pancakes, bacon, hash browns and French toast for each of us. It was a huge meal and actually way too much. But delicious! A little after noon we found ourselves at the 17-mile drive. Which is a nice loop past the coast you can drive with your car. It was very pretty and quite relaxing after days of walking. We also enjoyed sunset at the beach that day and felt the cold water of the Pacific Ocean with bare feet. Afterwards it was time to drive to our last hotel before returning to Seattle! On our last morning in California we woke up in Santa Cruz. A city by the coast where it was hot and sunny. We just walked some across the beach and along the pier where we discovered this huge sea lion population. It was nice and noisy surprise! We also ate fish and chips before driving to the airport.
Back in Washington State we stayed at cca for one day to just relax before moving on to the last day of 2017. On which my sister and I wanted to go to Seattle. We first went to Pike Place Market and bought some souvenirs. It was super busy since it wasn’t just the last day of the year, but also Sunday. After that we went to the Columbia tower. On which I had been before back in October. But the view was even prettier this time. We could see Mount Rainier, plus we saw a Seahawks game from a far distance. We still had quite some time until midnight which we were going to experience at the Space Needle. So, we decided to take a powernap at the hotel we booked for the night. We calmly took the bus to Seattle Square at 10:30pm. I thought it was very relaxing. Everyone showed up around that time and waited patiently. At 12 o’clock, the fireworks set the Space Needle on fire. It was very beautiful and I took some wonderful pictures. The next day we had breakfast at my favorite restaurant at The Market. I noticed everyone was in that cozy New Year’s Day morning atmosphere. A new start in the new year. Later we walked some to the waterfront where we went into this attraction called Wings Over Washington. I didn’t even know that existed and it was really cool. We practically flew over Washington state, very beautiful! After that we took the bus back to the college and my sister packed everything for her flight back home.
On Tuesday January 2nd, I brought my sister to the airport where we had to say goodbye. That was sad, but we had an amazing time together! The next day school would start again, which I was quite happy about. Then I would have some distractions and I was really curious for my new subjects this Winter Quarter!
We arrived in San Francisco in the early afternoon. After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we felt like walking around some. We first walked by the city hall of which I thought was really big for a city which is not the state capitol. And afterwards we walked up some hills to the Painted Ladies. Those beautiful Victorian style houses beneath Alamo Square known from Full House. Where we also enjoyed sundown. In the evening, we wanted to eat near Union Square. Which is a very popular place in SF with lots of shops and tourists. Since it was almost Christmas, everything was decorated. Macy’s had a Christmas wreath in every window and then there was this giant Christmas tree as well.
The next day my sister had booked a trip to Alcatraz in advance. We rushed ourselves to the pier and we took a boat to the prison island from there. It was such a different world in comparison to the busy city. Included in our ticket was a guided audio tour which was very interesting. We were virtually guided by some former guards and prisoners. In the afternoon, we ate a hamburger at the Ferry Building, which is kind of like a big market and we headed towards Lombard Street by public transportation. This street is known to be one of the steepest and most crooked in the world. But also very touristy! Afterwards we walked down the hill to Fisherman’s Wharf from where we took a ride with one of the historic cable cars back to Union Square and our hotel. It was a lot of fun holding on to the railing of this tram, while you could pretty much fall out easily.
By our third day we really started to get to know the city. We recognized streets and knew where to walk or where there would be a lot of homeless people. However, this morning started with a Segway tour! It was quite the experience, because we had never done this before. A local man guided us through the lesser known districts, which were very peaceful. And still very beautiful too. It took about three hours in total. That afternoon we just explored Fisherman’s Wharf some further. There were a lot of restaurants and typical gift shops. But also, Pier 39. Which I absolutely loved. In the middle of this busy area, we found a group of sea lions. Just hanging out. Kind of ironic. And in the evening, we went to the Fairmont hotel. A really expensive hotel on top of all the hills, where we would find world’s largest gingerbread house. It was so real and impressive!
The fourth and last day in the city of the bay, we hired some bikes. Like real Dutchies, we thought that could be a lot of fun. And it was. But also very challenging. Don’t underestimate all those hills in this city! We found ourselves by the Golden Gate Bridge and mostly biked our way through Golden Gate Park after that. It was Christmas eve. But we didn’t really notice that much. We picked up our rental car and drove to Twin Peaks from where we had a gorgeous view of the city at nighttime. The following day would be the start of our road trip.
We started with going to Muir Woods state park. Actually just about an hour north of SF. Where we did a lot of walking on Christmas morning. First through a forest with some of the world’s tallest trees and later past an open area where we could even see all the way to the ocean. We were pretty tired after that. Luckily our hotel was close. The next day we changed our schedule a bit. We decided to go to Mount Diablo state park. Our way up to the top of the mountain was quite the experience itself. But once we parked, we hiked some around the peak. The weather was great! So, we could even see San Francisco and tried to guess where we would be heading the next day. Which was Yosemite National Park! Our next hotel was nearby Yosemite. So we first had to drive for about three hours. It felt like we were in the dessert, because sometimes there wasn’t anything around. We thought it was the typical America you read about in books, because it was such a long distance as well. Anyhow, more on the rest of my Christmas break in the next blog! 🙂
The first week of December began the last week of school for Fall quarter. It was also the 5th of December, which is Sinterklaas eve in the Netherlands. But Tanja and I decided to go to an ice-hockey game. Kind of a weird ‘pakjesavond’, actually. Anyway, I have been interested in that sport for a while. It’s amazing how these men manage to hockey while ice-skating. And it was so much fun! There were some crazy people there supporting the Seattle Thunderbirds. Plus, we won!
Fall quarter also ended with the last trip organized by campus life to the Taylor Mountain. It was a really nice day and we hiked all morning with the sun shining upon us. Afterwards we stopped for some food on our way back. That following week would be finals week. But I didn’t really have finals. I just had to turn in a video for my video-journalism class, complete a regular assignment for geography and finish my ‘piece’ for art-design. The Monday before finals was study day, but we decided to go to Seattle one more time before some of us would leave. Again, the weather was great. And because we hadn’t gone up the Space Needle yet, we really wanted to do that. It was very touristy but still very cool. Plus, we could see Mount Rainier. We stayed up there with sundown until it was dark and all the city lights were on. The days after were quite relaxing for me. Don’t get me wrong, most people have really tough exams during this week! I was just lucky with my subjects this quarter and ended up with awesome grades as well. I even got 100% for my art design class, a 4.0. I did not expect that, so it was a nice surprise. That was also the class I liked most, I can recommend it to everyone.
Thursday was move-out day for most people here at cca. I agreed with Tanja that she could sleep in my room until Monday morning when she had to catch her train to Santa Barbara. I already bought an air-mattress because my sister would come and visit me for Christmas break, so she could just sleep on that as well. I’m also lucky with the size of my room, it’s pretty big compared to others. So, even with an air-mattress on the floor you could still easily get around. Friday morning, we were both like, what shall we do today? I heard about this park in Seattle and something called an Underground tour, so we went to Seattle again. This time just the two of us. We first went up to North-West Seattle to Discovery park where we hiked some. We walked through woods, over the beach and even passed an old lighthouse. That afternoon we booked a tour where we learned some about the history of the city of Seattle. Pretty interesting. And we ended our day with some great food at a restaurant in Seattle. On Saturday Tanja wanted to hike through the woods behind our school for a last time. We walked all the way down to the river and took some great photo’s there. Sunday we just relaxed, Tanja packed everything and I said goodbye to Irene. Monday was a weird day. I had to get up really early to say goodbye to Tanja but around noon my sister would arrive at SEA-TAC airport. So I was quite sad to see my two best friends leave, but also really relieved my sister was coming to visit. Plus we were going to do some awesome stuff.
It was raining a lot when my sister arrived and at first she thought everything looked quite sad and dreary. When we got to my apartment I gave her a quick tour, and she just slept some because of the jetlag. The next day we went shopping at the outlet, where we also ate. On our last day in Washington state I could finally show her the campus and forest, because it wasn’t raining anymore. Afterwards we packed for our trip. We would fly to San Francisco where we would stay for 4 days, before we would make a road trip to Yosemite NP. More on that later!