Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Houston, Do We Have A Problem?

You know when you sit in bed, unable to sleep, and all you really do is calculate exactly how much sleep you will get if you magically managed to fall asleep at that very moment? That was me last night. I think it was a mixture of extreme excitement about today, and a bit of trepidation regarding how tired I would be, considering I would have to wake up at 2:30 to be able to arrive in front of El Cerrito High School on time. 

I set my alarm for 2 AM because I knew that I would not have enough willpower to wake up and jump out of bed. Somehow, waking up and then staying in bed that extra half hour is a lot more satisfying than waking up and immediately starting the day, even though I would be out of bed the same time either way. As soon as my alarm went off the second time, I rushed to complete my morning routine. Before I left, I wanted to check the weight of my suitcase one last time, and lo and behold, it had somehow crawled back up to 50 pounds again, (probably due to the pair of shorts and two adorable dresses I found last minute.) Yes, I am fully aware that I have a major issue with trying to take too many clothes. I like having options. I quickly rifled through my garments and pulled out the culprits. After making sure that I was back down to a safe 46 pounds, I sped through the door. 

As we pulled up in front of the school, I immediately spotted Don in his bright Hawaiian print shirt, along with the rest of my cohort. We all looked equally exhausted, but everyone seemed to have a sparkle of excitement in their eyes. Don had our parents sign forms that gave consent for the trip, and handed out a thick itinerary packet, as well as contact information for all of us. As always, Don also made us pose for various pictures, and we did so until the driver came to pick us up. We all sort of expected a standard shuttle bus (Jenny had even been under the impression that we were going to take BART at some point) so all of us were incredibly surprised when a sleek white limo pulled up in front of the school. 

We said our final farewells to our families and all but ran into the limo. The whole experience scarcely felt real, and if it wasn't around 4 AM and pitch black at that point, there would have been heaps of limo selfies available to insert into the blog right now. Sadly, all of them turned out either too dark or too shaky to be used. Honestly, I feel like the whole experience ended too soon; It was a wonderful start to the trip. 

Houston has a lot more foliage
than I expected.

Once we got through security, the staff said that we had ten minutes until our plane took off. We grabbed some smoothies and sandwiches and quickly made our way to the plane and found some seats. Apparently, there were some scheduling issues, and one of the pilots was missing. We sat there for about twenty minutes before an announcement was made: There was a company pilot on board with his family, and he was willing to fly the plane instead of the missing pilot. This was Katherine's first flight in about a decade so she was excitedly babbling about everything the plane was doing as it happened. The flight went smoothly and the hours practically flew by. (I hope at least one person appreciated that terrible pun) However, all throughout the flight there was this strange sound coming from the back of the plane, and I came up with a few hypotheses about what it was. The first was that it was a duck being strangled, the next was that it was someone with an extremely unfortunate laugh. The realistic one was that someone had brought their dog on board with them, and it couldn't handle all of the fluctuations in pressure.

When we stepped into the terminal in Houston, we were greeted with a quartet of violins. Everyone was a little tired from the journey, but we cheerfully made our way to the shuttle. Little did we know what was waiting for us on the other side. We pulled up to the Hilton, walked inside, and attempted to get our room keys, but the receptionist couldn't find any trace of us. We momentarily panicked, we were in a new city, and not having rooms to stay in would be an inconvenience (hence the title) The receptionist suggested that we were simply at the wrong hotel. It turns out, she was right. Our reservations were at the Marriott, a block away.

Once we checked in, the urgency of our day decreased significantly. We were able to relax, which I believe will allow me to focus a lot more in the next few days. After going to a local restaurant, we walked the mile back to the hotel, and decided what to do next. I was vying for us to go visit NASA (my title would work even better!) but it was too far away for us to justify the trip. We ended up just exploring Houston. We walked around until about 7 in the evening, grabbed dinner as our eagerness to visit Rice University tomorrow grew exponentially.

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