From Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas – it feels like America jumps from one festivity to another. UCLA has been all about balancing these celebrations with work, however as my first quarter at UCLA drew to a close, this balance became skewed heavily towards the latter … But first, more exploration of California!
My roommate and I had signed up for a weekend backpacking and camping trip in Yosemite National Park with UCLA Outdoor Adventures earlier in the quarter. It was an 8 hour van-ride to Yosemite (to be fair, we did stop at a quaint farm for some free pomegranates), but it was definitely worth it! The trail was beautiful with photo opportunities every second, the ascent was moderately intense (perhaps because I have gone soft from not going on big hikes over several nights since high school) but satisfying, and my fellow hikers were amazing! We had fun marveling at snow and the thousands of stars that are obscured in LA, making “pizza-dillas” that somehow tasted so much better than it would at home, and burning our marshmallows in the campfire to put in our “s’mores” (crackers with chocolate and marshmallows in between – very American). None of us wanted to leave the beauty and tranquility of Yosemite!
Sure enough, things became hectic as soon as we returned to LA. It was soon Thanksgiving, which meant a 4-day weekend during which apartments and dorms were eerily empty due to students heading home for mountains of food with their families. I have to admit, I may have taken “let’s get Americanized by celebrating Thanksgiving” a bit far, as I was feeling rather sick of roast turkey after my THREE Thanksgiving dinners – first dinner earlier in the week with the kendo club, then a potluck on Thanksgiving day at my friend’s apartment (whose “experimental” turkey didn’t turn out too bad!) and finally a Thanksgiving party during the weekend.
At the Thanksgiving party, I met someone who works at Disneyland and could get us in for free. This did not make me too happy, as I had already bought two-day park-hopper tickets earlier that week! Disneyland and California Disney Adventure Park were a light, fun end to a busy Thanksgiving break, with impressive Christmas decorations and parades (I was not at all surprised that they had already moved onto Christmas despite Thanksgiving barely being over) and spectacular fireworks. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy acting like a five-year-old once in a while?
The atmosphere changed abruptly as final exams week approached. The last week of the quarter is aptly named “Dead Week”, as the normal hangouts are silent due to everyone being in class or cooped up at their desks studying. I usually prefer to study in the comfort of my room, but I decided to try studying at Powell library and I found myself scrambling for a desk in the fully-packed building. Some students apparently stay all night at "Night Powell" during the weekend before finals begin … fortunately, I think I did quite well in my exams without all-night study!
In fact, I survived my last exam today, which means winter break starts now! San Diego, Vegas, D.C. and New York, here I come!