Monday, July 7, 2014

Confessions of a Chaperone V

Food for thought.  5K Fun Run.  Hurricane Arthur.  House of Wisdom.  Ease of conversation.  Gilded historical mansions.  Beginnings amidst endings.

This week has been filled with delicious food for me, the chaperone.  I went shopping again at Whole Foods early last week to replenish my raw fruits and vegetables, so that I didn’t need to eat out for every meal.  My goal has somewhat been to eat two meals at the hotel from Whole Foods, and splurge on one outing.  While the beautiful rainier cherries and pink lady apples made for nice breakfasts and snacks, on Tuesday I decided to try a place called Rosalina, an Italian restaurant with good reviews and walking distance from the hotel.  There, I had the pleasure of meeting Desiree, the kind-hearted, personable server and bartender.  I will actually be returning to Rosalina again this week, and hopefully I will get to chat with Desiree again. Did I mention that the dinner at this place was one of the best I have had while here in Providence?  For starters, I decided to try a burrata cheese and grapefruit salad.  The presentation was beautiful, and included two straws of chives and an edible flower.  Burrata is almost like a softer mozzarella cheese.  The contrast of the savory, creamy burrata and the sweet, tangy citrus awakened my palate, each bite tasting better than the last.  Following the salad, I ordered the cioppino, as I was regretful that I had overlooked this option at Siena.  Rosalina’s cioppino was absolutely delicious.  The tomato broth was flavorful and fresh, and I ate the enormous juicy prawns, clams, and calamari, the broth falling onto the large crouton at the bottom of the bowl. 

Another meal I had was at Aspire.  I really enjoyed the specialty salad I ordered, and will attempt to make it at home.   The salad was arugula over slices of fresh watermelon, garnished with a few scoops of fresh feta cheese.  The arugula was sprinkled with just a little olive oil, and some salt and pepper.  In addition to these restaurants, I have also tried a lobster roll and fish tacos at Hemenway’s, and sushi with sorbet at Sura Providence.
With all this food, I had better be doing some activities to burn these calories off, right?  Well, after yoga on Wednesday with our instructor, Liz, I told John, the coordinator of the 5K Fun Run, that I was going to try running this time, as I didn’t try it last time.  In retrospect, I should have asked him questions about this run before committing, in case it wasn’t a fit for me.  But now, I had committed – too late.  In leaving yoga, I learned from John some more details about the run.  He told me there were usually only three or four people who ran regularly.  Great. Now I can’t magically disappear down a side street when the run gets hard, I thought. They will notice.  Then I learned that some of the regulars liked to do a ‘little extra,’ meaning six or seven miles.  And finally, there was just one rule:  we could slow the pace down, but no walking was allowed.  Good God, I thought. What have I gotten myself into?

In the hours between yoga and the “run,” I actually felt pretty nervous.  I took John’s advice and drank a lot of water, as the humidity had crescendoed over the past week, and when we were set to do our run at 5PM, the temperature read close to 90 degrees.  Walking out of the air-conditioned hotel, the humidity hit me like a ton of bricks.  Still, I was determined to do this.  I arrived early and thankfully the only person I saw was John.  He told me that one of the runners had arrived early and had already gotten started because he wanted to do extra mileage.  So John and I took off running.  The run was difficult, I am not going to pretend it wasn’t.  I kept a good pace for about the first mile and a half, and then my breathing was very labored from the heat.  In running, I actually was seeing parts of Providence that I hadn’t seen before.  John took me along the Providence River towards East Providence, I believe.  We stopped at a city boat house to get water.  John was having mercy on me, though as a marathon runner himself, I know he could have kept going.  He showed me India Point Park, known for its history as a famous port in the slave-trade era.  Towards the last mile, John was more than kind about letting me walk, and we kept a brisk walk-run pace.  He brought me to the extraordinarily beautiful new Brown University fitness complex.  He recommended that I try to download a free guest pass online and use their Olympic-size pool.  Towards the end of the walk, I listened to John talk about his family and his kids, most of whom are finishing or attending college.  All of his children are athletic, and it sounded really nice the way he and his kids spend quality time together in their sport outings.  John gave me some food recommendations.  He said that I have to try Camille’s on Federal Hill, Fellini Pizzeria, and Harry’s. I really appreciated that John not only helped me finish the run at the physical level that I was at, but he also took the time to tell me about Providence so that my stay was as enjoyable as possible.

Post-run, I went back to the hotel room, and was startled by how red my face was, even after the cool-down of walking the last mile.  It was clear – even with the running I had done back home in California, nothing could have prepared me for the heat and humidity in Rhode Island for my first 5K. Still, I am glad that I finished!

On Thursday, I decided to do some sight-seeing while the students were in class, as I knew everything would be closed during the Fourth of July weekend.  I used the map we acquired at the Roger Williams Memorial Park Visitor’s Center, and planned out that I wanted to see the Providence Art Club, the First Baptist Church of America, the Providence Athenaeum, and the John Brown House.  My favorite of these three visits was the Providence Athenaeum, or “House of Wisdom,” a type of building named after the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, Athena.  Several known writers, including Edgar Allen Poe, spent time perfecting their craft in this athenaeum.  It feels like a really old library, and contains several rare works that are housed in a private area on the bottom floor.  I descended the staircase to the lower level, feeling relief in the much cooler first story of the building.  I noticed some students studying in the quiet, peaceful room.  I took a copy of the Providence Journal and the New York Times, and read about the devastating kidnapping and murders that had occurred in Israel, and then suspected retaliation in the slaying of a Palestinian teen, leaving a total of four teenagers dead.  I read on more about the beginnings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how it had escalated over the past years.  As a high school teacher who works with teenagers on a regular basis, my heart broke as I saw pictures of the teenagers’ families in mourning over their sons’ murders, imagining how a community could deal with the senseless murders of innocent teens.
All three of these buildings are part of the Providence Art Club.

Interior of the First Baptist Church in America.
The pews
The filing cards for all works in the Athenaeum.
Wallpaper at the John Brown house chronicling Washington's arrival in Providence.
Later that evening, our long-awaited Ivy League Connection dinner at the renowned Capital Grille steakhouse was set to begin.  Our guests of honor were Guy Sanchez (alum ’80), Kisa Takesue (Director of Leadership and alum), and Mercedes Domenech (Professor and Associate Dean of Medicine for Minority Recruitment and Retention and Admissions’ Officer). Other special guests included Guadalupe Morales, Lytisha Wyatt, Keben Perez, Evelyn Nimaja, and Richard Flores, all current Brown students.  This dinner was special – at this point the cohort students had been at Brown University for two weeks, so now they were able to really talk with our honored guests with a reference point of their experiences already at Brown.  I was really happy with how comfortable the students have become in speaking with these adults. In our earliest lunches and dinners, the students at times could be quiet, either from nervousness or lack of experience speaking in these specific settings.  Now, they seated themselves around our attendees, and the conversations and questions didn’t stop flowing.

Our group at the Capital Grille
On Friday, July 4th, as the weather reports had predicted, the rain came. And came.  The fireworks had been postponed to the following day, so I asked the cohort if they wanted to venture out in the pour for a dinner.  Jing and Kevin RSVP’d and I met them under (one of) the Keeney Quadrangle arches.  I found them in their ponchos, and I thought this made for an adorable picture, though I promised Jing I wouldn’t post any of these in this blog.  Kevin was craving American food, so we decided to try Harry’s, the burger joint recommended by John.  He said their sliders are the best, and they certainly were.  I also tried an enormous hotdog and a chocolate shake.  Though Jing, Kevin and I agreed that this was not a healthy meal, it sure tasted delicious on that rainy day. 

Saturday, it was time for the postponed firework show.  I walked to India Point Park, and started to faintly hear the music coming from the philharmonic orchestra.  I saw a family manning a hotdog and soda stand at the entrance to the park, the scent of the grilled hotdogs permeating the air.  The park was already very busy, and as I descended the stairs, I had an open view of the entire park, the philharmonic orchestra playing in the center, and blankets spread out all across the grass. I bought a frozen lemonade slushy and found a free spot on the grass in between some groups of friends and families with small children.  

When the fireworks began, it was clear that the trees surrounding the orchestra were going to block my view and the view of all those sitting around me.  Thus, many of us jumped up and ran to the railing over-looking the water to get a better view of the fireworks.  The orchestra had finished its superb playing, and now several songs blared over a loudspeaker in tandem with the fireworks.  The playlist started with Katy Perry’s “Firework,” and moved on to some more sentimental, patriotic songs.  I smiled when I heard the Ray Charles’ version of “America, the Beautiful.” Most from my generation will remember this song from the baseball movie, Sandlot, where the main characters, kids, run around their Fourth of July block party in the decade of the 60s, eating hotdogs and carrying sparklers.  It is a moment in the film where the viewer feels a sense of nostalgia, reminiscing on moments of childhood in the summer, when kids were innocent and having fun was simple.  Standing next to me in the crowd watching the fireworks, a mother put her arm around her daughter and pulled her closer, saying, “I love you.”  This display of affection caught me off guard, and a tear rolled down my cheek.  I really missed my family at that moment.  I wish they could have witnessed the event with me.

I decided to also head to Newport so that I could share in the excitement of the students’ trips with their dorm clusters.  I took the RIPTA 60 line there, and it was a beautiful scenic view.  I saw sailboats and many New England-style homes.  Most of them had an American flag waving on the porch, a nice show of patriotism.  Sitting next to me on the bus was Louis, and he was telling me about how he works at a vineyard in Newport and attends Roger Williams College in Bristol.   When I finally arrived at the Newport Gateway Center, I ran out to the water, and saw scenic views of sailboats and yachts on the sparkling blue liquid terrain.  The highlights of my trip to Newport included tanning on a small beach and taking a dip in the warmer Atlantic Ocean water, and visiting Bellevue Avenue to see the historic mansions, particularly Chateau de Mer.  (If Bellevue were part of the Monopoly Board Game, its price would rival Park Place.) I will let my pictures tell the rest of the story:

The grounds at Champs de Mer

I am in disbelief that this trip is only a few days from ending.  I have enjoyed myself tremendously and I am truly grateful for this opportunity.

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