Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Settling in....

Hello all! I know its time for an update on what I have been up to since I have been in Portland for two weeks now. The first week I spent at the hostel, I spent most of my time refamiliarizing myself with the city and learning how to get around and where things are. [And taking lots of photos!] Now I have spent about a week in my new house and I am settling in great!  I finally have my room all situated to where I can call it my new "home away from home". Emily told me I could me I could adjust her room to my liking by taking things off her wall and putting up my own decorations wherever I wanted to. At first, I thought it wasn't worth the trouble, but after I spent a few days here, I decided just unpacking my clothes and toiletries wasn't enough. It didn't provide a sense of comfort, like I was actually living here as opposed to just visiting for a few weeks. So, I hung my sculpture piece, an old feed sack, some rabbit key hangers, and of course all of the fun Halloween animals Lola cut out, which are filled with letters from my sweet family, are hanging above my bed. I also put my quilt on the bed (which came from Mama D's house), my dad's old guitar is propped up next to the wall, and my scrap-yard bunny that Aunt Paige gave me rests by my chair on the floor. I also proper the old-charred farm house door up against the wall as my headboard. It feels homy now with all of my stuff around. I like having the little reminders from home. Aside from my room being situated, I am also getting along great with my roommates. My first night here, Willoughby had made some delicious spicy thai soup and invited me to have dinner with him and his dad (who is also the landlord). I can tell he comes from a good family, with a similar background from mine, after visiting with his dad. His parents live about 2 hours away, so they pop in from time to time. Both Willoughby and Michael are excellent cooks, and I occasionally get to have a taste of what they're cooking. I thought I was a good cook, but they make me look like an amature. I'm having so much fun watching and learning from the 'extravagant meals' they prepare for themselves. Nothing is done halfway, they homemake everything with fresh, organic, and of course 'local' produce and seasonings. For example, Willoughby had a batch of apples that were going bad, so he boiled them up and seasoned them with cinnamon and fresh shaved ginger to make homemade apple sauce- it was so good! We have a kitchen stocked with homemade seasonings and spices in small zip-lock bags!

On the subject of food…Portland's community is really aware and cautious about what they eat!!! Most people here live a pretty healthy lifestyle. Shopping for food has been one of the biggest adjustments for me, because nothing is familiar, especially all of the whole-food brands which are either whole-wheat, whole-grain, gluten-free, free-range, vegan, or soy products. Some of the fresh produce even looks odd to me, like its a foreign plant…..I'm wondering what in the world is that, where did that come from, and how do you cook with it? When I went to the alberta co-op grocery store the other day to get some ingredients for a cake, the only option I had was to buy organic molasses. I have also tried a vegan brownie, it tasted ok…a little dry. Every time I go into the store, there is someone giving free food samples of a new fresh-local product which they share all of the details of it's ingredients; what gluten-free or soy products its made from and which free-range local farm it came from. They know they're stuff, and are proud of it, proud to be local! As much as I can be overwhelmed with the fresh-local-organic lifestyle they uphold here in Portland, I am impressed by their community pride and support for local food production.

It is not just the food that they have local pride in, just about everything is made local here. I have been into to so many cute boutiques and shops that are selling hand-made crafts and goods made by local artists. There's clothes, wallets, purses, jewelry, belts, hats, beanies, stationaries, stamps, and much more little things that are handmade (with designed price tags made by the artists). It is very evident, while walking around and exploring the shops and streets, that there is a strong creative class here, everything is well designed and presented at the highest quality. It's a little intimidating, but also exciting to be around a community that values and strives to uphold a strong art and design culture. But, it can be a little exhausting because there is so much out there…so many good designs and avant-garde (top-of-the-line) designers that it makes designing extremely competitive.

I have also already started to make new friends. It doesn't take a lot of effort to meet people here. Everyone I interact with has been super friendly and welcoming…whether I am at the coffee shop, bus stop, or the grocery store, I am always greeted with a friendly and genuine hello, "how are you today?". Most of the time, the greetings evolve into a nice conversation. I feel like I am living in a fairy tale land sometimes where everyone is happy to be alive, loving their jobs, and comforting one another. I have yet to see someone be rude, bicker, or complain. I think everyone here must have been read the Berenstain Bears book Manners when they were a child because they are so courteous and polite! People always tell the bus driver 'thank you' when they are getting off the bus. It doesn't matter to me that I hardly know anyone here because I feel embraced by the sense of love and care by the community. One of my new friends, Happy, that worked at the hostel invited me to his friend annual Christmas party the other night. Yes, his name Happy, and he is happy! I baked a spiced ginger-apple molasses cake to go with the spiced wine he was going to be serving at the party. When I first walked in, I knew no one, which would have initially scared me, but I felt very comfortable and welcomed by everyone I met along my way to find 'Happy'. My cake was a big hit, everyone loved it! Most of the friends I have made have been either through Happy, people I met at the hostel, or people I have met on the bus. Almost every time I am waiting at the bus stop someone initiates conversation with me and I immediately make a new friend! Happy has been a great connection because he has introduced me to a lot of girls my age that I am becoming friends with and swapping digits. My new friend Jessica, who is 23 and relocating from New York, invited me to see a few bands play at a charity event the other night. We danced, mingled and had a good time. Since she also just relocated to Portland, she will be here for the holidays and we plan on doing something together for Christmas! So no, I will not be alone : ) But I will miss my family dearly during Carlisle Christmas and Christmas morning, especially Luke's first Christmas : ( I hope we can Skype so I can feel like I am there!

Here's my new address:

5707 NE 12th
Portland, OR 97211

Also, here is a link to my website if any of you would like to check out the photos I have been taking. This website is my digital-online portfolio of all of my architecture projects as well. The link to my photos is under the 'colorful' project labeled 'urban photography'

Love and miss all of you so much! Merry Christmas!

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