Winter Wonderland

I’ve slipped in snow and plummeted headfirst into an icy road with cars coming, but I still can’t quite bring myself to adopt the same dread regarding snow that a lot of my friends have.

Growing up in California, snow was always a special treat requiring a several-hour drive up the closest mountain. It was magical and also one of the few times I was permitted to eat instant ramen, clustered around steaming cups with my cousins, our cheeks red from chill. I was already looking forward to Portland’s actual seasons instead of 365 straight days of heat, but I was gently warned not to have high hopes of snow. I moved here in September 2016, and that winter was one of the biggest snowfalls Portland had experienced in a while. I was nothing short of elated being able to walk out my front door and jump into a snowbank.

Snow also meant stress: being stuck downtown during rush hour after a shift at the restaurant I worked at, realizing it would cost several hundred dollars and take several hours to get an Uber, because the buses had stopped running. I eventually went home with a coworker for the night and the next morning one of her saint-like roommates volunteered to drive me home from North Portland to West Linn, cheerfully chatting with me as we skidded on ice and I feared for my life. It can mean missing work, which seems fun until you remember you’re a self-supporting student and your paycheck is kind of important, but I don’t think I’ll ever truly gripe about it.

When the first few flakes start to drift down, even if they don’t stick, snow holds a timeless kind of magic for me. I secretly hope for another absolute coating, but we’ll have to see.

Portland on Foot

By Erika Nelson

When I chose to attend PSU, I knew I wanted to live on (or close to) campus.  Proximity to classes and university resources aside, living in the midst of a major metropolitan city famed for its public transportation would mean I could forgo the expenses that come with having a car.

Now that I live in student housing, I walk 95% of the time. Before last year, I’d lived in suburbs my whole life, and was lucky enough to have a car (or access to someone who did) for my daily transportation. The first few weeks I lived in Portland required a huge adjustment to my lifestyle and habits. For example, walking home in the rain carrying bulging Safeway bags taught me to pare down my weekly grocery list to the essentials so I would only need one reusable bag, allowing my other hand free for an umbrella.

There are times I wish I still had a car, like when I want to go somewhere more than a few miles away, or when the weather is extreme. However, there are definite benefits to relying on my own two legs. Walking allows me to experience parts of Portland that would be hard to do from a car, like when I pass quirky shops or snap pictures of public art. My health has improved from being more active. I’ve been able to save money on gas, maintenance, and parking passes. Road rage and driving-related stress is nonexistent. Best of all: on any given day, I see a minimum of a half-dozen dogs being walked, and sometimes their owners let me interact with them! It’s times like these when I’m glad I got rid of my car and can focus on the simple things going on around me.

Turning Over a New Leaf

Last spring was the first time I’d had a backyard since moving to Portland. Packed away in my boxes from California, I found a large seed bundle that my mother had gifted me before I left, carefully protected from moisture in a plastic bag. She always enjoyed gardening and my fond memories of stuffing my cheeks like a squirrel with sun-warmed tomatoes as a child compelled me to try gardening myself. I also love to cook, which was another incentive to have fresh herbs and veggies at my disposal. 

My first plants were started on the windowsill in an egg carton, lovingly labelled with popsicle sticks. The soil wasn’t nearly as deep as it should have been, and they dried out quickly, the popsicle sticks becoming a little moldy when I overwatered. As a perfectionist that does not often start a new hobby, I was absolutely devastated. My maternal feelings that I’d poured into these little plants were severely hurt. 

My partner helped me research what I’d done wrong and gather more information like how much water I really should be giving them, how much space and light the seedlings need and that I should use plastic markers instead of wood. I invested in a grow light and proper seed trays with a good, organic starting mix. I was able to find about fifty pots of various sizes on the neighborhood app Nextdoor for free. 

My second attempt went incredibly well! I figured all of this out a bit late in the season, so my plants grew big but didn’t really produce anything. I still got some herbs out of it, though, and the knowledge about what to do this upcoming spring! As soon as it’s warm enough outside, I’ll be ready to go! 

It was an incredible feeling to watch the shoots poke through the soil, and like my tomato plant, grow into a massive thing that came from a little seed. I would often take my phone calls outside and pull up a chair next to the plant, rubbing a stem between my fingers to elicit that addictive smell. I may not be perfect at gardening, and I probably never will be. In that way, it’s a good hobby for someone like me to have.

A Novel Concept

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I recall really starting to get into it as a hobby around the sixth grade. I keenly remember being confident that I’d have at least one novel done by the time I was eighteen, maybe twenty if I was busy as an adult. It definitely makes me laugh to look back on my perspective at that point! My dream career has always been to be a therapist, but I really want to pursue my writing on the side, and being a novelist in the future is an important part of my identity.

     I’ve entertained several different novel ideas, but the first one I settled to work on has been time-consuming, stressful, and tough. But I’m so in love with the process and project. Crafting a story that has strong female characters, a complex setting that tackles tough issues, and equally funny and heartbreaking moments is one of the best things in the world to work on.  I’m about fifty thousand words into what I’m aiming to be a hundred thousand word first draft. It feels really weird to be so far into a project, as I’ve written many short stories but never something this long and complex. The biggest challenge is finding the time and energy to work on it. Sometimes, I have unorthodox weeks where I write ten thousand words, and sometimes weeks go by with nothing new. Often, my time to write is after I get home and after a long day of classes, work, and sports, I’ve still got to do homework and make dinner. I’m usually drained. It’s tough, as I remember wanting to be done with my first novel at eighteen, and I’m twenty-one and only halfway through the first draft. But I’m persistent and trying to be more realistic about my time and energy. I’m passionate about it and know that I’ll get there eventually! I’ve got a couple other novel ideas now, and even tried competing in a writing competition again for the first time in years, and my success has been really encouraging. Hopefully you’ll see my books on the shelves one day!

Roof With a View

The fact that the city is filled with numerous food carts is one of my favorite things about Portland. Predictably, since starting at PSU, they’ve become slightly dangerous for my paycheck. The wealth of options for lunch and quick snacks around campus is really tempting. I find myself most often visiting the food cart pod on Fourth Avenue, hunting gyros or beef kebabs over saffron rice. It’s really amazing to be able to sample so many different cultures and try things that I ordinarily wouldn’t. Persian food was always in my rotation when I was younger but I hadn’t really found a good spot again when I moved away from my hometown. Luckily, there’s many Persian food carts around Portland — and they’re all mouthwatering. I was worried about having the same quality of Mexican food coming from California, but you guessed it, there’s multiple incredibly delicious food carts for that. Satisfying my desire to eat sushi as often and as on the go as possible? There’s a sushi burrito food cart for that! 

I still haven’t tried everything in the pod and around campus but it’s definitely on my to-do list by the end of the year. After an hour-long process to finally decide which cart to sample, the only decision left to make is where to enjoy my bounty. I am a proud and careful lunch-spot hunter. I like being somewhere semi-quiet and with a spectacular view. I haven’t been disappointed at all by PSU’s campus, and the downtown buildings have conjured a new option — a rooftop lunch. The best view I’ve found has to be on the fifth floor of the Academic Student Recreation Center. It’s nothing short of breathtaking to be able to see the changing fall colors and almost all of campus. I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t before! It may be getting pretty cold, but I’m excited to see the changing colors of all the trees as the year goes by.

Sick of Being Sick

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Each term, I dread the day I’m going to catch whatever cold has been going around. College campus and the city are such germy environments that it feels inevitable. Classrooms, dorms, the gym, and public transit all compete to be the place you pick up a bug. I came to expect that I’d get sick around once per term and fall behind in classes. However, as time went on I didn’t want that to be my normal. 

I started looking into ways to boost my immune system naturally. Barely any research on herbal supplements exists and what does is all anecdotal. I’d dabbled with herbal supplements in the past with no success, so I wondered how people used them successfully.

After digging through the depths of the internet and talking to friends and extended friends I think I’ve finally cracked the code on how to prevent catching a cold. I used to take immune support supplements like elderberry syrup, oregano oil, and garlic just once when I started feeling sick. I learned I actually needed to take the herbal remedies every few hours for them to be effective—kind of like how you would an antibiotic. 

At the earliest onset of symptoms, I start taking elderberry syrup and oregano oil capsules 4-5 times a day. I eat cloves of garlic at night because I don’t want to walk around all day smelling like it. Unsavory as it is to most people, garlic is by far the cheapest and most effective method I’ve found. I believe in it so much that my friends will tell you I’m paid by the garlic commission. 

From one student to another, I know we all hate to get sick. No one has time for that. By no means am I a medical professional, and as a skeptic myself, I don’t like to base conclusions off of anecdotal evidence. But so far, I’ve only been sick once in 2019 (I write as I furiously knock on wood), and I felt compelled to share my method.

Letters to Avoid Losing Touch

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Last month my best friend left for Senegal, Africa with the Peace Corps. All this past summer I dreaded the moment we would have to say goodbye. I knew communication with her would be next to none once she left. We promised to write letters, but the mail takes around two months to deliver—if it doesn’t get lost first.

This situation reminded me of a different friend who wrote “read when” letters to me when she left for her mission years ago. “Read when” letters (also called “open when” letters) are prewritten notes that help you remain  present in someone’s life even when they are far away. I kept every “read when” letter that my friend wrote for me, and they remain one of the most precious gifts I’ll ever receive. I decided to write the same letters as a gift for my Senegal-bound friend.

Sitting down to write the letters for my friend was honestly depressing. Every word I wrote was a constant reminder that she was leaving soon. The hardest letters were her birthday cards; those really drove home the fact that we wouldn’t share any adventures or experiences for two years. As emotionally draining as it was, I only wish I had written her more. I feel so much more at peace knowing that she’ll have birthday cards to open on her birthday, and that they can’t get lost in the mail. Even though I can’t support her in person, she can immediately turn to my words over and over again when she’s lonely or in need of a boost.

I know this won’t be the last set of “read when” letters I write. As my time at PSU nears its end, I recognize that graduation causes people to scatter. This first—but far from last—goodbye made me realize my lifelong friends and how determined I am to stay in touch with them past our PSU experience.