Wait is this really winter?

When people talk about Southern California, the issue of weather inevitably is brought up. One of the most appealing factors of living in LA has to be the almost unbelievable weather we experience on a yearly basis. While most of our country is bundling up and turning on the heat, students at UCLA are breaking out the flip-flops and shorts. Temperatures have been consistently in the high 70’s and low 80’s for the past few weeks and students are making the most of this sunny winter.

Never would I have thought I would be sun tanning in January but this quarter that is exactly what we have been doing. It is almost confusing walking to class because it feels so much like summer! While this may seem odd for winter weather, it has major advantages for students. The LA sunniness lets students enjoy the city year round without any obstacles. Westwood is definitely a walking city and the lack of snow or rain keeps students out and about yearlong. I really enjoy being able to enjoy being outside and not having to worry about layering on clothes. In college, a time where you are constantly moving around and rarely in one spot for long, weather and sun can make a big impact. For me, it really makes school more enjoyable seeing the sun nearly everyday.

As this is my last quarter at UCLA and my last few weeks in sunny SOCAL, I definitely want to take full advantage of this amazing weather. I never imagined beach days being an option after class in the middle of winter, but hey CA is known for its climate for a reason ☺.

Catalina Island

Last weekend was by far the best weekend I’ve ever had in my life. I went on a retreat with my Christian Fellowship Intervarsity to Catalina Island. It was a three-day trip from last Friday to Sunday afternoon.

Santa Catalina Island is a small island of about 22 miles in length and 8 miles in width, and it is located about 22 miles from the southern coast of Los Angeles, California. Because it is so close to LA, it is actually considered a part of Los Angeles County. To get to the island, I, along with about 200 other people from the group, got on a three-story boat on an hour long ride. We left the coast just in time to see the sunset from the ocean, which was just breathtakingly beautiful.

We arrived at Gallagher’s Cove to a place called Campus-by-the-Sea, a site managed by Intervarsity. The facility offered so many interesting activities that I just wanted stay there for a month to try all of them. But with my limited time on the island, I had to choose, and I chose to go kayaking. I was especially excited to go kayaking from days before the trip, because I had never gone kayaking before, but it was nothing like what I had expected. Not only is it fun to just splash other people with your paddle, but the incredible feeling of freedom you get when you are away from the coast out into the open ocean absolutely blew me away.

Apart from kayaking, I also went hiking, where I saw one of the most incredible sceneries of the Pacific Ocean, and swimming.

At night, I went down to the ocean to sit around a warm bonfire under the moonlit sky. The sky was so clear that I was able to see the individual stars embedded in the sky. Some of the people who went to the retreat last year said that they actually saw some shooting stars. In hopes to catch a glimpse of a shooting star, I went out with my sleeping bag, but I fell asleep before seeing one.

My weekend on Catalina Island was marked by the beautiful nature and amazing friends. It was an unforgettable experience. It is definitely a place to visit when you are in LA.

Disneyland

They say Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth, but what they don’t tell you is that this is  completely and totally true. I went to both D-Land and California Adventure this past weekend, and my day there was pretty close to perfect.

I went with a sizable group from UCLA – there were about 30 of us – and we got to the park at around 10:30 in the morning. We started off right, running around both parks to pick up fast passes for the rides we knew we wanted to do together (Indiana Jones, Star Tours, ~World of Color~, etc).

We went on our first ride, California Screaming, and it was a fabulous intro to the super fun times we were bound to be having the rest of the day. After that, we did a quick Tower of Terror run to make sure we were good and awake.

We decided we had had enough of CA and rushed over to DL, getting the hand stamps that glow under blacklight and screaming excitedly as we raced down Main Street.  The group wanted to go on the Jungle Cruise, and I was like… are you kidding me? So me and four other smart people went on Indian Jones instead (the line took fifteen minutes!) and after we met back up with the group for Mexican food near Thunder Mountain.

We made our way through Disneyland, hitting up the Haunted Mansion, the Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mountain. Even though the lines weren’t terribly long (except for Space Mountain, but you knew that), we came up with clever ways to pass the time. We played word games, we played mind games, we ate brownies, and in every line we sang happy birthday to Evan because it was Evan’s birthday.

The last ride we went on before heading back to California Adventure was Small World. Let me just say that the group of 30ish had (miraculously) stayed together for the entire day, but when the time came to go on Small World there was a schism, and half the group decided to abandon the Small Worlders. I know now that they were the smart ones. If you have never been on this ride (as I hadn’t before last Sunday), just know that it is the most… disappointing ride in Disneyland. Some people really love it, but it looked like it had been made by a middle school leadership teacher with supplies from the middle school leadership closet. You could see the ceiling tiles (you could SEE the CEILING TILES!). So, sorry if I am bashing on a ride you like, but I just can’t not bash on it.

After the bizarre experience of having infant-like mannequins sing at me for ten minutes, I was really ready to get on over to CA. We used our Tower fast passes and then scurried over to watch World of Color.

Small World may be one of the more not-so-well-done things at Disneyland, but World of Color made up for it and then some. I can’t remember a time when I had that many full-body chills in such quick succession. It was beautiful, it was fun, it was heart-wrenching. It was everything you could want in a show. And it was just lights and water. I cannot properly explain, so I am just not going to.

After that, we went around both parks using up our fast passes, and at the end of the day we went to City Hall to become honorary citizens of Disneyland. The day was a 10 out of 10 and how cool that I got to share it with a bunch of UCLA people who felt the same way.

A Rainy Day at UCLA

During my hour break between classes on Tuesday, I decided to study outside on the lawn by Janss Steps. I enjoyed the sunshine while going over my neuroanatomical flashcards (and maybe napped a little too). As always, I appreciated how much I love going to school under the wonderful Southern California sunshine!

However, on Wednesday, an extremely rare event happened at UCLA. Rainfall! Now, I am from NorCal, and used to drive to 6 am diving practice while my car thermostat read 33 degrees. I am not usually one to complain about rain, but it wasn’t just sprinkling! It was a downpour of rain from when I left my apartment at 7 am, until I walked to lab at 2 pm! I was extremely grateful for all my athletic training (thanks coaches!) during my magnificent leaps across puddles, in an attempt to try to keep my shoes a little more dry. Needless to say, it didn’t work.

By the time I left lab at 5, the rain was nowhere to be seen. Instead, the sunshine had returned and I took off my sweatshirt and put on my sunglasses for the walk home.

Go Bruins!!

Visiting Friends in LA

One of the best things about living close to UCLA is that if I want to visit, I don’t have to think twice about it! I live about an hour away from UCLA [although with traffic it can go up to 3 hours! 😦 ]. Since my friends have moved into their apartments for summer school, they asked me to visit and I didn’t hesitate to go go see them. Once I got there, they gave me a tour of their apartment, and we chatted, relaxed, went out to Westwood to get ice cream, went tanning, and then we headed back to their apartment. It felt amazing being back in good ol’ Westwood. Even though it was a little over a week since I had visited, I still missed it. I also missed my friends, of course!

One of my friends asked me how good it felt to be able to come to LA without worrying about travel time, and I answered that it felt amazing to be able to do so! Living in Southern California and also attending college within the region has its ups and downs, but I think I get the best of both worlds–my family and my university (and everything that comes with it–friends, academics, and student life).