August 6, 2014: “Whirlwind Arrival”
The adventure started in Portland! Everybody who’s been to Portland International Airport would immediately recognize this carpet, which is famous!
My favorite place in Portland became (guess what) Union Station! We basically lived there for the first two days waiting for the train and exploring the city along the way.
Portland is considered the most “hipster” city in the U.S., and you can feel it just walking on the streets.
The first ‘hipster’ place I visited was Powell’s Books, which can be best described as a city of books. You can spend hours and hours there looking through thousands (probably millions!) of different books — from technical to art literature sitting on one shelf.
Portland is also often called Rose City, because people say that the climate there is perfect for growing roses, and you can see it in almost every element of architecture.
After all the MTP project participants gathered at the hub we headed to Mark Zusman’s home for dinner. Zusman is the editor of the alternative newspaper Willamette Week. We had an first amazing dinner and equally amazing speakers — young entrepreneurs who were presenting their small businesses (right to my topic!). Among others, we learned about Britt Howard’s creative fashion enterprise ‘Portland Garment Factory’, which was started as a sewing shop and developed into the fashion house, the last project of which was the uniform for flight attendants of Michael Jordan’s private jet!
August 7, 2014: “Portland and the Long Awaited Train”
My day started at 6 a.m. with the amazing view over Columbia River Gorge, which constitutes the border between Oregon and Washington State.
On the first day we had a very comprehensive tour of Portland given by the city’s Fist Lady Nancy Hales. We learned about the services of an incredible organization called Portland Parks & Recreation, which maintains all of the city’s numerous parks and green streets and is in charge of Pioneer Courthouse Square. This place is so special because it changes its ‘face’ 340 times a year on average: it hosts all kinds of events — from flower festivals to India festivals to farmers markets. The day before we arrived there was a soccer field there!
Our field trip continued on Portland Aerial Tram, which brings you to Oregon Health & Science University, providing a stunning view over Portland and specifically its bridges. One of them is a replica of Boston’s Zakim Bridge, which really surprised me. Later on I saw another bridge like this on the way to Seattle, which made me think that the Bostonian Zakim Bridge is not unique; there are plenty of such bridges all over the U.S.
Updates on my MTP Project
As I mentioned before, my project would cover coolest startups and small businesses you can imagine in all the cities we are going to visit.
Portland was a perfect place to start! The first startup I went to was Hotlips Pizza, a pizzeria that purchases locally-grown ingredients, uses waste heat from its pizza ovens to heat water and makes deliveries in electric cars. Should I add that their pizza is 100% organic and incredibly tasty?
And, finally today we got on the train!!!!!
What is especially great about MTP project is speakers that we have on the train. Today it was Special Adivsor for Youth Engagement Andy Rabens from the U.S. State Department who talked about global youth affairs. Robert Reid, travel journalist for National Geographic, also spoke — focusing on the whole notion of travelling.
Here are his points that stood out most to me:
– Trains are the most social type of travel
– Travel is not a contest; it does not matter how many stamps you have in your passport
– Travel is a rare opportunity for us to play
– We have limited time to travel, and it’s all about having fun
– Travel = Curiosity + Communication
Apart from speakers, we have a group discussion every day. We talk for an hour or so about the leadership, contemporary problems and problem solving in different settings, workplaces and countries. Today I told my group mates that I enjoy listening rather than speaking because it allows me to absorb more information. It might seem quite egocentric, but I feel like that’s the way you learn the most.
Stay tuned to the Fulbright-MTP blog for entries from the other four participants! Follow the journey @FulbrightPrgrm and @MillennialTrain!