Our Fulbright-MTP participants made it safely to Portland for today’s launch of the MTP 2014 journey. They depart at 4:00 p.m. PDT (7:00 p.m. EDT) today and head first to Seattle, WA. Here, Fulbright Student from Indonesia, Alyas Widita, talks about arriving in Portland.
It felt like the flight from Minneapolis to Portland was the longest flight I had ever taken. The flight only took about three and a half hours, but the excitement of participating in this year’s Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project (MTP) made me impatient to arrive in Portland and meet with my MTP colleagues. Additionally, the fact that I sat in an aisle seat prevented me from being able to see the amazing American landscape down below, and also contributed to the feeling that the flight was longer than it actually was.
By the time I stepped off the plane and arrived at the terminal, bathed in light, I rushed to find the Flying Elephants deli, where Lindsay Patross (one of the MTP social media staff members) and Chris Dowd (brother of MTP founder Patrick Dowd) were waiting for the Fulbright-MTP participants to arrive. I was relieved to spot an MTP banner and the Flying Elephants deli easily and had a short chat with Lindsay and Chris, who guided me on how to get to Union Station via streetcar/tram. The journey to Portland’s city center allows tram passengers to witness a glimpse of the city’s natural beauty, and many of its enormous bridges and buildings.
Following Chris’ suggestion, I took the Red Line tram and stopped at the Old Town/Chinatown Station, where I had to walk approximately five blocks to reach Union Station. As I walked from the tram, I began to understand why Portland is often referred to as an example of excellent urban planning. The city planners have put much effort into ensuring that the streets, an element of the city that is continuously reiterated as the biggest public space, foster human interaction.
After strolling around a small portion of downtown Portland, I was excited to attend the Fulbright-MTP kick-off at Union Station that afternoon. When I reached Union Station and observed its marvelous architectural beauty, I was attracted to the signage at the top of the clock tower which reads,“Go by Train,” echoing part of the mission of the Fulbright-MTP journey. Entering the station, I rushed to find the Metropolitan Lounge, which was filled with fellow MTP participants, program staff members, and partners. I instantly felt the energy of the group and quietly said to myself, “ I made it! I made it!”
As I greeted Patrick Dowd, founder of the MTP, he surprised me when he said, “Selamat datang,” a Bahasa Indonesia word for “Welcome.” He then kicked off the orientation by delivering his opening remarks, followed by a brief round of introductions from everyone in attendance. Patrick also engaged us in a lively discussion about the five principles Fulbright-MTP participants should keep in mind during their journey:
1) Uncover your greatness, it’s not about filling emptiness.
2) Require space that can hold productive discomfort.
3) Everyday challenges provide leadership lessons.
4) The macro is the micro.
5) Everything is in the framing.
Following the orientation, MTP participants, program staff and partners had dinner at Mr. Zusman’s house, a 20-minute drive from downtown Portland. Dinner was so refreshing, with glorious food featuring local ingredients, and a stimulating discussion with Portland-based entrepreneurs, social innovators, and community builders. Their words and advice have further solidified my preparation for this journey that I have been so anxiously waiting to join.