… Oh. It is summer isn’t it? I forget! Due to the accelerated nature of my nursing program, we aren’t technically offered a “summer vacation” on account of having a “summer” semester.
It has been a while since I have made a post showing the more lighthearted diversions in my life as a student, largely because I’m at the tail end of my program. More notably however, I am currently in the fastest paced segment of the program. Given the summer semester’s atypical placement when compared to a traditional school year, not only is the spot of a “traditional” summer vacation forfeited, but the curriculum is also condensed due to this semester being four weeks shorter than the normal spring and fall semesters.
Even so, students still get 1-2 weeks of break between semesters, in essence providing for a summer break that is split into two parts: before-summer and after-summer. Perhaps it’s fitting that us professional students no longer receive such a long continuous stretch of time to forsake all responsibilities, but I am grateful that even this program gives us some time off to enjoy the season that makes every student’s heart skip a beat — summer.
Earlier this year, as the spring semester came to an end, my friends and I wanted to hang out for a little bit before school would resume and we would enter our new classes. Kelly, Thao, Lam, and I would be entering class S-1 while Morgan would be joining class J-2. Since our time off before the summer semester was not very long, we decided to keep things simple and just spend time around downtown Houston. Houston however, is a very complex and metropolitan place, even to those of my friends who had never resided outside of the city. As a result, there were a number of hidden gems of attractions that we had no idea about even as non-tourists. Still, it was summertime and we figured that going to a park was a must so we decided to start our day by heading for a place called Discovery Green.
Whenever we travel as a group, Lam is typically our driver as he is able to pick us up in his white colored Toyota Highlander. We started the day by taking care of a few things at school (i.e., paying tuition at the administrative tower for the next semester) and met up at one of the parking lots to wait for Lam. With the sun already bearing down on us despite it still being morning, we soon were off for downtown Houston.
Like many places downtown, Discovery Green finds itself situated amidst construction, public transportation, and towering buildings. Still, its patch of lush greenery, art sculptures, water ponds, and areas for activities add liveliness to the park. The fact that it is connected to a convention center also helps ensure that the area is buzzing with activity.
As is typical for the group, the first thing we did upon reaching the park was to find a nice spot to take pictures. This time around however, we were in possession of one of those horse-head masks that are so prevalent across the Internet. While we all had our fair share of fun with it, the mask seemed to resonate with Morgan; she truly enjoyed wearing it way too much! To add to the hilarity, there seemed to have been an elementary school field trip to the park that day and we were able to weird out a number of the kids (and their chaperones) with the mask. Seeing out of the horse head wasn’t the easiest thing in the world so I would walk next to Morgan and guide her with my hand on her back as she wore the mask. I think this had the effect of making her look like some… mascot character parading around because a couple of the school kids came over and asked to take a picture with her. Just because it was such a hilarious situation, I told them yes even before Morgan had a chance to agree and used one of their phones to take the picture. (Yes, little girls have smart phones and are familiar with Internet memes these days!)
Since Lam had brought a Frisbee and a football, we took advantage of a grassy stretch at the park to play around for a while, but eventually, the rest of the gang started to notice the heat as it became close to noontime. For our next stop then, we decided to explore the “downtown tunnels”. A few of us weren’t even aware of their existence — as sprawling as the urban city presented itself on street level, apparently there were miles of tunnels underneath that were just as densely populated.
The entrances to these tunnels were placed inside a variety of the larger buildings in the area, with the underground passageways connecting the buildings for a quicker pedestrian commute. We eventually found stairs in one building leading downwards and soon arrived in what felt like a bustling mall — the tunnels. The tunnels were packed with food courts, hundreds of shops, and even services such as dry cleaners and hotels. It was… well, incredible in a way; people could literally live down there without seeing the light of day. After thoroughly exploring the tunnels (with the branches named after various cities in Texas such as San Antonio and Dallas), we stopped to have lunch at one of the food courts and planned our next move.
Last year, a classmate had taken me to the Sky Lobby on the 60th floor of the JPMorgan Chase Tower, a windowed lounge offering a spectacular view of downtown Houston. Since none of the others had seen it before, I suggested that we head there next. Though we later found out that the tunnels were able to access the Chase Tower, we used the Google Maps app to show us how to get to the building on street-level. Navigating downtown Houston was no easy feat — there were numerous crosswalks and railway tracks in our way, but we finally found the entrance to the tower.
The first thing one notices upon entering the tower is how elegant its interior is. The second is an ornate sign designating one of the elevators as going to the SKY LOBBY. It had only one option — to travel to the 60th floor, and the elevator ride felt rather lengthy as it made the long climb upwards. The view that greeted us however was breathtaking. One truly feels a part of the sky, and there’s something fanciful about seeing your city below you. We spent a good amount of time in the lobby and found ourselves joining the rest of the tourists taking photos of the view. Morgan managed to get herself in trouble with security twice by letting her curiosity get the best of her and wandering too close to an off-limits section of the lobby. Nevertheless, she, along with the rest of the group, was thoroughly charmed by the experience and the group’s excitement could be felt on the elevator ride down. To my knowledge, the spectacle is now permanently closed to the public.
After visiting the tower, we aimlessly wandered around the city for a little while before someone noticed that one of the museums in the museum district offered free admission on Thursdays — the Health Museum. I inwardly groaned at the suggestion, not wanting to mix “work” with leisure, but I was still curious about the layman’s approach to our studies that the museum would undoubtedly take. When we reached there, the museum was quite small and geared towards a younger audience. Still, it was fun for us to see the topics we were studying presented in an “eighth grade science class” type of way. The gift shop there was quite neat as well — there were numerous plushies shaped like microbes that entertained us for some time.
Eventually though, it was getting somewhat late in the day and some of the group had gotten tired from all of the walking, so we decided to head back for the parking lot at school where we had left our individual cars. As if to signal an end to the day, when we reached the lot, a thunderstorm began to darken the sky. Still wanting a chance to look at some of the pictures that we had taken that day, I grab my laptop from my car and bring it back to the rest of the group. As we sat there, still piled in Lam’s SUV, I pull the pictures up one by one on my laptop and we enjoy laughing over them as we reminisce about the day. As Morgan aptly pointed out in the car, these types of moments “help keep us sane.”
As it began to rain (quite heavily, I might add) we scattered into our cars to head off towards our respective homes. While driving, I found myself considering how fortunate I was to have friends that I could have fun with simply by being in their companies. There were some in our class who were trying to organize large-group cruises to pass the summer, which I thought as absurd — not just in cost, but also because we hadn’t even finished our nursing program yet. My friends however are quite practical and being with them showed that it’s possible to have just as much fun just by keeping things simple.
As of right now, only two and a half weeks remain in this semester! I look forward to summer break part two before the fall semester starts — I’m sure we’ll have fun things in store for then as well!