Our Last Weekend in Portland


Tuesday, August 9, 6:31 pm

Les Mis!

I’d like to start out by saying that last Thursday I went to see the traveling broadway production of Victor Hugos’ Les Miserables!  It was SO good, and the special effects were stunning.

Anyway, I’m here to report that we just had our last weekend in Portland!!!  Xuan, Kate, Michael, and Colin went on a trip to Colin’s old french teacher’s house where they went on hikes and picked berries.  They were gone from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning, and they all said the had a lot of fun!

The rest of us had Friday night free, so a couple of us went to check out Flicks on the Bricks, which is held in Pioneer Square.  The feature outdoor film of the night was West Side Story.  It was really cool to see so many people outside enjoying the night and singing along with the well-known songs.  The screen was absolutely huge, so I felt like I was running around New York City myself with the Sharks and the Jets.

Saturday was mostly a free day.  Most of us went to check out the Farmer’s market one last time.  I got some peaches and a fresh cinnamon role, yum!  That night the 6 of us that were remaining went to the Artist’s Repertory Theater to see a rendition of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”  The director did a great job of making some difficult language a little more understandable through the scenery and the body language of the actors.  It was an interesting play to see, especially as I had never read the play before and had no knowledge of what it was about.

Top of Mt. Tabor

On Sunday, the six of us met up to go for a hike on Mount Tabor, an extinct volcano that lies within city limits.  It was not a very rigorous hike, but it provided some nice views from the top.  It also had a playground, which some of us felt compelled to play on (yes, I know we’re 20+ years old…).  After the hike, a couple of us went to the Chinese Gardens in China Town and looked around.  They were very beautiful, especially for being located in the heart of the city.  All of the plants there were brought in from China.  They also had a game called “Go” set up for people to learn how to play.  Michael decided to challenge the man teaching the game and unfortunately ended up losing.  At least the rest of us learned how to play a new game! So thanks, Michael, for sacrificing yourself for our learning. 🙂

So, here we are in our last week in Portland.  Our jobs are wrapping up and we’re starting to think about how we’re going to get to the airport bright and early on Saturday morning.  Today I was fortunate enough to go out on a field trip for my job, interviewing some clients of the law firm.  I got to go to Grand Island where I met some wonderful farmers.  One of the men went to Duke for his undergraduate studies and is now raising llamas.  It was great to talk Duke Basketball during work hours! 

Oh, I also would like to mention that Michael and I swam in a fountain last night with all of our work clothes on.  We’ve wanted to swim in it all summer and we realized this was our last chance.  There wasn’t time to change into swimsuits.  After all, it’s just water, right?  It turned out to be a lot of fun, but it was a cold walk home.

Tonight we have our last group reflection session at  Jesse’s house, and then on Thursday we have a “Community Partner Thank-You Event” for all the people we’ve worked with this summer.  Hopefully all of our bosses and new friends will be able to attend!  Friday night is our last group dinner and then Saturday is off to the airport.

Until Next Time,


Playing on the Playground

Standing in a Fountain!


Second-to-Last Weekend!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

So last Friday we had our last service activity of the summer.  We went out to Forest Park, which is a huge park within urban boundaries, and helped pull out invasive ivy.  Ivy may be pretty, people, but it will kill the trees it grows on!!  We worked on this for about an hour and ended up saving at least 3 trees…but they won’t be saved permanently.  This will be a never-ending battle.

On Saturday, we all headed up to Washington Park where we were given 5-attraction passes.  This allowed us to go into the Zoo, the World Forestry Center, Pittock Mansion, the Japanese Gardens, and the Children’s Museum.  We all went to the zoo together in the morning, and after looking around for a while we hiked through some forested area to Pittock Mansion.  Here we took a tour of the building, which was a period house (meaning each room was decorated in a different style-Victorian, Elizabethan, etc.).  The house was neat to explore as it had many displays exhibiting the dress and recreational activities of the time.

Sunday was an optional trip to the Japanese Gardens and Childrens Museum.  I did not attend because my Aunt was visiting from Seattle, but the others said that the gardens were beautiful.  In the afternoon, we all attended the Duke Send-Off party for the Portland area.  This was a gathering for freshmen from the region to get together and talk to one another as well as to alumni and current students.  It was a great experience for us getting to answer questions and talk about the DukeEngage adventures that we’ve shared.  The freshmen were very talkative and eager to learn; glad to have some new baby blue devils!!!

As our summer is drawing to a close, we are starting to look forward to going home and the upcoming return to Duke.  A couple of our participants are going abroad this semester, so everyone is getting a little anxious.  I can’t speak for the others, but I know that for me, the opportunity to work with a nonprofit has been a great learning experience.  I have gotten to see what the life of a lawyer is like, bond with other law interns, and ultimately have decided to apply to Law School.  The attorneys at my law firm even took the interns whitewater kayaking yesterday as a thank-you for our hard work and as a chance to see “the natural areas we’re working to save.”  It was so much fun (even though I did take a tumble or two). 

We have our second-to-last group dinner tonight at a sustainable sushi restaurant, should be good!

Less than two weeks til my birthday, yay!


July is drawing to a close…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We had a pretty relaxed weekend for once! No big trips to the coast or anything like that 🙂

On Friday night, there was an optional trip to the Portland Art Museum.  They were having a special “Cars” exhibit.  Unfortunately I was not able to attend this event (I was touring Lewis & Clark Law School), but those who went said that they had a good time.  After the museum, Kate and I went to check out a performance of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at an outdoor park.  It was rather hard to hear, however, with cars and the MAX steadily going by, so we ended up leaving after about 20 minutes.  Most of us went to bed early that night to try and catch up on sleep from the busy weekend we had had before!

On Saturday, we all took shifts working at Ecopalooza.  This was a wine and jazz festival (completely solar powered) held in Pioneer Courthouse Square.  We were helping sell tickets, give out wristbands, and scan tickets that people had pre-purchased.  It was nice to have a service activity that involved interacting with other people (a pleasant change of pace from pulling weeds).  We were a little disappointed in the festival (attendance was not very good), but it was fun to be out in the sun hanging out with each other for a few hours.

Sunday morning was free, so I got up and found a quaint little Lutheran church to attend called St. James.  The people there were wonderful, and kept giving me muffins and coffee cake! I didn’t object, of course.  In the afternoon we all headed across the river to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) where we met up with Jesse and explored the museum.  The exhibits were very interactive and hands-on, they even had one exhibit portraying the evolution of video games (starting with Atari and moving up to X-box Kinect).  The best part was that you could play each of the games along the way!!  Very cool.  They also had a travelling exhibit called “Narnia”.  Michael and I went to this exhibit and thought that it was a lot of fun!  There were a bunch of costumes and set pieces used in the filming of the movies, as well as C.S. Lewis’ personal wardrobe (his inspiration for the Narnia books).  One of the coolest pieces, however, was a first edition set of the Lord of the Rings Novels.  They were apparently a great inspiration for Lewis’ books as well.  After looking around the museum for a while, we all headed to the IMAX theater where we watched a film about surfing in Tahiti.  It was very well filmed and the surfing was fantastic!  After the movie was over we went out to take a tour of the USS Blueback, a submarine owned by the museum.  It was very close quarters and made some of us feel a little claustrophobic, but it was a great opportunity.  Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, which added to the great experience.  We all left the museum happy.

We have a group dinner tonight, hope it’s as good as last week (we ate at a vegan restaurant)!

Until Next Time,


Trip to the Coast!

Gray Whale!

Tuesday July 19, 2011

Last Friday we all left work a little early to go to a service activity.  We met up at Abernathy Elementary School where we met the gardening teacher.  She explained to us that the school was a wellness school where there was emphasis on teaching good diet and exercise.  She then showed us the school’s garden, which was quite impressive for a garden in the middle of the city.  Then we set to work weeding the garden, pruning the bushes along the walkways, and turning over the ground so new  bushes could be planted.  It was hard work, but turned out to be rewarding in the end. 

Sea Otter at Newport Aquarium

On Saturday morning, we left PSU at 7:45 am to head to the coast.  Our first stop was at Cascade Head Preserve where we met volunteer coordinators from the Nature Conservancy.  We then set to work maintaining some of the trails in the preserve.  This entailed draining pools of water that had collected in the path and trimming vines and bushes that were obstructing the path.  It rained almost the whole time we were out there, so we had to be very careful not to slip while carrying our tools!  After we finished our work, we went to the open field in the preserve where you could look over a cliff and see the ocean.  There was a lot of fog in the air, so it was difficult to see, but beautiful nonetheless.  Because of the rain, we stopped working a little early and headed over to the Newport Aquarium.  Here, we watched the keepers feed the sea otters, then spent about an hour looking at all of the other exhibits.  It was a cute little aquarium containing all of the charistmatic animals of the Pacific Ocean.  After the aquarium, we got a group dinner and then headed to our camp site at Beverly Beach.  Here we set up our tents, ate s’mores, and played in the ocean.

Sunday morning I woke up early and decided to go for a walk.  In order to get to the beach, I had to cross over a little creek and to my suprise I found a big beaver staring at me!!  He had his mouth just full of grass and reeds to take back to his house.  It was quite a fun suprise!  After everyone else woke up, we had breakfast, packed up camp, and headed to Yaquina Head State Park.  This area is known for its lively tidepools, its colonies of seabirds, its abundant harbor seals, and its old lighthouse.  We spent a couple of hours exploring the rocky intertidal zone and climbing to the top of the

Xuan Hong Exploring the Tidepools

lighthouse.  The whole place offered spectacular views of the oregon shoreline.  After we were done there, we headed over to Devil’s Punchbowl State Park.  Here we walked along some cliffs looking down at the surfers down below.  Right before we were about to leave, we were blessed enough to see a couple of GRAY WHALES just off the shore!  This was the first time in my life I had seen a whale and I thought it was absolutely beautiful.  Truly a magnificent experience.  After we were done whale watching, we all got back in the van and drove to Tillamook where we visited their cheese factory.  The factory offered tons of free samples (which we took full advantage of) and we were also able to purchase some delicious made-on-site ice cream.  We all headed home with some cheese curds and a full belly.

We’re definitely starting out the week a little on the tired side, but it was worth it for a fun weekend on the coast.  We’re a little more than halfway done with the DukeEngage program now!

Your Aspiring Marine Biologist,



Catching Up

Blues Festival

Friday, July 15 2011

Hey everybody, sorry for the lack of posting, it has been a hectic couple of weeks.  On the weekend on 4th of  July there were no scheduled activities, so a lot of us went our own ways.  Matt headed down to the U of O, some people had parents or friends come to visit, and many of us just enjoyed the relaxation time for a while.  On the 4th, many of us went to the Blues Festival where we  ate ice cream, danced to good music, and watched the fireworks on the Willamette from the river bank.  We even met a few other Dukies at the event! 

The following weekend we had no activities scheduled.  This time, we had people going to Idaho, Seattle, and everywhere in between!  Personally, I went to the Oregon Coast with some of the other law interns from my office.  I tried my hand at surfing, but it turns out surfing in the Pacific is QUITE different than surfing in the Atlantic.  First of all, the water was freezing!  I was wearing a wetsuit, but I didn’t have any gloves for my hands, so they grew to be numb quickly.  The first time I fell off the board, the cold took my breath away!!  Also, the waves were pretty rough.  I took quite a few nasty plunges and was even left with a nice bump on my forehead from where the board hit me.  I wasn’t discouraged though, I had just as much fun exploring the rocky intertidal zone.  I found a sea cave that was home to anemones, sea cucumbers, barnacles, limpets, and lots of kelp.  I am a marine biologist, so exploring was just as fun as surfing!  The rest of the weekend, I just relaxed and tried to catch up on some sleep.

Surfing at the Coast

This week has been our first week in a while where we’ve actually spent a lot of time together.  On Wednesday we all took canoes out to Ross Island where we learned about the landscape from the Willamette RiverKeeper.  After helping pick up some trash (I found a Supertramp TAPE! Best trash find of the day) we got back in our canoes and paddled around the island.  At one point, we saw a pair of bald eagles!  The trip turned out to be a lot of fun, and of course turned into a big water fight at the end for most of us.

Yesterday (today?) many of us went to see the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two.  It was SOOO good, so GO SEE IT!  It was very sad though, so don’t forget to take some tissues along.  Needless to say, many of us are very tired today, working on only about 4 hours of sleep. 

This afternoon we are going to another service activity, and then tomorrow we head out to do some camping on the coast!

Mischief Managed,


Waterfalls, Dams, and Fish Hatcheries!

Hey guys,
It’s Nathaniel, guestblogging for the day. On Saturday, July 2nd, we had a day full of activities. We pushed back meeting Jesse from 8:30-9:00 so that we could enjoy delicious biscuits and other treats from the Farmer’s Market near PSU. First, we went to Bonneville Lake and Dam, about an hour outside of Portland. That was really awesome seeing the turbines and generators and all of the fish swimming upstream. Surprisingly, only 2% of the area’s energy is generated by the dam. Next, we went to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery which raises almost 10 million fish every year. We saw Herman the Sturgeon, a 10 ft long 70 yr old sturgeon. Next, we began our 5 mile waterfall and river gorge hike. The hike was a bit tiresome since it was uphill for the first 2 miles, but there were gorgeous views with lots of trees and you could see for miles. We saw several waterfalls including Wakheena and Multnomah, one of the highest waterfalls worldwide. We swam around in one of the waterfall pools. The water was ridiculously cold, but it sure was refreshing to swim in after the hike. We finished off the day with some great views from Vista House, a small house overlooking the river gorge.
On Sunday, most of us took the morning off because it was our first free day since we had started work. I know my feet were sore from the hike on Saturday. Most of us headed off to the crafts market for a couple of hours in the early afternoon followed by some exploring and napping at Pioneer Square. Later, we headed off to the Blues Festival down by the Waterfront organized by the Oregon Food Bank. A suggested donation of $10 and 2 cans of food was all you needed to get a good seat for Buddy Guy and numerous other great performers.

A Busy Weekend

June 27, 2011, 9:06 pm

I think I left off our story last friday before our service activity, so let me get you up to speed!

On Friday, all of us left work early to go volunteer at a place that recycles building materials.  Whenever a house or other structure is demolished, almost everything can be reused.  This store takes in everything from doors, to windows, to toilets, and even old pieces of wood!  After a tour around the facility, we were all set to work.  Most of us helped tidy up the shop, putting cabinets and drawers on the correct shelves.  Several of the boys were set to work moving old urinals!!  Alex and I were given the task of removing the hardware (handle, lock, etc.) from an ancient door.  Turns out one of the screws had been stripped, so I ended up having to cut straight through the screw using only a pliers!  After about an hour we were all exhausted from heavy lifting, but were content with our hard work.

On Saturday, Jesse came and picked us up at 9:15 am with a 12 passenger van.  We drove a bit out of the city to a natural prairie area that was recently made into a public park.  Here we met Dan, a naturalist, who was going to teach us to make “fire by friction” using no lighters or matches.  We spent several hours out in the sun learning how to cut a fire-board, whittle a spindle, make a bow, and start a fire! Only Matt was successful in making a fire, but several other people got very close!  The end of the class did not signal the end of our efforts, however.  When we got home, several people worked on their project until they got the job done (congrats, Colin!). 

On Sunday (Laurie’s 21st birthday!), Jesse came around even earlier than the day before to pick us up.  Once in the van, we drove about an hour and a half up to the Timberline Ski Lodge on Mt. Hood.  If you’re a fan of scary movies, you’ll recognize this lodge as the exterior of The Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s “The Shining.”  Being one of my favorite movies, I was very excited to see it! 

After playing in the snow for about an hour (yes, snow in June!), and having multiple massive snowball fights, we all took a tour of the inside of the lodge.  We were lead around by a member of the Forestry Service and told all about the art and architecture of the building.  At the end of the tour, we went to the dining room area and dug into the all-you-can-eat buffet.  We made good use of that deal 🙂  After brunch, we rode the ski lift up the mountain and then began hiking back down.  Alex (aka. MaplePinecone) quickly discovered a novel way to get down the mountain…jacket sledding!!! Anyone who had a rain jacket with them could roll themselves into a little ball and slide on their back down the mountain.  Almost everyone had a go at this hot new sport.

After we reached the bottom of the hill, we attempted to dry our socks a bit, but then got back into the van and drove to the town of Zig Zag.  Here, we hiked about 3.5 miles into the woods to see Ramona Falls.  The falls were absolutely gorgeous and we spent about 20 minutes playing in their mist.  When we were done we hiked back to the car and drove home.  It was a long, tiring day!  I think we’re all trying to catch up on sleep after all of our excursions this weekend.  Anyway, back to work!

Until Next Time,