{ Seattle, the city of neighborhoods. }

After two weeks of circus school, I have bruises on my arm from hula hooping too hard, a cut lip from a bad handstand, big cuts on my foot from aerial rope, as well as more arm strength, new friends, better handstands, more confidence and balance. I'm stronger than ever before.

While circus school eats up over 20 hours a week, I do recognize a world outside of the tumbling mats and trampolines: Seattle.

I've been to Seattle once before, to visit colleges when I was a high school junior. My mother pointed out that college was more than your classes -- it was where you were living for four years. College had to be livable.

One of my priorities for college was getting out of New York. The east coast mentality doesn't resonate with me. While I like my ethnically diverse food, towers and subways, I've got a fondness for places with shared eye-contact and repeated meetings. I don't like to rush, and I'm not so fond of stress. Going west seemed obligatory. So my parents and I looked on the map and idly poked around. I didn't really know what I wanted in a college -- big/small, rural/urban -- so it seemed better to go by location and scope it out.

"I've never been to Seattle," I said, imagining gray skies, coffee, comic books and indie bands.

"When's spring break?" my parents asked.

In five days, I visited Puget Sound, U-Dub (University of Washington), Evergreen State, and Reed. I loved the classes at Puget Sound, the architecture at U-Dub, the artsy vibe of Evergreen, and the academic vigor of Reed. All of them were brilliant, though none of them felt like home. Given the pace of the trip, my mother and I didn't get much of a chance to poke around, but we liked the misty city we passed through. We would come back one day, we decided.

That day has come.

Yoshi and I struck it lucky: we're staying with a wonderful young couple. Karina, an Oberlin alum, read a little note in the local alumni newsletter and thought: "Yeah, I'll put up two circus kids." Bless her. She and her husband, Chris, have been incredibly welcoming. They've got full-time jobs and do capoera, kajukenbo and dance on the side, so they're pretty busy, but when we've had some shared time, we've hung out.

Karina and Chris live in the Central District, about 10 minutes by bus from the International District, Pioneer Square, and downtown. Delicious Vietnamese/Thai/Ethiopian/Chinese/Japanese restaurants are minutes away. We've been able to get bubble tea every other night. Otherwise, we've explored.

Seattle's downtown closes up at about 6:00, every day, which is super-weird. When we first got here, the lack of folks around a commercial area seemed rather creepy. With all the alleyways and fog, it seemed like a horror movie, just waiting to happen. Apparently, the present temperature (mid-40s) is considered "cold." People stay in, rather than trolling the streets for excitement.

Aside from downtown, we've wandered through Fremont, Beacon Hill, Green Lake, Georgetown, the International District, Central District, UWashington, Kirkland and Madrona. We've haggled for pizza, gone contra dancing, taken yoga, drunk bubble tea, gone shopping at Uwajimaya , talked to Native American art dealers and organic pizza makers, been harassed by homeless women, gotten into fights, eaten potluck burrito dinners, and been lost on buses. We've heard riot-folk and good stand-up comedy.

It's been great. While I miss the pulsing, busy, friendliness of Oberlin, I love the city in the sea.


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