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We all arrived in Portland last Thursday and since then have been exploring the neighborhood and settling in. We all had a long way to go to get to Portland – I woke up at 3 AM for a surprisingly quick Lyft and a not-so-surprising, not-so-quick line at security at BWI. Elliott was on the same flight, which headed up to Boston before crossing the US.

When we arrived, we were greeted with some good weather (a good fifteen degrees cooler than in Baltimore) and some very nice dorms. The group is situated in the Portland State University campus, and it was immediately obvious how convenient the location is. We went out for our first lunch to find an absurd concentration of restaurants on campus – there are five we can reach without even crossing a street. I’m not quite sure how PSU students budget their money or their calories.

The PSU campus itself is not very big, but it is very dense, and there are some beautiful older and modern buildings. The rec center – free for us to use – is right up the street, and the student union is built alongside the “South Park Blocks,” a tree-lined park that crosses some twelve blocks and houses a farmer’s market every Saturday.

Several light rail lines, streetcar routes, and busses run right through campus – it’s very easy to get to several different supermarkets, and we all have a relatively easy commute to work. And, of course, downtown Portland is walkable! The one-way streets, the tree-lined blocks, and the many parks and maps make it nearly impossible to get lost. The city definitely puts a focus on pedestrian life in a way that many other American cities do not.

On Friday, we went on a tour hosted by Know Your City, an organization that promotes education about community and social justice. The tour covered several blocks in the Pearl District and the northern part of downtown, and the tour guides discussed the history behind several neighborhoods which used to house immigrant and minority groups over the past century.

After a few days of walking around, orienting ourselves, and stocking up on supplies (at grocery stores, Target, Goodwill, and two different street markets), I think we are all pretty excited to start work and learn a little more about this beautiful city.

Immediately striking when arriving in Portland is the amount of public space and greenery. This is Director Park, a block away from Central Library.
The view from a staircase in our dorms (and, of course, Mt. Hood is hiding in the background!)
A view of downtown and the Hawthorne bridge from the East side of the Willamette river. There are beautiful walking and biking paths along both sides!