“So if it’s 635 feet long and travels at six miles per hour, then the ride takes how long?”
One of the more popular Pittsburgh attractions is a trolley ride up the side of Mt. Washington that provides a scenic view of downtown. Actually, there are two such inclines, but my family was discussing whether or not we would ride the Mon Incline. Our decision process started out with the normal factors, e.g., how much it would cost per person to ride it, whether to park at the top or the bottom, and whether we would all ride it once or twice. But the conversation soon left the usual realm and took a more algebraic route as we began to calculate how long the ride itself would be using right triangles and unit conversions.
After much debate and indecisiveness, we drove to the top of the incline and determined that approximately 72-second ride was not worth the 20-minute wait. Instead, we enjoyed the stunning view of downtown from Mt. Washington.
Taking my family around Pittsburgh in July helped me realize that this city is becoming my home. The maze of highways, bridges, overpasses, and one-way streets that once confused and intimidated me have started to become familiar, and now I even know when to predict traffic. From knowing the precise time I need to leave for work, to how long my carrots and hummus will last me, from discovering where the best ice cream and gelato in town are, to having established running routes, I’ve settled into a summertime routine, and it’s been amazing.
Of course, one of the best parts of the summer involved deviating from that routine. Slightly upsetting my family’s beach tradition, I used my one week of summer vacation time to travel to Africa to visit one of my best friends, heroes, and former roommates who has been spending the past year interning with IJM in Kampala, Uganda. After a long flight, and a brief stint in Cairo (sorry Mom and Dad), Lauren and I finally touched down in Uganda at the wonderful hour of 5 a.m. And so began our nonstop exploration of this remarkable country.
Much of our time was spent jostling along in a safari van gazing at the Ugandan countryside. As we arrived at Murchison Falls National Park, we gaped at the monkeys lining the road and stood awestruck listening to the roar of the waterfall. We attempted selfies with giraffes, drove off the path to find lions, went walking with rhinos, and kept our distance from a hippo fight. But the most surreal moment of the trip was floating down the Nile River and gazing at an elephant coming down to the river for his afternoon drink.
And of course the boda drivers deserve mention. There’s nothing quite like being chauffeured around Kampala on the back of a motorcycle feeling the wind whip through your hair as you gaze at the complexity of the city streets and pray that you won’t get hit by a car. Hanging out with some of Catherine’s regular drivers brought the city to life in a new way and helped me feel connected with the people who call Kampala their home.
Whether it’s cruising up the Nile or wakeboarding/faceplanting down the Allegheny, this summer has been full of adventures I could not have imagined at 18. Five years ago, I was beginning undergrad and meeting some of my best friends, and without them, I probably would have never gone to Africa or considered moving to Pennsylvania. I’m starting realize that despite my love for a stable routine and a well-planned itinerary, spontaneous surprises—often introduced by others—have some pretty good results. Maybe not every situation can be solved like a math problem and instead should be treated like a game of Monopoly. Who knows where the dice will take you next?
“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”—Mike Singletary