Do you remember when you were, say, 5 years old and you dreamed of your older and smarter and better-dressed self, with great friends, great social life, combined with well payed job and college and so on and on…?

Photography credit to @kennywilliams1998 – Thank you!

 - Yeah that never really happened, did it?

Yes, in this post, I will convince you that turning 18 is not what it is made out to be.

I suppose, because the big one-eight is seen as such a milestone, the concept of hitting that age seems at first very exciting, you know, starting a new chapter in your life. Democracy ensured that we now have the legal power to buy most things and go to most places, but days before the big day, you actually really start to think it through. Is it really going to be just more fun?

One thing, probably something that happens every year, is that it will take a long time of getting used to answering "So how old are you?" with  "I’m 18”, and I will probably have to think about it for good minute or so too, just to then dread the ID.

The other thing, like my mum said: “Do you realise that a week from now you’ll be an adult, woman?” – No mum, I don’t. I don’t want to be. Shall we just pretend that it is no big deal and that I can still have a nap at midday like back in the day when we were 4 - oh how we did not appreciate it then.

I know, I know. I make this out to be colossal. Which it isn’t - y’all over 18s probably think I'm being a tad silly. I spoke to some of you about turning 18 - your feedback was very much mixed, but I’d say the general consensus is that there isn’t much difference at all. Especially not visible in your day-to-day life, unless you’re secretly an alcoholic and get people to buy lots of alcohol for you – good news for you! Or maybe not - now you’ll actually have to face the judgements of the cashier and buy your booze yourself. 

Anyhow, this particular birthday comes with a fair deal of responsibilities which I am not up for. As it is, I have enough of them. The expectations just get upgraded to ‘adult’ level, or even worse ‘young adult’ – that’s basically saying ‘oh, she thinks she’s 18 so she must know how world works, that’s so sweet’, accompanied by a huge, fake, condescending smile that makes you roll your eyes so hard you see your brain. 

Some of you may believe that the freedom to go out, get into clubs, buy alcohol etc. is in your favour – well sorry to break this to you, but no. Now there is more ways to spend the money we barely have. You will literally have too much month left for your wage. Entry fees, clothes, drinks, food, taxis…. Nobody tells you this, but it isn’t so easy as you may think at 17.

Either way, we are all different. I do hope that it is a celebration like no other if you do plan to celebrate your 18th in big style, ultimately, 10, 20 years from now you will be wishing to be 18 again, so make the most of it!

Drink Responsibly. Don’t Drink And Drive.
Check out the previous day's adventures HERE

The group at the Monmouth Falls

The day when I got to spend my very last bit of money that I had with me, leaving with some Western Oregon Wolves shirts, notebooks and hoodies from their bookstore.

Friday was the last day that we got to do some volunteering. Alongside the lovely American volunteers in their local food bank, we sorted through some large crates of apples followed by potatoes, finishing off in the warehouse freezer.... on a tour!

The trip was rounded up in a Salem restaurant, which catered for everyone even me with my picky vegetarian diet, ha). Really a dinner after which we just rolled home. 

Actually, it doesn't matter what we did at the end of our trip. I could go on and on about little memories I have from that trip, but most of them would just bore you. Instead I'd like to thank the American team for showing me a piece of their culture, their everyday lives where we walked through their university, their towns and cities, dined with them, laughed with them.

As Andy said, at the beginning of the week it was just 18 strangers on a coach, who barely knew each other, and as we sat in that little kitchenette at the end of the week, we realised that actually, it is possible to enjoy each other's company without the internet, and really connect in just a week.

So this thank you not only goes to the fantastic team of students from Western Oregon University, but to you all, students and staff alike, who made that week so interesting!
Previous day HERE

Thursday morning we set off to explore the American University as potential students among the high schoolers. One thing I noticed - no matter how big or small the University was, it was beautiful!
The Western Oregon Wolves!

The midpoint of the week has arrived, as well as the day that we were supposed tot ravel down to Portland. Well, we had a long day ahead!

It is said that distances in the USA are incomparable to the UK or Europe even, and so spending 3 hours in the minibus didn't seem like we got far, but in fact, we travelled half of the UK!

Anyhow, what awaited us was definitely worth it. First stop: street food vans (not sure whether there is a name for them). This is when the group had the chance to browse all different types of foods from all around the world, in a small block. It all smelled dangerously alluring , unhealthy but tasty. Everyone seemed to find their guilty pleasure.

Sorry, no pic of foods, so here's one of a man crossing the street!

Continuing from here, we were taken to the taste infused Salt & Straw, where the unique flavours of ice cream confused your taste buds - an illustrative example: blue cheese and pear flavour. Now, I know what your reaction to that is, but I was one of the brave once to taste it and it is delicious!! If YOU visit Portland, you will do yourself a flavour (ba dum tsss!) to pay this little parlour a visit.

Salt & Straw - Sea Salt Ice Cream Sundae!

From here, the road took us yet to another eating place - the queue-worthy Voodoo Doughnuts! It looks and feels the same as it sounds. One of the things for which I'd class this place as amazing is purely because they have glitter wall!! (See my Insta for proof) Furthermore, we actually queued for over 30 mins to have a bite of this sensation, and man, it was worth it. First of all, paying less than $5 for two humongous doughnuts is rather a good bargain, and secondly, these people really went all out with their creativity, ranging from Bacon and Maple Doughnut (for the record, there was an actually piece of bacon on it) to naming their products- for example the Vegan Cock-N-Balls (and yes, it is what it sounds it to be).  Not only this, but the employees were incredibly lovely and helpful too!

Personally thought their logos were great: "Magic is in the hole!" -being one of them.

Filled to the rooftop from here, we headed to the little nearby town, the home of the Western Oregon University, Monmouth. If I had to describe this place to someone non-American, it would go something like this: An exact copy of what you see in the movies. Seriously, no joke. The crossroads, the houses, the people - everything! Granted, the university itself takes up most of the population and space, while the town people suffer from lack of restaurant variety, but that is just me being comparative to other places.

Now the dorms. Here I cannot praise the movies, as the dorms were actually much smaller than I have seen in the movies, but with a little bit of personal touch bearable. As we would have seen the next day, they are all very uniform, while the system of getting into the building and into your dorm was more than perplexing.

After settling down into our shared rooms, we were swept out for some dinner at Yeasty Beasty. Funny name, eh? Anyway, pizza for dinner is a great idea, and going to an american diner was an experience in itself, which we shall not forget. It was so much fun, and I am pretty sure the staff were a bit struck as they saw a group of our size enter the tiny premises, but we fit and they catered for us, so thank you!
Picture by Andy

All in all, I don't think I have ever eaten so much in one day, or visited so many food-places in such comprised space of time.

This seems to have been the grumpy people's day. I'd say this is when I really felt the jet lag hitting, and so waking up early, no correction, getting out of the house early (early being 9 am) was somewhat of a will-tester.

Nevertheless, we made it to what seemed the other side of Seattle, to a homeless home ( a home for homeless people who thus become not-homeless but it's hard to explain, ok.) called the Evans House. They provide housing for people in need, to get them out of dangerous, likely self -inflicted, situations, often with a kind of mental disability. 

So after sitting through a good half an hour of talk given by the guys (for the purposes of this post, lets call them Ben and Bob), we signed couple of sheets and off we went painting! - Actually, we had to tape a whole floor before we got to painting. Overall, it seemed to be a good learning-bonding experience, where we go to see how much this organisation does for these people. At the start of it, one of the resident played us some of his music, which was very considerate of him, and his music taste was not all bad. 

Exceeding the supervisors' expectations, we managed to work through the first floor rapidly, and off we went to the last floor they needed to paint. Knowing the routing here, some of us grabbed the masking tape, some of us the cloth and spray bottle. It seems like we managed to get through the last floor even faster, perhaps due to more conversation. Interestingly, this floor had its own distinct smell - weed. Yes, apparently pot is legal in Washington, which is something I wasn't aware of before, but eh, we learn new things every day! Good news for some, as Bob was telling us how it reduced crime in some places as the police was able to focus on other crime too. However the residents on this floor seemed to be more talkative, especially about coke (no, not the drink). 

The Morning At Evans House

One could say you meet quite the characters here.

As we cleared up everything, we were ready to go to our next destination: Food Life Line. Our tight schedule did not allow for spare time, and so we ended up eating lunch in the car, which is not up to the expectation, but it gives the whole trip a certain feel, that now makes me sentimental about moments like these, as it allowed for much more connection. 

Once we arrived at the food bank, we were geared up for the first time - hair nets, plastic aprons, gloves and all that. It was merely embarrassing but we all got over the fact that it makes us look like lunch ladies quite quickly. While most of the group was working hard on some coconut stuff (I am unsure of what they were doing), and there was an isolated group of three of us that was sent off to another adventure. I feel comfortable calling it an adventure, as I am sure that Lauren (supervising staff) and Bathsheba (fellow participant) would agree. Why? Well, our supervisor, the guy that was telling us (more like bossing us around) what to do was hard to understand, and his manners of talking and explaining were far from familiar to me. First of all, he took ages to attend to us, but then the way he explained to us how to sort through few boxes of food took far longer. Once we finished, we waited around for another while, looking around and feeling guilty for not working, when he decided to acknowledge the fact that we need stuff to do. So we moved couple of boxes, and threw couple of boxes of lettuce out, but we got through that very quickly too. So at the end, we ended up sorting through bakery - desserts (they all looked delicious!), sliced bread (only the bread you can make TOAST with) and other (like rolls and buns and stuff). This way, we filled up different boxes up to 15 lb and stacked them onto palettes. It was nice once we got going.

At the end of the session, not even taking a break, the guy proceeded to tell us a bad joke that none of us guessed, however I would have said that it had more to do with his phonetics than our wit.

Anyhow, we finished, we did a great job, and off we were to the vans for some rest. Soon the group found itself sitting in yet another, local Starbucks, some sipping on some coffee, others soaking in the free WiFi, desperately getting hold of some family members at this time of the day (4 pm equalled around 11 pm in England). 

Headed back home, the drive seemed shorter, when finally we were gathering in the kitchen for some dinner. The lovely American team were cooking for us again, this time making some amazing tacos for us. During the preparation of the meal, I hung around in the kitchen, talking more with the Americans and generally, since I love cooking/baking/anything to do with creation of food I found it interesting to watch them make this food. Lauren and Lauren talked a lot about travelling and so it was something of an interest too. Since this was my first time eating tacos, I was excited, as it not only smelled good, but it looked sensationally good too! And I'd be lying if I denied that I liked it!

Once again, thank you guys for a splendid day and dinner!!


Waking up more and more tired, I was up at 1 am again, along with the rest of the girls. Standard time, but in England, not here.

As everybody gathered sleepily in the kitchen for some breakfast, with the pan for the day still unclear, I was anticipating the day. the rumour was, that we are going to a local bakery, which if that doesn't excite you, we shouldn't be friends. The smell of freshly baked pastries and bread is one of the reasons I want to visit France, so understandably it got me a bit happy in this sleepless trance.

As we approached the bakery I was more and more undecided as to what I want to have, where all the cakes, pastries and bread looked of decent size, but delicious, which shouldn't really be a problem, but you know how they say, too much choice can be bad (not sure if that;s an actual saying or not, but many authors and thinkers would argue this thought).

Ending up with a Double Baked Almond croissant for me, we were headed for the compulsory Starbucks visit across the street (I swear they are on each corner here!). This hour or so was the perfect time to try to catch up with family, so I managed to get hold of my dad only. Another good point to this time is the ability to people watch. Now, if you know me at all, you would know that I love to do that at any time, sometimes prefer it over conversation, but watching the Americans was slightly different. I observed all the stereotypes - which some of them I do not dare to mention - and also that the general, preferred type of cars is trucks in here. As my dear friend Georgina said: "it's a truck-city" which is very accurate.

Along with this classic
Undecided as to what to do with the time on our hands, we convinced our new friends to take us to the local Target store, to further observe the American life style, only to prove once again, Americans are incredibly lovely and cheery people. The store itself is very similar to the ones we get here, like Poundland or B&M or any equivalent. Trying to not spend any money in this place is therefore an unattainable goal, as even I ended up with several packs of chewing gum and a pack of twizzlers. Matter of fact, it was my first encounter with the cinnamon chewing gum, which I was looking forward to try, and found the experience pleasant. However I had a bit too much of it, and the aromatic part of it ensured that my whole bag smelled of it, resulting in me feeling a bit sick of it by the end of this trip. Oh well :)

After visiting Target it was finally time to go and do some of that volunteering. So we headed to the Hope Line food bank warehouse, where we were warmly welcomed. This seemed like a big place, however as we later found out it was the smallest one we volunteered at. Part of the warehouse designated for the 'customers' was set up like an actual grocery store, with trolleys and isles and everything, while behind the 'staff only' door the warehouse consisted of large to massive boxes and racks of predominantly canned foods. 

Our job: sort everything out. 

We were sorting through boxes that contained mixed food. And by mixed I mean from canned tuna and beans, through peanut butter to rice and pasta and dry, powder mix foods as well as 1 year out of date and 5 years out of date. Such were the kind donations. We sorted out the in-date and out-date foods first, then it was sorted into pasta, cereal, beans etc. baskets. By the end of it I personally took it upon myself to hang out of the box with my legs up in the air, just so I can get to the last bits. Shame they didn't take a photo.

Still feeling very filled, we headed home for some dinner. As my friend and I found out, eating too much food will equal a salad for dinner, with that amazing salad dressing that Ivan introduced us to. It remains unimaginable to me how others managed to get Mac-and-cheese down.

Finishing the day off with our first reflection time, we talked about what we liked that day and how much of an eye-opener this first job was. I believe some of the group squeezed couple card games (UNO and spoons) before sleep, but really, by the time dinner was over I was more than ready for the deserved sleep. 


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