1 in 900: Hoover and a bike

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Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020

6:45 a.m. My eyes are wide open, seeking for the dim limelight of sunrise. I feel jittery with jet-lag. It occurs to me that I am in a spacious room with a living room and a kitchen — almost as if the virtual Stanford hugs, affection and overflowing love weren’t already welcoming enough. Stable housing on a silver platter, while hundreds of families found their bitter version of home on sidewalks and street corners of Ashrafieh, Lebanon. Home Sweet Home…

There was something different about my first Stanford morning. California was undressed, leaving its brightest attire behind. It instead donned an embroidered orange and brown gown, governing the atmosphere with its envelopes of dust. Watching the world from your second-floor bedroom window was no different than witnessing the genesis of an apocalypse. All you could see clearly were the bikes parked near our building haunted by the faint echo of “California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.”
Setting foot outside for the first time. Where to go? What to do? The “who” wasn’t a problem, for I had already met more than half the people residing on campus, using my typical approach: “Hey! Where are you from?” From an outsider’s point of view, this introduction may sound weird. But in reality, it not only broke the ice but instead, the ice melted into a river of connectivity.



Where was I exactly? If you asked me this question 15 days ago at the entrance of EVGR A, I would’ve cracked an “I don’t know” followed by a giggle… I carried myself next to a tall cylindrical building that was only revealing the tip of its head above the haze. I couldn’t tell if the building was too scared to leave its hiding place and or if it was peeking to check its surroundings. Hoover Tower longed to pose and display its elegant architectural features, but the air quality decided otherwise. Despite the obstructed view, I couldn’t help but stare at this creation, wondering what was tucked behind the thick curtains. Since that day, Hoover goes by the name of “Buddy,” a figure of warmth and familiarity, a feeling that reminded me of my long strolls in the streets of Ashrafieh, now destroyed by the Beirut Blast.
Of course, in a university as huge as Stanford, walking around is more of a torture than a sport. As the sun reflected its shining armor on us, my friends and I reached a cozy region huddled with greenery, where trees decorated serene, tiny grass fields. At the end of that narrow road resided the Stanford Bike Shop. Looking at the helmets and the different bicycle styles, I couldn’t remember the last time I rode my light pink bicycle. Truth is, I only ever rode it because I was so proud of its flowery basket, the metallic confetti on both sides, and the loud ringing noise it generated. Instantly, I asked for a pink bike, hoping that childhood memories would reanimate my journey again.

Unfortunately, no pink bike for me. I instead ended up on a yellow or green fluorescent — at that point who knows what color it is — bike. Before I purchased it, they let me take it for a quick ride around the block. Starting the wheels, my heart dropped as if it were mimicking my first bike fall. As my feet felt the pedals and my fingers gripped the handles tightly for the first time in approximately eight years, I knew that no years and no inexpertise could take away this cherished moment. 
Ever since I bought it, the bike has instilled a sense of newfound freedom in my being, changing my perspective of moving forward, falling, and standing up again. On my way back to the dorm, I placed my phone on the mobile stand — my lock in my black basket — raised the music volume to the max, and sang my lungs out. And I have been doing the same for 15 days now, racing into the future, surrounded by majestic, dusty curtains just like Hoover on an atypical September Wednesday.

Contact Tiffany Saade at tiff24 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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