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When I moved to a suburb of Portland, Oregon, I fell into a funk. Missing Snoqualmie and El Chico, I yearned for my friends, for living in the mountains, amidst elk and giant boulders among the pines. Life is easier here; no winding country roads, sidewalks, Amazon, and a farmers' market a 10-minute walk away.



Luna at the Salmon River

Yoali and Canela on the trail to Mirror Lake

Can you see the gnome?


get our dose of nature, we have been exploring Portland’s surrounding trails, hiking long stretches of the Salmon River, viewing Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Rainier from Larch Mountain, and enjoying the many lakes. We also have been enjoying its diverse restaurants. We even explored a Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art.



Portland is the 26th largest city in the US. It is in the Pacific Northwest atop an ancient volcanic field where the Willamette River empties into the Columbia. The city has 12 bridges because it is split east and west by the Willamette River. With 3.2 million people in the metropolitan area, it has almost a 10% Latinx population. This town, known for its breweries and food trucks, can be quirky and weird.


While researching my new city, I discovered some strange facts about Portland I will share with you.


1. Most dangerous city in the US.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Portland was a hub for underground criminal activity and organized crime, making it one of the most dangerous cities. Journalists exposed its illegal gambling, prostitution, crooked unions, and corrupt government.



Mount Hood, a potentially active volcano, looms over the city.


2. Greenest city.

Portland is the greenest city in the US and second in the world. It has an excellent public transportation and bike system, allowing 50% of its population to use it to commute to work. It also has the most vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the country. Waste is treated locally, composted, or recycled, and the government limits urban sprawl. In addition, the community college system has its fleet of eco-friendly buses between four campuses.



3. A battleground for racial justice.

After the murder of George Floyd, Portland had a year of daily protests. This racial justice movement centered on Black lives turned into an anti-establishment fight when it attracted more white Portlanders.

Despite Portland and Seattle’s liberal views, there are 29 hate groups in Washington and Oregon state according to the southern poverty law center. Their counter is the anti-racist named Rose City Antifa.





4. Naked bike ride.

Every summer, Portland holds a clothing-optional human-powered ride through the city to promote cleaner energy and body positivity. Check out a video here.



5. The largest wilderness park.

Portland has the largest wilderness park within city limits in the United States, covering over 5,000 acres, Forest Park. One of the college’s campuses is on its border.



6. Oregon legalized magic mushrooms.

In 2020, the residents of Oregon voted to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for use in therapy sessions. However, to keep big pharma out of psychedelic treatment, they only legalized the mushroom, psilocybe cubensis. They also decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs.



7. The largest bookstore.

Portland boasts the largest independent bookstore in the world. Powell’s City of Books occupies an entire city block and has 10 rooms.



Portland may be strange, but it is also beautiful and fun. I cannot wait for September to meet my colleagues and students. If you live in Portland or have spent time there, write below other weird things you have encountered.



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Arcelia, Yoali and me on a boulder in El Chico



If you read my blog, you know about Yoali, the stray my husband and I adopted in El Chico, Mexico. Unfortunately, USA airlines stopped transporting pets when the pandemic started, so we canceled our tickets and rescheduled a Mexican airline’s direct flight to Ontario, California, in the evening during cooler temperatures. Too large to fit underneath the seat, Yoali traveled as cargo in a crate for a fee.





Vaccinated and spayed, and after hours of arguing with the airport staff, we watched her crate disappear through the rubber curtains. I imagined her cursing us for kidnapping, forced sterilization and restriction of freedom, and now torture. Finally, after landing an hour late, we found Yoali waiting for us in baggage. A kind woman used tiny blunt scissors to cut away the zip ties to free her from the crate. That night she slept in the hotel between us.



The next day we drove eight hours to Sacramento, where she met her cousin Ava, my daughter’s dog, then ten more hours to Portland, Oregon, where Canela, Luna, and my brother waited for us. Yoali is thriving and now part of our pack.


Ava and Yoali enjoying dog icecream


Yoali, Canela and Luna


There was no altruism. The money we spent bringing Yoali to the USA could have helped hundreds of dogs in shelters with vaccines and clinics. Instead, we brought Yoali because we love her. No other reason.



Those who don’t love dogs may not understand, but many fortunate ones enjoy enduring bonds with them. Besides companionship, protection, and years of fun, here are some other reasons dogs are beneficial to human wellbeing:


1. There is a biochemical connection between a dog and its human. MRIs and scans have shown that when we lock eyes with our beloved, the regions that produce oxytocin and dopamine in our and our dog's brains are activated, creating a bond similar to the one between mother and child.


2. Petting a dog will lower blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol, eliminating insomnia and prolonging life.



3. Pets provide companionship, and caring for them can extend an owner’s life, especially in western cities where the elderly tend to live alone.


4. Dog owners are usually more physically active because even the most sedentary dog must leave the apartment to poop.


5. Living with dogs increases humans’ immune systems by diversifying our microbiome because pets and owners share the same gut bacteria.



6. Dogs connect us to our wild side. They help us heal from our separation from nature and ground us, alleviating anxiety and depression.



There is a saying in Mexico “no tiene ni perro que le mueva la cola” which means the loneliest person doesn’t even have a dog to wag its tail for them. I am so lucky to have three who give me joy and love and will help us make a home in Portland because home is where the dogs are.



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