Maisha Foster-O'Neal’s Campus Journal
There should be a yellow warning sign that says Schoolwork Crossing, and the end of the semester should heed it. Even though we’re about to bump hard into final exams, there is a negligible decrease in the number of cool events going on around campus. It’s tricky to balance all the last assignments of the year with all the other things happening, but I can stuff writing three essays and taking two final exams into the next week.
Wednesday was a great day for abandoning homework for the afternoon. The Womyn’s Center hosted the Clothesline Project, the only Take Back The Night event we decided to do this year. Most of the shirts in the Clothesline Project display were hand-lettered by members of the Raphael House, a local Portland women’s shelter. I like the Clothesline Project because it raises public awareness about sexual and domestic violence through creative survivor empowerment.
In the afternoon, the first of the Senior Thesis plays (written and/or directed by graduating theatre majors) was held outside. Modeled on the Vagina Monologues, “Diva Day” combined interpretive dance (click for video), anecdotes, and experimental theatre. Oh, and all the actresses wore silly giant representations of Diva Cups over their costumes. Afterward, the audience members and cast had a dance party and painted their answers to “What makes YOU a Diva?” onto a big banner. My friend Anna and I painted our hands and feet and danced across it. We accidentally left smeary footprints on the ground, but the paint was both washable and nontoxic, so I think we haven’t committed any lasting damage.
On the subject of Anna, she’s a phenomenal performance poet and musical artist. She said it’s okay I share some of her awesomeness with y’all, so here’s a video of her performing an original composition at the Platteau Student Art Center’s Last Open Mic of the year, and here’s a song she recorded in a studio with better audio quality than my digital point-and-shoot can muster. The Open Mic on Friday was three hours of story-reading, ukulele, high-energy girlrock, poery, and original compositions plus covers of such favourites as Tegan & Sara, Sufjan Stevens, and Nickel Creek.
It’s a good thing I like experimental theatre so much, because when I showed up at the mainstage for Nothing Compares To You, another Senior Thesis play, I had no idea I was in for such a spectacularly nontraditional performance. For the entire hour-plus show, the audience was herded around the set (no seating!) from scene to scene by two silent and bescarved actors. The somewhat anachronistic scenes at first seemed entirely unconnected, but by the end they were geniusly intertwined. One of the best performances I’ve seen, like, ever.
After the Diva Day performance on Wednesday, I went to a talk by two Holocaust survivors. Eva and Les Aigner, who now live in Portland, regularly speak publically about their experiences as Jews in the ghetto and in Auschwitz. Even though Les said he felt like the luckiest man in the world for having survived the Holocaust, the talk sure put my last 25 pages of essay-writing into perspective!
I went out to dinner at Oba! with my parents on Saturday night. I was glad they were picking up the bill – the food was so good but pretty expensive for someone on a college student budget. Also, this time of year is one big conglomeration of Prom Nights, so the restaurant was flooded with high schoolers pinned to corsages and zipped into schmancy dresses. I’m so relieved that that particular rite of passage is behind me! They all looked really excited, though. Awww.
I gave my final presentation in Judaism on Monday morning on the subject I’m writing my final research paper on, the Lilith legend. I made a pretty powerpoint and everything. Last week in Qual Methods I presented my ethnographic findings regarding how students tell their Coming Out stories to the class as well. Even though I got into a fight with the printer and showed up to class without a speaking outline as planned (tip: don’t wait to print until five minutes before class, it will bite you in the rear), my presentation went smoothly and my professor said I was cohesive and organized. I can has A in ur class?
On Monday night I went to the Electronic Music Concert. Students from all sections of the Electronic Music classes played their compositions. Some pieces had accompanying music videos (everything from self-filmed raps to classical remixes set to psychedelic fractal art), and some had live performances, including live musical accompaniment and John’s fire-juggling.
I already have a fun summer reading list all worked out. I’m so excited to go home and walk my dogs and bike and play with toddlers at the preschool I work at over break. I hope they’re hiring again this year – I still need to call during business hours and find out.
This is my last Real Life Blog entry for the semester! Your emails will still find me over summer, so definitely point your questions toward email@example.com. I’m happy to ramble at length about whatever you wanna talk about.
April is unnecessarily cruel. It knows that students are staggering under the weight of final projects, papers, presentations, and exams, so what does it do? Taunts us. With a succession of incredibly lovely days. Just try to nestle yourself in a corner of the library on a day that is sunny, hovering around mid-70s, with gentle refreshing breezes, with a sky bluer than… y’know, really blue things. Just try.
On Friday I attended a special brownbag lunch in Albany. Andi Zeisler, co-editor and co-founder of B*tch Magazine, talked to a room full of gender-interested students about popular culture and feminism. Now I’m all sorts of excited to read Andi’s new book over summer break.
Ali and I spent far too long in Hoffman Gallery staring in awe at the senior art exhibition installations. Seriously quality stuff in there. We have a lot of art majors this year, and they all outdid themselves. Wow.
On Friday and Saturday I packed in more hours of work for the Admissions Office than I did for the entire month of March. Seriously. I even ran a couple of residence hall tours, which I intentionally did not sign up for this year since last year it was kind of a fiasco for me. Luckily, all of my tours went smoothly on Saturday. I even got to talk to an admitted student who had me as her tour guide when she visited campus as a junior last spring. She recognized me even though my hair isn’t violet like it was a year ago.
Although I managed to fit a little bit of studying into the chinks around Sunday, I didn’t get as much done as intended. Sunday evening was the housing lotteries. As an RA-to-be, I helped facilitate next year’s room selection for all of my future Apartzfeld residents. It took our RA team four hours to place 250 students, which is probably some sort of speed record. We should win a medal. My room is in Hartzfeld B wing, and the vast majority of my residents fell on the continuum of thrilled to satisfied with their housing situations for next year. I am totally stoked about the batch of students who will be my neighbours come fall.
I’m all registered for classes for next year! I’m set to take Anthropology of the Body; Spanish 201 taught by Matthieu; Women’s Self-Defense; and I’m waitlisted for Astronomy (which fulfills my category B math/science graduation requirement), but I’m pretty confident Tufte will let me in since I hear he’s a chill dude. Co-Chairing the Gender Studies Symposium is an extra two credits per semester too, so I’ll actually be taking a full load (16 credits) in fall.
I found out today that a photograph I submitted to the LC Interactive Learning Center’s World Traveler contest actually won a prize! Sweet! Now I have to figure out whom to give my iTunes giftcard to. My hard drive regularly tantrums at me about being completely full, so I don’t think buying it mp3s is the best way to placate it.
On Monday I took a drastic step in order to finish my homework: I yanked my internet. Completely unplugged. By 2am, I had written a ten-page rough draft of my Qual Methods ethnography, read the entire second half of a hefty novel for Utopias/Distopias, drawn a picture, met with my self-designing major advisor, called my mom, and listened to my collection of Rodrigo y Gabriela so many times through that I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d dreamt in flamenco guitar and nothing else once I finally went to bed.
Getting so much done on Monday meant I had Tuesday completely free (except for my three classes, all of which were held outside – Welcome to my skin, sunburn. You’re not really wanted here, so if you could not unpack your bags, just pass through and keep your antipathy to yourself, that’d be great. Love, Maisha.). Point being, when Kenna and Margo proposed a trip downtown for Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s, I seized the opportunity with both hands. I got a derrrricious bowl of marrionberry sorbet.
I really think that sorbet should be considered as a way to solve the world’s problems.
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Much like unearthing that pint of mango sorbet I stored in the communal freezer three months ago and forgot about until last week, the realization that we only have two and a half more weeks of classes is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. I have a superhuman amount of work to pack into the remainder of the month, and then I’m gonna hit summer running.
For Easter weekend, my parents rescued me from campus and drove me home. I stayed there just long enough to get a whole night of puppy snuggles on the couch before my mom, dad, and I committed ourselves to the five hour drive to Wenatchee, Washington to celebrate flowers and eggs and chocolate with the extended family. On Saturday, I experimented all sorts of techniques for dying eggs. Turns out, salt works much better with watercolours than it does with vinegar-based dyes. Oil makes fun things happen, though.
Passover roughly coincided with Easter, and Lewis & Clark hosted its annual Seder dinner on Tuesday. Any on-campus event that serves all its attendees cheap sugary wine in the name of religion is a successful event in my books. We sang songs in horribly mangled Hebrew, trippingly recited prayers and paragraphs, cheered for a skit featuring camelbacks and slang, and whapped each other with stalks of green onion. Each table was decorated for the plagues from the Passover story, and my table had frogs! (I walked out with an eyepatch from the “Darkness” table, too.) My favourite part of Seder is the orange slice on the Seder plate – the story behind the orange is that some significant and misogynistic Jewish man at some point in history got miffed and basically snarked, “There will be women rabbis when there is an orange slice on the Seder plate!” So, of course, we include a lovely sliver of citrus to remind ourselves that women are allowed to be rabbis now.
The intersections of gender, history, and religion are particularly fascinating to me. I just found out that I have been selected to Co-Chair the Gender Studies Symposium next year, and one of the potential Symposium themes we discussed at our meeting yesterday (we start planning the GSS over a year in advance) was gender and religion. We’re also toying with gender and psychology or medicalization or disability or health or…
I am meeting with one of my potential academic advisors next week to really get the ball rolling on my self-designed Gender Studies major plan. Class registration is this week, and as a sophomore I get shafted as far as registration priorities go. The Astronomy class I want to get into already has a waiting list, and the Spanish class I need has only three empty chairs. Basically, I’m a little bit doomed. I don’t get to register until tonight. Hopefully if I make the waitlists and if I show up to classes on the first day looking all eager and studious, the professors will let me stay. Most professors at Lewis & Clark are pretty good about letting extra students into their classes if you can pass yourself off as Serious Cat.
This upcoming weekend is what is colloquially known as “Prospie Weekend,” although I think Admissions calls it “Admitted Students Day” or something else official. I’m going to be caught up conducting a parade of extra tours swollen with more people than usual; trying to condense my final Qual Methods project into a cohesive 15-page ethnography; and spinning a half-hour presentation for Monday out of my final 8-page Judaism paper that I haven’t even started writing yet. Oh, and it’s Stumptown Comic Fest this weekend, which I will probably miss since I’ll be drowning in tours and homework. I’m looking forward to having no homework come May!
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Spring has landed. There is a sudden blossoming of skirts and bare feet and mild sunburns. Professors tend to be skeptical about students’ requests to transplant class to the sunlight because they think we won’t pay attention. Every class I’ve ever had outdoors at Lewis & Clark has been one of the most productive class periods of the entire semester. I think we put on our best, most engaged behavior when we have class outside so that our professors will let us leave the classroom again on the next sunny day. My Judaism professor let us hold class outside on Monday morning. On Tuesday, Collins went hunting for an outside power outlet so that we could discuss Writing Women’s Worlds outside (one of the students in the class is partly deaf, so we pass around mics that come on a cart that has to be plugged in), so we ended up on the cobblestones in the Quadrangle. Three hours later in Utopias/Dystopias, we (jokingly) went on a quest to find an idyllic Utopia, and also ended up in the Quadrangle, but on the grass this time.
On Wednesday (which was rainy), I saw Wicked with my mom at the Keller. It was super good! Elphaba and Glinda were wonderful, but Fiyero had a pathetically whiny singing voice, which was no good at all. My mom and I went out to dinner at Greek Cuisina, too. I love falafel probably more than is reasonable.
My girlfriend Kenna and I escaped campus on Friday for dinner at Sansai. Sushi is my one exception to vegetarianism, and man, it’s a tasty exception. Ambling around after dinner, we looked at our watches and realized that if we had any chance of making the next shuttle we needed to run. We missed it by half a minute, so we called one of Kenna’s friends who has a car and bribed him to come rescue us so we would get back to campus in time for the Starf****r show.
Starf****r was crazy! I accidentally got caught in the mosh pit, and rowdy six-foot-tall hipster boys smashed me into a collection of contusions. Starf****r, which do not normally spell their name with asterisks, are a local indie rock group that have lately gained quite a following, and for good reason – they’re stellar. I love that Activities brings events like that to campus.
Saturday was the Lu’au. In between Hawaiian foods for dinner in Pamplin Sports Center and the traditional and contemporary Hawaiian performances that followed, some friends and I climbed trees and generally photosynthesized. My favourite Lu’au performance was the firespinning. (Jeremy offered to teach me how to blow fire a few weeks ago, but I’m not so keen on filling my mouth with lamp oil, even if only momentarily.) The dances were great, too – some little Portland kids even did a choreographed dance, and they were way awesome. And I loved watching Gabe dance! Lu’au rehearsals abducted him for the last two months, so I’m excited to have him back in my life now.
I just found out that we won’t have a final exam in Qual Methods, which means I can focus all my Qual energies on constructing my final project, an ethnography of Coming Out stories. I still need to type two of my interviews and then do some pattern-finding and conclusion-writing, but it’s coming along well. Much better than my final research paper for Judaism, which ground to a halt somewhere around the collecting sources stage. I always get everything done in the end, though.
The AIDS Summit starts today! We’ve hit some mild turbulence getting off the ground, but I think everything’s gonna fly in the end. At 8.30 this morning, Josh, Liz and I hung up four panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in Council Chamber Foyer. Tonight is a safer sex workshop in Tamarack, tomorrow is our Keynote and a biology of HIV session, and Friday is a showing of And the Band Played On on the bigscreen in Council Chamber.
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April is officially known as the Month of Insanity. I am cowering underneath a lingering midterm, several large final projects and research papers, the AIDS Summit, class registration, and extra tour guiding shifts. Oh, and I have a mysterious disease that has transformed my tonsils into patchy moons. I delivered myself to the on-campus health center for labwork at 8am on Monday morning to find out if I’ve got strep, mono, or tonsillitis, but all results were negative, which equals drink lots of Emergen-C dude, you’ve got a virus.
Spring break was cool, but not exactly a mindless hiatus like I probably needed. I was in San Francisco with eight other LC students on the Alternative Spring Break HIV/AIDS Volunteering trip. Our group spent a portion of every day working with one or two HIV/AIDS-related organizations in San Francisco. Some of the organizations sat us down and told us about what they do and why; others put us to work. I especially liked working with Project Open Hand, where we stocked their on-site grocery center. I started off in the cooler, stacking broccoli! With Project Inform, I got to call health clinics in Georgia and offer each clinic information and resources pertaining to the National HIV Treatments Hotline. With Visual Aid, we descended into the bowels of a gutted SF house to sort and count nearly one thousand rough wooden frames. For our work with AIDS Housing Alliance (or “a-ha!” as it is colloquially known), we helped staff members load and unload a U-Haul with office furniture and knickknacks – they were moving office buildings. At SF AIDS Foundation, we assembled three giant plastic tubs full of “crack packs,” which are Ziploc baggies full of items that can reduce the spread of HIV amongst people who smoke crack. The crack packs are distributed at needle exchange sites, and are part of a “risk reduction” model of aid.
When we weren’t schlepping boxes or dialing long-distance or sticking things in bags, we explored the city! By the end of the week we were pretty adept at navigating Muni (the public bus system). We did Haight, the Mission District, the Tenderloin District, the Wharf, the Castro, China Town, Japan Town, and Golden Gate Park. It was wonderfully sunny, so it was a bit of a bump to come back to Portland drizzle on Saturday night. Eleven hours was too much time in a van, too, even with Disney songs to accompany us. At rest areas, Isao and I did cartwheels to loosen up.
The AIDS Summit is eating my life. It’s happening next week, and there’s still a lot to arrange. It’s coming along well, I’m just getting really nervous about how much time I have to pull everything together between now and next Wednesday. Much of the groundwork I laid this year can be used again next year, so hopefully that will ease the process for whomever is planning the AIDS Summit in 2010.
I had the recurrent revelation again that I actually do not want to major in SOAN (Sociology/Anthropology), I really just want to major in Gender Studies. Accordingly, I am talking to both of my advisors about the possibility of self-designing a Gender Studies major. It just makes so much more sense, since as a self-designer I could potentially do an internship with a local organization instead of writing a thesis – thereby launching me into the career world straight off the diving board of graduation. The tricky part is that class registration is next week, so hypothetically I need to have the rest of my schooling figured out by my advising meeting on Thursday of this week.
It’s April Fool’s Day, which became very real to me when I walked into the bathroom at 8am, shower tote in hand and yawn in mouth, to be greeted with all our shower curtains missing. I took probably the fastest shower of my life. Missing shower curtains encourage efficiency! Or an acceptance of body odor. Since, y’know, college kids really need the excuse to avoid showering.
I’m going to go see Wicked with my mom tonight!
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