I still have paper snowflakes taped to my windows in the hopes that Portland won’t give up on winter quite yet. I don’t think it’s working. Spring is definitely doorknocking, there are buds and birds and sometimes I can even walk across campus in just jeans and a t-tshirt.
Last weekend it was so nice for a fragment of Saturday that Melissa and I bounded onto our bicycles and went for a ride down to the cemetery. The mountain was even out! Then my gear shifts stopped working, so I had to walk my bike back up the hill to campus. Maybe I’ll bribe one of my bike-savvy hallmates into fixing my bike in exchange for my flex points purchasing power at Maggie’s. I want to be able to keep riding it as the sun makes more frequent appearances.
I realised, as I was blearily tapping out a paper at 8am for the second morning in a row this week, that the reason my classes are eating me alive is because I’m now taking two 300-level classes. Oh, yeah, that would do it. Both Gender in Relational Comm and Women in Religious History assign about four hours of reading a night, plus a response paper due almost every class period. I foresee a lot of library campouts in the near future. At least I’m really interested in everything I’m studying – it’s just a big time commitment. My first paper is due next week too, eep! But it’s on the Salem Witch Trials, which I’m pretty excited to research, so it should be an okay paper to compose.
To compensate for my heavy homework load, I’m trying to climb into the backseat of the LCHaiti truck. Mel is crafting a Haiti Film Week, and Claire is putting together an end-of-semester Benefit Dinner, but I’m just helping with administrative stuff on projects like those. We’ve already raised nearly $1,000 in about two weeks, so that’s pretty neat.
Between homework, Gender Studies Symposium planning, LCHaiti meetings, running Unisex, and working as an RA, I don’t have much me-time. So I sat down and blocked out artwork time into my google calendar. For reals. Art is my way of relaxing, so I really look forward to those two-hour blocks on Wednesday and Friday to sketch, ink, and breathe.
Last night was Mel’s dad’s birthday, so we went to her house and played with her nephews. Matthew (who’s four) and I built lego monstrosities and Mel taught Andrew (who’s six) a new song on the piano – he’s a much faster learner than me! When it was time to light the candles on the cake, Andrew plunked out Happy Birthday while everyone sang along. At the end of the evening, I even got to help bathe the boys and read them bedtime stories, my favourite. They’re such great little people, or, as Matty says, “I’m not a pohson, I’m a boy.” (That’s “person” in case you don’t speak four-year-old.) Matty also informed us that “Auntie, yo’ my auntie, an’ Maisha, yo’ my big fwiend.” D’awww! I’ve always wanted to be someone’s big friend!
Next weekend, I’m slated to go home to help paint my bedroom and to celebrate my mom’s birthday. Of course, I also have a paper to write and four hours of RA group interviews to monitor, so it’s going to be a pretty full weekend. Wish me luck!
Personnel are standing by at email@example.com to answer your questions.
Remember the music video I filmed last semester? (Of course you do, I couldn’t shut up about it.) Well I finished it over break and it is now available on YouTube! I got my friend Steph to wear a (cheap) blonde wig and be Lady Gaga, and my friend Becca to also wear a wig to act as Beyonce. The result is colorful, hilarious, and I’m really proud of what we did. It already has more than 2,500 views on YouTube! Check it out by clicking the link below!
At long last, the last semester of my undergrad years has cometh. For three and half years I have listened to people telling me how weird and surreal it feels to be on the verge of graduating, and I never understood what the big deal is. I do now. And I know some people say freshman year feels like only yesterday… but for me it seems like ages and ages ago that I first stepped onto this campus as a first-year. What does this mean I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that it’s bananas how much has happened in four years – and I have a lot to show for it. I mean, I’ve learned to like to read and write, I now watch serious movies, and I don’t hate rock music anymore. I guess this is where I get sappy and I say how much I’ve grown…HA. No, I’ll spare you since I already did enough of that in the last post. Instead I’ll bore you with what I’ve been up to for the first two weeks of school.
Let’s see…oh I’m overloading again. 20 credits this time: 3 classes + thesis + internship. Yeah, I’m scared. And I guess a little bit excited too. But mostly scared. The best part of this semester so far has been definitely my internship at the NW Film Center (check them out at nwfilmcenter.org). It’s been a crazy load of work – 14 flyers due by next Wednesday crazy – but it’s also my first real step into the working world. It’s serious business. I’m there 16 hours a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Sometimes weekends if I have to be at a film screening. The line-up for this year’s Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) looks insannne and I’m so psyched because I don’t get to watch too many foreign films normally so this is going to be a great break from my once-again crazy academic schedule. Here are some pictures I took at work today.
That’s it for this week. I hope you guys enjoyed the music video. And definitely feel free to send it around!!
P.S. You can always catch me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What another amazing week in England! This next week was spent doing a variety of amazing things, but the things I feel I can really take away from this week is that I have really started to develop a mental map of the city and I am starting to understand what I really like and what I don’t: artistically, that is.
To kick things off, I will say again that the London Underground is an incredible form of public transportation. Once you know how to navigate it, you can get almost anywhere within the city. I have been doing quite a bit of exploring on my own and with the whole London group for class. A really cool thing that our theatre teacher, Philip, has been doing with us is that he takes us for theatrical tours around certain parts of London. So far, we have had two of these eventful mornings. The first of these tours brought us to the more northern part of London to read bits and pieces of plays written about the places we were walking through. Some of the places we walked by were the sites of very old markets, such as the Smithfield meat market, and more sacred places near St. Paul’s Cathedral. Everyone participated in the readings, but making sense of the scripts ended up being a little more difficult than I thought. Most of the text was in Middle English, and I tripped over oddly placed consonants and combinations of vowels that I had never seen before, as did most everyone else. It became very evident who was an English major and had taken Geoffrey Chaucer classes in the group. The second outing took us to places that were much more centered around Shakespeare, his writings and places that his plays became public. We even got to see the banqueting hall where Twelfth Night premiered and the Globe Theatre! Other places that I have explored this past week on my own have been places such as Denmark Street, Camden Market and Brick Lane. Denmark Street is a musical street. Almost every shop in the area is dedicated to selling musical instruments, musical scores or musical memorabilia. Camden Market is a bit of a hodgepodge of sorts. One of my friends described it as a combination of Saturday Market in Portland and Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. Sounds pretty accurate so far. If there is anything you might want to purchase from legitimate (or not so legitimate) sources, Camden Market is the place you would want to go. People from all walks of life come here and create an explosion of fashion, merchandise, food, music, art and smut. The third location, Brick Lane, was recommended to me by several people as a place to go to if I wanted to find really good and cheap ethnic food. The day I visited I ended up getting some pretty good curry. I definitely intend to go back and explore this place in much more detail.
Another field trip that we took in the past week was to a British cultural hub. Our visit to Westminster Abbey and The Houses of Parliament was humbling, fantastic, overwhelming and left me a bit awestruck. Something that America that doesn’t have is an extremely old history. Nothing connected to our history is too much older than 300 years. To me, Westminster was a testament to everything English and all the great things that the country has done as a culture. Its religion, legends, great figures and great moments in history were illustrated and brought to life through frescoes, tapestries, inlaid mosaics, dated inscriptions and countless statues. I have also never seen more gold in my entire life. The throne was essentially a wall of gold with a velvet throne protruding from it. Another thing that struck me while visiting Westminster was that the English are much more concerned with preserving things than Americans are. The English have kept Westminster not only just a national landmark, but it is also one of the centers for their government. Parliament, consisting of the House of Lords and the House of Commons meet there to discuss, pass and reject laws. The architecture of the rooms and their processes of passing laws have not undergone much change for hundreds of years. People are concerned with keeping things in the past respected and relevant. Not only is the interior of Westminster breathtaking, the outside is also quite a site. Long vertical lines start from the ground, intertwine amongst stained glass windows and then seem to shoot off, almost like rockets, all the way up toward heaven in the form of grand spires. Also connected to Westminster is the iconic Big Ben. It was a foggy day (like any other day) and Big Ben loomed in distance as we walked around the great cathedral. It is possible to spend a day in one room in Westminster and not absorb all of the details along with the symbolism and cultural implications that come along with them.
This week was a pretty incredible week for theatre. I saw a smattering of small time and big time shows this week. The first of which was the West End hit and innovative puppet show, Avenue Q. This show was hilarious, absolutely irreverent, honest and very entertaining. It was really strange to see a play that was set in America, especially New York City. For me, the most entertaining part of the show was watching the British actors tackle American accents. Most of them were successful, except for the lead. He would ease in to his British accent, realize that he had dropped his American one, then attempt to recover by finding a strange and unintelligible combination of the two, making his speech gobbledygook for about two second before getting back on track. The second show I saw this week was a combination of Henry Purcell’s opera, “The Fairy Queen” and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream called Dream. The focus of the show was to highlight student designers, resulting in the audience travelling around the theatre from the loft, to the audience, the house, the green room and the main stage to take us into 8 different worlds constructed from the same material. It was a strange and at times a really innovative experience. I saw some things I had never seen in a set before and might have even given me some new ideas for thesis! The third show I saw was later that evening called A Yorkshire Tragedy which I saw in a pub. The story followed a man who chose to try and kill his family instead of seeing his children suffer by losing the family land and what was left of the money that the family owned. He was mostly successful, but failed to kill one son and his wife. It was a very dark play, but was very well acted. Since the theatre was in a pub, it was a very small space and the action was right in front of you. This play reminded me of the power that live theatre has. The final show I saw this week was by far my favorite. I got the INCREDIBLE chance to see a spectacular production of Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett featuring Sir Ian McKellan as Estragon. It might safe to say that seeing Ian McKellan in this role was the best live performance I have ever seen on stage. I was completely captivated by him and all of the actors on stage. As a result of this, I feel like I have so much further to go as an actor, but I also feel like I have seen the envelope of live performance pushed. I might even see the show again. In short, I loved it. Oh, and to top it all off, I got to meet him afterward. Yes, I met Sir Ian McKellan. I thanked him for his performance and then he signed my ticket. WOW.
This was also an incredible week for music! Classical music, that is. The big concerts I saw this week spanned a huge amount of time, style and technique. The whole group had the enormous pleasure of seeing the Philharmonia Orchestra play at the Royal Festival Hall last Thursday. They played Mozart’s Piano Concert #20 and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. This was, by far, the most incredible orchestral ensemble performance I have ever been to. The piano concerto was light and fantastic, but for me the highlight of the evening was the symphony by Mahler. As symphonies go, this one is pretty huge. 70 minutes. 5 movements. 1 grand piece of music. For me, the most exquisite movement was #4. Written as a love letter to the composer’s wife, it was delicate, unpredictable and exquisite. It is rare to hear a piece of music that felt as alive as this felt.
Here is a recording of the 4th movement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69ctu9RG6Y0
The second concert I went to was at the Barbican Centre and featured the BBC Orchestra. They played a piece by a modern French composer named Dutilleux, Ravel and Stravinsky. The performances of Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G” and Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite” were definitely my favorites of the evening. The second movement of the Piano Concerto was played beautifully by a very skilled pianist named Angela West, and has caused me to look into much more Ravel. As for the “Firebird Suite,” it was a pleasure to hear the piece live for the first time.
For the final field trip this week, we journeyed the farthest we have ever been outside of the city. I’m sure that we were still in greater London, but we were by no means in the city. The destination of this trip was Hampton Court: a palace of King Henry VIII. Like everything in England, the palace was very old, ornate and completely packed with history. The place was absolutely huge and it was difficult to fathom that it was only meant to house three royal people. We traveled through the private apartments of King Henry VIII and the nobles William and Mary who were housed within the same palace. The walls were covered in paintings and tapestries along with countless frescoes on the ceilings. We also got a tour of the kitchens, which were gigantic. My favorite part of the palace, however, was the grounds and the gardens. A perfect place to take a walk or a run in, I traveled by many statues and mazes made out of the shrubbery and grass. While everything was cut to a certain shape and constrained to fit a design, I did feel that there were elements of natural symmetry being used in the garden. It was a very different image from the one I had in my head of what a proper English garden would have looked like. There were also birds everywhere, especially copious amounts of ducks and swans. After touring the gardens, I went back into the square with the clock tower, and was intersected by a historical actor. He rounded up most of the men in the area and told us that were being summoned by the “king.” I didn’t really know what to do, so I just followed along. He took us into a part of the palace that I hadn’t seen before and knocked on the wall. The wall then opened up into a secret room where I saw someone on a throne acting as King Henry VIII. It turns out that I was randomly chosen to be a part of his council to give him advice whether to marry Katherine Parr. Great. If there is one thing that I know I can’t do in theatre, its improvisation. There was a lot of “yes, your Grace,” and “a wise decision, my liege,” being said on my part. In short, I was a bit terrified. After we had come up with a satisfactory amount of questions, Katherine Parr was brought in and was interrogated with our questions. Luckily for her, she passed the test. It was a pretty incredible experience seeing the palace and was another fantastic view into England’s incredible history.
More exciting news to add to this blog, I might have a volunteer position lined up at a theatre soon! Thanks to a great friend and her generous family, I might have a chance to help a professional theatre out! We’ll see how this turns out; hoping for the best.
Until next week,
Musical present of the week:
Oh, Neko Case, why do I love you so much?
Hey guys, so its raining, and my big plans for the day were foiled. I finished all of my homework yesterday so I thought today I would walk up to South Campus (where the Grad School is located) with my roommate and take some pictures, there are some really pretty woods down their and an old house that was once a manor then a convent before it became the Grad School in 2001 (I think, this is what I remember from taking Historical Materials). So that will have to wait for a sunny day, I don’t really feel like taking a long walk in the rain
The first week of classes was pretty good. I am so excited about my Presidential Politics class. My political science class last semester was really methods based, it seemed like everything we read was about how that author studied his topic and not about the content of the study. So this semester will be a welcome change. It is nice to read for content again and not just method. It is also great to be studying that I find really fascinating, we have also been promised a couple of debates about the merits of the Presidential system and the Electoral College. Well, (she says) it sounds like a lot of fun to me. I am also excited about my African History class, things have started off a little shaky but the reading is really interesting and I hope that once we really dive into the material it will be a wonderful class. I am also taking differential equations which sounds a little scary but I like to take math because it is a nice antidote to all of these debates that have no answer it Political Science. Lastly, I am taking Economics 100 which is required for a lot of majors besides Econ. Econ sounds intimidating but the Professor has done a good job (so far) of making me understand why it is so important to understand economics.
Other than the basics of the first week of classes, I have been getting my work schedule all figured out and made a quick run to Powells to pick up a book for History. I timed it and it takes less than ten minutes to walk from Pio square (where the bus drops us off) to get to Powells (in case anyone wondered, it is a really manageable walk). This semester I am working again as a tutor in the Math Skills Center. The center is open for anyone who needs help with there math homework and is open in the afternoons and evenings most days. I am also working in the Admissions office again were things are starting to get crazy! For you Seniors the deadline is fast approaching, which means a lot of filing for me and my fellow student workers, but also a lot of chocolate!
Other than school and work I started reading this book called House of Leaves it is really strange and I can hardly explain what it is about, but it is very intriguing. I have also started my meetings for the Scotland Study Abroad trip. I am so excited, Glasgow looks beautiful and I have started looking at classes I am hoping to take there next fall. Right now I think I would like to try and take UK politics or maybe Post Communism in Eastern Europe in addition to the two required classes. Well, that’s all for now….oh wait. I forgot. On the bus on the way back from the city it was really, really crowded on the bus (you know how some colleges see how many students they can fit in a phone booth, we try to see how many you can fit on a bus…) and on the way back to campus we were about to get to the roundabout on campus and I hear my friend shout “Oh no, the roundabout” and I cracked up, because it is really easy to accidentally fall over…well I guess I will leave you with that thought Bon Voyage, and good luck with your applications!!
PS. So if you enlarge the picture look a the yellow sign, it always makes me laugh!
Junior year is disorienting. A good handful of my friends and classmates just returned from study abroad trips (East Africa and India especially), and another handful just embarked on theirs. Since I can’t hang out with them in person, I’m tagging along on their overseas adventures vicariously via the internet. I’m following blogs from friends and classmates in Vietnam, Senegal, London, Australia, the Dominican Republic, and Russia. It’s madness. Lovely, lovely madness.
With a bunch of my friends abroad, the travel bug is biting again, and I’ve stumbled upon a great way to appease it: Alternative Spring Break trip! Yeah! I just rocketed my paperwork and 400 bucks to the Infinite Forest organisation, which LC has partnered with this year for a volunteer trip to Costa Rica. The itinerary looks absolutely phenomenal: whitewater rafting, ziplining, dolphin-watching, fruit-tasting – oh, and building things for an orphanage and helping out with local recycling and rainforest conservation efforts. Baller, amiright?! And all for only $400 per student! (Thanks, grants and alumni donations!) I am about sixteen miles beyond excited.
So, this was the first week of classes. I am crazy psyched for all my classes this semester! I encountered some turbulence in my quest to fulfill the first barrage of assignments, mainly due to my unfortunate lack of the correct textbooks, but it all worked out eventually. I was disappointed to find out that my Women in American Religious History class investigates only Judeo-Christian faiths, but I think I may try to compensate for that by doing my final research paper on women in Islam. Unless I get sucked into researching matriarchal Catholic mysticism – I do have a history of nerding out over saints and deification. One thing that I’m seriously enjoying about my classes this semester is how easy it is to “put them in dialogue with one another,” as it is said here in Acadamialand. There’s a lot of cross-pollination from one class to another, and it’s a lot of fun to mix, match, and dismantle what I’m learning transacademically. (Also fun: inventing adverbs.)
When my butt has been somewhere other than a desk this week, it’s mostly been in a chair behind a table, harassing – er, I mean, encouraging people to relinquish their dolla dolla bills to assist aid operations in Haiti. You probably know by now that Haiti was recently struck with an earthquake so devastating that it’s now being rated somewhere in the top ten worst natural disasters of all time. Anyway, on our first day back on campus after winter break, several friends and I congregated to form LCHaiti, a (hopefully) transient organisation that focuses on raising money to be donated to grassroots organisations that are on the ground in Haiti providing disaster relief to the people there. This week, we have been hosting a simple Penny Drive, and after only two days of collecting, we bank in at almost $800 for the What If? Foundation. LC, you rock! We’re planning on hosting more elaborate fundraising events in the coming semester, including a benefit dinner, a rummage sale, and an awareness-through-artwork programme, and we will likely try to donate to other worthy organisations such as Partners in Health. If you wanna help us out, you can use the powers of the internet to make a paypal donation at our LCHaiti website.
Favourite food discoveries of the week:
1. crunchy, delicious almondbutter made in-house at the Bon – it’s great on apples!
2. vanilla coconut “ice cream” (soy- and dairy-free frozen dessert in a pint-sized tub) conveniently sold at Maggie’s.
Prospective students slash everyone: you haz questions, I haz answers. email@example.com kthxbai
In celebration of being back home (yes, Lewis & Clark home) I had fun taking pictures of some of the “green” around campus. Minnesota’s brown-and-white color scheme was awesome for a while, but honestly, the break got a little long and I was anxious to get back here to the rain-and-green scheme of things.
Break was good though, seeing old friends, my brothers, my DOGS, neighbors, parental units – it was definitely good… but weird to be bringing four months of L&C back with me to a place where nobody could really relate. However, some perks of being (Minnesota) home: Home cooked meals, your room, driving a car, being OK with having a day of nothing, remembering how awesome it is to not be in High School, visiting High School teachers, seeing friends still caught in the tornado of end-of-High-School-which-college-should-I-go-to stream of emotions – so lots of awesome stuff. But dang is it good to be back.
Over New Years I visited some Work Crew friends in Michigan. I stayed at my friend Madisyn’s house, and surprised our mutual friend Elyn with my visit. Unfortunately, my train got in at 9:45pm and Elyn was sick! So she was in bed when I called her and made her come open the door to her house and give me a hug. One of the things that I love about my friends in Michigan, Minnesota and at especially at L&C is that they are so internationally minded! Madisyn and Elyn will be going to India in 4 days (!) partnering with the Gospel Association of India, and will be there for two weeks. They asked me to go with, but school is where I’m supposed to be right now. I wish I could go so badly though! I mean two of my best friends will be in India. In four days. How amazing is that?!?
OK, as you can see, I’m pretty excited for them. But, back to Oregon. So, classes this semester. I have been to each class once so far, and I am excited to go to them again. Intro to Sociology, The New Testament/Early Christian Origins, Exploration & Discovery – The Auditory Experience, and Spanish. Want to know more about a specific class? Email me! - Sorry, shameless plug, but anyway, just the amount of material that I will be covering this semester is so cool to think about. (One difference in college is that you get a Syllabus where it tells you each day what you need to prepare for each class instead of waiting until the end of a High School class to figure out the assignment for the next day.) So looking at the Syllabi, it is going to be a lot of work, but definitely a lot of interesting work.
Another fun thing I got to be a part of was my High School’s Alumni Day. There were 11 of us, all first-year students at different Colleges/Universities around the country, and we talked about college. We were asked questions by students, faculty and more So, I had some practice talking to my fellow Minnesotans about college, and I know that this is the crunch time for scholarship applications and final college applications, so if you want/need/desire advice or help about anything regarding college in general, you know the first place to go:
If you don’t want to read the whole thing, please just read the last five lines…
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Welcome back to my Blog. Well, maybe you have not been away, but I have been hanging out in Bend at my house watching too much TV and eating delicious food. I had a pretty quiet break, a lot of reading books and sleeping until 9:30 (well if you are my boyfriend you consider that early, but for me that is rather late). Even though I have sworn to hate science fiction novels for all eternity (it has to do with a lot of bad 70’s sci fi novels of my dads which all say that we should have been on the moon in 1998) one of my friends told me I had to read Ursula K. Le Guin’s novels. So I was in the Library and stumbled upon one of them and decided to read it. It was amazing (and I do not use that word lightly). One of the best things about her novels are that a lot of them are set in Portland because she lives here. I read The Lathe of Heaven which is about this guy who’s dreams become reality, but it was fun to say, oh I know that street, or that landmark in downtown. I also read a couple of old favorites and watched my new copy of the Half Blood Prince.
My roommate and I went into Portland today as we have the day off before classes start tomorrow (we got here yesterday). We went to Powells Books and browsed for a long time and then went shoe shopping. I didn’t buy any shoes but I did find a cute dress. I also wanted to go to the Multnomah County Library and get a Library card and we were all the way in front of it before my roommate pointed out that it was a holiday and not going to be open. Oh well, I have to go back to the city this week to pick up a book so I will probably stop in then. I am kind of excited about starting classes, except for my craziness at choosing to take 8am economics. I am looking forward to an easier semester than the last one. I am also really looking forward to taking Modern African History because this is the first time the Department has offered classes in African History so I am hoping it will be interesting and something that I have not been exposed to before.
Well, I had better be getting ready for tomorrow, I have some organizing to do to make sure I got all of my books. Buying from the bookstore is easiest, but I saved over a hundred dollars on one book by ordering on Amazon and through Barnes and Noble. The only downside is that I am always a little afraid that I will end up missing one. I hope you guys are enjoying my blog, and if you have any questions or a suggestion of what I should write
about in the future don’t hesitate to e-mail me—firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to talk about what you want to know!
So I can’t just finish anything the first time… I thought I would show you a couple of pictures of the “hoar” frost or freezing fog that socked in my house Christmas Day and or the next couple of days. It is pretty, but after a while I begin to wish that I could see the sun. I also put up a picture of my cat (who I think is adorable, obviously). If any of you have finicky cats be warned. Whenever I get home my cat punishes me for a couple of days and refuses to sit on my lap and will only come see me if I pick him up and force him to cuddle with me. Okay, this is it for real….
It’s Welcome Back time! I am in denial that classes start tomorrow. I feel like it’s still winter break, even though I’m back on campus and my hallmates are slowly trickling back into our building. I haven’t even rounded up my textbooks yet – it’s about time for a Powell’s run. But before I plunge into the spring semester sea, I think a winter break recap is in order!
I split my three and a half weeks of winter break between my family’s home in Portland; my grandma’s house in Wenatchee, Washington; the Oregon Coast with my mom’s side of the family; and the San Juan Islands with my girlfriend Melissa and some of her family.
Christmas in Wenatchee had its ups and downs – I was battling another allergic reaction on Christmas Day itself, and ended up sleeping it off and missing a lot of the action. The holidays are the worst time to have a food allergy because there are so many delicious-looking edibles around that aren’t edible for me – it was a bit tormenting. But I got to play with my cousins and help assemble a couple of puzzles. I also scored some legit swag, including a tea kettle, a spider plant I’ve named Acromantula, and several handfuls of dinosaur toys!
Maybe this can be attributed to my mom’s multicultural emersion when she attended Lewis & Clark as an undergraduate, but my family has always had a habit of celebrating lots of different holidays. This year, we covered abbreviated editions of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Mexican Christmas all in the span of about 48 hours. For Mexican Christmas, we made tamales and then ate them! Yum. This might be kind of blasphemous, but we combined Hanukkah and Kwanzaa into one day, and I took to calling it Kwanzukkah. For the Hanukkah portion, we made latkes (sweet potato ones for me, since I couldn’t have regular potatoes) and applesauce, and sang some Hebrew songs, but we couldn’t find our menorah or dreidel. For Kwanzaa, we donned our African clothes (I have a few kanga-shirts from my East Africa study abroad trip last fall) and made a whole bunch of traditional foods, including sadsa (a stiff, cornmeal-based porridge), mboga (leafy greens), nyama (meat – we had turkey with lots of spices), and ndizi (fried plantains). It was really cool to do Kwanzaa this year because I connected to it so well, having spent four months living and traveling in Kenya and Tanzania just a year ago. For the first time, I could understand some of the Swahili involved in Kwanzaa ceremonies, and could contextualise a lot of the values Kwanzaa is built around. Kwanzaa is essentially a celebration of African heritage, and draws from multiple different indigenous harvest ceremonies to form a holiday applicable to anyone who is willing to acknowledge that if you go back far enough, we all have African roots. I love it!
For New Year, we spent a languorous four days at the Oregon coast in a beach house that my family rents every year. I puzzled, coloured, knit, made earrings, took stormy walks out on the beach, and generally enjoyed the company of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Mel and I were in charge of breakfast one morning, so we made approximately eight thousand crepes and let people fill them with the fruits and fillings of their choices. Some of the crepes were dairy- and wheat-free so that I and my other allergy-afflicted family members could eat them. Mel and I are crepe pros now.
Just a few days after New Year, Mel and I set out for the San Juan Islands. We got a third of the way there and Mel’s car broke down, so we got an exciting tow truck ride out of the deal! Our trip, cut down by a day, seemed pretty short, but it was still enjoyable. Mel’s dad took us out in his boat, and we saw all sorts of wildlife: deer, sunstars, herons, bald eagles, otters, and a locally famous harbour seal named Popeye. We collected sea glass for a few hours on a deserted curl of beach, which is one of my favourite activities in the whole world. While in the Islands, I also encountered a secondhand bookstore so inundated with books that I’m not convinced the walls weren’t made of books too. I have decided to live there.
For the final week of winter break, I applied myself to emptying my bedroom at home, preparing to transform it into a Big Girl room. We carted off two full SUV loads of things to Goodwill; listed my old bed, dresser, and kid desk on craigslist; and prepared the walls for a new paint job. I’m getting a queen-size bed to replace my twin loft, and I’ll be sewing my own duvet cover and accompanying pillow shams. Go domesticity go!
And now I’m back on campus, trying to avoid thinking about impending homework. Pop on by for another blog entry on Friday, chronicling my first week of spring semester classes. I’m registered for Intro to Queer Studies, Gender in Relational Communication, Women in US Religious History, and Women’s Self Defense (again, because I loved it so much last semester). I’m stoked – for the first time, I’ll be taking an entire schedule of classes relating directly to my major.
You can email me questions and thoughts if you are: a.) a prospective student, b.) a parent, c.) an alum, d.) a professor/faculty member, or e) anyone curious about LC, Portland, or college life. email@example.com
Let me start by saying this: my first week in London has been one of the most eventful and incredible weeks of my life.
Writing this blog was very difficult. I didn’t really know where exactly to start because so much has happened already. The hours seem to pass very quickly and slowly all at the same time here. The phrase, “time flies when you’re having fun” doesn’t even begin to describe how incredible this city and all it has to offer is. I guess I’ll start from the beginning…
The day I arrived in London; January 10th, 2010, it was snowing. Even though I had been awake for the entire flight over, I was far too excited from being in a new country and seeing it covered in my favorite form of precipitation to be slowed down and sleepy from jet lag. The bus that drove us from Heathrow airport to our town house called Metrogate on Queen’s Gate Terrace took us through the white hills and fields that made up some of the less populated parts of greater London. The first observation that I made upon seeing England, and especially London, is that most of the buildings here are old. Very, very old. From the aged but sturdy wooden fences establishing the boundaries of the pastures on the ends of the city limits to the very chimneys atop the countless stone chiseled houses in downtown London, everything seems to be utterly drenched in history (and rain water, for that matter). London is much attached to everything that has happened within it; and little plaques and statues mark outstanding moments in time or the accomplishments of some it’s most famous residents. For example, there is a plaque nearby Metrogate that identifies one of the houses as having once been the home of Virginia Woolf. T.S. Elliot also only lived a few blocks away from us over in Kensington, apparently. Barely even having moved in to our residences in Metrogate, our group leader, Dave, challenged us to get out and find him and his wife, Kathy, downtown in a pub near Trafalgar square (downtown London, similar to Pioneer Square for all you Portland readers out there). Being completely new to the city, we all traveled in a group to make sure that none of us would get lost (or at least all get lost together) on the first night. Luckily for all of us, we all caught the right bus, got off at the right stop and made it to a small pub called “The Old Shades.” As we were walking toward the pub, a brilliant light started to shine through the fog in the distance on the skyline. It took me a little while to realize that the light was coming from the source none other than the infamous clock tower, Big Ben. It was absolutely magical. For dinner, most of us felt we had to be extra-curious about British food, so, as a result, almost everyone at the table ordered fish and chips. I’m almost certain that we cleaned their kitchen out of cod. After a lovely dinner, Dave led all of us back through a quicker mode of public transportation: the Tube. The Tube is the underground railway system for London, and my goodness it is extensive. However, for how comprehensive it is in relation to the city, it really is very easy to use and is especially friendly to people who don’t know the city very well. I’m proud to say that I haven’t been lost in London…yet. After we all arrived at Metrogate once again, after an extremely long day, all of us shuffled our way to our beds and curled up for a long and jet lagged induced night of sleep.
The following day helped us become much more acquainted with London’s geography. We were given a tour of the main parts of the city on a bus by a man who seemed to know just about everything about the history of every building we passed. That day, we saw Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral and many other large and impressive buildings in the West End and London’s famous financial district. After the bus tour was over, we were given a personal walking tour by the same man through an area that was really close to Metrogate. He took us in a large loop through Kensington High Street, the Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and all the way back to Metrogate House. The Kensington Gardens are absolutely beautiful, especially when covered in snow. Something you all should know about London (something that might put some people off) is that the city is very…well, grey. Not a dull and empty grey, though, but a full and iridescent grey. Like a gray one might find on a tarnished silver plate that holds cultural traditions or keeps family secrets. This fog enrobes the city in an elegant layer of watery silk, giving it cool, refreshing and heavy air. A fog such as this was floating around Kensington Gardens on this day. As we crossed the lake near the middle of the gardens, it looked as if we had all wandered into an impressionistic painting with little flecks of color coming from the birds on the bank chasing people in hopes of being fed scraps of bread. After our tour, some of my friends and I had enjoyed the pub last night so much that we went off in search of another one. We figured that the sooner we get familiar with the city the better: why not explore on day two? All of us decided on a small pub called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street that seemed to have a history of famous people who preferred to drink there including such names as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens and, oddly enough, Mark Twain. The pub wasn’t terribly hard to find, but it was at the end of a small alleyway. Upon entering, it became very evident to all of us that this place, like the majority of the rest of London, was very old. Creaky wooden floors, sawdust and low lighting were enough to catapult me back 300 or 400 years. Pubs and pub food is something that I am really going to miss when I go back to the states. These places are specifically built around socializing, good drinks and great food. And, to set the record straight, for all of the stereotypes about how horrible English food is, I haven’t had a bad dish yet. Along with a tall glass of a local stout, I had an excellent steak and ale pie with chips (french fries) that night. After our delicious and filling dinner, we felt that we wanted to explore London a bit more. From there on, we went on a 2 hour walk all the way to Trafalgar square, and from there we tried to make our way over to Piccadilly Circus. It wasn’t too hard to find. For those of you who don’t know what Piccadilly Circus looks like, it looks remarkably similar to Times Square in New York. After covering so much of London in one night, we were all thoroughly exhausted. From there we ventured home and to our beds.
As hard as this may be to believe for all of us, we actually are here for school. Yes, the main focuses of our academic work here will be music, theatre and art, but they will still be through classes, nonetheless. After our massive day of touring London was our first day of class. The classes we will be taking here will be a theatre class built around the unique and gigantic theatre scene in London, a music history class that will help us to understand all of the concerts we will see and how these epic pieces of music transformed music for all the composers and performers to follow them, an art class that is field trip based and will show us the incredible architecture of the city along with the best of classic and modern art that London has to offer, and a class on British culture and politics to help us make heads and tails of all the news and major events we might come in contact with while we are here. It’s a huge curriculum, and the only way we are going to get the most out of what we are going to be taught is to get out into London and experience all of the art, music, theatre and people for ourselves. Our classes have set up a gigantic selection of each discipline for us to experience over the next 3-4 months. I can hardly wait to see what they have in store for us.
Almost every night this week has been spent going to some music, theatre, or art event in London. I have probably crammed more theatre and music into this single week than I have in a single semester back in Portland. The first show that I saw in London was a brilliant revival of a Tom Stoppard play called Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. The premise revolves around a man who seems to be sane who has been placed in a mental hospital because of his resistance against the communist government of Soviet Russia. In the hospital he is “cell” mates with a man who actually is crazy who believes he has an orchestra trapped within his mind. To represent the musicality of his condition, the cast is joined by an 80 piece orchestra on stage. The music weaved in and out creating a mix of soundtrack and soundscape-like accompaniment throughout the show. The second show I saw came from the heart of the West End. West End theatre companies are not unlike Hollywood. Shows in the West End are big, showy, shiny, epic and often musicals. This particular show was called War Horse. It told the story of the unbreakable bond between a boy his horse who he raised since colt-hood. After the horse, named Joey, is sold into the army to assist in the fight against the Germans in World War I, the boy, Albert, vows to stop at nothing to bring his horse back safely. While I wasn’t reduced to a blubbering mess like quite a bit of the audience by the play’s trite plot progression and conclusion, I did feel that the play had one incredible saving grace: its puppetry. All of the horses on stage were portrayed by a team of skilled puppeteers. With three puppet-masters to a horse (one for the back legs, one for the front and one for the head) the horses came to life with every ear-twitch, hoof plod and deep breath. After a few minutes of seeing these massive puppets on stage, the puppeteers seemed to vanish and I felt as if there were real horses on stage. It was one of the most incredible instances of stagecraft that I have seen in a very long time. The third show that I saw, called Öper Öpis (title meaning Somewhere Someone), and was by far the strangest. Hailing from Norway, this peculiar theatre company journeyed to London to kick off the annual Mime festival. The play was mostly non-verbal and relied mostly on loaded body language, heavy symbolism and incredible circus dance/movement vocabulary to get its points across. On a stage that teetered and shifted in the direction of where the weight led it (almost like a four sided teeter totter) the performers slid and tumbled and scuffled along dancing strangely to the live music from a DJ in the far left hand corner of the stage. The DJ collected a menagerie of sounds from all of the action happening on stage and transformed it through his equipment and looping machine into a follow-able tune and beat that conducted the movement of the performers. It was an example of ultimate synergy. As for the theme of the play, if you asked me “what was it about?,” I wouldn’t be able to tell you. This was my first experience with especially bizarre theatre, and I doubt that it will be my last during my time here. I hope that I will be able to look at these odd productions through a new lens by the time I leave and be able to dissect the complicated meaning within them.
Not only was this a week for theatre, it was also a week for music. My first concert here in London town was none other than an a cappella concert, only this time I was not seeing a collegiate group. This time around I had the pleasure of witnessing one of the best a cappella groups in the world perform: The Swingle Singers. This group has been a pioneer for the musical and performance genre bringing vocal arrangements and beat-boxing to a whole new level. Their repertoire covers astoundingly vast ground. From classical to jazz. From folk to tango. From popular and mainstream music to underground indie artists from all over the world. For a group of a humble 8 outstanding musicians, their size is almost ridiculously deceptive. They have the fullest sounds out of any vocal group I have ever heard perform live in my life. The concert began with a pitch perfect and sweeping rendition of Nick Drake’s song “River Man” and had an absolutely exquisite cover of Björk’s song “Unravel near the end. Here is a link to a recording of “Unravel” that you absolutely must hear.
While you are away
My heart comes undone
In a ball of yarn
The devil collects it
With a grin
In a ball of yarn
He’ll never return it
So when you come back
We’ll have to make new love
He’ll never return it
When you come back
We’ll have to make new love
For as much of an a cappella geek that I am, this concert completely blew my mind. It changed the way I perceive the power of the human voice and exactly what it is capable of. The second concert I was able to see this week was much different than a choral concert. It was just our luck that the East Coast Indie band, Vampire Weekend, just released their new album “Contra” earlier this year and decided to give a free concert at a venue called the Sommerset House. The venue was an outdoor plaza (cold)and had an ice rink right in the middle of it (even colder) and unfortunately, the band came on half an hour late (freezing). It turns out the Vampire Weekend has a lot of good energy live. I was able to enjoy the concert from almost at the very back of the venue. I’m not terribly familiar with the band, but I do know that from what I have heard, they have a pretty fun sound. It was strange hearing American accents again and listening to live summery music with snow still on the ground, though…
On Saturday, I and some friends attended a workshop put on by both the Swingle Singers and another group called VOCES8. With these two groups, we were given some tips on proper vocal techniques, improvisational skills/exercises and were given an introductory crash course on how to beat-box. After the workshop, all of us headed over to St. Columba’s Presbyterian Church for a group event centered around learning how to do Scottish dancing. To be fairly honest, almost everyone was absolutely terrified of this event at first. All but one of us knew how to do these dances, and the idea of fumbling around on a dance floor with about 200 strangers with a traditional dinner of haggis didn’t sound like our idea of a pleasant evening. However, what followed that evening was one of the best times I have ever been proven wrong in my entire life. This was quite possibly my favorite night in London so far. The dances turned out to be much less complicated than I had anticipated and were very easy to pick up. I ended up dancing almost every single dance that night. Through skipping madly in circles with up seven other strangers, waltzing all over the dance floor and weaving around several dance partners, I found a strange sense of deep happiness of being connected to a strong and living tradition. It was extremely fulfilling to participate in such a rich community in such a care-free and exciting way. Everyone was so helpful in helping me learn what to do next and by the end of the evening I had learned a few extra traditional steps of my own. I might seek this out more during my time here. And for the record, haggis is DELICIOUS. Imagine meatloaf, with flavor. Oh, and whiskey too…(of course).
To say that I love it here would be an understatement. I can already see that there are so many opportunities for me to change as an artist, performer, world citizen and as a person here, and the semester is just starting to get warmed up. What is in store for me? All I know is that I am on the edge of some gigantic and overwhelmingly positive change in my life and I am ready for it to swallow me whole. I feel ready for you, London.
Till next time,
Musical present of the week:
A new favorite artist of mine. Enjoy.
Hey guys. It’s been a while.
I hope that all of you had a wonderful holiday season. Winter break for me this year was very strange. I felt as if I was in a liminal space, in between one stage of my life and the next; the calm before the storm. Almost all of break was spent me enjoying time during the holidays with my family and preparing to embark on one of the biggest adventures of my life so far. After a year of applications, interviews, acceptance letters, paperwork, visa processes, meetings and a comprehensive week of packing, I am finally on my way to go to London for my second foreign exchange program. Tomorrow I will board a plane at 1:10 in the afternoon and 16 hours later I will arrive on the other side of the world. I have heard that one of the quickest ways to get to England from the US west coast is to go through the cold north. Perhaps I will be able to see the northern lights from my small airplane window seat. I really hope I can. I have always wanted to see them.
Tonight was my official last night in the states. I bade good-bye to my sister and grandparents in North Bend and headed up to Portland. Upon arriving, we quickly checked into the hotel and went straight to a restaurant called The Farm Café that we had made reservations at. There we were joined by a group of some of my close friends. It was a lovely evening filled with amazing food, laughter and wonderful company.
Two of my friends had already been on the London program and had some great tips about certain pubs, restaurants and theatres to go to. By the time the evening was over, I felt that I had had the perfect send off. Now for a good night’s rest for the long day tomorrow.
You’ll hear from me soon (from across the pond),
Song of the week: one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands.