Maisha Foster-O'Neal’s Campus Journal

in colour flux

autumn has arrived with a vengeanceremember the photo of the tree out my window? This is what it looked like upon my return from retreat. Startling!

stormy out our window, that’s Devil’s LakeAbby is actually the opposite of a troublemaker… she’s like a troubledestroyerwe made the letters on the bags in the car in about four minutes totallook what else we can spell! Appropriate, since Abby later concocted an apple pie and a pumpkin pieI enjoy wearing my footie pyjamas in public, people think I’m crazythanks for the facial hair, Collin!that’s a Starburstmy boss Liv grilled us all amazing things! (I’m the only vegetarian in the group; everyone else had steak.)Mel had the key to my room while I was gone, and I came back to 30-some notes hidden all over my room.Homecoming doughnuts! Despite the colours, they’re just icing-flavoured. I ate one of each.

Everywhere on campus smells disconcertingly like damp dog food. It took me a couple of days to figure out that it’s fertilizer – Palatine Hill is slowly changing green leaves into redorangeyellow leaves while the grass turns from brown to green. The whole place is in colour flux. Compare the photo on the right featuring the tree outside my window to this photo, taken just a few weeks ago.

Last weekend my RA staff team and I packed ourselves into three cars and zipped on over to Lincoln City for retreat. Our house was on a lake – like, on top of a lake. We had a hot tub and a boat house and a creepy mustachioed carved head. And so much spinach dip. We spent most of retreat doing homework, eating, skewering things and suspending them over the fireplace flames, eating said skewered things, and scattering our belongings throughout the entire rather sizable house. The internet taught me how to unwrap Starburst wrappers with my tongue (thanks internet!) so I’ve been practicing my newfound and very employable skill. On Saturday, dressed in black garbage bags decorated with orange electrical tape, we rolled on over to the football game against Linfield and cheered on our Pioneers. The moment we showed up our boys scored a touchdown, but we still lost spectacularly in the end. It was fun for everyone anyway. And of course, because we were wearing our super high-tech and patriotic raingear, it didn’t rain at all. I was even prepared for the cold with my zip-up onesie footie pyjamas! Weather:1. Me: 0

On Monday, my parents took me out for a fancy dinner at Andina, a Peruvian restaurant in the Pearl, to celebrate my 21st birthday. The waiter didn’t even card me when I ordered a Sacsayhuamán – the Americanised pronunciation of that is “sexy woman” and it’s got habañero peppers in it. I spent quite awhile trying to lick all the sugar off the rim between the various dishes we ordered over the course of the evening. All in all, I name the evening a success.

I whisked myself off to my Astronomy professor’s office this week. We discussed Hallowe’en costumes (I’m going as the dinosaur extinction), the Hadron Collider, and my research paper topic. I’m going to write my paper about the Red Controversy of Sirius – the star, not the animagus. (Although Sirius Black miiiiight be responsible for my interest in that particular star in the first place.) Wikipedia informs me that Ptolemy recorded several stars as distinctively red in colour, including Sirius. The thing is, Sirius is very obviously blue, although all those other stars are indeed reddish. So my research question is: was Ptolemy just crazy, or was there something different about Sirius at the time Ptolemy was marking his observations? We just had our Astronomy midterm yesterday, and it went mostly okay except when I got really stuck on one of the math questions. After 20 minutes of floundering and exuberant scribblings-out, I scrawled “okay, I give up” in the corner and handed in my exam. Afterwards, I whaled on some strike pads in Women’s Self Defense, and that made me feel a lot better. Punching inanimate objects is a good way to shake the angries.

Sacsayhuamán, passionfruit and habañero goodnessone of the fancy foods we ordered. It’s mostly quinoa.My dad and I look exactly alike, except he knows how to dress formal and I obviously don’t.It’s Homecoming Week. In honour of that, the College distributed 800 orange and black Voodoo doughnuts at the crack of early on Wednesday and 100 boxes of pizza at post-lunch-pre-dinner-time on Thursday. The pizza was gone in under half an hour – them kids be hungry! The various yet-to-come Homecoming events include a professional performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show; a Former Ghosts concert; back-to-back screenings of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; and of course the football game on Saturday.

I have collected quite an impressive amalgamation of exciting weekend plans. Guess you’ll have to wait till next Friday to find out what they are! I’ll cut you a deal: I’ll take on my To Do list so I can actually do fun things this weekend, and you work on flooding my inbox with questions,

23 October 2009

smoke and mirrors

autumn has landedMel has decided to round off every week with Facial Hair Fridayit is one of my life quests to sample all the Thai food carts in downtown PortlandThis week has been Productive with a capital P. I shan’t regale you with the details, just know it involved a lot of reading and discussion. I have two midterm exams next week, one in Astronomy and one in Spanish. To prepare for the Spanish examen, we played a team game in class today – Mantequilla de Cacahuete (Peanut Butter) versus Piratas (Pirates). The game involved darting across the room to slap words written on the whiteboard, and toward the end it got pretty violent. I’m not sure I actually have a better handle on vocabulario or direct object pronouns than I did before the game, but it was undeniably fun to actually move around, since usually we’re pretty sedentary in Spanish class.

“awwww!”AIDS Walk in Pioneer Square before things got underwayYesterday morning I received an exciting email from SPASM. That’s the Subcommittee for Petitions, Appeals, and Student-designed Majors, and is also possibly my favourite acronym at Lewis & Clark. SPASM approved my self-designed major application! That means that I am officially a Gender Studies major. As one of my advisors said to me in a congratulatory email: Huzzah!

Mel and her incredible mohawk at the AIDS Walk, which started at Pioneer Squarea child standing near me at the AIDS Walk was wearing thisThe Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence show up at a lot of Portland functions looking mysterious and awesomeShohei and Alison performing “Blowin’ in the Wind” as we AIDS walkedLast Sunday was the annual Portland AIDS Walk, a three-mile trek across the Morrison and Hawthorne bridges and along the waterfront. This is the third or fourth year I’ve done the AIDS Walk, and we had the biggest Lewis & Clark team we’ve ever had – about 20 kids, which is pretty decent considering the AIDS Walk almost always lands smack in the middle of our Fall Break. The AIDS Walk is sort of like the laid-back lovechild of a gay pride parade and Race for the Cure, except, you know, HIV/AIDS-oriented rather than breast cancer-oriented. Shohei and Alison, two of our incredibly talented first-year students, serenaded us as we walked, with Shohei on guitar and Alison covering vocals. Shohei is such a great guitarist that he’s already released an album (called Waterways) which you can buy on iTunes; Alison is one of the newest members of Momo and the Coop, one of our a cappella groups, which just released its sophomore album, Joh Eh Ba Dop, this week. Click here to download it for free. I’ve listened to it practically nonstop for the last three consecutive days.

All in the Drag Family flierToday after my Spanish class, I attended the October Gender Studies Department brownbag, All in the Drag Family. Three of Portland’s most beloved Drag Queens strutted into the classroom in full drag splendor, folded themselves into our tiny desk-chairs, and spent an hour telling all in attendance about their glamourous lives as Queens. I had no idea that there is such a community basis to being a Drag Queen – each Queen has a “Drag mother” who first “adopted” her and taught her how to paint her face, fix her hair, and design her clothing, and then in turn the new Queen adopts her own daughters. The part of the conversation that I found most interesting was when one of the Queens was explaining how for Queens, their drag persona is an exaggeration of femininity, it’s all smoke-and-mirrors, whereas for most women in our culture, it is a norm and an expectation to “put on face” and “do hair” every day – women do not get to take off their femininity at the end of the day the way Queens do. All in all, it was a fascinating discussion, incorporating about seven hundred repetitions of the word “fabulous,” of course.

This weekend I’m off to Lincoln City for the Platt-Howard-Hartzfeld RA Staff Retreat. We depart right after dinner and return Sunday evening. I still need to pack!

As always, my email address is You know what to do with it.

16 October 2009

beautiful monstrosity

I call my mom even when I’m camping just to let her know I’m alivewe make great blurry faces in bright sunlightThis semester is roaring by. Like a lion on rollerskates. Or something.

Coming Out Week flierMomo and the Coop dressed as a rainbowThe Merry Weathers dressed as hairyfaced menfolkFor the first time since starting college two years ago, I actually have the perfect ratio of obligations to available time. I’m taking three academic classes: Spanish 201 to finish up my foreign language requirement, Astronomy to take care of one of my science/math requirements, and Anthropology of the Body as one of my Gender Studies major electives. I’m also taking Women’s Self-Defense, which is half ridiculous and half totally liberating. It turns out little pacifist me loves whacking the heck out of pads while perfecting the stinkeye. When those 14 credits of classes are added to the two credits I get for being a Gender Studies Symposium student co-chair, the semester clocks in at the standard 16 credits.

we separated the batter into six bowls and then added food dyeEmdowd pouring batter into the pangreen batter tastes best when licked off of heart-adorned spatulastry not to think about the contents of the frostingAstronomy is surprisingly enjoyable. Before the semester started I was steeling myself for a grueling wrestling match with the physics of light and advanced mathematics, but our professor, Ethan – who, as bonus points, wears a UtiliKilt to class almost every day – wants our Astronomy course to be less about mastering astrophysics and more about inspiring us to pursue cosmology in future. So far, all the math we’ve done for the class has been limited to the comfortable realm of proportions and trigonometry. Fun fact: Ethan has promised that the student who writes the best research paper will get to dictate the sculpting of his (currently nonexistent) facial hair. My friend Matt has decided he is going to win. He’ll be competing against approximately 70 papers – Astronomy is one of the largest classes LC offers – so he’s gonna have to really rock his topic.

Even though I’m taking four classes, co-chairing the GSS, leading Unisex, and working as an RA, I still have a decent amount of free time. It’s lovely.

We doubled the recipe to have enough batter for two layers.Emdowd is a precision machine.I’m frosting the cake — the whole thing is vegan just for funEveryone decorating the cake with four bags of M&MsLast week was my first big Unisex event of the year: Coming Out Week. You can read Lee’s feature article about it in the Piolog, our weekly student newspaper. Tuesday we hosted a game of Guess the Het, which is a tradition here at LC: we invite several Reed students or other Portlanders to serve on a panel, and the LC audience members ask general interest questions in hopes of narrowing down which panelist identifies as a heterosexual (and there’s only one, so the odds are against you!). Wednesday was a small Speak Out Poetry Slam, a sort of teaser for the impending first big Slam of the year. Thursday paraded a lot of crossdressing through the Trail Room – three of our a capella groups performed, and all of them interpreted the title Out Loud differently. Section Line Drive dressed in drag, Momo and the Coop dressed in a rainbow, and the all-girls Merry Weathers filed onto the stage looking like a manly moustache brigade. We rounded off Coming Out Week with a performance by singer-songwriter Chris Pureka, who opened for Ani DiFranco this summer and for Dar Williams last week in Portland.

I got my footie pyjamas at the Goodwill Bins and I wear them excessivelyeveryone helped light the candles 25 feet from the neartest buildingSo much delicious!My birthday was on Tuesday! I’m finally 21, which mostly means that I can get into all those poetry and music shows I was previously barred from on account of my age.

isn’t it beautiful?showers are particularly unnecessary while campingwe toasted bagels for breakfastsuccessful bubbles!our hardwon teaOn my birthday, I practically knocked my PE professor over when it was my turn to practice my disarming strikes. (That’s a good thing. It means I’m doing them right.)

When I went into the Dovecote on campus to get Kris Tea to fix my latest knitting goof-up, she led the whole café in a rendition of happy birthday, then snuck me a chocolate-filled pastry. Awww.

After classes, my friend Emdowd and I made my birthday cake! Emdowd, who just returned to LC after spending a year studying abroad in Munich, lives in the German language apartment on campus. The only thing I know how to say in German is “whatever” (schnickschnack), so it’s a good thing Em and her flatmates all speak to me in English when I visit. Accompanied by a string quartet version of Beatles classics, Em and I adapted two or three recipes trawled from the internet to concoct a magnificent vegan rainbow cake. We didn’t use enough baking soda, so the resultant beautiful monstrosity was a bit too dense – it looked just like playdoh, for reals – but other than that it tasted pretty good, thanks to the seven cups of powdered sugar in the frosting.

Mel and me at the beginning of our hikeMel informs me that the tree consentedFollowing cake-baking, I had dinner with Jon Sands, one of my favourite Slam poets who happened to be visiting Portland from New York City. October 6 was the first LC Poetry Slam of the year, so Apocalips, our Slam team, was hosting Jon as a guest performer. I pulled the birthday card and asked Jon to perform my favourite poem of his, “Being Human Being,” and he agreed, even though he hadn’t originally planned it into his set. Halfway through the Slam, Jon roused the whole audience into a riotous rendition of Happy Birthday, but rather than dedicating it to me, he told people to dedicate the song to whatever they loved most at that moment. It was perfect. I spit one of my poems, and some of my favourite people (like Christabel, Mel, Kelly, and Anna) rocked their poems, too.

the view toward shore at the capethe view from the capeAfter the Slam, I called up seven of my best friends on campus and invited everyone over to my room for cake decorating and consuming, pyjama attire recommended. We lit the squiggly candles (there were 12 of them, which we rationalised as 21 backwards) out in the parking lot, and since it was after quiet hours by this point, everyone sang happy birthday to me in whispers. It was splendid. When four of the people in attendance at your birthday party are RAs, everyone follows the rules.

Mel, looking epic and rulebreaking behind the guardrail on the capeThe very next day, Mel and I headed for the coast to kick off Fall Break shortly after she got off work. Our late start (we had to stop for supplies at her house, my house, and the grocery store before leaving Portland) meant that we didn’t arrive at Cape Lookout until close to midnight, but that wasn’t going to stop us from lighting a fire and roasting s’mores! The next morning, we slept in until almost noon, then spent another two and a half hours trying to boil water over our fire, which needed a couple of jumpstarts in the process, so that we could make our tea. We are tea fiends, both of us. The day couldn’t start until we’d had our ashy, rapidly-cooling tea.

We packed up and went for a five mile hike out onto the cape. At the very tip of it, we could see the shore waaaay behind us, and the ocean, curving convex at the edges of the horizon, out in front of us. It was beautiful. We were so leisurely about our day that we actually ran out of time to go to the beach itself. Oh well – it just means we’ll have to go back really soon, so we can get our wavejumping and sandcastle-building fix.

I’m going to spend the remainder of Fall Break mostly doing homework. I’m reading this really fascinating book for my Anthro of the Body class called Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word) – it’s a memoir, so I’m calling it ethnographic fieldwork for my Anthro final research project.

I have more stories, and you can hear about them if you email me at See you next week for a more reasonably lengthed blog entry!

10 October 2009

a sea monster and everything

Greetings new readers, and welcome back to my adoring fans (aka my mom). Since sometime in August, the Admissions Office has been deluged with weekly emails from me inquiring as to when our blogs would be up and dancing again. I’ve been that excited to return to the Real Life Blogosphere. In celebration of being back, y’all are gonna get two separate entries from me this week.

This first one is a photoblog tour of my spacious new room. This year I live in Hartzfeld B. Hartzfeld is a highly coveted complex open only to sophomores and above. It’s tucked into a (relatively) far corner of campus and its brick walls and cozy courtyard make it feel like a snuggly den, particularly lovely for the wet, cold winter months ahead. Hartzfeld is suite-style living. That means that a pair of roommates share a central bathroom with two other roommates. I’m an RA (Resident Assistant) this year, so I have a double room all to myself, including my own private bathroom. Yeah, it’s pretty sweet.

This is the door to my room, come on in! y’know, like Ra, the Egyptian Sun God

And this is the back side of my door, plastered with my collection of postcards. makes it look like I have more international friends than I actually do

Here’s my desk… or actually, both of my desks. That bumperstickered drawer contains my supply of miso soup, goldfish crackers, and chocolate chips – all essential food groups for surviving college. If you look reeeeally close, you can see that I’m drafting this blog entry on my laptop. How meta!

This is the view out my window. I fold paper stars during class and put them in jars on my windowsill

Although sometimes, I see this, and I spend all morning laughing at the irony of soda being advertised as “fresh.” refreshing maybe, but I reserve “fresh” for things you can find in the average garden

This is my closet. It’s time to do laundry! the top shelf of my bookcase is mostly children’s books and Disney movies

I converted my second closet to a reading nook. my tigers’ names are Panth and Indel, in case you were wondering

My dishes are drying. Last night my girlfriend Mel and I cooked a late dinner (whole wheat pasta and baked kale) in my hall kitchen. The kitchen, which is huge, is located right underneath my floor, so whenever someone burns popcorn, my whole room smells like it. I got a lot of cookware for my birthday last week, which is awesome!

My bed is on one side of the room. My stegosaurus’s name is Elemeno. The bear doesn’t have a name yet.

My awkwardly uncomfortable (but free!) couch is on the other side of the room. I call it the Serious Couch, because I have Serious Conversations on it. Or sometimes I invade my own photos to knit. I’m a knitting newbie, so I’m still at the scarf stage. first I knitted a white washcloth and donated it to our communal kitchen — I’m moving up in the world!

Behind the rainbow flag is my own personal bathroom. I am responsible for cleaning it, but that’s just fine with me. The housekeepers clean all the other Hartzfeld bathrooms, which is probably a good thing. Not all college students are as fastidious about cleanliness as I am. It’s weird to have an industrial flushing handle on a personal toilet, but it works.

I’m growing a dinosaur in my bathtub at the moment. His name is Fitzgibbons. Dinosaurs are kind of a theme of my life.

This is our hall lounge, as seen from the balcony right outside my room. If that piece of white butcher paper were unfolded, you’d see the marker mural that kids who live in my hall are working on drawing. It’s got a flying pirate ship and a sea monster and everything. we have bike racks on the walls, too

Welcome to my life! Email me at for more information. I will be updating weekly on Fridays. You can also still read my Real Life blog entries from last semester.

9 October 2009