Monthly Archives: February 2009

“I need to be bold / Need to jump in the cold water”

(From top left) Bridgett, Anh, Alana, Susie, Me, and Krystle

(From top left) Bridgett, Anh, Alana, Susie, Me, and Krystle

Yesterday evening, after a very busy day, I went with a group of friends to go see Joshua Radin.  My first concert in Colorado Springs!  It was amazing, and the venue reminded me of a venue I went to in Oklahoma.  The two opening acts, Jesse Harris and Meiko, were the best opening acts I have EVER heard in my entire life.  No lie!

Jesse Harris

Jesse Harris

Jesse Harris was the first opening act.  I loved his voice a lot; it was so soothing and calm.  He actually wrote Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why”, which is a phenomenal song.

Meiko

Meiko

The next opening act was Meiko.  She was quirky, cute, and a wonderful music artist.  In my opinion, she resembled Rachel Yamagata.  It was also Meiko’s 24th birthday, in which she sang to us (and not the other way around)!

Finally, Joshua Radin.  His most recent fame was singing the Sesame Street theme song on an episode of the televsion show Scrubs.  His voice was calm, melodic, and mesmerizing.  I actually had not heard of him until a week ago, but I really like him.  Perhaps you might know “I’d Rather Be With You”, which is his most recent hit.

Joshua Radin

Joshua Radin

Overall, it was one of the best concerts I’ve attended.  While I thoroughly enjoyed Joshua Radin, I loved both the opening acts, which is rare.  A musical and calming evening to end a busy day!

Signing off,

Melissa

Team Tour Guide

So the LSAT is OVER. Thank God. It’ll be another week before I know my score, but I’m feeling pretty good about the test; I couldn’t have been more prepared. It’s been an interesting two weeks slowly re-entering society. I had completely secluded myself, with no company save my LSAT books for the week leading up to the test. I was still in zombie mode for all of block break and most of last week. But now that my stress level has fallen, and I have time to eat and sleep again, life has returned to normal.

On Friday, our tour guide t-shirts arrived. Since my boss likes to use sports metaphors in tour guide emails and thought that his emails were so hilarious, he decided that he’d extend the metaphor to this year’s shirts. They’re pretty sweet, I must admit. They’re baseball tees with the CC logo on the front with “Team Tour Guide” printed underneath. On the back they have our nicknames and class year for the number. Mine says, “Captain” (because I’m the Tour Guide Coordinator) and my boss’s says, “Coach.”

Their arrival couldn’t have been timed more perfectly. The last two home hockey games of the year were this past weekend, an opportune time to premier our shirts. My boss’s extact words were: “I have your t-shirt which you are expected to wear at all times for the rest of your life becasue it’s just that awesome.” Following his instructions, I sported the tour guide apparrel to the hockey game to cheer our team on.

Chelsea and me (in my sweet tour guide t-shirt) at the hockey game

Right after the team scored, making it 5-3 (Tigers) with 30 seconds left in the third period

An eclectic weekend

This weekend, being the first after block break, it seemed that everyone was trying to schedule their event on the same day. It was truly time for decisions, decisions on Friday — a talk by a Rwandan bishop about forgiveness, or the Vagina Monologues launch party? Sleepover in Shove Chapel or hip hop dance party in McHugh Commons?

My friends and I opted for the Vagina Monologues launch party, which was happening in the new Cornerstone Arts Center (I always love the events they host there because they make such a cool use of the space). The Vagina Monologues is a series of monologues about female empowerment that was written and first performed by Eve Ensler back in the 90’s. My friends and I had already bought our tickets for the show next Friday night, so we thought it would be a good idea to go check out the kick-off event. There was great food sponsored by Nosh and Bluestar, a performance by Room 46 (one of CC’s many acapella groups) and a live auction going on of artwork, photography, and what looked like someone’s homemade strawberry pies!

Fastforwarding to Sunday, I went for what turned out to be an epic run down by Monument Creek.

This is Monument Creek, about 2 minutes away from my dorm room:

Monument Creek

Monument Creek

The run was epic because it was long! My running buddies are planning on doing the Fort Collins Marathon on May 3rd:

http://www.ftcollinsmarathon.com/

And I have been running with them, though I’m not planning on running the marathon. My personal philosophy is that the body dosen’t need more than one hour of running a day, maybe an hour and a half tops. Looks like a gorgeous course though!

Our friend Corb, who has been giving us some support around how to train for a marathon, came for the run with us yesterday, which was great. Corb is a local and talented artist who does some of the chalking of events around CC campus, but I had known him previously because he’s also involved in the host family program for international students. Going off on a tangent, this is one of the things I really love about CC — the way they encourage you to establish relationships with the community surrouding Colorado College as well as making friends within the school. As a quasi-international student from Canada, I have two host parents, wonderful women named Barb and Allison who are friends that live in Colorado Springs. They’ve had me over to their house for dinner, invited me to their art shows, and now we’re off to the Empty Bowls fundraiser on Tuesday at CC (it’s a fundraiser to raise awareness about hunger and homelessness). I think its really great how community members (even ones only loosely affiliated with CC) are willing to share their time with students and open their homes to them. I feel like on many levels, there’s a great deal of integration between the campus and the community, and that’s a really great thing to be a part of.

Laundry

The line in my room. Not so filled as I've been slowly folding my last load.

The line in my room. Not so filled as I have been folding from the last load.

China is growing at a rapid pace. The economy is incredibly robust and their influence in the world is consistently getting stronger. At the same time, a multitude of problems persist: pollution, corruption, and divisiveness between rural and urban areas.

The news for me today, however, is laundry. I admit, this may seem like a “spoiled” American speaking right now. But, I need some suggestions. Never in my life have I had to dry my washed clothes on a clothes line. But I have to now, and it is slightly puzzling to me! Not because I don’t trust a clothesline, but because there is a major difference in how the clothes turn out once they are dry. Most of my t-shirts have stretched  a bit – especially in the necks. All of my pants are so wrinkled, look like they are impersonating raisins as they hang on the line.

Does anyone have any good suggestions on how to best dry clothes on a line? With nicer clothes for my internship, I am going to try out the laundry places here on campus that supposedly will press things for you. We also have a dry cleaners here on campus. To my knowledge, dryers are almost non-existent here though! If anyone is looking for an investment opportunity – dryers in China.

I cannot complain though. We are extremely well taken care of here in China. I have to say that even with new experiences and challenges each day, I am getting very comforatable here. I think maybe it’s that I am getting comforatable with uncertainty. Either way, I’m learning.

Block Six!

Hello, hello, hello!

I can’t get over the fact that I am less than three blocks away from finishing my first year here at CC.  This school year has gone by too quickly.  Sure, getting acclimated to the school, community and altitude was difficult; however, I’ve loved every moment of it.  The good and the bad.

This block I am taking something completely out of my comfort zone.  I am in Topics in Feminist and Gender Studies: Women and Violence with Eileen Breshnahan.  I Love it! I know what you’re thinking, “she loves a class about women and violence?”  It’s true-I really do enjoy this class.  Let me quote a course objective from my class syllabus, “to develop an understanding of the socially constructed nature of gender and gender relations and of how these relate to the social construction of gender-based violence. ”  I’m seeing our society in a different light-a socially constructed system of patriarchy.  After not even finishing my first week of the class, I am finally admitting to myself that I am a feminist.

On a lighter note, tomorrow I am going to do ED: 100 after my Feminist and Gender Studies class.  It’s been a week since I’ve seen the students!  I hope they remember me.  Then, I’m heading over to finish the last of my training for one of the local nonprofits I’m working with this year!  Wish me luck.

Until then,

-Melissa

Block BREAK

Hey Everyone,

I know that everyone looks forward to the end of the block to head to the high country to enjoy their favorite outdoor activities; however, its nice to sometimes put the break in block break.  I didn’t have a particularly stressful block, but even I found myself exhausted from class, worn out from lacrosse, and fighting the plague by last wednesday. 

In any case, it was great to head to the mountains to get in a couple days of skiing, a few days at home, and a TON of sleep.  Although Vail didn’t quite get the ‘waist high pow-pow’ that Steamboat did, there was plenty to go around. 

Although there is plenty of relaxing to do wherever you choose to spend block break, I have quite an unfair advantage.  Having home an hour away means laundry service (sorry mom), gourmet cooking, and luxury ameneties.  I feel a little bad not enjoying some of the back-country skiing, dance parties, and ample company that some of my other friends did, I don’t feel that bad coming back to take on a block of statistics after averaging 12 hours of sleep for 4 days straight. 

Although some of my fondest memories and wildest adventures occured on block break, it’s nice to take a breather in the hectic life of a Colorado College student.  In any case, there are many adventures to look forward to.  In the next month, the lacrosse team will be travelling to Virginia and then Florida for spring break.  As my dad says sarcastically, “Life is hard, huh?”  With my own sarcasm, I would have to agree. 

Until next time,

Onward!

“How come I end up where I started?”

Block Break happenings!

Wednesday:  After working hours on my take-home final for Sociology, I immediately headed out to a local elementary school to get ahead in my adjunct course.  Adjuncts are courses students can take alongside their core blocks.  These classes are .25 credit.  It’s fun to take adjuncts because, it gives me the opportunity to escape from my current block for just a couple hours.  Last semester, I took the American Sign Language adjunct.  Class met every Thursday (except for the fourth week of the Block) in the evenings.   This semester, I’m taking an extended adjunct called ED100: College Aides in the Colorado Springs Area.

Thursday: I showed up to observe the class I was assigned, and I fell in love.  The students are brilliant, unaware of what comes out of their mouths, and incredibly silly.  Even though this was my first day, I was awestruck by this teacher who was able to make this all happen.  I am absolutely positive I want a career in the education system.

Later, I attended an orientation for a non-profit organization.  I’m so excited to be working with this organization. They help individuals who don’t appear to need help, thus they are ignored.  The Colorado Springs area has many organizations that anyone can work with.  Click here to check out organizations!

Friday: I went to observe for a few hours at the elementary school again-they had a Valentine’s Day party!  From this experience, I have promised myself to never give my children sugar (if I do have children).  When I came back to campus, my friends, Cassie and Justin, and I packed to go to Denver.  We stayed with a friend, Garrick, who left that Wednesday to spend some time at home.  We ate a delicious home-cooked meal, watched a movie, and played Blockus (I highly recommend spending thirty dollars for this game).

My friends waiting for the bus.  The cold was getting to all of us--especially Cassie.

My friends waiting for the bus. The cold was getting to all of us--especially Cassie.

Saturday: My friends and I woke up and headed out to the Denver Natural Science Museum.  It’s phenomenal.  The planetarium; however, was my favorite.  I sat in my chair, and watched a thirty minute film called Cosmic Collision that was voiced by Robert Redford.  If you have the chance, go see the Denver Natural Science Museum (it’s awesome, even if you’re not five).

I thought I could scare the stuffed bear.

I thought I could scare the stuffed bear.

Block break was busy, yet fun.  Probably, my favorite Block Break experience thus far.

Daft Punk or just China Celebrating the New Year?

 

the temple

the temple

A few nights ago we went out on the town and celebrated the last night of the Spring Festival. This marked the final day of fifteen in which the Chinese celebrate their lunar new year. We traveled on the subway to the southern end of the city to attend a lantern festival. I’m not entirely sure that we actually found the festival we were looking for, but we did end up at an enormous gathering near a magnificent temple. The most impressive part of the entire ordeal was the light show. Green lasers covered the night sky, while others shot Chinese characters onto the front side of the temple. The gathering extended out over a lengthy walkway that was lined by trees covered in Christmas-type lights. It was very impressive and proved to produce some of the most interesting pictures. Those who have seen these pictures have asked if I was at a Daft Punk show. It felt like that just without the music.

Awesome lasers!!

Awesome lasers!!

In addition to the impressive laser show, the night sky was relentlessly filled with fireworks. I learned that the Chinese invented fireworks—they were showing off a bit on that night. Everywhere we walked on brought more and more of every kind of firework you can imagine. The city had so much fun that the hotel next to Beijing’s newest architectural achievement, the CCTV tower, caught fire. I haven’t been able to read much on this as I think the government is censoring most of the news on the internet about it.

from the end of the walkway

from the end of the walkway

It will be interesting to see how the city is after this. Each day we have been here has been a day of the Spring Festival. We have yet to experience what working Beijing is like… I’ll update on the changes!

The Interruption

 

Outside the Puning Temple - one of many interruptions I hope to have on this trip

Outside the Puning Temple - one of many interruptions I hope to have on this trip

I have been thinking a lot about something recently. Stick with me, as it may seem to be completely unrelated to China. It has a purpose, I promise!

I had an incredible conversation the second day here with my roommate, Winston. It was when we started to discuss his art for the first time. We must have talked for an hour or two just about art and our own individual experiences with it. He showed me some pictures of his oil paintings—they are stunningly beautiful. I told him how my girlfriend back home, Taylor, is an art major (she is in Italy right now). As the talk progressed, Winston expressed discontent with artists who are too self absorbed. He meant those that make art that requires an explanation by the artist to make any sense. At this point, I brought up an installation that my girlfriend had done last semester. It was a performance installation. She created what looked like a stereotypical teenage girl’s room. She made wallpaper from Cosmo and Vogue magazine ads. She sat at the center staring at the mirror, applying copious amounts of makeup, sipping a Diet Coke, and blasting some “girl rock.” At the front end of the installation, a sign indicated that each visitor was to take a piece of paper and judge her (Taylor). So, people wrote their judgments: “You’re self-centered and don’t care about anyone else,” “You’re Britney Spears,” “All you care about is the way you look,” etc.

Once you have reached the other side, you place the judgment in the box and pick up a piece of paper. This paper reveals who Taylor really is. For instance, the paper says, “I broke my arm when I was 5,” “I had a pet turtle that ran away,” “My parents divorced when I was really young.”

While focused on who Taylor was, the installation had a key element to it. Winston used a creative writing term, “interruption.” He said it refers to the moment in a piece of writing when the reader suddenly becomes aware of him/herself. He/she is no longer reading about someone or something else, but rather he/she is reading in terms of him/herself. This is the same thing that happens in Taylor’s installation. The initial reaction is looking out at who this person in front of you may be. Then, you get the real story, at which point you become aware of who you are, your own judgments, and your own feelings.

What does this have to do with China? Well, I feel as though I am in for some serious interruptions on this trip. Not just one, but more than I can even imagine right now. My experience at the Puning Temple was one. My first experience here at Hylands Law Firm was for sure. This is just an offshoot of that quote from Gregory Peck I mentioned in a previous blog. The quote alluded to the fact that we learn the most about ourselves when we encounter difficult and uncomforatable situations. This idea is magnified when you are suddenly transplanted into a world completely unlike the one you have always known. Self-awareness takes on a new meaning on so many different levels. I’ve only scratched the surface of this.

Wudaokou, Sanlitun, and Silk Street

Thus far, my excursions around the city of Beijing have been nothing but plain old fun. I feel I have seen so much, yet haven’t even grazed the surface. A few highlights have been the Sanlitun district, Wudaokou, and the Silk Street.

Sanlitun is one of the major bar districts in Beijing. It is also an extremely “Western” area—the Apple Store is there! It‘s really interesting peering into an Apple Store and seeing nothing but Chinese characters. The bars there are lively, eclectic, and just plain fun.

Last weekend we ate at a restaurant in Sanlitun, The Blue Frog. The Blue Frog has a very American menu, which is nice to see every so often just for the nostalgic feelings. We all ordered big juicy hamburgers with cheese and bacon. It’s hard not feeding in to the craving when it’s right there in front of you. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the Chinese food even more than I ever expected. Dumpling houses are always a safe bet. This place, West Gate, perfectly situated at the West Gate of Beida, is a favorite of everyone in the program. To top it off, street food in Beijing, while maybe completely unsanitary, is by far some of the tastiest stuff that you’ll find here. After our burgers at Blue Frog, we headed to the bar street in Sanlitun where we talked, danced, and met folks from all across the globe. Below is a video of some street food in Wudaokou!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7I38LGOPoI

Wudaokou is the district just east of the Beida campus. With restaurants, bars, and shops aplenty, it is a hot spot for most students. There is a subway stop in Wudaokou that for 2 RMB can get you almost anywhere in the city. On a lazy day, it’s fun to grab a cab from the East Gate of Beida to the subway and practice our limited Chinese with the drivers. Most of the drivers tend to enjoy hearing us mispronounce words and tell them ten times that we are Americans.

Juan and Harry on the subway with their new guitars

Juan and Harry on the subway with their new guitars

Another favorite of mine is the Silk Street Market. It is located only a few blocks away from my internship at the Yonganli subway stop. The market is a building with floor after floor of vendors selling knock-off anything from iPods to North Face jackets to fancy Italian shoes for close to nothing. As you walk through the isles, it’s easy to tell that the vendors have developed a keen eye for naïve Americans. They yell as you pass, “Hello, sir. Come look here. You want shoes? Special price for you,” and “You need pants? I give you good price, just come look!” At first it’s a bit frightening, but once you get used to the screaming it’s actually an incredibly fun time. I’ve found that the most fun you can have at the Silk Market is hanging around a few vendors for about 15 minutes without any interest in their products but instead start speaking in Chinese to them. Soon, they stop prodding you to buy something and just want to talk. They may stop the conversation to yell at another passing naïve shopper, but they come back to continue the mini Chinese lesson you’ve somehow gotten into.

The deals you can bargain for at the Silk Street Market are also found at many other local shops. I went with two friends the other day on an excursion to purchase guitars. They each bought well-made and good-looking guitars for a fraction of the price they would in America. On our way back that night on the subway, we pulled ‘em out to occupy ourselves.

There is so much more to tell about this city. I will keep updating on different areas of the city! I’m sure I will see plenty. I’m also sure that I’ll be back writing about more stories from these three fabulous spots.