I love you very much, but I’m looking to expand my horizons this fall. I hope you’re not the jealous type, because we’re about to enter an open relationship.
On September 12th, I’m flying to Amman, Jordan, to start my fall semester with the CIEE Jordanian Language & Culture program at the University of Amman. After months of waiting and countless explanations of where and why I’m going, you could say I’m a bit anxious.
My aunt recently sent me a chain letter summarizing the Dalai Llama’s message for 2010, part of which stated, “Measure your success by what you gave up to get it.” I’m still not sure if I understand, or if I agree. I’ll contemplate it during my 16-hour travel time. Here’s my vague knowledge of what I’m giving up:
-standard wardrobe (I had no idea so much of it revolved arounding showing my legs or shoulders)
-freedom to wander off alone for hours (I’ve found that Colorado Springs has some unexpected sprawl to its trails)
-vegetarianism (I’m hoping my meat will have had a happier life there than on an American factory farm)
-vocalized opinions about American politics
-playing sports (unless women’s rugby is popular among Arabs?)
However, I think all CC students can agree that we possess a relentless thirst for adventure. Mine is taking me to a country in a region that I’ve never come close to, to a language I don’t speak, and to a religion I don’t practice. From the interested and sometimes perplexed looks I get from people I explain that to, I often wonder whether I should be scared. Instead, I am excited to the point of recklessness.
I’m writing this post in my friend’s off-campus house. Since I haven’t left Colorado this summer, I’ve been hanging around Colorado Springs and I tagged along to her class, HY200: Topics in History: Islamic Cities for two days. Prospective students reading this may be wondering, why bother? Why go to class for such a short time? The answer is because on the block plan, you really can learn so much in two days. And I did! Over those two days, I explored the concept of a city, read about the customs of Arab households, and watched some documentaries about the city of Cairo (or Le Caire), Egypt. It was great to get a bit of background about what my life in an Arab city such as Amman might be like, and even more helpful to reflect on what I love about the environment I grew up in. For the record, that would be in a house on a hill in a dense forest, located by the Connecticut River, fostering in me a deep appreciation for nature and mild hostility toward concrete jungles. In fact, I almost didn’t consider Colorado College, simply because its location was classified under “urban.” Good thing I reconsidered!
Life is a continuous cycle of pushing aside pride and embracing new experiences. I have so much pride in my school; I’ll miss the block plan. I’ll miss finding way home by looking in the direction of the mountains. I’ll miss lunch after class in Rastall. I’ll miss the rugby bruises. And I’m sure I’ll miss whatever else has become second nature to me at this time of year. But there is so much to gain. I’m going for it!
Peace out, America! Follow my journey on this blog: http://jettingtojordan.blogspot.com/
So before I get back to campus (4 days!) and get started on my pre-study abroad, no class, calm before the storm adventure, I’d like to share an amazing experience I partook in earlier this summer.
Sponsored by the Scheffer Fund for Catholic Studies, I journeyed with a couple other students and faculty from CC to Richardton, North Dakota. We stayed at Sacred Heart Monastery and Assumption Abbey (girls and boys, respectively) and learned about the Benedictine Catholic tradition of monastic life.
What I was anticipating was lots of isolation and silence. A nice time to reflect, I thought. Not exactly!
One thing that attracted me to a trip like this was that it was in North Dakota! Aside from Colorado, Utah, and a little bit of Wyoming, I’m still not familiar with the Midwest, and I was eager to explore a new section of it. If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be VAST. So much space! Coming from Connecticut, I’m accustomed to (for some) claustrophobic highways, constantly lined by trees, cliffs, or whatever nature fancies in that area. North Dakota doesn’t really have trees. In fact, all the greenery around the monastery and abbey (as you’ll see later) was planted!
In high school choir, we sang a song titled On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever. That is truly the reality of this area of the country. Sure, the sky is blue, the grass is green, what else is new? What’s new is that it doesn’t end. You can see for miles and miles.
We girls had quite a time at the monastery. A great amount of “processing” (also known as chatting endlessly about our hopes, dreams, and minute details of our lives) went on, and we learned a lot about ourselves. Following the Benedictine tradition, we partook in prayer 3 times a day (with daily mass after morning prayer), working and learning in between. If you’ve seen (or even better, read the book) the movie Eat, Pray, Love, the time she spends in the ashram is vaguely similar to this, except the schedule is more like Pray, Eat, Work, Pray, Eat, Work, Play, Pray, Eat, Sleep.
Here’s glimpse of life at the monastery:
But most importantly, we got to experience an amazing lifestyle and meet the inspirational men and women behind it. I hope to come back and visit someday!
Have you explored Rocky Mountain National Park? If you haven’t, please consider it. Fellow students, put it on your Block Break checklists. The two and a half hour drive from Colorado Springs to Estes Park is gorgeous enough by itself (you go through Denver, Boulder, Lyons….), and the destination is sublime. Though I hail from Connecticut, my grandparents own a cabin in this cute (and insanely touristy in the summer) mountain town, which hosts entrance to RMNP. I’ve spent a portion of every summer here since I was born, with four summers spent at a summer camp hidden in the town’s limits. This summer, four years after my final year as a camper, I came back for more!
The idea of coming back to work on staff didn’t occur to me until this past spring, when I was deep in frustration with failed internship applications. Then, one of my best friends from camp told me she was working on support staff. Wait. You mean I could work at the camp I love, with people I love, making food, which I love, and getting paid….which I would love as well? Being a counselor was out of the question since it was so late in the year, but after a bit of gushing about how much I love food discussion, I secured a position as Assistant Cook in the girls’ unit!
You might be wondering, Just how hard is it to cook three meals a day for hundreds of (ravenous) campers and staff?
Only the strong survive.
The schedule alone is killer. I worked 6 AM-1:30 PM, then 4:15 PM-7:30 PM. Not a lot of time to enjoy the sunshine, but the feeling of accomplishment is always there.
Duties include: arranging, agonizing, baking, berating, crawling, contemplating, cussing, cooking, cutting, chopping, cleaning, dancing, laughing, laundering, learning, jamming, mixing, mashing, organizing, planning, preparing, pouring, slicing, smiling, stocking, setting, scraping, stemming, sweetening, singing, sharing, unloading, washing, yelling…and many more.
(In the upper right corner, you can see a love note from the younger girls’ unit.)
There were tears. There were triumphs. There was tyranny. There was teamwork. But most importantly (at least to the campers), there were tacos.
-The age gap. 50-somethings (and one 80-something!) working with 20-somethings? Times have changed.
-Being the only vegetarian. Camp food is designed to fill you up, which means a lot of starch, and more importantly a lot of MEAT.
-Girls gossip, judge, and backstab, just like anywhere else. Except that it feels horribly wrong at summer camp.
-WORK! How do I prepare this? Where does this go? Does this have gluten in it? What is the vegetarian option? Where did the box-cutter disappear to? What temperature should this be? Should I make the 200 or 400 batch? Why does the walk-in fridge feel colder than Antarctica? Why do I have to wash the bananas? How can girls eat so many tacos? Are you sure the milk man didn’t come already? Where is the Food Dude with today’s order? How did I just cut my pinkie on a saran wrap container?
It might have taken a month, but I was finally able to start answering these questions from experience.
All in all, I love camp. And food. Just not camp food. At the end of the day, seeing the smiles on campers’ faces makes all the work, all the squabbles, and all the burns (plus scars) worth it.
So while I won’t be partaking in tasks like this next summer…
I’ll be back as a counselor.
As said by a dear friend of mine:
“Springtime on a college campus is the epitome of all things beautiful.”
So true. And after a long winter, CC is the epitome of that epitome.
8th block has arrived, and though we’ve still got one more block until summer break, there is a distinct mood in the air, and it’s excitedly suggesting, “Let’s celebrate!”
Perhaps we’re all coming off stellar block breaks, such as my 1,340 mile (we GoogleMap-ed it) journey around Utah with friends. Destinations included Lake Powell, Green River, Moab, and a wide variety of national parks and forests. Mayhaps we all have amazing 8th block courses. I’m taking Teaching Through the Arts in Education with the amazing Kris Stanec, whose Power of the Arts in Education Course I took last year. Today my explorations of teaching art included making a Matisse-style collage.
^I’d like to think that it was a decent variation on that piece!
Some of us are just happy that the sun is out and we are surrounded by the persistent magnificence of nature. Even if taking Organic Chemistry 2 (my question: why?) or frantically rushing to finish a thesis, all of CC can celebrate the simple pleasures of spring in a community where inspiration is all around us.
Put your hands in the air and say yeah 8th block!
Green = earth, animals, plants
Catholicism= popes, prayers, mass
Green + Catholicism = ………..
Green Catholicism! Envision all the sustainability efforts you’ve become aware of (recycling, composting, water conservation, hybrid cars…pick your pleasure), combine them with a worldwide religion, and what’ve you got? A faith-based responsibility for environmental awareness, with the goal of harmonizing the whole universe.
The class exposed me to ancient Christian philosophies that form contemporary views towards the relationship between God and nature, as well as ecological problems that are facing the world today. My favorite? Mountaintop removal. Check out Stephen Colbert’s take on it here: http://www.ilovemountains.org/ It was interesting to see how religious groups are reinterpreting scripture to find support for environmental awareness, and I intend to incorporate that into my faith somehow.
We also watched some GREAT documentaries.
Grizzly Man: He lived in harmony with bears for so long! But then he overstayed his welcome…can humans really find true peace with nature?
King Corn: You may want to check your ingredient lists more often. High fructose corn syrup is sneaky, icky, and probably a major part of your nutritonal intake.
And my favorite…
No Impact Man: No environmental trace for a year. Could you do it? Let’s go through a short list of deprivations.
-No electricity: I wouldn’t mind using candles at night. Anything that brings me closer to feeling like Jane Austen…
-No refrigeration: Having to constantly stock a cooler with ice borrowed from the neighbor would get annoying.
-No non-local food: Sign me up! Especially with Colorado’s beautiful farm produce.
-No laundry machine: Hmmm, washing clothes in the tub…heck, I can’t even find the motivation to do laundry more than once a block, WITH a machine.
-No TV: Done and done.
-No transportation: Walking’s pretty cool, and I could learn to love bikes. I’m down.
-No waste: So no buying anything new, and all food waste has to be composted in a box that requires worms. Um…
Of course, it’s hard to experiment with these leave-no-trace practices when you’re living in a dorm. Roomates may not be huge supporters of your compost box, and your RA will definitely not be a fan of burning anything but your fellow students in class. Still, little changes can be made. It’s as easy as turning off your appliances when not in use, trying to reduce and reuse before you recycle, or deciding to make the long trek from Mathias to Worner without a car (yup, i’ve seen people do it!) This class made it clear to me that the world has a long way to go in improving sustainable living, even with religious group behind it. But it’s possible! By working together, every person can make a difference.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Thanksgiving is already behind us (I miss the pumpkin pie already) and the end of Block 4 is as visible as the temperature is freezing. Which, these days, is pretty consistent. This morning? 1 degree. This afternoon? 4 degrees, but it “feels like -16.”
Right now I’m in David Gardiner’s Buddhism class, and today had an amusing revelation. One of the main Buddhist concepts is that the realization that everything is temporary- that there is no permanent self in any person, place or thing- is essential to escape the suffering of life. When one recognizes that attachment to the impermenent pleasures that the earth provides is the root of suffering, one gains wisdom needed to achieve enlightenment.
I’m going to guess that the Buddha would love Colorado weather. Unpredictable and wild, often intense and unyielding, yet sometimes merciful and surprising. Truly impermenent, right? Perhaps it’s fitting that the anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment (today) arrives in the middle of a huge snowfall. If anything, it teaches one to be prepared: get plenty of vitamin c, invest in a warm coat, carry a thermos, and remember: even if the building where your class is located is not visible through the snow and wind, it’s just temporary. You’ll get there…eventually.
Is there any state of mind better than this for a CC student? Well, maybe the feeling of just having completed a full block, final exam/project/meltdown and all. But this one is pretty great too.
The scenario? You’re in the second week of the block. Your first week was, as always, new and exciting in so many ways, and you haven’t been able to stop thinking about concepts you’d never previously considered pondering in depth (such as, was my cognitive ability to learn enhanced or impaired by that marshmallow inchworm I made in preschool?). Though you previously thought your weekend festivities (in this case, HALLOWEEKEND!) might have had to be compromised to get all your assignments done by Monday, you managed to balance everything and turn all tasks in on time, even if the majority of your Sunday was spent glued to a work table in Tutt. Anticipating a case of the Mondays (indicated by the immediate need for caffeine upon waking), you arrived at class to find that it was just as invigorating as last week, and though you are currently glancing at the bursting-at-the-seams syllabus for the next 2.5 weeks with a slight feeling of intimidation, you have a feeling: it’s all good.
To top it all off, I’ve had a stellar Tuesday. The class I’m taking right now in third block, Contemporary Educational Issues, makes regular visits to different schools in Colorado Springs. Today we visited a charter middle school that just opened in August 2009, brand-new. The name? Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy. Why? Because it’s partnered with THE SPACE FOUNDATION! How’s that for something new? The mission of the school is to make learning (with a concentration on math and sciences) stimulating, with the help of integrated space-y programs into the curriculum. It was clear that the school had a LONG way to go; like any other American school, it is currently battling multiple battles: accomodating English Language Learners, closing achievement gaps between grades, setting achievable curriculum standards, meeting CSAP test scores, and helping students to find quality in the subjects they’re learning.
I hope the rest of CC is experiencing Second Week Satisfaction! Hopefully we’re all not too worn out by all the events that went on this weekend (the Worner Dance Party on Halloween Night was definitely a highlight for me), or the quantity of candy we consumed!