Posts in: Block 1

A Frosh’s Take on College So Far

My first 2 months on campus have been a constant chain of events with little to no time in between for much breathing. Now that my first block is over, I want to catch you up on what it’s like to be on campus these past two months.

During Bridge Scholars Program, the wonderful Professor Heidi Lewis warned us of the craziness of CC and the block plan. She also spent a large portion of class addressing the reality of attending a predominantly white institution such as Colorado College.

After two months of being here, I have seen and felt first-hand the pressure to speak up/represent a whole race as the only Asian person in a space. I have felt the pressure to project the best image of myself 24/7, and I have felt the need to explain my culture to people.

As a first-gen, low-income, woman of color on campus, I have struggled with imposter syndrome day in, day out.

im·pos·tor syn·drome

noun

persistent self-doubt of one’s ability, feelings of inadequacy, and feeling like one doesn’t belong or deserve to be at a college

It’s tough to not be effected by imposter syndrome when my peers went to private schools, all know how to ski, play instruments, balance all their classwork and social life, AND have six packs. Yes, I try to convince myself that we’re all just teenagers figuring out life, but I believe some teenagers got more of a head start than others. I also know that my shitty public high school education taught me little in the classroom, so you can catch me every weekday frustrated over not understanding my assigned readings.

The college journey isn’t always black and white, good or bad.

The block plan is amazing, classes only last for 3.5 weeks if you don’t like them, and if you do, you get to spend 3 (or more) hours in class every day. A huge bonus of going to an extremely small liberal arts school is the amount of resources and activities available to me. For example, I went stand-up paddle-boarding off-campus on Sunday for $5. For my Priddy Trip, I went camping in the San Juan Mountains for 4 days with a small group of freshmen. We have gone on a million field trips in my class, as you can probably tell from my last blogs. I love the variety of opportunities and people I get to experience every day.

However, everything comes at a price. There’s more interesting stuff to do on campus than there is time in one day. During block 1, I committed myself to everything under the sun and RSVP’ed to every interesting event I saw. As my friend warned me “You’re making the typical freshman mistake of trying to do everything, slow down.” I was pulled in so many directions and came back to my dorm exhausted every night. College is a four-year marathon, but it often feels like time is always fleeting and I must do everything all at once.

I’m figuring it out, block by block. I came to CC excited and wide-eyed, ready to attack college head-on. I was glad to be far away from home, from high school, for a chance to start over, that I forgot about ME. I forgot that I had a limited amount of social energy. I forgot that my usual self-care routine isn’t enough to take care of the exhausting demand of the block plan. Recently, I’ve prioritized everything else first, myself second.

Even more than the classroom learning, the block plan has taught me more about myself and how to adult. It’s taught me that the fast pace of campus often leaves little time for reflection. It’s taught me that I often move too fast, and often forget to stop, breathe, and feel the grass. The pressure that I feel at a predominantly white school is real, more real than any blog or adult could have prepped me for. But I do belong, and I am good enough, or at least I’ll keep repeating it until I believe it.

Baca, Quinoa, and Catching a Breath

On Tuesday morning of fourth week, we set out to go on another adventure. Our next destination is a quinoa farm in the San Luis Valley! We met up with farmers Ernie New and Jennifer Smead of White Mountain Farms to learn more about their organic family farm.

Back in 1984, Ernie was approached by a friend trying to convince him to grow quinoa. However, he didn’t know how to grow it, clean it, or eat it; quinoa was still new to the American market. All he knew was that quinoa was sensitive to herbicides and didn’t take much water to grow. Over time, other farmers in the San Luis Valley also caught on and started growing quinoa, too.

Quinoa farm

In 2019, the market demand for quinoa so is great that, as Ernie New puts it, “If everybody in the San Luis Valley stopped growing potatoes and started growing quinoa, it would barely make a dent worldwide [on the demand for quinoa].” Companies are putting it in their cereals and processed foods to market the product as “healthier.” The bulk of White Mountain Farms quinoa is sold to a middleman to be sold to a large company. Thus, similar to Spud Grower Farms, the White Mountain Farms family has little to no idea where their crop will end up in the world.

Jennifer Smead also gave us a tour of their potato packing facility. She touched on the market demand for perfect potatoes; 25% of the potatoes harvested are thrown away because of aesthetics or damage to the outside skin. Potatoes are classified by their appearance; number 1 potatoes have less defects and are overall more evenly shaped than number 2 potatoes. Smead says she rarely eats number 1 potatoes, number 2 potatoes taste just as good.

We also took some potatoes home!

After a long day of touring quinoa and more potatoes, we came back to CC’s Baca Campus, took our last Italian quiz for the block and relaxed. I went on a walk into Crestone with some classmates. It’s a 10-15 minute walk to reach the closet market, they had fresh, local, organic produce, and cheap kombucha.

I found these beautiful tomatoes at the market, too!

We spent our last night at Baca making pizza and hanging out. After a crazy block of adjusting to college, learning Italian, taking a million field trips, and talking about environmental science, it was time to destress. On Wednesday morning, we headed back to CC to start our block break!

The view on the drive back to campus.

I spent my block break on campus, hanging out with friends, climbing the Manitou Incline, and cooking the potatoes from White Mountain Farms.

My roommates, Isley G. and Erin H., ft. the view from the top of Manitou Incline. A must-try if you’re in the area!

On Sunday morning of block break, I drove 45 minutes to Canon City and went SKYDIVING! I could see the mountain ranges and multiple 14ers when jumping out of the plane. 12/10 would recommend Colorado as a skydiving spot.

Post-jumping-out-of-plane happiness.

The Story of Le Patate

Where did the potato on your plate come from?

We departed from Baca Campus Monday morning on a quest to learn more about America’s industrial farming industries, specifically large-scale potato farms in the San Luis Valley. I was not particularly excited to get up at 7:00 am to see something as mundane as potatoes. Aren’t they just potatoes, what could be so interesting about them?

Jamilah M., with her constant optimism, said “Nghi, we’re going to see the most potatoes we have ever seen in one day today” in an effort to make the trip more exciting. Oh boy, she was right. We saw potatoes alright.

We met up with Heather Dutton, manager of San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District and fifth-generation San Luis Valley resident. She brought us to Spud Grower Farms to check out their potato harvest. At first the field looked empty and I thought “Where are the potatoes? That’s all I came here for.”

Our first view of the potato circle

 

It somehow never clicked in my brain that potatoes are root crops, and root crops are underground. As we walked through the field, I saw small potatoes left behind on the ground. Can you spot what’s potato and what’s rocks?

The potato vines in the picture are dead because they are “beaten to death” 3-4 weeks before harvesting so the potato skin can have time to harden and dry out. If potatoes are harvested right away, the skin could easily peel off and get bruised.

While we were standing there, harvesters came by and scooped up the potatoes from the dirt, passed it through a conveyor belt to shake off anything that’s not potatoes and left them on the ground for the next round of harvester trucks to come pick them up. Sometimes the harvesters will miss some potatoes, and while unfortunate, it’s not worth it to go back over a row twice.

    

We were standing on a quarter section aka a crop circle. Each crop circle yields around 5-8 million pounds of potatoes every season. Spud Grower Farms grows 13 circles of potatoes annually, and another 13 circles of quinoa and barley. However, they predominantly focus on potatoes because it’s their cash crop. Farm Manager, Michael Curtis, is 1 of 4 full-time farmers working on the 26 crop circles which makes up the farm. To put this into perspective: there are only 4 farmers working year-round to make sure 81 million (2018 yield) pounds of potatoes gets into big grocery stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Krogers.

Pictured is Heather (left) and Michael (right).

(DID YOU CATCH THAT? 81 MILLION POUNDS! And that’s barely 1% of annual American potato demand).

We, as consumers, demands perfect potatoes. Potatoes coming from the San Luis Valley could be repackaged into the potato buyer’s packaging. This process strips the San Luis Valley identity from the potatoes, thus making the origin of the potatoes untraceable.

Crop circles in the San Luis Valley. Credit: Google Maps: Satellite.

Even though Spud Grower Farms grow a massive amount of potatoes and use industrial machinery, they are first and foremost a family farm. They care about their potatoes, try to minimize pesticide usage by fighting diseases with cover crops, and replenish the soil as much as they can.

Industrial American farming gets a bad rep, but as Heather puts it, “It’s not about the size of the farm, it’s about the ethics.” Michael added, “We would never grow something that we wouldn’t eat ourselves. I don’t buy potatoes from the store, I come out to the field and get potatoes to feed my own kids”

Heather and Michael also touched on water issues in Colorado. “80% of the population in Colorado is on the front range, yet 80% of the water is on the western slope. This puts a stress on municipalities to provide water for their constituents.”

Investors from Denver are looking to come into San Luis Valley, buy land from farmers to acquire the land’s water rights and groundwater wells, and pipeline the water to urban areas. This leaves farms like Spud Grower Farms left to worry about the future of water and the make-up of the farming community. Even though San Luis Valley sits on a large water aquifer, it’s disappearing more quickly than can be recharged.

While our urban lives are seemingly disconnected from farmers in the San Luis Valley, are we truly disconnected? The type of house we buy, the lawns we choose to water, the food we choose to eat, it’s all affecting the water reservoirs in Colorado and farmers around the state. If farmers like Michael were to stop growing food, where else would our food come from?

Bonus pictures of the potato sorting facility:

The beautiful Meghna Bagchi ft. 500,000 lbs of potatoes in the back.

Italian Festival in Denver

Saturday of second week, we departed at 9am to Denver for an Italian Festival. It was a nice sunny day and I was ready to try some delicious Italian food.

Italian cuisine was popularized over seventy years ago and has made its way into the staple American diet. Familiar foods like pizza, spaghetti, gelato and pasta are easily found in every city. We have romanticized Italy as the country of vacation and its foods as “fresh, handmade, and touched by Italian grandmothers.”

The festival, located in an outdoor shopping mall, attracted audience from all over. Many booths were decorated with grape vines, wine bottles, or any Italian-related tokens to seem more authentic. For example, there were seven consecutive booths named “Grammy’s Sicilian Pizza,” “Grammy’s Canoli,” “Grammy’s Italian Goodies,” and “Grammy’s Italian Cookies” and so on. The Grammy’s booths used the cute abbreviated version of “grandmother” to portray an image of Italian authenticity and home. The tablecloths they used were checkered and bright colors and font styles looked handwritten to add to the illusion. As a consumer, it is hard to tell if the recipes they are selling are truly passed down from grammy; however, they are for sure using the image of the Italian grandmother to attract their customer base.

 Willik ft. large Grammy’s “Sicilian” pizza slice

Some classmates have called this festival the “American-Italian Festival” because of the festival’s loose interpretation of what is Italian and its adaptation of Italy to fit the American audience. Some booths at the fair had nothing to do with Italy such as: Costco, Wells Fargo, Empanadas, a booth selling stickers, and so on. The list of sponsors for this event included corporations, banks, TV stations, and a lack of Italian companies. Thus, it seemed like the goal of this festival was to attract the widest audience possible, not to portray an authentic image of Italy.

The Italian Festival is more of a gimmick than a true showcase of Italian values. Prices are marked up, tables are designed to attract the eye, and the word “Italian” is loosely used to describe foods. The one upside is the arancini, it was so cheesy, crunchy, and coated my mouth with its fried goodness!

Bella and Jamilah ft. gli arancini

Despite my critique, the festival was a great way to get off campus, get some fresh air and get lost in “Little Italy” for a few hours. It’s nice to see a glimpse of Italian culture in real life instead of just reading about it in the classroom. I even found a Sharetea! Normally I don’t like boba, but it’s hard to resist when boba reminds me of home. I never thought home sickness would affect me, but college is proving me wrong.

Goodbye Denver! Ci vediamo dopo!

A Late Introduction to Italian and Environmental Science

Hello! My name is Nghi and I will be blogging about Slow Food in a Fast Food Nation. A strange combination of Elementary Italian and Environmental Science. I had no idea what to expect on the first day of class. Would we be doing a block of Italian and a block of enviro? How did these two seemingly different topics connect?

On the first day of class, we jumped into learning Italian adjectives and spent the rest of class eating and talking about Twinkies. Twinkies represent the perfect capitalistic food: cheap, lots of calories, easy to eat, perfectly identical to every other Twinkie, and convenient. If I were to describe the qualities a Twinkie possess in Italian, they would be morbido, economico, dolce, e piccolo.

During the first week of class, we had already started learning introductions in Italian, numbers, pronouns and adjectives. In the environmental science portion, we explored what foods are considered “good to eat” and “what is ‘disgust?’” by eating dehydrated crickets. They came in a variety of flavors including sour cream and onion, salt and vinegar, or we could choose from the mixed-bugs variety pack. The bugs weren’t half bad, they tasted like Lay’s potato chips. Kind of delicious, actually.

In an everchanging society, the U.S. has changed how the world eats with its political and economic influence. We are slowly turning the world into a fast-food globe with McDonald’s, with our emphasis on efficiency, convenience and cheap calories. Italy, known for its extraordinary cuisine, is fighting against the quickly changing food economy with the Slow Food movement. The Slow Food movement promotes local produce, traditional cooking, and an overall RE-connection to what food means to us. We are simultaneously analyzing Italian cooking, American economy, and where food really comes from.

Frankly, I have no idea where my food is coming from. My idea of “food sources” mostly consists of gory videos of filmmakers exposing the inhumane meat industry. I know that the animals in these videos live a short time, are force fed, and go through mass massacres. Then, they’re packaged in plastic and shipped to the store. Furthermore, I have no idea where my vegetables come from aside from that tropical fruits are imported from Mexico. The sad part of it all, is the fact that I don’t know much about my food sources beyond that. It’s almost magical how groceries show up on the shelf and are refilled every hour; it is almost as if some food elves are hiding in the back waiting to stock the shelves.

On Wednesday of week 1, we visited New Roots Farm; an organic farm ran by CC Alum Sarah Hamilton and Susan Gordon. We learned about their pressing water source and how politicians will favor lawns over farms to please their constituents. We also got to meet Bella, the beautiful golden retriever, she welcomed us with her waggly tail and high energy. After being on campus for weeks with little to no dog contact, meeting Bella was the perfect campus getaway for many of us. Subsequently, we spent the afternoon at Duca’s Neopolitan Pizza enjoying their delicious imported tomatoes from Italy.

 Some flowers from New Roots Farm.

This lighting does this pesto pizza no justice, it’s absolutely delicious #notsponsored

Our first week of class has made me realize how much I don’t know about my foods, it was always there, I never had to question where anything came from. However, meeting farmers like Sarah, Susan, and Bella at New Roots who really cares about the produce and their consumers also makes me want to care more about my produce and farmers.

Museum Work with the Art History FYE

Our art history FYE, now drawing to a close, was first and foremost a study of Western art from pre-historic times to the 20th century. This subject matter was a fascinating look into the cultures, beliefs, and systems of different civilizations throughout time. That being said, what interested me the most during this course was the unique opportunity to work with the Fine Arts Center, just around the corner from our classroom in Packard Hall. Through working with the museum to put together an exhibit of American art, we experienced firsthand the curatorial process of the modern museum. This was particularly engaging, as it broadened our understanding of the art world to include the present-day industry.

The curatorial project was so gratifying because it allowed us to apply what we had been learning about how to unpack a piece of art. Just as our professor taught us how to pick up on a variety of techniques, styles, and innovations to better understand ancient and classical art, each of us picked a piece from the FAC archive and used our visual analysis skills to better understand them. For the majority of the museum project, which spanned both blocks, each of us was working with a single piece of art. This allowed us to get in-depth with our artist and, study their place in the wider context of the history of art. It was exciting to bounce between studying the old and curating the new every week, and the hands-on nature of the museum project balanced out the rich, cultural study in the classroom. At the end of the course, I’m proud of the exhibit our class created, and I’ll miss our trips to the FAC.

Looking at my Grandfather’s Art Through New Eyes

Taking art history really opens your eyes to what is right in front of you. This includes everything from the art everywhere on campus to the art in your own home. I was home for a weekend and was able to look at all of the pieces hanging around my home, and I thought it would be interesting to try and analyze a few.

Although I don’t know very much about most of these works, there are three wood blocks prints done by my grandfather. My grandparents have lived in Corrales, New Mexico, and most of the prints made by Grandpa Paul are either images from his life there or inspired by Japan, where he traveled to learn how to do this style of printing.

Barranca de Corrales by Paul Davis

In this first print, Barranca de Corrales, you can see the Japanese influence in the flatter perspective and more simplified shapes, even though this is a depiction of the hill on which my grandparents live. The majority of the piece is black, white, or tan, with the only color being the sky and the figures going up the hill. The effect is to make the blue and the yellow of the sky seem even more vibrant, and makes the viewer wonder if the sun is just rising or setting to have such a bright, yellow horizon. The red and blue of the group climbing the hill draw your eye to them, but they are so small and indistinct that the focus of the piece is still on the skyline.

Hokusai’s World by Paul Davis

In the piece just to the left of this, Hokusai’s World, the Japanese influence is clear. With the iconic wave image from The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai in the foreground, bamboo and a bonsai tree in the mid-ground, and what looks like Mount Fuji in the background, this entire work seems like a dedication to Japanese culture and art. All of these environmental additions frame two figures fighting in the middle of the print with what seems to be bo staffs, a traditional Japanese weapon. The color palette is again very basic and shows off the details of the bonsai tree and wave. The patterns around the edge frame the central images, and are a unique addition to the print, unusual in both my grandfather’s work and in Japanese-style printing in general. This homage to Japan and the printing style is both simple and beautiful (although I may be a little biased).

Tiffany Hill: Dawn by Paul Davis

In the third and final piece of the three of Grandpa Paul’s prints we have hanging on our wall, Tiffany Hill: Dawn, we are back in New Mexico. It is an image inspired by what my grandfather does every morning he can: walk his dogs. Although this does show an aspect of his day, this is not a self-portrait, but instead a depiction of the friends he walks his dogs with. The colors are muted, with most of the piece filled with tan, representing the sandy desert that most of Corrales is. But there is still foliage, which fills up the sides of the print, and a town that is in the distance and seems to be the goal of the dog walkers. The dog walkers themselves are simplified human figures, one having a backpack and the other a Harley Davidson jacket. The dogs are even more simplified, just focusing on the essentials. This simplicity is probably a combination of medium restrictions, personal preference, and aesthetics and is consistent through all of his works.

My grandfather is a simple, usually quiet man (except for the occasional pun) who has lived a rich life and learned a ridiculous amount about a ridiculous number of subjects. He spends his days reading, watching soccer matches, and making prints. I am so glad that we are able to have his art hanging in our home.

Iscariot Sculpture in Downtown Colorado Springs

On our daily commutes, the visuals around us are often the same day after day. We know what buildings are coming up, where everything is, and often just go through the motions; however, on one of my daily summer driving routes, there was something new. This massive metal sculpture had taken over what used to be a standard rooftop, providing me with a little bit of a shock.

According to Colorado artist Trace O’Connor, ”Iscariot depicts a mermaid gracefully leaving her perch to take flight.” This unique mermaid made from reclaimed metal weighs in at 4,200 pounds and is part of the Downtown areas partnership and their affiliates’ ongoing mission to create unique cultural experiences for Springs residents and visitors to the area.

Springs residents should definitely keep their heads up in the downtown area, not only to observe the eye-catching street art, but just in case a giant metal mermaid attacks you or your car!

 

McMichael, Jon. “Rise of the Octo-Maid, New Sculptures Hit Colorado Springs’ Rooftops.” KOAA.com. August 30, 2018. Accessed October 17, 2018. https://koaa.com/news/digital-original/2018/06/08/rise-of-the-octo-maid-new-sculptures-hit-colorado-springs-rooftops/.

Photo from: “Colorado Springs, CO – Octo-Maid: Metal Mermaid.” RoadsideAmerica.com. Accessed October 17, 2018. https://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/61875.

Abstract Flowers

For someone who has never seen the process of making glassware, it is easy to miss the fact that glass is actually melted into a thick liquid in order to make molding possible. The honey-like glass is then collected on the blowpipe (a long metal structure in which air can be blown into to shape the glass) by dipping it in the glory hole of the furnace. It is then made even by rolling it on a flat surface, after which it is dipped in paint if desired, and then reheated.

  

…Then comes the scariest part.

Remember when we were told as children not to play with fire? Well, imagine having to roll glass that freshly came out of a hole with 2250°F of heat using only wet newspaper in your palm…

Water dripping all around my hand from the wet newspaper, my anticipation grew exponentially in the seconds before the instructor placed the blazing glass in my palm. Smoke covered my view as I softly applied pressure to shape the glass, leaving a black burn mark on the first few sheets of newspaper. Do not try this at home!

I had a very short time to pinch the petals of the glass flower I was making before the glass cooled down, which would make it more difficult to shape. It took me two trials to realize that I actually got worse at shaping my flower, so I decided to announce it as an abstract flower.

The glassblowing workshop was one of the highlights of my first block break because I got to explore a process of art creation that I had never had the chance to do before. My favorite part was pinching the round flat part of the glass in order to create the flower petals. This part defined the way the flower would turn out. I gave one of the two flowers I made to my friend and she called it The Placenta. I can’t say that’s what I was going for, but it made her happy anyway.

At the end of the day, it got me thinking that even though it had been a very fun and insightful experience for me, it is a very difficult process and should be appreciated and valued. So, the next time you have a sip from that beautifully constructed glass, keep in mind that someone might have been carefully shaping it with only a wet newspaper in their palm!

 

Source: https://giphy.com/gifs/3o7TKpWmZz1V4ZcVa0

 

 

Visiting the Clyfford Still Museum

Over the past two blocks, our class has been in and out of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center putting together an exhibit. We became familiar with the museum and each section that we saw has art from various artists ranging from different time periods. It was exciting to take our knowledge from our own art museum and bring it to the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum from our field trip this week. The Denver Art Museum felt like a similar format to the Fine Arts Center. We viewed the special collections they had on display with artwork ranging from Rembrandt’s etchings to sculptures of Ganesha. We saw impressive art pieces in different mediums and in diverse styles. It was intriguing to compare these exhibitions with the collection we found in the next building over. This museum displays solely works painted by Clyfford Still, an abstract expressionist from the mid-twentieth century. Clyfford Still requested, in his will, that all his works go to one US city. Eventually, Denver was chosen as that city and the museum received ninety-five percent of Still’s works. The museum building itself was interesting to experience. The architects who designed the museum knew that only Still’s works would be displayed there, so the interior and exterior were built to accommodate his style and type of art. The walls were made of textured concrete to reflect the verticality seen in Still’s paintings. The ceilings had oval cutouts to let in Denver’s natural light. The lower floor is created to be bathed in less light than the upper one, because the second-floor displays Still’s works, while the first floor is for storage of works not currently on display and research. One advantage to having ninety-five percent of an artist’s works in a museum is that you are able to observe the artist’s style progress over time. On our tour, we saw how Still started off painting realistic portraits and landscapes, then focused on depicting the human form, and from there, produced works that were more and more abstract until there were no longer recognizable forms (as seen in the pictures below). Overall both the Clyfford Still and the Denver Art Museum were wonderful examples of experiencing in person what we had learned in class and had experienced at the Fine Arts Center Museum at CC.