Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chili, Cheese, and the Congo

Let me start off by saying SORRY for such a late post, but classes have been a little hectic lately (still are, actually). However, since my post is late, I had the opportunity to use a fabulously alliterative title, although not all three things are connected.

After an amazing weekend home (with awesome food and a REAL SHOWER), I flew back on a cute little propeller plane and had fun watching the foliage I was flying above get steadily redder. Vermont is much deeper into autumn than New Jersey, which was a balmy 55 degrees for most of the weekend. I had a relaxing rest of my week, which culminated in the Harvest Festival on the quad Saturday.

This brings me to parts one and two of my alliterative title. Sadly, as I was woefully underdressed for the roaring wind (yes, that is a tad exaggerated), I did not take the time to find out the specifics of the event. What I can tell you is that there were huge quantities of chili and butternut squash soup, hot apple cider, cider donuts, apples, bread, and at least six kinds of cheese. I had chili, several types of cheese, and the best coarse bread I've had in a long time. It was "bring your own mug," so first-years, take note! At least two mugs are necessary for SMC life: one for tea/coffee/hot chocolate, and one for things like chili. And also soup, if you don't want to bring a bowl, although I would recommend bringing one.

Normally I'm not a chili fan, but maybe because I was cold, or just because it's Vermont, I actually really liked it! I also took a friend's advice and discovered that sticking cheese cubes in one's mug of chili is an excellent combination. Granted, that was because we didn't have plates, but the end results were very tasty.

So that's the chili and the cheese; now for the Congo. Tonight I had the pleasure of attending a presentation about the ongoing violent conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I had never known much about it, but to hear it explained by a man who had lived it for a year, and spent the following years involved in solutions to it was probably the best way to learn. I could never do the Congo's complexity justice in my uneducated words, but suffice it to say, there is much more going on there than the stereotypical generalization of savagery and child armies. So much more. If you are interested, you should really take the time to read about it from a variety of perspectives; there are an infinite number of contributing factors, both past and present.

Another reason I enjoyed the presentation was that for the first time, I participated in something that really justified my major (International Relations) to me. I've never really had more than a vague idea of the capacity of the United Nations, but the speaker explained the political aspect in a way that made me realize I truly do want to be involved in that type of work, even if I wouldn't work with conflict resolution. 

I was also extremely interested during the question and answer period of the presentation by the questions posed by several Congolese. They understood their history on a depth I could never hope to achieve, even for American history, and so their questions were much more moving and effective than if a student had asked an identical question. I was also pleased to be able to pick out a few words when two of the men asked their questions in French - their first language. Clearly my French 101 class is having some effect!

As I said, I haven't done very much this week, although I know there's something I've forgotten that will be tacked onto this weekend's post. I promise I'll also find a picture of something, even if it's "only" our lovely SMC foliage. Just like picture books are always better than regular books, posts with pictures are far more interesting.

Bye for now, and happy (early) Halloween!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Multicultural Madness

Hello, friends! Today's post will be longer than usual; I did a lot of cool things last week, and since I'm going home for the coming weekend I will not be posting anything. 

My exciting tale starts with last Wednesday, when my RA took my floor stargazing at Shelburne Pond. Being from New Jersey (which is very suburban) I was a little skeptical; how interesting can stars be? But I forgot that this is Vermont. Out in the woods with light pollution, sitting on a rock next to what should really be called a lake, the stars suddenly became much more captivating. We sat by the pond for awhile, then went back to a grassy area and practiced meditation. Overall, it was a very zen-inducing experience. Sadly, I have no pictures to share, as my iPhone just isn't smart enough to pick up stars when it is pitch-black outside. 

Wednesdays there is also a farm stand set up on campus. Everything sold comes from the college's garden, which is managed by students. Lacking a kitchen, I usually don't go for the produce, but I always buy flowers.

My zinnias!
Friday night was cultural event number one. I went to see a French movie - or maybe it is better labeled as Canadian - called Bon Cop, Bad Cop, to fulfill one of my Cultural Engagement Requirements for my French class. For both my French and Spanish classes (so presumably for all language classes, but I'm not sure), I have to attend two events where that language or culture is present. Movies count, so off I went.

I wasn't sure what to expect of the film; my only hope was that there would be subtitles. Much to my relief, there were, and I spent two hours enjoying a surprisingly funny (yet slightly violent) film that Wikipedia terms a "dark comedy-thriller." The film makes light of the tension between Quebec and Ontario that is heavily rooted in stereotypes and other, more complicated issues. Although I'm not a fan of thrillers, I still enjoyed it. Check it out!

Saturday I finally got to experience the organized chaos that is the Burlington Farmers' Market. There is just about every kind of food imaginable, from a butcher's stand to everything maple to a tent selling pumpkins and flowers. I had a fresh sausage sandwich for lunch, and tried some maple cookies, which were amazing. I wish I could better describe all of the awesome, local food they have to offer, but the market is really something you have to experience for yourself. Guess you'll have to come and see!

My evening was a little hectic; there was henna, tea, and mandala-style coloring on the first floor of Dion, so I started with that. I've gotten henna several times, but usually at amusement parks, so it was really cool that it was only three flights of stairs away from my room. Yes, that means I live on the fourth floor, and yes, my legs remind me of that fact every day. But sometimes I use the elevator.

My henna, with the paste still on. It looked much cooler after.
So I got really cool henna, and a picture of an elephant that I am still coloring. I have since been convinced that coloring as a form of decompressing is a completely valid theory. 

After the henna, I went up two flights of stairs to the Latin-american culture event. The school had brought in a dance teacher, who gave salsa lessons for an hour, and then there was a dance (with food!) for another four. I'm not much of a dancer, but the food was definitely worth attending for. I even tried plantains, which I am still not a fan of, but would rank above bananas - the absolute worst kind of fruit, in my opinion. 

I then spent Sunday recovering from my Saturday, and also fit in some homework, too. 

As I said earlier, I won't be posting anything next weekend, as I will be home (!!!). See you in two weeks!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Gourd-Painting and 5K-Walking

Hello! As promised, read on for exciting information about my weekend!

Friday night's pumpkin fun was a little disappointing initially, to be honest. We were supposed to be painting pumpkins, but all they had were gourds. However, the pumpkin pie and ice cream as a definite plus. For the record, pumpkin pie is always a plus in my book. Gourd painting did turn out to be exciting, though; I met Casper! Casper is a gourd, that I oh-so-creatively painted a smiley face on. I nmed it Casper because of its resemblance to a ghost's shape. Casper the Friendly Gourd. See what I did there?

Casper the Friendly Gourd
Saturday was far more eventful. We lucked out and had amazing weather for our 5K; not a cloud in sight! We started in Battery Park - for those of you not from the Burlington area, it's down by the lake waterfront - went down a few streets I don't know the names of (directions are not my strong suit), walked up to and across Church Street, up Pearl Street, and back down to Battery Park. 

The View from Battery Park
A group of percussionists (loud drums and tambourines) led the walk for a while, all the way up to the end of Church Street. Normally, I would say following a bunch of drummers for that long would drive anyone crazy, but they had the perfect cadence not to be annoying. At any rate, they certainly got the attention of anyone in the area. On Church Street, people stopped to watch us, including those on a walk against animal cruelty (we may have temporarily overpowered Church Street). The anti animal cruelty people had a tiny pig walking with them that was really cute... we had several dogs that I really wanted to adopt. Even though they belonged to other people. 

Surprisingly, people would honk at us from their cars in support, and one woman even ran up to us to give us a monetary donation. Never having participated in a 5K cause walk before, this was light-years better than any reception I could have anticipated. I wasn't expecting to get tomatoes thrown at me, of course, I just didn't think we'd get such a wide show of support. 

While in Burlington, I ate lunch at Bruegger's, a place on Church Street that sells bagels, sandwiches, and coffee. I had an Asiago bagel with pastrami, Swiss, and egg, on it; I was stuffed afterwards and cost under $5! I've eaten there before; if you can manage the (somewhat fast) long line, it's definitely worth it.

I also found a farmer's market that I will hopefully have more about next weekend. It was huge and I did not have enough time to check it out properly.

Overall, a fun weekend was had by everyone. See you next week!

Friday, October 2, 2015

What I'm Doing

I was sitting in my room, enjoying my Pandora jazz station, when I realized I never posted last week! Sadly, last weekend was a staycation; sometimes you just have to stay home and write a paper. Therefore, this is my make-up post, about one of the groups I've been working with on campus: Active Minds!

 We are essentially a mental health advocacy group, but there is so much more to it than that! Tomorrow, we are participating in a 5K walk with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, near the waterfront in Burlington. It's going to be a bit chilly, but I'm psyched! In addition to the walk, I know we do a lot of anti-stress things during finals week; I'm not sure what else we'll be up to, since our planning meeting is next Tuesday. Speaking of which, I should probably mention we meet every other Tuesday from 8pm to 9pm. We also just did this really cool photo montage (that's probably the wrong word, but I have no idea what else to call it) with #ReasonsISpeak; check it out on our Active Minds at SMC Facebook page! If hyperlinks are scary for you, this video (also on the Facebook page) explains more about Active Minds:

I will be posting again later this weekend, because this time I do NOT have to have a staycation! Stay tuned for more about tonight's pumpkin-related activities and tomorrow's 5K! (Fortunately for you, I will not be regaling you with a play-by-play of Sunday's homework.)