Archives by Month: January 2012

All Play and No Work

JanPlan is a time for the young, creative minds at Colby to pursue personal interests in an intellectual environment which most college age students do not get to experience. Colby’s website states that JanPlan provides “students opportunities to experiment outside of their major or to tackle a special challenge or focused research within their major”. Many kids go abroad, helping the underprivileged, learning a new language, or just absorbing a culture different from their own. Other students partake in internships at hospitals or schools. An EMT course is even offered on campus. All of these activities are wonderful ways to serve others and do something meaningful for a variety of communities.

I, on the other hand, have not done much of anything for anyone off campus all January. I attended social events such as game night with a dozen people from my dorm, or simply hungout with my friends. And the most important thing that my particular young, creative mind learned was not to trust shampoo bought by friends that stains your hands red… For nearly two weeks I was washing my hair with shampoo spiked with 13 packets of Kool-Aid that made me feel like Lady Macbeth every time I stepped out of the shower.

While I certainly want to study abroad and ideally get a job that directly serves other people, I have no problem with staying on campus and taking part in seemingly self-centered activities. After all, going to school is an inherently self-serving activity. Any and every student is receiving huge amounts of academic and non-academic knowledge, and giving back little in comparison. During JanPlan however, when academics is not so stressful and time consuming, things like game night, midnight sledding, and practical jokes serve an important personal and communal role at Colby. These seemingly small, and some may argue wasted, activities will stay with me and build a social foundation for my future at Colby. All of the memories made at Colby during these non-academic oriented times, by the hundreds of people on campus, are individual threads in the social fabric of the Colby community.

Second semester doesn’t begin until next Wednesday so I will be departing for home (Boston) with a few friends later today. This short break at the end of January is just another awesome result of having JanPlan at Colby. After going on this brief hiatus from The Hill, I am hoping that the academics of second semester won’t inhibit the students here from serving themselves, their peers, and the world at large.

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Diurnality is Overrated. Go Nocturnal! At Least During Jan Plan…

I’ve been thinking a lot about culture lately. It’s one of those things that is always on my mind because, while an abstraction, it’s everywhere. Culture is what weaves humanity together, yet there are so many different strands of it—all changing and in crisis at different times. Along these lines, I think it’s interesting to try to think about the many different strands of culture of which you’re an element—how these strands change but still keep the whole in tact.

Jan Plan has its own culture; it is its own strand of the Colby cultural fabric; yet, during the month of January, it seems as if it becomes the whole culture itself, easily consuming or exacerbating the former elements of a person’s college existence. Routines are part of what makes someone an active participant in certain strands of culture, yet Jan Plan seems to have shaken up most of my routines. It feels as if I’ve almost inadvertently created a new cultural environment for myself, solely by changing my routines. For example, winter break definitely turned me into a nocturnal creature, and Jan Plan has not squashed that part of my being. I was always a night owl, but I definitely try to avoid that sleep cycle during the fall and spring semesters, and instead try to operate in concert with the hours of a normal human being (i.e. I try to avoid sleeping past noon). But since my class doesn’t start until 1:00, I’ve spent most of this Jan Plan becoming even more of a night owl than I’d like. Sure, there are pluses to this. Jan Plan is somewhat less homework intensive during certain points of the “term,” so I might as well do the work that I do have at the hours during which I am most productive.

More interestingly, since my hours are different, I’ve been doing the same things at later and later times. The sociologist in me finds this very intriguing—different people, different scenes, lively or less lively environments in new places, and all for me to analyze. Knowing the nature of campus hot spots at different points in time has been quite useful. For instance, my friends and I have found that it is best to work on perfecting our pool skills somewhat earlier in the evening rather than later; fewer skilled players, then, will be able to witness the occasional ball fly off the table when we play doubles. Unfortunately, Jan Plan ends in four days, and soon I will resume life as a normal, diurnal human being. Here’s to hoping these last few days yield many more nighttime discoveries.

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Snow!

Weirdly enough, it didn’t really start snowing until this January. Oh sure, it snowed a few times on Halloween and Thanksgiving. It didn’t really “count” though when the snow was all melted away. Much to our mild confusion, Colby was a snow-free campus during December.

Now the snow is back and all the inconvenient things that comes with it. I personally am not a huge fan of snow. It looks nice for pictures but the leftover muddy mess is not worth it. In Colby, there are trucks that are constantly paving paths throughout the snow. And while the trucks obviously can’t cover anything, I will say this: Colby is one of the perfect places to enjoy snow. After all, we Colby students are lucky enough to not have to shovel it ourselves.

So I’ve a few pictures here to show what Colby looks like during snowtime. I’ve been obsessed with the Android app Pixlr-o-matic (it’s basically Not!Instagram) so that should explain why all the weird effects on these pictures. Come visit Colby when it’s snowing, it’s beautiful here :) .

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Red Eye!

Hey all,

This week I want to share with you the film that won “best overall picture” in Colby’s Red Eye Film Festival last weekend.  The fact that I appear (briefly) in this film has nothing to do whatsoever with why I’m showing it to you.  

For those who don’t know, Red Eye Film Festivals are a little crazy. Known simply as “Red Eye” at Colby, the festival is an annual event. The whole thing lasts a mere 24 hours, in which people compete to make the best movie. The different groups are assigned a genre, a prop, a location, and several lines that must appear in their movie.  It’s quite the frenzy of writing, acting, filming, and editing, but it could be seen at the screening of all the Red Eye films that everyone came up with some great stuff.

 So, props to everyone who participated, and especially to Sonia Vargas, Charlie Dupee, and Nate Eames - creators of the winning film ”Flicker”!

Here’s the link to “Flicker”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mVxhm-RwWk

The other films made in this year’s Red Eye are also available on youtube.com

Have a great weekend

Alice H.

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“Mwenye” – Friends

Call me crazy, but before returning to Uganda this January, I was arguably more apprehensive about being immersed in a group of new white kids my own age than I was about being halfway around the world in a different culture and stressful setting. I had spent a month at the Nyakibale Hospital last June and knew that I would be returning to friendships formed with the people there, but this time I would be going on the trip with an entirely new group of students and knew that I would have to focus on establishing new friendships and working relationships with them. IECM (The Initiative to End Childhood Malnutrition) is a collaboration between Mass General Hospital and the Harvard Global Health Initiative. Therefore, the students on the trip are all students from Harvard; they had all met each other through IECM or knew each other from some other context. On that first day when we met at the airport they were all chattering excitedly about the trip , asking questions about family or friends, and catching up on events over break, while all I could do was learn names, think of ways to match them to faces, and introduce myself over and over. Fortunately, my twin sister Kristina, who is one of the coordinators of the program, did an amazing job of introducing me to everyone, but I was still apprehensive about being the odd one out.

Now, as we enter the last week here at Nyakibale, I realize how much the friendships that I have forged with this group of 14 have added to my experience in Uganda. Granted, for a non-Harvard student I now have a wealth of inside information that I will never really be able to use (I can tell you about HUPD, UHS, FOP, housing/blocking life, etc…) but maybe it’s the anthropologist in me that thrives on asking questions and wanting to know more about their college experiences, because I have loved learning about their lives! Marjorie and I , on our runs, have shared our outdoor trip experiences (Harvard’s counterpart to our COOT is FOP—Freshman Orientation Program), I’ve heard all about Maeve’s ingenious ways to obtain free essentials from Harvard Health Services, and have discussed thoughts and concerns with Natalie about the pressures and joys of collegiate athletics. The experiences we have shared here–sad and trying and amazing and profound—are hard to articulate but have undeniably deepened our friendships, and I would like to think that just as I have felt immersed in their lives, they likewise feel like they have become a part of mine. Although we have only spent three weeks together, I truly feel as though I could ask any of them for help or advice and would get an honest and open response.

With respect to my Ugandan friends, I couldn’t WAIT to see various members of the staff that Kristina and I had forged friendships with over the summer. When JB, one of the clinical officers, showed up at our house that first morning after our arrival, we were ecstatic and eager to catch up on the events of the past seven months, including the birth of his baby girl! Our friendships with two of the nursing students we had gotten to know in June, Christine and Mukasa, have deepened and become much more open, and we spent time discussing their plans for their lives after nursing school and their goals for the future. Every time we came across one of the nurses we had met last summer, we were happy to stop and catch up or say hi, feeling more and more at home and at ease in a country that, by all accounts should feel incredibly foreign for us.

With 4 days left, I am realizing how sad I will be to leave both my Ugandan friends and this great group of Harvard kids. As we finished our Ryunkore lesson from Mukasa and Christine last night, they told us that they would send us a letter in Ryunkore by e-mail that we would have to translate by the time we got home. Even though their access to Internet is sporadic, we know that the few Facebook posts or pictures we get from them will carry us through until we see each other again. As for the Harvard crew, we have already made plans to see each other when I am down in Boston and to have an IECM reunion, and everyone knows without saying, that this group will keep in touch. My memories of this trip will be vivid and intense and infused with the faces of my friends, from Uganda and from Harvard, who have taught me and shared with me and become my friends.

JB and baby, "Lynne"

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Jan Plan Progress Report

For most people, Jan Plan is a one blissful month of relaxation and bliss. Most people only have a couple hours of class and the rest of the day to hang out, party, or fall asleep in front of the computer. When I chose my “Hell on Earth” Jan Plan, I didn’t realize how much work the class would be.

First off, let me say that the actual course “Hell on Earth: Chinese Writers on Modern Society” is a good one. Professor Besio is a very compelling and demonstrates enthusiasm for the subject, enthusiasm that can’t help but rub off on the class. I have taken a couple courses in Chinese history but was unaware of the booming literary culture during the late 1800s/early 1900s. I’m happy to have chosen this course and I am learning a lot from it.

However, after losing the second weekend in a row due to a paper, I can’t help but feel a little burn out. Most of my thoughts revolve solely on “finishing the readings” or “working on a paper”. We don’t have a paper due this weekend, but I can’t help but feel I should spend this weekend preparing for our final paper due Friday. As a student, I should expect to fully immerse myself in the world of academia. But while I realize how lucky and privileged I am to be here, I can’t help but feel a sense of tedium overtake my life.

The lesson here is to be careful when you pick a Jan Plan class. If you pick a Jan Plan that is going to be intense, please be prepared to devote the entire month to schoolwork. Because there is no essay due this weekend, I hope I’ll be able to enjoy a bit more of Jan Plan this week. And if not, there is always Spring Break.

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On-Campus Exploration

I’ve done a lot of exploring lately. By this, I don’t really mean physical expeditions (the fact that I am afraid of driving generally limits my opportunities to escape the “Colby bubble” unless I do so as a passenger in another person’s vehicle), but more explorations of my interests and such. Over the course of the fall semester, and especially during Jan Plan, I’ve gone to a lot of the events related to Judaism on campus, for example. At first, this was really just a product of my decision to be a supportive friend and attend events that my friends wanted to go to in return for their attendance at some of the scholarly lectures to which I’ve dragged them along. In the fall, one of my friends took a course on Jewish theology, so I ended up attending a few of the Jewish department’s events.

This Jan Plan, my exploration of Judaism continues. Another one of my friends is taking a class related to Judaism, which gave me an opportunity to attend a Shabbat lunch last week. The Shabbat lunch was my favorite Jewish event that I’ve been to so far; my friends and I all found it very relaxing. I’m not the type of person who likes to take a lot of time to unwind, but the Shabbat meal felt like the perfect amount of time to fit in some relaxation, and it was great opportunity for reflection. I tried to go to the Shabbat lunch again today, having enjoyed it the last time. However, I was having one of those days where I thought it was Saturday when it was actually Friday, so I didn’t end up going because I thought these lunches were always on Saturdays. It turns out that this week’s Shabbat was actually on a Friday, so I could have attended! This shows me that I definitely have a lot more to learn about the religion if I am going to continue to attend these events. Perhaps I will follow my friends’ leads and take a Jewish Studies course during my time at Colby. I think my next exploration will be of the Colby Course Catalog!

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The thrill of the chase

My eyes are peeled, muscles tensed, and I’m ready to run. It’s war – humans versus zombies!

I am partaking in the incredibly exciting (and silly) campus-wide game of Zombie. The pretext of the game is for “zombies” to tag “humans” to make a zombie army, and humans to avoid at all cost becoming a zombie.

Unfortunately, I became a zombie early in the game (it was terrifying. A zombie hiding in the shadows lunged at me and grabbed my ankle as I walked unsuspectingly into my dorm). Still, I’ve actually been finding it more fun to be a zombie than a human.

Humans playing the game wear red ribbons around their arms, so I’ve been staring intently at people’s arms as I walk about campus, looking for glimpses of red. There’s a lot of strategy involved in the game - you’ve got to know when to go for a surprise attack and when to chase them down. Multiple zombies will often gang up on one human, some working to distract the human while another zombie will go in for the tag.

Some people take the game very seriously – one human I know avoids coming out of his room at all costs, skipping meals at the dinning hall and only leaving safety to attend class. Yesterday evening I chased a kid the whole way across the quad in a dead-out sprint until he hit me with a sock (humans can “stun” zombies with socks or Nerf guns to take away their tagging powers for ten minutes).

Whether you’re intensely committed to the game or just in it for a laugh, routine takes on a whole new level of challenge. A simple walk to the student center can be a matter of life or zombie. It’s just the sort of thing to put a little uncertainty, a little fun into each day.

Play on,

Alice H

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A Snowcovered Hill

JanPlan has begun and so has the Maine winter. While the cold sucks, JanPlan has been awesome and my room has been warm. So thus far, the winter at Colby has been a positive experience.

I am taking Anthropology of Utopias this month. It is a two hour class, which sounds tough to get through, but the professor does a great job at shifting activities within class. For instance, yesterday we reviewed some of Rousseau’s ideas about man, had a discussion about it, watched part of a movie, and ended class discussing Thomas More’s Utopia. My class is not as work intensive as some other JanPlan offerings so I have tons of time to do whatever I want. My time has primarily been spent between playing Fifa, going to the athletic center for soccer, and going to Bobs.

Outside of these everyday activities there are great opportunities to ski or snowboard on the weekends. With the huge amount of people going every weekend it’s easy to find a ride for a day trip or weekend trip to any of the nearby skiing and snowboarding locations in Maine. The snow has finally started to accumulate, so I will hopefully be bringing out my snow tube for the first time later today. I don’t know how heavy the snow is, but a snowball fight may be in order at some point in the next few days as well.

The ice on Johnson Pond is finally thick enough to go out on too, providing some much needed outdoor activities during JanPlan. Myself and many other students are taking advantage of this particular benefit of the Maine winter. I live in East Quad, which means that Johnson Pond is just a few steps away. I don’t personally have skates or much skating ability, so I have contented myself to shuffling around the ice trying somewhat unsuccessfully to stay on my feet. Even though I’m sprawled out on the ice nearly as much as I’m standing up, I am nevertheless enjoying myself. And everyone else seems to be enjoying themselves as well; there’s a constant pond hockey game throughout the day and a steady flow of other people skating and walking on the ice.

Despite what is often said about frigid, dark Colby winters I have been perfectly content in the cold New England winter. And as long as the heat in my dorm stays on I don’t see my disposition changing too much.

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Agandi!

Agandi (hello) from Uganda!

I am writing to you from the Rukungiri District in the rural southwest corner of Uganda (hence the sporadic internet and blog posts!), where I am spending my JanPlan working with severely malnourished children at Nyakibale Hospital. As you might imagine, the language barrier is significant; while the nurses at the hospital speak some English, the families we interact with at the hospital and in the communities speak Ryunkore, and there is no question that our attempts to communicate with smiles, waves, hand gestures are sometimes the highlights of our days, especially when we successfully bridge the culture and language barriers with our efforts. Today, however, Kristina and I broke through the communication barrier not by using words or motions, but by the simple and magical power of bubbles.

Weekends still mean quite a lot of work for IECM (Initiative to End Child Malnutrition), but with five of our team members out on safari for the day and scattered thunderstorms forcing us inside, my twin sister Kristina and I spent some time after lunch with the kids on the pediatric ward. After checking in with the nurses and looking at charts to see how the three new kids we brought in from outreach were doing, Kristina pulled out the pink bottle of bubbles. Instantly, there were at least twenty pairs of tiny, beautiful and hopeful eyes staring back at her in anticipation. There was definitely a moment of hesitation as she blew the first bubbles, and we honestly were not sure of the reaction that we would get. Quickly though, one little girl rushed forward, popped the largest bubble, gave us one of the best smiles and giggle that we could hope for, and then retreated. With that little ice breaker, we were instantly surrounded by several of the older patients and we walked around to all of the younger ones, our hearts lifting with every smile that we saw. Within ten minutes, the children were blowing bubbles with our help, and even the mothers were laughing and bringing their babies closer! The room was filled with an air of excitement, happiness and laughter in which we, both “Muzungus” (white people) and the patients and their families, were interacting on the same level. As we packed the bubbles away, Kristina and I were thankful that we were able to bring a little joy and fun to the families on the ward but understood that, on a deeper level, we had attained a new level of connection and comfort with the patients and their families. There is so much sadness in the work that we do here that the smiles today brought me the needed energy and inspiration to keep trying to bridge differences, trying to help, trying to make a difference.

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