Sunday, 24 October 2010

Viva Las Vegas.

Mount Holyoke is a very strange place. Put it this way: I've never lived anywhere where it's perfectly acceptable to wonder around in a sports bra and shorts. This was strange. What was stranger was that once Vegas Night rocked up it wandering round in underwear was somehow scandelously cool. I shall try to explain.

Last weekend was Vegas Night. Rumours about the party had been building and becoming slowly more and more insane as the weeks progressed. I heard it was the second biggest party on the Playboy College party list. I heard guys come from California. I heard they closed down two Emergency rooms to accomodate us. I heard last year someone let loose a lion... and so on and so forth. (Some of these rumours may or may not have been made up by me...)

So finally the night rocks round. And other than that the DJ was even worse than the ones we have, it was essentially like a glorified Club D type job. Except not in a school cafeteria, which I always think is part of the Derwent party charm. Same frenetic pre-drinking, same drunken revelry, same copious vomiting. (Not, I hasten to add on my part.) Same old same old. The main difference was that American men are very predatory. I'm sure we too have very predatory men, but I have never in England encountered men with such an inability to understand the word no. It's pretty crazy. 

The other thing I noticed was the inability of many of my colleages to hold their drink. I looked down my nose at them in a very British type way. I assume that it was because of America's ridiculously high drinking age. I say ridiculously high because realistically when all these kids leave their homes and go out into the big wide world there is no one to stop them drinking. No one is checking on them any longer, so whilst they can't legally go out and buy a drink, there really isn't anything stopping them drinking in general. They just haven't got the practice under their belts that we British have. And whilst I suppose their three-drink-and-then-they're-out is both cheaper and potentially better for their liver than my former house-mates' antics, I don't think it's hugely healthy either. And so the debate on legal drinking ages continues.

It was a lovely night though, but potentially one of those where the getting ready to go out, getting dressed up, taking pictures in our fancy dress outfits etc. was more fun than the night itself. Still we did have rather alot of fun. And I now have a fruitbowl filled with a feather boa, and really, who's life is complete without a bowlful of feathers?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

I was just thinking.

And while I know thinking is very dangerous, and I normally avoid it like the plague, today I feel like I should like to put my thinkings down in blogging form. Bear with me.

I was asked to write about my experiences at MHC to encourage others to apply for the exchange. This is what I came up with:

"The most amazing thing about being at Mount Holyoke, apart from the incredible variety of course options open to you, is the people you meet. The women at MHC are inspiring; they are amazingly broad minded, and honestly believe they can change the world. These are women who are going to make a difference, who work hard and play hard and who go out of their way to make foreign exchange students like myself feel at home within their community."

The strange thing about this, is that just 6 weeks ago I would have never written this. I would have written about the fantastic classes and amazing opportunities, and how good exchanges look on your C.V. Which made me think, because maybe I'm changing through being here. I'm already starting to think that maybe this summer I should do something more adult with my life. Maybe camp isn't the best place for me. Maybe it's time to set my sights higher. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

And anyway, this blog post wasn't really going to be about me. It was going to be about all the amazing people I met here. Because it's true. The classes are fun. But realistically, probably academically, while here we're worked harder, York is better, in terms of the teaching and resources. But while I love my friends from York, everyone here is so focused and driven. They all have big plans and big ideas. They prove to me over and over again, that little people can make big differences. They decide they want something and they go get it. It really is inspiring.

I can't really explain it better than that. They go out and do things; internships in the summers, working at cool places, doing exciting things. They organise events and run classes and generally just have the most amazing attitude to life. And while I'm sure there were plenty of people in York who had similar outlooks, they just didn't seem so out there. I didn't really hear of many people working in parliament, or hospitals, or wherever back home. Maybe it was just because I was tucked away in a little cocoon of camp-dom, and I didn't really look around me.

I quite like being a Mount Holyoke Woman. I like the sense of posibility it gives me. Like I can do anything I want to do. I can kind of understand why Rachel didn't want to leave here.

(But don't worry Yorkies. I'm a coming back. I promise. Just a new me. With bigger plans. Now just to figure out what those plans could be. How exciting.)

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


Midterms are strange things. They don't actually fall in the middle of the term, as I had expected, but rather are placed at random throughout the semester at the whim of the professor and sneak up on you in rather uncomfortable ways. 

An example of this is the mid-term paper I completed this very morning. I wrote 7 pages comapring two versions of "Cinderella". The strange thing about this paper is that my essay contained more than the two books I was writing about put together. But then the books had pictures and as we all know a picture contains a thousand words. But I digress. I knew this paper was coming up. I wrote it in my diary. I highlighted it. I thought about starting early. I went on a trip to the library. Yet somehow I was up at 2am with only 4 pages completed and no semblance of a conclusion. I just don't understand. 

To my mind the only good thing about these midterm thingums, is that it does bring the whole class together; everyone was panicing as one. Everytime I came across someone from my Children's Lit class on Campus we asked each other how the paper was going, and there was facebooking, and texting and library gatherings. In short we bonded over our mutual procrastination. 

The only other thing I have to add to this brief discussion of Midterms before I get back to the grindstone, is that my Old English professor has the best approach to them out of everyone. After lengthy debate over the best way to test ourselves mid-term, an agreement was come to that rather than one big paper, we should do 3 little papers each worth five percent. The best thing about this whole situation is that he's told us exactly which five lines he's asking what questions about. And he said we can substitute the grade with a better one if we write a response paper and get higher marks. He's lovely.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Notes from a very bad blogger.

I'm so sorry I haven't blogged more consistently. I am a very bad blogger. I have just been so busy and so much amazing stuff has been happening that I got behind, and then the pile of things to blog about started to look so insurmountable that I started putting it off. BUT NO MORE! Now Ellen shall be a super duper bloginator and blast through what she has been doing for the last 6 weeks.

1. Orientation
There really isn't too much to say about Orientation. I met some amazing people. I met some slightly crazy people. I got freaked out by the amount of time they wanted us to dedicate to talking to people we didn't know about how random things made us feel. I got frustrated about the fact that we spent THREE DAYS discussing racism, only to be told at the end that racism is a social construct and doesn't actually exist. (The racism debate is actually very prevalent here, it comes up in almost every class, it seems very strange to me. I am not sure if this is an American thing or just a here thing.)

2. Food, weather, and other housekeeping notes.
The food here is pretty amazing. I mean admittedly I'll eat anything, but there's lots of it so I'm happy. They also are big on local produce and recycling/composting and all that jazz, which is pretty snazzy really. My favourite part is that every 'school' night we get given M&Cs at 9.30. This usually consists of some kind of drink (milk) and some kind of baked good (cookies). Although sometimes they mix it up and give us crackers, or chips and dip, or carrots and humus or whatever. I think this is a genius idea. Another rather exciting development is that sometimes, and I have no idea about the frequency of this, but sometimes, Prospect serves a whole bunch of deserts on the same day. Which mean that I essentially had desert instead of two meals on one day. It. Was. Epic.

The weather is good. At risk of sounding British, I will elaborate, it manages to get all its raining done in a couple of days. Which means we have like 2-3 days of Old Testament style rain. And then no rain for a while. It's pretty fabby. However to deal with the ridiculously heavy rain when it does come I have purchased for myself the brightest, reddest, shiniest welly boots the world has ever seen. They are pretty intense. I am told I look adorable in them. I think I look like Paddington bear. In preparation for exciting weather to come I have also purchased fleece liners for said welly boots, so hopefully they will last me until I get my snow boots. I also today erm... loaned a tray from Torrey Grab-and-Go so that I can use it as a sled once the snow comes, because there is a great hill behind my dorm and I am excited!

My room is lovely. It's starting to feel like home; I have all my pictures up, and a whole bunch of 'lived-in' type mess. I have so many lovely people on my floor, which is super duper, and even more fantastic friends living on other floors in the same building. Also two of the other English foreign exchange girls live in the South side of the Dorm, which means they're in easy reaching distance when I feel in need of a good old English moaning session, or just a hug, or I just need to hear a real accent. They're such lovely girls too, I'm so glad they're here.

3. Classes
I'm taking some pretty marvy classes this semester. I'm really enjoying both my Children's Literature class and my Old English class, despite the fact that the professors are certifiably insane, and think we do nothing but their work. I'm also taking a French class, which makes me glad I'm not a French student, although it's going alright, and it's actually getting better. And a creative writing class. I'm really enjoying the creative writing class, but am spending more time than I probably should be doing work for it, mainly because it doesn't really feel much like work at all. The classes are less enjoyable, I think largely because 3 hours of anything starts to drag, although on saying that I don't find this a problem with either of my other 3 hour classes.

4. Other things that shouldn't count as classes but do
I'm also doing a variety of things that shouldn't count as classes but do. There are three of these. They are: Beginners Frisbee, Chorale and Orchestra. My beginners frisbee class is possibly my favourite thing ever! I get to spend two hours a week running after a disk, and stomping on the poor girl who I am supposed to be marking. Those of you who have seen me play frisbee before, or indeed know me to any degree at all, are probably aware that I lack the co-ordination to be near other people when flying objects are involved. Still she bears my crashing into her, standing on her toes, whacking her in the face etc. with very good grace. Chorale is great fun. We get to sing pretty songs, learn about music type stuff as well as less music type things, including the Charlie Brown dances, and give each other massages. It's pretty snazy. I'm also in Orchestra. Despite a truly abysmal audition where I refused to play scales or arpeggios, I am still second clarinet (albeit of two) and have an official type board position. I am the Librarian, which makes me sound more important that I am, thus far I have only had to turn up to board meetings.

5. Mountain Day.
It is an MHC tradition to take a day off in late September to go climb a mountain. This is a truly ridiculous idea, and therefore also the best thing that has ever happened. They do not tell you when this happy day is going to be, and they ring the bells super loud, send emails, and put posters up at some un-Godly hour in the morning to let you know it has arrived. Following this you go back to bed. Only to be woken up by an over enthusiastic friend who comes bounding into your room at 8 to as you to come climb a mountain. You then tell her politely but firmly where to stick it. Then you wake up at a more sensible time (read - post noon) get dressed, climb the smallest mountain known to man, take pictures, see all your friends, shake hands with the president, eat ice-cream, and go back down the mountian. The rest of the day is spent pretending to do work. Safe to say. Best. Day. EVER.

6. Elfing
Mountain day was pretty fantastic. But was not my favourite MHC tradition to date. This is because there is a magical mystical thing named Elfing. Essentially it is like Christmas. FOR A WHOLE WEEK! It is the best thing since sliced cheese. Now usually foreign exchange students do not get Elfed. Because we are big and old and sensible. But luckily I have rather fantabulous friends in the Senior Class who recognised that I am neither big, nor grown-up, nor sensible, and I got Elfed hard core. Which meant that I found that I had been barricaded into my room with newspaper one night, and that my entire HALL had been covered with posters declaring how amazing I am, also given candy. Then the following day I was given Disney Princess frisbee disks and a paint-by-numbers and a crown made of pipe cleaners. Then the next day I got bubbles and animal stickers. I was supposed to find out who Elfed me at M&Cs on the Friday, and I waited and waited but my elf didn't show. When I finally got to my room, en-saddened by not finding out who she was, I discovered a sun catcher, and a note saying I'd meet her at the Senior Pub night. So I ran off direction pub night, where I pestered my poor beleaguered frisbee friend in my excitement. I FINALLY found out who my Elf was and I was a very happy bunny all night. And I had fairy wings. Which made all the difference.

7. Other exciting adventures.
What follows are several adventures I went on with my rather lovely friend from frisbee, one adventure I went on with half of my rather lovely Elf-team, and a rooftop adventure.

So my fantastic frisbee friend is rather amazing for a whole bunch of reasons, but one of them is that she takes me on rather excitable American-type adventures. For example, a couple of weeks ago we went on a trip to the Belchertown Town Fair. For those of you unaccustomed with the term 'Town Fair' I shall endeavour to explain. If you are from Holland it is basically a 'kermis'. If you are from the Guildford area think a cross between the County Fair and the fairground on Stoke Park on bonfire night. If you are from neither of these places there were rides, and toffee apples, and various local organisations had little stall things, and there was food, and there were little games like at a May Fayre, and during the day I guess there were animals and things, and there was a hypnotist, and a band, and a whole lotta teenagers. Mainly my experience of the 153rd Belchertown Town Fair involved eating vast quantities of food and people watching. We also played various games. I like to think it was a very American adventure. Please don't correct me of this delusion.

Another pretty fabby thing about frisbee friend is that she has the cutest kitten in the world. He is very teeny tiny, and all white and he has one brown eye and one blue eye and he is ADORABLE. He has a little mousey thingy that he plays fetch with like a little puppy. But he's a cat. I think that's kinda cool. He has sharp little claws though. But he's so cute that I am inclined to blame my own incompetances for the scratches I ended up with after playing with him. He was also scared of one of his little stuffed mouse toys. I think I could become a cat person yet. Maybe one day I will become a mad old cat lady, and just sit indoors surrounded by thousands of cats, and no one would miss me until they tried to cut off the heat and found cats all over my decaying body. Or something like that.

Another adventure we went on, in(ish) Fall Break, was to Quabbin Reservoir, which was exciting. It's basically this HUGE lake with lots of pretty trees and wild life and such, and it holds water for Boston and the surrounding areas. It's pretty interesting because they had to flood a bunch of towns to make space for the reservoir. The really fun part about the whole thing was that I got to try American Cider, which is different to English Cider, because it's non-alcoholic, and it has Cinnamon or something in and it's pressed differently. No one can tell me exactly what the difference is between Apple Cider and Apple Juice, but it tastes different. It's a big fall drink here, and in the cafes around campus you can get hot apple cider which I've yet to try. Mainly because I really like the chai they do here. Yum. We also had cider donuts, which were pretty good. I'm not the hugest fan of donuts, but you know me, I'll eat prettttty much anything.

The other exciting thing I did during fall break was an adventure to Northampton. Because it was Columbus Day the direct bus wasn't running so we had to switch buses in Amherst, which was actually a blessing in disguise because it meant we got to have an impromptu picnic feast, which involved buying local cheeses and bread and apples and maple cream, and eating it on the grass in the sun. It was lovely. Then we merrily went on our way and onto the next bus which took us to Noho, as a real Moho (Mount Holyoke Student) calls it. There I bought fleece lined tights, which I find probably more exciting than I should, and snacks, and a pair of jeans and a really nice new shirt dress. So overall a pretty successful day. We ended up chasing the bus half way through Northampton to get home, but it was good we did because it meant that we got off the bus in Amherst and just got right on the next bus.

The only other thing I did during Fall Break that wasn't writing excessive amounts of essays/papers, was an excitable venture onto the roof of our building. I was actually sat in bed writing my french paper when I heard someone calling my name, perplexed I looked out of the window, to discover that there were two people on the roof. They came to collect me from my pit of death (as I called my essay writing horizontal filing method - read papers ALL OVER THE FLOOR) and took me to the roof where I partook in cookie dough and frivolities. Excitement all round.

And here endeth my blog post of three months of everything squished into three pages of my rambling. If you made it to the end without skipping bits you may eat a cookie.
Until next time my friends.

P.S. I plan to keep this up to date from now on so I don't have to write a novel again.