Spring Break Adventures! (Part 3: On the road)

Even though we had two stretches of major driving (three if you count the drive from Allegheny to Rochester), I felt like the best way to write it all down would just be to keep it in a single post.

Like I said, the first stretch of road for our crew of vagabonds was actually from Meadville to Rochester, and there isn’t too much to say about that one. My friends Milton and Till fell asleep within maybe 20 minutes of the drive, which left my friend Bolan and I to sit up front and talk for the majority of the trip. We listened to music and talked about school and how we thought the trip was going to go, and the time passed quickly for most of the ride.

Our second stretch was from Rochester to Omaha, but it was broken up with a drive from Rochester to Erie to pick up our friend Rose. We left on Tuesday afternoon, music blasting and ready to get started. I had the drive until Toledo, so I drank two cups of coffee and a Starbucks doubleshot before heading out. More of the same, until Erie–singing, talking, sleeping for those in the backseat (rule no. 1 for the passenger seat: NO SLEEPING ALLOWED!). We got to Erie around 10pm, hung out at Rose’s house to drink more coffee and chill with her cats and her mom, and then got back on the road. Night driving is a little different when you know you’ve got a long way to go. My total drive was around 8 hours, but there were a couple of stops along the way for gas, so it wasn’t entirely Mad Max mode.

The drive from Erie to Toledo was dark, but also pretty beautiful. We went over a few bridges and drove by a lot of small cities and towns with gorgeous lights. I quite liked the drive, actually. Around the third fill-up for gas, I decided I’d had enough for the night and gave the wheel over to Till. He and Milton took the front seat, while Bolan and I swapped to the back (Rose couldn’t drive, so she spent most of her drive in the backseat until halfway home when we realized that she couldn’t sleep in cars which made her the perfect passenger seat candidate).

The driving schedule we had originally set up wasn’t really what happened. We had people who needed to sleep, people with aching legs, and people who weren’t the best at passenger seat driving, which meant quite a bit of rotation. One thing a person learns while driving through the midwest: IOWA IS THE BIGGEST STATE IN THE WORLD. Or at least it feels like it. We stopped four or five times and still weren’t out of Iowa, and at that point we were pretty sure it wasn’t actually a state but a giant black hole summoned to kill us all.

The sunset was gorgeous that morning.
The sunrise was gorgeous that morning.

We drove into Nebraska around 4am, and it was a foggy morning. Everything felt like a baby blue-grey. There was no corn, because it was March and cold outside, but there were plenty of fields where you knew it grew in the summer. People aren’t joking about the West–it’s flat. The highway into Omaha started to feel like it was in front of a Flintstones background, just repeating the same scenery over and over again, hoping we wouldn’t notice. It was pretty beautiful, in a way.

The way home was much of the same, only we started the drive in the rain. Something about being in a car in the rain is very comforting to me, especially at night. It wasn’t really night, but the sun wasn’t anywhere near up by then so I still count it as night. About three hours into the drive, the entire backseat had been asleep (myself included), and Till leaned over and whispered in my ear, “wouldn’t it be cool if we could like, get some breakfast?” The whole point of the driving system we had was to keep ourselves from stopping for more than about 15 minutes. But the second he mentioned breakfast my stomach started growling and I had no interest in feasting on the granola bars we had stored in the backseat. Half an hour later we pulled into the parking lot of a Perkins.

I think my favorite rest stop of the whole journey was in Iowa (because, where else?). It was writer’s themed, with names of relatively famous published Iowan authors. It was really cool, because I even found one name with the genre, “general nonfiction,” which is the closest I saw to my major (creative nonfiction). It was almost like nonfiction writers mattered for a second!

Look! A nonfictioneer!
Look! A nonfictioneer!

We drove by a lot that I wish we could have seen, but we were on a time crunch. Should I take this drive again with more time to lose, I’d definitely want to stop at the Creation Museum, the World’s Largest Truck Stop, and even the Museum of RV’s and Campers. Yes, those are all real things we saw on our way to and from Omaha.

I love taking long trips with friends. You cram yourselves in a metal box with wheels for hours on end and your only respite from one another is the hope that the driver will play some decent music. You really get to know one another, in a way that siblings find themselves forced to love one another. Each of these people were friends of mine before the journey, but we grew in closeness over this adventure and I’m not about to forget it. I’ve got a lot more meditation to do on this experience, that’s for sure. But I wanted to share as many of the best parts as I possibly could.

Spring Break Adventures! (Part 2: Nebraska!)

This has been a very long month and I can’t give my personal reasons as to why I haven’t been posting, but I’ve definitely missed the writing. I hope you’ll forgive me!

 

I didn’t want to post the Nebraska part of our trip until I got ahold of the video of my friends performing a song they wrote about the trip, but it’s on my friend’s phone, which went MIA about two days after my last post. There is still much to be told!

We ended up arriving in Omaha, NE about 7 hours earlier than our friend’s aunt was expecting us. A miscommunication, possibly due to the time changes and possibly due to the lack of sleep the drive had caused us (but more on that in the next post!). She opened the door to the five of us standing on the porch, she welcomed us in and quickly invited us to sit down and hang out with the dog and her grandson, Ollie. This woman was so kind to us. We showed up hours before we were supposed to and she fed us within 20 minutes of our arrival. We spent the rest of the day hanging around and getting to know the city a little better, our friend’s cousin taking us out on the town later that night.

That was an interesting adventure, given that it was a Wednesday night in downtown Omaha, a city with the most restaurants per capita, but one also with many bars which do not allow minors (who made up 4/6 of our crowd) to enter. It was colder than anticipated and the wind was out of control, so we quickly found a bar that would house the five of us while the Nebraskan among us got his car to take us back to the house. While we were in the bar, a waitress came over and asked if she could make us some mocktails, which we were not about to say no to. She was really creative about the whole thing–everything was delicious.

A photo of a sloth I snapped for my friend Conner at the zoo.

I’m kind of upset, because the trip was a month ago and I know I’m forgetting a lot. We took a trip to the Omaha zoo, which is apparently the 6th best-ranked zoo in the world. It was incredible. A lot of the park was under construction, but it featured an aquarium, a desert dome, a walk-in rainforest area. and an African safari sky-lift which was under construction at the time but looked super cool. We spent some more time with Ollie, and then headed back for a game of soccer and some Omaha steak and corn.

What I remember most about this leg of the trip was the music we played together and the kindness of our hosts. I spent one night sitting on the floor with my friend’s aunt, my friend Rose (the only other female on the trip), and a cat who was rumored to only ever take to women in a house which had once been filled with four men and one woman. The three of us talked about femininity and motherhood and women’s place in society, and things got more personal as we discussed more intimate things about ourselves… I found so much comfort in that moment. I’m incredibly grateful for the generosity that was shown to us.

Early Saturday morning, we packed up our things and headed back on the road–this time only 16 hours back to Meadville (rather than the 18 it took us to get from Rochester to Omaha). We drank some coffee, hugged our host and thanked her for everything their family offered us over the past week, and got back onto the highway in pouring rain, getting started before the sun.

 

…the saga will continue in my next post, part 3: On The Road!

Democracy Awakening

I’ve been meaning to write about this on my blog since I got back twelve days ago, but with the end of semester rush to get work done and see friends before we all leave for the summer, I haven’t found the time. I did write about my experience in an opinion piece for the Campus, my third one this semester, but I wanted to write something more casual on here.

I was fortunate enough to go to this awesome protest two weekends ago in Washington, DC with a couple of other Allegheny students. We spend two days listening to speakers and talking with other activists about corporate influence in politics and capitalist oppression. I left feeling so gratified and so empowered to take this work back to the Allegheny community (and super sun-burnt). But, as often happens after leaving these big rallies, things sort of fall through the cracks and the work tends to fall to the wayside as more pressing things happen.

But back to the weekend. We left campus Friday night around 6, and with stopping for dinner and dropping one of our classmates off at her friends place, we arrived at 1 am at the church we were staying at in DC. The church had to kick us out at 7 am every morning because it needed to be used for other things, and our wake-up call was at 6 am, so we didn’t sleep very much that first night.

Saturday morning we went for breakfast and the National Zoo before the events started. The first day involved an opening speech or call to action, and then a couple of panels on different topics pertaining to democracy. I went to one on the fight for DC to become the 51st state, and another on voting rights for ex-prisioners. Then there was another call to action talk before breakout sessions for individual states (or groups of states), to see what action we could take locally. After the talks, we had this great Cuban food for dinner, where we shared the table with a couple of other people from the conference/protest/rally, and went to bed as soon as possible!

Sunday morning, we got breakfast and spent a couple of hours at the White House: walking around it, taking pictures, and trying to find our other Allegheny cohorts. Then we walked over to Dupont circle and a farmer’s market there before heading to the main event: the rally and march. The rally was in front of the Capitol building and lasted roughly two hours. We heard a member of the Federal Election Commission and the president of the NAACP speak, among other. Everyone was really passionate and there were a lot of really cool protest signs. Then we marched past multiple the Capitol, Congressional office buildings, the Supreme Court, and ended at Union Station. There were other rallies and a massive sit-in on Monday, but we had to get back to Campus. We left Washington DC around 6, stopped for dinner and gas, and got back to Allegheny around 1 am Monday morning.

Anyways, if you want to read my piece for the Campus on this same subject, here’s the link: http://alleghenycampus.com/13275/opinion/allegheny-student-protests-in-democracy-awakening/

This is what democracy looks like.
This is what democracy looks like.
Me at the White House! My future home maybe?
Me at the White House! My future home maybe?

We Don’t know, What We Don’t Know

“You don’t know what you don’t know.” That’s what my Dad told me at one point growing up. Probably when I was being a know it all teenager, but I am sure that he has had cause to say it more than once.

The truth of the statement is undeniable by design, its like saying we know nothing about a planet we haven’t discovered yet. However, being the knowledgeable college sophomore I am, I have started thinking that I know what I’m doing for the most part.

Now, that being said, I know there are things I don’t know and I am sure that there are things I will learn that I cannot even think of yet, but as far as the basics of life, I thought I had it under control. I know how to cook a little, I can do laundry, I know how to get school work done, and I have been pretty self-sufficient in selecting classes and working on-campus. A few weeks ago though, I learned I was wrong.

It was right before conference championships for swimming and I woke up with a bit of an ear ache. During our training trip in Florida, I had had “swimmers ear,” a mild infection of the inner ear, in both ears. Not wanting a repeat of training trip, I took a walk down to the campus health center.

I left with a bottle of antibiotics. Sitting in my dorm room though I started looking at the bottle. I had never heard of the antibiotic they gave me so I decided to be the mature college student I was and Google it so see if there were any side-affects I should know about. Just a tip, but never do this. After looking through the potential side-effects, I decided I was either going to die immediately or my ears were going to fall off.

There are so many differing opinions on everything when it comes to medicine online, and I was a little freaked out. So I did what any mature adult would do, I called my Mom.

She is registered nurse who works for the county health department and she told me there was nothing to worry about, that it was a common antibiotic. I felt better. We fell to talking and while I had her on the phone, I asked some basic questions, how are you, how is work, how are the dogs, by the way is my winter coat machine washable?

It went on like that. “Mom, how do I change the windshield wipers on my car? Mom, if I lose my license what do I do? No, it hasn’t happened, but it could!”

After I hung up, I realized that maybe I didn’t have all the answers just yet. Luckily my Mom always has her cell phone and willing to answer my dumb questions about how to be an “adult.”

In short, I just wanted to say, thanks Mom.

Mississippi Burning

I’m back at it again with another opinion piece in our school newspaper, The Campus. This week, I wrote about the horrifying new law in Mississippi that is oppressive of LGBTQ+ rights and is a human rights violation in itself. It was published on Friday, which is when The Campus comes out every week.

This law and others like it (such as the North Carolina one, which I wrote about in my last blog post) are making life hell on earth for LGBTQ+ people in the Southern United States. It’s terrifying to think that while gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, so many other rights can be and are being stripped away. You can still be fired for being gay, kicked out of your home, denied medical attention, and face a variety of other penalties for being yourself.

I’ve really enjoyed writing these opinion pieces for The Campus. I’m working on another one for this week about some protests I’ve attended in Washington DC. I’ve missed working on the journalist format, and it’s been nice to get back to that in some way. Also, I just like having another format to publish my writing! I do so much academic writing that nobody ever reads that it’s nice to feel like my writing matters, like my voice is being heard.

I think that LGBTQ+ issues are so important to write about, because the work isn’t done. Marriage equality in all 50 states is great, sure, but there’s a lot more ground for equality that needs to be covered. We need protection for workers so they can’t be fired from their employers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We need protection for those same people from being kicked out of one’s housing, from being denied medical care, from being denied the right to use the bathroom of one’s choice. This type of discrimination and oppression needs to be talked about more and I won’t stop writing about these issues until these types of laws don’t exist.

Anyways, if you’re interested, you can read the piece online! Here’s the link: http://alleghenycampus.com/13207/opinion/when-religious-protection-and-personal-liberty-collide/

North Carolina and Trans Rights

This past Friday, I had my first opinion piece published in The Campus, our school newspaper. I was thrilled! It is about the recent legislation in North Carolina that has celebrities canceling concerts, major companies refusing to do business there, and generally receiving big heaping pile of well-deserved backlash.

What’s the law about, you say? Well, the state legislature passed a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance that effectively overrides any local nondiscrimination measures and protects against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, nationality and biological sex—but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

The biggest problem is that because gender identity isn’t protected, transgender people are being forced to use bathrooms according to their birth certificate and not according to their gender identity. This is an incredibly discriminatory practice that puts the safety of trans people at risk every single day.

I have worked to speak out on the issue of all-gender bathrooms before: I passed a resolution for ASG last May demanding the school increase the number of all-gender bathrooms and increase the signage/visibility of them. That legislation was talked about and talked about, and I’m just happy it passed before the end of the school year. I was also happy to come back from study abroad and find out my efforts were successful! The signage and amount of all-gender bathrooms on campus have definitely increased.

But this legislation seems to continue despite backlash (and clearly being discriminatory). Bruce Springsteen cancelled his concert in North Carolina due to the law. Paypal cancelled moving its headquarters there because of the law. The Obama administration has come out strongly against the law, threatening to take away federal aid. And yet the President of University of North Carolina (UNC) will enforce the law. This line of thought is disgusting, outdated, bigoted, and just plain wrong. And as long as people like the state legislators of North Carolina and the president of UNC continue to believe they are right, I will continue to speak out and tell them that they are wrong.

Overall, it’s a piece that I’m really proud of, and I can’t wait to write another one!

Here’s the link to read at your leisure! http://alleghenycampus.com/13148/opinion/north-carolina-law-makes-a-battleground-of-bathrooms/

Spring Break Adventures! (Part One: Allegheny to Rochester)

So, the entire week before spring break, each of my professors went around the room and asked each of us if we had any plans for the week. Some people were headed to Myrtle Beach, some were heading home, there was even someone in my Junior Seminar who was headed to Vegas for the week. When the discussion reached my end of the classroom, I cleared my throat and replied, “I’m driving to Nebraska with four of my friends.”

Every response was the same: someone (or a few someones) in the class would giggle, and the professor would ask, “Why would you do that? What’s in Nebraska? Isn’t that like an 18 hour drive?” 

Yes, it was an 18 hour drive. Yes, there are few things in Nebraska. But one of the things that is there is a city called Omaha. And in that city is the extended family of one of my friends, who graciously offered us their spare rooms and sleeping bags from Wednesday to Saturday night. I want to tell you all about our adventures in Omaha, but the saga of the week was so long that I feel like we need to start from our original departure from Allegheny. This is probably going to be a three-part series of blogs: from Allegheny to Rochester, the 18 hour drive there and the 16 hours back, and finally our time in Omaha with some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I’ll try to write them all today and set the posts to come daily, that way there’s no overload of information.

 

To start: Allegheny to Rochester!

Before we could take off to the Cornhusker State (I’m not joking–this is the official nickname for Nebraska), we had to make a pitstop in Rochester, NY for one of our friends to go to a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday. Since we left Allegheny on a Friday afternoon, we drove three hours and spent the following four days hanging out with his family and exploring his version of the city.

IMG_4704We stopped in a few really cool places, the first being a music store called House of Guitars, which was flooded with records and CD’s and guitars and drum sets and basically anything you could possibly imagine in the realm of music-making. Almost every big-name (and small-name) artist had been through the shop, signed the wall, and played an in-house set. Walking inside, it seemed like a strange warehouse housing the contents of every garage band that ever existed.

We asked, and apparently before it was turned into this glorious warehouse, Guitar Center had been a community house where the city had held things like town hall meetings and square dancing events. It’s hard to think of a big city as ever existing as a town small enough to have one meeting hall, the worn decadent ceilings and strange interior layout were definitely part of the charm of the place.

Wandering around on Pinnacle Hill.

We walked through Highland Park,visited the public market, hung out on the shores of Lake Ontario, and walked around Mount Hope Cemetery. One of my favorite parts of our stay, though, was walking up Pinnacle Hill, a trail behind our friend’s neighborhood which led to graffiti covered radio towers. He explained to us that nearly every time he walked back there, the graffiti was different. I felt there was something really profound there, that even though you come home from time to time, things keep going while you’re gone. There are comforts that you know you can always find, but other parts of that world will keep changing.

Our last night in Rochester, we made dinner for his parents and watched the movie Nebraska in order to get ourselves in the mindset of the next day’s journey. The movie is actually about a senile old man who thinks he has won a million dollars. He lives in Montana and decides to walk all the way to Lincoln to try to collect it. It’s a movie with a sad sort of comedy within the story, and it had absolutely nothing to do with our planned adventures. Still, it’s a great movie and I definitely recommend it.

Tuesday morning, our friend went off to his doctor’s appointment, and when he got back we packed ourselves up and were on the highway by 5:30pm, on our way to… Erie.

Yes, there is another chapter to this saga before we hit Nebraska, but you’ll just have to wait for that story. Stay tuned!

 

*weather update*: It’s sunny today, but it’s been cold all week and it’s still kind of cold right now. I decided to celebrate the sun and the five degree increase with a skirt and I do not regret it at all. Come on, Spring! Show yourself already!

Gator Day! (Squad Takes Pittsburgh)

So, instead of attending Gator Day events, I had to make the trip down to Pittsburgh to get my phone fixed after shattering its screen this weekend. That’s one of the downsides of living in Meadville, to be honest; the city’s kind of disconnected from the rest of the world. One of the nearest apple stores is in Ross Park Mall in Pittsburgh, which is an hour and a half drive away.

But thankfully, everything was okay and my phone is as good as new and I even did some shopping with some friends at the mall while we waited for my phone’s recovery. So we did have a fun day in Pittsburgh, despite everything else.

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I’m not dead! And also: Gator Day!

Hey guys! I’ve returned from my blogger slumber!

Essentially what happened was that over spring break I spent a lot of time in a car (you’ll get a post about that soon… possibly today?), which means no wifi, which meanIMG_4692s no blogs.

Anything after that was just a work overload and a result of not being totally prepared to go back to classes. I’m kind of letting things slip at this point in the semester, which definitely isn’t good, because I’ve had exams out the wazoo for the past week. I’ve got another one next Monday, so we’ll se how that goes. In the meantime, I’m going to update you on today and write a few more posts throughout the next few days updating you on what’s been going on since the last time I posted!

Today is Gator Day, which is basically a programming day around campus where we don’t have classes but there are seminars and open houses for departments for students to attend. Some students also take this as a day to get caught up on work, which has been my main focus. There’s also a seminar later in the day on writing personal statements, and as someone who is about six months from beginning the process of applying to law schools (I don’t know how this happened so fast?), this is something pretty crucial for me.

So far today, I’ve drafted a midterm essay, grabbed some lunch with friends, and picked up some posters from the print shop (these posters are for a show, which I will make ANOTHER blog post about! Lots of posts to make, I realize!), and studied a little more for the LSAT’s. After I go to this seminar, I’ve got a little bit of time to get some more work done before I attend tech rehearsals for SET’s latest show, and I’m looking forward to every bit of it.

Gator Day is really cool because they hand the day over to you in order for you to decide what’s most important. I appreciate that. I also appreciate the morning offered to me which allowed me to catch up on the sleep I’ve been missing lately with all of this work piling up.

All in all, today’s been pretty rad. More updates on the past few weeks to come!

Spring Break

For spring break I travelled with a friend to visit our other friend in New Jersey who graduated last year. We spent a few days hanging out with her and just lounging around her house before spending three days in New York City. We caught the train in every day which was perfectly fine by me as it was much cheaper than trying to find accommodation in the city, and I actually really like train travel. Plus it made me feel a lot less touristy for some reason – as if I actually lived in New Jersey and did that everyday rather than being the first-time in NYC tourist that I actually was. 12921084_10208884541741701_644262487_n (1)

For my first time in NYC we went to Times Square, the MET, spent a day walking around in SoHo and a day in Central Park. It’s such a huge city that trying to fit absolutely everything into just three days was physically impossible and I wanted to just enjoy myself. I definitely plan to travel back there in the not-to-distant future so I’m not super worried that I didn’t get to see all of the city.

We came back from New Jersey on Thursday night and I went in and worked for a few hours on friday (trying to earn back some of the money that I spent throughout the week) and then I just had a really cruisy weekend. The weather was absolute beautiful and I spent quite a bit of time just sitting out in the sun on the balcony of NV1.

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Overall it was a really well-balanced Spring break. A little bit of travel, a little bit of homey time (with out friend, she acted like our mom the whole time we were there and it was amazing), and a little bit of just down time back on campus preparing for the final six weeks of campus.

The fact there’s only six weeks left of summer completely bamboozles me! I can honestly say this semester that I have absolutely no idea where the time went. One thing I know for sure is that I definitely want to go back to New York. I feel totally cliche saying this but that place is amazing and I want to be there!