Toga! Toga! Toga!

21 11 2010


I’ve been a college student for three months, as of today. I haven’t been home once…but  24 hours from now, I’ll be sitting in the car with my dad, making the 7 hour trek back to Jersey. Going home.

I’m ready for a break, ready for civilization again. I’ve been living the life of a dorm rat, living off of instant oatmeal and nutella for the past 12 weeks – at this moment, Thanksgiving dinner is like that shimmering mirage on the desert horizon, the hint of water on the peak of a sun-scorched dune. I can almost taste the sweet potatoes, the gravy, the pumpkin pie…enough. I’m starting to drool.

Food is just one thing I’m looking forward to about going home. I’m looking forward to a lot of things. Getting out of Meadville, for one…I need life and streets to explore! I’ve developed such disdain for the town…it’s not healthy but I can’t help it. My soul has been tattooed to the streets of New York and my heart is stored in a tiny apartment somewhere in Brooklyn’s Polish quarter. I need to return to it. It’s time for me to go home.

And as the semester draws to a close and I point the tips of my weather-worn boots towards home, I can’t help but let my thoughts breeze over the events of the last 12 weeks. And I realize that I’ll be returning home a changed young woman. This place is shaping me. I’m growing with each buzz of the alarm clock in the morning and every time I look in the mirror, its an ever-transforming face I see. I’ve learned so much about myself that I never would have been aware of back home; I’m a leader. I’m a cheat but I’m a lover; I’m an artist and a dreamer; I’m scared but not alone; I’m young but feel old. I’m a mixed batch of contradictions, but I’m starting to figure myself out.

Coming back in January, I hope to continue to grow. That’s a vague statement, so let me clarify: I hope to not only test the waters that the sea of life has sent my way, but to dive headfirst into them. I’m meant for great things, and I lead a charmed life. And my first year of college, with all it’s broke food, parties, late-night movies and early-morning hangovers, is the perfect recipe for the only expedition I am ready to embark upon at this point in my life…finding myself among the chaos of this world.



8 11 2010

Has anyone seen the movie Cast Away? You know, with Tom Hanks? In a nutshell, he gets marooned on a desert island for several years while the woman he loves runs off and marries a dentist named Spaulding.

I watched the episode of “The Buried Life” and saw the four dudes – I don’t know their names – maroon themselves on a deserted island so they could check “escape from a desert island” off their bucket list. I enjoyed this immensely. Not only do I love the concept of the show – each episode a new way of attacking life and getting the most you can out of it – but the characters were interesting and amusing to watch. I do believe that they are making a difference in their own lives and the lives of those involved in their show, because crossing off things from your bucket list is something everyone should do in order to feel more fulfilled with their lifestyle. However, I was turned off by the surreal nature of the episode, especially towards the end – No one escapes a desert island! It’s mathmatically impossible, and the chances of them being rescued by a random fishing vessel was unbelievable and predicable.

So this suspension of belief took away from the meaning of the show, and I had trouble getting over it. however, I like the idea of making a bucket list and stopping at nothing to fulfill it, if you have the means (and cameramen) to do so.

Nobody’s Perfect…

18 09 2010

Yes, Dr. Paul Farmer does have flaws. Everyone has flaws! I think it’s easy to assume that, because of all his work with the impoverished people of Haiti, it would be easy to assume that he is a saint of pure virtue, through and through. However, this is not the case. I believe that Farmer has excellent morals; he puts the welfare of those in need before his own and generosity is a trait that he is not afraid of showing. He has sacrificed his lifestyle, income, and comfort to help the poor. But what of his relationship with those closest to him? In chapter 7 we are introduced to Ophelia Dahl. She becomes quite close to Farmer while working in Haiti and an immediate bond is formed between the two after they first meet. Ophelia describes the “evident feeling” he put into his discussion with her and how they “talked until about three in the morning”. It is clear that Farmer values the young woman’s company and conversation; however, there are hints dropped throughout the chapter that begin to uncover Farmer’s complex character. Kidder describes how Farmer asked Ophelia about her family. Flattered by his apparent sincerity, she proceeded to tell him about her parents’ celebrity; however, there is a description of Farmer’s mannerisms that add new dimension to the conversation. Kidder states, “Ophelia would think of Paul and how, when he said those words, he made so many people feel he cared about only them at that moment. Of course, one knew that sometimes his interest was mixed with other motives…”

What would his other motives be? This statement stopped me, mid paragraph, and I was forced to read it over again. Is Farmer’s blatant sincerity to everyone around him somewhat… false? Is he pretending to care? Feigning interest, perhaps? If this is true about the good doctor, then he is much more flawed than one might make him out to be. Meanness and cruelty are flaws on the surface, but pretending to care about those who truly need someone to care about them is a flaw that comes from deep, very deep inside. I don’t think that this particular bump in the picture Kidder has painted for us of Dr. Farmer affects the inspirational aspects of the book, though. I still admire everything Paul Farmer has done for the people of Haiti and I believe that he is an innately good person – that’s inspiring in and of itself.

Oh Dam.

5 09 2010

In Chapter 4 of Kidder’s book, he describes (in detail) his trek past the Peligre Dam, into the flooded area of Haiti upstream. This chapter honestly did not strike me in any particular way; it hardly stood out at all from the other chapters in the book. Kidder goes into description of the political and geographical aspects of Haiti for the most part; he talks about the decision made to build the dam on the Artibonite and the physical outcome of it. However, when he begins to describe the people living around the dam, I really started to pay attention. “We passed smiling children climbing steep rocky paths,” Kidder says, “…They were carrying water, in pails and plastic jugs that once held things like paint, oil, and antifreeze. The full containers must have weighed half as much as the children did, and the children had no shoes.”

This image really stirred something in my mind, something emotional. I could see the image of these pitiful children struggling under the weight of buckets of water. I began to actually picture what Kidder was seeing, experiencing, and the disparity of Haiti’s situation began to sink in. The picture in my head of these children is sad and terrible. The imagery created by Kidder’s story inspires me to keep reading to find out if a situation as dire as the one on Piligre Dam could be fixed by a man such as Dr. Farmer.

Mountains Beyond Mountains, Ch. 1-2

28 08 2010

The beginning of Tracy Kidder’s book is a little thick. I started reading it at eleven o’clock at night, which perhaps was not a great idea…as I was reading it, I found myself thinking: “this is just going to be another biography of some guy’s role model…” and then I started recognizing exactly what I was reading. My eyes stumbled upon a quote in the first chapter of the book: “Does it really matter who’s in power? They’re still gonna have the rich and the poor and no one in between”. And it struck me how true this statement is. When you hold this philosophy up against the situation in places such as Haiti, Pakistan, New Orleans, the gap between the rich and the poor – the people who have the resources to fix a situation and the ones who don’t – is like a ravine. There is a gap, with no bridge in between. So why did this quote stick in my head as I continued to read Kidder’s narrative? Because it seems to me that Dr. Farmer is trying his best to bridge this gap – he is a Harvard educated doctor who could be making all sorts of money; instead, he chooses to use his gifts to try to patch up the world, piece by piece.