Monday, March 19, 2012

Peru is on the Horizon

As the final weeks of Term 2 are drawing near, and as more studying is done outside than inside, I am getting impatient for Term 3 to begin! This past Saturday was St. Patrick's Day, and there were students outside in their shorts and bathing suits soaking in the sun! Countless games of frisbee, softball, and Kan Jam were being played across the grassy fields on campus.

I am now counting down the weeks until Term 3....not only because I'll be ready to spend more time outside and have a new change of pace, but also because I will be spending two weeks in Peru! Every Term 3 Elmira College offers a plethora of courses that travel worldwide over the 6 week Term 3 duration. My roomate is traveling to the "Outback" aka: Australia this term 3 and many of my other friends will be going to the United Kingdom, India, Peru, Poland, Prague, The Bahamas, and various other countries. Each trip has it own unique itinerary and seems to attract a different type of traveler.

I am ecstatic to be traveling with 7 other Elmira College students and Spanish Professor, Dr. Lauren Shaw to Peru to hike through Machu Picchu and explore the Incan civilization! When I went to the initial meeting about this trip, I knew there would be copious amounts of backpacking, hiking, outdoors exploration, history, service projects, and Spanish! When I told one of my friends about the trip, she said that I could not choose any other option for Term 3...I had to go to Peru!

The first few days that we arrive in Peru, we will be working at an orphanage or local school. Since the elevation of Peru is so high, this will be a good opportunity for our group to acclimate to the high elevation. This service project component of the trip instantly attracted me since I am so passionate about mission trips and have been crazy about them since my freshman year of high school when I visited the Gulf Coast post Hurricane Katrina. There is such an amazing and invigorating feeling about mission trips that is so life-giving. Often people go into these trips thinking that they will be such a help to others and that they will be able to make a huge impact on those they serve. However, many times there is an opposite effect. Those who are served are the ones who give back more to those who are serving. It's an incredibly humbling experience.

After we do our service project, we will hike up through Machu Picchu! This is an intense hike and it will be an ultimate test of physical and emotional stamina. Each day we will hike between 7.5 miles and 9.5 miles at an unfamiliar and foreign altitude. I guess it's time for me to hit the gym! All I can say is Zumba, weight lifting, running, and basketball will be my best friends in the next coming weeks! More later!

Friday, January 20, 2012

In The Heights

This past Wednesday evening I found myself at the Clemens Center to see the off-Broadway show, "In the Heights." The Clemens Center is a beautiful theater in downtown Elmira. I like to think that the Clemens Center as a little taste of Broadway in my backyard. This was the second time watching a performance at the Clemens Center, and I'm sure it's not the last. Elmira's local theatre has brought shows such as "Peter Pan" starring Cathy Rigby (2011-2012 Season) and as well as Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA (2006-2007 Season).

In 2008, "In The Heights" was nominated for four different Tony Awards. The musical won all four of these Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography, and Best Orchestrations. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music and lyrics of "In the Heights" in a rap music style, which differs from many mainstream musicals. When Miranda received the Tony Award for "Best Score," he rapped his acceptance speech to honor the cast, crew, and his family.

Here is Lin-Manuel Miranda's acceptance speech:

I really enjoyed the rap/R&B music style from "In The Heights" since it was very different from other musicals I've seen. Imagine roughly two dozen songs sung kind of like the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme song, and you get a rough idea of what the music. But these songs had much more depth than Fresh Prince! Some of the themes that emerged from this play revolved around family business bankruptcy, poverty, a lack and surplus of educational opportunities, etc. Through the interaction of these characters, each audience member could see the realities of people living in Washington Heights. This musical was riveting not only through its music and lyrics, but also through the themes that provoke the emotional response of an audience.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Flappers and Philosophers

Have you ever wanted to go back in time to a specific era? Maybe just for a day or two? Or perhaps you actually would trade living in the 21st century? Well, this week I decided that if I could live in any other time period for a few weeks, I would have to choose the 1920s.

After reading several short stories from Scott F. Fitzgerald's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Age Stories, I decided that I would like to live in 1920s America for a few weeks to experience the political and social rebellion of this era. (This collection of Fitzgerald's short stories have come from his two books: Flappers and Philosophers and Tales of the Jazz Age).

While I don't think of myself as much of a trouble-maker, I think my alter-ego would thrive in the Roaring 20s. This time in America was ground-breaking for the African American community who began to assert their black culture within the predominantly white America. Through the rebellious lyrics and sounds of jazz music, African Americans marched forward in defiance against the former bondages of slavery and enhanced American music that was formerly dominated by white performers. With the emergence of soulful and liberating jazz music, dances such as The Charleston and Tango became popular. These dances were considered more scandalous in contrast to the former dances of the Victorian era.

Women's rights and freedom was also a large portion of the 1920s. When the 19th Amendment of the Constitution was ratified in 1920, women gained the right to vote. Throughout the decade, women began to assert themselves politically and socially, and the gender lines began to blur. One of the biggest fashion statements of the 20s came from the "bobbed" haircut. This new fad not only liberated women from their long, time-consuming hair but also gave women a freedom from their feminine stereotypes. This 1920s hairstyle was the first time in history when women dared to cut their hair just above their chin. As women became more prominent in the work place, this rebellious, androgynous, bobbed hair symbolized a woman's capability to work alongside a man. Another iconic image of women from the 1920s was the flapper. This woman could be ubiquitously spotted in a speakeasies or night clubs wearing a bobbed haircut and a short, shapeless dress.

As much as I could imagine myself spending a few weeks in the 1920s, I have realized that I would not trade the 21st century for the Roaring 20s. While the political upheaval and social change of this time was exciting, and the music and night life was fun, I have realized that being a woman in this century is more satisfying. While women still do not have equal pay in the work place, there is much more equality between women and men today. I salute the women who fought for the right to vote and thank them for their tremendous contribution to history and march forward, trying to continue where they left off. (By the way, thanks for the bobbed hair cut idea! It's so much easier to handle!)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Bring it on Term 2!!!!!

Ah yes, the first day of classes. There is nothing quite like the hustle and bustle on campus while students rush to McGraw before and between classes to grab their books for the new term. Across campus, you’ll hear one girl yell to her friend, “Why have you been missing in my life for so long?!” As much as I want to retort and say, “Dude! It’s been what? Three weeks?!” However, I cannot exactly criticize this interaction since I am the one yelling at my friends across campus and embracing my friends who I have not seen in 24 days....not that I've been counting...

This term brings on new challenges and adventures of my college experience. As I venture towards becoming a middle school English teacher, I must endure the rigorous English classes at Elmira. During Term 2 I will venture to the library for countless hours in my attempt to dominate the reading and writing from FOUR English classes! I could succumb to a fear of this daunting task, or I could simply take the words of The Bard of Avon, aka, my new buddy: Shakespeare. As this great man wrote: "Of all base passions, fear is the most accursed." On other words, "Don't be a wimp!" Thanks Shakespeare. I will keep that in my friend.

My days will begin with Neoclassical authors such as Dryden, Pope, and Swift (aka: those guys with big, fancy, powered wigs). No, Jonathan Swift is NOT a long-lost relative of Taylor Swift. Well, I'm not 100% positive about it but there sure are some interesting Yahoo Answers about their relation. Then, I will delve into my Shakespeare class, which seems to offer comedic and occasional tragic moments...after all, Titus Andronicus and Hamlet (our reading) are both tragedies! After class I will grab lunch and possibly sneak in a nap or watch Netflix to distract my mind from British literature. The afternoon will allow for a different change of pace as we discuss Sylvia Plath and Kurt Vonnegut in my 1945 to Present American Literature class. This will be my routine Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays. These days are like English aerobics for my mind. Tuesdays and Thursdays will bring 1920s American literature alive as we read Fitzgerald and Faulkner. I guess if this class really gets to me, I'll start refusing to listen to any genre of music that is not jazz. Goodbye Regina Spektor and Guster, hello Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Christmas with the Oshinskies!

Mimi and Popop's Christmas Tree! Lena, me, Ali, and Cammi!

Move over Forever 21! (Don't worry, I didn't actually buy this. Although, it would totally win at a "tacky sweater" party!)

December 26th is actually one of the most precious and sacred days in the Oshinskie family. On this day, all of the cousins sleep in and when we wake up there is only two things on our minds: Stella's Crumb Buns and thrifting! My Mimi makes these incredible toasted, buttery, and sugary breakfast rolls that without a doubt taste amazing year after year! The next item on our agenda: thrifting. In other words, we go to thrift and consignment stores throughout central New Jersey in search of one-of-a-kind items.

Ali, Lena, Cammi, and I pile into my Uncle Mark's Ford Escort and our thrifting adventure begins! On the way we hear childhood stories that my uncle tells about him and his siblings. Ali and I listen to a few stories about our dad and Uncle Mark shares some of his college stories.

Many people are suspicious of the kind of quality of clothing items in the thrift store. However, I have been in many of these stores where I will find shirts that still have the price tag on. As I peruse the racks of clothing, I have found sweaters in mint condition that look like they've been worn one time. You can find names such as Brooks Brothers, Gap, Banana Republic, DKNY, Free People, J.Crew, and many other upscale designers.

I find thrifting to be an authentic and creative experience since I can find unique clothing that-most likely- no one else will have. When I go out, I don't have to worry about seeing someone with the same exact outfit as me. We all know how embarrassing THAT is! Even if you are wearing a shirt that you bought at the mall, you can match it with a vintage scarf or sweater from the thrift store, and all of a sudden you look ten times more fashionable. Not that college students totally care about being fashionable 24/7 since let's face it, many students wear Elmira College sweat pants and sweatshirts to class. However, thrifting has definitely been a draw for college aged students who don't have as much cash to spare. In this article from the Albany Student Press, a college student talks about the benefits of thrifting and its ability to help students recreate and enhance their wardrobe.
Mix it, match it, grab it, THRIFT IT!

Not only will thrift store finds help you spice up your closet and help you save money, but also thrifting is environmentally friendly! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Hitting up a local Goodwill or vintage consignment shop is a great way to counter the consumerist mentality of America. Think Globally, Act Locally! Also, it decreases the carbon footprint that we are leaving behind. I guess it's too late for me to stop my political rant about being "green," but thrifting is a great way to supplement and fortify your existing wardrobe. Many times we do not even wear half of our wardrobe!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

371 Reasons to Smile

On Friday, November 4th at 7:30pm 50 plus Elmira College students assembled to wrap shoeboxes with Christmas wrapping paper. The next Friday, November 11th at 7:30pm in the Dining Hall, about 50 students came out to stuff 365 shoeboxes full of Christmas goodies for children all around the world that wouldn’t normally receive a Christmas present. These shoeboxes were filled with items such as coloring books, crayons, notebooks, toys, stuffed animals, toothpaste, toothbrushes, wash cloths, bar soap and other valuable items for a child living in poverty. It seems a little early for Christmas, however, this has never been an excuse to the merchandise industry in America that starts selling stockings and candy canes before Halloween is over. So for the Elmira College students this is not an adequate excuse either!

Wrapping shoeboxes? That seems strange. Then again, presents come in all shapes and sizes! These two Fridays have begun a nationally and internationally known organization called Operation Christmas Child (OCC). OCC is an organization that has different groups of people (ie: college students, church groups, school groups, etc) come together to wrap shoeboxes with Christmas wrapping paper and stuff the boxes with goodies for children all around the world. These packages are sent to children in poverty stricken and war torn nations such as Haiti, Panana, Bosnia and Croatia. For a number of these children, this may be the first Christmas when they receive a gift.

Since 1993, OCC has collected over 86 million shoe box gifts to children in more than 130 countries. Some of the key places these shoe boxes have been sent in the past year include young earthquake victims in Haiti (2010), school children who were attacked by terrorists in Russia (2004), kids in Uganada who were devastated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic (2002). OCC has also reached many children in the Middle East, including Iraq and Lebanon, as well as in the war torn nation of Sudan.

The Elmira College community has come together in order to make Operation Christmas Child possible. Every year Elmira College’s Christian Fellowship hosts this event along with the generous help and support of many other clubs and sports such as LISP, Red Cross Club, Rotaract, Circle K, Lion’s Club, T.E.A.C.H. and Varsity Women’s Field Hockey. Red Cross Club raised money in order to buy stuffed animals and T.E.A.C.H. made rag dolls to fill these boxes. Many administrators and faculty have been extremely supportive in their donations, in particular, Hollie Synder. Hollie is connected with the Operation Christmas Child donation center in Big Flats and has been a huge support in terms of OCC’s effect on campus.

I have been so excited to be a part of this project and it is so great to see that even though American citizens are protesting through Occupy Wall Street and many are left without jobs, people are still donating to this wonderful cause. It breaks my heart to think that children around the world will wake up on Christmas and not receive a present. I feel so fortunate that I have always been able to find a present under the tree with my name on it when Christmas morning comes. Many privileged college students have never even second guessed their ability to receive a present on Christmas, and a lot of Elmira College students are excited to selflessly give Christmas to children they don’t even know. One EC student has told her friends to donate to OCC instead of getting her a Birthday present. It is clear that the message of Operation Christmas Child is alive on this campus and throughout the area. People can connect to this project and are excited to give Christmas to children all around the globe!

Monday, October 10, 2011

What’s the deal with this Mark Twain guy?

To say that I have been living, eating, sleeping, breathing Mark Twain for the past four weeks of college would be a huge understatement. As a sophomore at Elmira College who reigns from the Greater Hartford area of Connecticut, I simply cannot avoid Mark Twain. (Side note: Mark Twain lived in Hartford, CT the majority of the year and spent his summers in Elmira, NY.) I jokingly say that I am “a Mark Twain stalker” to the visitors but I swear I did not choose Elmira College because of the Mark Twain-Elmira/Hartford connection. I just love purple. As a Mark Twain Ambassador I have spent a good amount of time sitting in the Mark Twain Study and Mark Twain Exhibit and learning through visitors about their love for this famous writer and humorist. I’ve met people who come from Washington (like the state, not D.C.), Australia, Alabama and many other places all over the country and world. One woman from Australia said that her great grandfather cut Mark Twain’s hair!

At some point in your experience at Elmira College you are probably going to ask yourself, “What is the deal with this Mark Twain guy? Why does Elmira College obsess over Twain so much? Why do we read so many of his novels in Freshman Writing?” At first his connection may seem totally random but after a closer look at Mark Twain’s (aka: Samuel Clemens) life the answer makes sense. Here are a few factoids about the Elmira College/Mark Twain connection:

• Samuel Clemens wife, Olivia Langdon lived in Elmira, NY for a majority of her life. Her family owned property-known as the Langdon mansion- over on the corner of Church Street and Main Street (where Subway and Elmira Business Institute are now located).

• Samuel Clemens, Olivia and their three girls Susy, Clara, and Jean would spend their summers in Elmira at Olivia’s sister, Susan Crane’s house called Quarry Farms. Quarry Farms was a dairy farm where Susan had about 200 cows and distributed milk.

• Susan built the Study for Mark Twain in hopes that the Clemens family would extend their stay at Quarry Farms during the summer. The Study allowed Mark Twain to have a quiet retreat to write and smoke. Twain averaged about 30 to 40 cigars a day! It’s a miracle Twain never got lung cancer! Some say that Susan built Mark Twain the study so that he would stop smoking in her house.

• Twain’s wife, Olivia was a member of the Elmira College class of 1864. Olivia’s father, Jervis Langdon was one of the first trustees of Elmira College (basically he was a wealthy man who believed in Simeon Benjamin’s dream of starting a college that gave an equal degree to woman and men). You could say that Jervis was one of the reasons that Elmira College began. Maybe we should be singing a Mountain Day song about him!

• The Mark Twain Study was moved from Quarry Farms to Elmira College campus in 1952. No, Mark Twain did not write The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer on EC’s campus overlooking The Puddle. The original location of the study up at Quarry Farms looked over the city of Elmira and the Chemung River, which reminded Twain of his boyhood on the Mississippi River and inspired him to write about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Dr. Ida Langdon (Samuel Clemens’ niece) was an English Professor at Elmira College and gave the Mark Twain Study to the college in 1952.

So there you have it! Mark Twain Sparknotes version. If this has not satisfied your appetite for this famous American author visit the Study or the Exhibit on campus!