September 25, 2008

It’s amazing what you can learn in school.

Take my introductory international studies class, for instance. Yesterday, we learned about why we put sugar in our tea.

You wouldn’t think it, but sugar has a pretty interesting history. Up until 1680, sugar was an exclusive product. The upper class used it as a symbol of their power, but if you were a member of the lower classes, sugar had no place in your diet. However, with the ending of the feudal system, there was an increase in landless, poor, urban labour. These people were in need of cheap calories. At the same time, free trade advocates overcame the arguments of mercantilists, who favoured government regulation of sugar, and so trade opened up and sugar becamewidely available to the working classes. By the 1700s, sugar was showing up everywhere- even in medicines.

As expansion increased global trade, coffee, cocoa, and especially tea were all imported from new areas. These bitter drinks needed a sweetener. Voila! Sugar! Because of the British presence in China and India, hot, sweet tea became an essential drink, especially for the working classes. It acted as a stimulant, and provided the necessary calories to make it through a long day in the factories. It also gave the illusion of a hot meal, and boiling water ensured a safe drink. Drinking tea even gave the lower classes a feeling that they were emulating the wealthy.

Pretty soon, afternoon tea was not just the fashionable thing, it was a regular institution. As my professor says, tea and sugar was the 1800’s version of “Red Bull.”

The global circulation of a particular commodity (sugar) plus industrialization and proletariatization shaped national taste. In other words, the Industrial Revolution created tea time.

All those crazy connections. I love it!



September 19, 2008

Last night, I entrusted my hair into the hands of Holly (roommate), and Liz (friend across the hall).

It was rather nerve wracking, but quite necessary. The last time I had my hair cut was over a year ago, and I knew it was time to loose some inches. The only question was how. Back home, I’d run up the hill and ask Aunt Vicki if she could help, and then I’d show up at her house with a wet head, towel, and brush. It simply wasn’t that complicated.

Honestly, I have no idea how to get a haircut here. I asked around, heard the prices, thought about how on earth I would get into town and where it would happen, and who, and when I could schedule one, and then decided to just ask Holly.

Holly cuts her own hair apparently, which requires a good deal of bravery, I think. She and Liz were more than willing to help.

We spread newspapers out in the hallway, and I sat down on a stool, holding my breath. As Holly picked up the scissors, I remembered Jo’s short short hair in Little Women, and the loss of her “one true beauty.” Then the snipping started. The only part that made me nervous was when Liz asked, “Why are you cutting it like confetti?” Holly answered, “‘Cause that’s how you cut hair, hon.”

Turns out Holly did a fine job. I do have one little curl that’s a bit short and boingy, but the rest of it is trimmed, and light, and so much easier to manage. Hooray for college roommates!

Denison U and the Blustery Day

September 15, 2008

Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in the basement, doing the laundry for the entire rugby team, when one of my friends walked in. “That wind is something, isn’t it?” she asked. I nodded and smiled, but had no idea what she was talking about. A few minutes later, she left, and the lights started flickering. I pushed back my chair, and opened the door.

I was caught off guard by the tremendous force of the wind. All the grass was bent flat, and the branches of the trees were whipping around. I walked around the front of the building and was shocked to see an enormous branch, the size of a small tree, that had crashed right outside my dorm. If it had fallen in any other direction, It would have fallen into the building. I rushed upstairs and my roommate very animatedly told me about the gigantic cracking sound and watching the branch rip off.

The weather service issued a high wind warning. The remains of Hurricane Ike were moving through our region, and gusts between 55 and 70 mph were possible into the evening. I finished the laundry, and went to supper with friends from my floor. All we could talk about was the wind. We watched as a few powerlines were knocked down, and some transformers exploded with clouds of smoke, and sparks shooting everywhere.

Afterward, we grabbed some cameras, and walked from one end of the campus to the other. The wind was intense. Trees were down all over the place, and enormous branches had broken off. Blasts of wind sent leaves and small branches spinning across the ground. We even passed bits of roof that had been torn off. Security started roping off certain areas of campus, so we returned to West Quad.

This next part might be kind of crazy, but it was so much fun. I got out my kite, and convinced some of my friends to try and fly it with me. We took it outside our dorm, and for the next half hour, struggled to keep it from tangling up in the trees, or entwining itself around the lampposts. The wind would send it shooting up into the sky, and then just as fast, the kite would nose-dive into the ground. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun flying a kite. A piece of roof blew off in the meantime, and then it started raining, so we wrapped it up, and took it inside.

This morning, we found out that half the campus has lost power, and won’t get electricity for a few days at least. Only one of the dining halls is open. We are all thankful that the worst damage Denison experienced was a few broken windows, but I know it’s bad all over the state. In Granville, the Lutheran church in town had its steeple toppled, and in nearby towns, cars and buildings are under trees. Over a million people in Ohio are without power.

It’s one of those weird situations where there is a lot of loss and damage, but at least on our campus, we have been pulled together and are making the best of the situation. Plus, this wind storm has provided endless conversation material. I am amazed at the destruction wind can cause, but so so thankful for God’s protection.

the branch that collapsed outside

braving the fury of the wind

yay for kites and crazy wind!


September 14, 2008

We won our first game! It was great to be on a rugby pitch, watching a game again, and I had the privilege of being a linesman while our vets played. In some ways it reminded me of Kenya, because there were goose droppings all over the field, and they didn’t have uprights, so the other team had to put a set together, and hoist them up and into the ground.

After our vets played, we had a ten minute B side game, where our rookies played their vets as a learning experience. My captain, Sunshine, handed me her jersey and put me in at her position as fullback, #15. I had practiced fullback once at practice, and had scrimmaged once, but a game- even for ten minutes- wow, what an experience!

I kicked off the ball, very badly, but did score a try in those first minutes. It was exhilarating. The other team kicked the ball from inside their 22 metre line, and as it was turning over and over in the air, I could hear Sunshine shouting from the sidelines, “That’s yours, Emily, that’s yours!” I ran under it, and it came right down into my arms. I took off for the try line, breaking through their team, and made it just inside the posts. It was too fun.

Later on, I received the ball in our end of the field, and sprinted nearly the entire field. I made it through their line, but saw their fullback crouching, ready to take me down. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I sidestepped her, and there was no one left. I made it most of the way, before I was brought down, and popped the ball off to one of my teammates. There was a scrum down, and then the whistle blew, and we were done. I got called a beast. And I think that’s a compliment 🙂

It was only ten minutes, but what an experience! I love those rugby girls! I learned so much, but mostly two things: I need to get in shape, and I have SO much to learn!

What a game, what a game!

One of Those Days…

September 10, 2008

Today was one of those days.

One of those absolutely glorious days when my homework is at the bottom of a very large pile of delightful occurrences.

I had a long lunch with a freshman kid from TZ, and his cousin, who had spent a year there. We had a great conversation connecting over Africa- the roads, Kili, dukas, samosas- all that good stuff. I also had a brief conversation in Swahili (!) with another new student from Congo/Uganda. That was too fun.

My library shift today lacked action, but that’s never been an issue for me. My friend, Erica, and I ate chocolate cake left over from our supervisors’ meeting, and entertained ourselves, and the occasional patron by enthusiastically reading aloud from Othello.

In the evening, I acquired a pair of goldfish from a free handout that the crafting club had organized. Earlier, Erin, Holly and I decided that calling our room “the closet” wasn’t very attractive, and so we affectionately dubbed it “the wardrobe” … apparently we live in an enchanting place. In keeping with the Narnia theme, we have pronounced the goldfish “Tumnus,” and “Caspian.”

Bedtime is coming soon, but first homework.  And even homework has been entertaining today. Take these interesting facts from my Communication textbook:

  • English is the only language to capitalize the pronoun, “I.”
  • Women only talk more than men in certain contexts. In fact, in mixed groups, men are more likely to dominate the conversation
  • While we talk at about 125-150 words per minute, most people can think at 3 to 4 times that rate.
  • 2/3 of the meaning we generate is non-verbal
  • Touch is one of the most potent forms of communication, and affects overall well-being. Being deprived of touch adversely affects physical and psychological health.
  • Research suggests that emoticons have become less effective in online communication, because of overuse.
  • 2/3 of about 3 million sensory fibers entering the brain are related to the eyes.

Wow. I love learning.


September 6, 2008

Last night I discovered something I love about my fourth floor room.

I can hear the rain out my window.

It’s not quite like rain on the mabati, but it is so wonderful to once again drift off to sleep listening to the sound of rain.


September 5, 2008

Yesterday, Mom sent an email about my family’s recent adventure with elephants in the forest near our house. I have to admit, I was slightly jealous that my brothers were up the hill discovering giant elephant footprints, and broken tree branches.

Ohio is… not quite like that.

But, today I thought about something I read last year. Something about how bananas are evidence of a creator. I remember feeling skeptical. Then it began to make sense. Think about bananas. They’re just the right size to grasp in our hands. They have convenient packaging, are good to eat, easy to get, healthy, and oh so very ordinary.

Maybe I need to get more excited about everyday-ness. About my favorite hat, and walking barefoot, and my bright orange mouth guard. About clouds, and quirky professors, and cinnamon.

Someone told me that it’s a shame we never look at ceilings, because there are some pretty cool ones. Maybe I need to notice things like that too.

One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes says, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labour is to remember, to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to remain awake.”

Maybe tomorrow, there won’t be any elephants lumbering by my dorm room. In fact, it’s pretty certain. Maybe tomorrow, though, I will notice those plain old ordinary things, like bananas and ceilings, and maybe tomorrow, I will go out and look for God.