Annual International & Off-Campus Studies Literary
In the plaza of Trinidad-the oldest town in Cuba-
Two sincere men-from where the palm trees grow-
Sit on opposing benches.
There is Sancho-the guajiro-
In his dirt-streaked, age-worn guayabero.
He talks of the Fiesta de la Cultura de Trinidad
That is occurring below in the streets of the town
That spreads down the hill like a skirt to the sea,
Where vaqueros reel and wheel on their ponies
Infected with rum-inspired Dodge City cowboy madness
And 13 year-old boys-drunk on Hatuey beer-
Lean heavily on their fathers watching the
World spin abstractly in from of them.
Sancho's words pass over his lips, rasping and sibilant
His tongue clacking hollowly against his gums
When he chooses to pronounce the rare consonant.
His cracked leather hands have know the cane fields,
His dignity speaks of honest years and an education
Learned late in life.
Across the plaza sits the cantante gitano
A contented smile on his face he is alone in the world with his songs.
Youthful still in the shadow of Sancho
He strums African rhythms above Spanish chording on his guitar.
He sings, his voice rising to a keening blue wail.
He sings, echando sus verso de alma.
He sings the songs of the happy carter
Who, on horseback rides to the mountain.
He sings of the sweat of the guajiro in the vernal fields of caña,
Of the southern sun that warms the sea,
And the love of Juanita y Chan Chan.
Above, from the yellow plastered bell tower
One turns one's back on the sun-splotched stain
Shimmering white on the faraway silver grayed sea
And sees the distilled late day sunlight
That hangs, golden dew-like, on the hills
And fills the still air.
Below-here in the wrought ironed square-
There is no sign of Sancho or the gypsy
The plaza is empty,
Except for the southern sun
Thos Trefz '01
Hemingway in Cuba Interim
Me and my religion.
It represents Mysterious Me,
The part that all may seek
But only I have found.
I draw it on all I have
To remind me of my Way.
Its lines dip, rise, and curve,
Just like life, profound.
This mark stands for me,
Me, me, me,
And my religion.
One day I met another
Who put them on her books and hands and walls.
I asked her what they meant to her,
These marks that stand for Me,
And why she started drawing them.
She said she liked the curves
And dips and rises,
And thought they looked very nice.
So nice, in fact, she drew them
Everywhere, my marks, until
I started seeing them more as
Than anything else.
And I wondered how a mark could be
A wallpaper and a religion
At the same time,
And I wondered where I was going.
Anna Miller '01
English Interim at Holden Village
Lutheran Retreat Center in Chelan, Washington
"This poem evolved from a class discussion about our passions in life and the influence of our faith, and the response of one villager at Holden to our discussion. This is my response to her."
We dance every night. After sundown Country, the elder, calls to the students,
"We dance now!" We gather in the corroboree circle. The moon is nearly full. Its brilliance radiates soft shadows of whiteness across the valley and the surrounding hills.
At opposite ends of the circle lay two fires. At first we huddle around them to keep warm in the cool, night air. Country announces, "Injala Bygunt". The rich beating of clapsticks and boomerangs begin. The didgeridu starts to drone. Country chants the words of the song; his voice carries far into the night. We begin to dance. We are bent over the earth, digging up witchitty grubs to eat. Each of us holds a Eucalyptus branch to swat the mosquitoes while we hunt in the "Bygunt". My bare feet thump lightly, but firmly, upon the sandy earth, keeping the beat as I dance within the circle. At the change of tone in Country's voice, we dance to a new song. This is the "Yaraman", or horse dance. We are cowboys riding and showing off. The dance speeds up. Faster and faster. The thumping of my feet, all of our feet, becomes wild with energy. Circling, circling. We dance. A cloud of dust swirls into the center of the circle: a smokestack into the sky. We dance and dance.
I glance into the Eucaplyt forest, adjusting my eyes to the darkness. An occasional flash of the fire lights up a tree: Nothing but long grass and Eucalypts. I return my eye to the circle. Our dancing has stopped. We form into lines and begin to sing "Garing Inanami", a welcoming and farewell song. With the tap of my clapsticks and the step of my feet, I feel myself connecting with the earth below me. Our voices are powerful. We are lead by Country, three other men, and four children. I watch the children carefully. They sing passionately, teaching us a part of their tradition. "Garing Inanami" vibrantly ends. The beating of clapsticks and boomerangs stops. The didge becomes silent. The corroboree is over, for tonight. The students disperse.
I linger in the circle for a while longer. I am alone. At first all I hear is silence. All I see is the light of the fires near me and the darkness beyond the circle. I look up to the stars. They twinkle brighter than I've ever seen before. Slowly, I begin to hear: the beating of the clapsticks, the rattling of the boomerangs, the singing of the didgeridu, the chanting of Country's voice, and the movement of our feet as we dance. I hear it in the air, feel it in the soles of my feet, and see it in the light of the fires. The darkness of the forest is replaced with light. There are figures dancing, children singing, voices laughing. I close my eyes gently, feel the night surround me, sense the moonlight upon my face, and hear the crackling of the fires. For a moment, all is at peace within me. I feel connected to something much greater than I've ever known. I leave the corroboree circle somehow different than when I entered, and I look forward to tomorrow night, when, once more, we dance.
Jessica Knutson '02
Environmental Studies in Australia
Birri Gubba Country, Queensland, Australia
"As part of a cultural anthropology course, we lived with an Aboriginal family for a week in the outback. A major component of the week was preparation for the final corroborree: We made grass skirts, clapsticks and didgeridus. Nighttime was my favorite, though when we learned traditional dances and sang songs by fire, moon, and starlight."
Riding the Bus
I believed that the interim course in Ecuador would provide me with better Spanish listening and speaking skills than I could acquire in three and a half months in this small Minnesota town. I was not disappointed in my quest for that goal, and, as a bonus, the beautiful environment astounded me. At no time before the trip, however, did I think about the fact that I would be in the very small minority there, which turned out to be my most important lesson. Aside from a MAPP visit and a short mission trip to Mexico, I had never even been outnumbered by ethnic "minorities." I had always been empathetic towards minority issues and socially liberal, but for a month, I gained another perspective while I was a minority.
Every weekday morning, I rode one of the thousands of Quito buses to my class in downtown. The forty-five minute ride gave the other passengers ample opportunity to painstakingly examine every aspect of me. From the sidewalk I could see their dark eyes widen and hear their thoughts before I even entered the bus: "?Una chica blanca está tomando este bus? Donde está su carro grande? (A white girl is taking this bus? Where is her big car?)"
The driver, however, did not care about my skin color; he indiscriminately revved the engine before I had both feet on the steps, as he did with all passengers. Thrown back by the quick acceleration, I gripped the hand rails as I pitched and rolled with the bus, trying desperately to detect an open seat. Panic stricken, I found none and my eyes widened. I had no clue as to what to do, so I concluded that I had to stand during the ride.
"No," the man who took the money told me, as he pointed to a bench perpendicular to the windshield. Obediently, I sat and put on a face of stone. I was determined not to portray my awareness of the fact that I could feel every single pair of eyes travel from my dark blond hair to my blue eyes to my winter-white skin, then compute the cost of my sweatshirt, my jeans, and my well-worn Adidas running shoes.
But they did not stop their appraisals after they had viewed these superficial aspects of me, for they continued staring for the whole ride. Their culture permitted them to stare for as long as they pleased&emdash;or until I showed a sign of desperation at their inspection, their puzzlement at my decidedly conservative appearance.
I wanted to stand up and explain that yes, I am from the United States; no, I don not look like a movie star; no, I am not "easy;" no, my clothes did not cost much by American standards but they are the average three weeks' wages in your country; yes, I speak your language; and no, I do not hire a limousine, ever. Furthermore, I yearned to say, I do not approve of many of my country's foreign policies towards developing countries and am terribly sorry that we have not played nicely with our Latin American neighbors.
I hated being pigeon-holed. I resisted being put in a category of an "ugly American" who was too ignorant to speak the language, simply because of my ethnicity. I could not, however, declare my values and politics to the commuters on the buses every morning. So, I sat in silence, enduring the labels these riders were attaching to me and letting their questions remain unanswered.
During one of these interminable bus rides, I pondered the stares and determined that every person who believes that minorities in America no longer face discrimination, ought to travel to a country in which they are the minority in ethnicity and economic status. After enduring the ceaseless stares and questioning eyebrows, I understand how dehumanizing and devaluing it is to be stereotyped, yet I cannot fathom the struggle of living as a caged animal, watched and classified, for a lifetime. I am convinced that until people do not judge one another on appearances and at face value, until we live under the "innocent until proven guilty" tenet upon which our justice system was built, the prejudice and discrimination will continue. For a minority, even the smallest experience, riding the bus, can be uncomfortable.
Janelle Sagness '03
Spanish Interim in Ecuador
"The recent focus on adversity in our society and at our college was 'brought home' to me while I was thousands of miles away. I originally wrote this essay as a part of an application for the Civil Rights Summer Fellowship."
And I'm trying to grasp the culture.
But my lens has been tainted by life
Views of what's right, what's wrong and what's real
Are inherent, and distort my view.
And so the questions I ask
They refuse to be answered-
Why men- even boys of thirteen-
Ogle and whistle and grasp?
Is it the woman they want or the culture,
Is it envy or lust that pours from their eyes?
Or is it all just a game we're not invited to join?
The shopkeepers sit
And watch as life wanders past.T
The date is today, and tomorrow could well be the same.
Is it struggle or surrender that keeps them so stagnant
Are we giving, or taking, or just passing through?
Are we holding something they never could
Money or freedom or hope?
What are we doing here?
Why should we care?
I'm a visitor here in a distant land
And I'm trying to grasp the culture,
But it flails about like something alive
And slithers and
Maria Stacy '02
In this Thai village, many things are the same from my normal surroundings, but many things have been replaced by others; flushing the toilet by pulling a lever has been replaced by dumping water into a toilet, a hot shower replaced by a cold shower, a corn fied replaced by a rice field, an American machine made cigarette replaced by a big hand rolled Thai cigarette, potatoes replaced by rice, tables replaced by floor mats, shoes replaced by sandals, squirrels replaced by chickens, maple trees replaced by bamboo or palm trees, cold weather replaced by hot weather, white Americans replaced by dark-skinned Thais, tractors replaced by small sickles, English replaced by Thai, bland food replaced by spicy food, carpet replaced by hardwood floors, cars replaced by mopeds, tar replaced by dirt and gravel, movies replaced by karaoke, soft beds replaced by a hard beds, a hackeysack replaced by a woven bamboo ball, swimiming in the pool replaced by swimming in the river, baseball hats repalced by straw hats and bandanas, gophers replaced by snakes, riding home in rush hour replaced by stopping at the Wat, two generations in a household replaced by three, beer replaced by whiskey, eating with silverware replaced by eating with your hands, toilet paper replaced by a spray hose, a supermarket replaced by a fruit stand, working to live repoaced by living to work, Roman characters replaced by Thai characters, leaf fires replaced by burning fields, cows replaced by water buffalo, air conditioning replaced by fans, Levi's replaced by striped sweatpants, blue eyes and blond hair replaced by brown eyes and black hair, salt replaced by red spicy peppers, couches replaced by triangular pillows, vinyl siding replaced by wood siding, breakdancing replaced by Thai finger dancing, dollars replaced by baht, hellow replaced by sawatdee, a wave replaced by a wai. Even with all of these replacements, I realized that we are still under the same roof, because I saw that the beautiful starry sky is still the same beautiful starry sky, no matter where you look at it.
Jackson Forderer '02
Term in Asia
"I wrote this during our Thai village stay. I have this written in my journal, "I never thought I would see a corner of the world like this, something so removed, so hidden, so raw. If the planet were a hand, this village would be underneath a fingernail. It is hard for me to comprehend that these villagers lived here all the time, and not just for 3 days like we did." This experience truly changed many things about my outlook on life."
Journal for 1-15-2001
Today we took a bus trip from our base in Derry up to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, and the location of much of the recent troubles. We took a bus tour through most of the neighborhoods of the city, and from our window seats, they wer easily identifiable as Nationalist or Unionist. The Nationalist neighborhoods had graffiti with pro-IRA messages whereas the Unionist areas had pro-RUC (the governing British police force) messages. The most striking part of the city was again the murals. I'm a visual person as it is, so seeing them was very powerful, even more so than in Derry. The Unionist murals were the more frightening of the two&emdash;almost every one had images of masked gunmen, ominously poised with assault rifles at the ready. The graphic image (dare I say logo?) used throughout the Unionist murals was a red hand, often in a fist, which was just as scary. In contrast to the Unionist murals, which seemed to look at the present and future, the Nationalist murals depicted by in large events in past history of the troubles, ranging from the hunger strike in which 10 men died in prison, to individualized memorials for victims which seemed to look at the present and future, the Nationalist murals depicted by in large events in past history of the troubles, ranging from the hunger strike in which 10 men died in prison, to individualized memorials for victims of Unionist or RUC gunfire. To myoutsider eye, the Nationalist murals seem to have a more hopeful, reconciling outlook than do the Unionist. I constantly want to decide who's right and who's wrong in this conflict, but as soon as I come to a decision, I look back again and realize that it's very much a two-way street. There simply is no clear-cut answer. The only thing that I can arrive at is just how frightened people have become as a result of the troubles. On our bus tour the different political enclaves were pointed out by two local women's advocacy group leaders, and what I began to realize was that the whole city is a mish-mosh. It's not like one side is on one side of the river and the other on the opposite bank - it's very much thrown together. It is this closeness in proximity that is the reason for so much of the high tension in the past. So much in fact, that the women on the bus said that there's hardly any nightlife in the center of downtown Belfast. Most people are simpley too scared to leave their own neighborhoods, so they eat, sleep, and work in the same general area for their entire lives. This was made clear when we went down a particularly strong Unionist street and one of the wome nervously told us that she had never been down that road as she was a Catholic. She's lived in Belfast for 25 years and had never once been there. She was very nervous when the bus had to back out slowly, and all but let out a big sigh of relief upon leaving the neighborhood.
This kind of segregation scares me to death. I know that I marvel at such deep division because I haven't grown up in the environment of Northern Ireland and don't have the experience of occupying one side of the political fence, but I still can't get just how deeply divided the two sides are. How could anyone bear so much hatred over such a long period of time? It is exactly this type of naivety that I have been shedding on this trip and it's truly frightening. By the same token however, it is also one of the most exciting experiences of my life.
Ben Mahler '03
Sociology Interim in Ireland
Belfast, Northern Ireland
"Daily journals helped me digest all that I had seen during the day, good or bad."
It was a two-day, two-night train excursion from Bangalore to Agra. In any other place the trip would take nine hours at the most, but we were in India, traveling on a second-class sleeper car build (by the British) more than 70 years ago. This was my first train ride in India, but not my last. Agra to Varanasi. Gorakpur to Delhi. Delhi to Chennai.
Crammed inside my backpack was a bounty of things I could pull out to make the time pass and ease my anxiety. Six companions whom with I could converse, three books I anticipated to finish, a wool hat I needed to knit, rock or folk or eighties music to listen to in my headphones, my long-neglected journal to write in, Dutch peppermints from my parents to suck on, a deck of playing cards to deal. Still, all I felt was enough energy to sit&emdash;motionless, thoughtless, and restless. Sitting, staring outside through the bared window, swaying left to right as the train waddled on the tracks, doing absolutely nothing, along with every other passenger.
Impatiently I sat and sat, until I felt like I had reached the point of insanity. My silence was broken about every forty-five minutes when I made an effort to go squat in the bathroom. Slowly I walked back to my seat after a bathroom break, but was stopped by a Muslim man, wrapped in light blue cloth and topped with a small cap, blocking the isle. At first I felt perturbd, wondering why I could not return to my seat that instant ( as if I were so anxious to return to my seat to sit again!). I tried to wait patiently, stretching my body to relive the aches from sitting cross -legged. Within minutes I was able to pass through the isle again, and to my left I saw a group of Muslims performing their prayer ritual - sitting on the floor, humbly bowing to their God. After finishing their rituals, they returned to their seats for the rest of the trip.
I never realized that sitting for two days would be such a challenge. Endless sitting was contrary to my way of thought, my lifestyle, and entire being. Most any American thrives on staying busy and having lots to do all the time. "Free time" usually does not mean time to simply sit, staring into space, but instead extra time for more "relaxing" activities - watching TV, playing a sport, going for a walk, shopping, or calling a friend. On the train, most any Indian thrives on doing absolutely nothing - to put it in American terms. In reality, they do everything we do not even consider as a way to spend our time. In sitting, they meditate and contemplate on the world around them, relying only on human conversation as their interaction outside their own mind. The atmosphere is quiet and comforting. Here you can sense the pervasiveness of spirituality wrapped around their culture.
Rebekah Van Wieren '01
Biology in South India
A train ride from Bangalore to Agra, India
"This is an excerpt from a larger personal essay, My Masala India, about my first experience riding a train for 2 days."
Trekking in Nepal
One foot in front of the other,
Over and over again, completing the same sequence of movements.
Hoping that soon the final destination will come into sight.
Sweat dripping in every direction.
A combination of having overdressed along with having to follow a speedy pace setter.
Taking frequent breaks in the action to view nature; mountains,
rivers, fog, and yaks.
And, taking the time to send certain things back to nature.
Getting passed on the trail by a smiling Sherpa who has no shoes
on his feet and a pack
twice the size of yours on his back.
In his head he must be calling you a "lazy fool."
Sitting down on a rock and taking the weight off your
The burdens of the world being lifted, clearing up the mind.
Crossing a suspension bridge while checking out the prayer flags
flapping in the wind on both sides.
Red, White, Yellow, Blue, and Green, symbolizing the virtues of life.
All this while making sure not to lose your balance when you see the river far far below.
Lars Finanger '02
Trekking in Himalay Mts in Nepal
"The typical scene and array of emotions one receives while on the trekking trail."