On Conference Excitement

Attendees at RespectCon 2013

This was an exciting week. Not in the way that last week was trip-to-Texas exciting. And emotionally different than the previous weekend’s trampolining exciting. But exciting nonetheless!

Most of that derived from the fact that RespectCon, the conference on sexual assault prevention/response that I helped organize, happened this past Friday. Like, actually happened. People came! Presentations were made! Cameron and I got to have a wonderful discussion about armadillos and leprosy! There was a hashtag!

So that was very nice. I think it went well. If it didn’t, then I know a lot of very polite, very convincing liars, which is emotionally equivalent.

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Senior Year Scandal

It has not been a great couple of years for my university, PR-wise. First, there was the student who took the SAT for high school kids. Soon after, a homeless shelter sued us. We arrested students protesting our dining services contractor’s poor treatment of workers. Then, the local paper broke the news about our admissions department inflating student scores to boost our rank. The New York Times name-checked us in a story about college debt crushing the dreams of the poor.

More recently, there was an unpopular set of department cuts (including visual arts), announced via an email attachment on a Friday.

And then, the first Gawker-featured scandal of 2013: our alumni magazine’s Letter from the President*, in which our university president wrote about American compromise, presumably in reference to the cuts. His example was not, as you might guess, the Bill of Rights, or a bicameral legislature. It was the 3/5 compromise. During Black History Month. A few weeks after a (terrible) student TV show made a lynching joke.

Like I said: rough couple of years. Courageous inquiry leads you to hire bad PR people, apparently.

And it is so, so frustrating to me because I want to like Emory. If I liked Emory, I would probably be less unhappy than I am. And I remember being at Oxford (referred to, horribly enough, as Emory’s “separate but equal” campus), and being–at least some of the time–really, truly happy about being there, even when I was frustrated with the institution.  Continue reading

2012 Wrap Up

This was written a few weeks ago in preparation for my trip to Boston, where I am at this very moment ringing in the new year while being terribly, terribly cold. Enjoy!

In the shower today, I was thinking about this past year. There are some years where you can’t really remember what happened in them–they’re a pretty standard accumulation of the component parts that make up most of your life. This was not one of those.

This time last year, I was preparing to go to Dakar. I spent January through May of 2012 in West Africa, with a stopover in Barcelona and Paris. I had never been out of the country for that long, and I had never been to Africa or to Europe.

While in Dakar, I got used to taking cold showers and malaria pills. I sweated a lot. I drank in parks and was mopey and climbed inside a baobab tree and on a termite mound. I learned how to carry money, ID, and my phone tucked away in my bra after I had my phone stolen on my birthday. I was homesick. My dog died.

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Eu-said-what-now?

Y’all, yesterday was not a good day for reasons that a) you already saw on Facebook if you know me in real actual person life or b) will not hear about right now because I am maintaining an Air of Mystery.

Hahah, ugh, being kindly let down and still kind of disappointed? The worst! We’re trying round two today, so fingers crossed.

But I will not leave you hanging, readers. Instead, I’m going to tell the story of how I remembered why I cannot be in departments other than my own for more than like 20 minutes.

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Chomp and Stomp

Oh yeah, I also performed in this year’s Emory Drag Show. So that was a thing.

So, I may still be playing Christmas music on loop in my (fixed!) car, but this weekend managed to cheer me up at least a little bit. This was due in no small part that I (hold on to your hats, here) went to a street festival over the weekend–Cabbagetown’s own chili cook off/excuse for bluegrass, the Chomp and Stomp.

Though I didn’t partake in any of the chili, I was in the minority. The way the festival was set up, interested folks paid $5, bought a spoon, and walked around to any of the kajillion chili booths to receive a cup of whatever they were serving. One street had restaurants serving up their versions, and another had individual competitors. It would have been impossible to try everyone’s without exploding, I think–there were easily 40 booths on each street.

Since I passed up the chili, I snagged some cheese tamales from my family’s favorite Mexican restaurant in town, Mi Barrio, allowing me to continue the weekend food theme of cheese ‘n carbs. Most of the Mexican food in Atlanta can’t hold a candle to what you can find literally anywhere in Oklahoma, but Mi Barrio is certainly a contender. Plus, it was $5 for two large tamales, which is pretty much the best thing. Continue reading

Viking Bocce

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I am back in Atlanta after spending a week in the hills (near where FDR died in the arms of his mistress) with some of the other folks in my scholarship program. Though I’m not totally sure what that particular retreat is supposed to accomplish other than making all of Emory’s merit aid recipients tremendously fat on southern food, I am in no way complaining. There was muscadine ice cream! And viking bocce!

It’s called kubb. No, really. It was insane, as games invented in cultures that don’t have balls are wont to be.

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Three Festivals, One Weekend

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I’ve written about this before (like, approximately 600 times this summer), but street festivals are absolutely my favorite part of Atlanta. This weekend was–even by my festival-ridden standards–pretty chock full o’ street fairs. I managed to hit three–the East Atlanta Strut, the Emory Block Party, and the Festival on Ponce. Running through them all would take more words than anyone needs to read about my weekend, so we’re going to do this Amazon review style. Review time!

East Atlanta Strut

Pros: This is basically my favorite festival in Atlanta. Set in the coolest bar district currently gentrifying, the festival is a dense set of food trucks, dog rescues, and weird art goods. I purchased a PBR-themed charm bracelet, a gold glitter Pray for ATL hands magnet, and a print of Darth Vader painted up as the madonna. Plus, I played with a beagle for like 20 minutes. All of my favorite things!
Cons: To get to my volunteer booth by 7:45 am, I had to get up at 6:45, which is earlier than anyone should have to get up on a Saturday. My co-boothers were an hour late, as is the way with nonprofits. It was frustrating.

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Car Cake

Yesterday morning, I sat in my car and ate cheesecake.

I mean, I wasn’t alone. So there’s that. And no one at Emory shops at my grocery store, so it’s unlikely that anyone saw me. But outside of Your Dekalb Farmers Market, my friend and I ate (delicious) red velvet cheesecake and had a complete freakout. Because it’s senior year of undergrad, and that’s both terrifying and underwhelming. And that is a weird combination of feelings. So we drowned them in cake.

It’s terrifying because I only have nine-ish months (simultaneously a very long and very short period of time) to figure out what I’m going to be doing after undergrad. And I have had it beaten in to me by scare pieces about millennials that there are no jobs. And it would be one thing if–like some of my friends–I knew what I was doing when I finished school. But I don’t.

And at the same time, it feels totally insane to think about the end of school now, as it is a reasonable amount of time away and things could change dramatically in 9 months. I could physically create another small human out of my cells in that period of time! (I don’t plan to.) I could accomplish a lot in that span of time, but it still does not feel very long because it is all one unit–the school year–in my head.

I have a few friends who are engaged or on their way to being engaged (or are otherwise in fairly stable relationships that will probably last post-graduation). I am not, which is fine. The same is true of the friend that I was eating the cheesecake with. But there is something that makes both of us pretty jealous of those of our friends who have some sort of life plan in place at this point.

Anything past graduation is a gigantic black hole, and that is incredibly frustrating. I’m the girl who plans her homework six weeks in advance! My main destresser is writing things down, in bulleted lists, and then doing what is on the lists. Not being able to do that for most of the next nine months is going to drive me insane. I don’t want a wedding, but stability of some kind would be nice.

The underwhelming part of this whole thing is the feeling that I am limping towards my finish at Emory without anything concrete to be moving towards. I am excited to be back, and to be academically engaged, and to learn and write a thesis. But (and perhaps this is true for everyone entering senior year) I feel less and less tied to the college. I’m simply continuing to do the things from the summer with the addition of classes, rather than starting a concrete new phase for the year.

One way or the other, I need the weird holding pattern of this summer to hurry up and finish. I start classes and two of my jobs this week. If I stay busy enough, there will be no more car cake. I hope.

And with that, I am off to my first class of the year.

Freshman Freakout

Freshmen move in was this weekend, which leads me to the horrifying suspicion that my senior year of school is really, truly starting soon. I feel more unprepared than I have felt for anything that I can remember.

This year, I worked as a tech for the incoming frosh–I helped them troubleshoot troublesome mobile devices, connect to the wifi, and set up their email. Since my normal job consists mostly of windexing tables in a room that has computers, I was mostly there to deal with the easy cases and charm moms while the professionals fixed the most difficult machines. This all would have been great (paid!) fun, had it not been for the fact that I had to be at school at 7 am on Saturday morning.

Let me tell you about the last time I was at school at 7 am on a Saturday:

Oh wait, I can’t. Because it has never happened. I got up at 5:30, and it was still the same color as it had been when I went to bed four hours before. It was the sort of thing where my body wasn’t even tired–just disoriented.

So, of the four hats I have worn for freshman move-in (freshman, RA, transfer student, and tech), this was certainly the earliest. To my employer’s credit, everyone felt so bad about the hours that they gave us a great breakfast buffet to choose from. And at least I wasn’t a manager–they had to be there at 6:30.

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I Went to Crystal Bridges (and I Didn’t Totally Hate It)

A picture of Walmart

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I spend a week each winter in the Ozarks. Along with moving me back into Pepsi country, my family’s location near Fayetteville, Arkansas gives me front row seats to the strangeness that is Walmart money. Though the company is sort of fundamentally evil (and, unlike Coke, doesn’t fund my university*), the Waltons are present in some legitimately cool places in town. It’s hard to throw a stone and find a building that doesn’t have the Walton name painted somewhere on the front. Their money built the Fayetteville arts center, for example, and it’s hard for me to hate an arts center.

More recently, Alice Walton (daughter of Sam, the Walmart founder) decided to build an arts museum in Bentonville**. It’s entirely an American art museum, it’s funded seemingly entirely by companies that my hippie self is obligated to hate***, and it has the somewhat revolting name of Crystal Bridges. This year, my family got together and visited.

As much as I wanted to dislike the museum, I found it difficult to. It’s funded entirely by awful companies, but it’s also a completely free museum in the midwest. And—in part because of who made the museum—the collection is large and interesting. And when my family went, we didn’t just see the same folks you see at the High Museum here in Atlanta, who—in part due to the fact that it is really expensive—tend to share an outward class demeanor.

Based on the conversations I overheard, the people who were around us came from a variety of economic backgrounds. Most of them were not comparing the collection to other museums, leading me to assume that for reasons of money or distance this is probably the first reasonably accessible major museum most of them have been to in some time (or they’re just less judgey than the people I know, which is always an option).

I want to be annoyed by a museum that has Walton money all over it and a stupid name, but it is also so cool to me that they are using their money to at least make people recognize the midwest as a feasible destination for arts tourism—particularly when the American focus of the museum also encourages a consideration of Native American history and culture (albeit as portrayed by Euro-Americans, primarily) as a valid focus of cultural activity. The anthropologist in me approves of that.

The museum isn’t without its share of worrisome income streams. But, it also doesn’t suck. For those who are in Arkansas for one reason or another, the collection is definitely worth a look. If nothing else, there are two portraits of George Washington, and that’s pretty darn Ameri-tastic.

* Go Eagles!

** A town previously distinguished by having a neat toy shop and being the home of Walmart.

*** Goldman Sachs, Walmart, Tyson, and GE all feature prominently on an entryway wall.