Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Last Night at the Hop

One of the questions we're often asked is "What is there to do in Hanover?" I've I always wanted to answer by saying, "What isn't there to do?" but I know that for most people (if not all people), that answer will not suffice. So over the next few months one of the themes of my posts will be about life in Hanover and all that that implies.

One of my favorite things to do at Dartmouth is go see shows and films at the Hopkins Center for the Arts or, more simply, the Hop. Having been designed by Wallace Harrison, the architect of Lincoln Center and New York's United Nations Building, the Hop is one of the most unique and prominent buildings on campus. It houses the 900-seat Spaulding Auditorium, the 480-seat Moore theater, and a small, flexible black-box space called the Warner Bentley Theater, with room for up to 180 seats. Also inside are the music and theater departments with their own rehearsal and recital spaces and myriad studios and workshops for studio art, woodworking, pottery, jewelry, photography, and more. The National Endowment for the Arts has named the Hop one of the nation's exemplary performing arts centers.

Over my three years here, I've had the opportunity to see a number of spectacular performances at the Hop. Even better, my job as a production assistant has put me behind the scenes for many of them; last year, I had the opportunity to meet Branford Marsalis, the world renowned saxophonist, and stage manage his show. It is one of my fondest Dartmouth memories. But I digress.

Last night, Senegal's Orchestra Baobab was in town. Once or twice a year, the Hop sponsors a show that is completely free for everyone, including students and people from the community. This was one of the shows, but I have a feeling it would have been sold out regardless. I'm really struggling to find the right words to describe the performance. I guess if you can imagine yourself transported back to a nightclub in 1970's Dakar, that might give you the beginning of an idea of what the show was like. It was originally scheduled to take place outside but had to be moved indoors because of the rain. This was most unfortunate, as this kind of music and energy is not supposed to be confined within the walls of a building, no matter its size. But many of Spaulding's 900 audience members couldn't care less where they were and took to the aisles dancing, feeling the music rather than just hearing it. Even I, surprisingly enough, found myself out of my seat after maybe the second song, dancing with my friend Carrie. I looked around the auditorium and was truly amazed to see so many different people going through the same experience together. I mean, there were little kids no more then 4 years old dancing with their parents, Dartmouth students from all over the world (I'm from a little town in upstate New York), people from the community (townies, we call them) who have been all over the world themselves, and a group of people I saw in the middle that looked like they never really left the '70's... all connected by the pervasive euphoria that emanated from the stage and radiated between us. I wouldn't say we watched the show or even experienced the show so much as we shared it. For an hour and a half on a Tuesday evening, 900 strangers were brought together, inextricably linked by the Afro-Cuban rhythms and explosion of energy that is Orchestra Baobab.

So here I am writing this post from my desk in the admissions office, and I just realized that what I experienced last night was an almost perfect microcosm of life at Dartmouth. Every fall, a new class of 1000 students arrives in Hanover as individuals, and, for the most part, complete strangers. But then they go on freshman trips. They spend a week in orientation, getting to know the campus and each other. And by the time they reach Convocation and are officially indoctrinated into a single unit — in my case, the Class of 2009 — they have already formed bonds with each other unlike any they had experienced before. And over the next 4 years, they will make more bonds, with more people, over more events - an Afro-Pop show at the Hop, perhaps - than they might ever have thought possible. Last night, I didn't expect to feel so connected with people in the audience, 98% of whom I didn't know and will likely never meet. But it happened. And there are still hundreds of people in my class year that I haven't met yet and probably never will. For some reason or another, we've just been on opposite sides of the auditorium. But know each other or not, we will forever be connected by this institution, by our shared experiences, and by a name - Dartmouth College Class of 2009.

So the next time someone asks me what there is to do in Hanover, I'll think of last night and this post. I'll want to say "Just be here," but I'll know that won't really suffice as an answer. So I'll bite my lip, clear my throat, and start talking about the hundreds of student organizations we have, all the athletic options there are, and so on. And he might be impressed - to be honest, I'm still amazed at the variety and sheer number of student organizations here - but he won't fully understand. Because you really won't know until you get here. But once you do, it doesn't take long to figure out that Dartmouth really is a special place.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Intramural Volleyball

My friends and I are very adamant about entering the intramural (IM) volleyball league every opportunity possible. Since sophomore year, we've fielded a team to play in the men's league. The amount of teams varies term by term, but there is always good competition.

For IM sports, they function through group play in a round robin format and then bracket play. It's a good opportunity to get some exercise and competition. Especially with team sports, it's just a lot of fun to have something to look forward to every week with my friends. Though there are 33 IM sports available, I've only entered tennis, volleyball and dodgeball.

My personal favorite IM sport occurs in the spring, dodgeball. It's one of the more popular IM sports so there's always a large field of team from throughout campus. And, I have a lot of friends who look forward to the soccer and hockey IM leagues.

Participating in IM sports does not count toward your three PE requirements, just a good way to be active. For myself, I was pretty active in high school with a short stint on the volleyball team and then tennis and cross-country a bit more seriously. I definitely couldn't compete at a varsity level, but joining an IM sports team from term to term keeps me active with healthy dose of competition.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Homecoming 07 Fall

After my old laptop broke down on me, I just up and decided to purchase a new laptop to replace it. So, my life is back in order now and can now post about Homecoming, which I promised to do a while back.

Each term at Dartmouth features a special "big weekend." In the fall, that would be Homecoming. One aspect that I find so striking is that our Homecoming is geared and focused on the First-Year students. It's a tradition and evening that links you with previous classes and generations. Yes you may have matriculated, yes you may be several weeks into classes, but until you've experienced your Homecoming Bonfire, you've been lacking something.

The main focus is a giant bonfire built by the First-Year class (the 11's this year) in the middle of the green. On that Friday evening, all the First-Year students march through campus to gather their peers and arrive at the Green at the same time. And the tradition is that you run around the bonfire 100 plus your class year. So, this year they were supposed to run around 111 times. For myself, it was 108 laps (I did all of them). Not everyone does it and you do however many you desire, but it's exciting to be with your class, a giant bonfire and the student, alumni, faculty and local community watching, cheering and sharing in it with you.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Computers and Laptops

I know I mentioned that I'd post about Homecoming and put up some pictures, but over the past week my laptop (12" PowerBook G4) finally threw in the towel after 3 years of heavy and often abusive use.

Fortunately, I was able to back-up my harddrive with all my documents and pictures on it, so after I get this computer situation sorted out (which needs to happen fast, I feel lost without a computer), I'll be able to post Homecoming pictures.

But to quickly talk about computers here, all students are required to have a laptop as an incoming First-Year. Now, they can be purchased through the school or independently, as long as you have a laptop that fits Dartmouth's network requirements.

My advice, purchase a computer through the school. Since we have a computer service department right in the library, it makes things much easier if you have problems or things break down. Since it's covered by not only the manufacturer warranty but also purchased through the school, you can just drop it off and fixes and solutions are a piece of cake.

But if you're like me and the warranty just recently expired about a month ago, then it's the usual costs and fees to fix it.

Thankfully, Dartmouth has over 12,000 computers scattered throughout the campus. Keep in mind, this is in addition to the 4000ish personal student laptops. Even though I don't have my own computer, it's easy to go to the library (or dining hall) to check my e-mail/blitz, do work, or mindless facebooking.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Senior Fall

I'll be honest, it's been pretty busy. I and all of us apologize for not posting more frequently. It's been hectic.

The first day of classes were Wednesday, September 26th. This also coincided with the Democratic National Debate hosted here on campus. That was quite a way to start off the school year. Though I didn't get one of the few tickets for students to watch the debate, I did help volunteer with the Watch Party in our gym (Leede Arena) and the Media File Room, where the press watched and wrote about the debate.

It's been quite nice reuniting with the rest of the 08s back on campus, though we've all been occupied dealing with our senior seminars in our major, corporate recuiting to find a job and in general thinking about post-grad options.

Now that it's been a few weeks and things have settled down and we've settled into the term and our schedules, we'll be sure to post more often.

This weekend is Homecoming, the big weekend for the fall term. We build a bonfire in the center of the Green. It's a blast and my favorite big weekend, I'll be sure to post on Tuesday.

Have a good weekend, I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Franconia Ridge Hike

Last Friday, I took a day off of work in Admissions to go on a dayhike with my friend Sam. I've led two DOC First-Year trips before, but that's pretty much the extent of my engagement with the outdoors. The only other "hikes" that I've been on really should be described as "nature walks" since they were tame enough to wear my flip-flops.
But this hike, Franconia Ridge, is a 6.5-7 hour hike. The DOC (Dartmouth Outing Club) has its act together, especially online. Sam and I printed out the hike description and route from their website. It gave us good reminders of what to pack for a hike and also all the details and markers for the trail. Follow the link to read the full description of Franconia Ridge:

The views were absolutely stunning. A good chunk of the hike is above treeline, meaning unrestricted views of the mountains and the trees. It's nice to slow down and be able to take in and appreciate all that's around you.

After a pretty tough climb to get to the summit of one of the peaks, Sam and I took a much needed break.
There were a lot of hikers around resting, as it's a very popular dayhike. After a picture with the trail sign, we sat down and had lunch. Here's one thing that I noticed on the hike: Food tastes so much better. Even simple things like a banana or water. It's probably a combination of working hard, being hungry, and being in the outdoors, but my food and snacks honestly, exploded with flavor.

The hike was pretty routine, as you would expect a hike to be-one foot in front of the other and keep repeating. But it was a very nice and different way to spend time with a friend. I'm hoping to "hike" or at least "nature walk" more in the Fall and Spring.

Finally, descending from the ridgeline back into the trees, the end of the hike finished by following the Falling Waters trail. There's a stream that you follow down and at several points breaks into stunning waterfalls- a perfect way to end a long dayhike.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Blueberry Time!!!

So it's blueberry season in the Upper Valley (the name for the bi-state region of New Hampshire and Vermont in which Dartmouth is located) and two weeks ago, I took full advantage of this by going blueberry picking. I'm from Ohio, where apple-picking is the norm, so its been a blast to try out raspberry picking, strawberry picking, and now blueberry picking here in the Upper Valley!

One of my friend's professors had sent out directions to a number of farms in the beginning of the term, so a few friends and I decided to pick one and try it out. We chose a great, family-owned blueberry farm along the Connecticut River, just 20 minutes North of Hanover called Super Acres. When we arrived, no one was there to help us, but fortunately, another family pointed out that when no one is working the desk, they follow an honor system. You simply grab your buckets, pick your berries, weigh them, and pay by dropping your money in a little mail-slot on the shed! It's that kind of trust that makes me truly love living in New England-where else could you find a business willing to let you pay using the honor system?

After we collected about 8 pints of berries, we headed back home to enjoy them. I invited another friend over and together we made blueberry pie (my first from scratch), blueberry bread, and even blueberry sauce for ice cream, which was by far my favorite. Our baking escapades ended up inspiring my housemates as well, so the next day, they too headed out to Super Acres and brought home another 6 pints of berries! We'll suffice it to say that I ate pretty well that week :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mandala Sand Painting

A few weeks ago, monks from Tibet's Drepung Loseling Monastery came to campus. Their visit featured not only a performance in the Hopkins Center (I attended another performance that night instead, see July 30th's post) but also a mandala sand painting. The monks created the intricate sand painting in Collis, our student center. I was walking through Collis to get a quick lunch from Collis Cafe and just stumbled across their painting. As I looked down over the balcony, I saw a monk huddled over a table concentrating on depositing sand in detailed patterns; it was quite unexpected...and incredible! Walking by later that day and the next day, it was easy to see their progress as it became more colorful and much more elaborate.

This approach of having performers, lecturers, and guests do multiple activities during their visit to campus is quite common here at Dartmouth. It's a mentality that benefits students and speaks volumes about the nature of our student programming. Artists, speakers, and lecturers present not only a performance or lecture, but additionally lead lessons, masters classes, and discussions, which promote interaction, dialogue and learning outside of the classroom.

For example, when the Big Apple Circus sets up their tents on the fields across from our own organic farm for performances, they also run 'master classes' in the art of clowning. My most memorable opportunity came during my sophomore summer when I met Margaret Cho immediately after she performed her stand-up routine in Spaulding Auditorium for 900 students and community members!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Speaking of Ben and Jerry's

As Dana mentioned, Burlington, VT is only an hour and a half away, making it a great day trip from campus. Even better, along the way, located just off the highway (I-91), is the town of Waterbury, VT. What's so noteworthy about Waterbury? It's home to the Ben and Jerry's Factory!

The main attraction is a tour of the factory. First, we watched a brief video about the history of Ben and Jerry's. Next, we were escorted to view the production line. Since it was the weekend and they weren't making ice cream, we weren't able to see it in all its glory, but thankfully there were still free samples at the end of the tour! 'Bananas on the Rum' was the flavor of the day. After the tour a visit to the graveyard was necessary. In the graveyard there are tombstones for flavors that are no longer in production. Some of them sounded really good, though the vast majority of them didn't appeal to my tastebuds.

And what would a visit to this mecca of all things Ben and Jerry's be without getting an ice cream cone? I splurged and ordered a double scoop of chocolate fudge brownie and strawberry. Mmm. Good thing there's a Ben and Jerry's in downtown Hanover whenever I need a fix. Which is pretty often...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Trip to Burlington

Dartmouth is located 2.5 hours from Boston, 4 hours from NYC, and 3.5 hours from Montreal. It definitely has the best of both worlds when it comes
to location. It isn't too far from a city, but it's located in a beautiful rural community that enables the undergraduate population to tightly bond. I was once told by an alum, "you have all your life to live in a city, make college a real college campus experience." Dartmouth is definitely a real college campus experience!

However, if you are looking to leave campus for a weekend or even just a day trip, your options are not limited to the above cities. Burlington, Vermont is located 1.5 hours away from campus. It is a BEAUTIFUL bustling college town (home to the campus of The University of Vermont). Burlington is Vermont's largest city and is located along Lake Champlain. You can see from the photo (even though it is a bit cloudy) that the city overlooks the lake and provides a wonderful combination of swimming, boating, shopping, or visiting the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. Burlington is also known for it's summer open-air concerts and it's shopping area on Church Street. Church Street consists of several city blocks which are entirely blocked from traffic and overflowing with a variety of shops, boutiques and chain stores. When you've finished shopping, it isn't hard to find a good place to eat in Burlington; there is a restaurant on almost every corner! Additionally, dessert in this city is always a treat - you just need to sample some Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream since, after all, Burlington is the birthplace of the Ben and Jerry's empire.

Happy Travels!