Thanksgiving break was a much needed “energy boost” to get me through these next couple weeks. I got to spend time and celebrate with my family, eat delicious home-cooked food and play with my dog who was ecstatic to have our whole family, my sister, myself and my parents finally all home at the same time for a few days.
However, Thanksgiving break is now over, leaving these last two weeks before Christmas break to be full of projects, studying and lots of coffee. As of now I feel pretty good about being able to get everything done and done well in these next two weeks but only time will tell.
There are some fun things happening within these last two weeks though that will be good breaks from all the studying. The first happens tomorrow! Tomorrow my Women’s Chorus class has the opportunity to go Christmas caroling to different places around Newton. I love singing and I love Christmas carols so that will be a lot of fun for me. Also, after the caroling our professor has invited us to his house for dinner which I am sure will be as delicious as it was last year!
Another event that is happening that will be a whole lot of fun is this Friday. This Friday is the “Winter Gala.” For those of you who do not know what that is, it is basically the “prom” of Bethel College. Everyone who chooses to attend (which it is free for all students so why wouldn’t you?) get to dress up, a lot of people wear old prom dresses that are in the back of our closets because we don’t have any use for them anymore. Then we attend a fancy dinner put on by the cafeteria and the professors are the servers! After the dinner there are horse carraige rides if you want to do that and then there is a dance. There is also not the pressure of a prom for the gala because you aren’t expected to have a date! If you would like to have a date then you can go with one but otherwise you just go with friends!
Although these next two weeks before Christmas break will be busy and stressful, I am excited for the fun activites and am ready and motivated to get everything done and to go home!
Let me start this off by saying that I am a VERY sentimental person. Little things mean so much to me. As a senior, I keep finding things that are on my “List of Lasts.” For example, “This is the last time I will do _______.” With each last comes much excitement as well as sadness.
Well, on Sunday afternoon, I had a “last” that was and will be very difficult for me. I sang in my last formal concert with the Bethel College Concert Choir. While one half of me is saying, “Woohoo! That means it’s almost time for student teaching!,” the other half of me is torn. Two and a half years ago, when I started singing with the choir, I had no clue how great of an impact this group would be for me. They’ve become a family to me and when I see them each day, I know I can always laugh with friends or get hugs on the rough days. They are a group of people that holds each other accountable. They are a gracious group that is so fun to travel with. But most importantly, they are a group that makes beautiful music together. The sounds that have been produced by this group are remarkable; sounds that give me chills or put tears in my eyes. Each day from 12:00-12:45 PM, I get to gather with these people and make this amazing music. While, my last concert is over, I still have one more week of rehearsal left with this group. However, I have no doubt that I will end up shedding some tears next Thursday, the day of the last rehearsal for me (and my two other friends who are student teaching). I will cry because of the profound impact that this group has had on my life and my college experience.
My time at Bethel would not have been complete without the Concert Choir. I love my big, musical family.
Over the last three weeks, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to see two of my friends from Bethel who are also studying abroad this semester. At the beginning of the month, my friend Natalie, currently studying in Belgium, came to visit Athens (the above picture is us at the Parthenon) and just this past weekend I was able to travel to Barcelona, Spain and see my friend Nicole (who also writes for this blog). Although each visit was different, they came with a number of shared realizations. 1) Despite the fact that I’m having an amazing experience here, I do miss home and Bethel. Getting to see friends, regardless of how close to them you are or not, can be a welcome relief. Even just reminiscing about school for a half hour can do wonders for getting past any homesickness. 2) One of the things I wish I could change about my experience but cannot is the fact that I can’t share all of my adventures with the people I love firsthand. There are so many people I wish I could share my time abroad with and have them here with me and even getting to do that for just a little while with Natalie and Nicole was really nice. We can blog and post pictures and skype all we want, but there’s nothing quite like being around in first person. 3) As my return date to the U.S. looms ever nearer, the harder it is to imagine going back to daily life in the states, at home or at school. After being on my own in a different country, a concept that was overwhelming and foreign and hard to image when my journey first began, it’s even hard to image going back to my “normal”. But seeing my fellow Bethel friends who are studying abroad has reminded me, I’m not the only one who is having trouble picturing going home and that when I get back to school, I won’t be the only one trying to adjust back into a life that was so familiar and comfortable, but now sees a tad strange. 4) Places change you. When Natalie came to visit Athens, there were a number of strikes and demonstrations going on in the city because a new austerity deal was being reviewed in Parliament. (For those of you who don’t know what’s going on with Greece’s economy, this will give you a general overview of recent legislation and why it was needed: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/11/greek-austerity-budget-approved-by-parliament_n_2114890.html). While we were walking through the streets on our way to visit a popular neighborhood, we passed a number of buses that transport riot police and are often used to block streets during protests. She thought it was a little intense, while we barely noticed them. We’ve gotten so used to their presence everywhere that we barely process them anymore. Walking through a big protest doesn’t shake me anymore, it’s just a regular thing here, and I didn’t even realize that to some it’s scary and that I’d gotten so used to it. I realized places force you to adapt and even the strangest things can become common.5) What I found to be the most interesting, though, was how similar some of our experiences have been despite being in different countries. Nicole is currently studying in Barcelona, which is also in the midst of a financial crisis very similar to Greece’s. The people of Spain are very unhappy, just like the people of Greece, and austerity measures make citizens take to the street and strike more and more frequently. I’ve seen this so much in Greece that I wasn’t surprised to hear about it in Spain, nor did she see that surprised by Greece. It just sees like the typical thing to do nowadays. Actually, the fact that Americans rarely choose to exercise their right to protest seems odd to me now. Governmental discontent is a worldwide event and rarely are separate occurrences unrecognizable.I have loved getting to see some of my Bethel friends, but at the same time, it’s also helped me realize how much I’ve come to love the place I am and the people I’m with. There’s a bond I’ve formed with my Athens friends and the city itself that will exist for years to come, which I can’t say about many of my experiences before this semester.
During this Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful to have the opportunity to sing Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. Once a year for the past three years, the Bethel Concert Choir has been asked to join with WSO for a concert. It’s always a huge privilege and something I really enjoy! Out of the three years that I’ve been in the Concert Choir and had the opportunity to do this, “Carmina Burana” is by far my favorite piece that we have done.
There are twenty five movements in the piece. Probably my favorite thing about it is that there is SO much variation. Some of the movements are slower and more lullaby-like while others are quicker and you feel like you barely have enough time to spit out the foreign language text. There is a full orchestra that sounds absolutely remarkable. I can’t help but smile huge when I watch all of the bows moving up and down and a rapid pace, all in unison or when I hear the large fortissimo sound right before the cutoff at the end of a movement. Like most symphonic pieces, there are professional soloists that are brought in, but the thing that makes “Carmina” special is the fact that it also includes a children’s choir.
The Concert Choir has spent the last couple of weeks rehearsing notes and text in a foreign language, and trying to get the movements up to full speed. We’ve finally achieved it and boy, does it sound amazing! On Tuesday, we rehearsed with just the Wichita Symphony Orchestra Chorus, no orchestra. Tonight, we traveled back to Wichita for the final dress rehearsal with full orchestra, soloists, and children’s choir. Oh. my. word. I was in heaven. The overall sound was absolutely incredible. The Bethel choir will be singing in the Sunday afternoon performance, which I’m really looking forward to.
Finally, the thing that makes singing with WSO so fun is the fact that their conductor, Daniel Hege, is a Bethel College alum. Recently, he was the Music Director of the Syracuse Symphony Orchesta in New York, and in 2010, he began as the Music Director of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. He passion for music is so evident and it’s really fun to work with him, as he is also passionate about Bethel College and the music that we make here.
If you get a chance, you should look up “Carmina Burana” on youtube or somewhere. It’s a real treat and you’ll be glad that you did!
With the holiday season coming up I thought I would talk about the host family program and how host families can serve as an alternate place to go if you’re not able to go home. The program consists of single or married families who provide a home away from home, home-cooked meals, a place to go on weekends, and welcomes Bethel students to the community.
Students who sign up for the program fill out a survey and are then matched with a family that they feel comfortable with. Once a match is found the student and their family will meet the host family and start getting to know them.
While the host family program is primarily for out of state students, some Kansas residents such as myself have one. Although I live about an hour from BC, I joined the program to have a connection within the community and a place I could escape to if I ever needed to get away from campus.
My host family is very supportive of me playing basketball and they try to attend all the games they can. Not only do I have a fan base at games, but I also have the opportunity to meet new people. Through my host family I have made several new friends and have built a lasting relationship.
I am frequently invited over to have dinner and they encourage me to bring friends and we usually end up playing games while getting a free home-cooked meal. During the holidays many students are not able to travel home so a host family will sometimes offer to let them stay at their homes. This is an another added benefit of the program.
Not only is having a host familly nice because you build a relationship with them, but if they have other host students you get the chance to meet students you might not otherwise. I have made several friends with fellow students because we share the same host family.
Overall the program is a great service for students and a helpful way for them to make lasting connections within the surrounding community. Visit this link http://www.bethelks.edu/student-life/services/host-family-program if you are interested in joining the program or if you would like more information.
In this season of Thanksgiving I thought it appropriate to write a blog about the things that I am thankful for about Bethel. Thus I have titled my blog “A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart” which comes from Veggie Tales and one of their songs called “The Thankfulness Song.” (If you are interested in seeing/hearing the scene with the song in it here it is!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhcI-HXicwY
I am thankful for the new cafeteria; it is leaps and bounds better than it was last year!
I am thankful for the tennis team and am excited to being our spring season together.
I am thankful for the choral groups I am a part of and the tremendous music we make together.
I am thankful there are study rooms in the library available when I need a place of peace and quiet to study.
I am thankful for Mojos and their tasty drinks and delicious cinnamon rolls!
I am thankful Bethel is such a nice campus, small enough to feel like a close-knit community.
I am thankful for my wonderful roommate Allie and the fun times we have together, even if it is trying to motivate each other to study.
I am thankful that Bethel is close to home so I can still see my immediate and extended family often (and come home for laundry and my mom’s delicious cooking!)
I am thankful that my sister Miranda attends Bethel and that we are a part of choir and tennis together.
I am thankful for the professors and their dedication to their students and their availability to help on an individual basis.
I am thankful for friendships that I have built on campus along with closer relationships within my mod.
I am thankful for the beautiful scenery on campus, especially with the new landscaping they have completed thus far.
And last but definitely not least, I am thankful for simply having the opportunity to attend Bethel College.
I am not known for talking politics, but as elections in Catalonia are on their way I have gotten an unexpected urge to share my political opinions. I suddenly came to the realization that politics is not a matter done behind closed doors, but rather one that involves and affects everyone. I no longer believe that politicians are faceless individuals, with names not worth remembering and whose paths I will never cross: they are real people. And just like real people, their actions have real consequences in everyday life and I can no longer pretend that I do not care about their political decisions. At the University of Barcelona I have been taking a class titled Political System of the European Union. The class is small and engaging and because of it I have found myself listening to other peoples’ opinions and beginning to finally wrap my head around the world of politics. It has been fascinating to learn in class about the European Union and to be able to reaffirm what I learn with real life experiences outside of the classroom. I am after all a temporary citizen of the EU and, being caught in the middle of a historical moment for the region of Catalonia, I feel it is my moral obligation to share an overview of the political situation of my place of residence.
For those unfamiliar with the region of Catalonia (also Cataluña or Catalunya), Catalonia is an autonomous community in Spain with four main provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona. Historically, Catalonia has at times been its own principality and has been considered a part of Spain since the Second Spanish Republic in 1931. In 1937, in the midst of the region’s first thoughts of independence from Spanish rule, Spain fell under Francisco Franco’s regime and Catalonia suffered from a period of repression where freedom of expression was censored and speaking Catalan (a mixture of Spanish and French) became illegal. It would take Francisco Franco’s death and forty years’ time for Catalan nationalism to show its political face in public again. Today, there has been a surge in political movements seeking independence with visible impacts on the regions’ main cities. Public universities ask to install Catalan as the official language for higher education and general strikes exhibit the citizens’ discontent with the Spanish government. Many families speak only in Catalan and a radical younger generation has begun to reject the “Spanish” label and express its disinterest in being a part of the European Union. On September 11th of the present year (Catalonia’s national day) more than a million and a half people manifested on the streets, waving proudly the Catalan flag and asking for a democratic independence from Spain. The manifestation resulted in the convocation of elections to be held on November 25th that will determine the percentage of Catalans who wish for the separation of Catalonia from the Spanish state.
The coming election will define a key moment in the road to independence for the Catalan people but there is still a level of uncertainty surrounding the outcomes of the possible results of the election. If the polls show that the vast majority of citizens desire to become a separate state, the leftists parties will gain political power that could lead to beneficial negotiations with the Spanish government. Yet the minute Catalonia becomes an independent state will be the minute it will loose its membership to the European Union and if Spain’s secession of the territory is not friendly there is always a possibility that any request from Catalonia to re-enter it could be vetoed. And yes, Catalan taxes would be better off fulfilling the needs of the region instead of being destined to support Spain’s poorest areas, but they would also have to cover the social necessities previously covered by the EU. If, on the other hand, the election results do not reflect the need for independence, the Spanish government will feel pressured to put out any remaining political manifestation seeking the separation from Spanish rule and will have to implement policies directed to the percentage of Catalans who fail to take on the Spanish identity. But what can the Madrid government do to unify two regions separated by different languages, levels of religiosity, state governments, distances, industries and cultures?
The next few months will be critical for the writing of Catalan and Spanish history and as a student from a Mennonite college I cannot help but feel inspired by the peaceful approach to independence by the Catalan people. If the Catalan effort for independence fails, then we should at least applaud its democratic take on an often times violent path. Maybe someday Catalonia can serve as a model for places like Quebec or Scotland and even change the social construct of placing the value of a state in the strength of its government and not the character of its people. Nations do not have to be homogeneous in the expression of their culture and ideas that do not reflect the righteousness of those in power do not have to become threats to authorities. The Spanish and the Catalans have coexisted successfully for decades and their example can teach us that identities should be built by that which is shared, not by that which separates us. People change through the natural course of their lives in the same way that identities tend to shift and there is only shame in forming new alliances if there is shame in discussing them openly with other people. A road to independence is a road that is conscious of the rights of others from beginning to end and is respectful of the weight that tradition tends to bring. May the Catalan effort keep true to its nature and may the Catalan message remain always peaceful.
Halloween as a college student is a bit different from high school. No longer is it uncool to dress up in crazy costumes and go begging for candy; it’s practically Christmas for us. The opportunity to eat large amounts of sugar and show off your creative prowess is something few let pass. I’m one who doesn’t have large amounts of creativity, so my costume was a last-minute pirate getup courtesy of Et Cetera shop.
Bethel’s Halloween celebration is centered around two events-a dance and Trick-or-Treat off the street. The dance is typically held on the Saturday night closest to Halloween night and is the major costume event for students. Student Activities Council holds a costume contest for scariest, most creative, best group, and best pair costumes. The faculty judges determine winners and dole out prizes.
On the actual evening of All Hallow’s Eve, Bethel students have the opportunity to give out candy to area kids in a safe environment. I did this when I was a kid and always had a great time because it’s a lot of candy with not a very long walk in between doors. I remember being scared out of my mind in the hallways of the residence halls because they would turn all the lights off and put cobwebs up. It’s just as fun to give out candy because kids are incredibly creative and incredibly cute.
Now that Halloween is over everybody is thinking of the best costumes for next year already, even though they won’t start on them until October 30, 2013. It’s still a good sentiment.
This weekend was a very busy weekend for choir members on Bethel campus.
On Friday the Concert Choir was invited to sing a few songs at the Día de Los Muertos service at the Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Being a Mennonite who grew up in a town with a majority being Mennonite it was a very good experience to be able to be a part of – in attendance and in singing.
So Halloween has come and gone, and it had its share of brilliant and not so brilliant costumes. I myself went as a damsel in distress while my roommate Carl Lehmann went as my knight in shinning armor. This my first drag experience, and I will say that it was an interesting one. A lot of our friends got a kick out of our costume, and Carl and I both couldn’t help but stop look and laugh at the ridiculousness that was our costume.
There were plenty of other amazing costumes at the Halloween Dance, though I am not sure I can remember most of them on account of my awful memory. But trust me, there were some real gems at that little costume party. A majority of my favorite costumes came Halloween night however, when the multitude of munchkins came to our door asking for delicious goodies. I was tempted to go buy lots of fruit, particularly raisins and prunes to hand out because I know that when I was a kid those were always the houses I liked the most. Alas, the multitudes of children received from us the simplest, yet oddly most satisfying of sugary treats; the infamous pixie sticks. Even some adults delighted in its raw and unadulterated sugary goodness, since you know, even adults like to be given candy every now and then too.