Snack is Everything. The End.

March 17, 2012

Hi all!

It’s almost Week Nine and Williams-Mystic is picking up steam. We have our science introductions and an English paper due this week, but since we’re at Williams-Mystic, this means we’re going to marshes and looking over our Lewis and Clark journals.

In marine policy, we’re learning about the Gulf Coast in preparation for our Louisiana offshore seminar next week. Marine policy occurs every Friday and the idea of having a law class for three hours in the morning may sound rough, but with Katy Hall teaching the class, it’s never boring. In between lectures covering everything to wetland mitigation to dredging, we have the glorious tradition of snack. Each house has to tailor their snack to the topic of the week. This week, it was Kemble house’s turn and our topic was the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Kemble has a history of doing awesome snacks; in our house log book, S11 Kemble drew their blueprint for an oil rig cake that would gush chocolate fudge. Expectations were already high; every Sunday, Kemble hosts a house over for brunch, so by this point, everyone has gotten a taste of our delicious cooking. We ambitiously decided to recreate the oil rig with 50 cinnamon bun rolls. My roommate Caiti and I impersonated BP executives to critique BP’s ludicrous publicity campaign. My favorite lines included, ”Jesus walks on water and soon you can too!” and “The good news? Mermaids are real. The bad news? They are all extinct.” For our “oil,” I made mint hot chocolate and coffee. We handed out Dunkin Coffee cups that now said, “America runs on greed.” After our spiel, Libby and Alex, wearing their Mystic t-shirts, came in and exposed the BP cover-up, revealing the chocolate cinnamon buns. For our efforts, Kemble house received the highest praise any house has received from Katy Hall: “That really was, of all the snacks in the history of Snack, the best snack!” I think we all swooned from happiness.

Overall, Mystic has made me realize how much food and community are interrelated. Today, for St. Patrick’s Day, S12 decided to hold a potluck feast. Each house made Irish-themed dishes as we listened to Irish jigs. While I’m still recovering from my food coma, those that didn’t succumb to Manny’s chocolate bonanza are playing Ultimate Frisbee in the parking lot. The sun is just starting to sink into the treetops, and the flowers in front of Kemble are starting to bloom. Tomorrow, I’ll study for our Oceanography exam, but tonight, I’m going to enjoy the day with my twenty-four good friends.

Fair winds!

Alex, Monica, Caiti, & Libby from Kemble House showing off their policy snack!

Mystic Is All About the Ocean, Food, and Feelings

March 12, 2012

Hi all!

Williams-Mystic S12 has just returned from the Pacific Northwest, and I already miss it. We’ve spent the past ten days travelling from Puget Sound to Coos Bay. The explorers who named landmarks had a lot of feelings back in those days; we passed near the Isles of Bad Humour, stopped at Cape Disappointment and looked over Point Defiance. During these long road trips, we all grew closer together as we chatted, sang and even occasionally boogied with our fellow professors, staff and classmates.

Our days were jam-packed, so it’s nice that we all participated in making a Daily Summary to share with the rest of the group; the twist, however, was to be both informative and creative.  S12 is a creative lot –we had skits, poems and interpretative dances, but nothing can top the final group’s song and dance. Set to the classic Backstreet Boys song “I Want It That Way,” Bianca, Tat, Lara and Carly taught us about the complex issue of rehabilitating diseased trees through song and dance:

Baby Trees!
They’re struggling to get through.
Root disease!
It’s kind of like tree flu.
But the fees,
Are more than what we can pay,
We must save Coos Bay.

This is just one of the ways Mystic’s interdisciplinary approach incorporates learning and fun. How many other programs have allotted Director’s Journal Time for us to explore and reflect? Everyone has their favorite part of the Pacific Northwest trip, but the Oregon dunes, which are the largest coastal sand dunes in North America, were mine. Lisa, our Oceanography professor, taught us how dunes are formed and afterwards, we all released our inner 5-year old and jumped and rolled off the dunes.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I was on the fence about attending Williams-Mystic. While my friends were telling me about their exotic adventures abroad, I wasn’t sure that staying with the same twenty-four people in small-town Connecticut could measure up. But a close community is one of Williams-Mystic’s greatest strengths. The academics are first-rate, yes, but the people who attend W-M are some of the most enthusiastic and encouraging people you’ll ever meet. The slogan for W-M is, “This could be your classroom,” but perhaps it should also be, “This could be your life.” I’ve fed Chinook salmon at a fishery and seen Seattle from a tugboat. From talking to the director of the Port of Tacoma to the men who grow our fish, the Pacific Northwest opened my eyes to jobs and ideas that I’ve never heard of, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

Fair Winds!


View from the Space Needle in Seattle, WA. This was the first stop after flying into the city.
Monica with her new favorite animal the Sunflower Seastar!
Spring 12 students playing in the Oregon Sand Dunes!

Finding the Right Words

March 2, 2012

Hi all!

I’m Monica and I’m the blogger for this semester! I hope you all enjoy following me as I report back on S12’s Williams-Mystic adventures. It’s been more than two weeks since our adventures on the SSV Corwith Cramer, and I still have trouble articulating what a life-changing experience it has been. Before we left for our offshore seminar, we were given a course packet of readings to familiarize ourselves with life at sea. I was particularly struck by the excerpt from Herman Melville’s Redburn, which is based upon his first voyage:

“But what seemed perhaps the most
strange to me of all, was a certain wonderful rising and falling of the
sea; I do not mean the waves themselves, but a sort of wide heaving and
swelling and sinking all over the ocean…. It made me almost dizzy to look at it; and yet I could not keep my eyes
off it, it seemed so passing strange and wonderful.”

I’ve always been drawn to the romantic allure of the sea; it’s partly why I chose Williams-Mystic.

But while Melville imagines the waves as a gently rocking cradle, the first days on Cramer we more often felt like a vinagrette, vigorously shaken. The shipmates who were waxing poetic about the Odyssey were now paying tribute to Neptune over the rail. All of us got divided into eight-people watches; led by a watch officer and a scientist, each group was given the task of turning twenty-four landlubbers into salty sailors. As two of the healthiest people on A-watch, Katy One (Katy Ficarra) and I took the log, set the sails, and ran hourly boat checks. While everyone enjoyed being the lookout for incoming ships, my favorite job was taking the helm and steering through dawn watch (0300-0700). I remember steering by the North Star and watching the sky lighten above me, and feeling incredibly at peace.

It’s still hard for me to believe that the trip was only ten days, that it only took ten days to call a hermaphrodite brigantine ship home. It’s impossible to not become friends once you’re shipmates and you’ve slept, eaten, hauled lines and thrown up over the rail together. Along the way, you find out what matters. With ship’s time, the days all bleed into one another and you learn to relish simpler pleasures: tracing the constellations you never can see back home, tying your first bowline and climbing aloft and seeing the endless ocean before you.

Before we left Cramer, we were warned that we could get landsick upon our return. My first night back on dry land, I woke up with the room rising and falling. The sea was cradling me awake, only now I understood why the sea reminded Melville of rocking his brother in the cradle. When you love someone, your hands will linger before letting go.

Fair winds,

The Spring 2012 class in Key West, FL with professors Lisa Gilbert, Katy Hall and staffers Megan Flenniken and Danielle Diuguid!