“Look at All the People You Helped Make Happy”

I had intended for my first post to be an introduction so that any readers could understand what I participate in and what they can expect to see represented here. But I can’t do that at the moment. You see, I just had a great experience and want to share it as soon as I can.

Do you see those words up there? The title of this post? “Look at all of the people you helped to make happy tonight.” That’s what I couldn’t wait to tell you about.

I have a job at school as the Cultural Events Programmer for the Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound (ASUPS). I find, book, and promote performers that come to campus that fit into the label of Cultural Events. I also basically get to define what cultural events mean, so that’s pretty great.

Between finding a venue, setting a price, officially signing the artist, hiring sound, promotion, and other small pieces there were hiccups, but one stood out. We had partnered with professors from the Spanish and Music departments to provide classroom visits the day before the show, so Friday at 6:30 AM our Programs Office Assistant and I left Tacoma to pick up the artists in Seattle. For those of you not familiar with the area, the drive should be somewhere between 40-60 minutes. It took us two and a half hours. There was an accident and rush hour starts even earlier than I had anticipated. Luckily we built in time and made it back to campus with the artists just before their first classroom visit. I spent the next two hours being reminded how little Spanish I remember from high school before attending my one class of the day in which I am enrolled before their next classroom session and driving them back. All in all I was in a class that I was registered for one hour of the day, in classes in which I am not a student for two hours, and six hours driving a 15 passenger van. It was an interesting day.

An event like this is a lot of work. And a lot of the work is just grunt work that doesn’t require anything but time. And it sometimes feels tedious and you wonder why you are spending so much time on something like this when you have been forced to just skim readings for classes that you are paying to attend. It doesn’t make sense sometimes. But it’s a wonderful thing when you get to participate in something like this. When you look around at everyone dancing in the aisles, look back at what had to happen to allow for this moment and are brought back into the moment in order to witness the organic standing ovation. You know the kind where the clapping hands grow out of the music and act as an accent to the last note instead of an obligation and half the audience is already standing when the music ends so this is the only logical next step, the only way to show more appreciation for the music. When that moment happens, and you realize that you contributed in any small way to the experience in that room, when you see “all of the people that you helped make happy,” you feel like you can do anything. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Nobody told me Tacoma was foggy

“Washington? Why would you go to college were it ALWAYS rains?!”

I was on the receiving end of this statement many times this past year as I shared with my friends that I wanted to come to Washington, specifically UPS for college. Coming from Hawaii, the state of eternal sunshine and moving to the Northwest of rain, doom and gloom, my friends thought I was crazy. Yet knowing how rainy Washington was supposed to be didn’t deter me from coming to UPS. I was more than willing to love the cold and learn in a completely new environment, specifically a community that shared similar values as I and help me achieve my goals. However, I was blown away by the presence of the fog that has permeated our mist.

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A couple of weeks ago the fog started to roll in, and it never left. Sometimes it would be so thick when you woke up I couldn’t see Wyatt Hall from T/P. On that first day I couldn’t believe my eyes, the thickness of the fog completely obscured anything more than 20 feet in front of you and walking through it left a layer of moisture all over your body. As the days went on the fog persistently hung around, and I could see as the night wore on the fog getting thicker and hitting its apex in the morning. When we went out for our first morning crew practice (at 5AM mind you) the fog was so thick we couldn’t see the docks from the boathouse and the lights along the shoreline slowly faded into blots of light, it wasn’t a very productive practice always trying to watch out for other boats on the water. I was actually quite terrified of hitting the other boats, or even the shore, I had no way of knowing is something was nearby until I was nearly right upon it. The fog continued to surprise me even rolling over Baker Stadium during a football game a few weeks ago. I could barely see the bleachers on the opposite side; I don’t know how the players could see past their masks and the fog! The fog brought a different kind of cold and layer of shadow over campus.

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The fog was a completely unexpected surprise but I think many things at Puget Sound continue to surprise me in many good ways. It’s wonderful learning in this new environment, living with new people and becoming a part of the Puget Sound community. The rolling fog is so amazing to watch and although I may not be able to always see what is directly in front of me, I’m slowly becoming familiar with this campus and know how to find my way to where I want to go. Dealing with the fog is very much like dealing with college and the next steps of becoming a contributing adult in the world. And sometimes the most surprising things offer the best insight you never thought you’d receive. When I go back home the first thing I’m going to tell my friends and family is, “Did you know that Tacoma is more foggy than rainy?”

Bats and Bacon: Behind the Scenes

Warning:  This post includes references to dead animals in edible and inedible forms. 

 

One of my regular duties as a student worker at the diner (aka the SUB) is making bacon on Friday mornings.  The methodical laying out of sheet after sheet of bacon and putting them into the oven has turned out to be a perfect way to start out my morning.  I was doing this last Friday when I had a weird, sleepiness-induced déjà vu moment, as if I had dreamed about these bacon pans the night before.  A few minutes later it struck me that I had indeed been lifting pans of a similar shape two days before, except instead of containing bacon they were full of bats.

Let me explain.  These bats were specimens that had been prepared for the Slater Museum of Natural History on campus. We had taken them out of their cases for Bat Night, an open house event where we showed off our many bat specimens, a live fruit bat from Pt. Defiance Zoo, and even some guano that visitors could look at under a microscope.  It’s fun getting to be part of these events as a Slater volunteer, even if I felt a little underprepared for the questions of a few genuine bat experts.  My station consisted of two large trays filled with big brown bats (eptesicus fuscus) from Oregon, most of them from 1974.  Examining these preserved, stuffed skins made me wonder about the future of the skins I have prepared.  When properly cared for, these specimens can last a mighty long time and hopefully be of service in education, outreach, and scientific investigations.  Through natural history museums like Slater, scientists have a physical record of how species can vary over time and geographical location in response to changes in their environment.

The usefulness of natural history impresses me greatly, but I’ve been impressed by Slater since a friend who works there gave me an impromptu tour freshman year.   There is so much wacky and beautiful and awesome (in the awe-inspiring sense) to be found in the collection that I knew I wanted to spend more time there, which is how I ended up volunteering.  It’s always great to discover another little world inside the bounds of campus, and this has happened to me again and again.  Working for the diner is another example.  While I have obviously eaten there hundreds of times, I never had any idea who the chefs were or how all the food gets made.  Outside of the kitchen, you only get to see small quantities of each dish at a time, and I never really thought about the mass of food consumed by the student body every day, the trays and trays of bacon, the spices that get measured in by the cupful rather than by the teaspoon.  I’m sure that many students walk by Slater every day without having any idea of the trays and trays of bats and other animals inside.  Our campus is not large, but there is so much that goes on unobserved by many, and much for the curious mind to discover.

 

Fun fact: lionfish create jets of water to orient their prey for headfirst consumption.

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Back in September, we were taken to a site called Admiral’s Aquarium for our first snorkel of the semester.  There wasn’t much of a current, but there was more than we were used to, and the swell was pretty big – as in every time you lifted your head to try and listen to the intern showing you around, you got a face full of water.  My first night snorkel here was at a site called Shark Alley, which is really quite spectacular, except that we had no idea what we were doing and ended up on a shallow shelf of coral, turning it into a mind game that went along the lines of “if I suck my stomach in enough I won’t hit those corals.”  My bazillionth snorkel here had both big swells and shallow reef – and I was carrying a laboratory.

This is the usual amount of scuba gear - bulky, yes?  Now add several additional pieces of equipment.  Carabiners are basically the most useful thing ever.  (Side note - look closely for a shout-out to UPS Crew.)

Okay, not quite, but it was our second time collecting data for directed research and we hadn’t gotten used to the equipment yet.  Directed research projects started last week, and the resource management professor and three other students and I are studying the proliferation of the invasive lionfish, Pterois volitans, at various sites near South Caicos.  When we go out for a research dives or snorkels, we carry underwater slates, pencils, transect tapes, clip weights for the end of the transect tapes, and plastic T-bars with centimeter increments.

Besides the fact that it means I get to dive between four and eleven times a week, this is a fascinating and relevant research project because it involves the world’s most ecologically-harmful marine invasion ever.  You know the stereotypical look-at-this-reef-and-all-the-pretty-fish-isn’t-nature-amazing type of picture?  A lionfish will eat pretty much every single fish in that picture as long as it can open its mouth wide enough.  They eat up to 6% of their body weight per day (even as a rower, I can’t eat nine pounds of food a day); not only that, but native reef fishes haven’t figured out an effective defense mechanism to avoid their predation, and the only fish that eat them are the hugely-overfished grouper.  Also, they’re venomous.

The environmental morals of the story: don’t let your cool aquarium fish out into the ocean because they will take over everything, and use reusable water bottles instead of buying those single-use plastic ones.  That latter part was absolutely unrelated to lionfish, just something I thought I’d throw in there after a recent lecture on pollution and marine debris (remember that campaign on campus last spring with the plastic jellyfish hanging in the SUB?).  I’ll get down from my soapbox now.

Halloween Festivities at UPS

So if you’ve ever had to interact with me during the month of October, you’ll probably know that I’m an absolute Halloween fanatic. I always try to go to as many Halloween-related campus activities as I can, and it just so happened that the majority of fun spooky activities this year all took place the day before Halloween. So of course, I tried to cram in as much Halloween festivity as I could into one evening. The first item on my list was Bat Night at the Slater Museum in Thompson Hall.

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There were thousands of bat specimens to study–plus some great bat costumes from both the student volunteers and the guests! There was even a live bat, a fifteen-year-old fruit bat named Indy. I couldn’t get very great pictures of him, but he was adorable:

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Next up was the English department’s Halloween themed open mic night! I couldn’t stay for the entire time, but while I was there I did get to hear some fantastic music and spooky poetry from some of my fellow English majors.

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Also Elvis was there, that was pretty exciting. IMG_1004

Next I went to see some friends perform in a Student Initiative Theatre production, Then Spoke the Thunder. 

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It was an original play written and directed by student Jake Rosendale–not specifically Halloween-related, true, but I thought the play was really quite spooky in intensity. Much of the play was a theatrical adaptation of the works of T.S. Eliot, who I’ve loved ever since studying him in my first English class at this school, so naturally I adored the play.

Afterward, my roommates and I went to the haunted house at Phi Delta Theta. I didn’t take any pictures in the haunted house because I was too busy being terrified, but I doubt that any cell phone camera could do justice to how fantastically spooky that haunted house actually was. Apparently one of the guys in there was taking pictures of people being scared, though, because I was just tagged in this beautiful photo on Facebook:

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It was so much fun, and very well put together. Plus all proceeds went to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALSA) to help find a cure for ALS, so that was extra awesome.

My actual Halloween has been pretty quiet compared with all the Halloween fun yesterday. I went to class in my Bilbo Baggins costume, because I will jump at literally any opportunity to wear my hobbit slippers; and I went to a meeting for Crosscurrents Review tonight. (Which reminds me: if you’re considering submitting to Crosscurrents, time is running out! Submit your art, poetry, or prose to ccr@pugetsound.edu by November 6.)

But other than that, I’ve just been hanging out with my roomies, giving out candy to adorable children, and carving jack-o-lanterns.

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Happy Halloween to all!