A Global Village

Here in this village you may see
children living happily
Different race and different land
Here we come to understand
one another’s point of view
learning through the things we do
How alike am I to you.”

This summer, before I immerse myself into the real world adult life that is the workplace, I will be spending a month in Bursa, Turkey and have the chance to be a kid again! CISV is a non-profit global organization dedicated to educating and inspiring for peace through building inter-cultural friendship, and teaches participants to be active global citizens and leaders in their communities.

As a painfully, painfully shy 14 year-old in the Philippines, going to a CISV summer camp was life changing. I met people from all over: New Zealand, Jordan, France, Indonesia, Norway, Brazil, Germany, Spain…We engaged in activities about human rights, diversity, sustainable development, and conflict and resolution, acted silly, and sang lullabies before going to bed: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live us one.” It was the longest time I had spent away from home, and is what inspired me to get away from home and really redefine what home is. Home is the people you’re with.

Since then I’ve been involved with CISV in Chile. I’ve hosted CISV participants at my house. And this summer I’ll finally have the chance to be an adult leader for a group of four wonderful eleven year-old kids (two girls, and two boys) at a summer camp called a “Village.” There we’ll meet with other delegations from another eleven countries. It’s a mini United Nations! Every kid who goes through CISV strives to build a career out of it, and I wish that were actually possible.

CISV has inspired me personally, has made my life more enriching, and has even influenced my career aspirations. Through CISV I’ve met some of the best people and have a network that crosses borders. I think that it has great the potential in the Seattle area, and hope to start up a local chapter if I stick around for at least another year.

Strawberry Fields Forever…

“Every time we sit at a table at night or in the morning to enjoy the fruits and grain and vegetables from our good earth, remember that they come from the work of men and women and children who have been exploited for generations…” – Cesar Chavez.

When UPS students get overly excited at the sight of red, delicious strawberries at the Diner, we tend to forget the men and women who pick our fruit. We forget that the reason we have cheap food in the United States is because of the farmworkers who slave away in the fields, barely able to sustain a healthy livelihood for themselves and for their families. Trapped in vicious cycles of poverty, these men, women, and children cannot afford to put nourishing meals on the table.
Professor Oriel Siu’s Intro to Latino studies class organized a discussion with migrant farm work union ‘Familias Unidas por la Justicia’ to raise awareness of this reality that most of us overlook. Ramon Torres, president of the union, shared his experiences working for Sakuma Brothers Berries, the terrible conditions that have forced them to go on strike and why they are boycotting Sakuma, Driscoll’s, and Häagen-Dazs. What these farmworkers and their allies demand is secure living wages of at least $15 per hour, standard living conditions, that the company stop stealing their wages, and respect rather than racial discrimination in the berry fields.

The latino studies class will continue their activism next semester and have formed a club called ‘UPS students for Farm Worker Justice. Another thing we take for granted at our university is how much power we students have organizing together. It’s great to see students step up against the silencing of those who may not have the same privileges we do.

At the event, a lady from the audience told us about her experience working in the fields of Eastern Washington as a young girl. When ‘la migra,’ also known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement would show up, to confuse them the US citizens would flee while the undocumented farmworkers would stay, a clever trick…and so unfortunate that we can’t treat better the hands that feed us.

Tiny Victory

In which Daniel is his usual disastrous self, but with unexpectedly delightful results.

To my dear reader,

At the rick of exposing myself as the college student I truly am, I must say that there are few things more satisfying than completing a well-written paper. As a music major, my opportunities to write papers are relatively slim, and as someone without a passion for writing anything that is not either fictitious or humorous, this occurrence is even more rare. As of Monday, May 4th at 12:35 AM, however, I had the enormous pleasure of producing such a paper, completely from scratch and within the span of five hours.

I had no intention of pulling off such a rapid and ill-timed feat, but on the afternoon of the Friday previous, Dr. Geoffrey Block – my Broadway History professor – reminded the class to have our final essays, discussing a musical that was an adaptation of something else, turned in by Monday. Upon hearing this, I was struck by nausea and panic. How had I not noticed that the essay was due in three days? Why had I not written that optional rough draft? At what point was I to write this six-to-eight-page paper when I had to attend Relay for Life, a choir dress rehearsal, a friend’s recital, my a cappella group’s final get-together, a choir concert and my a cappella group’s recording session, all in the next two days?

The next forty-eight hours were marked by a quietly insistent undercurrent of terror. If I did not finish the paper, then I would be unable to pass the class, and if I wrote a terrible one, then I would get a poor grade – either way, damaging my GPA. I silently kicked myself for forgetting about the paper’s existence.

On Friday evening, I frantically helped my fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, set up its tent and team for the university’s Relay for Life. After my a capella group performed at the event and attendees began to drift off, I walked the track of Baker Stadium and mulled over what on Earth my paper might be about. I had already decided to discuss the musical Ragtime and its original source, E.L. Doctorow’s novel of the same name, but I had failed to read any literature on either work. As I passed the Luminaria after Luminaria, I consoled myself with the thought that I’d at least watched the musical and read the book before this.


            The next morning, after attending a choir dress rehearsal on four hours of sleep, I took a fitful nap, arguing with myself on whether sleep or the essay was more important. On one hand, I knew that I have little capacity to function while tired, but on the other hand, I knew that my evening would begin with a friend’s junior recital at 5 PM, and would afterwards spiral into frivolity with my a cappella group when we went out for dinner, played laser tag and gave our last gifts to our senior members. Tomorrow, I told myself, I would simply not sleep. I would stay awake for as long as I needed to, and write until some semblance of a paper existed.

Sunday morning came, and I was terrified. I wandered through my last choral concert of the year in a daze, and afterwards went to my a cappella group’s recording session with knots in my stomach. By the session’s conclusion, 6 PM had arrived and I’d still not written a single word. Attempting to maintain my sanity, I gathered all the books I’d found on ragtime music, the score of the musical, E.L. Doctorow’s novel itself and interviews with the author, bringing them with me to one of the university’s coffee shops.


            It was over my first Mocha that I suddenly stumbled upon a thesis, and in a few short hours, I had spit out an essay with the following argument:

When it was first published in 1975, E.L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime was wildly successful both critically and commercially, praised for its delicate intricacy, mixing of myth and fact, and its level-headed presentation of sexuality and political ideologies. Despite garnering thirteen Tony nominations and winning four, the musical adaption by composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens was not a commercial success and received mixed reviews, critics expressing distaste for the show’s ostentatious production and spectacle.

            I argue that the musical, as part of the legacy of megamusicals (musicals of enormous production scale with many actors involved, such as Phantom of the Opera), is actually much more successful as a piece of art. This is because the show’s distinctively different characters and storylines allow for music that is distinguishable and meaningful, rather than an unending series of repetitions of the same melody, as in both aforementioned megamusicals. Despite this, however, the musical’s didactic writing and Disneyfication of the storylines, for the sake of mass audience appeal, strip the storylines of the sexual and political energy they held in the novel, and thus strip the story of the intricacy, subtlety and ambiguity for which the novel was so praised.

There you have it. Not genius level work, but I cannot deny that this is one of the few essays I have ever written in which I convinced myself of my own thesis. I finished my essay after five hours and, two hours later, had finished my last homework assignment of my junior year. A tiny victory, I suppose, but I have no apologies for the joy it brought me.


With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert


Late one night, five friends and I walked out of Trimble Hall with a light-up Frisbee. We formed a circle on Todd Field under the clear sky, while the dew on the grass kissed our ankles. I turned on the lights of the Frisbee and threw it. While we tossed the disc between us, a plane flew overhead with a rumble that caused the trees to shiver.

If on that clear night a passenger in a window-seat looked down, then she might have seen a speck of light flying across the grass. She might have followed this light as it zigzagged between six points in an indistinct circle. And she might have woken the man sleeping next to her to point out the roving speck of light; but by then, the plane would have passed and the light would have been lost.

After about an hour, we sit and watch the stars. We search for constellations, make up our own. The sky is full of stars.

This year has been filled with memories, moments to keep, each one a star in the night. I have stood on a hill watching fireworks shoot into the air. I have thrown a Frisbee around with friends more times than I can count. I have been to the Sound on multiple occasions, and have each time taken with me something special. I have said goodbye to a friend who decided that he would be better off at home, and watched him succeed there. Most of all, I have taken the time to wonder at the night, the light, the planes and the cherry blossoms, the blue beyond the hills, and the stars.


After dinner on weekends, my friends sit around and talk, drinking tea and eating cookies. Sometimes, we’ll play a game of cards, or Clue, or Hangman. And we’ll think that two years have gone by fast—almost as fast as twenty years have gone by. We’ll remember the time we wandered, lost, around Tacoma in the rain. Or any one of the many nights that we sat around a table, laughing, talking. We’ll remember that night four semesters ago, when we sat in a study room in the library, staring at laptop screens or words on a page, unaware of who, to each other, we would become.


I examine my empty room and wonder how all of my things fit into three cardboard boxes. I’ll store them later on and dust my hands of them. The future looks bright. I trust in it.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see something that I’ve forgotten to pack. A light-up Frisbee, resting against the wall. Perhaps, I’ll see if my friends want to play outside for a bit. I don’t yet want to come to terms with the fact that I am halfway done with college.

Soon, I will board a plane headed for Honolulu. It will be dark when the plane takes off; when it passes over the university, I might see a small, almost imperceptible speck of light flying over the grass, like the beam of a flashlight searching the skies, or a firefly circling the sides of a glass jar in the night.

And I will think, It is well.


On my desk sits a trinket box that I once received as a gift. Printed across the box in white letters are the words, “Good friends are like stars you don’t always see them but you know they are always there.” A friend once pointed out that the sentence suffers from a lack of punctuation. This made me think, Good friends are like punctuation[;] you don’t always see them but you know they are always there.

I have been blessed with good friends and a good family, who have always been there. I would like to recognize them, as such. I would like to thank my professors, who have worked with me on every essay and prepared me for every exam, and who have nothing but encouragement and kind words for me at the end of each day. I would like to thank my bosses and co-workers for making work fun, and thus, for paying me to have fun. I would like to thank everyone who has read my blog; I know there are not a lot of you, but there are more of you than I could have wished for. Finally, I would like to congratulate my sister, who will be joining me at the University of Puget Sound in the fall.

Small Liberal Arts Colleges

Recently on Facebook I stumbled upon this article: Struggles Everyone At A Liberal Arts Colleges Knows on Buzzfeed that basically summed up every thought I’ve ever had at Puget Sound. The statements made in the post which were submitted by the buzzfeed community of people who go to schools like Puget Sound. I could name an incident or moment in time where I’ve had the exact thoughts of the things mentioned at Puget Sound.

And while the title of the articles does indicate the points are struggles, I would say they are also the benefits of going to a liberal arts college. Colleges aren’t just for individuals who want to be a doctor or lawyer, they are for people with a passion for learning, wanting to gain more knowledge about our world and decide how we can impact it. At a liberal arts college we can pull together interdisciplinary learning to be confident in doing unique for ourselves and valuing the arts. yes, I’ve taken some really interestingly named classes such as Medical Discourse and the Body and Constitutional Controversies. Both were my seminar, freshmen English classes that combined redefining writing research papers and how to participate in college-level discussions. And I can’t wait to take a Connections course here, I’m hoping for Health and Medicine but there are so many fascinating options of study that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy if I didn’t come here.

And the one thing I am so happy to be a part of is the community, that we can hold discussions in class about the readings we actually did, that I know the names of my classmates to interact with that, I know the names of the people who make my chai lattes at Opp (thanks Em!), silently laughing in the Library because I accidentally fell down. These experiences in our Puget Sound, liberal arts, community, wouldn’t be possible if I went to a big state school, or a one-track college to just get my science degree. These can be  the struggles if you don’t like someone or you see people that saw you make a complete fool of yourself last night, but those are the small things that when I’m gray and old I won’t remember, I’ll only remember the good times.

Open Mic

It seems as though every time I take a car off campus and try to go somewhere new I manage to get lost, either that or I don’t turn the ignition switch far enough forward and the car won’t start. I don’t know why this is. I think it’s the same instincts that made me try pruning holly with a can opener one holiday season (they both had metal tops and gray bottoms). It took a long time but I eventually managed to get all the holly we needed to decorate. It was the same tonight, it took a while but I eventually got to my destination: open mic night at B-Sharp Café.

One of the literary magazines I submit to, Creative Colloquy, was kind enough to invite me to perform at their open mic night. I was nervous, and not just about whether or not I would accidentally wind up in Timbuctoo. I hadn’t spoken to anyone there yet; I was Facebook friends with a couple of the founders but that doesn’t entail actually talking. You don’t have to make eye contact on Facebook.

It turns out I had nothing to worry about. It was my first night so everyone was very encouraging. One of the hosts agreed to take a picture of me performing for my parents. Parents want pictures of things like this; it’s in their DNA. There was one awkward moment when another host thought I had been running away when I went back to my car to get my poems. I was nervous but I wasn’t that nervous. I smiled through it. In situations like this it’s best to just smile, like the Madagascar penguins: “Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.”

In my case it was more like smile and blush but it all worked out just fine. I read my poems, remembered to look up at the audience, and sat down to a nice round of applause. One kind woman patted me on the shoulder as I left and told me I did I good job. I didn’t know her; she was just being nice. It was a random act of niceness.
The other authors had some really good stuff as well. One guy had a really funny piece about the zombie apocalypse. The first woman who went wrote a really sweet story about a mother and her elementary school son. They’re a talented bunch. It would be good to go back sometime; I just have to find it again.

Large Words Used for the Purpose of Sounding Intelligent

In which Daniel unravels Grandiloquence for Cello & Piano.

To my dear reader,

In another life, I am an English Major. My days are a torrent of essays and journals, my years marked by the tide of literary studies. I count the days down until the university’s annual fiction contest, and I know Wyatt – the university’s humanities building – better than my own house. Bits of stories and essays fill my backpack, and my room is an ocean of assigned readings that I can never quite seem to navigate.

In this life, I am a music composition major, and that is perfectly wonderful. I do spend most of my days doing something I enjoy immensely, and I have learned so much about how to build a musical world in my past three years here. But in the recent weeks, a musical composition of mine entitled Grandiloquence for Cello & Piano was performed at cellist Bronwyn Hagerty’s senior recital (poster pictured below), and that piece rose from my unending fascination with words.

My name is beside Debussy's. It's not a big deal. Can we stop talking about it?

My name is beside Debussy’s. It’s not a big deal. Can we stop talking about it?

This love of grandiloquence – large words used for the purpose of sounding intelligent – is due to the children’s book series A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket. The combination of misfortune, sardonic humor, ingenious orphans  and dastardly mystery all tickled my fancy, but what really enthralled me as I read the series was the abundance of bombastic language.  Words, as Mr. Snicket so elegantly demonstrated, are powerful, and being well-read can empower one in unimaginable ways as well as make one a better person. As the character of Justice Strauss said in The Penultimate Peril, “Wicked people never have time for reading. It’s one of the reasons for their wickedness”.

Lemony Snicket, who may or may not be the pen name of author Daniel Handler, pictured above.

Lemony Snicket, who may or may not be the pen name of author Daniel Handler, pictured above.

Grandiloquence itself, however, is a product of my fascination with another book, by American author and filmmaker Phil Cousineau, entitled Wordcatcher: An Odyssey into the Weird and Wonderful World of Words. I read this book only once a few years ago, but the way that the book explored the history and etymology of the world’s most distinctive words has long since remained with me. Particularly unique words, such as noctambulation – the act of wandering about the streets at night – or spoffle – meaning to trifle about with trivial matters for the sake of looking important or busy – sparked stories in my mind, and alongside those stories came characters and music.


My subsequent desire to express the music I heard in these words manifested itself in a project I would call Grandiloquence for Cello & Piano. Written expressly for Duo Con Fuoco – a pair comprising Puget Sound cello performance major Bronwyn Hagerty, ’15, and Puget Sound piano performance and biology double major Brenda Miller, ’15 – each movement of the piece is titled with a different bombastic word and musically illustrates that word’s definition.

Bronwyn Hagerty, left, myself, center, Brenda Miller, right.

Bronwyn Hagerty, left, myself, center, Brenda Miller, right.

The three movements that I have composed thus far for the project are the following:

I. Twee – (adj.) excessively sweet and adorable to the point of being repulsive: Making use of the baroque counterpoint of Bach and Haydn, this movement opens with the presentation of an annoyingly dainty melodic idea in the cello. The piano then proceeds to present the same in melodic idea in a completely different key, and the two instruments battle to see which can be more disgustingly cute. Feel free to tell me which you think won.

II. Rapacious – (adj.) exceedingly greedy and grasping in nature: After an opening of atonal notes in the cello over a piano drone, a gentle lullaby melody rises from the piano, drifting back and forth between it and the cello. As the music progresses, however, atonality begins to slither back into the piano accompaniment, and by the movement’s ending, the cello melody has been completely gobbled up by the insatiable piano.

III. Espérance – (Middle French, n.) the hope that feeds the soul: With an opening motivic piano figure that echoes the opening of Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George, this third and final movement is a kaleidoscope of old church modes, trills and virtuosic melody. After a series of piano flourishes, the cello spins out a sweet and simple melody over clear piano chords that builds before leading into a new melody supported by tumbling piano arpeggiations. The piece spins and whirls over the cascade of notes before fading back to the sweet and simple piano chords of the opening – but with the cello whirling back in at the last moment to provide an expectant but unresolved ending. This is all meant to show both the inspiring beauty and the restless, inexorable momentum of hope.

I have no regrets about choosing a major in music over a major in English. To me, the language of words and the language of music are somehow two halves of the same whole. Composing this piece was the result of seeing how I could bring those two halves together, and I believe that this is the reason that this is the composition of mine that I am thus far most proud of. Enjoy!

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Did you know that this university has a sailing team?

Did you know that we used to ride to practice in a mini school bus, but now we carpool to the marina next to Point Defiance?

Did you know that more water flows under the Narrows Bridge per day than flows out of the Amazon? Sometimes I wonder what the ferry employees think of us in our dinky boats, struggling against a strong tide to go around an upwind mark.

Did you know that we compete against Canadians, and at our last regatta we competed against teams from as far away as Massachusetts? They come out to sail our one inter-conference regatta in the glorious venue that is the Columbia River Gorge.

Did you know the Columbia river’s average output is about 1/28 that of the Amazon’s? It is still one of the worlds largest rivers. And did you know that you could have spent your Sunday afternoon floating down the mighty Columbia towards the Bonneville dam, clinging to your capsized boat, overpowered by wind and waves and current?

We were on the second and final downwind leg of the race. The waves were rolling in from behind us, surging us forward with displays of power like the accelerations of a race car. I commented to my crew Nick on how fast we were going and with the rush of another wave following too close on the heels of the last, my grip on the tiller extension somehow weakened and the boat steered itself across the wind, bucking as the sail swung to the opposite side and rolling over. It was not good. We were both dressed for the warm weather, not for the icy chill of the water, and it did not take long for the strength to leave our limbs. I climbed on top of the overturned hull and pulled Nick up next to me. Squeezing my fingers into the small space that the centerboard slid into, I managed to pull it out and we used it as leverage to turn the boat halfway. We righted the boat only to have it tip back over, the centerboard sliding back down. By the time the chase boat had come to help us, we must have floated past the finish line, downwind and downstream of the whole race course. I ducked underneath the boat to rig the bungee so that the centerboard would stay up, claustrophobic in the small breathing space and letting my fingers improvise knots.

We righted ourselves twice, three times, I don’t know how many times, but even with the help of someone from the chase boat the boat did not want to stay righted. I remember thinking that I couldn’t possibly hoisting myself up, and then thinking, “I have to,” and doing it anyway. I remember clinging monkey-style to the centerboard as we were towed back upstream a ways, and then climbing on top of the centerboard and righting us one last time. More help had come; someone was in the boat ensuring it did not tip over again. We were safe. Nick and I were popped in the power boat and sped back to the marina.

Did you know that I sailed for four years at University of Puget Sound? Here’s how the last race of my career went: we started fast, and we ended up surrounded by concerned sailors with towels, blankets, warm clothes, and tea. I got a hug and a rare expression of concern from Wes, the only person that has been on the team for all the time that I have. And I left knowing a little bit more about myself than I did before.