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.

Going the distance

This one goes out to all my senioritis-suffering yet college-lovin’ homies.

I woke up with my eyes facing a patch of blue cut diagonally by a jet contrail.  I’ve woken up in the dark for so many days that I still think I’ve slept in when I wake up to sunlight.  Sometimes the longest distance I travel in a day is the fourteen inches it takes to get out of bed.  The jet that left its trail bisecting my window is miles and miles away now; I hold in my thoughts all those who perished, crashing into a mountain when they thought they were bound for Düsseldorf.  When did it get so hard to leave my bed?  I guess it was that way from the beginning, when as a baby I looked at the far-away edge and knew it would be impossible to get there.  But at some point the impossible became not impossible.  I dragged myself, rolled over, did whatever I had to until the chasm was before me, and then I fell off and hit my head and cried for my tired mother to come pick me up, thus learning my first lesson on achieving dreams.

One of the things I have wanted to do since I got here was bike to Seattle.  Here’s a trick: If you bike to Point D, take the ferry across to Vashon island and then bike across to the ferry going to Fauntleroy, boom, you’re in Seattle and have biked less than twenty miles.  Vashon is an odd blend of country and fancy, where a “general store” out of a converted barn sells patagucci sweaters, and where fancy boutiques line a dusty road that will turn itself into a country highway.

On Valentine’s Day, my back was sore from riding a bike that belongs to someone else.  Brandon and I crossed over the water to this close but other world, fighting our way up the hills and coasting down them in an eye-watering rush, taking up the nearly-empty road with our spinning wheels and shaking frames.  When we got to Seattle, we discovered that the person who was supposed to bring our fancy date clothes was still tied up at a conference, and so we  went to Brandon’s brother’s house to shower and pilfer clothes from his closet.  We showed up at the restaurant dressed tip-to-toe in borrowed clothing, which in my case meant a pair of long johns that I hoped passed for real pants and a sweater that was basically a dress on me.  A meal never tasted so good.

This was baby odyssey.  My riding partner lives the dreamer’s life, keeping in daily touch with his dreams, incorporating his dreams into what his actions, his very breaths.  In the fall, he rode a bike across the state and partway back before his pain-wracked body told him he was done.  Tomorrow, he plans to swim from that same ferry landing in Pt. D across the channel to Vashon Island.  It’s not so much the distance as the chilling cold and powerful currents that make this scary, but he’s going well-supported and I know he’ll be okay.  Later this spring he hopes to complete the Dr. Gordy Klatt Memorial Challenge, running and walking the 83.6 miles in 24 hours just as the Relay for Life founder did.  After that, he has plans to create a record-long hopscotch course around campus and get it recognized as a world record.  World records are nothing new to him.  This one will be the first time his name appears in Guinness Book of World Records, if all goes well, but he treats every impossible  distance crossed as a world record.  Even the achievements  of tiny dreams, like kissing another person while riding a bicycle for the first time, are world records.  The ordinary is extraordinary in his eyes, and those eyes see the bridges over impassable distances.  To me, he is extraordinary for the way that his big dreams never cloud his seeing the small things, how in the mornings he will still open the blinds for me and bring me tea.  That is why when I opened my eyes this morning I saw a patch of blue and I knew that once I crossed those impossible fourteen inches I would have a mug of tea waiting for me.  And so I crossed them.

Hit the ground running

The second-to-last semester of college begins. My schedule: two parts advanced math, one part Spanish literature, and one part digital humanities. It’s recipe that causes me to put brainpower in every assignment that I do, and one that absolutely reaffirms my choice of major. Number theory work can throw me for a loop, but I’d rather be frustrated and confused by math homework than anything else.
Coming home from study abroad, people have been asking me whether I enjoyed it, and whether I’m glad to be back. Yes, and yes! Chile was a fantastic time, and I miss lots of things: speaking Spanish on the daily, my host family, the fun of transporting to another city to go to school, living close to the beach… whenever I run into one of the UPS students who were on my program and start reminiscing, I am reminded that we had it pretty good there.
However, I don’t get nostalgic too often. This year is shaping up to be a good mixture of coming home to the same things I was doing before I left and discovering some new things. One of these special bonuses to the semester was the Race and Pedagogy National Conference, hosted by the university once every four years and taking place in September. It was great and inspiring and motivating to see the dialogue that included students, community members, and speakers and attendees who traveled from all over the country to be there. I know that I will be digesting my personal takeaways over the course of the coming months, and I hope that these issues will remain on people’s minds and as part of a positive discourse on campus. Particularly when hearing from people who live in the Tacoma area, I kept thinking how I wanted to hear these voices on campus more. Of course, this is also a prompt for me to get more involved off-campus. It is hard to fit any new stuff into my schedule at this point, but you can always squeeze in one more thing, right? I don’t really want to get into that final year conundrum of wanting to “fit it all in” without spreading oneself too thin, so I’ll just say that for now a quick pause between class and work is enough for me to stop and smell the roses, and to be thankful for the here and now.

Visiting Santiago: Art and Peace

This has been a month of Santiago.  I’ve already been three times and intend to go a fourth before we head into June (yes time flies, no I don’t want to put a number on the amount of time I have left).  Twice were airport trips, to pick up and then drop off my boyfriend Brandon who just finished his study abroad in India.  The other was a class field trip, on which Brandon got to come along.  It was for my CIEE class, which is a history, film and literature course about Valparaíso.  Since we have talked a bit about Pablo Neruda, the iconic poet with a great affinity for Valparaíso’s ocean and way of life, we went to visit La Chascona, a home he built for his lover and future wife, Matilde Urrutia.  In the afternoon we visited the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, devoted to the 1973 coup d’etat and subsequent dictatorship under General Pinochet.

There is a lot of background knowledge about Chilean history that I have picked up in my classes and just by living here, and so that combined with the language barrier made me into a sort of interpreter for Brandon.  We were visiting Neruda’s house because he was not just a poet, he was an activist and politician whose life was tied closely to the history of the country and whose death followed less than a month after the coup.  We learned that his funeral turned into the first protest against the new regime, and we learned more about the Winnipeg, a boat in which Neruda helped transport 2,200 Spanish refugees from France to Valparaíso.

Neruda was communist, but regardless of one’s political leaning, his outlook on poetry as an “act of peace” can inspire us all.  Poetry, and other forms of art, are dangerous to dictators and are frequently the first things to be suppressed, censored, and burned.  Especially during the first part of Pinochet’s dictatorship, the country saw the assassination, kidnapping, and exile of some of its most famous artists and musicians.  Discussions of art and politics are frequently inseparable.  To me, this is an expression of the importance of artists, whether or not their work is political.  We should never take our artists for granted, nor our own ability and freedom to create art.

The Ramona Parra Brigade is a group of Chilean muralists who were forced underground with the beginning of Pinochet’s rule.  As the began to paint once more, their slogan was “Contra la dictadura pintaremos hasta el cielo!” or, “We’ll paint against the dictatorship until we reach heaven!”  It’s a sentiment that makes me want to pick up a paintbrush.

Here is where I dance and run

In my “Conversational Spanish and Chilean Culture” class we just started a unit on contemporary Chilean music, which essentially means that going out to concerts counts as homework (at least according to me).  I went to two concerts in the past week – LaSmala, a band composed of members from Chile, Spain, Brazil, and other countries with a very lively and fun sound, and then a concert at the Municipal Theater in Valparaíso that was raising money for the rebuilding efforts for the fire.  I got there a little late and missed the first band’s set, but watched Dënver play from the upper balcony and then managed to get let in to the downstairs portion so that we could dance in front of the stage for Los Ases Falsos and Astro.  Five bucks for three good bands, an array of funky cartoons and videos they played between the sets, contributing to a good cause, and seeing some of the music that we discuss in class performed live.

Examples, if you want to hear what a couple Chilean songs sound like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGCwdhR_Wqk and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9XuEOHuMu4.  Warning: that second one is liable to get stuck in your head.

Along with dancing, I’ve been trying to incorporate a bit more physical activity into my days.  There are many streets in my neighborhood that I have never had any particular reason to walk down, and so now I am exploring them on my runs.  These runs have taken me to rundown houses with broken car motors in the front yard and loud, territorial stray dogs to faded large houses with walled gardens and surprisingly small, yappy strays.  The hills around here can be brutal, but most of the streets have very little car traffic and the weather is perfect right now, with overcast days slowly taking over for sunny ones.  I love how with runs, the purpose is rarely to get to a destination the most direct way; it is to get there the longer and more interesting way.  So far I have never ended up getting to where I planned to go, and that’s been just fine.

South and further South

IMG_4870 IMG_4881

I wrote a bit about the fire in my last post.  It ended up being huge, supposedly the largest in the city’s history, with fifteen people dead and between 2000 and 3000 homes destroyed.

When the fire happened, I already had bus tickets to go to the island of Chiloé with a couple of friends for Holy Week.  I left for a long weekend trip and after nearly two weeks, many changes of plans, and a beautiful adventure later I have made it home.

Chiloé was a quiet little place in its low season with some rain, some knock-your-socks-off cuisine, and a beautiful coastline dotted with little towns famous for their churches.  It was perfect soup weather, and so we slurped up broths with mussels, clams, eel, salmon, beef, chicken, and indiscernible other meats and seafood, garnished usually with lemon, cilantro, and a spicy pepper.  We also had the famed curanto, a preparation of seafood, meat, and potatoes that is cooked in the ground, and chupe de mariscos, a kind of cheesy seafood casserole that would have alone made the journey worth it.  Later, on one of the many bus rides I would take, I met some other travelers who had also eaten this dish, and we had the same speechless reaction, relating to one another through gestures the powerful experience that is this food.

After a few nights of town-hopping and one night camping in the National Park, we took the bus/ferry combination back to Puerto Montt, the big city of the area.  My friends had missed their bus and I had decided I didn’t want to go home yet, so we spent the night there in a funny little hostel where the owner gave us a discounted price saying it only included a bed, a towel, and a shower.  When we brought back some potato tortillas from a mini market nearby and asked to heat up some water for tea, she gave us a stern look and said “A bed, a towel, and a shower.  No cooking!”  Then softened a little, telling us we could microwave it if we liked.

We spent the day in Puerto Varas, a very touristy town close by on the gorgeous Lake Llanquihue, and then got back in time to part at the bus terminal.  We had spent so much money on lunch that I elected to eat carrots for dinner, which ended up making my gums bleed after a bit, but I was so absorbed in a book of mythology I’d found that the discomfort didn’t bother me.

The next morning I flew south to Puerto Natales, and met up with a different set of friends a day later.  We bought food, rented the gear we needed, made dinner, and spent the night in our hostel before waking up bright and early for the 7:30 bus to the Torres del Paine National Park.

This place was astonishing.


We only had two nights, not long enough to do the full W Circuit, but we cut off one of the legs of the W and had a grand old time, enjoying surprising amount of sunshine, more food than we could get through, some amazing fall foliage and glacier sightings, all capped off by waking up the second morning before dawn in a light snowfall to hike and see the Torres.IMG_5042We actually got off the path by accident due to the snow and early morning light, ending up on top of that ridge to the left rather than down by the lake, but no one was injured and we had quite the view of the sunrise, with a big old Andean Condor swooping around us no less.

Honestly I feel like things went almost too well that trip, and aside from some encounters with mice in our food and Australians in our campsite, all was free of those misfortunes that make up a story and instead we had a journey full of the most incredible beauty.

Oh, and I’m kidding about the Australians; Brad and Elise were lovely campground buddies.  My days were constantly brightened by people I met along the way, from the travelers I shared hostels with, to locals helping me out with the bus schedule, to the traveling businessman who came up to me as I was toweling off from a dip in the Strait of Magellan to tell me how impressed he was and with whom I ended up spending the rest of the day with, as he happened to be on my flight and like me wanted to see a bit more of Punta Arenas before leaving.  I spent the last 15 hours of my journey alone, entering Viña in a daze at around 11 am and hefting my backpack that last little ways up the hill to my house before showering, eating, and going to class.  It’s back to business as usual, with a bit of a sleep deficit and a few more fond memories to populate the grab bag of my mind.






A view of the fire in Valparaíso, Chile

I was playing frisbee in a park, the wind strong enough that it kept blowing the disc into the building which once served as a powder keg.  We started to notice the plumes of smoke as we were walking down the hill, but it was not the first time I have seen smoke rise from the hills here.  The view of black and red rising over the cemetery was picturesque, nothing else.

We had a barbecue planned, with a mixture of Chileans and Americans, and we kept stoking our little fire as the big one raged, drinking our wine and worrying but not having anything else to do.  The firefighters here are volunteers and it is hard to get fire trucks up the hills in an efficient manner.  The winds remained high, spreading what started as a forest fire to the outskirts of the city.  These high parts of the city are populated by folks who put up their wood and tin houses on property they have no legal rights to, and the fire spread down into other houses as well, so that it seems everyone knows someone who knows someone who lost everything.

We couldn’t do anything else but watch as the smoke blurred our view of the stars and look at the apocalyptic shots of flames on the news.  A state of emergency was called.  We went home to sleep and in the morning to wake and see how we could help.

This city has seen many disasters, fires and earthquakes, and there is thankfully a generous response from all the people.  “Fuerza Valpo” is soaped onto the rear windshield of taxis, the shelters are overflowing with clothes, and the streets that we walked up to help out had many others carrying up large bottles of water and packages of toilet paper.  The hill goes up and up and eventually I remember seeing burned houses in the distance and I thought we still had some distance to go, but around the next corner there were suddenly buildings completely destroyed.  It made me dizzy, seeing untouched houses next to broken down walls and ashes, seeing the flowers that grew outside survive while nothing else did, seeing people resolutely going upwards to help, and seeing people hugging one another as they came to terms with what had happened.

There was a man on the street dressed in clothes that marked him as a member of some church organization, carrying a clipboard and talking on his phone.  He was asking the people around him what the name of the street was but nobody knew.  Cesar, the Chilean I was with, told him to use the name of the school we were by as a reference, but even though the sign was right there the guy didn’t understand.  A passerby asked if he was “half-gringo or something” that he should fail to understand, and Cesar said no, maybe Argentine.  Someone else told us he was in fact from Uruguay, which all present understood to mean, he doesn’t speak our language.

As we got up further a journalist tried to stop us and interview us, as we were clearly a group of mostly foreigners.  One girl from our group stopped to talk to him, although he was asking questions like why we were going to help, when that seemed self-explanatory, and whether people seemed receptive to us helping or whether there were tensions.  It was so silly to the majority of us, since all we had done up to that point was walk up a hill, and our stories did not matter in comparison to the stories of people who lived there and people who were already actively engaged in helping.  But because we were foreigners they followed us asking questions and taking photos when we took up shovels and started to work.  We were helping at the house of a relative of a friend, moving all the rubble into empty pet food bags to be wheelbarrowed down the hill.  We had also brought sandwiches and water to distribute, but there turned out to be many people walking around with these things, and with masks.  When we got to the point where what remained was too hot to be shoveled, besides which there was a growing amount of smoke in the air, we headed back down the hill to see if any of the distribution centers needed help.  After not finding any, we took the metro back to Viña, where sat tiredly, ash raining into the foam of our pitchers of beer.

This is my first time being in a disaster area.  Normally I feel so helpless when something happens in another part of the world, and now I am in that part of the world.  It still is not easy to know what type of help is most needed, but with over 2000 houses burned (the most recent figure I have heard) I know that they will continue needing help for quite some time, and it is important to pace myself and not feel too frustrated if I can’t do everything at once.  I don’t mean to only write about earthquakes and fires, but for now this is what occupies my thoughts.

Fuerza Valpo.

The Hair Hook, and other perils of a Chilean household

The bathroom door in my new home is not quite in alignment with its frame and often takes some encouragement from my shoulder to properly close. When I do this quickly, there’s this fun little feature where my hair gets caught in the towel hook and yanks me back as I take a first step towards the toilet. “Well,” you might say, “Your life in Valparaíso must be pretty swell if your biggest problem is getting your hair pulled every now and then.” However, that is but the tip of the iceberg. Since coming here, there was a period of a few days in which there were three noticeable earthquakes (just temblors, not of the “terremoto” variety which threaten lives and property). As if waking up in the middle of the night to an extended shaking weren’t enough, I’ve had to learn to wear shoes at all times in the kitchen. Anyone who knows me can relate to how difficult this was, but after being shocked by the toaster, the toaster oven, and the microwave (which I just brushed my hand against reaching for the salt shaker) I was willing to sacrifice my toe freedom for that little rubber sole that insulates me from the ground and prevents that pesky electrical current from passing through my body.

Even considering the perils of electric shock from kitchen appliances, of earthquakes, of buses that start moving while passengers are in the middle of getting on or off, my situation here is much safer than many places I’ve been to, inside or outside the United States. My Spanish is far from perfect, but I’m getting over my fear of saying the wrong thing and now I feel comfortable in most conversations. So in this world of sun and beaches and steep hills and fast talkers, where are the challenges? Well, there is certainly much to learn about going with the flow, when classes are cancelled or moved without notice, when plans change or a given time can really mean half an hour later. There is much to learn about finding my way, waving down buses as they get close enough to read their signs and hoping they have time to brake, squeezing past others to press the “stop button,” navigating the hills and stairways and ravines and elevators on foot. Here’s one thing I’ve learned and was thinking about today as I walked with my host brother down the hill to hop on a bus going to some undisclosed location (I told him I wanted to see someplace new in the city, and he brought me to the sand dunes in Concón): that one of the great values of studying abroad is that it makes one aware of the best ways to live, anywhere. So many of the pieces of advice that I have heard from people, or read in the study abroad handbooks, are guidelines like: Don’t judge without giving yourself time to think and to understand something new; don’t assume that because something is different than what you are used to it is worse. Be open to new things, to trying every new food at least once, and to making new friends across language and cultural barriers. Do your best to respect the values and way of life of your family, communicate with them about any problems you are having, and remember to show them your appreciation. Find ways to be involved, in your home, in your school, and in your community. These are all pieces of advice that are necessary to keep in mind and follow for a successful time abroad, but they apply equally well to creating a fulfilling life. Any student who truly takes these to heart will bring their study abroad toolkit with them back home, where the challenges and dangers may be more familiar, but nevertheless where it is always good to practice openness and respect and the endless pursuit of learning.

From atop a dune in Concón

From atop a dune in Concón


Dar Gracias

When I was younger, gracias was probably the first word in Spanish I ever learned.  I did not know then that I would grow up to pursue the goal of speaking fluently and understanding this language, or that this goal would take me ultimately on a five week trip through Peru before coming to live for five months in Chile.  This is what I’ve found myself doing, and now I as I am just starting my time in Valparaíso, Chile, I feel compelled to look back at the past few weeks.

One of the kind and welcoming people I met was a man named Cesar, who jointly owns a tiny farm and ecotourism spot in the jungle of Peru, near the city of Tarapoto.  He grew up outside of Tarapoto, and described to me how when he was going to university, coming home for the weekends or for vacations was always like medicine for him.  I could easily understand – after having spent a few days at Wayra Sacha, I felt physically and mentally healed from the malaise brought on by the bustling city of Lima.  Cesar told me that one’s entropy rises in the city, causing stress and internal disorder, but that to keep my entropy low, I would simply have to remember to give thanks.  When I ate a meal, I would have to remember the earth that it was grown in, the people who had tended and harvested it, just like I had been tending to the crops.  I would have to give thanks.

Now, after a trip that was nothing like I planned but held more meaning for me than I ever imagined, I have much more to give thanks for than the food I have eaten (although it’s been some seriously good eating).  I have to give thanks to my sister Jessie, for telling me of the cheap ticket prices and showing me around Lima, explaining the taxis and the food and the good and bad neighborhoods, and to her husband and kids and the whole family there for giving me a great couple of weeks where the days were relaxed yet full.  I want to give thanks as well to the chefs who I’ll never see but who never let me down; to the bus drivers who had patience with a couple of lost gringas with no idea how much to pay or where to board; to the city of Lima for letting me join in its colorful and chaotic birthday celebration.

I thank the planes that make life easier and shorten a sixteen hour journey into two hours.  I thank the long distance buses and minivans that save money and let you see more, of the life of ordinary people, of the out-of-the-way unvisited towns consisting of stray dogs and houses painted with political slogans perched on sides of mountains.  They let you experience more, when you’re stranded far from your destination in a little town and you realize that the old woman you’re asking for directions is a Quechua speaker who knows less Spanish than you do.  They come and rescue you, when you’ve walked down from Machu Picchu and along a railroad track for two hours only to find that the bridge is out and there are people occupying the train trying to get to Cuzco, when you follow these strikers off the train and down a road that leads to the place where the bridge fell, a rushing river now passable via log, and the train has pulled away so there is not really any choice but to cross, and at the other end to find a driver with open seats who will drive you over curving guardrail-less high mountain roads and tell you about how his parents named him Ronald after Ronald Reagan, and how his schooling to become a guide is going, and how when someone yawns the joke is to ask “from hunger or from sleepiness?”

I have to thank our hosts in Cuzco, for having their doors open at 1 a.m. when Ronald deposited us in a plaza and we stumbled up the long, long stairs and proceeded to hang out listening to reggae and classic rock for several more hours.  We passed some good times in that apartment in San Blas, and that was another opportunity to see another side of a famously touristy city and its surroundings.  Just a hint: if you find yourself in Peru, go to the market, and get the juice and/or the daily menu.  It’s always good value and most of the time good conversation with the woman who’s serving your soup and your tripe-with-potatoes.

So thank you to Peru for lending my travel buddy Maria and I your buses, your hostel rooms, your ancient ruins and gorgeous landscapes, the brightness of your beaches and the intensity of your cities.  And thank you to Cesar for reminding me to give thanks, which is something that I will think of often as I head toward the new challenges of living, working, and playing in the cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.

Exams and food

It’s not the easiest to explain to my non-math major friends. “What am I doing this Saturday? Well, I’m getting up at 8 a.m. so I can take a six hour long exam, one on which there is a good chance I will get an abysmally low score, for fun. Hey, at least we get to go to the lunch buffet at Gateway to India in between the two halves!”

There you have the Putnam Mathematical Competition. I came, I sat, I conquered, and by conquered I mean that I had way more fun than I thought I would. What’s not fun about having six hours to sit down, look at twelve puzzles, choose a few of them to attempt, and mess around with those until you figure out the trick that makes it possible to solve? For instance, taking an icosahedron (you can look it up if you’re interested), numbering the sides with nonnegative integers that add up to 39, and showing that it is impossible to have such a numbering without causing two sides with the same vertex to have the same number. This was the first problem in the first set, so we got to talk about it over lunch. Rob Beezer is the professor who leads the Putnam Seminar, a weekly gathering to discuss problems from Putnams past, and so he was proctoring the exam for us and doing the problems right along with us. As we compared what we had done (and how long it took each of us to realize that the icosahedron appears in the logo for the Mathematical Association of America, and thus was conveniently pictured at the top of the page), Beezer told us how he’d used graph theory, taking the dual of the graph of the icosahedron. To be honest, I think my solution was a lot more straightforward! We’ll see if it was correct or not when we get our scores back.

Then reading period and finals week happened. My most difficult exam (abstract algebra) was on Monday morning at 8, so at least I got that over with right away! My professor brought us chocolate, and luckily for me he also likes the super dark stuff so that is what was provided us. 85%! My favorite. Almost as good as the time that my IPE professor brought in what I think were pork skewers and a dipping sauce to our final. The sauce turned out to contain a LOT of horseradish, and I had a coughing fit and runny nose in the middle of the test, but I’m willing to pay that price for delicious treats.