Cheers to Spring Break
April 13, 2022
Charlize Villasenor ’23
Spring break is a time known for beach excursions and road trips amongst college students. Although I knew Obies who were headed to places like Cancun and Miami, I decided to go home and see my family since I’ll be spending my summer in Tampa. This past week was officially my first, and likely last, spring break as an Obie. Although I can’t say it was the most restful, it was definitely eventful.
I started my spring break waking up at 4am after an hour of sleep to catch a 7am flight to Los Angeles. I had four papers due in the last two days before break, so I was starting the weekend a bit tired. To my surprise, I was able to book a nonstop flight from Cleveland Hopkins to LAX. This meant that I’d get to my destination sooner than if I had a layover, but it also meant I’d be sitting in the same seat for about five hours. Normally, I can sit for long periods of time and be completely fine as I typically take a nap on the plane. This time around, I had the pleasure of sitting in front of a child that kicked my seat for essentially the whole flight, so I was awake for the whole flight. Not my favorite way to start a vacation, but it wasn’t the end of the world. As I landed in Los Angeles, I took my tote bag of clothes (I refused to pay for a checked bag for spring break) and went to the front of the airport to get picked up by my mom. After asking her to circle the block a few times so we could find each other, I finally made it to the car so we could head to our first destination: Starbucks. I know it’s nothing too fancy, but I don’t go to Starbucks much while I’m in Oberlin so it feels like a treat every time I get some. After getting my mid-morning pick-me-up (since it was only 9am on the west coast when I landed), my mom and I made our way to the Airbnb where we would get ready for the night’s events. Although I originally planned to spend the week in El Paso, I had made last-minute changes to attend the 50th wedding anniversary of some family friends. Affectionately known as the compadres, the couple celebrating their anniversary had been family friends with my grandparents and were like another set of grandparents to me. After getting ready, my family and I made it to the mass where they renewed their vows and I saw folks I consider family I hadn’t seen in years. We spent the night catching up, singing, and dancing. I heard the phrases “you’ve gotten so big,” and “you know you’re welcome in our home anytime you’re in town,” probably ten times each throughout the night, but I know those are just another way of saying “I missed you” and “I love you.” After helping pick up chairs, tables, and centerpieces, and leaving the reception hall after 2am, my cousins and I did what anyone would’ve done after a wedding in LA: find some tacos. One of my favorite parts of LA is the amount of food trucks available. After going back to the Airbnb and eating my tacos al pastor, I finally went to sleep at about 4am. Quite the eventful first 24 hours of spring break.
The next day my family and I were set to drive to Phoenix. Our first objective, though? Find breakfast. After putting our taste buds in the hands of Yelp and Google Maps, we found a restaurant where they had a little bit of everything. Only in LA would I be able to find a place that serves açai bowls, huevos rancheros, potato egg and cheese bowls, and pancakes under one roof. Before starting our journey, we went to the compadres' house to say our goodbyes and catch up some more. They made sure to pack some homemade chorizo for us and sent us on our way. The plan was to drive to my cousin’s house in Phoenix, spend the night, then continue driving to El Paso the next day. Essentially, I would only be home from Monday afternoon until the following Saturday morning. In my mind, this meant I had only four full days in El Paso, and I wanted to make the most of them.
Although I didn’t get to do everything I wanted or visit every restaurant I had planned, my four days in El Paso were fulfilling. Tuesday, I spent the day with my dad. We ate Chico’s Tacos (an El Paso staple), visited the new Starbucks in town, and went to our favorite book store. If you’ve ever been to El Paso, I’m sure you’ve heard the locals say Chico’s Tacos is a must try. Essentially, it’s rolled tacos sitting in a tomato sauce covered in shredded cheese with some green chile salsa on the side. I won’t promise everyone who tries it loves it, but I’m pretty sure everyone who tries it has a strong opinion on it. Once my dad and I finished our tacos, we headed to our favorite local bookstore: Literarity. The owner boasts plenty of signed copies, original prints, books from independent publishers, and rare editions of books. During this trip, I bought a book titled In Altre Parole (In Other Words) by Jhumpa Lahiri and another titled Educating the Enemy: Teaching Nazis and Mexicans in the Cold War Borderlands by Jonna Perrillo. The first being a diary originally written in Italian and translated into English, and the other being a look at El Paso history–one of my favorite topics. It’s been my goal to read more this year, so expanding my personal library and finding genres of interest has been the key to my growth. The following three days were spent with my sister, mom, and cousin doing things from grabbing brunch at restaurants we’d never tried, to running errands that needed to be done while I was in El Paso, to watching TV for the first time since Winter Term. Of course I still had business to take care of such as Zoom meetings and catching up on assignments from the first half of the semester, but it was nice to wake up and start my days a bit more leisurely. For those four days, I turned off all my alarms and I woke up ready to make some breakfast and spend time outside in the warm sun.
Returning to Oberlin was a bit hectic since I had a layover at IAH in Houston. Although I’d flown through this airport before, I didn’t realize I had not seen how large it actually was the last time I flew through. I had a three-hour layover, and I’m pretty grateful because I needed to take an escalator and a tram to get to my gate. Overall, my little journey from gate to gate took about 30 minutes, so my walk within this airport was longer than a walk to pretty much every place in Oberlin. Although layovers mean pretty much my whole day is spent traveling (especially since I lose two hours due to time zone differences), I usually use the time to check emails or read so I don’t feel like I wasted a day. Once I finally landed in Cleveland, I bumped into a friend and a fellow Obie, so the three of us were able to split an Uber rather than wait for the shuttle.
Most breaks just feel like a pause from the chaos that is my academic life at Oberlin, but I felt like I was starting a new chapter when I returned to campus this time around. I’m not sure if it's the warmer weather and longer days, the blooming flowers and earthworms coming out, or the fact that this was my first ever spring break at Oberlin (global pandemic, I’m looking at you), but I genuinely feel ready to take on the rest of the semester now. Even though my time left at Oberlin feels limited and I’m now closer to my college graduation than my high school graduation, I feel like I’m still experiencing new things and learning about myself. I have something to look forward to every few weeks for the next few months, so I’m just trying to enjoy what time I have left with my friends for what it is. Even though my schedule is quite filled this semester, I think this might be one of the most comfortable semesters I’ve had yet. The air smells more and more like home every day, and I know I’ll be a little sad to say goodbye at the end of the academic year. I hope the spring flowers continue to inspire me until summer; second half of the semester, I’m ready for you.
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