Oberlin Blogs

On Friendship

January 26, 2011

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

I am currently discussing this post over vegan chocolate-strawberry cupcakes as a part of a winter term BlogNFeed at Brandi's house. Eli is marking time in cupcake bites, Tess is interjecting silly animal photos into our furious typing, and Harris is sharing pieces of his prom king promotion from high school. Patrick just confessed that he will sometimes read my blog post drafts, to which I retorted that Aries used to creep on my drafts and leave me love notes of encouragement.

What can I say? That's what friends are for, taking little glimpses into your life and expounding upon them, reminding you that you're awesome. Welcome to my "friends are wonderful and so are you" post.

Disclaimer: I love many many Oberlin people very dearly. However, I can not write about everyone ever. If you're not on this list, I don't not love you. I'm writing this post to show the breadth and manners in which one can make and maintain friendships at Oberlin. In no way is this list exhaustive. So, hearts to everyone I have met and enjoyed time with over my past five years. Let's get together again soon if you're here, and if you're not here, let's chat since I probably miss you.


Friends from the Internet (I assure you, they are real):

Before the massive world of networking via Facebook that now exists for every class ever (hi class of 2015!), there was Livejournal. I discovered Livejournal's Oberlin and Oberlin 2010 communities via my friend Jesse (also from Kentucky, also a friend from camp decades ago), who decided to apply to Oberlin as well. From there, things took off.

On the 2010 community, I met a few people though ridiculous means.

Rusty and I became friends because he loved avocados, and so did I. I told him that I was picking them up off the side of the road and eating them for breakfast, which struck up many conversations about delicious things of the vegan roadkill variety. Rusty and I both lived in Harkness our first year, and we were Hark neighbors our second year. We cooked together, we ate together, we shared recipes, we sat through many house meetings and co-op discussions together. One year, I photographed Rusty and his housemates for their house Christmas card. Even now, many of our conversations begin and end with cooking ideas and concepts. Much of my vegan cooking insight has been nurtured by him.

A person with glasses and nose jewelry.
Part of the "cutest Christmas card" photoshoot, I took some individual shots of the trio as well.

Tevi and I became friends because he was an extremely excited early decision kid who was even more excited to have new people to talk to in April. His Livejournal icon was a dancing cow. I noted when he commented on my welcome post that it was dancing along with the song I was listening to, and from there, we became friends. Since then, I've been Tevi's hot date to an art benefit and travel buddy via the Washington D.C.-NYC Chinatown bus, and he is my New York restaurant recommender and incredible pun-maker.

Tevi in mid jump, a couple of feet above the floor.
For one of my private readings in studio photography, I set up studio appointments with some friends. Tevi was one of those appointments, and this was taken as we were packing up and leaving the studio (which is on the 4th floor of Mudd).

Sandhya was another excited just-accepted-in-April first year who joined the 2010 group within a few days of me. She mentioned that her favorite color was green, and that she had helped start up a society of people who liked the color green. I promptly joined the group. Once on campus for orientation, I saw a girl that could only be Sandhya sitting outside the welcome convocation in Finney Chapel and gave her a huge hug, even before talking to her. We've been inseparable ever since. We have embraced the color green, the delights of properly sized pieces of salad, epic marathons of writing in Mudd library during many finals, been each other's dancing buddies at many a performance, and put together the first Oberlin date auction.

Sandhya wearing sunglasses.
Taken at the Hirshhorn Gallery in D.C. when I visited Sandhya over fall break my sophomore year.

I also started meeting a few friends via Facebook, which started a cascade of real-life friendships as soon as we got on campus.

Kit and I bonded over a mutual love of Tool and otherwise wonderful things, like well-made pasta sauce and mobster movies. My unofficial room my freshman year was Dascomb 229, as I spent many hours doing homework and hanging out in Kit and Greg's room (Greg, a recent addition to our mutual love of Tool and otherwise wonderful things, and Kit liked each other enough online during the summer to request each other as roommates their first year). Greg and Kit went on to live together several more times, most recently as Harris' and my upstairs housemates (they are also co-founders of geakStudios, a game design company that's getting off the ground this year, right above me!). Kit and I, along with Chris (more later), cooked together for Winter Term our freshman year, where that pasta sauce came into play.

Two guys looking at a laptop computer in a dorm room.
Ah, a photo from the annals of time. Kit and Greg in Dascomb 229 our freshman year.

Chris and I became Facebook friends over the summer, but somehow in the hustle and bustle of our first few weeks, never got around to meeting each other. I marked her up as an "eventually," knowing that, with her interests and what seemed to be general excitement for Ober-things, we would eventually coincide. One fine fall day, I received a call from an unknown number while looking for Sandhya and crew in Wilder Bowl on a Friday afternoon. I warily answered, to a call that went something like this:

Me: Hello?

Other voice: I can see you.

Me (turning around frantically in Wilder Bowl, where there are no fewer than several hundred people outside enjoying the sunshine): Really? Where?

Other voice: I can see you. You're in front of Mudd. You're wearing a polka-dotted shirt. You're talking on a phone.

Me: WHO are you?

Other voice: I am no one. You will never know. *cackling laughter*

In the background, I hear a muffled group of people laughing and shouting, "Chris, just tell her to join us." I made the connection and we never looked back. Since then, Chris and I have had several cinema classes together, she's visited me in New York, and most recently, we lived together all of last year.

Chris by a pond with buildings in the background.
Taken in Central Park over fall break junior year. Chris had just realized that we were at "the spot where every movie in New York was shot" and this is her elated face.

Anna and I also met via Facebook, bonding over the perils and delights of being short (we also brought Sandhya into the mix, making our wonderful trio of shortness complete). We have since have had numerous hearts-to-heart over tea and knitting, cooking of delicious things, and docenting adventures at the Allen Memorial Art Museum (more on this soon!).

Glamorous headshot of Anna.
Another shot from my private reading studio photography shoot, this time with Anna.

Friends from the world (remember, Internet, that's a real place too):

Upon Oberlin's descent into my full-time life, I started meeting Obies in person. From first-day run-ins, to taking classes together, to chance meetings, to friendships that were a long time coming, Obie friends are at every turn.

Within my first few minutes on campus, day one, at 9:05am, I ran into my first on-campus Oberlin friend, Seán. Seán was also from Kentucky, had dated a middle-school friend of mine, and just so happened to be walking outside Carnegie on this bright August morning with his mom as well. It was friendship at first sight. Seán and I have since adventured to many places in the Cleveland area and beyond, cooked elaborately exotic meals, and sung loudly to terrible pop music (however, Seán also introduced me to Imogen Heap, for which I am eternally grateful).

Sean practicing gamelan percussion instruments.
Seán decided to write an Oberlin story about gamelan, and asked me to photograph him in the gamelan room in Asia House. So amazing.

Jake and I ended up sitting next to each other in class on our first day of school (first day of school!), Cinema 101: Form, Style and Meaning with Jeff Pence and Grace An. I think we might have run into each other earlier in our orientation activities, but we ended up as cinema friends for the rest of time. We've made several films together, and even created a production studio based on our mutual yet miscommunicated excitement for working with each other on a project. We're called Falmpist Productions, since our reaction to "Yes! We're working together!" went something like this:

Professor Pingree: The next pair is... (shot from behind the professor, where you can see nervous students in the background, slightly out of focus)... Jake and Ma'ayan (sharp focus snaps to Jake and Ma'ayan, beads of sweat popping off their brows).

(Overhead shot of Jake and Ma'ayan jumping up from their seats) Jake and Ma'ayan simultaneously: YES!

(Close up: they head in for a hand gesture of enthusiasm, Jake with a fist bump and Ma'ayan with a high-five.)


Get it? We're silly, and have persisted as such ever since. Jake's family has somewhat adopted me and I tend to see them whenever they're in town, I photographed some of his senior cinema project in production, and we did a crazy awesome photoshoot called Bonnie and Clyde vs. the Law in May. Jake was the law.

Jake in a suit, peering around a corner.
A crop of a photo from our Bonnie and Clyde vs. the Law shoot. Jake was the lawman. Look at that quizzical face. (Bonnie and Clyde were just around the corner.)

Harris and I still, to this day, have no idea how we met. All I know is that Harris was in my life, and it was beautiful. As Harris just described to me: "Sometimes at Oberlin you see people around, and one day you realize you are friends." Yes. That is how I would describe it. He and I have had inspired sandwich ideas, wonderful tea parties/office hours, and been the most ideal of room-turned-housemates.

Close-up of face painting Harris's cheek.
Harris being face-painted at one of Oberlin's many outdoors festivals.

Yoshi and I met my first year, while he was giving a stilting lesson to a girl in South lounge while I was doing homework one day. Stilts being more interesting than homework (I was clearly destined to be a circus kid), I observed the lesson and talked about how cool it would be to learn. I later saw Yoshi stilt in my first OCircus show, and somehow, over time, we began to hang out. He taught me how to stilt, I taught him how to cook, we saw Obama together, and boy, does that kid know how to reassess how your muscles are connected to your bones. Living with him last spring was a joy.

An acrobat.
Yoshi is not always wearing a fleshtone suit with feathers. However, when he is a monkey on an aerial rope during a circus show, he is.

Aries and I are of the hearing/seeing gradual friendship. I remember seeing and hearing of/hearing her for many months, but it wasn't until one of Aries' more social evenings at 4th meal that we actually spoke. She recommended some comics to me. I don't even remember what they were now, but since then, she and I have done marathon dishwashing sessions together, danced til our feet have almost fallen off, and spent a great deal of quality time with both of our families.

Aries is arched backward, face upside down and hands on the ground.
Aries' usual position, grinning while doing something amazingly ridiculous. Taken the same day as her banner photo.

Eliza and I met after I started frequenting the Oberlin 2011 Facebook group to answer lots of questions of the OMG CAN'T WAIT TO GET HERE variety. She was the most enthusiastic first-year about OSCA and psyched to live in Harkness. She and I co-cooked on several special meals and pizza nights, went on cooking adventures over Winter Term and breaks, and I benefitted greatly from her creative cupcakes. I also spent a Thanksgiving with her (and the Albrechts!) in Pittsburgh one year.

Eliza blowing bubbles outside.
Taken over our spring break of relaxation my second year, Eliza's first. We spent some time in the sunshine blowing bubbles.

Michael and I met because of the "open-door" policy of his well-placed Harkness room (101, it's the first room on the first floor, impossible to miss when heading to any of the rooms in Harkness). Dylan and Michael kept their door open if they were there, so passing Harkfolk and whoever else could drop in and say hi. It was not uncommon at any and all hours of the day, and it was a great stop-by on the way back to my room in the evening. Since then, we've created many variations on potato dishes, gone on impromptu adventures for meals (we've travelled many hours round trip for foodstuffs), and troubleshot computer problems (I could have never replaced that keyboard alone).

Wearing an apron, Michael slices pizza.
As I was looking for photos of Michael, I realized I only had one that was of him without anyone else (camera-shy but happy in groups, apparently). He is in his element, though, slicing up pizzas during Harkness pizza night.

Eric and I met, but we should have met sooner. With all our mutual friends, it should have been sooner, but over several evenings of circus-skill-related friend-goodness (also pizza making and adventures in creating stuffed crust, if I recall correctly), we became fast friends. Sadly, we only had a semester to hang out a ton, since we met when I was a sophomore and he was a senior, but we made the most of that. I was present at so many concerts and circus things with him (him rocking out or performing, me with my camera), it was sort of ridiculous. Though we haven't had as much in-person time as some other Obie folks, we've traveled to both of our homesteads (well, Oberlin on my end, not to Hawaii) to hang out, with music, shows, and circus to entertain us. (I do have the mini-bonus of having his younger sister, Carolyn, around in my life, so I'm getting a good deal of that family in my life still.)

Eric playing bass guitar, surrounded by amps and microphones.
Eric, in a usual pose with awesome rock bass. Taken at the first of many shows.

Amanda and I met because of mutual discussions of amazing people. She and I officially met over Dr. Strangelove and eating leftover trifle from the Redwall special meal at Harkness, but I had photographed her being awesome at storytelling at a previous Storytelling ExCo performance. Amanda and I are perfect listeners for each other, and we will happily listen over any variety of hand-fidgety activities, like contact juggling or folding dumplings.

Kneeling on a gym floor, Amanda leans forward on her elbow.
Taken early into junior year, with Amanda deep in thought during the circus skillshare ExCo.

Daniel and I met because, quote, "I, plus the two other people I was standing with [Eric and Jamie], fit his 'interestingness' criteria for meeting new people." We've traveled together, picnicked in the rain, and spent a good deal of time with cameras (still and video), movies, food, and related gadgetry and similarly beautiful things we'll happily nerd out about/over.

People dancing.
Taken during a World/Inferno Friendship Society Show that Daniel showed up at for the last few songs, and ended up dancing with the lead singer. A great great show.

Melissa and I met after hearing much about each other. She was gone in the semester that I probably would haven gotten to know her (mutual friends and interests and such; are we seeing a trend here?), but we ended up officially meeting after she returned and she was spending some evenings hanging out in the Review office late into the night. She ended up being my co-photo editor at the Review and was one of the most perfect work partners I can think of. We also made a great housemate team (with some lovely additions, of course).

Melissa at work in the library.
Taken to document Melissa's professional position as student assistant at the info desk at Mudd Library. I'd happily ask her any question.

Ali and I met because of Chris. Ali and Chris went to camp together (god, do I love those connections; camp is awesome!), and Ali was applying for transfer to Oberlin when we first encountered each other at a fall circus show. She was dressed in a fabulous corset and Elizabethan collar made of tin foil. When she was accepted and moved in the following February, I stormed her room with some friends on the night of her arrival, and we have been buddies ever since. She and I have shared in numerous edible experiments (we are the sandwich making queens!), traded cooking tips, and roamed New York together.

Ali (glamour shot)
Taken during another studio shoot, this time partnered with Alani to do glamour makeup for her senior cinema project in makeup design.

Brandi and I met under vaguely bizarre circumstances. Ali was doing a creative project for a makeup competition involving heart concepts and lipstick as painting material on skin. Brandi was the palette, as was Ali; but I had never met Brandi before. A potentially awkward introduction turned into a pretty hilarious one. I've never had so much fun on a shoot with someone I didn't know. Now, we are partners in every type of crime, including but not limited to cooking, blogging, and communicating.

Girl in a vintage dress.
Another Alani shoot, this time pin-up inspired by Brandi's desire to live in the 1930s.

Patrick and I met after knowing everything about each other. After a certain amount of time in Oberlin, you'll hear names enough that you feel like you might know someone, but never actually meet them in person. I like to think of this somewhat as a "Facebook phenomenon," as you can know lots about a person by what is volunteered online without ever meeting them in person. Substitute internet with mutual friends, and that explains how Patrick and I didn't meet until late this summer. Since then, we have had adventures videoing Oberlin songs and cooking together for Thanksgiving.

People practicing handbells, which are laid out along a narrow table.
Another handbell teaser photo. Patrick will be writing about this soon.

I reiterate, in no way is this a complete list of my Oberlin friends. Nope. No way. I like too many of y'all. These are just memorable beginnings and continuations, and proof that your Oberlin friends can come from anywhere at any time.

My dad's lasting friendships at Oberlin were one of the first encouraging thoughts I had about this place. I grew up around so many Obies that, early on, I decided that if Oberlin liked having people like that (that = interesting, passionate, with varied and unique backgrounds) on campus, or if Oberlin contributed to these people ending up like that (that = curious, inspirational, constantly educating), I wanted to be here. I wanted to be one of those people, and I wanted to be friends with people that Oberlin drew in, embraced, and nurtured.

At this juncture, I think I'm doing just fine.

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