Oberlin Blogs

Let it Snow!

February 4, 2009

Prof. Steve Volk

There's much to be said about adverse conditions, turmoil, and challenges. They have a way of cutting right across a number of boundaries which previously seemed unalterable. With the end of January, I packed my bags and headed over to England's fair and pleasant land, where I will be teaching on the much celebrated Oberlin-in-London Program for the semester. I've taught here twice before, and come here often. I love London -- I love its passion for the things I care about: politics, theatre (note the spellings!), culture, museums, music, good journalism (although this seems to be slipping), absurdly adolescent humor. I love its incredible mix of peoples from all over the world, and could (and do) spend hours taking in its great universe of cultures. But I've never much liked its snobbishness and the difficulties of breaking through "British reserve." When you're at a party in most places and you come up to a group of people you don't know, their circle invariably opens up and makes a place for you. Not here -- it stays closed.

That's why one notices when patterns change. The first time I saw this was a somber occasion -- the terrorist attacks on London's subways and buses on July 7, 2005. While everyone was very shaken and unnerved, people began to talk to me and to everyone else. It was truly cathartic. But this past Monday a happier occasion produced a similar result: the biggest snow fall in 20 years brought London right down on its big collective toochis! Of course, they couldn't cope -- no snow ploughs, no shovels, no salt. So what did they do? They closed most of the Underground lines, kept the buses in their garages, and declared a massive SNOW DAY! And what they unleashed was a very loopy and widespread happiness. As I walked to Primrose Hill, a block away from my flat, a destination bound to be a prime play-in-the-snow spot for hundreds, all the lonely Londoners were smiling, laughing, pelting each other with snowballs...and talking to everyone in sight. The scene on the hill was even better as young and old slid down the pretty steep hill on whatever they had handy, from great old-fashioned sledges, to trays, plastic bags, snow boards, you name it.

By today, the joy had gone out of the experience. Now we were just coping with the icy walks that still hadn't been cleared. But we remember -- and it was great! So here's to breaking patterns, boundaries, barriers, habits. Do something different -- you'll love it!

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