Oberlin Blogs

My Winter Term in Lists (part 3)

February 6, 2010

Zoe McLaughlin ’11

Five things I learned because of my Winter Term project

  1. I actually can communicate in a foreign language.
    This was the most important thing to me that I got out of this experience, as I've probably already said about twenty times. My Spanish is horrible, but I could still get things done. This means really good things for languages that I actually speak or that I actually put time into learning.
  2. No one develops film anymore.
    I had the bright idea to bring one-time-use cameras to Nicaragua to take pictures with. Then I found out that basically no one develops film anymore. I got my photos developed at Rite Aid, and the quality (as you've probably been able to tell) was less than could be desired.
  3. I use a lot of water.
    There was never a lack of water, but usually there wasn't enough water pressure for it to come out of the taps, so most of the water I used came from a bucket which I'd filled up at a cistern. This wasn't a problem, but it took time to fill up a bucket, so consequently I only used water when it was absolutely necessary, and this made me realize how much I take water for granted. I know that they say the next war will be fought over water, and now I also know that I could use a lot less than I actually do.
  4. The name of Mimosa pudica in Spanish.
    The field where we were building houses had several of these plants growing in it. When you touch them, the leaves fold up. Dixon taught me how to say their name, which means 'sleeping beauty,' in between helping me dig a foundation.
  5. How to build a house.
    Yes, that's an oblique reference to a young adult novel, but it's also true. All the other construction projects I'd worked on were focused on one aspect--building a ramp or fixing a roof. This time, I learned how to do everything, from dumping volcano rocks into trenches to start the foundation to mixing cement for laying bricks.


Four fun books I read

  1. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
    This is not the first time I read this book, and it won't be the last. This is the third book in the His Dark Materials trilogy and things start to get very, very epic here.
  2. The Kings are Already Gone by Garret Freymann-Weyr
    I discovered Garret Freymann-Weyr last summer, and I've had all of her books on my list since then. I read this one because one of the main characters is a ballet dancer, and one of my goals in life is to read every YA book involving ballet.
  3. The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecelia Galante
    Lately, there have been several YA books coming out about polygamy. There's at least one more coming out this year. They're pretty good, but this book really shows what they could be. It's not about polygamy, but it is about a religious cult that's gone way over the top.
  4. Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
    One thing that I really respect in YA authors is when they address religion. This doesn't happen a lot, because it's a fairly touchy subject, but whenever it does, it makes me ridiculously happy. This is the story of a minister's daughter questioning her religious beliefs in the midst of a small town upheaval.


Three other things I did that weren't related to my project

  1. That whole thing at the museum.
  2. Went to my public library's open house.
    I'm not entirely sure why they had an open house, but we all know how much I love libraries, so of course I was there. I even won a raffle, so now I have one more book to read before classes get too crazy.
  3. Saw Joshua Bell's concert at Oberlin.
    The concert was on Wednesday of this week. Classes hadn't started yet, but I came back anyway, because it's Joshua Bell. Also, one of my really good friends from freshman year went with me. She's going to be studying abroad in Germany this semester, so it was one of the last times I'll see her before she leaves.


Two things I'm going to do next semester

  1. Write an article about my Nicaragua experience.
    Hopefully, this will induce people to donate some money to the cause. If nothing else, it will be a good exercise for me.
  2. Spend more time studying.
    I say this every semester. And every semester I mean it. This one is no different.


One good thing about being back at Oberlin

  1. The weather is better.
    No, really. Not better than Nicaragua, but better than Rochester. There were days at home when I literally wore six layers. Granted, I could probably have survived minus one or two of those, but still. Since I've been back, all I've needed to go outside is my coat.


Leave a Comment

Similar Blog Entries

Winter Term in Southeast Asia

March 8, 2023

Ilana McNamara

I spent my Winter Term in Indonesia and the Philippines learning about the musical cultures of both countries, meeting incredible people, and maybe even learning something about myself along the way.
Ilana looking off to the side with a blurry nature background