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O Little Town of Oberlin

January 5, 2009

John West ’10

I've been engaging in some countercyclical economics. Doing my part to combat the recession, I've been burning through my already-meager savings. I just moved into my apartment, which was furnished in only the loosest sense of the word. I've had to buy pots and pans, chairs and a desk, a bookshelf, a coffee maker... you get the idea. I would feel worse about this spending spree were it not for the fact that, due to the town of Oberlin's ridiculously cheap housing costs, I'm paying less than 300 dollars a month for a two-room studio.

What's more, I'm supporting local business: Oberlin may be small, but between the hardware store and Ben Franklin's (a general store), I've been able to get most everything I need in town. Of course, within about ten minutes, there's a Home Depot, a Target, a Wal Mart (cue the March of Darth Vader) and god-knows how many other big box stores. I might have been more tempted to shop at one of these monstrosities, but there's something about Oberlin in January that makes it even more pleasant and quaint, more appealing, more like something I would fight to save than it normally does.

January marks the annual migration of Oberliners to the coasts. Of course, a few resist the siren call of the big cities, and, this Winter Term, I'm proud to count myself in that number. Oberlin is quiet and still with only a fraction of the student body on campus. The small number of students, coupled with the crippling cold, leads to a kind of communal hunkering down and mutual generosity. We lend each other sugar; we give rides to our cars, we pick up each other's tabs; we huddle together in our cold apartments with tea and coffee and drinks and merrily toast this new year.

It truly is a wonderful time.

But it isn't all fun and games. We are, after all, supposed to be doing something productive over Winter Term. In past years, I have traveled to Colorado Springs--home to the largest concentration of Evangelical Christian organizations in the Country (Harper's called it "the Evangelical Vatican")--and wrote a long-lead feature piece for Wilder Voice on the relationship of these Evangelical organizations and churches with the city of Colorado Springs. I have worked in the home office of a congresswoman, taking crazy calls from crazy constituents.

This term, I'm staying in town, taking a yoga intensive at Oberlin's own Solaluna Yoga. It's six hours a day for seven days. This was the first day, and my muscles are pretty much jelly at this point. For the other weeks, I'm working on a play for the Oberlin Playwrights Festival. I wouldn't have time for either of these things during the school year. Owing to my double-degree status and my desire to graduate before I turn thirty, I generally can't take many classes outside of my two majors. Winter Term, then, presents the perfect opportunity to do things (like take over thirty hours of yoga in a week or write a play) that I would never otherwise get to do.

On that note, I suppose, I'm going to end this post. After all, it's almost ten, and I've got yoga tomorrow at 8 AM and an apartment to finish furnishing and books to read and plays to write and relaxation to do.

I love January.

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