Oberlin Blogs

On Study Breaks

December 19, 2011

Tess Yanisch ’13

I began writing this at Ma'ayan's apartment, eating far too much delicious food. You see, Ma'ayan occasionally has food-and-writing parties, called Blog'N'Feeds, for the bloggers. Sometimes they are meals; sometimes they are just snacks. This is a special holiday/finals study break, which means it is all desserts! I am happily munching away on pudding, cheesecake, ginger cookies, and pandan cupcakes, which taste like green tea.

A spread of desserts on a table

This is just one of many study breaks going on right now. Oberlin is usually busy to begin with, but starting in early December, the frequency of events picks up. The last few weeks of the semester are always incredibly full with people working on final projects, last ExCo or club performances, studying their brains out, and attending study breaks to cram their brains back into their skulls. (This is a thing that happens. I've taken Intro Neuroscience; I know all about it.) These various activities are not mutually exclusive. For instance, a person taking a performing arts ExCo might have their final performance on the Tuesday before finals. This is a superb study break for everyone in the audience, even if it's another thing on the "to do before break" checklist for the performers.

During reading period and finals--the last week of the semester--this burst of things-going-on intensifies. There are final shows for ExCos and final concerts from musical groups, holiday parties, and snack bonanzas. There are intentionally-planned study breaks sponsored by various halls, friend groups, and student health organizations. And, of course, events spawn other events. There is usually some kind of final ExCo party after the ExCo's final test/show, or (if it's not a performance kind of ExCo), just the party. My friend Guy has been in a murder mystery movie ExCo all semester, and even though it technically ended the week before reading period, many of them met during this week to have one final movie marathon that did not get out until two AM. This is an ExCo that begins its meetings at seven.

I will give you, dear readers, a breakdown of what I've been doing in terms of study breaks this semester. Oberlin is a lovely place, and it is dangerously easy to do more breaking than studying. My endeavors to go to everything I want to go to, support the friends I want to support, and get done the things I need to do have given me much pleasure but required delicate planning. Just this evening, for instance, I have had three overlapping commitments between seven and nine-thirty. I made it work, too! (Well, one of them didn't end up actually happening--but I was there and it would have worked out.) But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's go back a week and go through all the things I've done.

Thursday, December 8th: Guided meditation at the LUUV meeting. Part of it involved visualizing putting our worries and concerns aside so we could focus on finals, placing them in a container. We could choose any container--she suggested a box, a silk bag, or the corner of your closet. I found myself picturing a Tupperware container, which I carefully sealed after placing my worries in it and storing them in Emma's and my little fridge, next to the hummus. I'm not sure what this says about me.

Friday, December 9th: Lunchtime meeting with the trustees! All the bloggers were invited to this event and quite a few of us came. It was interesting--we talked about how we blog and how we choose what to write about. I was glad to find that I am not the only one with an overabundance of ideas and a tragic shortage of time. I'm also not the only one who wishes prospective students--or parents of prospective students--would comment on the blogs more. So take this as a personal appeal, dear readers! Everyone (bloggers, the office of communications, the trustees) is eager to know what you think and answer your questions. Bloggers get notified automatically whenever someone comments on our blogs and we write back promptly. You can e-mail us too! The Oberlin e-mail formula is usually firstname.lastname@oberlin.edu.

End of shameless plug. I regret nothing.

Saturday, December 10th: Taiko show! My friend Noah and I left the Circus' spring show planning meeting early to go see OCT's final show of the semester. Taiko is an ancient Japanese drumming technique, or, put another way, pure awesome. Disclaimer: I have a friend in the group, so I know a bit about the work and planning that goes into their shows. However, even if I were to set aside friendship and insider knowledge and judge strictly from the effects of a performance, I would still come to the conclusion that taiko is highly-refined kickassitude. One of their shows earlier in the month had screaming groupies. I kid you not. They've also played at a basketball game and a cross-country meet. (Oberlin: where people come to sporting events to listen to the taiko halftime show.)

This show began with the Taiko ExCo group's performance. I knew a few people in the ExCo, so that was fun. They did a pretty good job. But then the real group came on and the difference was incredible. (Nothing against the ExCo people--they've only been doing this for a few months.) Someone was taping it and put it up on YouTube. It's not the same as being there yourself, but it will give you an idea of what I'm raving about.

My friend was one of the ones who wrote this Battlestar Galactica piece--or I suppose "arranged" would be the proper term. (Bear McCreary wrote it all first, after all.) You can find more of the show by searching YouTube for "Oberlin Taiko."

Sunday, December 11th: Uhh . . . laundry day! I didn't have any formal activities that day. I was working on papers. Gotta spend some time studying instead of breaking, after all, or you'll really break.

Monday, December 12th: Last day of Developmental Psychology class.

Tuesday, December 13th: Last day of The Electric Age, my Romantic-era English class. Sad to see it end. Also the day of my politics final, if you can properly call a non-cumulative test a final.

Wednesday, December 14th: Photography ExCo exhibition! I mentioned this ExCo last spring, when I chose not to take it but crossed my fingers in the hope that it would be offered again. To my delight, it was, and I got in again. It's been a very interesting and fun class--I really liked my classmates and was almost always blown away by their pictures. For our final project, we each chose three to eight of our favorite photographs and got prints of them (Ma'ayan told us about some good photo-ordering websites). Picking only eight favorites was really, really hard; there were so many I liked . . . In the end, I had a lot of crisp, clear photographs and others that were more mysterious or abstract. I chose the sharp ones for the showcase. Here they are:

Appears to be treetops under a blue sky, but there are weird things in the sky.
A reflection in reservoir, rotated. (The image below is the same thing right-side up.)
The trees are at the top and upside-down, making it clear that this is a reflection on a body of water.
A face beside a glowing blue light.
Taken backstage at during a Circus show.
Seats being set up under bright lights.
Taken during setup for the Circus show.
A young man looks at his phone, smiling.
A pencil is laid down beside a squiggly line.
A young man takes a flash photo in the mirror.
Moon above treetops.
A jarfilled with something. Black and white.

From seven to nine, our class took over one of the lecture halls in King, sticky-tacked our photos to the wall, and held an open house. We got to examine each other's photos in hard copy, of course, but people's friends came to look, too.

In a lecture hall, photos are taped up on a wall.
One side of the room . . .
Another view of photos on the wall.
. . . And the other.
A young woman holds up her camera to take a photo.
Taking pictures of people taking pictures. Very meta of us both.
Three people in a discussion.
Ida came! And Ma'ayan's brother Ben (who had just injured himself in a freak blues dancing accident).

It was a very enjoyable evening. Toward the end of it, I got into a conversation that spanned topics from new movies to racism in old comics to learning foreign languages to puns to Rocky and Bullwinkle to A Game of Thrones.

When the exhibition ended, I took my pictures off the wall and went to a Sunshine Scouts improv show, making it just in time. It's interesting to watch them, having been in the group for so long--there are certain things I'm familiar with, mannerisms or patterns or storybuilding techniques that people do mostly unconsciously and that you pick up on when you're working together and that I still have to some degree. The new people they got this year are great--I was very proud of them all.

Thursday, December 15th: The Night of Three Overlapping Events:

7:00-9:00: LUUV holiday celebration/finals stress relief sugar cookie bake, a tradition.
7:30-9:30: Ma'ayan's Blog'N'Feed.
8:00-11:00: The Yule Ball, hosted by the Harry Potter Alliance, taking place inside Peters' Great Hall, because Peters looks like Hogwarts. I was mostly interested in 8:00-9:00, when there would be waltzing.

So how did I manage this? Simple! Sugar cookies bake quickly. I could go to the Multifaith Center, help make and consume a few pans, and still have time to walk two blocks back to Peters before 8:00. Then I would dance and take pictures for forty-five minutes to an hour, and then I would go back to my room, grab my laptop, and go to Ma'ayan's for at least a little while.

It didn't quite work out that way. For one thing, when I got to the Multifaith Center, there was nobody there. I got an e-mail from our advisor later saying she'd completely spaced it: she knew she was supposed to come with ingredients or pre-made dough on Thursday, and she knew it was Thursday, but she didn't quite put the two together. The event has been re-scheduled.

I did get to Peters, and I did dance! I also took photos.

Streamers and garland decorate an old wooden balcony and staircase.
The Great Hall was beautifully decorated.
Couples dancing in ball gowns.
Another view of dancers.
Couples dancing, as viewed from the balcony.

And then I went to Ma'ayan's, began this blog, ate far too much sugar, and took more photos.

A young man on a couch eats a cookie.
Chewing face! Sorry for the blurriness.

This list, by the way, leaves out things that happened more than a week ago or over a long period of time, to wit, The Fantasticks, Team 2X (a performance martial arts team, most of whom are professional stuntmen), the taiko show with screaming fans, a concert, and weekly Sci-Fi Hall Gurren Laggan nights. (It's a ridiculous anime with giant robots powered by "fighting spirit." Last year my friend Mike explained it as "Nietzsche in space.") Also, less than a week ago, Sci-Fi Hall conducted a raid on Do-It-Yourself Hall--see this post for the general idea, except Classics Hall are now our allies and joined us for this sortie--but that deserves its own post.

Also, on Friday, Sci-Fi Hall had its annual secret-santa-style gift exchange, Squidmas. Presents were piled high beneath the potted Sci-Ficus, the lounge was decorated with handmade squid ornaments, and the air was full of holiday cheer (literally--we yell when we're happy). Alumni returned to celebrate the occasion, one disguised as a present. One of the gifts was a gingerbread TARDIS. It was a truly heartwarming celebration.

Crepe paper and garland decorate a lounge.
People sitting in the decorated lounge.
A plant dressed up as a Christmas tree, with wrapped presents under it.

I am not quite done with my finals, so I will leave you, dear readers, with my sincerest wishes for . . .

. . . a most joyous . . .

*deep breath*

Christmas / Hanukkah / Solstice (/Yule) / Kwanzaa / Holiday / Festivus / oh heck, here.


Similar Blog Entries