Oberlin Blogs

Sustainable Interest, Student Displacement, and Instant Oatmeal

October 24, 2009

Tess Yanisch ’13

Green Student Politics

Oberlin's Student Senate recently sent out an e-mail to all the students. It was this semester's student referendum, themed The Green Referendum because it dealt with various environmental issues. The main issue was whether or not the new first-year dorm, currently under construction right next to Stevenson, the main dining hall (and, coincidentally, right across the street from Barnard; I've gotten used to hearing heavy machinery first thing in the morning), should be sustainability-themed. The building is going to be LEED certified. The proposal was that students should have to sign a pledge to live as low-impact lifestyles as they can.

As laid out, the pledge required students to turn off and unplug appliances when not in use, do laundry only when clothes had been worn multiple times, turn water off in the shower when not actually rinsing, etc. I think this is a good step towards raising awareness, if nothing else. What would really be nice is a way for out-of-state students to purchase carbon offsets to assuage their guilt over flying to get here--that's the real environmental killer, it seems. Maybe a few hours of unpaid work-study or volunteer work from each interested person would be enough for the college to invest in some carbon-neutralizing program on behalf of its imports.

Other issues on the referendum were busses in and around Oberlin, which perplexed me somewhat. Take a bus to the grocery store? It's only about five blocks away. I can walk it no problem--and people with bikes wouldn't even notice it. The only use I can see for a bus route to other Oberlin sites is that it would be handy when you're carrying a WHOLE lot of stuff or when it's REALLY cold outside.

The results of the referendum aren't in yet, but I will tell you if they are interesting.

On Coming Home

On Monday, I left the Social Justice Institute early, sprinted back to my dorm, and grabbed my backpack and laptop. I was going home for the rest of Fall Break, and, being a cheapskate, I had decided to travel light--without checking anything. My backpack was crammed and heavy with clothes, probably more than I needed to bring, in retrospect, but I didn't know whether the weather would be sunny-and-warm-ish or cold-and-rainy-ish for the most part. Washington weather is unpredictable and I wanted to be prepared.

I got a ride to the airport from an Oberlin native, breezed through security, took the flight, chatted with the woman next to me, made my connection with loads of time to spare, Dad pulled up to pick me up just as I was leaving the airport--I generally ended up home feeling like a savvy, independent spirit. It was great.

I talked with Mom and Dad, then took a bath--one of the things you start to really miss at college is the opportunity to draw a really hot bath and sit in it and soak and read for ages--and went to bed at what was probably five in the morning, Ohio time. I didn't feel like I'd been up for almost 24 hours, though, which was a cool feeling in itself.

In the morning I made sure my nine-year-old little brother was up and out in the dining room having breakfast, then casually sauntered out and poured myself a bowl of cereal. He hadn't known I was coming home and was absolutely astounded. He recovered quickly, though--he's always quick on his feet--and smiled at me and said, "You never did leave, did you!?"

It's a funny feeling, being home. Since I left, Mom reorganized my room--in preparation for the epic Shoveling Out of the Closet and Purging of the Packratted Memorabilia that I'll have to do eventually--and it was strange coming in and seeing my bed at a different angle, the second bookcase missing, closet storage devices now in the room, room storage devices now in the closet. My lamp is now in Oberlin, so my brother's old bedside lamp is by my bed. It's also felt colder in here than in the rest of the house. The net effect is that it feels a little bit like a guest room, un-lived-in, not lonely but not--used. My Lord of the Rings poster is right where it always was, my desk is just the way I left it (messy), as is my bulletin board (I recycled the old "to do before leaving for Oberlin" lists that were still on it). I felt just a little bit like a ghost, or like there were ghosts: old me-ghosts, running around, writing in the notebooks and reading the books and preparing to say goodbye--and here I am back again.

It's not a melancholy feeling, just different. I don't entirely live here anymore, but I don't entirely not live here either. This is still "home"; my room at Oberlin is "otherhome," a base of operations, temporary--I think I have that impression especially because I have a divided double and my roommate and I are going to switch rooms after Winter Term.

On the other hand, my cat, who Mom says was "depressed" after I left and went mooning around disconsolately (ie, more grumpily than usual), seems to have already taken my returned presence more or less for granted. She's yelled at me to be let out, squawked to be let in, complained at me to get me to play with her--some things don't change.

The Joy of Instant Cooking

Barnard doesn't have great wiring, so students are not allowed microwaves in our rooms. Apparently, they tend to explode.

Consequently, I have a hot pot thing (heats up two cups of water in about thirty seconds) and my roommate has a minifridge, but we have no microwave. All food, then, must be eaten cold or made hot by the infusion of hot water. (Or we could go downstairs to use the microwave in the lounge, but, you know, where's the fun in that?) I like tea, cocoa, and oatmeal, so this isn't a problem. However, keeping myself supplied is.

Oberlin is a small town with a captive audience. The markup for things at Gibson's, the drugstore/bakery/candy shop that exists to serve Obies, varies from not that bad to incredible. I try not to go in there lest I be tempted. Besides, I get 19 meals a week on my current board plan, so I try to use them--we're paying enough.

But sometimes, I just want to snack. Before leaving, I had finished up my supply of dried apple rings, walnuts, and dried fruit mix, leaving me with a few other varieties of dried fruit, lots of chocolate, a jar and a half of creamy peanut butter, and a few bags of instant cranberry oatmeal. I still had LOTS of tea left (I brought a whole bunch), and some Stephen's Sipping Hot Cocoa (a decadent treat, for special occasions only).

Well, coming home was just what my diminished larder needed! I'm returning with TONS of oatmeal of three different varieties, dried apples, more walnuts (taste great in the cranberry oatmeal), Trader Joe's trail mix, and instant coca, mocha, and dark chocolate cocoa. Hopefully, this will see me through the cold, dark months ahead. Liquid chocolate is always a great way to counteract Seasonal Affective Disorder, or cold, or homework, or just the blahs.

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