The Week, in a Word

“Light” October 30, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jacqueline @ 11:10 pm

Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, Swarthmore shut down for the first time in anyone’s memory (at least 34 years). The power went out in my dorm, except for a few generator-powered lights in the hallway, where a bunch of my hallmates and I gathered for card games last night, and half of the bathroom. This meant that this morning, when I decided to be hygienic for a change and take a shower, I was showering in the dark.

Now, for a wide variety of reasons, I found this a… stressful prospect.

Luckily, I had some battery-operated faux candles (they even smell nice!) from Target, and I decided to use them to make my morning shower slightly less scary. This was only a little bit successful, since they’re not very bright and they flicker a lot, so it ended up still being terrifying, yet also somewhat… romantic?… which only added to the overall creepiness.

But I went ahead alone in the bathroom, jumping at my own shadow on the tile walls, and I started thinking about light. I was remembering going to Quaker Meeting on Sunday, because Quakers talk about the Light, i.e. the inner light of the divine in each of us, pretty often. To think comforting thoughts for a person, or say prayers for them, is to “hold them in the Light.”

My grandmother passed away last week, and when I was notifying professors that I would be missing class, I was surprised by how many of them replied, “I’ll be holding your grandmother and your family in the Light.” What does this even mean? And why do I find it so touching? I don’t really know. But I know that nobody wants to be left in the dark. We want to be thought of, and seen, and we want to be able to see.

I’m lucky that I have professors who’ve rearranged schedules to accommodate me during the storm and during the week I spent at home for my grandmother’s wake and funeral. I’m lucky that I have friends who bought me balloons and took me for milkshakes when I was sad. I’m lucky that the power’s come back on, and that I do feel that I’m being held in the Light.


Simcha October 4, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jacqueline @ 6:56 pm

Yesterday afternoon, I went to a talk that my Hebrew professor, Helen Plotkin, was giving about a Jewish holiday called Sukkot that’s going on right now. It’s a festival week after the harvest, and it’s a time to celebrate. In Hebrew, the phrase is “z’man simchateinu,” which means, “the season of our rejoicing.” Helen talked about simcha, joy, and how it’s supposed to be the general mood after the harvest, even though the future is unclear and you really can’t know if there will be droughts or plagues just around the bend. In fact, part of the way that it was celebrated back in ancient times was by pouring huge quantities of water (a rather vital and rare resource in the desert) on the altar, rather than conserving it just in case.

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately: I am SO stressed about my classes and my thesis and grad school, and I really don’t know at all what my future–– even the next month–– is going to be like. But this is also my last year at Swarthmore, and I don’t want to waste it being unhappy, holed up in my room groaning about my agony. So I’m trying to do fun things, even though part of me is screaming that I need to go work myself to death and I don’t deserve sunlight until I’ve read and annotated every possible reference for my thesis.

Luckily, the past few weekends there have been a bunch of activities going on that my friends and I have gone to. First Miriam, Hannah, and I went apple picking at Linvilla Orchards with the Swarthmore Christian Fellowship, making the most of a really nice late summer day. Between the three of us, we picked nine pounds of apples, which we’re still eating and putting into baked goods, and we ate a significant amount of kettle corn, watched a freeze dance contest for little kids, and battled our way through a corn maze.

Last week, there was a carnival with moon bounces and a photo booth behind Sharples, in honor of Coming Out Week, and even though you could make a pretty good argument that I should have been inside working, I was outside having fun with my friends.

Do I regret it? No.

And two days later, when it was College Day in Philadelphia, with free museums for students and free shuttles to take us around, when Linda and Miriam and I ventured in for all the Korean barbecue we could stomach ($10 a person!) and Eastern State Penitentiary, we agreed not to worry about homework or convince ourselves to go home early.

I am worried about the future: what I’m going to do next year, when I’ll find time to write the essay due in 4 days. But I’m happy. I’m happy to be here, to take an hour for aikido, for my radio show (listen Wednesdays at 10 a.m. at!), for a late night conversation with a friend, for baking alone so I have an excuse to just pound on some dough and clear my head. This is a good time; this is the season of my rejoicing.


Babysitting September 21, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jacqueline @ 4:24 am

Me with one of the little ones I used to babysit at home

Yesterday, I spent two hours making origami penguins and bunnies, watching magic shows performed by a little boy in a blue star-covered cape, lifting and carrying him so he could pretend to fly, helping him walk on his hands while I held his ankles, listening to him tell me why his mom is his hero, coloring, and teaching him what “illogical” and “family of origin” mean. And then his mother, who taught my sophomore spring Creative Writing class, paid me and asked if I could come over again on Sunday, and I had to remind myself that letting me babysit isn’t actually a favor she does for me. I’ve babysat for two families at Swarthmore, the English professor’s son, who’s five now, and a local family with four kids under 12. It’s a lot of work, and it takes a lot of energy (sometimes I nap before I head over), and when chaos breaks out (something that probably won’t happen unless the kids outnumber you)  it could be considered psychological birth control, but I really love it.

Tonight I went to a lecture about a pacifist couple who sheltered Jews in Nazi-occupied France, and ran into a lady who works in the Peace Collection, which is a library just below where I used to work, in the Friends Historical Library. She asked me if I was still working for Friends, and I said I’m mostly just focusing on my thesis and decided babysitting, which is a lot more flexible than a job with shifts, worked better. She nodded and said, “How old is the ‘baby’?” and when I told her he’s five, she frowned and said that was too bad, since little ones need attention and I can’t just read and let him do his thing.

It’s true that it’s easier to watch an older kid, where all you have to do is make sure they do their homework and don’t set the house on fire, but I’m so happy that I’m babysitting someone who wants to play. He has a lot–– a lot–– of personality, and he’s so funny and learns so much, so fast. And more selfishly, getting the chance to play with a little kid is such a nice break, a chance to just forget about the thesis and the GREs and the grad school applications and fellowship applications and the “just a little 5-7 page paper”s. It’s also surprising to me how much I value being inside a home after just a few weeks of dorm living. Real family homes, with their lack of flyers suggesting who to vote for in the Student Council election, their paucity of warnings about mice, and their full-size refrigerators with drawings and good grades magneted on,  just feel different than even the nicest dorms.

A lot of people here babysit professors’ kids, or walk their dogs, or house sit over the summer–– I’ve done that, too–– but at a bigger college, or maybe just a college that wasn’t such a cozy little community, I bet that doesn’t happen much. I’m not saying people should choose their college based on where they’re most likely to see the inside of their professors’ houses, where Doctor So-and-So, J.D., Ph.D, etc. etc. is most likely to introduce herself by her first name or a shortened version of her last name, where they think the faculty will have them over for dinner, where they’ll most easily find babysitting jobs. Of course there’s a lot more to consider when you’re choosing where to spend four years of your life. But I know I’m glad that I found Swarthmore: people always say that at a small school, you’re not just a number to your professor, but I think it’s just as important that your professors aren’t just talking heads to you.
Come to Swarthmore. Take up babysitting. Get to know your professors by helping them mindgame their kids into eating broccoli.


Settling September 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jacqueline @ 4:28 am

It’s been a long time, friends. I spent last semester abroad at Cardiff University in Wales, getting rained on, exploring castles at dawn:

taking up jiu-jitsu:

bonding with sheep:

venturing into the world of clubbing (twice)… (note my facial expression) :

eating that fine British cuisine:

learning to cook my own food (quelle horror) :

wearing holes in shoes:

and going places I’ve always dreamed of:

It was, altogether, an incredible experience, and I followed it up closely with another adventure: the Camino de Santiago! One of my oldest friends got a grant from her university to walk a medieval pilgrimage trail across Northern Spain (500ish miles, though we only walked around 400 miles because of time constraints) and I joined in! I could write a book about the things we did, and saw, and said, and ATE, and the fantastic and slightly deranged people I met, but I’ll just have to summarize and say it was probably the coolest and best thing I’ve ever done.

Spain: surprisingly rural in parts. Cows: scarier than you think.

Happy happy, joy joy

Once I got back, I spent most of the summer sequestered in a library at Yale, researching my senior thesis and trying to reacclimate to American money, streets that are shaped like grids rather than a pile of spaghetti, speaking English, walking fewer than 18 miles a day, and thinking academic thoughts.

And now I’ve been back to Swarthmore for a week, snuggled in my single, (with Miriam as my next door neighbor rather than my roommate) trying to get used to a non-nomadic lifestyle. With all the traveling I did from January til July, I racked up a total of 57 beds that I spent a night in–– less scandalous than it sounds, I swear. It feels like I’m finally being able to stop moving, which is ultimately bittersweet.

It’s also wildly untrue. I’m taking 5 classes, and I doing too many clubs because I love them all too much to quit,  I have friends and professors to visit with, and I have papers to write and problem sets to solve. But in a way, this feeling of having a thousand balls in the air is really comforting to me. I know they’ll all get juggled.

Going away taught me what a Swattie I am, begging professors to let me write papers on topics I had thought of, rather than the ones assigned, and bringing up too many details in my answers in class. And when you’ve climbed the Pyrenees and walked across Spain on a sprained ankle, when you’ve thrown 6 foot tall rugby players over your shoulder, when you’ve navigated yourself around 11 UK cities and 4 other countries, you feel pretty capable.

Senior year’s here. The Graduate has been watched, I “booed” whenever Benjamin Braddock said, “I’m worried about my future.” I have a document on my computer titled “Senior Thesis.” I make dinner plans with Hannah and Miriam and Linda, Quitterie and I gossip about Mass and get lunch together. My friends and I treat the Big Chair as our jungle gym. Everything feels like the beginning of the end of the beginning.

This is going to be a good year.


“Awake” October 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jacqueline @ 2:08 am

Late nights can lead to giddy mustachioed fisticuffs


In the woods again, feeling more awake and powerful!

Sometimes, I don’t manage my time in a manner that could be termed “optimal.” I’m usually pretty good about it, but every now and then I end up playing with my iTunes settings, or reading through old emails, or buying a smiley face Mylar balloon so that I can amuse myself by hitting it, or distracting my long-suffering roommate, before trudging off to McCabe, the Beit Midrash, or the fire escape to force myself to focus. This kind of thing doesn’t happen often, but it happened this past week, which unfortunately meant that it coincided with a week wherein I had two big assignments due.

So I spent quite a bit of time in McCabe late at night, still wearing whatever gross clothes I had worn to the gym, with my hair looking like the aftermath of a bomb detonation, bleakly pondering my work. Crazy things tend to happen in hotbeds of intellectual pursuits, especially when people get tired and frantic about encroaching deadlines, so as I sat and typed and tried to remember how to do Chi Squared tests in Microsoft Excel, I kept an ear open to the people around me. Amid unnecessarily dramatic wails that the printer was broken (it wasn’t; at least, not for long) and the agonizing groans of people who had gone to get coffee only to find there was none left,  there were more uplifting interactions. I had a long conversation with the guy at the computer next to me about the material on his psychology midterm the next day, and I solicited the help of strangers to figure out Excel. Something about the atmosphere of exhaustion and despair really lent itself to community spirit.

Another example came earlier in the week, on Tuesday. I’d been having a bad day for no particular obvious reason, but when it got late enough that I knew I should go to bed, I realized I really didn’t want to end the day without being anything but miserable since waking up. So I called Susanna, who goes to bed later than I usually do, and asked if she might be interested in baking with me. “What are you going to bake?” she asked. “I don’t know,” I said. “Baked goods.” So we used the Parrish 4th kitchen and my baking materials, and I took out my frustration on the dough we made, and we kvetched until long after I should have been asleep. When I woke up on Wednesday, I was tired, but I felt much better than the day before, and not being so irritated made being everything better.

Being awake when you shouldn’t be can be wretched. But in the week that just passed, those times were surprisingly full of fun and bonding.


Weekend (and Exciting News!) October 12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jacqueline @ 4:21 pm

(Look! My first ever multi-word post title!)

I know it’s been a while, and I have no one to blame but myself. But in my defense, I’ve had a series of weeks jam-packed with homework, classes, meetings with the Catholic group, babysitting a family with 4 kids, hosting my radio show (Literary Works as Musicals! 9 a.m. on Thursdays at and dragging myself off to the gym. And on the weekends, when I might have been catching up on this blog, I’ve been having adventures, the likes of which I haven’t really had since freshman year!

On the first exciting weekend this semester, Miriam, Linda, our friend Susanna, and I trooped off into the Crum, hoping to stumble upon the abandoned ruins of a water garden. We had read an article about this place in the Daily Gazette, the online newspaper, last year, and though we didn’t really know where we were going, we had a (foolishly?) high degree of faith in our combined navigational abilities and luckiness. After wandering for hours, with no water, no breaks to rest, chasing a deer, almost losing a shoe in mud, calling a local historic site to ask for directions, and several photo-ops, we finally found it!  Here’s a sampling of our photo-ops:

Look how deep my shoe sank in the mud!

Standing under a fallen tree that looked like a rib cage


Linda in the ruins!

The next weekend was College Day in Philadelphia, and Linda, Miriam, and another of our friends, Linda’s roommate Yin, and I went into the city, where we ate incredibly delicious hot pot and Korean barbecue at the International Smokeless BBQ. Then we walked around the city, rode a carousel, went to Chinatown to bring back pastry. Here’s what our food looked like:

Grilling meats and vegetables, which then get dipped in mixed sauces

Other food gets boiled in this pot that's in the middle of the table

I was a picky eater growing up, and as I was gorging myself on this, I couldn’t help being really happy that I’m not anymore.

The next weekend, I did something I’ve wanted to do for years–– went and visited my best friend, Jenn, at Yale. We’ve known each other since sixth grade, and although we went to different high schools, we talked on the phone every weekend. Sometimes we miss weeks now, but we’ve had an ongoing email exchange, plus Skype and Facebook chats, so it’s not often that we don’t know what’s going on in each others’ lives. She’s come to Swarthmore 3 times, but I hadn’t made it up to see her until the beginning of October. It was a really great time; I got to meet her friends, eat Cuban food, ice cream, and the first good falafel I’ve ever had, go to Yale’s museum of British art, and take the Tour of Being Jenn (i.e, see all her class buildings, study spots, church, and the places where she lived for the past two years ). We didn’t take any pictures, but here are a few examples of our shenanigans:

In Woolman's lounge last spring, when she had a Tae Kwon Do tournament at UPenn

Sometimes (often!) we wear matching clothes

Sword fighting in front of the Science Center last summer

All in all, I’ve been having such good weekends I’ve barely had time to be stressed, even though with 5 classes, a radio show, two clubs to manage, and study abroad applications to submit, I have a lot going on. And that brings me to the exciting news I mentioned in the title–– I found out this morning that I was admitted to the first study abroad program I applied to, the one that I’m pretty sure I’ll attend! That means next semester, I’ll be at Cardiff University in Wales, taking classes in religion, and sociology and frolicking around the UK. I’m so excited about this!  It seems like things are really falling into place, and everything’s worth being excited about.


“Accomplish” September 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jacqueline @ 1:33 am

We got free tee shirts last weekend, from a radio station that visited campus and apparently hasn't heard that we don't have Greek life

Roommates/Big Chairmates

With two weeks over, the semester is really underway, and I’m glad to say I’m actually managing to be productive. Aside from staying more-or-less (mostly more) on top of my readings, I applied to a study abroad program and did most of the work needed to switch my major. “Switch your major?!” you say? “Aren’t you the girl who panicked and hid under a table when she realized she had to choose a major in the first place?” And you’d be right to be incredulous, because there’s little that I hate more than change, and little I find more stressful than things related to my major/minor(s).

But last week, my wonderful and semi-famous Linguistics adviser told me that according to my plan for the next two years, I was only one credit away from having a degree in ling.  Unfortunately, this sent me into a tailspin of major-anxiety, because Swarthmore doesn’t allow people with double majors to minor in anything, and I didn’t want to drop my Religion minor. But after consulting with Sarah, the chair of the Soc/Anth department, my adviser, mentor and overall Wonder Woman, I realized that I could special major, by designing my own degree in Linguistic Anthropology. It’s the area of anthropology that I’m most interested in anyway,  and it allows me to take classes I’m interested in, skip one that I’m less enthused about, and have a degree that recognizes the three areas I’ve spent so much time on. I worried for a while that it’s too flaky for graduate schools, so I went back and asked her what she thought about that, and she assured me that she’s seen about 15 students through special majors, and all got into grad school. Succumbing to the temptation to be a snob, I said, “But, uh, reputable grad schools, right?” “Do you consider Princeton reputable?” she asked, smiling. So that pretty much settled it– the classes I would take for it are really the ones that would make me happiest, and even if I don’t go to Princeton or Harvard or Northwestern for grad school, I feel pretty sure now that I’ll go somewhere.

As for study abroad, the whole situation still makes me nervous, but it’s such a fantastic opportunity, I really can’t pass on it. But as long as my application’s in the mail and hasn’t been approved, I don’t really want to write about it for the world… seems like it would jinx it.

Here’s to hoping I can keep up my productivity this week!