Let’s Talk About Dorms!

There are some things that you’re allowed to say in college that sound totally creepy out in the real world. In this case, the one I’m thinking of is the casual question to someone you just met:

“Where do you live?”

The Lyon-Harwood outdoor area
The Lyon-Harwood outdoor area

It’s probably the #1 question first-years get asked. You can ask about the person’s major, but they don’t know. You can ask where they’re from, but you’re unlikely to be able to connect over that, since most likely you’re from rural Kentucky and they’re from Sweden. But maybe, just maybe, the two of you have a mutual friend! So instead you ask where they live.

The funniest part about this is that the result of this question is usually along the lines of, “Oh, I think I know someone from Blaisdell. Do you know __? No? Okay. Maybe she lives in Wig. I might be thinking of someone else.”

Nonetheless, where you live is important, not just for first-years, but for all students at Pomona. [Read more…]

Education on a Farm: What You Can’t Learn at a Liberal Arts College

Extending my post-study abroad travels through winter break means I don’t get to spend the holidays at home. Luckily, I get to spend them on a 10-acre organic farm in the tropical hills of northern Thailand — not a bad alternative.

I am spending 17 days WWOOFing at Mae Mut Garden, doing volunteer work in exchange for room and board.

In the past 2 weeks, I have learned so much — probably as much as a semester at school, but in an entirely different vein: I’m learning practical skills. While Pomona is a wonderful intellectual community, it’s not necessarily a bastion of practical knowledge, as evidenced by masses of first-years struggling to use laundry machines for the first time and the fact that we can depend entirely on the dining halls for all our meals.

What have I learned here? Simply put, how to live in rural Thailand.  I’ve learned how to make mud bricks by stomping barefoot in a pit of red clay mud. I’ve learned how to make papaya salad. I’ve learned how to use a machete to split bamboo. How to heat water with a compost pile. How to drive a moped on dusty dirt roads. How to plant tomatoes. How to shower with a bucket of cold water. How to make a garden bed. How to prune mulberry trees. How to make cow manure tea. The intricacies of plumbing and the water pipe system.

Weeding peanut plants.

[Read more…]

Travels and Thailand

photo 2
Presenting my final research paper.

In the last couple of weeks, my semester in Kunming ended, I spent a week traveling in China, and then made my way to Thailand. It has been quite a whirlwind, but I’m finally settled down on a farm in the mountains of northern Thailand for the next two weeks.

My semester ended with a week of finals and a paper presentation. During the last few weeks of the semester, each student wrote a final research paper in Chinese, on topics ranging from tattoo culture among Chinese youth to vowels in Chinese linguistics. My paper was on violence against women in China, focusing on the social and gender norms that cause it and the legal measures in place to deal with it.

After that, it was graduation, a night of karaoke, and goodbyes (including goodbye to everyone’s favorite street vendor — see picture below), then a friend and I left Kunming for a week of traveling in northwestern Yunnan province. [Read more…]