Category Archives: Feature

Voices From Abroad: Isabelle Stillman ’16 in Nepal

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An incredible shot taken in Nepal by this week’s author, Isabelle Stillman ’15

Every year, over 50% of the Middlebury junior class studies abroad, traveling to more than 40 countries and enrolling at more than 90 different programs and universities. If you’re unaware of study abroad percentages at other schools, just know these are crazy high stats. Plus, we’ve got our own Middlebury Schools Abroad in 37 cities in 17 countries, making us a national leader in foreign language and global studies.

BUT, more often than not, we don’t get to hear the real details of our friends’ abroad experiences. Of course we’re all asked “How WAS it?!” about a billion times upon returning, but, due to time, space, and perhaps interest, it becomes pretty customary to respond “Awesome!,” and leave it at that. Truth be told, no 5-month long experience of international immersion is just “Awesome” or “Great”; every individual’s experience is extremely complex, varied, tumultuous at times, and, hopefully rewarding, but in unique and often unexpected ways.

So, this year middbeat’s makin a serious effort to expose honest, detailed accounts of Midd students’ study abroad experiences, while they’re living them. We’re hoping to post stories/descriptions/reflections wrtiten by any and all Midd students abroad, covering as many countries as possible. If you’re interested in submitting a post, definitely contact us at middbeat@gmail.com and we’ll set ya up.

For our first post, we’ll be hearing from Isabelle Stillman ’16, an English major from St. Louis who also runs The Orchard Arts Journal at Midd. Isabelle is studying in Kathmandu, Nepal this semester through SIT Study Abroad (a non-Midd owned study abroad many students enjoy). Isabelle’s wrote an incredible snap-shot description of Nepali life based on her experiences just last week. Read and enjoy:

Kathmandu’s streets are lined with open-front shops – sari shops, sweet shops, pet shops (fish only), shampoo shops, packaged biscuit shops, daalbhaat shops – and the keepers, along with an assortment of friends and family members, spend most of the day standing behind the counter or sitting on the stoop, which, in most stretches of road, also functions as a sidewalk and stray dog or cow bed.

Yesterday I walked up the stoop of a pharmacy in search of sleep aid; nothing unusual, I’m just not used to sleeping to the tune of dog fights, neighbors’ Bollywood movies, wounded cats wailing, roosters, and the daily 5 am parade. (Plus, yes, I’m a little overwhelmed, and my brain is slightly unsettled in general.) In the shop, a baby-faced man in a button-down shirt leaned on the counter, which doubled as a plexi-glass medicine case, talking to a cross-armed balding man who sat behind it. The case and the walls were lined with white cardboard boxes of things like “Mydol” and Glucose-D, an instant energy powder that also occupies as many shelves in the supermarket as do the produce and dairy sections combined.

“Namaste,” I said to the bald man. “Tapaaiko aushedhi suTnu chha?” (Boo-yah Nepali.) (What I’m pretty sure this means is “Do you have medicine to sleep?”)

“SuTnu?”

“SuTnu? Sleeping?” I put my palms together, cheekside. “Like, sleeping medicine? Aushedhi? Medicine? Sleeping?”

After a moment of confused stares, the men conferred with each other in Nepali, and when the phrase “sleeping tablets” was used, I jumped in. “Yes, sleeping tablets. Sleeping tablets, do you have those?”

Continue reading

Students Notice, React to New Public Art

"Youbie Obie," by J. Pindyck Miller '60.

“Youbie Obie,” by J. Pindyck Miller ’60.

If you haven’t noticed the gigantic thing outside Coffrin, we’ve got a new outdoor sculpture at Middlebury College. Next to Coffrin dormitories, and greeting pedestrians on the path leading to Atwater dining hall now lies a giant rust-colored modern art piece titled Youbie Obie, fashioned by Middlebury alumnus J. Pindyck Miller in 1985. As Coffrin resident Morgan Randolph ’17 put it, “Who doesn’t love a piece of rusty metal?”

Several people, in fact, are ambivalent. Midd student Christian Jambora said, “I see it as being a safety hazard because I’m envisioning people walking back drunkenly from Atwater parties and slicing their heads open on the part that’s sticking out between the arch.”

Another student, Michael Brady ’17.5, remarks, “I’ve heard it’s pretty aggressive and I’d have to agree with that; yet when you look at it from different angles, you get different impressions.”

Brady’s poignant comment would likely satisfy the author of Middlebury’s art museum blog. In a recent blog post titled “Steel Yourselves, Here Comes Youbie Obie,” the author enumerated the ways in which the sculpture may become meaningful to students:

"Youbie Obie," by J. Pindyck Miller '60.

“Youbie Obie,” by J. Pindyck Miller ’60.

“To some, it will perhaps become a new meeting point for friends on their way to meals and classes. To others, it may be a symbol of the hard, gate-like trappings of college life. But to all of us, it should serve as a reminder that in our mechanical daily routine here in the Middlebury bubble, we ought to do ourselves a favor to slow down and treasure the little, hidden gems that help to both make and break the ostensibly idyllic perfection of a place we call home.”

To the “gate” interpretation Brady responded, “If it’s a gate, I think it’s opening, but not in the way of inviting. It’s ominous. Perhaps it’s opening to hell. The structures on top coming down look like blades.” Yikes.

“I think it’s phallic!” said another, perhaps confused, perhaps brilliant student of the College.

Despite varying public opinion on the sculpture, the material COR-TEN steel, of which the sculpture consists, has a fascinating history and widespread approval. Also known as “weathering steel,” the material resists corrosion because it develops protective layers of rust as it is exposed to the elements. COR-TEN steel was first used architecturally by Eero Saarinen (the architect of the St. Louis Gateway Arch) in the early 1960s on the John Deere Headquarters in Illinois. Previously, the steel was only used to make coal-carrying railway cars and shipping containers. Today, the material comprises the exterior of Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center, which opened in 2012.

Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.

In lieu of the material’s contemporary popularity, Bob Thornton, President of Custom Plate and Profiles stated, “this steel is sexy.”

So spend a little time with Middlebury’s new addition to campus. Just don’t play around it when you are inebriated.

 

Breaking News: Midd Graduate Peter Theo Curtis Freed After Being Held Captive in Syria by Qaeda Affiliate For Two Years

Today, breaking news revealed that after being held for nearly two years in a prison run by an affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria, American freelance writer and Middlebury graduate Peter Theo Curtis was unexpectedly freed on Sunday after emissaries from Qatar’s government won his freedom on humanitarian grounds. While Curtis‘ relatives are not aware of the exact terms of the release agreement, they were told that no ransom was paid, in alignment with the US government’s long-standing policy not to negotiate with terrorists. This incredible event is undoubtedly a blessing to Curtis‘ family, the Middlebury community, and our nation at large, though it stands in a stark contrast to the brutal decapitation of fellow war correspondent James Foley last week, which must not, and cannot, be forgotten.

Curtis, now 45, wrote freelance journalistic dispatches under the name Theo Padnos and authored two books: “My Life Had Stood a Loaded Gun,” a memoir about teaching literature to young offenders at a correctional facility in Vermont, and “Uncovered Muslim,” investigating Islamic extremism in Yemen. Curtis was taken near the Syrian border in October 2012 by Al Nusra Front, one of the groups seeking to overthrow President Bashir Assad of Syria that also has ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist network. His 22 month captivity was kept private, at his family’s request.

After graduating from Middlebury College, Curtis, an Atlanta native, went on to earn a doctorate in comparative literature from the University of Massachusetts. He is fluent in French and Arabic, and also speaks German and Russian, according to his family.

Middbeat, as well as the entire Middlebury community, extends its relief, and love, to Curtis and his family, while continuously mourning the loss of James Foley and remaining hopeful for the many other journalists presently held captive over seas. Significant information on Curtis‘ release, captivity, and career is available — be sure to read up here, or at your preferred news source.

Also, stay tuned for exclusive Middlebury Magazine coverage of Curtis‘ release.

The Caiçara: J-term Documentary by Tommy Hyde ’14.5

Whether you were interested in the beautiful country of Brazil before this summer’s ragin’ World Cup or not (BTW USA! FUCK YA @ 4PM TODAY!), once you watch this awesome documentary-style video by Tommy Hyde ’14.5 you will certainly be scratchin’ for a trip down south. Tommy spent J-term 2014 living the Brazilian beach life in the small, non-touristy, fisherman-fueled town of Bonete, Brazil. This video was his final project. Check out Tommy’s description of the experience below. Definitely worth watching (make sure those subtitles are on unless you’ve mastered português as well)!

“So this was pretty much the best month of my life. Rita Croce ’14 was a hero and set me up with a little hut her family owns on this beach. I got to eat coconuts, surf everyday, and hang out with these really amazing fishermen.

For the first week or so, I got a lot of weird looks. For one – there are very few tourists that stay in Bonete for longer than a few days, and it’s extremely rare to see any Americans. So a gringo staying for a month was confusing for the people there. However I gradually started to integrate – surfing with the locals, drinking beers with the old folks at the little bar at night, and even going to a few church services.

Marcelo, the centerpiece of the doc, was also a very shy guy. He is a man of few words, and was at first hesitant to open his life to me…even more hesitant about sharing with the camera. By the end of January however, right when my Portuguese was decent, he opened up and allowed me to film two days at his fishing outpost and conduct a single interview. It was a learn-on-the-fly experience in every way, and I’m privileged to have spent quality time with such an inspiring person in such a beautiful place.”

And here’s the link to the video again if ya missed it: https://vimeo.com/96993665

Support Midd Filmmakers: “Cowgirls”

Today is the last day to support a Middlebury student/alumni project on Kickstarter! Midd grad Ben Kramer ’13.5 is working on an epic filmmaking project this summer along with Maddie Lawler, Anna Carol, Tito Son, and Sarah Briggs (all ’14.5) and they could use your support.  Here’s a brief excerpt from the project description, but check out the page for much more info and to donate.

American folklore is anchored by legends of the frontier and the men who tamed it. The cowboy is iconic—we see him in John Wayne, the Marlboro man, the hero who rides into the sunset. But there is a glaring absence in the cultural documentation of the American West… what about the cowgirl?

Our vision is to create a documentary about Claudia Ogilvie and Patti Hayes, two cowgirls who over fifty years of riding horses and working together in the stock industry of the West have formed a life long friendship. These two women grew up doing anything that a cowboy could do and oftentimes doing it better.

A note from Kramer – “The topics, characters and landscape all have a ton of potential and although we’ve already reached our goal, each and every donation helps the final product. Everything is appreciated. Hop on board before it’s too late!”

I can’t wait to see the final product. For those loyal readers who might know me (tutankhamen), you know that I have graduated. I will submit my official resignation from middbeat soon, I promise. But for now I can’t help but promote awesome student projects like this.  

A Public Letter: To the Drunk Bro Who Pissed on My Lawn Last Night

Here’s a letter from Ben Savard we were asked to publish about him confronting someone pissing outside his window last night:

To the Drunk Bro Who Pissed on My Lawn Last Night,

I hope this letter receives you well. As indicated by the address of this letter, you were pretty drunk when we met, so I’m not sure you remember me. Let me recount for you the circumstances under which we became acquainted:

At about 2 am last night, I was sitting in one of the first floor rooms in Weybridge House studying for a geology final when I heard you and friend walk down Weybridge St. It was a warm night, so the window was open and your boisterous, slurred speech carried well into the room. Given that it’s pretty late into finals week, it seemed natural that you (and many other students) were spending Thursday night drinking and celebrating what I hope has been a successful semester. It didn’t bother me that you and your friend were having a good time as you walked past.

However, it piqued my curiosity when I heard you stop walking and continue your conversation immediately outside the window. And I will admit, I found it rather disrespectful to look up from my computer and see you: legs spread, dick in hand, leaning back confidently as you urinated on a tree. So disrespectful in fact, that I stuck my head out the window and yelled “ARE YOU PISSING ON MY LAWN?”
“Uhh, yeah!” You told me, shaking off the last drops and zipping up.
“Where do you live?”
“Atwater.”
“So you live 300 yards away, but you decided to piss on my lawn instead?”
Candid and terse as ever, you replied “…Yeah.”
“Why?”

This is where you decided to take our conversation in a new direction. Despite the fact that you could have left at any second, you felt enough guilt on some level to offer reparations.
“What if I give you 20 bucks? Is that what you want?” Continue reading

Before you leave, be sure to check out beyond the green

btg-updated

New cover art by Tamir Williams ’16

The new(ish) blog beyond the green ”seeks to provide space for voices that are not being heard on our campus.” If you haven’t seen the blog, check it out, read every post, submit your own, and see some coverage in The Campus.

Here’s a word from an anonymous someone involved with BTGthere are some great new posts up on beyond the green. be sure to check out our site before you leave campus – and throughout the summer! btg will continue to operate over the summer, accepting and posting submissions (though possibly more slowly). see the site for more ways to get involved and “like” us on Facebook.

Tim Garcia’s Documentary Explores Experiences of Students of Color at Middlebury

Tim Garcia ’14 released this video online today after a premiere screening last week and another screening today hosted by the CCSRE and accompanied by a follow-up discussion. The broad range of contributors (clips from 37 interviews are included) makes this film a powerful statement about the exclusionary environment here. It’s certainly not your typical film thesis. Here’s Tim’s synopsis:

“Abroad at Home: Accounts of the Invisible” is a short documentary that takes a look into student life at Middlebury college by exploring experiences of Students of Color. The aim of the project is to examine the various narratives that exist rather than sticking to the single narrative that usually exists when discussing the “racial experience” at Middlebury and at College in general. By incorporating multiple voices and faces, this project attempts to allow these wide range of experiences to stand on their own. In addition, “Abroad at Home” wants to be critical of Middlebury college and present voices that tend to be unheard or worse tokenized. There were 37 interviews completed for this project.

Here’s one excerpt from an interview with Day Williams ’14.5 but be sure to watch the whole film.

Numbers don’t do anything, the campus is still exactly the same.  And now instead of having like five students who are uncomfortable you have like two hundred.  But I think it’s just hard because it’s something that…I feel like no one is engaging with it but students of marginalized identities and those are the students who don’t get a voice. So there’s no reason I should hear all this campus buzz about the curriculum changing to add an Arabic major and to add a food studies minor and making hires toward that. And then there has been 30, 40, 50 years of proposals to have some sort of ethnic studies, have some sort of minority studies, Africana studies, Latino American studies…and silenced. ‘We can’t hire another person, there’s no interest.’

Share your thoughts below. 

NEW MUSIC from Innocent Tswamuno

Innocent Tswamuno ’15 needs no introduction. Today he released some new music to add to his ever-growing repertoire of hits. If you haven’t been keeping up with Inno’s music this year, tak a minute to listen to these tracks: Catch Me, You Got Me, Together, and M.O.N.D.A.Y. (Dwayne Scott’s mixtape). Here’s the scoop on these two new tracks:

The two singles are off of my album which is going to come out sometime this summer: Explosions and Summertime With You. They were both sung and produced by me in my dorm room in forest. Tariq Mansour ’16 helped with lyrics for Explosions and Dwayne Scott ’17 mixed Summertime With You. If people like the stuff they can like my Facebook artist page and Share with their friends too. I appreciate the love and support.

Keep on doing what you do, Innocent. Can’t wait for your album to drop!

Get a fair price for your textbook

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As the semester comes to a close, you’re probably wondering what to do with all your used books (if you don’t want to keep them).  Peter Frank, a 2012 Wesleyan Grad, made this site to help you get the best and fairest price for your book. Basically, it compares the buyback offers from sites like Amazon, Chegg, ValoreBooks, Cash4Books, etc., and also gives the user an option to list the book on our free exchange. Here’s some more info from the company’s blog:

Each semester, college bookstores and buyback companies around the country buy droves of books at rock-bottom prices.  Their captive market is stressed by finals, eager to head home, and just wants to get rid of the books.  The immediate cash and convenience overpowers the distaste of being obviously underpaid. Continue reading