Cheers from London!

Ahoy from the other side of the pond!

I made it here all in one (sleepy) piece, including all my luggage.  My flights were easy and somewhat boring – Icelandair is not a fan of free things and hence only had paid food both times, though I was riding for more than 8 hours.  (A little rude if you ask me!)  Here’s hoping that Turkish Airlines has a better deal on the way home, but I’m not really worried about that yet.

Mostly because I’m having a BLAST here.  In the second half of day one, I unpacked every so slightly, then decided to prove to myself that I was really here by seeing a local (no, national… no, international) landmark with my two eyes, so I walked all the way to Big Ben.  It was even better than I remembered – this tower is quickly becoming my favorite thing in the city, now that I’ve seen it in all weather (helloooo London fall!).
IMG_5472I also wandered around Westminster a bit, trying not to get hit by a car.  More on that later…

Today, I did even more.  I started my day with the local tapas bar’s version of a vegetarian English breakfast – all for £4.10, including the coffee (and the required British side dish of secondhand smoke – coughcoughcough).  Still, it was delicious, though I don’t think I need to eat mushrooms for breakfast every single day.
IMG_5509Then I walked around my ‘hood a bit to see what was up. I discovered that Oval “park” is a cricket pitch, not a place I can sit and read a book.  Good thing there are enough other places that meet that criteria!

In the afternoon, I explored Covent Garden, Charing Cross, etc. taking in the sights and trying to stay out of the rain when possible.  No matter where I went, it was just so good to be back in this weird and wonderful land.  And then the ride home was incredible, as it took me past Big Ben.  I don’t know if I’ll ever take the Underground if I can help it, the bus is so great!IMG_5510Finally, because it was Mountain Day, I met up with some MoHos for ice cream and college reminiscing.  Perfection!

So far, everything is great, but there are definitely challenges ahead:

  1. Not walking too much – I logged 16,000 steps today aka 7.5 miles!  Great, but also could be extremely exhausting on days when I actually have to do something, so I need to find some activities that don’t all involve walking or standing.
  2. Remembering to eat – I got so excited today that I kind of forgot to eat for way too long, which doesn’t go well with #1 and resulted in getting a bit lost.  Snacks all the way, and just generally eating good food when I find it.
  3. Not spending all my money - I WANT EVERYTHING!  Seriously, everything.  I didn’t even stop walking at Jubilee Hall because I knew if I did, I would spend all my money.  I have a while to be here, so I have to remember to pace myself.
  4. Not getting hit by a car – this one is non-negotiable, and it’s slowing me down but I’m never crossing without a light because the traffic here is making my head spin.  Sidewalk – sorry, pavement – traffic is rough enough, but the streets are out of control.  I saw a grown man almost get hit by a bus but his friends pulled him out of the way by his backpack just in time.  Not I – I would rather be the silly person waiting at every light while others run just to be on the safe side (literally).

I think if I can do those four things (and maybe also remember to sleep), this adventure will be top notch.  It’s certainly off to a smashing start! Stay tuned for a few more updates this week!

(All photos are my own)

Climb every mountain

IT’S MOUNTAIN DAY! (and I totally called it!)

The best of all holidays – that one random, crisp fall day where obligations are canceled, tests are delayed, picnics are packed, and ice cream is consumed at the top of Mount Holyoke.  And to make it extra special this year, the government is joining in the shutdown as well!  How friendly of them.

I will be enjoying this day by sending love to all my MoHos, eating ice cream in Cambridge at 6:30 (text me if you want to join!), and trying to get outside for some fresh air later.  How will YOU spend this Mountain Day?

For more on why I love Mountain Day – I even gave my commencement address about it! – click here.  And add your own memories in the comments!

Binders of women

It exists, it’s in my building, and it’s not as easy to talk about as you might think.

My friend Priti is doing some great work here in MA, helping to get women elected and engaged in all parts of the political process.  So when I heard that she had the “binder full of women,” I knew it was in good hands.  Good non-partisan hands – because equal opportunity of women in government is an issue that deserves discussion beyond this Presidential campaign, beyond this year – it’s something we should all be concerned about year-round, and working to solve even when it’s not in the news for a hot second.  Why should it be amazing to have 42% of government appointees be women when they make up more than half of the electorate?  This is a question for our time, not just the next 18 days.

Check out a clip of her on CNN here to see what’s really at stake when we have to make binders full of women’s resumes to prove that qualified women exist.

Here’s a Mount Holyoke woman truly making history – and making sure that the change she works toward extends well beyond one sound bite at a debate.  My hat’s off to you, Priti!

Happy Mountain Day!

Today is the cheeriest of fall days, the most unexpected gift from the MHC gods (aka Lynn Pasquerella and the weather forecasters) – it’s Mountain Day!

Facebook alerts substituted for pealing chapel bells this morning to let me and my fellow Mount Holyoke College ladies know that this informal holiday is upon us – and it’s about time.  This holiday usually takes place in late September or early October, and we were all growing a bit desperate to hear that it was here.  In celebration, all classes at MHC will be canceled so people can hike our mini mountain, enjoy ice cream at the top, and generally relax in the splendor of fall in the Pioneer Valley.

The grown up version, however, goes a little like this:

“HAPPY MOUNTAIN DAAAAY! Do you want to go get ice cream and lunch later?”
“No, sorry… I’m too busy changing the world.”

Whomp whomp.  I’m bringing her ice cream later anyway.

For more on Mountain Day and why it means so much to me that I made it the topic of my commencement address, check out my previous blog posts here and here.

Happy Mountain Day, MoHos everywhere!  May your hike be sunny and awesome.

If you give a MoHo a cookie

I was reading through a collection of writing from my awesome alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, and I came across this gem by Lynn Morgan.

One of my beefs with graduation speeches and other celebratory speeches in general is that they tend to be way too specific.  At the end of the day, do I really care what that one person in your class said?  Will it make a difference what you ate that made you realize that MHC was the place for you?  No.  Sorry, but no.  I want to know about how it felt to be a student – not you, not this specific student – at a moment when you heard that Hilary wasn’t going to be the Democratic nominee.  How your classmates – not just your friends – rallied around a cause as a symbol of a movement, not just an insider’s game.  When I submitted my speech for graduation, my goal was to hit this general sentiment – a tone that touches you, but brings as many people into the circle as possible.  That includes rather than limits the range of people who say “I know exactly what you’re talking about.”  Graduation gifts are for inside jokes.  Graduation and baccalaureate speeches – not so much.

That’s exactly why this speech blew me away with its universality.  I graduated almost five years ago, and it still made me pause and say “Hey, that’s me.  That’s us.”  What do you think, fellow MoHos and feminist friends everywhere?  Do you see a bit of you – or us – in this?

You can read the whole speech here – my favorite bit is below.

“If we give a MoHo a cookie, she’s going to ask for a glass of milk.” As we head toward the refrigerator, she’ll ask us whether we realize that humans are the only animals that routinely drink the milk of another species. She’ll wonder aloud whether the famous Mount Holyoke tradition of “milk and cookies” was predicated on the ethnocentric assumption that everyone should have the biological capacity to digest milk. She’ll point out that most of the world’s population stops producing lactase, the milk-digesting enzyme, after weaning, and she’ll explain that these days “M & Cs” might just as easily refer to carrots and hummus or chips and salsa. She’ll note that some people prefer to abstain from eating animal products in the interests of environmental sustainability. She’ll ask whether we’ve noticed that this year’s graduating class is made up of MoHos from 44 different countries and that many of them didn’t grow up drinking milk or eating cookies! Then she’ll ask, politely, whether we have any nondairy beverage options available.

“When we give her a tall glass of ice-cold soy milk, she’ll want to look in a mirror to make sure she doesn’t have a soy-milk moustache. When she looks into the mirror, she might notice that her hair needs a trim. So she’ll probably ask for a pair of scissors.” When she’s finished giving herself a trim, we might notice that she’s shaved only the right side of her head. She’ll explain that the asymmetrical hairstyle was inspired by Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity. Gender is not a stable biological category, she’ll explain, contrary to what she believed before she took Gender Studies 101. She will ask what we think about gender dimorphism, and she’ll suggest that gender might be the effect of treating it as a stable category. This is heavy stuff, and three hours later we’re still deep in conversation about the intersecting oppressions of race, class, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. She reminds us that this historic class started college the year that Obama was elected, and graduates in the very month that the President of the United States announced his support for marriage equality. She’ll conclude, politely but pointedly, that her haircut is a statement calculated to destabilize the gender binary.

“When the conversation is over, she’ll probably want to take a rest.” She’ll wander into Abbey Chapel. As the darkness closes around her, she’ll realize that she is surrounded by other MoHos – some excited and fidgeting, others sitting in quiet contemplation. Thinking back over what she has learned, she realizes that they have cultivated similar traits in one another: boundless curiosity, a passion for justice, respect for diverse ways of knowing, and a penchant for raising their voices – in affirmation, in protest, and in song. She loves knowing so much about biological variation and gender theory, of course, but more than anything else she appreciates her deep thirst for knowledge.

And, knowing a metaphor when she sees one, she realizes that she is thirsty, so she’ll ask for a glass of milk. And chances are if she asks for a glass of milk, she’s going to want a cookie to go with it.”

… I could really go for a cookie right about now.

Women and public service, on a scale of awesome

Cool: A new State Department initiative to support women in public service.

Cooler: The fact that Mount Holyoke College is part of this new program, and is going to serve as a world leader getting women involved in – and recognized for – public service.

Coolest: The fact that my dear friend Priti Rao is one of their success stories already!

Go Priti, go Mount Holyoke, go women kicking butt and making the world a better place, one public service position at a time!  Check out the Women in Public Service Project to see what great things they have in store for the future.

It’s Mountain Day!

Today is my favorite holiday – Mountain Day.

At my alma mater of Mount Holyoke College in western Massachusetts, Mountain Day starts on a random weekday morning in the fall when the bells in the clock tower ring incessantly.  This deafening toll means that you are excused from classes, meetings, and responsibilities for the entire day.  People either sleep, study (even though, for once, it’s discouraged), or trek up the mountain.  Too lazy to climb the 940 feet?  A shuttle will take you to the top, where the MHC President dishes out ice cream for lunch.

I loved Mountain Day so much, I turned it into a monthly tradition.  Usually, I hiked with my roommate Julia and made a point of going every month we were at school – sometimes, that meant hiking at 5:00 on a December morning, sometimes we caught the last rays of light in April.  I roped other people into it as our schedules got harder to manage, and kept up the tradition my entire MHC career.

At the end of it all, I delivered this speech at commencement about how our college experiences, and our lives, resemble the waiting and the possibilities of Mountain Day.

Happy Mountain Day, fellow MoHos.  Hike that mountain for me!

Hiking buddies - Julia and me, dressed like champs

An early morning hike in winter

Mountain Day - Senior Year

Want to know more?  Read my Mountain Day post from last year!