Involvement in a cappella and friendships forged at an international high school have, cheek by jowl, afforded me some awesome travel opportunities, both within US-borders and beyond. Most of the trips I've made have been to other schools located primarily in the north-east. The latest came this weekend and bore me to some podunk institution that lies at the base of a near-forgotten, barely habitable coulee in hilly western Mass. (The name of said institution is probably not worth a mention). The trip confirmed beyond a doubt what my 3 years of experience suggests: Amherst digs are among the best. It's very easy to forget how fortunate one is when faced with the micro-problems of paper assignments and laundry. Just to think I've pretty much lived in sizeable singles since Freshman year. Amazing.
Here's a poor map that tracks my progess through the various dorms where I've sheltered for a period of at least 2 weeks:
1. Stearns, one of the 7 dorms dedicated to First-Years. Flanks the Freshman Quad, the science buildings and the Mead Art Museum with its obsolescent, but beautiful steeple. Sometimes the building did have a sterile air about it, but I lived with some awesome people on the 2nd floor, so I didn't mind too much. I also benefitted from the music practice rooms in the basement.
2. Taplin. Unremarkable in most regards. I shared a common room and 2 bathrooms with 4 guys in a 2nd floor suite, modest of size but lavish of communal feel.
3. Stone. One of the social dorms. I shared a suite with fellow Zumbyes for a fortnight during commencement/reunion at the beginning of that summer. There as well, a great romance took root. Extremely fun living experience, though things did get a little too shambolic for my liking. I blame my suite-mates, haha.
4. Plimpton. Ex-frat, repurposed into a conventional dorm. Squats on a little hilltop hamlet, bracketed by Tyler and Marsh (the Arts house). I had a large corner room on the 3rd floor, with tall windows through which canopy-filtered sunlight would stream on sunny afternoons. I loved being able to walk or bike from campus through part of town and up the hill, past civilian homes. The climb helped to clear my head and I'd feel like I was returning home. It was also the site of some low-key parties; my favorite kind. Finally, the Plimpton library has some interesting literature.
5. Davis. Now no more, it fell to the idea of the new science building. I was there for 2 weeks in a sweet. The demolition team started to take it apart in my last days as a resident there. I was too engrossed in Game of Thrones and too busy enjoying commencement/reunion to notice any of its dilapidated charms.
6. Morris Pratt. Beautiful, but rank with artifice. The dorm has a pretty, darkwood-panelled, crepuscular ballroom that I found somewhat unduly neglected by the residents at the time. Very conveniently located for practically any student.
7. Chapman. Dingy as. Creaky floors, squeaky doors, allergenic carpets, but decent all in all. I'm in my first proper cohabitation since high school and things are going well.
8. Newport. The French/Spanish Language and Culture House. This is where I'm set to live next year and I'm conservatively geeked. I could have really chosen anywhere to live. Let's hope I made the right decision.
As you can see, I've lived virtually all over campus. Each of these dorms offered something nuanced in terms of ambience and comfort. While the dorms were all up to snuff, Plimpton - musty as it was - snuck its way into my heart. I won't lie; I'm anxious to close the dormroom chapter of my life. As long as I must bear it, however, Amherst dorm living is probably as good as it gets. Besides, with all this Zimmerman madness, who's in a hurry to leave the bubble (excuse the hackneyed image) and enter/return to the real world, anyway? On some level, I'm glad South Africa doesn't have a jury system. I have nothing novel or insightful to add on the matter. For some reason, the words "What is dead may never die" (Game of Thrones) keep coming to mind. The case dredges up many negative "isms" that are source of retrospective shame for the country. As ardently as we try to bury these things with symbols and temporal signifiers such as the prefix "post", they routinely resurface. The wounds are old, but the pain is fresh. The struggle with a history that keeps seeping into the present is a struggle we know only too well in South Africa. Trayvon Martin has, without willing it, become a symbol. This symbol incites me to reflect on my own privilege and all that I've acquired on account of membership in this shielded community of means. Two such privileges, rudimentary and mundane as they seem, are safety and peace of mind. Don't imagine I'm tailspinning into an existential crisis. I've just been shocked into heightened self-awareness. How does the saying go? "To whom much is given, much is expected (from?)" I'm not sure. My hope is that all the grooming we receive while here will inspire us to pay it forward. May that symbol never die.