02 March 2015

What is SAAB?

Hello all,

      I hope that you've had a good weekend. It's strangely sunny in Portland, and I did my poetry homework outside on the estate garden lawns. I think that I'll come back to Lewis & Clark when I graduate just to lie on the lawn once in a while.
         Now for an update on school. Friends from my poetry class and I are applying for a SAAB grant, or a grant from the Student Academic Affairs Board. Students apply for grants through SAAB to do research, creative arts projects, attend conferences, bring speakers to campus, and make other awesome opportunities happen. My classmates and I were nominated to attend a Sweet Briar's Writer's Conference in Virginia, so we're applying for funding to attend the workshop over spring break. Here are some photos of the application process:
Maria, Rae, and Emma working on the proposal in the library
Emma and Rae eating candy at the registrar's office while we get the signatures

The crew in front of the estate gardens after turning in the proposal
      It was a lot of work getting everything together, but it will be so worth it if we get the funding! We hope to start an on-campus writer's group when we return from the workshop. I'll keep you all updated. I haven't done much other than write a thesis these past couple of days. Luckily, I am starting to understand André Weckmann, the poet I'm studying, a little bit better as I translate some of his works. Writing about him is one of the hardest tasks I've ever taken on, and now I've got 10 pages done. Only 20 more to go! Before I scare all of you away from attending college, it's been fun too. Here's a picture of Mt. Hood from my College Outdoors Trip
You should definitely check out their trips. I'll tell you more about them later-- I have to get ready for my SAAB presentation. Wish me luck!

If you have any questions about LC, poetry, choosing colleges, or anything, I'm here!


Whoa, It's March Already?

It's been so sunny out that it feels like we didn't have a winter. It makes me a little worried because climate change is slowly becoming more and more apparent. Also, because I'm from California where the drought is even worse, I keep thinking about how many forest fires my hometown area is going to have this summer.

Oh well. It's still gorgeous out! Perfect weather for going for a run or a hike, or just relaxing outside somewhere on campus. Over the weekend I took a little time to just sit on a bench and enjoy the sunshine for a while, which was lovely.

This is the view from my room right now. It's nicer when the trees have all their leaves, of course, but it's still beautiful.

So that this doesn't become a really dull entry where I just talk about the weather, I'll talk about some of the awesome events I'm going to be attending this week. The first week of March is apparently a really, really popular time for on-campus activities. First, and foremost, the 50th annual International Fair is on Saturday. One of the reasons I chose Lewis and Clark was actually because of its international focus, and the International Fair is a great example of that. My residence hall, the Multicultural Engagement Living Learning Community, helps put it on every year. I'll probably talk more about it in my next entry, because I think it merits an entry all to itself. But here is a sneak preview anyway!

Also along the lines of Lewis and Clark's international focus, on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, Lewis and Clark is holding its first ever Middle East Studies Symposium. Recently, there has been a push coming from the student body to offer Arabic classes and just have more of an academic focus on the Middle East. Some students created an organization called the Middle East Initiative to achieve these goals. The symposium is just one step they are taking to raise awareness about Middle Eastern culture and issues. I personally do not have time to attend most of the events because they all seem to be scheduled while I'm in class, but I am going to an informal Q&A session over a dinner of Middle Eastern cuisine, and also to a talk on Middle Eastern literature. As an English major with little knowledge of non-British, non-American literature, I'm particularly excited for that discussion.

And while I'm on the topic of literature, there's going to be an author coming to read fiction aloud on campus on Wednesday as well. Her name is Anna Keesey and I don't know much about what she's written, but I'm definitely going to that. Then, I'm going to a dinner that raises funds for an alternative spring break trip to Guatemala. They're serving quesadillas and chocolate-covered bananas, it costs $6, and it's a great cause! How could I pass it up? And finally, the spring main stage theatrical production, Exit the King, opens on Friday. I've been helping build the set as a part of my theatre class for the last month, and I'm so excited to see how everything comes together. But, I can't go to the opening night because I want to see the Fire Arts show, where you get to see your classmates spin flaming objects around! So I'll go to the production the next night.

As you can clearly see, we have so many things to do at Lewis and Clark. To be honest, you won't have time to do everything you want. Such is life. Even though I wrote down all those events, odds are I won't make it to at least one of them. Because, coincidentally, it's also midterms right now. I don't have any actual midterm tests this term because it seems that English classes here do not usually have midterms. However, I do have several long papers, and one of the standard Japanese chapter tests. Couple that with my hours in the scene shop for the theatre and my volunteering in the kindergarten classroom, and I'd be busy even without all those events!

Anyway, that's all for now. I'm off to write a journal entry for my Japanese class. If you have any questions, email me at jessicakostka@lclark.edu!


art in the city

Valparaíso, how absurd you are, how crazy, a crazy port, what a disheveled head of hills that you never finished combing, you never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you
Thus begins Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to Valparaíso,” and I don’t think I could have described the city more perfectly. I’ve found a bit of free time during this last orientation week to wander just some of the streets of Valparaíso, and I’m continuously entranced by the city. There is art everywhere you look, mainly paintings on buildings but also sculptures on the sidewalks, musicians in the plazas, and jugglers performing on the streets.
some street art- “the smile of a Valparaísan lights up the city”
another mural spotted up on Cerro Bellavista
Valparaíso is made up of about 42 hills that put the “hills” I knew in Portland to shame (and that’s saying something, since I’m one from of the flattest areas of the US). Most have their own names, and each has its own personality. The roads up the hills are narrow and winding (in both senses of the word) and are lined by buildings of all colors. Roads will suddenly turn off in other directions and be intercepted by staircases that are intercepted by sidewalks. There are dogs almost everywhere you look, and cats almost every other place.
My host family lives in Viña del Mar, a twin city to Valparaíso. By contrast, Viña is more of a beach town. Although Valparaíso is a port city (once the hub of Latin America, before the Panama Canal was built), there are really no beaches in the city that people can go to. Viña, on the other hand, is lined with beaches and hotels right on the water (so many beaches that I've already gotten pretty sunburnt twice in the 10 days I've been here). It’s also much flatter, especially the plan where my house is (though there is a plan in Valparaíso, it makes up much more of Viña than it does Valpo). Most of the dogs here are owned by individual families, and the city feels much cleaner, though less lively.
This week has been filled with orientation related activities, both for CIEE and for the university. For CIEE, we’ve been taking some intro classes to learn a bit about the geography, history, and poetry of Chile. Thursday we went to Pablo Neruda’s house in Valparaíso, called La Sebastiana.
the view from Neruda's house- not too shabby!
Neruda (a poet and political activist, if you haven’t heard of him) wrote an entire poem about the house, beginning it with:
I built the house. First, I made it of air. Then, I raised the flag in the air and left it hanging from the sky, from the light and the darkness
While in reality he did not literally build the house (it was built by Sebastián Colledo, the namesake of the house), he did definitely make it his own. Neruda loved the ocean and all things related, evidenced by the large glass windows overlooking the Pacific on each of the five floors of the house. On the wall of his study hangs a map of the world as seen in the 16th century, and his bedroom is composed of furniture that once inhabited a boat. He once wrote that
El océano Pacífico se salía del mapa. No había dónde ponerlo. Era tan grande, desordenado y azul que no cabía en ninguna parte. Por eso lo dejaron frente a mi ventana
which roughly translates to say that the Pacific ocean is so large that it goes off the map, and there is nowhere to put it. It’s so big, disorderly, and blue that it wouldn’t fit anywhere, which is why it was left in front of his window. It was really amazing to see his house, and get a perspective on how he saw the world.
Beyond the work for CIEE, I’ve been going through an orientation at PUCV, the university. They had a big welcome breakfast for all of the international students (about 250 people in total). We had to take a written Spanish language assessment to determine what level of Spanish class we had to take, as well as supposedly take an oral exam, though that turned out to be more of an academic advising session than anything. Classes officially started today, but I don't have anything until tomorrow. The add/drop periods are heavily used here, so I will inform you all of my final schedule next week!
I'll leave you with some pictures of my host family's dog, Benito. I think he's hilarious.
looked out the window and Benito was sitting on the table
looked out the window and Benito had his head sticking through it
If you have any questions, please email me at rekidder@lclark.edu!

24 February 2015

Weekend in Seattle

This week my girlfriend Ava came up to visit me! Having her back up here was great. She got in at 12:30 Friday morning, so my friend Mikey and I went to pick her up. By the time we got back to school, it was already 1:30 and we fell asleep immediately. Within a couple hours, I was already back up for workouts and getting ready for my day. After my workout, Ava and I went to grab breakfast at the Dovecote (the coffee shop on campus). Then I went to class for most of the day while Ava got to hangout and enjoy the beautiful, sunny day on campus.

Later that night, we went downtown to go shopping and, of course, eat at Buffalo Wild Wings. It was so nice being able to go downtown and relax. Pioneer Square is a really nice place to grab a bite to eat and shop, which is why I love that the Pio drops us off so close to it.

Before Ava got there, we had planned to take a trip up to Seattle on Saturday. So on Saturday we we planned to get up early and leave at 6:30 AM. That wasn’t happening. We both overslept and missed the bus! Fortunately we were able to catch the next one and made it downtown in time to catch the Bolt Bus. This company is very convenient for people in the Northwest. It can take you to most major cities up here, and is a pretty fair-priced trip. The best thing about getting to the bus that morning, was that the place to load was right across from where the Pio Express dropped us.  As soon as we were on the bus, we fell back asleep and didn't wake up until we were almost there.

Getting into Seattle was amazing. The bus dropped us off by the Seahawks’ and Mariners’ stadiums. They were so huge- much bigger than Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego where the Chargers play. Once we got off the bus, we made our way to Pike’s Place, the famous market where fish and produce are sold. Walking down the diverse stalls of everyone’s products was an interesting sight. They sold all kinds of things, like salmon, cod, and sturgeon. They also sold almost every kind of fruit and vegetable you could imagine. Right across the street from the market was the first ever Starbucks. It was interesting to see how this little, ordinary shop in Seattle became one of the biggest companies in the entire world. We of course had to stop in and get a small coffee frappuccino.

After spending the morning in Pike’s Place, we started to make our way to the Space Needle. It was quite a walk. Seattle is on a much steeper hill than Portland, which only has very small inclines. As soon as we got there, we were able to buy tickets and go to the top within half an hour of arriving. Lucky for us, it was a clear day, and we could see Puget Sound, the harbor, and the Olympic Mountains all from the top. Some people up there even were having lunch all the way at the top, right below where we were.
After an hour, we came back down and started searching for a place to eat. Naturally, we found a Buffalo Wild Wings to eat at! It wouldn’t be a visit from Ava without eating at Buffalo at least twice. With only a little bit of time left before we had to catch our bus back to Portland, we went down to the Pier and watched the sun set over the mountains. It was an amazing way to close out a great day.

On Sunday before Ava had to go back to San Diego, her brother Bobby came to see us from Bend, which is in the middle of Oregon. He brought his dog Penny, an Australian Shepherd. All of us were able to go downtown and spend a little time together that day. We went over to Powell’s Bookstore and also got some donuts at Blue Star Donuts.. It was such a great weekend!

Now it’s back to busy school. The work is catching up to me, and I need to stay on top of everything. Well, that’s all I have for this week!


Bobby, Ava, and I.

Such a awesome weekend!

23 February 2015


Things are still pretty busy up here in Portland. However, I managed to find time to take what I call a "mental health day" to rejuvenate a little bit. I just needed some time to myself and it was an incredibly beautiful day out, so I took a nice long walk.

In the neighborhood just off-campus.

At Tryon Creek State Park, where I do most of my running. It's just a five minute walk from campus, and it's one of my favorite places. Especially when the sun comes out after a week of clouds and rain to make the moss on the trees shimmer.

Got my music and my dinosaur T shirt... I'm all set.

I picked up some groceries on the way back from my walk and decided to eat dinner on the floor of my room. I just rolled out my yoga mat and enjoyed my dumplings and veggies while listening to music.

In the evening, I went to a poetry slam featuring Sister Outsider! These incredible, inspirational women are some of the most renowned slam poets in the world. Their coming to campus was a joint effort by several student-run organizations on campus, including the Apocalips Slam Poetry Club, The Queer Resource Center, The Finance Committee, United Genders & Sexuality, IME (Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement), the Black Student Union, Student Activities and the Feminist Student Union. I don't have time to give you information on all of those organizations, but trust me, they're all really great. Anyway, one of my favorite pieces Sister Outsider performed was called No Child Left Behind. You can watch it here (DISCLAIMER: may contain swearing, does not necessarily reflect my views or the views of Lewis and Clark College, etc.).

As (hopefully) a future educator, and therefore as someone who partakes in the dialogue on things like No Child Left Behind and standardized testing and the school-to-prison pipeline, this poem spoke to me in a deep way. I hope you guys like it too. I think the version they performed live for us was better than the link I found though ;)

My other favorite poem was this one.

I have a great love for poetry - both slam and other, more "traditional" forms. My academic advisor, Mary Szybist, won the National Book Award for her poetry. I took a poetry class with her my first year and learned so much about my own writing. I got so much feedback from both her and my classmates, One of the coolest people I got to work with was Samantha Peterson, who recently graduated Lewis and Clark and has performed slam poetry on a national level. Here is one of her performances currently circulating on the Internet (the same disclaimers apply). And of course, one of our most famous alums is the poet William Stafford. I feel so privileged to attend a school so richly immersed in the culture of poetry.

Anyway, I have to go print out an English paper now, but if you have any questions, email me at jessicakostka@lclark.edu!


22 February 2015

¡hola desde Chile!

Hello everyone!

I am writing to you from sunny (and HOT) Viña del Mar, Chile! I finally made it here after more than 20 hours of traveling. Our plane coming down had to divert its route to land in Panama City in order for the police to come on and assist a passenger who was "causing a disturbance" off the plane. The whole thing ended up adding about 2 1/2 hours to our trip, but we eventually made it. The 4 CIEE students on my plane and I ended up getting to the hotel in Valparaíso a bit later than everyone else, which ended up being fine because, as it turns out, Chileans are pretty relaxed about time. Our resident advisor told us that as long as you arrive within a pretty flexible 15-minute window, it's fine. They held our food for us and we got to join everyone else halfway through their lunch.

Which brings me to food- I have eaten SO MUCH FOOD since I got here. It's all really good, too. During the first couple of days of orientation at the hotel, we had a breakfast, a huge lunch, and a big dinner every day. Now that I'm with my host family, I have breakfast (generally bread/cheese/cereal/avocado), lunch (the biggest meal of the day- today it was corn, chicken, rice, avocado, tomato, pasta...), and once (like a late dinner with similar food as breakfast). I love avocados (called paltas here), so it's all good. My host family is also somehow under the impression that I really, really love coffee, so they give it to me with every meal. I can usually take or leave it, but I think they noticed that I had it for two breakfasts in a row, so now they always give it to me. They're too sweet for me to tell them I don't really want it with dinner. I have a feeling I'll leave Chile with a bigger addiction to it that I had in the states, which is funny because people generally don't drink coffee here.

My host family is amazing. My host mom, Claudia, is extremely sweet. She has two daughters who are both in university named Laura and Renata. They're both really sweet and funny. Laura's boyfriend has been hanging out here a lot, and apparently visited Minnesota once, so he was excited to hear that I was from there. Laura has a three year old daughter named Emilia, who also lives with us. Also in the house is Claudia's husband, Jose Luis, who is extremely funny and likes to talk about history. They also have a dog, Benito.

I'm having a pretty hard time understanding everyone, but it's getting easier even after only being here for four days. I have an especially hard time understanding my host sisters, because they talk really quickly and use even more slang than Claudia and Jose (who use a surprisingly lot of slang themselves). Chilean Spanish is really fast, and they leave the ends of words (especially s's) off a lot of the time. They also have their own words for a lot of things (like palta for avocado, instead of aguacate, and pololo/a for boyfriend/girlfriend, instead of novio/a, which here means fiance/e, and "hill" here is always cerro, not colina, like I learned in high school). I'm learning quickly, but it feels like a very slow process.

Besides living with my host family in Viña del Mar, a city right next to Valparaíso (where the University is), I've been exploring Valparaíso (Valpo) with the program, CIEE. We went on a walking exploration of the city and got to explore a bunch of the nooks and crannies. Valparaíso was described by a professor in the program as an "avalanche of houses tumbling down towards the sea," which is pretty accurate. It's beautiful, and all of the houses seem very precariously perched on the many hills overlooking the Pacific. Everything is really colorful and there is street art everywhere. I think I'm in love with the city.
On top of one of the hills was a slide that both adults and kids were enjoying. My entire group went down it.
Valpo is a port city- before the Panama Canal was built, it was the biggest gateway into Latin America for a lot of products.
One of the many colorful staircases and narrow alleys.
There are so many paths like this to explore that wind up between buildings. 
The view from the top of one of the hills.
Another staircase- this one is one of the most famous ones in the city. Apparently one time Robert Plant was here and saw it and said something about it being like the "Stairway to Heaven."
Another view of the part of the city.
By contrast, Viña has mostly square blocks on most flat land. It's a beautiful beach town, with many palm trees and sandy beaches, and fewer street dogs than Valpo (Valpo has SO MANY street dogs, and they walk with your group for blocks and blocks). Both cities are really neat, and I've already gotten the chance to see some nearby towns with my host family, including Reñaca and Quilpué.

I am having such a good time here! I'm exhausted, but I'm learning so much. Please email me with any questions at rekidder@lclark.edu.


Goodbye Puppies, Hello Thesis

Hello all,

It's been crazy busy these last few weeks. Here are a few updates:

      My housemates and I are all done fostering the puppies. They're old enough to be fixed and adopted, so we had to give them back last week. We're all heartbroken that they're gone, but it's better to have the extra time to do schoolwork. This semester is heating up, and I am starting to write the main body of my thesis. Before I get into that, here's a video of my housemate, Katherine, and I playing with the puppies in our backyard:


Also here's Julia cuddling with Kimble and Mama dog:

    I have settled on a clearer topic for my thesis, and it's a relief to have it narrowed down. I'll be writing about the relationships between language, family, and the landscape in four of André Weckmann's poems. As a supplement to my thesis, I am translating a few of his works. Luckily for me, I get the help of everyone in my Poetry 401 class. Mary Szybist suggested that I ask them to look at my translations to see what works the best as a poem. Here is a pick of all of their comments (plus snacks). I'm in Watzek library going over them right now. So helpful!
    As you can see from the shadows, it's actually very sunny. Portland has had a lot of beautiful sunshine this week. It's been hard to focus because I just want to enjoy all the greenery outside, but at least I can see the trees from the quiet section of the library. I best be getting back to work, but before I do, let me tell you one awesome event that's happening this week. My thesis advisor, Isabelle DeMarte, suggested that I present my thesis topic at a community event called Lake Oswego Reads. It's hosted by Lake Oswego public libraries, and I'll be talking to high schoolers and community members about my project. Anyway, I best be getting back to work now. If you have any questions about LC and what it's like to be a student here, please e-mail me:


Have an awesome week!