09 March 2015

March [continued]

March continues to be extremely busy. I was able to attend the event about Middle Eastern literature, which was fascinating. There were two speakers who gave presentations about contemporary fiction in Palestine and Iraq. I found myself wishing I knew Arabic, for the novels they talked about have never been translated into English and what they said made me want to read everything! One of the points that really stood out to me was the discussion of memory and landscape in a novel about Palestinian refugees returning home. They talked about how events in our lives change the way we look at things. How different landscapes appear differently to different people, or even to the same person in different states of mind. How trauma can affect how we relate to the world around us.

I was surprised and excited to find that the discussion actually connected to the paper I am currently writing in my English class about memory and landscape in the Victorian novel Middlemarch by George Eliot. One of the characters, Dorothea, constantly imposes events in her own life on the landscape around her, and the landscape in turn imposes itself in her memory. She sees aspects of her unhappy marriage in the blank whiteness of a snow-covered landscape, in the pale uniformity of statues in Rome, and in the ghostly stag in a blue and green tapestry hanging in her room. She then carries these images around with her. Of course, it's all indirectly stated through metaphors in the imagery. I love hunting through and finding all those connections. It’s really, really interesting and, being a very nostalgic and nature-oriented person, I relate very much to Dorothea's connection with landscape. I constantly and deeply associate memory with place in my own life. For instance, there are a lot of things I remember about home that I see superimposed on the landscape whenever I return to California, but that I know can only exist in my memory. I unconsciously link images of my friends from high school to the towering pine trees of my hometown. I see the faces of people I don't talk to anymore in the railroad tracks and the sunset. And when the sun comes out here in Portland, and I go running on the trails, it looks and feels like home, and so I see those people and experience those memories in the landscape here. I love how a great novel brings so much about myself to my attention.

I also went to a Middle Eastern dinner, which was delicious (and free!). We had pita bread and hummus and chicken and some other yummy things. Anyway, the first-ever Middle East Studies Symposium at LC has now reached its conclusion, only to be replaced by the Gender Studies Symposium going on this week, which is a well-established tradition at Lewis and Clark. Every year there is a different theme, and this year’s is Material Conditions: Gender, Sexuality, and Capitalism. I don’t really know what sorts of things will be discussed yet, but I know that it will be a really awesome event as usual. I've heard there will be an event about queer youth in public schools and how to teach about gender. Because I'm interested in the teaching profession, I can't wait to learn about that.

Oh, and in the meantime, International Fair happened! Unfortunately, I am a complete idiot and forgot to bring my phone to take pictures. So I have no photos to show you. You’re going to have to settle for a boring description.

So, at International Fair, students go to the dining hall like they normally would for Saturday brunch, but instead of normal waffles and eggs and sausage and bagels and all that, a whole bunch of students are there serving authentic foods from whatever culture they represent. The booths change from year to year, but this year I was able to visit the Korean booth, which was serving rice, bulgogi (grilled marinated beef), and kimchi (fermented vegetables); the Pacific Islands booth, which was serving haupia (coconut pudding) and kahlua pork; the North American booth, which was serving salad with California avocados, enchiladas, and pumpkin fry bread; the South Asian booth, which was serving curry and rice and really fabulous chai tea; and a whole bunch of others. Afterwards, I was so full I could hardly move. The International Fair is included in the meal plan, so it just costs a swipe of your card! Even if you aren't a student, you can still come. There were professors and their familiars and a bunch of random families from the immediate Portland community there. It was a little odd seeing small children tottering about the college dining hall. And after the food, the student groups did a bunch of performances. There was a fashion show and a bunch of student-choreographed dances, which was a lot of fun. Again, I'm so sorry about the lack of relevant pictures. I wish I had taken some. You can have a picture of my friend Robert reading poetry to my friend Jacob instead.

Oh, and one more thing! I got accepted to study abroad in Australia next spring! How cool is that? 

That's all for now. Email me at jessicakostka@lclark.edu if you have any questions.