Tag Archives: preparations

Back in Time, 80s style

15 Oct

The Safety Dance is Yale’s annual ’80s night. If you ever thought Yalies were too cool, too studious, or too worried about potentially embarrassing Facebook photos showing up in their future election bids to throw themselves into a ridiculous theme night, think again. Large scrunchies, unite!

Here is my personal step-by-step guide to making this night all that it can be, even as it turns me into a true one of these:

How to prepare for the Safety Dance, Part One: The Attire

1. Hit up a thrift store. Consider spending $5 for that neon fuchsia suit jacket. But is it really authentic ’80s? Here, you use a lifeline. “Ask the audience” results in one bored cashier raising an eyebrow. But “Phone a friend” gets you on the line with a true expert…

2. …Your mom! After all, she lived through this stuff, didn’t she? “Oh, honey, don’t bother buying that! I can bring you up something from my own closet. I’m sure I have something that would work.” Sure enough, the next day, she shows up with a purple blazer with PADDED SHOULDERS.

3. Celebrate your new acquisition. No one else in your suite has anything that compares to this gem.

4. Stop celebrating. Consider what said acquisition meant. Phone home immediately. “Wait. You mean you actually WORE THAT? Like, in your REAL LIFE?”

5. Time out. Public Service Announcement to all parents: unlike leggings and high waists, padded shoulders will never, ever, ever, evereverevereverEVER come back in style. You can move them from closet wear to dress-up box now. You really can. If you really need to be “hip” and find something “retro,” pretty please, look elsewhere.

(We still love you, though. Especially when we end up using said fashion mistakes as our main ensemble for the evening)

Part Two: The Songs

1. If you really want to know the words to all of the songs at the ’80s dance, you must either:

  • take lots of long car rides with your dad
  • wear large headphones and walk around in leather jackets moaning, “Rock is dead. It has never been the same since [insert standard top hits guy band here] broke up” all year long
  • spend the 48 hours leading up to the dance cramming as much decade-appropriate music into your Pandora playlist as possible

2. Warning: if you choose option three (and, given the alternatives, you will choose option three), you may find yourself incorporating strange phrases into your everyday vernacular. Much as travelers in a new place find themselves quickly picking up the local language out of necessity, you, too, will find yourself altering your speech patterns just to fit in. Example:

Normal person: “Come on, Jess, we have to get to dinner”

Safety dance prepper: “Toora loora toora loo rye ay

NP: “Oops! Wrong way, looks like we’ll have to turn around.”

SDP: “Right round like a record, baby.”

NP: “What time is your alarm set for tomorrow morning? Could you wake me up -”

At this moment, SDP, who has been patiently trying to control herself for the entirety of the conversation, loses her cool, finds the nearest platform, leaps up onto it, and breaks into glorious song that sounds a little something like this:

Part Three: The Dance

1. Channel Michael as often as possible. Yes, that Michael.

2. Do the sprinkler. The shopping cart. The “I’m trying really hard to make this look ironic but it’s really because I don’t have any other moves” Egyptian walk whether or not “Walk Like An Egyptian” comes on.

3. Above all, don’t forget to get a bit…

Speaking with the authority of a baby born in the last gasp of the ’80s (’89 shoutout!), I guarantee that these tips + a complete disregard for your personal image + the willingness to wail out the lyrics when you are freeeeeeeee(EEEEEEE….nope, still going…Eeeeeeee…almost done! which is good because your lungs are failing…EEEEEEEEE)-falling will add up to one night of everyone, including the adults out there, feeling forever young.


And City By Morning

22 Jun

I wake up fourteen minutes before my alarm to a combination of light soaking my bed from my massive storybook windows and the talking going on outside of my doors. It is, barring one dim morning, always sunny. There are, barring three quiet nights, always accordion players who played me to sleep the night before. And I am, barring nothing, always pinching myself I’m in Rome I’m in Rome I am waking up in Rome.

Some mornings it is a drag to get out the door, generally due to wine-happy antics the prior evening and an early class time. Most mornings, though, are like this one: we emerge from our rooms slowly, we slip into clothes (it is now our fourth week of the trip, so the girls have started swapping dresses. Also, we are all out of appropriate-length church clothes), we put our bags together with whatever syllabi and guides and water bottles and sunscreen we will need for the day.

Then, breakfast. This morning, we made crepes filled with honey and fresh cherries, sugar and cinnamon. Often, I eat whatever I’ve bought from the outdoor fruit and vegetable market down the street. The first time we went there as a group, we turned into humans who had never seen fresh strawberries before – we bought buckets of fresh figs and grapes half the size of my palm and fed them to each other like couples in love, juice dribbling all over our faces. More than the ruins, perhaps, I will miss this fruit.

Other mornings, we eat breakfast at San Calisto, our bar (bar in Italy is a multifaceted institution – it acts as cafe, gelatteria, and permanent home to old men playing briscola.) Another morning, I will give San Calisto the homage it deserves. But for now, think of a group of four girls crowded around one rickety table outside, licking creme off of the pastry that the only-Italian-speaking owners now anticipate us ordering and hand us right when we arrive. Imagine drinking espresso out of cups that, to us, seem doll-sized and making it last for an afternoon. Imagine the unspoken rule of saying “ciao” into the air of the bar as you walk in and “ciao” into the air of the outdoors as you leave. This, too, I know I will miss. It is a morning ritual for me, someone who has never had morning rituals, and it offers far more to me than the coffee shop clusters around campus.

Good morning, Italia

And then – or, for this morning, “and now” – it is time for work or class or explorations. Yesterday I walked around the city and saw the innards of five churches; today I have a writing assignment due and a reading about St. Peter’s before seminar tonight outdoors on the Aventine Hill and our final fancy class dinner.

By this, my fourth week in Rome, it is a way of living that has embraced me, and I am glad.

Packing: A Photo Essay

28 May

How in the world do I fit all of my required books for this course into one suitcase weighing less than 50 lbs?

I can just imagine my suitcase saying, "Sorry, can't fit any of your clothes in here - I'm booked!"

Wait a minute -- never mind my suitcase, how am I going to fit that many books into my BRAIN?!?!


after a second,

and another few seconds…

…and one more second for good measure…


More updates to come tomorrow, but tonight, it’s all about the suitcase arranging. Ciao for now!

An Honest Heart

24 May

Occasionally, amidst the million flutters of excitement about this trip and the hours of packing and the composition of effusive emails, I stop dead in my tracks and say, “Jess. What the heck do you think you’re doing, spending half of your summer abroad in Rome?!”

It’s not the craziest question. In order to pull this trip off, even with the help of a very, very generous ISA award from Yale, I am emptying bank accounts that I have been filling since the age of ten (yes, Grandma, that’s where the birthday card money ended up – thank you!). I’m leaving my family behind for a month and a half when I haven’t gotten to spend more than three weeks at a time with them for two years. And, as a scholar and citizen, I’m leaving the city and town that I have spent the past few years learning about and trying to participate in for a city where I will be just a few steps above an enlightened tourist.

And it’s not to volunteer, or to work, or to intern, or even to take a required class. No, I’m going to Rome to take a class called “The City of Rome” for credits that I may not need, with a syllabus that includes both Dante and wine tasting. It is an enormous privilege that I even have this choice, and I still feel an occasional pang when I explain my summer to an acquaintance. “Actually, I’ll be in…Rome this summer. Yeah. I really still can’t believe it myself.” There is something that sounds so dangerously frivolous about this path – some hint of jet-setting entitlement.

For me, of course, that feels far from the truth. Aside from Canada (which doesn’t feel like too much of a trek from up here in New Hampshire), I have been to three countries over the course of my life. France and England on a whirlwind family vacation when I was ten (ten whole years ago, wow), and India for two weeks this past March break with a Reach Out trip from Yale where we did some volunteering in Delhi for a week and then spent a week visiting a few other areas of the country. I still consider myself a travel rookie – the one who, much to the amusement of everyone else, spent every flight to and from India with my nose plastered against the window, whispering to the mountaintops through the clouds.

This is me caught staring outside of our bus windows in India. I wasn't kidding about this constant sensation of hyper-alertness and incessant wonder.

I wasn't kidding about whispering through clouds, either. And taking pictures of them. I really couldn't bear to miss a single moment.

And Italy – well, Italy is somewhere I have been praying to travel to since I can remember thinking about traveling at all. I don’t know why it has always been Italy. Maybe it’s the food, or the language, or too much Mario Brothers. But every time my family mentioned taking a trip, I would bring it up again. Every single time. It’s like this inexplicable platial mystique from deep inside of me. And so this is, really, the fulfillment of a dream.

But it’s also this enormous thing, to travel to Europe to spend part of a summer. A thing that has connotations and expectations and very crisp evocations. And though it seems normal for many Yalies (and even many Andover kids, and more and more friends from home), it still sometimes feels weird to me. But there comes a point when I have to just stand up and say it, and that point is now.

Yes, I am lucky. I am so, so, so, so, so so so so so SO very lucky to be able to do this. No, it is not something that is directly applicable to my professional life, though as a concentrator in Urban Studies with an interest in international urban development, it does happen to be a really perfect place to get to know. Yes, I feel like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, to be able to go live and breathe and LEARN a place every single day. For those of you who may not know the details, this class has me reading about a thousand pages a week with seminars that take place on site all around the city. One day we walk the entirety of the ancient walls, another we are assigned to visit ten separate churches. Throughout the whole course, we will each be researching our own independent project, meeting with experts and preparing a giant paper and report for our final presentation. It is the ultimate Humanities experience, one in which millennia of learning and beauty will be tied into our present day personal experience. It is how I wish I could introduce myself to every new city – by walking straight up to its gates and saying, “I have read your ghosts and studied your victories; I have been tested on your path and want to walk through your present. Teach me more.” So the real answer to the “Why the heck are you doing this?” question has something to do with responding to a yearning and something to do with a sense that if I don’t do this now, I’ll never have the chance again. A few nights ago a group of friends and I sat talking about all of those crazy things that seem to be on our life lists for some reason or other, and we already felt as though we were running low on time and serendipity. So if not now, when? And if not now, a better question to be asking myself is, “Why the heck not?”

“Carpe diem,” the saying goes. And here I go seizing it.

Who knows what life will look like tomorrow?

7 Days, 2 Suitcases, and 1 Unshakeable Craving for Spaghetti

23 May

In one week, I will be strolling up to Piazza Santa Maria to meet my classmates for half a summer in Rome, that eternal city. My hair will be doing its usual combination of being windswept and well-styled; my luggage will be just one expertly-packed bag that I have no trouble wheeling around the city; and my Italian will make finding my way around a breeze. Or so I like to imagine.

Legal pads filled with scribbles: the newest, hippest travel accessory

Problem is, I don’t speak Italian. Nor, for the record, do I style – never mind well-style – my hair. And even in my childhood sleepover days, I never knew how to strategically pack a duffel bag. In fact, a far more accurate (check with me in a week to hear for sure) version of my first encounter with Rome goes something like this –

Me: This is a beautiful city! A bella city! See, Frances, I know Ital – SHOOT WAIT ASHLEY HAVE YOU SEEN MY SECOND BAG? DID I LEAVE IT IN THE TAXI DID I – oh. Yeah, thanks. Ha. Right there next to me.

Frances (politely): Um, so we probably don’t want to yell. Or make a scene or anything. People are looking at us.

Me (wails): I knoooow. Perfect, beautiful, well-styled Roman people! Maybe we will be like them in a week! (pauses) Do you think my Birkenstocks make me blend in?

Ashley: You might have better luck once you remove the city map from your hand…

Me: Aw. Yeah. Well, yknow, I just thought we might need some direction. Because even though all roads may lead to Rome, not all of them lead to this piazza in Trastevere…

Group: (Collective bad joke groan)

Right. So. Like I said, there could be a few hitches. But the fact remains that barring a volcano eruption (oh whoops! that happened) or my limbs suddenly becoming anchored to my native land (and honestly, I’ve been waiting so long to go that I think I’d STILL find a way…), I will be there. In Rome. In one week. Holy cannolis.

I cannot wait.