Monday, September 28, 2009

um ya ya

This weekend, I traveled to the Land of 10,000 Lakes to accompany W for his 10-year college reunion. W went to St. Olaf in Northfield, MN for undergrad (the other gig in town is Carleton College). Because a bunch of people from the Twin Cities suburbs go to St. Olaf, there were quite a few Andersons, Johnsons, Elofsons. There were a lot of blonde heads at that cocktail hour, as well as rounded "O's."

I've never been to a liberal arts college, much less one in the "countryside"; not really sure what the opposite of an urban campus would be. There were cows, horses, and the Malt-O-Meal factory (which, I hear, is the preferred source of wafting smells. The other option is the turkey farm). No crackheads. No drunken frat boys. The college is even on a hill, which makes me think of John Winthrop's sermon, "A Model of Christian Charity" (1630):
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken... we shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world.

Boe Memorial Chapel

The campus is beautiful. There's no denying that a bucolic background can do wonders for a college setting. While wandering around the sugar maples, I had to constantly remind myself that everything I surveyed would soon be buried under bleak white snow for the next 6 months.

Holland Hall

Partly because of the white-washed limestone effect, partly because of the simplicity of the architecture, the parallel between some of the buildings and old Swedish ones are uncanny:

Boe Memorial Chapel

St. Göran Church ruin, Visby, Gotland, Sweden, originally uploaded by Swedish National Heritage Board.

St. Olaf is pretty heavy on the arts; tryouts for the choir, band, and orchestras are super competitive. The St. Olaf choir tours internationally on a regular basis and sells tons of CDs - or, to quote Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy: "We don't know how to put this but we're kind of a big deal." The choir didn't perform while we were there, but we went to the Homecoming concert, which can be heard here. I'm impressed because they ended with a song ("First Suite in E-flat Major for Military Band" by Gustav Holst) that my high school band wasn't quite able to pull together. And boy, did those difficult bass clarinet passages come rushing back to me.

The most interesting thing about the weekend was to reflect on how different other college experiences could be from mine. We have to make this major, life-affecting decision when we're 17, 18 years-old, which profoundly affect our lives and our financial futures, and yet, for most, those mostly superficial decisions have such an impact on our identities moving forward. I would not be the person I am today without having gone to Howard University, and W would also be so, so different if hadn't gone to St. Olaf. And it's almost miraculous to imagine how both our experiences put us on our paths towards the future.

view of Northfield

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