Aerial Shenanigans at Smith

Despite my last post about Reunion feeling slightly strange to me because only a portion of my community was there, the fact is that I had a blast with the friends that I did see. We caught up, we bought drinks, we ate delicious food, we wandered around campus and celebrated old memories and made new ones. Most of these new memories involved good conversations and having good food and wine and revisiting old haunts.

And then there was this one.

My friend Echo is an aerialist, and she majored in Engineering at Smith, back when the then-new department was housed in a temporary building affectionately dubbed the “Green Monster” for being an eyesore in an otherwise beautiful brick-and-ivy campus. Now that the very new and shiny engineering and science building is up and running, Echo felt that she had to pay tribute/play a prank in the best way she knows how: by hanging from the ceiling.

Now, Echo has been a friend for a long time now, and I know that she is generally quite paranoid about safety. I also know that she is incredibly stubborn, and that any attempts to dissuade her that might be made by well-meaning friends would almost certainly backfire. So I knew it was my duty as a friend and fellow aerialist to come with her and make sure that she didn’t break her neck while attaching her silks to the ceiling.

Also, I admit it. I wanted to hang from the ceiling too.

Along the way, we found another Smithie aerialist and her girlfriend, who wanted to participate in the insanity. But because there was only enough equipment for one person at a time, and Echo was the only one who knew anything about rigging, she was the one to go climb on the beams.

So. This was the space we were working with.


The very tall atrium in which we were planning to hang silks.




We went in, wielding the kind of equipment normally associated with mountain climbing: a harness, carabiners, ropes, etc.  And Echo began to climb.


Echo sorts the span sets while hooked onto a beam.


She got to the main pillar…


Can I really climb this thing?


And discovered that she couldn’t actually get the span sets over the main beam.


If I only had a few more tools...

So. We decided to simplify our plan and hang from one of the lower beams, and Echo began the slow process of shimmying back along the beams she’d climbed on previously in order to get back to the balcony where the rest of us were standing. As we traipsed downstairs, we were intercepted by a Public Safety officer.

A report of people climbing on the beams? Surely not!

But we confessed to trying to hang fabric from the ceiling (without mentioning that we were planning to then climb, contort, and otherwise do tricks on said fabric), and told him that we had special insurance (which was entirely true). Unsurprisingly, he still said we needed to leave. Damn.

So, no actual photos of doing aerial dance or acrobatics. But we didn’t die, and we didn’t get arrested, and we now have a story to tell…



College Revisited, Five Years Later

This weekend, I went to my 5-year reunion. For four amazing years of my life, I went to Smith College, a women’s college where I met some of the best friends I’ve ever had, some of the most inspiring professors I’ve ever found, and the most amazing partner I could have asked for. Since graduating, I’ve been back several times, to visit friendsĀ  who were still students, to attend their graduations, to attend my own unofficial 2-year reunion for a much-needed dose of girl power in the midst of a year in Morocco. All of those visits have been amazing. But none have been quite like this.

This time, my 5-year reunion, was beautiful and bittersweet. I saw many wonderful friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since graduation, some of whom I’d seen regularly as long as we were in the same states. I was struck, though, by two things. First, the fact that many of my close friends from Smith were not from my graduation year, and consequently were not in attendance. Somehow, in my mind, I had envisioned that absolutely everyone I cared about from my time at Smith would be there, people who were seniors my first year and people who were first years my senior year, all rolled into one. Professors who have been retired for years would be there too. And coming back, to find that that was not the case, made the weekend feel incomplete. As though the community that I created for myself during my time at Smith was only half-present, the other half inexplicably gone.

I also realized that for the first time, I no longer know anyone at Smith other than the faculty. All of my friends have graduated now, even the youngest of them, and all the current students are strangers to me. It was strange to find that in this place, where I have felt the greatest sense of belonging, I no longer truly have a place except in memory. Moments that once seemed to extend into forever are now laid down in lavender, to be preserved and taken out as keepsakes. Everything on campus seemed smaller, less imposing than my memory had painted. Or maybe I’ve just grown.


Reflections on Bin Laden’s death

The news of Osama Bin Laden’s death has spread around the world like wildfire. Many Americans seem overjoyed at this news, and impromptu celebrations have broken out in New York and DC. An outpouring of yay-America-down-with-the-evil-terrorists sentiment prevailed.

I understand that many people feel that the death of Bin Laden at the hands of US operatives constitutes justice and retribution for the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Very few people have said as much, but there seems to be a sense that since the bad guy is dead the world can return to normal and all is right with the world, just like in a Disney movie. I can’t be so sure. First of all, it strikes me as simplistic to think of one person as a personification of evil. In my experience, the world is rarely so black and white. Furthermore, the idea of celebrating anyone’s death with jubilation is morally repugnant to me. Even a political enemy. Even a terrorist. His death may have been politically necessary, but that does not change the fact that he is still a human being. His death is not a cause for celebration, nor does it make America great.

The US has invested a lot of time, effort, blood, and money in Iraq and Afghanistan over the course of the past decade. The death of a terrorist figurehead will not change that investment, nor will it be the cue for America’s forces to pick up and go home. The US has reasons to stay in the Middle East, and fighting terrorism is only one of them. The death of Bin Laden is unlikely to put any kind of stop to terrorist action in the world. If anything, news of US citizens celebrating Osama’s death is likely to fuel anti-American sentiment in regions that already have no reason to love the USA but are afraid to get on its bad side. Not to mention the fact that every child who grows up in a refugee camp because US bombs destroyed his home has the motivation to become a terrorist. The US has created a lot of orphans like this–we have effectively planted dragon’s teeth. From what I have learned this year on the psychology of conflict,we’re going to be facing war for a long, long time.

Subdued response to news in Middle East (CNN)

Pakistani News in English (link courtesy of a Pakistani friend of mine)

Al Jazeera English (the best source for non-US-centric news on the Middle East)