Weeks 6 & 7. Whether apple picking or art selling, the past two weeks have been full of things to prevent me from writing. This was coupled with mid-term papers due; an analysis of John Smith’s colonial Pocohontus narrative, the self-deception of pre-destined sexuality and the living conditions of workingmen’s families in NYC during the progressive era. All handed in, I am now enjoying October break in New England.
In the way that many postcard reports often begin (somewhat monotonously) with the weather, so shall my blog post. For someone like me, who is used to the meagre sunshine and grim drizzle of typically not-so-Great British weather, nothing could have prepared me for the array of climate fluctuations that were to occur over the past fortnight.
Beginning with a few days of glorious sunshine and tolerable humidity, I found myself content with the 80℉ weather forecast. Almost sinisterly, I found this especially pleasing when compared to the 20 degrees colder week of rain facing fellow students back in Exeter.
Yet within a day, it seemed like Niagara falls had relocated from upstate New York and unleashed all it’s downpour upon the Vassar campus. Before I knew it a tornado warning had been issued for the area, warning of “flying debris” and telling people to “seek shelter immediately!” This chaos and excitement, the stuff of movies, caused me to disobey such warnings and brave the treacherous conditions outside.
I found myself, tragically and disappointingly, met by the kind of weather one might expect on an average English day. The only flying debris that hit me was in the form of a crumpled leaf. I thought, ho-hum, there’s still time to encounter an earthquake in LA.
It’s come to that time of year when America begins to lurch into the
autumn fall. The New England foliage displays it’s dance of yellow, orange and scarlet colours before the winter, while in England the leaves go from brown, to green, to the ground. The autumn at home is more just a task of readying the winter coats. Yet for Americans, the fall is the time for jumping into leaf piles, baking scrumptious pies, lavishly decorating for Halloween and most importantly, apple picking.
I took part in the latter of these activities. Hosted by the VSA, I spent a few hours with fellow Cushing students at the Wilklow Orchards, just across the river Hudson. Little did I realise how many different types of apples there existed – Macintosh, Gala, Cortland, Jonamac, Empire, Jonagold, Mutsu, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Winesap, Rome, and Northern Spy to be exact. I’d be impressed if there was any more. Having picked all we could, we triumphantly sat down to enjoy some delicious apple cider and cider donuts, with bags full of apples perched on our laps. I now have a designated apple corner in my room, which I am slowly getting through.
Haitian Art Sale in NYC
To help raise money for the Vassar Haiti Project, I took part in the Haiti Cherie Sale last weekend in the east side of downtown New York City. The sale transformed All Saints Church into a scene of bright colours that rivalled the surrounding stained glass windows. From tiny iron sculptures of lobsters to large scale paintings, there was much on display.
The VHP buys artwork from Haiti, ships it back to the U.S. and sells it for higher profits. These proceeds are then donated back to Haiti or go towards projects organised by Vassar in Chermaitre.
Our task was to talk about art and schmooze guests at the sale, including Vassar alumni and rich city-workers on their way home. There was live music, food, rum punch and presentations by artists. On the day that I helped out, we sold 10 paintings and numerous crafts, raising $6896. Over the whole weekend, with the help of 50 students, the sales reached $16,500 – a great success for the charity.
“Seven Sisters Style”
Each year, the Vassar style and culture magazine, Contrast, puts on a fashion show inside the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. This year the event aimed to showcase the history of Vassar trends, from the Victorian period to the contemporary. The show was named “Seven Sisters Styles” and coincidentally began with a talk from another previous Exeter-Vassar exchange student, Rebecca Tuite, who has recently published a book of the same name since graduating from Exeter.
The Seven Sisters are historically the female equivalent to the Ivy League, comprising of Vassar College, Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, Radcliffe College, Smith College and Wellesley College. All were founded between 1837 and 1889 as private liberal arts colleges for women. Vassar is the only college to have become coeducational, in 1969.
Rebecca spoke about the impact, particularly in the ’20s and ’30s, that these colleges have had on mainstream culture, while students modeled for the show on a catwalk set up in the art centre.
In her other articles, Rebecca explains, “During the 1950s, Vassar students became fashion leaders of everyday campus style for women. Vassar quickly became known as the most fashionable college for women, popularizing a look for girls that was the equivalent of the Ivy League Look for boys.”
Read more about Vassar’s style history here: http://www.ivy-style.com/boyfriend-jacket-the-vassar-girl-and-the-ivy-league-look.html
So here in America, people like to celebrate Halloween a lot more than in the UK. Although it’s nowhere near halloween yet, numerous decorations have been appearing since the end of September. There have been all sorts of strange and surprising things so far, despite only being halfway through the month. As I was walking alone in the dark one night, I was almost scared to death by a malign looking blow up cat placed outside someone’s house, which suddenly moved it’s head in my direction and caught me off guard. Meanwhile, Vassar students have used all their mid-term procrastination time to decorate their doors with spiderwebs, ghosts, skeletons and so on. Perhaps this is a devious way of preventing anyone from knocking and distracting them during the period of essay writing. Elsewhere, painted pumpkins have appeared on garden steps, while sinister scarecrows have alighted onto fences. With two weeks until halloween still remaining, I’m intrigued to see the extent of these celebrations. Perhaps the ghosts of Cushing will begin to haunt us, or the chapel’s organ will start playing by itself.