Donovan House

I find that being a substance free student can be discouraging. From substance using students not understanding me, to my sub free dorm not actually being sober, there are very few places at Brown where I actually feel comfortable being myself. I spend most of my time alone in my room or at Andrews up until the point when the stoned/drunk students come in. It is a combination of feeling ostracized from others and self-imposed isolation. But Brown has come up with a solution for students like me — the Donovan House.

The Donovan House is a program house for sub free students and students in recovery. The Donovan House, which I am very excited to live in next year, will offer a number of advantages to the students living there. There will be a zero tolerance policy of substance use by anyone in the house, something that is not currently enforced in my “alcohol/drug free” dorm. I will no longer have to fear leaving my room and smelling weed at 10 am when I’m walking to class or see boisterous drunk kids roaming the halls on the weekends. I’m not trying to shame anyone who participates in those activities — have all the fun you want— but it does personally affect me when it happens in my living space where it isn’t supposed to. In the Donovan House, I will have a space where that fear won’t even enter my mind. I know I will be able to take solace in that fact. In the house, I hope I will be able to get to know people intimately for who they are and, possibly, why they don’t partake. Without the presence of drugs or alcohol, I find I really get to understand and empathize with someone.

The RPL of the house will be sub free and therefore have an intimate knowledge of what the students in the house struggle with on a daily basis, making them well-equipped to help out. To tell you the truth, I don’t know much about the RPL’s in my dorm. I’ve probably interacted with them a handful of times, and that’s fine, but, on a particularly hard day, I don’t feel comfortable confiding in someone I don’t know. From what I have been told about the RPL in Donovan House, that won’t be the case. The RPL there will be there to support the members of the house in their times of need and also to enforce the zero tolerance policy. That will be a tremendous relief to me.

 My hope is that the various programming to be offered at Donovan House, which is likely to include discussion groups, will help bridge the gaps among sub-free students. People are sub-free for various reasons whether they be religious, related to past trauma, a matter of personal preference, or experience with addiction.

I’ve noticed a common divide between those in recovery and those who are not. Students in recovery tend to stick with one another, and those who aren’t do the same. I’ve wondered why this is the case. Perhaps it is a matter of mutual misunderstanding. Since the members of the Donovan House will be living with one another and will be in programming together, the two factions in the house may come to know each other and set aside what differences they have.

Living there, I know all of the members will have one thing in common — we don’t get intoxicated. And while that might not be important to most, it is to me. My entire life is based around the avoidance of substances and to meet other kids like me can only positively affect my interactions.

Maybe I’m being too idealistic about what will actually go on in the house. But I imagine Donovan House being the first place at Brown where I can feel totally comfortable, knowing there won’t be the looming presence of alcohol or drugs, where I am surrounded by people who actually understand me and who I, in turn, understand as well.


A St. Paddy’s Day Extravaganza

 

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With the inescapability of the color green, the wild outfits, the chaotic parties, and the copious drinking, St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most hyped-up days of the year on college campuses. It’s a day that many students look forward to so that they can really “let loose,” even though the same thing happens pretty much every weekend. While I obviously can’t speak for everyone, I can say with certainty that my day was not exactly the day of debauchery many expect. Here’s what happened.

6pm-8:30pm: This is prime time for doing absolutely nothing. I watched some YouTube videos, scrolled through the internet, and before I knew it two hours was up. Some of my friends sat beside me as well, interspersing the quiet with wise words such as “Bruh, this is gonna be dope, I love St. Patty’s Day,” and “OMG, St Patrick’s Day is my everything.” A few planned to have a really big night, because their uncle’s cousin’s boss’s nephew’s roommate or someone was Irish, so they had to drink for them.

8:30pm-10:30pm: A dorm party, exactly like the one that happened last Friday. Thirty kids or so packed into a tiny dorm room, standing awkwardly with a solo cup in one hand, phone in the other, so that they can look busy and avoid small-talk. Music plays from someone’s squeaky and aging Bluetooth speaker. Everything smells awful and sweaty as well.  But this time everything was green! Here’s a beer, but this time it’s green. Here’s a hat, but this time it’s a green hat. Standing around while listening to “Closer” by the Chainsmokers blare on the speaker for the 500th time was a terrific way to respect Irish culture. A few kids wandered around, more than a couple beers in already. “I’ve been drinking since 1,” one giggled, because apparently St. Patrick’s Day means we all have to get dangerously intoxicated.

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10:30pm -1:00am: A larger party–one of those beauties where it’s impossible to move, the music is super, super LOUD, and it’s pretty dark so seeing becomes a difficult task. Hundreds of people were packed into a far-too-small area, so I was constantly bumping into others and getting stepped on. It was also really hot in there (not in the good way), so more than a couple timeouts were taken so we could gasp for cold, clean air. Green hats were definitely bouncing though, and there were a lot of “Ireland” chants. And there was also more throw-up than usual (not green, in case anyone was wondering), which was fun to almost step in. Seriously, if there’s one thing to take-away from this little, sarcasm-filled blurb, it’s that self-care is important. No need to go out and rapidly inhale 15 drinks only to damage a liver or get EMSed (because let me say this, there were a lot more EMSs than usual).

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1:00am-3:00am: Sat in the dorm hallways for a while before wrapping up the evening. Some people wandered in and immediately went to bed. Others chattered for hours, remaining in the hallway until 4 or 5. I watched a movie with a couple friends before going to bed, ready to do the exact same thing Saturday night, except this time without all the green.

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Spring Weekend Lineup

The thing about Spring Weekend is that – unless you’re remarkably savvy when it comes to music – we often don’t really know who most of the performers actually are. The lineup is announced and, almost invariably, the word, “Who?” tumbles out of our mouths as we rack our brains for any store of knowledge about the artists in question. Are they any good? Are they Friday (rap/pop/hype) or are they Saturday (rock/indie/mellow) performers?

Let’s simplify that process a bit:

Empress Of

Empress Of makes music you can dance to – imagine pulsing multicolored lights on a busy dance floor, and you pretty much get what her music feels like. Her vocals are a bit more complex than that, lending an almost eerie, but definitely ethereal sense to her music.

Cherry Glazerr

At first listen, Cherry Glazerr reminds me of bands like Cage the Elephant and Cold War Kids – but with kickass female vocalists, woot! If you’re really into alternative rock and its emphasis on impressive guitar riffs and drums you can headbang to, or if you’re into soft vocals and trippy music (what can I say, they’re a diverse group), I would recommend making sure you see Cherry Glazerr.

 

AlunaGeorge

I’m pretty sure everyone has heard “You Know You Like It” at a party. Whether the party is actually hype or not, AlunaGeorge definitely lifts baseline Good Vibe levels by several degrees. With sensual vocals and beats that make you wanna get up and sway (or mosh, you do you) along with the music, AlunaGeorge offers a guaranteed boost to the General Hypeness of Spring Weekend.

Erykah Badu 

Badu is one of the most widely heralded queens of neo-soul. Her sultry voice and eclectic style have inspired a generation of budding afrofuturists. Badu’s music is marked by its combination of soft-spoken, ringing vocals and a pleasing confluence of R&B and Funk. Essentially, it’s melodious music which compels one (or at least compels me) to bob their head along to the beat.

Princess Nokia

Princess Nokia is an alternative rapper and singer whose music is very interested in exploring her identity as a Black Nuyorican (Puerto Rican from New York). Her smooth singing voice contrasts her style of rap, which is quick and rough. Though she’s certainly a versatile performer, I’m banking on her bringing her rap to Brown.

Oh, and her music videos are lit.

Young Thug

Young Thug’s rap has a lot of elements of trap in it, which I’m thankful for because it’s really conducive to energetic dancing, especially for an event like Spring Weekend. He’s known for having a very interesting voice, which I would describe as occasionally raspy and often warbly. Aside from his musical talents, Young Thug is a hilarious person. Check out his Wycleaf Jean video and see what I mean – it’s literally a metatextual work of art.


Time to Concentrate

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If you’re anything like me that means you, 1) still haven’t filed your concentration and 2) got this email from Advising and it scared the shit out of you.

I mean, who’s had the time to file? Midterm season has been going on for what feels like three years! And it doesn’t help that the cold weather drains our collective will to do . . . pretty much anything. Besides, we all still have a regular homework load to deal with, along with our respective extracurriculars . . .

For the past few weeks, I’ve essentially been searching for reasons not to file my concentration – but I know I shouldn’t put it off any longer. Logically, I know that it won’t take that much time out of my schedule – it’s only a few essays, right? A few essays about my area of study, to boot. I could go on about my major forever, so this should be a piece of cake. No big deal.

It is hard, though. It took me a while to figure out why, because I know you can change your concentration pretty easily if you’d like to, so it’s not even like the declaration is binding. It shouldn’t seem like such a milestone, but it also really is.

We’re almost at the halfway mark of our college experience, after all. Pretty much everything we do from this point on has to be oriented towards the future, towards internships and our future careers. The idea of mapping out the next two years of classes is effectively analogous to the idea of mapping out the next few years of my life – and then I’m left wondering about where I’ll be then, and where I’ll go from there. . .

Honestly, it’s a lot to take in.

I have a tendency to react to things like this by putting them off, not because I’m actually a procrastinator or anything (although who doesn’t have their moments, ya know), but because I get overwhelmed by the fear that I won’t do a good enough job, now or in the future, or even – absurdly- that my declaration would for some reason be denied.

But how unlikely would that be, right? All Brown wants from us is an indicator that we have a plan for the next two years and that we’re not just taking completely random combinations of classes. We’re not setting our futures in stone when we declare, we’re just making a tentative outline. That’s a pretty fair deal for a school that doesn’t make us fulfill general education requirements – and, what’s more, Spring Break approaches!

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to worry about filing my concentration when I’m trying to soak up some well-earned rest.

So now’s the time to file your declarations!

Some tips for those of you who are still holding out (me included):

  • Try to work on your essays, course outlines, etc. in the environment that is most comfortable for you. For me, that’s when I’m around friends, but for others it might be a quiet nook they can have all to themselves to focus.
  • This week is the last week you can meet with your concentration advisers in person to talk to them about declaring – unless you’re staying on campus during break and your advisers happen to be available (I wouldn’t bank on the latter, honestly)  
  • Again: remember that the course outline you make for the next two years isn’t binding. Like my concentration adviser told me: when you pick the courses, you do it with the understanding that many of those courses might not be available in the future and that they’re essentially placeholders, not binding agreements to take particular courses.

Go forth friends! Break is for sleeping and revelry, not school stuff!

Well, not today – but so soon!!


In the Heights Brings Uptown Story to Life

Weeks before I actually watched Brown’s production of In the Heights, it was all that I had been hearing about—with warnings from my friends to buy a ticket before they sold out, raving reviews of how eye-opening and tear-jerking it was, and all the Facebook posts begging people to sell their tickets for “money, my soul, my eternal gratitude” (one of my personal favorites) after the tickets really did sell out. Then, on Sunday, March 12, the time had finally come for me see it all for myself.

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“Yo, pull out them kiddie pools…” a voice comes on over the radio, as vendors set up shop and people bustle around and go about their usual morning routines. The set is designed realistically and thoroughly from floor to ceiling, completely immersing us in the world of Washington Heights, a largely Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban neighborhood in northern Manhattan full of tall, brick buildings and once-bright, now-faded bodegas and other storefronts. The only break in the illusion is the small gap in the back where the musicians are visible; but that’s hardly noticeable as the bright lights flash, vibrant skirts twirl, and the energy of the cast washes over the mesmerized audience. The tone shifts when Nina Rosario (Viva Sandoval ’20) comes home from her first year at Stanford with a secret.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the actor, composer, and playwright best known for the fame of Hamilton, wrote the first draft of this show in his sophomore year of college, grew up in Washington Heights where the musical is set. Miranda says that, “We’re a stew up there, and we wanted to reflect that.” He wanted to depict the multitude of diversity and culture of Washington Heights and represent “Latinos, not wielding knives, but . . . being in love and having businesses and families.” In the Heights is a musical portrait of the people Miranda grew up with and the place he called home.

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The cast members fully stepped into the characters created for them by Miranda in the script and Brown alum Quiara Alegría Hudes in the book. Watching their faces and body language fully transform with each action and emotion that affects their characters, it as easy to forget they were acting. Piragüero (Rishi Wagle ’20), the Piragua Guy, has little stage time and brief lines spread sporadically throughout the musical. But he is more than just a goofy guy to serve as comic relief during transitions.When he sings about “scraping by,” not only in reference to his job as a piragua vendor who scrapes his ice block to sell snow cones to customers in the hot summer sun, but also in reference to the lessons of survival and perseverance that are taught through the stories and lives of the people on this street corner in Washington Heights. And Wagle executes both roles and reveals both meanings of his part so well through the deadly combination of his accessibly goofy attitude and shockingly powerful voice.

This show not only celebrates People of Color but also recognizes the racial tensions and divisions that are all too real within People of Color as well. It is mentioned several times throughout the show that the character of Benny (Stephen A. Bozier ‘17), who is Black and does not speak Spanish, “know[s] nothing of our culture,” and will never be good enough for Nina. Finally, he is driven to ask, “Why learn the language if they still won’t hear you?”

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The biggest and most memorable parts of the musical were when the entire cast performed together, limbs swinging in unison and voices weaving in and out of harmonies. The kinetic energy between the cast members made the ensemble pieces crescendo, not only in volume but also in sheer excitement and life. At the same time, each cast member was also certainly strong enough to hold their own part in the midst of the overlapping, chaotic, beautifully messy scenes. Aristotle really got it right when he said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Actors sniffled and wiped their eyes on stage during the final scene and throughout the bows. As we filed out of the auditorium, I saw a man and a young boy a row behind me get up and sing “Piragua, piragua” to the tune of the song. And I knew that the cast, crew, and audience would be humming along to the songs and remembering the lessons of In the Heights for weeks to come.

 

NOTE: If you want to read more about this remarkable musical, here was the press release for Brown’s production of it. https://www.brown.edu/academics/theatre-arts-performance-studies/news/2017-02/press-release-heights.

 

 


The Nelson Safari

Welcome to the jungle. As we begin our tour, I will be pointing out just 10 of the many weird, exciting, and beautiful things that make a safari tour of the Nelson everything that it is.

  1. That random person who is working out in jeans and a button-down shirt.

That cannot be comfortable. Aren’t you sweaty? Don’t you feel constricted? But, hey, mad props to you for pulling it off.

  1. That person taking up the last available treadmill with a good view of the TV screen while walking at 2.0 mph and texting on their phone.

Ah, the wonders of modern technology.

  1. That one guy who blew his nose with alcohol wipes that one time.

At least he had some very clean nostrils.

  1. That person who has been in the same yoga pose for so long that you’re worried they’ve fallen asleep.

Should I do a casual walk-by to double check? Ah, but the water fountains are the other way, and I don’t really like the machines over there. Should I tap their shoulder? Are they alive??

  1. Those swole people who seem to spend so long flexing and staring at their massive muscles that you don’t know how they got swole in the first place.

I know you’re jacked, but how did you get that way when your workout-to-break ratio is 1:20? Please share your secrets. Sincerely, The Noodle-Armed Folk.

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  1. That one person who was listening to earbuds that were connected to…an iPad.

How did they manage to fit that into their pockets, you ask? They didn’t. They stuck it in the back of the elastic waistband of their sweatpants, and I was waiting for it to fall any second for that entire visit to the gym.

  1. That one person who was listening to earbuds that were connected to…nothing.

Me: “Hey! Aren’t we in the same English class?”

Them: *silence*

Me: “Uhhh, the other end of your earbuds are dangling out of your pocket…”

Them: *starts bobbing head along with imaginary song*

  1. Those people who aggressively row on the ergs, but clearly don’t know what they are doing.

To be honest, I also don’t know what I am doing. I’m told that it’s actually all about the legs, but everything seems to hurt for me.

  1.  All the fit people who totally know what they’re doingTumblr GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
  2.  All the other newbies who clearly don’t.
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I relate on a spiritual level.

Now that we have completed our tour, I hope you realize what an amazing and wonderful place the Nelson Safari is. Every visit is an adventure, and we hope that you’ll come again soon!