Sunday, September 30, 2012

Southwest Studies

     This week every first year on campus is embarking on an adventure- a set of trips we refer to as "Southwest Studies". While the second years stay on campus and work on their extended essays ("EE"- a 4,000 word paper we all have to write for IB), college apps, SAT prep, and college interviews, the first year class will be exploring our local area in several different ways. The trips include hiking in the Grand Canyon, some hard-core adventures like spelunking, and several others just exploring New Mexican history and culture. My trip is Cooking; we're spending several days in Santa Fe cooking dishes from our cultures, sleeping, shopping, going to the movies, and visiting culturally diverse cuisine places- it's gonna be great :) I'm excited to eat some real (and international) food, get some rest, and augment my wardrobe a little!
     Some of the trips have already left and since the second years have been busy, the last couple of days have been fairly boring. As a result I have acquired some interesting first-hand knowledge of the campus and castle, though unfortunately I can't share them here (sorry, I hate to pique your curiosity and then leave you hanging).
     At the moment I can't think of anything too exciting to share, but I'm sure I'll have some new stories after this week!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012


     Those of you who know me well and/or have spent a lot of time with me (family, GF, KB, HV, you all know who you are) know that I'm always hungry. I LOVE food. And especially dessert. Like ice cream :) (GC, HK, PP) And let me tell you, nothing's changed. Granted the food here is cafeteria food and not nearly as good as at home (though I appreciate all of the work the staff puts in, really I do, but its just not home food), I still gotta eat.
     Ok, so what?
     Here at UWC we believe in seizing every opportunity and challenging ourselves. Which is great and all, I'm very competitive and love beating challenges. But when I'm hungry and/or half-asleep in the morning I'm not really a big fan of exercise like, oh, I don't know, stairs? And I most definitely do not want to climb a minimum of 90 steps just to eat. And yet, such is life- bummer. 
     I think I've mentioned before that our campus is located in the foot-hills of the Rockies, or as my environmental systems teacher would point out, specifically, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. And if you read my post about the castle's history, you'll know that when the current castle was first built in 1884, it was built atop a hill to maximize air flow and minimize fires. But that means we have to climb up to the castle somehow. And, quite unfortunately (in my opinion), escalators and elevators just aren't practical for outdoor use. So we have stairs. And they're not just little baby stairs; we have the real deal.
     There are two ways to get up to the castle, one on each side of campus:

1) This lovely set of stairs is at least 70 steps long (not counting the other two flights you have to go up just to get over here and the set to get into the castle) and leads up from the dorms and field house.

2) Our next image depicts the fantastic set of stairs leading up from the IT center, Science Building, Old Stone, and Auditorium. I have no idea how many steps it includes, definitely more than the first set and far too many for my taste.

    Now, you're probably thinking "wow, these lazy kids, it's just some steps". But you're forgetting that we have to climb these at least three times a day to eat, four if you choose to go to break, and more if you have classes up in the castle. And we have to lug our backpacks around. And we're 7,000 ft. up and in a drought. Not such a fun combination for our lungs.
    Don't get me wrong, the location really is gorgeous and I wouldn't want you to get the idea that I've just written this entire blog to whine. I just wanted to share one of the lovely parts of our campus. And, if you think about it, these are really a good workout- each time you want to eat you have to earn it. So in that respect I may owe some gratitude to these stairs for providing some exercise.
     On the other hand, I'm sure the school would be happy to accept any donations for the purpose of building some nice escalators and slides into the landscape :)

Also, I'll include a picture of our castle, which really is pretty! This is the view from that second set of stairs, it's a side of the castle.

 Impressive, no?

And a quick shout-out to EG and CG for the cute card I got in the mail today- it made me smile!! Thanks :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


     Today is a very special day for us here on the UWC-USA campus. It is the 50th Anniversary of the UWC movement and of the very first college in Wales (Atlantic College), the 30th Anniversary of our own college here in the U.S., and exactly one month that the first years have been UWC students.
     We're celebrating the anniversaries of our school and of the movement all this week, a celebration we call "30/50". This morning all of the UWCs around the world watched a live broadcast from Atlantic, during which the president of Atlantic, an alum from one of the first classes, and Queen Noor of Jordan spoke. It was interesting and cool that we all shared that experience, but quite honestly, mostly just amusing because the president made a lot of funny faces at funny times. The festivities continued in the afternoon with a "day of service", during which every student and a good portion of the teachers went out into the community and worked in some way to help the community.
     This weekend we're holding a big party on Saturday out on the lawn. There will be performances, games, cultural demonstrations, discussions, food, and lots of fun. We're expecting a lot of guests- parents, getaways, people from town- including one alum from every single graduating class from UWC. Isn't that awesome?! Some of the alums will be holding discussions Friday night too. Should be exciting!
     And finally- one month since we've been here. This is hard to believe- it's gone by fast, but at the same time I feel like I've been here forever. I've done SOOO much, learned so much, met so many people, shared so many stories. UWC is such a unique place and such a special experience and I am so grateful to be here and look forward to so many more months!
     Speaking of being grateful to be here, Shelby Davis, the man who provides full scholarships to all American students at all of the UWCs around the world, is coming to campus on Saturday and we're going to get to meet him! Yay!
     Ok, I have to run, lots more to do today! Hope all of you are well, and don't forget to wish any UWCers you may know a "Happy Anniversary!"

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Castle

     It's been a busy week, let me tell you. Between classes, CASs, OPAs, music, homework, and sleep, I haven't had the chance to sit down and write a blog. But have no fear, a new blog is here! :)
     So last week I mentioned that one of my CAS activities is Castle Tours. Today I lead another tour, this time for a group of about twenty individuals from the Santa Fe area who work with a charity program called Kitchen Angels. The charity finds interesting places around New Mexico and offers individuals "adventures" to these places for a fee, which is used for their program. Kitchen Angels provides meals for those unable to leave the house (age, physically disabilities, etc.) It's a pretty cool fundraising idea
     Anyways, so today a group of "donors" came for an adventure at the UWC castle. It was really fun; they were all interested and curious, ooh-ing at the right times and laughing at my jokes. A (a different A than I mentioned last time) and I took them through the main highlights of the campus and then got to have lunch with the group on the veranda (a happy surprise, because the kitchen prepares better food for guests, yummm) It's really fun to share the history with people and watch their awe and excitement of being in a castle. Now, while you guys can't actually come visit me (or have yet to), I thought I'd share some of the cooler history of the castle. Off we go.

* The whole reason why you can find our campus  where it is is because of the hot springs. The area has been considered a medicinal place for ages. There is a legend that the Aztec king Montezuma was born out of the hot springs and carried to Mexico by golden eagles. So they're old (and that's why our town is called Montezuma). The Santa Fe Railroad thought they could profit off of the many people coming to the springs and built a hotel right next to them. This original hotel was built in 1879 and is still on our campus. We call it the Old Stone Hotel and it is now used as administrative offices and classrooms. Much of the building is original.
* The first "castle" was constructed in 1882 as a more luxurious hotel, not far from the original. Unfortunately, it burned down two years later in 1884. There were no deaths.
* That same year the second castle was constructed, further up on the hill, where our castle is today. This hotel was called "The Castle on the Hill" and was considered fireproof because of its architecture and location. The idea was that the building could maximize the fresh air intake from atop the hill and this prevent fire.
* That building burned down just four months after it was built, on August 8. Portions of the first and second floors remained.
* The hotel was rebuilt once more, this time as "The Phoenix". It was the first building in the Southwest to have electricity and the first in New Mexico to have an elevator. The grounds had an exotic animal zoo, fountains, exotic plants, tennis courts, a bowling alley, and a shop called Chinese Curiosities.Guests could also have hot water pumped up from the springs to their bathrooms.
* Famous guests include Ulysses S. Grant, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Theodore Roosevelt, Rutherford B. Hayes, Jesse James, and Billy the Kid (who was reportedly shot in Las Vegas). More recently, Queen Noor of Jordan (an honorary president of the UWC movement) has visited the castle, as has Prince Charles of Wales (another honorary president) and the Beach Boys.
* The Railroad started losing money and sold the property to the YMCA for $1.
* Between 1914 and 1972 the grounds were used for, first, a Baptist college and, later, a Jesuit seminary. Armand Hammer purchased the grounds in 1972, but they lay dormant until 1981.
* The school opened in 1982 but the castle was not used, as it was in terrible condition due to old age, having been used in a movie (The Evil) during which many of the "special effects" involved actually destroying the building, and having been looted throughout its dormancy.
* The building was remodeled between 1999-2001 for $10.5 million, mostly thanks to donations from Shelby Davis, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland (1969-1975). Much of the woodwork and stained glass is original. The rest of the restoration was completed as accurately as possible based on photographs and forensic research.
* Our dining hall houses two Chihuly Glass Sculptures, each with about 500 pieces and weighing 650 lbs each. Dale Chihuly was present for the installation of the pieces.
* The castle boasts a spiral staircase that is an architectural feat. It ascends counterclockwise and is self-supporting and was originally constructed out of only one piece of wood (It is three stories high). It has been restored and, though no longer one single piece of wood, the staircase remains completely constructed of wood (no screws or bolts). Their are only a couple staircases in the world like this, one being in Santa Fe, but ours is the only one still in use.
* A ghost story- An opera singer reportedly died in the castle and students and staff have reported hearing her sing. Two years ago a student was walking down the staircase and heard singing. Having heard the legend he ran back up to the dorm and got several other students. They followed the sound down the stairs. The noise grew louder in the lobby. Pressing their ears to the door of the dining hall, they heard the singing crescendo. They opened the first doors and the sound got louder. So they opened the second doors. And.... it was the school's choir rehearsing. :)

Aaaaaaand that's about all I can share without actually showing you certain pieces. We also detour to the Dwan Light Sanctuary. The walls and roof have prisms which spin at different rates and in different directions and produce really pretty rainbows all over the room. It's soooo cool.

Hope you enjoyed your tour of the Montezuma Castle, come back and visit :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Weekend

     One rather interesting aspect of my UWC experience is that, thus far, I have only spent one weekend on campus. That's right, three weeks and one weekend. And while both off-campus trips were wonderful, my co-years and I were really very excited for this new experience. And oooooh boy was it a weekend.
     Saturday morning I started one of my CASs (CAS= Creativity, Action, Service. Mandatory categories of activities in which we participate. I have soccer (which is my OPA, Organized Physical Activity), library assistant (Campus Care), Castle Tours (CE- Community Engagement), Peer Mediation (CEC- Constructive Engagement of Conflict), Jewelry Making (a club), and Wellness and Wilderness (which are mandatory for all first years for the first semester). Basically we're BUSY) Anyways, Saturday was my first time with Castle Tours and it was so cool! As many of you know, I go to school in a castle, but what you don't know is that we have a lot of really cool history. Maybe I'll do a specific post on all the info, it's really interesting. Plus we also get to go into some areas of the school off limit to most students (mwahahaha :D).
     Then Saturday afternoon we had our first of, what we call, Dorm Days. Basically its an afternoon set aside for each dorm (we have 6) to do activities together. Now, all week long our second-years kept telling us S (our RT- Resident Tutor, the adult responsible for making sure we're all alive) was really angry with us because the dorm was a mess and we were loud and so she was going to make us spend all afternoon cleaning. Which, to be fair, is actually not too far from the truth- we are fairly messy and not the quietest bunch of coconuts (I totally just made that expression up... it made me laugh). So anyways, we all convene for Dorm Day, completely prepared to work for several hours. And the meeting begins, S walks in, looking all solemn, and tells us we're going to take care of some things today and that the second years know what to do. So they take over and start explaining how we're going to scrub the carpets with soap, clean out the showers and the drains, and scrub the outside of the building, and wait.... one more thing... *t-shirts all come off to reveal swimsuits* POOL PARTY!!!!
     WHOA. wait, WHAT?! No, i know, I was completely caught off guard and totally clueless for maybe 5 seconds. And then I realized we didn't have to clean- whoooooo!!!! It was really fun, we just hung out at the pool and had snacks and then afterwards the school got a moon-bounce and we had a barbecue. Yay dorm days!
     And that's only through Saturday afternoon.
     Saturday evening we had what we call the "Patio Party". In front of our Field House there's this rather large "patio" where there was basically a big dance party Saturday evening. Now, while I love dancing, I hate dances. But most people had fun, so that's good.
     Sunday morning we engaged in another tradition: the First Year V. Second Year Soccer Game. It was INTENSE. and really fun :) The second years won, no surprise, but we, if I may say so myself, put on a great show and played really well. And we stayed within our goal (ahaha, see what I did there?) (only losing by 5 or less) as the score was 7-2. No worries, we're going to improve and the next time this tradition roles around, we'll be ready!
    Sunday afternoon there was an ice cream social for families in the Las Vegas area who host UWC students in their homes as "get-aways" (basically students can get off campus and spend time with a surrogate family for a bit). I got to lead a castle tour, which was really fun, and good experience.
     And did I do any homework this weekend?
     Just kidding, I'm a responsible student. And also a teenager who did only just what I needed to for my classes today. I've got it down to a science ;)
     So it was a pretty good, and extremely busy, weekend. And this is just the beginning of the year. You just wait....

Friday, September 7, 2012


     UWC makes an effort to invite and host really great speaker several times a year, and a couple days ago I got to hear a really interesting presentation. 
     We heard from Amos Guiora; here's the info we got in the email:

"Guiora is a progessor of law at The S. J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah where he teaches Criminal Law, Global Perspectives on Counter-terrorism, Religion and Terrorism and National Security Law. Professor Guiora served for 19 years in the Israel Defense Forces Judge Advocate General's Corps. During his military service, Professor Guiora was involved in important legal and policy-making issues, including the capture of the PLO weapons ship Karine A, implementation of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement, the Israeli- Palistinian Interim Agreement, and  "The Safe Passage" between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
As an expert commentator, he is frequently interviewed and quoted and has been published in the national and international media, including CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, BBC, C-Span, and The Wall Street Journal."

     IT WAS SO INTERESTING!!! Guiora spoke about his career in counter-terrorism and his struggle to teach morality to young men- how to do so in a creative, effective, and lasting manner (apparently Hollywood movies have been the primary method, interesting, huh?). He also discussed the repercussions of this idea; one example dealt with the deaths of two young men, killed because they followed their morality training and respected a religious artifact, in which was hidden the gun that killed them. How can we promote morality in a world where each individual plays by their own rules and that moral compass becomes a handicap? Can we ever live 100% morally? 
     Guiora also shared his experience with the "Safe Passage" act. What should have been an overnight project for him stretched into a struggle over many years, because of a linguistic/translation discrepancy, and he shared his thoughts on the impact the Palestinian/Israeli conflict had on the manner and vice versa. 
     Really, it was fascinating. You guys should check some of this stuff out, its something I'd never really heard anything about, but a topic that is so pertinent in our world today. And just because we're not faced with such urgent issues daily doesn't mean we can't still act "morally", and maybe start making a difference one by one.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hold the Applause

     When I came to UWC, I knew to expect a tight community. With only 211 students and maybe 30 teachers, all on one campus in the middle of nowhere, it's difficult to not interact with nearly everyone, everyday. What I didn't realize was just how tight it would be.
     Relationships on campus are very informal. Everyone calls everyone by their first name, even teachers. Within the first 30 seconds of meeting my Spanish teacher, I used the formal "usted" out of respect and was corrected. While respect is an extremely important aspect of campus life, the idea is that students and teachers are on the same level, without formality blocking individuals from interacting and learning from each other. First years and second years and teachers and staff are on the same level, none of this separation silliness.
     As such, everyone gets along so easily. In the cafeteria anyone can sit anywhere with anyone. And it actually happens, all the time. Its so fun. I think I've sat with at least one new person every meal, and its such an easy way to get to know people, to find common ground, and to just have fun. Another fun thing about dinner is birthdays. At dinner, the entire cafeteria sings for the birthday girl/guy and then bangs on the tables and whoops and yells; it's so cool! (Also, today is Z's birthday- Happy Birthday!!)
     And the community doesn't just stop there. One thing that happens here ALL THE TIME (and the title of this post) is applause. We applaud EVERYTHING. We sing for your birthday at dinner? Applause. You say there's a soccer game this weekend? Applause. You're announcing what time your club is meeting? Applause. You flipped over your chair at lunch by accident? Applause (and whooping). There's an assembly? We're going to applaud every time a speaker finishes their announcement. We, quite literally, applaud everything. It's hilarious.
     All of the positivity and support on campus makes for an incredible environment. I've experienced this kind of community before, mostly at church events and at camp. But those events are usually cut fairly short, at most maybe a week and then everyone spreads out around the country. Here we have a community 24/7 (or as I like to think of it, 25/8), so we can continue to build on our friendships and inside jokes, get to know each other better, find new commonalities, discuss cultural differences. And every day it just gets better, I can't believe we're only a couple weeks in! It's soooo cool, I love it :)

Also, I'd love to hear back from you guys. I'm not really sure how many people are actually reading this (which is fine, it's fun for me to just write it) and some of you have talked to me on facebook, but feel free to comment here and let me know what you think or if you have any questions, comments, concerns, ideas, suggestions, emotions, really anything. I look forward to hearing from you guys!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Braving the Wilderness

     Those of you who know me at all probably know that I am not a big "wilderness" person. I don't like bugs, I'm terrified of snakes, and I make my younger sister come kill spiders for me. Before this past weekend, I had never been camping, hiking, backpacking, or anything of the sort. And I was planning on keeping it that way. No such luck.
     Turns out that an essential aspect of UWC- USA life is wilderness. Each student is required to take 2.5 wilderness trips (the .5 being a day hike), and I am proud to say that I have now accomplished 40% of that requirement and not only lived to tell the tale, but actually kind of enjoyed the experience.
     This weekend I trekked across the Mesa de las Viejas and on the CDT (Continental Divide Trail). What I expected to be a miserable trip full of snakes, beating sunshine, bears, terrible food, and utter boredom, was completely the opposite. I was part of a great group of people, 1 guide, 3 second-year leaders, and 6 firsties. Everyone got along really well and we worked together as a team all weekend long. We didn't see any bears or snakes (though I did wake up in the middle of the first night convinced a warthog was going to charge us. Turns out someone in the group snores), and there weren't too many bugs either. The food was surprisingly good; over the weekend we had pasta and cheese, hot sweet rice, quesadillas with salsa, rice with veggies and beans and curry powder, super oats with hot chocolate, and lots of snacks: pretzals, dried mango, Oreos, MnMs, gold fish, and a jar of Nutella. Altogether quite yummy, especially after a day of hiking. And the view? Absolutely incredible. The landscape is full of mountains (including a rock sculpture made famous by Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings) a lake, a river (which we got to jump in on our last day), and a surprising amount of greenery. It was really, really beautiful.
     Now don't get the wrong idea, I'm not planning on making a habit of these kinds of adventures, but I can honestly say that I gained an appreciation for the experience (and running water) and made another check on the life list, yay!