Thursday, June 23, 2011

Places I’ve been: Bar Harbor

I’ve been travelling so much this spring that I’ve fallen a bit behind in my blogging. I enjoy trying to capture on paper the feel of a place when I visit, so this week I’ll be going back to all the places I’ve missed telling you about.

Although I this post is titled Bar Harbor, it’s really about the college I stay at there. My Maine conference is always held at a little college within walking distance of the town of Bar Harbor. The College of the Atlantic on a beautiful, wooded campus where about 80 students all study Human Ecology, the one and only major they offer. The week-long conference is held in the summer, when maybe three students remain to work the dining hall and manage the dorms. What’s interesting to me, as a person who thinks a lot about environments (and particularly how they affect how people think and learn), is how much you can learn about the philosophy of the students and their school even when no one is there.

While they have one room that can seat the whole student body, there aren’t many classrooms. Although students study the same major, they’re supposed to create personalized classes with their professors. So most of the rooms are sort of friendly meetings rooms where students and a professor can meet and talk.

The communal focus on sustainability is everywhere, and it’s quite interesting to see how a whole institution can really think about sustainability beyond recycling. Of course they recycle extensively and the end of every meal, you scrape your scraps into the compost barrel and place your compostable napkins in a another barrel. You’re forced to think about how much food we waste when you see what’s left after every meal. The food scraps are taken to this enormous silo-like device, where they turn into compost which is used in the large on-site gardens. The human waste makes its way into the ecosystem through composting toilets which generate electricity. You want to know what a composting toilet is? It’s basically a deep hole in the ground, engineered to direct waste and smells away from you. It’s a pretty fancy duct system, though, because they are used in multi-story buildings. I wonder whether these choices represent what we will soon all become accustomed to as we attempt to institutionalize changes to our lives that produce less waste, or whether they will go down it history as good but quirky ideas that never go mainstream.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Drama Queen

Remember the girl in college, the one who always had boyfriend problems, or needed to talk to you about how her parents totally didn't get her and had cut off her allowance, or she was failing her trig class? Remember all the perpetual drama? I have become that girl. It appears that this blog has just become a long list of things that are going wrong. In actuality, I have a great life. I now live with my husband, full-time. I have a cat who still loves her life, even if she does walk around with the cone of shame. I love my job and I live in a city full of interesting food and people.
Nonetheless, it was one more thing to add the list when we went to work yesterday (Andrew has a new job!) and found that our car window had been smashed and the GPS stolen. Bleh. The police were kind enough to point out that we really shouldn't leave electronics visible, which I had kind of figured out by that point. One lost morning of work, though, and we had a new window. And maybe we'll be lucky enough, when we're trying to buy a replacement GPS on eBay, that we'll actually buy our very own GPS back again.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I guess we should have made an offering somewhere

My cousin, a frequent international traveller, maintains that smooth travel is more likely to occur when you make regular prayers and sacrifices to the Magical Flying Pony Unicorn Gods of Travel. This is apparently a piece of nonsense I should have been paying more attention to before this trip. I've been away for home for not quite three weeks, and my husband for four. In that time:
-We've had rental car trouble. They wouldn't rent him the car, it had to be replaced by a new one in Ohio, Andrew got a ticket, and he had to have a decent-sized fight about the bill when he returned.
-As previously discussed, we had to cancel all the credit cards. (And the cat had to spend the whole vacation in a cone.) From the amount of complaining she's been doing, she clearly feels that she is suffering beyond the limits of the Geneva Conventions.
-On my way to a conference in Maine (right after my family vacation) I got hit with a double whammy of bad weather and mechanical failure, which resulted in an overnight in Philadelphia. I learned the lesson that once the airline has your suitcase en route, they're not giving it back. So I was late to the conference, and arrived looking a bit rumpled on top of it.
-The motorcycle developed an oil leak somewhere in South Carolina.
-On my way back from the conference, another flight was cancelled. I was confident that this time, just like last time, I would get a hotel voucher, because both flight cancellations were due to mechanical difficulties. I was informed, however, that the situation had not been officially labelled a "mechanical failure" but rather an "inability to get the aircraft from one location to another." Read those words again: an "inability to get the aircraft from one location to another" means the airplane couldn't fly because it couldn't fly.
So I thought I'd be at home tonight, cuddling the cat and drinking wine with my husband. Instead I'm in Maine, eating takeout pizza and writing you all. In spite of it all, it's been a good trip. I took part in a brilliant conference, visited practically every relative I have, and drank a whole lot of beer. Life isn't too bad.