Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Crepe Truck

Last night I had the 6-8pm tent shift, exactly during dinner time, so naturally I was hungry. And then to make it worse, I was huddled up in my sleeping bag, all alone in the tent, semi-doing homework on my laptop, when I checked my facebook and saw my newsfeed dominated by photos from Don't go there. It will give you unrealistic expectations for the food in your life, and make you dissatisfied with the abundance I know you have already. Well that's what it does to me, anyway. "Food porn" is an accurate, albeit crude, term.

Anyway so there I was, fantasizing about food I will never be talented enough to create, when my daydreams were interrupted by a siren that sounded a lot like what they use to announce tent checks. It cut off much sooner than normal, but I am crazy paranoid of missing a tent check and jeopardizing my group's position in line. I dragged myself out of the sleeping bag and out of the tent and tromped over to the central part of K-ville where tent checks are conducted. Turns out it was a false alarm to lure people to the a capella concert going on over there, but I didn't even have time to be annoyed because lo and behold was a crepe food truck!

I think crepes are one of the most wonderful foods invented. They're special in part because I don't get them often, but also because there's so much room for creativity in filling them, and they're always delicious. Also I love food trucks. So I was thrilled about the crepe truck.

I waited in line for half an hour. Apparently everyone else loves crepe trucks, too.

When I finally go to the front of the line, the man in the window asked for the ID number on my Duke Card. I dutifully read it off. "And what's your PIN number?" he said.

"... my PIN number?" I echoed, (empty) stomach sinking. "I don't have a PIN number. Or, I don't know it, at least."

"You set it up online," he said, annoyed now that I was holding up the line. "You need it to use your food points with food trucks."

I slunk away, feeling defeated. I decided right then that the worse thing in the world must be waiting for half an hour salivating about a fluffer-nutter crepe that never happens. "I hate d00k and their stupid food trucks," I grumbled, kicking at a bush as I stomped back to my lonesome, crepe-less tent.

By the time I got back to the tent (approximately 90 seconds later) I was past my self-pity and, characteristically, in full "I'm going to win this" mode.

In a matter of seconds I marched back to the crepe truck armed with my new PIN. Somehow the line had disappeared in those intervening three minutes, so I went straight to the window and successfully, triumphantly, ordered my fluffer-nutter crepe: creamy peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, and chocolate chips encased in that warm, thin, freshly made crepe. Infinitely better than food porn, because it was real and it was finally in my hands.

All's well that ends well.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Friend of House!

Best moment of Duke so far:

At a ridiculously early hour this morning, the dark quiet of my room was rent with a chorused WELCOME TO MAXWELL! I rolled over and squinted through bleary eyes at the crowd of people gathered in front of my bed. My groggy brain was slow to understand, but finally I smiled. They were all smiling back, excited for me.

As soon as they left, I lay back on the bed and said sleepily and happily to my roommate, "Oh Ellie, they were all here! And they were all my friends..." She laughed at my sentimentalism, but I was still reveling in the happiness of this unexpected announcement.

That moment, more than my Duke student ID, more than my parking pass or my belongings arranged in this room, that moment is what makes me feel like I belong here. It has been a weird sort of identity crisis, temporarily renouncing my affiliation to my alma mater in order to devote myself to its biggest rival. I'm doing my best to walk the line, but it's actually impossible and no matter what I'll always be disappointing someone. You will never hear me saying, "Go to hell Carolina," but I have no problem saying, "Go Blue Devils." Depending on who you are, one of those is guaranteed to be problematic to you.

I think that in nearly all situations, I can fairly and with full integrity support both schools. The ultimate tricky situation is at the Duke-Carolina basketball game... where I will be standing in Duke's student section with the Cameron Crazies. Can I wear a white t-shirt and remain neutral? Everyone here assures me that's impossible. Will I let my Duke friends paint me beyond recognition, and allow myself to lose my sense of individuality in the insane unified energy of the Cameron Crazies? I'm certain I wouldn't be welcomed back to UNC after that. Will I simply succumb to the internal turmoil this dilemma causes in my heart and mind? That seems to be the easiest option.

Regardless, it'll be interesting to watch how that particular situation plays out. I can't predict it at this point, but I can't deny that I feel at home here. Not more at home than I feel at UNC, because Duke is still new to me. But joining a tent group to camp out for the UNC-Duke basketball game was a big first step to plugging in here, and now that I've been invited to join Maxwell, I fully feel like I belong.

Maxwell is a selective living group here at Duke. SLGs are essentially a group of fun people who are friends and want to live together. Duke gives them a section of a dorm, and every spring they recruit new members (like me!) to replace the graduating seniors. Technically I'm a "Friend of House," which means I'm a member who doesn't live in section. But ideally all members live in section at some point during their college career. SLGs do a bunch of special events like mixers, formals, themed parties, and outings. For example, during rush this year Maxwell hosted a New Year's party, a TV-land progressive, bowling, and roller skating. I could not be more excited to be a part of this group.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Freshman Year Part II

I told myself that during this semester at Duke I'd blog every day or every other day, at least as consistently as I did in New Orleans. And now I've been here almost three weeks and this is my second post. I'm going to excuse myself because I was busy "settling in," and I hereby re-resolve to post regularly from now on.

The last three weeks have been a blast. I'm having such an incredible time here. It's more different than I expected — which for me makes it more exciting. Before I got here, I thought, "Oh, I've already done the college thing. It'll be like freshman year again, except I know what I'm doing this time. I got this." And it is like freshman year... except I'm the only freshman. Even the freshmen have already been here an entire semester, and at the very least know their way around campus and have already discovered things like West Union being an entirely different building than the Union on West Campus (read: I spent twenty minutes wandering around the basement of the Union looking for a room that didn't exist there). And they just do things differently here. I was surprised to realize that the social scene at UNC is distinctly different from the social scene here. How parties are set up, where they are, who goes to them, what you wear... I truly feel like a first-semester freshman, carefully observing everything and everyone, trying to figure out how things are done around here.

For example, the parties are in the dorms here. That's such a bizarre idea to me. At UNC partying in a dorm is super risky and everyone is super paranoid the entire time because if an RA hears loud music, s/he is required to investigate and/or call the cops on you for drinking. There are rules at UNC banning alcohol-related paraphernalia, which means you could get in trouble for a souvenir shot glass or an empty beer box. Last spring I came to a party at Duke where kids were roaming the halls with beers in hand, and the RA was pouring people shots. It blew my mind. I'm also still not completely comfortable with walking into a complete stranger's room during a party. But that's where the party is, so it doesn't matter that I wasn't directly invited in or that I don't even know whose room it is. People flow in and out of the dorm rooms, mingling up and down the dorm hallway because that's how parties work here.

At UNC, everyone goes off campus to party. We have Franklin Street with all the restaurants and bars and clubs, and we have frat houses and apartment parties and house parties. Duke really has none of these things. They have one 18+ bar that EVERYONE goes to, and they have parties in the dorms. The reason for this difference is that at Duke, you're required to live on campus your first three years so the vast majority of the student body is in the dorms. At UNC, you're required to live on campus only your first year, so by junior year most students have moved into apartments or houses.

This might be TMI, but I just think it's really interesting how the social scene can be so different at two neighboring universities. It has been an adjustment, but I'm concluding that either way college is fun.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Behind Enemy Lines: Day One

This is so weird. The whole way driving here I just kept repeating that phrase to myself: “This is so weird, this is so weird, this is SO weird, this is so WEIRD!” When I turned off I-40 for Durham, it felt odd, like I was deliberately making a mistake. Part of me was insisting, “This isn’t the right way to school! Chapel Hill is that way!” And driving up Chapel Drive, with the Duke Chapel looming over me… I kept thinking, “What am I doing here?”

I wonder how long it’ll take me to get used to it. I still hold my breath every time I swipe my DukeCard to get into my dorm, and I’m always surprised when the light flashes green and the door clicks open. It catches me off guard to unlock this room with the key on my keychain and find all my stuff on this strange bed, on this unfamiliar desk. I just opened my blinds and was surprised to see Duke out my window. When will it feel like I’m supposed to be here?

I bought my parking permit this morning, another symbol that I belong. I would not be surprised to find, next time I get into my car, that it had disappeared in a puff of smoke. It’s all so surreal.

But then again, I’ve been here for only 14 hours. I’m getting ahead of myself, I think.

But really! A scholarship program that sends the students to spend a semester at their rival university?? What a bizarre idea. Yet I’m living it out.

My first observation of Duke, compared to Chapel Hill, is that parking here is miraculously easy and cheap. It’s approximately nine times cheaper here— no exaggeration. And they have so much space! I wasn’t able to buy a parking permit online over break, so I called the transit office and they told me to buy it when I got here. I asked worriedly, “But will there still be a space for me by then?” The man laughed at me. That’s a legitimate concern in Chapel Hill! But his insouciant attitude was totally appropriate; getting a permit this morning was relatively quick and easy. My only concern now is that I can find my car in the endless sea of parking lots— which I now have full access to. 

Although I don't trust them, I'm holding tight to these little symbols, like my DukeCard and my Blue Zone parking permit, that I'm supposed to be here.