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My Secret Place

Week One: obervations

Faint outlines of soaring birds through the foliage above

The off-and-on sound of chirping cicadas

A cool breeze whips up an already cool morning

Sheets of light grey clouds move the rain of yesterday away, revealing a pale blue sky

The squirrel at the base of the tree behind me does not seem happy to have a guest

The grass, trees, bushes are green with only the faintest hint here and there of a light yellow creeping into the leaves

I see Anne walking to the gym, a few voices break my musings as they make the trip to breakfast

People may see me but they seem to pay my presence little mind- I am much more awake of them- I feel miscible

Suddenly a hawk is almost crashing through the tree branches, halting only momentarily on a branch before leaping back off, back into the sky

The sound of a truck, the peripheral view of the Pepsi logo catches my attention to the right

Overall though, the sounds of humanity are muffled here at this “early” hour

Here is the sun, reaching me through the clouds and leaves

The hawk flies back the other way as birds croak the alarm from tree to tree

I am a passive observer but I feel less intrusive than when I was walking

Groundskeepers are here, picking up the downed branches from the rain and wind of last night

The effects of nature are being tidied up, the manicured paths returning from beneath the ruble

The siren of an emergency vehicle is growing fainter

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Meet your guides!

In hopes that they help guide you on your Wanderings:


Urban Dictionary: Vacilando is a Spanish term for the act of wandering when the experience of travel is more important than reaching the specific destination.

John Steinbeck (in Travels With Charley: In Search of America, 1962) wrote:

“ In Spanish there is a word for which I can't find a counterword in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle vacilando. It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but does not greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction."

*this is the only accurate definition I could find in English


OED: a. Existence together or in conjunction. b. With special reference to peaceful existence side by side of states professing different ideologies.

Online Etymology Dictionary: mid-15c., "joint existence;" see co- + existence. As "peaceful relations between states of different ideologies," 1954, a Cold War term.

Merriam-Webster: 1. to exist together or at the same time. 2. to live in peace with each other especially as a matter of policy.

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A Room with a View

“We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won't do harm - yes, choose a place where you won't do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.” 

- E. M Forster, A Room with a View

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“The Center Cannot Hold”

reflections on a Walk

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Sometimes you're the fish in the fishbowl

I'm Rachel, a senior bio major, NBS concentrator, and english minor. Ranking my explorative jaunt around campus I came up with:


  1. Park Science 20
  2. Morris Woods
  3. Campus Center parking lot
  4. Glass staircase in Dalton
  5. English House I


            Familiarity and with that comfort had a significant effect on where I felt happiest. As a science major I spend a significant portion of my Bryn Mawr experience in Park. I also like 20: it is bright and open with enough space to spread out and be comfortable. You can watch both people and nature out the window but without being scrutinized yourself.

            I grew up at a school where recess was mandatory. Twice a day (rain, shine, or two feet of snow) we were outside; sometimes playing capture the flag in the woods, orienteering, skating on the creek, or swimming in the “watering hole,” as we called it. The woods take me back there. They’re familiar and constant.

            I don’t spend a lot of quality time hanging out in the parking lot or anything, but I often pass through on my way to class, from the campus center, back to my dorm. This summer portions were blocked off as Ed Harmon and a host of others planted, cut down, and transformed the space between Merion and the CC. I approve of the transformation to my thoroughfare.

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Identifying Similarities and Differences

One thing that really stuck with me all semester is my memory of out class discussion about testosterone and estradiol; how similar their chemical formulas are, how they can be converted back and forth between each other, and how men and women have both of these sex hormones in their bodies. In our culture however, we tend to categorize testosterone with men and estrogen with females, and never the twain shall meet. I decided to get to know these two molecules by building models using different sized styrofoam balls, wire, and hot glue. My organic chemistry training and model kit helped me get the stereochemistry down (although I must admit not all of my bond angles are completely true to form). This process was fairly straight forward after I drew myself a few copies of the structures. What surprised me about this process was how I began to see the differences between estradiol and testosterone. Estradiol, with the double bonded oxygen to the benzene ring was much more linear than testosterone, composed of cyclohexanes that have more 3D characteristics. At first I was worried that I was building estradiol wrong (I did testosterone first) or that I had built testosterone incorrectly, but examining the structures I saw where the differences began.

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Disappearing Daughters

I found a video on Yahoo news about the missing females in India, babies aborted, neglected, or murdered because they are females. There is a town in India that has the least gender diversity in the world. The video is about 6 minutes and really ties in with our discussion about abortion. They speak to one woman whose husband (who is a doctor, as she is) and inlaws tortured her when she refused to abort her twin girls, and her mother-in-law threw one of her twin daughters down the stairs when she was 4 months old. She says that everyone admits the growing gender gap is a problem, but no one wants to take on the responsibility of having girls who are a financial burden because of the illegal dowry system. 

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"The Ugly Footprint of Africa's Black Gold"


     Chris Cleave’s best-selling novel “Little Bee” narrates the entangled lives of two very different women from two very different worlds: one from the safe and peaceful Britain, the other from the oil-torn and secretly brutal Nigeria. Little Bee seeks refuge in Britain after fleeing the violence brewing in her homeland over oil, violence that the government turns a blind eye to. While “Little Bee” is a novel, in a Q&A with Cleave he admits that the story does have a basis in reality, though the details and individuals themselves are fictional. On his website, Cleave invites his readers to “Explore the Issues,” providing links to supplemental material on Nigeria, the oil drilling in the Niger Delta, and refugees and asylum seekers. While the page title is “Explore the Issues,” the URL, in fact, reads “get involved.” It seems that through “Little Bee” Cleave is using a novel, a fictitious voice, to reach out to readers who may not pick up a book on human rights or contemporary global events to inform them of issues that may not directly affect them, but weave into the web of humanity’s entanglement and codependence. What is the relationship between Cleave’s fiction and the reality of the almost 160 million Nigerians and all those connected to them? That is what this essay aims to determine.

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Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry

Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.

His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.

His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee's experience
Of clovers and of noon!

Emily Dickinson

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