Monthly Archives: January 2009

Eating with Calvin kids is not for the hungry

I have been officially in York for three days, in which I have had a lot of fun. But I have learned one very important thing that I had forgotten hanging out with other non-dutchies at Calvin: The American Dutch are the biggest cheapskates in the world. It  goes far, far beyond going Dutch with them, and while the following experience may be somewhat due in part to us being poor exchange students with a measly weekly food allowance, I think that you will find that this goes far beyond just having too few quid in your pocket.

Tonight we went to Whitby. It was a cold, windy day there and so after we got back to York we decided to warm up with some pizza. Several YSJers had told us that good, cheap pizza was to be had at the carry-out across the street. So we went. But first we had to have a really long discussion outside of H block talking about what we wanted (my want included a crust, some sauce, cheese and hopefully some sort of meat topping). So then we finally trekked across the street, but the carry-out was not to many’s satisfaction so we walked down the street, weighing our options.

45 minutes later we were back at the carry-out and I was frozen solid and starving. Then it took another 15 minutes to have our pizzas made. But they were damn good ‘zas. And I got what would work out to a medium pizza from Papa John’s for 5.50 pounds.

I live here, fantastic or what?

I live here, fantastic or what?


How to become an epic RA: Phil

While I’m on the topic of RAs, I should say that not all RAs get burned out after a year and sent out to pasture at the apartments. In fact, a select few continue on being RAs in the dorms for two years and in one particularly rare case, three years. Behold the story of Phil, epic and RA enthusiast!

Phil was a mainstay in my dorm when I lived there. He had become an RA his sophomore year, not because of any shortage of qualified applicants (that never happens) but because he was deemed mature enough b/c of several trying events he had gone through freshman year. He got in and never left.

You’d think eventually one might want to leave the cramped conditions of the dorms…but epic RAs are not natural humans, for they never had the normal urge to strike out on their own and to do awesome things like host parties in their house/apartment/duplex, not have to share your kitchen with 30-40 other dudes or to just head out to the bar w/ friends and not have to worry about campus safety.

But no, these peculiar souls are content to host Halo tourtaments and be the object of adoration among the freshman girls in the three sister halls of the dorms. Life just wouldn’t be the same without them.

The Knollcrest East Apartments: Where RAs go to Die

Being an RA in the dorms is a coveted position, unlike at a lot of other colleges/universities where the administration has to plead and bribe potential Resident Assistants, at Calvin the process of becoming an RA is a grueling 3 month long marathon of hundreds of interviews, essays and intense prayer sessions. As the number of candidates gets winnowed down from hundreds (literally!) many grow weary of being dragged through the process. The friends/floormates of the candidates especially get sick and tired of the process, as before the application period even began they had to sit through their friends debating whether or not they were called to the demanding life of an RA and now that the interviews and whatnot are underway they have to listen to their friends/floormates overanalyze every interview question and compare themselves to other people positioning themselves to become an RA.

Most of these candidates are gearing up for a full year of hard, rewarding service. It starts in the middle of the summer with activities, ice-breakers w/ fellow RAs and sessions of pointers. Then the day when the Barnabi move in they have to re-do all those ice-breaker games. Then, move-in day for the freshman and a week later the rest of the floor. Once the year starts, they have a full schedule of symbolicly leading their floor by doing God-only-knows-what and helping freshman figure out where The Cave Cafe is and what distinguishes it from the Fishhouse. They also must submit to patrolling the floors each night to catch those brazen underclassmen who would dare to play sports in the dorms or to invite a member of the opposite sex over at 4 am to watch “The Matrix” and to discipline those who are making others in the lobby sick with their PDA (that is, if the deskie doesn’t kill the couple first). And, after their official duties are over, the non-RA enthusiast who will not try to be an RA three straight years in a row, are retired to living in the KE apartments where they will continuously relive their glory days whenever a former floormate or other RA encounters them in the hall or in the library.

But there is one particular breed of RA that does none of those things and, in fact, does nothing at all. This is the RAs in the Knollcrest East Apartments. They start the year by organizing a mandatory apartment building meeting, during which they try really hard to achieve that perfect “laid back but still an authority figure” vibe and announce the plans they have for the year. These plans are then promptly thrown out the window as residents quickly learn that their RA (who probably got burned out being an RA in the dorms last year) is mostly doing this for the perks, notably the pay that makes living on campus close to free and the mealplan.

In fact, these RAs will go pretty far in order to escape the responsibilities of being an RA. This year they have gone so far as to organize an RA retreat the week that many students (everyone’s favourite dinosaur included) are leaving for semesters abroad, which is quite a few KE dwellers as most off campus semesters favor juniors and seniors. This means that these students are scrambling for the few precious hours this week that the RAs will not be on retreat, and many RAs haven’t even told their buildings nor have they posted sign-up sheets.

Occasionally though, if they are an RA in Theta-Epsilon where Cooke, the director of KE lives, they may catch of few drunks coming back in after a night of fun. But that’s about all they do.

Old People: A Story of an Usher

My least favorite ushering role is packing people in rows during general admission show. People just don’t like sitting next to strangers.

I was helping a lady find her seat. I guess the Blind Boys of Alabama spit or something because nobody wanted to sit in the front row, but those were some of the few empty seats in the FAC.

“So I can sit here.” She asked, pointed at the open front row seats. I replied in the affirmative.

“Or I could go sit up in those red chairs.” Her eyes were gleaming at the though of sitting in the red Mezz chairs, I could tell.

“Ma’am, those are only for our extremely elderly or handicapped guests.”

“Well I am disabled. My arm, I left my cast in the car but I swear I need it and disabled,” she then pulled up her sleeve to show me a perfectly normal wrist and sped up the stairs toward the red chairs before I could say a word.

Then I had to ask a party of four old people to move one chair down bc there was an open chair in the middle of the row. So I asked the old man sitting closest to the empty seat. He passed this information down to the other three, and apparently the other three were dumb and he had to explain it several times.

“Why,” asked the ancient looking woman next to him, “can’t a person coming in late just sit in that seat?”

So I patiently explained to her that with the lights darkened climbing over people is not only inconvienent for everyone but also dangerous.

“You lady,” said the first old man, “there is a member of our party who has terminal cancer. So much so that we are not even sure she is going to make it through the performance, so we will stay in our seats.”

To any person younger than 73 I would have shouted, “Do not pull that bullshit on me!” Followed by some choice cuss words. But a)even though it was my second-to-last event working as an usher I still did not want to get lectured by Michael or April and b) yelling at old people is considered a no-no.

I cannot wait until I am old, I will be able to get away with whatever I want. And you can be damn sure that I will get away with a lot.

How to nearly lose your life at an Anberlin Show

Each year Calvin brings at least one popular Christian act to the FAC, just so the SAO  can claim that they bring diverse concerts and to attract those at Calvin who listen solely to Christian music (much to the chagrine of their dorm’s CDs).  So tonight was the Anberlin show.

I was explaining this to someone at my door who was questioninh why Calvin, indie epicenter of West Michigan, was hosting Anberlin. Except I made the mistake of mentioning CCM. If you value your life you must never, ever tell a fan of Christian rock (even if its the extremely bland, generic stuff) that they listen to CCM. This hurts their street cred, because then everyone around them will think that they are fans of Amy Grant and Todd Agnew,  so they will lash out in order to prove to others around them that they really are cool.

I got lectured by an Anberlin fan standing near that Anberlin wasn’t CCM because he only listened to Christian alternative and Christian metal bands that nobody has ever heard of, like Spoken. Yes, Spoken is so metal. Which brings up another important part of the Christian rocker identity, they listen to bands you have never heard of or they were fans of the flavor of the week Christian rock band looooooong before anyone else had ever heard of them. They are like lower level indie scum that way.

I, unimpressed by the collection of bands nobody had ever heard of that he was fans of (mostly because I had heard of all of them and had been a fan waaaaaaay back in the day), declared that they were under the wider CCM umbrella and shered him through the door. He looked like he wanted to kill me.

And then some people, according to the very concerned looking Campus Safety officer, almost died crowd surfing and a friend lost her shoe in the mosh (if anyone has an extra shoe, would you mind bringing it to the lost and found?).

According to a t-shirt I saw all night, these guys throw axes, not grenades

According to a t-shirt I saw all night, these guys throw axes, not grenades

The Official Sport of Interim

Each season has a sport at Calvin. Well, ok, all the other three season’s sports are jogging. Jogging like the world is running out of pavement.

But winter has a sport all its own that doesn’t involve running (well, ok, everyone at Calvin still jogs in the winter…if they aren’t indie scum wearing inappropriate seasonal clothing), Broomball.

What is broomball? The greatest college sport of all time that involves broken broom handles, a ball and some ice. And it is played exactly like hockey, except for the fierceness…the Dutch fail when it comes to being fierce (which is why there are few Dutch last names on the rugby roster, or few Dutch girls winning “America’s Next Top Model”).

It’s cheap and extremely awkward, which means it is a perfect sport for winter at Calvin. Additionally, during the dorm tourtaments you can meet lots of cute singles from other dorms simply by falling down and seeing who helps you up.


Alright, so I mentioned DCM a few times already this month so I guess I should talk about it some.

All students suffer through experience several things during their first year, the academic ones being Prelude and DCM. DCM stands for Developing a Christian Mind but students know it by names like “Destroying a Christian Mentality” (in fact, I had to look up what DCM actually stood for, as I’ve always known it by the latter name). It is typically taken by first year students during Interim, the January term, although a few classes are offered second semester.

What sort of classes are offered?

Many classes are “Christian responses” to stuff, like ” A Christian response to Refugees”. Also their are many directly about God, such as classes about his will, multisensory worship, infinity, etc. And then there are literary classes, math, etc, etc. There are even classes all about overdone phrases like discernment and vocation! The most hilarious interim class I ever saw was when they were offering a class about aliens my freshman year, I petitioned so hard to get into the class but the registar hates me.

What will happen?

Plenaries are required. Kinda like Prelude. And, oh yeah, it will cover all the “introduction to a Christian mind” stuff that was crammed down your throat everyday of Prelude. But the level of what you are required to read will decrease exponentially (in terms of quality, not quantity). Think that they Prelude packet, with endless articles where the writers waxes long and inanely about vocation, quiet time with God, parking garages and the church and short term missions trips (which I considered the least inane of the articles, for it dealt with fact instead of long-winded feelings) made the “mission statement” of the college look kinda bad since Prelude and DCM are, in the words of the powers that be, “a first-year core course that introduces students to the central intellectual project of Calvin College”?

Then get ready for Cornelius Plantinga, he is proof positive that the seminary really has no standards when it comes to the ability to reason or a command of the English language! This man used to be president of the seminary, for real. I burned his text at the end of Prelude. I hate book burning but I could not bear to bring myself to call Plantinga’s work a “book”.

How to cope:

Candy during the planaries. The sugar will keep you awake, especially during the really dull documentary on suburban sprawl.And never state that you don’t foresee having kids in the near future or that any and all censorship is bad, you will get bitched out by the conservative douchebag in your class.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. I took a class on banned books and grew to love Mark Twain (and learned that Margaret Atwood books give me nightmares, but I also wake up at night and think that zombies are in the kitchen so it doesn’t say as much about Atwood’s novels as it does about me) and led to many questions like, “they turned “The Color Purple” into a musical? WTF?” Oh, and there are broomball tournaments in the dorms during Interim.

If I were to teach a DCM class it would be called, A Christian response to alien dysfunctional families in trailer parks

If I were to teach a DCM class it would be called, "A Christian response to alien dysfunctional families in trailer parks"