Oliners Around the World

A few weeks ago, as I reached the summit of one of New Zealand's many stunning mountains, I found myself wondering what the other Oliners scattered around the world were up to at that very instant. This Spring semester, the class of 2011 has an incredible 26 students studying away or taking a leave of absence (LOA). My curiosity piqued, I decided to collect stories from these adventurous souls to create a patchwork of vignettes that begins to describe the range of "away" experiences Oliners seek out. So here are some scenes from the lives of Oliners last Wednesday, changing and being changed by the world...

For most of us, the memory of preparing to begin our journeys has already faded, but Stan reminds us of the flurry of emotions to which we can all relate: "Less than 14 hours left in the country, and life couldn't be more normal. Here I am, babysitting my first nephew. As I walk around the house, bouncing Joey up and down, I think of how surreal it feels - to be finally leaving for Japan after 3 months of anxious waiting. I'll finally start experiencing the same (or at least similar) experience that all of my fellow study-awayers have already been experiencing for months. Being in a new country, with its own language and culture, how will I cope? How have my friends been coping? Is coping even the right word? I wonder what my friends are doing right now - both back at Olin (which I left only a short 4 days ago) and everyone abroad..."
A gorgeous Maine sunrise greets Phil as he prepares for another day of
work at The Apprenticeshop. For the past few months, he has been
studying traditional wooden boat building, and his nearly completed
skiff shows off his growing mastery of the craft beautifully. It just
needs some final sanding and a few coats of paint...

Phil_Boat1.jpgOn the other side of
the Atlantic, Katherine begins her day with a jog up to Piazza
Michelangelo, which overlooks the city of Florence. She says, "It is
gorgeous to walk up there on a sunny day and see all of the old, unique
architecture that you can't find in the states." Her photo speaks for

View from Piazza Michelangelo1.jpgTiama is on her way to
class in Arusha, Tanzania. Her walk takes her directly through the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, where they continue to try
the masterminds behind the Rwandan genocide. Normally she would have to
put her bag through a scanner before passing the checkpoint, but as the
machine is broken, she simply waltzes through. Just then, a little three
year old catches sight of her bright polka-dot galoshes, and his eyes
widen with excitement. To Tiama, they were simply a practical response
to the morning's rain, but to this little boy, they are clearly
something amazing. After pausing briefly to let him examine her alien
footwear, Tiama continues on her way, smiling about the shared but
distinct novelty of the experience for each of them.

About 45
degrees further North and using an entirely different mode of
transportation, Sarah is making her way into Istanbul proper for the
day. The dolmus she is riding - the name of these local minibuses
literally translates to "stuffed" - is living up to its name. She looks
up from her reading (Dear Shameless Death, a novel by Latife
Tekin about her experience growing up in rural Turkey) and sees the
driver step out of the dolmus ("right into Istanbul traffic!") to be
replaced by another man who had been sitting behind him. Sarah recalls,
"Just before the door closed I realized I could hear the midday call to
prayer through the open door. The new driver wasted no time in taking
off, but soon stopped to let a woman in tight, fashionable jeans with
jet-black hair and plenty of makeup onto the bus, while another woman in
a long, dark brown coat with a scarf over her head and another scarf
with decorative fur on the edges wrapped around her shoulders crossed
the street."

It is lunchtime, and you can imagine the many
exciting foods being enjoyed by these Oliners around the world. For
Katherine, that means a boiled beef sandwich from the Mercato Centrale -
"sooo good!" she asserts. In Pondicherry, CaR is enjoying an equally
typical local meal - "Masala Dosa at a street stall - the epitome of
South Indian cuisine."

CaR_Dosa1.jpgHaving finished her
midterms, Tiama makes her way home. On the way, she stops to buy some
carrots on the street. The woman selling them tells her it would be 500
shillings (about 37 cents) for 2. Even though she knows the woman
expects to haggle, Tiama agrees to the price. Walking away, she hears
the woman chuckling with her neighbor about the fact that a muzungu
(white person in Swahili) would pay such a price for just 2 carrots.

Aberdeen, Scotland, Katie's Wednesday evening routine includes a run
around town with "a group of the coolest ladies in Scotland." After
meeting at the gym, the ladies set out together on their 6.5 mile run -
"a huge mass of neon, spandex, and fashionable running gear heading down
Holburn Street. It was a great run, with a light mist and refreshing
breeze (as only a happy runner could interpret yucky rain and brutal
winds)." Katie remarks, "The coolest thing is that they all understand
I'm not great at hearing people, so they always face me and speak really
clearly. I feel so welcome and happy and look forward to every run."

In Hong Kong,
Kevin is preparing to host a BBQ for students he has met through his
university's church group. They arrive from other nearby universities in
Hong Kong and are greeted with food that ranges from "Chinese flavors
like fish balls and other different flavored balls, to Chinese and
Western flavors like hot dogs (called sausages here, and really
popular), to American specialties like Smores."

Returning to the
delectable world of Italian food, we find Katherine enjoying a
cappuccino with classmates before her Italian Language class. This is
followed by a class on the History of Italian Mafia, which goes until
8:30 pm, at which point it's getting towards dinner time and Katherine
heads to her favorite restaurant for an "amazing personal-sized pizza
with a glass of wine." Dance club follows, with instruction in
traditional Italian dances, and then perhaps a stop at a bar with

Hari, who is taking a leave of absence to work on
projects in the Cambridge area, is enjoying an evening at Olin. It
involves a Sibb family dinner of french toast, expertly prepared by Andy
('11) with the help of many other cooks in the kitchen. I wish I could
include the whole dialogue Hari sent me - it is quite hilarious - but
since this entry is already becoming a saga, I'll simply summarize and
say that despite some dramatic hiccups along the way, the event was a

We finish under the night sky. Megan, visiting Morocco
over her Spring Break from university in Florence, has spent the day on a
camel's back clambering over vast sand dunes. Following a delicious
couscous dinner, prepared by the nomads her group is staying with, and
accompanied by drumming and dancing, they head out into the evening. "We
climbed up one of the nearby dunes (giving us new-found respect for the
work camels can do) and sat and watched the stars. It was like I was on
another planet, and after returning to Merzouga the next day at
sunrise, I felt changed and more at peace with the world."


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