Brave Woman

Adventures of a future nurse-midwife

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Mangeons-les!

Posted by Lucille on November 13, 2011 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

      That's right. Cupcakes-- and they're rainbow.

       And it warrants the French imperative.

Pics From the Protest

Posted by Lucille on November 13, 2011 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Wow.

Posted by Lucille on November 10, 2011 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (1)

That was by far the most well-orchestrated protest I've been a part of.

       I was trying to finish that French project at around nine when I got another text: "Police are on their way, we need your support." I dropped what I was doing and headed to Sproul. There were dozens of police, in full get up, with guns and batons. The air smelled funny and stung when I breathed, and a lot of people had wet handkerchiefs or doctor masks over their mouths. Students had crowded onto the lawn in front of Sproul Hall and linked arms. The tents were gone, but the police were rushing the students anyway, yelling at us to move.

       Watch this video. Seriously. Watch it.

       I was in the third or fourth row during that, out of the frame.

       People were getting scared/injured and moving back from the front lines, which meant that that was where there was room, and I got shuffled up to the front. I've never actually had a gun pointed at me before, so that was kind of scary. There was a rhythm to it, there'd be a pause, while students checked in with each other, echoed announcements (Mic check! MIC CHECK! The chancellor is talking with the police! THE CHANCELLOR IS TALKING WITH THE POLICE!) and then the police would start giving each other looks and we would start chanting, "Peaceful protest! Peaceful protest!" or "Freedom to assemble!" And then when they rushed us people would shout, "Shame! Shame! Stop beating students!" And when they backed off there'd be an evolving chant with things like, "We're doing this for your children! Who do you protect?"

       Although there were a lot of people there, Berkeley's a big school and it was a fairly small percentage of the students. However, of all the people that I've met here, almost every single one that I've really liked and felt drawn to was there. So this is where the cool people have been hiding! I was still up by the front, and the police were starting to talk to each other and get organized again, and one of the people from the food collective spotted me and came over.

       "Do you have a backpack?"

       I shook my head.

       "Move back. Drop back to the third or fourth line, we don't need anyone else getting hurt."

       I looked around and saw that the students in the front were wearing their backpacks on frontwards, using their schoolwork as a shield.

       By far the most organized protest I've been a part of. I was really impressed. People respected the 'peaceful protest' call. Usually there's at least one idiot that yells something like 'let's kill the police' and gets everyone else arrested. Here, everyone was passionate without being aggressive, and resisted removal without giving the police an excuse to hurt anyone else. I'd been reluctant to link arms at first, partially because it seemed like a good way to dislocate your shoulder, and partially because I wanted to be free to move if things got really bad. It didn't take long for me to figure out that linking arms was as much for our safety as for blocking the police, because now that they'd stopped hitting people with batons and were mostly shoving people around with those plastic shields, the main risk seemed to be tripping and getting trampled. Linking arms kept everyone upright.

       When people did get hurt, a call would go out through the echo system. "Medic! MEDIC!" and then, immediately, the crowd would split. It was like the sea parting in The Prince of Egypt, and then a student would run in, pick them up, and run back out, and the two sides would surge back together, link arms, and become one moving mass of bodies again. It probably took three seconds from the first call of 'medic' until they were off to the side getting treated.

       At that point there were no tents, we were simply exercising our freedom to assemble on public property, and I guess the police must have figured that out because they stopped rushing us. I remember the first time I felt shocked when I saw a barista who looked my age, and felt that again looking at the policemen through their visors. A lot of them looked really young, some of them scared, and a lot of them looked reluctant to do anything (until they got orders). They held their line, and we held ours. After a while a couple of them even pulled out their phones and took pictures. It was still really tense, and every now and then their leader would come around and whisper to all of them, and then they would try to push us back again, and we would push them back, and end up about where we'd been before.

       Meanwhile everyone was trying to call their friends and family to come join us, and helicopters were whirring overhead. Then somebody got a call. "Mic check!"

       "MIC CHECK!"

       "Occupy Oakland is coming to join us!"

       "OCCUP--WOOHOO!!!"

      A group near me was discussing strategy. "They've got cops up on the balcony, it looks like they're the ones getting orders."

       "We need to know what's going on.'

       "Put someone on the roof!"

       I looked at him in surprise. "Can we do that?"

       He smiled and hugged my shoulders. "Sure! As long as nobody chants 'occupy the roof', no one's going to care." And he ran off and showed up a couple minutes later on top of the building.

While the people in the front lines faced off with the police, the masses were not idle. Everyone was meeting and talking with the people around them, passing food around, and sharing ideas for reforming economic policy, amid chants of peaceful protest, unity, and one round of amazing grace. It was almost midnight now.

       "Mic check!"

       "MIC CHECK!"

       "My mom's been watching us on the news (echo)...she said there's more than a thousand people here!" (echo)

      People screamed and cheered and started lifting each other up on their shoulders. All of Sproul was packed to the brim. People were crying. And just then there were lights moving our way from the street...Occupy Oakland had arrived.

       The cops lowered their shields and stood there at first, and as more and more people packed in, they slowly retreated until they were all standing together on the steps of Sproul Hall in front of a plaza with a crowd approaching two thousand. Later there was another announcement. "The police have declared that this is an unlawful assembly. They have asked us to leave and stated that in ten minutes they will start arresting us. Please make your own choice of whether or not to stay."

       Nobody left. Instead, we sat down and started holding a meeting. The Oaklanders started teaching us their hand signals, which actually work pretty well for communicating in a large group, though it takes a while. The police didn't do anything. Around one, one guy got the 'mic' and started saying, 'I'm from Occupy Oakland, and I'm so proud of all of you. This is just the beginning! Do you want to know why last week's protest worked? Because it was ANTI-CAPITALIST! ANTI-STATE! And because we did NOT HOLD BACK!"

       I'm not anti-capitalist, or anti-state. I understand that it's all connected, but if you start protesting everything, eventually it becomes meaningless. So that's when I decided to go home, and try to get enough sleep to be functional before morning.

       I did not finish my French project.

Occupy Cal

Posted by Lucille on November 10, 2011 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

That's right, it's come to Berkeley.

       Unlike other factions of the movement, though, Occupy Cal has a very specific goal: protest the 81% fee increase.

       It started with the planned walk out. Some students ended up participating unwillingly, because teachers walked out, too. We packed Sproul (the fire martial got mad about maximum occupancy) and there were lots of signs, petitions, and passionate speakers. Then people decided to convene in an empty lecture room, and the hundreds of participants crammed in and took a democratic vote to occupy.

       I had to go home to study for a while, but when I went back, there were helicopters vying for a place in the sky and police all over the place. They decided we couldn't use speakers, so twitter feeds and a call and response system were set up so people could hear announcements over the crowd. People showed up with tents. Later I heard via text message that the tents had been confiscated by the police. Then I got another text a few minutes later: tents reclaimed. That happened a couple times. When I went back, there were a couple tents set up against Sproul Hall, hundreds of students circled around them with linked arms, and a dozen police officers standing around looking grim.

       After a while, I found someone to take my place in the chain so I could go to a GRL meeting. I was a little surprised by the nonchalance of the students that weren't involved. "Yeah, my classmates are protesting, what else is new?" I'd only been there a few minutes when I got a text: Students attacked by police, (female name) and (female name) taken to urgent care. I turned around and went back. I'm not sure what I intended to do, but if people were getting hurt, I felt like I had to be there. When I arrived, the police had vanished. Every cop car was gone. the students were singing and passing around hot cocoa.

       Later I left to go to my chem lab, and I got a text saying representatives had arrived to negotiate with the students. They offered to let us occupy as long as we didn't use tents, bring sleeping bags, cook, or sleep. That didn't go over too well. There was a proposal to let us occupy as long as there was no amplified sound. Tents were reestablished.

       They must have changed their minds, though, because the police showed up again a few minutes later. I'll keep you updated as things go down. In any case, the protest accomplished what it meant to do, to get people talking and raise awareness about the crisis of public education through media coverage. Wave if you see me on the news!

With Great Power

Posted by Lucille on November 9, 2011 at 1:50 AM Comments comments (0)

A friend of mine likes me. He's nice and seems really cool, but although I'm open to the idea of my feelings changing in the future, I simply don't think of him that way. And it makes me nervous. There's a lot of responsibility that comes with being liked. Anything you say, thought out or not, they will take to heart and possibly remember. Obviously this isn't a risk you can easily avoid, but right now I just don't have the energy to care for hearts in addition to my own.

On the other hand, I need a friend, and he needs a friend, and we both need to study for our joint classes.

He has been asking me out. At first it was subtle and casual, and I made excuses, easy because I've been genuinely busy. But he got more and more persistent, to the point of asking me out ten times this week. Today he invited me to dinner. How about a study party instead? Okay, your place or mine? How about somewhere public? The dorm areas are closed on Fridays, how about a restaurant? So we ended up getting dinner anyway, and the tables were too small to study. While we were there he suggested several more outings we could do together.

He made another invitation on our walk back, and this time I stopped and resolved to face the situation head on.

I wanted to be clear, but I tried to be as nice as I could. I thanked him, told him I was flattered, but that I didn’t think that would be a good idea, especially with me changing schools in a few weeks. It seemed like the only right thing to do, so why does doing the right thing make me feel so guilty?

"I know, it was crazy..." he said.

"It wasn't crazy. It was brave of you to ask-- that takes courage, I know. I'm glad you did. And I'm glad we're studying together. But I think we should leave it at that for now."

He nodded and we said goodnight.

I got a text the next day from a mutual friend. He had gone home and drank for the first time, and drank so much that he ended up in the hospital.

He's going to be okay. The next day in class, he kept trying to go back over the story in greater detail, as though getting himself in ER was a sign of his devotion. I'm not sure how to explain that impression but it made me angry and put me on guard.

I want to go home.

This Crazy Brain of Mine

Posted by Lucille on November 6, 2011 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (1)

Not surprisingly, I guess, the gradual adaptation of my brain went into rapid rewind and thrust me back into that stress-response mindset. I started having trouble falling asleep. I'd wake up exhausted, but at night my brain would be whirring. Then I remembered that I knew how to lucid dream. It had been a while, but it worked fairly well. I started with some numbers, painted a fractal, then made that a 3D environment and populated it with some characters, an evil lord, and a space ship or two, and that's usually enough to keep my brain occupied for a night. Alternatively, I'll take some kind of natural environment and place a mirror in it, like running a mirror horizontally like water through a forest, so that you get double headed trees floating in the sky. Add some dragons and you're good to go.

       I thought that, once I'd decided for sure I was leaving, I would really treasure the things I've grown to love about Berkeley. Instead, all the thinking about Portland trying to plan my next semester there has made me more homesick than ever. I guess for some reason I thought that once I'd spent a month away from home, doing it again would be easy. Not quite so. But as one of my friends pointed out, "Lucille, your parents are so cool you wouldn't mind living in the same city with them. They're so cool they answer their phones even when you've already called them twice that day. Don't complain."

       Yeah, I know. But I can still call them, right?

       The homesickness hasn't been limited to Portland, either. I've found myself thinking nostalgically of Africa, and of France, of all of my schools, of hideaways from when I was younger, and of the world inside my book. My brain knows so many worlds that sometimes it gets confused about which one I'm in. I don't know how to define the self, but sometimes I picture all of the worlds I'm a part of as overlapping spheres, like shimmering bubbles. That little space in between them? That's me. And then I add onto it all of the realms that overlap with mine, a fractal of bubbles expanding ever outward, and the little lights of the people that walk between them.

       Goodnight, I'm off to dream.

Collegeprowler: PSU

Posted by Lucille on November 6, 2011 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (2)

Academics: C+. I am genuinely scared. I looked at their chemistry sequence: Intro to chem 1, intro to chem 2, general chem 1, general chem 2, organic chem 1, organic chem 2...At Berkeley it goes Gen Chem, O Chem, and if you haven't finished o-chem by sophomore year you're considered behind. So if I do pass Gen Chem, what would that make me at PSU? A junior?

       But I have some unconventional thoughts about what makes good academics, based on graduating from the public school system and then attending a big research university. If you're surrounded by students who don't want to be there, class time is not going to be productive. I love this about Berkeley. All the students are paying to attend, and so, when in class, everyone is focused. However, if your teacher does not want to teach (and many of them don't when the school requires them to teach in order to get funding for their research) class time will not be productive. My GSI makes it quite clear he would rather be anywhere else. I think that if you can create a room where the students want to learn and the teachers want to teach, no lack of funding or supplies or high GPA/Nobelleaureate status will keep that from being an excellent learning experience. It's possible that PSU would be able to provide that balance. Besides, I read their course catalog yesterday, and they definitely have classes that look interesting. And their classes don't have 220 kids in them like my chemistry class does. Does your teacher knowing your name outweigh them being experts in their field? I guess I'm going to find out.

       Diversity: B+. Majority white, but not everyone.

       Drug safety: B. I read: normal. I expected every college to have a party scene, but my impression is that partying doesn't usually dominate the social scene the way it does at Berkeley.

       On-Campus Housing: B. Infinitely better than at Berkeley, and a hell of a lot cheaper, too.

       Affordability: A+ (my personal rating). I could graduate in almost no debt instead of a quarter million. Very appealing.

       Personal things I want to keep in mind: One of my best friends from high school goes here. And her roommate is moving out, so it's possible we'd end up rooming together. A surprising number of my friends ended up staying in Portland, actually, and it would be great to see all of them. I may not know this campus, but I know this city, so it wouldn't really be starting over at square one. Square two, maybe, but everything counts. I could visit my parents on weekends sometimes and not have to worry about the price of the plane ticket when I'm ill. I'd be a student, not a number, and not graded on a curve against people who take ritalin to get good grades. I could have some flexibility when it comes to classes and policies.

       I always thought I'd go to school somewhere far away, like maybe Europe, that I would travel and explore the world as part of my studies. Living in the same city I grew up in was definitely not what I had in mind. But then you don't have to travel to explore the world. You can see a lot of places a little bit, or get to know one city, live in it and become a part of it, know it more deeply than you ever thought possible. And it's good for networking.

       It's almost a unanimously accepted rite of passage that you have to 'go away' to college, move elsewhere and start a new life by yourself. It's sort of a coming of age experience. I aired this idea to my dad, and he said, "Honey, you went to Africa. And besides, you don't need coming of age experiences. You were born 5000 years old."

       I think he might be biased.

Academics vs. Policies

Posted by Lucille on November 6, 2011 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Berkeley is academically rigorous. And I love it. It's the reason I came. All of my professors are inspiring and I'm learning a lot in all of my classes. In that regard, I'm absolutely thriving. But I'd like to make a distinction between challenging classes and challenging policies. For example, in chemistry there is no late work. Ever. I had to email six different people over the course of a month to get credit for the work I missed when I was sick. Oh, and for labs, there are pre labs, the observations during the experiment, a post lab worksheet, and then a formal lab report. If you miss any of these pieces, it's a zero. It's like you were never there. And two zeros is an automatic fail.

       No wonder the students are on Ritalin.

       I love the intellectual stimulation of the classes here. So much, you have no idea. I was always the bored student at the front of the class, feeling held back by the students that wouldn't pay attention. Being on a campus full of world class professors and surrounded by students that are more intelligent than I am is literally a dream come true. But the class policies are making me angry. I believe I have shown by this point that I am capable of managing my time. Give me your class content, I can guarantee I'll learn it. But don't force me to prioritize meeting your policies over my health or happiness.

Collegeprowler: Musings on Berkeley

Posted by Lucille on November 5, 2011 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Obviously Berkeley is a study-hard kind of school. What they didn't put in the brochures is that it's a study-hard, party-hard kind of school. Drugs are everywhere. And nobody pressures you to take them yourself, but there is an assumption that you're okay with being around it. People smoke marijuana indoors without bothering to ask if anyone minds. Prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are pretty common around midterms. Now I'm down for a good party every now and then, but come on, every night of the week? I looked up Berkeley on Collegeprowler.com (I must have lived under a rock, because I didn't hear about this site before college), and here are some of the things it said:

       Academics: A. 81% of students had a HS GPA of 3.75 or above. World-renowned faculty.

       Campus housing: C+. This I can attest to myself, I'm so glad I avoided the dorms.

       Cost: D.

       Diversity: A-. 69% of students are minorities.

       Drug Safety: C+, for an "overly accepted drug culture".

Collegeprowler also has a ranking for the love scene, Guys 'n' Girls. First, an excerpt from daily life. I was studying French in the living room today when some guys came over and grouped around a computer. I surmised from the things they were saying that they were doing research to try to decide if the girl one of them had hooked up with the night before had finished. At first I was amused, but then when they kept going over the encounter loudly and in graphic detail while I was trying to study, I started to get a little annoyed.

       "You could, you know, ask her," I suggested. His friends looked up at me.

       "No..."

       "No."

       The guy who had done the hooking up shrugged. "Can't. I never got her name."

       They used a mathematical formula they found online to determine that she had, in fact, come, and I moved my books to a quiet table in the study room and thought about sex. Stupid males. I was actually concentrating before that. Then some other women came in the room, who had heard the guys' conversation and were discussing their hook ups from the night before (this was on a Wednesday, by the way.) One of them asked me if my most recent hook up had been attractive and we ended up talking. "Doesn't it ever seem, you know, disatisfying?" I asked, "I mean, why not go for a real relationship?"

       She looked shocked at my misunderstanding. "Of course I want a real relationship," she said, "But I'm a student at Berkeley. I don't have time."

       She went back to talking with her friends, and I went back to unsuccessfully trying to focus on French. But for some reason what she's said stuck with me. I hadn't thought about it before, but out of all the people I've met, only three of them are in relationships. And they're all seniors. I recently discovered an interesting detail about the house's sex tally: if you're in a relationship, it doesn't count. In my mind, that makes it a hook up tally. Sex without the emotional component is not sex, it's an entirely different experience. But when I tried to raise this perspective, the person I asked said, "No, if you're in a relationship, it's not sex-- it's a relationship." Language confuses me.

       Obviously I only see a small proportion of campus life, so I decided to consult collegeprowler to see if this view was widespread.

       Guys 'n' Girls: B. "Hookups are most prevalent, but casual relationships are not uncommon. Many students don’t have time for a serious relationship."

       I understand the importance of prioritizing. I decided against dating for a year and a half in high school. And, largely, it was worth it: I left with a 3.92 GPA and got into the number one public university in the US. But when I changed my mind, it wasn't a problem. I don't want to live in a place where love and passing are mutually exclusive.

SPLASH. There go my thoughts.

Posted by Lucille on November 5, 2011 at 10:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Every now and then my brain gets too full and the only way to rectify the situation is to spew all my conflicting, swirling thoughts out onto paper (or, in this case, the internet). You've read the important part, the next few posts are me comparing schools, weighing options, and sharing musings on the world.


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HIPAA Disclaimer

Sometimes I have the privilege of being a part of intimate, powerful moments in other people’s lives. I cannot and would not share these stories, because they are not mine to tell. However, they touch my life and become part of my own story. When I share these moments here, you can trust that I have not broken anyone’s confidentiality. The characters are invented. They are not real, but could be. I take creative license to communicate the essence of my experience while respecting the privacy of others.