THECIRCUIT community issue
The official magazine of The Pioneer
s the end of fall semester approaches, many of us start thinking about the world beyond Whitman. For most students, winter break means a long trip home, often the first in months. Even for the few who do stay on campus or spend their free month traveling, the absence of class schedules and routines can leave time open for exploration and connection, in Walla Walla or on the other side of the country. We’ve chosen to focus this issue of The Circuit on community, acknowledging that for many of us, late November and December involve more time spent off campus than on. In these pages, we go beyond Boyer Avenue to look at Walla Walla, Whitman, the wider world and the places where they intersect. It’s hard to go a day on campus without hearing some remark about the “Whitman bubble,” a kind of enchanted reality we all live inside which prevents us from connecting or engaging with the community that surrounds us. While there’s an undeniable accuracy to some of this narrative, intersections between Whitman and Walla Walla have always been more nuanced, more complicated and perhaps more present than many of us realize. In these pages, we bring you stories of communities and the people in them. Writer Emma Dahl takes a look at the Magic scene in Walla Walla, tracing the history of the game back to its founding at Whitman (pg. 4). Local political activist Norm Osterman details the long history of productive collaboration he’s had with students fighting for change and social justice in the Walla Walla valley (pg. 20). And photographer Tanner Bowersox and writer Serena Runyan team up to bring you the story of everyone’s favorite Bon Appétit employee—the well-loved Rhonda the Omelet Lady, who serves breakfast in Prentiss Dining Hall (pg. 34). We hope that this issue of The Circuit will show you a new side of the place you live for most of the year. Whether you consider Walla Walla home, a second home or just a place you happen to be passing through for a few years, this valley offers places for connection and engagement to anyone who’s willing to seek them out.
Rachel Alexander Editor-in-Chief
EDITORIAL PRODUCTION Editor-in-Chief
Rachel Alexander Libby Arnosti Alex Brott Aleida Fernandez Alex Hagen Emily Lin-Jones Pam London Kyle Seasly Allison Work
Blair Hanley Frank
Photography Editor Marie von Hafften
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Illustration Editor Julie Peterson
Stella Bartholet Callan Carow Maddi Coons Sandra Matsevilo Madison Munn Cara Patten
Chief Copy Editor Marisa Ikert
Copy Editors Chloe Kaplan Matthew Nelson Katie Stewen
The Circuit is a publication of the Whitman Pioneer.
The Pioneer is an entirely student-run publication published under the auspices of the Associated Students of Whitman College. Questions and letters to the editor can be submitted to editors@ whitmanpioneer.com. All submissions must be attributed and may be edited for concision and fluency.
The Pioneer operates under the guidelines of its code of ethics, a document that is reviewed at least once per semester. To access the complete code of ethics of The Pioneer, please visit whitmanpioneer.com/about. For information about subscriptions or advertising, please contact business@ whitmanpioneer.com.
IN THIS ISSUE 4
“ ” ‘WRITE ON ME’ as I get more and more experienced, I learn to focus just on my lane
PHOTO ESSAY COMMUNITY VOICES
feat. Alastair Stewart, Norm Osterman, Anne-Marie Schwerin
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Magic In walla walla
ou may have heard of Magic: The Gathering, a widespread card game with roots at our very own alma mater. While its influence has spread far and wide, the gaming community remains strong at Whitman, in Walla Walla and in surrounding areas. In fact, the Magic community is one that pierces the notorious Whitman bubble and brings players of varying ages and origins together.
Game Day On Saturday, Oct 27, in an open space in between the women’s shoes and juniors departments of Macy’s in downtown Walla Walla, a group of disparate Magic players began 4 | TheCircuit
A game’s origins and influence at Whitman College
text by Emma Dahl photos by BECCA MELLEMA
to gather for Game Day Return to Ravnica, an afternoon of challenges and games to determine which players would come out on top. Some were Whitman students, others from Milton-Freewater and Walla Walla and a few were students from Walla Walla High School. But they were all there for the same reason: perhaps to win, but mostly to enjoy themselves and the camaraderie of their community. Before the official tournament began, players loitered around the tables, discussing what strategies they planned to employ, asking each other’s advice and postulating possible card exchanges. The talk was casual; there wasn’t tension hinting at the competition that was to soon
begin, but an air of anticipation and excitement. Once the games did begin, though, it was all business. While there was the occasional snarky comment or joke, for the most part the dialogue between competitors was bare-bones and efficient: “Go.” “Pass turn.” “Let’s see what you got.” The players efficiently and quickly went through the motions of the game with an ease that only comes from hours of practice; they wasted no time seeing whose deck would come out on top. Despite the higher stakes of this particular tournament (players received twice as many PW
points as they normally would; suffice it to say, these points are important for future tournaments), the atmosphere was casual: The guys were there to have a good time doing something they enjoyed, not to beat each other out and come out on top—as much as I’m sure all of them would’ve liked to win all the bragging rights.
The appeal behind magic The beauty behind Magic, and perhaps the reason behind its massive popularity, lies in its complexity and malleability. The player fills the role of a “planeswalker,” so called because as a powerful mage or wizard, he or she can “walk” between different planes of the Magic multiverse, allowing him or her to collect spells and creatures along the way, which are represented by the cards used to play the game. “Mana” is the magical energy that powers spells and is represented by five colors, and was probably the inspiration for the “energy” cards in the similar Pokémon card game. Each color of mana has its own strengths and weaknesses, its own unique environment and its own traits. White mana is the color of the plains and implies order, protection and light. Black is associated with swamps and represents darkness, ambition and death. Blue stands for islands and implies knowledge, manipulation and illusion. Red comes from mountains and is associated with freedom, emotion and impulse. And finally, green mana hails from forests and is driven by growth, instinct and nature. Players draw mana from special cards that represent the five lands listed above, which allow them to power their attacks and spells. Decks, which are typically composed of 60 cards, are varying combinations of these five colors that suit the player’s style of competition. Some players tend toward mostly blue and white decks; others won’t dare touch black mana. It all depends on the preference of
the person holding the deck. A common problem with card games is a phenomenon called “power creep,” essentially an arms race that is created by the game’s parent company in order to sell more cards. In order to entice customers, companies will design cards that have, say, more HP or stronger attacks than older cards, which make older decks obsolete. But Wizards of the Coast, Magic’s parent company, has evaded this problem by releasing not stronger or tougher cards but simply different ones, cards that players can manipulate themselves to make their decks more powerful. New releases provide players with new options as far as strategy and deck development goes, and while the cards remain at the same level it’s up to the player to empower his or her deck. The strategy-forming and customizing aspects of the game are consistently cited as the most appealing aspect of Magic. With thousands and thousands of cards that make up the body of material that players work with, there are innumerable combinations of decks that players can utilize to win in their own unique way. “You can pretty much build any deck you want and play any way you like. The sheer possibilities are limitless. It’s like a constantly evolving puzzle that has a human element to it,” said senior Paul Chang in an email.
Origins It’s relatively well known that Magic: The Gathering has roots at Whitman College. The creator, Richard Garfield, was a visiting professor of mathematics at Whitman in the early ‘90s. Garfield began designing the card game as a grad student at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1980s. He earned a Ph.D in combinational mathematics with a dissertation entitled “On the Residue Classes of Combinatorial Families of Numbers” and came to Whitman after he graduated in 1993. Rumor has it that he was not that great of a professor, but perhaps that’s be TheCircuit | 5
cause his heart lay in game design. While he spent years perfecting the design of Magic and testing it on his peers and students, it came to fruition while he was at Whitman. The card game was launched in 1993. Garfield left his academic career to join Wizards of the Coast in 1994 and began a new career as a game designer. It could be said that Garfield singlehandedly invented the concept of a trading card game with the introduction of Magic. His game was out before Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! and established a standard of innovation that has yet to be
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matched. Garfield even proposed to his wife, Lily, in the midst of a game— he commissioned a special card entitled “Proposal,” which read “Allows Richard to propose to Lily.” The card, however, came at a high mana cost, so Garfield had a great deal of difficulty playing the card. Any other man may have simply fudged the rules in order to get straight to the actual proposal, but Garfield spent four games trying to play the card legally. He eventually did and scored a wife in the process.
Magic at Whitman Besides the fact that Whitman is the location of Magic’s origin, it’s not surprising that insightful Whitman students are very interested in a card game that challenges their minds. Players often cite Magic’s intellectual challenges as one of its best qualities. “I have always liked playing board and card games, and Magic seemed like the ultimate strategic challenge,” said Chang. Senior Kevin Dyer also enjoys the challenge. “I sometimes go to a tourney with the purpose of doing the best I can. I’ve also had times when I’ve gone out of my way to play bad decks, just for the fun/challenge of playing something off the beaten path,” he said in an email interview. Sophomore Ethan Scardina discussed the three colloquial Magic archetypes that are well known within the Magic community: Timmies, Johnnies and Spikes. “Timmies don’t think about cool mechanics. They pick their favorite cards and play them. ‘I’m gonna throw this card into my deck because it’s cool.’ Johnnies— I’m a Johnny—like to look at cards and find cool interactions and mechanics and make cool decks out
t’s not surprising that
Whitman students are very interested in a card game
of them. Find a subtle synergy between cards and play off of that. Spikes play to win and take the game super seriously. They build the best deck they can with what’s out right now,” Scardina said. There does seem to be a distinction between casual and serious players at Whitman, but that doesn’t mean that the two groups are exclusive. Some players consider themselves mixes of two of these player archetypes. You can be competitive but still have fun; that is, you can be a bit of a Timmy but also a bit of a Spike. Chang said that “the Whitman Magic community consists of a few really serious competitive players (my friends and me) and a lot of very casual noncompetitive players ... The community as a whole is very friendly and welcoming of everyone who wishes to attend and be a part of the community.” Dyer, who admitted he can get competitive, said: “I play Magic for a lot of reasons, number one being fun, as well as the friends that I’ve made through the game. Some of the best friends I’ve met and made at Whitman have been through this game.” “Two friends and I drove to Portland for a midnight tournament which finished about six in the morning. [We] went and slept for a few hours,
and then went and played in another tournament later that day, which lasted until about nine at night,” he continued. “It was a ridiculous experience, but absolutely worth it.” Players may be competitive at Whitman or they may not be, but in the end what matters to them is the camaraderie and the friendship that results from being a part of such a close-knit community.
Whether players consider themselves Spikes or Timmies or Johnnies or a combination of all three, there seems to be a uniting factor on all fronts: They all play to enjoy themselves, to engage in a cohesive community and to engross themselves in what Chang called “a constantly evolving puzzle,” a game of endless possibilities and strategic redefinitions. What Magic comes down to, as its name implies, really is a gathering—perhaps not of mystical creatures and multiverses and countless enchantments, but of people who just like to get together, have a good time and talk about something they love to do with people who love it as much as they do. C
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FARMING AN Sex Column
by Allison Work
Besides well-known campus buildings and landmarks, Whitman owns and manages property which supports crop-producing farmland, wind turbine projects and unconventional educational opportunities.
he drive east along Highway 12 from the Tri-Cities back towards Walla Walla and the Whitman campus rarely fails to amaze me. At the left turn by Wallula Gap, I stare west at the vast expanse of land carved out by the ancient Missoula floods, captured by the exposed magnificence of the land in all its contours and forms and patterns. I’ve stopped many times on drives from Wallula Gap back to campus to admire the colors of the sky, count the cows or marvel at the way the Blues rise up behind dwarfed Walla Walla’s downtown. Land counts around here, and it counts in a way that’s significantly different from the evergreen expanses of the mountains I call home on the west side of Washington. On campus, I love how the top floor of Reid yields views of the snowy Blues in the winter and
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how the west of houetted It’s land
windmills atop the ridge But students have particuWalla Walla become sil- lar connections to the surroundby dramatic sunset light. ing land that aren’t as obvious that commands attention. as first-year excursions and occasional visits with friends. *** A portion of Whitman’s endowment—supporting various asMany students’ first formal in- pects of student life from scholartroduction to the land surrounding ships to faculty salaries and proWhitman comes from excursions grams—is garnered from farmto the wheat fields north of cam- land the college owns in Walla pus. Whether it’s a section outing to Walla and surrounding counties. fields along Lower Waitsburg Road, a picnic with a group of friends in a September sunset or a date to watch the sunrise over the Blues, “going out to the wheat fields” is a first-year rite of passage. Surrounded on all sides, we are literally the college amongst the wheat fields.
Whitman received its first donated farmland from Cushing Eells, founder of the Whitman Seminary that predated the college. Since then—throughout the 1900s—the college has acquired land through gifts. Donation of farms is a form of giving: The profit from farmland supports the college and boosts the endowment, providing money beyond student tuition to fund Whitman endeavors. A Farm Committee—comprised of alumni, trustees and community members—oversees the various aspects of Whitman’s farm management. Justin Rodegerdts is a finan-
cial analyst for the college and the staff liaison to the Farm Committee who oversees the day-to-day aspects of the management process. According to Rodegerdts, the fact that Whitman oversees such a significant amount of farmland makes it unique among its peer schools. Most other schools sell gifts of farmland because maintaining the land and tenants can be quite difficult. The college currently operates 15 farms across four counties—Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield counties in Washington State, and Umatilla county in Oregon. The farms primari-
ly produce wheat, barley and peas. Land donations have historically been from alumni and community members in the area who have no one to pass their farmland on to. “Obviously a lot of farmers have a real attachment to the land, and they want to make sure their farms are taken care of after they die,” said Rodegerdts. “The college has a good reputation of taking care of their farms, and [we] have a historical precedence of not selling the farms and keeping them in our endowment [to] maintain them as an income-producing asset for the endowment.”
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Photo Essay Whitman hires tenants to work the land, while the Farm Committee is responsible for the more managerial aspects of the land. Tenants often pass down the responsibility of farming through family and generations. Profits from crops are divided between the tenants and the college, but the risks are shared as well. The farms operate under fixed cash leases, which means that the income from farms can be significantly impacted in bad crop years. “We share the good years and we share the bad years with the farmers,” said Rodegerdts. Last year, according to Rodegerdts, the farms yielded about $1.5 million for the college. But crop prices and demand affect these numbers significantly—the price of wheat alone can change drastically from year to year. To help mitigate the potential losses, Whitman purchases crop insurance on their land. None of the college’s farmland is irrigated, so the farms are particularly susceptible in years of lower precipitation levels.
acres tillable, there is non-producing land that can be used for a variety of purposes. Students can benefit from land put to use educationally, and recent projects have highlighted the multiplicity of ways in which the land can be used. A biological field station at Braden Farm near Wallula Gap was instated in 2010 for access to handson field research for biology students. An observatory is located on land at Erickson Farm north of campus and another telescope is under construction at a different site. Braden Farm also has an installation of wind turbines, which generate power for the surrounding region and additional profit for the college. According to Rodegerdts, the turbines are part of the Stateline Wind Project, which was one of the first wind programs in the state when it was installed in 2001. The turbines were constructed and are owned by Florida Power and Light, but stand on land leased from Whitman. “It’s definitely not just farming and [we’ve] grown into using our *** farms,” said Rodegerdts. “They are set up to be an income-producing Whitman’s farms don’t only asset of the college and we have a produce crops. With only about fiduciary responsibility to maintain 19,000 of the college’s 24,005 that they continue to provide money
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for student scholarships and to support the college, but we also found other ways to help support the educational mission of the college.” *** Whitman land is used in a variety of ways and provides for the college both educationally and financially. According to Rodegerdts, the farms don’t factor in significantly to the endowment. But they play a major role in other ways. “The farms themselves are valued at approximately $19 million and our overall endowment is $400 million, so it’s a small slice C of what our endowment is composed of,” said Rodegerdts. “But as an investment, it’s good. In investments you like to try to diversify your assets to limit the amount of risk. It has been a very good diversifier in providing a good income from the college at a time when the overall investment markets were significantly down.” The land also serves as a connection to and reminder of the land that surrounds campus itself. “It also provides a great connection with Whitman and the overall community,” said Rodegerdts. “It develops relationships.” C
by Rachel Alexander
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Pio For The Holidays
The gate shuts behind me, heavy metal bars sliding on an automated, computer-controlled track, and I am surrounded. Before me, a short walkway, encapsulated by wire—concave chain-link fence with concertina wire top and bottom. The tubelike cage extends to another sliding metal door, controlled by centralized computer. Outside this enclosed walkway is a stretch of gravel no man’s land, which marks the boundary between those who have the freedom to leave this place at the end of the day and those who must stay here, for months, years or life. I belong in the first category; my friend, whom I’m going to see for the first time in over a decade, belongs to the second.
obbie was my first babysitter. His family lived kitty-corner from the house I grew up in, and he watched me and my younger brother as we played in the backyard on warm summer afternoons. By the time I was old enough to form lasting memories, our care had largely been taken over by his younger sister, Julie, whom we adored. My earliest real memories of Robbie came later, when I heard he’d robbed a fast food restaurant, shooting someone in the leg in the process. I was in middle school when he was sentenced: twenty years in prison. My family had moved to a larger house in a different neighborhood by then, and I had kids of my own to babysit, so I didn’t think much of it.
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After choosing Whitman, I soon realized that I would be studying in the shadow of the Washington State Penitentiary, home to all seven of Washington’s death row prisoners. I’d heard whisperings from my mother (who still kept in touch with our old neighbors) that Robbie might be in prison there. My junior year, I found myself wishing to write letters to someone, and his name crossed my mind. A week of sleuthing revealed that he was not, in fact, in the Pen; instead, he was at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, located in a small town an hour and a half away from Walla Walla. I decided to write him. Expecting our first interaction to be awkward, I kept my letter brief. I reminded Robbie who I was, assuming my name might not be familiar,
and gave him the abbreviated version of the past fifteen years of my life. His response came quickly. He updated me on his prison time—he had been in the Penitentiary, it turned out, before being transferred to Coyote Ridge. He’d gotten into some trouble during the first years of his sentence, but had since settled down. He was attending community college classes and working towards his Associate’s degree. He also told me that, while I was free to call him Robbie, most everybody who knew him now called him Inca, a reference to his indigenous Colombian heritage. We soon began corresponding regularly, him writing me every few weeks, me responding when I had time. I sent him a few of my articles and a more recent photo, so he could have a better picture in his head. He started calling me, and we would chat for 20 minutes or half an hour before I’d have to leave for class or work. Aside from his classes, he talked about doing traditional Native American beadwork and dances. The prison, he told me in July, would be having a powwow in the fall for its indigenous and Native inmates—not as big as the one he was in last year at the Pen, but still a fun, full-day event with traditional food, dance and artwork. Would I come as his guest? After figuring out where, exactly, Coyote Ridge was (halfway to Spokane on Highway 395) and asking my boyfriend if he’d be willing to give up a Saturday to drive me there, I told Robbie I’d come. I mailed back the visitation form, authorizing a background check and affirming that I had no prior convictions, and waited for September 22 to roll around. Connell, Washington isn’t much of a town. Walla Walla’s penitentiary is sustained by a surrounding population of 32,000 people, but Connell gets by with just 5,200. The prison is just outside of town, sitting, as the name promises, on a barren ridge. It was a gray day, threatening to start raining, and nervousness combined with a lack of sleep the night before had my stomach in knots. I waited in a room—it seems inaccurate to call it a lobby—while prison guards processed IDs. The prison chaplain made announcements: Anyone bringing in Native regalia needed to have it hand inspected; tobacco would be allowed in for sacred purposes only, not for personal use. Next
to me, a young woman sat as still as is possible when you’ve got two toddlers in tow. The girls ran circles around her ankles and chattered to each other. “We’re going to see Daddy today!” the younger girl exclaimed. Her dark hair was wound into tight pigtails which almost bounced as she chased her sister. Their mother, laughing, told the girls to calm down and stop bothering everyone else. The hard plastic chairs were all filled with families—old women wearing traditional beads and walking with canes, young boys with long, black hair braided carefully for the occasion. These were people with relatives and loved ones behind bars, those for whom a prison visit was simply part of a normal weekend. I felt out of place as I listened to the conversations around me—people going to visit husbands, fathers, uncles and sons. What would I say if one of them asked me—“I’m going to see my babysitter from when I was three”? Almost two hours behind schedule, the guards finally said they were ready for us to enter the facility. We went through a metal detector one by one before walking out of the visitor’s lobby, through a series of gates and into the visitation room. Almost as soon as I entered the room, I saw Robbie, recognizing him from the photo he’d sent me. He was wearing a traditional dance outfit: a loose sleeveless shirt and pants with two circles of feathers, each three or so feet in diameter, attached to his back and hips. They fanned out in a blue-white-blue-white sequence, making him look larger than life. He had bells around both ankles, which sounded like sleigh bells every time he took a step. All around him were other dancers wearing equally colorful and elaborate regalia— some, like Robbie, were decked out in fancy dance attire, while others had on fringed outfits which were designed for grass dancing. “I’ve never fancy danced before,” he told me, looking excited and slightly nervous. “Last year I did grass dance.” I asked him what grass dance was, and he said it’s where
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the dancers flatten down the grass to start off the powwow. We both looked around at the room, which was more or less a glorified cafeteria—plain white walls with a wall of vending machines marked by a large sign proclaiming that inmates were not allowed near them—and laughed a bit at the thought of grass. He took me over to the tables where we’d be sitting and introduced me to the other dancers, as well as his “cellie” (cellmate), who shook my hand and said he’d heard about me. The powwow began shortly after, with alternating dances, prayers and songs. Circles of drummers, a mix of inmates and those from the outside, sat around massive traditional drums, pounding them with mallets and singing to accompany the dancers. Robbie got up to dance several times and returned sweating and exhilarated to explain the rest of the proceedings to me. We took a photo together—one of us smiling with his arm around me (he called me “Lil’ Sis”) and one in “prison pose”—both of us standing to the side with a fist in our other hand, looking at the camera like we meant business. One of the final dances of the afternoon was the Owl Dance, which an older woman sitting next to me explained was a lady’s choice. “You can ask any man to dance with you, and he has to say yes,” she said, with a hint of mischief in her eye. “Otherwise, he has to give you a gift.” After sitting on the sidelines for a few minutes, I asked Robbie to join me, and we stepped rhythmically in a circle around the room, in line with a dozen or so other couples. At times, the powwow seemed seamless, like we were simply a group of people gathered together to celebrate. Lunch was a traditional salmon and buffalo stew extravaganza, with wild rice and fry bread on the side. I swallowed my vegetarianism to partake and was impressed—nothing on my plate tasted like it had come out of an industrial prison kitchen. All of the guests were given gifts, beautiful pieces of beadwork that had taken hours and hours to create. Robbie gave me a rosette with what looked like a cattle skull on it that he’d had a friend make for me, and a beaded turtle keychain with lavender in it that was his own creation. Lavender, he explained to me, was women’s medicine, and he’d gotten the idea for the turtle after I sent him a photo of myself on study abroad hanging out
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with Galapagos tortoises in Ecuador. The men who had worked for months to make the ceremony happen sat with wives and ex-wives, sons and daughters, looking proud and happy in their dance outfits. I saw them holding toddlers and dancing with the women who brought them in, and wondered how many more months or years each of them would be stuck in this place, only able to see their loved ones for a few hours every few weeks. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have your father taken away from you and put behind not only bars, but gates, concertina wire with a few hours of barren semi-desert separating him from your home. I wondered if my gut
reaction would be any different knowing what crimes these men committed. I wondered how many of them were behind bars because of bad luck, locked up for drug possession or something else where only a small handful of the guilty are ever tried or convicted. The day came to an end, and I thanked Robbie for inviting me. We hugged, and I told him I’d keep writing when my schedule allowed. I went to line up with the other guests for processing out of the facility, and I took a last look across the room at Robbie, who was chatting with some of his fellow dancers. He seemed at home after over a decade of incarceration, probably more at home than he’d feel on the outside, since he left that world before smartphones, tablets and most modern technology existed at all. I couldn’t imagine that the remaining six years of his sentence would teach him much he didn’t already know— all they would do was put him further out of the loop. He’d successfully lobbied to have his case heard by a court earlier in the year, which had ruled his twenty-year sentence cruel and unusual punishment. Still, he had years to go before he’d be allowed to walk free. After reclaiming my ID and possessions from the visitor waiting room, I walked back out of the prison. Though hours had passed, the sky was still gray and drizzling, and the prison behind me looked as nondescript as ever. Sound- and color-proof, you’d never know from a glance that the building had been full of dancers and drummers, families decked out in sacred clothing, fathers reconnecting with children. The sounds of jangling bells and traditional songs seemed distant as I listened to the rolling gate click shut behind families who were filing out behind me. I knew nothing about traditional powwows, but I imagined that the event I had been to was a hodgepodge of different tribes’ traditions, an amalgam created out of necessity in lessthan-optimal circumstances. Maybe I was reading too much into an afternoon which was, above all else, a celebration. But I thought back to Robbie, fancy dancing in front of everyone, working to get what he could out of his time in prison even while he appealed his sentence. The dancing, the music, the creation of a community against the odds, even if it was only for a day: more than just a celebration, an act of resilience. C
Unique Gifts From Around The Globe The Daily Market Co-op presents: 2012 Holiday Made in Walla Walla Box Locally made chocolate, coffee, soap, candles and more-the perfect gift for family or friends back home.
19 S. Spokane St. Downtown Walla Walla
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high school athlete profile
DeSales High School senior Cheyenne Schoen talks swimming and future ambitions with charming confidence and a bright smile. With just four years of competitive swimming under her belt, Schoen has excelled to become one of the top swimmers in Washington State. She is the captain of the Walla Walla High School Varsity Swim Team, and is planning to continue swimming in college.
What is your hometown? Well, I’ve kind of lived all over the U.S., but I’ve lived here [Walla Walla] the longest. I’ve been here for five years so I’d probably call this my hometown, but I’ve lived in a ton of different states so I can’t really pick one. How did you get involved with swimming? Actually, I just started four years ago, which seems kind of like a long time, but in the sports world doing it your whole life is a long time. So, I actually got started because my friend just said, “Hey, we should go out for the summer league.” I was like, “Okay.” I was hesitant to do it, but I had a really great coach—she’s actually my high school coach right now—and she said I should really consider swimming as a freshman. And I was like, “No, that’s funny, I’m not going to.” But she said, “No, really, come out.” So I went out my freshman year, and actually ended up making it to state. Walla Walla High School is Class 4A, and I actually go to DeSales, but I swim for Walla Walla High School because DeSales is a small Catholic school and we don’t have a swim team. 16 | TheCircuit
interview by Sarah debs
What was your first race experience like? Nerve-wracking. I didn’t know what I was doing, really. My first race was the summer of 2009, and I was so nervous. I was not focused on the swimming; I was just focused on everyone else in the other lanes. Something I’ve learned over these past couple years is that as I get more and more experienced, I learn to focus just on my lane, not any of the others, because if you’re focused on the other lanes you’re not going to do as great of a job. My first race I was definitely thinking, “Oh my goodness, this person is so much taller than me” or “The person to my left, look at how muscly they are!” But I’ve learned to overcome that fear. How has swimming helped you grow in high school in and out of the pool? As a freshman I was like a little mouse, and I wasn’t social on the team or anything. Last year I was nominated to be captain, and this year I’m the captain. I’ve grown mentally in my racing and training mentality. I try to at
tack every day of training like a race. Really hitting every wall. Swimming is a learning process, as is every sport, but it has taught me things that are useful inside of the pool as well as things with my extracurricular activities and with school, especially time management and how to keep on task. As captain, how do you help the team dynamic? Being captain is so much fun and it’s something I’m so glad to have the opportunity to do. I like having the leadership role, but I also like sitting back and watching the whole team kind of form, especially the underclassmen. I like to see how the team is going to be in the future and help out with building the team up. It’s fun while I’m on the team, but what I’d really like for it to be in the next years when I’m not on the team is for me to come back and see them being stronger than we are now. Being captain is really fun, and we’ve got nine other seniors on the team, so it’s incredible. Does your family come out and support you? Yes, I have one sister who is a junior at Walla Walla High School. They really do [support me], and I am so fortunate to have them behind my lane at every race. What are you goals for the future? At the district meet I hope to qualify for state, and I’m seeded first in the 100-breast stroke so I’m thinking I’ll probably make it. If not, we qualified a relay to state, too, so I’ll be there for that. After state, I’ll continue swimming with the Walla Walla swim club as I’ve done for the past four years. And after that I’m hoping to swim Division III in college. How is the process of applying to college going? It’s so overwhelming. I wish I could just have a perfect place. Here [Whitman] looks pretty good to me, but it’s home, so it’s another reason why I might want to get out. I’m kind of looking on the East Coast.
Do you have any idea of what you’d like to study in college? I’d like to go pre-med. That is a big hope right now, and maybe a stretch. What other activities are you involved in outside of swimming ? I am the president of the National Honors Society. I’m in a community service league called Girls League and we do community-wide projects, blood drives and food drives. I’m in the band. I’ve been in band for four years. I play the French horn and the trumpet. And I’m senior class secretary. If you could play any other sport, what would you play and why? I also have done track at DeSales, and I really like it. I’m so short that is seems like sports like track, swimming and cross country—the team, yet individual sports— are kind of what I like more. I played soccer for 11 years, but it just didn’t really work out for me. I also like to ski. But, if I were to choose a sport that I don’t do regularly I think it’d be cool to ice skate. What were you for Halloween? An elf. Like a “Lord of the Rings”-status elf. My boyfriend is really into “Lord of the Rings” and he was like, “Hey, I’m going to be a dwarf so you should be something from ‘Lord of the Rings.’” And I was like, “Okay, sounds good.” So he made his whole costume and I have an elf costume. How do you hope to take what you’ve learned in high school to the next level in college? Oh, boy. I know it’s going to be a lot different. I will be the newbie again, but that’s okay! I’m excited. I think I can take the training that I’ve done the past couple years and really apply it. Also, I’ll have college studies and so it will be interesting trying to balance that as a student athlete. But I’m excited to see where it takes me. C
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Out of the ASHes
by elizabeth cole
A lost Bible, two bikes, and the real-life applications of creeping.
n an unusually warm Sunday night in mid-September of this year, I sat down for dinner at one of Olive’s outdoor tables with two friends and an almost complete stranger. I had met Nick Brandenburg only once, about a week earlier, when my friend Amalia and I had crashed the ending of a Whitman Christian Fellowship meeting in order to find the owner of a lost Bible. The Bible had been Nick’s and it had been missing for two years. As we sat down to dinner with him as an offering of thanks, he was naturally curious how we had stumbled across his missing Bible in the first place. But before I start, let me offer this disclaimer: I’m insatiably curious about the lives of others, and I’m really good at Facebook stalk-
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ing. I don’t watch “Jersey Shore,” and I don’t keep up with the Kardashians, but Facebook is where my inner voyeuristic self abandons its ego and allows my id-addled mind to run rampant. I understand that admitting this to the general public is begging to be labeled “creepy,” but at this point in my life, I’m well used to the epithet. This was how I was known for a better part of my freshman year— to my roommate, to my sectionmates, and especially to my first semester RA, who was simultaneously confused and fascinated by my friend Rachel’s and my constant little adventures sparked by a curiosity that everyone else saw as just plain creepy. People Search, naturally, became our weapon of choice. It accompanied us at nearly every meal, because when you talked about that one kid in your Encounters class, it was better if you could provide a picture so the rest of the table knew exactly whom you were talking about. Given this precedent set up by my first year at Whitman, it seemed only natural that my second year would start with some good old-fashioned creepin’. I had been at Whitman only three days, and I was already pok-
ing around in places into which I hadn’t been invited. The Interest House Community is prime ground for snooping because not one person, or one family, but round after round of different students have lived in these houses and left behind their own little pieces of their stories. So as Rachel was unpacking the last of her boxes in order to fill the massive void of her room in the attic of the Asian Studies House, I was busy snooping. Because it’s an attic, the room is littered with tiny, dark, musty closets scattered along the edges that lead into the shadowy oblivion of the house’s roof. This is where I found the Bible. The closet near the front of the room was small with a sticky doorknob that made it difficult to open, and even after I did, I couldn’t see far into the rafters of the closet. So I grabbed a flashlight and followed the trail of illuminated dust through the black. I found a telephone neatly stashed in a plastic grocery bag tied in bunny ears at the top, a pile of canvas sheets a little farther back, and to the right, behind the door frame, in the darkest little out-ofreach corner of the closet, a brown leather Bible perched on a rafter. It was rather small and worn, and on the front, etched in gold letters, was a name: Nick Brandenburg. Inside there was a date— 2006—and hand-scribbled notes attesting to the good nature and valuable friendship of its owner. It ached to be found. I knew someone was missing it. So I went home and I People Searched the name. He wasn’t a student long-graduated from the college as we had thought because of
the date on the Bible, but a youth minister at the college. He was part of the Whitman Christian Fellowship and lived in Walla Walla. I looked up his address in the online Yellow Pages, and found a street name but no house number. This was enough, however, for me and my friend Amalia, who was similarly intrigued by the origin of the Bible, to go on a hunt. The following morning we rode our bikes to the street I had found and ended up in a slightly seedy neighborhood in the more industrial region of Walla Walla. We rode up and down the street in search of clues: a Whitman bumper sticker, a name on a mailbox. When we found none we turned to the neighbors for help. The first was a small Hispanic woman, diligently watering her lawn. We asked if she’d heard of the family we were searching for, but her eyes were filled with incomprehension and she called in Spanish for her young grandson to speak in her place. “Never mind,” we told him. We’d try someone else. The next was a short, stout man in a greasy tank top, head wreathed in a mangy mane. He was in the middle of a moving sale and stood at the curb in front of a proud exhibit of nearly every item he owned. He hadn’t heard of the people we were
searching for, but he had a deal for us: everything on his lawn for just five dollars. We politely declined as we had no appropriate means of transportation for the items themselves, but before we left he stopped us, and asked with great earnest, “Are you prayers?” Confused by his phrasing we asked for clarification, and he responded, “You know, can you pray for me? I’m moving, and I just need a blessing.” It was then that I realized what we must have looked like: two college-aged young adults roaming neighborhoods on bikes. He thought we were there to deliver the “good word.” Remembering the Bible hidden safely in my bag, I realized he wasn’t far off. He took our hands and asked our names. His was Adam, and I knew I was breaking every rule my mother had taught me about strangers when I was young. He closed his eyes and said, “Go!” Amalia crafted a short prayer for our new friend, and when she had finished, he looked just about as hap-
py as if we had taken his earlier deal but upped the offer tenfold. Grateful, and eager to reciprocate, he grabbed us each by the shoulder and tapped us twice, rather forcefully, on our helmets in a blessing. After saying our goodbyes, we rode back to school, leaving Adam and his menagerie in proud display behind us, the Bible still heavy in my bag. Back home in my room, I found a link on a web page I had failed to click on that supplied the elusive house number. We’d been on the right street the whole time, but we had been on the wrong side of the highway, and in the wrong neighborhood. But later that week, fortune delivered us our opportunity in the form of an email: the Whitman Christian Fellowship would be meeting in the basement of Reid that night, and Nick would be there. When we arrived, they were in the midst of song, so we waited for the meeting to end, found Nick in the crowd and, as I handed him the Bible, witnessed countless different emotions flash across his face in a matter of seconds as he laid sight upon a Bible he had been searching for for two years. The dinner we enjoyed with Nick later that week offered closure to part of our story: We now knew to whom the Bible belonged. It was the first Bible he had ever owned, and he had lost it two years ago at an event in the amphitheater. He had been searching for it— on campus, in thrift stores—ever since. But even after piecing together our half of the story with Nick’s, how the Bible ended up hidden in the back of that closet in the Asian Studies House in the first place remains a mystery. But it is a mystery which, I have no doubt, a little more creepin’ and a little more snoopin’ would be able to uncover. C TheCircuit | 19
COMMUNITY VOICES interviews by Pam london photos by Halley McCormick
Whitman students have written volumes about the relationship between themselves and the rest of Walla Walla and have debated the existence and shape of the Whitman bubble for decades. We decided to interview Walla Walla residents to hear their take on the question:
is the state of the relationship between
Walla Walla Walla Walla community members and
Whitman students? students While most of the answers we got were positive, we know that there are plenty of people—on campus and off—who feel the relationship could be better. So we asked three alumni living in town to share their advice for Whitman students looking to learn more and get involved in Walla Walla. Read on to learn about political and environmental activism, volunteering in a way that’s actually meaningful and how to stay better informed. And if you’re just curious to hear what Walla Walla residents think about students, we’ve got that, too. 20 | TheCircuit
Activism Keeps Transit Running
stops coal plants
by Norm Osterman, community activist, Class of ‘65
hitman students should consider community involvement because it’s training for life outside the bubble, and because Walla Walla needs your youth, smarts and enthusiasm. Many Whitman students over the years have been active in a range of community activities, from tutoring English as a Second Language students to participating in major community campaigns. Wellplanned and executed community activism gets results. Whitman students over the years have played pivotal roles in community campaigns and in political campaigns. My first “for instance” is the campaign to save Valley Transit. The bus system faced a fifty percent cut in service if no action was taken. A campaign for Valley Transit was set up to pass a threetenths of a cent sales tax increase to keep the service level undiminished. The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin said it was a nice thought but they believed the chances of the measure passing was nil. The measure passed by seventy-six percent, the highest total in memory. The Campaign for Valley Transit was a textbook example of how to run a campaign. There was
I think it’s been positive. I mean, I run a business here and I know that George Bridges goes to Rotary [Club] and actively participates in the community, so I think it’s positive.
plenty of money, there were plenty of volunteers and supporters, and in addition to “the usual suspects” there were people ranging from the downright poor to leading members of the business community. The Pioneer jump-started Whittie interest with a number of front page stories (see “Proposed Walla Walla Valley Transit Cuts Meet Resistance,” The Pioneer, Sept. 17, 2009). The reporter for The Pioneer rode her bike miles in the dark to the transit board meetings. Whitman students made a real difference in the outcome by canvassing and phone banking. By way of a specific example, we called our whole contact universe, greatly helped by bilingual Whitman students calling every registered Latino voter. Another proves-the-point example is the campaign to stop a consortium from building a huge, $2 billion coal-fired IGCC (look it up) plant on Port of Walla Walla land 30 miles upwind of Walla Walla. Hello, cancer and asthma! The plan was to sequester the carbon dioxide produced by pumping millions of tons of it down thousands of feet into the basalt where they hoped it would turn into calcium car-
bonate, a risky business. The last time I checked, the sequestration test with the meaningless amount of 1,000 tons is still on hold five years after being proposed. A number of Whitman professors, including Bob Carson and Kevin Pogue, 50 core group community members and, once again, Whitman students, formed the Coal Concerns group. Cutting to the chase, after about a year and a half of concerted effort amounting to thousands of collective hours of work by community members, Whitman students and professors from Whitman and Walla Walla University, the coal plant plan died on the vine and, happily enough, is still dead at present. Whitman students created a 52-page book of color photographs taken at many colleges and universities around the state. The photos were of students, staff and professors—including President George Bridges—holding signs with messages like “Clean coal is a myth” and “There’s a reason why Santa’s punishment is coal.” This book was sent to many government officials. We know you Whitman students are a busy lot, but try to leave the bubble from time to time.
I just have socially been around them and it’s always been pleasant. I’ve never had any interactions with them but it looks like you guys have a great bunch of students.
Christina JOHNASON TheCircuit | 21
GET ON YOUR
by Alasdair Stewart Union-Bulletin City Editor, Class of ‘94
When I worked at Oddfellows, you guys would come in and volunteer with the residents; you were excellent. I couldn’t tell if they were Walla Walla University or here or community college. I know when I worked there they were excellent and it meant a lot to those people to have them come visit.
f you’re a newspaper guy like me and somebody asks, “How do I keep up with what’s going on in Walla Walla?” the three-word answer is easy: “Read the newspaper.” The paper’s a great place to start, but as much as we cover in the Union-Bulletin, I personally would never rely on the paper for the whole picture. When I was a student, I read the paper off and on, and I I don’t think Whitman students are very friendly. They never also spent a lot of time walking around town at pretsay hello, they just walk past me. ‘Cause everyone else in town ty much all hours of the day. And I talked to people. [says hello]. You want to know what’s happening in the Valley? Try hitting a different convenience store, espresso stand, lunch counter, grocery store or gas station each week and take some time to shoot the breeze with the people behind the counter and in line. And try doing all this on foot, rain or shine. I think that [we] as community memIn this town, which is a throwback in many ways to prebers play a big role in how Whitman vious eras, you really can’t miss by being sociable and kids get along. We have hundreds of walking around a lot. I have a high tolerance for walking, you in here almost daily because we though, and you might not share that affliction. So here’s a supply you guys with food. cheat sheet for the homebodies: Get access to the Union-Bulletin. You can get a You guys come here and buy a lot of print or online subscription or read it at the library. You drinks, but out of all the colleges I’ve can also read a few stories online each month withseen, as far as your party scene, you out a subscription, or pick up a free copy in the Reid guys keep it down low. It’s not too loud Campus Center basement. Read the Tri-City Herand you guys bring your IDs, which is ald, online or in print. They carry a lot of U-B stoawesome. I feel like it’s a positive; we ries and have good original reporting about our region. help each other. Keep an eye on alternative information sources, such as the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Burger, Democracy Burger and Walla Walla News and Views on Facebook. I urge you to take what you read in these places with at least one grain of salt. They would say the same about the U-B. If you want to really hook into what’s up in the Valley, I’ve seen Whitman students out doyou’ll need to invest more than a couple hours of reading a ing service projects and [who] are week and some walkabout time. At the last paper I worked actively involved in that area. Other at, in southern New Hampshire, I needed to sell some of the than that, there are a lot of college rookie reporters on the value of going to municipal meetstudents around, so they’re not really ings in the rinky-dink towns in our coverage area. But the distinguished between other college sell was actually pretty easy: one or two meetings and they students. saw the light. You just can’t substitute anything for seeing how the local gears of government turn to gain insight into the community—not to mention finding out what’s going to happen in town before most everybody else. Try hitting a meeting of the county commission, city council, school board or the Port of Walla Walla. Homebodies can tune in to some of the action online, but being there in person gives you the chance to ask questions campus—but for the engaged member, the connections could last and chat with the few other members of the citizenry who show up. a lifetime. I see a parallel in how I’ve fit into the places I’ve lived. When I was a fraternity pledge, our pledge manual, matriculated I still care about what’s happening in a community that I’ve by the national organization, intoned that membership wasn’t mere- been linked in to, and I think that’s been a great asset in my work life, ly a four-year interlude. I don’t know about that—my brothers in- if not in the personal sphere. clude plenty of people I haven’t spoken to since we parted ways on An added plus here in Walla Walla: It’s never a long walk.
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Meaningful Volunteering Starts With Thought
by Anne-Marie Schwerin, YWCA executive director, class of ‘85
o you want to get involved in community life in Walla Walla outside of Whitman. Where do you start? Begin by knowing that there are hundreds of opportunities with local nonprofit organizations. Every social service, arts and educational organization in Walla Walla is doing a lot of work with not nearly enough resources. Many of them could use the energy and hands-on help of Whitman students. Finding a good place to follow your passion and share your talents is like looking for a job. You need to do some research about the place and package your skills and talents in ways that make it easy for folks to include you. One of the scariest things for me as a nonprofit director is volunteers, really. We don’t have a regular volunteer program here at the YWCA, and when people come with offers of volunteering (“Just find something for me to do”), it is sometimes overwhelming. Agency staff members often have to drop everything to find something, and usually what is found is not meaningful for the volunteer. So come with a list of your talents and skills and don’t be afraid to be creative. I know that at our agency and at others, we really want to engage college students. We just don’t always know how. Many volunteer opportunities are lost because, like the YWCA, many local organizations do not have systems in place for integrating volunteers into their work. While an orderly volunteer program would be a win-win for everyone, taking the time to figure it out or just knowing where to start is a big challenge. A great volunteer opportunity for several students would be to identify those organizations in Walla Walla without a volunteer program and help them develop such programs. It would be an excellent opportunity to learn a lot about an organization and create something for the long term.
Still, there are plenty of organizations in town which do have established volunteer programs. If you have a particular interest or activity you would like to pursue and are looking for a place to share it, check with Whitman’s Student Engagement Center. The staff there has a good list of Walla Walla organizations and descriptions of what they do. Another place to check is with United Way, a community organization that raises funds for many nonprofits. When you start checking with organizations, make an appointment to come in and talk to someone. Expect to have a conversation. Be clear about your interests, and don’t be shy when talking about your skills and talents. Talk about your experience with technology. Many nonprofits have lots of data entry requirements and never enough staff to do it. Many of us need help with social media work. Nonprofits are governed by boards, and boards always have committees for everything from fundraising and finance to maintenance and programming. Most of us would love to have student help on committees but fail to think of students as committee members, so be proactive and ask! Committee service is a good way to learn about an organization and its projects and also connect with community members. Another thing to ask about is a board position. Nonprofits are always looking for board members, especially young board members. Again, expect to have a conversation. Approaching volunteering this way is really like interviewing for a job. For those organizations without a volunteer process or program, it is like interviewing for a job when there are no readily discernible openings. While this approach takes more time than consulting a list of ready-made projects, the results are often more satisfying, both for you as a volunteer and for the organization you’re volunteering for. C
I was really impressed when I saw that there was a community garden at Whitman. And I thought, “That’s a really good sign.” And then we have friends who are graduates and they are down here as much as they [can be] and they always speak fondly of the relationship [between students and community members].
I think people generally have a positive relationship with Whitman. They like the students, they feel the presence of the college is a benefit to the city, you know besides just the economy and the presence of the jobs and that sort of thing. It brings culture, it makes Walla Walla unique. It seems well run, it’s not scandalous. It brings speakers like [David] Brooks and [Ray] Suarez [to Walla Walla] and I think that’s a benefit and people see that.
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A look into the life of
Text by Serena Runyan Photos by Tanner Bowersox
On any given morning in Prentiss Dining Hall, you can expect to hear a very familiar voice.â€œOrder number four!â€? rings out over the smell of eggs and clinking of dishes. Ronda, famous maker of omelets, has become an iconic figure of the Whitman College community.
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riginally from a small rural Texas town called Van, Rhonda went to school with the same peers throughout her entire education. On reflection of her childhood and school days, she fondly remembered the year her high school went to State for football, an unprecedented feat and point of pride. Still, she said life in Van wasn’t always exciting. “It is in the Bible Belt, so it means
it’s dry. No alcohol, nothing. If you didn’t hunt, fish or kill something, you were awful bored,” she explained. Rhonda’s early years working in the food service paved her way to Whitman’s dining halls. “I’ve been in all kinds of food:
burger joints, donuts, cafeterias, steak houses, breakfast houses. I’ve worked in food since I was young. My first job I started at a burger joint when I was 12 years old. That was before the children’s [labor] laws,” she said. She moved her way through 13 other states before coming to Washington to work at Whitman. Pushed by the needs of her in-laws, Rhonda and her husband made their way from western Washington to Walla Walla, and they haven’t left since. When she got to Whitman, a breakfast cook job was available, and so she became the famed Prentiss Dining Hall omelet maker. So it’s a good thing that, when asked her favorite meal, Rhonda responded, “I like breakfast ... I really do. I like it because I’m in con-
trol; I don’t like to share my job”. Now her third season at Whitman, Prentiss is only a small chapter in Rhonda’s life of cooking. “I traveled because of food, and if it weren’t for food, I wouldn’t have gotten to see the state of New York, or Florida or Colorado, because Washington was my 14th state,” she said. “My intentions were to go to Europe ... but I met my husband instead, and there you go, it blew my Europe plans.” It’s easy to see why students are fond of Rhonda’s morning greetings when you listen to her talk about the people who eat her food. “I enjoy the kids. Or, well, the young adults. They’re very kind. They’re very patient. We feed off of each other, I would say. I know probably 60 percent of the kids ... And if I don’t know their name, I know what they eat.” Though she’s spent time in countless other places, Rhonda
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spoke fondly of Walla Walla. Her favorite part of the area is the Blue Mountains: “You know once you’re up there on the top you get to see the patchwork of the wheat fields.” In addition to the mountains, she spoke highly of the wildlife that resides in the area. “This morning when I got up I saw turkeys across the road, about 30 of them,” she said. Apart from the outdoor benefits of the area, Rhonda enjoys going to see theater productions. “If I do anything here, I like to go to the theater,” she explained. Her dogs are also a big part of her life. “If the dog can’t go, I can’t go.” We ended our conversation with a request for advice from her experiences thus far. Immediately Rhonda responded, “Stay in school,” with a laugh. Despite multiple opportunities to attend culinary school, she hasn’t found it worth her time yet in this segment of her life. Upon reflection, she added, “To be honest, in retrospect, looking back on it, I should’ve gone to culinary school ... I should’ve done it.” Especially for the current generation, she said, “If you don’t have some form of degree ... you’re on the unemployment line.” Competition, she noted, is fierce nowadays. The more educated you are, she reasoned, the greater the opportunity. “It’s better off for you in the long run.” C
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A refrigerator can tell you a lot about someone. It can tell you about a person’s income, dietary restrictions, hobbies or even their alcohol tolerance. In the pages that follow, you will see a sampling of refrigerators—the owners of which shall remain anynymous—across Whitman College campus.
In capturing these images, we came to understand that refrigerators are intensely personal representations of people’s lifestyles, representations that may generate pride or shame. We invite you to learn what you can about Whitman and Walla Walla from the fridge’s humble, everyday perspective.
photos by Catie bergman text by joey gottlieb
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Pio For The Holidays
1,2: section fridge, Residence hall, section fridge 3: personal Fridge, Jewett 2-West 4,5: neurobiology lab, Hall of Science 6: fraternity house 7: off-campus house 8: Olin faculty lounge 9: fraternity house 10: off-campus house
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Pio For The Holidays
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1. An Appalachian colloquialism that was used in early twentieth century America as a placeholder name to refer to things whose names were forgotten or unknown. 2. An informal musical session at which folk singers and instrumentalists perform for their own enjoyment. text and photos by Adam Brayton
t was just me with my ukulele in the passenger seat as I drove the dark twenty miles to Waitsburg on a cloudy Friday night. “There’s a jam out in Waitsburg about once a month,” Craig would always say in passing during his hootenannies. “They play the same kind of stuff we do: you know, folk, gospel, hillbilly stuff. And a lot of them are really dang good.” After years of hearing about it, I finally decided to go and check it out for myself. After bumbling around the main street of Waitsburg with my ukulele in hand, I finally found the place: Coppei’s Coffee Co. The lights were on, the coffee was brewing and the bluegrass was rolling in from the back room. I began my journey as a bluegrass enthusiast a couple of years ago when my Encounters professor, the now-retired Craig Gunsul, invited our class over to his place at the end of the year for a thing he called a hootenanny. He told us, if we were interested, to come by and bring our instruments for this hooten-
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anny. I had been learning ukulele all year, and decided to bite the bullet and swing by. When I did, I found professors and students hanging out in Craig’s backyard, playing music and enjoying the May sunshine. Turns out that this hootenanny business was something he’d been putting on at his place for years, inviting students, professors, community members—whomever was free for an hour and a half on a Sunday afternoon and wanted to hang out and play some music. The group of whomever shows up just goes around in a circle and picks a song out of Craig’s compendium of “Good Old Songs.” You don’t need to know much to go to one of these things: just how to play three or four chords and how to read lyrics off a page. “If we’re not good, we just sing and play louder,” Gunsul tells newcomers. “But usually, it’s the students that are the more musically talented folks here.” Over the past couple of years, I had come to enjoy and look forward to those Sunday hootenannies, but I al-
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ways wondered about the jam sessions Craig would talk about here and there. “Those guys at Jacobi’s, they can really play ... a lot of them even practice for it!” “I had a heck of a time out at the Waitsburg jam. That was something else.” After a certain point, it wasn’t enough just hearing about it. I had to go check it out for myself. When I arrived at Coppei’s that Friday night, the music sounded good but I had no idea what this jam would be like. When I peeked into the back room, I saw Craig, Ron and a whole bunch of junior high/high school-aged kids jamming out in the back room. And these kids were good. Turns out the kids are all part of the Waitsburg Bluegrass Club, directed by Kate Hockensmith. She’s been teaching kids to play bluegrass songs ever since her own children were about ten years old. Now her kids are off to college, but she’s gained more pupils since then. “This is like their playtime,” said Hockensmith. “They look forward to this night, where they get to play and have fun and perform in the coffee shop.” They seemed inspired by “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, particularly when they sang a beautiful rendition of Alison Krauss’ “I’ll Fly Away” from the movie’s soundtrack. The generational gap was stark between the old folks and the young guys, but everyone was having fun playing some good music. Two weeks later, I got an email from Kate Hockensmith about the jam coming up that Friday at Jacobi’s. When I dropped by this time, I was met by a big group of people in a circle playing their music. But this time, instead of being one of the older folks in the circle, I was by far the youngest by at least a couple of decades. Still, I found myself in a community of people who knew everyone by their first name. Many years ago this bluegrass jam took place at the Patisserie, but the group eventually outgrew the venue. After years of moving, the group finally found a home in Jacobi’s Restaurant on Second Ave. The majority of people at Jacobi’s were playing guitar and mandolin, and at first I felt slightly out of place with my uke. After a closer look around, I saw the number of multi-instrumentalists in the room as well as some oddball instruments that I’d never seen before. Not only
are these people wicked instrumentalists, but some have been involved in this kind of music for quite a while. Jimmye and Glenn, I was told, were members of the Rye Grass String Band and have been playing in Walla Walla since the ‘70s. As a group, the folks at the jam session have mastered hundreds of three-chord country songs, and the Rye Grass presence only adds to the unique musical vocabulary. A lot of the songs requested around the circle were songs Jimmye wrote himself. After this whirlwind tour of Walla Walla’s bluegrass culture, I’m hooked. I know exactly where I’m going to be on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons from now on: planted in a coffeehouse, or a restaurant, or in Craig’s living room playing my heart out on my ukulele. That is, until that last song rolls around. At the end of that song, the singer will stick his or her foot out to let everyone else know to wrap it up. C If you would like to participate in one of these bluegrass jam sessions, there are many ways to get involved. On the first Friday of the month, there is a jam session at Jacobi’s at 7 p.m.; on the second Friday, there’s one in Dayton at the Skye Book & Brew at 6:30 p.m.; on the third Sunday, there’s one at Coppei’s Coffee Co. at 6 p.m. Craig Gunsul holds his hootenannies about every other Sunday at 2 p.m. at his home near campus. If you would like to get on his mailing list, write him an email at email@example.com.
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Left: Bailey Lodge, the central building for Summer Fishtrap. Above: Registration on opening day.
Writing in the Wallowas: A Week with Fishtrap by Ryann SAvino
riving along Wallowa Lake Highway, I wondered silently what the coming week would hold. To my right shone the choppy early morning surface of Wallowa Lake, its deep blue waters a sharp contrast to the rich green moraines along its shoreline. To my left sat Ben Hayes ‘11, Whitman alum and current programs coordinator for Fishtrap, a nonprofit literary organization located in the small town of Enterprise, Oregon. Together we were on our way out to Wallowa Lake Camp, the location for Fishtrap’s annual summer writing workshop, and the reason I came to Wallowa County. Tucked up in the northeastern corner of Oregon, Wallowa County is a land lover’s dream. With sharp snow-covered mountain peaks, clear glacial lakes, a deep curving river canyon and
one of the last intact prairies in the West, the land in the county is breathtaking, respected and truly cherished by its inhabitants. My journey into the county began in the summer of 2011, when I participated in Whitman in the Wallowas, a Whitman environmental studies program developed in partnership with Wallowa Resources, one of the many nonprofits in the town of Enterprise. Although the diversity of the physical landscape struck me with a sense of wonder, what truly impacted me within this county was the sense of community that not only seemed to thrive among this rural area’s inhabitants, but that reached out to include visitors like myself. This warmth and welcome were what brought me back one year later. That, and the writing. A literary nonprofit organization is not a common find, especial-
ly within a traditional rural ranching community. As Professor Don Snow—my major advisor and supporter of Fishtrap—told me when I attempted to finalize my summer plans last spring, “You simply don’t find organizations like Fishtrap anywhere else. They are unique in the writing world, and an opportunity to connect with them is something not to be passed by.” Indeed, Fishtrap is undoubtedly unique. Founded in 1988 by Rich Wandschneider, its mission statement from the beginning has been “to promote clear thinking and good writing in and about the West.” Over the years, this vision has materialized in numerous annual programs and events such as Summer Fishtrap, Winter Fishtrap, the Imnaha Writers’ Retreat, The Eastern Oregon Writers in Residence Program and the Big Read, to name just a few. Central to Fishtrap’s mission and conception was creating the organization’s roots in the Wallowa Valley. For if writers were to gather and explore writing and thinking about the West, they needed to be in a truly western landscape. They needed the Wallowas. From that first summer gathering in 1988, which featured faculty such as Ursula K. Le Guin, James Welch, Craig Lesley and Terry Tempest Williams, Fishtrap has grown and created a space for writers and thinkers truly passionate about the West and its literature to come together at the foot of Wallowa Lake for one week every summer. TheCircuit | 35
Listening to the gentle animated words of Luis Alberto Urrea, author of “The Hummingbird’s Daughter,” I shut my eyes. Leaning my head back to rest gently against my seat outside of the wooden Bailey Lodge, I couldn’t help but smile as my forehead and cheeks were warmed by the early rays of sun. This morning marked the conclusion of the week of Summer Fishtrap, a gathering themed “Catch and Release: What we hold on to, what we let go, and the one that got away,” and it was a week I already was entirely aware would hold fast within me for many years to come. This week in July had marked the 25th anniversary of Summer Fishtrap, and throughout the whole gathering, an earnest feeling of celebration permeated through the entire camp. Whether I was checking in early risers for breakfast, reading behind the registration desk or scribbling away in my notebook during the songwriting workshop I participated in, the spirit of writing wrapped around me. As the summer intern, I myself did not even get to write all that much, but watching others become so excited about their work, and the creativity their workshop leaders funneled through them, was inspiring. Hearing the youth participants’ sure and smooth words come toward me from the forest’s edge, the cadence of their poetry ruffling the rhythms of my thoughts, I couldn’t help but understand how undeniably special this place was. Before venturing to Fishtrap I thought writing workshops were a place aspiring writers went to seek out publishing opportunities, to try and jam their foot into any door slightly cracked open and to hungrily learn from the faculty who spoke and shared in the process with them. Fishtrap changed all of that for me. The hunger was undoubtedly present out at the lake, but the unattractive quality of competition and personal goals being found were entirely absent from my eyes that week. Instead, I learned quickly that people come to Fishtrap for the love of writing. Although I am sure 36 | TheCircuit
many participants seek to publish their work, their focus was elsewhere for this week. For Fishtrappers, the goal was to connect, think, learn and allow for the slow easy lake time to ignite their wrists into reaching for their pens. A sense of community and warmth was palpable out at that lake. Faculty and participants intermingled easily, and if there was any essence of hierarchy at the camp, I was completely unaware. Instead, I watched as the sons and daughters of faculty members ran around playing basketball with the youth students. I watched as friendships were formed around the dinner table. I watched as David James Duncan, author of “The River Why” and countless other works, was so inspired by the youth open mic night that he completely rewrote his keynote address to share his past and the art
Top: The view of Wallowa Lake. Bottom: A performance in honor of Fishtrap’s 25th anniversary.
of grief within the writing process. The act of writing is personal, an act of storytelling and an act of courage. These black marks upon paper can hold immense power, and I am deeply grateful to Fishtrap for celebrating this power and vulnerability. My advisor was quite right: There really is no other place quite like Fishtrap, and one really shouldn’t shy away from the opportunity to take part in the magic their organization fosters. C If interested in learning more about Fishtrap and the numerous programs and events they offer, please head to their website: www.fishtrap.org.
Holiday Movie preview
by Nathan Fisher
This season promises passion, blood and adventure.
he holidays are fast approaching—oh yeah, finals too—so here’s a quick peek at some movies we can look forward to seeing during the Thanksgiving and winter breaks. Actually, two big blockbusters come out before we exit Walla Walla: Daniel Craig stars in the latest 007 installment, “Skyfall” (Nov. 9), which will undoubtedly be packed with cool stunts and lots of action; and the final “Twilight” installment, “Breaking Dawn: Part 2” (Nov. 16) will, thank god, put closure to the vampire/werewolf debacle. Now, here are the movies I am looking forward to seeing during the holidays: A good musical is essential for the holidays, and “Les Misérables” (Dec. 25) looks to be a worthy find. Be warned, though: “Les Misérables” is not a happy, upbeat musical like last year’s “The Muppets,” but is set in 19th-century France, where Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is imprisoned. Upon his release, Valjean breaks his parole and is pursued by Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). In his attempt to dodge Javert, Valjean agrees to care for Fantine’s (Anne Hathaway) daughter. Fantine is forced to turn to a life of prostitution to afford to live. Although this is not a sweet, feel-good movie, the cast can act, and have wonderful voices. The trailer of Hathaway singing “I Dreamed a Dream” was beautiful and showcased the epic passion in this great story and long-running Broadway musical. On a more upbeat note, I am looking forward to seeing the animated movie “Rise of the Guardians” (Nov. 21). Recently, I have been very disappointed with the quality of movies for kids of all ages. “Rise of the Guardians,” though, shows some promise with its classic good-versus-evil fight featuring the Nightmare King (Jude Law), Jack Frost (Chris Pine), Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin, always one of my favorites), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the Sandman and
the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman, shedding his jailbird role in “Les Misérables” for a lighter role). These unlikely “avengers” unite and fight for the good of the world. Moving to the blood-and-guts genre, I am very excited for Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” (Dec. 25). The movie is set just before the Civil War and follows a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx), who is promised his and his wife’s freedom if he helps bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christopher Waltz) find and kill the infamous Brittle Brothers. While trying to free Django’s wife, the duo runs across Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who runs a large plantation in the South. The movie is filled with an oddball mix of big-name actors including Samuel L. Jackson, Sacha Baron Cohen and Jonah Hill (I cannot quite imagine him with a gun, though). This being a Tarantino movie, you should expect plenty of gunfire, violence and blood— yup, a perfect movie to see after opening up presents! The movie I am most looking forward to seeing is “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (Dec. 14). I know it comes out at the end of finals week, but I am such a Tolkien fan that I won’t miss the midnight premiere. “The Hobbit” is J.R.R. Tolkien’s prequel of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, where Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is pushed into a partnership with a band of dwarves and thrust into an adventure of a lifetime across Middle-earth. Reprising the role of Frodo is Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis is back as Gollum and of course the biggest badass of all time is Ian McKellen at age 73 as Gandalf. My only beef with “The Hobbit” is splitting it into three movies—unnecessary, in my opinion, but I will not quibble with this great franchise. Wrapping up the holiday movie releases, I wanted to give a quick shout-out to Kathryn Bigelow’s new film “Zero Dark Thirty” (Dec. 19), Tom Cruise’s new shoot-em-up “Jack Reacher” (Dec. 21), Billy Crystal and Bette Midler’s new comedy “Parental Guidance” (Dec. 25), and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s “Silver Linings Playbook” (Nov. 21). Looks like we are in for a treat at the theaters for the next two months—happy holidays and happy movie-watching! C TheCircuit | 37
by Lachlan Johnson
What type of missionary are you?
1. Someone cuts you in line at the dining hall. How do you respond? a) Walk to the front of the line and explain it is your destiny to have their spot. b) Chill out. This is but one of many meals. c) Deny the existence of the line. d) Tailgate. 2. When you go out on a Friday, you always remember... a) Lucky rocketship underpants. b) Toga! Toga! Toga! c) Out? You mean ... beyond the door? d) So many condoms. Like, all the condoms. 3. Your spirit mythical animal is... a) Bigfoot with a jet-pack. b) A flying hedgehog. c) An invisible unicorn. d) The elusive jackalope. 4. When you die and leave a disgraceful amount of money to Whitman, what will they name in your honor? a) The Hall of Science. b) Walla Walla International Airport. c) The Large Hadron Collider. d) The renovated Memorial Building. Now with taller clock tower. 5. World’s ending in five minutes. What do you do during the countdown? a) WHIT. T. phone home. b) Run in circles. c) Burn as many buildings as possible. d) Party like it’s 2012.
COMIC by Asa Mease
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Mostly A’s CHEMOPHYSIOLOGIST You know your faith must be the right one
because it sounds official and science-y. Common misunderstandings of your religion lead people to accuse you of worshipping Martians, no matter how many times you explain they are actually spiritually enlightened beings from the planet of Beeblebroxus.
Mostly B’s HURRAY TAMPA The endless cycles of death and rebirth bore you,
and you long to escape into a nirvana of endless summer. You spend weeks in Walla Walla Airport, wearing your orange bathrobe and flip-flops and trying to scam a ride to Florida. By pursuing this laid-back enlightenment you have at once become truly unpretentious and tolerant, and completely eliminated any possibility of being talked to by prospies.
Mostly C’s BORN-AGAIN ATHEIST You have found the One Truth, and now you’re going to share it with the rest of the student body whether they want to hear it or not. While sitting in church at an ungodly hour last Sunday, you heard a voice directly from your own conscience, and it revealed the doctrine of sleeping in late and waking up only in time for brunch. The purpose of your life will be to bring these revelations to the rest of campus and elect fellow converts to ASWC to outlaw alarms and pass legislation creating a brunch-in-bed delivery service.
Mostly D’s on top It can be hard being a believer. People call you
conservative, domineering, unoriginal and patriarchal. These are all baseless lies, part of the ongoing campaign of persecution against your people. True, some of the inquisitions held to find heretics have violated Whitman’s privacy regulations and several federal laws, but the church must be kept pure! You take solace in knowing that most students at Whitman will at least experiment with your religion at some point in their college career.
HOROSCOPES by Elena Aragon
Aries You will encounter a ferocious squirrel this week that will stop at nothing to get a bite of your Graze turkey sandwich. TAURUS Your section-mate will share their taco shells with queso sauce with you. This will be the highlight moment of your week. Gemini Your excitement about the return of the 2012 Semester in the West crew will be dampened when you realize your best friend was adopted by a pack of coyotes in New Mexico. Cancer You will delete your Twitter account this week as you begin your search for jobs after Whitman, saying goodbye to your only thorough collection of fun memories from college. Leo Your week will become frustrating as you are hit on the head by a leaf every single time you cross Ankeny Field. Virgo You will be the unfortunate victim of an 8 a.m. Sunday Prentiss fire drill, as you are the only boy present in the courtyard while everyone is filing out. Libra Your plans to study in the quiet room this week will be foiled, as you find yourself waking up three hours later on one of those comfy LoveSacs. SCORPIO You will question the sanity of your old section-mates when they knock on the door of your off-campus house asking for candy two months after Halloween. Capricorn Your encounter with a cool peacock at the aviary will inspire you to dye part of your hair blue. Aquarius After months of searching, you will encounter a Whittie significant other on an anonymous online forum.
TAURUS SAGITTARIUS April 20 - May 20 November 22 - December 21 Fond memories of Thanksgiving will quickly turn frightening when the ghost of your turkey dinner begins haunting your dreams. Pisces You will find, to your dismay, that you do not own two of the same type of socks, forcing you to wear mismatched socks forever.
Front and back cover: Photo by Charlie Li Pg. 2 Photo of Rachel Alexander by Allie Felt Pg. 3 Photo of cards by Becca Mellema, photo of prison fence by Rachel Alexander, photo of swimmer by Halley McCormick, photo of fridge by Catie Bergman, photo of hootenanny by Adam Brayton Pgs. 8,10 Photos by Halley McCormick Pg. 9 Photo by cade beck Pgs. 11-12 Photos by Rachel Alexander Pgs. 13-14 Photos of jewelry by Marie von Hafften Pg. 16 Photo of Cheyenne Schoen by Halley McCormick Pgs. 18-19 Illustrations by Erika Zinser Pgs. 20-24 Photos by Halley McCormick Pgs. 35-36 Photos contributed by Janis Carper Pg. 37 Illustration by Ruth Hwang Pg. 39 Zodiac graphics by Katie Berfield
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