Friday, September 07, 2007

An eye for observation

During college, I interned for a summer in Minneapolis. It was by far not my first experience away from home, but it was the first that required me to procure my own residence outside the state of Illinois. I'd never been there before and even though it was summertime, Minneapolis loomed ahead like a snowy forest of tall, blond people flinging lutefisk. On top of that, I was raised in the church of paranoia so I couldn't just sublet an apartment with some stranger or show up and find something when I arrived. So two months before I was supposed to be there, I signed up for the summer in St. Paul at the College of St. Catherine. In a dormitory.

The campus was a ghost town. I had a two-person room all to myself, and there were supposedly seven other people living on the floor. I had my own sink, but the bathroom, kitchen and tv room were communal. However, for the first few days I hadn't run into a soul. The grounds were lush and flowery, and I could hear the bells from the chapel every day. It was a nice place, but lonely.

If you must know anything about me, it's that I do not like to be alone for long stretches of time. An afternoon with neither human contact nor anything good to read/watch can drag on like the Paleolithic Age. Don't get me wrong, I need time to myself just like anybody, but I prefer it to be when I know someone is elsewhere in the house or on their way home. During college, despite the 39 other people on our floor, I wouldn't be able to sleep until I heard my roommate's key in the lock. Bizzare, I know. So staying at St. Kate's was freaking me out; mostly because I thought no one would be around to hear me scream.

One evening when I went to the community fridge to get a cup of yogurt, I saw some foreign salami. I hovered around the tv room waiting to see if anyone came by looking to make a sandwich to whom I could say hello. Eider (ay-ther) is a tall blonde from Spain with a gentle voice and dark eyes that crinkle when she smiles. Plus she has that soft accent I hadn't heard since my time studying abroad. She was interning for the summer at Fallon advertising agency, and would be commuting into Minneapolis every morning on a bus, just as I was. I liked her immediately.

Even though I met La Mariachi through a mutual friend and ended up staying most of the summer at her house (which was a lot closer to downtown Minneapolis), when I was at the dorm, Eider and I would walk a few blocks from St. Kate's for some of the most excellent cheeseburgers I've ever had at Highland Grill. My afterhours project was to create a scrapbook for my university organization and she came up with some great ideas--I remember thinking she had a great eye and that we would have made a fabulous team if we ever worked together. Sometimes Eider would come salsa dancing with us at First Avenue or Quest, but while we were busy trying to follow our partners' intricate turns without getting tangled up and breaking our necks, she was often hanging back and observing the beauty among the chaos.

After that summer, we both went back to school. We haven't really kept in touch save for the updates I get about her online magazine, but this week I got an e-mail about what she's been up to: She spent almost a year traveling around Southeast Asia taking pictures, and has posted one for each day of her trip, here.

Two-hundred ninety-one photos are quite a lot, but she's really captured the feeling I get when I go back to certain parts of the motherland. If you have some time, check it out.

1 comment:

The Stormin Mormon said...

That is a ton of photos.

The vegetarian peacock had me laughing.