First day of school

The detective who gave an overview of the campus police department during the graduate school orientation got a big laugh when he compared campus parking permits to hunting licenses: “You can look, and you can take it if you see it, but…”

Orientation was fantastic. I had a great time meeting my fellow students and my teachers, got into a great discussion of graphic novels with two of the guys, and was blown away by how nice everyone was. I really think I’m going to love it here. And to top it off, the professor I was really blown away with when I visited here is going to be my adviser. I just about danced for joy when I heard that.

One of my new classmates and her husband gave me a ride to the orientation picnic, and we stopped at a bar for some of the local brew, which is delicious. And I don’t even like beer! This was tasty, though, a wheat beer, almost like rich, mildly alcoholic orange juice. Yum.

The bike path west of town is almost unbearably beautiful. To one side, you have the tree-lined Poudre River, where college students and young families swing on ropes hung from tree branches and crash into the water below with howls of joy. To the other side, wide fields of tall, sun-bleached grasses and a narrow trail where people amble by on horseback. And in front, the mountains, blue-brown and sere at some times of day, at others a wide relief of cobalt blue backed by paler and paler swaths of color as the Rockies fade into the distance. At some sunsets, little fingers of clouds echo from the mountains like ripples from the shore of a pond, turning the sky to a vast ocean.

I noticed something the other day: my whole life, my default expression has been either worry or sadness, even when I was a little kid. But ever since I got here, any time I’m aware of my expression, I’ve been smiling.

My first class isn’t until 7:00 tonight, so mostly the first day has involved running errands and finding things, but there’s a few things I’m noticing, now that students are here…

1. There is a reason the bike laws are enforced so strictly here: the town’s population has just increased by 25%, and all of us ride bikes. It creates an oddly graceful flocking effect when three or more bikers glide into formation in the bike lanes, like geese, but can be very frustrating for drivers and pedestrians when bikers attempt the narrower sidewalks or run red lights.

2. Corollary to #1: the oceans of bike racks on campus, which seemed very generous last week, are now crammed to the gills. Parking a bike on campus is about as tricky as finding a parking spot in Manhattan.

3. I do not have straight blonde hair.

4. I am not Christian. I’ve had to explain this twice in 36 hours, gently but firmly, to two very earnest undergrads who were inviting people to prayer meetings. That, and the three poster-wielding ‘end is nigh’ers in the courtyard have made it clear I’m not in Kansas anymore. Or not in New England, anyway. To their credit, the two students were respectful once I did explain myself, and everyone just avoided/ignored the poster-boys in the courtyard.

Tomorrow I have classes from 9 AM to 7 PM; it’s going to be a little nuts, but I can’t wait. All these weeks of gearing up, getting ready, and now we start the toboggan ride. It’s going to be awesome.

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