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ISSUE 121 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/11/2008

Green spring break

By Erica Bisbey
Contributing Writer


Friday, April 11, 2008

Perhaps it is time for Oles to break from our spring break patterns. We tend to follow the same trends, prompting my questions: "How was your break? What did you do?" But then, what could I say? Thinking on it, I do want to know what my fellow global citizens do with an unstructured week of freedom. There are those southward-migrating, the homeward bound, the "crashing at someone's place" bums, the workaholics making some cash and the Ole Spring Relief heroes. But they're humble, too, so don't tell them that they make you feel bad (because you didn't touch a shovel all break) since they'll feel bad and spin into a vortex of guilt and self-sacrificing servitude.

Any way you look at it, spring break is a strange island in an ocean of schedules. Homework laps at the shores, sometimes covering most of the land called true, lazy freedom. And, of course, we can't stay on campus. We're kicked out. We wander from the Hill, hoping for free shelter with the folks, the grandfolks, other people's folks, wherever.

So I hack through the thick jungles of my days (weeks) leading up to spring break. Meanwhile, I'm storing various to-do's in the back of my mind. I feel like a gerbil storing nuts in his cheeks. These are things like going to the bank, writing a letter, trying to make home-made granola, planting basil, fixing my bike, watching "The Godfather," acknowledging my parents' existence and washing my hair. You know, all those things that aren't necessarily hot-shots on the list of priorities.

On another note, I worry about our culture. In my opinion we go too fast, squeeze too much in and push ourselves without a break.

I also have concerns about the environment, or rather I'm panic-stricken with the thought of humanity choking on chemical-bathed air, drowning under hungry oceans or hydrogen-bombing ourselves over water-shortages (pesky H atoms). And thanks to newspapers, I am now fully aware of the impact of air travel (3-to-4 percent of our carbon dioxide emissions, plus nitrogen oxides, soot and water vapor that can double the global warming effects of the CO2). I can no longer cruise the skies in guilt-free, ignorant bliss.

So I go home for break. I decide to relax not by waiting for delayed arrivals, driving 22 hours to a beach, drinking like a Caribbean fish all 10 days or even doing service work. I'm enjoying a local, grass-fed, free range, possibly 70 percent organic vacation right here in my home state.

I visited a friend in Hastings where we planted 150 plants in her parents' greenhouse. We chatted over chill music, Russian Sage roots and rich, dark soil. We biked along the Mississippi River and saw four bald eagles. We had a bonfire behind her house in the sandbox. We played the ukulele in front of the flames with the neighbor's dog yelping to be let in on the fun.

We Minnesotans (and surrounding states-dwellers) have a lot to be proud of. Why, in our small allotted time for break, are we so eager to get the heck out of here? Can't we unwind in the charming Midwest? Out-of-staters, too, have an exquisite opportunity to get to know their locally-grown friends by visiting their childhood homes.

You really become close with a friend when you see that part of them, and they have an excruciatingly fun time showing you.

So maybe next break, instead of searching for flight deals online, you might try inviting yourself to someone's home. Green travel is the new buzz word among travel agencies. Having your friends bring you home like an adorable stray puppy they found, however, is cheap, which is why we don't see ads for it.


Erica Bisbey '10 is from Rochester, Minn. She majors in Asian studies and ESL education.


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