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The road less travelled

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Although being completely flexible in my travel plans and adding more to my itinerary as the minutes pass, I had no doubt I wanted to do the Camino de Santiago- the medieval pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostella, where St James is believed to be buried.

In the end it all started insanely- it was a Friday afternoon when I learnt that my boss doesn’t need me for the next week. In two hours I managed to find an internet club (I had no phone, no camera or laptop!), call a couchsurfer in Leon who promised to give me his bike so that I could do the camino, get to the house of my current couchsurfer, get just a little bit of luggage and then leave for Leon.

966218_10201192897295529_1302176923_oCamino de Santiago is a great metaphor for Life, itself. You walk it alone, yet the people around you are your most valuable resource- people always help each other out, recharge each other’s energy and courage. You are more mindful, more present, more thankful. Despite I had no raincoat, no mountain equipment, no previous experience in mountain biking, no idea I had to cross mountains, no expectation it could snow in May, I did reach Santiago. With my own tempo and with my own lessons to learn. Going beyond my own stereotypes for myself and how far I could get.

♥Maggie Nazer is a social entrepreneur, activist, blogger and current Middlebury college student.


First video interview: Intro to Tantra

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

This is a video in which I interviewed my Tantra guru Marek Griks on questions related to Tantra and his own experience with it.

Marek is a very passionate activist and he believes Tantra as a practice is not only a key to personal enlightment, insight, improved love making, but also a tool for social change. Watch the video to learn more and check out his and his partner’s website.

♥Maggie Nazer is a social entrepreneur, activist, blogger and current Middlebury college student.

Interview with me from the Rainbow Gathering in Greece

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

This is a 6-minute interview with me, my dear friend and Tantra Teacher Marek made. Watch it to hear a bit about the place of tantra and Rainbow gatherings in today’s society according to me and more about what we learned, felt, experienced, brought back with us…

♥Maggie Nazer is a social entrepreneur, activist, blogger and current Middlebury college student.


(In)secure me

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

It wasn’t before recently that I realised how attached I am to the idea for security. My best friend since 9th grade revealed he was in love with me and ceased having any contact with me whatsoever.

What hurt the most was losing ground. Feeling left alone, seeing how someone can throw you out of his life with as much as a wave. But the most intimidating thing of all is having your whole feeling of safety evaporate.

S. was my point of balance. He was my pivot giving me the freedom and confidence to run naked in the world and explore its vastness without fear. Simply knowing that he was there and he cared was enough for me to make the world my playground and feed my curiosity as long as I would like to or at least until I hurt myself and run back for help (his wanting to help me being enough to cure me).

My way of thinking about our friendship was nothing extraordinary on its own. Years of togetherness sew in me this feeling of comfort so sweet and valuable in a friendship and so poisonous If you try to make it something more. Revealing myself as deeply as possible to imagine, I set this friendship to be what most of us build for themselves in one way or another- a harbour of security. I stole my friend’s freedom to be who he is in exchange for making him this single trusted person I could go back to when everything had fallen apart- a hero of his own power.

Losing your balance makes you feel nauseous. Kids play fearlessly only when they know there is someone to watch out for them.  When they hurt themselves they cry to call for attention. If there is nobody to look for you or just be there for you, you are alone with the pain.

*

Talking with Mitko about the things I want to improve in myself yesterday, I got a glimpse of something I did not see before.

For a moment, it looked like my whole desire for self-development was nothing else but another attempt to ensure myself security, to escape in a way.

As if I practice this or that, I will not experience the situations that frustrate me or scare me- the ones that make me feel weak or out of control.

**

Life is not safe. Security is an illusion. A well preserved one. One to fight for, to lie yourself for, to live for and to die for. Still, illusion.

***

I am insecure. Sometimes I want support. I am still not self-sufficient.

May be it is enough to be honest about it. To be mindfull and consciously investigate your behaviour and your whole being for hidden attachments. To push yourself towards everything that ever scares you. To free yourself without fear and to set up free everyone else you may be holding on to with Love. And learn that Love is with us and within us in every single moment of our being. If only we can recognize it.

Practice will show.

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♥Maggie Nazer is a social entrepreneur, activist, blogger and current Middlebury college student.


The cleaner who became a teacher

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

They say your first job is meant to be awful. It is clear that more often than not your first job will not guarantee you a sense of fulfillment; it is simply a milestone on the path to personal triumph.

I started working in the ninth grade.

My first job was as a cleaner in the house and office of my employer. I would go there two to three times per week after school, dust the furniture, mop the floors and clean the space in front of the building. At first I was quite ashamed to tell my friends what I did, but soon I realized that there is no bad job when you earn money in an honest way through labor and diligence. I worked there for a year and a half and while it remained a stagnant, unstimulating position throughout this time, I did like the opportunity to exercise being happy in disadvantageous conditions. I reflect on those times with appreciation.

228168_475160032518884_1363675462_nMy second job was as a children’s party entertainer. I have worked for a lot of party companies over the past few years and I planned and hosted parties for my young guests on my own. My tasks were to make the decorations, welcome the guests and then organize games and dancing. It took quite a measure of responsibility as well, as it’s easy for children lost in the gleeful moments of a new game to injure themselves. I really liked the fact that I could be creative and always come up with new ideas for games or themed parties. What excited me the most is that games can be not only fun, but educational as well. I paid particular attention to innovations in the field of Gamification, my interest being captured both by its practical implications and its psychological context.

250593_2014367969855_7390944_nIn 2011 I started working as Manager of Youth Activities for an NGO called NC Future Now. I would meet young people to familiarize them with the different programs and projects, in which they could take part, promote our work in radios and TV shows, organize events, etc. I loved this job, as my tasks were very similar to what I’d been doing in my own charity—the only difference being that I was paid for it!

One of my most important tasks during I worked there was to get an accreditation for the organization to host and send volunteers through the European Voluntary Service (an EU funded program). I not only succeeded to get the accreditation from the institution that was reviewing the applications, but was even invited to attend a training course for youth workers in France where, to no surprise, I was the youngest participant.

***

I was in the 8th grade when I first watched “Pay it Forward”. I was greatly inspired, and started dreaming of becoming a teacher myself someday: being able to inspire my students and attune their mindsets so that they can see all the possibilities there are in the world and do the best with their potential.

In the second term of my senior year I started working as a part-time lecturer in a school close to our capital, Sofia as a part of Bulgaria’s Ministry of Education program for informal education integrated in the classroom. I had two groups of students whom I met twice a week. I taught Dance Therapy (Metadance) classes with my second graders as well as supervised a Club of Young Travelers in English with students from the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.

430154_3408396379694_953265264_nMy Dance Therapy group consisted of fifteen lively, lovely and extremely loud and full of energy second graders. The program consisted mainly of workshops exploring movement and various dance exercises aimed to establish trust between students, reduce stress, overcome barriers in communication caused by prejudices towards children from the minorities; transform their energy and guide it into positive social actions and creativity, thus decreasing the outbursts of violation between the students. I was especially satisfied by the student’s positive reaction towards group discussions after each exercise, in which they shared interesting insights.

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551103_3495544038331_1314023837_nWith my older students age 13-15 my real challenges and successes began. I easily attracted their attention not only with my age being close to theirs, but especially with my impressive travel history. When I told them what I planned our classes to be like, they hardly believed me as they never before had acquainted themselves with informal education. Speaking English in class was as exciting for some as difficult and troublesome for others.

dsc02862The principal of the school had put some of the most difficult students in my group just so that there would be sufficient number of students. Nobody expected anything of me, but I found that a good possibility for me to show them more than they could have ever expected. Soon, I started bringing foreigners to our little school, setting up presentations about Algeria, Mexico, UK, and Morocco, attracting students from the other classes as well. A graduate from my high school who knew thirty-five languages made a great presentation on the process of learning languages.

dsc02940Some of the boys in the group were quite hard to handle, but being open and honest were my strongest instruments. I remember one of these clever, but lazy and unbelieving boys asking me why I have come to work with students who are ill-behaved and careless. I told him then that I believe in people and their potential and that I think that many times it is not that people are bad, but that for different reasons they wear masks of negativity not to be hurt, or just so that the others will like them. All of the boys were listening quietly and I was sure they understood me perfectly.

My teaching experience was a process of learning all the time both for my students and for me. There was a girl whom I let come into my classes even though she didn’t sign up in the beginning, but she actually distracted the boys and was not really interested in what we were doing. On one of the first class trips, I decided that it would be better to not take her with us so that the boys would be more concentrated. That turned out to be a decision with consequences: the two boys that I spent so much effort to engage decided not to come to class anymore. I apologized to them, thus not only learning a lesson myself, but also showing them what the right thing to do is when you are wrong.

dsc03066Through watching short movies, making presentations, engaging into fun exercises with educational content and most importantly- sharing opinions and learning from each other, I think I succeeded helping them realize that they should learn less for grades and more for themselves. I taught them they needed to be open-minded, aware of their stereotypes, responsible of their behavior and the way it affects others, and most importantly that the world has much to offer if only they are willing to work for it.

Being an educator is by all means my favorite occupation. Leading workshops for young adults during exchange programs as part of my extracurricular activities and having this amazing and transforming experience in the school gives me the confidence I am on the right track of what I want to do in my life and what the change I want to make in the world is. Improving educational systems, developing new educational tools and practices and leading people towards awareness of their need to develop is what truly makes me happy and willing to go on.

Going back hapily with the final result Organized a street action: everyone drawing together on the topic of "How will a better world look like?"" dsc03151 drawing and inviting people to share their positive message Trying out meditation Boat sailing during one of our trips

 

♥Maggie Nazer is a social entrepreneur, activist, blogger and current Middlebury college student.


Tormondsen Race Trail at Rikert

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

The Rikert Ski Touring Area at Breadloaf remained pretty much unchanged over the course of my first quarter century in Addison County.  Sure, there were a few minor trail reroutes, and a few less-used trails disappeared as several more remote trails appeared on the trail map over the years, but it was very much a timeless place.  Even the interior warming hut and ski rental shop had not undergone any renovations in anyone’s memory.  Two summers ago, those who hold the purse strings realized that this wonderful resource, really a local institution, was in severe need of some modernization if it was to stand a chance of ever breaking even financially.  So, in the words of one of the employees there, the college went “all in”, fixing up the interior, and more importantly, adding snowmaking and rerouting the racing trail.  The new racing trail was named after the Tormondsen family, who presumably donated some of the funds needed for these renovations (knowing how things work at colleges!).  This family has clearly been quite generous, since the Great Hall in Bicentennial Hall was also named after this family – so “Thanks Folks!”

The old racing trail, which was 7.5 km long (10 km if the section on the Battell Loop was added) was very narrow, and had several very tight turns which forced racers to check their speed, or at least know the course well in order to ski it their fastest.  The nature of the trail made it such that it was very difficult for skiers to pass each other when skate skiing, and since this technique has been a part of ski racing for about 30 years, it made sense to find a way to widen the trails.  Finally, while we all love seasons with great snow, there have been many years where Ripton has been pretty much snow-repellent – like last season!  I seem to remember hearing that there was one group of nordic racers in the late 80′s who never had a chance to race on their home course over their four years at Middlebury.  The addition of snowmaking to a significant section of trail not only keeps the area open for carnival races, but may turn our little local area into a ski touring area with greater regional appeal.

After the recent January thaw, and a week of howling cold weather, this weekend brought a few inches of fresh snow, and Sunday turned beautifully warm (if 20 degree weather is “warm”!) and sunny.  Snowcapped Breadloaf Mountain in the background gave the scene “pinch me is this real?” beauty.

Breadloaf Mountain from Rikert Ski Touring Area

Breadloaf Mountain from Rikert Ski Touring Area

The new race trail, listed as 5 km, is a little shorter than the old trail, but this makes sense given the economics of setting up the permanent plumbing required to supply its outer reaches with snowmaking.  Some of the new trail uses segments of previously existing trail, much of it is set on new trails created during the summer of 2011.  The course has a similar layout, with one shorter loop in the Myrhe’s Cabin side, and a longer loop on the Craig’s Hill side of ski touring area.  While the Tormondsen Family Trail does not have as much altitude gain as the old trail due to its shorter length, it doesn’t have any flat sections either, so it will definitely challenge competitors.  The trail is well marked from the beginning and, in addition to greater breadth, can also be distinguished by the snowmaking pipes which follow the course.

DSC_0063 Also, the unmistakeable pattern of trees covered with ice and snow on their side facing the trail, which can only be accomplished by snow guns, was apparent in many places.

tormondsen tree While older racers may bemoan the loss of the technical challenge of the old “S-turns” or the long hard climb up “Craig’s Hill”, the current and future generations of racers will have a blast on the wide, banked, fast turns which characterize the new course.    When I thought I had finished the trail, I looked at my GPS, and realized that I had not yet covered the full 5 km, and realized that the races usually start with a big loop of two in the open fields for the benefit of spectators, so I threw in one loop around the field at the end, and brought the distance up to about where it should be.  Conservatively, there is about 400 feet of climbing on this course, which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that the longer races will loop around it as many as 4 times!

We  have the opportunity to see the first Winter Carnival race held on this new trail next weekend (Feb 15, 16), and the NCAA championship races in early March.  Come on up and check it out!

tormondsen trail google earth

altitude Tormondsen

 

Dear Freshmen:

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Dear Freshmen Runners and Aspiring Runners:

As a member of the Middlebury College Faculty, I would like to welcome you to campus.  In this first month of the new year, I have had several conversations with your fellow freshmen, and when the topic of running comes up, I inevitably get asked “Where are good places to run”.  And while the real answer is “almost any direction from campus”, I thought I would share a moderate (slightly less than 5 miles, with no serious climbs) trail loop which passes by many interesting sights without really getting that far from campus.  In other words, it is a good way to start your trail running in Middlebury.  This route is also very easy to follow (except for maybe one section for the navigationally challenged) and has a few good bailout points if you aren’t quite up for runs this long.

This run starts out the back door of the fitness center – yup – that great place where you can work out on all the cool exercise contraptions your tuition dollars can buy (or our generous alums can buy for you – and a sincere THANKS).  My advice is to save the ellipticals and treadmills for the cold of winter, and enjoy the out of doors for now.  Head out the back door, and run just to the right of the high tech artificial turf field, and veer into the woods on the left – there are usually a few soccer goals stashed here, so the trail entry should be easy to find.  The first, and tamest part of the run is on the trail which runs around the outskirts of our very own golf course, and soon joins into the the Trail around Middlebury (aka “The TAM”), a 16 mile trail which runs through the forests and meadows at the outskirts of town.  The golf course trail is pretty easy, with no major impediments to its many runners and walkers.  In fact, it is the course used my our college cross country running teams at their home races.  Some other insights on this trail, albeit from the counterclockwise direction, can be found in a blog post from a few years ago entitled “Trailrunning 101“.

After about a mile, you pass the first noteworthy place.  You can’t help but notice it, as it smells…well it smells like rotting food scraps…which is what it is.  At the most odiferous point on the run, off to your left stands the mountain of compost generated by the college.  Not long after this, a fairly substantial climb rises above you, and as you near the top, you will notice a lone gravestone off to your right.  Until the last few months, this grave was partially hidden in a small grove of trees, but recent course renovations have brought it more prominently into the open.  Take a second and read the inscription.  In a rather macabre turn of events, the poor gentleman interred beneath it survived both the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War, to die when a tree fell on him.  And trees were really big back then! Local historian Robert Keren has been doing some sleuthing into the history of this gentleman, William Douglas, and his fate, and has posted some of his findings in the Middlebury College Magazine Blog.

Dead William

Continue across the ridgeline onto the new section of trail which enables runners to stay pretty well out of the range of some of the errant tee shots from the 10th hole, before emerging into the open, passing by a large white house on your left called “Hadley House”, rumored to be the sight of wild trustee parties.  A short run along the old golf course entrance road brings you to Route 30, where you need to cross to continue the run.  If you are out of gas at this point, it is a short downhill trot to the athletic facilities for a nice two mile run.  However, if you cross the road, there is some more challenging trail running to be found.  At the far side of Rt. 30 you will find the entrance to the segment of the TAM known as the “Class of 97 Trail”, honoring a deceased member of that class who passed away in a tragic car crash while allegedly intoxicated.

Class of 97 Trailhead

The much tighter, rootier, and frequently muddier descent from the ridgeline will challenge you to watch your footwork, but soon emerges into an open field, where a left turn will lead to a long loop through the farm fields which make up some of the great views to the west of the campus. This is the only section of the trail where one might get a little off track, but if you count out EXACTLY 478 steps (just kidding just follow the main trail around the periphery of the fields, behind the farmhouse) until you cross College St. and follow the dirt road to the organic garden on a peaceful hillock. I was fortunate to pass through when some of the last sunflowers of the season were still in bloom.

Organic Garden Flower

By now, if you are starting to feel a little tired, you are in the home stretch! Take the dirt road back through the fields towards campus, enjoying the views of “Hadley/Lang/Milliken/Ross/Laforce”, dorms which were known as “The New Dorms” for about 30 years (and used to be covered with what sure looked like bathroom tile), and the hulking shape of Bicentennial Hall, which was christened “The Death Star” by students at its opening 12 years ago. The solar panels are a relatively new addition to the fields, and they reflected the blue of the sky quite nicely, don’t you think?

Solar Panels in Blue Sky

Cross back over college street, and catch the sidewalk which skirts the side of the “Mods”. The Mods, short for Modular Homes, were set up over 10 years ago as temporary housing, but not surprisingly, they proved so popular with students that we seem to have made them a permanent part of the housing options on campus. Follow this sidewalk to the top of the hill, and cut through the graveyard before finishing the run back at the fitness center. The last cool sight to point out, if you have the time to look, is the gravestone of an Egyptian mummy buried in the otherwise Christian cemetery. Some hints on how to find this particular stone were given in a previous post on this blog entitled “Run Like and Egyptian“.

Well – I hope you like this almost 5 mile run, and use it to find inspiration for other runs in the area. And have a great seven…I mean four year here!

Cordially,

The Middlebury Trailrunner

Google Earth of the route