Midterm Report on a Sophomore’s Life

As a sophomore you come more prepared to college, thinking that you already know the ropes of the game, and that you are in great advantage compared to your new freshman roommate, (who, you think, should be scared to death). You are even a Senator, a part of house council; you have a power of authority with which you can order those little guys around, in your advantage. You dream of living like a king, since you now feel like home.

Unfortunately, reality is unkind. You come to the hall to find out that nearly all freshmen (except three or four) are football players. When I say football players, I mean real ones, tall, muscular, massive; the ones that when they walk on the hall, you put your head down in fear, and escape their sight. So long for the feeling of superiority and authority. And then, you think that you know the ropes, until you see a bunch of new people you never met. You feel exactly like a freshman, just stupider, because you were here for a year, and have no idea what’s going on.

You thought that you did excellent in your freshman year? Well, welcome to your sophomore year, (especially if you’re a pre-med kid) where organic chemistry is all about a bunch of triangles, rectangles and hexagons; mammalian anatomy consists of dissecting cute kitties; and humanities teach how crazy our world really is. Welcome, oh you brave kitty slayer, oh you master of geometric shapes symbolizing sugar, oh you rounded figure trying to understand art, literature, music and philosophy, welcome to your sophomore year! You thought that you could beat the system? You were wrong; you can never beat the system; the system is always ahead of you! (Dude, I sound like one of those Matrix characters!)

But you always feel better when you hear your House President complaining: “I am not running a summer camp here! This is college!” Yeah, that’s right freshman! Do your own laundry by yourself. Oh, whom am I kidding; I’m a sophomore and I still didn’t figure out the secrets of doing laundry. I never really understood how to read the instructions on the washers; it’s as if they are written in hieroglyphs. I don’t know how I am going to be a doctor if I can’t read a simple set of instructions.

You know, by sophomore year you start thinking more about your future. I personally have to make my mind up about being doctor and a writer. I think I will quit writing. It neither gets you paid nor laid, so what’s the use of it. There was a time it used to be cool, but I think it turned out to be a bad investment: nowadays kids only watch movies and play video games. Maybe, if we, community of writers, could sabotage the entire film and video game industry, we might have a chance of surviving. And I can finally take my revenge upon people who beat me up in that “Halo” game.

Anyhow, I think that it has been a productive year so far. I’m learning so much about American people and culture. One thing that I still don’t get is “your mom” jokes. But don’t worry; until I graduate (in three years or so) I will become a master of those jokes. I will be undefeatable! “Your Mom’s ‘undefeatable’! Ouuuuu!”

My Fuzzy Goatie

Couple of years ago, I and my uncle were sitting on back porch of his house on one hot summer afternoon as he said to me: “There are thee kinds of beards: beard of wisdom, beard of calling and beard of bullshit. In which category does yours fit in?” I kind of stood surprised, and asked him to explain his question. “You know, beard of wisdom is like when you’re a person with great life experience and knowledge; beard of calling when you’re a doctor, professor or some kind of president; and beard of bullshit is the one that doesn’t fall in any of the above mentioned categories, the one whose sole purpose is fashion.” Yes, I got his point, but despite this, for some weird reason, I still kept growing my beard.

The history of my beard goes way beck to the beginning of my puberty, when I first got my single facial hair on the apex of my chin. Even then I thought of it (my single hair) as something cool that other kids didn’t have. I kind of felt superior, in a way. I even started thinking of it as my “good luck talisman chin hair”. I really started to believe this, to the point where later in life I would get into arguments with my mother who would order me to always shave it. I got in troubles because of my beard even in my boarding school, which had strict discipline rules on these matters. The principal made me go shave every Monday. I was always absent for the first class of the week. This didn’t really help much; it made me more stubborn instead.

And then… I came to beard growing utopia called college life, where nobody tells you to shave every Monday, where people are free to grow their beards, and they even write newspaper articles about them. Yeah, I’m finally free…

My beard is my pride. We went through difficult times together, we endured repression, facial hair ‘discrimination’, sharp razors, severe weather, eating soups, and dripping ice-creams… For me, my beard is like a trade-mark, like a logo by which I am identified as myself. It’s like a magnet for girls, I must say, because no matter what you wear, or what kind of hair style you have, your beard will always get their attention first. It is your best companion. When it snows and icy Iowa winds blow right in your face, it keeps you warm. In summer, it serves as a natural air conditioner, you just keep it wet and it will serve as a sponge refreshing your face for hours as it evaporates.

The length of my beard, that I started growing for about a month now, reached little more than 1 ½ inches. A friend of mine just gave me a small comb, in this way I’m keeping it tidy. I guess I can use some of the waxy substance Salvatore Dali used to use on his mustaches, it I knew what it was.

Why does it mean so much for me? Well, if I can grow a long beard and not care what people are saying, I can achieve any other goals. It’s like a personal Space Race. It’s about me proving to myself that I can. What I need is a noble way of saying goodbye to my beard. I’m planning to grow it until the point where I can braid it, I guess couple of inches long, and then, in the end, shave it, and never worry about it anymore.

The Adventurous Traveler

Here I am, back to school, full of creative ideas and energy to make great changes. Well, I don’t know about energy, I feel like a ran-out battery after all that traveling I did these past three months (Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania and Prague, Czech Republic). Right now I am writing this article from the worst place in the world, and it’s worse than hell. I’m sitting in the shadiest corner of Vienna Airport, because that’s the only spot in the entire airport that has a power outlet in which I can plug in my lap-top. I had to stay and spend a night here, because my connecting flight was the next day in the morning. I am among people who traveled the most in order to arrive to U.S., and in the same time, I am among the people who did weirdest thing while waiting for their connecting flights.

You know, seducing women was my best quality once, but now, I can’t even manage to persuade the lady at the reception desk of “airport transit area hotel” to give me a free room for me and my friends. “So, do you want to come to my hotel room? Well, yeah, sure. Ah, yes, but there is a little problem, I don’t have a hotel room, you have to get me one, preferably free! And, yeah, I’ll have to invite my friends too.”

This part of my adventure I called “hunting for the power outlet”, and it consisted of guess what? I was fixated by this obsessive compulsive feeling which I acquired after running out of my two and a half hour lap-top battery in the middle of playing this very addictive video game. If you ask me now, I can name and locate you all of the 7 power-outlets in the transit section of Vienna Airport, and tell you which ones work and which ones don’t. The one I’m using right now is the one near the bathroom. It’s funny how people look at your maniac face as you wonder in the search of Holy Grail, in your crusade for finishing the level of an addictive game. The good thing is that I didn’t get beaten from the people for staring at weird places. What if I was indeed beaten? Maybe they have better power outlets in prison cells?

You have no idea how safe I feel when I fly, especially with all those security checks. Whenever I walk through one of many metal-detector-beeping-doors, I have to take off my belt. I do this so often, that I came up with a special routine and swift moves for doing it. I call it “the Security Striptease”. It never bothered me to impress the ladies around me with my special abilities. I only wish the sexy lady that’s in front of me gets the beep, and puts up a small performance! How come they always get away with it?

How come I never get lucky when I fly? In this trip, one of my friend’s tickets was mixed up, and she got a first class seat. Guess whom did I sit with. Beside me was a prominent politician, who at the moment was pissed off at the airline that gave him the wrong seat. At least he enjoyed the warm sandwich, while my friend was drinking champagne before the take off, and eating specialties in silverware. Do you know what my friend said? “Well, I missed that good sandwich they have in Economy Class!” Yeah, right, just a good euphemism of the statement: “Food sucks in Economy Class!”

Even when I travel by bus instead of flying, I am nonetheless unlucky. There is always an old lady sitting on my seat that I especially reserved two weeks in advance. Instead of enjoying sitting somewhere in the back, I have to go and argue with the driver, until the old lady moves somewhere else. Well, what can I say; life is difficult, especially if you’re sitting on my seat. Sorry lady, but I must at least enjoy the comfort of front row bus ride; I’m going to suffer enough in spending the night at Vienna Airport.

I was the one who though that flying was the best way of traveling. Look at me now, my back aches from trying to sleep on metal benches, my throat is sore because of air-condition, I didn’t sleep the entire night because passengers kept arriving, my laptop battery is empty and worst of all, I’m wearing Wall-Mart clothes that are so sticky from the week old sweat because people at JFK Airport screwed up my luggage.

A Dark Portrait of a Pre-Med Kid

It is Friday night. The moon is full and the night is young. A scrawny looking guy sits in his room patiently waiting, while in a serene way observing the ticking clock.

The time has finally come, and his metamorphosis has begun. He is getting unleashed from the rusty chains of his studies. He has no exams or papers due. He is free – as free as a pre-med kid can be. He is now an “animal”. All forbidden things are now allowed to him. He was a person visible, but unseen. You can see him now. His eyes are eyes of a predator. He is a vulture, ready to catch the prey. He hunts! He captures! He has a month long hunger waiting to be fulfilled! He feeds himself with the prey!

But behind the sharp claws, and dissecting eyes, a longing soul curses itself for the inability to have regular patterns. Why can’t I eat the way every other animal does – on regular basis? Why am I so different? I don’t travel in packs like wolves, I don’t swim in schools like fish, and neither do I fly in swarms like bees? What am I? I am a vulture! A lone hunter! I am a being of my own kind! I am…

When people talk about pre-med kids, it’s as if they’re talking about the scariest paragraph of a horror story. Come on, guys, we are completely normal, just like you. Yes, it is true that we have exams, quizzes and papers due nearly every day. I know, it sucks, but that is how we chose our direction in life to be. There’s nothing we can do about it (except the possibility to change our majors, but then, you’ll have to imagine a dull world without doctors and nurses).

One of the most awkward things that happen to me as a pre-med kid is that sometimes, while walking down the street, I just don’t pay that much attention. That is kind of a normal thing when taking into consideration how tired and sleepy I am, but it is no excuse when I pass beside people without saying “Hi!”. This thing makes people extremely mad, while they think that I don’t want to talk to them, or that I’m a snob, or who knows what… People! I’m doing it unintentionally! I have an excuse: I’m a pre-med kid!

Sometime a friend of mine would say: “How come you are not hanging with us anymore?” What do I do? What can I say!? If you have a pre-med kid in your hall, and you get the feeling that he doesn’t like to hang out and go partying with you and all other bunch of guys and girls, you are totally wrong my friends. No one likes partying more than pre-meds, but you must understand what I call “element-T”. Yes, it’s free time.

We are like delicate flowers that bloom only once in the season. There would always be this one night in the month, where no one parties better than the pre-med kids. And then, we would just disappear, without trace, for the next month or two. You don’t hear from us, you don’t see us, it’s as if we live in a completely different dimension. Your only contact with your room mate is just before you go to sleep, when you say “Good night”, or early in the morning, when he/she wakes you up for a class you are always 5 minutes late. The only place we can be located, is the Science Building; yes, we’re probably working for the third time on a lab we did wrong. Oh, man, I just love being pre-med kid, you can get any excuse by just one phrase: “Hey, it’s not my fault, I’m pre-med!”

Graceland’s Faust – the Myth of a Man-whore

Myth – somebody or something fictitious: somebody or something whose existence is or was widely believed in, but who is fictitious.

Man – virile person: the personification of qualities traditionally associated with the male sex, including courage, strength, and aggression, or somebody with such qualities.

Whore – an offensive term for somebody who is regarded as willingly setting aside principles or personal integrity in order to obtain something, usually for selfish motives (insult ). (The definitions were taken from www.encarta.com)

Sitting is his poorly lit dorm-room a young student called Faust, was studying for his exams. He remembered first days when he came to College, his thirst for knowledge was greater than anything. But now, he couldn’t take it anymore, his desire was exhausted from boredom. This big University City seemed so small all of a sudden. Philosophy, Medicine, Literature, all now were like big rocks on his back. He was hungry, but not just hungry, his libido was longing. He slowly started to feel as a wolf.

But what could he do, even if he had the time? He was powerless; he was shy, inexperienced, not that good-looking, not popular, and above all, he had not enough time. How could he have time? Even if he had time, he would spend it doing deeds and favors for other people, to the point that they got so familiarized with him, that never thank him anymore. There’s no need, because he’s Faust, the role model, the person every body asks for favors, the paragon of a college kid. Ah, if he had some free time!

As he was reading his book, some kind of smoke or vapor started to come out of nothing but air, and there it was a human-shaped-ghost was floating in front of him.

“Hello, my dear friend! They call me Mephisto Diablo Satani! I’ve come a long way only for you! I have the solution to your problem. I know how you feel, and I can help you” said he with a weird accent. This is perfect, thought Faust, the right thing on the right time, exactly when I was tired of exams and studies. I need to party! “What if I can make you more attractive, and give you all the time of the world?” And what do you get in return, asked Faust? “Believe me, this is a win-win situation, there are no losers in this game! All I ask from you is your dignity and your honor, and as in exchange, I will give you the Power of seduction – you will be able to get every woman you desire! Isn’t that fair? This kind of offer comes only once in a lifetime. It’s so unfortunate that I need your answer now; we solicitors of wickedness are busy selling our offers!” Of course, of course, I’ll accept your offer; I’ll never get my second chance, hurriedly replied the young Faust.

And there it was – the pact that made him famous. In a matter of weeks, everybody was talking about magical seductive powers of a young man they started calling “Man-whore”. There were rumors that he is able to seduce two women in the same time, and still have energy left to flirt with more females. He became that famous so that he became people’s problem-solver. Whenever you would want a woman out of your life, you would just dial 1-800-Man-whore, and you would consider the problem solved.

The pact with the devil sure made him stronger, but to what degree? His friends started not to like him, because he was a threat to them. Girls didn’t like him as well, because of the gossips about his reputation. But what did he do? Did he deserve it? He sure did! But all he wanted to do was get away from his books for a while, and have some fun. He never intended to hurt anyone. After all, he was Faust, the guy that wouldn’t hurt a fly.

And again, out of nowhere, the vapory spirit appeared again, saying these words: “‘…as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny!’ This is the curse you agreed upon by accepting my offer. It will now haunt you to the end of your College Career, and if you’re lucky, to the end of your life! Enjoy the power of gossips!”

Hall Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Senator

One morning, a long time ago, in a Galaxy called Graceland, when Artrit Bytyci woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a Senator. He lay on his back which was hurting from excessive studying for finals, and if he lifted his head, he could still remember the weird formulas of Relativity. “What has happened to me?” he thought. It wasn’t a dream. His room, a proper student room, all messy and untidy, lay peacefully between its four walls. A collection of science books laid spread out on the table – Artrit was a premed student – and above it, hung a picture that he had recently cut out of a biology book. It showed some kind of circle and a bunch of chemical names, with a big title “The Krebs Cycle”.

“How about if I sleep a little bit longer and forget all this nonsense?” he asked himself, but at that moment his room-mate’s alarm clock started beeping.

Oh, my god! It was real; he was a Senator now, representing his Hall. “Does this mean that my silly days are over? Do I still view the Universe from my witty perspective? Well, I guess everything is the same, the way it always was.” Just to make sure, he started making connections in his brain, and associating every piece of information he had. While every Saga has a meaningful beginning, this one doesn’t.

He was proud to be a senator of College Federation of Gracelandia representing Orion – the Planet of Hunters. His tasks were difficult and full of responsibility. He had to be sure that the voice of the people that chose him would be heard loud enough. But how loud? In a place where Knights from Planet Aaron are trying to make a political consensus with the Crusaders of Closson ; where the Minervas of Han-thorn-ia conspire against the Aphrodites of So-la-h; where the special agents of Cheville Academy are always on-guard and ready to water-kill even the least suspicious hit-man; where Big Men on Campus are kidnapped by unidentified masked persons during Chemistry classes; in a place where campus-politics, strategy and intelligence come together to serve students and have fun.

Despite all this, Artrit Bytyci looked at the bright side; he had a bunch of connections with significant people, which will be very useful in the future games of politics, deception, and excitement. One of his contacts is the eminent Mr. Fun (also known as Kyle Eddleman) the head of Ministry of Fun (a.k.a. COSA), which is responsible for bringing joy, excitement and entertainment to people of Gracelandia. This young Senator will probably use this element in his advantage to manipulate minds of new freshmen. Or, maybe he will use the opportunity that he already is a close friend with the new prime-minister of Gracelandian Government (a.k.a. GSG president, Becca Loving) and in this way spread his political influence where it is still weak, such as the Ministry of Sports (a.k.a. Intramurals), or maybe the Secret Jedi Archives (a.k.a. SAC).

When his web of connections is big and powerful enough, he will try and do everything to contribute to people of Planet Orion, and its new ruler, fearless Emperor Drew the First, including all members of his new round table of house council.

Artrit Bytyci was still thinking/dreaming in his bed, while he heard his room-mate hit the beeping alarm for the second time. It was then when the strange idea struck him. He found the perfect way to bring fame to his Planet. Emperor Drew will eventually attack the Planet of Closson, in this way creating his own inter-collegiate empire, and by the use of the force, convince Jedi Knights and Aaron Knights to fight with each other. Will the plan succeed? Will my butchering of famous movies and novels achieve its peak? Will I get an A in Physics? Stay tuned for the next episode of politics, intrigues, deception, lust for power, and senselessness with “Hall Wars: Episode Two – Attack of the Clossons”!

The Lord of the Couches: The Fellowship of the Couch

Vladimir Volegov - The Red Couch

It is interesting how we like things more when they are free, like free food, free drinks, free prizes… Well I learned a lesson today; all free things are not as they appear, how should I say, at no cost.  Sometimes you have to put more effort on them, than it looks like. The entire thing started when a friend of mine who was moving out from our hall, offered me a free couch. This is a story of me and my quest of getting rid of the/a dilapidated old couch.

At times people are really kindhearted, on occasion there’s a special interest behind the gift; sometimes the gift is like that of Greeks’ – a Trojan horse, while every now and then there would be this not so fatal “gift” that would give you more problems than ever before. I don’t even know how I accepted the couch. I think it was after I woke up from my noon nap, still dreaming as I was walking down the Hall in the post-sleep quest of washing my face. “Hey, Titi, want a Couch?” Yeah, sure, everything that is free! And before I entirely woke up, the problems started. My house president wanted the couch out of the hallway by the end of the day. Oh, no, what do I do? All of a sudden I am the owner of the largest couch I’ve ever seen. My room already had a couch, and everybody else’s rooms were stuffed with furniture. Not a big deal, I just took a deep breath, and asked myself a simple question: What would my hero, Steven Segal, now do? (Man, I hate that guy.) Oh, no, wrong question. What would Fellowship of the Ring now do? They would return the Couch back to Mount Doom, so it can be destroyed in the underground fires from which it was primarily made of… Oh, man, I was still daydreaming.

And so, in this way, a bunch of brave men assembled a round table in the ancient Land of Floyd’s to discuss and decide upon the fate of the old couch. The ideas were from throwing it from the 3rd floor of Mount Gunsoley, up to chopping it to pieces and burning it in a fire near the Great Sea of Big G.  The couch was even immune to magic and spells of the great wizard of Siga-ville. The couch reflected the spell, and ignited a bright flame of fire in East of Land of Floyd’s. The task was difficult; it required special leadership skills, nothing like the ones you gain in the freshmen year’s Leadership class. The Couch needed a solution, and these brave men had to find one.

After having a healthy meal prepared from the fairies and wizards of the Land of Floyd’s, the fellowship of young brave men found the solution to this problem of life and death.  With the special permission from the Dan-olas Koch-ggins the mighty ruler of Orion Kingdom, and the help of fearless men of Gracelandia, the couch was allowed to be putt on use in the Lounge of Orion Kingdom Palace. Titi the brave, returned as a hero to his lands, where he took another short nap. He still uses story of the quest of the couch in his advantage, as a part of his election campaign for a senator of the Kingdom of Orion in the land of Gracelandia. He is even thinking to write posters like: “Vote for Titi, the Couch Donator!” However, the end of this quest is the beginning of a new one. This quest is far from over, the couch as to be removed from the Lounge by the end of the semester, where the new quest will start. Stay tuned for The Lord of the Couches:  The Two Couches (and the enthralling final episode of: The Lord of the Couches: The Return of the Couch, expected fall 2003).

Titi’s First College Journal

I just like college life, with all its dynamics and active life. You see, grown-ups take college as a serious thing, but to me, and to three thousand undergraduate students living here at Graceland University Campus, it is nothing but a “big joke”. Well, almost three thousand. Because, (it’s same) as in High School, where would always be this one person who had “fallen in love” with the books, and you would always see him/her carrying the heavy books by hand, because they were too big to fit in his/her backpack. This sounds too familiar… Oh, no! I’m one of them now! I’m carrying “two tons” of books everyday, because, as I said, they just won’t fit inside my backpack. Ah…

Freshmen are often shocked by hard problems, such as the pressure of new environment, new people, and even enormous study load. Well, my problem was completely different; I had difficulties coping with the notorious “having-a-bath-issue”. I was shocked to death when I found that there are no “fancy” bathtubs, and beautiful Japanese women to massage my back. Instead, I found myself in this prison-like-shower-room. I swear, I could imagine a guy in uniform using a hose, spraying water to people having a bath. I had my first bath at 3:00am in the morning, while there was no living soul awake.

One of the famous problems for a freshman is the ultimate “name-problem”. During the first days, you meet so many people, and hear so many “weird” names, so your brain just does not have the needed capacity, and it just shuts down. But you know what’s worse than that? Having a “weird” name. In this way you have to come up with this funny nickname, that is some kind of complex acronym, which is supposed to be easily remembered by everyone. And you know what’s worse than that? Having a “weird” nickname, so every time, you have to start explaining from the beginning on how one should pronounce it, and what is “its” meaning. I would just be easier, to tell them your real/complete name. In this way they’ll remember it better! This also sounds familiar. Oh, no! I am one of these people too…

“Hi, I’m Artrit, or Art, or you can call me by my nickname, Titi, that’s as T and T, double T, yes, Titi, (or you can call me however you like…)”
At least, there is a solution to this “problem”: “Hey, what’s up dude/pal/buddy/girl?”

Hey, is anyone taking a class at Science 146. There is this great screen, and the projector, that is located somewhere in the middle of the second row. My sitting place just happens to be under the projector, so if I “accidentally” lift my arm, cool shadows would appear on the screen. Sometimes, when the class gets boring, by folding my palm, I would create the “Road Runner” character. In this way, I’m some kind of “superhero”, since, everyone becomes so interested “in the lesson”, by looking at the screen. I hope the teacher won’t notice me doing that, otherwise… otherwise I’ll probably need an assistant who can animate “Wile E. Coyote”.

On of these days, I met this cool House President of one of the women halls. I thought this was very relieving thing, because, you know, if you somehow loose the track of time, and you find yourself inside a women residence hall after midnight, guess what, you have “a connection”, who can solve your problems. You won’t have to be fined anymore… Unfortunately, I was disappointed to learn that HP’s don’t have that great power over these issues. The governing system here at Graceland is so perfect; I’ll have to work harder in order to crack it. I guess I’ll figure something out until the next issue of “TOWER”.

Road-tripping America

As Spring break is over, and everybody is back to Graceland, what is left of good times is just the memory transmitted in the form of stories and exciting experiences. While a number of people unfortunately stayed at Lamoni, this other, more fortunate group managed to escape the “claws of boringness”. If you are foreign student in U.S., you definitively ought to go in a road trip (experts advice: you might not have a good rest, but you’ll have good time for sure).

First thing to do when you go on a road trip is to name your car. Since me and my friends were a group of 3 cars, the names varied from “Yellow Dart” and “Green Machine” to “Car 83″. The way you come with names is funny, in the beginning you try famous girl names, when that doesn’t work, you try naming it after colors. In the end, after stopping to eat lunch at “Carl Jr.’s” (formerly Hardee’s), you “steal” a small piece of plastic with number “38” written on it. And so in this way “Car 83″ was born.

When going on a road trip, you have to follow some unwritten rules. It is not called a road trip unless you drive 26 hours non-stop without taking a break or sleeping a night in a motel. If you have to go to rest-room, do it before the trip, because the next stop will be for fuel, and that is approximately in the next 300 to 400 miles. You must always be in a hurry, and never take breaks that are longer than 15 minutes. I recommend you to have a camcorder, so you can document every possible funny situation.

It is always advisable to have a pair of “walkie-talkie” radios, so you can communicate with other cars in your group. You never know when they may come in handy. Let’s say, as you drive south through Californian highways, you just overtook a car which happens to be full of hot girls from Oregon. What do you do? You, of course, contact “Yellow Dart”, and challenge them to do something stupid, while you document the whole thing on your “hidden” camcorder. It is always nice to see girls laughing and giggling at “Yellow Dart”!

It is interesting how climate, environment, and time-zones change constantly as you travel west. At first, the environment is gray and boring as you travel through Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming (I advice you to travel through these states during the night). Then in Utah, the first mountains appear 9thanks God, I finally say a mountain after 7 months in U.S.), followed by the desserts and wastelands of Nevada. When you finally arrive in California, there is snow on the mountains, so that you are required to spend $50 for the chains. Well, we found a crack in the system: If Police stops you regarding the chains, just say that you have no idea what they’re talking, and that you’re from Iowa. It can save you $396 of fines.

Finally, I can say I visited L.A. Yes, we got stuck in L.A. traffic for 3 hours. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless one of the drivers in “Car 83″ didn’t consider the “stuck-in-LA-traffic” variable in the “rest-room” equation. It is a real torture to drive 0.5 miles per hour, on 80 degree, while from your car window you look at the ads like: “Sea World – Wet conditions ahead”, or “Tide – Your cup runneth over”… Here comes my last road trip advice: Save the empty bottles, traffic is unpredictable!

Functions and Traditions

You are running through a gigantic corn field the end of which you can’t see, handcuffed to a person of opposite sex, trying to find your way through what seems to be an unsolvable labyrinth, as a giant guy with a chainsaw intersects your path, while you freeze to death… For people who are not familiar with Graceland’s traditions, this may sound like a clip from a horror movie, but for us Gracelanders, this it but a regular function we do every year.
As every house has its own functions and traditions you can see all kinds of stuff, starting from frozen camping trips, corn mazes, and massage days, up to functions where everyone is dressed as a cowboy and plays these weird games.

If your function involves camping, the half of the fun is setting your tent. It’s so funny when you think you’re smart and want to show off in front of the girls, so you try assembling it by yourself. The tragic part is when you realize that you have spent 45 minutes of your time, and still, the tent is but a structure that can be blown away by a mild wind. The best part is when you read the instructions, which are consisted of four simple pictures a five year old can understand, and a short sentence in red: “super simple camping tent – instant assembling in 3 minutes – follow the instructions”!

Of course, to organize a good function, the essential substance which some call “element M” is always more than welcome. Yes, it’s money. I don’t know about other halls, but we at Orion have a special name for the treasurer – “Money Bags!” Apparently, the bags are empty most of the time. Sometimes, even the role of the treasurer in the house council is kind of weird. The only thing he does during the house meeting is yelling from the top of his lungs: “People, pay for your stuff!”

Our hall has this odd tradition called “Mustache Growing Extravaganza Weeks”, where everyone in our hall grows mustaches. It works this way: you can shave, but must leave the mustaches intact. In this way, after a long period of time, a council assembles and votes on best looking mustaches, worst looking mustaches, Mexican mustaches, macho guy mustaches, “peach hair” mustaches, and maybe even Hitler mustaches. I think this is a part of a well planned strategy which is supposed to work as a “chick magnet”. Well, I guess you’ll have to wait for a couple of weeks and see the results yourself.

I was wondering, how does the process of creating a new house function work? Does it evolve from some good tradition that is done every year, or something? If that is so, our hall must come with more functions. One of them would be turning our bathroom into sauna (steam room). I always loved in a particular way the idea of standing in the room full of water vapor, wrapped in a big towel, while discussing stocks and markets with friends, pretending to be Wall-Street businessmen and mafia bosses. The only difficulty we can encounter by turning this amazing tradition into a hall function is that for the moment, girls are not allowed to participate in this kind of activity. But, with some minor rearrangements in Graceland’s Constitutions, we can overcome this tiny obstacle, and enjoy the vapor.