Posted on January 11, 2013

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A month never seems that long on paper; It's living the month of break that makes it feel much longer.

At the beginning of break, I had trouble dropping the feeling of running on a tight schedule, and now, a week before I head back, I'm trying to remember what it felt like to plan my weeks in advance.  It's only been a month, compared to the three UMass has off for summer break, but the feeling of a new year, and coming of a new semester, is in the air.

I can't lie: I'm looking forward to getting back; when I visited my friends last week, we ended up at one point perusing my pictures and reminiscing about the year.

I decided I wanted to share some of my favorite moments from the past year with you, as well as what I'm looking forward to in the coming two semesters, in chronological order.

#10: Hiking in the Holyoke Range
No one could say Sabrina and I weren't prepared.  The morning we decided to head toward the mountains for the first time, we made sure to stock up at CBS on our way to Mt. Norwottuck. Between us, we had a can of bug spray, four pints of water, countless fruit and granola bars, a bag of almonds, and a roll of toilet paper, all shoved into our two bags.  Of course, the wikiHow pages we read in preparation of going hiking were more than likely meant for those intending on descending into the wilderness for the greater part of a day, if not longer, but a newbie mistake that over-prepares is better than one of not preparing at all.
I don't remember very much of the hike up, only that we kept stopping, at my request, for a break or photo on the side.  Once we made it to the top of the mountain that we thought, at the time, was Mt. Norwottuck, but later discovered to be its neighbor, we dropped our bags on a rock and looked out over the Valley.  We had made it to the top in a little under an hour, and had, luckily, completely overestimated our need of toilet paper.  The view this sunny morning was glorious.
We headed back about 45 minutes later, after we had gotten our fill of the gorgeous view from the top.  As we approached Route 9, Sabrina asked if she could make a pitstop at a hair supply store, which brings me to...

#9: Spur-of-the-moment hair dye decisions
I had just finished my work for the night when I heard the familiar knock on my wall. With two quick rasps from her side, Sabrina wanted to know if she could come in.  I opened the door for my neighbor, who was holding a new bottle of hair dye.
"Hey, I'm about to bleach my hair, you want in?"
At the time, my hair was, once more, colorless.  I didn't really know how to dye my hair freshman year, but I certainly gave it my darnedest.  The summer before sophomore, I told the stylist that I wanted to get my hair cut and, really, cut off as much of the embarrassing blueish greenish tips as you like.
"Yeah, definitely."
I remember donning an old night shirt for myself and giving one to Sabrina before we headed to the sinks.  We bleached our hair and waited several hours, saying we'd dye the next day to let it settle first.  Predictably, we give up on waiting and globbed on the dye, hoping it would still work.  Sabrina came out with pink bangs, and I wound up with several dark blue strands of hair that I'm still holding onto.

#8: Long-exposure photo shoots
As a photographer, it feels appropriate to include at least one act of taking pictures on my top ten list.  I had been promising some friends a photo shoot for ages and, having found a night when we were all free, sent out a text about it.  The plan was simple: Meet me in my room around 8. I'll supply the music and the lights.
Long exposure photography and I go back years and years, to my sophomore year of high school when I was trying to explore new photographic techniques.
Beyond the camera settings, there was very little technical about this shoot.  I handed my friends finger lights, glow sticks, and anything stuffed with LEDs.  With a longer shutter speed set on my camera and the flash on, I caught both my friends' faces and the tracks of light made by their accessories.  The shoot went on for hours and yielded a batch of new profile pictures, as well as some of my favorite shots at the time.

#7: Route 9 Diner trips
Every town has that place: the 24 hour coffee shop or restaurant that holds a sort of midnight charm, drawing groups of students at late night hours to consume early morning food.  For many of us, that place is the Route 9 Diner.
The first time I was there was mid-winter freshman year; being freshmen, two of my friends and I decided to, as we called it, go on an adventure at 2 a.m.  We wandered through campus and ended up on route 9, heading in the direction of Northampton.  Our final destination was the Diner, an event I only partially remember due to sleepiness.
Since then, the Route 9 trips have only been able to happen when certain conditions are met: a group of friends must all be willing to a) go out in the cold b) to buy food c) at some strange hour of the night.  This has only happened a few times, but each one sticks out to me.

#6: The Peace Pagoda
The hills of Leverett were possibly the last place I would expect to find a Buddhist stupa, yet the New England Peace Pagoda sits atop a mountain in the forested town.  It's only a short drive away, but it certainly doesn't feel like it.
Evan and I had both been there before, though that didn't make finding the cite easier.  We got a little lost on the roads there, but finally arriving was worth it.  That afternoon, we watched insects crawling around by the pond and wandered around the stacks of balanced rocks on the silent grounds.  The Pagoda in the woods continues to grab my attention and hold my respect, as it is probably the most interesting and peaceful place I could spend an afternoon.

#5: Humans vs. Zombies
I know, I know, quite a quick jump in subject matter.  First of all, no, I didn't play Humans vs. Zombies, and, yes, like everyone else, I always wondered what exactly they were doing.  I started covering the game for a multimedia class project.  I went in expecting to cover a glorified game of freeze tag, but came out with an understanding of a game based around strategy, with a unique plot, characters, and missions.
Covering this game definitely changed the way I viewed it; when I saw a NERF-clenching bandana-wearing student sprinting ahead of an organized group of zombies, I now wondered where they were headed, if a mission was going on and where the plot was.  Humans vs. Zombies administrator Chris Kimball told me the best part of the game was that "you form a special bond of friendship over a silly game with NERF guns,” and isn't that all that really matters?

#4: Puffers Pond
Like the Peace Pagoda, I've never gone to Puffers Pond to get something done; rather, I go there to remove myself from the bustle of the day and the stress of classes.  One warm day last fall, I got a text from Sabrina.
"Tommy and I are going to Puffers Pond. Come on."
I was done with classes for the day and ran outside to meet them.  As far as nice days go, very little can beat the smell of crisp air, the chill of cool water, and the feeling of wandering through the woods with friends.  We parked on the street and spent the rest of the day just sitting on the banks and talking about our day.  I've been back there since, both on my own and with other people, but this perfect day is still my definitive representation of the pond in my mind.

#3: Halloween Weekend
My friends and I are not expert planners.  Yes, we could have gone to a Halloween show or one of the many seasonal events in the area, but the weekend before Halloween at my friends' house was shaping up to be "let's put on costumes and play video games in them."
As a photographer, I wanted very little more than to have something cool to take pictures of; I was really hoping my friends would find something to do so I could get some shots of people masked and glittered on the one day it was socially acceptable.  When I thought I was out of luck, Evan came through.
We decided we would go walk around Northampton dressed in our costumes.  He donned a green army jacket and became James Sunderland from Silent Hill II, while I threw together a red dress and a basket and became little red riding hood.  We drove out to Northampton; certainly people would be walking around in their costumes, right?
"Shaina, nobody's in their costumes. I told you it was too early."
Oops.
We wandered through Thornes and got coffee looking only slightly out of place (pictured above) before we decided to explore streets we had never been down before.  This exploration yielded the knowledge of a new record store, the discovery of a goblin-themed art exhibit, and many cool pictures, which can be seen here.

#2: Election night
I was excited both as a journalist and an American.  Last November was the first time I could vote in a presidential election; I hopped off the bus to the fire station and cast my vote among a throng of other UMass students.  As soon as I got back, I slipped of my civilian hat and threw on my journalism one.  Whatever happened, I was there to get reactions.
My night was filled with runs down to the Collegian office, back up to the Cape Cod Lounge, over to a Dining Commons and back down again.  I live-tweeted, I instagrammed, I photographed my way through what seemed like the longest wait of the year.
The announcement that President Obama had been reelected hit subtly at first, then exploded.  It was announced mid-newsfeed while I was in Berkshire Dining Commons, and seemed to go unnoticed for a minute or two.  The realization rolled slowly over the crowd and soon I was snapping pictures of hugging, yelling and crying.  I had covered my first election.

#1: Seeing stars
I ran into James on the bus. Last year, I wrote a story about his interest in astronomy and his history of watching meteor showers with his father.  It seemed almost fate that I should run into him the night the Leonids shower was going to begin.
James left the bus a stop before me, promising to text me when he was heading out to watch the showers.
When I got the text around 12 that night, Evan, Sabrina and I were halfway through watching Silence of the Lambs for my politics through films class. We paused it, grabbed our coats and headed to the car.  Minutes later, we arrived at James's house, a two-floor dwelling with a garden outside and a baseball diamond across the street.
From the bleachers of the field, the nigh sky was notably clear, and the light pollution as reduced as we could get it. The air was freezing, and I depended on the mug of tea I clutched to keep my fingers warm.
We were out there until the early side of 3, by which time I had counted 4 shooting stars.  Evan dropped me off at my dorm building, where I sat until 4:30 a.m., scanning through my pictures of the starry night.

Looking through my old pictures always manages to energize me about the semesters to come.  Next year's going to be a busy one without doubt, but this doesn't stop me from creating a list of goals for the coming twelve months.  As of now, the top five are as follows:

#1: Bike to Northampton. I've always wanted to follow the bike trail to NoHo some early morning.  I got close last year, turning back right before the bridge over the Connecticut River.  This year, I want to finally make it across.
#2: Hike Mt. Tom. I always see the road signs indicating the exit for Mt. Tom, and I'm always so tempted.  This year, I want to finally plan, get up early enough, and hike the mountain.
#3: More photo shoots.  I finally feel like I'm getting a handle on portraits and want to experiment with what I can do with them.  I'd really like to try more planned photo shoots this year.
#4: Write more.  Whether for work or pleasure, I feel like I've fallen back on photography over the years because I feel comfortable with it. Before I became a photographer, I had dreams of being a writer or author of some sort.  While those goals have shifted, I'd really like to write more on the side, as well as give writing for the Collegian a shot.  This is more of a resolution than a goal; I always say I'm going to start writing, then put it off further.
#5: Internships!  One of the most-stressed aspects of journalism is experience.  I've shot for the Collegian since freshman year, but it's becoming time to get a little more experience out there in the big, scary, real world.

Posted on January 08, 2013

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My father and his friends have season passes to Jiminy Peak in Hancock, Massachusetts. My father and I got up at around 7 o'clock to drive to their house for a breakfast of eggs on a bagel. We were on the slopes by a little after nine. We skied until 3 o'clock and I only fell about 4 times. It was great to go skiing during the week because the slopes weren't very crowded and there was hardly any line for the chairlift. We couldn't have asked for a better day (despite the fact that it was below freezing in temperature, but hey, what can you do?).

By the end of the day we were tuckered out and drove home in time for my mother's dinner of chicken and dumplings.

Posted on January 03, 2013

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As I sit cozied up in the oversized chair in my friends' Rolling Green common room, I have to marvel at just how accessible the world can be.
This morning, I woke up at 7 a.m., three states away from where I'll be going to sleep.  Getting up at 7 wasn't difficult when I was waking up every other hour already; I was, perhaps irrationally, afraid of the drive.
Yes, this morning was the first time I drove to Amherst all the way. Previously, I had only gone with a family member or taken the train to visit.  At this point, though, I knew it was as good a time as ever to give the full trip a shot.  After filling up on gas and grabbing my friend Alexa for the long, long trip, we set out to visit Evan and Sabrina in Amherst.
Save for a brief unintended detour right near the border of New York (287 east and 287 south are the same thing, right?), the trip went pretty smoothly, and we arrived at my friends' house right before dark.
This nice dinner out and quiet night in is still a little surreal to me; I think I've yet to really process that I made it up to Massachusetts of (mostly) my own volition.  The world has never seemed as accessible as it does right now; I've always had to rely on someone else's plan, schedule, or transportation to get somewhere.
I only have a day in Amherst before heading to the Boston area to visit my boyfriend, so I'm hoping to squeeze as much as I can into the next 24 hours.  I can already tell these next few days are going to go quickly and, before I know it, I'll be back in my bed 200 miles away from my UMass friends.  Still, after finally driving up myself, Amherst is no longer a foreign, unreachable land, but another place that, with a little time and willpower, I can finally add to the list of places that are only a do-able drive away.

Posted on December 27, 2012

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When I've been home long enough, the days usually start to blend together, since I don't have important test dates to remember or classes to attend.  This week is a blur, but it's certainly not for lack of things to do; Christmas shopping, seeing friends, baking cookies, and birthday celebrations crowd my recent memory, as well as my memory card.

When my big sister got in from upstate New York last Friday, she had donuts with her.  We celebrated her 29th birthday over a cake comprised of stacked and candle-topped donuts.
Having her home this time of year always adds to my time in New Jersey.  She's a photographer too, and is totally used to having a camera in her face.  I was sad to see her leave earlier today, but plans are in the works for her to visit me in Amherst on my birthday this year.

As much as I love a break from work, I can't help but miss those magic hills in western Mass. Weather permitting, a friend and I plan on heading up to Amherst next week to visit friends before heading on to Boston.  Only a little more than 20 days before I head back up to the Valley for another semester, and I'm already getting antsy.

Posted on December 20, 2012

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The holiday season hasn't changed much over the years for my family and I; even at 20, I gather around our flameless menorah with my family for the start of the holiday season.

My dad is Jewish and my mom is Catholic; as a result, we've always celebrated both Chanukah and Christmas, often within mere days of each other. 

This year, right after my parents helped me lug my suitcases in from the car, we all gathered around our little cloth-and-velcro menorah for the last night of Chanukah.

Yeah, cloth and velcro. What can I say, some traditions don't die.  When I was little, my parents found it unwise to keep an open flame around a toddler who could knock it over at any minute.  They somehow stumbled upon the fabric menorah, complete with multicolored cloth candles and little velcro flames to stick on top of one every night.

Years after I first learned to crawl, my parents held onto the cloth menorah.  At first, it was because my little sister came along. After her came our dog, and then our cats.  At this point, we've run out of any excuses for keeping it, so let's just go with tradition.

There have been years where Chanukah hasn't lined up so neatly with Christmas: years when, after returning from Christmas dinner at my grandma's house, we gathered in our stocking-adorned living room to “light” another candle.  This year, luckily, is not one of those years; the day after Chanukah ended, the menorah came down from the mantle and the stockings went up.  The same day, we went looking for a tree.

I'm not sure how we always manage to pick the rainiest day of December to go tree shopping, but the tradition certainly continued this year.  The tree lots we stopped at were the same ones we've been going to since I was little; I still remember hiding in the rows of pine needles, pretending to be lost in a forest with my little sister.  Not so much this year.

With the first lot mostly sold out, we headed to a second one down the road, where their final trees were leaning against the building's exterior, waiting to be picked up.  When I was little, my family's pickiness was fun; it was, in my mind, our prerogative to save the best tree from the lonely garden center lot by giving it a temporary home at our house.

At this point, the novelty of standing out in the rain, comparing needles and branches from one tree to the next, had run thin.  Still, it's hard to completely banish that deep-seated anticipatory feeling one gets after finally deciding on a Christmas tree.

This weekend's going to be a hectic one; tomorrow, my sister and I decorate the tree now standing in our living room.  My big sister comes home the next day for her birthday and, from there on out, I can't help but see a lot of hectic, last minute gift shopping in my future.  It's all a little overwhelming after just returning from school, but I'll take a busy break over a boring one any day.

Posted on December 15, 2012

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I love the UMass community that exists on campus. Due to its size, UMass is like its own town where you see many of the same people every day but there is always something new going on. One of the best parts of UMass is that this is not the only community that you are a part of. A 15-minute walk puts you in the center of Amherst where there are shops and restaurants, bars and benches, pizza and ice cream. The center of town is a place that many others besides UMass students enjoy and this simply enriches its culture and charm. While it brings UMass into its larger community, it is still a relatively close group that has made Amherst such an interesting place to live. The students help shape it as much as they are shaped by it.

There are many well-known and much-loved places to go in downtown Amherst. Antonio's Pizza is a well-known favorite. My favorite new shop is the Glazed doughnut shop. I just can't resist. When I was growing up, my parents (who grew up in Amherst) would take me and my siblings to Pasta E Basta, so it still remains a favorite of mine.

So if you don't live in Amherst, I suggest you visit some time. And if you do or have, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Posted on December 14, 2012

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"I love the traditional post-finals Northampton trip!" I said to my friends as we climbed into Tommy's car.

"Since when is this tradition?" asked Evan.

"Since now."

Winter break always seems to creep up on me.  You'd think that I'd have the whole "midterms, class, finals, break" thing under control by now, but every year, I get so wrapped up in finals week that I don't even see break coming until the last test timer buzzes or my last essay's handed in.  As campus quiets down and I stop stressing about memorizing music theory or assembling my final multimedia journalism project, the realization dawns that in just a couple days' time, the distance between my college friends and I will go from 2 miles to 200.

This finals week has been a tough one;  somewhere right between writing an essay and starting another one, Beatrice, my laptop, finally succumbed to what the repair people tell me was water damage that reared its ugly, warranty-voiding head at the least convenient time of the year.  Still, with the help of study guide printouts, the library computers (that all have Adobe Creative Suite on them! Who knew?), and my wonderful, laptop-loaning boyfriend, I made it through finals week without freaking out too, too much.  As soon as it was over, though, I broke free from the halls of my Goessmann 20 exam and headed to my friends' house in Rolling Green.  The night, which was spent with Evan's guitar and Hershey's bars, was when the Northampton trip was proposed.

Even if my friends hadn't recognized it as such, the finals week trip to the neighboring town is, essentially, tradition; since freshman year, at least a handful of my friends and I have made our way into NoHo for some panicked holiday shopping around this time.  It's a gift trip, some final hangout time, and nostalgia fuel for those snowy days inside during the upcoming break all at once.

After roaming through a few stores in Thornes and making the obligatory stop at Faces, my friends turned their sights toward Turn It Up!, a neat little record store down a flight of stairs on Pleasant Street. 

I'm always a little surprised by the frequency with which I find myself gazing at rows upon rows of records while at school, considering I don't currently have, nor do I intend on acquiring, a record player of my own.  Still, the kids I spend my time with are more likely to ask if you want to see their extensive vinyl collections without any hint of irony than anyone else I've met.  They've even sold me on a handful of record purchases of my own, a small pile of vinyls that inevitably found a home in their living room.

While Tommy, Evan and Kayla looked at records and some cheap movies on VHS, Sabrina and I paced through the aisles, waiting for our friends to finish combing the crates and crates of music.  Sabrina disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a bag.

"I bought this just because we've been here so long," she said, pulling out a record, "It's whatever they were just playing in here."

40 minutes, several records, and one too many Boz Scaggs jokes later, my friends finally paid and headed out, content with their personal purchases and Christmas gifts.

The next, and final, time I saw them before break was at so-called Family Dinner at Franklin dining commons on Friday. I'm not sure exactly when in the three years of friendship "dinner" acquired the modifier, but the mass Family Dinner text is the only one nobody can ignore.  Now that most of my friends live off-campus, I'm used to lunches in my room or quick dinners at the DC between class and homework.  When it's Family Dinner, though, I can expect to be sitting at one of four round, campus-side tables at Franklin for at least an hour and a half. 

Tomorrow, I head off to my real family in New Jersey bright and early, and I can't say I don't look forward to a break with no early discussions, no Moodle worksheets to complete, and no strict schedule to adhere to.   Still, I'm going to miss all of the many people who make my college experience exactly that: an experience.

Posted on December 10, 2012

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  • 23rd Floor of the Library
  • Man studying on the 23rd floor.
  • Library desks.
  • pathways
  • Central
  • Northeast
  • Southwest
  • Old Chapel
  • 9th floor of the library
  • books
  • 3rd floor of the library
  • Lower level of the library.
  • view of the library

This past week, I explored UMass' W.E.B. DuBois library. Due to its size, it was impossible to see everything. I found myself in many places in the library that I had never been to before. In the library standing 26 stories high, its not difficult to see why.

The library is a great place to meet for group projects, find resources, get research assistance, and simply find a quiet desk to study. It has the Procrastination Station on the first floor for all of your snacking needs, and many helpful people to point you in the right direction when you get lost (which will happen). Once you find your favorite places however, you will wonder how you got by without the library.

I use the computers, books, and printers at the library on a regular basis. I also take myself away from any distractions by studying in the library when I really need to focus. Personally, I like finding a quiet desk on one of the floors with book stacks, but now that I've discovered the Art and Photography floor, I may have to revise my study habits.

Posted on December 09, 2012

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There is so much to do and see around campus that trying to fit it all in pictures is difficult. I thought that I would try to compile series of images that illustrate elements that I enjoy. I love the scenery and the small details around campus that make it what it is. Because UMass is large and diverse, there is always more to discover and capture (in a picture!)

Posted on December 05, 2012

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Hey guys, remember, Hokes, the musician I photographed during winter break? He performed at UMass last Thursday as part of WMUA’s Hip Hop in Renaissance.
I showed up not knowing what to expect, since I had never been into hip hop growing up.  Still, when given the option to do something new over sitting in my room and twiddling my thumbs, I’ll take it.
I soon found out I didn’t need an introductory course to enjoy the show. From the start, it was interesting to see Hokes, who I went to high school with, performing for a crowd of my college acquaintances. The performances from Qwin Omaru, Chris Wise and Con-Plex, and Tiger Speak that followed carried the energy of the show through the night, which I tried to capture in these photos.

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