I spent spring break of my third year in a car, driving across the country. Dan, a student at Williams College, and Sara, a theatre major at the University of Washington, met me in Grinnell. We got stuck in some snow in Nebraska, took a stunning route through Sedona, Ariz., ordered Chinese food from a beach outside of San Francisco, and got Sara back to Seattle just in time for classes.
Dan and I booked it on the drive back to Grinnell. Needless to say, we were exhausted when we finally pulled up outside of Russian House. We weren’t excited to find the kitchen overflowing with students who coerced us into joining them for rice and curry. I excused myself as soon as I could, going up to my room and leaving Dan to fend for himself.
The next day was no different — activity filled the house from dawn to dusk. Dan and I wanted to make a nice dinner, so we invited everyone to join us, planned the menu, and went grocery shopping. However, when 7 p.m. rolled around, my housemate Suyog and his friend Aashish had taken over the stove. They seemed confused when we reminded them of our dinner plans. Frustrated, Dan and I spent the evening wandering around town.
After all of our wandering, we didn’t get dinner started until nearly 10:30 p.m. But then the whole evening took a turn. Everyone congregated in the kitchen once again as Dan and I started the pasta. A group of students played cards at the table. Three friends of mine, all from Nepal, began tossing bottle tops into a can at the other end of the room, fluidly interchanging English and Nepalese. Avram, another housemate, unexpectedly walked in, giddy after a week in Las Vegas.
By the time we finished cooking, the dynamic seemed like something out of a Woody Allen film — people sitting around with wine glasses, eating fettuccini and roasted peppers, talking about spring break adventures and Bob Dylan. After dinner, someone suggested I play my saxophone. I couldn’t see why not, so I went upstairs to get it. When I came back down, the living room was lit by candles. I improvised jazz standards for nearly an hour while people talked and mingled.
The evening ended just as unexpectedly as it began. Suddenly someone realized how late it had gotten and stood up to go. Within minutes, Russian House was quiet again. I didn’t get to bed until nearly 4:30 in the morning.
I’ll always remember that night as one of the strangest and most unexpectedly beautiful evenings that I’ve spent in Grinnell.
Catherine Wagley '07 is an Art major from Spokane, Washington.