BTFO Day 5 – Rounding out orientation, Working hard at Winchester House

Home Improvement with Mike Repas

After a late night of discussion and argumentation with my roommate and friend Ryan, I decided to sleep in and try and detach my mind from this idea that “they have schedule 16 hours of content per day, which I must attend all of in order to succeed here.”  This was a successful endeavor, and so I woke up after a suitably lengthy period of sleeping and was lucky enough to run into Whitney, the owner of our house (he is in the first photo below, as a matter of fact).  I spoke at length with Whitney in person at our house, and thus the following was accomplished today, either in terms of actual repairs or in terms of agreement upon a plan of action:

-he replaced the faucet with a more expensive/quality model, that also has more height to it (our old one was too low to fit some glasses underneath)
-I rebuilt and reinstalled our front door lock today, given that it could have been forced open previously
-he is going to be putting in a volleyball net into our back yard
-he LOVES my suggestion of picnic tables in the back yard (here’s hoping and praying…)
-he is 100% on board with not only cleaning up the basement and making the electrical stuff safer, he actually wants to partially finish it (so resealed and painted walls, and so forth).  This will have the added benefit of reducing humidity, the smell, and the insects that come into the house by a SIGNIFICANT amount
-he agrees with me that we should install an inner lock on the wooden door into the basement
-he also agrees with me that the inner door to the basement needs to be fixed and made weather proof, which is going to lower our heating bills.
-he agrees with me that the external metal cellar doors need to be repainted, and is leaning towards putting a better lock on them as well
-he and i are eventually going to scrape and repaint the columns to our porch, which will really make a difference in terms of how our house looks to people going by/coming in
-he is replacing the unsafe stools with new ones that match the green island chair we already have

So, as should be apparent, my day was spent being very busy running around the house, but was also entirely (and, to be honest, unexpectedly fruitful) in terms of progress made on my home.  As people who knew my place in DC may recall, it is my MO to not only take care of wherever I live, but to actually leave it in better shape than when I moved in; after all, it is not for no reason that Megan and John, the owners of my DC home, nearly begged me to stay.  In this case, it seems that Whitney and I shall get along quite famously; even better, the results of this relationship will be the transformation of a very well-kept house with a few rough edges and missing aspects to a paradise of a home (if I have a slight bit of artistic license there).  Lofty goals aside, it was s0mewhat hot and humid today outside, which meant that our first floor, sans ventilation, was absolutely on fire.  As such, I ended up being quite exhausted by the time I made it to…

Closing BBQ and events at BTFO; a general reaction to my time here thus far

In many ways, the final photo in the slideshow below saying “Welcome to Yale Divinity School” is really the most concise and accurate way to summarize my experiences at the 2011 Before the Fall Orientation.  The first event I attended today was the closing meal, which was a big barbecue done on the Sterling Quad, with gorgeous weather and reggae music over the loudspeakers (oddly, by the way, this music, food, and weather actually made the mood; I had non-fans of reggae telling me how much they were enjoying the laid-back approach of the style).  This was a lovely evening, as the sunset obliged us and painted the canvas of a sky in oranges, yellows, blues, and maybe even some reds.  The fellowship was also on-task, making sure that even at the end of a very tiring week, people were still excited to speak to each other on every topic from “wait, you like WHICH sports team” to “wait, you approve of the Greek exegesis of WHICH theologian,” and the whole spectrum in between.  The staff was amazing, as they were even more stressed than the newcomers, and yet continued to deliver high class entertainment and planning through the night. After the invocation of a phrase I hope catches on in the school, “many hands make light work,” the entire quad was mostly cleaned and cleared in short order.  By this time, the sun was nearly down, and so we approached the final BTFO event: Yale Swing and Blues club putting on a little learn to dance session at the div school.  There is an older, and only recently-renovated part of our campus, the main part of which is called the Old Refectory.  While it may have once been used to serve food, it looks quite suspiciously like a gorgeous ballroom (see the photos below) that was not well-taken care of, but is still beautiful.  Though I actually like swing dancing, I was beyond ready to pass out when I arrived, so I snapped the photos you will see below, said hello to some friends, and then made good my escape.

Therefore, reaching the end of this post regarding the end of this week of orientation at Yale Divinity School, what conclusions can I draw?  First and foremost, I would like to echo what I have previously distilled from the events: the school wanted to impart three messages to us.  First, that we are very welcome and should consider ourselves nearly family within the close community here; second, that the workload here is going to be quite rigorous and we should not fool ourselves on that regard; and finally that there is going to be some tough love from faculty to students, in terms of making us take care of ourselves and learn self-care habits for the long-term.  To those folks who know me and my time in DC over the past several years, the previous list should be setting off some kind of alarm or siren, as it is almost verbatim what I would often describe missing.  While I did learn a lot at AU and in DC in general (and also abroad), the problem with life in DC is that the rat race mentality of other people is corrosive and infectious; even though I disregard such an outlook on life, I will completely admit that I fell prey to the flow of people around me far too many times.  I am craving and perhaps even deeply needing each of the things that were continually reinforced during orientation here at YDS; a strong sense of community where religion is taken seriously and discussed by highly informed people (even disagreeing and atheist parties, simply at a much, MUCH higher level of information behind any given contention); a place where I will be challenged more and to a greater extent academically (and in so doing, become even hungrier to learn more); and most importantly, a place that is filled with students who want to do good but a faculty specifically used to such types, and thus with the resources in place to help guide us to a more balanced helping others/helping ourselves type of outlook on life.  There are many other details I have and have not mentioned, many of which I will discuss in the future, but all in all, my reaction comes down to two general areas; my complete and total agreement with the preceding list as discussed, and of equal importance, my amazement and mirth at just how incredibly well my housemates and I get along with each other (and in fact, enjoy each other’s company very much so).  These two things are the foundations upon which I will build my experience over the next several years, and I am optimistically here to claim that whatever ends up getting constructed will be a positive architecture to my thoughts, my outlook, and my life as a whole.

Photos of the day and closing BTFO events

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