New beginnings

Some will know that I’ve begun an MDiv program at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. And those of you that didn’t, well, now you do! At the request of several interested parties, I’ll be posting some occasional thoughts on what it’s like to be a “returning student” to an Orthodox seminary, a strange beast to the thoughts of most. I decided that I won’t post anything about the trials and tribulations involved in getting to this point. While the Holy Cross and Church aspects went thoroughly smoothly, the UC Berkeley side of everything was decidedly unsavory. So, as my mother taught me, as I cannot say anything nice about that, I will instead say nothing at all. And we’ll move on!

Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology is situated in a particularly beautiful part of the most beautiful suburb of Boston, Brookline. The school is actually both Hellenic College (a four year undergraduate college) and Holy Cross (the graduate school; Masters progams only, no doctorates). The school is affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which is under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Archbishop Demetrios is the bishop we commemorate in our liturgies. There are just over 200 students total at the school, most of which live here on campus in either a dormitory (where I live now; more on that below) or in family housing, for married students and their children, of which there are quite a few! The campus is small, but beautiful. It’s situated on what appears to be the highest hill near Boston, with the chapel at the highest point on the campus, so we have a good view of Boston (but I was spoiled with a stunning view of San Francisco Bay from work and home back west; we aren’t high enough or far enough to have a view like that–I can’t even see the ocean from here). There are two hawks, a male and a female, which live here and will perch on the cross atop the dome of the chapel. Very striking. Very near to campus is Jamaica Pond, a large pond which is great to walk around, at least for now while the weather is nice! In walking distance is the cute little town of Jamaica Plain; it’s Berkeleyesque, but the architecture is much more interesting. Old New England houses really look like proper houses to me. It must be a childhood thing (I was born in Manchester, NH, just north of here a bit). One of the neatest things is that the curbstones are granite, not concrete. And there are huge stone walls everywhere. Somebody has done a lot of stonecutting around here! It’s a nice touch, these giant chunks of granite everywhere as curbs. And the corners of streets with drains and manholes cut into them are really cool. I’ll have to post some pictures of those. The weather is, at best, fickle. As one of my professors has said, “This is New England. If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.” Part of me wonders how these people can live here. Just over this past week, there’s been a fifty degree spread in temperature, both rainy and sunshiny. When I arrived at the beginning of September, there was super high humidity and it was in the high 70s and 80s. I loved it! It was positively tropical. Today, it was 81, but not as humid. Tomorrow it should be around 84, they say. But as I said, the humidity has dropped already, so it’s not as nice. I’m the one who loves it hot. When I heard of that heat wave that hit New England a couple weeks before I got here, I was positively jealous! But enough of weather talk.

I haven’t had much time to wander about or even visit Boston itself aside from a dinner with a visiting friend a few days after I arrived (Hi Doug!), and an evening trip into Cambridge (my first T trip, organized as a group thing for new students, the ‘Boston T Party’!). There are several people here who know the area very well and walk (as I love to do), so they’ve pointed me in various directions, but I’ll just have to tag along on one of their excursions, and do a bit of my own wandering, as well. Now that I’m feeling more settled, I’ll probably be able to do that soon. I’ll probably end up in Cambridge quite a bit, as that’s the most likely contender for the combination of venues that I require for me to feel as though I’m living a civilized existence (good bookstores [PLURAL!], cafés with good coffee and fresh baked goods, pubs with local brews, tailors, cobblers, etc). We’ll see. I don’t expect to find a Jupiter here, but something that’s relatively similar would be nice. I don’t expect winter outdoor seating in this area. More’s the pity!

So, I live in a dorm. I never thought I would ever live in a dorm. But now I do and it’s not so bad. The worst part was actually moving in. I had my stuff from Berkeley shipped here via one of those shipping cubes, and then had to move everything up three flights of stairs (there is no elevator here!). The measurements I got for this room were incorrect (some rooms are the measurements I was given, but not the one I’m in), so I ended up having a book giveaway of about 200 or so books (10 medium sized boxes) as soon as I arrived, and gave away two bookshelves too. I had no room for them, and there is no storage for such a huge amount of stuff here, nor could I face lifting it back into some other storage container. So, within a day of my arrival a whole bunch of people got to know me as the guy giving away literally a ton (indeed, quite literally a ton, roughly 2,000 pounds!) of scholarly books on all kinds of interesting subjects. I’m still getting used to that. I’ll go to my bookshelf to look for a book and it’s not there. Oh well. That was a lesson in acquisitiveness. I’ll replace some of those books in the future, but not all of them, for sure. And certainly not while I’m living here! I’ve learned my lesson of having to lift all that stuff! Over the course of two days, I lifted 3,950 pounds of stuff out of that cube, with roughly half of that going into my dorm room. And I have to move everything out of here at the end of the year, as they use the dorms during the summer for conferences and such. So I’m already dreading that move. Really. I shudder when I think of it. But living in the dorm is not so bad. I thought it would be some wild bacchanal that would drive me insane. It’s not. It’s a Christian school after all. Which is decidedly not to say that all of the dorm’s inhabitants are pietistic spotless lilies, pure as the driven snow. But the character of the students here is really striking for its absolutely being a cut above what I’m used to seeing. I’m truly impressed with the people around me. I’m actually finding this a positive experience, rather than the nightmare that some led me to expect.

(to be continued tomorrow!)

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4 Responses to New beginnings

  1. Mark James says:

    At the seminary I went to, if you had a box of books you didn’t want, you could just bring them to the bookstore and they’d sell them for you on a commission basis. They priced it and put a ticket in it, and put it on a shelf, and if it sold, you got the money. Otherwise you’d get it back after a while.

    • That’s civilized! My books would’ve taken too much space in our already cramped bookstore, charming but well-stocked little thing that it is. As it was, my books laid out in a hallway locally known as the Batcave took about 20 feet. It was a whole lotta ancient near eastern stuff, some history and archaeology, some Judaica, lots of Classics, and some fluff (music books and fiction). Had I known I’d have so little space, I might’ve gone through them back in Berkeley in a more orderly manner. As it is, I was a bit rushed (and not a little frazzled by the constant lifting in very hot weather and not stopping to rest and eat and drink and all that stuff) and got rid of some things that I’d rather have kept, and kept some things that I’d rather have given away. At least I know which books were really useful and that I’ll replace (eventually) by my actually missing them for their information rather than just familiar old friends in sight. They say that nature abhors a vacuum, but I say that some part of me abhors an unfilled bookshelf, of which I have several now. (Unfilled is “not double-stacked” in Kevinese.) So, I’ll be looking for things in the not-too distant future, but limiting myself to those that are directly related to classes. Ephemera can wait.

      What can’t wait is me, to go down to sit out today at J. P. Licks, and have ice cream and coffee in the sun, doing my homework, and enjoying the already 80 degree weather! Such a nice day!

      Later this evening I’ll continue with The Saga of Settling Into School.

  2. Michael says:

    Hmmm…wish I had been around to purchase all those books. :-)

    • That would have been nice! Alack and woe, there was no time to arrange such. And there was benefit to those who gained some very useful books that they could not otherwise afford. So, my loss, but their win. And that’s a good thing in itself. It was also the beginning of a reputation here for me, a positive one, which is also a good thing.

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