Zombie ants…

I know this sounds like a Halloween blog title but, I have a biology story for you.  On Wednesday during Microbiology lab, my class was able to help some researchers from Penn State.  We researched Zombie ants!  Zombie ants have been infected by a fungus that takes over their brain and tells them to climb up a tree.  When they have climbed up the tree, they latch on and die there.  From this point the fungus can reproduce and infect more ants by spreading spores from the high elevation of the tree.  My class went to the site where the researchers were studying these ants.  We searched for ants in nearby trees.  I was so excited when I found my first Zombie ant!  Next we helped dig up ant colonies so that the researchers could use the ants in the lab for further testing.  We moved to another site to set bait traps for ants.  The baits consisted of honey, Pecan Sandies, and cat food.  This does not sound very appetizing to you but, the ants love the combination of s
alty and sweet.  We had so much fun getting out of the lab for the day and going on an adventure!  I have included some pictures taken by Roel, who was in the research group, of us making our way towards the Zombie ant site and making baits! (I am the one in the Camo hat!)  I hope you enjoyed learning a little about Zombie ants =)

An Evening at the Theatre

I am a lover of the arts: music, theatre, fine arts, writing, dance. . . so even when I am not involved in these, I also enjoy partaking in them from the other side, as part of the audience.  After all, what is a play, opera, ballet, poem, or sculpture without someone to enjoy it?  The arts are popular at Erskine, but sometimes students forget that there are great opportunities in the surrounding communities to enjoy the arts as well.

A lovely Saturday evening.

Abbeville, a mere fifteen minutes away, is a small community that offers many such opportunities, especially through the Abbeville Opera House.  Curiously enough, this historic building in the rural upstate is actually the state theatre of South Carolina!  Every year they put on a full season with about a play a month, and other special shows between these.  One of my good friends, Amber, was in the opening show of the season, The Sound of Music, so I drove over with a couple of friends for the last run of the show.  We ended up sitting close to handful of more Erskine students who had the same idea.

It is always fun to see the original stage version of a musical, especially one as well-known as The Sound of Music, and that I have seen so many times in its movie version.  There’s nothing like a live show, especially at a local theatre showcasing the talents of people in the community.  After enjoying the play, we greeted Amber, who played Frau Schmidt, the family’s German housekeeper.  Finally, after lots of hugs, congratulations, and animated discussions of the play, we ended the evening in typical Erskine fashion – a trip to IHOP for fun conversation and good breakfast food at 11:30 pm.

Welcome to Spain!

Some of the festivities

One of the things I love about Spanish culture is the great value they place on the family here. In accordance with this cultural feature, I was whisked off to a huge family dinner at a charming local restaurant within minutes of arriving at Puri’s (whose house I call home while I’m in Spain. There I was introduced to a staggering number of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandchildren, and everyone was—as is typical of the Spanish, I’ve found—extremely warm and friendly, welcoming me as one of the family. I’ll admit, I was a bit overwhelmed at the time, due to the lingering effects of jet-lag and language skills which were far more limited two days after my arrival than they are now, after three weeks of living in Spain. Looking back on that afternoon, however, I grow to appreciate that time with Puri’s family more and more.

Since that quintessentially Spanish meal (which is a two-hour-long event replete with paella), I’ve met more members of Puri’s extended family, and they’ve all been incredibly kind and welcoming. This weekend, in fact, during my recovery from a bit of a stomach bug, Puri’s sister Rosa came by to check on me when Puri was at work for the afternoon. I’ve felt very cared-for since arriving in Spain; I greatly appreciate my Spanish family!

My first plate of paella, a delicious rice-and-seafood dish that originated in southern Spain and is a huge favorite in Alicante

During my first week at Puri’s, I was able to get to know her nephew and his family, who were visiting for the week…and one member of the family happened to be an adorable ten-month-old named Sara. Especially during my first-week language struggles, it was often quite comforting to simply babble to Sara, who didn’t notice or care if I paused for inordinate amounts of time between words or simply devolved into coos of “cariño” when I just couldn’t find the words I wanted. It was also during my first week that I got to witness, first hand, the type of communal festivities which are such an integral and valued part of Spanish culture. A typical week in the barrio (neighborhood) of pescadores (fishermen) where I live? This involves live music played until late into the night and a neighborhood-wide celebration of the history of the community.
Sara and I...is she not adorable?

I was rather taken aback by the scope and scale of the festivities at first, and I couldn’t help chuckling to myself during the first few nights of the week-long party when I mused to myself that a similarly hearty and animated celebration being held on the street until the wee hours of the morning would surely violate some noise-level ordinance in most US neighborhoods. One evening, I watched the municipal band of Alicante parade up the street behind local denizens bearing the figure of the Virgen del Socorro, the patron saint of fishermen, to the hermitage where she is housed. As all of this happened to take place right beside
Puri’s balcony, I had a highly convenient, front-row view of all the goings on. Another evening, the loudest round of fireworks I’ve ever heard was set off, and on the final evening of the celebration, a neighborhood-wide costume contest was held. All in all, I would say that my first week’s introduction to Spanish culture was quite exciting!

Fall Begins in Due West

Due West Fall Festival

Although the weather doesn’t quite feel like it yet, fall is here and it has begun to come to Erskine. We had several days last week that were cooler, teasing us all into thinking that maybe the heat was finished for the season, but we’re back into the 80’s again.  However, here and there the leaves are starting to change a little, even falling in some cases, and this morning was the annual Due West Fall Festival.

I admit that I had never been before, even though I remember being woken up by the music outside my window two years ago, so this year – my last – I decided to make a point of going.  My sister and I went about a half an hour before lunch, and were pleasantly surprised by the size of the festival that Due West can put on.

It was a little like a flea market, with hand made goods – baskets, jewelry, woodworking  – used clothes and house wares, a few inflatable toys for children, a stage with local bands and karaoke, a couple dozen old cars on display, and of course lots of great food, from boiled peanuts to pound cakes.  We found a few nice little handmade things for great prices, and got to meet some really nice people from the area.  I’m glad that I finally decided to take part in this Due West tradition!

Cars on display at the Festival

The Erskine Model A making an appearance at the Festival.

Classmates and Cupcakes

Yesterday I went to delightful, quaint cupcake boutique called “Las Manolitas” with the girls from my Spanish language class. I suppose there is nothing distinctly Spanish about cupcakes…the outing was, however, unique to Alicante both because of the atmosphere and because of the company with whom I went. Where else, but abroad, can one enjoy scrumptious dessert and Spanish-only conversation with friends from places as varied Japan, Maine, Korea, and Due West? I’ve been so blessed to spend my daily three-hour language class in the company of these lovely ladies. We have a great time working together, along with our wonderful teacher Natalia, and our time in class is punctuated by peals of laughter over various misunderstandings, and—increasingly, now that we can communicate better—good-humored joking.

Walking through the streets of Alicante on our way to the pana
(the Spanish word for bakery )

Spencer, Zaira, Hiroko, Lisa, and I at Las Manolitas

Spencer, Zaira, Hiroko, Lisa, and I at Las Manolitas

Delightfully persuasive decor…in case patrons need any extra inducement to sample the store’s products.

The scrumptious assortment of cupcakes we ordered

Our class, with our lovely teacher, Natalia, in the middle. We have such fun learning together!

Our class, with our lovely teacher, Natalia, in the middle. We have such fun learning together!

It’s my first blog =)

     Hello Everyone!  I am Taylor Wolfe, a senior at Erskine and this is my first blog!  I enjoy long walks on the beach and Oreo milkshakes….. Just kidding!   I do enjoy the occasional Cookout Oreo milkshake though.  I am a chemistry major who lives in the science building at Erskine and I am also on the Women’s Golf Team.  Most of my blogs this year will probably be about my life as a senior and the steps I am taking from here.  Erskine has played a big part in shaping me for my future and I am thankful for every experience I have had here!

     I have been on campus for about a month now and my schedule has been jam packed!  I arrived early for freshman orientation because; I am on the orientation staff.  We had planned a “Woodstock” themed long weekend of activities for the incoming freshman so they could meet their new classmates and get used to being at Erskine.  This is one of my favorite times at Erskine.  You are constantly meeting new people, seeing the excitement on parents’ faces when you unload their over packed car for them, and working with new people who become your close friends.  When orientation was over, it was time to begin classes.  This is the tough semester of senior year for me.   With upper level chemistry courses, applying to pharmacy schools, and being in charge of the Erskine Entertainment Board, I have realized that there is a lot on my plate.  At Erskine, you can be involved in so many different organizations because it is such a small school. 

     The organization I am most involved in at Erskine is the Erskine Entertainment Board (EEB).  I have been on the board since my freshman year.  We plan all of the big events on campus from concerts, to drive-in movies, and give-aways.  This year I am the Chair of EEB and I am so excited for the great events we have planned for the campus!  Since Erskine is not in a big city, I think it’s important for organizations like EEB to give the students something to do on the weekends or during a random weeknight.

     Now you know a little more about me and I hope you have enjoyed reading my first blog!! There will definitely be more to come! Stay tuned =)

Parlez vous français?

I have taken Spanish classes almost every year since I was in eighth grade, studied abroad in Spain for four months last fall, chosen it as one of my majors in college, and reached a rather fluent level of the language.  I can meet a native speaker and comfortably have a conversation.

Now, in my last year of college I am taking introductory French classes.  Those who know that I am a Spanish major are surprised when they hear that I’m taking French, and ask if I need the elective credit hours for graduation – this is not the case at all.  In fact, as a double major, I hardly have room to squeeze the extra class in for two semesters, but somehow I am making it work.IMG_6073

Part of the reason that I began to consider learning another language was from looking into grad school this summer (and topic of several future blogs).  Vocal performance graduate programs encourage applicants to have a fairly versatile language background – most programs suggest two semesters of experience in French, Italian, and German, as they are three major languages of western vocal literature.  I had never been in a day of class in any of these, so I decided to take either French or German at Erskine this year to give myself an extra leg up.

I chose French because I am not so great at its pronunciation (I’m decent in German, I like to think), it is a close cousin to Spanish, and half of my family’s history is French (as my name gives away).  So I enrolled, and now I am two and a half weeks into the class and really enjoying it.  I seem to be picking it up fairly quickly, and I am reminded of how much I really love languages.  It is sort of strange to be starting from scratch with a language, since I haven’t been at that level in about eight years with Spanish, but it’s exciting to begin learning a second foreign language.  And just think, I will dabble in at least two more languages in grad school!