It’s over. Spring break is a thing of the past. All good things must come to an end—but even more importantly, they deserve reflection. What are the sexual politics of that Insta? What friction appears when the Ivy League goes straight-up State U? Do we commit the very crimes of that so many of us often critique? No matter your answer, Yale is thirsty for more sunshine.
As part of a student body that prides itself on inclusivity and open-mindedness, I never imagined that one of my most insecure moments at Yale would be justifying my Spring Break plans. But, “Why are you going to Iceland?” is a question that I and the rest of my fellow travelers—Isidora Stankovic, TD ’16, Matt Goldklang, ES ’16, Emma Goldberg, SY ’16, and Corey Malone-Smolla, TD ’16—had to answer so many times that even we told ourselves from time to time that we should have gone to Cabo instead. That being said, the airfare was super cheap, as was housing on Airbnb, so we were eager to break out our tees and tanks and explore the northernmost capital city on Earth!
One of the things that made this trip unforgettable was Iceland’s natural geological beauty. Matt, being a Geology & Geophysics major, served as our resident guide to the science behind the glaciers, rift zones, volcanoes, and geysers we saw during the many nature tours and hikes we took. Corey took Natty D last semester so she was helpful on that front as well.
Our most important finding was that Iceland is filled with people who are hip on a level that is beyond comprehension of anyone from this side of the North American tectonic plate. Imagine playing “Gay or European,” “Hipster or Hobo,” and “Siblings or Dating” all at the same time, and that’ll give you a pretty good impression of what spending an afternoon in downtown Reykjavík is like. The facial hair is all over the map, from slick handlebars to full-on muttonchops—and even the city buses have moustaches painted underneath their windshields. Combine that with copious flannel, skinny jeans, man buns, and hand-knitted patterned sweaters, and it’s easy to see why we were embarrassed to be so blatantly American wherever we went.
Once we got over our initial inferiority complex, though, we discovered that most Icelandic people were actually pretty friendly and down to earth. Emma found out firsthand just how helpful they could be, downloading Grindr on Matt’s phone and chatting up Icelandic boys to find out where the best nightlife destinations were. One such destination was a gay bar where the five of us did the Macarena, danced to “Let’s Have a Kiki” by Scissor Sisters, and promptly exited the building.
We also found a late-night falafel restaurant (an Icelandic counterpart to Mamoun’s), where Corey quickly befriended the management by picking up and cuddling the owner’s cat, naming him Shawarma, and forcing the cashier to kiss his nose. We ended up at this restaurant three nights in a row, making “what the fuck is wrong with you people?” the second-most common question we received while on vacation. On the topic of food, Isidora and I got hooked on Skyr, which is a delicious brand of Icelandic yogurt. Our last meal on Icelandic soil actually turned out to be the two of us scarfing down Isidora’s leftover Skyr on the floor in front of the airport security line after we found out we tragically couldn’t bring the yogurt in our carry-ons.
This spring break was one to remember—filled with a healthy mixture of adventure and mishap—and all of us got at least one good profile picture out of it. Because that’s all that really matters, right?
Staying in Cabo
“What happens in Cabo”…someone at Yale is bound to know about, because many a bulldog spent this spring break south of the border. A Yalie might be taken aback by how exclusive Mexico isn’t…because apparently Cabo is also the number one sprang break destination for ASU, SMU, USC, and any other “U” located in close enough proximity to Mexico. And if your Yale goggles were getting too tight, these waters were far clear enough to swim without them. Leaving Mexico with a Cabo bod was a primary concern for every other tall, tanned, and toned Sports Illustrated model attending spring break.
These kids don’t mess around. You think making it to Toads on Spring Fling is a feat? Try taking pulls of tequila on the flight back from Cabo, after a week of straight Wolf of Wall Street-ing it on the beach. If you can’t handle it, then you’re exactly like the frat boys next to me were talking about. As the smell of Señor Cuevo between their pulls left me with immediate nause2a, the were discussing their buddy with the “sick Beamer.” He went on, “Dude, your car is way sicker though. Well, he’s making six figures straight out of college. But he’s kinda weird. Cause people who are smart are usually kinda weird, like awkward, like not social, you know?”
Which is exactly the reaction you would recieve after telling any dartiers at Mango Deck watching the twerking contest/objectifying women (potato, po-tah-to) that you went to Yale. Unless of course, you were male.
It was full of every stereotypical spring break cliché MTV could have prepared you for: booze cruises, jet skiing, open-air night clubs, tequila, wet t-shirt contests, Grey Goose, tacos, dancing on tables, and all with neon headbands to assure you that you definitely “YOLO-ed in Cabo.” Really, nothing makes me want to go back to the relapse of the Polar Vortex like clear skies, blue water, and never-ending sunshine. I was getting withdrawal from Seasonal Affective Disorder anyways.
Happiness? Guess I’ll see you in Myrtle.
The Michigan difference
While everyone I know was jetting off to the Keys or Cabo, my spring break suitcase contained a handle of Dubra, a bottle of Tylenol, and boots that could pass for Pomeranians. The TSA detained me until I pulled out the “University of Michigan” sweatshirt I keep for just these occasions. They looked at the sweatshirt, looked at the Dubra, petted the Pomeranians, and let me through. Clearly, they understood I was headed to the land where leaky faucets drip vodka and the beer flows like wine flows like water, off to celebrate St. Fratty’s Day—err, St. Patty’s Day—weekend.
As I set my bags down safely within the palace walls of Kappa Kappa Gagme—err, Gamma—I realized this was going to be one of those “the majority of your education happens outside the classroom” experiences. And educated I became. I don’t speak Greek, but I quickly learned the rules: sun’s out, rum’s out; Tier 1 or bust; and an Irish car bomb a day keeps the doctor away. As an actor in Yale’s inaugural alcohol education videos, I felt conflicted. Confused. Even scared. But I said my Hail Marys, reminded myself that I’m 24 in the state of Pennsylvania, and began. I was woken up at 7 a.m. under the jumping body of a Phi Psi boy and a fountain of Andre. By 10 a.m. I had island-hopped Greece (in part on foot, in part on mechanical bull), from Chi Phi to AEPi to Delta Chi. Cries of “THINK THETA” and “TRI OR DIE” rang throughout the Ann Arbor prairie. At high noon I had a wholesome lunch of PB&J and PBR. A boy ran past me in a blur, vomited into a bush, and then fell into said bush. He got up, kept running, and kept vomiting.
Michiganians asked about Yale, treating it like some unreachable land they’d only heard of in myth. But it was I who was truly blown away. Try as I might, I know I will never fully master The Michigan Difference—the ability to blow a .38 a solid 18 hours after consuming any alcohol. I will never bleed maize and blue. But for that weekend, my hands proudly repped the Kappa symbol everywhere I went. Spring break let me try something new. If it taught me anything, it’s that sometimes, you just have to throw what you know.
The elusive thirst trap
Gentleman’s Quarterly, the employer of crush photographer Andrew Goble, ES ‘15, defined the “thirst trap” as follows:
thirst trap (n): the act of disingenuously posting sexy photos—while suggesting the subject of the photo is something else entirely— in an effort to elicit the lust (thirst) of followers.
The site was easy to miss at first glance. Strolling through Instagram during spring break, users flooded newsfeeds with exotic sunsets, not so subtle geotags in foreign languages, and clever, rap lyric-influenced captions. Underneath this unspoken social competition, however, a more insidious brand of photos proliferated: the bathing suit post. The fad was understandable given the excitement of a brief escape from New Haven’s biting winds. However, the frequent attempt to downplay skin exposure all the while knowing full well that a crush or an ex would see the photo provided for some comical vacation browsing.
Common phrases employed by Yalies in their spring break social media posts included a variation on overused but effective “not-going-back-to-New-Haven-because-its-warm-here” caption, all the while flexing the abs we worked on for two days before. Some astute juniors, capitalizing on growing senior nostalgia, showed off their bronze bods while hugging a graduate-to-be with a cutesy “you’re-not-allowed-to-leave-me” post, all the while upping the contrast to look even tanner. The sneakier, subtler thirst trappers opted for the #thirstsnap, posting a beach picture on a Snapchat story, which felt safer for some reason.
My personal favorite, which will blow up for the next two weeks, is the #tbt thirst trap, the best way casually flaunt those hard earned thigh gaps while everyone comments on how much they too hate being back at Yale. Fortunately, the #thirsttap hashtag caught on, adding a layer of self-awareness that made the game all the more fun. But be warned: just because we’re not in Cabo anymore doesn’t mean you’re allowed to slack off. Myrtle is just around the corner.
The first weekend of break, I texted all my friends: “It’s only 600 dollars to go to Copenhagen, wanna come with?” I ended up on Roatán, a small island of Honduras abounding in ocean wildlife and tourists. I can’t scuba dive and sand gives me hives, so after my first and last encounter with a beach I took to making photo excursions with my friend to the island’s small towns. Asian, carrying a film camera, and accompanied by the palest girl on the island, I attracted unabashed stares and children eager to pose for my photos everywhere we went: the gazing was mutual.
My friend, hyperconscious of her pasty complexion and terrified of fulfilling the worst stereotypes of gringo tourists, walked 10 feet ahead of me in embarrassment when I turned my camera on unsuspecting subjects. I justified my encroachments on these fragments of private lives: by my legal rights as a street photographer in public spaces (at least, the ones I have in the U.S.), by the fact that Asian women so rarely get to be observers rather than objects of study, but mostly by the difficulty of asking permission for photos in a language I don’t speak. Nevertheless, my non-whiteness did not preclude the possibility of class insensitivity, and my friend’s concerns about the imperialist gaze echoed with each click of the shutter.
Nighttime in the touristy West End neighborhood brought forth a completely different crowd: a strange mix of wealthy American condo owners, college spring breakers, and Hondurans with limited English, mingling at resort clubs and bars. The one constant between pubs at night and streets in day was my tangible otherness, highlighted at the resorts by my heightened awareness of race and class relations (not to mention those between black and Hispanic Hondurans), in which I, a tourist and the single Asian in Roatán, played an indeterminate role.
From the back of a bar, my friend and I rubbernecked in intrigued incredulity as drunk Americans of all ages (many with their children, and many who were children) sang, grinded, and gawkily jerked their bodies along to “We Can’t Stop” on karaoke night at the Blue Marlin. Stop we could not, because the entire display was grotesque and I kicked myself for leaving the camera behind. I asked myself what it meant to mock American excesses when the Hondurans I’d befriended claimed to have no resentment towards, and even feel fond of, the foreigners who see Central America as their own luxury winter homes.
My mulling came to a head during a confrontation with a hapless man who catcalled me with “konichiwa” at a moment when I was feeling particularly combative. Afterward, as an indignant insistence on my Americanness flared up in my consciousness, I turned the gaze on myself—not as an Asian, but as an American. Looking around the bar once again, I realized that all of it—boat-shoed bros with fists in the air, desperate men whose only appeal is the drink they offer to buy, teenaged and middle-aged couples alike who don’t know how to dance so they thrust on each other but can’t quite do that either—is my own culture: I had hoped to escape the U.S. on spring break, but only found home when I got there. I felt no disdain, just a vague appreciation for the hilarity of my people.
“Aren’t you exotifying?” my pale friend had asked me as I photographed sidewalk taco vendors. Our new Honduran friend and I watched a blond sixteen-year-old jerk his hips from behind his girlfriend as his father bellowed into a microphone ten feet away, and marveled at the rituals that I only observed when taking place in another world. Exotifying? Definitively, yes.
-Jin Ai Yap YH Staff