UN Wine and Cheese Social

By MATTHEW S HOFFMAN on September 15, 2012
This past Wednesday, September 12th, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Third Annual Wine and Cheese Social at the Centre Furnace Mansion. It was hosted by the United Nations Association of Centre County. My adviser, Sarah Lyall-Combs, suggested it would be a good place to network and meet new faces. Plus, wine and cheese! Also, Dr. Ann Tickamyer, Professor and Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology was presenting on the topic of women’s empowerment in Indonesia and Appalachia.

Since my girlfriend was accepted into a graduate school in the fantasy, beer drinking land that is Belgium, I am without a car. “No problem,” I thought. After all, the weather had been quite lovely the past week. But the universe pulled the trigger on me and cranked up the atmosphere’s furnace Wednesday. The one mile walk from the Bryce Jordan Center to the Centre Furnace Mansion certainly heated up.
Image courtesy of http://centrecountyhistory.org
The event was scheduled to start at 6PM. After trudging through the grasslands (the sidewalks just disappear at some point) and bordering on trespassing, I arrived on time. Sweaty, mind you. Then I had a look at my dress shoes and they were dirty and dusty. I grabbed my name tag from the entrance desk and made sure to clean up my shoes in the bathroom. I like to think Johnny Appleseed would have freshened up too, unless apples reduce perspiration or that whole story is a metaphor for hedonism…
Darting back and forth between every stranger’s eyes, I spotted one of my fellow interns Sara Thompson. Although after my journey through Mordor to get to the place, I was happy just to see humans that weren’t hidden inside speeding cars nearly running me over.
Sara and I poured some wine (and poured some wine) and tried to stay out of the way while we waited for the assistant director of CGS, Sarah Lyall-Combs, who had made my appearance there possible in the first place. At one point I noticed there was, encased in glass and on display, a deed for the sale of a slave named Matthew. Started to wonder about that place’s sense of humor.
At one point, an older gentleman introduced himself and we began talking. He was well-versed in European politics. For a few moments, we discussed possibility of federalism ever making its way into the European system. I didn’t have time to rage against the economic framework of the EU and its failings, as a tour of the mansion was to begin momentarily. Sara and I decided to tag along.
The mansion is spacious, to say the least; however, it is a bit unsettling to watch 200 year old people staring at you from a painting while you trample around their house. One of the rooms, the nursery, especially gave me the creeps. You would think that, considering in those times there was a necessity for a great imagination, they would imagine that their decor resembled a haunted house. But then maybe they just didn’t want company. Once the tour was over, we met up with Mrs. Combs and had some more wine before the presentation started.
Image courtesy of http://centrecountyhistory.org
Dr. Tickamyer’s presentation involved the comparing and contrasting gendered lives of two separate regions: Appalachia and Indonesia. At first, she discussed her childhood trip to Appalachia where the mountainous region amazed her. Dr. Tickamyer also spent time in Indonesia and fell in love with it as well. These personal (I would say profound) moments sparked the creation of the project she was presenting. She highlighted the similarities and differences, such as life at home and work and women’s status in each respective society. The conditions for women, even though they are a world apart, are shocking and depressingly alike. Surprisingly, Indonesians had elected a female president (Megawati Sukarnoputri), whereas the US has not done the same. Unfortunately, women in both regions are still under the patriarchal social structural boot. Reality being the final note.
Overall, the experience was fun and educational. Being in the midst of global mindset and an affinity for all cultures put me in a great mood. Especially working for CGS where I can be proactive in cultural exchange. I was also able to learn more about both Sara and Mrs. Combs, as well as dive headfirst into a taste of post-graduation life. Which, as I fearfully point out, is ever closer than I realize.
As for the ways and means home, Mr and Mrs Combs blessed me with a ride downtown to catch a bus. My feet were most thankful.

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