“I don’t think I’ve had to open one door for myself in the last 48 hours,” Joe Elvin told me while reflecting on his experience visiting Luther College, “People have been holding doors for me so far in advance that it seems like it’s almost an obsessive practice.” Joe and I went to high school together and is now a sophomore at Bucknell College in Pennsylvania. He spent the first few days of his spring break visiting me at Luther.
Hanging out with Joe over the last few days has given me the opportunity to view Luther through the eyes of someone experiencing it for the first time. One of the first things we did upon Joe’s arrival was go to Dunning’s Springs. A group of four of us made the trek to the beautiful falls and then hiked up into the bluffs along the mountain bike trails. Joe had been in town for less than an hour and already he was out exploring the extensive natural areas surrounding Decorah. “Woah,” he once exclaimed while enjoying a momentary lapse in tree cover which revealed the breadth of the Oneota Valley, “this is quite the view."
After our adventure, we headed to the caf for dinner. I let Joe use my I.D. to swipe both of us into the Caf so that he got to experience a truly authentic Luther College dinner. Joe had pasta and some corn dogs for dinner and really seemed to enjoy the food. It was snowing quite hard at this point so the view from the caf wasn’t quite as breathtaking as usual, but the snow made the view beautiful in a sort of mysterious, cozy way. “Man,” Joe remarked, “it’s really coming down out there." We had about an hour after dinner before the “Bushwacking the Boundary Waters,” lecture so I decided to show Joe around some of Luther’s buildings. We spent most of our time in the library where we explored different sections and thumbed through books that caught our attention.
The lecture, given by Luther alumnus Jason Zabokrtsky, was fascinating and also gave me the opportunity for me to point out some Luther College big-wigs to Joe. A few of my favorite professors (Jon Jensen and Jon Moeller) were at the lecture along with plenty of fellow Environmental Studies Majors.
Joe and I also went into town to buy groceries and get lunch on Monday. We bought ingredients for stir fry at Fareway and then got lunch at the co-op. While we ate, Joe very astutely pointed out some significant demographical differences between Fareway’s customers and the co-op’s. We enjoyed comparing the co-op to the very similar west coast co-ops we had frequented on a cross-country train/backpacking trip we took after our senior year of high school.
Unfortunately, Joe had to get back to life outside Luther and headed out on Tuesday morning. However, not before he had the opportunity to spend some time getting brunch at Oneota Market. Joe got a croissant and a cheesy egg wrap for breakfast and was startled by the incessant vibrating of his food-alert-coaster. “Woah!” he exclaimed as he scrambled to pick it up off the hard table, “that thing is loud!”
So, after a few days at Luther, what does Joe think? “Everyone here is a character," he told me, “I feel like I’ve had so many interesting or strange interactions with so many distinct people.” Joe also really enjoyed the natural setting of Decorah. We took several walks around the area and he was always blown away by how pretty our surroundings were. The bluffs, the trees, the meadows, and the freshly fallen snow provided a really nice backdrop for fun conversations and brisk walking.
Next weekend I am visiting Joe at Bucknell! I am really excited for our roles to switch and observe his life and college as an outsider. I was delighted to have Joe here. I’m glad he could experience the Luther way of life and I hope he visits Decorah again soon.