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Note from the Peace House

Viewpoint Columnist | Monday, September 16, 2013

One of the most strikingly glum memories of my childhood was the day my family moved into our new rental house in Plainfield, Indiana.
We spent five days driving in a U-Haul rental from temperate San Ramon, Calif., only to be greeted by the stale dead air of a Hoosier December. Prior to the trip, my school friends and I thumbed through one of those large, colorful maps most second grade teachers have in the classroom. In each state, there was a cartoon “spirit animal” meant to consolidate all the people and history of a place into a solitary image.
Much to my surprise, when we arrived in Indianapolis, we were not greeted by slick-wheeled Indycars revving their engines at us as we anticipated a green light. Instead we were welcomed by the road-slickening, ice-rain familiar to anyone that has dared to make the venture across South Quad in February.
This wasn’t the most favorable first impression.
However, thanks to my parents’ boredom-escaping efforts, my outlook on the Midwest slowly began to change. They always made it a point to explore the different gems of the state in which we were living. We would take weekend trips to Amish country, canoe in the local river, hike in the hills of Brown County or spend a weekend at the dunes.
Fast forward to college.
On campus I was met by an exodus of people from all over the world, people that found themselves in the Hoosier state sporting the same disappointment that I experienced way back in second grade.
I began to spend many conversations defending this place I once loved to bash. And I also found myself, true to my parents’ example, trying to explore the gems in the community that surrounded me.
Now I know that it can be strangely effortless to gripe about how during most of the school year, campus looks nothing like the brochures, or complain that South Bend is the most boring, dangerous, dirty city in which a French priest could choose to build a school.
But from my experience, I’ve found much more joy and made much better memories trying to recognize the goodness of this place than by sarcastically putting it down.
I’m not going to give you a new “spirit animal” for Indiana, but for what it’s worth, here is a list of 10 gems I’ve found during my four years and one summer in South Bend. I invite you all to check out these places, add them to your Notre Dame bucket list or email me for more information about them:
No. One: The South Bend Farmer’s Market. The grocery of your childhood dreams filled with awesomeness in the forms of premium coffee, organic produce, free samples of sautéed mushrooms, thickly-cut bacon, homemade soap and knife-sharpening services.
No. Two: The St. Peter Claver Catholic Worker: A great community of folks that work with those down on their luck. Drop by the Our Lady of the Road Laundromat-cafe to serve breakfast or to attend the “First Friday” mass, potluck dinner and discussion every month. Expect good conversation and music.
No. Three: Contra Dancing in Goshen. This is for those of you who enjoy moving your bodies to live fiddles, upright bass, guitars and folk music. No prior experience necessary (they give lessons) and no need to bring a partner. There are plenty of people willing and ready to dance there.
No. Four: The Pool. Located in a high school-converted-to-apartment complex (Central High Apartments), this is one of the best music venues I’ve ever been to. Imagine a carpeted pool floor, comfy couches, art on the walls and wonderful acoustics filling the room with great music from the best local musicians.
No. Five: Girasol. Situated a few blocks south of campus on Eddy Street, this family-run Salvadoran restaurant will fill up your stomach with tasty pupusas (El Salvador’s national food) or handmade tamales.
No. Six: Monroe Park Grocery Co-op. Organic food from local farmers and incredibly low prices. Need I say more?
No. Seven: Erasmus Books. A cozy bookstore located in a historic Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired prairie house. I found a handful of books for my classes there for less than the typical cost of shipping.
No. Eight: The Peace House. This is a shameless plug for my house. We organize gatherings that invite professors, students and South Bend residents to come together for food, conversation and music.
No. Nine: La Rosita Ice Cream Parlor. It’s the best ice cream in town. Seriously.
No. Ten: LangLab. An artist co-op based on a sustainable business model. They put on plays, poetry readings, book signings, house artist studios and co-ops and organize concerts.