Life in a Co-operative House

Since I moved to co-operative housing on campus this semester, several people have asked me about my ‘co-op life’. It’s hardly been two weeks since I’ve moved into the Prospect of Whitby, but I do have a few insights that maybe helpful to those who are wondering.

Welcome to Whitby!

Welcome to Whitby!

1) Finding a Place
Having a community where I belong has always been important to me. My freshman dorm did not do a great job at that. Although my neighbors were all very friendly, the design of the dorm and the sheer number of students did not allow for much engagement. The first time I saw Whitby, the sweaters lying on the living room sofas, backpacks on the floor, used coffee mugs on the table immediately created a sense of home for me.

2) Cook Groups
When I tell my friends that everyone at Whitby must cook once a week with other housemates, as part of our meal plan, they get concerned. “I don’t have the time to cook” and “I don’t know how to cook” are common responses. But there’s always a more experienced person in your cook group, so even if you can’t cook, you can chop vegetables or wash the dishes. And I prefer dinners at home with a group of people I know to dining halls with hundreds of strangers.
Bonus: You don’t  have to go outside for food when it’s freezing out there. And the kitchen is open 24×7!

3) Clean Ups
The worst reactions I get are when I say that we share responsibility for the cleanliness of the house. “I will have to clean my own house? And wash my own dishes?!”  It is a small responsibility and practice for real life. Nobody is going to pick up after you. It’s no surprise that most college students are not ready for independent living after graduation.

4) It’s FUN
I have probably had more fun in the past two weeks than the entire Fall semester. We watch movies together and obsess over them; there’s always someone who wants to go to the events I do; I get to be crazy and not be judged for it! There’s always something fun to do.

5) It’s also Inexpensive.
Co-ops are the cheapest housing options on campus. Also, you are not charged for forgetting your keys or misplacing your ID. You don’t even have to pay a considerable amount for laundry each semester. Overall, I think this house is definitely worth more than I pay for it.

5) “Co-ops? Very hippie”
I also hear that a lot. I don’t fully understand the cultural implication of the noun/adjective ‘hippie’, so I don’t know how hippie Whitby is. But people here are as diverse as in my freshman dorm. We have environmentalists,dancers, actors, computer scientists, ornithologists, engineers and writers, just to mention a few. There are various nationalities, opinions and interests reflected in our community. I don’t see a specific shared quality in Whitby residents except that they are all amazing people. 😉 

Although I had my own concerns before moving into Whitby, now those doubts seem unfounded. I am loving my new home!

Cooking Up A Disaster

It’s the second semester of my freshman year and I decided to opt out of the dining hall meal plan. The main reason for this was my disinclination to leave my dorm when it was snowing outside. Another reason is that I have moved from my freshman dorm to Prospect of Whitby, a co-op house on campus.

On my first afternoon on campus this semester, I had to put my cooking skills to the test. Unfortunately, these cooking skills do not exist. Cooking by myself for the first time, I decided to stick to something simple: rice and ready to make rajma (kidney beans chili).

The process was simple. I had to put some rice and a proportionate amount of water in the rice cooker. The chili was even easier to make. All I had to do was empty the packet into a microwavable dish and microwave it for 1-2 minutes. What could possibly go wrong with this?

After ninety seconds in the microwave, something exploded in the bowl of chili. I stopped and opened the microwave. The gravy was all over the microwave and some kidney beans seemed to have burst. I had no idea that could happen. So cooking lesson #1 for me: Beans can explode. I wiped the microwave clean and assessed what remained in the bowl. It still seemed edible.

Then I checked the rice cooker. As I opened the lid, the smell of the basmati rice seemed perfect to me. At least this worked out, I thought, until I tasted it. It was slightly rubbery.  You can only complain about food that someone else (your mother, your neighbour or the dining hall staff) has cooked. If you make bad food, you have no choice but to eat it quietly, trying to silence the embarrassment over your lack of cooking skills.

However, this is still a huge step up from the last meal I made for myself during Thanksgiving break in the Fall.

If I can even call this a meal.

Perhaps over the next few years, I will learn to cook myself a decent meal.