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Quid Pro Quo

pbernal's picture

Re-Creating our World


Quid Pro Quo


Growing up I was always confused, not just about the common mommy where did I come from, but also why did my family seem different from everyone else’s. They talked about family game nights and I really couldn’t wrap my mind around what it meant to hold a strong family bond. I’d watch TV and the concept of home being a safe space seemed bizarre.

Home, for many is known to be a place of comfort, a safe space, but for me it’s never been a place I wanted to be. Ever since I can remember, I’d be absorbed with school or any extra curricular activities just to avoid being home. I wasn’t involved in my community because I wanted to be a model citizen or a well rounded over achiever student, I just wanted out. Home has never really been a place I’d like to stay for the day, it’s just somewhere I can sleep. It hasn’t been a place of comfort and I’m always trying to get out, hence the out of state college decision.

I’d walk around bitter and to be honest, I was envious of my friends and or anyone for that matter that at the end of the night could go home as their sanctuary. Ultimately my drive and incentives to avoid spending any time at home drove me to The Chinquapin School. When time came to leave Elementary School, rather than automatically following after a lot of my peers to the nearest neighborhood Middle School, I looked for better options, anything that would swallow me away from my house.

The Chinquapin School offers a private school education for a quarter of the price for low-income students who want to pursue better education but have limited opportunities. It was either now or never and I couldn’t let the opportunity slip out of my hands. Little did I know, a school, of all places would soon become home, my own sanctuary. 

A home in my perspective signifies more than a residence, more than property belonging to just a person. A home is to be shared and open to people to feel safe and comfortable so that people can settle and create the vibes that vibrate throughout the place. And Chinquapin provided all of that for me and more. My mother always used to say that the lessons you need in life to survive and function in the world start from home with your family where no one can judge you, and surprisingly my mother was right, except the place I decided to call home was Chinquapin and not the actual place that I lived in like my mother wished.

Chinquapin is not for everyone and that’s okay; a penguin would not feel comfortable in an elephant’s home. Chinquapin can be a scary challenge and sometimes it wears you out. It consumes all of your time, but that’s when I realized that all the input and time spent at Chinquapin was because I chose to be a part of this home and everything that I gave was out of love and devotion for a home that I just wanted to keep warm. I discovered what it means to have passion for something that you cherish and ways to express the dedication. I took a grasp of what it meant to be part of a home that you never really want to see crumble.

Chinquapin is both a Middle school and Highschool that at first opened only for boys as a boarding school and then later opened up for girls to attend as well but not to board. All the teachers live on campus to be accessible for the students and most of the staff and faculty do as well. The students are allowed to call teachers by their first names which helps create a close student and teacher relationship. Chinquapin prides itself in having a close family relationship and it’s something that if you ask anyone that either worked there or attended about what they love the most about Chinquapin is the family bond it holds. It’s a small community that has less than 200 students from grades 6th through 12th. In fact, my graduating class was a total of 18 students.

When you’re home, you have certain responsibilities and all of them pertain to keeping your home clean and sustainable or at least clean to your comfort and Chinquapin was no different. Everyone on campus had to do chores, the teachers, students, and even our school director. When 4 o’clock hit, everyone was changed into their P.E. clothing and Chinquapin looked exactly like the scene from the Cinderella Disney movie where all the animals come together to help Cinderella finish cleaning before she goes to the ball. Quid Pro Quo, something for something. As long as we put in the effort, what we got out of the experience was what we put in. 

There were people in charge of cleaning the restrooms, preparing dinner for the faculty and boys, cleaning the classrooms, and even maintaining the landscape of the campus. If anything broke or needed fixing around campus, we’d ultimately try fixing it first before we would consider calling a professional in a specialized department to fix it. And it never really mattered how dirty we got or how much time we spent fixing the pipe that broke for probably the 2nd time, we all did it without hesitation because we all cared about Chinquapin and we never really want anything to be broken. Chinquapin taught me the lessons of home, how to be responsible and take care of the space that I proudly call home.


            Chinquapin provided that emotional haven for me, it became the place that I would retreat to because it provided me with the space that I needed for myself and away from all the problems from my family household. All my keepsakes and favorite memories happened in Chinquapin. Thanks to the close student and teacher relationship, I felt comfortable approaching my teachers as an emotional support and someone I could ask advice to. They were more than just some adults upholding an authority figure position, they were really there for their students in anything that they could help with. The people at Chinquapin were the ones that made all the difference and made Chinquapin the home it is. I don’t think that I could approach my mother and talk about the things that worry me like the way that I would talk to some of my teachers. At one point, I’d talk to one of my closest mentors and we’d call them golf cart sessions. They really cared and not just pretended to like most of the people I encountered before Chinquapin. They are more than just teachers, they’re mentors and friends that I know I can count on and talk to if anything happens, and they create a safe zone.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Where we live is home- home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” Chinquapin is a place I will always keep close to my heart, the home I finally found and even though I’m not there anymore, it’s forever with me in my ways and the place I always want to visit when I’m in town. Communities like Chinquapin, make all the difference for individuals like me who don’t have a community to belong to or feel safe, a home they can feel comfortable in. The place that I lived in, unfortunately was not home for me, but the fact that I had the chance to find somewhere I belonged to and feel sheltered from all the chaos in my life made up for all the time and bitterness. 


Anne Dalke's picture

“a penguin would not feel comfortable in an elephant’s home”


You’ve written very moving story (how glad I am that you have learned to write without filters!), about your finding a home away from home. It’s heartening to hear that @ Chinquapin you found the “emotional haven” you needed, “ a “place of comfort,” a “safe space,” a “safe zone,” a “sanctuary,” a “shelter,” a “retreat,” “away from the problems of your family household, “ where “no one can judge you,” where you became part of “a close family relationship,” and learned how to take responsibility for taking care of that place.  I am so glad that you made your way to this school, and were able to become a part of the extended family bond it nurtures. And I’m very glad that your being there led you eventually to Bryn Mawr!

And now the next step, on this “edge of your learning.” It comes from the striking phrase (“the crack” that I’ve used for my title here): ““a penguin would not feel comfortable in an elephant’s home.” How much diversity is allowed, even encouraged, in the home that is Chinquapin? How much room for both penguins and elephants? You say that “Chinquapin is not for everyone and that’s okay.” How much homogeneity is sought there?

In one of the essays we’ll read for Monday’s class, “Feminist Politics: What’s Home Got to Do with It?” Martin and Mohanty argue that "There is an irreconcilable tension between the search for a secure place from which to speak,  within which to act, and the awareness of the price at which secure places are bought,  the awareness of the exclusions, the denials, the blindnesses on which they are predicated.” They highlight the “tension between the desire for home, for synchrony, for sameness, and the realization of the repressions  and violence that make home, harmony, sameness imaginable..." I’d like to hear more about what is “kept out” @ Chinquapin. What are the costs for the security it offers you and others?

My second “edgy” question also arises from another striking phrase you use: “Quid Pro Quo, something for something.” I want us to think together about that as an ecological tag: does it work once we start in thinking about everything as connected, as an immeasurable “mesh” of “strange strangers”? (see Timothy Morton, the source for these key terms, for more on these ideas).

In the interim, please read the essays written by smilewithsh and Sophia. Make a private post, Sunday evening, about where you see exile in their stories of home (as well as in your own), and bring copies of all three with you, for discussion in Monday’s class.  Thanks!