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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

The Sanctuary on High Street

From left to right, Erhaan Ahmad, Sydney Quartey, Jonah Zimmermann, Ayon Dey, Aleks Hrusanov and Artis Curiskis, all ’18, pose in their living room, propping up a life-sized cutout of John F. Kennedy. Photo by Govind Brahmanyapura.

By Hallela Hinton-Williams

Erhaan Ahmad, Ayon Dey, Artis Curiskis, Jonah Zimmermann, Sydney Quartey and Aleks Hrusanov, all ’18, live in what they call the Sanctuary.

“We’re a pretty diverse house, maybe the most diverse on High St. We wanted to be very open to anyone who wanted to come, and kind of play off the idea of sanctuary spaces as our house being a sanctuary to anyone,” Curiskis explained.

“Yeah, we’re one Christian, two Jews, one Hindu, one Muslim, one Orthodox,” Dey added. “It’s a weird mix, but everyone’s connected, pretty deeply.”

“The best part is that we’re really close, and we come from different places and bring stuff from home like our Bulgarian flag and food,” Ahmad chimed in.

The housemates are like a family and definitely act like one. Their friendships date back to first year, as early as the International Students Pre-Orientation Program (IPOP).

One year, five of us lived in Read and Sydney lived in Loose. We were just all around,” Dey said.

“We would never leave the dorm” Cursiskis continued.

“It was problematic,” Zimmermann laughed.

“We never left our dorm, we did everything there and we just called people over. That hasn’t changed much. We just do the same thing,” Dey reflected.

“Never leave the house,” Hrusanov finished Dey’s sentence.

When they’re all together, the six all tell stories while riffing off each other about the past four years of their friendship. A time they all went out separately but grouped back together at the end of 10/10 is a special one. They talk about games they play that drive each of them insane, but continue to play and appreciate. They argue about whether or not they are more like the Scooby-Doo Gang (plus Scrappy) or a six-sided die. The six of them even try to cook together as often as possible.

“Most of us have reduced meal plans, so we cook together,” Ahmad said.

“We make butter chicken, stir fry, all types of stuff,” Curiskis elaborated.

Quartey interjects jokingly, “most of my food just tastes like curry but it’s good, though. We also do this thing where one of us will get a to-go box and we’ll all crowd around it.”

The daily life of the house is always changing for them. Curiskis said things “pop up,” but some things remain constant.

For example, every morning, “Jonah comes out of his room and says ‘I have class in ten minutes’ and then stays and talks for like five or six minutes. It’s like a whirlwind,” Curiskis said.

“The only variable is who he’s talking to. One of us. Two of us. None of us,” Hrusanov joked.

The group of friends also have similar interests in their involvement in intramural soccer and in the music scene at Grinnell.

“We’re a very music-oriented group of people,” Curiskis said. “Jonah used to be in Singers, Aleks was in a band, Sydney DJs, Erhaan and I help with Tiny Dorm concerts.”

They also all agree that Dey’s hidden talent is singing in the shower.

“The most beautiful opera voice,” Zimmermann teased.

The house itself is adorned with different paintings that were gifts or finds, posters and a life-size cutout of JFK, taken from the basement of Zimmermann’s house.

“[The JFK poster] has become a staple of our house,” Ahmad noted.

“He watches over us,” Dey joked.

“It really doesn’t leave the space either. When we’ve had people over, he just ends up in the corner. He just watches over everyone,” Cursiskis expanded.

Their favorite piece is the coffee table in the middle of the living room.

“This table … used to be a closet door. It’s been around for about six years, and has now been passed down to us,” Dey said.

Overall, the house these six friends live in is welcoming and open to all.

“We don’t really organize parties, we just have friends that know they can come over whenever,” Hrusanov said. “Some of us will just come back, but there’ll be people here who don’t live here.”

“No one’s home, but there’s a party happening,” Ahmad commented.

The residents of 1015 High street have a house that is a safe space for everyone, especially friends.

Quartey summed it up with, “it truly is a sanctuary.”

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