Crazy Times at UBC

I just went through one of those fantastic weekends that manages to be fun despite everything, and turns out to be a strange romp of everything childish and mature all at once, and to be more fun that the initial plans ever could have been.

On Friday night, all my friends pushed to go to Fiji’s blackout night. Frat parties turn out to be little more than dark, dank rooms, where guys overwhelm the girls, and your friends you arrived with are never the same friends you leave with. With this in mind, I wasn’t very enthusiastic at the prospects of spending my first day off at such a place. So we get ready, and walk towards the frats. The moment we reach it, we see five cop cars pulled up right at the gates, and the familiar blue-uniforms waiting like sentinels at the gate. I guess that’s what happens when a major RCMP station watches over such a tiny area, and when said Law-enforcement places their building directly beside the root of most drinking-related problems, then it’s inevitable that the frats will be harrassed from time to time. I wasn’t surprised.

My friends, on the other hand, were quite outraged: “those bastards, why do they have to suck the fun out of everything” or, “The night’s ruined!” Without anywhere else to go, we acted like regular college students, and decided to just wander around aimlessly. This might be seen as dreary, but c’mon– UBC’s Campus is awesome! We moved up to east mall where, after a couple rounds of rolling down a hill, a man wearing a suit materialized out of the shadows and gave us tickets. “Here, please, just come to our dance!” So we all walked over to what– I think — was the poli-sci dance. The dancefloor was basically empty, and by the time we’d arrived, most of the remaining dancers had grouped into grinding couples. But the pop-music was solid, and the lights made the room look like the inside of a kaleidescope, so we all had fun. Then we moved towards the western edge of campus, and stumbled down the infinite steps towards Wreck Beach, ending off the night like most first years.

The next day, I took a break from studying by bike riding through the northern part of campus. I went into the school of theology, which, for those of you who havent seen it, is a grand old gothic building whose central tower stretches up over the entire campus. I snuck in and went up to the highest floor and saw, to my mind, what must be the best view of the campus. Behind me, I saw the whole campus, from the blue glass of Irving K, to the stone exterior of the SUB; to the left of me the Ocean stretched out forever, clouding everything with a blue haze; and to the north of me the mountains stood motionless, like a frozen wave, most etched in green, while some painted white. The view was so gorgeous I felt phsyically knocked over. I love finding strange places that have views much better than the ones UBC likes to advertise.

That night, my friends invited me out to a pub (don’t worry, the non-drinking part of it). By the time our train of people assembled at the bus stop, fourteen of us made up the carriages. I’m sure we made more noise in there than any other table combined– and this was an Irish pub I’ll remind you! We acted as childish as humanly possible, and I don’t remember when I’ve laughed that hard before.

Finally, on Sunday I went to Occupy Vancouver. I wasn’t sure if I truly supported their cause or not, but I believed it to be something really important and historic; something of our generation, like woodstock to the 60’s. What it turned out to be was far smaller than I’d anticipated, and just a series of underwhelming speeches strung together. So I and my friends left and just explored downtown, an activity that never truly looses its appeal.

Overall, it was the kind of weekend only capable at UBC. I had all the fun a little kid could have, and all the freedome only an adult can grasp, all against a backdrop of the most gorgeous campus in the world.

University: A place of study, or a place to party?

I’m sure this is a story told by many, many first year college kids: they come off high school top of the class; involved in every extra curic available, straight A’s (and in some cases, A+) and they feel that they can do anything.

Then university happens.

Somewhere along the line, after getting repeated B’s with the kind of work that would have merrited an A in high school, that “special” student begins to deflate under the pressure. Suddenly, university becomes no longer about school, and instead becomes about having fun, and getting by class-wise.

That student was me, specifically last week. In choosing the 22nd best University in the world (at least according to the Time’s Higher Education list), I never considered that in going to a great university, I would be subject to an insane amount of work. My essay last week on the question of Oedipus being led by fate was torn apart by my prof, backed up with direct quotes from The Odyssey that, more or less, destroyed my entire argument. Well, after that, I started listening to my not-so-good influence friend. I really wanted to work, but I fall to the tug of peer-pressure easily, like a statue that’s toppled over with a little bit of wind. I stayed up late, only read the bare minimum of materials, and in some cases even skipped class. This wasn’t the student I’d intended to be when I started here. I mean, on the one hand, I was having loads of fun with my friend– at night. Then when morning came around I’d feel like shit, and would grow to resent class in all its forms. I no longer enjoyed the actual university part of university.

Then, over the long weekend, I purposely tagged on with my friends in their trip back to Victoria for thanksgiving. I didn’t know anyone there, and knew I wouldn’t get into any partying that weekend, and that’s exactly how I wanted it: three days to recharge, and rethink. I managed to read the entire Republic, which made me feel really good, because as it turns out, I was the only person in my entire Arts One seminar that actually finished the damn thing. Oh Plato.

Finally, my cousin gave me some advice that’s sure to stick with me for quite some time; “people think that the arts students have much less work to do than science, well they’re wrong. You have to take the initiative and go to your prof and talk to him during office hours. Bounce ideas off of him, and talk about what’s interesting to you. Go, and read the sources or totally unheard of books for the course so that you can generate a wide knowledge base. You’ll only rise to the top if you work for it.” Her words hit me like a strange, very unexpected epiphany. It all is starting to make sense. I’m in university. Time to take my schooling, and my fun, into my own hands.

A Special Moment

Two blog posts in one day? Well considering I haven’t posted anything in two weeks (bad procrastination, bad…), I figured I should make up for it with a double injection today. Besides, these two posts have very different themes.

So, anyone who happens to read this today will remember quite clearly the torrent that assuaged us today. I guess it was my first true ‘BC Day’ today, since although there’s been rain before, it’s always come and gone, or hit in strange spurts (like those two sun showers—what was with that?) And being a Prairie kid, I was too stupid to look out my window at 8:50 this morning to check the weather. So out I go, in a T-shirt and used sweat pants, without an umbrella or a clue. Though I wanted to go back inside, I had to meet my friend Alex on our way to Vanier. So I run along to meet her, only to find out – as I reach her gate –that she’s hungover (really Alex, on a Monday?) and that I’ll have to make the walk to theatre by myself.

Oh, did I mention that today I had class from nine o’clock to three o’clock, without any breaks? I didn’t even have time to eat breakfast. Way back when you were a kid, did you ever play Pirates Treasure, where you had to tramp around a forest or something, searching for clues, moving in a zig-zag line, until you finally found the gold? My day felt like that today, moving from Freddy Wood to Buchanan to Irving K to forestry to Buchanan again, only instead of gold, my treasure at the end of the road was my warm room. To top it off, the lectures today seemed particularly boring, especially the quiet prof who’s mic wasn’t working and I couldn’t understand a word he said. I may, just may, have resorted to Pokemon on my laptop in my darkest moments.

So I’m heading off to my final class, from Buch to the Hebb building. The rain crashes down against me, and I’m soaked to the bone. On a normal day, I would have hit ground zero mood-wise. But I don’t; I feel suddenly resilient, and I don’t exactly know why. Then it hits me: I saw God on the Irving K terrace. There was something special about the way the rain crashed down upon the stone, and the grass and the trees, and on the hundreds of students passing by me under the protection of their patterned umbrellas. Moments like that are incredibly hard to describe, and I know I’m not doing the experience justice, but for that instant my mood jumped into the air, but not in a crazy bi-polar way, since that feeling of deep fulfillment remained throughout the day.

I hope I have many more moments like that while I’m out here (after all, there will be many more damn days of rain), and that the new ‘never been opened’ feel still hits me from time to time. So I’d recommend, whatever you believe in (even be that atheist), just to take a moment to remember, “Hey, I’m at fucking UBC!” And isn’t that enough?

COLOR WARS! And other stuff…

So the big Totem Spirit week came and went, leaving me dazed and slightly confused in its aftermath. Color wars, homecoming and Glow all (by some miracle planning) fell upon the same day, pumping so much adrenaline into a single sixteen hour span that I needed a couple vodka shots here and there to keep me going through the day. My RA Malindi called Color Wars some of the most fun she’d experienced in residence, and the Dene president Alex called Glow the best night of our lives (well that’s a bit presumptuous, isn’t it?) As it turns out, one was quite right, the other was quite not.

The moment I heard of the points system for each houses, I, naturally, thought of Hogwarts and its magic red, green, blue and yellow stones. Well, while the students of Hogwarts gained their points through good behaviour, it turns out Totem residents get points through far more awesome means: spirit and kicking but in color wars. I like our way. I’d heard that Dene house always packed the pep into everything they did, and this year was certainly no exception; I can count the number of people on my hand who didn’t subject their body to some sort of orange and black paint. We screamed at the top of our lungs, jumping back and forth between each game, never letting our continued losing streak bring us down. Sure, we lost quite spectacularly, but we had a helluva lot more fun than all the other teams combined. We even made up new chants as we went along, such as “Eye of the Tiger” or changing the words of “Hey Ricky” to “Hey Dene”. It really did its job, in bringing me closer to just about everyone in Dene. The team building worked so well that I had a hard time sitting with non-Tigers at lunch a few hours later. Dene-dene-rawwwr!

Too bad Glow that night didn’t pack the same punch. When someone calls something “the best night of your life”, you’re going to go in with high expectations (I’d like to call it the “Grad-night complex”). Turns out that Glow was little more than a club, only instead of going home with someone you’ve never met before, everyone seemed to have no problem that night ‘one-night standing’ with people they either knew, or their friends knew. The incredibly boring DJ didn’t help matters either. But still, the biggest sign it was a bad night? The fact that even drunk, I realized exactly how terrible it was. I’m guessing next year the hype for the glorified dance party will be far more balanced.

Overall, this weekend taught me that I shouldn’t get my hopes up because of what someone else tells me about it; I have to embrace it with new arms and eyes on my own terms, and learn what I can with it by myself. Hey, it’s worked for me so far, what could go wrong now?

Friendship and Proximity

It’s amazing how living so close to someone can affect your relationship with them. In high school, it would take me a week to practically learn a guy’s name, then another six months to get to know him, and then two to three years before I could call him a “true friend”. In University, after little more than a week, I’ve found, with one roomie in particular, we’ve become close and understanding friends with little effort. It’s great that we could become so close, and that he didn’t turn out to be one of those psycho roommates you see in horror movies.

However, for every good story, there’s usually a bad one in there too. Way back when in high school, I followed a weird trait with meeting certain (and only certain) people: I’d become fascinated with them in a totally non-sexual way, and want to be their friends. It would take a couple months before their image began to crack and I realized that they weren’t all that great a person. A terrible one even. I didn’t expect a moment like this to happen so soon in UBC, but who would have thought it could happen in a single day?

I met this really interesting—nameless – girl from a nameless place (Nowhere Land, yeah let’s go with that!). She acted very hip and urban, the kind of person I’d expected and hoped to meet in the strange world of college. We got along really well, and the next day we hung out at a party together, and had one of those great bonding conversations that is far too personal for a public blog.

Now I don’t want to be mean on the blog, so I won’t relate what happened next, but needless to say, the next day some things were said by this said person that wasn’t so nice. Suddenly, like a light switch going off, everything changed for me with her. I left her and her friends, carrying with me a sense of bitter disappointment and loneliness. Nice roller coaster ride.

So my verdict? Meeting people in college isn’t that much different than in high school; you’ll find some great ones, you’ll find some terrible ones, only now they listen to Radiohead and contemplate philosophy. Oh, and everything seems to happen in super speed. It’s a lot of fun, kind of dizzying, and a deep chasm when I take the time to look down. So, where do I meet my next friend?

The first six days

Six days. I’ve been here for one day less than a week, but I can’t believe it. If time’s really relative, then I’ve actually just gone through a year’s worth of events and changes. I remember saying when I first arrived here, “it’ll take me months to realize this is actually my home”, and now I realize this isn’t true; I’m in a different place in my life now, and the person who said that isn’t me anymore.

I moved in to Dene House at the worst time. When I lined up to grab my pass, the line happened to be at its zenith. By the time I finished, there was no longer any line. My annoyance, however, soon turned into bewildered excitement when I saw my room: as the only guys room on the girls floor, our room was three to five times the size of any other Dene room, and came with a kitchenette, a TV, a fridge and a bathroom. My roommates, as I’ve learned over this week, are really great guys; one a footballer from Ottawa, and the other a DJ from Hong Kong.

That night we went to the Frat’s Toga party. Now I gotta say, I’m a little underwhelmed at the parties so far. Back in the Peg, (Winnipeg), parties started at ten, and ended at around three. Here, it starts at nine and dies out by at most one. Even crazier, the University organized events end at twelve—even my high school dances ended later! People-wise, the parties have none of the unity that a great party has; it usually degrades into a hookup session, which makes it little better than a club.

So I went to the Toga party, and, in brilliant improvisation, fashioned my Greek garb out of a shower curtain. This might have been fine, but I dropped the Toga early on in the party, and when I couldn’t find either of my roommates later on, I became a little nervous and left my shower curtain there. The next morning, when I had to wake up at eight, I went into my bathroom only to come to the grim realization—shit. So I sprinted back to the frat house, found my littered curtain, and shoved it into my backpack.

For the rest of day two, and the start of day three, I went to the Arts Frosh (or Fraush). Fraush, I feel, should have started sometime after noon. Most people had gone to the Toga Party, and therefore were exhausted and, most likely, quite hungover. Unnecessary icebreakers filled the morning, so most of the morning felt kind of, well, futile. However, after that things turned out for the better, with a great scavenger hunt across downtown Vancouver, then a club stay and night in a Hyatt hotel.

On Imagine Day, I finally realized I was home. I met with my Arts One team, and really liked talking to all of them; everyone I met in my massive class was smart and interesting. And my Prof seems great, which is always a good sign. The six-thousand person Pep Rally that afternoon blew me away, and I’m always a sucker for inspirational speeches. After the fantastic send offs by the Dean and AMS President, man, was I inspired.

I really feel like I am in the right place. The atmosphere here, with its mix between fun times and serious thought, seems catered to my personality, which most people found strange back in high school. On the one hand I really miss my old friends who are now like siblings to me, and I know that I couldn’t possibly join every club or be friends with every person (as with high school), but I know from my first week here that this will be a life-changing experience for the better. I can’t wait.

The Adventure in a Previa

University. Everyone’s been telling me that the next four years will be “the greatest adventure” of my life. In all likelihood that’s probably true, but I had another, much more cramped adventure with my family just to get there, one that took us across the Great American West.

I’m from Winnipeg, a city where the most beautiful place is where a muddy river meets up with an even dirtier one. So when I went to British Columbia last spring, the landscape captivated me: from the endless mountains of green that reached up to the sky, to the sapphire Ocean that stretched out forever. I’d never seen a place so beautiful, and after seeing UBC’s campus, I knew I had to go.

As August came around, my family decided that a road trip out west would be best, since my Mother couldn’t bear the thought of just sending me off on a plane by myself. We decided against the monotonous plains of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta—oh look, I think I see a tree over there! –and instead planned a trip across the far more interesting American Northwest.

We started by driving down through the Dakotas. At first, the flatlands looked no different than Manitoba’s, but after a couple hours of driving the landscape became far more interesting: broken valleys would appear out of nowhere, then change just as suddenly into lonely fields marked only by odd black rocks. We stopped in the Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore. I wasn’t that excited for the four presidents, thinking we’d just glance at them, and then we’d leave. Well, that’s half true, but seeing the momuments of four of America’s greatest was quite humbling; I felt so small under their gaze. I guess it’s the kind of place everyone has to see once.

The next day, we drove into Montana’s rockies. Trust me, these mountains are nothing like the rockies we Canadians know. They’re far smaller, and very few trees grow on them, leaving mostly dead grass in its place. Still, it was a gorgeous and strange place, one of those places on the Earth no one ever talks about, but is breathtaking when they actually pass through it. Washington’s mountains, on the other hand, were far more like our own. The first half of the range was particularly dry; with it’s tiny green shrubs and arid mountains, I felt like I was in Mexico. After passing the peak, green infested the hills, as if a magic wand had zapped and transformed them. As if out of nowhere, we were on the West Coast.

Seeing a place like British Columbia, the magnitude of going away finally hit me. I left all of my amazing friends, not just for a vacation, but for months on end, and possibly forever. In Winnipeg, people only go away for school once in a blue moon, so most of my friends thought I was nuts for wanting to leave the Peg. For the first time, I almost agreed with them. I remember looking at my Mom and already feeling lonely—three days, and I would say goodbye to her. I wanted to turn the car around and go home.

Then the landscape started to take hold of me. The place carries a mixture of mystery and something inherently familiar for me. I realized this place was more like a home to me in the couple days total I’d spent there, over the eighteen years I had spent in Manitoba. Something about the place almost reminds me of Lake of the Woods; cottage country in western Ontario where I spent every summer. That thought always gives me relief.

We spent the next two days in Seattle. What a cool city! Its size is great, since bigger is usually better when it comes to cities for me, and has a unique flair, like if Vancouver met San Francisco. However, it’s not as beautiful as Vancouver is, since it’s lacking in the beaches and the massive mountains behind it. Plus, Vancouver’s Canadian which, ya know, automatically makes it better.

I’m finishing this right as we reach the Canadian border. In an hour or so, I’ll be in my new home. I hope my future blogs are mostly happy ones, where I talk about what a great choice I made in coming here. If not, well, that’s a learning experience right there, as my high school teachers would say. It’s still one great adventure.