Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Shit! It's the Cops!"

September 2011

The week just gone has been a mix of various things going on, and I really can't remember whats happened when! As usual though Ive finished the week knackered, and then recovered for a day and had a knackering weekend doing this that and the other. Can't say I'm not getting the most out of my year abroad at the moment!

At some point this week (I think it was the Friday) it was Camille’s birthday (22, the oldie!). Camille is one of the Aussies I vaguely know, and so I wanted to go along to catch up with her and also hopefully meet some other internationals for some traveling opportunities. As it was I did meet some cool Aussies I hadn’t met before, hooked up with a couple of Irish who I had met before and quite like (they have some good banter – not that id ever tell them because I know they read this…). I also had the shock of my life when I met Ben, who was on exchange from Manchester. At first I thought he was shitting me and Phil and Aiden (the Irish lads) were getting him to wind me up, especially as I thought I was the only one from Manchester at UNC for the first semester. After a lot of jaw dropping and “what the fuck?!”-s, we worked out that because he had applied through the business school, it meant it was a separate process and as such we hadn’t had out emails circulated by the different study abroad offices (Manchester, sort that out for next year yeah?). Anyways, as seems to be the case when abroad, numbers were exchanged with a ‘well hook up for a drink sometime’.

The evening continued out in Back Bar and then Topo (as I’ve said before – highly recommended!), where some interesting English characters appeared from nowhere (literally they just appeared at my side) and sat down in an attempt to chat up the girls with us. I have to say I had great enjoyment watching the girls have none of it, and they slink away. But obviously hearing the accent there was the obligatory “where you from” conversation where I found out one of them was from far too near me. Great. But he still gave me his number and told me to give him a shout if I’m in New York and he’d “sort me out”. Not sure to what reference, but I can guarantee I won’t give him a shout If I can help it. He had really greasy hair too…

On the Saturday the Tar Heels Football team were facing Virginia in Chapel Hill, and Walt (a guy on my corridor) had invited me to his families tailgate before the game. Now obviously I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to experience some American culture, and invited the rest of the guys along too, especially as Walt’s family had ties to Scotland and England and we keen to meet us. Anyways, embarrassingly enough I was the only one to turn up, with the others citing being tired, having work or a better offer to go to which annoyed me a fair bit because I had promised Walt that we would all be going. Anyways, I had a great time meeting Walt’s family who were really welcoming and happy to chat about everything and anything! I also learnt how to throw an American Football properly (I got spin on it and everything!) and how supportive families get of their college teams (generations go to the same college here). The game itself was OK, but the weather made it a little miserable. It was like being back home – windy and wet and shivering in a hoodie. Not very Carolinian weather at all! There were some cracking Americanisms in the game however, most notably when the announcer proclaimed that “Everybody here thinks this is the greatest country in the world” to a roar of cheers and chants of “U.S.A!!” from the crowd. Andrea and I just looked at each other in amazement. Imagine that at a rugby game!

Kenen Stadium packed as ever

I also experienced my first American house rave that weekend too. It was advertised on Facebook as this amazing event with a proper DJ and heated pool etc, so sounded pretty cool. Except for the 600 people stated to be attending. Unfortunately Fiona wasn’t feeling well, so Andrea and I along with Mary-Ellis, Jessie and Kiever went along. It was an interesting experience to be sure. Must have been about 400 people crammed into a tiny two bedroom apartment, with lasers, strobes and huge speakers crammed into the corners. Needless to say you couldn’t move in there! Me being the cheap-arse student I bought my own plastic cup (I refused to pay $7 for one!) and helped myself to the keg of beer on offer. It tasted like shit.
Anyways, after like 20 minutes of standing around and trying to dance (pretty impossible in the crowded space) there was a sudden influx of people moving back into the apartment from the back and out of the front door. A cry of “Shit! It’s the Cops!” went up and suddenly everyone was pushing out of the door and dispersing away from the apartment (I was actually surprised the cops hadn’t come earlier considering the bass from the music could be heard the other side of the apartment complex). I wasn’t hanging around to find out what the cops wanted either, as (like mentioned in my previous blog) as a 21year old I would get into more trouble being at that party than an U21 due to amount of underage consumption going on. Especially as in our group I was the only person over 21 and the others were fairly tipsy by this time!

Once we got away from the party we hooked up with Brandon and TJ, and hitched a lift (‘ride’ as the Americans call it!) back to mine to “chill out”. The ‘ride’ was quite cool as I got to sit in the back of a pickup truck (HOW COOL IS THAT?!) and basically looked like a dog hanging out of a window the whole way back! After “chilling out” for a while, we decided to head out onto Franklin Street, and headed towards Pulse. This is the place I first went to with Pat back on the second day in Chapel Hill. It hadn’t changed in any way from that day, except the cover charge was an extortionate $10 (I mean what?!). As they are one of a very few places that accept U21’s we were a little stuck for choice and just went for it. Inside was the same tacky, sticky place with people practically having sex on the dance floor. Still, entering into the spirit of it, we got our groove on, with TJ and Mary-Ellis salsa-ing away to much amusement, and me doing my usual trick of looking like a muppet. On the way back there was a stop at the Old Well for some hydration…which obviously turned into a water fight with John (who had joined us towards the end of the eve) and Andrea making each other “wet” (direct quote!). Make of that what you will…. I eventually collapsed into bed at about 4. Again - no wonder I’m always so tired! - with a 9.30 start the next morning. Fantastic!

The Old Well (in the daylight)

The Sunday (after staggering around for a bit groaning), was a hockey match being played away at Elon (a small town about 45mins drive from Chapel Hill). Not only was I keen to go and play some hockey, I was also keen to get out of Chapel Hill for a bit, and so was glad to go along and play. The route they went took us through some rather run down areas, and that was where I realised how poor the South can be. I read somewhere before I came out that North Carolina has the largest concentration of Phd’s in the States yet also one of the highest numbers of people living below the poverty line. Driving to Elon really opened my eyes to this. It was like a scene from a film, with rusty pickup trucks outside houses with windows partially boarded up and doors hanging off their hinges. Yet also there were some incredibly nice houses right next door. It was an interesting sight to see. It also struck me on the drive both too and from Elon why everyone drives so much in the States. Everything genuinely is so far apart. Every house is typically detached with at bare minimum of 6 foot between each house, and in many places pavements don’t even exist. We drive through one neighbourhood and I didn’t see one shop of business for at least 5 minutes (admittedly we were on one road and I couldn’t have know what there was parallel  to the road we were one, but it was still a bizarre thing for me to witness). At many junctions there weren’t even places for pedestrians to cross the roads safely. It was an different perspective to gain of the USA, and I’m glad I have got that perspective earlier rather than later in my time here as it certainly made me stop and think about my attitudes to aspects of US culture which I found bizarre, and the reasons why parts of the American culture have developed the way they have. 

Anyways, moving on from the deep part of this post! Elon University itself is very different from UNC. A private university, it seemed very spread out, but very nice looking nevertheless. Except that as a private school they can’t seem to afford an Astroturf pitch. We played on grass. Yeah, grass. I had never played on grass before, and within 5 minutes I hated it. You can’t dive properly, kick the ball properly or slide and take players down properly (the last one being the biggest issue of course…). Anyways, it was a good match, and got scrappy. Which im always a big fan of (seeing I always win with all the padding on!). We won 3-0 and went home a happy but rather sweaty team!  On the way back I got to experience the Southern delight that is ‘Bojangles’ – a fried chicken place only found in the southern states. After a game of hockey it was awesome! One thing I’ve realised about American places is that you really need to take a step out of the queues in order to choose what food you want as there is always SO much choice! Even places such as Subway and KFC that we have a home have a hell of a lot more choice on their menus, with mental combos. Is rather overwhelming at times when all you want is a burger and chips!

Yet again, this weekend was a mismatch of cultural experiences which, as ever, I have thoroughly enjoyed and with people who I genuinely love being around (except John – he’s a weirdo…). I am starting to feel more at home at UNC now, even though I am missing home loads, and Manchester loads too now Fresher’s Week is in full swing and all the updates and pictures are starting to appear on Facebook. Still, I’m still knocking around campus in shorts and t-shirts so I can’t complain really!

The Bell Tower on UNC Campus

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