Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Carpe Diem

October 2011

I realise I haven’t updated my blog for a while now. It’s sort of in part due to the realisation of the humour so prevalent in the first entries wasn’t quite coming across as I’d have liked, possibly through a combination of increased work load with midterms approaching and culture shock setting in.

I hit a low a couple of weeks ago, really missing home and not wanting to be here anymore. We were told that it’s a perfectly natural stage in coming here to the USA, and that everyone will hit a low at some point within the first 6-8 weeks. It’s basically a period where you get over all the fun and excitement of arriving here and meeting new people and discovering new things, and the reality of being away from home and in a new culture for a long period of time sets in. Now you are probably thinking here “err, what Alex, the USA is the same culture as the UK right?”, and I would like to point out, as ive said to many people so far, that although the US is very similar to the UK in many respects, in others it is very different. I feel that this mish-mash of differences and similarities has made it a bit harder for me to adjust here, as so much reminds me of home, yet it isn’t the same. It’s strange how the things I miss most are the little things, like Robinsons orange squash, Cadburys chocolate and a carpeted floor in my room. I’m sure at this point people are laughing at me, but trust me when you can’t have these things they mean a lot to you! However, I’ve tried to push through this stage by keeping busy getting on with things, and trying to not think too much about home. Easier said than done when your roommate is keeping you awake at 2am and the mattress is digging in and you can’t sleep!

The bit more homely but still rather uncomfortable bed space

Anyways, I’ve kept busy and am still living it large at the weekends with various different groups of people. I try and see Pat at least once a week and its always cool hanging out with him and his group of friends who are so welcoming of me. I also think Pat quite likes showing new places to me when we go out, and I have to say its refreshing to go to different bars in and around Chapel Hill, some of which you would never know were there unless you were in the know. A prime example of this is a place called “The Cellar” which is just outside of Chapel Hill proper down Franklin Street. This is a cool little underground bar in the basement of another bar (hence the name). You actually have to walk through the upper bar (which is quite trendy and expensive I have to add!) to get to the stairs down, and it has neon lights, low ceilings and loud music. Just what you want from a bar!

The first ‘international dinner’ was held by the American girls (Lexi, Lexie, Jess, Emma and Wevine) that have sort of adopted us whilst we’re at Chapel Hill (known as the Pritchard Ladies for simplicity!). There were a lot of us crammed around the table, with perches being found on all sorts of cupboards and window ledges, but it was a great laugh, especially with John providing his usual unique humour in the form of verbal abuse at everyone. Getting more and more drunk on wine this became even more outrageous and equally hilarious! The food was cool – pasta can never go wrong at an eve like that, although eating off Halloween plates (bit early!) was a tad bizarre… the life of the student! Now, as mentioned before, with the copious amounts of wine being consumed (its actually ridiculous how much wine got drunk!) things began to get rather raucous, with far more Ke$ha and f***ing Cher Lloyd (thanks to John, America has now been introduced to her – god knows what they think of our national taste in music…) being blasted on the iPod than I care to remember. Plus John doing more and more things only he could get away with doing…

Pritch antics

Anyways, we headed out to Pulse just behind Franklin Street (a place I’ve been to a few times, and I still wonder why I go there), with a $2 cover and a bouncer who couldn’t read DOB’s on ID’s (no seriously, he couldn’t). Pulse was as tacky as ever, yet also shamefully brilliant (think that’s the wine affecting the outlook to be honest), with everyone dancing away and completely not giving a dam about anything. I also experienced my first American Long Island Ice Tea. I say American LIIT because it is vastly different from the UK one. The difference is simple, yet makes so much difference to the drink. That difference is the quantity of alcohol within the drink (Oh yeah of course!). Here in the good ol’ US of A, you can’t touch a drop of alcohol until you’re 21, but my god when you turn 21 the measurements of spirits are so generous it sort of makes up for the wait. And obviously it’s a great way to introduce people to the world of drink right? Its certainly interesting to see how stringing UK clubs and bars are with their spirit servings (obviously I know its government prescribed), where as here in the US and in mainland Europe there is a much more generous attitude to measurements. I will say I don’t know if there is legislation in these places limiting the measurements of spirits like there is in the UK, but its sure going to be annoying when I go back! The eve was a great success (thanks girls!) and as those of you who have me on Facebook have probably seen, some horrendous photos were taken. Yet again rolling into bed at 3-4am was the inevitable outcome. Via PitaPit for some food. Standard...
All of us

Not fulfilling the purpose of a dance floor...
Was it something that was said?
The Saturday after brought on the wine hangover, which didn’t shift for a majority of the day. So obviously the best course of action was to make it a triple night out and get back on it. I swear I get so frustrated at the lack of night life during the week that im so used to in Manchester that I simply go mental at the weekends here… The night was spent once again in Pats company (he surely must be getting bored of me now!) first going to a house party for a friend’s birthday and then heading to the Cat’s Cradle in Carborro to see Madison DJ. The house party was a typical American affair, with a seemingly dark and empty house from the outside and then as soon as the door opens the blast of music hits you. I swear these student houses are triple soundproofed to prevent anyone hearing anything outside! We headed out to Cat’s Cradle about 1ish, with the horrendously long walk to over the road (American sense of distance is getting to me already!). Cat’s cradle is a cool place. A smallish gig venue, it plays host to smaller and up-and-coming bands and DJ’s, and could probably fit top end few hundred in there. I felt really bad for Madison when we rocked up however, as there was a grand total of 20 people. It turned out the night wasn’t very well publicised and as such no one really knew about it beyond friends of the DJ’s playing. Shame really as I for one really enjoyed it!

Other nights have have included various touring of bars and clubs, house parties and dressing up as pandas. Yes, a panda. That cute cuddly thing that eats bamboo. Except when its inebriate students, pandas suddenly don’t become cute or cuddly. Although they may still eat bark for a laugh. Obviously. The occasion was a friend of Harriet’s, from her Sorority, 21st birthday, and because we were all chic, cool internationals, we were invited along. Oh how that chic image soon shattered! I for one had nothing remotely panda-ish to wear, as I was only told about the party mere hours before hand, and in desperation rocked up in black tracksuit bottoms and a white t-shirt. More chavvy than panda-y. Face paint was then liberally applied to faces, which then made me look like a chav on day release who went to the zoo. Wonderful. The party itself was full of Frat and Sorority types, which as ive said before I am not a big fan of, and whilst they seemed ok-ish on the surface, it did feel like we had become marginalised once it was worked out that our Daddy’s wasn’t head of a big firm somewhere (alright, slight exaggeration, but still). Anyways, we found some non-Frat/Sorority types who went by the names of Jess, Cari and Colin who turned out to be good fun to be around. The evening moved out of the house (where a few people turned up in chinos and shirts I may add – to a panda party?!) and onto Franklin, namely Toppo. Now some of you may have gathered from previous posts (or just know) that Toppo is a fairly respectable bar, and rocking up in tracksuit bottoms with face paint raised a few eyebrows and mutterings of “it’s not Halloween yet you know”.  For the first time since arriving here I felt embarrassed at talking to people, simply for the nature of my attire (I was the only one with face paint at this point as John hadn’t gotten in and the girls had opted for the make-up look panda) and the fact that I was getting dumb questions when people realised I was English. I was quite surprised at my attitude to this, and realised Toppo is definitely not the place to go when in fancy dress alone. Needless to say, Fiona and made our escape and dodging further comments about Halloween walked down to Pulse (yes Pulse. Again!) to join John and Andrea with Cari, Jess and Colin. I have to say, for all of Pulses faults as a club, at least no one gives a dam what you look like in there. And the bouncers were loving it too!


This is a 'just don't ask' picture...

 Lexi has turned 21 since my last post, and as customary for the ladies of Pritchard, a party was held, with 21 things for her to do over the evening. This inevitably ended up with her doing a body shot (you don’t want to know), a lap dance and kissing John (I hope she got checked out after kissing John…). As ever for a Pritchard party it was good fun with a decent mix of people we knew already and new people to meet. And Harriet got off with someone from a US Army Airbourne Unit (just thought I’d mention that in passing). The evening finished in “La Res” a house turned into a club just round the corner from the Pritchard house. La Res is quite a cool place and I really liked it with its outside dance floor and (almost) plush rugs on the floor. And its pretty rammed in there which is always good!
Drunken (American) antics

Before it all went downhill...
On a more cultural level, I have seen two plays here at UNC now (yup, totally broadening my horizons!) A couple of weeks ago I went to see an amateur dramatic play in the Dramatics Centre at UNC called ‘(SIC)’. This was on a bit of a whim, as half an hour before Pat text me asking if I wanted to go with him. Obviously not wanting to miss out on anything while I’m here and taking every opportunity to do things, I accepted. Not knowing anything about the play I rocked up with Pat, hooking up with Presley and Sarah just outside. It turned out that Ramey, a mate of Pats was in the play, being a drama student, hence why Pat was going. The play itself was really good, with some great humour and interesting interpretation of language and props (check me out being a theatre critic!). I really enjoyed watching the production (obviously), which focused around the interactions of three young 20-somethings who lived in adjacent apartments. If you are reading this and the production is still on, I would highly recommend going and seeing it! (it’s free too, just to add another incentive…). After the play was over, and Pat had said hello to practically everyone in the place (no idea how he knew so many people!), we went down into Carrboro for a drink in a place called Miltown. I loved this place – styled on a German bar it offered loads of deferent beers from all over the world, plus with Oktoberfest coming up it had some sweet offers on German beer. And German beer is waaaaay better than some of the shite Americans drink! Me being me I had to get a stein (a litre for those of you who don’t know what a stein is). There was also some North Carolina beer on offer which was good too. Much to my surprise…

I really enjoyed the evening actually being able to have a sociable drink and chat to people and actually being able to have a proper discussion rather than the brief shouting matches that are had at house parties and in clubs. Coming back into halls I stumbled (no literally by this point) on Connor, Alan and a couple of others having a rather animated conversation in the lounge. These people turned out to be called Angel, Filip and Brittany and seemed rather good fun (even Filip in his own way – VERY dry humour on him!) so obviously I joined them. And then realised it was 4am…

The second play featured Elston, a fellow international from UCL that I met here. Funnily enough we had some mutual friends in common which was rather random when we first met! Anyways, Elston was in play called ‘The Rimers of Eldritch’, alongside Angel who I had met a week earlier in my dorms study lounge. The Ladies of Pritchard were going along to support Elston (Lexi is Elston’s mentor), and so I joined them as everyone else was spending the evening studying. Which, me being me, I was not going to do on a Saturday night! The play itself was interesting (I think that’s the way to describe it). The acting was very good, but I became very confused as to the storyline, which jumped around and repeated itself a lot. Further Wiki research cleared up a fair bit of confusion afterwards, but at the time it was quite overwhelming to watch when you don’t know what’s going on! After the play I joined the ladies in their evenings partying, which ended up me being the sole bloke in a group of 10-12 females. Que lots of jokes about being the GBF… After drinking at Pritchard for a while and spending aaaages on deciding what to do, we went out onto Franklin and bar hopped around a bit (including going to a bar which took me right back to when I went to Zante (that’s in Greece for you American’s) at 18 – they had vodka slush puppies!), ending up in La Res again, which I was quite happy about! Yet again, I ended up hitting the sack at like 4am after a really nice chat with my RA, Connor who was up changing boards around in the corridor as I stumbled into the dorm.

The soon-to-be-standard Pritch photo
I guess all these things show that keeping busy is the best thing, and to take advantage of everything going on - carpe diem as the saying goes (means ‘seize the day’ in Latin for you Americans!). However, I am beginning to become stifled by Chapel Hill – as great a place as it is it is still a small college town and for someone who’s lived in cities his whole life is definitely a shock to the system. Still at the time of writing Fall Break is approaching and with a planned trip to Washington DC it will be good to get out of  what is known as “The” college town and into a big bustling city!

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