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End of the First Week (Almost)

Berkeley, United States

It has been another two days since my last post, and so much has happened that I can't possibly tell you everything. I'll try to keep the interesting stuff, but I'll probably ramble, so stick with me and I'll ty to be brief.

The Cal Berkeley library is magnificent. It's all gleaming marble and inlayed gold, with the most enormous paintings of famous Americans – like ‘Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth’. A nice a nice American showed me that in a burst of patriotism, and I couldn't decide if she was showing me this because she hated me or because she liked me (it shows a whole bunch of British people being ground underfoot, and this was when she thought I was British). Out the fount of the building there is a field where Cal (what students of the University, or 'Golden Bears' shorten the University name to) students gather and have parties, and stuff like that. Today was a fair of all the 600 clubs in Cal, and it was a free-stuff bonanza. Some of the clubs were very funny – each ethnicity had its own association, then each religion, then all the various conscience groups had a stall. Some of the conscience groups I thought must be a joke (‘Veterans for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Eastern European and Asian Countries’) but they were all very serious and had professionally done flyers to try and convince you that their group was the one to support. The Air Force had a stall there as well, but even though the entire area was packed with students, there was a ring of space around that poor cadet. He looked pretty uncomfortable. The military hadn’t chosen the best spot to set-up though – right opposite the ‘end Iraqi war' guys. That was street entertainment at its best.

I also went to the Cafe that students like the most. It was nice, and the food was excellent. It’s very interesting, because you can eat as much as you like, but it’s like four or five restaurants in one place, and you pay to get in. There are apparently five or six of these all over campus, each with different stuff each night.

I have also been going to some ‘On The Same Page’ seminars which the Collage of Letters and Sciences organised to help students met each other. Everyone at Berkeley is a geek in their own way – no one I’ve met hasn’t been anything less than brilliant – so these seminars were really interesting.

The first one I went to degenerated into the official history of America for the disbelieving foreigner, and so was a bit of a fiasco. (There were only five or six people there though, so the lecturer wasn’t getting flustered or anything). The second one I decided to lie low, and so only make comments that couldn’t be contradicted.
We were talking about the declaration of independence, and about the three rights in it that the founders claimed were unalienable – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The lecturer asked why these things were picked and not others. Unalienable means not transferable, so I figured I could make a safe comment here which wouldn't sound too stupid. I said that you can’t really transfer these rights full stop – for example the person next to me couldn’t reincarnate a dead body by giving that dead body his 'life'. It sounds a bit strange when I rock out with that on this webpage, but it made sense to say it at the time. Anyway, I digress. A lovely young lady on the opposite side of the table decided I was wrong. She stood up and said “But Black people were discriminated against so much that its hard for people who haven’t been discriminated against to understand that their life was so bad that it really wasn’t like they were human.”
'..............OK?' I thought. What is this lady on about? I therefore prolonged my suffering by pointing out that in a biological sense the slaves couldn’t transfer their lives to the slave owners' body so that they could live forever or something, so they probably still had the right to not transfer their life. Murmurs of agreement rippled thoughout the room. I possibly should have said nothing however, because then she got defensive and said that I was an undiscriminated against white person, and how would I know? By this stage I was frantic – I really wanted out of this conversation. Unfortunately I inherited my fathers trait of making the situation a joke in the hope it will go away, and so I pointed out she didn’t know if I had been discriminated against because I was a New Zealander.
Mistake. Everyone else laughed though.
Once she stormed out of the room in a huff I stopped talking – it seemed safer.

Today was the EAP meet and greet lunch, which was a bit boring, but I did win a thermal cup for my lame tree-man story. Apparently no one could understand my accent, not even the Aussies this time, so the laugher was sporadic, but I did get a great mug. I also met lots of new people. I have met so many nice people in five days that I can't believe New Zealand lives up to the whole 'we're really friendly' thing. Americans take the cake. And they’re all ruddy smart – you’ve got to be on your toes when you talk to them because they’re pretty switched on and they know when you’re out of your depth.

I'll post some pictures of people I've met - they won't mean anything to you I suppose, but they're nice for me to look at and if they come on here wondering what I'm typing about then they've got soemthing to look at as well.

Cheers and wishing you were here


permalink written by  Crosswood on August 23, 2007 from Berkeley, United States
from the travel blog: New Zealand Student, American University.
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Margie, not everyone understands the discrimination against zombies ya know?

So basicly she was primed for a fight and you gave her an opening. Its amazing the topics you can turn againt someone if you really want to. For example my co-worker said that there was no such thing as nothing. I argued that our language was inadiquate, that by naming the absence of everything we quantified it but that still no-where and no-when there is no-thing, the absence must exist in a non-existant way. Our langauge simply does not have he proper meaning associated with its words to convey the absence.

Remember, some of your ancestors were Irish, who were stuffed over by the English for ages before Africa. Of course some of your ancestors were English and did the stuffing, but you know, life.

permalink written by  Rebecca Haris on August 24, 2007

.......... thanks Bexy. You always brighten up my day! (No I'm not being sarcastic.)

permalink written by  Margie on August 24, 2007

I do my best... ya sure thats not sarcasm?

permalink written by  Rebecca on August 25, 2007

Nope - no sarcasm. I was a little surprised by the fluidity of your ideas, but it sure is fun to read.

permalink written by  Margie on August 25, 2007

Thoughts you know, they flow. I have very little to do with the process. I try not to think about that too much as there is very little more disturbing in the long term than thinking about your own thoughts, how much control you have over your thoughts... do you know what you are about to think, if so does that mean you have already thought it... GAH I'm stopping right now.

permalink written by  Rebecca on August 26, 2007

hey...I kinda just wanna say sumthin. oh well, wat r sisters for if not to randomly comment on their sisters blog? I think u did well 2 make it a joke. She sounds like sum1 who would get in2 a fight about that no matter what u say!

permalink written by  Annabel on August 29, 2007

Thanks Annie. I thought that same thing at the time, but it is very frightning when someone calls you racist in a forgien country. You keep thinking - Is it your fault? Is it your accent? What is going on?

The Americans in my House say that she just wanted a fight and was looking for an opening, so I shouldn't worry. Good advice I reckon!

permalink written by  Crosswood on August 31, 2007

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Crosswood Crosswood
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I am a second year Officer Cadet in the Royal New Zealand Army, going for a trip to Berkeley (University of California) in the United States. I have a sense of humour, poor organisational skills, and collect clocks.
What more can I say?

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