Monday, August 31, 2009
Yeah I know I go here a lot, but there's still so much to see. This time I went with Edgar (from Mexico) just to check out Fisherman's Wharf (Pier 39) to see the sea lions. Nothing too special, they smelt a fair bit. There was a 'street magician', who was pretty average. I have a video but I got to compress it before you can see.
Fisherman's wharf is also famous for its Chowder. Chowwwwwder. Chowder. Chowder. Simpsons anyone? It was pretty good Clam Chowder. Will be going back again in the next couple of weeks to check out Alcatraz and do the 'Ghost Tour' or whatever it is.
So this was yesterday (Sunday the 30th). Now you're pretty much up to date with all the stuff I've done during the day. Again sorry no party pictures and night time stuff, but this coming weekend I will definitely bring my camera with me!
Finally got to play football! Hell yes!!! I was craving it so much.
Actually the environment here for football is even better than in Perth. Way better. I don't have to drive all the way to Challenge Stadium for instance. And to be honest, I don't have to put up with shit Parry Ave turn outs.
Because at Berkeley, any day of the week, any time of day, I can walk 2 minutes to either Maxwell or Underhill and find a pickup game of 5,6,7,8... a-side football. This is the real shit too. It's kind of a mix between ghetto blacktop parking lot pickup and modern astroturf football. You can see what I mean by the pictures.
Underhill is basically an fenced off playing field about the size of a full 11-a-side pitch, but with markings for 5-a-side, NFL, Hockey and other stuff. The surface is really good astroturf (not like the hockey shit at Challenge), but the whole thing is actually the roof of a multi-storey parking lot!
Quality of football is a different thing. Most of the people who play are obviously decent. But the gap between the girls and the guys is a lot less, some of these girls can really play. Most of the international people are decent too, but so far Supplement would probably beat any team there. When the social leagues start in two weeks time I'll update on what I think the skill level is. But at the moment its good fun and still relatively competitive.
Orientation at Berkeley is done over 2 weeks. Instead of an O-day, there's O'days. Calapalooza is the event where all the student clubs and stuff come out to play. Then there's Greek Festival which is for all the Frats and Sorrorities to put out. There's also Caltopia, which is for all the sponsors and companies around Berkeley to promote themselves.
At all of these you can get heaps of freebies, food, drinks etc, just like O-day...but way better. Pretty much every stall has a mini Wheel of Fortune thing that you can spin for free shit. Or you can play some stupid Wii game and if you top score you get free shit too. But the best stuff is where you have to do some kind of physical challenge to earn a prize. Like do 10 pushups or something.
I got heaps of 'phat lewtz' - like Vitamin water, an Ipod case for gymming, shirts, shotglasses etc. Except Underarmour cheated me. The challenge was for 50 bodyweight rows on their fancy gym rings (Marcus knows what I'm talking about) and you get to win a pair of their skins. When I got there I had just eaten so I wasn't feeling up for it but the assholes said they'd close at 4pm. I went back at 3:45 and did it but they were already packing up and wouldn't give me anything.
Besides that there are a SHITLOAD of asian-ethnicity clubs at Berkeley. OK Berkeley is literally 45% asian. It's like being at Rossy all over again. It's not like MSU, or SSS or ASIA back home. Here it's gotten to the point where its ridiculously specific. Like KL student society or Indo's who live in Singapore but did not go to NS society (IWLS-NONS). Alright it's not that bad but you get the point.
Berkeley also has a cool marching band. I can't wait for the first college football game this Saturday. Apparently crowdsurfing after touchdowns is the way to go!
Last week I figured I needed to buy my own sheets, blankets and pillows because well, the ones we can hire from I-House aren't too crash hot. When it comes to bedding there are a few choices: go buy them at Wallgreens Pharmacy, go to IKEA, go to Target, or buy them second hand.
Target was the cheap but still good option. Now a trip to Target back home would be like a 2 minute drive down Parry to Bull Creek Shopping Centre. Not so in Berkeley. It's a 45 minute bus ride out of Berkeley to El Cerito, where the 52L bus dumps you off in some ghetto suburb bordering the train tracks. On the other side of the train tracks is a vast freeway, and somewhere along the line (but still on the other side) is the oasis called Target.
We bumped into some chic on the bus who actually got on the wrong bus, but decided to come with us to Target anyway. She was probably regretting it 15 minutes later when us three guys started leading her into bushes by the train tracks...
Anyway, basically a massive Target resides in the middle of nowhere. But it sure as hell was worth it. They had trolley escalators! And Starbucks! It also turns out that the chic had a friend who ended up driving us all the way around the train tracks back to the bus stop. Which was really nice, except we had to fit 4 of us in a Toyota Yaris and we each had pillows and other crap.
It was a huge effort, but I got all my bedding gear for $25, which makes it all worth it. Plus I got to use trolley elevators.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
This time I went in with a whole bunch of people from the I-House. We got guided by a couple of the Americans. Checked out Girardelli Square (famous chocolates) and of course the Golden Gate Bridge. We walked across that, and it was so cold. Apparently the bridge is so high that many people who commit or attempt to commit suicide by jumping off it actually change their minds halfway down their fall. They know this by the analysis of their corpses, they can tell from the way their legs/hips/ribs/arms broke that they were trying desparately to readjust their body into a favourable shape to survive the impact. This interests me a lot (especially since Phil got me into Dexter). We dropped a banana peel, I've got a video somewhere, and it took about 6 seconds to fall, which is definitely enough time to change your mind.
I was also craving lamb, so for lunch I got lamb at the Italian restaurant we went to. Unfortunately I'm 99% sure they served me beef and tried to fake it. Fuckers!
The other awesome thing we went to was that extremely steep road. The picture up there doesn't do it justice. I've got more pictures (I'll upload ALL the pictures I have onto a slideshow on this blog and/or facebook) where you can see the gradient. At some points its almost 45 degrees, which is crazy. Excel 1st gear would not make it up there. The road has to curve back on itself every few metres to make it drivable. This thing would be way harder than Jacob's Ladder.
So all new I-House residents get a chance to go on a retreat to Sanoma County for some good old bonding and all that kumbaya shit. It was actually pretty fun, and that's where I met most of the people that I hang out with. Again I didn't get that many photos myself but there are quite a few on facebook.
We stayed overnight at a campsite on native American Indian land called the Valley of the Moon. Usual hiking, rope courses, swimming pool and night time group activities. Most controversial thing that happened was at about 2am some dudes were in the recreation hall and allegedly a 'hand' came out from a hole in the floorboards and was reaching around and trying to get out. A few hypothesis as to what/who it was:
1. The secret inbred child of the operators of the campsite who had been locked under the rec room was trying to get out.
2. It was a raccoon.
3. The guys were hallucinating.
We had the option of sleeping under the stars, which I took along with a few others. Unfortunately I didn't have a sleeping bag so I lasted 'til maybe 5am before I couldn't take it anymore. Plus the Korean guy next to me kept talking in his sleep which was a little bit disturbing. As you can tell from the 2nd picture the sleep outside was not very comfortable.
On the way back from the retreat we stopped in the actual township of Sanoma County, which is where I met those infamous cheerleaders. Here are various humorous soundbites from that conversation. There were maybe 7-8 of us international students plus one OG Berkeley guy talking to a carfull of cheerleaders from Sanoma High:
"Singapore? What's that? Is that a country somewhere?" "Yeah, its in Africa" "Oh, yeah I know that place"
"OMG I so don't believe you guys are international students. None of you have accents!" (This was despite the fact that we were speaking in different LANGUAGES)
"I swear you have cheerleaders in Hong Kong too!" "No we don't!" "But I've seen them on Youtube! Wait a second. You guys do know what Youtube is right?"
And so on. They invited us to their BBQ and told us they loved us, which completely made up for their ignorance. We ended up getting ice-cream instead - oh also there was a shitload of ice-cream cake at the retreat, and there was so much leftover. The whole time I was thinking shit if only Ben was here.
After one week in Berkeley I finally got to move into my permanent place at the I-House, which is just 7 minutes down the road. In fact the location is awesome. It's up the top of campus and with a bike (which I have now bought) it's all of 2 minutes downhill to the RSF aka THE gym. Coming back uphill after smashing the squats is a different story. I usually pit stop at one of the many awesome food joints along the way.
Anyway, this whole week was pretty much full of orientation activities, which I haven't got any pictures of. Instead you can have a look at the pics of my new room, which is quite a lot smaller than what I had in Stern. At the time my roommate hadn't arrived yet, so I shotgunned corner desk, bottom bunk, and the top drawers and shelves everywhere. It's still like that now, but that's cause my room mate Michael is a nice guy.
Oh and speaking about the bike, at first myself and Edgar (another guy looking for a bike) were directed to a shady 2nd hand dealer known as Kareem. Well after talking to some locals it turns out that Kareem gets stolen bikes, files off their serial numbers and sells them for like $200. He tried to sell me a rusty piece of shit without pedals and a seat. Wanker. Now I've gotten an awesome beast off craigslist, and I'm allowed to hoon around without a helmet cause I'm over 18. So yes, there are some privileges for being 18+ in the US, just not ones that count for much.
First weekend in Berkeley I went down with a couple of grad students from Turkey to check out San Fran. Went to Union Square, the huge Westfield and China Town. Westfield is pretty damn big, and the US department stores are just on a whole new level compared to DJ's and Myer. There's Macy's, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's.
Oh I also saw District 9 that weekend - which I thought was a dope movie. But theatres in Berkeley absolutely suck. I'm talking Hoyts Southland quality, but with smaller screens and fatter people to sit next to. OK I'm kidding the people are fine (except for one drunk asshole) but yeah the theatres aren't crash hot. Although I did see Inglorious Basterds last night at the hippie theatre, where the cinema operators actually come out in person and stand in front of the seats and welcome you to the theatre.
Anyway didn't really get to see much of SF this weekend since we didn't go with any locals but it was still fun. Oh, the department stores have CURVED escalators. No way, I know all you civil engineers just got a migraine.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
30 hrs. From the moment I said goodbye to a bunch of awesome people (you know who you are) at Perth Domestic to the moment I got into my temporary housing room. No GI-Joe on the plane, but putting the Watchmen on repeat wasn't bad at all. I slept on a bench in the lounge at Melbourne waiting for the LA flight. Met a few cool people, some going for holidays, another girl going on exchange on a soccer scholarship and a guitarist who named his daughter Layla.
First thing I see in LAX is a Burger King... and fat people. Nah I'm kidding it's not that bad. When I got to SF I went straight on the bus to Berkeley. Got into my double room and just crashed at about 1pm Cal time. Woke up next morning at 9 am :).
The room I was was for girls only, and they are huge compared to what I have now. Check out the pictures. Clean too, except living there was annoying 'cause you needed a key to get into everything - the bathroom, showers, kitchen, rec room, lounge etc. So far only a few early arrivals for the Fall Semester were living there so it was pretty quiet.
Oh you can also check out the pictures of campus that I took the next day. Or you could just google UC Berkeley. To give you an idea, the campus is about a 15-20 minute brisk walk from top (East) to bottom lengthwise. It's around twice as big as UWA in area. All the residence halls and co-ops surround the campus and the rest of Berkeley town flows out in all directions except East. Downtown Berkeley is the next street parallel to the Western Side. The whole thing sits on a hill, so you get pretty damn sweat walking back from class up to the top if you're residence hall is up there, which my temporary and permanent places are. I'd tell you more, but actually just google map it if you're interested.
As promised I've started up a blog so that all of you back home in Perth can follow my every move, good and bad, while I'm at Berkeley.
OK, I'm starting this about two weeks after I first arrived, so there's a lot to catch up on. That means you'll have to be satisfied with short comments over this period, and maybe the stuff later on will be a bit more detailed.
First up - Berkeley is AWE-FUCKING-SOME! Go to the States. Do it. In fact come and visit over the Xmas break! Right now in August there's plenty of sun, events, parties and San Fransisco is always just a short train trip away. Too bad I'm not 21, in fact a group of us are going to see Will.I.Am in SF tonight, but who cares about that guy anyway. There's still plenty of shit to do at night, especially since my residence hall is on Frat Row.
Alright, in short, this is what I've been up to since I left Perth...