Everybody gathered round waiting for the momentous occasion of opening the box. The man opened the box and the animals attacked.
You know how Americans are super loud and annoying? Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that they just love life and you know what, that’s kind of refreshing. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the screeching that comes along with the American accent will be the death of me but they have this weird zest for life that frankly I’m just jealous of.
This all started when I went to my residence hall’s boat party in San Francisco. It was an end of year semi-formal event with students from all residence halls. Get this though, NO ALCOHOL. They made it very clear that no alcohol would be served on the boat, no one would be allowed on the bus if they had drunk alcohol and all bags would be checked for alcohol. All in all, I won’t lie, the night was pretty dead for me. It was like being back at a school disco– awkward dancing, children pretending to be adults, atrocious kissing. Seriously, I saw two people who were just holding their mouths against one another for ages, no movement, no passion, no love. But you know what, good for them, they were happy. That’s the thing, everybody was having fun because they didn’t care about anybody else. I needed alcohol to be fun, what does that say about me? That’s pretty sad. My parents have drilled it into me that if someone doesn’t like what they see then they can look the other way; I should really start listening to that.
It’s not just the way they seem to be more carefree, they just love celebrating everything; BIGGER AND BETTER. Take 420 for example. Sorry, what? That’s not even a real holiday and it got so much attention here. Classes were cancelled, people skipped class (including me because I’m cool and rebellious). I just wanted to see what the big fuss was about. Hundreds of students gathered on a grass area on campus called Memorial Glade. There were food stands, ready and waiting and I shit you not, at 4:20pm, everybody blaaaaazed on the glaaaade. Everyone was SO happy… mad.
A few days later and it was the infamous Cal Day that I had been warned about. In short, Cal Day is basically an open day for prospective students. For current students it is an opportunity to drink for the whole day whilst adopting copious amounts of school spirit. Everybody in sight was wearing Cal gear, from Cal temporary tattoos to Cal pinstriped dungarees. I won’t lie, it was really funny. Everybody was just going crazy and it felt like exactly what I thought a frat party would be like when I first came here. It was like something out of a film. Inflatable slides, kegs, people posing for pictures with empty champagne bottles… (??????) At one point, a guy brought out a box of beer to the bar and the anticipation was real. Everybody gathered round waiting for the momentous occasion of opening the box. The man opened the box and the animals attacked. The beers were gone in two seconds; it was like animals at the watering hole during feeding time. I love it.
Calday came to a close, I got some Chinese food and napped for three hours; I regret nothing. An unnecessary celebration but a celebration nonetheless. That’s my point, Americans just love to celebrate everything but with no shame about the excess to which they do. Take this weekend for example, my residence hall is hosting a carnival with photo booths, bouncy castles, games etc. For literally no reason???? What I’m trying to say is, yes, Americans may have this weird zest for life but you know what, if I could have even the smallest fraction of that, I’d be ten times happier.
…one of the first things someone said to them was ‘Y’all foreigners aren’t ya?’ Followed by, ‘So how much American pussy have y’all got?’
I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase ‘SPRING BREAK WOOHOO’ numerous times in American college films but I’m going to tell you why my spring break really was like that. And no, I didn’t go to Mexico and have a blast with the girls whilst downing a shitty vodka lemonade. In fact, I went on a road trip through California with 4 guys. So, immediate reaction, you probably think I’m a raging slut. Just to clarify, I’m not. It was genuinely like being with four brothers. We started our road trip by heading to Santa Barbara. Stopped at Monterey on the way. Saw some rocks. Good crack.
We got in our Dodge car and drove down to Santa Barbara. We decided to visit the university the next day. For those of you who don’t know, the stereotype of UC Santa Barbara is the ‘party school’ with surfers and perfect bodies everywhere. Think of the image you have in your head of the typical Californian and Santa Barbara literally embodies that. It was so odd how everything looked like something out of a film. We were walking along what we assumed was frat row and guys roll past on skateboards while another passes with a surfboard in hand. Walk a little further and you see a bunch of college students on the roof of a house overlooking the beach listening to music and looking genuinely happy unlike the rest of us at university who are on a slow march to death. Santa Barbara served us well. We got into a bar fittingly named Sandbar, with 3 of us getting in on one id… I love America. I’m sure you know what a night out is like, I’m not going to bother explaining how cool I am going to bars, getting in underage, drinking Satan’s nectar etc.
The next day we drove down towards San Diego, our next stop, but got distracted by the serene views of Malibu. We stopped off in Malibu. I can’t explain how nice it was, couldn’t even do it via Facetime. I tried to Facetime my dad overlooking the beach with this view:
His exact words were “Yeah yeah, looks like a shithole”. It wasn’t a shithole but do you know what was? Our airbnb in San Diego.
San Diego was one of the weirdest places I’ve ever been. Again, hard to explain but this would be a terrible blog if I didn’t try. We drove into downtown San Diego and just so many odd characters presented themselves. A surprising amount of homeless people were situated literally opposite our airbnb. I was later informed by my friend that the homeless problem is such a big issue that there is even a conspiracy surrounding people trying to physically burn the homeless in San Diego. Sorry, WHAT? After spending years trying to find a parking space we unloaded the car and were let into the apartment block by a limping man and his dog. The door was unlocked and there was one bed for five… Someone found a mattress in a cupboard but essentially, five of us were sharing a small room. Sleeping like sardines was an absolute treat.
Oh, one thing I do want to say is that my experience in San Diego taught me that people are such liars on social media. So our airbnb claimed to have an ‘AMAZING rooftop’. The rooftop was a few tables and chairs and some outside heaters and a bbq that didn’t work. Hardly ‘AMAZING’. Nonetheless we took advantage of this and invited some other Berkeley students to join us who were conveniently in San Diego at the same time. They stopped by for about an hour maybe tops, don’t think I could tell you more than 3 of their names, socialised amongst themselves and the next day one of them posted on Instagram a mediocre picture of the view from the roof with the caption ‘Rooftop party last night #ifiwasarichgirl’– everything you see on social media is a lie kids. We were on the top of an apartment building surrounded by homeless people; we were not in some millionaire’s penthouse. What a knob.
San Diego was pretty average but before we left we wanted to go see the Mexican border. Not as thrilling as one might expect, just a fence really and some grassland. Border patrol were pretty scary though. A bunch of men in black riding around on quad bikes with masks on, how could that not be threatening? We left quickly and made our way to LA.
LA traffic is no myth. The thing about LA is that you can be in a completely impoverished area and then 10 minutes later be in one of the richest areas in the world; it was jarring but also what I was told to expect. LA was cool; I highly recommend it. Did all the tourist things like spend the day on Venice Beach, go on a Hollywood Studio tour or walk along Hollywood Boulevard. However, the highlight for me was definitely looking across LA from Runyon Canyon Park. It’s about a 1.5 mile hike in the Hollywood Hills and is full of runners and dog walkers, so don’t go in flip flops like I did.
Big city life was too much and we left for Sequoia. Saw some trees. Good. Let me backtrack though. So we left LA quite late and ended up arriving at our airbnb when it was pitch black. I had booked for us to stay on a citrus farm in the middle of nowhere. We were driving amongst orange trees and could not find any sign of life in the dark. I called Diana (our host) who was only too happy to help and she came out from amongst the trees with her hubby, Tim, in a golf cart and led us to our cabin. The woman had thought of everything, different types of tissues in the bathroom, sweet sweet citrus fruits and even turned on the fire for us. God bless Diana. Literally, God bless her.
Had to leave our citrus farm early the next day in order to see the biggest tree in the world, General Sherman. Just when I thought I had seen the best scenery California had to offer, we made our way to Yosemite. We ended up staying in another airbnb that was an old antique shop/ horse supply shop or something. There were hardly any doors in between rooms and the decor was a mixture of Native Americans and cowboys. Odd to say the least. We were in the middle of nowhere. Literally, in the exact centre of California. We obviously visited the National Park and it was beautiful but what struck us most were the people who inhabited the town where we were staying. Pick up trucks everywhere, American flags everywhere, characters everywhere. The further inland we went, the further I felt like we were stepping into redneck territory. Although I didn’t personally experience this my pals went to a bar right next to where we were staying and one of the first things someone said to them was ‘Y’all foreigners aren’t ya?’ Followed by, ‘So how much American pussy have y’all got?’ I’m just going to leave it at that.
Seeing the difference between inland California and Berkeley was mad. So much variety in one state. But it all felt so real and genuine. California is the only place I’ve been where the stereotypes live up to expectation. Isn’t that weird? That never happens. Every place we went excited me more and more and I’ve only just touched the surface in this post; I could talk about this trip forever! If you ever have the opportunity, visit California, you won’t regret it.
I’m going to tell you what happened from a student’s perspective. From an honest and real perspective.
I go to Berkeley now, which means I have an unfathomable amount of work to be doing but I thought this was more important. As I write, I can hear the monotonous whirring of helicopters above me and it is so bloody annoying. But, do you know what is even more frustrating? The violence I saw at UC Berkeley earlier this evening. I’m going to tell you what happened from a student’s perspective. From an honest and real perspective.
Today, at about 6pm, well over 1000 students and members of the public gathered in Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley to protest the appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos. He was due to give a speech after being approached by the UC Berkeley Republicans but after violent actions he was forced to leave; this comes straight off the bat of his unwanted presence at another UC campus earlier this month. He’s a pretty controversial guy but what I saw this evening does not justify that in any way.
You’d think only being here three weeks, it would have been surprising to see a protest of this size in the middle of campus but think again! I am living in the heart of where the free speech movement began in the 60s. I have seen more protests here in the last three weeks than I have in the last three years in London. It started off as a peaceful protest with a few witty signs but as it turned dark, this was mirrored by a group of masked, darkly clothed strangers who entered the crowd and caused havoc. They removed all the barricades that had been set up earlier that day and used them to smash the windows of the ground floor of the building where Yiannopoulos was. They set off smoke bombs and aimed fireworks at the police who were located on a balcony. It was only when a fire started that we felt it was time to leave. Police were firing rubber bullets and despite news reports and over dramatic protestors, tear gas was not used. It was still scary, a man was bleeding after having a brick thrown at his face.
Predictably, there are already a few sensationalised news stories floating about. I found this image from BBC news particularly impressive:
I don’t know what angle this was taken at but the fire was the equivalent to a small bonfire that your enthusiastic uncle sets up in your garden on Fireworks Night. Here’s a more accurate, REAL photo:
What I don’t understand is that even when Yiannopoulos left, the violence spread and worsened. The masked individuals went to the streets. ATMS were smashed, banks were attacked with all the windows smashed and even a Starbucks was looted. Why? Why? Why?
These masked individuals have been linked to an anarchical group from Oakland called Black Block but no one can be sure as to their identity. Whether or not Berkeley students were involved in the violence, there was still mass cheering and celebration when windows were broken, police targeted and fires started. People were taking selfies in front of the fire for their Instagram. And although BBC would like to present this photo as a GREAT FIRE or BLAZE the only ‘blazing’ going on were from the guys behind me getting high. Sorry but what? Is a protest just another recreational activity now? People are stupid. They took this as an event of self-indulgence, whether this be simply to have fun or make themselves feel as if they were ‘making a difference’. We seem to think that because we go to prestigious universities that we are exempt from irrational behaviour when in fact, university students are more disconnected from the real world than ever. Protests have turned into a fashion. People revel in the theatrics of protest. It saddens me because I know that the majority of students will agree with me in condemning the violence of this evening but we will be forever branded as raging hypocritical liberals who do not practise what they preach.
The problem is, especially after this evening, I’m finding it more and more difficult to defend this view. I cannot tell you how many people I have spoken to here, who just want to live in their liberal bubble. People keep telling me that there is a difference between free speech and hate speech but they are one and the same. There may be bad people in the world but tough shit, there are horrible things in the world and you denying that is ignorant. This protest is exactly what Yiannopoulos wanted. Your redundant and violent protests are affirming the radical right’s views of the left. It pains me to say that when Yiannopoulos said tonight’s behaviour was ‘a horrible spectacle and very humiliating for American higher education,’ I can’t help but agree. I wonder how much support he would gain if you simply left him alone. You are fuelling the fire for his ridiculous views and giving him validity he doesn’t deserve. I’m fed up of my fellow students continuously denying that the right exists whilst burying their head in the sand. It is not enough to hold up a cardboard sign every once in a while to make yourself feel better. Engage with the other side in actual debate and then maybe something will change.
I understand that protests are a sure fire way of showing solidarity and you have every right to that, but burning a mobile light or to graffiti on an ice cream shop the words ‘kill fascists’ whilst documenting it all on Facebook live feed for the ‘likes’ is not what your ancestors had in mind when they were protesting for the free speech movement. To all those who went out and destroyed buildings or even stood back and cheered, you have marked yourself as idiots and brought shame upon your accomplished past.