My history teacher called upon me in class the other day: ‘Elise, you look deep in thought. Please do share with the class what is going through your mind.’ Truth was that I was purposely putting on what I hoped was a thinking face, and had precisely no opinions on the conquests of the Mongols, or in fact any thoughts at all other than ‘must keep eyes open’. Very occasionally, however, a thought does pop into my mind whilst I’m exploring the crazy world of LA and USC. My capability to write in paragraphs seems to have been severely reduced, so I will tell you some of those rare thoughts and details of some random occurrences in the form of a lovely list. There is no order, rhyme or reason.
1. Large parts of LA can seem flat and boring. You get to see the benefit of this, though, when you go just beyond the flatness and climb above the city to see it stretch out in front of you.
Failed jumping shots are my favourite. Especially at Runyon Canyon, where your goofiness gets a good backdrop.
2. I had naively believed that, if anything, milk was the main addition you might make to your tea and coffee. Enter flavoured creamer…. life revolutionised. There are so many flavours and so little time to try them all, but it’s a worthy goal.
3. People in this country really seem to hate stairs. I hadn’t previously thought that ‘elevator culture’ was a thing, but it is alive and well here. Why walk up one flight when you could wait 5 minutes for a metal box to take you there?
4. Pancakes are more appealing than the LA artsy crowd. A friend and I went to a party in the arts district of LA last week; it was some kind of interactive club night …. thing. We were not entirely sure. But there was an interesting crowd. And the free bar was worth staying for.
Strike a pose.
But we abandoned ship in favour of my FIRST EVER TRIP TO IHOP. An actual HOUSE OF PANCAKES, and an international one at that. Let me tell you, if you’re in downtown LA at midnight IHOP is the obvious place to be- where else would you find 4 types of syrup at that time? And the opportunity to release your creativity in such a productive way?
5. Studying here is pretty different. One thing I’ve noticed is that processes (eg the whole process of writing a paper) are often divided into more individual stages. For example, next week we’re handing in an annotated bibliography for our history class, vs the Cambridge normal style of ‘You have approximately zero hours to read for and write this essay: GO!’. It feels like it should be easier and less time consuming like this but I am so unfamiliar with working in this more structured way that I feel like I’m shooting in the dark slightly; it’s also frustrating to research sources for topics on which we will never write a research paper. (Please don’t get me wrong, I DO NOT have the desire to sit and write a research paper. But the principle of doing work when you aren’t going to have the chance to actually convey any interesting idea is kind of annoying). In one of my classes there’s also a lot of rote learning which means there is little possibility for bullshitting your way through- nightmare for an arts student.
6. This very same class, although I think their system of examination is not the best, has some pretty great perks. The deal is that we watch pre-release films and have a Q&A afterwards with the director or producer (or sometimes other interesting people from the films). We recently saw ‘The Judge’ and had a Q&A with the producer Susan Downey who was very interesting, but I was very distracted in thinking OH MY WORD Robert Downey Jr’s baby is inside you. So I blame her pregnancy for my certain failure in this class, because that is a reasonable attitude.
7. To the British director who said he had taken US citizenship and loved the US ‘can do’ attitude: Mate, what is wrong with you? We have a healthy cynicism.
The atmosphere is something else when you get thousands of people together praising God. Last Thursday I went with the lovely people of Young Life to the Hillsong United concert at the Forum here in LA. For those of you who don’t know, Hillsong United are a Christian band (you might be thinking, what the hell does a Christian concert look like?) Despite being told that they were ‘over capacity’, the wonderful Ben somehow managed to sweet talk the ticket lady into getting us in, and with incredible seats. (hooray for the greatest of YL leaders!!). I know people whose lives were truly changed that evening. It was immense.
Somebody else uploaded this… I just love hearing all those voices.
No night at a concert would be complete without a midnight snack…. enter the incredible pancakes at The Pantry. And BACON. Ohhh the bacon.
9. San Francisco is very, very cool. As are parents who come across the world to visit you! My Dad and Stepmum were in town a few weeks ago, and before they came to LA we spent a little time in San Francisco.
We saw the Blue Angels fly for Fleet Week
Alcatraz beckoned to us from across the water
Ai Weiwei gave us some crazy beautiful colours.
10. Your first ever piece of pumpkin pie is a special thing.
11. ALSO PUMPKINS ARE THE GREATEST
12. When I first got to classes here I was pretty intimidated as people just seemed to have an awful lot to contribute to group discussions. Or even, you know, not in discussions but just in the middle of a lecture. My silence was conspicuous. Then I actually stopped to listen, in the midst of my alarm, to what some of these people were saying. Which was often NOTHING or next to it. There are, of course, some exceptionally smart people here who have truly fascinating things to say, but so many people seem to just be talking for the sake of it. This seems like one flaw of being graded for ‘participation’. I will always remember how one of our professors from the US at uni in the UK would say ‘I love these awkward silences in our supervisions. Because when you do finally say something it’s fairly likely to be of value.’ I truly don’t mean this as a catty comment, but this desire and almost need for your voice to be heard really strikes me in almost every class I go into.
13. I was recently introduced to the ‘ENO’ (or in its verb form ‘to ENO’) – read colourful hammocks which one should hang between trees on campus and drink coffee in.
Just hangin’ around.
14. Fairly often articles on mental health will cross my path, and I was particularly struck by one point in this Buzzfeed article. http://www.buzzfeed.com/jenniferschaffer/recovering-from-depressionNo. 15 [when recovering from depression] Colors might pop; everything might look “more vibrant, as if some sort of noir-grey filter has been lifted and [you can] finally see things as they are.”
YEESSS. I always talk about how going on the big group trip to Korea was like ‘seeing in colour’ again. Everything just looked more ALIVE suddenly. I don’t know if anyone on that trip will read this, but you were (and are) immense and I love you, dear and crazy friends who love to sing karaoke and drink soju.
Vaguely related to this- I’ve been helping out where I can with the USC branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Check out the October campaign 🙂 http://www.neontommy.com/news/2014/10/we-are-more-our-bodies-campaign-sparks-conversation-about-eating-disorders
15. Teaching kids in middle school is great, especially when one of the boys finds you a new fact about Crystal Palace every week, just because they’re your Dad’s team. (of course the first question you ask your new British teacher is what team they support, just before asking if they drive a Rolls Royce)
16. I do not understand sororities (or fraternities, for that matter) one bit. Maybe next time I will attempt a better articulation on this topic, but for now…. WHY?! Eloquent summation.
17. Life can be pretty damn good.
(take a selfie with a sheep)
From LA with love. xxx