Well last week I did the first day of Primary school and promised I'd talk about my first day of University so here goes.
First day of University for me could actually be broken down into three separate experiences on three different days over the course of that first week. The first experience was the day I moved into residence, the second one was my programs initiation/orientation day and the third one was the actual first day of classes. All of them had that first day feel and provided me with jitters and the feelings that I was embarking on a whole new adventure.
I'll only go into detail about the first one - moving into residence though. The first day of actual classes was basically about my first algebra class and how I totally freaked out and ran to find tutors afterwards as I was afraid I didn't have what it took to be in University. The initiation/orientation experience was basically a run down of the b.s initiation we had into our program and how Jdid was forced to fight off a horde of stupid half drunk frosh (freshman) on his way home because of some silly inter-departmental rivalry.
I won by the way, as the battle stopped after they claimed I was "fighting back too much". Hey I'm sorry I didn't know I was supposed to let 5 strange guys, run up to me on the street on the first day of school and without fighting back let them beat me up, just because I was wearing a t-shirt saying I belonged to a faculty they had some issue with. I didn't get that memo apparently. Oh my bad I wasn't supposed to fight, the sane ones recognize the odds and run away so you can either laugh or trip them up and then beat them up. Actually I know one dude who got his arm broken that year while running away during a similar initiation melee. Well clearly they didn't realize I'm not completely sane. 5 to 1 looked like great odds to me even if they were for the most part bigger than me. That's ok big man have muscles, bony man have sharp elbows and I've been throwing bows way before Luda. He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day maybe but well who said I wanted to fight another day? I was perfectly willing to scrap on their terms cause if I'm going down all I know was I was taking at least one of their punk asses with me. I fought and I fought dirty.
So anyway clearly I still got issues with that crap since it wasn't something I signed up to do at University so I've said enough about that lets talk about my first day in residence.
So before I get into the particulars let me just tell you all that my journey to Canada and University was actually my first time leaving the Caribbean, actually leaving Barbados, actually leaving home, so some culture shock was expected. I came up to North America about three weeks early and hung around with family here and in the U.S just to get my bearings but going off to residence was still a major undertaking as this was going to be the first time I lived on my own, set my own rules did my own laundry etc etc.
So Labor Day (traditional moving in day at my college) I got my georgie bundle (shout out to Urban Sista) together and one of my family members drove me down to school.
I was a bit nervous since I was unsure what to expect. This was after all a whole new experience and here I was in a foreign land without the usual safety nets I was accustomed to.
The residence building was a rather imposing structure from the outside. A large four story brick building with lots of generic looking windows and a courtyard in the centre. Very institutional like I found. I was still not used to being in places with so much artificial light and found that the long hallways with its artificial light had this disconnected feeling to them like I was cut off from the world. There was also had this strange smell like the carpets had been cleaned but whatever debauchery had occurred in the place had still not been completely wiped away.
I also found that from the first the hallways with their drab colors just gave me this feeling that this place was built for functionality and not for warmth. You know sort of like how they use those creams and other colors at fast food places to encourage the mind not t linger after you've finished eating. This place would be my dwelling but not my home if that makes any sense. But what's a brother to do, just got to be comfortable and remember the task at hand is to go to school and not FAIL!
I thought that the dorm rooms were small although at that time I really had no comparison for dorm rooms. But then again most dorm rooms are small. Two beds, two desks and some clear space in the middle of the cheaply tiled floor. I got there ahead of my roommate so I was able to select the bed where I could roll clockwise without falling off. The beds were small though as I was accustomed to sleeping on a queen sized mattress all my life. How's a brother to stretch out? Oh well at least they weren't too short.
My roommate showed up a bit later. He was actually another black guy and it turns out that the dorm director had paired us up not simply because we were the only two black guys on that floor but because we were the only two guys who had said we liked hip hop on our applications. Mind you roomie was way more into the commercial stuff than I was (Mr Hammer cringe!) although at one point during that year he metamorphosized into this Afrika Bambatta medallion wearing, proud to be black entity but I had no problems with that as I think my Malcolm X shirt might have been the spark to the change anyways lol. (And yes that was after I had read his autobiography so I did know who he was and what he stood for)
Still it worked out pretty well for us and homeboy was/is still cool so I aint got no complaints there.
Anyway speeding up this story, after settling in a bit around 4 o'clock the Don, floor leader, called a meeting so everyone could be introduced to each other. I was meeting small town guys from places like Coburg, St Catherines, Mindon, Elmira, Chatham, Sudbury, Port Hope and a string of Ontario towns I'd never heard of before in my life but then again up to that point I wasn't even sure where Scarborough was. lol
Everyone seemed cool for the most part although you kind of knew that some of the small town guys had never been this close to a black person in their lives and were wondering what part of Jamaica Barbados umm Bahamas umm Bermuda was. It just showed by the way they looked at you.
So the Don asks if we're all of drinking age (19 in these parts) or at least had fake ID's and once that was sorted out it was off to a bar for us.
Now I'll be honest here. Growing up in the Caribbean you see a lot of alcohol around you even if you aren't drinking. Every small one room grocery shop has some stools or side room or rum shop attached where guys go on their lunch break or whenever they find time to hang out and share a snap bottle, or a few Banks beers, slam some dominos and argue cricket or politics. I'd been in or around many a rum shop from young. Actually many many a rumshop. Still I was going to learn that a rumshop definitely is not the same as a bar and up until this point I had never been into a bar.
Actually as we marched up the street, I was a little skeptical about this whole bar thing. Couldn't we just chill somewhere and converse without drinking? Why did I need id to drink, I'd been to parties in Barbados and I'd never showed no id. Sorry I guess that was just my small island naivete showing out.
So we reached the bar and walk in. I was imagining Cheers since that was the only bar context I really knew back then. Instead I walked into this extremely gloomy establishment, where the few lightbulbs were clearly losing the battle against the dark. One could barely see where one was walking. Thick long wooden benches and tables like something out of a medieval viking feast covered the floor and there was an overwhelming smell of stale beer permeating everything.
From the get go I was uncomfortable. I was just fidgetty like whoa this is not the sort of place a nice Christian raised yout like you should be going into. Yea I know I'd been int rumshops but like I said something here was just different, more unholy to me somehow. My senses were on edge cause from my imagination this was the type of place where crazy stuff happened; people got drunk, started bar fights, knives were drawn, people died. Hey what can I say I had a vivid imagination.
I'm not feeling very comfortable with this set up and the seedy looking characters who are here already and as it stands I barely know the people I'm with and I'm one of two black dudes in the place. So nope was not very comfortable.
I could barely see who was sitting across the table from me anyways. We ordered some pitchers but I declined any of the alcohol since the glasses and the pitcher didn't look too clean and I had no intention of touching anything besides the partially sticky benches in that establishment. yuck!
So after chatting for a few minutes when the drinks came I excused myself on the pretext that I was going to the bathroom and I just left my floor mates and that bar. Although I was to live in that area for the next 10 plus years I never went back to that spot (although I heard its cleaned up quite a bit now) and to tell the truth of all the bars I've ever went to that remains the grimiest and dirtiest one I've seen.
Anyway that night everyone came back to residence fall down drunk, puking up their guts. Another smell to add to the melange in the hallway carpet I guess. All the while I'm thinking what have I gotten myself into. It was the start of the craziest year of my life on a floor where drugs, alcohol, strippers and fights were the norm. Yep there was actually a stripper living on our floor rather clandestinely for about two months at one point, long story! Apart from the fighting (I had to serve some fool who messed with me once), I kind of stayed away from it all by spending lots of time in the library (And I've always hated libraries for study purposes). About 3/4 of the freshmen on that floor that year ended up dropping out, transferring university or program or going on probation just due to the craziness that was going on but thankfully I was able to ride it through. After all I had the strong motivation that if I screwed up I probably wouldn't be able to show my face back in Barbados ever again.