I meant to write something to let people know how I’m doing earlier, but things have been pretty busy. Everything’s started to settle down now, and my classes start tomorrow, so I thought I’d get something written down now in case anyone back home wants to know how things are.
My flight out here was not, I’m going to say, too bad. We set out from Heathrow on what was a seven hour flight. I thought it’d be okay getting through that; I had a book, I had a couple of magazines, and the in-flight entertainment had both Toy Story 1 and 2. Sorted. Round about the two hour mark I noticed on the navigation map ahead that we were near Glasgow, and we were starting to turn. At first the turn was expected; we were heading north and we couldn’t keep going that way forever. After a couple of minutes we were heading south. Turns out someone a few rows ahead of my seat was ill, and we had to head back to Heathrow so he could get off the plane. Took us two hours to get there, then we were on the ground for another two, unable to leave the plane. It wasn’t so bad though. Turns out How to Train Your Dragon is some pretty damn great entertainment. It also turns out Green Zone suddenly turns into one long incomprehensible gunfight about three-quarters of the way in.
The first few days were mainly just buying everything I need, and getting to know the immediate area. College Park is definitely a student town. Not in the way Leeds is a student town; it’s a collection of retaurants and convenience stores clinging onto the gigantic university campus. It does have some darn nice restaurants though.
I went into Washington D.C. a couple of times, and saw a fair bit of it. Saw The Mall. Saw Georgetown. Saw a fair few crazy people as well. One of them kicked a tree. He was really going at it so I left him to it. Also saw a rickshaw-driver crash into a woman’s car, deny it, and then quickly attempt to cycle away, passengers in tow. The woman dragged his rickshaw back and then stood in front of it, turning from barely over five foot tall to the tallest and most intimidating person in the world. I went up the Washington Monument on my second day in D.C., and that was pretty impressive. it stands at 550 feet tall and there are eight viewing windows you can look out of on the 500 foot level. I have some photos of all of the city from up there, I’ll try to put a couple of them up here soon.
I also went to the Lincoln Memorial, and as I was reading his inspirational speeches from the walls I saw a guy wearing a backpack that had a confederacy flag badge stitched into it. Fair enough, I thought. I read Glenn Beck, the conservative television host and paranoid schizophrenic, gave a big speech there this previous weekend, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Apparently it was in aid of restoring America’s lost honour. APPARENTLY he didn’t know the date was significant when he originally set it up, and it was just divine providence that it fell on the same day as the anniversary of that said speech. I’ll be honest; I think that’s a little presumptuous.
The time between my first few days and now has been filled mostly by looking upwards at improbably large buildings. Such as the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Centre, which has a theatre in it that’s about as big as any professional theatre I’ve ever been in, the College Football Stadium (go terps!), and especially the Comcast Centre, which has two main purposes: to host basketball games and to cow foreigners into a state of shock and awe. I’m going to say the Comcast Centre was about as big as all the University of Bristol buildings combined. I was there for the beginning of term speech for new students, and was promptly taught how to sing the chant for the Maryland Terrapins, along with at least three thousand freshmen. They had brought out the marching band and the cheerleaders. The marching band. The cheerleaders! I’m in America, I thought. It might sounds strange, but that’s somethng I have to make myself comprehend anew daily. It’s quite the realisation.