Keeping Busy in Columbus (A Few Things I've Done)
Went to a disappointing hockey game - Thanks to an event run by the University, I was able to attend a Columbus Cottonmouths hockey game for free, which was good of them. Sure, I spent $10 on a pint and a pretzel when I got there, but I'm alright with that. I'd only been to one hockey game prior to this one, and I barely remember it, so this one felt fresh, and even though we lost 7-0 (!) I still had a good time. Columbus has a small stadium of sorts situated downtown, and the Uni provided transport there and back, and had arranged for some good seats as well - shame they couldn't do anything about the actual game though. The atmosphere was good throughout although the game wasn't sold out, and between play there were spectator participation events and competitions to keep people occupied. I remember a guy skating around with a bucket at half-time, throwing a rubber chicken into the crowd, which someone then had to throw back into the bucket - cheesy stuff like that.
The actual game itself was interesting in between, although it took me a while to adjust to the speed of things (I was lost for the first ten minutes). I was more confused than lost during the fourth quarter, when a few players threw off their gear and started to box inside an ice hockey rink. From what I remember of my childhood ice hockey experience, no spontaneous fights broke out, but that seems to be the norm here. Oddly enough, this got the biggest cheer of the night, although granted, there hadn't been much for the home fans to cheer about preceding the sin-bin scenarios. Also, I know there are way too many players in the picture, but that was the cost of a half-decent panoramic shot. The game definitely would've been better if each team had put out a dozen men instead of six though.
Visited Atlanta, saw a show, slept in a bus station - I like Columbus and the quaint southern lifestyle it encourages, but I couldn’t imagine staying here for five months and not venturing elsewhere. As big and spacious as it is, the city started to feel somewhat claustrophobic after a month, so I took myself away to Atlanta for roughly thirteen hours, taking in a music show whilst there. Things in America aren't as they are in the UK travel-wise, because it's highly unlikely that you can just hop on a train and end up somewhere interesting. There is however a bus service (Greyhound) running semi-regularly between Columbus and Atlanta, the state capital, and it costs around $50 for a return trip, which is around the same as travelling from Chichester to London and back. I say that the buses run semi-regularly, because even though there are three of four per day the timings of them aren't ideal.
I caught a bus up to Atlanta at 1PM after class, but had to wait until 4AM for a bus back to Columbus. Thankfully, Atlanta is far from dull, and in the five hours or so before my show I took in the cities aquarium (begrudgingly), and explored downtown (happily), during which I wandered round the city park before spending an hour in the Hard Rock Cafe. Later I found a cosy sports bar in the more alternative part of city were my gig was held, where a friendly American couple paid for my meal and beer after they found out I was English, but also after they'd made me recount a few phrases in my accent. From here I walked over to an intimate little venue and enjoyed my gig, before eventually catching an Uber back to the Greyhound station following a few hours in a colourful and friendly coffee shop (walking around Atlanta after hours isn't a good idea apparently). I grabbed two hours of sleep before my early bus back to Columbus, making it to my 9AM classes as well - so I’d mark the trip down as a definite success.
Day Trip To Montgomery – Columbus has a fair amount to offer a short-term visitor, but I decided to take myself away for a day, and then found myself limited to places I could get to using the aforementioned Greyhound bus service. Montgomery, Alabama, seemed like the best choice from the handful I had (being restricted time-wise), so I roped in a fellow international student and endured the two hour bus ride over there, making like The Mountain Goats and crossing 'the Macon county line' (that's a musical reference, if that reads as nonsensical). I wasn't sure what to expect, and in the end I didn't get too much, although the city was worth a visit, if only for a day. Plus, the Greyhound is a cheap way to get around, so the day didn't set us back too much.
We visited the State Capitol; walked around F. Scott Fitzgerald's house; saw the general sites of the city, and killed a few hours in a lively sports bar before our bus ride back. I've no intention of going back over there while here, making once probably enough. People in Georgia aren't too keen about their Alabama neighbours, and I can see why if Montgomery sets the standard. I have to go to Birmingham next month, and I'll likely have a better time there.
Watched Super Bowl Fifty - This one felt like a must do. Indisputably the biggest US sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl is a highlighted fixture on the American calendar, and everyone I know here was watching it somehow, somewhere. I received an invite from a friend, and was welcomed warmly into his home to watch it with his family. Granted, I didn't understand what was going on initially, but I enjoyed it anyway, eventually getting to grips with the rules. I was supporting the Denver Broncos, who won comfortably 24-10, so I even got the result I wanted, if not the game I wanted to see - this one won't go down as a classic. Most people here watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, which didn't disappoint, and after a while I was probably watching it for the commercials as well. Even after a few games American Football is still too slow for me, but the spectacle the Super bowl provides did keep things interesting. That half time show was alright as well, although I'm still not a fan of Coldplay.
Participated in a service day - American Universities are big on philanthropy, and across a semester they expect students to log a certain amount of community service hours. I don't think the same applies to me, being here on a temporary basis, but I decided to participate in an event the Uni had coordinated with a non-profit organization called 'Habitats For Humanity.' I was told we'd be building a house, but this wasn't really the case. The house had already been built, so half of our team of around 25 students painted and decorated, while the other half cleaned up and tidied the property. I'd already put some sun-cream on, so I offered to work outside, and spent four hours pulling up weeds - 'yard work.' I enjoyed it, partly because there was a very strong communal feel to the project, and I met some decent people across the course of our afternoon. I got a free T-shirt for taking part as well, which is always nice. Probably should've moved slightly to the left for the photo though.
Saw more basketball – The season here just finished, but I managed to catch a few more games before things drew to a close. The Columbus State Cougars won their division (male and female teams), not too surprising considering I never saw them lose a single game from the seven or so that I watched. If basketball is your thing, then Columbus has you covered – just come during the fall semester.
Contributed to Global Dialogues - Three times a month the University hosts an event aiming to bring together CSU students and their international counterparts. At these events you're given the chance to learn more about foreign cultures, with the international students dispersed like pizza amongst the Americans contingent. Each table is then given a series of questions, and asked to find out if answers differ depending on the respective continent. It makes for some interesting conversations, and the get-togethers have definitely proved worth going to. As the only Englishman at the Uni (as far as I know) people seem genuinely interested in how things differ across the pond, and I'm curiously inclined likewise. I've only been to three sessions at the time of writing this, but both were pretty cool, eye-opening in different ways, with the first featuring an extensive debate between American woman and myself in regards to gun laws. It was both intriguing and slightly terrifying to hear about her stance, and I still find those laws very strange - I likely always will.The second session was less serious, and included questions about cultural delicacies which led to an intense discussion about fish and chips with tea. Who'd have thought it?
I've learnt that most students here don't peg me for an international student until I speak more than five words at a time, or answer their questions of 'How are you?' with an actual update on my condition (the phrase serves as a greeting here). In a sense I don't feel too distant from the American students here because the language is pretty much the same, and so is the culture, so I expect they'd prefer to match up with someone from South Korea or Columbia instead at these sessions, but they're stuck with me for a few more months...!!