Saturday - Today consisted of a trip downtown, to better explore the western half of Columbus. I'm quickly learning that the weather here seems to fluctuate on a whim, and I was losing layers throughout my morning ventures. Days seem to begin bitterly cold, but by midday prove to be very warm, and I was wandering around in a T-shirt and shorts while friends back home were shovelling snow. Not sure how ready I am for spring here - I'm going with 'not very'.
The weather did mean, however, that I'd picked a good day to explore, with downtown Columbus looking pretty good in the sun. There's a large river running along the Georgia / Alabama state line and I walked down to it, and spent some time listening to my iPod and reading one of the books assigned as part of my course here - a William Faulkner novel. I lost track of time slightly, it's easy to here, and almost missed the weekly market, which is held every Saturday morning on the main street. I was hoping to buy some fresh fruit (which is very difficult to find here), and ended up with some apples, which I ate while walking around the area for another hour or so.
Downtown Columbus is very different from the part I'm living in (near the University), and it's where the city's social scene tends to lie - all of the bars / clubs / coffee shops are down there. I met a friend in the latter and killed a few more hours, before heading back to campus for an afternoon of work. In a way my morning was typical of American life, which I've found to be quite laid back since arriving here; time seems to move slower, and the pace of life is much more relaxed. I like that aspect, and my first few weeks here have sort of drifted by. My classes started last week, and they seem alright so far, although we haven't done too much except cover the syllabus so far.
Monday - I walked over to the local cinema (I say local, but nothing here really is) to meet a classmate, and I was reminded how much I dislike walking to places in Columbus. The city isn't really one which you can walk around with ease, very spread out and car-friendly. Walking five miles felt like walking ten, and most of the roads here only have a slim pavement, or no pavement at all, so I always end up feeling like Jack Kerouac - wandering alongside busy highways when I probably shouldn't be. The movie was worth the over-the-shoulder paranoia though, as was the evening, when I went around to a friend's house and watched the football game. I say football, but I mean American Football, which is very difficult and not nearly as interesting as the English kind. Every time I found myself getting into it there'd be a five minute ad break, and I think I'd seen the same commercial fifteen times by the end of the night, and I still wasn't sure what the product was. The people I watched it with lapped it all up, but I had a hard time with it. I think that I'll stick to soccer (that name being used solely for ease of understanding).
Tuesday - More sports, except this time I was there in person, watching a game of basketball at the University. Columbus State makes a big deal of their athletics division, so they also made a sizable effort with the first game of the year, promoting it heavily, to the point where I almost had to go to avoid feeling like I was missing out. The University boasts a small basketball stadium of sorts, and opens it up for the public to come to games, so with the place full there was a really professional feel to the occasion. There were a school band situated in the stands regularly breaking into a rendition of 'Eye Of The Tiger', and an ensemble of cheerleaders took to the court to perform a routine in between quarters. We lost in a narrow game (89-94), but being courtside and seeing the game itself was good enough. It was cool to see something I'd always been curious about in an atmosphere like that, sat amongst the fraternities in the student end. The games here are relatively frequent, so I'm going to aim to attend a few more over the course of the semester, and hopefully get some better pictures than I did this time out. I definitely preferred it to the football, but I probably just need to to be more patient / understanding of the rules (I'll do some research before the Superbowl). Next month Columbus State's new baseball stadium will open, and I'll be there for that also, or should be at least.
Wednesday - Didn't get up to a whole lot today, but it's alright to take a day off every now and then. I had classes in the morning, and then went to the gym afterwards. One thing I will say for Columbus is that its Student Recreation Centre is very good, and I make a point of going daily. Another bonus is that its free to use if you're a student (technically you pay a $75 fee for the semester, but my payment was waivered) and I'm a big fan of the facilities the University offers, mainly using the swimming pool but also sometimes playing basketball or lifting weights.
Thursday - Tonight the student activities council (SAC) here arranged for a live comedy show, which was free for students and featured three very different comedians. I had a good time, even though I'd still take British comedians over their American counterparts. Again, it proved a decent way to meet some new people though, which is mainly what the first few weeks of a semester are about.
Saturday - I spent most of today catching up on University work and preparing for the next week of classes here. In terms of the actual courses here they're structured differently to those in the UK, mainly in that they all require work to be done online, instead of solely in lectures. I'm expected to contribute to discussion boards regularly, and take quizzes online as well, which did feel a little strange at first. It means you can get 20% of your final grade from bed though, so I suppose that's a plus. With the discussion boards, you get a better idea of the people you're studying with, and there's an emphasis on coming prepared, instead of learning in a lecture-like setting. Lectures here also don't really feel like lectures, with all of my classes tending to pan out more like seminars, with group interaction encouraged. I bought a few notepads in preparation for note-taking, but I haven't had to make too many yet, which means that my handwriting will probably be even worse upon returning. It's a good thing I'm typing this up.
In the evening / night I went downtown to a party I'd been invited to, hosted by a local fraternity, partly to satisfy my curiosity regarding whether American parties were similar to those in American Pie. In a way the one that I went to was, and in a way it wasn't, but it was a good time regardless. Also, proper beer pong is a lot more difficult than I expected it to be!
Sunday - I met someone at that party who offered me a late invitation to see a performance at the downtown theatre, which I accepted. The performance was an adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird - arguably the quintessential southern-American novel. I remember studying it at high school and seeing the film adaptation, but the stage version stood up to both, and it was good to be reacquainted with a work I still find incredibly powerful after however many years it's been. The novel is actually set in the fictional town of Maycomb, in the factual state of Alabama - only a short trip away from Columbus, which sits beside the states border - so the performance felt relevant and real despite its age. In April the theatre is hosting a production of The Who's rock opera Tommy, so I'm going to be sure to check that out also - it'll probably be slightly more to my taste.