i’m spoilt for choice. one and a half weeks into fall quarter at UCSD and i’m adding and dropping classes like i’m trying on new shoes, swapping russian literature (ballet flats) for spanish class (espadrilles!), slipping on ECON101 galoshes for size while toeing the leather sandal that is PHIL1 (though, okay, socrates went barefoot). i feel as though i might be slipping through the cracks. i want everything and am therefore getting nothing. i am distracted by every flyer, every poster, every email, every booth for every club at every fair. outside the class, i am tanning at Black’s Beach, lounging in our 70mˆ2 apartment, shopping for beachwear and textbooks, streaming good old american TV shows in HD at 100mbps throughout the night, browsing the shelves at Trader Joe’s, and sampling the myriads of flavours offered for fro-yo – or frozen yoghurt – southern california’s delicious substitute for ice cream.
at various intervals, it strikes me that much of everything i have ever grown up with was american – the fast food, the cable TV channels, the clothes brands – and that i am finally in the heartland of it all. consumermania. bank of america. fro-yo. rainbow sandals. katy perry. walmart. america’s next top model. hummers. HBO. ben&jerry’s. diesel. now that i am here, in the thick of it, i am surprised by how foreign it all is to me despite all that television, despite ISKL, despite what i imagined to be my familiarity with that which makes up the U.S.
the transition in lifestyle has been larger than i had imagined. one does not go from Le Havre to San Diego, from 110 Sciences Po students to the 23,000-strong UCSD population, from 22 hours of classes per week to a piddling 10 hours, from rainy, gray skies to the speckless and sweltering blue of borderline central american weather, from the snobbish elegance of france to the earthy, sunny, salty, sandy, vibrance of coastal california, without a certain amount of reckless adaptation and self-indulgence. i am still soaking in everything. the campus is huge and fringes the deep orange cliffs by the pacific ocean. the students wash in and out of their classes in waves of colours and heat, some cruising by on skateboards and others on bikes. the chatter is, surprisingly, varied – the american twang is blended in healthy proportions with sultry hispanic tongues and the loud roll of chinese-english. i am still not sure what to make of it all, particularly in the context of who i am, where i’ve been and where i am now. in the midst of all the californian blondes, hispanics and asian americans, i am feeling unnerved by the blanket of anonymity and the incredible amount of options suddenly afforded to me.
my winds of wither are visiting. i’m not hearing the voices just yet, but i can smell them through the salt of the pacific air.