Sunday, August 8, 2010

FVC: Student Hazedays

This week we are having a family vacation.

For those who have not read my post "Five stages of grief" there is a difference between family trips and family vacations. The latter means endless fun and quality (short) intervals with your kids and we're doing the latter.

We're at the University of Califorina at Santa Barbara FVC (Family Vacation Centre). You get to stay in student dorms and eat in the student cafeteria and best of all have the students look after your kids. While your offspring are being entertained endlessly by the funnest, funniest, honey-est, most genuinely sweet students you'll ever meet (crafting, swimming, surfing, eggs drops, rock climbing and on and on...). The adults get to go golfing, surfing, shopping, wine tasting, tennis and on and on...

We've been coming here for six years, nearly always with five other families. Since I've done every activity ever offered, this year I don't feel like I have to go surfing, then watercolouring with a raquet in my backpack. Today I've been wandering around the golden triangle of cafeteria, front desk and room. The weather is totally bizarre here on this craggy coast: mornings are wintry gloom (I wore a ski jacket to breakfast and ate hot oakmeal) broken by hazy bright sun in the afternoon.

The accommodations are simple and clean. We have a four bedroom apartment with a living room and large two- toilet two- shower bathroom in a building that is a slightly Eastern Bloc with trees. But if you can ignore the Sixties utilitarian exterior, who cares? From what I can see, except for some colour tweaking and tropical bushes, the buildings - except for the cafeteria - and the programme seem to have remained unchanged since FVC started in 1972. Every business student in the country should come and study this place:  If it's not broke, don't fix it.  And it's half the price of any other vacation week that includes all food, entertainment and kid's clubs. The kids can cycle, razor, wander or just hang out at the rec room all day without you being on top of them. We see our kids run off on check-in and we barely spot them again for the rest of the week.

What is a bit of a surprise is the memories which surface, not always crystal clear, of your own student days. Certainly both Jackson,11, and Cy,six, have embraced the frat boy inside. They started as they meant to go on, with the breakfast of kings: fruit loops with cherry soda over the top. I won't need to post pics of their lunch and dinner because it's exactly the same thing.

On rising from my monk hard bed I also start channelling the student I was 25 years ago. Yesterday the Mum in me would have picked up that plastic bag on the floor. But today I'm a student again. I just step OVER the bag. I leave my clothes on the floor. Whilst in the bathroom, several kids, some not my own, come in to pee in the second stall. Cool, that's what happens when you're a student...

Once inside the cafeteria, I meet my Nemisis - the Cook-to-Order bar. Fried eggs, bacon sausies, fried potatoes, with a chaser of pancakes and syrup. I could put on the "Freshman 15" (lbs) in one week...but should I? I opt for the oatmeal, knowing that - who am I kidding?- by the end of the week it will be two plates of the Truckdriver Special. The cafeteria is one place I don't recognise from my student halls days where flabby white toast for breakfast was followed by watery cauliflour for lunch. This cafeteria not only has a Moderne airy feel, it has a pizza oven, organic fruit, an Asian grill and four bars of hot choices. This year they have done away with trays, reducing waste and mess ...and presumably the incidence of Freshman 15. Well done.

Still channeling my inner student I head over to the surfboard area where I suspect there will be charming conventionally tanned surf instructors. Bingo! Those seven years at university have served me well: I've still got it! They seemed pleased to see me and we chatted for awhile, but there is a fine line between creepy and Demi Moore and seeing my husband laughing at me through the window, I give them a hang ten and later dudes.

Later being very unstudenty I eschew roller blading - aaargh!my knees- and tennis -ooh!my shoulder. Instead I revisit that old student activity. Doing stuff with a hangover. I'll spare you the photos but me kickboxing for the first time was like watching a white chicken..kickboxing.

Afterwards I mooched (Kiwi for "wandered") around the Isla Vista shops which is littered with tattoo parlours and dive bars. Inspired by this fresh and frisky couple cycling (above), I whisked Kevin away for a wild cycle tour of the shore with Tallulah, 9, taking candid and spontanous snaps of us, like this set-up shot, below. "Sorry Emily" Tallulah said to her friend "My family is not normal".

Exhausted by this burst of energy I took a very "in character' nap. After which I had a frightenly real flashback to another side of University. Those endless assignments (which I always did at the last minute, but hung over me terribly while I was down at the pub) and the endless exams (which I barely studied for, but hung over me terribly while...) I'm glad not to be 20 and a student again. I can visit once a year.

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