Could you go back - be a student again? Keep four seasons of clothing in three drawers? Share a bathroom with seven others? (Brushing your teeth while others ablute...) Sleep in twin beds at arms-length from a complete stranger? Eat fries for every meal except breakfast?
We've been asking ourselves these very same questions as we sleep in student dorms and eat at the student cafeteria, part of the Family Vacation Centre (FVC) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. And while marveling at the energy and pep of the students counsellors who mind our kids all day, put on shows and take adults surfing, golfing, tennis-ing and wine tasting I wonder: Crikey Dick, was I ever that nice?
First day in the cafeteria I line up for the Asian stir fry. Good girl, Jody. As the meals unfold, slowly but surely I realise I simply must simplify: it's all about the fries. Day Three I dropped any semblance of maturity and green leaves and line up with seven-year-old Cy for the lunch and dinner of kings; Coco Pops, fries and cheese pizza.
Fueled by similar diets, the student counsellors grow only sweeter through the week. In contrast, I become the ageing Faustian Picture of Dorian Gray in the attic. A hard bed and cheerleaders indulging in noisy discos nearby conspire to make my eyes puffy, my back creaky, my stomach bumpy and my mood grumpy.
My student summers in New Zealand were busy with bagging potatoes in my parents' fruit shop and cleaning campground toilets - universal skills, surely - but how would I fare here? Turns out the local coffee shop on Isla Vista, the IV Drip, has more than 60 applications a week. So many in fact that the owner asks applicants to submit their qualifications in art or sculpture. The many hundreds of meticulous art works include puppets, masks papier mache dolls and 3-D rooms. I'm way outclassed.
It becomes pretty obvious that I have lost my 20-something capacity for mystery cocktails when, during the quiz night, I imbibe a few too many "Wonderwomans" - vodka, cranberry and some third ingredient that makes you terribly interesting and a fabulous dancer. Next morning it was all Pow! Smack! Bam!
I had to take the next night off ...and just as well. Some other vacationers tell me about the Best Margarita competition. At one stage three women - in a bid for the judges' favour - take off their shirts and dance lasciviously around the judges and room. As one observer said to me later: "Somehow when you're 50-plus wearing a sports bra and high-waisted white granny pants, you can't quite pull that one off."
The next day I limit myself to a student clothing budget and make my first foray into Forever 21. I bought a $4 large owl necklace to match my bright yellow owl shirt. "Oh you could be in the Kappa Blappa Blooper (or words to that effect) sorority - they love owls too," one of my friends told me. Not sure if if the Kappas - whoever they are - would have me. But whatever your real or imagined sorority, sometimes it's better stick with the wise old owl...
1. Cheapest Five-Minute Philosophy: For a donation of $2, "One Feather" a former married nurse and now a single 62 year-old will tell you what you need to hear. He's been "fortuitously divested of all material possessions through divorce" and while you view his van - he has spent the last 17 years decorating it with toys - One Feather will regale you with his veritable pearls. "Whatever you Scoobydoobydo, you do it with Love. " And "Fill in the gap: All you need is..."
|Cy, One Feather and Tallulah|
3. Cheapest Artshow: "Cardboard Beer Crates on a Cactus," Via Del Pas. Goodnights and ugly mornings. The stuff of haikus, mate.
4. Cheapest Healthy Tucker: Pho, Isla Vista. Clear wonderful chicken broth and cilantro with prime views of the Tattoo Parlour opposite.
5. Cheapest Kool T-shirts: Akomplice on State Street. Interesting graphics for political stance - poor and devastated Africa, gas is blood money - but why do they need to mix in pictures of huge breasts? A mammoric political view or just boorish grunty youth?
What do you miss about your studentdaze?