Ann Arbor || words by Birralee Hassen

I woke to the sound of excited boys starting to get drunk. Realistic voices of reason snuck into my dreams; “Whoever I marry is going to have to be an alcoholic”, stirring my groggy body to a state of awakeness. Feeling slightly stiff from the previous nights activities that included skateboarding and tree climbing, I swung my head over the edge of the bed and peered down at my friend on the floor, Colin. We had both slept in our jeans. When your body is sore and your head is heavy, you have to take the time out to appreciate the little wins, like the fact that we had both remembered to take our shoes off. “Game day” croaked Colin as he rose unsteadily to his feet and reached past the cup of water for the Jack Daniels, tipping his head back and taking a swig before graciously offering me the bottle. Well, I decided as I accepted the bottle from Colin, if I wanted to experience American College life this was the place to do it. And so far it was proving to be a lot of fun.

 

I will remember game day as the day I feel I transported myself into a continuous scene from the movie American Pie. For the first time I experienced red cups filled with beer, mac and cheese set out on tables in an attempt to soak up said beer, and various games involving Ping-Pong tables and previously mentioned red cups and beer. I have a memory of lining up with four others as chocolate sauce was poured into our mouths, followed by a waterfall of peppermint schnapps. I also have a memory of proclaiming “This is my new favourite drink!”, which in hindsight I think I may have to take back. I will thank the schnapps for the fact that shortly after consumption I was laying on my back while drunken people climbed aboard my drunken legs to experience throne pose – and voila there you have acroyoga! How very Zen of us.

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As fun as pre-drinking is, or ‘tailgating’ as it is referred to by the college students, the time drew closer for the start of the big game, and a sea of people dressed in yellow and blue started making their way towards the stadium. The Michigan stadium, built in 1927 with a seating capacity of 107,601, boasts the title of largest in the United States, and second largest in the world. The fact that they are beaten only by North Korea, with a stadium with a seating capacity of 150,000, is undoubtedly a sore point to many God loving Americans. One thing I definitely learnt whilst being in Ann Arbor is how much the people here adore their sports. Baseball, Hockey, football and FIFA are not far off being considered religions themselves. The fact that FIFA is not actually a physical game does not deter the college kids from playing and following it with a vigilance and diligence that warrants it being included in the sporting list.

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We had tickets for the student seating area, which meant that we were in the part where no one actually sat down.  We stood on the benches and waved and cheered along with the swarming hill of fellow yellow supporters. I can now vouch for the fact that being part of a Mexican wave that is over one hundred thousand people strong, is, for something as simple as standing up and waving your arms above your head, extremely satisfying. The Mexican wave, as a side note, earned its name from being a popular part of the 1986 soccer world cup, which was held in Mexico City. Not, as some would like to interject, from when the first Mexican left home. The game was everything I could have imagined an American college football game to be. Once again I had the feeling of being in a scene from American Pie. A feeling less likely induced by the actual sport being played and more likely by the cheerleaders and their pom poms, dancing beautifully and dutifully to the band that wore matching hats, playing their perfectly shined trombones.

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The scene when it came time to leave is exactly the scene you would imagine when you put 107,601 people in a confined space and then open the gates and allow an exit at the same time. The term mass exodus comes to mind, as does the term clusterfuck. We exited past the many fans that had set up in the car park, cooking barbeques while televisions that I can only assume were brought from home played game highlights. This is where, I learnt, the term tailgating came from, as this is a regular occurrence where people arrive early to secure their car park picnic spot and pre and post drink alongside their cut out pieces of cardboard that brandish the face of their teams coach blown up to an unsettling scale.

 

We headed home for a quick regroup and some dinner before heading out to the bars. In a town with a student population of forty thousand, there is always somewhere to be at nighttime in Ann Arbor. And game night after the home team winning 38 to 0 was definitely no exception.

 

I embraced the nightclub scene more than willingly, as anyone who knows me knows I am quite partial to excessively and over enthusiastically dancing to sub par music.  I mean, when you’re in a club full of students you can’t not dance to Taylor Swift’s “feeling 22” with gusto to match those seemingly never tiring young sweaty bodies around you (says I at the ripe old age of twenty four). 

It’s hard to believe but eventually our party tired after our huge day, and we headed home; via of course some tree’s whose limbs were basically asking to be climbed. I decided, on this walk, that American college life was a definitely a whole lot of fun. I don’t think that I would last very long in the lifestyle of excessive partying where the staple diet is undoubtably beer. Followed closely by white bread, yellow cheese and sauces whose names give no indication of their flavour, let alone their ingredients or origins. But it was an absolute ball to be able to able to come in for one week, embrace the chaos and then be able to head off again. Before I knew it, I was waking again in Colin’s room. If my brain were working correctly, I would have recognised the feeling of déjà vu as I swung my head over the edge of the bed and peered down at my friend on the floor, Colin. We had both slept in our jeans.  

Birralee Hassen