Not so long ago, but before I realised I didn't want to spend my life sitting exams, I had always thought of studying a form of post-graduate law abroad and always had UC Berkeley in mind. This idea wasn't diminished when I discovered that the legendary Sandy Cohen had studied law at Berkeley. Mostley inspired by him, I had dreamt of getting my own Berkeley sweater long before I came out here.
One of the Australians who I've been meeting up with and bumping into all along my travels is studying in Berkeley, so it was a great opportunity to hang out and get to see the University town with someone who knows it better than me. It was also really good to hear what they'd been up to since I last saw them.
I was shown around the natural sciences building (where there is a T-Rex fossil), got to see the library and went up the tall university clock tower (Sather Tower). We got up there at just about midday as the bells were tolling and the noise was absolutely deafening! The tower has a man who seems to live up there and who 'plays' the bells at appropriate times. I don't mean jumping up and down on bell ropes, there was a piano type instrument that he played for about thirty minutes at the time. I was told that one highlight was when he played Lady Ga Ga.
From the clock tower we went through Sather Gate, the historic site of protests on the university, whether it be over war or tuiton fees. From Sather Gate, and now with sweater in hand, we went up to the University's stadium. College sport in America here is incredible and the facilities available give the sports a professional appearance. It was no different at Berkeley. When we got to the stadium it wasn't deserted as we had expected, instead there was a football training session taking place. We stopped to watch it for a few minutes. It was a serious operation - even crowd noise was played over the stadium's PA system to recreate the likeness of match day.
We then picked up some beers and went back to my friend's place in Berkeley. He doesn't live in any ordinary kind of house, he had explained it to me long before, but now I was getting to experience it for myself. I doubt anyone back home will have encountered anything like it before, so I'll give it a brief note. He lives in a student cooperative called Casa Zimbabwe. What are student co-ops I hear you ask? On the whole campus co-ops accomodate over 1,000 students (in Casa Zimbabwe there are about 130). In return for lower rents, co-operative residents are required to perform work tasks in the house. These tasks are everything from cleaning bathrooms, emptying rubbish, clearing common spaces, cooking and washing. The members of the cooperative elect a council and senior positions in the community (such as President). These people are charged with selecting people to perform important tasks (you want the best people on cooking duty as they prepare food for everyone and everyone eats together) and of auditing accounts and allocating budgets. It is an interesting setup and definitely appears to be an experience to live in. Casa Zimbabwe has two separate wings with a communal area inbetween. All over the walls are murals and in some places written rants. I don't think I would do well living there, but I can definitely see how it would be an experience to do so and it was very interesting to just very briefly experience it and learn about it. We spent the rest of the afternoon on the house's roof drinking our bears and looking over San Francisco Bay towards the city.