Pupil exchange to America, blog #3

Pupil exchange to America, blog #3

Rob is also blogging about his time in America here.

Day 5 - Saturday 19 September

Today I learnt that there is a music department in the basement of the Schoolhouse, and also that it is a bad idea to have 300 people dancing in a space about half the size of the average classroom! The music department is complete with pipes in the ceiling and mysterious cupboards! There are many rooms to practice instruments, and lessons going on as well. 

The first Saturday of the year is the day of ‘Awkward Dance’. This is a disco that takes place in the evening in the music department, with the theme being ‘awkward’. In an attempt to combat/increase the awkwardness of a first dance, each dorm has to pick some sort of theme or topic that makes it awkward. Highlights included a dorm who came in soaking wet, those that burst in, dressed completely normally, but holding unexplained courgettes, which were later strewn on the floor, resulting in a dance move that consisted of hopping around, trying not to get courgette pulp on your shoes! There was also a dorm that came dressed as cats, although we didn’t find it that awkward! I think, personally, our dorm was the best though. We all dressed in our pyjamas and moved three sofas, two armchairs, a coffee table and a lamp into the middle of the dance floor before anyone else had arrived, and proceeded to have check in as if it were a perfectly normal evening in the common room. This all went well (we even had pizza) until one on the senior boys dorms arrived, and started to dance on the table. That was when we had to move everything back.
The dance continued, with loud music, flashing lights and a bouncing floor (apparently a structural engineer was called in about this, and he decreed that the floor had a ‘healthy bounce’). Pizza and water were available for when you wanted a break, and many people were sitting and chatting just outside of the dance floor. Walking back along the corridor to the dance, there was a physical shift in the humidity of the air as you could feel the sweat from all these people, but overall the dance was fun. The music gradually got slower and quieter as teachers started to encourage people to go, so we left, and after a shower, fell, exhausted, into bed.

Day 9 - Wednesday 23 September 

Matches usually take place on a Wednesday or Saturday, so we had the first Junior Varsity field hockey match of the season. We played a school named Pomfret, and after running around for 50 minutes in 25 degree heat, we came away with a win of 6-0. Only eleven girls are doing JV field hockey this term, but luckily two people stepped in to bring our team total up to 13 at last minute, otherwise we would have all been shattered.

Day 10 - Thursday 24 September

At Groton, any test or essay of some sort is known as a ‘Major Commitment’. These are put into the school internet calendar for each pupil so students do not have to complete more than three on one day. I had my first Major Commitment today, which was an algebra test. Unlike College, all tests or quizzes, however small, count towards the end-of-year score average, so even the shortest pop quiz will have an impact on academic grades.
Today we also walked down through the woods to Lake Romeyn, a lake that was created by Groton School through the damming of a small stream. Beavers have continued to increase the dam, and now there is a lake full of wildlife. We observed snapping turtles, frogs and newts, but our main objective was to collect water samples. Wading into the lake (and trying not to get our boots stuck in the gloop at the bottom) we threw nets with jars at the bottom into the lake in an attempt to catch small organisms that lived in the water to create our artificial ecosystem. We’re creating a Lake Washington – well, on a smaller scale.

Day 12 - Saturday 26 September

We had our second hockey match today, and also ‘Fall Jam’, which is not, as I was lead to believe by the name, a dance, or fruit condiment, but rather an activities fayre of sorts.
Our hockey went well, if you miss out the part where our eleven-girl squad had been reduced to ten due to illness. Luckily two members of the Varsity team were able to step in, and after a tense and hard-fought 50 minutes (wow, I sound like a teacher writing a match report) we unfortunately lost 2-1, but throughout the whole match it was very close.
Following the match, at five o’clock as the sun was starting to go down, the barbeque started outside the dining room. We ate burgers and ‘cotton candy’ (which I insisted on calling candy floss) and ‘Italian ice’, which is similar to sorbet, and named ‘Italian’ despite being the furthest thing from stereotypical Italian gelato. It is delicious though! We then wandered around tables lining the pathway, set up in a similar style to a College/university activities fayre. Different pupils advertised different societies and activities, which are attended during evenings in the week. It was obvious as to which people had planned this, and which didn’t really want to be behind these desks (shown by the hastily drawn signs, in highlighter, on lined paper). Due to the fact that all clubs have their own picture in the yearbook, it was also quite clear to see that some ‘clubs’ perhaps had ulterior motives. My personal favourite was the H2O Club. When questioned as to what this club entailed, the boy behind the desk answered, “Uh, well, we should all stay hydrated and drink water, so, um, this club is for people who like to stay hydrated!” We moved on.
Other clubs included the Young Democrats (complete with, frankly, rather terrifying Hillary Clinton masks), UNICEF, and ΓΕΣ, the Groton Engineering Society, which stated in their email “Don’t get any ideas, ΓΕΣ is not a frat, we curse alcohol”. There were also many variations of alliances and societies, not forgetting the Freestyle Society (it’s rapping, just call it rapping), which was located next to the Baroque Society, each table blaring out their respective music choices.
Archery Tag was played on the Circle, a game that involves putting on masks and shooting other people with rubber-ended arrows. I believe it was safe. No one died. That was a positive.

After the sun, the orange and pink filtering down behind the line of the woods, duvets and sleeping bags and blankets were brought onto the Circle, where a huge screen had been set up (we even tried to carried sofas out of the common room, but this plan was foiled by some disapproving teachers). As we lay on the increasingly dampening grass, we watched ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and ate American jammy dodgers and got cold. Then we all trudged back to our respective houses, glad for the warmth of our beds after the chilly night air. 


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