Today was the welcome day (by the students) at Ecole Polytechnique. Kind of a prelude to initiation week which will start next Monday and run the whole week. The morning started with introducing ourselves to everyone else in the group, and then there was free beer (that was 9:30am). Then we had to create a team song, and team rally scream. And then we went in the big amphitheater all of us together - (all the engineering depts - civil, electrical, computer, mechanical, chemical) and then had to scream our lungs out to see who'd go for lunch first. We waited in line for almost an hour to get hot dogs.
And then some crazy/fun/silly team competitions. One of which was passing a rope through as many clothing pieces as possible on you (i.e.: t-shirt and shorts), then pass the rope to the next person, and so and so forth. Once the piece of rope has passed through everyone, the team with the highest number of clothing piece with rope wins. It was a fun tangled mess! Good thing nobody fell! There was a math race relay. The other memorable one was when we had to imitate various animals having sex. And then there was another which was I think you had to mime having sex, in a choice of positions, without using your hand. Or something like that. I didn't stay for that one... the other team was delayed, and I was getting kind of tired and a bit bored...
There was a weekend activity, too, but I decided to remove my name from the list... 1. I have to prepare for the move. 2. Repeated excessive boozing just doesn't have the same appeal or justification anymore at my age, and let's face it, I don't recover quite as fast as when I was 20.
I must also say, almost ashamedly, that at this point, engineer = beer. My God. I thought musicians were bad (OK, we know how to drink properly and some can even perform quite well when drunk). Or probably it's that these kids just have reached legal drinking age. There's a beer happy-hour every Friday during the whole school year! ($1.50 per beer!).
So initiation runs the whole of next week, starting with a pub crawl, then games, huge greasy breakfast, a DASTRRD, a "do-something-crazy" team effort (i.e.: there was a year a team made residence home windows make a big "X" at night by going into every single room and ask them to either turn on or off the lights), and a party on Friday night to finish you off and destroy your liver. The DASTRRD, as I we learnt today, means: Drink A Small Town Really, Really, Dry. So a bunch of students get in yellow buses (last year counted 14), then get driven to a town in the middle of nowhere. Find a bar (sometimes the only in town), and then basically drink it dry. Thankfully strong liquors don't count. It'd be damn expensive!
The theme this year is pirates, so we'll have our team T-shirt, black bandanna, eyepatch, and even a fake parrot to put on our shoulders. We have to go our courses like that, too. Initiation is not compulsory, nobody will force you to drink, and there's no publicly disgracing or lude acts... But we as the initiated are free to do whatever we want. So if somebody's really drunk and starts running around naked, he can. But nobody can force you to.
Frankly, sometimes I feel a bit too old for all those crazy things, but heck why not. I'll just be more selective in my amount of drinking... Ironically, one of the party-organizers, is now in his 6th year. Normally the program can be completed in 4 years. There are enough clubs and committees to distract you entirely from your studies, not even counting the drinking!
Anyways, it's just a week, then it's the real thing. ID card, books, etc, etc...
And yes, engineering is like hockey. It's a very, very heterosexual, male-dominated environment. Yeah, the kind that goes berserk when seeing two women kiss. While I won't say that it's to the point of homophobia (at least not intentionally), some of those guys are still afraid of being tagged "gay", I'm sure: the first game in the morning could involve mentionning who was the cutest person in the room. There was only ONE girl in the room. The majority of them either answered "me" or went next door to pick a girl. A few were more daring and actually pointed other guys. The answer I loved the most was: "because I think he's like a teddy bear". Incidentally the guy who said that was the one who *I* thought was the cutest. :-P But he has girlfriend. :-(
So the '05 mechanical engineering class is about 175 students, the whole 1st year - probably close to 400? I can't possibly be the only gay one in there, so it'll be interesting to seek out my own kin! But at that age, in such an environment - half of them are probably still in the closet...
Notes from the underground