Letters from Scotland
By Jonathon Farrell


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Giant shaving foam fight during Raisin Weekend at St. Andrews
photos courtesy of Jonathon Farrell


Jonathon Farrell (L) as Niagara Falls in dress-up day for Raisin Monday

Oh my. What a time this has been. The first half of the week was uneventful, just working away at stuff, so I will skip over it. 

The weekend was totally insane. This was Raisin Weekend. It all began in Fresher's Week when all the students in their first year (or on exchange!) were adopted by an academic mom and dad. I was adopted by a girl named Helen, who is about six months older than I am. She is a good cook, and very hospitable.

My brothers and sisters come from all over the world too - two from China, one from Egypt, one from France, and two from Scotland.

Most people began partying in preparation on Friday, but I had a presentation to give this afternoon (Monday), so I was busy. Saturday was much the same, though I must confess that I got distracted very easily that day and did not do nearly as much work as I had hoped! But Raisin is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so that is all just fine.

On Sunday I managed to dedicate the day to Raisin. Most people began drinking very early - I do not drink, so I can say all this from an observer's perspective! One guy in hall, Josh, is the dad of about 35 others. He went around with an airhorn and a bucket of ice. Needless to say, by 7 a.m. his kids were not in great shape!

Another guy here did not find an academic mom, and we decided that I would fill that role. So in a display of bad parenting, he tried to sneak to my room to hide and I was worried it was someone coming to get my roommate, and did not open the door. He was too scared to say who he was in case he got caught too!

After that, it came time for me to go out. So on Sunday we met up with my family at 2 p.m. to begin the competitions - there were six other mother's families present, to equal two other teams the size of ours. I think they were all my academic cousins or something - it gets so complicated so fast!

We did a photo scavenger hunt, all around St Andrews taking odd pictures in odd places, to get points. Then we headed back to my mom's house with all the other teams, and she fed us spaghetti and we played competitive games. Some examples were eating donuts covered in whipped cream hanging on strings, getting a mint wafer from your forehead to your mouth without using your hands, passing a block of ice inside everyone's shirts across the whole team, Disney movie re-enactments, and the one I starred at - bobbing for Malteesers in jello, then for apples in water, then once you were all wet, for gummy candies in flour!

So after that my face was all crispy with flour, and we all headed home. On the way we came across a darker side of the weekend - a drunk couple having a fight in the park, in which he got physical and threw her to the ground. My five brothers and I were passing at this very time, so we broke it up and walked them home and diffused the situation. I guess this shows how quickly things can get out of hand.

On my return to John Burnet Hall, I found that everyone else had days similar to mine - lots of friends and lots of fun. We spent a long time with my friends and I, who were not drunk, comparing what had happened throughout our days. Luckily, I was the only one who had seen anything like that encounter I just described!

The next morning (Raisin Monday), I woke up early and dressed my son as Lady Canada, wearing my bedsheet as a toga and my flag as a shawl, and a wig on his head. Then I went off to my mom's again, where she served us the British classic, bacon and butter sandwiches, and dressed us up. Since we are such an international bunch, we went as landmarks from our countries - I was Niagara Falls, complete with a tin foil waterfall, we had the pyramids, the Eiffel tower, some Scottish monroes, and the Great Wall of China.

Everyone was sent off to find their dads and get their Raisin Receipts - proof that you had given your parents either a bottle of wine or a pound of raisins. Then we all went back to the Quad, the lawn of the 600-year-old church, for a giant shaving foam fight!! We had to throw out any part of our costume that people could trip over (which was my whole thing!), which means that I no longer have a bedsheet or Canada flag in my room!



Results of the giant shaving foam fight at St. Andrews

We spent quite some time in there, spraying and rubbing foam on each other. We developed some good techniques too - the hug, the hi-five, the tackle, etc. It was incredible - about 600 people crowded in there just going wild and having fun! Luckily for you, I braved bringing in my camera in. 

I think I am still suffering from a large block of shaving cream lodged way up my nose - everything has smelled like aloe vera for more than 12 hours now! Then when that was finished, we headed back to halls in hopes of finding a warm shower, but that was not what was waiting - there were the upper years, who made the students strip to their underwear and run a lap of the building, and then threw a bucket of water on them! 

Thanks to quick thinking, I avoided this by telling them about the presentation I had to run and give - they assumed I meant in 10 minutes, I just chose not to tell them I still had three hours!! 

So I went off to class, totally exhausted and still with foam blocking my ears, and did a presentation the professor thought was just great. Then it was naptime, dinnertime, some time to socialize and compare experiences from the weekend, and I have just gotten back from seeing the "Harry Potter 7" movie. What a time!! I love St Andrews!


Jonathon Farrell, son of Geoff and Sandra Farrell of Huron-Kinloss, is studying at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland this school year, through a student exchange program at Queen's University, Kingston, where he is a third-year student.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010