Anime@UTS Orientation Welcome Picnic

Anime@UTS Welcome Picnic 2014

Yesterday was the Anime@UTS Orientation Welcome Picnic, and so starts my fifth year with the anime club although I haven’t actually paid for membership for 2014 yet. Although the orientation activities for the Clubs’ Day in the second half of the semester is often a blur to me, I remember all of the main Welcome Picnics held in the first semester of each year well.

As Ruben says in his far better post, yesterday’s welcome picnic was certainly the largest of any welcome gatherings I had been to. Introduction circles were not always a thing for this club, but for those who joined after me will remember how we comfortably fit on the concourse or in a classroom before. Yesterday there was easily twice the usual turnout.

Anime@UTS Welcome Picnic 2012, taken by David Sykes

How much does a polar bear weigh?

In 2010, when I first joined the anime club, the Orientation Welcome Picnic was held at Victoria Park, just on the outskirts of the University of Sydney. Going there involved trudging up towards broadway, and if you needed toilets while you were there, you would venture into the labyrinth that was USyd. This was also my first, and last, picnic at Victoria Park, even though I have the fondest memories of it.

Certain presidents have grass allergies.

2011 marked my first Orientation Picnic on the concourse. A fire alarm, if I remember, was set off just as the morning started and a tall Asian girl appeared, denying having set it off when she tested the door to the emergency stairs. This picnic is a bit more of a blur than others, but as the new secretary, I tried my best to meet everyone that I could. I remembered wearing my pink, grey and black striped shirt, and being asked to do a room booking halfway through the day.

Sasuga Secretary. Can bullshit with the best of the best.

It was back to the Concourse in 2012, when the presidency changed hands and Alex took over from Dom, changing the name of the Picnic also to a Meet-and-Greet. I wore an ill-fitting (I thought) red panda shirt and people tried to place cat ears on my head. I stood in between Ruben and Seb in the introduction circle, where Ruben wore a KDE shirt. We played mahjong. There may have been Running Man games at some point, and I was not very good at them, which was a shame.

Massive jigsaw puzzle is massive. There was pizza.

In 2013 we were trapped in a room in Building 2. It was warm in there and I had just returned from Hong Kong not too many weeks ago and was wearing a Panda hat on my head and shoes from Hong Kong that I was perhaps a little proud of. There was watermelon and people sitting in groups playing Mahjong. There were boxes everywhere in the morning that we had to move. But I was used to moving boxes at this point. I left early to help Ruben with his packing.

Boxes, boxes everywhere, and a row of desks against one wall overflowing with food.

And finally we get to this year, 2014. Out on the new Alumni green, we did the huge group circle and then split into groups to play games. As a leader I failed miserably, and ran and hid myself in talking to people one-on-one instead rather than trying to talk to a group. We mingled, waited for sausages hot off the barbecue and listened to stories of China. We went inside and chatted, played with a guinea pig everyone kept thinking was mine and watched people play Twister and guessing games.

Wow, such loud. Much people.

The club and I

I admit, it’s been a long run, though still nowhere near as long as some. Some times in the past I’ve considered leaving the club and not returning, but most of the friends I have made during university have been with the club. There have been a few times where I’ve lost faith in the club, but something in the end still pulls me back in.

A couple of years ago I’m not sure I would have agreed with Ruben’s words entirely. The shape of the club today is not quite the shape it was in the past. I’m glad it has been able to change itself, but it wasn’t always necessarily inclusive for all types as it is. Normal members have been shielded from many things, in some ways. The yaoi jokes have vanished a lot over the years though. ;)

But what Ruben says is still true, this club is somewhere you can be who you are and not be judged for what you are and what you like. To talk to people who will understand your references and will be able to stimulate in engaging discussion about recent anime or manga plots.

I was always sure that I would join an anime club in university as I had yearned to create one in high school, but I would have never expected it to have such an impact on my life. That image of Japanese clubs in my head spun by countless hours of watching and reading was persistent. I arrived early in the morning of Orientation Day 2010, walking past the store numerous times too nervous to actually go up to it while there was no one else around. I decided to take a spin around the stalls before I went back and tentatively signed up, handing over my $5 note as I selected a membership card design and wrote my name on the back of it.

And that was still probably the best decision I ever made.