Wine and Vermicelli in Cambridge

wine pharmacology

Yesterday morning I thought to myself: ‘I should write a note comparing my Cambridge wine drinking to my Trini wine drinking.’ It’s interesting because in Trinidad I don’t really drink any alcohol. In the UK however, I tend to drink it at a frequency that is ‘unheard of’ to the version of me that lives in Trinidad. By yesterday morning, for example, I’d already attended 3 Cam events where wine was served, and I’d altogether drunken at least 4 glasses of free wine at those events. Over the past year in Trinidad though, I’d drunken wine a grand total of NADA; ZILCH times. 
The first Cambridge wine event was part of departmental graduate orientation. Students and lecturers gathered in a room with small eats and bottles of wine on the table. We were free to pour ourselves wine and take things to eat, after which we were expected to make our way around the room socializing and sipping. The second event was very similar, however, it was smaller: my research group as opposed to the department. I spoke to a number of people there, about topics ranging from ‘research in the UN’ to ‘the origin of sawine and where to find vermicelli in England’. For info, I’ll mention one answer to the second topic: I found vermicelli tucked away on the bottom shelf in the ‘World Foods’ aisle in a big Tesco supermarket… and sawine originated in Pakistan. Pakistani folks also make sawine during Eid-ul-Fitr; with milk, elichee (cardamom) and vermicelli. Perhaps it is common to have wine receptions at UWI, I don’t know…. I’ve never been invited to one, and neither have I happened across one. Either way, after my morning wonderings about whether I should write about those 4 glasses of wine, I unexpectedly and randomly happened across another wine reception that afternoon.
It was at the Pharmacology Department. I was liming with my friend Himansha, a PhD student there. We were having a very interesting discussion that moved between education, privilege, representation, discrimination and assumptions grounded in ignorance, when people started filtering into the room. Soon enough, I found myself in the midst of a wine reception (pictured). Apparently someone from Pharmacology was leaving the department, therefore: wine reception! Himansha and I decided to partake in this event that had enveloped us. I picked up a glass of red wine and awkwardly walked through the group, before heading back to sit at a table with a romantic-looking colourful, candle-looking light. It was an amusing end to an interesting afternoon, and Himansha showed me around the labs and told me a bit about the research they were working on before we hugged and said ‘Bye’ for the time being. I then headed over to the Psychology department, where another wine reception was in progress. I was a bit worried about going to that reception, because I’m no longer a member of the Psychology department, and neither was I invited to the event… but I really wanted to be there. The Psych reception was to bid farewell to some lovely folks, including Diane (the librarian) and Rachel (the graduate administrator): two of my fave people in Cambridge who I’d visited shortly after arriving in September. I had to be there to say ‘Bye and all the best!’

I was a bit sheepish as I approached the room with the reception, feeling worried that I’d feel out of place, that people might look at me a bit oddly, like “What is she doing here?” or worse yet, “Who is she?”. My worries were needless though, because before I approached the room, Rita (the Guyanese graduate secretary for Psychology in Cam) saw me, smiled brightly and said ‘Hi, Kalifa! You came to say bye. Rachel is inside. We have cake!’ I smiled back and said that I just had to come. Rita went into the kitchen and I entered the seminar room where the reception was taking place. Susan, a Professor in Psychology, saw me, smiled and also said ‘Hi Kalifa!’ By this point, I was feeling fully welcome and lost every bit of guilt for crashing the reception. I took my coat off and left it on a chair… and began my socializing. Whilst speaking to Diane, Rita brought me cake and asked if I wanted wine. I said, ‘Yes, I’ll have some wine. Thanks!’ As Rita walked off, I turned to Diane, who I’d been speaking to, and said, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t be getting wine. I just left a wine reception at Pharmacology that I randomly found myself at, and so perhaps I’ve already had enough for the night.’ Diane then paused, looked down at one of her hands (she was holding an almost empty glass of red wine in it), and then looked at her other hand (she was holding an opened bottle of wine in it). She then looked back up at me, smiled, gave a little nervous laugh, tilted her head slightly and gave me a look that said: ‘perhaps I’ve had enough wine too!’

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