In a scant few hours, I will cease being a resident of St. John’s College. Some 731 days, 480 dinners, and countless friendships later, I have reached the end of my time at the best graduate residence at UBC.

The last few days of packing and cleaning have brought forth some contrasts. On one hand, I feel like I just moved in yesterday, on the other hand, I think of all the people I’ve met and I realize how long I’ve been here. Some new residents have started to move in. They’ve told me about their first couple of days at the College. I’m in my last couple of days. Such contrast.

It goes without saying that the last two years have been the best of my life. It is not a coincidence for those two years, I lived at St. John’s College. For most of my post-undergrad years, I lived a boring and stagnant life. I was not headed in the right direction. One of the best decisions of my life was to apply for grad school. Why? Because it allowed me to apply to live at St. John’s College. I am so thankful for the Membership Committee for accepting me. Had I not been accepted, I’m not sure where I’d be right now. Living with my parents? Living in some lonely basement suite off-campus? What I do know is that I’d be less happy.

There are a lot of great things about SJC. Yes, the building is fairly new, the location is great, and your meals are cooked for you, but in the end, it is the people that mattered most to me.

In the two years I’ve stayed here, I cannot begin to count the number of people I’ve met. Each one of them had an interesting story to tell. Often though, it was the mindless conversations that were the most memorable. The ones where you’re sitting at dinner talking about a Simpsons episode, sports, movies, or why women love bad boys. Sure, this wasn’t rigorous academic discourse, but plain old random conversation. There were so many chances to interact as well. The dining hall was good, but so was the hallway. You’d stop and chat for five minutes and be on your way. There was also the benches in the courtyard. On the bus on the way to a movie. Dinner at a restaurant. Receptions before formal dinners. Waiting for your turn at bat during softball, and so on.

After all those months, I’m not sure if everyone understands how much that all meant to me. I feel so honoured that so many people were nice enough to let me know a little about themselves. That even if you spoke to me for only five minutes during dinner, I welcomed the experience.

I am almost overwhelmed when I try to think of all the people that I’ve crossed paths here at the College. I have this fear that I’ll forget about people who should be unforgettable. I’m afraid that I’ll forget the time someone bought a pitcher of beer and we all talked about Star Wars, and the list goes on. If I could, I’d keep all those memories forever.

My friend and fellow resident Patrick once remarked that living at SJC was like living at a country club. In many ways, he’s right. It was so much fun to live here. We had a social support network unlike any I had seen. I could work two hours at my desk and then decide I wanted to interact with my friends. In five seconds I could be out in the hallway knocking on doors to stir up some trouble. The probability of goofing off was high, all the time. Imagine taking all your closest friends and putting them all in an apartment building with you. The amount of bonding that goes on here is unbelievable. There are friendships being forged that will last a lifetime. I do not possess the writing ability to express how much I care about the people here.

Patrick once said to a former resident, Adrian, that living at SJC was like a dream. He then wondered if there could be anything wrong with SJC. Adrian, who had moved out by then, had an answer. He said, “There’s only one thing wrong with SJC. You eventually have to leave.”

I knew what he was talking about back then, but it is painfully clear now. All things must come to an end, even the good, hell, the best things. I wouldn’t have it any other way though. Better that I left wanting more, than me saying good riddance. Still, I leave with a heavy heart. The last two years have been intensely positive and who would blame me for feeling so. I am not the first person to have been touched by SJC, nor will I be the last. In the end, I am part of a much bigger cycle that has been in motion for years.

I wanted this post to be more elegant but it’s late and I’ve been exhausted for two straight days, so I’ll try to wrap this up.

I wish everyone I’ve met over the last two years could read this. I want to thank you for sharing your life with me. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules and interacting with me. Knowing each and every one of you was an honour I will try to never forget. I am a better person today because of all of you. You made my life better. No matter if we were friends for five months or five minutes, you made my life richer. I cannot even hope to repay the debt I owe everybody for what you’ve done for me. I can only offer you my friendship in return. In the end, I hope this will suffice.

I could write “thank you” until the sun rose, but it would still not equal the gratitude I feel in my heart. So, I will write it only once more… thank you everyone for all you’ve done for me.

For those who are moving on, I wish you good luck and hope we can stay in touch. For those who are staying, you know I’ll be around and I hope we can continue our adventures. In any case, goodbye my good friends.


I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes trying to clean my blinds and I’ve barely made any progress. I’m even using the preferred method with Swiffer dry cloths. Screw it. The checkout sheet says they’ll take $5 off my damage deposit if I don’t clean my blinds. They can have my $5, it’s not worth my time.

I’m thinking about going to McDonald’s.


I’m almost done cleaning, well enough cleaning for tonight at least. I still need to do my blinds and windowsill. What a pain in the ass. Oh, and behind my fridge. Damn. Still, it shouldn’t take too long. This room is almost inspectable now.

When I was cleaning today, I found my Mardi Gras beads from last summer. I took a gold coloured one and packed the rest away. I’ve had the gold string of beads around my neck all day. I call it my cleaning bling bling. People say it’s a nice touch to the cleaning routine. Yo, you feel me?


My back hurts. I’m almost done cleaning the bathroom. I’ve cleaned the shower and that surprising took less time than I had anticipated. I just sprayed on this crap and all the grime started to run down by itself. I splashed some water on the walls and it was shiny clean. I cleaned the sink, the mirror, and even the light fixture above the sink. Then I Swiffered the floor and I’m waiting for it to dry before I give it once over. I’m moving onto my countertop and sink in my little kitchen area next. The more I clean, the more annoyed I get at the SJC office staff.


I have spent most of the weekend cleaning and packing. It is not a pleasant job. For reasons still unclear to me, SJC administration has told me and other outgoing residents that they might be inspecting our rooms either on Monday or Tuesday. Ok, Tuesday is fine since it’s my last day anyways and I need to get out of there, but Monday? That’s dumb.

How can they expect my room to be completely clean when on Monday, I still have boxes cluttering the room? Who has their room sparkly clean a full 24 hours before departure? Aseem told me he’s not going to even try to get it clean for Monday, he’ll get it done for Tuesday. I’m halfway done anyways, so I’m going to go finish the job. Idiot office people.


This post is for all the gaming geeks out there. The other day I was thinking about all the games I finished while I was living at SJC. This may or may not be interesting, but here’s a list in no particular order:

Medal of Honor – Spearhead (thanks to Nic for counting the shells for me in the Ardennes forest)

Medal of Honor – Breakthrough (thanks to Patrick for buying this for me)

Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (I had to rush through this because it was cutting into my school work)

No One Lives Forever 2 (the first game I played in 2003)

Contract Jack (it took me three days to beat)

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (I devoted 72 hours of my life into this game)

Max Payne (ask Patrick to show you his impression of Max going into bullet-time)

Max Payne 2 (did I mention Patrick also does the sound effects?)

Call of Duty (allowed me to live out my dream of doing LAN games at SJC, thanks everyone)

XIII (this will be the last game here at SJC)


When I look back upon the first couple of months at SJC, I cannot help but laugh how things were back then. I would say I know about 80-90% of the residents now. I know their names and what they’re studying. I can even tell you where they’re from. The flipside is that about 80-90% of the College knows my name and probably could give you a fairly good description of who am I.

This was not always the case, however. That might come as a surprise to some of my readers, but alas, it is true. I was really nervous in the first week I was here. I had a lot to deal with and my world had changed quite a bit. I was back at school, new degree, new residence, new people, it was a new life. I dreaded going to the dining hall. I wasn’t sure who to sit with and though I was eager to meet people, I felt awkward.

I remember one of the very first dinners, I sat down at this table with one other guy. I won’t mention his name, but let’s call him Andrew. I had met no one at SJC and I felt very green. As I ate, I mustered up the courage to engage Andrew in conversation. Andrew was as about forthcoming as a criminal during interrogation. He had short terse answers to my questions. I was like, woah, this is not going well, grad students must be assholes or something. It turns out Andrew just isn’t a very talkative guy at all, to almost everyone. Of course, at the time I didn’t know this, but I chuckle whenever I think he was the first guy I tried to talk to at SJC.

It was during the formal dinner in the second week of school that I met my very first set of friends at SJC. At the reception beforehand, I came upon this random dude. I introduced myself to him. He said his name was Nic. He also introduced me to his fiancee Marcia. They had just moved into a couples room. I forget what we chatted about, but we wound up sitting at the same table at dinner. After dinner, I’m not sure if we went to Koerner’s afterwards (an SJC tradition!), but we did go back to their palatial suite. The three of us had more wine and I admit I was a little tipsy. Somehow the conversation got steered towards Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Strangely enough, that was when Marcia decided to get changed into her jammies and went to bed.

It was that night, I realized Nic and Marcia were very good people. Lucky for me, they thought I was an ok dude. For the next several weeks, I leaned upon them for support. Though I met a small handful of other people, they were my main set of friends. An almost daily routine consisted of me going over to their place to heat up a can of Campbell’s Chunky soup on their stove. I’d heat up my soup and chat with Nic and/or Marcia about our day. Sometimes, I’d stay and eat there. It was comforting. I even nicknamed myself Kramer because I was over there so much.

It didn’t end there. I used to eat dinner with them all the time. For four months, I can’t even remember how many dinners I didn’t eat with them. My routine was to go onto MSN, and signal either Nic or Marcia about dinner. I’d then go over to their place on my way to the dining hall, pick them up, and we’d all go over to dinner together.

While I got to know both Nic and Marcia very well, I didn’t realize at the time this was not a good way to integrate with the rest of the College. I remember one Friday night near November, I was at McDonald’s with Lindsey eating dinner. Lindsey was one of the few people I had actually got to know outside of Nic and Marcia. We were discussing the people in the College. She began rattling off names for me.

“Do you know so and so?”


“She’s the one with blonde hair, lives in our hallway.”

“Nope, doesn’t ring a bell.”

“She’s going out with so and so.”


“Yeah, it’s obvious. Every one knows.”


“Do you know so and so?”

“Doesn’t he study poly sci?”

“No, that’s someone else. How do you not know this?”

It became clear I did not have my finger on the pulse of the College. I said I didn’t really care I didn’t know all of this, but subconsciously I did care. It seems stupid now that I’d be willing to live two years here and not attempt to get to know as many people as I could.

It’s funny to think that some of my closest friends here cannot remember talking to me once during the first four months of my stay. I simply had no interaction with them. I didn’t seek them out and I was pretty closed off. Damn that was dumb. Case in point, my neighbour down the hall Bryan is now a good friend. He knows my sense of humour and I know his. If you ask him about my early SJC days, he’ll tell you I was a mystery to him. He knew me as the guy with the message board on his door. That’s all he knew about me.

Another example, is my friend Rhonda. We’re close friends now, but I can’t remember talking to her until almost January. I don’t remember eating dinner with her during the first term. I don’t remember her at any of the formal dinners. Weird.

So something must have happened during the holiday break, because I came back a changed man-child. In January, I started branching out. It wasn’t even a conscious decision, it just happened. Sure, I continued to be close with Nic and Marcia, but it no longer pained me if I didn’t eat dinner with them. I began to meet and talk to other people and they got to know me. As this happened, I felt more and more comfortable with myself and with my place in the College. This change was apparent to Marcia, because one day she remarked at how I had opened up to more residents. I could detect she was proud of me, like how a mom is proud of her little boy when she sees him making friends on the playground.

So, here we are now in the present. In the intervening months, I have met so many people. It took me a few months for the real Erwin to emerge, but at least I made the change and I am so thankful for it.


This week marks my last full week at St. John’s College. Before I move out, I thought I’d share some of my memories I have of this wonderful place. I’m not sure if there will be a part two, but here goes.

Right now, I’m feel completely comfortable here at SJC. This feels like home. This wasn’t the case at first, that’s for sure.

Nearly two years ago, I remember waiting until the very last day to move in for good at SJC. I moved most of my stuff during the weekend, but went back to my parents’ place afterwards. The Monday before school started was my first night at the College. I remember my mother had come to help clean my room (my folks love cleaning) and in the process she broke a desk lamp of mine that I had used all through undergrad. I thought that might have been a bad omen. It turns out the desk lamp they gave me at SJC was way better than my old crappy lamp. Heh.

I remember in the evening I was setting up my computer, when I discovered I made a serious mistake in my packing. I had forgotten to bring the power cable for my computer. I had all the cables set up, except I couldn’t get power to my computer. I felt so stupid. How do you forget something like that? Luckily, SJC partners you up with a “buddy” to show your around the College. I met my buddy, Ivette, on the weekend. So I went up to her and her fiancee’s room. I remember walking up the staircase and thinking, “This is the first time I’ve seen this staircase.” It seemed like a weird thing to think.

They didn’t have a spare cable for me, but Ivette’s fiancee, Mark was so helpful. He e-mailed the SJC newslist and asked if anyone could help me. This was my first exposure to the newslist and it definitely was not my last. I thanked them for their help and returned down to my room. Back then, I had really inadequate lighting, so I just unpacked in the dim room. Not minutes later, I heard a knock on my door. Some random dude I had never met was at my door with a computer cable. He told me he had an extra one and that I could use it. I thanked him profusely and promised to return it to him as soon as I got a new one.

This was my first brush with the generosity that I would see countless times over at the College. Incidently, the name of my mysterious saviour? None other than Jan Hanneman. We would eventually get to know each other in the coming months.

With Jan’s cable in hand, I was able to power up my computer. I was quite excited to be finally on ResNet. Shortly after I finished my undergrad, UBC let all UBC residents have free Internet access on ResNet. I felt I got left out. I finally got my chance to try it out. After doing some random downloads, I saw that it was just as fast as ADSL, if not much faster in some cases.

I had done enough unpacking for one night and I didn’t know anyone there, so I just played Team Fortress Classic on-line. A clear sign that grad school wasn’t going to be anything like undergrad, I noticed I had absolutely no committments on the first day of school: no classes, no tutorials, and no meetings. Sweet. I played TFC until 2am when I thought I better get some rest.

As I crawled into my new bed and turned out the lights, I became immediately aware my life had taken a completely new direction. You’re most of aware you’re in a different place when you’re in a strange bed. As I stared into the darkness at my ceiling, I heard my old mini-fridge start up its motor. I had that fridge for three years during undergrad. The sound of that motor had been seared into my brain. That sound triggered many memories of years past. It was then I finally realized what I had done. I had returned to UBC to do a graduate degree, and here it was the night before the first day of my new life. I began to think, “What the hell have I done? I’m lying here in residence again as a student once more. Meanwhile, my dinky little fridge from undergrad is making that crappy noise like it always has. Geez, what the hell have I done?”

My mind was full of doubt that first night. While the doubt did eventually disappear, it didn’t happen overnight. That was, however, what happened on my first night here at SJC.

Incidently, I added a whole bunch of lighting to my place and I’m really happy with it. And that dinky fridge? I sold it and I have a much larger (and quieter!) one now. It’s all good in the end.


On Sunday I attended a surprise birthday party at the False Creek Community Centre on Granville Island. It was for my friend Sarah O. Her husband Brad works at the FCCC and arranged for the whole thing.

I guess she was quite surprised to see us all. There was a BBQ and lots of food. I can tell you I have a new respect for the quality of meat they sell down on Granville Island. Bryan and Sarah K. bought this huge chunk of marinated sirloin. Man, that thing looked good. I had a small sample. Tasty!

After the food was consumed, we played with the Eyetoy on the FCCC PS2. That was a lot of fun. You look stupid doing it, but it’s well worth it. Next, we played a party game and had some birthday cake.

Then Brad decided to bring out the Bouncy Castle. If you can imagine men and women in their late twenties jumping up and down in an inflatable castle, that was what happened.

The whole thing was brought out in the gym of the FCCC. It had windows along two sides and people could watch us act like idiots. The best part though was when Brad out the dodgeballs. These were the real deal, balls made especially for dodgeball. Brad has a wicked arm and he whipped three at me in quick succession. Luckily, I was able to enter into bullet time and dodged all his attempts. Several of us started throwing balls at Brad since he was so much better than us.

Maddy found the equipment room and put on a hockey mask. She also grabbed a tennis racquet and started throwing dodgeballs at her. I didn’t realize at first we were supposed to loft the balls at her so I nailed her.

Brad then organized us for a game of Quidditch dodgeball. He came up with the game himself. The rules are too long to explain, but I will say it’s probably the most fun I’ve had in a while.

Here are some pics from the day.