By Grace Goudie (YR 49/2023, Canada-NL)

(Editor’s Note: As student Grace Goudie reports, the Pearson tradition of celebrating cultures through student-driven Regional Days continues in a big way with food, football, stage performances, food, workshops and food! Yum!)

5:50: My alarm goes off. I throw a pair of pyjama pants on my light to dull its brightness, so as not to wake my roommates. On the outside of my room’s door, someone pasted a paper pouch containing paper armbands. I could have avoided waking up this early. The Afro-Carib Regional Day organizers scheduled me for kitchen duty at 3 p.m. yesterday, but not wanting to miss paddling, I switched with my friend who was happy to give away their 6 a.m. shift. I’m starting to regret that decision.

6:10: I wash my hands, and put on a hairnet and a cooking shirt. Laurie, a kitchen staff member, directs me to my first task of the day: making chai tea. Simple stuff, boiling water and some tea bags. Next, I have to make donuts. Not as simple. I have to pinch the dough, roll it into a circle, and cut it into quarters. Times 50x. Nothing I haven’t done before in my Nan’s kitchen, but there’s a difference between cooking dessert for 8 and cooking brunch for 200.

7:50: I have 180 donuts. Brett, the head chef, tells me that’s enough. And since I’m the only one out of my volunteer three-man crew to show up in the kitchen this morning, he gives me a can of Orange Crush for my efforts. Laurie tells me to return in an hour, and she’ll teach me how to fry the dough, so I take a break from the cooking and grab breakfast. I eat my bagel and eggs on the bench outside the cafe, with singing birds and boats for the company in the early morning light.

9:00: I’m back in the kitchen. There’s more of us this time, a crew of half a dozen Pearson students and kitchen staff. Laurie teaches me how to cook the donuts, and I teach my second year, Ida (YR48, Denmark). We have to hold the dough by the edge above the bubbling oil, letting them go slowly, so they don’t sink to the bottom. Once the edges are golden, we flip them to the other side before removing them from the fryer.

10:15: Now that brunch kitchen duty has started and more volunteers have rolled in, I decided to hang up my hairnet. My donuts have long since cooked, and I’ve been working on the dishes. Outside the Cafe, the rain is softly tumbling. I wonder how the football players are getting on in the Cup of Nations mock tournament. In front of QOL¸EW̱ House, I stop to watch a robin pull a worm out of the muddy lawn, and debate whether I want to take a nap or finish my history reading on the Cold War Crisis in Hungary.

11:15: Brunch. Time to enjoy the fruits of my labour. Chicken sausages, omelettes, sweet potato fries, muffins, chai tea. My donuts. The Cafe is beautifully busy, with everyone staying on campus for Regional Day, and not wandering off to Langford or Victoria. A few people are starting to dress according to the theme — Beach Party — while others are wearing traditional outfits from their respective regions. I love seeing the campus alive like this.

13:05: I’m five minutes late to the first workshop (on time, according to Pearson standards). One of my housemates, Ilyana (YR48, Kenya), talks about her experience growing up South Asian in East Africa. She finishes with 10 minutes to spare, so I run downstairs to listen to the tail end of African Politics, followed by multilingualism in Morocco.

13:50: My last workshop of the day is Kingdoms in Uganda, facilitated by Jeremiah (YR49, Guyana/Uganda) and Tende (YR49, UK/Uganda). Honestly, workshops are my favourite part of Regional Days; they’re crash courses in new cultures, politics, and languages that you would usually never find in a regular public high school. You have the chance to learn so much in a short period of time

15:45: Food is the only thing that motivates Pearson students, excluding my friends and me, to be on time. Not quite, but when we arrived 15 minutes after the food market started, the line was already looping around outside the Cafe. While I hope there’s enough for my friends and me to fill our portable containers, we enjoy the music pumping through two large speakers. The food served at the market is different from what I prepared this morning: this is all done by students, without the help or facilities of the Cafe, and often follows traditional recipes in small batches that quickly disappear.

16:55: In preparation for Afro-Carib Dinner, my friends and I try on each other’s clothes, looking for the perfect beachy outfit. My friends and I usually end up late to dinner; we take too long getting ready, talking about our day, and our aspirations for the future. It’s tedious, yet enjoyable. It’s one of the few elements of Pearson where I feel like I’m at a true high school — but one that’s much more memorable.

17:30: The only event where being on time is late at Pearson is during Regional Day Dinner. My friends and I made a concerted effort to be early today — we arrived five minutes in advance. Yet, we’re still at the back of the line, looking forward to another wait for good food, and better company. Thanks to the afternoon volunteers, we have chicken drumsticks, samosas, rice, lemon bars, chai tea, and raspberry syrup. It’s delicious.

 18:25: After a troop of dancers leave the makeshift Cafe stage, people trickle out of dinner, satisfied with another amazing Cafe meal. The outfits are incredible: people are using pool noodles as props, there are summer dresses and sunglasses, and someone even crocheted their own outfit specifically for today. A small dance party erupts after everyone has returned their dishes, a prequel to the event at the end of the night. Spirits are high, there are smiles everywhere. Right now, we can leave IA deadlines, EEs and university decisions behind in the library. This is the time to celebrate Afro-Carib culture as a community.

19:15: The show is about to begin in the Max Bell any minute. The anticipation is building. Dancers are running around trying to find their costumes, and students and residents are filing in and taking seats. This is the last regional day of the year. For my second-years, this is their last regional day at Pearson. Afro-Carib has a lot of expectations to live up to, and so far, they’ve met every single one. I know the show is going to be the icing on the cake.

20:15: The second half of the show starts with a French rap. Students leave their seats to jump around the stage in this pretend concert. My friends and I watch from the top of the Max Bell, and once I figure out the words, I sing along to the chorus. Even when we don’t share the same language, we still manage to share what truly matters.

21:00: As the flag ceremony ends, the after-party begins. Some people gather on the stage, others in the lobby. We eat chips, dance, and drink pop. My friends and I aren’t really in the mood for big crowds, so the three of us escape upstairs to the French A classroom. We talk about my big theatre project, this year’s regional days, if we’re going to head into Langford tomorrow or not. The music is muffled in the background of our conversation. This is how Regional Days end at Pearson. Surrounded by your found family, in a place none of us knew we would be a year ago. Yet it feels like home.