Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where has the sun gone?

I'm pretty sure I'm becoming a hypochrondriac. Looking back, I think I've been some degree of "ill" ever since I got to England. I know I had a cold or something in London that left me in bed on the day I was supposed to see The Merry Wives of Windsor and dependent on LemSip for a couple of days. Specifically, I've been sinus-y for the past month or so, and I've been really really tired for a few weeks. Now, every ache or twinge makes me feel like maybe I should call 999. The fact that I've been spending far too much time on WebMD's symptom checker probably isn't doing me any good, either. I've also been alone in my room for the past three days, and it hasn't been particularly nice weather outside, so that's most likely adding to my paranoia as well. I'm most worried about the fatigue, since I have three solid weeks of travel ahead of me. Today I woke up at 10:30, made breakfast, spent a couple hours online (including WebMD), worried about the fact that my back has suddenly gone stiff and my muscles are feeling particularly weak, tried to read, and then settled down for a nap around 1 because I couldn't keep my eyes open. This doesn't seem particularly normal. But I've taken a couple different versions of "Immune boosters" and Vitamin C, had some orange squash, and I just made some tuna for that protein thing I'm supposed to be getting. I do get a fair share of protein...maybe. Perhaps I need more iron. I think I'll stop by Boots or something tomorrow for some energy boosters. I know they have a Vit B-12/Iron supplement.

Even if I did have something seriously wrong with me, I almost doubt that the NHS is capable of doing anything about it. The fact that anyone gets medical service in this country astounds me. I love the idea of nationalized healthcare. I really do. But as someone who is used to having private insurance and the service that comes with it, this just isn't enough. A couple of weeks ago, I finally broke down and went to the University Medical Centre with what I thought was a sinus infection. I'd been having symptoms for a while and had been trying to treat them on my own, but nothing was working. I get sinus infections a lot. I know exactly which medication I always take. (Maybe that's the problem. I need a new antibiotic...) Anyway, I went with all of this information and was told simply that my symptoms weren't severe enough for them to perscribe antibiotics, that I should take some decongestants, inhale a lot of steam, have a buddy check on me every couple hours, and come back when I was in excruciating pain. Wow. Thanks a lot, NHS.
I went back sometime last week because my symptoms, while they hadn't gotten a whole lot worse, had not gone away. Politely as I could, I demanded antibiotics because I was going to be traveling and I didn't want to be without meds if I really needed them. The nurse was reluctant, sent me away while she consulted with a doctor, and finally, begrudgingly, handed me a perscription, with a warning that I shouldn't take the medicine unless I absolutely had to. "There's no proof that the antibiotics are going to make it any better," she said.
They don't seem to trust prescription drugs over here. I remember Lauren telling me, when we were still in London, that she went into a Boots to get some Ibuprofen. She was carded, and the person at the counter asked her if she'd ever taken Ibuprofen before and did she know how to use it.
I'm all for "experiencing the culture," and I certainly don't want to develop a dependence on prescription meds if a homeopathic remedy will work just as well, but there just comes a point where I want drugs and I want them now. None of this bullshit to stand in my way. I suppose I should consider myself lucky that I'm in a country that speaks English. I'd hate to have medical problems somewhere where I don't speak the language.
So, in the end, I got my antibiotics. But I haven't taken them yet. This has nothing to do with the nurse's cryptic warning. It's just that I no longer think I actually have a sinus infection. My symptoms have developed differently than they normally do. No infectious green drainage. No stuffy nose. Sinus pressue and a bit of post nasal drip is all, but nothing that looks green and icky. Perhaps that's too much detail.

I should probably leave my flat at some point. I haven't since around 7pm on Thursday. And my backache is most likely a result of the many hours I spent sitting in my chair in front of my comptuer yesterday. I'm not normally this much of a hermit. Ok, maybe sometimes. But my fatigue makes me want to stay inside, even though getting up and moving might actually help. The weather isn't terribly nice. Today, for instance, it's been cloudy and drizzling since I woke up. To be honest, I have no idea what the temperature is, since I haven't been outside. I can only assume that it's cold. Can we call this a mild case of seasonal depression? Hopefully the sun and relative warmth of Istanbul will help. Also, falafel. I can only imagine that falafel is the remedy to cure all illness.

Seeing my family will probably also help. Like I said in my last post, I really haven't been homesick until recently, and it's probably only because most everyone else I know has gone home for the holidays. I went through a few sporatic days in the past few months when I wanted to go home, but they always passed. Now I'm alone in my flat. Stephen and Pawel have been busy, so I have no one to talk to expect people online. I was too lazy to go down to campus yesterday, and since now it's the weekend and break, everything is closed. Tomorrow I'll see Stephen and Pawel. On Monday I'll get the train down to London, and then, on Tuesday, my long-awaited flight to Istanbul. At this point I think I'm more excited to see my family than to see Istanbul. Not that Istanbul won't be amazing. But seeing my family after so long will be nice. They're suppose to be on Skype sometime soon, so I'm just waiting to hear from them.

I also found out last night, through an email from my mother, that my grandfather is in the hospital. Again. He's often in the hospital. He's a bit of a hypochrondriac, too, but at 92 he has more reason to be one than I do. This time he has pneumonia and, at his age, he's not expected to make it. I had considered the fact that this summer might be the last time I see my grandfather. He always told me that, at his age, all he could hope for was to wake up the next morning. He's probably the most active 92-year-old I've ever heard of, and he's been doing well with the whole "waking up" routine for a while now, but I always knew that, one day, his luck would run out. I suppose it doesn't matter how good or long a life you've had; you can still be afraid of death.
My grandmother's told my parents not to cancel our travel plans in case he does pass away. I'm conflicted as to how I feel about this. On the one hand, I know my grandfather wouldn't want us to cancel our trip, and my parents and I have put so much work and planning into my Christmas break that, in a practical way, it might be more trouble than it's worth. (I mean this on a purely pragmatic level. I'm not so heartless that I would rather miss my grandfather's funeral than cencel a trip across Europe. I can do that anytime.) Then I think of my Aunt Jane, who passed away four years ago this April. I had the chance to visit her in the hospital a few days before she passed away from cancer, but I didn't. I did go to her funeral-- the only funeral I've ever been to--but I've always felt slightly guilty about missing that last chance to say goodbye. I would feel even worse if I missed yet another chance to say goodbye. And in this case I would probably miss the funeral, too, since Jewish funerals take place as soon as possible after the death, and I would still be traveling.
He's the only grandfather I have. The only one I've ever had. Both my maternal and paternal grandfathers died long before I was born, and my paternal grandmother remarried when I was about three. This is the only grandfather I've ever known. I'm not entirely sure how I'd feel if I learned that he'd passed away. Sad, certainly. But he's been suffering from various ailments for a long time now. Death would be a release from that suffering. Then again, I know he's afraid of death, and he's taken such good care of himself in his old age. Shouldn't that earn him some more time?
Is this too morbid, musing on my grandfather's death before he's even gone? Should I switch to a different topic? More for my own sanity than for yours, I suppose.

A few observations of late:

When I went to make some tuna for my lunch, I noticed that the experation date on the can was 2063. This amused me greatly, to think that anything could last that long. Let's see. In 2063 I will be 75. I plan to still be alive at 75, if it's up to me, which, ultimately, it isn't. But I'd like to buy something with an experation date that far in the future. Motivation to keep on living, so that I keep that can of tuna or whatever right up until the experation date and eat it just before it expires. All right. Getting morbid again. Time for a new topic.

It seems that Chad and I have come to the same realization. Although we claim to both be book nerds (and, God knows, I do love books), neither of us read as much as we'd like to. Even now, I have two books at my bedside which I'd love to be reading, but my eyes get tired whenever I try, and surfing the internet or watching TV is just easier. I feel like a true bibliophile would be reading constantly, not wasting time with idle movie-watching and internet chit-chat. So there it is. My life is a lie.
I've also come to the realization that I'm not a writer. Ever since I was young, I've wanted to be an author. And I was, once. Back in elementary and middle school, I used to write poems and short stories all the time. Looking back on them, they weren't incredibly good, but at least in my early years I actually finished them. As I got older my stories got more complex, and I stopped finishing them. Then I pretty much stopped writing fiction all together. I basically haven't written anything substantial since middle school (with the exception of the stuff I wrote in Creative Writing last semester. I'm not particularly proud of any of it.). Now my abilities have degraded even further. I have tons of ideas, jumping-off points. I even have allegory and deeper messages beneath the surface plot. I just can't seem to develop them. That's all they are: ideas. A couple characters, a basic knowledge of what I'd like to say. No beginning, middle, and end. No character depth. No scenes or setting that's well developed. Just an idea. And I never bring myself to work on it. I just write it down and store it away, telling myself that one day I'll sit down and do something about it. I never do. I must have a dozen Word documents with a half a page description of what I'd like to write about, and that's it. A couple notes in various journals when ideas strike me at random times. But what makes a writer isn't the inspiration. I'm sure everyone has moments of brilliants (or thinks he/she does). What makes a writer is the actual process of writing. An idea is nothing unless it's used for something. A writer is someone who writes, who can think about nothing but writing and would rather spend his/her days developing his/her ideas than do anything else. I'm not that person.
I decided to take on the Creative Writing minor to force myself to write more, because I would like to be a writer. My life goal for the last eight years has been to become a literary editor and write on the side. It's still what I'd like to do. Except that I don't write. I don't have that drive. I think I'll stick with the minor, though. Last semester my stories were mostly written in a hurry, more like normal homework than something I really wanted to do. But, once again, I've got a few ideas and, in England, far more free time to work. Maybe this coming semester will yield something worthwhile.

And since no one's online to talk to and my parents have not gotten on Skype, as they said they would, there's no time like the present.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Unnecessary Duress in Durham

It seems that Durham is both the cause and place of unnecessary anxiety. Not only did I have an unnecessary amount of hassle in actually getting to Durham, but while in Durham I went through my share of trouble.

But let me begin at the beginning. After the squabble I underwent on Saturday, which I have already related, I arrive at Durham where Erica picked me up. We spent some time in her room, which overlooks a good portion of the city, just talking and catching up. I can't help but feel that we spent more time together in Durham than we did all of last semester. Ok. I know that's not true, but it certainly feels like it. Hopefully this will be remedied when we room together next year.

In any case, once I had settled in, Erica and I went to a little Italian restaurant across the street to meet her friends. There was Tony, an English major from Cornell; Hannano from Japan; Namali from Sri Lanka; Jasmine from Singapore; and a girl named Kuchi who Erica didn't know terribly well. I'm not sure where she's from. In any case we had sort of an awkward dinner, during which I mostly talked to Erica. After dinner we walked around Bailey Street (a main road, where St. Chad's is located) for a bit. We stopped off at the college building and sort of loitered in the foyer for a while, trying to decide where to go. It seems Erica and I seem to find indecisive people all over the world. Finally Tony decided that we should go to a pub called the Swan and Three Cygnets. It was about a ten minute walk and the pub was quite crowded when we got there. It was expensive, too. In any case, I took forever finishing my pint of cider, eventually downing what I had left rather than waste my money. We wanted to leave, since there was no where to sit and it was too loud to really talk. Also becasue some drunk local came up to Erica and I and said something complimentary but unintelligible and slightly creepy. So Erica, Tony, Jasmine, Kuchi, and I went back to the St. Chad's bar, where things were significantly cheaper, but I wasn't really in the mood to drink more. From there Erica wanted to take me to Castle bar. There is actually a college, the original University College, known as "Castle," which is situated, as is to be expected, inside the Norman castle. It's bar is in the dungeon. So we walked up the hill to the castle only to be greeted with a sign that read "Castle Only." Most of the colleges have "College Only" nights when, as one would expect, only students from that college are allowed in the bar. So we walked back down the hill to and stopped off at Cuth (or St. Cuthbert's College) for Tony and Jasmine to get another drink. Then to Hatfield College, St. Chad's big rival, because their bar serves cheese toasties and Jasmine had a craving. I wasn't really hungry, but I didn't want to pass up the toasty experience, so I shared one with Erica. I met a couple of Erica's other acquaintences who were out for a friend's birthday and were all drunk. They didn't remember me when we met the next day. Anyway, but this time Erica and I were really tired, so we went back to her room, talked, and I fell asleep while she worked on a paper. One of her friends had lent me a duvet, which, with Erica's duvet, served as a make-shift mattress, and an extra blanket and pillow made for an acceptable bed.

We woke up late on Sunday. To be honest, I can't actually remember what we did. At some point I know we went to college lunch. They don't ask for ID or meal cards, so it wasn't exactly difficult for Erica to basically sneak me into the dining hall. I can't say much for the selection. You either get whatever the main meal is or the substitute vegetarian meal. That's it. But I can't say no to free food. It was just as she had described it, though. Basically the bland variety of British food, and the vegetarian dishes felt the need to have some sort of fake meat in them, as if vegetables weren't suitable on their own. Anyway, after lunch, I'm pretty sure we went back to Erica's room so that she could work on her paper. I think this is when I wrote my previous blog post.
In the evening we went to college dinner (same routine) and then to the St. Chad's pantomime. Apparently this is an English tradition, probably with its roots in medieval Christmas pageants. However, they no longer have to have any relation to Christmas, and this one certainly didn't. Basically it was some warped version of Aladdin, where Aladdin was the closeted homosexual son of an androgynous chippy owner, Jasmine was a bitchy princess modeled after girls from My Super Sweet Sixteen, and Rahja the tiger was a pot-smoking guy in a tiger suit known as Easy Tiger. Instead of Jafar, there was the evil Mahatmah Hatfield. Because Erica had told me a lot about St. Chad's culture, I was able to get most of the inside jokes (and there were a lot). There were also a lot of references to British pop culture, which I was also grateful to understand. In any case, hillarity ensued...for almost three hours. It was great, but by the end, Erica and I were a bit tired, and she had still had that paper to write. So we stopped by the library for a second to drop off a book, then back to her room where we talked, and I, once again, fell asleep while she worked.

With the morning on Monday came the realization that Erica had overslept and missed her last (and mandatory) Ancient Egyptian class. I went out and bought us some scones for breakfast while she worked. Sometime in the afternoon, Erica did work and I went for a little tour of town. First I stopped at Durham Cathedral, which is a beautiful and enormous cathedral right across from the castle. It struck me at first as being a bit unsusal, since it's the first cathedral I've seen built out of sandstone. Beyond that, though, it's the resting place of two saints: St. Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede. I visited them both and simply walked around the cathedral for a while. I still love cathedrals. They're so peaceful. After a look around the gift shop (for, you guessed it, another spoon) I walked around back and down Bailey Street. I stopped into Waterstones (kind of like a Borders) and bought Mary Shelley's The Last Man, a book I'd been looking for for a while. Basically, it's Mary Shelley's version of the human annihilation by plague and sort of her anti-Romantic reaction to the deaths of her husband, her two children, and her friend Lord Byron. I haven't gotten very far yet, but it's starting out as quite long-winded. I just need to get used to that style again.
From Waterstones I went to a boutique called The Mugwump. I need to stop window-shopping at boutiques. It only depresses me. There was this beautiful cotton jersey dress with a little beading on it...£159. So sad. Anyway, I then walked down to the main square and browsed the covered market for a while, before I got tired and decided to head back to Erica's room and caught her just about to leave for her last class. I spent the afternoon watching TV on Erica's computer and reading Graham Swift's Waterland (which I should have finished about a month ago for HUM 310). Around 5:45 Erica came back and we went to college dinner and repeated our activities of the previous night. We talked for a while, then I fell asleep while Erica worked.

My second bout of Durham Duress occured on Tuesday when, at some point during the morning, I realized that I had lost my railcard. I tore the room apart, but no luck. I last remembered having it in my pocket. I had already lost my nifty ear muffs and believed that they had fallen out of my coat pocket at the panto. I stayed in the room to panic while Erica headed out to the library to do some last minute editing and printing. She stopped by the college on the way over and asked about a railcard, but no one had seen anything. So I tried to calm down and finished Waterland. I then decided that the best course of action was to retrace my steps. My first stop was the cathedral, where I was asked to write down my information in case anyone found anything. I then went to the cathedral shop and asked there, but no luck. I stopped by the college and asked for myself, but got the same answer that Erica had gotten. I proceeded to retrace my steps from the previous day, stopping at every shop I had gone to on Monday and asking if anyone had found a railcard. Finally, I decided that I had truly lost it and that I should probably go to the rail station to buy another so that I could get home the next day. It was a long walk to the rail station and I hadn't eaten anything yet that day. Durham, unlike East Anglia, is quite hilly, so the walk was a bit arduous as well. In any case, I finally got all the way up to the hill where the rail station was. I knew that to get my 16-25 Railcard I would need a passport photo. There was a photobooth right there, but I didn't have any coins, only a £20 note, so I decided to buy some lunch at the station cafe in order to get some change. As I was pulling out my money to buy my panini, I saw a little blue plastic bit sticking out of an obscure pocket of my wallet and came to the horrible realization that my rail card had been in my wallet the entire time. I usually keep it in my wallet, but in a different pocket. I had walked all the way to the rail station for nothing. Anyway, I sat down and ate half of my sandwich. The other half I saved for Erica, who I assumed had also not eaten that day. I used the opportunity, however to indulge my optimistic side. I stood on the hill, which had a beautiful view overlooking the city, and took pictures that I had been to tired to take when I had first arrived at Durham. I then smiled as I thought of how the walk would be easier on the way down the hill, and how I could consider the whole day an adveture during which I had an excuse to revisit the cathedral and walk around the city. Good God, what's happening to me?
I went back to Erica's room, started reading The Last Man and tried to take a nap. Erica had been out all day at the library. When she got back, I offered her the other half of my sandwich and we talked as she finished up some drawings for her Architectural Illustration class. Then she was officially done with work, and we decided to go out for Indian food to celebrate. However, Tony called and suggested that we go over to Jasmine's room for Indian takeaway, which we did. We also freaked Tony out by watching Disney's Aladdin on Jasmine's computer as we waited for the food to arrive. Around 9:30 Erica and I decided to leave because we were exhausted. We spent the night snuggling in her bed, watching Love Actually and eating an enormous block of Cadbury before we settled down for bed.

In the morning I woke up and packed while Erica ran out to turn in her illustrations. Then she and I walked to the station, stopping for breakfast pasties on the way. I double and triple checked my train's platform because I was so nervous from my trip up, but everything went according to plan. I bid my farewell to Erica, but it wasn't terribly tearful, since we're going to see each other in about two weeks anyway. I took the train down to Peterborough. I was supposed to catch the 14.40 to Norwich, but the 13.40 was running 10 minutes late, so I was able to catch it only a few minutes after my train from Durham arrived. Maybe it was some cosmic apology for all the shit I went through on the way up. Or maybe just a coincidence. I sometimes wonder what's makes more sense: blaming everything on God or Fate, or pure coincidence. Either way, I got back to Norwich an hour earlier than I had anticipated. There was a bus waiting just as I got off the train. Fortuitous is all I can say. I was back in my room about half an hour later. I made myself an early dinner and indulged a weird craving to watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Then I relived my high school years by watching a few episodes of Daria.

Yesterday I got up and made breakfast. I'm trying to use up all of my perishables before I leave for Istanbul. I got dressed and went down campus to exchange money back to US Dollars so that I could buy my visa in Istanbul. They only accept US Dollars. It's really really strange to have dollars in my wallet again. Then I stopped by the Travel Office to buy a ticket back from London to Norwich on Jan. 11, since it's a Sunday and I didn't want to risk not being able to get a seat. On a whim, I decided to catch the bus downtown to get my hair cut. I don't know why my friends have been going to expensive salons to get their hair done. I walked into this funky little salon/tatoo shop called Bojanles where a cut and blow dry is only £15 and got an appoinment for about an hour later. I spent the hour wandering around Waterstones and I grabbed a drink at this organic juice bar in the Royal Arcade. Then I headed back to Bojangles. Everyone there was really nice and seemed strangely interested to have an American in the salon. They kept asking me questions and the guy at the desk said he liked my accent. It's not often that I'm reminded that I'm a foreigner, so it's sort of strange. This time it wasn't creepy, though. I can't say I've had anything drastic done. I just don't think I could carry off this British penchant for bangs (which they call a "fringe). Just a trim and a bit of a clean up. My ends were getting a bit ratty.
I got home, made dinner, and watched more online TV. This time it was Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which I had heard was funny. It was, but I think it would be funnier if I had watched it with other people.
It's been kind of lonely since I got back from Durham. All of my flatmates are gone. All of my friends have gone home. Stephen and Pawel are still around, since they live in Norwich, but I haven't seen them yet. I think we might get together tomorrow night. I'd like to see them before I leave. I never thought I'd want to go home for Christmas, and I'm glad that I'm not. Istanbul will make for a far more exciting Christmas vacation. It's just that seeing everyone else go home for Christmas makes me wish I was, too. For the first time, I'm really missing the comforts of home. Being with Erica didn't help much, either. I mean, I'm really glad I saw her. I haven't spent that much time with her in ages and she's one of the only people I can talk to about absolutely everything. But she was planning her trip home, and we kept talking about Dickinson, our two years past, our year to come. It made me nostalgic for home.

I literally didn't do anything today. I've spent the last three hours writing this blog. I talked to Fadi on Skype. I wrote a couple short emails. I read the Wikipedia entry on Istanbul. I might have watched an episode of Buffy this morning. I can't remember. I haven't even gotten dressed. I'll probably make dinner sometime soon, but this will probably be another night spend in my room watching a movie online. Tomorrow I need to pick up a couple things at the post room, do my laundry, and start packing. I'd like to maybe hang out with Pawel and Stephen, too.

I'm really excited for my trip this break. It'll be very long, and I'll probably be broke by the end of it, but it should be good.
My schedule:
Dec 22 - Take the train down to London and stay at a hotel by Heathrow for the night.
Dec 23 - Leave at 9:45 from Heathrow to Istanbul to meet my parents at the airport.
Dec 23-27 - Christmas in Istanbul
Dec 27 - Fly with the family from Istanbul to Munich
Dec 27 - 30 - Munich, seeing Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace
Dec 27 - Family flies home. I fly to Belfast, Northern Ireland to meet Alex and Erica.
Dec 30-Jan 1 - New Year's in Belfast
Jan 1-2 - Travel north to and stay a night at the Giant's Causeway
Jan 2-5 - South to Dublin
Jan 5-6 - Take the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales. Stay the night.
Jan 6-11 - Train to London, staying at the Arran House.
Jan 11 - I head back to Norwich. Classes start the next day.

So, as you can see, I have quite a busy schedule ahead of me. It should be good, though. I'm very excited. I don't feel "holiday season-y," exactly. I can't imagine feeling Christmas-y in Istanbul, bit I'm willing to forfeit the traditional holiday cheer for some jet-setting.

Time to plan Spring Break.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

End of Term Update

I apologize for the infrequency with which I have been updating this blog. My only excuse is that it has been a very busy end to my term here in Norwich.

Unfortunately, since it has been so long, I will not be able to remember exactly what I've been doing since my last post, nor in much detail, but here is my attempt.

I believe I left off saying that my next event was another LitSoc discussion. If I recall correctly, it was slightly more successful than the previous one, but there was not as much food. I think it was just Alan, Chad, Hannah, and I, and we read a couple poems that I had found on the New Yorker website and sent to Siobhan. Oh well. We can't all be the Literati.

Moving on. Thursday, Nov. 20, the Humanities students went to the Norwich Theatre Royal to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Romeo and Juliet. I headed over with Leah, Juli, Lauren Deitz, Meghan, and Zach. The quickest way to the theatre was through Chapelfield Mall, so we walked through the mall and came out to the courtyard where there was a juggling show going on. We stayed to watch for a few minutes and then started off toward the theatre. But no sooner had we gotten away from the mall then we saw a huge crowd gathered outside the Forum and City Hall. Curious, we walked over and asked what was going on. It was the Great Christmas Lights Switch-on, we were told, and we got there just 20 seconds before all the Christmas lights in the area were turned on. There was a choir singing carols in front of City Hall, Father Christmas came out, and fireworks shot off the roof of City Hall and across the street near the market. We were all giddy like small children, trying to catch the fake snow and giggling, "It feels like Christmas!" It was really nice to be part of a big commuity gathering like that, since Christmas, cliche as it is, is a time to gather together and celebrate.

But we couldn't celebrate for long, since we were due at the theatre. I hate to say it, but I really do not like Romeo and Juliet. It's probably my least favorite Shakepearean play that I've read, and I've never seen a performance of it that I've enjoyed. Unfortunately, that was still true at the end of the night. You'd think the Royal Shakespeare Company would be qualified enough to take what is a very difficult play to perform because of how cliche it is and transform it into something enjoyable. Not so. They basically turned it into some sort of "The Godfather" motif, used switchblades as their "rapiers," and would snap and freeze-frame for asides, then snap to return to action. If I wanted that, I would have just gone to see West Side Story. Also, most annoying, was that the Balcony Scene was NOT done on a balcony. They didn't even try. Juliet was standing on her bed, leaning over the headboard facing the audience, while Romeo stood next to her, looking up and pretending that she was several feet, not inches, above him. It didn't work. I don't care how "experimental" they were trying to be. The Balcony Scene HAS to be done on a balcony. The acting was all right, but I would have expected better from the RSC. I still haven't decided what I thought of Juliet. I didn't like the character, but that's because she was played as if she were a 13 year old girl...which she is. She threw tantrums and was impulsive and silly, everything that a normal 13 year old girl would be. But Juliet is this classic tragic heroine who dies for love, a symbol of romance, and to see her degraded to her realistic state just sort of killed the romantic mood. The only actor I really liked was the one who played Friar Lawrence. He was easily my favorite character in this rendition. He was the wise old advisor, but he had a cheeky side, too, and was often funny. I think the actor did very well, because Friar Lawrence can be a very boring character if played badly. All in all, though, I did not enjoy it. I think Romeo and Juliet will just never work for me. It also didn't help that the audience was full of annoying 12 year olds who wouldn't shut up and would "oooh" at every kissing scene.
My friend Alex and two of his flatmates were at the theatre, too, and I met up with them once the show was over. I went back to them to Alex's flat, and he and I watched a couple episodes of Bottom before I got too tired and went home.

It snowed sometime during that week, as well. Snow in mid-November would be odd enough in Carlisle or Leesburg, but apparently it's extremely odd here in Norwich. If it snows at all here, in snows in late January or February. And it hardly ever accumulates. This time it was enough for people to make pretty substantial snow men. And EVERYONE was excited about it. I went into my Shakespeare class the following Monday and the first thing anyone talked about was the snow. I must have had three people ask me if I had gone out to play in the snow...which I didn't, unfortunately. I think I take snow for granted, supposing that it will just happen again. From what I hear about Norwich, that might be all I get for the year.

I know something happened on Tuesday of that week, too, but I can't remember. If it suddenly strikes me, I'll come back and edit.

Wednesday, Nov. 26, I can't remember what I did during the day, but in the evening I went over to Unthank Rd. (Prof. Rudalevige's house) to help his wife Christine make pies for Thanksgiving. A bunch of us went over together and we spend a few hours helping. At one point Prof. Rudy ordered a ton of Indian food for us, and we basically pigged out, made pie, and went home. I'm sorry I can't be more specific, but those are the highlights.

Thursday, Nov. 27, of course, was Thanksgiving. In the afternoon we all went over to Unthank for dinner. Instead of our usual picnic-round-the-living-room style of eating, we had tables with table settings. Rudy's kids Eliza and Owen had been kind enough to make us each our own hand turkey place cards. Christine was wonderful and made a TON of food, including a stuffed mushroom to accomodate Leah's and my vegetarian needs. I don't generally like mushrooms, but this was delicious. There were mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce...oh, it was wonderful! I'm not sure what was stranger, to be honest: Having Thanksgiving in England or not having Thanksgiving with my family.
After dinner had finished and pie had been eaten, we somehow ended up playing charades in the living room.

Friday, I can't exactly recall what I did. I know it was my dad's birthday and I talked to him on Skype, even though he was sick and lying on the couch all day. Sorry, Dad.

Saturday I went over to Unthank to babysit for Eliza and Owen. Except for a little tantrum when I was trying to get Eliza to bed, they were really well-behaved. I even taught them to play Jungle Speed, but Eliza wasn't terribly interested and it only works with three people or more. We ate dinner, watched X-Factor (British American Idol) for a while, and then it was time for bed. Once I had finally gotten them to bed, I sat down to watch TV, which was strange. I haven't had access to a TV since London, and I didn't have time to watch TV at the Arran House. So I flipped through channels and found that Doctor Who was on. Ironically enough, it was the episode that my flatmate James had been telling me about for weeks, where the Doctor goes to a planet that is suspended in orbit around a black hole, held there by some force. There is a mining operation on the planet to find the source of the energy, and it turns out to be Satan, trapped in the center of the planet for all eternity. It was a really good, very interesting episode. Unfortunately it was in two parts, and only the first one was on. So I watched an episode of House and did some reading before Prof. Rudy and his wife came home. Oh, and they let me do my laundry, which was much appreciated.

I woke up Sunday morning and watched the second half of the Doctor Who episode. I can see why it's such a popular show over here. That episode as particularly well-written, but they're not all like that. However, it's pretty addictive and people get really wrapped up in it. There's a huge controversy now because David Tennant, the actor who plays the Doctor, is leaving the show after this next season. Several people have played the Doctor, which they get away with by saying that each time the Doctor dies, he takes a new body. In any case, since David Tennant is leaving the show, they have to cast a new Doctor. It's all very secretive and no one knows who the new Doctor will be, but you can place a bet, if you want.

I've also discovered and become obsessed with this BBC children's show called Young Dracula. It's sort of corny, but it works, in its own way. Basically Count Dracula, his son Vlad, and daughter Ingrid have been chased out of Transylvania by an angry peasant mob and have come to living in the ruins of an old castle overlooking a small suburban British town. Vlad just wants to be a normal kid and befriends the town's vampire-obsessed geek Robin. Ingrid is a particularly nasty teenager who is ignored by her father. In the second episode a incompetent father-son duo of vampire slayers comes to town, discovers that Vlad's family are all vampires, and spend the rest of the series trying to slay them. There are some other odds and ends, but it all makes for an interesting child-friendly interpretation of the vampire mythology. I'm surprised that I don't hate it, considering how it warps traditional vampiric themes, but it's cute. And the actor who plays the Count, Keith-Lee Castle, is particularly entertaining.

Let's see. What else? Somewhere between all this YouTube watching, I actually did some research for my three end-of-term essays and went to class. On Tuesday, Dec. 2 Chad, Leah, Lauren Deitz, and I went to the LitSoc pre-LCR bash for the Skool Daze LCR. Corie was kind enough to lend me her school tie and a button-down shirt, so I felt like a Harry Potter character, even though almost all school kids here wear uniforms. It was fun, but I only stayed at the LCR until midnight, then went back home. I've been feeling ill and tired for a while, so I didn't want to stay too late.

On Friday, Dec. 5, we got up absurdly early to catch a train to Cambridge. There, Prof. Rudy's old college friend Dr. Bert Vaux, Professor of Linguistics and Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, took us on a tour around town. We saw the King's College buildings, went inside the beautiful chapel, and walked around the river. As we were walking, this guy in a punt called out to us and tried to get us all to agree to take a group punt tour with him and his friend who ran a punt tour service on the river. Betsy, I thought of you because he was charming and non-threatening, persuasive...and in a boat. Much like a certain Yatchsman. We did not, however, give in, and continued on our way to have lunch in the King's College dining hall. Although not Christ Church, Oxford's dining hall (the inspiration for Hogwarts's Great Hall), King's College's dining hall is still very pretty, and vastly superior to our cafeteria at Dickinson. After lunch we went to Prof. Vaux's rooms to discuss Oxbridge-style higher education in England. It's pretty intense, and I honestly don't know if I'd be able to handle it. Looks like there's a significant gap between the Oxbridge standards of education and UEA's.
After our meeting with Dr. Vaux we were free to wander town on our own. Chad and I did some Christmas shopping and then I dragged him to Christ's College, alma mater of Milton. There wasn't much to see there, but I was happy enough to know that I was walking the same paths that Milton once traversed. We wandered around town a bit more, finally settling down for dinner at The Mitre pub, and getting a train back to Norwich. I agree with most people. Cambridge is far nicer than Oxford.

I know I spent the weekend working on essays. I wrote my Shakespeare essay on plays-within-plays and my Medieval Writing essay on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Matthieu came over on Saturday night and we had dinner. Sunday night was the last Circus meeting. It was rather disappointing. No one showed up except Matthieu, Samantha, the officers, and I, and people were too lazy to actually get equiptment, so we just sat around talking for a couple hours. Then Matt and I went to the pub to try and find Alex, since his birthday was the next day. I gave Alex his birthday present (a Tic-Tac-Toe Rubix Cube) and gave both him and Matt their Christmas presents (a book on English swear words for Matt and a book of foreign pick-up lines for Alex, since he claims to be 100% British and a perfect speaker of the English language, despite the fact that he was born and raised in Greece). We went back to Alex's room to watch a couple episodes of Fawlty Towers, bickered, had a tickle fight, and wished Alex a happy 19th birthday once the clock struck midnight.

Monday, Dec 8, I spent working on papers. In the evening we went to Rudy's house one last time to wrap up our fall semester, eat one last meal of Christine's amazing cooking, and play Yankee Swap. I ended up with a tub of McVitie's Mini Digestives, which were delicious. The funniest gift of the night, though, was when Chad opened the UEA Naked Calender, shrieked, fumbled, put it face down on the ground and sat on it. He eventually traded it for Chris's chocolates.

Tuesday I polished my two UEA papers and started my paper for HUM 310 on Victorian medievalism, religion, and neo-Gothic architecture. For both of my Dickinson papers so far, I've written on architecture for some reason. It seems I've found a hobby. None of my papers are up to my usual standard, which bothers me. I'm not particuarly happy with anything I've written this year. I found the writing process extremely difficult for these last papers, though, since I have been plagued with England ADD since I got here. I don't know what it is, exactly, but I can't seem to concentrate on work. The internet is a dangerous thing, and YouTube has taken so much of my time, but I could get distracted by that just as easily at home. It's not that I'm not interested in my work. I really enjoy doing all the research, taking notes, learning about my topic. I just can't make myself sit down and punch out a decent essay. Now I'm nervous about going back to Dickinson and having to write a 50 page thesis, which I want to take very seriously and do well on. I'm sure once I get back into a more academic atmosphere, the spark will return to me. Until then, though, I'll have to put some more effort into my work for next semester.

I worked some more on Wednesday and Thursday, and I turned my HUM 310 paper Thursday afternoon. Friday I went to the LitSoc Holiday lunch at the Mad Moose Pub. A good 15 people were supposed to show up but, once again, it was just me and the officers, and Siobhan's friend Krissy. We ate, talked, and played a little Apples to Apples before wishing each other a Merry Christmas and heading off. That night I went over to Matthieu's house since he had offered to cook me dinner, and we spent some time hanging out, since he was leaving very early the next morning for London and I wouldn't see him until January.

Yesterday I got up, made myself breakfast, and took a bus down to the train station so I could catch the 9:57 train. I did catch the 9:57 train...just not the right one. Instead of getting the one that went out to the West Midlands, I ended up on a local train that went to Lowestoft. I knew it sounded wrong when they annouced the stops. In any case, the guy on the train was really nice and wrote a little note on my ticket that ended up being a free pass on every train I was on the rest of the day, since I ended up missing all of my intended trains. Finally, at 3:15, I made it to Durham, where Erica picked me up at the train station. Durham is a beautiful old city. Unlike Norwich, it's kept a lot more of its medieval charm. The castle is a far more impressive castle than ours, and the cathedral is enormous. Durhman University is set up like the Oxbridges, with Colleges within the university scattered throughout the town. Erica is at St. Chad's College. Anyway, that's where I am now, sitting in Erica's room, which as a gorgeous view of the city. Last night we had dinner with some of her friends and went on a bar crawl to several of the other colleges' bars. There will be another update once this trip is done. Now it's off to see the St. Chad's Christmas pantomime, which is Aladdin themed. Should be interesting.

Oh, and I need to rant on the National Health Service. But that will come later.

Monday, November 17, 2008

An Update Long Overdue, part 4

Sunday, Nov. 9- I was so knackered from the previous week, all the late nights, excitement, and traveling, that I didn't do much of anything. I think I might have worked on my Shakespeare paper, which was due the following Wednesday. In the evening I went to Circus, but it was just me, Matthieu, and Alex. Alex left early to go to his Sunday pub quiz, so Matt and I went back to my flat for a cup of tea. We drank our tea and talked for a while, then I we both got tired, he went home, and I went to bed.

Monday, Nov. 10- I woke up early, did some homework and speed-read through Antony and Cleopatra, which I was supposed to have read for my Shakespeare seminar. Then I went to class from 11 to 1. Our 3PM session was cancelled, but since I was in a group that was presenting for the next week's class, I had to meet with my group and Prof. Womack to discuss what exactly we were going to say. Alan and I went to the Hive for lunch, but he had a lot of work to do, too, so we decided that we'd keep this lunch conversation short. For some reason, Alan and I can talk forever. Well, we tried, but by the time I decided to check the time it was 3 exactly, so we scrambled out of the Hive and went to our respective engagements. I met with my group and Womack and then the four group members went off to the library to grab relevent books. Then I headed back to the Village to do more work on my Shakespeare paper.

Tuesday, Nov. 11- I woke up early and worked all day on my Shakespeare paper. Around 1 I decided I needed a break, so Chad and I went down to the Hive, where LitSoc was selling society sweatshirts and advance tickets to the best LCR of the year, Skool Daze. There was a Christmas craft fair going on in the LCR (which is used for that sort of thing during the day), so Chad and I looked around for a while. One table was selling Indian food, so I got lunch, Chad got a snack, and we sat on the stage and talked while we ate. Then we went back to the Village, back to my paper. I skipped my Medieval Writing lecture, which has been really useless and boring ever since we started reading Hoccleve, so I didn't feel so bad about it. I hadn't even done the reading, and I figured I could just do it for the Thursday seminar and be just as well off. I was going to go to Circus around 8, but just as I was getting ready to leave, I got a text from Matt saying that it had been cancelled, so I invited him over to watch a movie instead. We never actually got to watch a movie, but we did talk for a long time. Then to bed, once again.

Wednesday, Nov. 12- I woke up early once again in order to polish my paper, print it, and turn it in before I had to head out to Norwich Cathedral for a tour with the Dickinson folk. It's a very nice cathedral, interesting because the majority of it is in the original Norman romanesque style and not the later gothic, but it's not as nice as Ely. Anyway, we had a tour and then a question-and-answer session with one of the Canons, which mostly consisted of him talking and us trying not to nod off or look too bored. Not that he was boring. I think most of us were just tired. A bunch of people opted to go to the Adam and Eve pub afterward, but I was tired, so I walked back to the bus stop with Abby and Sarah, stopping for some chips along the way.
In the evening, Chad and I went down to The Wild Man pub for LitSoc Games Night. I brought along Jungle Speed and Apples to Apples. Chad, Siobhan, and I played Jungle Speed until Alan and Max showed up. I felt like Matt must have felt when he taught me Jungle Speed, always accused of making up rules. After a while people got bored, so we played a "guess who I am" game where you each have the name of a historical or fictional figure on your head and you ask questions to try and find out who you are. Chad made me some character from Far From the Madding Crowd, which I've never read and know nothing about other than it was written by Thomas Hardy and it's Chad's favorite book. Chad was the Gruffalo, who is apparently some sort of British children's book character that we would have never known. Siobhan was Al Gore, Alan was Barack Obama, and Max was Mephistopheles (curse you, Marlowe, and your influence!) , which, after much toil, he actually guessed. Sam and his friend Will showed up eventually and watched.
We had gone to The Wild Man because, normally on Wednesday nights, it hosts a game night, but for some reason it wasn't on, so we decided to move to the Bell Hotel, which was cheeper. We got a booth in the back. I went to the loo, and when I got back there was a game of Apples to Apples in full swing. To all Apples to Apples fans, we've successfully converted UEA LitSoc. Everyone loved it, and it was a great game.
It was getting late, so Chad, Alan, and I bid our adieus and walked out to the bus stop. Alan was kind enough to wait with us until the bus showed up, even though it was freezing cold, but Chad was standing kind of far off, acting a bit moody. So the bus came, and Chad and I talked out his moodiness all the way back to the Village.

Thursday, Nov. 13- At 10:30 I met with my Shakespeare group to write up our notes for our presentation, which was fun since we'd broken the group into pairs arguing two sides of our issue, so we had a bit of a debate going on. Then I'm pretty sure I went to the Village to do some reading before my 4PM Medieval seminar. I finished the reading and went back to campus, where I ran into Pawel and Stephen, whom I hadn't seen in ages. We talked for a little while, but then I left to go to class...which was cancelled. So much for that. I went back to the Village.
Around 8 my flatmates and I (except for Corie, who was at home) took Adam down to the Queen of Iceni for his birthday, since it was Wetherspoon's Curry Night. It was really nice to be out as a flat again, and I had a really good time. Also, £5.50 for a decent-sized curry meal and a pint? Not bad at all. We wasted about 4 quid on the quiz machine game, but it was a lot of fun. Around 10:30 we headed back to campus, but I said I'd meet Matt later that night, so I left them at campus while they walked back home, and Matt and I went back to his house to watch a movie.

Friday, Nov. 14- I woke up later than normal, which was nice. Around 12:30 I met Chad at The Blend and we had a long, very long talk. Around 5 I realized that I hadn't eaten anything but a small thing of potato wedges, so we parted ways and I went to make dinner. Then I took it easy the rest of the night. I found out late that, via text message from Chad, that our friend Chris Eiswerth's brother had been in a serious car accident, and that Chris was, obviously, distraught.

Saturday, Nov. 15- Chris had asked Chad to go down to the cathedral to light a candle for his brother, so Chad and I spent the afternoon in town. We first went to Norwich Cathedral to light a candle and say a prayer, then looked around some of the places we hadn't been able to see on our tour. It hit us only after we'd gotten there that Chris is Catholic, and maybe we should have gone to the Catholic cathedral, not the Anglican one. Oh well. It all goes to the same God.
We made our way back up to St. Stephen's Street. I had told Chad that I had to do a bit of clothes shopping, and that I might take a brief stop in a few shops while we were in town. I'm sure he regrets agreeing to it now, since I must have stopped in four shoe stores looking for boots. The ones I bought from Primark a while ago are falling apart. That's what you get for £15. And I've lost so much weight here that none of my jeans fit anymore, not even the ones I bought when I first got to Norwich. So I'll have to get new jeans, too.
Anyway, after shopping, we went back home. I talked to my parents on Skype for three hours, and then went over to Alex's flat to hang out and play video games with him and Matt. We eventually went back to his room and watched a couple episodes of Bottom, which is this hillarious and very odd, very British, 80s comedy. It got to be around 4AM when we were finally too tired to stay, so we said goodbye to Alex, and Matt walked me back to the Village.

Sunday, Nov. 16- I slept in very late yesterday. And then, for some reason I continued to be tired all day. In the afternoon I made myself some Ramen-type noodles and tried to do my reading, but I kept dozing off. Around 7 I was supposed to head out to Circus, but I was so tired that I decided not to go. I miss it, though. It's been so long since my four boys and I have been at Circus together, then gone out to the pub like we used to. Hopefully we'll be able to do that come Tuesday, but I was just too tired to be bothered. I made myself some tea, ate a bunch of chocolate cookies, and eventually finished reading Triolus and Cressida for Shakespeare. I talked online to Chad about Chris for a while, and we both expressed our frustration that there's nothing we can do to help. Then I went to bed around 11.

Monday, Nov. 17- I woke up this morning around 8:30, but I had to pry myself out of bed. Maybe I should stop the late nights. I did some work, checked my email, and then headed out for Shakespeare. I had lunch with Samantha, which was nice because we haven't talked in a while, and then went back for another hour of Shakespeare, where I managed to get Prof. Womack off topic (only slightly off topic) for a good ten minutes. After class I stopped by the Lit Office to see Rebecca (my Medieval Writing seminar instructor) and get back my paper. I got a 68, which equates roughly to an A- and, judging by the wink she gave me as she handed it back, was one of the highest grades in the class. So, I went home rather "chuffed," as the Brits say. It's not a good paper by Dickinson or personal standards, and I know I can do better, but, still, it was nice. I'll just work harder on the next one. I've spent the last couple of hours catching up on this blog, and now, finally, I'm all set.

Tomorrow there's a LitSoc Discussion meeting, which may or may not go well, depending on what we read. Then there's Circus where, hopefully, I'll see all my boys reunited. We're also starting Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in my Medieval Writing lecture, so that will be a welcome change from boring Hoccleve.

An Update Long Overdue, part 3 [French edition]

At 5AM on Thursday, Nov 6, I woke up, dressed, and went down to campus to catch the 5:45 bus to the rail station. Not surprisingly, I was the only person on the bus. I caught a 6:33 train to Cambridge, switched at Cambridge, and went on to London Stanstead Airport. I waited there for around two hours, exhausted. Then, at around a quarter to 11, I boarded my little RyanAir flight and took off around a half hour later. It took an hour to get to Tours, less time than it took me to get from Norwich to London. I landed around 1:15 in the smallest airport I've ever seen. I think it might have been smaller than my house. And, as far as I can tell, it only supports two flights: the one coming in from Stanstead, and the one that left for Stanstead forty minutes later. I had told Nicole to pick me up around 1:30, but since my plane had gotten in early, I waited...and waited...and waited. I waited for over an hour, and the entire time such panic was going through my head that she had forgotten, or something had happened to her. Nicole doesn't have a cell phone, and I (stupidly) didn't ask for her host family's address. I only knew that her house was somewhere near the train station. I knew we had to get a bus to get to town, but I couldn't see a bus stop anywhere near the airport. Maybe I should just try and find a taxi to take me to town, then either wait around in front of the train station until I saw Nicole, or just get a hotel and wander around on my own, I thought.
Luckily, around 2:30, I did finally see Nicole walking across the parking lot. She had had an exam that morning, after which her professor said, "All right! Now we're going to have a lab..." forcing her into an extra hour of class. Anyway, she came and we walked to the bus stop. Thank God she showed up because I would have never found the bus stop on my own. It's about a mile away, across two roundabouts and around the corner from a high school. Anyway, we took the bus down to La Place Jean Jures, which is one of the main squares in Tours and about five minutes away from the train station. Then we walked another five minutes to Nicole's host family's house, which is very nice and surprisingly big for a European city house. I dropped my stuff off in Nicole's room and rested for a while. Eventually I met Laura, the other American student living in the house. She had gone to Bucknell and had stayed with the same family when she studied abroad in Tours. Now she's working in the Assistant program teaching English in a local elementary school, and she asked to stay with the same family, since they had gotten along so well. We talked for a while, and then Nicole offered to take me out on a tour of Tours, since she was getting to know it so well through her classes and, obviously, by living there for the past two months. We walked around the majority of the city centre and Nicole took me to La Musee des Beaux Arts to see Fritz, a beloved circus elephant who died in Tours while touring France and who was stuffed and given as a gift to the city. She also took me to La Cathedrale Saint-Gatien, the ruins of the 5th century Basilique Saint-Martin, the 19th century Basilique Saint-Martin, to Les Halles (food market), and La Place Plume, another main square known for its architecture, and, more locally, for its restaurants, bars, and night clubs. She took me down a creepy 16th century alley...creepy because the buildings are leaning up against each other. We also stopped by one of what seemed like a hundred game shops so that I could buy my own copy of Jungle Speed!It was getting late and Nicole had told her host mother that we'd be eating out that night, so we looked around for a restaurant that wasn't too pricey. Unfortunately, France isn't terribly vegetarian-friendly. We finally stumbled upon one of many kebab places and I got a cheese panini. Then we went back to her house, I briefly met her host mother and the twins, Flore and Augustin, who were trying to fix their Wii.
We talked for a long time, then went to bed.

Friday, Nov 7- Nicole had to wake up early for class and, since I don't have a key and can't lock the door on my way out, I had to leave with her. Well, she managed to leave the door propped open so it would lock when I shut it, so I actually left an hour after she did, but once I was out I was out until we met up later in the afternoon. Luckily, the family's oldest son, Aurthur, who lives elsewhere in Tours but comes home often, came home and offered to lock it after me. So, with Nicole's map in hand, I set out on my own to spend a day in Tours. My first stop was the Briocherie next to the train station, where I bought myself a large chocolate chip brioche, which was delicious. Then I mostly wandered around and tried to waste time window-shopping. I went into the Galleries Lafayette (A posh department store. I've been to the enormous one in Paris. I wasn't impressed with either) and the Gallerie Nationale (another mall). At the Gallerie Nationale I stopped for an orange juice at a cafe, then went to the second floor to browse the CD selection. Eventually I got bored and hungry, so I decided to try and find my way to Les Halles to buy some fresh cheese or something. No luck. Even with all the signs, I somehow couldn't find my way. I did, however, end up near the Basilique, so I decided to stop in for a while and just relax. Like I've said, I love cathedrals. Around 2:30 I left and headed back to the train station, stopping briefly at the used CD store nearby, where I bought a Dan Ar Braz CD in honor of Prof. Laurent. Nicole and I had agreed to meet at le Jardin Leonardo da Vinci, a "garden" in front of the train station frequented by drug dealers, but which was pretty convenient for our purposes. Around 3 she showed up and we went home for her to drop off her stuff. We had planned to go out again that afternoon, since it was the only real afternoon we'd have together, but I feel asleep! I must have been very, very tired, since I normally don't nap. Anyway, I didn't wake up until 6. We talked some more for a while. Eric was supposed to be visiting from Toulouse, but since there was a railworkers' strike going on, we didn't know if he'd be able to get a train. We had decided to just stop by the train station when his train should have gotten in, and if he wasn't there, we'd assume that he wasn't coming. So, at 7 Nicole and I popped by the train station...and by 7:20 we'd figured that Eric wasn't coming, which was confirmed when we saw Eric online once we got home. At 8 we were called down to dinner with the family, which was crepes, to accomodate my vegetarian needs. It was delicious, and a great dinner overall. I'd say I understood around 80% of what was being said, and I probably contributed more to the dinner conversation than I ever have at Dickinson French Table. Augustin would periodically make fun of my vegetarianism, at which point I would quip back, and then we would all make fun of his English, which isn't at its best. Laura told stories about how her 8 year-old students were asking surprisingly informed questions about Obama's election, the Martin Luther King and JFK assassinations, and the KKK. I spent a good five minutes explaining the translation for "couverts," which is "cutlery" in British English, but "silverware" in American English. But I had to explain how, although "silverware" is used broadly, it technically only applies to cutlery made of silver, and everything else is "flatware." This, strangely enough, was a very interesting conversation. Then we had dessert crepes and cleaned up. Nicole and I went back to her room to, what else? talk some more. Eventually I fell asleep again.

Saturday, Nov. 8 - I woke up early with Nicole again, who had to meet her Bucknell group for another tour. I had to be at the airport around noon, so I packed up my backpack, said goodbye and thank you to her host parents, and walked Nicole over to the Basilique, where she was meeting her program. We said goodbye and I walked back over to see the Saturday flower market, which was beautiful. I walked back down to La Place Jean Jures, bought a chocolate panini (which Nicole said I HAD to have before I left), and did some more window shopping in the vicinity. Then, around 11:15, I got on a bus and went to the airport...rather, the high school near the airport. Then I had to walk the mile to the airport (which wasn't bad at all, but I was grateful for the map Nicole had drawn me). I got lunch at the tiny little cafe in the tiny little airport and waited around. At 1:30, I borded my plane and headed back to Stanstead. My train from Stanstead to Cambridge was cancelled, so I had to take the Stanstead Express train one stop to some other station, then get a train to Cambridge from there. I waited at Cambridge for about fifteen minutes, then got on a train to Norwich. I was exhausted when I got back to Norwich, but Morissons is right near the station, so I figured I should do some grocery shopping before I went back. I shopped, caught the bus, walked back to the Village, and collapsed. Matthieu offered to come over and make me dinner, since I was so tired. So we made some tortellini, ate, and talked for a while until he went home and I went to bed, dreaming in Franglish.

I really enjoyed my short stay in France, but I wish I had had some more time. I think, even in a week, my spoken French would have improved just from being surrounded by French and being forced to speak it. And I was just starting to know my way around the city by the time I left, so a few more days I would have been able to find Les Halles! Oh well. I'll just have to go back.

An Update Long Overdue, part 2

Monday, Nov. 3- I can't say I remember what happened during the day. Usually my Mondays are taken up with my Shakespeare seminar, which runs from 11 to 1, then a two hour break, and then another hour. Since it takes twenty minutes to get from the Village to my classroom, it's not worth it to go home during the break, so I usually get lunch with either this other American girl named Samantha or my friend Alan. Whatever I did, it obviously wasn't interesting enough to be remembered.
That evening, however, the Dickinson students were invited to the Dickinson/UEA 20th Anniversary Dinner at the Sainsburys Centre, the university's posh art gallery. It was a bit daunting, since we had to dress up and hobnob with UEA executives, Deans, the Vice Chancellor, etc. There was a slideshow running pictures of Dickinson Norwich students from years past, but most of the pictures were of us and, I assume, generously provided by Prof. Rudalevidge. We got to drink wine and stand around looking awkward until we were invited to sit down at our assigned tables. I was at a table with Prof. Key (the director of the Dickinson Science program), his wife, the UEA Dean of Science, a boy from the Science program named Ryan, my friend Phil (also from the Science program), and the student representative from the School of American Studies name Meghan, who was very nice. Mostly we talked about how we liked England, travel plans, and, of course, the upcoming election. Meghan and I were both vegetarians, so it was nice to have someone else with me when we awkwardly had to tell the waiters, "Sorry, but I was supposed to have the vegetarian meal..." In any case, the food was delicious. For the second time in two days I had halloumi, the main dish was this vegetable pie with mashed potatoes and a wine gravy, and then an amazing chocolate pudding for dessert. It was really nice not to have to cook for myself, and to have good food for once, too.
Prof. Rudy, Prof. Key, a representative from the Dickinson Office of Global Education, and the UEA Vice Chancellor gave speeches about the continuing relationship between the two institutions, and how the growth of the Dickinson program shows a real American encouragement to go abroad and learn about other cultures (despite the stereotype). After dinner I hung around with Chad for a while talking to this woman Betsy who was a Dickinson alumni from a few years back who had been working at Dartmouth University Press and had come to UEA for her MA. Obviously I was excited, and we talked at length about publishing, university presses, and the Writing Center (where she had worked during her time at Dickinson). Anyway, Betsy is also living in the Village, so she, Chad, and I all walked back together.

Tuesday, Nov. 4- Again, I'm not entirely sure what I did during the day. I'm sure that I went to my Medieval Writing lecture at 4, as I normally do, but it has been so boring lately that I can't for the life of me remember what was talked about. Anyway, around 8 I went to Circus as I normally do. Pawel and Stephen didn't feel like going to the pub or anything afterward, so they went home. Matthieu had been in London taking his sister to the train station and hadn't gotten back to Norwich yet. So Alex and I went back to his flat for more Greek food and to play GameCube. Matthieu eventually showed up, but I left around 11 to go to Prof. Rudy's to watch the election. I got there just before the first polls closed, got some food, and sat down with everyone else to watch the action unfold. CNN must have been channelling George Lucas for all the halograms and strange special effects they were using. Everyone got very excited when they used a halogram. In any case, we were all very tired throughout the night, but would perk up each time there was a "Predicition Annoucement." Leah and I were tense all night waiting for CNN to make a call on Virginia, which at first looked as it it would go to McCain, but, finally went to Obama. We screamed, jumped up, and hugged each other. It as around 4AM when the west coast's polls closed, and Obama was pretty much a shoe-in, but when CNN announced that Obama was going to be the next president, the entire room (except poor Annie, who is our only Republican) expoded, jumped up, cheered, and started hugging each other. Annie has been a really good sport about everything, especially considering how pro-Obama England tends to be and how much they like to express that opinion to you. The next bus back to campus left around 4:30, so the majority of us left to wait for it. We were the only people on the bus and probably annoyed the hell out of the bus driver by singing American patriotic songs the entire way back to campus. Then we walked back to the Village, embodying the stereotype of the loud American, but we didn't care, we were all so excited.

I obviously slept in the next day, seeing as I didn't get to bed until 5AM. I spent all day working on my paper for Humanities 309, finished it, and that's about all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Update Long Overdue, part 1

My 4PM Medieval Writing seminar was cancelled, so I've been spending the past two hours goofing off online, and now I feel as if I should do something productive. It's been quite a while since I last posted, and a lot has happened.

All right, then. Let's see if I can remember it all.

Sunday, Nov 2- I woke up much earlier than I would have liked to on a Sunday to catch a coach out to Wicken Fen with the Dickinson group. We've been reading Waterland by Graham Swift, a novel that takes place in the Fens of western East Anglia and into the Eastern Midlands. Basically, when they started out, the Fens were an enormous stretch of flat, grey swamp land with the slightly raised town of Ely in the middle. Over time, Dutch engineers came in to drain the land so that it could be used for farming. This caused a rift between the new farmers and the "water people" who had lived in the Fens and for whom water was a way of life.
Most of the Fens have been converted to farmland, but in the 1899 some land was bought by the Natural Trust, and they have been pumping the water back into the land which makes up Wicken Fen in order to preserve the ecosystem as it was before the irrigation was put in.
The Fen was nice and it was a fairly nice day, but I think I would have appreciated it better if I wasn't so tired. We had a few minutes of spare time at the end of the tour, so Lauren Martin, Jen, Katie, and I went to the reserve's coffee shop and orderded tea and a scone. I love being in a country were tea and a scone is a perfectly normal and acceptable thing to want to order.
Then we drove on to Ely, which was one of the last towns to hold out against William the Conqueror because it was so difficult to get to across the swamps. It's a very small city, but still likes to call itself a city because it's the biggest thing around. Once we got into town, Chad, Lauren Deitz, Leah, Duncan, Tristan, Dan, and I went to a pub and got the first decent meal I had had in a long time. The guy at the bar passed a few snide comments over the fact that "all these Americans" were in his establishment, and even came over to us at one point to warn us that our meals would be a bit late "because we don't use microwaves here." Thanks, man. That's really the only anti-American sentiment that I've heard so far, but I know that other people have heard worse. Oh well. It wasn't so bad so it didn't bother me that much.
After lunch we met up with the rest of the group to tour Oliver Cromwell's house and museum, which, to be honest, was a bit cheesy. The British have this love of animatronic puppets and staged scenes in their museums, and it's a bit off-putting at some points. I also think this museum was actually geared toward younger visitors, which sort of trivialized it at times. The running theme through all the plaques and posters throughout the museum was trying to help you establish whether you consider Cromwell a hero or a villain. You could tell that they wanted to have the appearence of being unbiased, but there was a definite bias toward the "hero" interpretation. I'm not too convinved.
From the Cromwell museum we walked across the lawn to Ely Cathedral, which was spared from the destruction of the Civil War because Cromwell had a special liking for it. Right away, I could tell why, although I can't explain it. I've realized that I really love cathedrals, that there's something amazingly majestic and calming about them, especially the ones that are not crowded by massive amounts of tourists. Ely is an absolutely beautiful cathedral, and is probably my favorite next to St. Paul's. Once we got on the inside, I walked around and admired the long nave, the beautiful painted ceilings, and then went into the Lady Chapel off to the side, which was rather bare but had very large white windows and a lot of light coming in, and intricate stone work that still had some of the original paint on it, which I love seeing.

There was a special evensong service that night for All Souls' Day, and so the choir was practicing while we were walking around. The music just filled the entire building as the light was flooding through the stained glass. The entire experience was perfect and I felt so at peace and happy, as if that was exactly the way you are supposed to experience a cathedral.

We were invited to stay for the service that evening or to walk around town. Originally I had planned to use that time to explore the town, but after hearing the choir practicing in the afternoon, I really wanted to stay for the service. We had gone to evensong at St. Paul's, but I suspect because it was All Saint's Day and that it was a Requiem Eucharist that this service was far more elaborate than the one at St. Paul's. There weren't that many people there, and the sun was going down just as the service began, so the candles were all lit. There was incense burning throughout the enitre service, and the choir was just wonderful. They were singing Maurice Duruflé's Requiem, I found out later, in case anyone wants to know. If I have the time I think I might go to evensong at Norwich Cathedral one of these days, just because it's always such a beautiful service.
After the service, those of us who had stayed met up with those who had walked around the city, and we got on the bus back to Norwich.

There will soon be another installment of "An Update Long Overdue" detailing everything else that has happened. I will update pictures on Photobucket one of these days, but in the meantime I leave you with three of my favorites from Ely Cathedral.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nicole and Erica's Excellent Adventure!

A blow by blow account of a weekend with Nicole and Erica, and the following week with Nicole!

Friday: Nicole got into Norwich around 5. Rather than go back to the Village, drop her stuff off, and then come back to the rail station at 8 to pick up Erica, we decided to head to the Queen of Iceni for a pub dinner (yay real food!), then walked around Norwich until it was time to get Erica. I can't tell you how excited I was to see them both. We caught the bus back to campus and walked to the Village. We dropped Erica's bags off in Leah's room, and then we went back to my room with Leah to hang out until we were too tired to go on.

Saturday: Erica, Nicole, and I spent the day walking around Norwich. We went shopping on St. Steven's St., I took them into Top Shop, Primark, and Accessorize. We walked through the Maddermarket area and through the covered market. At one point we stopped at the old St. Gregory's Church (one of 87 million old flint churches in Norwich) because it was having a rummage sale. At this sale, Nicole and I found the most entertaining thing ever. A romance novel entitled Virgin Slave, Barbarian King, which has provided us countless hours of amusement. If I ever laugh at the word "ellipsis," it's because of a conversation that stemmed from ths book. With romance novels, before the "plot" actually gets to the explicit sex, the author has to establish some sexual tension, so she will usually write something like "And Julia thought of what she wanted. She could feel his hands caressing her all over, his hot kisses consuming her as they fell into bed and..."

It always stops at the ellipsis, but obviously the thought is leading toward sex. So, Nicole and I wer reading this and she asked, "Where do babies come from?" Our answer: The ellipsis. It's funny. Trust me. (Now Chad and I have taken this even further to include the grammatical term of "bracketing an ellipsis" to also mean something sexual. The other day I shouted "Bracket your ellipsis, you skank!" and we bursts into fits of hysterical laughter.)

In the evening we hung out with my friends Matt and Alex. Alex entertained us with more puns and we played Jungle Speed in my kitchen for a while. Eventually we ended up in my room doing dramatic readings from Virgin Slave, Barbarian King and watching Labyrinth, which neither Matt nor Nicole had seen. I hope they both feel enlightened now. We also discovered that Alex is even more ticklish than Matt. Mwhaha.

Sunday: Nicole and Erica went into town while I wrote my Medieval Writing paper. I can't say that it's a paper I'm proud of, but I have a feeling it will be better than what many other people turn in. In the evening I went took them to Circus and taught them poi. They both caught on remarkably fast. Then I nearly died on a human pyramid because for some reason Jak decided it would be a fabulous idea to make a human pyramid out of a bunch of people who are either weaklings or living in a state of perpetual intoxication. And poor Sophie, a wonderful girl who is our self-proclaimed Circus cripple and the most fragile person I've ever met, was on the top of the pyramid and, when it inevitably came crashing down, twisted her ankle. After Circus, Nicole, Erica, Alex, Matt, and I went to the pub and got a drink, as we usually do. Then, also as usual, we migrated to Alex's flat to play Jungle Speed, but left rather early since Erica had to get up to catch her train in the morning.

Monday: I said good-bye to Erica and Nicole took her to the train station while I went to class. I was in my Shakespeare seminar pretty much all day while Nicole went to a cafe in town to do work. I'm sure something else happened, but I forget. This may have been the night we watched The Chipmunk Adventure on my computer.

Tuesday: Nicole and I slept in, did nothing. At 4 I went to my Medieval Writing lecture for an hour. We're reading The Regiment of Princes by Thomas Hoccleve, which is terribly boring, and the lecture made no sense, so that hour was completely wasted. After class I came back to my flat. Then Nicole and I went to the LitSoc discussion about literature and film...which didn't go as well as planned becuase too many uninterested people turned up and there wasn't nearly enough pizza. From there we went to Circus where Nicole finally got to meet the other half of my four Circus boys, Pawel and Stephen. After Circus, we went to the pub with my Circus boys. Stephan left because he had work in the morning, but the rest of us went back to my flat to watch a movie. For some reaon, I'd been a bit out of sorts all night, and it was when the five of us were crammed on my bed trying to watch Interview with the Vampire that I got really cranky, crankier than I've been in years. It was late, I was stressed and tired. My DVD wasn't working for some reason. I'm not sure exactly what happened to me, but my crankiness mounted until I snapped and told the boys to leave. Then Nicole and I went to bed. I was sort of scared, because I haven't felt that cranky in a really really long time, and I didn't know what was causing it.

Wednesday: Nicole and I woke up late, but we eventually got a train to Cromer, a shore town about 45 min away. We got proper Fish n' Chips, played DDR EuroMix at an arcade, walked around town, and then came back. It was nice to get out of Norwich for a few hours. Around 6pm, we made dinner, got dressed up and went to the LitSoc Halloween pub crawl. Being at the pubs is usually all right because you can actually talk to people. When we got to the club, though, it was just too many people to have a nice, intimate experience, so I started getting cranky again. Nicole wanted to stay out even after we got bored at the club so around midnight we called Pawel, who lives in town. We went to his house and just chatted for a while. His house is very cool beause he lives within the Cathedral Close (within the Cathedral yard walls). Anyway, it got to be around 3am and I wanted to go home, but Nicole and Pawel eventually convinced me that it was too cold to wait for a bus that (knowing Norwich buses) might not show up, so we slept over...well, they slept. Even with a heater on I was too cold and I wasn't able to sleep at all.

Thursday: Around 7:30 we left Pawel's. I came home and slept for four hours while Nicole did homework. Eventually, let's see...Around 2, Nicole and I met Chad at a coffee shop on campus and chatted. Then I went to class. That evening Nicole and I met my Circus boys down at the bar to hang out and meet Matt's sister Marie, who is visiting from France. It was Guitar Hero night at the pub, so we played Guitar Hero and hung out. This girl Sophie, from Cirucs Soc, showed up and invited us back to her flat for tea, so we went there and played Jungle Speed until she kicked us out around 1:30.

Friday: Woke up late, went to Alex's flat to make French toast. At 3, Nicole met Pawel at the pub and they went off to do some meditation, and I went back to my flat do some reading. Mostly I posted my pictures on Photobucket. Nicole and I were supposed to get a pub dinner together for her last night here, but I didn't hear from her until around 7:30, and then the bus ran late so it took her about an hour to get back from Pawel's. I hadn't eaten since the morning and I was starving, so I grabbed some left over veggies from the night before, and decided to make some mashed potatoes. Eventually Nicole got home and we just ate the mashed potatoes. Around 10 we went over to Matt's house to hang out with him and his sister, but Nicole decided to go straight from Matt's to Pawel's, because he lives close to the train station and she could just get up in the morning and walk, instead of having to get a 5AM bus downtown.

Saturday: Since Nicole left from Pawel's house, I didn't get to see her off. I woke up late, made myself probably the most complete meal I've had in a long, long time. I stayed inside pretty much all day trying to write my paper for Prof. Rudalevige. It was Sparks in the Park at Earlham Park, though, to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day (which isn't until the 5th, but is usually celebrated on the closest Saturday). I could see the higher fireworks from my window. Around 8 my flatmate James knocked on my door, pleading with me to go with him to see the big fireworks show. He's from a very small town and has never seen one this big before. I hadn't planned to leave the room, since it was cold, raining, and I could easily see the fireworks from my window, but no one else would go with James, so I grabbed my umbrella and we found a place to stand and watch.

So that is my account of my week with Nicole. Next up will be a post about the Dickinson Humanities trip to Wicken Fen and Ely, the Dickinson/UEA 20th Anniversary Dinner at the Sainsbury's Centre, and the Dickinson election party at Andy's Diner of Democracy. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Drunkenness, Fire, and Freshers

Life's been rather eventful since my last post.

On Monday I went out on the second LitSoc pub crawl. Around 9pm I met up with Chad, Max, Siobhan, Hannah, Sam, and the other LitSocers at the UEA Blue Bar, right before they were about to head into town. By the time I got there, Chad had had two pints of beer (this tally will become relevant). I started talking to Chad, and then Sam and Max came over. Chad, once again, told the story of his gay pubbing experience in Bournemouth. We all laughed, discussed gay clubbing, and decided to head out.

We all sat at the top of the bus and chatted, waiting to get downtown. For some reason, when the bus reached our stop, and we all got up to head downstairs, the bus didn't stop. Max was the only one who made it downstairs, but we figured he would just wait down there for us. Wrong. The next stop wasn't entirely convienent, so we decided to wait until we got to the end of the line, but as we passed the next stop Sam looks out the window and exclaims, "Guys, Max just got off the bus..." We spent the rest of the trip plotting revolution.

Finally we got to Riverside, found Max, and headed off toward Norwegian Blue...which was closed. So was Squares next to it. Baffled, we decided just to go to the Queen of Iceni, where we had gone after Brideshead Revisited, and where we had met our lovely drunk townie friends. Luckily there were no such encounters. Instead, to amuse ourselves, we each got a pint, sat at a table upstairs, and played a drinking game called Ring of Fire. It's a bit hard to explain, but basically you put an empty pint glass in the middle of the table and surround it with a ring of playing cards. Each person, in turn, picks a card. If they break the circle, they have to drink. Each card has some action associated with it. For example, a black ace through 5 means you have to drink that many finger-widths of your drink. If it's red, however, you can distribute those finger-widths amongst people at the table (including yourself). A 10 means you "clink and drink" (exactly what it sounds like). An 8 is a "get out of jail" sort of card that allows you to leave the game in order to use the toilet. It also allows you to make up a rule. There are some others, but, most importantly, there's the king. Each person who draws a king gets to empty part of his/her drink into the empty glass in the middle of the table. Since everyone is likely to be drinking something different, this makes a "dirty pint." The person who draws the final king has to drink the dirty pint, and the game is over. Somehow I managed to get through the game with only one pint. I guess I take small sips. Everyone else had at least three. I think Chad might have had four. Add this to the two he had at Blue Bar. By this point Chad was already pretty drunk. Then he drew the final king and had to drink the dirty pint. Poor Chad was wasted...and very amusing. He continued with his drunk George Bush impressions, explained to Max his frightening similarity to Chris Eiswerth, and generally provided entertainment for us all.

The pub closed and we decided to head out to a club called Po Na Na for their student night, each of us helping Chad along the way. When we got there, the first thing everyone had to do was use the loo, so Sam, this girl Laura, and I grabbed hands and pushed our way through the crowd of drunk, sweaty people to get downstairs. Sam, and Max who followed, made sure to boast about how they could get in and out of the men's toilet before Laura and I had even made it to the door of the ladies'. Stupid queues. As we were waiting, Laura and I were talking, and this guy comes up to us and says, "Hey, I heard you talking. Are you American?"
"No, I'm Canadian," answered Laura. I said I was American.
The guy leaned over really creepily and said, "Ah, well...I love American accents..." Luckily the queue let up and we were able to escape into the bathroom.

Finally, after we had finally escaped the bathroom, Laura and I went back up to the entrance where everyone else was waiting...everyone but Chad (and Max, who had already made his way onto the dance floor). We stood waiting for Chad, whom our fellow LitSocer Brendan had seen going down to the toilets. At one point I got a text from him saying, "Don't abandon me!" I texted back to tell him that we would wait for him by the door. We waited for about ten minutes, but he never showed up. Brendan went to look for him, came back, shook his head, and we waited again. I kept texting him, but got no response. Eventually we decided to go onto the dance floor, hoping we would find him in the crowd. We didn't. We all danced in a corner and every few minutes someone would say, "I'll go have a look for Chad," but they always came back empty-handed. Throughout the night people trickled home, until it was just me, Sam, Max, Siobhan, and Hannah. At one point I thought I saw Chad head out toward the door, so Max and I ran after him...except it wasn't actually Chad. So Max had a cigarette while I paced agitatedly outside, trying desperately to get a hold of Chad on his phone. No luck. We went back inside and continued dancing. People managed to convince me that Chad had probably found his way home, and not to worry too much. I did actually have a really good time, despite the fact that I was terrified that I would get news the next morning that Chad had been found lying in a ditch somewhere in Norwich. I really like the LitSoc people; they're all friendly and a lot of fun. It was a good time.
Around 2am Siobhan, Hannah, and I decided it was time to leave, so we bid our farewells to the lads and headed out. Siobhan lived close enough to walk, but Hannah and I had to wait for a bus. When we did get on the bus, we were joined by what seemed like a hundred drunk freshers coming from student night downtown. Hannah and I huddled in the back, slightly frightened, while they all sang several horribly off-key rounds of "UEA is Wonderful." Hannah got off near her house and I continued on to campus, walked home to the Village, and fell asleep around 3.
When I woke up in the morning, I saw Chad online and was happy to learn that he had made it home alive. His story, as far as he remembers, is that he went to the toilet, came back, got seriously disoriented, texted me, then fell and broke his phone, so he wasn't able to get any of my or Max's texts or messages for the rest of night. He went out some side door and began wandering down St. Stephen's Street until someone stopped him and got him a cab back to the Village. Oh Chad...

After Monday, nothing is quite as interesting. On Tuesday night I went with Chris, Katie, Juli, Leah, both Laurens, Meghan, and Alex Geiger to the Farmhouse pub on Erlham Rd. before heading over to Unthank to Rudy's house for pizza and class about English identity and behaviour. After class I went to Erlham Park (the park on the way from campus to the Village that I pass every time I go to class) where Circus Soc was having its first official Burn. There really weren't a lot of people there. I played around with fire poi for a while. At one point I managed to wrap the poi around my arm, but it didn't singe or anything. Lucky me. Pawel, Matt, Alex, and some other guys had the brilliant idea of soaking a special hacky-sac ball in paraffin, lighting it on fire, and trying to juggle. Then they wondered later why their hands hurt so much. Good job, boys.
Eventually Samantha, Alex, Pawel, Matt, and I went up to the Graduate Students' bar (which is quieter than the others) to play Jungle Speed...which really is too violent to be played in public. The bar closed and we thought we'd find an empty room in Congregation Hall to continue playing. Samantha left, but the rest of us headed down to the Hall, where we were promptly thrown out by the secruity guard. Then it was off to Alex's flat for biscuits and feta. Not exactly the most appetizing combination, but apparenlty Pawel is obsessed with feta. Anyway at Alex's flat we burst into fits of hysterical laughter for no reason and consequently played a very odd game of Jungle Speed. Oh, and the boys have decided that, much like a Gremlin, I only curse after midnight. It's a really strange feeling, being "one of the guys," but I like it. I love my Circus boys.

Last night I went with LitSoc to see our friend Alan's play "Freshers," which is, as the title suggests, all about Freshers week, meeting new flatmates, awkwardness at the LCR, adjusting to university life, etc. It was all right. Funny at points, slightly disturbing at others. All in all, the incessent sexual plot elements and the scene that consisted mostly of girls in bikinis told me more about Alan's repressed sexual desires and (as he admits) lonely summer in Norwich than about Freshers week. After the play Chad, Max, Siobhan, Hannah, and I went to Blue Bar for a drink. I had a pack of tiny playing cards in my purse (which have brightly-colored smiley faces on them, so Max calls them my ecstasy cards), so we played a game of Egyptian Rat Screw (or "Snap" as they call it here) and chatted. Alan and the Freshers cast showed up later, so we invited Alan over to congratulate him. Max, Alan, Chad, and I decided to get another drink (I needed some water and Chad got a Coke. No more alcohol for him for a while, I think...) but Hannah and Siobhan headed home. Alan returned to his cast, and Chad and I went outside to keep Max company while he had a cigarette. When we returned, the drama kids decided to have an impromptu dance party in the middle of the bar, so Chad, Max, and I stood awkwardly to the side as we watched their strange rituals and chants. I've found that drama kids are the same no matter which country you go to. Anyway, after a while of this awkward standing around, Chad and I went home.

This coming week will probably be even more eventful. After I finish this post, I'll *hopefully* finish my Medieval Writing paper (it's only 1500 words...). This evening I'll be picking up both Nicole and Erica up at the train station, and then...the fun begins! I'm so excited to see them. I think I'll take them downtown to the market and to walk around the city. Definitely to a pub lunch at some point, and maybe to the LCR if they're up for it. Sunday is Circus Soc. Tuesday there's another LitSoc discussion group, and, of course, more Circus Soc, if I choose to go. Wednesday is the LitSoc Halloween pub crawl, which, as long as we don't lose Chad, should be even better than the last one. I'm excited.

Oh, and I have class in there somewhere too.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fire and Blasphemy

Last Tuesday I walked into Circus Soc and it was virtually empty and slightly boring. Then this girl Jenny came in to annouce that everyone in Norwich who could do anything with fire was meeting at Castle Meadow (over by the castle, obviously) and that we should all go. Aside from the fact that there was an accident on Erlham Rd. and we had to get off the bus to walk, it was a good night. Every manner of juggling and spinning and "object manipulation" was represented. So was, I expect, every manner of chemical alteration. Most people were drunk, and I'm sure more than enough of them were high on something or other. When combined with fire, this is both dangerous and amusing. At one point two guys had out six fire juggling pins and were trying to juggle between the two of them. They were far too drunk for it and kept dropping the pins and hitting each other with them. At the end of the night, one guy decided to spin three sets of fire poi at once. It looked impressive, but the guy nearly set himself on fire. Luckily there were no casualties.
But the most important part of the story is that I got to spin fire for the first time. I took it easy, didn't experiment too much. I really should perfect my technique before I try anything too fancy, but the opportunity arose and I couldn't help myself. It was exhilarating. It's really not too difficult once you get used to the weight change between fire poi and practice poi. Even Matthieu gave it a try. Stephan got to show off his fire staff skills with actual fire, for once, and was quite good, even if the back of his white t-shirt was covered in singe marks.
Eventually it was getting late and we all decided to go home. Stephan was going to give us all a ride back to campus. Pawel, who admitted to being drunk, had at least one hit of something that wasn't tobacco, and smokes like a chimney, got up to leave, but, instead of walking toward to car, stumbled over to a tree near the toilets, about five yards away. He stood behind the tree for a few minutes, then stumbled to the toilets and disappeared. I've seen him drink before, but I don't think I've ever seen him drunk. Stephan tried to assure us that he would be fine and that we should leave without him, but Matt and I were worried about him and insisted that we wait. What if he had passed out in the bathroom or something? So Matt went to check on Pawel and was roughly asked to go away. Stephan then tried, came back, and told us that Pawel wanted us to leave without him. He would catch up. So, reluctantly, Matt and I went with Stephan and Alex to the car park where Stephan had his car, but the gate was locked, so Stephan and Alex had to walk around the block to the other gate while Matt and I waited for Pawel. It was really cold and we spent the time together shivering on a bench and complaining about how stupid it is to get drunk. Ha, I've found a kindred spirit.
Pawel never showed up, but since he lives a stone's throw from where we were waiting, it's not as if he needed a ride. Stephan was kind enough to text me later telling me that Pawel had made it home safely. So Stephan drove me back to the Village and I went to bed.
I woke up the next morning feeling sick, since I had spend the night in the cold and rain, but it was worth it. I can't wait to spin fire again. I'll just have to remember a sweatshirt.

The rest of the week went by without much to document. I have been struck, though, with how little Biblical knowledge Brits have. I know that it's a very secular country, but twice in the past week I've had to explain Bible stories that are referenced. And I'm not very religious. I barely remember anything I was taught in Sunday school. One night we had this bizarre theological discussion in my flat. At some point, someone mentioned the Burning Bush, and Corie asked, "Wait, is that from 'She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain'?" It turns out she was thinking of the movie The Three Amigos, but still. I had to explain how Moses was wandering in the desert and came upon this burning bush that told him he was to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Now I'm some theological expert because I can remember Bible stories and explain the basic beliefs of the world's major religions. Then, in my Medieval Writing (a class that, you think, would require people to have a basic understanding of Catholic doctrine), it was only me and the other American girl in the class who knew the story of Rebecca and Jacob tricking Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob and not Esau. And the other American girl didn't quite know how to tell it, so I had about ten people staring at me, dumbfounded, as I tried to recall a story I haven't heard since elementary school. Even if you're not religious, don't these stories come up enough in popular culture in some form or another to warrant their basic understanding? Especially for literature students. I constantly bemoan the fact that I haven't read the entire Bible, and I intend to, since SO much of literature is based on it, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

With that thought in mind...

Last night I went with Chad, Leah, and Lauren Deitz to meet LitSoc to see the Reduced Shakespeare Company do The Bible, the Complete Word of God (Abridged). I was a bit late meeting them for the bus because Alex Geiger has come to visit, and I was in Chris's room catching up with her. I'm surprised we weren't horribly late for the show, after leaving campus a bit late, we got terribly lost getting from the bus stop to the Norwich Playhouse (even though it's a straight shot...we just took the wrong road). The show was really good, although it wasn't quite what I expected. There was a lot more improvisation than I had anticipated, which made it part show, part stand-up comedy. It also had a bit of randomness to the jokes that reminded me of Family Guy. I did appreciate, though, all the local humor and research they used in the show. Several times they made fun of Suffolk (we're in Norfolk, and there's a pronounced rivalry and prejudice, particularly between Norwich and Ipswich). They also brought out the 10 Rejected Commandments, which included "Thou shalt not elect a president of inferior intelligence...twice..." and, my personal favorite, "In London, thou shalt not take the village idiot and elect him mayor." Oh, Boris Johnson. There was even a Sarah Palin joke in there somewhere. You could tell who the Americans in the audience were.
After the show, we went into the adjoining bar. The drinks were expensive and I didn't like their selection, so I restrained myself, but other people got a pint and we stood outside and talked for a while. We stood in our characteristic LitSoc circle for a while, but then the Dickinson people formed their own little circle. I stayed with Siobhan, Hannah, Sam, and Max talking about...what else? Food. Unfortunately they confirmed my flatmates' assertion that eating Jell-O (which they call jelly) and ice cream together is perfectly natural..."It's more natural than birth," my flatmate Kristy assures me. But I've been promised that if I try jelly and ice cream, and eat baked beans on toast, they'll try a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Anyway, around 10 the Dickinson kids wanted to leave, so we bid adieu to our fellow LitSocers and headed for the bus. I got back to my room, realized that I had barely eaten anything all day, made some instant rice, watched the first part of the most recent presidential debate, and fell asleep.

I have no plans for today. So far I've eaten breakfast and written this blog. Terribly eventful, I know. I think I'll do some reading, maybe outline my Medieval Writing paper, and hopefully spend some time with Alex Geiger tonight. Tomorrow I have Circus Soc in the evening, which, as always, will be amusing. Monday night there's another LitSoc Pub Crawl that I'm looking forward to.