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.