Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I am dooooone til after Christmas!

Here in England, we have finals after Christmas, which is very annoying.  The good news, however, is that I only have 3 and I have 3 weeks when I get back to study.  Also, I have finished everything I need to do before leaving except writing out a source page for my Ecology essay, and of course printing the silly thing.  Hoorah.  I thought of something terribly amusing and relevant this morning when we were sitting down in the History auditorium to do some history learning, but I've now forgotten it, of course.  It was something they do differently here that blows my mind, but as I can think of several things off the top of my head (leggings... in freezing weather.  Leggings!) I can't remember what exactly it was.  Never fear!  I shall write it down next time I remember it, as I do remember I've had that thought before.

And now back to our regularly scheduled update programming.  When we last left our heroine, she had celebrated a fantastic birthday with her friends.  Our fearless heroine was then emailed by her even more super-powered mother, who said, "Didn't you do anything /else/ for your birthday?" by which she really meant, "Why didn't you mention London?!"  But fear not, o readers (and mom!), for this is a story told in parts!  Of course I didn't forget London, you silly.

So AFTER that fantastic party with my friends, I had school the rest of the week (boo to that) and then it was time to leave for London!  I was soooo excited!  I took the train down and met my brother at the station, and we walked to mom and dad's hotel (which was a government building, in a previous life).  That room was HUGE.  It had a real bathroom, with a real tub and a real shower.  And a really comfortable bed.  Adam and I walked in, said hi to our parents with hugs all around, and then noticed the bowl of fruit on the coffee table.  I think I said, "Oh, fruit!" while Adam made a beeline over.  Without barely even taking off our bags, we were on that fruit like bees on honey (to continue the analogy).  It was also very tasty.  Then we went to the little bar downstairs and my mom and I shared a drink and my dad and brother had a beer and um... a diet coke? respectively.  We went to dinner later at a REALLY GOOD Thai restaurant where my mother learned what we're speaking of when we say, "British customer service" ie, the waiter never came (although they often do in Sheffield, so it may be a city difference) but the food was fantastic.  Then we went back and hung out in the lounge, not the bar, and got on facebook on their computer and just had a good time, and then went to bed.  First there was an utterly hysterical interlude which I unfortunately failed to capture on camera where my mom and Adam tried valiantly to put together a bed for him out of all the couch cushions which were cut to fit the couch.  It was like watching two people try to put together an oversized tangram, and it was pretty silly.  But they did eventually succeed (although it took like... a half hour.) while I giggled myself to death.

The next day we went to the Tower of London, which was sweet!  It's all old and imposing and there's loads of ancient graffiti carved all over the place, and people LIVE there!  Yeah!  And they have the Tower ravens, of course.  They take good care of those birds, I tell you what.  They've got their own aerie type space and they're fed regularly.  You'd want them to stay too, since legend has it when they leave the Tower will fall down.  There was also a guy doing a Henry the... Ok, I don't even know that it was Henry, but whatever, he was all dressed up and there was another guy dressed as a someone-else.  Anyway, he was in this room they had done up like the King's bedroom.  It was really funny, because he was talking to the audience and being all poncy and then he said something to a guy who was entering and the man answered with a Scottish accent.  So of course then the "King" had to say something about the Scottish and it was really quite amusing if you were there.  I think I have video.  Someday I promise to make a post with just pictures and videos since I haven't put any in the past couple emails.

That night was Lion King!  EEEEE it was amazing and astounding and the opening scene made me cry it was so lovely and EEE!  I almost think that's all that can be said, because words just can't describe the wonderfulness that was Lion King.  And we had EXCELLENT seats.  And afterwards we went to the Texas Cantina, which is just down from the Texan Embassy, or what used to be the Texas Embassy when they were a country.  They had Tex Mex, which was good.  I had a chimichanga.  MMMMM.  I miss my Mexican food!

The next day we went to the London Museum.  It was epic!  I got to geek out about all my favorite history things, all of which seem to be contained in that one museum.  I saw what they have on display of the brand new and shiny Staffordshire Hoard (not new as in... new, but new as in just discovered.  Really it's quite old).  I'd like to take a moment here to say something to Megan, who I'm sure is reading this:  I saw it first!  Neener neener neener!  But we're gonna go see it again, I'm excited!  -End note.  We also saw the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial stuff, which is just incredible.  It amazes me that they made such intricate, beautiful works of functional art with no power tools.  Just amazing.  I'm sure my pictures don't do justice, but I sure did try.

Then we went and had pizza for dinner and the next morning we went to Westminster, where we saw lots of dead buried people (just kidding, most of them are really important dead buried people) and there was a stone for Jane Austen, and one for Shakespeare, and one for Darwin.  I wish we could have taken pictures, but of course it's a church so you can't.  Then it was time to go, and I think that was even harder than leaving Albuquerque, so of course I'm dreading the leaving Albuquerque part the second time around.  It was like I was back at square one with the homesickness.  My flatmate came to check on me because I'd been sniveling in my room for about 30 minutes solid when I got home.  Somehow there's something pitiful about a 22 year old sobbing that she misses her family to a 19 year old who is trying to reassure her it'll all be okay.  And I was miserable for about 2 days and then I got over it and moved on with life and since then have had loads of fun!  Loads and loads and loads!  We've had Thanksgiving (twice!) and I've been hanging out with lots of my friends as all of us realized that we'd not see each other for a whole month.  I'm even mostly okay with coming back, because I'll have friends and everyone has already promised to keep me busy enough that I don't get homesick, and if I do get homesick, my flatmates all care and they make sure I'm okay too.  We all take care of each other really well over here.

But I can't believe this year is technically half done!  Well, I mean, it's actually half done in February (really annoying) and then we've got that silly MONTH of Easter Break (I'd rather have a week and go home sooner) but mostly, it's technically half done.  I have been in England for over 3 months.  I've been homesick, physically sick (not anymore!), and I've probably had to deal with some of the most difficult emotional garbage I've ever had to deal with in my life.  But as they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and I like to think I'm somewhat stronger for having dealt with it all even though I really just wanted to give up and go home for the first 3 weeks.  I think it may make the homesickness period during second semester shorter, though I know it'll still be there.  But hey, I have survived, and I've had fun!  And that's what's important.  New experiences don't have to be scary, threatening things.

And now I have to go because I have to start packing some things and I have Pub Caroling at 6:30, and it's already 4:14.  The next update will be about Thanksgiving, but it'll be over Christmas break (yes, time is out of joint.  Thank you, Hamlet.)

This time next week I'll be home!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My favorite time of year!

I love this time of year.  What between Halloween, my birthday (AND Veteran's Day), Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and then New Year's, it's always seemed like it's just straight holidays this time of year, which makes me very happy.  And this year I got an extra one, which involved both fire and fireworks.  It's called Guy Fawkes/ Fireworks Day!

I don't remember if I posted anything about Halloween, but I seem to recall writing about gleefully gutting and carving a pumpkin, so I think I may have posted about Halloween.  In the event I did not, let me know- because there are some funny pictures you should all see.  Suffice to say I'm lucky my flatmates didn't take my rather manic glee at being allowed to carve the pumpkin all alone as a sign that I was definitely sick in the head!  :P  And much fun was had by all.

So we'll move on to my birthday.  First of all, it was during reading week for History.  Reading week can most accurately be described as a whole week's break from one subject of classes.  If you are only in one subject, as most students here are, this means a whole week with no classes during which you sit in your room or the library and study diligently like a good student...

...Yeah.  Right.  And then pigs fly.  So anyway, it was History's reading week, and I had no class on Wednesday, which was ever-so-conveniently my birthday!  YES.  So the night before (we have to go back there) I went over to a friend's flat, and we proceeded to play a game of revenge on her evil boy flatmates who wake her up at 3AM hollering.  It was quite simple, really.  She invited everyone over, and a majority of them being Spanish, a deafening racket was duly accomplished.  Suddenly, at midnight, I looked at my friend Edu and said, "Hey!  It's my birthday!" which of course they all knew already.  He counted to three and by some strange occurence everyone knew that was the queue to sing happy birthday.  So they sang happy birthday to me in the hall at the top of their lungs, punctuated with some good drumming on the walls.  And since I didn't have to be up the next morning I stayed out late and had a grand old time.

The next day I pretty much did nothing.  I mean absolutely nothing.  I must have stayed in my PJ's til after noon, and after my shower I put on other bumming-around-the-flat clothes til I changed for dinner.  My flatmates had told me only, "You should be ready at about 7:45 (I think it was) and wear something nice.  Not too nice, but nice anyway," to which I responded, "Oh, so you mean like my church clothes."  They laughed, and I still don't know why!  But suffice to say that is almost exactly what they meant.  So at 7:45 I was ready to go and we walked to this restaurant with terra cotta colored stucco and a covered porch with a blue door.  Little did my flatmates know that I'd been pining for weeks to try this little place called Abuelo's (that they'd chosen this one place over another Mexican place in town was a special bit of birthday luck!), and little did we know we were about to experience the most legit Mexican food I've had since I got here.  It was very good- I had a margarita and a burrito with guacamole on it.  We ordered chips and salsa too, and here is where the first big shock of the night took place.  That salsa was HOME MADE.  Just like mom's.  I mean... really.  Just like mom's.  Not in the figurative sense, but in the more literal sense.  It tasted (almost) exactly like my mommy's salsa!  I happily dug in and they remarked that it was spicy as I piled it on tortilla chips and munched away like it had been months since I'd had good salsa.

Anyway, dinner was excellent.  They wouldn't let me pay for my part, and they got me a box of chocolate and a beautiful picture frame with pressed roses in it, in which I am going to put a "family picture" of us.  Anneleen got me a little saucepan and a frying pan, she said, so I wouldn't have to always use someone else's.  We were joking about me using everyone else's things to cook with, and I said, "In other words, 'I got you these so you can use them and leave them sitting dirty til they cool without irritating me.'" and we all laughed because of course that was one of the reasons she'd gotten them, besides wanting me to have my own.  We'd had a discussion the week before because I kept leaving people's pans dirty on the side to cool off, because I won't put cold water in a hot pan (though they will!).

At the end of dinner, we went home, chit chatting the whole way.  I was so happy, because ALL my flatmates were all there together.  I love nothing better than to have all my friends in the same place.  It's like all is definitely right in my little world when this occurs, and is in fact the best birthday present of all.  But I was a little bummed I hadn't gotten to do anything with to foreign kids on the night of my birthday, and in fact wouldn't even see them til next week!  But of course I'd just had good food and I had my flatmates- so I really wasn't that bummed out.  And I reckoned I'd just go home, drink some hot chocolate, and go to bed.  Perfect end to a perfect day.  We even talked about it on the way home.  Anna said, "I think it's time for hot chocolate," and I agreed wholeheartedly as we walked in the door.  I went to open my bedroom door to throw down my stuff when all of my flatmates began acting suspiciously.  By suspiciously I mean they had all bunched up in the hall and were looking at me.  I looked at Anna and arched one eyebrow at her and she said, "I think maybe you should open the door..." and I laughed, because of course I'd just heard a chorus of "SHHH!  *giggle*" coming from in the living room.  I believe I said something like, "Oh my gosh, you didn't!" which is really rather typical.  I couldn't think of something less cliche'd to say?  Honestly!

So I opened the door, and about 30 people shouted "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" and started singing to me, and Nerea, who is probably the one I'm closest to, just about tackled me giving me a hug.  I don't believe I stopped grinning for the entire evening.  I had no idea they were all going to be there!  And they were ALL there (except for one who was in London with his mates).  They'd all signed a card and there was a cake and I honestly don't remember what I wished for.  But I blew out the candles and then DID go and chuck everything in my room.  From (I swear) thin air, they had all conjured like 5 cakes and several bottles of wine (good wine, or... good for Uni kids on budgets.  Not the nasty cheap kind, anyway) and even something that was quite reminiscent of champagne and indeed may have been.  We had fun and eventually took what Nerea also calls a "family photo".  It was pretty epic, and I'm gonna go ahead and send it even though you can see some of that aforementioned alcohol crowding up one corner.  We had to set the camera on the microwave and set the timer, which was PRETTY funny.

Mmmmkay.  I'm sorry it's big, but I wanted you to be able to see everyone.  I want to point out my flatmates and Nerea, but I'm not naming everyone else because there's a ton of them.  So, in that first row behind me you'll see four girls sitting.  On the left of these girls, next to the guy in the red shirt, that's Nerea (Spain, of course!).  Then next to her is Nuriya (red and grey shirt, Kazakh), Anneleen (red shirt, Belgian), Anna (black and multi-colored shirt, English), then Faustine (black shirt, silver necklace, French) and on Faustine's other side is Alex (she's wearing blue and is standing).  I believe we counted and in this group, there are over ten countries represented.  It's utterly insane!  I love it.  It was probably one of the most memorable birthdays I've ever had in my life.  For a whole two hours, I got to have everyone I know and love here in One Place where I could be with all of them.  And I had no idea it was going to happen!  The Spaniards had gone to lengths to subtly and completely convince me that they wouldn't see me!  Which is really pretty amazing when you think about it, because I'm usually pretty good at detecting when someone is lying, but they were so SUBTLE about it, I just hadn't the foggiest clue.  And I didn't expect my flatmates would be able to get ahold of any of my other friends, cause the two groups really never interract.  I didn't reckon on Faustine, who contacted Attila, (The Hungarian.  Yes, laugh, go ahead.  Everyone does.  Yes, that's really his name, and yes, he is really Hungarian.) who contacted EVERYONE else.  What a group!

It's funny, because I've reached the point where I really just want to come /home/, now, please, but I can't imagine not seeing my crew at least once a week.  Even when I don't see them, I know they're there.  And I can't believe that one day in June we're going to have one last gathering and then all go our seperate ways, and it won't ever be the same again.  It makes me want to spend every second I can with them.  Unfortunately we've all just been slammed with homework so I haven't seen them lately, but I'm setting something up this week, if I have to further deprive myself of sleep to do so.  What's a little sleep lost when it's taken up by time with friends?

But, my waxing sentimental aside, it is indeed 12:30AM, and I'm sleep deprived (I really, really am.).  So I should probably be making some attempt to get to bed!  I'll fill you in on the other holidays (I had Thanksgiving twice.  Yep.)  including Guy Fawkes Day later on!  Hopefully with more pictures, but it's all gone completely INSANE these last few weeks of semester, so this may be the last you hear of me til about Christmas.

As always, much love to you all!  I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

So, about those updates...

I instituted this new rule about updating my blog here.  I can't do it until I've updated my paper blog.  So THAT is what took me so long.  As a result, a lot has happened since the last time I updated.  But I'm going to start updating the paper journal regularly, so I can update this too.  Sorry for the wait!

I'll just pick an arbitrary starting point somewhere near my last update: Castleton.  Castleton is a wee town a bit from here through the Peaks (The Peak District) and it's very nice.  We went there to explore the area around, and climbed some hills and had ourselves a great time, and took some pictures.  Actually, I took a ton of photos.  But I always do.

This is Castleton from the top of one of the hills we climbed.  The castle is there at the top of that darker green field in the upper center of the picture.  It's not that big of a castle, but it's still cool!

This is the castle!  Pretty cool.  We don't have /these/ at home!

We're all resting because this hill nearly killed us.  Well, that may be a little melodramatic, but it was a pretty serious hill.  I am not fond of all the hills, but eh.  The scenery was pretty!

One of my friends and I decided that we'd split off from the group to avoid further hill climbage, and ended up walking through this neat little mini-forest.  It had some flowers, even this late in the summer!  I whipped out my camera and took some macro pictures which I'm quite fond of- this is one of them.  Aren't they pretty flowers?

This is the forest!  It was so pretty- so much of the Peaks is that I really feel I may have wandered inadvertently into a fairy tale or a movie.

We also found the bones of a dead sheep.  I immediately took photos, and while I quite like them, I reckon not everyone might feel that way, so I'll spare you.  I do, however, have all the Castleton pictures up on Flickr, which you can get to by clicking on the following link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/43126812@N04/sets/72157622585754057/

We also went and listened to salsa music (I think it was salsa music) at a place in town called Cubana.  I was looking through the menu and found something funny!

This place didn't have just any kind of bourbon.  No, they had /Blanton's/ bourbon!  I wonder if we're related...

Umm, so now I'm going to skip to Halloween because the only things in between this and Halloween are two more family pictures that y'all don't need pictures of, really, since they look like all the other family dinners!

First, my favorite pictures from Halloween.  Note the look of manic glee on my face as I stab the pumpkin.  Boy did I ever have fun carving that pumpkin, and now we have seeds to eat!  And the pumpkin looked pretty cool.  Probably the best bit of carving I've ever done, anyway.

I'm not a psycho, honest!  I was taking off my jewelry in preparation for ripping the guts of the pumpkin out.  Anneleen and Alex and Anna were all helping!  But the only one in this photo is Anneleen.

I am ridiculously proud of the result, which is lit by the flashlight (called a torch here) which Pop gave me.  Don't worry, I wrapped it in a plastic baggie first so it wouldn't get all icky!  I worked a charm!

So, all my friends were zombies or... whatever Nerea and Carmen are.  I was a cowboy.  I wore my bright rainbow shirt, jeans, and my belt from Philmont.  I stuck out like a sore thumb, but we all found it really amusing.  I also really feel like I ought to account for that pear cider I'm holding- I had a few sips, and Julie (the girl on my right) had most of it.  Clearly, haha.

Today we had a family dinner!  Anna made a whole Sunday Roast pretty much with no help.  Okay, we chopped vegetables, and cleaned up afterwards.  But she did all the hard work.  I contrived to cut my finger.  Take a corner off my totin' chip!

I love this picture because we're all looking at Anna, who is doling out the food.  Vultures much?  I THINK SO!  The food was fantastic, I don't think I'm eating the rest of the day.  Unless someone left a Yorkshire pudding, but I bet they didn't.  On that note, I don't know why it's called a Yorkshire pudding.  It's a pastry.  And it's delicious.

This is the roast.  Most of it y'all'd know.  The only things I can think you wouldn't is the Yorkshire Pudding (that's that hollow cup looking pastry in the bottom of the plate) and the french fry looking thing, which is in fact parsnip.  They were chopped up and then fried in sunflower oil.  I think they were my favorite thing of the whole whole meal.

 Also, since I know maybe some of you were wondering if I was over my blasted sickness yet, the answer is yes and no.  My asthma is better, pretty much.  I have an inhaler I use every day that works, unlike the last one which was not working.  I was in the doctor's office two or three times the past week- once to get the new asthma medication, once to see a nurse and be told, "It's a virus, come back if it gets worse" (even though there were white spots on my tonsils and it was so clearly not a virus) and to go back to the same (brilliant) nurse only to have her say, "Oh, you probably got a bacterial infection on top of the virus."  Honey, it hadn't been viral since before I came to see you.  But thanks for that.

Anyway, long (frustrating, annoying) story short, I'm on antibiotics now and already feel loads better.  I'm almost back to normal!  After a month and a half of this nonsense, all I have to say is "About dang time!"  Thank goodness!

And there you have it!  An update!  For anyone who'd like to start following my Flickr pictures, (where I post a lot of the pictures that don't have my friends from Facebook in) I can be found heeeere: http://www.flickr.com/photos/43126812@N04/

I was also thinking it would be nice to update this thing with maybe stuff y'all really want to know, so if there's anything you're just dying to know about England or my life in general, let me know!  And I'll try to remember to answer questions either as I get them or in updates.

Have a good day!  (The "day" is already gone here, it being after 5:30.  Yeah, that's right, the sun sets that early.  And it will get earlier!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Update time!

Hey guys, sorry for not updating sooner!  I wasn't busy, really, I just wasn't so much in the mood to do anything.  I was being lazy, in other words!

School is well under way.  It always amazes me how fast the week goes once school starts.  Tomorrow is half way through the week already!  And I've already been here a month.  If you asked me at the beginning if I thought I'd be mostly over my homesickness by the end of a month, I'd have told you, "Absolutely not.  Are you insane?"  You would not have been, because lo and behold, I'm mostly over the homesickness.  I mean, I still miss home, but what I describe as homesickness, I'm mostly over.  It doesn't make me unhappy, just nostalgic.

So, let's see... what's gone on recently?  I've continued archery, and we're getting riding lessons set up as soon as my boots get here.  I experienced really annoying British rain that umbrellas are no defense against because it just floats there in the air... and I went and got sushi with Douwe, one of the international guys.  We had fun, and I finally actually got to talk to someone in that group without having to shout over music!  Not that it hasn't happened before, but for a whole 2 hours?  No way.

In the interest of not wanting to go to the Spar up the road to shop for food once a week, I got a bunch of my flatmates together (all but one, actually) and we got food from Asda, which is Wal-Mart.  Good deal!  And speaking of flatmates, we have a new one.  Her name is Nuriya and she is from Kazakhstan.  She has seen Przewalski horses IN THE WILD.  She said I could visit any time and she'll take me to see them, which I so totally will just as soon as I figure out when I even could.

I joined not only choir, but also women's chorus and small group.  I haven't had this much music since high school and I love it.  I love it all to little bitses (yes, I made up that word.).  We're singing Handel's Messiah, as I think I mentioned previously for the large group.  Small group is singing several songs and women's group several other songs altogether.  Women's group gives me the opportunity to really work that lower register I used to have and will still claim to have.  Last night in warm up the conductor told us exactly how to sing, and for some reason it made so much sense that I was able to sing the lowest I've sung since high school (down below the E below the staff.).  None of you will know this, but I've had a love-hate relationship going with a single song from the Wicked soundtrack for several years now in that I love the melody and the lyrics, but am unable to hit the last note.  Well, I went below it last night.  I couldn't do it this morning, but I did it, and it buzzed through my chest just like it used to, and that's all that matters.

And choir also gives me the chance to hang out with the British.  This is good, since probably 90% of the time I'm with people, I'm with the international students.  In fact, the other night we went to a party that was for international students, where they had a band that played "soul and blues" but not really, because they also played some songs like Johnny B Goode.  It was epic.

I went to Leeds with Angie on Sunday, and that was also fun.  We went in the Borders there and I found a book on the cheapo bookshelf that is called "The Natural History of the British Isles".  From this I learned about sweet chestnuts, which I duly collected from the lone sweet chestnut tree on the way back from the Spar, and which will sometime be roasted and eaten.  I hope.  I also learned that King Hornet was really King Hoverfly, and completely harmless.  Well, FINE, but he sure looked and sounded scary.  Good ploy though, if it even works on humans.  Rockin' disguise, except it got him dead as a doornail.

Now it's time for pictures.  You all knew it was coming!

This disaster is my room.  When faced with the question, "Good lord, why is your room such a mess?" as I would be if my mother were here, I can only answer in the words of a very wise young man on a TV series here (and in the US a season late.  Note:  HAHAHAHA neenerneener Dusty!  I get to watch it on TV!), "It just happens!".  Seriously, it does.  But I know everyone was so worried about my desk not having anything to decorate.  Actually, in all seriousness, I am going to clean my desk just as soon as I'm done with this.  But also, it is an excellent example of entropy.  For anyone who doesn't know, there is a Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that the entropy of a closed system not in equilibrium will increase over time.  Put basically, this means my desk, if considered as a closed system, will always go from clean to messy.  So, unfortunately, will bedrooms, especially those belonging to the population of under-30's.  And probably a lot for the population over 30.  But I mean, technically it's not our fault that our rooms get messy.  It's just a rule of the universe!  (Any of you feel free to let me know if that excuse ever does/ever did work with your parents.)

So after that horrid sight, I'm sure we're all ready for something relaxing to look at, right?  Well, you've come to the wrong place.  I don't have any of that.  Have some pictures of Paulo's birthday party instead:

There were balloons.  Those of us who are still 5 years old promptly started what I termed "Let's Kick the Balloon", much to the amusement of my friends, who find the American habit of naming everything just absolutely hysterical.  The Spanish kids think my way of throwing random spanish into my sentences is a pretty good time too, since I pronounce them all with that awesome American accent.  I've been told, "Say tortilla" and "Say burrito" more times than I can count, and I think it's pretty funny too!  This is Edu and I trying to keep the balloon from touching the ground.  At one point this turned into me throwing the balloon at Edu.  Like none of you expected that... seriously.

Marc and Nerea got the good seats- that whole bar was absolutely COVERED in junk food of all kinds.  It was amazing and I was so full of junk food when I left.  I regretted it later, of course.  The very astute among you may notice the "Walkers" bag of potato chips.  They look just like Lays and taste absolutely nothing like them.  I opened those thinking they were regular, and they were salt and vinegar, which was quite a rude awakening.  BLECH.

D'oh!  The 2 fell down!  Quick Carmen, fix it!

Much better.  I had a lot of fun picking the marshmallows off and acting the show off by throwing them up in the air and catching them in my mouth.  I missed the first couple times and not again after that.  Pretty sweet, let me tell you.

I may or may not have mentioned this before, but sometime in that first week, we noticed that more often than not, I kept looking at Julie and going, "Where's Paulo?" because he'd disappear... somewhere.  And no one ever knew where.  Alternatively, Julie would look at me and ask the same thing.  Somewhere along the line this became a really funny in-joke and must now be recited at every opportunity.  It cannot be said simply, "Where's Paulo?" as if you were merely curious.  It must be said, "/Where's/ Paulo?!" with the emphasis in just the right places.  Unfortunately you can't convey that in writing.  Just trust me.  There is usually no answer, the other person just laughs and shrugs.

And now for something totally random:

This is the TP holder in the women's bathroom at Interval, which is one of the restaurants in the Student Union.  The writing has been there since before I got here, and other writing has since be removed in the bathroom.  This leads me to the conclusion that the cleaner people think it's cute.  If you can't read it all, here's what it says:
"You look beautiful today!"
"Thank you, so do you!"
"I <3 you
It's about time women were nice about each other on toilet walls".  Pretty cool, huh?  I like it, anyway.  I kind of want to go around writing it in other toilets but I'm sure I'd be the one idiot to get caught.

The obligatory Picture of Me.  I made that flower, oh yes I did.  This is my version of "posing for the camera" and is coincidentally why I never do.  I look like a nerd.  But standing there looks like a nerd too.  Fun fact: this is why I like people to take candids of me if they're photo-ing.  I hate hate hate posing.  But I love having my picture taken.

I kiiiinda wanted to include pictures that I took on the way home from the train station from the front top seat of the double decker bus I was on.  But I think I'll only include a couple cause they're not that great.

This may or may not be "The Cathedral".  Anyway, it's a pretty church, with a great ugly Stagecoach Tram in front of it.  Sometime I'll go and get real pictures.  I really need to go do the tourist thing before the weather gets really nasty.

This is a street.  Notice we're on the wrong side of the road.  And some buildings and stuff.  We're right next to the church at this point.

This is another building.  The name of the pub is... something I can't remember.  It is the Cavendish, I just looked it up.  The building says "1919" on it.

This is the student union.  It's the top rated SU in the UK.  Looks like crap though.  They're actually redoing it and then it'll be spiffy and pretty!  Just after I leave, of course.  But I love it anyway.  It's got some fun stuff in there.

This is a church.  There are a metric boat-load of churches here.  This one is actually now the drama building.  For whatever reason, it always seems sacrilegious to me when they use churches for not-worship type stuff.  And you can tell this one had stained glass sometime in the past, which has since been boarded up.  Dunno if it broke or if it's still there, but it makes me sad I can't see it.

And that's all!  I can't think of anything else to talk about.  I'll try to update again sometime soon!  I have to work on my paper journal too, but I'm just so darn lazy, and I need stick glue, and I keep forgetting to get it (and keep forgetting to get printer paper).

Talk to y'all later!

Friday, October 2, 2009

A jumble of news

I have just an eclectic jumble of things to update about, so I'll try to organize it.  Hopefully I'm better at organizing blog posts than my desk!  It never stays organized for more than an afternoon... it's like I clean it up, it looks lovely and organized, and then I sit down in my desk chair.  Magically, even though I'm only sitting at my computer, stuff manages to strew itself all across the surface.  It just happens.

Anyway, we had another family dinner!  This time Anneleen and her sister cooked.  They made one of the easiest recipes I've ever seen, and also one of the tastiest.  So great for university students!  You take canned peaches with their syrup and mix them with cream of chicken stew, then cook some chicken in about inch sized chunks and throw them in and put all of that in a casserole dish.  Then you grate some mozzarella and put it all over the top, mostly covering it, and stick it in the oven long enough to melt the cheese and get it all toasty and brown over the top.  Then you serve it over steamed white rice.  It tastes amazing.  Looks really good, too.  We ate all of it!  Of course we ate all of it, we're all lean mean walking machines, and I don't think any of us have very big lunches on days when we know someone is cooking dinner, so that we're intentionally starving and eat all of it, because it always tastes SO good.

We also got a TV.  Anna found one for 21 quid (that's slang for pounds) on ebay, and I found a cord and programmed the silly thing without any instructions, just by experimentation.  We get 5 channels, which is better than the no channels and no TV we had before.  BBC has some good stuff, too, like the Manchester United game they had on last night.

Aaaaand because I'm lonely without plants, I bought two at a plant sale they were having at the University.  See, it's funny, because if you did something like that at home kids would be like, "Why plants?" and just point and laugh, I'm sure.  But here, I swear every student bought a plant.  Most bought bonsai trees which will be dead next week because bonsai trees are finicky little beasts.  I bought two succulents, because you never have to water them (or rather, you can forget to do so for two weeks) and they're still rather pretty, and don't take up much room.  One is a jade plant (I always have a jade plant) and one is some other cute little fuzzy succulent which mom says she's seen at home.

This is the cute little fuzzy one.  You can see the fuzz, it's that whitish silver that you see all over the plant.  And it even has a little bloom, which I'll maybe be able to use to identify the silly thing.  One succulent looks much like another, unfortunately, and I'm no great shakes at plant ID.  I like it though.  I was going to get cacti, but they're as finicky as bonsais in their own way and I was sure I'd kill it.  I always do at home, anyway.

This is the jade!  Not much to say- it's a jade plant, and they all look the same.  But it's just a baby, unlike the one at home, which I had to break off at every stem just to slow it down (and then I rooted the broken off bits in my tropical tree so they can grow there, and they do).  I love jades because they're just about the easiest plant I know of to grow.

And last night, I finally finished the first page of my travel journal.  I drew a very bad interpretation of a Union Jack flag on it, and copied "The Road Goes Ever On and On" right below it.  My roommate then said, "Why didn't you just draw the English flag?"  Oops.  Let me tell you how hard it is to draw a Union Jack flag.  It's a very cool looking flag, but it has the most ridiculous proportions ever!  The lines are none of them the same width.  Very silly.  I like it all the same.  I'll probably include pictures of my journal from time to time, if I have an especially cool page that I feel needs sharing.

I also had first meetings for several clubs that I joined, and I'm beginning to think it's really good that I don't have to maintain a 3.5 while I'm here- I just have to pass everything.  Monday nights at either 6:30 or 7:30, I have choir (depends on if I join women's chorus).  Tuesday I don't think I have anything, then on Wednesday I have archery at 2 til whenever I choose to leave before 6 (usually 4, I'm thinkin') and Thursday I have choir again at 7:30 til 9:30 (that's the large group) and Friday I have nothing.  Somewhere in there will be horsey activities, and I wish I could find a job but I'm betting I can't.  I also technically have at 6 hours of language homework (3 German and 3 Spanish) a week, plus whatever other homework.  I'm not sure I'm going to be doing the full 3 hours a week of every language.  I'd like to, but I'm not sure I can.  And then I have history reading too, but that's all for now.  In 7 weeks I throw two biology classes into the mix and go completely insane.  I think a lot of that work is going to get done on Fridays, weekends, and Mondays.

Choir is going to be a blast, though.  We're performing Handel's Messiah on November 28th, which is pretty crazy given that we only rehearse once a week.  I dunno what the small groups are performing yet, but I know we do a pub crawl caroling thing to raise money for a local charity.  I can't wait for that!  And everyone in the choir is really friendy.

I'm also really excited for equestrian club, mostly because I just like being around horses, but I've never been around so many people who like horses before in my life (just the crew at the barn, and that's like... a max of 5 or 6 at any given time).  There must be at least 20 people!  And they're gonna figure out lessons so we can go in groups and get the group prices, I hope.  It turns out England is really expensive.  I mean, clearly this month isn't typical of what I'll be spending, what with all the joining of clubs and outfitting my room and all that other one time stuff, but still...  I've come up with a couple brilliant plans for how to save money, which are all great habits to get into anyway, and I think will serve me really well when I get home.  So I am growing and learning and blah blah blah as a person.  Maybe I should write that down and send it to someone who would give me a scholarship for encouraging people to study abroad.

One question I'm still not used to is "How do you like England?".  I'm not sure quite how to answer.  I don't love England.  I like it alright, I'm content enough to be here, but I don't really love England, I love the people who I'm here with.  I usually settle for, "I like it.  It's a lot different than home."  That's honest, and I just feel dishonest saying I love it, even though all the other international kids say it, whether they mean it or not.  The amount of green is just amazing, but... the weather kind of is not, and I'm not real thrilled with the fact that the only social activities seem to be limited to loud parties with lots of alcohol.  Luckily, my foreign friends usually get together at a pub or something so I can go hang out with them, but I probably won't go to the Equ. club thing next week because A) it's really far away and the buses are ridiculously expensive and B) it's a loud party alcohol clubbing type activity and I really don't enjoy those, no matter who I'm with.  They all say there's other stuff to do, but really... there's not so much.  But!  I did find something cheaper to drink than alcohol or soda that isn't water!  It's blackcurrant (or raspberry, or banana, or pineapple... you get the point) and soda.  And it's only like 50 pence, as opposed to 1.20#.  Pretty awesome!  And it tastes good too!  Definitely awesome!

As soon as I get some green chili I'm going to buy some burgers, buns, and cheese, and make green chile cheeseburgers.  Oh man.  So excited for that!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rock climbing in the Peaks

First a house-keeping type thing.  If you know anyone who'd like to be added to the email list, please let me know!  Also, let me know (if you have a preference) whether these long entries are alright with you, or if you'd rather have shorter, but more frequent ones.  I'm also reckoning that once school starts, I'll slow down a little and make them shorter, especially once I get a journal and can separate what I want to remember and need to records from what everyone will really want to know, haha.

Now on with the show!

Today we went rock climbing in the Peaks district.  I'm still not really clear on why it's called the "Peaks" district, except maybe it's more hilly than the Lake district, which probably has a lot of lakes, if we're being logical.  The weather was not very nice, it was cold and windy, but it also wasn't any worse than a fall day in Albuquerque.  I'm even used to that biting cold wind we were getting up there, as it's like the younger, less serious cousin of the wind that blows across Johnson field practically all winter.

And I got to experience outdoor climbing for the first time ever.  I'm thinking it's probably the last time ever, too.  1, I was utterly terrifying and almost froze halfway up, and 2, I don't have time to join the climbing club.  Maybe I'll do it at home if I get the chance, but I really like gyms much better.  See, in gyms, you have those nice, prefabricated holds that aren't going to scrape you into oblivion if you fall.  Oh, you won't fall to your death, because someone is on belay, but when you slip, you kind of go a little face first into the rock.  Ow!  I didn't do that, but I saw someone nearly do it.  My glasses would have been sad.  I did eventually make it past my, "OH MY LORD I'M GONNA DIE" moment, and just took a deep breath and shoved my fist in a crack and grabbed a rock no one else apparently had ever found (or so the guy on the ground said- he had no idea how I'd gotten up from where I'd trapped myself) and made it all the way to the top!  Semi crack climbing for the win!  And the person who taught me climbing basics will be proud to know that I kept my body close to the wall, and kept wedging myself between rocks so I could reach up with both hands.  Actually, the guy on the ground said, "Wow, you did really well.  How did you get up past that point?" and was surprised when I told him I'd just sort of shoved my fist into a crack in the rocks and both held on to a little spur of rock and braced myself with my knuckles.  Okay, yes, I was pleased with that.  But I'd still rather climb indoors.

Anyway, it was really pretty out where we were!  I even have photos.  I have some other photos too.

By the way, about my pictures- my camera is doing this really awesome thing where it adds so much noise anymore than it's making the pictures really, really bad.  I'm going to try to reset the thing, as I think it's some setting I chose, but I don't know.  If any of you know how to set it to not do that (if it's an ISO or quality thing setting somewhere) you should totally let me know!  Because it's driving me absolutely insane.

We first have something not rock climbing related.  We were down in City Centre the other night for a ghost tour (really good story telling!) and so I snapped a picture:

See?  It's actually quite pretty all lit up like that (notice that one side bank of lights is broken?  Yeah.)  But still, pretty neat.  Also a good meeting landmark.  Frequently, you'll hear one of us on the phone shouting at the person on the other end to "MEET ME AT THE BIG WHEEL.  YES, THAT ONE BY THE OLD CHURCH," sometimes followed by, "Well, it's the only big wheel in city center." and only occasionally, "How can you possibly miss it?  IT'S A GIANT WHITE FERRIS WHEEL!".  But it's all good, we usually find each other.

Speaking of the old church, I should post a picture.  It's apparently town hall now, but I didn't know this and had been calling it the cathedral (which I think it is, as the bus stop nearby is called the Cathedral stop).  I really like it, it's just a typical cathedral kind of place, all sheer and imposing.  I'll mention again about the horrible snowy noise going on in every picture.  It's really bad in low light!

I also made tacos the other night!  They were epically tasty.  Oh man, and I made flour tortillas that we ended up not using, but which are yummy anyway, and would be yummier if I covered one in butter and cinnamon, except I have no cinnamon right now, and I'm limiting myself to visiting the grocery store once a week, unless I totally run out of food (which I shouldn't).  So I'll just put cinnamon and whatever else on my list, and get them next week when I go.

Look!  Tortillas!  And that's honey, which wasn't very good, so now I eat them with butter and jam.  Interestingly, one of my favorite jams at home is the Bonne Maman kind, which I was overjoyed to see they also sell at the Tesco down the road.  Also Dusty said she's sending Algerita jelly and maybe prickly pear if she can find it.  Mmmmm.  Can't wait!

At some point, I was no longer cooking alone (it took like three seconds flat, haha) and Anneleen and Anna came in to help!  They kindly chopped up all the toppings and the onion for the meat, and kept me company while I handled the ground beef (or mince beef as it's called here).  Anna also provided some big tortillas so we wouldn't have to use all of mine, because I'm selfish and wanted mine all to myself after everyone tasted them.  I did later say they could have them any time they wanted, but they wouldn't have been good for tacos.

It was soon discovered that I was the only one who had really made tacos before.  So I showed them how to make one.  This is my version.  Typical taco, right?  Well, I mean, it's a little big, but other than that.

Anneleen preferred to mix all of her fixins together and make a wrap, which worked well til the really juicy meat started dripping juice out the bottom (all of them did it.)

Alex's is a little more like mine, but was also destined for life as one of the messiest wraps I've ever seen, which ended up being eaten with fork and knife.  It's good the meat wasn't cooked dry, but the juice was making it really hard!

And Anna's was a variation on the mix together wrap theme.  I don't have pictures of Faustine's, for whatever reason.  I think she made a wrap too.

Oh hey look!  The pictures which actually pertain to the title of the blog!  If you click on the photo to blow it up (if you're online, dunno if it'll do it in email) you'll see a person halfway up that sheer rock face about halfway.  That's where I climbed.

Typical Peak District view!  It's really really pretty in person, even on grey days like this.  There's rocks strewn about everywhere.  I don't know if a glacier put them there, or if they were already there, but I intend to find out.  I need to know the geology of this place, because I reckon it's pretty interesting.

I kind of want to go scramble all over this rock sometime.  There were loads of people out there, and some little kids, so it can't be that challenging and I'm unlikely to fall and break anything.

Also, one of my friends (Carmen) posted a really good picture of the group I've been hanging out with!  The only person missing is the mysterious and not oft-picture Jinho Han.  I don't know why that boy is not in a single photo of the whole group.

Why yes, I am wearing one of my Inca hats!  It has guanacos on it.  And awesome tassles.  I love the awesome tassles.  I can name everyone in this photo, by the way.  Want me to prove it?  I bet you don't believe me, cause I know I wouldn't!  So, in that uh, back row?  Starting with the guy in the khaki jacket crouching over- Attila (Hungary), Daniel (Germany), Marc (Spain), Fatou Mar (France), Paolo (Italy), Marie-sophie (France).  Next row, starting with the girl who is making that comical :D face: Nerea (Spain), Edu (Spain), Julie (France), Tiziana (Italy). I crouched in front because... well, I did.  So I need not name that row.  They're all a blast to be around!

I dunno, guess I'm out of news for now.  Oh.  We're getting a TV Wednesday (for 20 quid.  And it works.) and I finally have a working desk lamp so I can read before I go to bed.  And my coughing is so so so much better now, I'm sleeping at night (which is great) after the obligatory coughing fit when I first lay down.  Yay!  And I get to go to campus tomorrow and walk out a distance to see if it can be done in 10 minutes.  Oh!  My schedule!  I didn't ever tell anyone what all I'm taking!  I'm taking:
1st Semester
Community Ecology
History of the US, 1776-2004
Spanish 1A (like 101)
German 4A (Like 401)
2nd Semester
Issues in Conservation Biology
Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems
Pagans, Christians, and Heretics in Medieval Europe
Spanish 1B (Like 102)
German 4B (Like 402)

I also joined the Archery Club (and may end up not being able to go... but at least I got a cool pencil?) and the Equestrian Club (words can't accurately describe how excited I am.  I go a little crazy inside every time I think about all the awesome stuff they're doing this year.) and I'm going to join a choir, which is why I may not do archery.  Archery is great and all, and I want to learn to shoot an English longbow (yes, it is because I am obsessed with Robin Hood, so laugh now!) but choir is good for my soul.  Seriously.  It's totally cathartic.  And closer to where I am than archery, which you can't beat.

I'm way excited for the Biology classes too, even if I don't get to start it til the 7th week.  I ended up changing all my pre-picked choices except Vertebrates when I got here because the 300 level classes sounded like way more fun, and the advisor said the others wouldn't be challenging enough.  Since he was willing to let me in even though he hadn't checked my pre-reqs (other than verifying I'm a senior/ 4th year at my home school) I decided to go for it.  If UNM doesn't want to give me credit, I guess I'll have a discussion with them!  I'm also excited to be picking up Spanish.  I have been wanting to learn it for a couple years, so now if I keep up with it I'll technically be trilingual.  Rockin'.  Then maybe I'll start in on French, since I can get help with that!

Friday, September 25, 2009

My England address!

Hellooo, everyone! I have my address now. Please keep in mind that if they can't deliver it at our door, I'm going to have to trek to the Post Office to get it. While that's not too far, I do have to carry it home, so. But green chile is not heavy or strangely shaped, right?! RIGHT.  There are, in fact, many things which are neither heavy nor oddly shaped.

Cait Rottler
Apartment B4, Room 4
Yarncliffe Apartments
17 Endcliffe Crescent
S10 3AB

Yay! You can choose whether to let me know you're sending something or not. If I'm not here to sign for it, probably one of my roommates will be. Worst case, they'll take it to the post office and leave me a note saying to pick it up. No biggie!  The walk is even downhill on the way back, which is pretty sweet.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pictures! (Long post is long. Sorry guys.)

I finally bought a card reader since I left my camera-computer cord at home.  The problem is that I now have way too many photos to share in one journal entry, I think.  So maybe I'll just do some highlights.  Anyone who wants to see all of them can go to Facebook- I'm going to work on getting them into Albums by event, since by week would be too many pictures in one album.

EDITED TO ADD:  You can see all of my Facebook photos here (it should work even if you don't have a facebook account):


So!  Lets do this chronologically, shall we?  Begin!

The trip there:
Here we have Adam (my brother, for any non-family and non-people who know my brother) messing with his video camera.  Much like I HAD TO HAVE my riding boots, helmet, and chaps, he had to have his camera.

This is on the train from Manchester to Sheffield.  Fairly typical countryside around here- I feel like I'm in a movie every time I leave the city.  Seriously, this really /exists/.  It's not just sets built by movie people!  I know!  Wild!

We then move to Week 1 (well, really, getting there was that week too.  But SSSSSH, we won't tell anyone.)

Anyway, week one was, as mentioned in a previous entry, the week of Residential Orientation.  It was also the week of Go to Hull to visit Angie and see the clipper race.  I have pictures!  Ironically, none of them are of aforementioned Angie or the clipper ships.  No, they are of the Red Darts or Arrows or Red whatever-thingys.  They're like the Blue Angels.  And they're very entertaining.  It's been donkey's years since I've seen an air show, and I had a blast!

This is called the Apollo Lander.  You see the resemblance, right?  I thought that was just almost the coolest thing I'd ever seen airplanes do.  They flew formations named after things for a good long while, and then proceeded to prove that they did something cooler by doing wicked aerial maneuvers in which a millimeter off probably would have caused them to crash burning into the Humber, taking boats and people with them.  But no worries, these are experienced pilots, and sans one dude running out of colored smoke, nothing went wrong.  I have pictures of that too!  I want to include all of them, but that'd be overkill, so I'll pick like... the coolest two or three.  And I'll put a link to my facebook albums at the end- I've set them so everyone should be able to see the pictures, even without a facebook account (but we'll see if it works.)

Arguably one of the most awesome of the smoke effects, all 7 of them flew straight at us and broke off in all directions to make a fan.  With colored smoke.  A fan with colored smoke.  I mean, seriously!  The whole time we were watching the air show, we kept saying, "I understand why pilots are notorious for having egos!  These guys are awesome!  If I were a pilot, I think I'd be a total show off.  Even on the ground."  And of course the planes and everything they were doing was so awesome and fun I remembered some of the stories from Moky, and the various aerial feats he and his flying buddies got up to.  I think, Moky, you'd have liked the aerial show very much.  I wish I'd had enough camera battery to record it!

They kept doing this thing where two of them would fly straight at each other and then flip over and pass each other.  We all thought they were probably going to get themselves killed, which was probably exactly what they wanted us to think.  Red and blue smoke!

This was pretty fancy too.  That plane trailing red was flying spirals around the smoke trail of the two white-trailing, UPSIDE DOWN planes.  I don't know why they were upside down.  It was probably more amusing that way.

I don't know quite how to describe this one.  Basically, there are 5 planes flying in a delta formation.  The two closest to the center plane loop out to the side and the two farthest, out on the edge of the delta, slide into their places, while the first two end their loops on the tips of the delta.  And then they do it again.  It's really neat, but I don't have that many pictures- this and one more close up.  But this one is after the tip planes have slid in to the middle, and the two above are about to get back into place on the tips of the delta.

Whooboy.  So that's Hull, without seeing any of Hull.  Sorry about that- but hopefully Adam is doing something since that's his city.  But wait!  There's more.  From week one.  Can you imagine how many pictures I /really/ have?  Yeah.  Like a bazillion.  These next ones are from orientation in general.  Most of the pictures are of parties, which I know we don't all need to see (and I'm not in any of them, anyway, so of course they're not /that/ good.  Haha.)

Now, while this may come as a shock to some of you, I have learned to be outgoing!  And friendly!  I made friends, for the first time in my life since a long time ago.  I mean, real friends, as in we all know each others names and meet places to do stuff.  Yep!  It's really cool.  Anyway, from left to right I suppose: Paolo, Julie, Carmen, Marc, and Fatou-Ma.  Countries Italy, France, Spain, Spain, France.  These are the few who were with me at the time- I have another picture which I think has more people, but let me pause to tell you that we are like the UN.  I seem to recall another family member who was once accused of dating the entire UN, so I guess it's almost a family thing (except I'm not dating any of them.).  So there's usually all those guys, plus me, and Germany, South Korea, Austria, maybe Bulgaria, and Hungary.  People kind of come sometimes and not others, so it varies, but that's the usual core group.  And yes, I know everyone's name.  I can even pronounce them (sort of).

 Well, you're just never far from the golden arches.  Don't ask me if they have the same food, because I haven't been in.  I'm sure they do, because what I've seen people bringing out is the same.  Just as an aside, you don't get a burger and fries here.  If you could find a real burger, you could have that, but you get chips.  They're just french fries by another name.  Chips as we call them are crisps.  Ah, English.

Alright, I don't know what the purpose of this thing is.  I mean, presumably to see the city, right?  But there's not a whole lot to see.  Not like... you know, London.  I think Sheffield just wanted their own version of the London Eye.  It's not nearly as big or impressive, but it is pretty all lit up at night.  And I'm sure you can see the whole city, all 7 hills worth.

Picking pictures from Chatsworth house is like picking air show pictures.  Anyone who has seen the most recent Pride and Prejudice would instantly recognize the place as none other than Pemberley, AKA Darcy's country house.  I believe I remarked sadly that it was too bad he wasn't real and therefore wouldn't be there.  (Which turned out not entirely true, because there's a marble bust of what'shisface actor dude who played him.)

Me, with the house in the background, because I know you all wanted to see my bright, shining face!  Unfortunately it's not a very good picture of the house, but you get the general idea.  See facebook for more.

This is the fountain and... pavilion thingy that are behind the house.  You can go in the fountain, and our assistants did (and nearly fell down, which would have been most unpleasant).  It was very cold, so I didn't want to get my feet wet, alas.  So I just took pictures.

Okay, and now I have pictures of where I live.  Basically, of my room and some close by stuff.

I call this game before and after.  This is before.  Awwwww, how clean!  And sterile, and uninviting.  Well, we can't have that now, can we?  Heavens no!  That would make me homesick and insane!  And we don't want that.  So clearly something Must Be Done to remedy this issue.

But don't worry, it didn't last long.  This is from earlier this week, probably the afternoon of the day after that first picture was taken.  You can see it didn't take me long to make the place more homey.  And by homey, I really mean trash it out really well.  Also I got bedding and things when I went shopping with Angie and Mark when Angie came to visit.  That's why there's a ripped up Primark back there.  It has since gotten cleaner, because I just nearly murdered myself on those clothes.  Also I was tired of not being able to see what I had to wear.  This will come as a surprise to those of you who have lived with me, but even I cannot stand clutter forever (although it did take me til a couple days after this to actually move stuff.  I kept just stepping over.).

Turns out you're never far from Wal-Mart either.  Well, technically.  It wouldn't be far, if I could drive.  But I can't, so this is like The Place I Will Never Go.  Unless I hop a bus.  But I thought it was funny anyway!

This is the view out my flat window.  You can see one of the other residence buildings across from me, and the parky area that is very green.  Down to the left is a tiny duck pond.  I'm up on the 4th floor (or 3rd, if you're English and can't count floors properly, just like you can't drive on the correct side of the road...)  But we have a lift!  So it's no biggie.  I use stairs anyway.

The whole big happy family +1.  We have Anna, who is over there transferring the tuna pasta bake from bowl to casserole dish.  At the bar/table are (right to left this time) Faustine, who is from France, Anneleen, pronounced Anna-lane, who is from Belgium, Alex from the UK, and Anneleen's friend whose name I have since forgotten.  I was taking the picture, but that's my empty chair at the end.

And there you have it!  My life for the past two and some weeks in a nutshell.  Tonight I'm going on a ghost walk (not to see ghosts, but to hang out with my friends who are going) and tomorrow is the sports fair.  I'm officially registered for classes, and I also have an address, but I'll post my address in a seperate entry all its own in case people want to save the email.  Hope you all are doing well!  You'll be happy to hear I'm feeling much better.  I'm still coughing, but I feel fine in spite of it!

Wait, one last photo.  We had a formal party kind of thing with club dancing afterwards.  I wore my fetish necklace because it was the only "traditional" thing I could think of.  Nerea is another of my friends, and I don't remember who took the picture, but I think it's a good one.  We had a blast!

Much love to everyone!