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!