Friday, September 29, 2006

A rumbly in my tumbly....

Every once in a while, I stop and notice I've got crazy butterflies in my stomach. Kind of this electricity and it's hard to stay still. Unfortunately, my room isn't too big for pacing, so I start bouncing off the walls. I look back to earlier in the day. Any caffeine? Unfortunately, no. Anything I am particularly nervous about? No, classes do not even start until Thursday. And then I realize, I am just so excited, about everything. I literally get a buzz just in anticipation thinking about how much is before me. I think this particular one came from me and my flatmate's discussion about some of our goals for this quarter. We were talking about how difficult it was to stay on top of grocery shopping and cooking when it is just for you. We decided once we had our schedules, we were going to pick two nights a week that we'd cook together. And that got me happy. At times, I get caught up in the "shoulds," I should know more people, I should have plans for tonight, I should go out and explore... and then (as my sister so appropriately reminded me) I have been here a week, and I've got 54 more of them to go, and then I smile, and I can't stop. I have no idea what to expect in the months to come, the people I'll meet, the places I'll go, the books I'll read, the conversations I'll have. I still feel like I'm falling off a cliff and the clouds are whizzing by and I'm not sure where I am going to land. No wonder people go parachuting.

And now, some fun pictures of the new people in my life......

my flatmate Molly (from Boston), Allison (from Canada), and Heather (from Reno)

at the Deptford Market.

my flatmates, Molly, Yumiko (from Japan) , Chao (from Taiwan), and Boat (from Hong Kong) enjoying peppermint tea and about to start watching "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" on my laptop perched on the fridge (the kitchen is the only room big enough to hold all of us).

The view from my window.....

just so I don't forget where I am going to school.....

wide angle

at night

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

First reflections.

My time has been an anesthetizing mixture of familiar and unknown. City is something I recognize, and yet the buildings and streets around me are not quite what I know. Tight buildings together, going up about four or five stories, with street corners and cross walks are familiar. However, on street level you get an alternating mixture of internet cafes, ethnic food “take-away” restaurants, afro-euro hair salons, and convenience stores. At night, they all have those metal pull-down curtains, like you see in New York (on TV). I still get that small jolt of panic when I am walking down the sidewalk on the right side of the street and double-decker buses are barreling down towards me. I recognize tuna fish and baked potatoes, but not together. Hair dryers, yes. Hair dryers with over 10 feet of cord…. who in the what now? Perhaps the British multi-task while drying their hair, and need the travel radius. Oh, and when the crosswalk starts to flash, in American it may say “Pedestrians, you better walk a bit faster if you want to cross,” but if you listen carefully here, you hear a British accent say “Oh, pedestrians, you are so in trouble” as the cars start creeping towards you, clearly irritated because your right of way has already expired.
These days I feel like I’ve spent more time stuck in the web of academic bureaucracy than unraveling the mysteries of the United Kingdom. But this morning, I will receive my golden key into normal life. My student ID card will not only give me access to the University’s wireless network (internet, yay!), but allow me to open a bank account which will enable me to get a cell phone, register for the gym, buy a bus/metro travel pass, get into the Library, and have access to cash (cash, yay!), not to mention get into every building on campus. Luckily, the word “queue” sounds so cool, you don’t notice you’ve been standing in line for an hour and a half.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I said baby, it's 3:00 AM and I'm lonely....

.... Or just wide awake. I spent a bunch of time writing up my first “I’m fine” post yesterday, sitting on the curb of the courtyard outside my apartment building, stealing wireless from the internet café underneath my flat. But serves me right, the minute I click on “post” it died on me, and I couldn’t check until now to see it hadn’t posted. So my apologies for a delay in posting. Internet is sketchy here in my flat (I’m currently pressed up against my window, stealing the same wireless feed) and I can’t get access to any of the universities wireless or computers b/c I haven’t enrolled yet. So here is the jist. I’m fabulous. The jet lag nearly killed me, so Saturday was still pretty much a haze and I slept over 16 hours yesterday (even for me, that’s quite a bit). It’s actually 3:00 AM right now, and I’m wide awake. I arrived with no trouble and the driver who picked me up graciously pointed out many of the sites of the town as I struggled for consciousness. Like any true University Orientation, when I arrived, a friendly dad offered to keep an eye on my bags as I checked in. People with bright t-shirts were milling around and one helped carry my bags a block and a half to my flat (which my family knows was very gracious of him, my three bags (plus carry-on) probably most certainly weighed more than me). My flat is an interesting mix of dorm and apartment. It is a three story flat, with three bedrooms and the shower on one floor, three more bedrooms (including mine) and the bath on the next, and one more bedroom and the kitchen on the top. Two of my flatmates were here over the summer and previous term, so they’ve collected all sorts of kitchen things which they have graciously established as “common” I’ve got a cupboard of my own and two half-shelves of a mini-fridge (all my past roommates are probably cringing on my behalf right now). One flat mate is from a town about four hours north of London, one is from Boston, two from Hong Kong, and one from Korea. Our seventh has yet to emerge. It feels dormish, because the doors are sterile and heavy, so even if you are inside they are hard to prop open. And since we are stacked right on top of each other, it doesn’t feel very communal. However, last night we were all around the same time and hung out in the kitchen for a while, talking about our quirks and whether we wanted to pay for internet or not. My room is quite decent, it is smallish, but all my stuff fits with a bit of room to spare. I have a sink and mirror in my room. The only downside is that I am on the side of the building that looks over the main arterial of south-east London, so the traffic never dies down. I am pretty grateful for the earplugs from the airplane. The first night I arrived, there was a New International Student Buffet that was canceled, so a bunch of girls and I (commonly united in starvation) joined up and found an Indian restaurant. There are a few from the US, one from Norway, one from Canada, one from Hong Kong, and one from Australia. We bonded, which made for some friendly faces during the first few orientation meetings yesterday. We also joined up for the “Welcome Night” at the campus pub (so yes, I am in London) which had a dance floor, disco ball, and music that would put my high school dances to shame. It was way too loud for any decent conversation so after our ears started bleeding (and a huge group of freshman showed up) we relocated to a local pub named the Hobgoblin. We shared our “To Do” errand lists and are joining up this morning to run them all together. They all are a lot of fun (and they think I’m funny!) and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better. Oh, my flat is right next to a frozen food market (named Iceland, hee) and a block away from a Safeway-like supermarket, so access food will never be an issue. At the market they have helpful aisle labels like “Cereal” and “Healthier Cereal” and “Yogurt” and “Healthier Yogurt” so I am in no danger of accidentally buying un-healthy yogurt, A bunch of us are going to register at the college fitness club together, and I found some Pilates partners, so already I’ve got some good support for staying healthy. And I think I shall call this a post. To summarize for those who skimmed, I’m tired but good. Feelings will catch up soon, I’m sure. Next post will be reflective, that’s a guarantee. Cheers!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

London, like England??

In less than 24 hours, I will be boarding a plane to London to begin graduate school! I am enrolled in a 12 month Masters program in Sociology at Goldsmiths College, part of the University of London network in Southeast London. The program itself is titled Culture, Globalization, and the City. It looks at emerging trends of globalization and urbanization and how they interact with each other. Pretty much, I get to study London and how it is changing (using big words). I will be living on campus in an apartment with six other postgraduates (don't know who yet).
This journey actually began just over a year ago, when I attended a conference that challenged me as an interculturalist. I realized that if I wanted to consider myself an interculturalist, and actually be an effective change agent, I would need to get out of my own culture and experience something completely different. After a lot of mulling and web searches, I literally stumbled across this program, and I was amazed at how they were able to create a program exactly for me! The program itself is housed in an Urban Research Center, and I am looking forward to doing research and case studies all around the city.
I do not know anyone there (although a fellow summer staffer from MPPC is in Scotland for the year, and we are already making plans), and have never been before, so this adventure is completely new. I plan to keep everyone updated on this site, via posts and pictures. Enjoy!