Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rough weekend

Whew, tough weekend. Those friends who haven't left yet are leaving today. All of them. I'm all alone...

Friday, my policy essay was due, so I had to actually sit down and write it. I thought it would take all day, but by noon, I had run out of things to say and I was at about 1500 words, so I wrapped it up and went to turn it in. I also emailed my TB essay to my tutor. Then I picked up the scores for my extended epi test. The thing about this test was:

  1. the midterm test (back in Nov) was take-home, open-note, and I still got 4 answers wrong
  2. this final test was in-class, closed-note, so I knew I'd get at least 4 wrong
  3. the score doesn't count for anything, it's just to let us know where we are
  4. they held a review session in class the day before
  5. the review session did not cover certain details, so I figured they weren't important to learn, but then they appeared on the test
  6. at the end of the review session, the professor said, "This test is really no big deal, so I don't want anyone worrying about it"
  7. the test was awful and horribly hard and almost everyone came out of it dejected and surprised with how difficult it was

I felt like I was guessing on at least 50% of the answers, so I was sure that my score was going to be awful. Everyone else I talked to felt the same. Well, my score was a 17 out of 20. I don't even understand how that's possible! I guess I'm just one smart cookie.

Anyway, all this to say that I was feeling extremely pleased with myself on Friday afternoon. But there was no one around to share my joy with, so it kind of dissipated. I went home and watched tv online until 6:30, when Carina came over for pizza and drinks. It was our school's Christmas party that night, and we were planning on going dancing afterward.

The party was a bit, well, empty. We got there late and there was still not many people there, so we really didn't stay long. At one point, though, Carina said, "That boy in the jumper is cute. Let's go talk to him." To which I replied, "Um, no! You can't just walk up to a strange boy and start chatting him up!" But apparently you can, because Carina grabbed my hand and dragged me over to him and his friend to chat them up. Unfortunately, though, they were not very friendly boys and clearly did not appreciate the fact that two hot girls were chatting them up. Their loss!

Kate at the party, with a ridiculously large glass of beer.

Carina disappeared for a while, and returned with her brother. I was a bit surprised to see her brother in our crappy school bar, because he is used to hanging out in really posh places. For example, just the night before he had texted Carina to tell her that he was standing next to Rod Stewart. Later in the evening, he sent another text saying, "William and Harry are here." WILLIAM AND HARRY, PEOPLE!!!!!! But he came to our little, orange-painted bar to gather us up and whisk us off to Chelsea for dancing. We took a taxi! It was my first time in a taxi in London! When we got to Chelsea, we met Carina's brother's friend's friends, who were all Swiss. One of them shook my hand and introduced himself. When he heard that I was American, he said, "Oh, that's why you're distant." Um, excuse me? This guy turned out to be not very nice. Later in the evening, he insulted Anita's French, and not in a flirty, friendly way.

So, I had a good time Friday night, but by the end of the night, I was feeling like chopped liver. In the club, there were about 3 men for every woman, and all the other girls in my group were getting attention from the boys, but I got nothing! I danced for ages, and no one danced with me. The guys there would rather dance with each other than with me. All in all, I got the impression that men want nothing to do with me, and I think that mixed with too much red wine to make me quite depressed. I was hungover Saturday morning, and I just ended up moping in my room the entire day. French/English/Swiss Laura was going out for birthday drinks, and I had told her I would go, but I was still feeling really depressed when it was time to go. I thought going out might cheer me up, though, so I went. And you know what? It did cheer me up! I got to see a few of my classmates before they all leave for the holidays, so it was really good. The night ended early, though, and I was still feeling like being out, so I texted Carina to see if she was out and about. She invited me to a house party, so I went and I had a really good time. It also boosted my self-esteem, because a cute boy there thought I was cute (no less than two people told me that). Also, there was this other guy who introduced himself to me, and when I told him I was from Seattle, he said, "Oh, like in 'Battle in Seattle!'" (a movie about the 1999 WTO protests, starring Woody Harrelson.) Then he kept pulling other guys aside and saying, "This girl's from Seattle!" and they would all respond, "Oh, as in 'Battle in Seattle!'" I felt very popular for a while. So, Saturday made up for Friday, and I feel all better now. It is clear, though, that I should never go clubbing in Chelsea.

The house with the party used to be a brothel, and the
landlord painted this sign in an attempt to warn men
that the house was no longer a brothel.
Apparently, they still get guys ringing the doorbell
thinking they're gonna get some action.

Friday, December 19, 2008


It worries me how little studying I've been doing lately. Oh well! Life goes on!

Tonight, I went to a performance called, "Barbershopera," with my classmates, Claire and French/English/Swiss Laura (not to be confused with Scottish Laura). A musical sung (almost) entirely in Barber Shop Quartet, it had to be interesting at least. Claire's friend wrote and starred in it, and it sounded like it might be fun.

It was absolutely BRILLIANT! It was in a tiny theater above a pub in Clapham Junction (south of the river! Gasp!) It was about a barber shop quartet who lose their tenor the day before a huge competition. In desparation, they hire an unemployed, female! opera singer to replace the tenor. It was amazing. The songs, the choreography, the jokes. I had so much fun! It kind of made up for the two sort of lame/scary pantomimes I went to. This was real theater! Or theatre, I should say.

Okay, back to studying. It's just after midnight and I want to get my essay to 500 words before going to bed. (Yes, I just started it an hour or so ago.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


A bit of Banksy for your viewing pleasure:

Man, it's been ages since I posted. Like, a whole week! Can you believe it? So much going on. I shouldn't even be posting now; I'm trying to study for two tests (neither of which count toward anything) and write an essay (which also doesn't count toward anything.) I know, life is rough, right?

Tuesday: Went to "Cinderella" pantomime. It was super bizarre. The ugly step-sisters were scary (both played by men) and if I was a seven-year-old, I would have been crying. Also, they changed the story of Cinderella! Her dad was alive, but her step-mom was dead. Her two step-sisters made her do all the chores and generally treated her like a slave, and her dad, who was supposed to be nice and sweet, just stood by and watched. He didn't even really wring his hands much.

Wednesday: Skipped epi to go to the doctor. Was told the wait might be up to an hour. In fact, it was an hour and 15 minutes and I hadn't taken a book with me. The doctor said it was probably viral (so not caused by evil evil alcohol as I had postulated). When I mentioned blood in my sputum, he prescribed a chest x-ray just in case. I'm confident the blood came from my throat, though, and not my lungs. In the afternoon, I gave my Health Policy presentation. It went really well, despite the fact that I HATE THAT CLASS WITH ALL MY BEING.

Thursday: Went to class and spread my germs. Forgot I was sick at one point and handed out cake to a couple people. We'll have to see if they get sick! In the evening, bought an adorable party dress for the Christmas party, then came home to a box full of wonderful goodies from home!


Friday: Skipped morning class due to feeling crappy. Started knitting (yay for knitting needles and yarn!) and decided to skip afternoon class as well. Why spread germs when you can knit? Knitted myself a hat to match my scarf, then went to our class Christmas party. Fun fun fun! Was invited to no less than three after-parties, but declined all due to being sickly. Pictures here.

Saturday: Studied (a bit), mailed packages home, then went to another Christmas party. It was raining on the way there, and I got soaked, then my coat was all damp on the way home. Just great. Add pneumonia to my list of ills! (just kidding: I'm vaccinated against it)

Sunday: Studied (a bit), went for burritos with Adorable Alex. Yum yum!

Tuesday: Saw some proper Bobbies walking around school. I told Laura about it, and she said something crude about what their hats look like. I love Laura.

I am sad for all my lovely friends to leave me during Christmas. :-( Laura is going to Scotland, then Korea, then back to Scotland. Alex is going home to Georgia. Tanya is going home, Carina will be going to Geneva, etc. Even Holly is going off to Bath. I'll probably tag along at some point. But it won't be long until Jacque is here, and then Rania will be here soon after. YAAAYYY!!!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm not getting sick, again

So...what have I been up to lately? Not much, I guess. I'm a bit sick, again. Not happy about it.

I've noticed something weird since I've been in London. Anytime I have an alcoholic drink, even if it's just a half-pint of cider and I don't even get tipsy, I wake up the next morning with a scratchy throat. On Halloween, the sort throat turned into a full-on infection, and I was coughing for a couple weeks. Then this week, I had that cup of mulled wine on Saturday, and woke up Sunday with a scratchy throat that has worsened over the last couple days. I looked at my throat with a flashlight on Sunday, and the whole back of my throat looked bloodshot. Sunday night, I dreamt of cough drops. I bought some yesterday, and today in class, after sucking on one, my throat got completely itchy and inflamed. I had to do that gross thing where you try to scratch your throat with the back of your tongue (Becky knows what I'm talking about). This morning, I coughed up some phlegm, and there was blood in it! I'm clearly dying of TB.

Anyway, my throat hates me. I had a doctor appointment scheduled for tomorrow night, but they just called to cancel. I'll have to skip part of epidemiology to go in. I can't continue with my throat like this!

All in all, though, I'm not letting my throat stand in the way of life in London. On Sunday, I went Christmas shopping with Holly, but only ended up spending money on clothes for myself. There is a green shirt that I decided I had to own in order to go on living a happy life. I feel a bit bad for that, because I really haven't been spending much on anyone else. You're all getting cheap trinkets and stuff. :-) But I did make up for it a bit by going Christmas shopping on Monday and returning some of the clothes I bought for myself. Sunday night, I met my friend, Alex, in the library and got a couple hours of work done on my TB essay. Then Alex came over and we watched Love, Actually in my residence hall DVD room. It felt weird to look at all the scenes I had seen before and think, "I live there," instead of "I really want to live there." Result!

Monday night, Laura and I went to the inaugural session of Dance Aerobics in our hall. For some reason, I thought it would be heavier on the aerobics and lighter on the dance. Silly me. What with having neither rhythm nor coordination, I had a bit of trouble. Luckily, so did everyone else (though not as much trouble as me). The teacher quickly realized that we were all useless, and had to slowly walk us through each step. I think it was really frustrating for her as a dancer, but she was really nice about it. Not like those parkour drill sargeants. It's becoming more and more clear to me that I'm really not meant to exercise. I can walk miles around London, but anything more strenuous than that and my body collapses into a heap of aching, uncoordinated spasms.

In about half an hour, I set off for Cinderella pantomime. Yaaayy!! I'm so excited about it, I even shaved my legs. Then I covered them up with jeans, but the effort is what counts.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Winter Wonderland

I got a Christmas card from Sarah! Yay!!

I have sort of started very slowly and lazily decorating my room for Christmas. I bought some fairy lights a couple weeks ago, and have lined the back of one of my shelves with wrapping paper (will do the other three eventually).

I also bought myself an advent calendar. Yay! It's lame, though, because they spoil Christmas! As you might be able to see in the picture, there is no door over the 25th of December. They show you exactly what's in there, thus spoiling the surprise! Dummies.

Also, I started attaching all letters and postcards to the side of my wardrobe, just because.

I met a bunch of friends in Hyde Park this evening for a sort of Christmas fair. They had rides, and booths selling handmade stuff (a "German market"), and ice skating, and, most importantly, food. We were all more than a bit peckish, and as we were all members of the Hot Dog Appreciation Society, we partook of some lovely bratwurst, sauerkraut and all. Mmm mm.

Appreciating sausages

After the feast, we were all thirsty, so we forked over 4 pounds for a tall coffee-cup of mulled wine. That's a pretty extortionate price for a cup of mulled wine, but I guess they justify it by making the wine ludicrously strong. I swear there was gin in there, too. Anyway, we wandered around, did some shopping, got quite tipsy, giggled at absolutely everything, tried on some hats, then settled down to some cotton candy. Pictures here. Are my classmates not ridiculously adorable?

Saturday, December 06, 2008


I think there's a woodpecker on my building. Knock it off, you stupid bird! I'm actually trying to study for once!

Hot dog appreciation and Panto

Darn it! I can't believe I forgot! Happy day-after-your Birthday, Ross!!

Oh, yeah, Mama. You'd fit right in here.

Migraine Maven: Yeah, I had a discussion about "rubbers" with Holly and Laura. I knew it meant condoms and erasers, but I also thought it was used to mean wellies. They said "no," though.

My classmate, Aparna, decided to create a Hotdog Appreciation Society on Facebook, so of course I HAD to join. Last night after class, we had our first club meeting at a place called Gourmet Hotdog Company in Soho. I'm sad to say that I was unable to appreciate my hotdog. I thought I'd balance my unhealthy beef hotdog with a healthy wheat bun. Bad idea. I also ordered fries, and they were cold and awful. Poo.

After that, I went to my first pantomime with another classmate, Maya. It wasn't quite a proper panto, but they tried. Pantomime is a quintessentially British phenomenon. A pantomime is a play put on around Christmas time. Key elements to every panto include a man dressed as a woman, a woman dressed as a man, audience participation, and lots of bawdy innuendo jokes. See the wikipedia page for more conventions. We went to see a reworking of Robin Hood, done by students at Imperial College London. I assumed they were drama students, but Maya said they weren't, and that explains a lot. It was fun, though, and very funny, if "unpolished." The Sherriff of Nottingham was hilarious. He thought he was a pimp and spent much of the first act sitting next to a girl in the audience, trying to seduce her. Since he was the villain, everyone had to "boo" him during curtain call.

Next week, a large group from our course is going to a proper pantomime (i.e. professional). It'll be Cinderella, and I'm really excited about it. I want to buy a party dress and wear it to all the Christmas and New Year's events. People may get tired of seeing me in the same dress, but I don't care. I have to justify spending money on it!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Life on the NHS

I posted before about how I was worried that it would take forever to get treatment/testing for my sleep disorders because of the burdens on the national health service. A couple weeks ago, I went to see my GP and ask for a referral to a sleep doctor. This required me photocopying my large packet of test results from back home so that she could review them before referring me. Apparently, the data were sufficient to warrant a referral, and today I saw a doctor at the hospital.

There was no indication that this doctor was a sleep specialist. I'm not even sure I was in a "sleep clinic." It was just called, "Clinic D," and many of the other patients in the waiting room were geriatric. Anyway, my GP had apparently not passed my previous test results onto this sleep doctor, but whatever. He said he wouldn't do any more blood work since I told him I've had plenty and it's always normal, but he wants me to do another overnight sleep study (would only be my fifth in so many years) so they can make their own decision. At what point do I say, "Enough!! Just f***ing fix it!"? All I really want to know is whether the doctor thinks I should be sleeping with my CPAP machine (please say "no," please say "no"). But I suppose it won't hurt to have another test done. It's further confirmation, so I should be happy. It's just that every time I have one of these, I get my hopes up that I'll actually get effective treatment, and then I spend months trying different things, and they all fail. I think I have no hope anymore.

And that's fine. I'll get the test done, they'll tell me to sleep with the machine, and maybe I'll try another drug that doesn't work. None the worse for wear, and at least I'll be making an effort.

The doctor said they do their sleep studies differently than in the States. The ones I've had before involved electrodes attached to my chest, legs, and various places on my head and face. This makes it really hard to sleep normally. The doctor here said they don't do any of that. They just videotape you and record the sounds you make. That doesn't sound like it would be very sensitive! He said the bedspread is spotted, so they can see movement more easily. How bizarre!! We'll see how this goes. It sounds like it should be more relaxing than my experiences at Harborview (drab rooms, loud hallway, thin mattresses, lots of stuff attached to you so you can't turn in your sleep=useless.)

Anyway, my real point of this post was to say that you hear all kinds of awful things about the NHS, but so far, my experience has been exactly the same as at home with private providers. The referral time from GP to specialist was the same. The sleep doc said the wait time for an overnight study is about 1 month, which is exactly what it was with Harborview/UW Physicians, and he said they'd automatically schedule a follow-up appointment when they got the results, which is better than UW Phys. And this time, it's all free! At least I think it is...Not sure about the sleep study. I'll have to check with my sources (i.e. British classmates).

Prescriptions here are all 6 pounds, no matter what they are (except contraceptive pills, which are FREE.) But if you have a chronic disease, you get everything absolutely free. Holly has diabetes, and she gets all her insulin shots and tester thingies free, but she also gets everything else, like antibiotics for an infection, free. I know there are huge negatives associated with universal healthcare, but that one sounds like a positive to me.

In other news, I have booked a flight to Hamburg for Easter! Woot woot! Also, I just bought a pair of rain boots online. :-) Language barrier: I told Holly I wanted a pair of rain boots, and she said, "You mean wellies?" When I said, "Yes," she said, "I wasn't sure what rain boots were." Well, boots that you wear when it's wet, obviously! Silly English.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Parkour sucks

Oh my goodness, I want to die. My head hurts. And that's nothing. Tomorrow, my whole body will be completely stiff.

Tonight, I foolishly allowed my classmate, Sally, to convince me to attend a "beginner's" course on parkour. I've known of parkour for a while, since I lived in France, so when Sally said she was trying it, I was intrigued. The people running it were like drill sargeants. They'd shout at you if you couldn't hold a stretch. They started with an insane warm-up session. Around a large rectangular part of the gym, we had to run forwards, sideways, and backwards (no big deal), then hop the whole way with our feet together, then crawl the whole way on our hands and feet, then do several push-ups, then walk the whole way on our hands and feet like monkeys, then special monkey push-ups, etc. I gave up after a while.

Then came the fun part of doing somersaults and jumping over obstacles. We started by running at and up a wall. I was not good at this. You're supposed to run at the wall, then put one foot up on the wall to vault yourself upwards. There was no vaulting for me. Jumping over things was fun, but I sucked at it. I think I chicken out and don't get the momentum to clear the thing, so I kind of inchworm over it.

Towards the end of all this jumping and sumersaulting, the fire alarm went off and we were forced to leave the building. Temperatures are just above freezing here in London, so it was a bit cold, but that didn't matter because the drill sargeants made us jump up the stairs (feet together, body low to the ground) and climb up the stairs backwards on our hands and knees. Then they made us crouch down, jump, and land back in crouching position. We were let back into the building, but not before my leg muscles turned to mush.

Once back in the building, we had "warm-down" which was really like a yoga session (but more brutal). I stopped going to yoga because the woman mentioned doing hand stands and I freaked out, but now I think yoga, hand stands and all, is a walk in the park. I'll do any other sport or exercise routine, just please don't make me go back to parkour! Who needs to climb walls or jump fences anyway? Not me! Jazzercise. That's the sport for me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving in London, Weekend in Sussex

I'm very happy to report that Thanksgiving was a great success! I always worry when I plan parties. Actually, I always worry period. But especially when I plan parties that there won't be enough food, or the food will suck, or not many people will come, or they'll all be bored. The whole week before Thanksgiving, several people asked me several times if one turkey was going to be enough for everyone (it said it fed 8-10, and we were expecting 20 people). Each time, I assured them that one turkey would be plenty, as no one really likes turkey that much anyway. Why waste precious money on multiple turkeys? But their constant questions did make me fret a bit that it wouldn't be enough.

None of that happened. There was the perfect amount of food: everyone got enough, and there were hardly any leftovers. Many people complained of being full or bloated, which I assured them was traditional and proper. Everyone from our course was invited, and some people came that haven't attended any other social events, so that made me happy. Those who didn't show up are excused on the basis that they wouldn't have fit in the apartment.

My wonderful classmates:

See more pictures here.

Holly brought leftover sparklers from Bonfire Night, so we all went to the park after dinner and played with sparklers. FUN!

After class on Friday, Laura, Holly, and I headed to Holly's home in Sussex. We stayed until Sunday morning, and it was lovely as always, plus quite relaxing. We went to the pub, The Hatch, for drinks Friday night. Saturday was miserable weather, so we bundled up and pulled on Wellies and trudged across the fields to...the pub. This time for tea and coffee, though.


All bundled up

Deer chillin' with the horsies

Saturday night, we played a couple games of Scrabble. Holly was score-keeper, and she won both times. Coincidence? Hard to say...For dinner, we had proper, English, take-away fish n' chips. I'm a little ashamed to say this was my first fish n' chips, though I've been here two and a half months. But that's London's fault. No one knows where to find good fish and chips in London, though I've spotted a couple places that I need to try out. Anyway, it was DELICIOUS. It's rare for me to say "no" to anything that's been fried.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Venture into Chelsea

Happy Birthday, Mama!

Ms. Petey, old people who have retired and are living off of social security, aka "pensioners," are poor. Nobody cares about them because they're old. This knitting campaign would give the impression that there is an epidemic of pensioners unable to pay their heating bills, or even to buy blankets for themselves. Check their website for more info: Age Concern. I can't knit anyone anything because I left my knitting stuff at home. Michele is going to send it all to me, though, so it's all good! Michele is my hero!

Jax, I'll show you what I plan to do with the caps.

Cold little rat ears.

Last night, I went to "Korean Night" at the School of Oriental and African Studies. The posters promised Korean music videos, but there was no music, and no videos. The food was DELICIOUS, though! Yummy yummy in my tummy! Two of my classmates have lived in Korea, and they introduced me to Soju, which is a Korean alcoholic beverage. It was sort of like vodka with a fruity aftertaste.

Today was a long but good day. I had Health Policy in the afternoon, the class that I very passionately hate. Lecture was ridiculous as usual, but seminar was surprisingly not too bad. Dare I say, I mildly enjoyed myself? After class, I rushed across town to Chelsea in order to buy all-important French's Fried Onions, the most important ingredient in green bean casserole. It was sort of silly to travel across town just for a can of fried onions, but I don't know where else in the city you can buy American foods. I texted my classmate, Carina, who lives in Chelsea, and she invited me over to watch a bit of "telly." I showed her the onions and described green bean casserole, and she went off on a rant about the bizarre traditional foods that we eat for Thanksgiving. She was particularly upset about the marshmallows that are applied to "sweet potatoes." (Apparently, in the UK, sweet potatoes are "yams," and yams are "sweet potatoes." I just checked wikipedia, and it turns out the Americans have it wrong. Surprise, surprise.)

Chelsea is a really, really wealthy part of London. The wealthiest part, actually. It follows that Carina is rich. :-) Her parents are "in the oil business," and her brother works in finance. She lives with him, so she doesn't have to pay rent. Sweet deal. It was nice chilling with her, but then Gray's Anatomy came on, so I had to leave because I hate that show. Also, Seth Greene was squirting blood all over this one doctor, and it was nasty. On the way home, because it was lateish and I hadn't eaten dinner, I answered the call of the Golden Arches and partook of my very first McDonald's meal since arriving here. Sadly, I cannot say it was particularly enjoyable. Whatevs.

Ooh, also, on the tube going home, a guy with a purse sat down next to me. I don't mean a guy with a manbag. It was a full-on, stylish, leather, woman's purse. I stealthily looked at him to confirm that he wasn't just a short-haired woman. He wasn't. It was odd because he didn't look otherwise effeminate at all.

Hm, I'm quite concerned about the situation in Mumbai. Very sad and tense. Terrorism sucks. It needs to go away.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Older people

I went grocery shopping today, and bought something I wouldn't normally buy. There is a brand called Innocent that sells smoothies in a bottle. I wouldn't normally buy them because they're sort of a frivolous spend, and, you know, bottles are bad for the environment. But I bought two little bottles tonight because they came with the cutest little knitted hats (and they were on sale)!

Here's what the tag says:
Every year, we ask the nation to knit little hats to go on our smoothies. For each behatted bottle sold, we (innocent and Sainsbury's) donate 50p to Age Concern.
Age Concern is a charity that provides hot meals, blankets, and heating advice to "older people" who can't afford to heat their homes. Isn't that sweet? I'm getting all teary-eyed just thinking about it.

It has a button on top! So cute!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lack of snow and Snow

Becky, luckily, you don't live in a TB endemic area, so ignoring a persistent cough, while not a good idea, probably won't kill you. Probably. But yeah, I'm the same way. I don't go to the doctor for infectious diseases, only chronic stuff. That's probably because, for whatever reason, I never get really nasty stuff, just your average common cold.

So far, I haven't seen a flake of snow. I was out until midnight last night, and the sky was clear the whole time. It was really frickin freezing, though. There might have been snow in the early morning, but it was rain by the time I woke up. It's been raining off and on all day. Maybe we'll get snow tonight? I doubt it, though it is bitterly cold out there. Brrr!

Last night, I went out for Indian with Karen, Patricia, the Irish girls (Sharon and Aisling), and Neil (Canadian guy who read my palm and told me I was going to die an early, tragic death, but have a good love life). The food was delicious, and under GBP 8. It was near Carnaby Street, which is a good place to go for funky shops. Hovering over Carnaby Street and all the side streets where giant, blow-up snowmen.

Giant electrical plug on side of a building

Afterwards, we tried to go to the John Snow pub, but it was packed. John Snow was one of the first epidemiologists. He studied the waves of cholera outbreaks that swept through London in the, um...past. The 1880's maybe? Anyway, he speculated, correctly, that cholera was a water-borne infection caused by drinking sewage-contaminated water. He mapped cases in the Soho area, and figured out that they originated from the Broad St water pump, so he famously removed the pump handle, and people stopped getting cholera! (A good epidemiology student knows, though, that he wasn't really responsible for the decrease in cases. Cases were already on the decline when he removed the handle.)

Anyway, a pub in Soho was named after him, and is home to the famous pump handle. At my school, a lot of classes will go to the John Snow pub after the last lecture of the term to celebrate end of term. People at my school LOVE the John Snow pub. Someday, I will partake of a refreshing beverage there. Someday.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


The temperature dropped on Thursday night, so it was really cold yesterday, and we're supposed to get snow tonight. We'll see. I trust the weathermen here about as much as I trust them in Seattle.

Last night after class, we headed to the pub where the guy carded me, but I didn't get carded this time! Huzzah! I'm old enough to drink! Anyway, I couldn't stay long because Laura, Holly, and I were headed to see Wicked. We grabbed fish n' chips, which came wrapped up like giant cones, shoved them down our throats, and headed to Victoria for the show. I enjoyed it, but Holly and Laura were "underwhelmed." Laura said she thought it was a bit too "American." Well, it is American, after all. But I see what she means. The book was really dark, but the play is...well, a musical. It's a bit cheesy, and happy-fun-times. The girl who played Elphaba had an amazing singing voice, but too often eschewed it for a nasal, baby-doll voice that made my ears hurt. Also, she couldn't seem to decide on an accent. "Am I American? Am I British?" Which is odd because the actress is British. Perhaps my accent-radar is broken from overuse?

After the show, we decided to walk towards Westminster. Originally, the idea was to find a pub, but then we decided to just walk across London. You know what's awesome? Westminster Abbey at night. Laura, despite being from the UK (Scotland) and having lived in London as long as I have, had never yet been down to Westminster to see Big Ben. We paused for photos, and when I looked up at Big Ben, I noticed stars. Stars in London! Granted, they were really faint, but there they were.

Well, I really should be working on my essay about tuberculosis and the reasons why patients delay in seeking care for a persistent cough. Later!

Friday, November 21, 2008

My hard-knock life

hahaha! That was certainly the desired reaction. Misery loves company.

Migraine Maven, yeah, I see what you mean. But I'd only go to med school to become a tropical doctor, so I'd come across them eventually. I might come across them anyway, but I certainly hope not. Microbes for me!

John, various ways. Some through unclean water, some just by walking through the garden barefoot.

Yesterday, our school put on a careers fair that made our entire course freak out about our job prospects. Every organization that was there, and they were mostly all amazing NGOs, like Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam, they ALL were only looking for doctors, nurses, or lab techs. As few people on our course want to be any of those things, it was very discouraging. The other common theme was that the "jobs" we do qualify for are unpaid, volunteer positions. Eh, who needs to eat or pay off school loans anyway?

Today, we got the morning off, which was really nice, but then we had a Guinea worm lecture in the afternoon. I'll spare you the details of what that does to the body. It's really gross, but not nearly as bad as roundworm, I think. Tomorrow, we have a whole freaking day of more worms. Grr. At least when this week is over, I'll be done with worms (I think...unless we have a disgusting lab practical coming up).

So, I'm trying to plan a big Thanksgiving shindig for my class. It's hard! We have class all day Thursday, and we're gonna try to have a big dinner after class, but everyone will have to cook the food the night before. Then I have no idea how they'll reheat it. It all depends on where we have the party, I suppose. This is difficult, and I don't like doing things that are difficult! Poo!

Joderita: What? Colin Farrell? Explain!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ickiness i.e. worms

New pictures uploaded! Tower of London! Spitalfields Market! Amsterdam and Bruges!

Other pictures of my room and stuff:

Ikea glass and bottle

Polka-dotty bowl

Above my desk 1

Above my desk 2

Please don't hate me for buying these boots. I realize that they are sort of bootimals, but I like them. I've been wanting boots since I got here (everyone has boots), and I bought them on ebay for $21.

They're PINK!!! Actually, the ebay thing was pretty funny. I've never used it before. I ended up bidding on these ones, and another pair that had four days of the auction left. When I won these ones, I was still the highest bidder on the other pair, which were actually this same pair of boots, but in tan. haha! I checked when the tan pair was down to four hours, and I was still the highest bidder. I was getting very antsy, but then someone finally outbid me in the last hours of the auction. Phew!

This afternoon was, by far, my least favorite lecture yet. Some lectures are bad because of the lecturer, or the slides, but others are bad because of the topic. Today's was the latter.

Remember that picture I showed of the classification of poop? That was nothing. In the sexually transmitted infections lectures that we had a few weeks ago, the lecturer showed pictures of oozing penises and cervixes. A walk in the park compared to today.

WARNING: Graphic descriptions follow. If you have a weak stomach, seriously consider not reading any further. Seriously. That means you, Becky.

Today's lecture was about helminthes. "Helminthe" is Greek for "worm." Becky, remember when Mathilda coughed up a worm? We had a three-hour lecture all about that, but in humans, of course. It was going along fine until we got to the nematodes, and the lecturer showed us a picture of a child's anus with worms coming out of it. Apparently, at night, the worms crawl out of the anus to lay eggs, and can potentially crawl into the vagina. BUT THEN we got to the common roundworm, Ascaris lumbricoides, and a picture of a child's butt and legs, with a large amount of what looked like very thick spaghetti coming out of its anus. There was also a picture a child with what looked like spaghetti coming out of its nostrils.

The lecturer also passed around a long tube full of nematodes. When it got to the girl next to me, I had to close my eyes, turn my head 180 degrees away, and move my body as far away from it as possible as she passed the tube to the girl on the other side of me.

I had the urge to swallow copious amounts of pure alcohol to sterilize my innards from any potential worms, but I sort of doubt that would work. It's funny, because I was actually thinking the other day that maybe I could go to medical school after all. WRONG. Or as Dwight Schrute would say, FALSE. I was right to stick with microbes.

Must think about other dinner. Oh no, bad idea. No food for me. Happy thoughts. Rainbows. Twinkly stars. The Daily Show. Yes, I could do with some Jon Stewart right about now. That reminds me of our lunch lecture, which was about antimicrobial resistance. The lecturer said his boss was Conan O'Brien's dad, but he said that he personally preferred Jon Stewart. I agree, though Conan is awesome.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Amster-Dam Girl!

Sara, I have found the geek store in London (one, at least). It's called Fantasy Planet. I didn't go inside because I was in a hurry, but it looks promising.

So, Amsterdam. GORGEOUS! I love Dutch architecture! I think Amsterdam is my new favorite city. Unfortunately, I can't upload any of my photos, because I loaned my uploader cord to a friend who will not be named, and she lost it. Grr.

UPDATE: She who must not be named very promptly bought me a new and improved USB thingy! Yay! Pictures here.

I went to Amsterdam with two schoolmates, Patricia and Karen. We booked a tour with a tour group, which included transport, accommodation in a youth hostel, a canal cruise, entrance to a site with a bunch of windmills, and a few hours in Bruges. We left London by coach bus at 6am, got to Dover around 8:30. I really need to go back to Dover and explore the famous white cliffs. Parts of the cliffs were carved out as a military fortress, and you can go inside. We took the ferry from Dover to Calais, in France, then drove straight through France and Belgium to Amsterdam. It felt weird being back on French soil and not being able to stay.

We got to Amsterdam after dark, and I noted that all the homes I could see were way more inviting than any homes I pass in London. England is a dreary, dreary place. I don't know what possessed me to come here. To be fair, though, the weather in Amsterdam was dreary as well, but the houses looked so much more comfortable. We got off the coach and immediately hopped on a canal cruise, which gave us a good introduction to the city and it's architecture. Many of the row houses lining the canals used to be warehouses, but have been converted into amazing homes, where the owners kindly leave the curtains wide open so all the tourists can peer in. We then checked into our youth hostel, and rushed back out for a tour of the red light district. Having been through the red light district in Hamburg, I wasn't too shocked by anything I saw. All the women were covered up top and down below, but some of their "outfits" were scimpier than others. Some just had a thin piece of cloth stretched across their chests. The most disturbing thing about the red light district was the looks we got from the hoards of men there. It was like they couldn't turn off their horny leering when switching from looking at a prostitute to looking at a woman on the street. And we were all wearing heavy winter coats and scarves!

On Saturday, we all hopped on the bus and drove about 20 minutes into the countryside, to a site called Zaanse Schanse, "a living Dutch museum." Basically, the Dutch were worried about losing their heritage to modernization, so they dismantled some historic buildings, including several full-size windmills, and reassembled them in one site. We were treated to a demonstration of clog-making and another of cheese-making. The clogs were awesome! They had some really cute polka dot ones, and I really wanted a pair, but I couldn't justify it because there's never a time when I would need or want to wear them. I settled on a miniature pair to display. We didn't go up into the windmills cuz they costed money (only a few euros, but I've been on a windmill in Germany, so whatevs).

We got back to the city around noon, and Patricia, Karen, and I headed to the old Heineken factory. I'm still not sure if it was worth the 10 euro. The factory is no longer in use, so they didn't actually demonstrate beer-making, and it wasn't much of a museum. The whole place was just a giant advertisement. The self-guided tour goes through the stables, where there were no horses, then a "ride" called "Brew U" involving a movable platform in front of a big screen showing a video that made it seem like you were being brewed and bottled, then they gave us our first half-pint of beer, then a weird room with videos of people playing soccer all over the world, then a room where you have the option to pay money to get a personalized bottle of beer, a room where you can take absurdly dark photos of yourself and email them to friends, a room with futuristic chairs where you can watch Heineken tv commercials through the years, a room with a bunch of soccer gear, and finally, another half-pint of the product. So we payed 10 euro for two half-pints (and we each only drank one) and to be bombarded by advertisements.

After that, we headed to the Anne Frank house, which was only 7.50 euros, but significantly more relevant and interesting. Funny how that works. It was weird to stand in the very rooms where she and her family were in hiding for two years. It was hard to imagine them there, though, because there was no furniture at all. The Nazis cleared out the furniture after arresting her family, and it was her father's wish that the rooms remain unfurnished. Still, Anne had pasted many pictures and newspaper clippings to her wall, and these remained, as did a pencil-marked chart of Anne's and her sister's growth over the years.

Karen and Patricia, like me, were not interested in the cannabis-related activities available in Amsterdam, but we felt like we should do something scandalous while there, so we went to a "sex museum." I assumed it would be sort of classy, if pornographic. No. There was not an ounce of class to be found in the place. Just many disturbing drawings and photographs of people in various awkward positions, which large penises and breasts everywhere. Some involved bestiality. Disturbing!

Our youth hostel was actually in the red light district, which I discovered when I looked out of my room window to see a row of glass doors, backlit in red, where scantily-clad women were calling out to potential customers.

On Sunday, we left Amsterdam for home, with a stop in Bruges, Belgium. The city of Bruges is a UNESCO heritage site, and is was very cute. The architecture was similar to Amsterdam's, but more ornate. Karen, Patricia, and I climbed "the Belfry" (that was it's name, as if it's the only belfry in the world), which was 332 very narrow, spiraling stairs tall. I'm quite out of shape, it turns out! Afterwards, we focused on Belgian traditions: waffles, chocolate, and "French" fries. Mmm mmm!

A word about the people on the tour: all American, almost all women, all undergrads, and all surprisingly rude and unfriendly. We were doing our best to avoid them all weekend, and I had to listen to my iPod through the whole bus ride home to drown out their insipid chatter.

And that ends reading week. Stats was confusing today. I'm really starting to worry about the exam in June, because the questions they ask in practical sessions confuse me. I can't figure out what information they are asking for. Still, it's good to get back to a structured schedule. Time off always makes me feel disoriented.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Halloween pics

More Halloween pictures (from Holly)

Prize for participating in
games: gummy eyeballs

(L-R: Urla--witch, me, Cheryl--chicken pox)

Drinking game

I am so very attractive.
(Patricia--Viagra, Anita--Cat, me)

Ugh. So embarrassing. My bra
is showing, and I look awful.

Yep, I'm a total hottie.

Group pic

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reading week

Well, it's reading week now, which is a week off from classes in which we're supposed to catch up on our reading and studying, but everyone leaves town instead. I myself am going to Amsterday Friday-Sunday, and am either going to Sussex with Holly for a day, or to Oxford with Carina and others for a day.

Yesterday, we had a "module fair" to help us decide which classes to take for the rest of the year. I had an insanely hard time deciding between "AIDS" and "Gender and Health," but in the end, I think I'll go with AIDS as the safe bet. It's taught by the guy who does all the TB/HIV work at the school, and since I'm interested in TB/HIV coinfection, I should try to get to know this guy.

I studied a bit in the afternoon, then a few of us from CID went bowling. Well, we were planning to go bowling, but all the lanes were booked until 9:30, so we did karaoke instead. SO MUCH FUN!!!

Alek, Cheryl, and Holly singing their hearts out


It was in a private room, so the 10 of us crammed into this little room and sang our hearts out en masse for two hours. I particularly enjoyed "Stronger," by Britney Spears, "It's all coming back to me now," by Celine Dion, "Total Eclipse of the Heart," by Bonnie Tyler, and "Believe" by Cher.

Adorable Alex and her nachos

Aparna and her dog

Afterward, a few of us went for a pint, and I decided to get a half-pint of cider (such a better alternative to beer!) Holly, who is one year younger and five inches shorter than me, ordered her drink. Laura, who is the same age as me, ordered her drink. When I ordered my half-pint, the bartender said something that I couldn't understand. "Do you not have half-pints?" I said. "A pint then." That was not what he was saying. "I need to see some ID," he repeated, this time a little sheepish.

Now, I get carded all the time back home, and think it's weird when I don't get carded. The policy in England is that they don't serve alcohol under 18, but they card if they think you look 21 or under. I haven't been carded here except to get into clubs, so this really threw me off and embarrassed me. I totally blushed, and was making a big deal of it with my friends, and when the guy gave me my change, he seemed really embarrassed. It was so awkward! I was upset because I felt like a 14-year-old, and Laura was upset because she didn't get carded. The 21-year-old in our group didn't get carded, but that might have been because she came after me and the guy was too embarrassed to card anyone else. Or it might have been because she looks like an adult and I look like a child. Hard to say.

It's hard to recover from that. It's hard to sit down with your drink in a room full of men and have any confidence that you're attractive. It's hard to stop being paranoid that everyone in the room is wondering who let a 14-year-old in the pub.

So Christmas is on everyone's minds, and it seems that EVERYONE is going home, leaving me alone in London. People keep asking me what I'll do for Christmas, and it's starting to make me feel a bit sorry for myself not having an answer for them. I told a couple of my friends last week that I'm expecting to meet my future husband any day now, so I'll probably spend Christmas with him, whoever he is. But then two great things happened in two days to solve my problem. First, Jacque booked a flight on the 27th of December! Yaaaaaayyyyyy!!!!!! I'm so excited!! As for Christmas itself, Holly told me that she talked to her parents, and they said they would love to have me for Christmas! Woohoo! Her family was awesome, so I'm excited about this. Thanks, Holly!

I hope that Jacque booking a flight to visit me will motivate some of my family to make plans to come visit me. It's depressing to hear my North American friends talk about their family visiting every other week, while I have no idea if anyone will visit me. Well, now Jacque is visiting, and I know Sara definitely intends to. Maybe I'll just replace family with friends. Who needs family anyway, right? Let me put it this way, family: after this year is up, I'll probably move to someplace like India or Africa. Would you rather pay the less-than $1000 to visit me in London, or $3500 to visit me in India or Africa?

Well, I'm off to learn all about TB/HIV coinfection. Unfortunately, the library chose today, in the middle of reading week, to move their catalogue to a different server, so it's unavailable. Thanks, guys!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, the next President of the United States of America

I woke up at about 4am due to a nasty cough, and couldn't get back to sleep, so I decided to check and see if we had a new President yet.

McCain has conceded! Barack Obama is the next President of the United States! It brings tears to my eyes, and that's not just the pain in the throat. Today, I am proud of America. At least we've done one thing right!

Sadly, there is no one around to celebrate with. I'll have to wait until morning to celebrate with classmates. It's alright, though, because today is Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night, and I get to go see fireworks. I know the fireworks are really celebrating the death of a man who tried to blow up Parliament, but to me, those will be Obama fireworks. It's almost guaranteed that I'll drop a tear.

Did I mention I'm sick?

Sick, sick. Sicky McSickerson.

I slept in late today, with the intention of being late to my morning lecture, then I thought I'd skip lecture and just go to the practical group, then I decided to skip the practical, too, and just go to afternoon classes.

So I slept until noon. I don't feel bad about that, because my body needs it. I feel more sick now (well, more stuffed-up and snotty), but I feel I should really go to my class tomorrow morning. Also, I'm supposed to give a short presentation during lunch, so I should try to make it to that. But I'm totally skipping Policy in the afternoon if there's even a hint of illness about me. I hate Policy. It needs to die.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Warning: Obama-heavy

I GOT A BOX OF MY PERSONAL BELONGINGS!!!! YAAAAAYYYYY!!!!! Now I have a coat! And an alarm clock radio! And a scarf that I made myself! And a webcam! Woohoo!!!

On the downside, the eye-glasses I got from Sears are not even close to the right prescription, so I have to send those back to Pops and Michele, who have to take them back to Sears, wait two weeks for the morons at Sears to get me the right glasses, then send them back to me. Grrr. I was really excited about those glasses. When I tried them on, it was like I was looking at the world through a fish bowl. The slightest movement of my head, and the room started rotating around me. I had to grab the wall and steady myself. Morons.

Moving on. My good friend Sara finds the best that the internet has to offer, then shows it to me. I love her. You should all join Livejournal, befriend her, and look at her amazing and beautiful Obama picspams. I promise it's worth it, because there is a picture in there involving Hillary, Obama, Michelle, and Biden's faces pasted onto the bodies of Derek Zoolander and his model friends jiving around in their jeep. Also, Sara's comments on each photo are priceless. I will attempt to share a smattering of links and pictures with you:

Obama O's (there is a song, so click the link with your sound on; also check out the Cap'n McCain's)

Obama Llama song (based, of course, on the original llama song)

Speaking of llamas, I bought an alpaca-wool hat this weekend. Okay, I know alpacas aren't llamas, but they're related, right? The hat is cute, but insanely itchy. Shoot. I would show a picture, but I loaned my camera-computer connector thingy to a friend. So no photos yet. More Obama:

I love the concerned expression in the dog's eyes. Translation for the computer-illiterate in the audience: "Hey, I care about your future. Vote Obama, okay?"

This one is my favorite.

Jody, you are so right about my disillusionment with grocery stores. Every time I shop at Sainsbury's, my heart beats just a little bit faster.

Ciarnet, lobbing plague rats at enemy ships sounds like a blast! I think there is much piratey wisdom that I could learn from you.