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.