Friday, January 30, 2009

Excuse me while I zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Ah, sleep. Glorious, wonderful sleep. I just take it for granted that I can fall asleep immediately. This 3- or 4-day bout of insomnia hasn't made me more tired than usual, but it has still managed to affect me psychologically. Wednesday night, I decided to go to bed on time, at a decent hour, because I was feeling sick and wanted to rest up. So I went to bed at 10pm, but didn't fall asleep until around midnight. I think I would have been alright with that, if it hadn't been for some idiot calling my room phone at 1:30 in the morning! My room phone has the loudest, most shrill ring possible, so it sent a shot of adrenaline straight to my heart. Guess who couldn't fall back to sleep after that? I was so tired and so upset that I sobbed for a little while. Luckily, crying exhausts me, and so I was finally able to fall asleep, though it still took 20 minutes.

Last night, in a further attempt to get my sleep cycle back on track, I went to bed around 10:30. And guess what? I fell asleep like normal, within 5 min of hitting the pillow, then slept through the night until about 10 min before my alarm clock went off. Yay! Knock on wood that my insomnia cycle is broken for good.

Muffin, you better believe I'm gonna have bioluminescent arms! But they won't be my real arms, they'll have to be under my skirt, which poses a bit of a decency problem. I suppose I could go around to all the boys and say, in a seductive tone, "Hey, sailor. Wanna see my bioluminescent arms?"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mmm, soup

Mmm, soup. I heart Holly. Since she lives in my building and doesn't have class in the morning, I texted her to ask her if she could buy me food from the store. She called to say she was at home in Sussex, but would grab stuff on her way home. She's such a sweetheart!

Must live through this

For the third time since September, I'm sick. But this time, it's not a nose-throat-head cold sort of thing. This time, it's a stomach bug. Or so I think, based on the fact that I have no symptoms whatsoever other than nausea and inability to sleep. I've felt like I might vomit for four days now, but have managed to avoid it so far. I'm not even sure I'm capable of vomiting. I can't remember the last time I did. I think my body just finds it so offensive that it doesn't allow it to happen. "That's fine, thanks. I'll just keep these toxins inside." For the past few nights, I've had trouble falling asleep. Me, having insomnia! Something is clearly horribly wrong with me, as sleep and I have a really fantastic relationship, normally. I hope it's just a bug and will pass quickly, but of course, the hypochondriac in me is wondering if it's something far more sinister. No, but seriously, I hope the sleep thing goes away soon, because I have a sleep study on Monday night and I don't want to be misdiagnosed with insomnia.

So, I really need to live through this flu/stomach cancer thing so I can go to the boy's house party. It turns out that it's a so-called "fancy dress" party, which is British for "themed costume party". The theme? Darwin and Evolution. Awesome!! I totally know what I'm going as, and it's gonna be amazing. I'm going as a vampire squid! Doesn't that sound badass? I feel a bit like I should go as a microbe, since microbes are basically my life, but how can I pass up an organism whose Latin name translates to "vampire squid from hell?" The invite says, "Bonus points for extinct life-forms." The vampire squid isn't extinct, but all it's ancestors and close relatives are, so it's a phylogenetic relict. I love parties that allow me to expose my nerdiness in all it's glory! Ah, it reminds me of the time that Amy and I went to Halloween as sister chromatids...those were the days!

Website with lots of interesting info about the vampire squid.

Epifluorescent micrograph of underside
of vampire squid's arm--it bioluminesces!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Boys boys boys

I should be studying right now. I make no excuses. Here, have some pictures!

Friday was a good day for my ego. I was on a roll with the menfolk. The day started off well with a sighting of a boy who has been on my mind for a week. We even spoke to each other. Be still my beating heart! Just kidding. But it did start my day off well.

In the evening, I met a boy who promptly fell in love with me. Or so Alex attests. He was Carina's friend's roommate, and he was very sweet and invited me to his house party no less than three times. I will definitely have to attend. After he left the pub, I was relaxing in an armchair, talking to Carina, saying that none of her friends ever seem to remember that they've already met me, when a cute Bostonian leaned over the back of the armchair and said, "How could anyone not remember you?" Um, hello, Flirty McFlirterson! I think it might have had something to do with the fact that I was wearing a cute, strappy top, and from his vantage point, he might have been able to see down it, but he was very friendly. For a few minutes at least, and then he disappeared with his four female friends. Weirdo. But I'm not picky, I'll take an ego boost when I can get one! Or three in one day.

In other news, my Conflict and Health class is really good, and also, I'm a massive klutz. I have made a complete arse of myself twice in two days, but it was only in front of my CID classmates, so it's all good. They still love me. On Thursday, my classmate, Sally, was giving a presentation about her experience working with HIV care in India. I had to leave early, but was sitting in the furthest seat from the aisle, so had to squeeze past about 6 people. On the way, I knocked over every single person's lunch. I felt like I belonged in a movie full of slapstick gags. When I finally got out into the aisle, I took a bow and said, "Thank you, thank you!" They told me later that my face was bright red.

But was that mild embarrassement enough for me? Of course not! So the following day, at class drinks at the bar, I tried to climb over a low table, ended up straddling it, and then knocked over two bottles of beer while trying to bring my other leg over. Immediately after I recounted this event to my classmate, Cheryl, ending with, "And that's how I'll be remembered for eternity," she said, "You know, we should figure out how to make a yearbook for our class." In case anyone manages to forget that I'm ridiculously awkward, they'll have a souvenir to remind them over the years.

I miss you all (even though I am managing to have a blast without you).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Ball!!!

Tonight, I volunteered at the official Inauguration Ball in London. Alex was invited by someone else to volunteer, and she in turn invited me. I didn't bother to research what time Obama would be sworn in or when he would give his speech: I just assumed it would all take place during the dinner/ball and we would all watch it. No, apparently his speech took place as I was riding the tube to the ball. I was working most of the night (though it wasn't hard work), so didn't really get to see anything except a very sleepy-looking Obama arrive for lunch with Congress. My job sucked, because I was seen as a bad guy and people snapped at me. When everyone arrived, they were sent to the reception room for drinks. Then after an hour, they were supposed to head upstairs to the dining room for dinner, and the reception room would be converted into the "ballroom." The people organizing the ball anticipated that people would linger in the reception room, so they gave us the job of gently suggesting that people maybe move their asses along to the dining room. People did not like to receive this suggestion. Responses we heard included (all in annoyed voices), "Yeah, we're just finishing our bottle of champagne;" "I haven't even had my drink yet!" "Our table is at the back so we won't even get served for awhile;" "We're having a conversation." Not pleasant.

After 10pm, Alex and I headed downstairs to the "ball" (term used loosely.) We danced to some classic 70s dance hits, then headed upstairs for the first of three showings of Obama's speech. Though it did not bring tears to my eyes like some of his other speeches have, it was still very moving. Especially the part about solidarity for people living in poverty.

A couple thoughts:
1) I haven't been around that many American accents in months! It was weird to realize that I was surrounded by hundreds of people, and at least 85% of them were American. I didn't like it.
2) The people at the party were far from the best representatives of American hospitality. Everyone attending was rude! All the volunteers were American as well, and they all had stories of being yelled at. Barack Obama just became our president, people. Try to be happy and pleasant for once in your lives! I can't decide if I should dislike Americans, or American expatriates. Are they all rich snobs? Are they under some kind of delusion that their being abroad makes them better people than everyone else? Hey, guess what, jerks! I'm American, too, and I live abroad, too! So you can shove your bad attitudes!
3) During dinner, the attendees were instructed to thank volunteers wearing badges. The entire evening, one person thanked me. One.

So, while I liked Obama's speech, him talking about how great Americans are didn't really strike a chord in my heart. We're no better and no worse than the citizens of any other nation. We've got our fair share of self-righteous, ungrateful bastards.

On the bright side, apparently there's a Costco in London! I had Costco muffins tonight! Can you believe that? I can't!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New wellies

Oh, hello there, readers. You haven't given up on me yet? I meant to write about last weekend, but obviously, did not get around to it. I went to Holly's for one night. It was the coldest day in London in a decade, so it was even colder out in the countryside. The sky was clear and there was a full moon. Everything had a thick layer of frost. In places, it even looked like it had snowed. The frost plus the full moon made everything glow blue. Coming up Holly's driveway, two fluffy bunny rabbit tails hopped away from us. Holly's brother said their pond has frozen over, and he had been out on it. In the moonlight, we crunched across the frozen grass to the pond and timidly stepped onto the ice. It was pretty doggone solid, but I made sure to stay near the edge. I'm not even sure how deep the pond is normally, but it doesn't look big enough to get very deep. Anyway, I kept my ears open for any cracking sounds.

Holly and her mom and I went for a walk around a sort of nature preserve the next day. It was like a big park that you have to pay to get into. The weather had warmed up and the park was gorgeous. I wore my brand new wellies! They look like this:

So pretty!

The first week back at school was pretty good. My schedule is really relaxed, and I'm excited about my classes. Everyone has to take two classes for the next five weeks. One class is allocated all day Mon and Tues, plus Wed morning. The second class gets Wed afternoon, then all day Thurs and Fri. Well, my first class is Tuberculosis by distance learning, which means that I stay home all day Mon and Tues and read about TB. My second class is Conflict and Health, which is going to be really interesting (already is!), and we only have class Thursday morning, a couple Thursday afternoons, and Friday morning. It's a lot of free time, and I should use it for reading, but I probably won't. :-)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Stalking David Sedaris

Perfect, Jax. That's why I keep you around!

Today was another good day of good friends. I had tea with Holly and we just sat and talked for ages, then I met Carina, Alex, and Alex's parents for dinner. I felt bad because I was late and got sort of lost. I knew exactly where I was, I just didn't know where they were. I was literally standing right next to Buckingham Palace, hoping a prince would come along and give me directions. Alex and Co. grabbed a taxi and came to pick me up, though, and we went for dinner at a nice Italian place. Yummy! Her parents were really nice. Have I mentioned before that Alex is a Georgia peach? Cuz she is. Tanya calls her Georgia. All this to say that her parents had adorable southern accents. We hung out and talked for a while, then Alex, Carina, and I walked to Alex's tiny closet-apartment and talked a little longer. Alex thought she heard her friends coming in, so she went out into the hall to meet them, but it was just this guy she doesn't really like, so she had to pretend she was going to the bathroom. This made Carina comment that Alex was "so awkward!" which made me think of David Sedaris, so I asked Alex if she had ever read David Sedaris. She looked at me like I had horns and said, "Have we not had this conversation?" No, we haven't. She said David Sedaris was her favorite author, and he lives down the street from her here in London, so she STALKED HIS BOYFRIEND, HUGH! She literally loitered outside their house until she saw Hugh at the window! And she plans to go back and stalk them some more when David Sedaris gets back from his book tour in the US! So funny!!! Carina was appalled, but Alex assured her that it's okay to stalk people if you're a cute girl. I'm highly amused by the whole thing, and am tempted to stalk David Sedaris with her. Anyway, I thought you guys (especially Jocky) would get a kick out of that.

Taking it easy

Pictures pictures pictures! (some of which I stole from Jacque)

Christmas at Holly's

London with Jacque

I've been taking it real easy for the last few days, especially on Tuesday, when I wore my pajamas and sat in bed the entire day. I've been spending lots of quality time with Rania and Ben, which is really nice, and yesterday, I got to see Holly. Alex and Carina are back in town, now, and I should get to see them both tonight. Yippee! And Laura is on her way back to London today, so maybe I'll get to see her tomorrow. It might be a bit selfish of me, because they all probably want to be at home still, but I'm really glad they're all coming back. I really like these people and have missed them for the last couple weeks. And I'm sort of looking forward to class starting again, because my classes are really interesting this quarter. I'm taking Tuberculosis, and Conflict and Health. Exciting, no? I think so.

I have finalized my plans for Spring Break. I'm going to Hamburg for about 10 days to see Ingo, then I'm going to fly from there to Stockholm, Sweden, for three nights, then back to London. Yay! I've never really traveled alone before, and I know it won't be as fun because when I see something cool, I can't turn to friend or sister and say, "Isn't that cool?!" But it'll be an adventure and I'm sure I'll have a good time. I'm really excited!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Officially a tourist

I used to be addicted to blogging. I'd think constantly about how I was going to write up any given event. I'm over that now and despite having all day to sit around on my ass (which I dutifully did, in my pyjamas), I didn't even think about the fact that I should maybe update people on life, especially as it feels like I haven't talked to some of you in AGES.

So. Sightseeing with Jacque was fun, though it was quite cold and we are both wusses, so we were mildly unhappy through much of it. We kept trying to find indoor sightseeing activities. Still, I think we got a lot done, and it was all fun and interesting!

We started with Camden Market, which I love. There so much interesting stuff there, unlike any of the other markets I've been to. Then we went to Harrods, the polar opposite. In the pets section of the store, along with designer collars, leashes, and dog pillows, we discovered that Harrods actually sells pets. Two thousand pounds for a Chihuahua puppy! Soon after we got there, a man came along and shooed us away, saying, "Viewing the livestock is closed for the day." Puppies, kitties, and ferrets=livestock! That's Harrod's for you, I suppose.

We went to Greenwich for the National Maritime Museum, then had three minutes to straddle the prime meridian before they closed for the day. I definitely want to go back there, first because we didn't make it to the Royal Observatory, but second because the park there looked nice. Maybe it was just because it was twilight, but it reminded me of an Austen novel. Actually, lots of things reminded us of an Austen novel, and we would link arms and say, "Let's take a turn about the park!" In the evening, we failed to procure cheap tickets to either Mamma Mia or Spamalot, so we wandered down to Westminster to marvel at the Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and the London Eye. That whole area is really breath-taking at night. Then again, maybe that was the cold.

We visited Kensington Gardens and the palace, caught the very tail end of the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, and....the afternoon is a blank. Any help, Jacque? In the evening, Jacque's friend's friend got us really good seats for Blood Brothers for ee to the frizzle! Okay, I might have just tried to mix pig-latin and Snoop Dogg speak. Anyway, free. And the show was really good, if depressing. In my mind, I thought Blood Brothers=Band of Brothers and so I assumed it was a war story, but it totally wasn't. Which is good because war=BORING!! Beforehand, we bought Kinder Surprise eggs, then opened them in the theater and made asses of ourselves by playing with them. Fun!

We bought tickets to go to Stratford-on-Avon on Wednesday, but just barely missed our bus. :-((( Luckily, the ticket man we talked to was super dooper dooper nice and offered to change our tickets to Friday for no charge, even though that wasn't really allowed. I love you, Ticket Man, wherever you are! So instead of Stratford, we hopped on a bus to Windsor. We checked out the queen's weekend digs, saw Queen Mary's dollhouse, etc. Actually, that was mostly it. Then we returned to London and spontaneously decided to see Twelfth Night. After that, we followed the crowds down towards Big Ben to see the fireworks. We weren't exactly sure where the fireworks were going to be, so we walked until the crowd was so thick that we couldn't go any further. We got ourselves lodged into the middle of a seething crush of people, and then waited for two hours to see if we had picked the right spot. We were basically on a street parallel to the river, but separated from the river by a long row of buildings. We were standing on the road looking at the space between two buildings, so if the fireworks weren't visible in the space between the two buildings, we would have waited two hours in a bone-crushing crowd to see jack squat. Luckily, though, we had happened upon the correct spot, as the fireworks were basically directly in front of us! Then we went to my school and used the internet for two hours, before returning home to drink vodka with juice. Good times!

Thursday, Rania and Ben arrived. Yay!!! Jacque and I wanted to go to Shakespeare's Globe Theater (a reproduction of the original), so we dragged jet-lagged Rania and Ben along. What with lunch, and sitting around chatting, we didn't make it to the theater until dusk, but it was still awesome! They even gave us each a cup of mulled wine to warm us up in the open-air theater. The theater was gorgeous and I definitely want to go see a play in spring or summer. Rania and Ben headed home to rest after a long flight, and Jacque and I walked along the river, then crossed Tower Bridge. I *heart* Tower Bridge! It's so beautiful.

Friday was more Shakespeare fun as we headed to his birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon. If you buy a ticket to the house the Bard was born in, you also get free admission to four other homes loosely associated with him. We skipped the two houses that were outside of town, ie. the farm his mum grew up on, and his girlfriend's house. But we did see the house of his daughter and son-in-law, and the house of his granddaughter, which was adjacent to the ruins of the house he bought when he became rich and famous (which some grumpy old clergyman bought, then tore down when he got fed up with tourists trying to get a piece of good ol' Shaksey's mulberry tree.)

We headed to Portabello Road market on Saturday, but I think the market was seriously truncated that day. It seemed to end quicker than usual. Still, Jacque bought a really gorgeous pair of earrings, so it's all good! Afterward, we were feeling too cold and tired to do any more sightseeing, so I took Jacque to Oxford Street to go shopping, and I spent a bit of money. John Lewis was having a sale on YARN, which I couldn't resist, though perhaps I didn't need 12 balls. At Debenham's, I bought two pairs of really cute pyjama bottoms. Adorable and cozy! We tried Mamma Mia again in the evening, to no avail, so we went home. The internet network in my building was still down, and so we were forced to watch some random show that Jacque had on her iPod. It was called "Three Moons Over Milford," and was an ABC Family pilot about a town dealing with the fact that the moon has been split into three parts by an asteroid, and the planet will, at some unknown time, be destroyed when one of those pieces falls to earth. All the elements required for an uplifting family drama, right? It is ridiculous how ABC Family so effortlessly makes a heartwarming tale out of a girl accidentally burning down the school during a Wiccan ritual. What a little rascal! And her underaged brother steals his dad's car, then makes out with an older woman. Haha! Those silly kids! And the dad leaves the family to chase adventure in Africa, so they're all penniless, but they've still got each other, and that's all that matters in the end, isn't it? If only all families could have sweet, law-breaking, school-burning, Wiccan children!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Twelfth Night and Christmas

Wow, so much time, so little to say! Strike that. Reverse it.

Christmas at Holly's was AMAZING. I could not have picked a better surrogate family to spend it with. I had so much fun! There was:

1. Christmas Eve dinner at The Hatch, where Holly's sister and her sister's husband announced they're expecting (they showed a series of photos, which were ultrasound photos, and asked people to guess what they were, and Holly's cousin guessed, "A dead rabbit!")
2. Gifts on Christmas morning, and though I had no gifts from family (shame on you all; just kidding), Holly's mom got me lots of really nice, little gifts, including several items from Cath Kidston.
3. Brunch involving bacon baguettes. Mmm!
4. A treasure hunt (totally awesome! We must do this from now on!)
5. Christmas dinner at Holly's, followed by musical Christmas crackers in which everyone gets a whistle with a number from 1 to 8. The different numbers are different pitches, and they give you a baton and a sheet of "music" with the numbers necessary for several songs. We attempted most of the songs, and anytime we got through a song without a mistake, we all cheered. On one song, number 7 whistle kept missing his cue and we ridiculed him heartily, until we realized that his whole section of the table had been given the wrong sheet music. They were playing a different song! We had so much fun and I couldn't help thinking that it would have gone completely differently if Grandpa Peterson had been there.
6. Boxing day mulled wine and Morris dancing at The Hatch. The Morris dancers danced around flapping handkerchiefs and could not have looked much more ridiculous.

The day after boxing day, I rushed home, then rushed out to Heathrow to meet Jacque! We've been having lots of fun, though the temperature decided to drop as soon as she arrived and we've been quite cold for several days now. There's too much to recount right now (after all, it's 1:30 am on New Year's Day and there is drinking to be done!), but this evening, we decided to try to see a show. Mamma Mia was completely gated up, so we headed to Spamalot to see if they had any reserve tickets. On the way, we saw a theater showing Twelfth Night, so we decided to try that instead. For £10 each, we got to stand behind the very back row of the balcony. I was worried we wouldn't be able to see, but that wasn't a problem. It was a really good show and it felt very romantic to imagine myself a poor peasant who can only afford to stand at the back to see a Shakespeare production. As opposed to last night, when Jacque's theater connections secured us amazing seats to Blood Brothers...for free!

Rania arrives in just a few hours, so I guess I'd better get on with the revelry and grab a couple hours sleep before meeting her and Ben. Yay!