Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More adventures in pubbery

I had the day off on Saturday and wanted to do something fun, but almost everyone was out of town or busy. Tanya mentioned that she and her cousin were going to go to Greenwich market in the morning, so I asked if I could come along. I've been meaning to get back to Greenwich since Jacque and I visited last January. It's gorgeous and kind of really different from the rest of London. The Naval Academy and Royal Observatory are all about when Britain was Great, and Greenwich Park looks like a place Jane Austen characters would stroll through arm-in-arm.

Tanya's cousin decided not to come in the end, but Tanya and I had so much fun! It was a perfect day, but then the sun went down and we couldn't figure out what to do with the evening. No one was free. In the end, Tanya decided to head home which meant I had to go home, too, at 9pm on a Saturday, alone. Lameness galore.

And then I got stranded in effing Canary Wharf. The DLR train that's supposed to run from Greenwich to Bank (where I could get on the Tube home) was under construction and i had to get off at Island Gardens and take a replacement bus to Canary Wharf (where the Tube also runs). However, they failed to mention that the Jubilee line was closed, so Canary Wharf was more or less a dead-end. As I read a bus map trying to figure out how to get anywhere near a place with a functioning Tube station, it started raining. Found the bus stop: it was "not in use." It redirected me to the South Colonnade. Where the h*** is the South Colonnade???

I wandered around Canary Wharf for a while (it sounds worse than it is, if you're imagining me wandering around an actual wharf with docks and stuff. It's the business center of London with a high concentration of skyscrapers belonging to Citibank and BoA et al. Lehman Brothers used to be based there.) Anyway, it was deserted. I found what I thought was the bus stop on the South Colonnade, just barely missed the bus I wanted, and waited for the next one. When it came, the bus driver informed that I was at the wrong stop, but he very kindly drove me over to the right one. Anyway, I got home eventually, but was very annoyed with the sheer lameness of my Saturday evening. Boo.

Sunday was better, though. Tanya and I went to the National Gallery with James (see last entry), despite the fact that none of us were all that interested in the art on display (meh). I got there first, and despite some light rain, decided to wait in Trafalgar Square and look at tree stumps someone had placed there. The light rain quickly turned to the clouds POURING THEIR BITTER, ACHING SOULS OUT IN ORDER TO SOAK ANY INNOCENT PASSERS-BY IN THEIR MISERY AND DISCOMFORT! Or as the British call it, "pissing rain." I spent the next 4.5 hours with my feet marinating in the rainwater trapped in my shoes. James arrived with his trousers soaked all the way up to his waist. We had lots of fun, though, and then I went to work. After work, a bunch of people stayed around and we all got hammered. Fun! This time, I was very wary of getting drunk, because I had to work the next morning. I tried to refuse the Jaegerbomb that was offered to me. In fact, I tried to leave but was picked up and placed back on my stool by the general manager. When the second shots were poured, I tried harder to leave, so one guy grabbed my arms, the manager grabbed my legs, and lovely Jo, who had moments before promised that I didn't have to drink anymore, poured the shot down my throat. Later, when the third round of shots were passed around, I realized that I needed a new tactic. They weren't taking "no" for an answer, so I didn't say no. I took the shot from them, took a deep breath, and threw it back. Over my shoulder. "Seattle!" the general manager barked in a warning tone. "That stuff'll take the polish off the floors!" Well then it's not something I want my liver to have to battle, is it?

Finally, around 3am, my coworker, Julian, decided that he was drunk enough and needed to go home, so I took my chance to escape. "Good luck getting out the locked doors, Seattle," the GM called. Ha! Thank goodness someone showed me the secret back way on Friday night! I escaped into the night, dragging a drunk Julian behind me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Care package!!

EEEEeeeeekkk!!! I'm so excited! My care package from Pops and Michele arrived today! It has candy and yarn and cheez-its and a be-yoooooooooo-tiful Fossil wallet! Best of all, it has homemade jam!

Last night, my friend, Aparna, invited me to a poetry night. Poetry generally makes me cringe, but I like hanging out with Aparna, and Alex was going, so I went. The room was packed and we were too late to get seats, so we stood. Also, the room was about 98 degrees F, so by the end of the first half, we were all swooning a bit. But it was so fun! Some of the poetry was annoying and made me roll my eyes, but some of it was really good. After the first act, Aparna and her man left for home so Alex and I went to dinner at My Old Dutch pancake house with Aparna's friends, Simon and James (I had the Amsterdammer, which has apple and ham; soooooo yummy!). I heart Simon and James. I met them a couple weeks ago at Aparna's birthday party and they're really great guys. They're flatmates, and they admitted over dinner that they read Keats out loud to each other over the dining room table. Too funny!

All in all, an excellent night. And what with this care package, today is off to a good start as well! At 5pm, I have my interview. I should probably be more nervous about it, but that won't help me. In fact, nerves make me do worse in interviews. I'm just gonna be myself and hope they like it. Afterwards, it's dinner with the old crew to say goodbye to Claire, who has managed to get herself a posting in Cambodia! Congratulations and best of luck to her, but I will miss her. She is a lovely, sweet girl and I enjoy just chatting and hanging out with her.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life at the moment

Thanksgiving at the farm was wonderful, but too short. We arrived around noon, ate at 6, and left at 9. We didn't even play any games in the field! Sad. Still, the food and the company were divine. I was really looking forward to trying Alex's sweet potato biscuits, but she said they were burnt and she wouldn't give me any even though I begged. The rest was fantastic, though, even the turkey! No one wanted to do the turkey, and we decided it would take too long to do one anyway, so Alicia found three large turkey breasts at the grocery store that came pre-seasoned and we cooked those instead. She cooked them in special cooking bags with the result that the turkey was nice and moist. Still not my favorite meat, and nowhere near as good as ham (nothing is), but very nice. Sadly, I forgot my camera, and so did Carina and Alicia. That left Alex to take pictures on her phone, and she always takes months to post pictures.

Remember how I mentioned last week that I applied for two jobs? Well, I got an interview for the unpaid admin job. It's a sad state when I get excited about an interview for an unpaid job, but I've applied to several unpaid jobs now and not received an interview for any of them. So this is good. Plus, the whole point of doing these internships is to get a foot in the door of an organization doing the work I want to do. So yeah. Woohoo! Wish me luck!

Monday, November 16, 2009

I got a letter from Becky! I got a letter from Becky!

Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm coming home

Today, on my break between shifts, I headed down to the £1 store where I discovered a decent sized Toblerone bar for £1. Heck yes please!

Due to scheduling issues, I will not be visiting Alex in Atlanta this holiday season. Alas, another time perhaps. I came home from work tonight and FINALLY bought my ticket home! Woohoo! I'm really excited to come home. I've been ready for it since September. I'll be home for nearly 4 weeks. You're all gonna hate me by the time I leave again! Though Pops will love me cuz I plan to take (almost) all my crap out of his basement.

Thanksgiving is Saturday (ok, I know that's not true) and I'm really excited about it. It appears that almost no one is going to be able to make it, but I don't care. The more intimate, the better, right? Actually, I wouldn't care if no one came. It's taking place at the Farm and I jump at any excuse to escape London for Sussex. One day, I'm just gonna show up at Holly's parents' house with all my personal belongings and settle in. But I know I'd be bored out of my mind within three days. But I'd be bored while surrounded by Cath Kidston, and that ain't so bad, man.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I heart TB

Alright, I'm feeling good. I just sent my CV to two organizations advertising jobs. One of them is for an unpaid internship that would involve me doing secretarial work (eh), but the other is an advocacy job related to TB. I'd really like to hear back about that one, although they want the position to start December 7. How about January 7th? I'm also starting an application for...the Peace Corps. I know Mama was worried back when I was 18 that I was gonna run off and join the Peace Corps, but ten years on, I'm still a bit hesitant. I don't know why. I know I want to work in the developing world but I have no experience so can't get jobs. The Peace Corps is the perfect solution. I just need to friggin' apply.

Have I mentioned lately that I love TB? Cuz I do. It's my pet disease. It's so fascinating. Did you know it kills more people annually than any other infectious disease? (Yes, even more than HIV/AIDS.) Yet it's 100% curable with drugs that we've had available for 60 years. In those 60 years, rather than see a decline in incidence, we've seen a rapid, unchecked increase to the point that WHO declared TB a public health emergency a couple years ago. Granted, this is mainly because of the rise of HIV/AIDS, but still. It's curable, if the systems are in place to provide adequate treatment (which they aren't).

Anyway, speaking of December and January, I still haven't bought plane tickets home for Christmas. I did spend a while online today, though, figuring out when is best to fly and how much it'll be. I'm basically just waiting on Alex to see if she'll be home in Atlanta in January so I can visit her. Either way, I'll be in Seattle for the same amount of time.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Team meeting

Work meeting=suckiness. Though we were fed a whole roast pig, so I can't really complain.

So the tipping system at this pub (and in London in general) is very confusing and I still don't really understand it. There's a 12.5% service charge put on all bills and this is distributed to all staff on a points-based system (did I already explain this?) Sometimes, people add an extra tip. I was under the impression that these extra or "cash" tips joined the same pot as the service charges. But around the time that I started working there, the company was losing money because some people were apparently stealing stock. To compensate for the loss and punish everyone, they kept all cash tips. Then they caught and fired a couple people and since then, we've been making and not losing money, so now they're going to start giving us the tips again (by adding them to the same pot as the service charge).

That totally sucks, but whatever. What can you do? The meeting also consisted of criticism of the waitstaff and some arguments between we waitstaff and the kitchen staff, and the general manager singling out one girl as the source of all complaints we receive. He actually turned to her and said, "I don't receive many complaints, but the ones I do receive are all about you." Harsh! Then they told us to be happy and enjoy our jobs. Thanks guys!

On the bright side, they said that people who go home for Christmas may not have a job in January, which saves me the trouble of having to quit. Yay!

To be honest, though, I do enjoy certain aspects of working there. I like the people I work with, and the GM is cool, and there is something satisfying about serving tables. When I leave at the end of a shift, I'm never down or depressed or upset. But at the same time, I dread going in for shifts. Especially evening ones, when I've had a nice day of hanging out with friends and I have to say goodbye to them and go expose myself to potential criticism from managers who don't have a clue how many different things I'm trying to do at once.

I realize I'm complaining about work, and work is a fact of life. I've totally forgotten about my goal of being less negative. Okay, here's my attempt to be positive: I only really have to work there another month, and then in January I can start over again trying to find something I'll like better! Onwards and upwards!

Now I'm applying for yet another job I don't qualify for (how many applicants are they gonna get who speak Kiswahili?) Wish me luck!

Just for fun, here are some pictures of Holly's birthday in the 100-acre woods.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Halloween and Bonfire Night

Ugh, I hate doing catch-up blogs. Recapping is so dull.

Halloween was good. Well, the day before Halloween, anyway. Izzi and Tim and their flatmates had a party and it was super fun. Izzi and Tim are lovely and all their friends are lovely, too. I recycled my Tinkerbell costume from this summer. Izzi was Lara Croft and she looked AMAZING! Tim was a black knight made out of cardboard boxes. I was impressed with the ingenuity involved in making it (credit to Izzi). Guys, if you're reading, we need to hang out more often!

On Halloween night, I had to work. Massive frowny face. I got to work to find that the restaurant part of the pub wasn't even open, so they didn't really even need me. As there were at least four places I would rather have been, I was annoyed when I got roped into helping out with a Halloween party going on in our function room. I ended up running up and down stairs all night until midnight. At the end of the shift, the boss offered drinks to me and a couple of the bartenders. I agreed to a half pint of cider (living large). When they all finished their pints and went for another round, I declined. On their third round, I decided to have another half pint. I was good until that point. Then the boss started pouring shots. It started with a Jaegerbomb. Then there was something called a Cypress Lovely. I don't remember what the third one was called cuz I was already long gone by that point. By the time I headed home, it was about 4am. I'm not sure how I made it home (it is only a 10 minute walk), but I know the trip involved a stop-in at the gas station, where I purchased a sandwich and a bag of Kettle chips. I ate these when I got home, then vomited them straight back up. I was then "sick" several more times and sat on the bathroom floor making pathetic noises. Around 5am or so, my flatmates came home and Mel very sweetly helped me into bed. I didn't wake up until 11:20 when I received a call from work that I was 20 minutes late. Ugh. It was a long and painful day in which I stifled the urge to puke several times.

Thursday night was Bonfire Night (aka Guy Fawkes Day). It was AWESOME! I went with Holly to a small, charming town in Sussex called Lewes that is famous for its annual Bonfire Night parade. It's a very confusing tradition that I'm too lazy to look up on Wikipedia, but they basically memorialize some people (11? 17? can't remember) who were burned at the stake back in the 1550s for disagreeing with the Catholic queen, Mary I (she was kind of a bitch). While they're at it mourning over the martyrs, they also denounce the pope and police officers, celebrate the death of Guy Fawkes, pay homage to marginalized populations all over the world including Native American Indians, and dress up as smugglers. Why? Don't ask why. This is England and things don't have to make sense.

Holly and me with my toffee apple

Okay, I've given in and checked Wikipedia, though they have surprisingly little insight to give. Here's a better review. There were 17 Protestant martyrs. It's the biggest Bonfire Night celebration in the whole country. Every year, they burn effigies on their five massive bonfires. In 2001, they sparked controversy by burning Osama Bin Laden. In 2003, even more controversy when they burned a gypsy caravan (apparently, some gypsies had recently moved into the area and the locals weren't pleased). Last year, they burned Prime Minister Gordon Brown and no one batted an eyelash. We missed the effigy burning this year, but some effigies were paraded through town beforehand and they included bankers and MPs (there's been massive controversy here over Parliamentarians who have been using tax dollars to fund their lavish lifestyles. One guy claimed expenses for his moat to be cleaned.)

Basically, the Lewes celebration is a big, anarchic celebration of the right to be Protestant and the right to burn things. Firecrackers were everywhere, with parade participants routinely lighting small but powerful "bangers" whose blasts shook the sidewalks and made my ears hurt. I was surprised I hadn't lost my hearing by the end. It was jolly good fun, indeed! (P.S. Toffee apples are NOWHERE NEAR as good as caramel apples.)

Dude, I just found the Picasa iPhoto uploader! My life just got so much easier. Here you go, photos of Bonfire Night to amaze you. Also, photos of Halloween that I stole from other people (as a result, they are all photos of me).