Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bone and mash

I wad proud of my dinner tonight. Ever since having guests here, I've been super lazy again about cooking. I think part of it is also money. If I feel like I can go out and buy whatever ingredients I need, then I'm more likely to be adventurous and make something good. But once again, I managed to spend most of the month's money in the first week of the month. I'm down to £120, which would be fine to last me two more weeks, if it weren't for the fact that I started a list of things to do before I turn 30 (a bit late, but why not?) and on that list is to start Spanish classes, and I got a flier through the post box for classes around the corner. The Spanish class started this week (so I've missed a week), but it costs £60 which I have to pay up front. So yeah, that doesn't leave me with much to last until the 28th.

So my cupboard is looking a bit sparse. I have some leftover potatoes, and some sausages in the freezer, so I made bangers and mash! It's not much to be proud of, cuz it was super easy, but it beats my staple diet of pesto fusilli.

I went to Bill's yesterday to grab some stuff I'd loaned him, and since we decided to be friends, I loaned him Arrested Development and he loaned me his complete volume of the comic Bone. I feel like I've found a lost remnant of my childhood. A few chapters of Bone were printed in Disney Adventure magazine when I was about 11, but then it disappeared just when I got hooked! When our subscription ran out, for ages afterward I would check the back of the magazine whenever we went to the grocery store, but Bone never reappeared. And then there it was, sitting on Bill's bookcase. I haven't put it down since yesterday, except for sleep and work. I even let them send me home three hours early today so I could go home and read it!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

So behind

Oh gosh, so much to catch up on, I can't even be bothered.

1. Beginning of July, PhD student sent me 217 articles to read and evaluate by the end of July.
2. Becky and John visited in August, right in the middle of the Edinburgh Festival, the biggest festival(s) of theatre, comedy, film, music, and books in the world. (217 articles still not finished) We had such an amazing time and it was beyond wonderful seeing them. And I finally made it to Hadrian's wall! (so that's my August Visiting the UK box ticked. Still need June and July, though.)
2. A week after Becky and John left, Izzi and Tim came to stay. I was a happy, happy clam. We ate lots of delicious food. I also saw fireworks to mark the end of the International Festival. Watching a fireworks show that is being launched from a castle on the side of a cliff is pretty darn amazing. They had a waterfall! Of fireworks! (217 articles still not finished)
3. At work, I was asked to be shoe specialist instead of till specialist. I've been till specialist for a year and a half, so was kind of miffed and terrified when they told me they were changing my role, but I absolutely love it! I got to organise the whole shoe stockroom! And I get to use a typewriter to write labels for the display shoes! And create a product information binder! And so much more! It totally inspires my inner librarian.
4. First week into September, I finally finished the 217 articles. Phew! Suddenly, I have loads of free time and no clue what to do with it.
5. A week after Izzi and Tim came, Carina arrived in town. She had a conference in St. Andrews (where Wills and Kate went to university) but stayed at mine because she loves me (and I her). We had dinner with Cheryl on Friday night, so it was a proper reunion. It's going to be hard not having any visitors again until December. However will I entertain myself?
6. Yesterday, I broke up with a man who makes me laugh, who likes all the same things I like, who I feel super comfortable with, and who is just generally wonderful...but for whom I just don't feel a spark. I guess I'm holding out for amazing.

So that's my life in a nutshell, at the moment. And now I have TB-related job to apply for.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More settling in

After weeks of inconvenient scheduling, I finally managed to meet up with Laura, who did the masters course with me. We went to a Japanese restaurant near the university for dinner. It was nice, and the food was yummy. It took a while to get the bill, but then they brought us each one of these so I had to forgive (I'm such a sucker.)

Afterwards, we went to Doctors for a pint, and Cheryl (another girl from our course) and her husband, Soul, met up with us. It was so nice to catch up! I hadn't seen Laura since graduation.

I cooked a few more good meals for myself, though I've been much worse lately. Back to my usual habits of junk food or eating out. Here are mini pizzas, and a store-bought chicken kiev with healthy veggies. (Okay, so all my meals are essentially the same, but they include lots of veggies and colors and stuff!)

I made another trek out to IKEA (was significantly less enthusiastic the second time around) and got myself a coffee table for £3 and change. Three pounds! Can you believe that?? Totally worth the £3.20 bus ride there and back. So my flat is coming together...or at least is functional now.

Saturday, August 06, 2011


I've always hated coffee. I hate the smell and the taste. The bitterness. A couple times, while struggling with excessive daytime sleepiness, I've tried mochas in an attempt to wake up. I find mocha more palatable than regular coffee, especially after I've added quite a bit of sugar ;-) But it never seemed to wake me up, so I gave up on coffee.

While I was living with Corrado and Kasia, they offered me espresso a few times, and eventually, I decided to try it (granted, with lots of sugar added). I didn't really notice a strong effect, but it was a nice ritual to share with friends, like a cup of tea or a pint.

One day soon after, a girl at work invited me to grab coffee at Wellington's (purportedly some of the best coffee in Edinburgh). I've felt on top of the world for about 45min afterwards, and then felt queasy and jittery for the next 45min. Hm, slightly terrifying, but completely predictable, I suppose.

Then a couple weeks ago, I was super cranky at work. The first four hours of the day draaaaaaagged, and I could hardly believe that I was only halfway done. Corrado suggested coffee, so I grabbed a mocha from Wellington during lunch. I also treated myself to fries :-) For the remainder of the working day, I was cheerful and friendly and helpful. I was a new woman. A woman who enjoys, and possibly even needs coffee. It's only a matter of time before I'm fully addicted, spending 10% of my meager income on coffee.

So now, here I sit, in an internet cafe, working on my project with a coffee in front of me because I was feeling sleepy and losing concentration at home. Seriously, the last thing I need in my life is another useless substance to waste my money on. Sigh. It's all downhill from here. I'd feel worse about it, if the coffee didn't make me feel so goooood...

Monday, August 01, 2011

Reasons I love it here

7. People here are as pasty as I am!

8. Karen is a really common name (giving the impression that I belong here.)

Settling in

I was pretty proud of myself when I moved into the new flat. First, I discovered an awesome cafe with WiFi just around the corner. It's called Moo Cafe. The food is really well done and affordable, and the service is very friendly. If I ever work up the nerve, I might join their weekly French speaking sessions.

I get really annoyed with strappy tops that fall off their hangers, but when I was unpacking all my clothes, inspiration struck. I stuck push pins into the wood of my IKEA hangers, and voila!

I explored my neighborhood a bit more, and discovered that I live in a really, really nice part of town. There's a library and loads of cute shops nearby. Here's a picture of a deserted hotel by the river.

I made my first trek to IKEA. It's a 30 min bus ride out of town, and its not long before you hit the Scottish countryside. I had to limit what I bought based on what I could physically carry, but got loads of basics.

My first week, I was really good about cooking. I started off with a broccoli and cheese casserole (I modified a recipe from Campbell's). Then I made oriental turkey burgers for Bill. Yummers! Here's a picture of leftovers.

(Sorry, the photos are all out of order. Not entirely sure how to work this Blogger app.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I has a smartphone! Woo! It's hard to type on this thing. Have to dash back to work but will update more later, I promise!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

New Home

I have a home! Yay! There were a few teething problems when I moved in, and I wasn't 100% sure that I'd made the right choice. But after a week and a half, I know that I did make the right choice. I have a studio flat all to myself! I don't have to share with anyone! And the kitchen is a decent size and in a separate room.

Problems when I moved in:

1. The whole place smells of cigarette smoke and I am allergic to it. I've improved that a bit already by removing the huge, dark red, smoke-infused curtains that made the place look like a theater (or brothel) when closed. I bought some sale curtains from work, but then found even cheaper, thicker, more appropriately-sized ones at Ikea. Already the place looks and feels lighter and airier.

2. One of the windows wouldn't shut or lock properly (deja vu from my Seattle studio!) I called the letting agent immediately and she sent someone round to fix that. He did a pretty shoddy job, but at least my windows lock shut now and no one can just pull them open from the outside. Result!

3. The guy who moved out didn't hook the washing machine back up, and whenever I used the kitchen sink, I leaked water into the cupboard underneath it. It took me a few days to realize this was happening. Anyway, the letting agent made the guy come and hook it up properly, so all is good so far (knock on wood that it stays good!)

4. I'm on the ground level, right off the street, so if my blinds are open, anyone and everyone can see my whole life right there, so I think I'm gonna make some screens for the windows, once I figure out a good way to do that. Ikea sells some bamboo and wax paper window coverings, so I might try cutting those to size.

That's pretty much it. I've already spent most of my paycheck for July on furnishings and kitchenwares and bits and bobs, but I'm very pleased with the place. I got a futon base and a big, blue bookshelf for £13 (plus £2 delivery!) Now I just need a futon mattress and my guests will have a comfy bed to sleep on. Yays!

Note the flowers, from a man!!

Monday, June 27, 2011


I was reading "R's" blog earlier and one of her posts actually made me miss Africa. I'm not sure how. I didn't think it was possible. I did not love the Africa, as Carina once put it. But her post made me remember my dream, which I've forgotten with time. Well, not really. I just have two competing dreams: one to live in the UK and have a really enjoyable time here and maybe never leave, and another to go to India and save some sick people...without doing any doctoring or nursing, cuz I'm not qualified for that...not sure exactly how that will work.

Anyway, I have these two opposing forces inside me, one to save money for when my visa expires and have to go out into the even wider world and seek my fortune, and another to live it up while I'm here. And I was thinking about it just now, about setting myself a budget for the next 9 months in order to save £1000 (which seems like so little but will be such a struggle to save). And I got to thinking about how much money I've been living on for the past year. I have been paying well over 50% of every paycheck to rent. I could certainly cut back and save more money than I do currently; I could stop eating out full stop, I could stop buying prepared lunches when I'm too lazy to make mine ahead, I could stop buying discounted clothing from work and exclusively buy charity shop clothing. But I think I have to give myself credit for just how little I've been living on for quite a while. Give myself credit, and then buck myself up for further cuts, because I could definitely do better.

Wish me luck. It's going to involve lots of things I'm terrible at, namely, planning ahead and cooking. Blech. And possibly giving up my addiction to the internet, because internet is flippin' expensive!!! In this country, you have to have a landline in order to get internet, so you have to pay a monthly fee for the landline (even if you NEVER CALL ANYONE) and another monthly fee for the internet. Not to mention the set-up fees for both. And most companies charge you an exorbitant fee for the wireless router. When I heard that Amy and Diana didn't have internet, I thought they were crazy! Now I realize, they're just grown-ups who have to pay bills. Since I've lived with other people (or in residence halls) up to now, I haven't had to deal with any of that. Bills were just included in the rent, and that was that, happy go-lucky. Now I'm forced to consider every minute expenditure. It might break me!

I spend a huge amount of each day online. I'm not sure I can live without internet. But I might try to see how long I can last. Uugggggghhhhh...It's for the children; for the sick, little children...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Crafty stuff

I had the day off today and the weather was mees-air-aw-bluh! so I spent all evening on the web, mostly video chatting with Becky, but also checking out crafty blogs. Now I feel inspired to do some crafting, but as I'm living out of suitcases and all my crafty stuff is in boxes at Corrado's, I'm going to write notes to myself of things I want to make.

1. At work, they are doing a company-wide contest for an employee to create a new apron. I don't know how to sew and know nothing about fashion design or textiles, but I thought I could brainstorm ideas anyway!

2. There was a tutorial here for making a mini magazine. I thought the idea was cute, but didn't really have anything to make.

But then I was looking for yarn shops in Edinburgh, and remembered that I wish I had a special map of the city where I could mark places to check out/go back to (shopping in this city is AMAZING!!) So maybe I'll make my own little map book using this technique...if I can find a color printer somewhere.

3. I saw a baby onesie in a magazine that had applique ballet slippers on the chest and an attached tutu, but I totally didn't see ballet slippers; I saw lungs and thought, "Awesome! But what's with the tutu?" Then I realized they were ballet slippers and felt completely let down. So now I need to learn how to applique so that I can make a lungs t-shirt. Because that would be awesome on so many levels.

Don't they look like lungs??

4. Um...I forgot what was gonna go here. It'll come back to me later. Oh yeah, I remember!! I was telling Becky about this earlier. On the corner of Corrado's street, there is an off-license (a kind of crappy convenience store that is ubiquitous throughout the UK). I noticed that they had a couple old, metal shopping baskets shoved in the window and forgotten. One of them is rusty and unappealing, but the other has kind of a yellowish enamel and looks like a flea market treasure (something we would sell in our shop for £35 or more). I really want it but I'm too chicken to go in and ask about it. Becky said I should go, though, and have no fear, so I think I'll pluck up the courage. It would be great in my new flat, maybe for storing my yarn stash.

5. On the same topic of flat decor, I was in a shop a couple weeks ago called Nomad's Tent. They sold some cool stuff from all the world, mainly Persian rugs, but they had this BEAUTIFUL metal trunk from India that I fell head over heels for. It was painted bright blue with big pink roses painted on the lid. I waaaaaaaaant it! I wish I could find a picture of something similar. Maybe I'll just have to go back and ask the man if he minds if I take a photo. Anyway, it's £65, which is a staggering amount of money...buuuut...I mean, it's way cheaper than we'd sell it for in our shop. I think it's too low to double as a coffee table, sadly, so I can't justify it as a furniture expense. And I couldn't really use it as luggage, even though that was it's original use back in the day. I don't know...I'll think about it for longer.

6. Not a craft, but whatever: this is what I'm going to buy in July (as if I'll make it through the month having only bought one article of clothing; it's good to have goals).

I think it's perfect for the Scottish summer and will go well with my dresses. Also, I love these, but they are still a bit pricey for my budget.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Okay, this is only three and a half weeks late...

I left London by train at 7am on a Friday. The plan was to stay in a youth hostel, but they were all booked up so I found a self-catering flat that was cheaper than staying in a bed and breakfast. It was such a gorgeous flat! It was on the top floor of a nice building in Leith, the coastal neighborhood northeast of the city center. I immediately pulled out my camera and took a picture of the view:

That's the Firth of Forth (the sea) out there.

Carina's friend, Tom, texted me the day before saying that his friend might have a flat I could live in, so even though I felt shy, I texted her to meet up. I'm so glad I did because she is super nice and wonderful. Sadly, her flatmates didn't want her to sublet her room, so I couldn't move in there, but we had drinks anyway. Then we went to meet a bunch of her friends in a pub, and I got chatted up by a boy. Bear in mind, I'd only been in the city for 12 hours.

In the bathroom at the pub, instead of the usual trashy graffiti, I found this and it only further validated my feeling that I'd made the right move in my life.

After three days, I had to leave the self-catering flat. I moved in with Corrado and his partner (who knits!) and their friggin' adorable two-year-old daughter, who calls me "Ciocia" (Polish for "aunty"). It was so nice of them to let me stay, they are my saviors! But I was having trouble finding a flat, and after two weeks with no luck, I needed to move on before I became a guest of indefinite duration. You know what they say about house guests and fish: both start to stink after three days.

So I talked to Sian again (Tom's friend) and she said her flatmates wouldn't mind me staying in her old room for a week, so that's where I am now. It's an enormous flat, and this room is the biggest. It's absolutely massive and has two big windows with window seats. And I managed to find a studio flat that is decently nice, not extortionately expensive, and really close to work (in the nice part of town)! Yaaaaaaaaayyy! Unfortunately, I can't move in until next Monday, which means another week of living out of suitcases. Oh well, it could be worse! I could be in a youth hostel. :-S Grim.

Now I can't wait to move, and use all my pretty new dishes, and decorate my new place, and start knitting again, and have lots and lots of lovely people come visit me!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I wrote this on a day several weeks ago when I came up to Edinburgh just for a day to scope out flats.

Reasons I'm moving to Edinburgh:

The bus seats are upholstered in a tartan pattern.
People speak in Scottish accents.
People are friendlier and happier than in London.
It takes 15 min by bus to get to the beach. (And that's proper beach, with sand and all.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

What I like about this place

This place is eff'd up. It's 10 o'clock at night, and the sky is still completely light. It is only just now slowly getting dark. In the dead of winter in Seattle, at 4:30 in the afternoon, it is as dark as it is right now. That's eff'd up. The other night, I was walking home at 1:30am, and it was twilight. There was still light on the horizon. I am far enough north that it doesn't get completely dark for any period of time during the summer. How crazy is that? The crappiness, or rather, unpredictably of the weather here, which puts Seattle's unpredictability to shame, coupled with the lightness in the sky, has completely thrown my body into confusion. At any given time, I have no idea what time of day or even what time of year it is. I keep thinking, "Oh, that will be fun to do in the summer," and then I realize that it IS summer, and I'm wearing a jacket and wool scarf.

I love it. I mean, I hate cold, but for someone who is constantly seeking out change and novelty while still wanting to be rooted in familiarity, I feel like I've hit the jackpot. Edinburgh reminds me of Seattle. It's beautiful here. Travel 20 min north or east and you hit a major body of saltwater (the Frith of Forth). From any point in the city, you can see Holyrood Park with its impressive Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat. To the south and west, beautiful grassy hills dotted with quaint villages. And then there's the city center. The ugly shopping district looks across a small green valley (through which the trains run) to stunning craggy cliffs topped by Edinburgh Castle. It's breathtaking. And that's smack dab in the busiest part of the city.

Edinburgh Castle

And people here are friendlier, happier than in London. They're helpful. Even before I left London, when I met my new managers while they were training there, they offered me their phone numbers after having just met me, in case I needed any advice or help finding a flat. When I got up here and couldn't find a flat, everyone at work put me in contact with friends looking for flatmates. One coworker I hadn't met walked up to me, introduced herself, then offered me her spare bedroom.

Okay, I need to stop waxing poetic. Eventually, the honeymoon period will end, I'm sure. But for now, I'm happy here. And that makes me happy. haha!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Leaving London

Izzi just phoned me and it was so wonderful to hear her voice (and Timmy's in the background). It reminded me that I am way, way overdue for a blog update! I shall now attempt to summarize the past two weeks of parties, goodbyes, tears, and new friends. Actually, I think I'll break it into two parts: Leaving, and Arriving.

So. Two Thursdays ago, I packed up most of my worldly possessions (the ones in the UK, anyway), loaded them into a minicab, and took them to south London to my coworker, Corrado's, flat. Corrado and his girlfriend and 2-year-old daughter are/were also moving up to Edinburgh, and offered to let me share their delivery van. So my stuff moved up to Scotland a week ahead of me. I had my "leaving London" goodbye drinks the next day. Lots of wonderful people came, and I had a really nice time. Alex N. gave me a beer pong kit, Maggie bought me two shots (not sure how grateful I am for that), and Izzi tried to throw me in a planter. I did deserve it, though, as I had threatened to replace her and Tim with Corrado and his girlfriend. After everyone headed home, Tisobel and I stayed at the bar for a bottle of prosecco. I can't remember if anything even set me off, but I started crying right there at the bar, surrounded by strangers. But then I pulled myself together and we danced like loons, then "walked," or rather, lurched and meandered back to their flat. Work the next morning was slightly painful, but alas, it was worth it.

Anna and Mel at going-away drinks

I had the day off on Monday, so managed to have lunch with Maggie, tea with Holly, tea with Anna, and then rush off to dinner with Tisobel. Izzi wasn't feeling well but she made me dinner anyway because she loves me that much. Maggie works for a Member of Parliament, so lunch was in the cafeteria at the Houses of Parliament. AWESOME! That means that I got to take a long last look at Big Ben before leaving London. Then, as I was leaving Tisobel's after dinner, I heard a clock chiming. I asked where it was coming from, and they said it was Big Ben! In all the times I've been to their flat, I've never heard Big Ben chiming. He was putting on a special show for my last week, clearly.

On Tuesday, I hung out with James. We went to a weird but cool vegan buffet restaurant in Soho. He gave me a booklet of poems about London just in case I miss the city. Wednesday was my last day at work, so I had after-work drinks with a few girls. Alex N. came along as well, and Carina's friend, Tom. Tom gave me contact details for a friend of his in Edinburgh so that I could contact her if I got lonely.

Thursday was my last day in London. I went to work to say a goodbye to Anna (and also see if there was anything good in the sale), then had to rush back home to check out of my room and get my deposit back. This took longer than I thought, as I had to peel a large sticker off my wall which didn't end up coming off, so I had to go tell my landlady that I'd ruined the paint job. She was very stern, and then took £5 off my deposit for it. She also waived some of the rent that I still owed her. What a sweetheart! Then I rushed off for dinner with my bessies (minus Tisobel cuz Timmy was sick, and minus Tanya and Alex, who are out of the country): Carina, Holly, and Aparna.

Carina likes affection even less than I do

After dinner, I wanted to drop by Tisobel's for one last "see you later," but Tim was heading to bed. I decided to be completely selfish and go anyway. I parted with the girls, lastly Holly, which was a bit hard. When we walked away from each other, she had the most melancholy look on her face, it broke my heart. It still makes me tear up to think about it. She looked like a puppy I had just told to go away and leave me alone.

Ugh, this is really hard. Okay, pull yourself together.

I got on the bus to go to Tim and Izzi's. On the way there, I realized that maybe Izzi was going to bed as well, and maybe their light would be out when I got there. I imagined myself just leaving their gift on the doorstep and slinking away into the night, broken-hearted. Then I started to cry on the bus. As I walked toward their flat, swallowing tears, a man further up the sidewalk was singing opera. It was so beautiful and poignant, London showing me the best she could offer. And then I was approaching the flat, and the light was still on, and Izzi answered the door and I was so happy, I forgot I'd been on the verge of tears moments before. We had a lovely cup of tea while sick Timmy slept, and then I said good night and left.

Sad Izzi

I was fine as we parted, but as I walked away, I started crying again. I choked back tears all the way back to Leytonstone, but then the fresh air must have cured me because I felt better as I walked home. Aparna was up waiting for me. She's such a treasure. I feel like a cheesy weirdo for using that word, but I can't think of another to describe her. She has been so good to me these past few months, offering me a home, making me dinners, giving me advice, throwing me a surprise birthday dinner. She even woke up at 5am to see me off. She's the best flatmate I could ever hope for and I love her dearly.

Best flatmate ever (plus Carina giving bunny ears)

If I didn't feel so good about being in Edinburgh, if I didn't feel like it was the right thing for me right now, I never would have survived leaving these wonderful people. I also know I will be back soon for visits! I plan to see Carina in Switzerland for her birthday, Holly's family has a cricket match on the farm in July, and I've promised everyone that I'll bring Becky and John down to London when they visit me this summer. Yay!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


I met the woman who will be my new store manager the other day. She is super nice and has high standards and lots of pet peeves, so I'm really excited about working with her. I still don't have a leaving date, or a flat, but time is running out so I really need to nail down some details.

Yesterday, I met up with Holly and tried out the "Boris Bikes" for the first time. Boris Johnson is the crazy, wild-haired Mayor of London. He's a cycling enthusiast and brought a rent-a-bike scheme to London last summer. It's pretty cool. You pay £1 for 24 hours of access (or you can buy an annual membership for, I think, £50), then every half hour is free. If you just dock your bike every 30 min and take out a new one, you never pay more than the £1 day-fee. The bikes are a bit heavy and only have 3 speeds, but they're a pretty good ride. In the evening, Izzi and Tim fed me roast chicken and baked potato. Yum!

Yesterday's big news was the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden by US Navy Seals. I feel like so much surrounding this news is unknown. They've apparently confirmed it was him by DNA testing, but where did the US get a past sample of bin Laden's DNA? And of course it remains to be seen how people will react to the news, though it doesn't sound like there's been a huge backlash just yet, so that's good. I'm glad Pakistan has so far reacted well to the news.

I had to work on the day of the Royal Wedding, but we all huddled around the laptop behind the tills and gave each other updates throughout the day. During my lunch break, I headed down the road to a place where there was a giant TV screen broadcasting live footage. I was just in time for the balcony kiss, which I have to say, was pretty anticlimactic. But then there was the Royal Air Force flyover, and the planes flew over us in the square about 10 seconds after flying over the palace, so that was pretty exciting. Everyone cheered. I think if I ever get married, I'll have to have a flyover, because it feels like nothing is really official until some fighter jets have flown over your head.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Visiting the UK Feb: The Cotswolds

I just realized I never blogged about my February UK visit. I was sure that I had, but can't find any evidence of it. Anyhoo, it was my friend, Maggie's, birthday at the beginning of February (same day as Izzi, actually). She's from the Seattle area and used to work with me at the Big A. Her boyfriend, Hugo, is English and his family is rich. They own a ridiculously amazing house out in a village in the Cotswolds. Part of the house was built in the 1500s, and the rest was added on in the 1600s, then remodeled in the 2000s. The neighbors hates Hugo's family because they added under-floor heating in their kitchen, which somehow cut through the village's main power line, so the lights in Hugo's house and the neighboring houses flicker on and off constantly whenever the floor is being heated, i.e. whenever anyone is in Hugo's house. Maggie wrote her master's dissertation from the house, on the topic of gentrification in modern society, and used the village as a case study. I wonder if she included a statement on the necessity of under-floor heating and its effect on neighborly relations.

Anyway, it was crazy fun. We went for walks and ate amazing meals cooked by Maggie and fresh bread from the bread maker and Maggie tried to ride Wayne the Pony by throwing herself onto his back. There was even a sword fight! Then Hugo read his granddad's diary, in which each entry ended "I.L.J." for "I love Jill." (Hugo's grandmother's name was NOT Jill.)

Photos here.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Visiting the UK March: Paris

Okay, it's not exactly the UK, but it was a trip that I haven't made since moving to the UK, so it counts, right? And I took the Eurostar, which I've never done before!

The weekend started with a perfect, sunny Saturday in London. For a couple months, Alex had been trying to get me to go to Broadway Market with her some Saturday morning, but I'd been working or she'd been busy and it hadn't worked out. But since my train to Paris wasn't until the afternoon, we jumped on the opportunity to check out the market, which is walking distance from her flat. The weather was amazing and we had a really, really nice time. I spent all my cash on silly, little artsy things, like stickers made from artsy polaroid photographs. Alex bought quality foodstuffs. We walked all the way down to the end of the market before I realized that I'd been there before, possibly twice. Ha! What a goof.

From Bethnal Green tube station, I headed to St. Pancras to catch the Eurostar. It was very exciting! I just barely made it! They started boarding as soon as I got there. The journey was uneventful. I did not follow through on my promise to Tim to have a cocktail on the train. Instead, I read comics and slept, despite the fact that it was only a 2 hour ride.

When I got to Paris, I was surprised at how disoriented I felt trying to navigate the Metro. I mean, I have traveled back and forth across the world, alone; I lived in France for a year; I know the London Underground like the back of my hand; I've been to Africa, for goodness sake! How could the Paris subway system throw me for such a loop? I tell you how: Because, of all the countries in the world, France cares the least about whether you reach the destination you were aiming for.

Anyway, I reached my destination without trouble. Jillian rented this gorgeous apartment in the very fashionable and trendy Marais neighborhood. For an hour, I just kept saying, "Wow, this is AMAZING!" We snacked on some baguette, cheese, and salami, then got dressed up for a Saturday night on the town. After wandering for a little while and asking random strangers where to go out, we finally found a bar a short distance from our flat. It was called "Bar Circus," cuz it was next to the ornate Cirque D'Hiver (Winter Circus) building. They played fun Latin music and we befriended the bartender, Alex, and asked him where we should go out from there. As Jillian is more ballsy than me, but doesn't speak French, she would grab a passing stranger and say, "Excusez-moi..." That was my cue to jump in with the mad French skillz, which were much rustier than I had hoped. After we'd been there about an hour, a group of young people got up to leave and Jillian grabbed one of the girls. "Excusez-moi," she started. I stuttered out a query about where they were headed, but the girl's answer completely befuddled me. "Pardon?" I asked. "Just come with us," she replied.

So we followed a group of strangers to the subway and on to a nightclub that played the kind of oldies you wish would just die already. Our new friends had all gone to university together in Toulouse, and were super friendly and welcoming. I very quickly got plastered, though of course I didn't realize it at the time, and we danced and chatted the night away, although somehow I don't think I did much talking. Or listening. I'm not really sure how I passed the time.

We slept late the next day, although I was up every hour or so battling a severe hangover. Since it was Sunday and everything was closed, we decided to go shopping. In France, stores aren't open on Sundays, except in Le Marais, which I suspect might have been one of the reasons Jillian decided to stay in that neighborhood! In one of the first shops, I spent 125€ on a silk top with lace trim that has SKULLS in the lace! Isn't that amazing?!? Yes, it is. Dinner was absolutely delicious buckwheat crepes in a very popular little creperie from Brittany.

On Day 2, we decided to go shopping. This time, we headed into the city, to the Galleries Lafayette where we perused the handbags and jewelry. Then we visited Coco Chanel's flagship store, where I became hyper aware of my holey and very dirty Converse sneakers. We checked out Herve Leger bandage dresses, then hit up Zara where I bought some ballet flats and a couple blouses. Jillian bought an awesome leather skirt and three pairs of shoes! Then we wandered towards the Champs Elysees, where we actually didn't do much shopping at all, but had some sisterly bonding and grabbed a quick drink before meeting up with Thomas, one of the people we had met on Saturday night.

Because he is foolish, Thomas picked as our meeting point a leather purse store near the Arc de Triomphe. Since he wasn't there when we arrived, of course we had to go in and have a look around. The "look" lasted quite a while and Jillian went home with another bag (she'd already bought 3 at the Galleries). But Thomas, who is very sweet, was very understanding. He walked us through a beautiful big park, then across town to Montmartre, where we ate a yummy, fancy dinner in a cute, tiny little restaurant that used to be an inn. After dinner, we walked up to the Sacre Coeur and got there just in time to watch the Eiffel Tower's hourly twinkle-fest.

On Day 3, since I was leaving in the afternoon, we decided to go shopping. We re-scoured Le Marais, convinced that we hadn't yet seen all the shops it had to offer. I bought a magnificent pair of deep red high heels that are slightly too high for me to be able to walk in. Oh well, just need to practice! Then I headed to the train station, and again felt like a fish out of water trying to ride the subway. At the train station, I had the awful run-in with UK border patrol which ruined my entire day and made me pout and cry on the entire journey home. But that doesn't matter, because I had an absolutely wonderful four days of shopping in Paris with my Bonus Sister. Yay!

Photos here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Saying goodbye

I met Alex for breakfast today and told her I was going to Edinburgh. Her eyes got really big and...she looked almost worried. She asked when and I said late May. She leaves for Africa later this week and doesn't come back until mid June, so yeah...This is hard. But she can come up and visit me, or I'll come down and visit her. Her boyfriend is from Newcastle and that's just a hop, skip, and a jump from Edinburgh.

Holly is still in India (or Sri Lanka or Nepal?) and I haven't told her yet. She's the one I worry the most about. She's not going to handle this news very well. She's been saying since our course ended that she doesn't know what she'll do when we all return to our respective motherlands. Sigh.

Paris post soon. Soonish.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Birthday Fun Timez

Sunday, 7:20am--returned home in the same clothes I left the house in on Friday, 8:40am. One would have to conclude that I've had a pretty damn good birthday, which is surprising, because at 8:30 on Friday morning, I was holding back tears, convinced that I was going to have a terrible 29th birthday, sitting at home by myself watching tv. All of my most beloved loved ones were far away (family on other side of world, Holly in Nepal, Tanya in Sri Lanka, Izzi and Tim in Surrey, Anna in America, Alex in Alex-land, James in Cambridge, etc.) or otherwise occupied (Carina had a wedding). But surely I could count on Aparna to celebrate my birthday with me, no? I approached her with a rucksack in her hand. Spending the weekend with boyfriend in Cornwall. Hm.

So while at work on Friday, I emailed Maggie in a panic (she with the boyfriend whose family has a ridiculously amazing house in the Cotswolds) begging her to hang out with me on my birthday. She was all too happy to oblige. Then I found out that Anna wasn't in America yet, so she could hang out too!

After work on Friday, I headed over to Tim and Izzi's, where they had made lamb and roast potatoes and baked me a delicious cake with cream cheese icing! Yum! And they got me a very pretty green bracelet. Izzi's friend, Katie, was there as well and she is such a sweetheart. We discovered that she shares a room (bunkbead, even) with a guy I used to work with at the pub in Hammersmith. Small world! Tim and Izzi promised me a birthday breakfast if I spent the night, with pancakes and birthday bacon! (It's just like regular bacon, but fried with love.) Obviously, that was an offer I couldn't refuse. I headed to work for noon wearing some of Izzi's clothes.

At work, my French coworker sang happy birthday to me in French over the walky-talky, Anna got me a cupcake, and Alison made me a homemade card! Then Anna and I headed to a pub near work to meet up with Maggie and Hugo. Maggie's friend, Mitch, was there, too, and we had a fun time drinking and eating. Then my phone rang, and it was boy-Alex, my old (favorite!) manager from work, calling to wish me a happy birthday. He and Maggie and Hugo are really good friends, so when I told him I was hanging out with them, he invited us all over to his flat. We had so much fun just hanging out and playing card games (not strip poker, don't get any ideas!) We stayed until 5am. It was absolutely wonderful. Also, Mitch and Anna really hit it off which makes me happy (if slightly jealous) cuz Anna hasn't met any decent men in a while and Mitch is really sweet.

So it was a really, really good birthday and I need to learn my lesson not to feel sorry for myself preemptively. It was bittersweet, though, because Izzi and Tim and I got talking about my 30th birthday (shudder) and the fact that my visa expires just before it. And they were saying that they'll start saving their money now so they can come celebrate my 30th with me in America, and the thought of that kind of upset me. I don't want to go back yet! I've been mentally preparing myself for months now, but the idea of not being in the same country as Tisobel is hard to accept.

Which brings me to other news: Work said I could move to Edinburgh with the company. It would be late May, just two months away. I'll miss all my friends, but in a sort of "oh, haven't seen them in a while, oh well" sort of way. But I'll miss Izzi and Tim the way I'd miss a finger. You don't absolutely need it, but life is so much better and easier with it. Other than that, though, I'm super excited! Finally following my dream of marrying a hot Scot!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

At Passport Control

I generally think it's a bad idea to lie to UK border agents, so that is why the following conversation went the way it did. Now I know better.

Going through passport control to reenter the UK from France:

Agent: "What nationality are you?"


"But you live in the UK?"


"What type of visa are you on?"

Post-study work.

"What did you study?"

The control of infectious diseases.

"But you work in retail?"

(Embarrassed smile) Yeah.

(Not smiling) "That's not really relevant, is it?"

Uh, no.

"How long have you been working in retail?"

(I start to suspect I should lie, but decide to go with the truth) A year.

"That visa is meant to be so you can work in your field. Why aren't you working in your field?"

I've been trying to get jobs.

"When was your last interview?"

About...five months ago?

"You're not trying very hard, are you? You know, this is exactly why we're getting rid of the post-study work visa, because of people like you who don't use it for what you're supposed to."

She stamped my passport and handed it back, and I just took it with a forced smile and walked away, fuming. I couldn't even focus on finding my waiting area or listening to boarding announcements, I was so upset. I spent the entire train ride home going over all my many inadequacies. I know I'm not supposed to internalize shit like this. I know when people are horrible to you, you're just supposed to shrug it off and feel sorry for them. I'm not supposed to let this ruin my memory of my three wonderful days in Paris.

But she was right. I'm not trying very hard. I've lost sight of the point, of my dream. I've become complacent and I'm wasting time and resources. Although part of that is precisely because of the mind-numbing and soul-destroying process of applying for jobs, but I need to be more determined. No one else is going to follow my dream for me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Didn't think I'd need it again!

MERDE!! Just pulled out my trusty old mapbook of Paris and turned to the page that is supposed to have the area Bonus Sis and I are staying in.

It took me a second to remember...they were drawer pulls, I think. I was extremely proud of myself for creating such cool drawer pulls. Inspired by the store I now work in. I even wrote a blog post about how I was gonna cut circles out of maps and hodge-podge them to my drawer pulls.

So yeah. I ripped the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, along with Le Marais neighborhood, out of my "trusty" mapbook in order to do craft projects. Note to self: when you arrive in Paris tomorrow evening, prior to trying to find the flat you're staying in, BUY A NEW MAP.

Living situation

Why do washing machines in this country take so freakin' long?! I put a load in nearly two hours ago! Arrrrgggghh!

Anyway, yes, I'm off to Paris tomorrow and have no clean clothes. Nice one, Kusems. No complaints, though. Today was a perty good day. Work was easy and I got to spend loads of time shootin' the shit with our stockroom manager, whom I adore (read: have a crush on but will keep a respectful distance from as he has a family). And our flat situation dissolved with minimal impact to my finances, which is great!

Basically, I was reluctant to move in with this girl because she's neurotic and patronizing (despite being a full 8 years younger than me) but didn't realize this until I had already agreed to move in with her so didn't feel like I could back out. We put down a £1000 holding deposit on a flat three weeks ago, and it's taken this long for the letting agents (they're like used-car salesmen, but for your future rental home!) to check all our references and stuff. After this girl gave them the money, they sent her a document saying that we would lose the money if we backed out for any reason or if they deemed our references unsuitable. She signed it without noticing that. On Wednesday, they said that our references "failed" because this girl's boyfriend is on a temporary work contract. They said the only options were to provide a guarantor for the whole cost of the flat (not just for his share) or to pay 6 months in advance (again, the whole kit and caboodle). I refused to even attempt to do that, especially as it would require this girl loaning me all the money, so they said we would lose our £1000.

The eminently wise Tisobel said, over and over again, "Talk to the citizens' advice bureau about your rights!" So I went to get some advice from them on Thursday. While I was waiting for my turn, I called the letting agent and spoke to him for the first time. The plan was to be cool and collected and read off of script I had written out beforehand. I did not do any of those things. I was unreasonable and angry and overly aggressive and had no idea what to say. The guy handled it relatively well. He probably gets that a lot. But he was clear and firm: "we" (i.e. my would-be flatmate) signed a paper forfeiting our right to our money. He said he was planning to have a word with her boyfriend about her options. I ended the phone call firmly with, "Well, I'm at the citizens' advice bureau at the moment, so I'll have a chat with them and you have a chat with [boyfriend] and we'll talk later."

Then I spoke with the citizens' advice lady, who said we could take them to small claims court and argue that they were unreasonable and didn't try hard enough to accommodate us, etc. This option did not sound appealing, so I went to work feeling hopeless. I spent the entire tube ride going over it all in my head, fretting. Then I called my would-be flatmate in order to inform her that I had lost my cool with the letting agent and had probably blown the whole thing. Before I could say any of this, she told me that her boyfriend had just spoken to them, and they were going to give us some of the money back.

I'm sorry...what??

Apparently, I scared them! Or convinced them that we weren't going to go down without a fight. They are giving us half of the money back, keeping the rest to cover the costs of chasing up our references, etc (which the advice lady said was totally fair). And my would-be flatmate has very kindly only asked me for a small portion of the fee, not one-third. They are able to continue living in their flat for a while longer, and I am able to stay in mine for the moment, so all's well that ends well! I won't be moving to Greenwich :-( but might be moving to Edinburgh :-))))) so things are looking alright at the moment! You can continue sending lovely packages to my current address ;-) hint hint

Tuesday, March 15, 2011



Tonight reminded me of a day a year and a half ago, when I was feeling stressed and frustrated and alone, and I turned around and standing there, impossibly, was the one person I least expected but most wanted to see. That day, I was sitting in Hyde Park, frustrated with flat-hunting and desperately wanting advice, wanting to see a friendly face, and Alex came jogging by. In the biggest park in one of the bigger cities of the world, there she was when I needed her.

I'm pretty sure everyone wanted to come to my pie party, but all week people have been letting me know that they have to work late, or catch up on their studies, and this and that. I suspected that it was going to be a very small gathering, but I could at least count on my two flatmates and a couple others who said they'd definitely be coming, including a coworker who lives JUST down the road from me. Holly is in India, Tanya in Sri Lanka, Carina in Switzerland, Izzi and Tim at a wedding. I did not at all expect Alex to come. She's hard to pin down at the best of times, and as she is supposed to be leaving for 3 months in Tanzania soon, this is not the best of times. She sent me an email this morning saying that she had to go someplace after work and had stuff to sort out for Africa, but would try to come by after. This is Alex-speak for "see you in three months."

So I started baking this afternoon, not at all sure how many would make it. I was going to make two pies, a chicken pot pie using this crust recipe, and a homity pie. I got started at 4pm. At 6:40, while I was still working on the ingredients of the chicken pot pie, Flatmate One texted to say she needed to sort out her life and would not be coming. At 7pm, still slicing onions, Flatmate Two texted to say that she had been diagnosed with malaria and would not be coming (yikes!) I started taking pictures to document the utter failure that was my Pi(e) Day party.

Filling. Looks good, anyway.

Here's where things get dicey: the top pastry is hard as a rock!!
I almost threw out my shoulder trying to roll it flat.

No one else texted. Nobody at all. The time just kept ticking past, I kept working on my pies, secretly hoping no one would arrive because I was nowhere near having a pie ready for consumption. I became convinced that I would be eating them alone while watching an episode (or 3) of 30 Rock.

When my phone rang at 7:30, I expected it to be my coworker Laura, who I don't know very well and was a bit nervous to spend the evening alone with. But it was Alex, telling me she was downstairs and sorry she was late. It was beyond wonderful to see her. She brought mini steak and chicken pies from Marks and Spencers, and well as mashed potatoes!

Dinner for 10 became dinner for 1 became dinner for 2, and it was perfect. We watched Bridget Jones's Diary and pined after Mark Darcy.

But best of all, my pie was delicious! I even had a witness to vouch for it!

Concentrating really hard so as not to drop it.

I gave up halfway through the homity pie, but will finish it tonight and save it for lunches this week. I'm very proud of myself for making a pie, and a yummy one at that, but I feel weird about the evening. It was an almost complete and utter failure, but not in the way I expected. I've been telling people all week that I'm afraid of burning down the house or causing an outbreak of foodborne illness, but I didn't expect them to take that as a warning to stay away! I didn't even get to read out Becky's pie-ku's. :-(

Oh well. I had a perfect dinner with Alex and that's all that matters. And I have leftovers! AND I now know how to make a pie and don't need to be frightened of it anymore! I am INVINCIBLE!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring is in the air!

Izzi and Tim are out of town for a wedding and I feel like someone pressed the 'pause' button on my life. How did I become so dependent on these people?

I'm getting really nervous about Pi(e) Day. Cooking for people scares me, and cooking for several people is terrifying! Oh well, I will woman up and tap into my inner awesomeness. Also, it looks like none of my favoritest people can make it to the party, so it might be an odd mix of semi-randoms. Oh well, it'll be fun no matter what. Mainly because pie is involved. Stay tuned for more "Adventures in Cooking with Kusems!"

Other things: Aparna went to Brighton this week for work, and since she's the best flatmate ever, she brought me Brighton Rock as a souvenir. My microwave dinner was insufficient tonight, so I started chomping into this. Check it out: it says "Brighton Rock" all the way through! How did they do that?!?

I talked to Jocky earlier, which was WONDERFUL.

I had a date on Friday! My first since...late July? Go me!

Paris with Bonus Sis (and meeting up with Jacque!) on Saturday (and I got the day off so can actually catch my train!) So excited!

And finally, SPRING BLOSSOMS! I saw my first ones on Tuesday last week. Sooooooo ready for Spring, bring it on!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Pancake gut

I'm pretty sure I saw Lady Gaga trying on neon yellow Doc Martens at the Schuh on Oxford Street today. Or not, but this girl sure was intent on looking like her.

I was reading Becky's blog earlier and was inspired to start taking more photos again. I've been really bad about photographing lately, and haven't really carried my camera with me in months. This is silly, considering it was my New Year's resolution last year to take a photo every day. Ha!

Today and tomorrow are my two days of this week, and for once, I have nothing to do. We finished round 2 of our literature review last week and Greg is working on collecting the 250 journal articles we put through to round 3, so I just get to wait and relax. I've forgotten how to do that! When I have nothing to do, I end up spending money. That's right, I went shopping. I only bought one pair of jeans (part of our uniform allowance at work so way cheap!) and a cardigan. The jeans are a bit tight, and I'm slightly paranoid that they're going to split at the seams within a couple months. :-S But they look AMAZING! Check out that ass!

I was meant to have lunch with Izzi, but she wasn't feeling well :-( I had pancake lunch with Alex and her coworkers instead, at My Old Dutch. These are European-style pancakes, giant crepes twice as big as your head, with all sorts of fillings. They have £5 Mondays, and I swear it's going to be the death of me. I'm as tiny as ever, except around the middle where I'm developing quite the pancake gut. But tomorrow is Pancake Day (aka Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras) and if Izzi is feeling better, I've been invited round to their's for pancakes, so the gut won't be going away just yet. Maybe I'll give up pancakes for Lent. hahaha! Yeah, right.

Pregnant with a pancake baby!

Pi Day is coming up and I'm throwing a party. I'm going to try to make two savoury pies, and I'm excited, but terrified. Cooking actually frightens me. How sad is that? I really need to step up my efforts to find a man who will cook for me. Or just move into Tim and Izzi's flat.

Tomorrow, I was thinking I'd hit up Spitalfields for the Great Pancake Race, and then free hair cut in Camden. I'm in need of a serious trim, as I have a bit of long ducktail thing going on at the back. Yipes.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


You know how there are moments in life when everything seems to be working in your favor? This is one of those moments. Today, I got a call from a lab temp agency I sent my info to a while back. I was at work so didn't actually speak to them about whatever job they're recruiting for, but it's something! And then I got my payslip from work, and it turns out that all that extra money they paid me this month is actually mine. I take back calling them buffoons! Quite the opposite, they sorted out my taxes and paid me £900 back that I was overcharged over the past several months. I was riding the tube home and it felt like something was missing in my life, and then I realized it was the stress! The tension in my shoulders is missing! I don't have to stress about groceries. My friends can stop buying my dinners and drinks for me. I can afford to pay a deposit on a new flat. And the prospect of going to Paris at the end of the month no longer gives me a mini panic attack. I can afford to go to the Musee d'Orsay and eat meals, too! Obviously, I'm not gonna go on a spending spree. I'm still gonna try to stick the budget I've been on since January, but I can relax a bit. Tonight, I celebrated by treating myself to fish and chips and an episode of Misfits.

Man, it's such a relief.

Annoyingly, the flat we're trying to get is continuing to be problematic. Since my coworker is a student and doesn't have a UK guarantor, they want her to pay her full year's share of the rent upfront. Ridiculous. We'll have to see how it turns out.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lunches, brunches, and Greenwiches

I think I'm well overdue for an update, and I've been meaning to write lately because there are some changes going on, but I am a busy, busy little bee!

Last weekend, Tisobel had me over for lunch with their friend, Oliver, on Saturday. I had such a nice time. Izzi made duck and it was AMAZING! Then on Sunday, I had brunch with the girls (Tanya was back in town for a week!!!), then Tisobel had me over for Sunday roast dinner (again, naturally, it was delicious). So I got to hang out with Tisobel (and eat their food) two days in a row. It was pretty much the highlight of my year. It's all downhill from here!

Remember back when I was talking about following the Prime Meridian line north in order to find a new place to live cuz London was driving me crazy? Well, since that failed, I'm following the line to its source instead! I've always loved Greenwich and wanted to live there, but I assumed that it was really expensive to live there because it's so nice. I can't afford to continue living in my current place, because I don't make enough money at work and this flat is so friggin' far out of central London, it should really be a lot cheaper. Anyway, a girl from work and her boyfriend are looking for a place, too, so we decided to look for a two-bedroom flat in...Greenwich! Turns out, because transport links to Greenwich aren't stellar, it's actually cheaper than much of London. So we put down a holding deposit on a flat last week. I'm a bit nervous about the whole thing because it hasn't gone terribly smoothly so far and they sprung a bunch of extra fees on us as soon as we paid the deposit, but we'll see.

Other news, I've decided to try to follow the management track at work, since I have no job prospects in public health/research. I have a year left on my visa, and assuming that's all I'll get, I'm gonna settle in and commit to something. Also, we're opening a store in Edinburgh soon and I SOOOOOOOO want to go there! Edinburgh is GORGEOUS! And full of Scottish accents!

I just got my paycheck for this month, and it's more than twice as much money as it should be. This is great, but very worrying, as I'll obviously have to give some of it back, or not get paid next month or something like that. I really wish this company wasn't staffed by buffoons. It would make life easier.

Today: brunch with some former coworkers who all happen to be Seattlites. My FAVORITE manager, who moved to head office several months ago, and his wife are hosting and it's set to be a doozy! Pancakes with fruit and chocolate chips, eggs, bacon, sausages, champagne...I really need to go shower and get over there before my tummy abandons ship and goes without me!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Peace Corps and study?

So one possibility that occurred to me was that of getting another degree while also volunteering with the Peace Corps. Exploring this possibility on the Peace Corps website, I clicked "anthropology" to see what options came up under that.

One option came up.

It's for either environmental anthropology or public health anthropology. So far so good.

Guess which school offers it?

Wazzu. I told myself I would be open to the possibility of going to school anywhere in the world. Pullman, WA, does NOT count! That's not anywhere in the world. It's the middle of nowhere! I can't go from London to Pullman. I'd go stir-crazy!

And how disloyal would I be if I crossed over to the dark side and became a Cougar? Not that I've made a very active or loyal Husky, but still.

Also, I'd have to take the GRE again, which I more or less failed last time.

Flippin' Pullman. It figures.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Need and want

It's amazing what two glasses of wine can do.

Carina invited me over for dinner tonight. I haven't seen her in a month, so it was good to catch up. We watched American Idol and then the new series of Skins. On the tube on the way home, I was too wine-y to read my book, so decided to write down my thoughts. I've been thinking lately that I need a strategy, an action plan.

Pops and Michele were telling me to really think and write about what I want, my goals and stuff. They said to write out a mission statement. I said, "yeah yeah yeah," made a resolution to spend 15 minutes a day writing in my journal about goals and dreams and shit, and then spent the next two weeks saying to myself, "I should really get started on that one of these days..." On the way to work today, I started thinking about what I believe makes me stand apart from other candidates when I apply for a job. As I stepped down from the Central line at Holborn, my answer was "nothing." Of course I'm not getting any interviews. Other people are smarter and more driven than me. They deserve the jobs I'm applying for. I thought about Tim and the fact that when he goes to an interview, he fully believes that he deserves the job he is applying for, and that he is the best candidate they will see. When I go to an interview, I'm just hoping to fool them long enough that they hire me. I chided myself for thinking this way, and by the time I had stepped onto a Picadilly line train, I had started a list of attributes that should make me stand out as a candidate. It's not a very strong list, but it's a start.

So on the way home from Carina's, I was adding more to this list, and reading my book about building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and I had an apostrophe.

I think I should go back to school and get a degree in medical anthropology.

I need to go back to school and get a degree in medical anthropology.

But more than that, I WANT to go back to school a get a degree in medical anthropology. Even with a couple glasses of wine, though, I knew this idea was far-fetched and unrealistic. I'm $60,000 in debt for my first master's degree, which has so far done absolutely nothing for me. I can't go back to school.

But I think I might need to. I want to be a medical anthropologist. That is what I want. I wanted it four years ago but lacked the confidence to say it, or even think it. Yesterday, I wouldn't have said those words. Why does it always take me so long to figure out how much I want something? Why does it take me three or four years to gain the confidence to commit? I've wasted so much time, it makes tears come to my eyes just thinking about it! Twenty-eight years, ten months, 1 day, and $60,000 (not including interest) to come to this conclusion.

Now what? Now I have to find a way to make it happen. It's not a choice. I have a destiny out there somewhere and I can feel it slipping further and further away with each passing day. It is imperative that I fulfill it, before I drive myself insane with longing and an overwhelming feeling of wasted potential.

What sets other people apart from me is their focus and determination. But not anymore.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Visiting the UK Jan: Epping Forest

Tim said last night, "Now, I don't want to nag...but when are you gonna update your blog again?" Well Tim, stick with your gut instinct and don't be a nag! J/K. I love you!

Yesterday was my day to make good on my New Year's resolution of visiting a new place in the UK each month. I kind of failed. The plan was to go to Richmond Park and Kew Gardens. But it costs £14 to get into Kew Gardens and there isn't much there in January. So Aparna and I were just gonna go to Richmond Park instead in the hopes of seeing deer. But I had to bake cookies first and we just got a bit lazy and then decided it made much more sense to go to Epping Forest, which is a 20 minute walk from home. As I haven't been to Epping Forest before, it kind of counts, but not really. It isn't much of a forest anymore, but Henry the something-or-other used to hunt there back in the day. I think it's about half the size of Marymoor Park, and much less forested. Pretty, though! Then we went to IKEA on a whim, as you do. We got a full-length mirror! It's the best thing ever! Now I can see whether I look ridiculous before I get to work. How convenient!

In the evening, it was Tim's friend, Steve's, birthday party. It was fun, mostly because I got to spend the whole evening with Izzi and Tim. I even spent the night at their flat and they gave me BACON this morning! And maple syrup! I like them.

I think I'm going to have to move again, because I will never make enough money at my current job to pay for my current rent, travel card, and food. One of these things must be cut out. Like, NOW. It's stressful. I had Aparna look at my finances with me last week, and ended up on the verge of a panic attack. I'm trying not to think too much about it. Tuesday night is dinner with Tisobel and their friend, Oliver, and Thursday is dinner with Carina, so I will look forward to those things and try not to stress. Breathing deeply...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Latest whim

I haven't blogged in a while because I'm frustrated with life (work, money, London) and I'm sick of always blogging when I'm cranky.

Work is stressing me out. I asked for a raise for a second time, and again my manager came up with BS excuses why I wasn't good enough to warrant a raise, while also giving me even more responsibility and work to do. I've started having stressful dreams about work. Twenty-nine years of learning to be conscientious and hard-working and respect authority, undone by ten months working in this job. I now know that if I work hard and do a good job, I'll get taken advantage of. So it's time to stop working hard. It's time to care less.

In my Christmas stocking (Christmas with the Coley's was wonderful, by the way!), Tim's mom gave me a lavender sachet. I've taken to sniffing it lately to release stress. I took a long sniff of it this morning and was transported back to San Juan Island in May, 2004. Memories of playing at the lavender farm with my sisters, and of almost dying trying to follow my dad up a steep hill on my bike. Forget London. That's where I want to be right now. So I got to thinking, "I wonder what Jersey is like?" I pulled out my list of places to go in England before my visa runs out and added the Channel Islands to it. But why stop there? I'm frustrated with my job and have no other job prospects. Izzi and Tim might be leaving London soon for Tim's work. Why not work in the Channel Islands for a summer season? So this is my latest whim. To spend the summer working in a resort or something on a nice, warmer-than-London island.