October 6, 2011

This post is for my mom

Hey Mom! I wrote this post at work last night! Don't worry, I'm doing all my schoolwork!

Here's a layout of my apartment along with helpful pictures!

So this is a paint drawing I made of the walls and major furniture in my apartment. If you click here, it will get bigger. It's to orient you when you look at the pictures.

This is what the main room looks like when you're standing near the butcher block. Several important points:
  • We have really amazing and beautiful big windows.
  • You will notice many gourds/pumpkins scattered about the place. My housemate Griffin had a farm plot in town this summer and he grew a ton of vegetables which we have all been very happily eating. He also grew MANY pumpkins. So far for dinner we've had many pumpkin pies, pumpkin pasta, and pumpkin soup.

This is the sitting room when standing near the
dining table. We've got a map of London and a map of Granada above the couch (can you tell who put them up?) and other people are supposedly going to put up other maps to go with them. We also have a coffee table in between the couches for when we entertain. How fancy!

This is the main room from the sitting area. You'll recognize the table cloth we used for the notice board table, I think. Emily put up that cloth -- she got it in Africa!

This is part of the kitchen from standing in front of Emily's African cloth. This is where you get really impressed about Griffin. Griffin made the butcher's block in the foreground, the wooden counter in the background, and the spice rack on the left! Even better, he made the butcher's block and the counter out of old furniture that the college was giving away for free.

This is what the kitchen looks like from the butcher's block.

Here's the view out of one of our downstairs windows. We're right above the park, and that building on the left is the old bank.

One more view of the downstairs, this time from the stairs. I took this pictures at the hour of the afternoon when the sun is hitting the disco ball that the boys hung up, so that's why there are little dots of light everywhere. So pretty!

This is my desk, which is right at the top of the stairs. I don't have a picture of Emily's, but it's opposite mine against the wall to the bathroom (as you can see on the paint drawing).

This is the bedroom! We have queen beds, which is AWESOME. My bed is the one on the right and Emily's is on the left. The boys all sleep in the other apartment

My bed! And what's at the foot of my bed!

And this is Emily's bed.

AND THAT'S THE END. I'm gonna go call you now, ok Mom?

February 11, 2011


I am so behind on this blog. SO BEHIND. There are so many ridiculously awesome things that have happened. For instance, I officially got a certificate saying that my school is a Guinness world record holder! For instance, I went to Dublin!
We’ve seen a LOT of Shakespeare since I last wrote, including the best As You Like It I’ve EVER seen. I even decided that As You Like It is my favorite Shakespeare now (since I know you are ALL REALLY INTERESTED)… Hamlet is great but maybe it was TOO MUCH IN THE SUN…

I also turned 21! Which means a lot less here than it would have in the states. I had a LOVELY day spent making crumble and hanging out and eating A LOT. My party was Nicki Minaj themed!
I WENT TO DUBLIN. It was WONDERFUL (but expensive). We did a lot of museum hopping and Guinness storehouse touring and pub visiting, and it was all so lovely. I did feel for most of the time like I was kind of missing something, though. Like I didn’t really understand Ireland enough to fully appreciate it? I would definitely like to spend more time there. But we went to a pub mentioned in Dubliners and I saw the Book of Kells, so I got my little nerdy happiness.

London is becoming a bit more routine, but I’m definitely still taking adventures! Last week I went on a walk to Regent’s Park and then spent all of Friday looking around Covent Garden while my friend and I were queueing for theatre tickets. We didn’t end up getting the tickets, which was really disappointing, but we did take ourselves out to dinner afterwards to drown our woes in chocolate!

AND NOW I’M IN MADRID. I’m getting the “I don’t get it” feeling even more here, which probably has a lot to do with my complete lack of Spanish. While we were at the Reine Sofia the other day I had a moment where I realized I just couldn’t imagine what it’s like to be Spanish. This coincided nicely with an exhibit that was literally just the front pages of newspapers around the world from 9/11, so I ended up a little unhappy that night. All was cured, though, when we saw the highlights of Spanish culture — a couple of alums are here for Fulbrights and they took us out for tapas and sangria. So basically I was a happy girl after that!

Today we went to the Prado and saw AMAZING ART!!! We also had a picnic lunch at the Retiro, which is a park in the center of Madrid. When we were eating lunch we were sitting next to a Spanish guy who kept playing Bob Dylan on his guitar. We rented rowboats and walked around looking at street performers and such — so cool! If you’re wondering about the picture that goes with this entry, The Social Network is really my favorite movie right now, and we saw a Spanish pirated version at a street vendor today — you don’t make five million amigos without making a few enemigos! Throw in a Lord of the Rings reference and I’m sold.

Tonight we’re going to an Irish pub to try to watch the Superbowl in Madrid! Wish me luck! And I’ll write about Rome (we’re heading there Tuesday) when I return to London this weekend!

Things I Ate or Drank on my 21st Birthday

  • jam and toast
  • chocolate cake
  • chocolate Hello Kitty lollipops
  • different chocolate cake
  • birthday apple raspberry crumble (I made it myself!)
  • fish and chips
  • rose
  • pink champagne
  • a pint of Guinness
It was a great birthday.


  • Schoolwork in London is GREAT. We’ve been doing a LOT of Shakespeare lately — Hamlet last week and As You Like It Now — with a good bit of Jane Austen and Byron in the middle. We had to do a presentation on a Regency artifact, and while a lot of people actually had objects that they based their work on, I went for the more abstract (and awesomely obscure) route and did mine on a slang dictionary. What’s abstract about this? I’ve never seen it physically, but I did find the text online! It was really fun for me because I got to talk to blabber on about lexicography and slang and everyone in my class ABSOLUTELY HAD TO LISTEN TO ME. I think I did pretty well!
  • As for class trips, we’ve only had one play last week and this week. I did go to a production of the Twelfth Night, but most of the trips have been to interesting locations. We went to the London Eye right at the beginning of the trip. We’ve also been to Sir John Soane’s Museum, which was the house of a famous architect — his design for his wife’s tomb actually inspired London’s phone boxes. He was a really pleasant fellow who designed his basement like a crypt, built a room especially for his alter ego/imaginary friend (he was a monk), and personally victimized his sons into early graves and debtors prison! Great guy.
  • We have three day weekends! And last weekend I went on THREE DAY TRIPS:
    On Friday I went to CANTERBURY. It was cold and wintery, so a lot of things were closed, but we had a really good time at the Canterbury Cathedral and at the museum. I made a joke about going on a pilgrimage not to Thomas Becket’s grave but to the birthplace of Orlando Bloom that morning, but I was still surprised to find a picture of my middle school love IN THE MUSEUM. We also found a really neat bookshop and visited the gift shop for the Canterbury Tales tourist attraction.
    On Saturday the whole group took a coach out to Chawton and Winchester to see the house where Jane Austen wrote her last three novels — Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion — and Winchester Cathedral, where she’s buried. Going to the house was a lot like going to any author’s house, which I think is always pretty useless. Chawton is a really quaint country village, which was fun to see, and I personally really enjoyed the chance to see an exhibit containing Jane Austen’s personal space heater! Winchester was a little more fun — it’s a beautiful town, and it was a little less touristy than other places we’ve been. We also had a tour around the Cathedral where we saw memorials to some of Austen’s friends.
    AND THEN on Sunday I took the train out to Windsor with the University of London Mountaineering Club for a walking trip! We walked past Eton College, where both the princes went to school, and then tramped around the countryside for a bit. It was really funny to see the similarities between this trip and CANOE trips back at Carleton — both are very casual and relatively unplanned, and both involve a good amount of bushwhacking and private property. It was nice to just go for a good long walk, and I got to meet some REAL ENGLISH PEOPLE. The walk back into Windsor took us right up the castle, too! Though the leader of the trip is very anti royal family, so he was pretty snarky about it.
  • TO BE CONTINUED: future trips, random happenings, markets

I’m using the picture above this mostly because I think it’s really funny, but I guess I could take advantage of it as an introduction to talking about British comedy and the plays I’ve been seeing so far here.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the program I’m on focuses on two subjects — London Theatre and Regency London. The plays that we’ve seen so far are the Master Builder, Fela, an pantomime called Jack and the Beanstalk, and a French farce called A Flea in Her Ear.

The British comedy I’ve been exposed to ranges from Monty Python to Shakespeare to Spaced and the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy to Jane Austen to Catherine Tate’s Lauren Cooper sketches (and, of course, the IT Crowd). While Fela — a musical about the Nigerian afrobeat artist Fela Kuti — was pretty much in line with musicals I’ve seen in the states, I’ve definitely learned a little bit more about WHAT TICKLES THE FUNNY BONES in England.

Last Friday we went to an English pantomime, which was, in a word, an experience. One conception that I’ve always had about the UK is that it’s a rather tight knit culture. I suppose that in the US we have our celebrities and our pop culture references that we like to reference, but I always thought I had a pretty good grasp on aspects of both American and English news and pop culture. The panto definitely disabused me of this notion.

I managed to get several references to the Ashes that England recently won from Australia in cricket, Doctor Who (though that one was not very difficult to get), Eastenders, and X Factor, but I’m sure that the rest of the play was riddled with small references that completely went over my head. I may or may not have laughed at a not very well placed reference to the Catherine Tate Show just because I understood it. But what the panto did convince me of is that there is definitely a different set of jokes here. Even though we both speak English, we definitely don’t speak the same language.

What’s been particularly interesting language-wise is seeing what differences English people notice in the language. I know that we think of distinct lexical differences like loo vs bathroom and lift vs elevator, but there are millions more that no one ever bothers to explain. I remember being here a couple of years ago and dealing with one such miscommunication — the word “pumps” to me meant high-heeled shoes, whereas my English friend used it to refer to ballet flats. This trip has only revealed more differences — a Westminster Abbey employee poked fun at Americans for saying “sidewalk” (he exaggerated the “ah”) rather than “pavement” and then exclaimed that it was “awesome! Oh my God!” I walked away from that exchange mentally kicking myself for saying “awesome” so much in public.

We have met some others who made fun of us in a less good-natured way. One man followed a group through the tube station repeating the phrase, “Land of the trees and home of the brave!” and when I told another weird guy on the street that we were Canadian so he would stop bothering us, he commented that on the map it looks a bit like Canada is “buggering” the US. Charming.

When I’m not travelling in a giant group of students, though, it’s less likely to be targeted by random passersby and easier to blend in, and that’s when I’ve really felt like I like this city. I’ve even been using a bit of English intonation when I only have to interact with someone for a few words — mumbled “pleases” and “thank yous.” I’m starting to feel much more comfortable getting around — public transportation is no longer a mystery to me, and I know the way to the Sainsbury’s nearby. There are the occasional surprises, like when I went on a walk over the weekend and found myself at the river when I thought I was walking completely in the other direction. Overall, though, London is starting to feel like a place that I’ll be happy spending a couple months.

This may seem pretentious or whatever, but considering I read a book for this program I’m going to track some of the words I look up in the OED with each blog post. It should be interesting to look back on! (also it’s my hot blog, I do what I want)

Most recent OED search: truepenny, n. A trusty person, an honest fellow (compared to a coin of genuine metal). as adj. true, genuine.

So when I was working on a boat this summer I read a book by David Crystal called Words, Words, Words. It was a funny, awesome, fantabulous book about being a word lover, and it came with a lot of cool word stories that my coworkers did not really appreciate hearing about. For instance, did you know that the words “science” and “nice” come from the same Indo-European root (skei- meaning “to cut”) which split into Latin words “scientia” (knowledge) and “nescire” (to not know) — this makes more sense when you know that “nice” meant foolish back then there in the olden days. And let’s not even talk about how cool it is that the two new words mean completely opposite things, or that this root also went on to be the base of words like “ski” and, even greater, “shit.” The point you’re supposed to get out of this anecdote is that I really like telling people about weird word factoids.

Today, during an unsuccessful trip to see Platform 9 3/4, my friends and I walked past the British Library which was showing a free exhibit about the evolution of the English language completely by chance. So instead of reading David Crystal and imagining how awesome he must be, I watched him read some of Beowulf in Old English (and saw what I am calling “a super old version” of the poem itself). I got to listen to him say a lot of things that I agree with about English and the internet. And I got to see quotation slips from James Murray’s Oxford English Dictionary (the picture is not of the ones I saw, but the ones on display at the OUP museum in Oxford). I might have fangirled a little bit?

But best of all? Here’s a good factoid I learned — the verb “to fart” was first recorded between 1225-1250 in a song called the “Cuckoo Song.” So far I am learning quite a lot of useful things on my study abroad program.

P.S. The word “glamour” comes directly from the word “grammar.” Turns out, Pink, that it’s super impossible to be too school for cool.

And you should probably check out a picture of James Murray’s beard.

Final note: I supposedly set this up so people could leave comments, but it’s not working. I think I’m just going to have you all send me quotation slips instead.

April 10, 2010

red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach

I have an epic tale for you, Vashta Nerada.* Don't I always have an epic tale for you? If any of you are still reading this, then I assume you continue to enjoy yourselves through my epic tales.

I am enthusiastic about a lot of things. You've seen it here -- mustaches, Shakespeare, being overly competitive while playing word games -- and you've no doubt heard of it otherwise, seeing as I am incredibly famous. But really. My theme song is called "Alive, Awake, Alert, Enthusiastic" and it involves lots of really intense hand/arm/body motion. It is a great song.

One of the things I am enthusiastic about is nature. Nature is something white people like. White people like going outside and then judging others for not going outside more. White people like camping and leaving no trace. White people like zip-off cargo pants of many colors.**

But what white people at small liberal arts colleges who like nature like even more than any of these things is watching television programs where they get to learn Cool Things About Nature narrated by David Attenborough. I am talking, of course, about Planet Earth.

If you are not familiar with Planet Earth, we can't be friends...

Not really, but I expect you to intimately familiarize yourself with this phenomenal display post haste.

One of the interest houses at my school showed Planet Earth every night this week, and though I was not able to provide sufficient excuses to get out of work on Tuesday night, I managed to skip out on literally all of my other conflicting obligations to watch what turned out to be five episodes (not counting the fact that I watched Jungles twice) in the space of four days. It. was. awesome.

My enthusiasm for Planet Earth is best summed up by a rule included in a Planet Earth Drinking Game dreamed up by a friend of mine -- every time more than three people in the group say "WOAH" or otherwise express astonishment, wonder, or awe everyone has to drink. Think about it. Really think. How many other drinking games for tv shows take pure unadulterated awesome into account?

Coincidentally, I like the Planet Earth drinking game more than any drinking game I have ever played, including the Star Trek one. And if you know me, you know how much I like Star Trek.

This has become less of an epic tale and more of a discussion of why Planet Earth is the shit, but I am okay with this development, and I'll tell you why.

Planet Earth has lots of shots of things being eaten. Imagine this -- infrared footage of an entire pride of lions attacking an elephant at night. It may sound standard, but let me tell you it is TERRIFYING. Furthermore, there are sharks.

The shark part is literally the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Great white sharks patrol this one strip of water off the coast of South Africa, and every day seals have to swim across it to get from their breeding grounds to food in the open ocean and back, and it makes for some sweet shark attack footage. At first I felt bad for the seals. AND THEN I SAW A SHARK COMPLETELY OWN THIS MOTHER. Did you see how high out of the water it jumped? WOAH.

I've seen Jungles, Caves, Shallow Seas, Great Plains, and Ice Worlds -- Shallow Seas is probably the best one, based on what I've heard about episodes I didn't get to see. But seriously? Watch them. If you watch them for nothing else, watch them for the bird of paradise pictured at the beginning of this entry. All I'm saying is that if that bird were trying to mate with me I'd be pretty okay with that.

Other things that have been going on in my life that you may find interesting:

1. I signed up for the William Shatner official fan club. Whoops?
2. I tweeted for the first time the other day and have since abused it by having a Justin Bieber tweeting war with my two friends on our joint account.
3. Jesus is just alright with me.

* Two notes: 1) has anyone seen the new Doctor Who? I MEAN IT IS PRETTY GREAT ARE WE IN AGREEMENT? 2) I think it's pretty great that there are evil tiny carnivorous shadows in Doctor Who and a really big fucking Romulan mining ship in Star Trek XI with similar names.