Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Induction Day!

Well, I'm pretty's my first day of having something that I have to do in exactly a week! There's a sociology lunch at 1:00 and induction from 2:00 onwards and I can't wait. Happily, Alex, the human rights student from flat 46 and a political sociologist upstairs and I are all going to walk to school together, so I won't feel like a total misfit. :-)

Speaking of walking to school...I figured out why it was taking me so long: it's a two mile walk! It's not the walk that I mind, it's just that it was taking soooo long. Now I get why, at least. Mr. iPod might be keeping me company on that walk throughout the year....

Since this is just a brief update, I think I'm just going to talk about my two other flatmates (there might still be one more). Tom is actually English (OMG!) and doing his LLM. He's the same age as me and has also just finished undergrad at Birmingham. He's very laid back and very cool. I think he's going to be very nice. Emily is a general course student, which means that she's on her year abroad. She's a senior at Southern Methodist University, majoring in IR and originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma. On the cool side, she's a failed sorority girl and HATES Bush (I'll admit, I was worried). She also seems nice and I don't really mind having another American around.

These last few days have been really dull. I went running on Saturday and Sunday and managed to piss off my shins. That made for a not-so-happy walk to school yesterday. I went to the Apple store on Regent St. on Sunday and wandered down to used bookstores on Charing Cross Rd. for more Rumpole books. Yesterday I went to school, poked around the library, ate lunch in Trafalgar Square (side note: the National Gallery's hosting a Rubens exhibit later this year...hello, my favorite artist!), walked down to Westminster and read for awhile in St. James' Park. Sunday and Monday we had social events in the common room (that ended in the pub) and there's more planned for the rest of the week. I might find it fit to avoid the foam party tonight at the Union that marks the start of Fresher's Week. Ack.

Oh, and a note for j00jie: everyone I've met so far in my program (well, the North Americans, anyway) reminds me too much of Steve...and I feel that I'm am not cool enough for this! Ack. Inferiority complex shining through...!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Already the diplomat

One of the things that I didn't count on when I got here was the delicacy that might be needed to navigate among students from all over the world and from such different backgrounds. Tonight just took a two by four and smacked me over the head with reminders to be delicate.

Anyway, I was in the kitchen chatting to Katherine, the friend of Mandy my flatmate (and who I think will probably be spending a great deal of time here). They're both Taiwanese. They were eating and I was washing up when another flatmate arrived with a friend who'd picked him up from the airport. So, Pung introduces himself and tells me he's from mainland China and there's this huge SHIT bomb that goes off in my head. I've never been around anyone who's actually Chinese or Taiwanese and I don't know whether they're going to be completely normal to eachother or whether the fur's about to fly. So what do I do? Resolve to stay in the room by offering to make everyone tea. God! How English am I? The great thing to do when you've got no idea what else to do: make tea! (I remember the first day of the London program when I'd first met Clare...and I drank about 8 glasses of tea because I didn't know what else to do.)

It turns out that things were absolutely fine. I asked Mandy and Katherine about it later and they said that it won't matter as long as they don't really talk about politics. Mandy especially said that it's not an issue that really has an impact on their daily lives. In fact, they can understand eachother if they work at it a bit and it's probably easier for them all to communicate if I'm out of the room (they're all incredibly polite about speaking English for my sake). Mandy was also explaining some Taiwanese history to me and was absolutely delighted that she could do so...I think they're all amazing, considering that English is their second language, although Pung seemed less sure of himself than the girls. He's quite chivalrous and kept wanting to refill the teas. I don't know how much of him we'll see, since I've heard that the Chinese students really tend to stick together.

Later I went downstairs to the common room and met a new girl from Israel. Shortly afterwards Matilda from Norway came down and it turns out that she had spent time working with Palestinians. Tali is only recently out of the army and that all got a bit delicate. Best moment: when Sanji (I think that's her name...she's Canadian) asked whether any of us had had second thoughts about coming after the bombings. And we turn to Tali and realize how much safer she must feel here. It was actually kind of funny.

One of the things that has always struck me as odd when I come to the UK is how differently I fit into social structures. At home, I'm an introvert. I don't like to call or approach new people and I'm pretty slow to get to know people. Here, I turn into the world's biggest extrovert. I don't think that I change, but the sliding scale of sociability changes dramatically. Instead of being the one hiding in her room (hello, thesis!), I'm the one trying to force a sense of welcoming and community on my flatmates, going up and introducing myself to new people and having conversations that go beyond where are you from, what program are you on and why'd you come to LSE (anyone else remember NSO?). Granted, there are so many things to ask about people's home countries, but I still amaze myself. It's nice, but strange.

Next to finally, a summary of today's activities: sleep, ran from half way across Tower Bridge to back on the South Bank side of Millenium Bridge (and walked home). Topped up my phone, called Mrs. Black. Made dinner and averted international crises (which weren't really crises at all). All in all, a good day, although I can hardly wait until classes start and I stop feeling like I'm so completely at loose ends! This having nothing to do thing is driving me absolutely bonkers! Do I try to meet people around here? Do I do the Earlham Semester in London thing and try to prove that I can keep myself company for a year? Do I wish that I had phone numbers for all those Lib Dems, so that I could see some friendly faces (well, yes)? AAACK! Too many choices!

And finally, two pieces of good news. One: Tricia's scans were clear and she gets to go to the next round of this protocol treatment in Baltimore! Two: A very dear stamp friend has been picked to be the new curator of the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum...which is the coolest thing ever! She went back and got her Ph.D. as a "mature" student and has always been an incredible scholastic mentor and cheerleader to me, so this is really, really special. Plus, she also told me that a box lid that my dad sold to her is going to be in the court of honor at Washington 2006, the really big international stamp show being held next year in the US. Arf! Arf!

Friday, September 23, 2005

The UN Inspector

I had a little bit of trouble getting out of bed this morning. I swear it wasn't my fault...I kept being woken up last night by some random clock going off every five minutes at 3 in the morning. I am so not ready for dorm life again! Shortly thereafter (i.e. while I was still in my pjs) I met "anti-social guy" in the room next door. He's Indian, just finished doing an MBA in Paris and was originally a civil engineer. I also met the girl on the other side of my room, but only just long enough to learn her name. Anyway, they both seem nice enough. And I'm giving props to whoever remembered to wash out the pot after cooking tonight. That's a good sign.... Actually, I made pasta with pesto sauce, so I need to go wash that same pot out again (and my bowl).

So, I didn't leave the flat until 1:30 or so, when it was rainy and icky outside. (Side note: the box that I sent myself and my e-bay air mattress both arrived today). Some brillant part of me said that I should go out anyway and I picked out a walk from my card set of "50 London Walks." I didn't actually do it, but it was a nice idea. I headed straight North from Tower Bridge and eventually made it to the East End: Brick Lane, Whitechapel and Bethnal Green. What a cool (if only slightly dodgy area)! Brick Lane is incredibly Pakistani and there mostly men, "Indian" restaurants and Halal fast food places. Am I making it up to think that the Koran has some prohibition against charging interest? 'Cause there weren't any banks...or I might have noticed earlier that I'd left my wallet at home in the flat. Nevertheless, that part of Brick Lane ended abruptly and because this sort of artsy/urban/yuppee area. There were a couple of product design shows going on and they were cool. Finally came Bethnal Green and loads and loads of sari shops. I think I might go back for the Sunday market, because I remember how beautiful Meg's room was in Bundy when she decorated it with sari fabric.... We'll see.

Most days seem to enjoy a classic Joyce moment, when I endlessly amuse myself. Today was kinda toasty (ok, so I get toasty when hoofing it through these streets, no matter what the temperature), so I just wore a tanktop (ok, on top of the other). I was also wearing a raincoat, which I thought was probably a good thing when wandering through these incredibly strict Islamic neighborhoods...or at least it was a little more respectful. Anyway, I eventually got home (slightly soaked), had two cups of tea and resolved not to leave the rest of the night.

Well, except for toilet paper (loo roll?). 'Cause we were out that. And then I decided to walk down to the National to get at least a standing ticket for one of the last nights of The UN Inspector. I only had to wait a few minutes before someone handed back one of the £10 tickets (although I was totally prepared to stand), which was pretty cool. What follow is my first review of the year (heh). I would look for A Few Good Men as soon as I figure out their concessions policy. Rob Lowe, Aaron Sorkin, live...can you imagine any more divine combination?

The UN Inspector
I saw Michael Sheen, who is the titular "inspector" (or not) three years ago in Caligula at the Donmar Warehouse and I thought he was absolutely amazing. So I was pretty excited for this play, also partially because it mentions the UN in the title. The National does some absolutely brilliant political theatre and I was hoping for more of the same. But it never quite got there. It would be unfair to say that this was predictable, since it's based so completely on The Inspector General, but I didn't really see the point of "updating" the play. I didn't think that setting it in a contemporary context, in some unknown former Soviet state made it any more relevant or, frankly, interesting. I realize that I have the attention span of a pea, but when something supposedly both funny and political doesn't keep my attention, then it probably isn't entirely my fault, right? Hmmm...actors....the President was annoying (and bloody hard to understand...although my British English skills probably aren't up to snuff yet, after only four days). Sheen was fun, but not as good as he was before. No one else really made a huge impression, since they were pretty much all playing stereotypes. But the tongue that the "inspector" kept waving was pretty hysterical. Heh.

So, for everyone to whom that "review" (or random assortment of Joyce thoughts) didn't make sense: Sorry. But I do think that half the point of this blog is so that I have a record of what I've seen and done. And I'm ever so much more interesting when I write on-screen, rather than on paper.

Oh, and I did get the toilet paper.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

London, Day 3

I promise that I'll eventually stop counting the day, but right now it still seems appropriate.

What did I even do today? Oh, I slept in quite late (especially for me). That was weird, but I think I'm still adjusting (and I was up insanely late). I'm going to get ready for bed after I write this tonight. Anyway, the dorm people came and cleared out the kitchen. I did manage to save some cereal and tea from them. Oooh, must put up a note saying that the stuff in the fridge is mine, since I went shopping this evening. I don't know why the trip to the grocery store took 2 hours, but it did. I'm now the proud owner of "Pure Orange Juice with bits." I can confirm for the stamp collectors that Postman Pat's (like Spaghetti-ohs) are still available and I bought a few tins. Also some fruit, yogurt, mik and nutella. Yum, nutella! Excellent for toast. BTW, I think the reason that Brits eat so much toast is that you can toast stale bread and it doesn't matter. No preservatives mean fewer days of good bread (although you can buy half a loaf, which is cool). Half cucumbers are also available. Anway, I absolutely love going grocery shopping in foreign countries!

This is all a bit stream of conciousness, I'm afraid.

I spent the afternoon (since it was afternoon by the time I left the flat) walking toward school, stopping on Fleet St. to finally get a mobile phone. I've got a number now, so contact me privately if you need/want it. I stopped by the library to read for awhile and I remember that I meant to read some more tonight. I might just do that in the morning instead. What else? I stopped by the LSE shop to get a logo hoodie (what's the point of going to the LSE if you can't wear the clothing?), Boots to finish buying toiletries, and walked back. Then came the grocery shopping and dinner of cucumber, toast with nutella, yogurt, and orange juice (with bits!).

Now that I'm recounting it, I can't really figure out why I'm so tired. I think the jet lag and all the walking are just doing me in. I'm glad I'm here so early to recover before classes start. Living in London just entails such a different lifestyle! I wish I'd worn my pedometer.

Oh, and I bought a alarm clock/world band radio. Thank god. The BBC world service is the best way that I know to fall asleep. :-)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

London, day 2

Whenever I travel to Europe ('cause that's soooo often), I get really confused for the first week or so. Somewhere I missed an entire day and I still think that's Tuesday when everyone else is telling me that it's Wednesday. Hmmmm. Interesting.

Anyway, the big event of the day was registration (although that was really a bit anti-climactic). I walked down to the LSE around 11, got there closer to 12. The walk took longer than I had anticipated, but I got confused a few times when the Thames path had to be diverted and I wasn't in any particular hurry. I can see why the directions suggest crossing at the bridge before Waterloo, since you have to backtrack (unless you just happen to like walking past the National Theatre, as I do). Anyway, found Clement House off the Aldwych and walked up two flights of stairs to the back of the line. A really big part of me was saying "oh, crap!" (well, I was thinking something different, but the number of people who now know about this site necessitates that it be a "family" blog), but the line actually moved very, very quickly. I gave some woman my student number, picked up my card and that was it! So easy!

I was wondering "campus" (can a bunch of grey building be considered a campus?) and found the LSE shop. I resisted the temptations for LSE logo clothing (although I should probably get something before the undergrads show up), but bought a few school supplies. I also noticed a number of students queing for something, which turned out to be to have forms validated for the student tube and bus discount and NUS (National Union of Students) cards. I did both, but it took awhile to get photos, fill out the forms and have a chat with a girl who's only just returned from a month in a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana (so cool!).

Later I wandered down to the post office on Trafalgar Square (bought aerograms for our favorite PC-er), had lunch at Pret (yum! but ewww, pricey), and spent a half an hour getting lost in the National Gallery. Stopped at Boot's for toiletries and then home from Embankment. I really should find a way to map where I've been each day for the blogosphere, shouldn't I? Sorry if all these names are a bit of a jumble.

Ooooh, excitement! So, I was walking back across Tower Bridge (because it's between my dorm and the tube station) and just as I was getting to the second tower there was an announcement to stop the traffic. They stopped all the cars, cleared the pedestrians, put out some gates and raised the bridge so some tall masted sailing ships could go through. It was pretty cool to see:


I had a nap in the early evening (run this morning + London had me worn out), then went down to the common room. There were only about 4 other people there, but it was fun to meet some others. One, another Alex is from Oregon and is doing Human Rights with me (which makes a total of two others...I met Zhiang from Taiwan in the bookstore hanging around near the course books). The others were from Portugal, Norway and France/Israel. Everyone I've met seems to have travelled extensively or done something really cool in life and I feel out of place. At least I know London better than many of the others. Finally, I met one of the guys who lives in other flat on this floor. He grew up here, went to school at UVA (U. Virginia) and is Eritrean. Seems nice, as does Geru, the previously mentioned Norweigan girl. There are four people in their flat (those two and two Americans, apparently), but still no one appears in here. I think I've heard noises from next door, but no actual person. Weird, right? I'm starting to think that I shouldn't count on my flatmates for a social life, no?

Speaking of my room, here's half a panorama:
door half

And to prove that I wasn't kidding about the brick wall:

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Arriving in London

I know that I didn't really promise wacky travel stories, but Air Canada (bless 'em) went out of their way to make sure I had something to write home about.

Leaving Newark seemed to take forever and I was one of the last people on the plane, since they never seemed to call my row. I was in 4F and as I go barrelling through the first class section, it suddenly dawns on me that I'd been upgraded. Frankly, it was a little strange. The seats were like sitting in a giant easy chair (yes, there were footrests), so my feet were dangling a good 6-8 inches off the floor if I sat all the way back. Then, there was this obscene amount of distance between me and seat in front of me...literally enough room for little me to lie on the floor and take a nap (although I did not act on this impulse). The whole time I was torn between wanting to sleep in this comfy chair and my desire to milk being in first class for all it was worth. Oh! So, apparently the reason why we had this plane was because they needed to get it ready. It's rentable and they use it for sports teams and stuff. Today, it was picking up U2 for the Vertigo 3 tour. And I thought that was cool. :-) Air Canada capped it all off by not putting anyone in the seat beside me on the Toronto-Heathrow flight and I actually did sleep (with the help of a Tylenol PM). Oh, and did I mention the lovely views of Chicago, Toronto, New York, Ireland, Wales, England and London? Just about the only thing I didn't get to see was Indianapolis (at which I would have

I did decide to splurge and took Heathrow Connect, which is faster and more expensive than the Tube, but cheaper and slower than the Heathrow Express. And against Welling's better advice, I went ahead and did the rest on my own via the Circle Line from Paddington. Some lovely women helped me up the stairs at Tower Hill, but it wasn't too bad otherwise. I think a big part of me just thought it was really cool to trundle across Tower Bridge with all my stuffity stuff. Checked in,went to my room and discovered that it was occupied. So, Max was using his friend's room and thought he had another night left. I showered and read for awhile and he packed up. I felt kinda bad, but it's settled now. None of the other students have arrived (although a few old ones are leaving).

I'm sure that at least a few of you are wondering what my room is like (since some of you have already reserved the floor space). The good news is that it is a whole lot bigger than it looks in those pictures and very well designed. There's a ton of storage space and I'm hardly using any of it. I would guess that it's longer than a Bundy single, but about the same width (if that helps?). There's a big wardrobe, the sink, more storage under the sink, two big cubbies under the bed, and a floor to ceiling bookcase (guess they know what LSE post-grads will be doing in their spare time, eh?). Desk looks out the window (out of which I have a lovely view of a brick wall) and there are quite a few flat spaces and shelves (other than the book case) for setting things down. Of course, in my newly clutterless space, I don't have too many things to set around.

After unpacking I took a nap, but I'm going to have to get used to having noise outside again. I've been spoiled in Indianapolis and Richmond. Then I went for a walk to buy supplies to the shopping center at Canada Water. Just in time, too, apparently, since all the shops were closing by the time I'd spent 15 minutes in this mini-mall (WTF?). Anyway, I've got an ethernet cord (hence the e-mail), sheets, towels, bluetack so I can start hanging photos and dinner supplies. Now I'm eating the dinner supplies (yogurt, milk and a cream cheese and turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, if you were wondering). There are nectarines for later, too. Yum, I've missed European dairy products!

Frankly, I feel like a duck out of water. Part of that's the jet lag and part of that's being nervous about this whole experience. I'm worried that I'll be too shy to get to know other people (especially my flat mates). I think I'm going to go exploring in a few minutes, to find the lounge and (hopefully) some other students. I'm also readjusting to London, albeit slowly. I feel very much like and Indiana Hoosier in the World's Capital City right now and sort of bumpkin-ish. But, I must not be showing it, since I've already gotten stopped for directions (perhaps a new personal record?). Or maybe it's because the Hoosier in my just looks approachable.

Anyway, off to wash up the dishes and attempt to be social before a pretty early bed time. Still fighting the jet lag, you know!

Monday, September 19, 2005

I'm enroute...

...And waiting for my plane to board in Newark. They've got wireless if you want to pay for it here and $7 didn't seem like too high a price to pay. I can't say that this journey has been a bad one so far, but I'm going to do my best to sleep on the flight overseas. After the past few days, I'm pretty sure I'm on 1/4 of a tank. At least that wasn't because I was stressed out about the stuff I didn't get done. Thank god for planning ahead.

I sold Morris (the car) on Saturday, which was sad, but not nearly as upsetting as I thought it would be. When the Blacks first suggested it last spring I bawled. Morris was such a special dad picked him out for me while I was in London the first time and gave him to me when I got back (at which I started crying because my clunker was gone). So, Morris was just really special. But we took pictures of him and he got a good price. But still, getting the bag with his license plate in it was just a little too much like going to the hospital and leaving with a bag of clothes.

I went to Earlham last week as well and it was wonderful to see the Model UN kids. I still don't miss Earlham, per se, which probably means that I was ready to graduate. Don't misinterpret that: I miss the people horribly! And there were concerts: this was the weekend of Indy Irish Fest and I went with Duchess for Gaelic Storm on Friday night. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Whiskey in the JAR! Then, we rented a car and went to Columbus for the Prodigals on Saturday (hence, the no sleeping). What a wonderful way to sort of sum up and tie up the summer's end. :-) I'll see them in Dublin for New Year's next. Sweet!

I'm not going to lie, there was definitely some crying over the past few days. There's the really awful truth that I'm leaving Indianapolis without any real intention to make it my home ever again. And that's not because I don't love the city, but because I can't do what I want to do there. Some people would probably think that I'm not tied to the place because I don't have any family there, but you start realizing just how many little roots you have when you pull them up. I've lived in Indianapolis for my entire life, other than college, and I'll probably start crying when I think about leaving again. I'm not sad to be leaving the country, but I'm incredibly upset about leaving Indiana(polis).

Ooops, time to board. I'll probably be depressing a bit more when I get to LONDON! (And maybe have wacky transit stories, although no promises.)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Bad Influence Joyce

I know I promised this photos...and I still think they're hysterical. Otherwise, I keep getting ready to go and I don't think those details are very interesting to anyone at all!



See why this summer was fun?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

11 days to go

I'm so sorry! I haven't updated in ages and I haven't had time to read anything on anyone else's pages, either.

Last Friday was my last day of work and it was really sad. I had fantastic co-workers and I'm going to miss them! Stephanie even made me an action's Bad Influence Joyce! I'll post pictures at some point.

I've been away at grandma's house since Saturday morning and there's no internet there. Even now I'm using the wireless at Panera Bread, so this isn't a real update. I've been packing up my room and scheduling appointments right and left and there's a ton to do this afternoon before "family" portraits at 5:00.

Updates are going to be sporatic and probably brief...if you really need me, send an e-mail (which I promise to check once a day) or call (if you have the number!).

London's coming so quickly!