Wednesday, May 31, 2006

One down!

I had my international criminal law exam today and I secretly (or not so secretly now) sort of enjoyed it. I answered questions on state v. individual responsibility, show trials, sovereign immunity/universal jurisdiction/Pinochet/Arrest Warrant and whether international criminal can really be considered international (ans.: not so much). I'm relieved to be one down. On to SO424 and LL423! Ack!

The Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert was great and went all too quickly! And now I'm drinking a glass of wine and watching downloaded tv. Studying and finishing my USAID application will have to wait until morning. :-)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

w00t! I'm going to Bulgaria at the end of the month!

Poll. If bookstore is running a 3 for the price of 2 special on travel books and I definitely need Germany and Bulgaria, what should be my third one? Nothing else is planned for which I don't already own the book. West Africa? (there's no Rough Guide Niger, sorry Jules! Oh, wait, there's a Bradt guide forthcoming.) Ok, Niger? Russia? St. Petersburg? Amsterdam? the Netherlands? Someplace else? User poll! Lemme know where you think I need to be dreaming of visiting!

Edinburgh festival=w000000t! :-)

Monday, May 29, 2006

Ok, I know the blog looks like crap, but I'm not going to try and fix it between now and my exam. And it might even be awhile after that, because there are two more to come. Trust me when I tell you that it looks great on a Mac. I might even post a screenshot, in case people don't believe me, but thank you for all the comments.

I went for a late run tonight (race for life is on Sunday) and as I was running up to Millenium Bridge, they started setting off fireworks. It was magical and I must have looked silly, jogging along with this huge smile on my face! Took forever to get home, though, since I obviously couldn't turn around until they were done. :-) Felt like someone was glad I'd decided to go for that run.

If you'd like to donate, I'd still really appreciate it and the link's here:

Sunday, May 28, 2006

What a great race! My hands were and still are a bit shakey, ever since that last restart. I was yelling at the computer to shut up about Michael Andretti's chance to win. He's an Andretti! And so's his 12-year-old 19-year-old son!

I'm not ashamed. I wanted Micheal to finally pull out the win. And I'm sad that he didn't. And urgh. I really am not a Penske fan. Call it a grudge, but ever since he snubbed the IRL at the very beginning.... Didn't turn out how I wanted, but this was a race that was exciting enough for me to be clutching Cory the raccoon and standing beside my bed for the last few laps. Good job, Indy. :-)

And, sorry, for everyone who doesn't have a clue what I'm talking about! I'm from a racing family...sort of. Did I tell you about my dad's radio work being in the Smithsonian? ;-)

Happy Race Day!!!!

w00t! It's Indy's biggest day of the year!

I've gotten some ham and green pepper so I can have the traditional ham and green pepper sandwich, just like we used to pack for my dad every year. It's his special day and will always be the day of the year that I think about him the most. Every running of the Indianapolis 500's like a memorial service to me.

And, yeah, I'm going to be a mess, especially when Jim Nabors sings and when they give the command to start engines. I was last year, just thinking about how I wouldn't be in Indy for the race this year. It's only the second time I haven't been at home, but I've got WIBC and the Speedway Radio Network, so it honestly won't be all that different than usual. Thank god for the internets.

Also awesome? That last night's Doctor Who episode was set (theoretically) in Muswell Hill! :-)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Can someone who's using a PC please, please let me know whether this looks awful in your browser or not? It did on the school computers, but I'm sort of hoping that that was an LSE fluke. If it wasn't, then I need to do some serious work. So sorry!

In other news, we have a new TV! Our old one had to go back to the person from whom it was being borrowed and we made a joint decision to go ahead and purchase a new one (heck, when you already have the license, you might as would be much more of a pain to try and pursuade the license people that you don't have one anymore). So, Argos is still great, even though I'd never been there, and we found something quite large for only a third of our budget. Of course, I'm supposed to go back and get the freeview box, since we'd decided to get one after finding out about tv prices, but needed to check to make sure we could get reception. Woot!

Right, I'm off soon for a day of study fun. Less than a week to go. I'm not panicking as long as I stay away from school and friends from school. And, of course, I feel guilty about feeling so relaxed! My life is a vicious cycle.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hurrah for Joyce!

Yes, I know I'm bragging. Sorry.

I did the 40 minute run yesterday that is part of the training plan for my 5K in two weeks time and it wasn't hard at all (except for the part where I had to dodge tourists and puddles)! Google maps tells me that it was 3.25ish miles and I went from part of the way up Tower Bridge Road, then along the Thames to Lambeth Bridge. I concentrated on finishing, so I didn't push at all and just sort of settled into a nice, easy pace. And, it was a bit fun, for all that it was cold and wet. But, yeah, I had an awfully big smile when I got to Lambeth and finished. I know I've been keeping my LiveJournal updated with running times and distances, but this one seems important enough to boast about publicly. :-)

I'd still love sponsors for the Race for Life, so if you're feeling generous, please visit: Thanks so much! This should be fun.

In other news, I went up to Brent yesterday for the post-election thank you afternoon tea with curry and ate quite a lot. Free curry! Ran a long distance! Meringues...who knew they were supposed to be soft and squidgy? Sooooo good! It was lovely to hang out with the Lib Dems, as always. Tip: some accents = adorable. My accent = not funny!

And, Eurovision the night before. How I love thee. And I made a curry. It's been a currytastic weekend, but my green bean curry turned out very nicely (I was able to find curry leaves at Borough Market), if perhaps a bit on the coconut milky side. I did not approve of the Finns at all. Horrible song, not that that matters, it's Eurovision, but rather liked the Lithuanians. It got to the point where I was having to root for the Russian with the mullet to win, simply because he was the only one with a chance of beating Finland. Oh, and Ireland...*melts*. Gorgeous song. And Terry Wogan, the BBC's snark-tastic commentator was always. Spain, courtesy of my flatmate, says "Lo siento," back!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Argh. I managed to wake up this morning with a hangover. Not because I've been drinking (geez, I can't really even think of the last time that I did that. Oh, wait. Before the elections in Brent, when we were all sitting in the office stuffing envelopes), but because I didn't drink enough water last night after my run. I'm such a doofus sometimes. Happily, though, I managed more than three miles (it turns out) in 36 minutes of running and three of walking in the middle. And I'm enjoying the fact that my legs are just an itty-bit more there today than they were yesterday.

I've also been smiling to myself lately, when I realize that there are things in my daily life that have been making me happy. For no good reason, they are:

1) Realizing that I like avacados.

2) The talking elevator in the LSE library that can't talk properly. Think Marlee Matalin and you've got the right idea. The elevator for blind people sounds deaf. I love it! And, only one of the two does this. The other one has excellent language skillz.

3) Google maps pedometer. And the fact that the google satellite maps are really, really detailed for my area. There's my house!

4) British melons! I know all the Hoosiers will protest that I can't have found cantelope and honeydew better than is available at home, but OMG, they haven't been eating melons from Tesco! They have different names, which I can't remember, but there's nothing like cutting into some strange melon (that even looks different) and going: "OOOOOh. I know what this is! We have these at home!" Better yet, they're small. Like the size of a big grapefruit or a softball, which means that you actually can eat the whole thing as one person in about two servings! And you don't lose anything at all on taste.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ok, ok. I (sometimes) try not to be one of those Mac users. You know, the smug ones? I may be the last person in the universe to discover them, but how wonderful and hilarious are the new ads? Clickety: Hi, I'm a Mac....

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I am such a laaaazy Joyce when it comes to these exams. For some reason I can't find the motivation to get through them and I know that that's really, really bad. I should be the one who wants to excel academically. Instead, I find myself sort of envying the people who just want to pass. I'd also like Tadic to go away, because I've been stuck on trying to sort through the opinions of the trial chamber and the appeals chamber for two days (not that I've put all that many hours in, but still!). Tomorrow's going to have to be a National Theatre day, because I simply don't want the internet as a distraction and I'm really, truly better off if I don't see other people from LSE. My ICL study group, in particular, is starting to freak me out.

Sorry for the aaaaaangst. I did go running this weekend, sort of managing to meet up with a friend and a few others in Regent's Park on Saturday. Lesson 1: Joyce is such a nighttime runner. I wanted to curl up in my bed afterwards. I'm just so relaxed afterwards, not so much with the "toooo much adrenaline, I must go and read 1,000 pages while standing on my head" reactions. :-)

Which reminds me, if you'd like to donate to the Race for Life, I'd really appreciate it. Recap: me + 5K = less exam stress + money for cancer research.

Another exciting thing: Fun Fruit & Veg stamps, part II! I've been putting off the post office for a month now, but I've got a really, really good reason to go tomorrow! wOOt! Mr. Potato Head + valid postage = hours of fun! But, why the equations tonight?

Finally, elephants!
Sorry. I've just been in an elephant mood all week. No idea what that means. But, I certainly haven't turned Republican.

New Template

Hey, I redid my template, which should come as no surprise to anyone who's actually reading this page. Editing the css was easier this time, mostly since I just deleted a few things, stuck in the new header and played with the colors. I've also removed some of the dead blogs and added a few new ones, two that are also Nigerien Peace Corps volunteers, like my friend Jules and an NGO worked stationed in DR Congo that I stumbled across.

But, seriously, I need some new reads. Any good ones out there? How's the template? Good or just a desperate attempt to not go and read about Tadic?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Massively overdue post on Kenya & Tanzania, Part 1

I know this is really, really overdue and it's the exact same thing that some of you will have gotten in e-mails, but here it is, part 1. I had to stop because I used up my flickr bandwidth for the month. Photos here:

I'm back in London (and have been...for a very long time) from the Kenya & Tanzania adventure. The adjustment back wasn't difficult at all, truth be told, but it has taken a few days to start sorting through my photos, impressions and memories.

It must be said that we had a fantastic group to travel with. There were seventeen of us overall, all either British (ok, English, Scottish, and Northern Irish) or Australian except for us (the four Americans) and the South African guide. It was a bit surprising that we didn't have any Kiwis or Canadians, but that's life. Many people had already been off climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or tracking gorillas through Uganda before they joined our two week leg and quite a few were going from Nairobi to South Africa. I'm always amazed by the people who will travel for months and months at a time and I'm not sure that I could be one of them. At the same time, I wouldn't have minded a bit more time in Africa....

I really, really didn't know what to expect from the trip, although I eventually figured out that some of the things I had been looking forward to the most weren't exactly on the initerary. It was disappointing in that respect, but I can also see why the tour company preferred that we not explore cities on our own (mostly, there's nothing special to see and they can be more troublesome). I was nervous before we left, that's certain, as those of you who were talking to me online all night can attest. Flight down was fine: we could see Sicily perfectly and I was really impressed by the sight of the African coastline steadily coming into view. We arrived to a night that didn't feel all that different from one of those wonderful Indiana summer nights (you know, warm, but cool enough that you don't notice the humidity) and an overbooked hotel. There were lots of transfers around and we met Suzanne, whose flight had come in just after ours. It was luck that we met her, but really, really good luck, as she turned out to be an absolutely wonderful travelling companion and, now, good friend.

Day #1 we were woken up really early by a phone call from our guide, who had been scouring the hotel looking for us. When I think about it, this whole early part of the trip got off to a pretty rough start and I didn't really recollect myself until we left Kenya. We'd bungled the local payment, for one thing, and found ourselves nearly $300 short and had only a few minutes to throw the stuff that we'd need for three days away from our big backpacks into a day pack. It was all a bit weird. Then, we got to the other hotel, put away our backpacks in the world's largest passenger truck and got into little vans for the trip to the Masai Mara, a game park in southwest Kenya that borders the Serengeti (which is in Tanzania, NOT Kenya). As for that ride, let's just say that infrastructure was not Kenya's strong point. One of our drivers said that because the Maasai don't vote, the government saw very little point in fixing the roads. Corruption? NO! *looks shocked* It was bumpy, bumpy, bumpy, but we drove through the Great Rift Valley on the way and there were some amazing views. Anyway, we were all feeling a bit green around the gills by the time we got to our accomodation on the edge of the park (real, platform tents with camp beds, a flush toilet and hot water shower!). On the other hand, coming out of Nairobi, we had a spectacular view of the Great Rift Valley and a couple of break-downs that gave us the chance to get mobbed by kids and wind up in a van with a Peace Corps volunteer and her friend (who were awesome).

That night was the first of our "game drives," which is a pretty silly term that I'm sure dates back to the days when you wouldn't just shoot rolls of film at the animals (not that we use film now...). You get pretty mobbed when you drive into the park from all the Maasai women who spend their days trying to sell things to the tourists, but we also started seeing stuff right away, including a massive herd of elephants. I rather like elephants. And giraffes. I like them too. Did I mention that we saw tons and tons of zebras on the ride to the Mara? It's hard now that we've spent days and days on these game drives to remember how thrilling the first one was, but our first sighting of an elephant, far away on the the side of a hill was pretty cool. When we got back there was dinner and a bit of getting to know people around the campfire. And I discovered that I really like passionfruit. (Which, I now know, is also available at Borough Market.)

Day 2 involved an all day game drive, starting after breakfast and getting us back just a bit before dinner. We started out the day with some great hyenas camping out in a bush, lots of ostrages and warthogs. The bird life on these trips was also pretty spectacular. I kept think of a friend in Indianapolis who loves birding and thinking what a great time she would have had! On the other hand, all the driving gets old fast. During the heat of the day, there's not a thing in sight and most of us managed a snooze at some point. I think it would have been really cool to get out and look at the wildflowers, but you obviously can't get out of the vans. No one wants the tourists to get eaten. We were allowed out at one point to walk a little ways down the river to see crocodiles and hippos. They were cool, but we were also accompanied by a guy with a really big gun. Oh, and that was quickly followed by my first experience with a pit toilet. Lunch was amazing: we stopped under a big tree in the middle of the savanna with no one else in sight. You can't really imagine how far you can see and how far this landscape stretches until you've been there, I think. We could just see the rain falling for miles and miles, different isolated storms on all sides of us. It was spectacular and also gave us a pretty good idea of when it was time to pack up, in order to avoid a drenching! The weather was very predictable while we were in the parks, sun in the morning, rain starting in the afternoon and often going into the night.

Probably the biggest highlight of the trip, for me at least, was our stop in a Maasai village on the way home that night. I mean, I know that some things, probably quite a few of them, are acts put on for the tourists, but it was still really special to engage directly with the few Maasai that we met. I'm really intrigued by the culture and the ways that the Maasai have been affected by changing political, social and economic realities. There were a few dances from the men and a song from the women and the inevitable shop-a-thon (where sucker Joyce decided that the family needed her watch more than she did (I changed my mind a bit when I got back to London and needed a new running watch, but I rarely wear one for anything other than running)), but we also were shown one of the houses and asked lots of questions (Joyce: what's the relationship between the government and the Maasai?). I also wound up playing Simon Says with a whole herd of little kids and was deeply touched by a few kind words from a young woman. I left puzzled. Traditional definitions of poverty just didn't seem applicable and I was amazed that this young women, Anne, was only 26, had been married for five years, had a child nearly that old and a month-old one nested close, I'm sure had comparatively little education, but absolutely made me feel like a child next to her experience. She also made me feel like a sister and absolutely over the moon with just a few words. We had very little opportunity to interact with women on this trip (mostly the men do things with the tourists and the women are away doing house stuff), but I was always amazed at the comaradery that could be established with just a few words. They blew my mind. Anyway, Joni, I'm really jealous of your opportunity to spend months in Tanzania, still.

The final day was an early, early morning game drive before the trip back to Nairobi. It was pretty cool. We saw a group of lions chowing down on a fresh buffalo from close range, some more zebras and a group of three cheetahs. Two of them were youngish (more obvious from their behavior than their size) and kept play pouncing with eachother, while their mother kept a close eye on her surroundings. Then, the drive back with a few sick stops (one that involved the smells of Nairobi's slaughterhouse district) and meeting up with our guide (finally!) for orientation and the first night in tents. We had little two person tents, very quick to put up after you figured it out, and they were really quite cozy. I shared with Laura, my former hall mate, and we stayed pretty warm and mosquito free most nights. The tent leaked a bit around the edges, but wasn't a bad home for a couple of weeks.

The next day was the drive to Arusha and I spent a lot of it looking out the window (again). There was a quick stop at a market and 10 minutes of exploring, but not a whole lot of other stopping except at the borders. Even that wasn't too big a deal. I was glad that we'd gotten both of our visas in advance because they look waaaay cooler in my passport! Not that I'm keeping track.... We had a brief stop in Arusha just to get or exchange money (who knows when the next time is that I'll need to get 370,000 of anything out of an ATM?) and I at least got to see the sign for the ICTR. It was one of the things that I'd put at the top of my list to do, but simply wasn't going to happen. I came to terms with it eventually, but was pretty upset when I first found out that the ICTR would have to be off the list. Um, we drove to a campsite that somehow involved a snake park and called it a pretty early night. Apparently one of the other overland trucks had an all night party that involved really loud music all night long. And, yours truly didn't hear a word. I was really confused when everyone started complaining the next morning at breakfast!

After sorting out money stuff, we left for a three day trip to the Sarengeti, which was such a highlight of the trip! To begin with, the roads are really, really good. They were built by the Japanese government as an infrastructure project/gift thing and were in great shape. I was also surprised by just how green and sort of jungle-y much of the scenery looked, especially as we drove into the higher latitudes. We had a quick stop at the gates for the guides to arrange park fees and we all amused ourselves by pointing at the giant map of the National Park. Hee.

Our other stop was at the first place that you could see Ngorogoro Crater. Which. Wow. OMG. If you've been there, you know what I mean. If you haven't, go look at the photo, because I don't think there's a good way to describe the scale and the beauty of the Crater. UNESCO knew what they were talking about with this World Heritage Site stuff. We visited 3 on this trip: Ngorogoro Conservation Area, the Serengeti and Zanzibar's Stone Town. I think that brings my total to 25...which I can't believe I just bothered to look up and count. Hee. Oh, right. Easily distracted, but here's the panoramic photo:

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Jules countdown: 4.5 hours!

Alright, the cake is half-baked (much like myself) and needs to be iced. I've swiffered to get rid of all the hair on my floor and swept up the bigger crud, tidied a great deal, changed the sheets, and cleaned the tub, sink and toilet. I'll never be up to janitorial Jules' standards, but I think I'm at least presentable. AND I'M SO EXCITED! WOOOOOOOOOT! Birthday plans: McDonald's for dinner, Lion King, wellness wine & chocolate cake. :-)

In other news, I turned in my essay. I think it was crap, but there's not a whole lot that I can do about it now. That also feels like a million years ago because I've been up in Brent delivering for the Lib Dems. The elections are tomorrow and, while I just lurve the 4am good mornings, I'm rather excited. It should be a good one for the Brent Liberal Democrats, if they can just convince people to vote for the bird, even if the lovely Sarah Teather MP isn't actually on the ballot. It's been really nice to see Chris and Ian and Steve (for the first time in a very long time) and meet new people, as well. I'm absolutely stunned at the difference that two years has made for that local party. In 2004, there were something like 10 of us (a third or so from outside...) and now there are so many people that I don't even know them all! It's fantastic!

Must run and shower and go off to do theatre tickets now!