Sunday, September 17, 2006

Today's long e-mail update

I've been getting some pokes from people asking what I've been up to. The basic answer is "a whole lot of nothing," although I've been putting in some applications and it's been nice to spend time with friends. My plan for the moment is to submit my oh-so-close to finished Peace Corps application (I would love to be posted to Eastern Europe/Central Asia) and hopefully find some sort of internship here in London to do while that processes. I do plan to be home for Christmas, but probably as a trip, rather than permanent resettlement. Everything's very up in the air and I'm completely open to suggestions! The only trip currently scheduled is to see Juliet in Niger at the end of October. I'm so excited (and, I'll admit, a little nervous)!

I haven't been very good at sending these e-mails, so there's probably a lot to catch up on. I guess the most recent thing that I hinted at last time was the trip to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, the world's largest arts festival (well, really festivals). It was the most wonderful experience! I am, for the record, bad at choosing things. I think that all of my solo choices were absolute flops and we had much better luck when things were decided upon mutually. I don't know if I can even describe the excitement and vibrancy of the EFF. There are posters EVERYWHERE and I loved walking the pedestrianized part of the Royal Mile where performers do snippets of their pieces and pass out post-card sized flyers to anyone who makes eye contact (and others who don't). Usually, I'm the first person to give flyer-ers a no thank you and shake my head, but at Edinburgh it becomes sort of a game to collect as many as you can, then sit down to plan what your days are going to be like. Well, with the help of the small town telephone book-sized (Richmond would be just about right) program. We booked some stuff in advance, picked up others at the door, and made several choices based on what was available at the half-price ticket booth (stuff which turned out to be our favorites). Then there's the fun of reading reviews and overhearing conversations to get recommendations. But, still, there are roughly 1800 performances every day on the Fringe and in the end it comes down to luck and a total crapshoot. Hurrah!

You wind up running all around the city, trying to get from show to show, even though they may be on opposite ends of the earth. Oh, and grabbing sandwiches on the way, because that's all there's time for. It becomes sort of odd that you can sit through something very intense or very funny and walk out, talk about it for five minutes (while walking) and then be ready to face the next thing with a clear mind. I think it helps that performances are short. There's also none of the anticipation involved with going to a normal production, in Edinburgh, you stand in line until five minutes before the scheduled start, file in, and as soon as everyone's seated, the performance starts. And I love the ingenuity with which places are turned into theatres and performance spaces. We saw things in pubs, church halls, railway arches, a giant upside-down inflated purple cow, gymnasiums, and a Quaker meetinghouse (yay! Friends!) fitted with bleachers. We went to the Assembly Rooms for both the Amnesty comedy benefit and Muppet improv (seriously! It was great, apart from some hilarious culture gaps…the cast was all from the US). I'd last been there in 2000 with my parents for First Minister Question Time, when it was serving as the temporary home of the Scottish Parliament. I loved the irony. Also, my parents would have been really amused.

Speaking of the Scottish Parliament, I can't say that I loved or hated the building (which was the subject of great controversy, both because of its cost and design). I do think that it will look dated in 20 years time, one of those great "what were they thinking back then!" buildings. On the other hand, it was exciting to climb Arthur's Seat, the great craggy rock pile that sort of sits in the middle of Edinburgh and at the base of the Royal Mile. It was my only tourist goal and luckily we went on the one day that it was really sunny and clear. There are wonderful views from up there and it was actually a pretty short climb, if fairly steep. But, then, not everyone had a mountain goal in tow, like I did. And, there's very little theatre that starts before 11am, because the point of Edinburgh is apparently to play late and sleep late.

In the end we managed 17 shows (theatre and comedy) in the four days, impressive, but probably amateurish by Edinburgh standards. I have to say that my favorites, by far and away, were the original pieces. One was just a pair of guys talking, trapped in an off-license by the apocalypse. Things only really got bad when the Pringles ran out. Then, there was the piece for which the Holocaust rule was broken, which really spoke to me because it refused to ignore the Roma genocide, too. It came just as I was in the depth of my Roma research for the dissertation and was broiling mad at how much they were ignored as victims (then and now). The one-man play about the life of Robert Maxwell (the publisher) was AMAZING, as was "My Name is Rachel Corrie," which has been unable to find backers to allow it to be produced in the States. It's based on Corrie's diaries and e-mails, leading up to her murder by an Israeli bulldozer while in Palestine as part of the solidarity movement. Also, I saw SNAPE (ok, Alan Rickman)! Eeeeee! Granted, he was the director, so it was a coincidence or anything, but I was still really excited! I definitely spent the rest of the festival, once back in London, wishing that I was still there (well, when I wasn't writing my dissertation, of course)!

London continues to be London. Summer officially ended at the end of August, with the last of the summer bank holidays and the weather conceded the point as well. It's turned cooler and we're getting a lot more rain. More and more friends are moving out or moving home and that's sort of sad. Next week, a new crop of MSc students will move in to the LSE and take our spots. I'm taking German again at King's this fall and am sort of planning to sneak into one of classes that I couldn't take last year to my great disappointment (because the professor was on sabbatical for Michaelmas Term). Luckily, our student IDs don't expire until the end of October, so I can keep getting discounts on the rare occasion that I'm not at one of the subsidized theatres already. Once the dissertation was over, the theatre-going started up again, but never at the crazy pace of 2003. My best friend's little sister is over for study abroad and I'm keeping a rather distant eye on her, as well. My friend Kat from high school, who moved over with her band, went home to start grad school and although I miss her, the band's still fun to go and see. And, we've had a string of MSc birthdays to celebrate, too. This all sounds sort of mundane, but I guess that's what the real world is supposed to be like. ☺

In the next week I'm going to: go to Lib Dem conference in Brighton for the day, maybe go and see The Outside Royalty tomorrow, attend my first rugby game (for which I must study the copy of Rugby Union for Dummies that I was handed in preparation, and complete some more internship applications. I've also almost got a plan for Christmas.