Friday, January 7, 2011

A (really) Long Entry from an Internet Addict

Sweet internet, we meet again! (Sadly, I am that much of an internet addict that I missed it for the ONE DAY I didn't have it.)

Anyway, I'm moved into school now. We left the hotel at 11 a.m. yesterday morning, and it was pouring. I read a statistic last year that it rains on Thursday more than any other day of the week in London, and apparently, London was trying to prove itself, because rain it did. We took a coach bus (again, redundant here) to the school, which only took about twenty minutes, and were dropped off in front of the registration building. We were asked to go in and show our passports and housing agreements.

Housing agreements? We all looked at each other when this was announced, very confused. None of us had housing agreements.

In the end, they said it was all right as long as we knew where we were living. Still, though, I wish my home school had given us all of the necessary documentation. Once we got our keys, we grabbed our luggage and hauled it to our respective dorms. My building, of course, is the furthest away and my bags were very heavy. My shoulder and hand muscles hate me today because of this, and my left knee has a gigantic bruise on it from using it to control my smaller suitcase. I dreaded having to open the door and get everything in before it locked. Thankfully, a very nice guy named Isaac helped me and a bunch of other girls get or stuff into the "lobby" (a very small area in front of my flat, flat two, the stairs, and the elevator.) Unfortunately, he was a little too helpful and sent my smaller suitcase up with the elevator before I could stop him. Of course I got it back and went into my flat.

First, the flat has about seven or eight rooms in it down a long hallway. The kitchen is right next to the "front door" (this picture is taken from the opposite end of the hall.)

My "entryway":

This is from the door of my room (obviously after I'd decorated... no point in showing you both versions :p)

The bathroom, which is right inside the door:

From my bed:

My armoire:

And the bed itself, where I froze last night:

Yeah. It's cold. It's really, really cold. It's bearable outside when it's not raining, but, well, for the last two days, that's almost all it's done. And the rain is FREEZING. And whether or not it's caused by the temperature outside, the hallway is very very cold and if I don't keep my door closed, it seeps in here, too. So while I feel anti-social, I am sitting in here with my door shut.

Speaking of my being anti-social, I've realized why I avoid immersing myself in social situations. Me meeting new people equals me being a total spaz. It's amazing I have any friends at all with the way I behave when I first meet people. But nevertheless, I've been spending the time since the airport with Adrienne and Laura and they haven't been scared away yet. So once we all had our stuff in our rooms and kinda sorta out of our bags, we decided to go get food and supplies. This was a great plan... except that it was still pouring, and the stores were about a half mile away from the school... and that's not including our far-away dorm building.

But we needed food and by God, we were going to get food! So we swam to the store... and I'm hardly exaggerating. Umbrellas or no, we were soaked. My hair was dripping. Adrienne's coat, which is supposed to be snow-proof, could not hold up to the driving rain and her clothes underneath it were damp. And what's more, we couldn't find the store we were looking for.

Eventually, after about thirty minutes of walking (though it seemed like hours), we saw the red glow of the Argos sign through the downpour and ducked in.

Argos is a kind of store that we don't have in the US. Basically, it's like WalMart, but without the store. You go in and go to one of the many touchscreens lining the walls. There's a catalogue in front of each touchscreen and you can either look through that or just use the computer. You locate what you need and find out whether the store you're in has it in stock. If it does, you write down the catalogue number, leave the touchscreen and stand behind a blue line until you're called to a cashier to pay for whatever it is you've chosen. Once you do, they get it for you from the selves behind the counter and call you up when it's pulled. I actually thought it was really cool- it had all of the (non-food) stuff that Wal Mart has, but since there's not merchandise for people to touch, it takes about 80% of the terrfying qualities away from a Wal-Mart-type situation (though it can still be a little scary... one man was getting very angry about how the Argos people were "forcing" him to get a cell phone.)
Anyway, while we were there, I got a duvet cover and reed diffuser. My bedding and kitchenware that my mom had ordered from a university site had already arrived at my dorm, so I didn't need sheets or towels or anything like that. The cashier called me darling, which was very nice.

We were in there for awhile, but soon, we had to get food, which meant diving back into the deluge. The food store was close-ish, but we couldn't remember down which side street it was located, which was kind of torturous, since we didn't know whether to have hope that we were getting close or if we should just fall down in the middle of the street/river that used to be the street.

(That would be a candid shot of me yesterday :p)

But then we saw the warm orange rays of the Sainbury's sign stretching their beams out into the main road and we went inside. The first thing we found out was that you have to pay to use the cartsl they're chained together until you put a pound into the handle of the cart. We were very indignant about this (possibly we were a bit dramatic in our frozen, soaked state), but after our trip, we found out that once you link them back up, the pound pops back out.
Sainsbury's is very cool and also well-priced. I got an overflowing basketful of food for 23 pounds! It was weird doing grocery shopping on my own (though they don't call it "grocery shopping" here.) I got some delicious things like Nutella, clementines, and stuff to make pasta!

We decided that no matter how much stuff we got, we would take the bus back to campus, even though we had never taken the city bus before. As it turns out, we all got a ton of stuff, and Adrienne and Laura had gotten some big stuff at Argos. So we asked for directions to the nearest bus stop, lugged our things there, stood there for two minutes before we realised that it was the wrong stop, and dragged ourselves to the proper one. Getting on the (red, double-decker) bus with both arms full of bags and flashing our Oyster cards (travel passes- used for the tube and buses) at the same time was super fun. We also had no idea what bus stop we needed because the East End isn't on any of the maps we got. Thankfully, it turned out not to be hard- there's a stop right outside our university gates. Therefore, we only had to make it to our dorms with all of the bags.

My cute Sainsbury's bag:

I unpacked a bit more before the welcome dinner, which was pretty impressive. First of all, they played grand opera and instrumental music really loudly. Secondly, the meal was HUGE- a giant piece of chicken, potatoes, some kind of bread bowl with a stuffing ball in the middle, a piece of chocolate raspberry cake, and water and/or beer. I keep being surprised by the casual presence of alcohol. (Speaking of drinks, I knew I chose the right uni when I saw that they had Dr. Pepper, which is not only my favorite soda, but is kind of hard to find here.) The dramatic music playing while we ate made me feel like every bite was a triumphant moment :p Adrienne, Laura, and I stuck around the Curve (the on-campus dining place) for awhile, talking, and then decided that we wanted to go to Top Shop, which is sort of like H&M (though they have those here too... on the same street, where we went.) I remembered seeing one when we had gone to St. Paul's Cathedral during the scavenger hunt, so we grabbed our Oyster cards, bundled up, and took the tube to St. Paul's.

Unfortunately, at this point, it was about 5:40 and pretty much EVERYTHING here closes around six. I still haven't figured out why this is. I guess we're spoiled in the States, with things being open until at least nine, and some things for twenty-four hours, but I can't help but wonder why they close sooo incredibly early. So though we did get to Top Shop, we were only able to drool over their clothing for about ten minutes before they kicked us out to lock up.

On the street again (thankfully, it had stopped raining), we looked around and realised that pretty much everything else was closed too. But we didn't want to go home yet, and Adrienne said she wanted some dessert. Laura and I thought this was a good idea and someone proposed that we go to Covent Garden, where there was a crepe place. But once we got off the tube and to the location, we found out that that was closed, too. At this point, though, we wanted dessert and we would not be denied! So we walked around Covent Garden, looking at pub and restaurant menus to find a place that a) served desserts and b) didn't want us to give them our first-born in exchange for them. Eventually, it came down to a frozen yogurt (or here, yoghurt) place or a small Italian restaurant. The latter won due to to cold and we soon found out that the Italian place was not small- down a flight of steps was a big, candle-lit room that smelled delicious. We also found out that this place serves the best garlic bread EVER, and their chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream is not any further down the scale. Yummm. Though we had already had dinner, we have vowed to go back and have it there one night.

I had planned to stay up as long as it took me to get everything organized- my desk was still piled with papers, school supplies, tea bags, kitchenware... everything, basically. But around midnight, I remembered that we had breakfast at eight before nine o'clock orientation, so I went to my freezing bed.

Can I just say how soon it gets dark, and how long it takes for it to get light here? I don't know if it's the weather or the season (or both), but it gets dark around 4:15 pm and doesn't get light again until about 8:15. Whenever my alarm clock goes off and I look out the window, I think it's four in the morning or something. I need the light...

In the morning, the three of us went to the "big English breakfast" being served in the same cafeteria. The English eat a lot of the same, but also a lot of different, stuff for breakfast. Here are a few of the things on the breakfast menu:

-Eggs, sunny-side up (though I don't know if that's what they call them)
-Sausage (fatter than ours)
-Bacon? (I can't remember... I don't eat bacon, no matter what country I'm in.)
-Scrambled eggs

Here's what I have for breakfast most mornings:


Anyway, we ate quickly, since we had gotten to breakfast a little late, and headed over the orientation, which was in a giant lecture hall. It was only supposed to last about three hours, but it was longer. I swear they just kept finding people on the street and having them talk to us. "Oh, look, it's Professor So-and-So. S/he can certainly tell you some more things! Stop saying you're hungry and pay attention!" Of course, I didn't hear a lot of the presentations because the girl sitting next to me was hacking up a lung. I really enjoyed the reverend's talk, though- she's a hysterically funny Australian woman who gives movie nights. I'd go to Monday's if I wasn't going on a boat tour.
Evenutally, they let us go and I ran back to my room, scarfed down some bread and Nutella (mmmmm), and met Laura ten minutes later to go see our drama head. Laura and I don't have any classes together, but we're both taking multiple acting classes (me: two; her: three.) It took us awhile to find where we were supposed to go, since they sort of showed a slide of info about where to go, but they went through them so fast that we couldn't write anything down, and the stuff we did get down didn't help; knowing you have to press buzzer two on the H Hall door doesn't narrow anything down when there are seven doors.
But we did meet the department head, who was very nice. We couldn't tell where she was from, though. At first, she sounded English, but as we talked more, she sounded very American with only hints of Irish and English or... something.
Then we stood in a long, long line to get our i.d.s and information (internet passwords- YES!), after which I was sent to a million different offices in order to get the answer to whether or not I could audition for amateur theatre here without violating my no-working, no-volunteering visa (the response: probably.) Then just one more class to get approved and I was done. So I officially have all my classes- yay!

The original plan for after registration was to go to Camden Markets; Drew, the guy Adrienne, Laura, and I had gone to the pub with on the first night, had invited us to go. But since it was still raining a bit and he hadn't contacted us anyway, the three of us decided to visit Top Shop again. By the time we got there, it was almost dark- and it was only three-thirty! We got to inspect the shop more thoroghly, with me having to wipe the drool from my chin every five seconds :p Lovely stuff, though a bit expensive for me. We visited a few more shops and Adrienne got her cell phone and we got Pret (a Manger) for dinner. Then we decided that our feet would declare mutinty if we walked much more, so we headed to the tube station... which was evacuated as soon as we walked in due to an "emergency situation." It took us awhile to get back because of that, and we still needed to get more stuff at Sainbury's. We did, then took the "bendy bus" (the very funny name that one of the speakers today called those really long buses... I don't know if that's the official London term or not) back. Adrienne summed up our state very well: "I can't wait to take a shower, change, sit down, and eat my sandwich- it's going to be the BEST NIGHT EVER!" I've done all of these things and would be quite content to not use my feet for a few days... I think they hate me. However, I do enjoy that we can walk so much. I enjoy walking.

Now I will stop talking at you (for tonight.) Thanks for reading!


DivaDea said...

I love this blog! Your writing is excellent, so good on you, babe!

I know what you mean about initial meetings; I'm surprised every time I get a student, because I feel like such a spaz at every trial meeting.

I'm so proud of you and will enjoying continuing to read your posts all semester!

Are you doing any music?

Rachel said...

Thanks, Alissa- I'm so glad you commented and you're reading!

No, probably no music here (though I haven't attended the theatre meeting yet, so you never know.)

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