The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely mine and not connected in anyway to the United States Peace Corps.


Holiday? YES PLEASE!

That's right, I'm going off on holiday--tomorrow morning starting at 4am. got to love those red-eye flights. I'm traveling with a friend til new years in Paris where we will be joined by another friend, the more the merrier! So, I guess a quick catch-up on my life is needed before I go off and have 5 weeks worth of adventures! I did get to go down to London, and the big city was everything that it is cut out to be. Westminster Abbey? gorgeous, and their all-male choir's Evensong should only be described as heavenly.
We also stopped by the queen's home sweet home. But, unfortunately we weren't able to see a changing of the guard. This next picture probably accurately describes how Obama obsessed all of Europe really is:
That's right--a store's window devoted to the new president elect. London was great, and I hope to go back there and stay overnight sometime next term--we'll see how the whole timing thing goes, there's not very much free time over here!

Well, I'm off to pack and tidy up my room for the spring cleaning they'll do while we're gallivanting around. in T-minus 4 1/2 hours I will be on a train to Stansted airport to fly to Oslo, the first leg of my adventure. Yes, I'm going to Norway in the dead of winter, and No, I'm not crazy--I have relatives there! They are being very kind and opening up their homes for my friend and I. Talk about a true world-wide community. I'm not
quite sure what all our plans include, as only about 2 weeks are completely planned for, but spontaneity is half the fun, right?

So my dear friends and family, I know i've been a horrible "blogger" (it's not really my thing) but I'll be sure to clue you in to some of the goings on this holiday break. Have a very merry holiday season, however your family celebrates it, it would be wonderful to be home for the holidays, but this is the chance of a lifetime, and of course--I'm taking it by the reins.Me, Amy, and Nicole in front of Buckingham Palace Gates and the queen's royal crest.


British Celebrations!

Well my friends, this update is long overdue; and so much has happened this past week I really don't know where to start! So, Halloween Bop--that was were we ended up spending our night on Oct. 31st as it was right next door and none of us wanted to walk all the way to town center to check out what other colleges/pubs were doing for the night. It ended up being a fun time! We got the dj to play some American dance music, so it wasn't a night entirely filled with Euro-pop. Here are some pictures from the night:

Some of the gang before we went down to the Great Hall for the bop, we have a soon-to-be urkel, the Joker, Amy Winehouse, Panda, Cindy McCain, Sarah Palin, Cleopatra, Little Red Riding Hood, a Ninja, and a Vampire. One of the Brits at the dance stopped us before we went in and exclaimed, "Oh My God! Its Sarah Palin! That's sooo funny!" her costume was spot on, glasses and all.

Cody, our resident comic book enthusiast went as The Green Lantern. Amy, a ninja, sortof just fades into the background with her costume, but it was awesome. Carly, the pirate, was in the middle of saying something to our photographer, I think . . .

Anyway, the bop was a su
ccess, there was even a blow-up castle for us to jump around in if we got bored of dancing! But, as you all know, I love dancing--so I never got the chance to try-out the "castle." next time I suppose!

The next big holiday was Guy Fawkes Day. For those of you who haven't seen "V for Vendetta," rent it and watch it. awesome movie. but anyway, as the movie says, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up British Parliment and in doing so, kill the reigning King--a very long time ago, Nov. 5, 1605. He and his friends didn't succeed (luckily, because the parliment building is beautiful!) but, that night bonfires were lit to celebrate the king's safety and since that night the Brits light bonfires on Nov. 5th and burn Guy Fawkes in effigy. It's a bit intense. BUT they do put on one heck of a fire works show before hand! I've heard the celebrations are off the hook in London, but Cambridge did a pretty good job themselves!

Here are a couple pictures of the fireworks and some of our group by the bonfire:

So Guy Fawkes Night? another big hit--gotta love holidays where they light things on fire!

There was also a carnival going on!

There was a merry-go-round with motorcycles instead of horses to ride around on, light up, twirly, spinny rides, and of course--carnival food. But, the hot dogs were really sausages.

Then (last one, I promise!) I went to see one of my friends play football for the varsity university team! We call it soccer in the states, but
the really awesome part is that this is the team that will play "that other college's team" (Oxford) in the Spring. So that was kind of exciting too. Go Cambridge Blue!

All in all, it was a very eventful, fun-filled week. and there's only more good times to come.


the spoken word

I have come to notice that I speak slightly differently here than back at home. Not with an altered English accent, no, that would be to logical. Instead, I find myself adapting more of an American accent, if that is possible. It's quite funny when I catch myself doing it, especially since I seem to think in more of an English accent, using words and phrases that I pick up from my fun new acquaintances.
In my last neuro supervision we had a 15 min discussion about the different ways we pronounce scientific words in America. For example, methyl (meth-el) is pronounced me-theigh-yl, vesicle (ves-eh-cull) is pronounced
vi-see-cull, and apparently, somewhere along the line we Americans misspelled aluminum as here it is, aluminium (al-lu-min-e-um). It is a weird, weird place that I am living in my friends. But i love it. a lot.

On a different note, we had a bit of a hair dying spree over here on the 2nd floor of Queen's Wing:

Jacque and Amy and me. They are former blonds turned light brunettes, (though Jacque's hair now has a reddish hue) while I have gone with a pink underlayer beneath my hair. I think the dye I used actually bleached my hair because my roots are very light. it'll be interesting to see what happens when it starts to grow out.

This Friday is Halloween, which they do celebrate here! there are various Halloween Bops hosted around Cambridge, along with Ghost Tours, Midnight Punting, and of course, pub crawls. I'm thinking of going as a modern twist on Cleopatra. Whether or not that works out . . . i'll let you know.


scientific prostitution.

what?! am i reading the title correctly? surely she didn't just say prostitution . . .
well my friends, it has come to this. though the exchange rate is ridiculously good right now ($1.58/pound!), that does not change the fact that Europe is expensive. and so, i have decided to make my spending money by donating my body to science. Not a bad deal in my opinion: the scientific community is helped out by my contributions to their various experiments, and (depending on the study) I make 30 pounds for 1 and 1/2 hours of "work." It's almost making me wish that the exchange rate wasn't so good for the dollar. meh. almost.

I participated in my first scientific study today. It was a vascular research study, apparently they are trying to figure out a gene that causes the stiffening of vascular arteries. Basically I let them take some blood, and then let them take my blood pressure . . . 300 billion times. but really, I'm now 30 pounds richer! good deal, I say.

The next one? an MRI bran scan. that one's only worth ~20 pounds. bah. got to make a living somehow!


1st full week of uni.

Papers and worksheets and compositions, oh my! why yes. the honeymoon phase of my relationship with Cambridge University is over, and now it is time for the work to start. There actually is quite a bit, but I'm fairly good at not thinking about it, so I'm not stressed--yet.

I'm getting used to british food, and i must say, it's not all that bad. I especially like the fact that cadbury chocolate is everywhere. I also love the wide abundance and variety of salt and vinegar crisps, and the idea of putting malt vinegar on french fries. However, I would kill for a mountain dew. seriously--I have yet to see a pepsi product here.

Yesterday was my first experience out on the water with 8 other girls. yes, my first true rowing fiasco,and a fiasco it was. It all started with us having to get the "boat" out of the boathouse and into the river . . . by ourselves. If you have never been fortunate enough to see what a rowing boat looks like, here:

Yes, its hard to keep balanced, and frustrating because since there are 8 people total rowing so it's hard to keep everyone in time stroke wise (especially for us novices). But, the few times we did get a good rhythm going, (and weren't bumping into barges on the side of the river), it was almost like we were flying.

Getting the boat out of the boathouse was interesting because we had to slide it out of it's holder, carry it on our shoulders to the edge of the water, hoist it to our heads, then swing it down to our waists and place it in the water. Doesn't sound to bad, right? Ahhh--the problem, however, was that we had one girl who is 5'9 and another who was 5'1, with a whole bunch of different heights in between. We actually had to have some of the more experienced boaties (that's what rowers are called here) help us, because they were worried we would ruin the boat! The 2 hours total we spent in the water and transporting the boat was definitely an experience. and I was stroke! that means I was the one in front who had to set the pace for the team. I can't wait for the next time.

Biking. Now, I still haven't gotten my bike competely fixed--I need a bike chain tool for that. But since the boathouse is an hour's walk away from Homerton I borrowed a friend's bike for the afternoon. I'm sure you all have ridden bikes before, I used to back when I was a kid. Riding a bike in Cambridge is COMPLETELY different. First of all, there is a bike lane, which is really nice. Unfortunately, it's the bike/bus lane which is kind of scary. Also, riding up and down slopes and on an actual road, rather than in circles in your driveway,
is very different. I now see why those people that do biking marathons are so fit--you use your whole body. seriously! and, if you just sit on the bike and pedal you get tired soooo much faster than if you pedal while standing up--you get more power standing up too. I'm absolutely positive that my bike riding skills will never compare with these crazy Cambridge bikers, but I'm game to try.

midnight apple picking and exploration of homereton college? probably not a good idea without a flashlight. but midnight cartwheels in the Great Hall? a must.



The other day, we went punting on the Cam.

We switched off being the "punter" which is actually harder than it looks. we would struggle along, and then the punters who push the poles for a living would speed by us, deftly navigating in between the cambridge students who were trying their hand at punting. It was a lot of fun though.

We went under the mathematical bridge.

and we had quite a few laughs.

All in all, it was a top day. The most recent adventure we went on was to a squash. Now, this isn't squash as in the sporting match, but a gathering for people who are interested in a certain group's activities. We choose the Caving Squash as our activity to learn more about. I think I want to go caving at least once, but I'm not sure I'll become an enthusiast, it gets quite expensive. we'll see.

one of the most spur of the moment things I did today was to cut myself bangs. i should never be allowed into cosmetology school.
Fortunately, Carly, (another JYA) said she would help me fix them.

TaDa! bangs.

so. one hour til rowing practice
. i think i'll take a nap.



first day of class

Oh my goodness, I love my classes; well, the ones I've been to anyways. My day started bright and early at 9am as I sat in on an "intro to the cns" lecture for 2nd year medics (medical students) and then went on to a 2nd year neurobiology lecture at noon geared more towards actual scientists. Apparently I can't actually enroll in the medic class (ie: get it on my transcript) as it would cost a lot more since it is only for medical students. However, anyone can attend any of the University's lectures, so I did. The system here is quite a bit different than in America, but I'll try to explain it as I understand it, so bear with me. So, within Cambridge University there are the different colleges--your college is where you find supervisors for your specific classes and a tutor for your major. However, students from all colleges attend the same lectures which the University provides. So even though I'm from Homerton college, one of the people I sat next to in lecture today was from Trinity college. It kindof makes me wonder why they even distinguish between the colleges, but they do here. Well, the sports teams from individual colleges play each other, and then if you're REALLY good you get to be on the top university team and compete against Oxford's top university team.

Oh! tomorrow morning I try out for rowing
, I'm kind of excited but not really expecting much since I've never rowed. It's okay though, I don't mind being on the lower novice crew, psh, I am a novice! Apparently we have to try out a rowing machine
, and then actually get in a boat in pairs and try to row. I'm actually missing some lectures for it, but not for any classes that I'm enrolled in--just interesting sounding ones.

word to the wise: European foam parties are off the hook. and ridiculously fun. I love being abroad!

This, my friends, is a foam party. (it's really soap bubbles)


i have arrived.

So here I am. England. It's all a bit surreal--and really, except for the accents and everything being in pounds rather than dollars, i kind of feel like i'm still in America! The fact that there is a group of us from Jewell all living on the same hall might help with that feeling. Besides the JYAs (that's us), there are a couple of Australian medical students and some British grad students on our hall--we all get along quite well and have had a couple of "hall get-togethers" already. In fact, some of the students from the floor below us came up to check out what was going on. Apparently we are the stereotypical loud Americans, automatically making our hall the gathering place. I don't mind.

School hasn't started yet--that's not til Thursday. But don't think we all have just been lounging around bored out of our minds--surely you all know me better than that! Cambridge has had many events planned for both international students and then for students of Homerton (my college). During the day we've filled our time exploring Cambridge, ie: getting lost. Of course, since the majority of this town is built around the University, we're never really horribly lost, just rather turned around.

Getting settled has definitely taken the whole 6 days that we've been here. Finding a decently priced grocery store (it's called Tesco's) led us on a 5 hour adventure. (Well, almost everything we've done so far could be counted as an adventure). After finally finding the store and filling our bags with our newly purchase
d goods, we proceeded to walk back. Eventually we figured out which bus would take us home. However, I now have a bike! Well, it needs a little work, but I'm sure it'll make getting around much easier. . . once I get up the guts to actually ride my bike side-by-side with the crazy british drivers.

On our excursion to The Eagle (the pub Watson and Crick announced they had discovered the structure of DNA) I ordered fis
h and chips

A bigger portion than I expected, but delici
ous all the same.

We took a trip to visit King's College.

We saw people punting!

This is Trinity College, where Isaac Newton studied and eventually taught.

Basically, Cambridge is amazing. Beautiful, historic, awe-inspiring . . . really, the praises could go on forever.

Tomorrow I explore some more, attempt to fix-up my bike, and go see Henry the V. Cheers for now!


7 days.

yep. a mere 174 hours and some odd minutes until i board my flight across the pond.

i currently have 13 pairs of shoes down on my list of "things to pack." excessive? i think not, although my mother seems to disagree with me.

I just may need every second of those 174 hours . . .


the customs and border control office . . .

Have you ever been to a Customs & Border Control Office? hmmm. yes, I hadn't either. The one at Wichita's airport is a little hole in the wall, kind of disappointing. I suppose whenever I think of Customs and Border Control at airports I think of people put in a holding area because they are suspected of being invovled in an international crime organization or someone being cavity searched because they've carried drugs into america illegally.

Heh, perhaps i should lay off the action/adventure flicks for a while.

Anyway, the trip to Wichita was a good break from Salina. All I have left to get in preparation for England are gloves and some sweaters. So yes, there was shopping involved. and yes, my friends, while the date of departure looms closer I'm savoring things that I know I will miss once I'm across the pond, such as: driving, using my cell phone,
prices being in dollars rather than pounds, reading for fun, hanging out with family, and just being lazy. what can i say, i'm basically just waiting to embark on my adventures abroad--and oh the adventures i will have . . .



Let me just say, I
love getting mail. even ads from stores--as long as it is addressed to me, i get a happy feeling inside as I tear open the envelope/catalog/etc . . . But this post is not a subtle hint to have you all send me mail while i'm abroad (that will come once I have my address)-today I recieved a huge pack of mail from Cambridge. Included in this pack was a Freshers' Guide, freshers being what they call newbies to Cambridge. OMG. I will not bore you with all the details of this guide, but let me just say--they surely know how to plan a week of activities for college students. A college lead pub crawl, club night, punting, bar ents nights (whatever THAT is), adventure afternoon. . .

I think Cambridge University and I will get along just fine.


Two Weeks!

That's right. 14 days. I just officially said goodbye to Jewell, had an awesome time with recruitment (as well as a very special room on the zeta wing), and have returned to salina to postpone packing until it absolutely
must be dealt with.

It's slowly becoming more and more real that this whole traveling abroad for a year thing is actually happening . . . but it still hasn't completely sunk in, weird.

You should probably know that i'm not very confident in my "blogging" skills--i've never been able to consistently keep a diary (i have about 5 unfinished ones from grade school lying around)--but i'll give it a good go, so check on me if you wish. I plan on having many exciting adventures, even some that I can share on the world wide web!

exciting news of the day: the pound is equal to 1.78 US. dollars. here's hoping it goes down further!