Saturday, September 30, 2006

Week 1

The first week of classes is over, and for the most part, I'm excited. I'm really going to be stretched artistically, I think. A rundown:

Globalization: Nothing artistic here. There will be mental stretching, though. I think a lot of the concepts are over my head. I also felt like the instructor expected us to have some background in the subject, which I obviously don't. It's kind of frustrating. I have to write one 2500 word paper for this class, and prepare a 2500 word report as well.

Image and Language - Film: This is actually a media class, but not media in the sense of news media. It's used in the sense of artistic media, e.g. film, photography, etc. It's definitely not what I expected when I read the description. I'm working in a group to produce a 1-2 minute film about the concepts of image and language. Horribly, horribly vague. The really exciting thing about this class is that we're working with real, i.e. 60 mm, film. It's the kind you literally have to cut. No computers or anything. It's going to be a huge challenge, especially since the film is due Nov. 9. The module runs from 10-5 on Thursdays, but it only lasts the first six weeks of the semester.

Foundations in Photography: This is just what it sounds like. I'm learning photography from the start. Black and white, to be specific. That's just thrilling to me; I've never done any black and white photography before, but I love looking at it. I'm learning how to develop and print as well. By Dec. 15, I have to have produced a series of 3-5 images that deal with the theme 'Interaction.' Again, horribly, horribly vague. I think this will be my favorite class.

I'm taking one more module, but it doesn't meet until week 7.

It's really weird to be an international student. People ask me all the time about the States, and I don't know what to tell them half of the time, because they mention NYC or LA or some huge city I've never been to. It's okay, though. I do the same thing to international students at home. :)


On a completely unrelated note, I just got an e-mail from the guy on the tube. Weird. I don't know quite what to do with that.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Today, I could almost believe I'm back at home in Missouri. The slow grey drizzle that crowded the sky only a few hours ago has given way to sunlight mottled with the shadows of clouds. The grass is a glistening green from the combination, an intense patch of color bright enough to make me turn away. There's more green on the other side, mixed with the pinks of various flowers and the deep brown-grey of tree trunks. The temperature is cool enough to require a thin jacket, just like the crisp autumn days of the Midwest. But that's where the similarities end.

As I sit here in the computer lab, students are chatting freely, their accents bringing me back to England. Dropped r's, lilting words, an almost audible u in some words. It's bittersweet. This is what I came here for: to immerse myself in English culture. I couldn't ask for more of that. But it's all so alien, and I keep tripping up and finding more differences between here and home. Majors are called courses, and classes are called modules. Drugstore = chemist. I can't even recognize a KitKat bar.

It's wonderful and thrilling and absolutely terrifying. I don't want to be homesick, and yet I find that I can't help it. I walk past a patch of rosemary every morning, and one particularly strong, bittersweet memory replays every time. It makes me think of home, and I'm finding that thinking about home may not be the best idea. Home is not an option, not for another 3 1/2 months or so. I know I'll have tons of life experiences by the time I leave, but right now I'm not so sure I want them. They're inevitable, though; all I can do is brace myself and prepare for the wind.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I'm not homeless anymore!

... and a lousy hostel has been replaced with a nearly ideal situation. It's a small room, but there's plenty of room for me and my things. It has a desk, bed, and wardrobe, and even comes with sheets. The room is bright, with a big window overlooking the backyard (or garden, as they call it), which seems pretty sizable for England. I also have a mini refrigerator and small TV in the room. I have full use of the kitchen, including dishes, cookware, etc. I also get to use a washer. Unfortunately, there's no dryer, but things can dry by themselves. There are plants in the dining room, which is wonderful, because they remind me of home. It's within walking distance of the university, or only one tube station away. It's near the tube station, actually, but not so near that I'll be able to hear it or any other train. It's a quiet, pretty neighborhood. The only flaw is that a guy lives there, too. I can handle that, though; I've been dressing in the bathroom for two years now. I'm so excited! I may start sending mail soon, or you can send me some. :) The address is:

2 Hampton Rise
Harrow, Middlesex

I think. I may have to clarify handwriting.

I found a place to live! Details forthcoming A.S.A.P. Right now, I have to go to my first class of the semester: Globalisation and the Media. We'll see how interesting that turns out to be.

Thanks for all your prayers/help/good wishes, all of you. You've been amazing.

Friday, September 22, 2006

It's the little things that count ...

* The funny thing about prices here is that they have nearly the same numerals as the States would, but everything still costs twice as much. For example, you might see fries at McDonald'd for 99p, but that's $2. Whenever I go shopping, I silently double everything in my head and just sit there in shock for a few moments.

* The water faucets here have separate spouts for hot and cold water, which means that I get scalded, or I freeze.

* This is the first day it's rained since I arrived. By the way, on a random note, New York gets more annual rainfall than London. I guess drizzles don't add up to much. :)

* I have to go back to uni this morning to exchange a couple of classes, because I can't do it online.

* I turned down alcohol for the first time yesterday.

* I wanted to post something funny, but I can't think of anything at the moment. So: "All McDonalds commercials end the same way: "prices and participation may vary." I want to open my own McDonalds and not participate in anything. I want to be a stubborn McDonalds owner. "Cheeseburgers? Nope. We got spaghetti!...And blankets. And we are not affiliated with that clown. He attracts too many children." -- Mitch Hedberg

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On the move

I've moved again. For the next four nights, I'm staying in a hostel near central London; only a couple of tube stops from Baker St., in fact. It's a lovely place, a converted Victorian home. There's a small grocery stand just across the road selling produce and flowers -- orchids and roses and beautifully colored blooms. I've seen several of them in London already, and I love it. You don't have that in the States, I think. Anyway, I also have free wireless access and get a free breakfast. I'm really looking forward to the breakfast, because I haven't had a proper meal since I arrived. I was provided with a lunch at orientation yesterday, but it only included a gross chicken salad sandwich, a Snickers bar (full size, though), a bag of crisps, and a Gala (!) apple. A bit of nourishment, I suppose, but not quite enough. Aside from that, I've stuck with what I brought from home, since I didn't eat any of it on the plane. Apparently I get airsick, at least when I'm nervous. Fantastic, eh? The price of the hostel is about 15# less than the hotel I stayed at for a couple of nights. I'm really hoping I can find a room by Saturday, because the hostel doesn't have any available beds, and I really don't want to drag my luggage around again. I've done it enough, I think. It's a good thing I have arm muscles.

I think I'll post some of the interesting experiences I've already had within the next couple of days. It's so nice to have Internet access again. I never realized how spoiled I was.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Hi everyone. I'm in London, safe. Temporarily homeless, but safe. I'm staying at a hotel, and then a hostel, until I can find a real place to call home. This was supposed to be taken care of, but it proved to be a lesson in trusting people. Or rather, why I shouldn't trust people. The short of it is, the guy (who I never e-mailed; I only was in contact with his girlfriend) is a complete jerk who rented the room to someone else and didn't bother to let me know. How I found out is long and complicated, and something I'd rather not think about just yet. Right now I'm sort of floating around Northwest London, which is kind of scary. I've seen enough ads for rooms for let, though, that I think I'll be able to find one in the area I need.

Aside from the fiasco, all's well. The woman I sat next to on the plane helped me find my way to Harrow. Someone there helped me find my way to a hotel. London's gorgeous, especially the suburbs. Everyone's incredibly generous. Once I settle in, I think I'll really like it here.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

On the blog's title

"Traveller in an antique land" is a reference to a line from a Shelley sonnet. The original line is "traveller from an antique land," from "Ozymandias." Some of you are bugged by the two l's, but I'm keeping them. The British spelling uses two. When I'm more patient, I'll post a link to the Cambridge Dictionary, which is where I confirmed that.

On the blog's title

"Traveller in an antique land" is a reference to a line from a Shelley sonnet. The original line is "traveller from an antique land," from "Ozymandias." Some of you are bugged by the two l's, but I'm keeping them. The British spelling uses two. When I'm more patient, I'll post a link to the Cambridge Dictionary, which is where I confirmed that.

Flight delays. Yuck. It's already been an hour and a half. I have a headache, and I'm still inexplicably nauseous. I suppose it could be lack of food; I haven't eaten much today. Haven't been able to, really; nerves take away my appetite. On the bright side, my seat partner is from the part of London that I'm going to, so she's been able to give me advice on how to get there. I can take a train, and then a bus. Excellent. I still have to carry luggage, but not through central London. Thank goodness! There are British accents all around me. Lots of thoughts and emotions. I don't know what to do; I can't concentrate. I'm only about 40 pages into Mansfield Park.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I leave in 46 hours, and I'm finally excited instead of stressed out. It's about time. I'm also full of questions right now, but I won't waste space by listing them. They'd take up the entire screen, and then some. I can still hardly believe I'm going to London. This is me we're talking about, after all. The girl who refused to talk almost all of last year. The shy girl in the background. The one with a book. This semester is going to force me to change my personality. I'm not sure if I'm ready to, but a big part of me wants to. I've never been good at making friends in short amounts of time, but if I plan to survive in London, I suppose I'll have to. I just pray that when I'm facing the challenge, I don't run away. That's always a really strong temptation for me. It's easy to do it in places I know so well; there's always a safe escape hatch. I'll be locked in now, forced to face all the social horrors I fear so much. It'll be quite an adventure.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

When minds shut down ...

T-minus 11 days,and I still can't quite wrap my mind around the idea that I'm going to London. Don't get me wrong; I'm excited. I was reading a book about the history of London, and as I looked at the pictures, I was just blown away. The buildings there are absolutely gorgeous, and have such incredible stories. I'm still nervous, though. Preparing has been overwhelming. I keep finding details that I've missed before, and random horrifying what-ifs still pop into my head. What if the people I'm renting from are psycho? What if I run out of money? What if I fail all my classes because the teaching style over there is completely different? An infinite number of things could go wrong. I don't really think they will, but, hey, it's a possibility. Of course, it's a possibility I'll fall in love over there, or find the most amazing church ever, or be in the most creative period of my life. But I'm a pessimist, so I dwell on the negative. Unfortunate, I suppose. I have always found it much easier to be dark when I'm stressed (like most people, I'm sure), and I am right now. The jumps between anxiety and excitement are sometimes too much for my poor mind to handle, and I shut down. That's why anyone who talks to me about London right now will hear bland, flat answers, even though deep down I'm bubbling over with emotion.

In two weeks, I'll be in class, listening to a British professor. I hope he's a gargoyle, because otherwise I'll melt. :)

By the way, Justin, Illustrator was okay. Fairly intuitive, but took some work. Arcs are frustrating. It'll take some getting used to.

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