Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Up to date

On someone's front door in York. She, the owner, was checking us out from the window.
view from the tip top of York Minster
from the bottom of the minster
gargoyle on the minster
supposedly you rub this cow's nose for good luck!
I couldn't resist. These doors were intended for hobbits.
About half-way up the minster
One of the coolest old, haunted pubs of York.
First day in York. That would be Jeph and Katie!

Oh, yeah we drove. Ha ha ha!

Let the games begin...

I hope I can summarize this chapter better than the last. So, I'm enrolled the first week, start my classes which I managed to get down to just two days a week, Tuesday and Friday. I go to class Tuesday and meet all my teachers, and my Friday teacher cancels my Friday class. Sweet! I only have one class my first week. But...I also had that stinking paper due the following Monday. I was supposed to go to Stonehenge that weekend, but my alarm made that an impossiblity. Honestly that was fine. I needed to do some serious work on my paper. I had tracked down some sources, but had not opened them yet. The paper was due in like two days. I spent my Saturday doing research for my paper instead of going to Stonehenge. I wrote my paper on Sunday and turned it in Monday. I hate waiting to the last minute, but I just work so much better under pressure, Ha Ha! That was the only weekend I did not leave the city. The next week...which happens to be last week, played out very well. It snowed...hard. The United Kingdom has had the worst weather its seen in a very long time. The biggest hit day for the snow guessed it, Tuesday. All my classes were cancelled. I witnessed and took part in some of the biggest, most incredible snowball fights I've ever seen. The students in the village went nuts for the snow and they played/faught in it all day and into the wee hours of the night. It was fantastic!

York!!!! The original

Okay, so we are just about summed completely up. This last weekend, I went to York.

We drove. I drove. York is about a five/six hour drive north of Swansea and in England, not Wales. We rented a car and myself, my good friend Nate, and Jared, Kate, and Jeph all piled in. The most wonderful thing about this travel thing is all the people and friends you make along the way. Each weekend brings new people. I might hang out with completely different people from week to weekend and travel new places with new people. It's been fantastic forming all these great friendships. Okay, so I knew all the people in my car, but we were meeting with some other people. Friends of Nates. Fiona, Audrey, and Ethan. The eight of us navigated all the way north with no problems driving or with directions. I personally enjoyed the challenge of driving. Think about it: other side of the road, other side of the car, stick shift all kinds of backwards, traffic signs that I have no clue what they mean, and a really lousy map (which we virtually did away with for the ride home). It was great! York was beautiful. I had previously loved Bath, but I enjoyed York much more. They are completely different styles. Bath has more Roman qualities, while York is very old English. We stayed in York at a Youth Hostel. It was very nice and clean. Much better than I had anticipated. The rooms only had two bunk beds each. I've heard that many hostels rooms have anywhere from 10 to 20 beds in a room. The first day we took a small tour of the York, we went to the museum, went on a ghost trail, and ended the night pub hoping to some old, haunted, and really cool pubs in York. We finished at a club which was an Asian restaurant that converts to a club in the evening. It was kinda weird and funny thing was we all got the feeling it may have been a gay club. No worries, I had a good time with my friends and we had an awesome first day in York. Second day: We walked around and did the tourist thing; took lots and lots of pictures of each other trying to look candid. Our group split off and my group went and visited the castle museum. It was okay. I took some funny pictures in there, but that was about it. I honestly wanted to get out of there fast, because there were so many other places I wanted to see. After the museum we met up with everyone else, ate lunch, and decided we'd split off and do our own thing. I went by myself and visited the market, various shops, people, places...i dunno? I saw what I wanted. It was good. I like York. period. We drove back and hit a tremendous snow storm in mid-trip. I could barely see the lines on the road. It was a tad bit nerve-racking but I managed. We stopped in Manchester (and saw Manchester United Stadium), and Leeds. I was pretty exhausted, and excited to get back to my room. I knew then how much things have changed. How comfortable and at home the village and my friends have become. It's a good feeling to feel completely settled in. I am staying very busy still. I have reading for classes to keep up on, Amsterdam this weekend, shopping for more travel gear for the BIG Easter Break that is a month long (I'll elaborate more on this as information presents itself), keeping up with friends and going out. I've had some fantastic fish and chips and some really lousy food too.

Food fight...

I'm not too big a fan of the food here. There are alternatives though; indian and chinese are fairly accessable. Everything, even the stuff that is very clearly American tastes different. They have different laws on food here. So there is no high fructose corn syrup. We put that in everything in the states! They use only sugar and believe me it makes a difference. The meat is very lean here. I guess I prefer a big fatty burger over a lean burger. Ketchup is off, Coke is off, Burgers are off, Fries are off, Cheesecake is off. I had the most amazing cheesecake last week. It was a vanilla bean cheescake, served at a pub called Comercials, which also served me the best fish and chips I've had. Yes, the cheesecake was off, but still really really good. They don't use as much sugar in the deserts here. But, in this case it worked very well. It was a mild, flaky, delicate cheescake that melted in your mouth.

Wow... that about sums it up for now. If I can just get down to making this happen once a week I won't have to be so long winded.

Pre-sessional and the first two weeks

I love all the living statues. Cardiff is the capital of Wales. Cardiff city centre!
I took this picture at a protest in Cardiff city centre
Cardiff Castle
Bath. Not sayin I need one, but this was at the Roman baths in the city of Bath.


Pre-sessional. Blah. Don't get me wrong, the pre-sess was not a bad thing. It was just somewhat exhausting and intensive. With the first couple weeks rolling on in my new 'world,' I began to settle in, but it was a very strange first weeks. Here's why! Busy, busy, busy. We had the Pre-sessional, which was a two week course for anywhere from four to six hours a day for the first two weeks. It was an entire course on the politics and culture of Britain. I learned a lot about the U.K. and how everything runs, which has been fantastic for helping me understand the people and places I have been. While that course was going on, I met tons and tons of people. Mostly Americans. It is easy for us all to migrate to each other. We are all misplaced souls looking for someone to relate to. Then of course, there was the pub, the bar, the clubs! It was all very much a social mixer for the first couple weeks. Getting to know people, going out, pint by pint by pint. It made it much easier to meet people. During the second week of the pre-sessional was the inauguration of President Obama. That turned out to be a really big deal on campus. The BBC came on campus and interviewed a handful of the American students on both the radio and tv. I got interviewed on the radio, live while watching the inauguration on a large projection screen in the lecture theater. I never heard the interview, but another girl did and she said she heard me. That's really all I have to go on. I've never found it. Plus she said that she saw me and some other people on tv in the background. It was like a big party. They hooked us up with free champagne and munchies, then interviewed people. Um, plus during the first couple weeks is when you find out all those little things that you forgot to pack when you leave home. I spent many a day and many a pound in the city centre buying things I had not had the foresight to pack. Really though, I knew I'd have to buy some things. I packed very lite. I had only brought two suitcases with me. Like I coulda survived for nearly six months with the few measly pairs of socks and underwear and clothes that I had brought. Finally, each weekend was a field trip, including the first weekend. So I had three weekends that we took trips to different sites within the city and other cities. First weekend (the day after I arrived in Swansea, completely confused, but incredibly ready to tackle it), we go to Mumbles/Gower and see Worm's Head and the stone King Aurthur supposedly pulled the sword from. But would you believe I didn't bring my camera. I had no idea what to expect. Meh? I'l go back soon enough. I actually went back to Mumbles today and watched my friend Nate do some windsurfing with the windsurfing club (which I plan on joining after I get my hands on a wetsuit). It was incredibly cold and they all said the water was freezing but I'm still down to go next week after Amsterdam. Second weekend: Cardiff, the country's capital. Third weekend: Bath. I'd like to say more about these but I don't have much to say. Cardiff was nice, Bath was beautiful. I mostly walked around and took pictures. So I'll post those pictures separately for your pleasure. So, to recap the first two weeks: 1. British Culture and Politics class 2. Need to meet people/make friends 3. Pints 4. Going to town every other day/nite to buy 'necessities' 5. Fear of the impending paper due one week after the two week course finishes. Oh, did I not mention that earlier. Yeah, I had a roughly eight page paper, due the following week the pre-sess ended. This was not nearly enough time for a research paper. Plus I am not a real big fan of writing papers. Plus we had to enroll in the regular semester classes Friday, which started Monday after the pre-sess ended on Thursday.

Just when you thought...

I'm gonna do my best to summarize for you the details from my first few weeks here at Swansea. Sure, this seems like a daunting task, considering the enormous amount of fun I've been having, but I believe this will lead to only the most interesting/entertaining moments I've had. But first, I'd like to point out that I will be going to Amsterdam tomorrow and I believe I will get in to as much trouble as possible.

In the beginning...

I arrived in Swansea by train, then hired a taxi to take me to the University. Bear in mind that I had just been all over London and my legs and feet were in an incredible amount of pain still. Sure, I know it sounds like I am complaining, but my legs legitimately hurt and I was in a considerable amount of pain for the first week or so, until I managed to toughen up. So, I get to the Uni and with all my bags and suitcases I begin to walk all over the campus trying to find out where I check in. Turns out I was supposed to go straight to the Student Village to check in, which was about 2 miles up the road. I took the bus. I check in finally and manage to make it to my flat. Once arrived at my flat and into my room, I feel as though this is going to be a very long semester. My room smelled...odd, very pungent. The carpet has the residue of many years of gum and other 'substances' all over. My heater didn't work and the shower was broke. I was a little worried. Fret not my friends, as my room and I have greatly come to symbiosis. All is well in my room and it feels like 'home.' Heater-check, shower-check, not having to continue bathing in a tub-check, carpet---well the carpet still looks kinda gross, but I have learned to love it. Smell? Well I guess I learned to either deal with it, or I put off a pleasant aroma that has nullified the previous smell. Of course, I have been using various scented sprays and smelly things bought from the Pound Store. Okay, so my room is great! I have completely settled in, everything works, I've put pictures on the wall and so on. I like it here.

What we gots here aren't anything too special. Basically this is the village. You'll notice, the Spar which is a convenience store. Idol's which opens in the student village from in the evenings every day till either two or four in the morning. They have really good, greasy, but really bad for you food. The bridge I walk across everyday on my way to my building/flat. It is also the path that is directly behind Idols and the Spar. The other pictures show the buildings that house the students and the laundromat and Woody's bar. I spent the better part of the first two weeks in that pub. Don't worry, I've since ventured out beyond to village to bigger and better places to see. Assuming of course I'm not staying in doing homework. I included a couple pictures of the University also. Then there is the white chocolate. Mmmmm they have a good selection of white chocolate here. There is the bathroom in my flat. I haven't got any pictures of my room yet, but I suppose I can take some, once I've cleaned it. That's about it. These are some very basic pics that may, or may not give you some vision of my surroundings. I think I'll take a good go at taking more pictures of the University and the Village at another point. Weather is always an issue. Rain or snow, it rarely lets up to be a nice enough day to take pictures of either.