Saturday, 31 December 2011

To 2012 and BEYOND!

It struck me the other day as I made my way onto campus on a Sunday morning hours before leaving back to Guildford, in the same fashion as I have every morning for the previous 10 weeks with minimal exceptions, that the title of this blog was fast becoming very redundant. True enough I had had a prolonged and epically adventurous battle with my duvet covers that morning, and after a brief stop at the library I was about to perform as Mary in the church nativity play, which let's face it is the female lead. (On a side note, half way through the performance an angel sat down on my lap and refused to budge until I had to make my way to Egypt. It was utterly adorable.) Notwithstanding these minor excitements, I have to admit that the days of travel blogging, day trips and other fun adventures are over, at least until May. Until then I have a fairly full looking schedule of Library days ahead of me.

I'll be honest with you guys, I haven't been posting as regularly as I would have like, but this is simply because nothing remotely adventurous or misadventurous has occurred. I went to play frisbee for the day back in November, I had a couple of migraines which kept me going to the library for a few days, I got dressed up for a couple of meals out, I had friends over for Sinterklaas, I almost mowed someone down cycling on the wrong side of the street while coming down Heslington Road on my bike. THese things are the closest to adventures I have come since last posting, not counting a run in with a photocopier when someone inconsiderately requested a book I needed over Christmas.

And so the fact remains that I have a few months ahead of me that will be dominated by reading, essay writing and lunches in Vanbrugh dining hall, with hopefully a bit of frisbee and cricket thrown in here and there, until I embark on that big adventure known as graduation, followed by the somewhat daunting prospect of Real Life (or perhaps a masters program, because, let's face it, I'm not quite ready to give up my nice warm seat in the library just yet...)

Regardless, adventures shall be few and far between, and so rather than leaving my blog lonely and unattended I have been doing I have decided to embark on adventures into the wider world of blogging, So here is what I am planning to do in 2012, because all good intentions should start int he new year; I will blog more regularly, but in doing so blog more widely. Basically I'm thinking of blogging about stuff other than things I've actually done -- books I've read and enjoyed, films I've seen, the odd amusing anecdote -- which hopefully should also have the added benefit of making me take breaks from the library which are slightly more productive than endless youtube clip watching...

This is the closest thing to a New Years Resolution I have ever undertaken, so I hope you'll join me and my new and improved blogging experience. I'm looking forward to seeing where 2012 takes me. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Things I have learnt this week..

1. "Fresher's flu" should be more accurately renamed "nasty cold you get every single year due to abundance of germs, lack of general hygiene and complete absence of sleep on return to seat of learning".

2. "Housemates" should be more accurately referred to as "Angels who cook you dinner when you're too busy or stressed to look after yourself, bring you your keys/lunch/whatever else it is you have forgotten in mad dash out of the door, and are generally available for snuggles and classy tv times".

3. Third year could be summarised as "living torn between the desire to do all the fun things you can because it's your last year at university, and having to do lots of work because it's your last year of university."

Thursday, 20 October 2011

This and that and some bits in between...

Aha! The long awaited post of stuff that is happening in my life has arrived. Sadly I have to inform you that the reason it has taken a while to get to this stage is because I have been waiting for something adventurous to happen in my life. However, it has become clear to me that my life is settling more and more deeply into monotony and I am resigning myself to the fact that I will be spending most of what remains of the year either closeted in the library reading articles in such scintillating topics as the history of the word culture and patriarchy in Palestinian politics, or in a puddle if exhaustion on my couch with my housemates watching such intellectually stimulating programming as Made in Chelsea, or Hollyoaks. Which actually, ironically, ties in with my reading about the word culture and the debate between high art and culture. See! My subject is relevant!
Where I would like to be spending my time
Where I am actually spending my time
Other than library and terrible TV time, I have been taking advantage of Orange wednesdays and my friends' generosity (we watched Melancholia and Midnight in Paris, in case you were wondering), joining the York Ultimate team, doing copious washing up for church lunches and doing vaguely important cricket-y type things.

In other news, yesterday, someone asked me where in America I was from, I really didn't think my accent was that bad...

Soap box time!

In my defence I don't often use my blog as a platform for conveying my opinions on anything, but I have a post in the works all about my thrilling adventures in the university of York library, and this rant has been building for a while...

(While reading the gumph below, it might be worth bearing in mind that it is my opinion, and possibly not entirely factually accurate...)

If you believe that women have the same mental facility for reason and logic as men, and should therefore be afforded the same political and educational opportunities, whether it be the chance to go to University or the right to vote, you are a feminist.

If you believe that women should be given the opportunity to choose to have a career or not, who or whether they marry, and when and if they have children, then you are a feminist.

If you believe that women have something more to offer the world than their bodies, and their ability to produce mini-bodies, and reducing women to a bunch of organs is probably both reductive and detrimental to society as a whole, then you are a feminist.

I honestly think that you can be pro-life or pro-choice and still be a feminist, I think you can be a Christian or an Atheist and still be a feminist, I think you can be a man or a woman or somewhere in between and be a feminist, I think you can be a Republican, a Conservative, or support the Monster Raving Lunatic Party and still be a feminist.

You can have opinions on every women's issue known to man or you not even be able to name one women's issue, you can plan to become a women's rights lawyer or a housewife, you can join real life groups, or facebook groups, or be outwardly ambivalent.

Basically what I'm trying to say you guys is that you don't have to be militant, or lesbian or any of those things that get associated with feminism to be a feminist, you just have to think that women deserve the same chances that men get.

Also, you can totally still be a feminist if you're secretly a little glad that the Doctor didn't regenerate as a woman. Geeze. 

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Las Vegas Night

It is Las Vegas Night tonight! It is odd to think that it's been a year since that blog post; I haven't seen anyone strutting around in their underwear for quite a while! Apparently a few people have been reading my blog because if you google "Las Vegas Night, Playboy and Mount Holyoke" I an what comes up. I find this quite amusing since I don't think my blog is particularly what people are looking for, especially since my last post was about socks... Sorry folks!

I have a question for you guys...

...what is it with socks? This is a serious question. I never seem to have enough of them, they never match and they almost always have holes in. It is a serious problem, which I don't know how to fix. In the mean time, if any one wants to get me presents, socks will be gratefully received...

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Getting in touch

Sorry I haven't posted recently but I've been busy reconnecting with old friends and my inner chav. Also doing some work I guess...
Pretty fly for some white girls in knitted cardigans...

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Adventures in jetlaggia.

I feel like I have been here before... I am very much awake at this joyous time of 5am. Guess I'm ending my Vietnam adventures the way I started them...

Straight from my subconscious.

While I was sleeping at a really uncomfortable angle in the plane from Doha to London I had the strangest dream, and I figured I would share it with you.

In my dream swans in ao dais cycled pas in V formation, one wing resting elegantly on the handle bars, the other tucked onto the seat, short black legs peddling away as their graceful bodies floated along. The sky was the colour of rice paddies in the sun, and waved gently in the wind, sending bright white piles of rice noodles scudding across its surface like clouds, each pile attended by a grandmother in bright floral pyjamas and a conical hat with dark red plastic chopsticks. Golden fried bananas flew by on rice paper wings like dragon flies. Trees stood planted with their leafy tops sin the soil, roots carved into intricate zodiac sculptures. The air was painted with translucent scenes from the Buddha's life. The wind smelled of pagoda, and when the sun had set into lines of freshly laundered monk's robes, constellations of lotus and frangipani flowers bloomed in the dark sky.

All of which proves one of two things; my dream world is like being on crack, or my subconscious knows it's going back. Or maybe both.  

Friday, 30 September 2011

Last blog from Vietnam

I'm on a public computer in Saigon airport and I fly shortly and I still have a banh mi in my bag to consume before I get on the plane, so this is going to be a short post, maybe I shall post again to update you all on the ridiculous further adventures of Ellen and Violet, but most likely I will not, so this will be my last post about my adventures in Vietman.

Leaving Tra Vinh was much harder than I had originally anticipated, I met some really fantastic people and got to spend some quality time with one of my favourite people, and basically I was just starting to settle into life in the Mekong Delta. I can't even begin to explain how welcome everyone at TVU made me feel, from Violet, to her friends, to the interns, to the staff and even the students, but I have to admit that it made this little stoic British kid have emotions.

Last night Violet threw me one of the most adorable leaving parties I have ever had, we had fantastical pan-Asian food and friends and beer and cocktails garnished with star fruit. The staff came by to check up on one of the Canadian interns who was feeling pretty unwell and stayed to eat some food, and chat for a while. Just as they were leaving, two of Violet's students arrived. They brought me the most beautiful cake I can ever remember having been given in my life and an adorable hand-stitched purse and a little basket of fake flowers.

I was about a whisker away from incontrolable, insonsolable sobbing. It was kidn of the most amazing thing that has ever happened, and pretty much indicative of my entire time in the Mekong Delta. I'm actually getting a little misty standing here in Saigon International thinking about it.

Right now, more than anything, I want to stay in Vietnam. Failing that, I am going to come back to visit again. I feel like my Vietnam adventures aren't over.

Monday, 26 September 2011

What the ...

This week has been one of those weeks where I have to periodically pinch myself to check I'm not dreaming. I have; cycled to a market with a Violet on the back of my bike, eaten at a pagoda, bycicled to a ferry, played with small children, worked through my entire repetoire of camp games, gone to a bingo hall where lady boys sing the numbers at you, climbed onto a roof while fairly inibriated on lime-flavoured rum and miranda soda, climbed onto a roof while even more enibriated on rice vodka and coke, sung jingle bells at a karaoke bar, also Sweet Caroline and Hotel California, had dinner at a random student's house, biked all the way to said random student's house with a Violet on the back in 700 degree heat, picked fruit out of trees in someone's back yard using a fruit picker, found presentation topics for half a class of students who spoke little/no english, been told I am beautiful more times than is healthy for my ego, sustained more bruises and cuts than is possible to count, eaten at least 8000 different noodle dishes, regularly sung and/or danced with scant regard to my dignity in front of various groups of students, added coffee with condensed milk to my list of main food groups, taken mainly showers so cold they made my toes curl and then finally one warm shower which made me happier than is normal, been force fed wine by a student's father, taught people how to do the macarena, the hand jive, the Las Ketchup dance and the box step, eaten fruits I don't even know the name of, some of which dipped in salt and chilli flakes, danced around Violet's flat with Violet in our underwear because it's too hot for clothes, scandalised Tra Vinh with shorts that barely cover my knee caps, worn pants and a sweater in the blistering heat for modesty's sake, been greeted/stared at/touched purely because I am white,

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Adventures into domesticity

Lets face it, I would make a terrible house wife. But this is the role I have fallen into in Tra Vinh.  Violet hasto go to work sometimes, and leaves me to pootle in her flat while she is gone. Then I feel bad, so I do things like tidy. Violet gets back from class at around 5 and I do not have supper on the table, but she puts  up with me anyway. I have become a kept woman.

In keeping with this domestic theme, yesterday it became clear from the lines of ants marching around the flat that something had to be done about the floor. So we broke out the scrubbing brush and dish cloth and got our cinderella on. Now the floor is pristine, the ants have been banished and life is shiney.

Other than the more domestic adventures I have been having real Experiences. For example the other day one of Violet's friends who is an ex-monk took us for lunch at the Pagoda where he used to live. It was kind of the most insane, most fantastic thing that has happened in Vietnam.

Talking of food, I have been massively upsetting my stomach by exposing it to all sorts of magical and mysterious food types, I must ask Violet to write down all the different things I have eaten, because I have trouble with the Vietnamese, but I've had crepes with shrimp in, soup with vaguely meaty things in, fish, rice, many many noodles, various things wrapped in rice paper and so on. However, the cherry on the odd foods cake came yesterday when Violet's students took us out for dinner. They ordered what looked like regular duck eggs, but turned out to be tiny perfectly formed ducks, and then watched as we tried to eat them, Violet is amazing and pretty much finished hers, I'm ashamed to say I failed spectacularly and did not eat any. But in my defence it had a beak.

Previous to the disasterous duck egg incident, we played games with Violet's students at the square pond with water in which I was told about with much gusto before I came. It's kind of hard to remember that the students are the same age as me, because they love to play duck duck goose and sing songs to eachother. It is kind of adorable.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

I only went and made it!

I got all the way to Tra Vinh y'all. It's crazy. Everything is very very yellow. Everyone stares at me because I am white, and I do not have appropriate clothing so am very naked by Tra Vinh standards. I have been wearing my jens and a sweater. I am writing this on my favourite giant purple dell. Although it has a new battery so it's a little less exciting than during finals last semester.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

So before I came I decided I should ventue out into Saigon, in order to play it safe I decided to go to the Fine Art Museum. This turned out to be a Good Move. It's in a a really beautiful old 20th Century colonial style building, and it has some really interesting communist type arts in.

On my way back to my Guest House, I decided I would require a phrase book if I was going to make it in the bus.

Then I decided I should buy some gifts, since I have been well brought up like that. This proved difficult. What does one bring to a friend who is living in the middle of nowhere when one goes to stay with them for a week? I found a mini-mart style shop and tried to find some suitible gifts. I started with coffee, and added a filter just in case. I figured I might wat to cook dinner sometime, so I added two pot noodles to the pile. I thought wine, but it was kinda expensive, then I thought rice wine, but I remember last time I drank rice wine much too well, finally I settled on rice vodka. Also a tin of Spam.

I got the taped together Xe Om to the station, this wasn't really the plan, but he was lurking outsie the door, so I didn't have much choice. We made it to to the station fairly safely, from where I was hustled into a minivan which was to be my bus to Tra Vinh. I had to sit in the front because I didn't fit in the back. My neighbour chainsmoked all the way to Tra Vinh. He also had a little plastic bag so he could continue to spit despite the fact he was in the bus. He was very nice though, and kept trying to offer me his dog meat sandwich. I declined.

I used my new phrasebook to look up "is this the bus to Tra Vinh" which I used regularly, and also "I do not speak Vietnamese". This just prompted my companions in the bus to just yell at me louder.

Soon enough I made it to Tra Vinh, from he bus station I got another Xe Om to Violet's eye-ache inducingly yellow university. Since I have been here I have been taken to eat all kinds of exciting foods while seated on teeny tiny plastic chairs. Also, we have been on an adventure around the rice fields, and crossed the least stable bridge I have seen since Nepal. I have also met some of Violet's lovely Tra Vinh friends, and also sat in on an English class on Danger and Daring, or something along these lines, in any case we played Truth or Dare, and I got to learn dancing.

Other than watching Mr Bean, Eat, Pray, Love, Game of Thrones and way too much MTVAsia, screaming in Violet's face in the night, and zooming around Tra Vinh on the back of a scooter, this is all I have done since I last blogged. So I'm going to have a nap, and wait for Violet to get off work.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

And thus the misadventures begin.

It all started well. I woke up late this morning, showered, ate a couple of teeny weeny bananas for breakfast, read some, and then I decided it was time to face the world and attempt to buy a bus ticket. And so I sallied forth, blithely unaware of the misadventures which would befall me.

I should have aborted my mission when I was informed that the guy who works in the hostel who speaks some form of English was away for the day and wouldn't be back until 5, but I was confident in my ability to get a bus ticket so I pressed on. The lady who had been left in charge did not speak English, so I tried my handy dandy piece of paper that my tour guide had given me, sadly she could either not read, or had trouble with the hand writing. But I was undeterred, I have not been playing charades every Christmas for nothing. Charades for "I need to go to the bus station so I can buy a ticket to get to Tra Vinh on Wednesday, and then I need to come back" is not the easiest one but I won out.

I should have given up when my potential Xe Om driver showed up dressed only in boxer shorts, but I waited for him to put on a shirt, then I saw his vehicle, it was held together with tape, I really should have given up at this point, but I was filled with blind optimism following my successful game of charades, and I had an unfounded good feeling about the day, so I set off regardless.

It was all going quite well until I got to the bus station, the Xe Om guy was singing to me, and the sun was shining, life was rosy. When I got to the station it all started to go drastically down hill. First of all it became patently obvious that no one spoke English, second of all everyone was shouting at me. It was a little a lot terrifying. So I decided to call Violet for a pep talk and advice. Unfortunately, despite the fact that I was carrying out the conversation entirely in English, my Xe Om driver decided that the person on the other end of the phone was clearly a Vietnamese individual who would be able to explain the crazy white girl who he had driven half way across town. So clearly the only thing to do was to take my phone and start talking to poor old Violet. Sadly, when she did not live up to his expectations he started shouting at her too.

After some more careful charades, I managed to ascertain that the bus to Tra Vinh on Wednesday leaves at 6am, and that I would not be able to buy a ticket until the day itself.

Thankful that the ordeal was over, I climbed back on the Xe Om ready to be taken home. The bike had other ideas, a large part fell off, and I fell of with it. Most of the bus station laughed at me. I got back up, and the driver picked up the portion that had fallen off and drove me to the repair shop. Thus my charades for "if you decide to take 150lbs of white girl on your motorbike and it breaks, this white girl is not going to pay for the damages" started. I'm not sure he really understood, but he got the picture.

I wound up paying 150,000 Vietnamese dong, which is about $7 or a fiver or so, for the whole horrible venture. The driver promised to take me to the station on Wednesday morning. I am going to try to figure out how to get a taxi.

All alone again...

And then there was one. Last night was the last with the whole group we went for dinner and then went out for some drinks, although we lost most of the group quite quickly. Today the mexicans left first thing in the morning and the rest of the girls at about 5 and I have been in my new hostel room since, and am about to set out in search of dinner and am considering an early night. It's very strange to be by myself having been around the others every waking hour, and most of the sleeping ones too, but not altogether unpleasant so far.

It's strange to think I'll be staying here until Wednesday; it's the longest I've been in one place since I left England. I have made my way from Hanoi to Saigon using every single mode of transport imaginable; car, bus, train, plane. I have been in a horse and cart, a dozen different kinds of boat, on a bike, a peddaled carriage, a motorbike. Literally everything. It has taken us 15 days, and I have seen and learnt so much. It has been amazing.

Honestly my plan for the next couple of days is to sleep, eat and write postcards. Although I do hope to make it to the women's museum eventually, and perhaps excursion to the botanical gardens if I have time and the weather is ok.

My only other mission is to go to the bus station to buy my ticket. Sadly the bus station seems to be on the other side of the known universe; it's not even on my map, the guy in my hostel has promised one of his friends with a motorbike will take me there, but I have a horrible feeling I'm about to get swindled, but there's nothing for it, since I do actually want to get to Tra Vinh eventually, and I guess the first trip will be a good fact finding mission for when I have to go back with my entire bag.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Mekong Delta - Take 1

I have just spent 24 hours in the Mekong Delta, a brief taster or the week I will spend in Tra Vinh with Violet, starting on Wednesday. On this short trip I believe I consumed every single incarnation of coconut under the sun. My mother would have been horrified (she hates coconut). We had coconut candy, fish in coconut sauce, coconut water, dried coconut, fresh coconut, coconut wine. The only thing missing was the Malibu. We also stayed in a coconut plantation, swung in hammocks in the shade of coconut palms, tried to shimmy up coconut trees, were rowed around in coconut wood boats, walked by piles and piles of coconuts, took pictures of growing coconuts, cycled around coconut farms, watched coconut shells float by us in the river and narrowly avoided getting hit on the head by falling coconuts. In short, my first impression of the area around Violet's new home is coconutty.

In other news, I am preparing to leave the safety of the group tour and make forages into solo tourism. I feel mighty intrepid and adventurous and independent. Also a teeny tiny bit petrified. I have already booked a hostel for me to stay in for the next couple of days before I start my trip down to Tra Vinh, although I have to admit that I chickened out of the slightly cheaper shared dorm in favour of my own room. It only made a couple of dollars difference per night and I'm a wimp. I will be in Saigon until Wednesday and then I'm catching a local bus to Tra Vinh, because I'm adventurous like that, and also because there is no tourist bus because, despite the Lonely Planet's enthusiasm, no one wants to go to Tra Vinh. My tour guide is going to help me buy the ticket, because my Vietnamese hasn't really progressed beyond, hello, thank you, cheers, I am very tired and counting to three. And in all honesty no one seems to understand me when I say these things. And that's all folks!

War Remnants Museum

The first thing we did the first day we arrived in Saigon was a trip to the War Remnants Museum. Well, actually, this isn't strictly true, the very first thing we did was check into the hotel, which, by the way, is the fanciest of fancy hotels and has a gold and cream colour scheme, and then we went for lunch at the same place Clinton lunched when he came to visit Saigon. But after these things the very first thing we did was to visit the War Remnants Museum.

I am going to stop being jokey now, because this was a fairly serious and sombre event, and prompted the deepest conversations the group has had since starting the trip, also the first group tears. Thus I invite you, blog reader, into the world of serious blogging, here I will make a brief sojourn.

The museum is right in the centre of Saigon, and we had to pay to enter, and it was honestly one of the most chilling museums I have ever been to, it was right up there with the Red Cross Museum in Geneva. It focused mainly on the anti-war movement around the world, the war crimes committed against Vietnam during the war, and the continuing effects of Agent Orange.

This last was the most upsetting as there were pictures of young children and unborn babies with various birth defects becaus of the chemicals used by the American Army. It struck me that although I had learnt about the effects of Agent Orange during GCSE History, and I had seen many of the photographs before, I was more shocked by them than I had been in the past. I'm not sure whether it was due to being actually in the country where it had occured, or being older, or a combination of the two, but the horror of the Vietnam War hadn't really affected me in the same way before. What I also hadn't considered seriously before was the lingering effects of war on the Vietnamese people.

Over dinner the girls and I discussed how perhaps the reason why the Vietnam war didn't seem so real to us before was because in our own way, less seriously, less dramatically, less painfully, less physically, but still in a real way to us, we were ourselves the third generation affected by our own war. We discussed to what extent the war was talked about at home, and in what ways it had impacted the lives of our grand-parents, parents and by association us. It was really interesting to hear everyone's stories and to think about the potential links between us, and the third generation affected by Agent Orange. It makes me think though, to what extent will my children be affected by the ghosts of war, and how many generations will it take Vietnam to recover from the atrocities committed within its borders.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Toes

I'm going to give you fair warning right now, this is going to be a post all about my feet. If you are uninterested in my feet, or share my dislike for feet in general, please feel free to disregard this post entirely.

And so onward to the post itself. My feet have been more than a little bit gross since my horrific frisbee accident this winter, however, just over a week in flip flops in Asia really hasn't helped the situation at all. In short I have 9 nails, two of which are pretty broken, the remaining nail I have nicknamed Mr Stumpy, because he is very very stumpy, although he is working very hard on growing and being healthy.

Today I decided enough was enough, and I sallied forth into Hoi An and got myself a pedicure. Now I am not normally in the habit of getting pedicures, in fact, I am not normally in the habit of letting people touch my feet with a barge pole, but today I made an exception.

To give the girl credit she did take my gross gross feet with exceptional grace, and she has fixed them up a treat. She has hidden Mr Stumpy away behind a fake nail, she has hidden the other nails away behind a generous coat of silver nail varnish, and she has generally cleaned my whole toe area. It's fantastic, from a distance it looks almost as though I have 10 healthy toe nails. This might be an experiment worth repeating.

Stats.

You guys, I was just checking out my stats page, looking at who's reading me, because I have a healthy ego like that, and my loyal reader from Argentina has swung by again. Now I can figure out roughly who is reading me in Switzerland, Germany, France, and Holland, I know I know people in the US and UK, but dear Argeninian reader, who are you? I am so curious it's making me crazy. Please come forward and tell me who you are and I will give you a prize of your choosing. Perhaps even a postcard.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Rain rain go away

One thing I can say for Vietnam is that it sure does know how to rain. And it seems to know when to do so to be least convenient. Our sleeping under the stars in Halong Bay got rained off, as did the sunrise outing the following morning, rain struck again yesterday just in time for our cycle tour and BBQ on the sand dunes at sunset. Brilliant. I actually cannot remember the last time I was so thoroughly soaked. It was horrific. We ended up having the BBQ inside, and didn't see the sunset at all. Still the food was very nice even if we were a little damp at the time of eating it. And there was cheap beer, so you can hardly complain.

Last night since we were damp and chilly, and one of the girls has a nasty coldy thing, we decided to have a night in, and watch some Vietnamese TV. Which, can I point out, is brilliant! We watched Miss Universe with annoying Vietnamese commentary and the some male catwalk show, some cartoons and Chinese MTV, snuggled up in bed with cookies and water and all the viroids. It was a good evening.

Many, many shopping adventures have happened in Hoi An, and I can safely say I have spent too much money, and have probably been swindled more than once, but I did get some clothes specially tailored for me, while the tailor laughed at my thigh bruise, and I bought some very inexpensive t-shirts advertising beer. We've also been at the standard tourist shopping, and I have a couple of souveniers already and am collecting a some bits and bobs for myself, although I'm saving the big shop for when I get to Saigon towards the end of my trip.

The hotel we are staying at has a pool and a beauty parlour and we are very much taking advantage of this because it is at least 800 thousand degrees out and very muggy and we are all dying hot sweaty deaths, it is far too hot to move during the day, but luckily everything seems to stay open until late at night, so it's not too much of a problem.

Favourite

Every single place we have been to so far, I have shown up and been all, this is my favourite so far, Sapa with it's amazing rice terraces, and inordinately friendly peole, Halong Bay with it's beautiful coastal waters, Hue, with it's history and hilarious night life. But Hoi An is something else. Granted it had an unfair advantage in that we got here on the night of the autumn full moon festival, when there were hoards of adorable children running around dressed up and carrying lanterns. When the river was full not only of beautiful old boats, but hundreds of floating candles in coloured paper shells. When the air was filled with incense, and smoke, and music, and laughter. When every single branch of every single tree was hung with brightly coloured lanterns. When everyone was out on the streets having a good time. I know I'm delving into the murkey world of written cliche, but Hoi An is one giant oriental cliché, and I love it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

What up Hue.

We spent just over 24 hours in Hue, making it one of the most ram packed days of the trip. We got off our 13(!) hour sleeper train not so very refreshed, and went straight for breakfast before hopping onto the back of a pack of Xe Om (the Vietnamese name for motorbike taxis) and speeding off on our adventures around Hue.

It is worth pointing out before I go further the adventures I had actually getting on the Xe Om in the first place. I have managed to acquire one of my many inconvenient injuries, sustained in un-dramatic ways, this time a freak swimming accident resulted in a bruise approximately the size and a shape if the short end of a brick on the inside of my thigh. Which wouldn't really be an issue if it hadn't been for the fact that I had to get on a motorbike. However, I was a woman with a plan; I had seen Violet ride Xe Om side saddle in Hanoi, and figured this would be the perfect way to get around the bruise issue. All I needed to do was convince my driver of the genius of my idea He didn't seem convinced at first but I figured it was because he hadn't understood the term bruise, so I showed him. This seemed to do the trick, although it may have been because he was so shocked at seeing a woman's inner thigh that he didn't really know what to do. And so we set on our merry way.

While gladding about on our motorbikes I made the world's fattest stick of incense, visited an orphanage, watched a conical hat being made and other such typical touristy type activities, however the best by far was the agricultural museum where I made friends with the oldest lady I have ever met. She was tiny, dressed entirely in purple and had about two teeth, she was also brilliant. Her job seemed to be to demonstrate all the farming equipment in the museum, which she did with much gusto and sound effects. She took a shining to me when she was showing is how to plough a field for rice, while demonstrating the buffalo whip she decided that the whole thing would be more realistic if she whipped something that more closely resembled a buffalo. Apparently I was that something.

After this I was included in all her demonstrations, including how to water a rice field, how to catch a fish in a rice field, and finally how to chew erica beans (in case you're wondering the correct answer to this last one is don't if you can possibly avoid it.) then she figured out we had matching green Vietnamese bangles, mine being a gift from Violet on my first day, and this cemented our friendship for ever in her mind. She even had me sit next to her on her tiny tiny wicker sofa, which by rights shouldn't have been large enough to hold a baby.

In the evening we took part in the most ridiculously touristy activity in which I have ever indulged. We dressed up as members of the royal court in Hue from around the turn of the century, and ate a special royal banquet while being serenaded by special royal music. In case you were wondering about the ridiculousness of this; there were hats, one of them had a pom pom on.

We finished the most absurd day in the history of absurd days in a club called Brown Eyes, which promised on the fliers to be "strongly in bed". In fact, I spent the evening listening to classic pop, watching the rugby, drinking something called a "leg opener" while being force fed various free shots which were a dubious green colour, surrounded by Dutch bunting.

It is days like this, among other things which make me really love my life. Until next time loyal blog readers!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sea adventures and other fun

I spent the last couple of days in Halong Bay, drifting on a very nice wooden boat among some beautiful scenery, in my bikini, getting my tan on. This is how life should be. We also ate a heinous amount of sea food and rice and, strangely, bacon and eggs, went kayaking and jumped into jellyfish infested waters. We saw a beautiful cave, and attempted to sleep under the stars. Unfortunately Vietnam weather was having none of this nonscence and sent us inside with a flea in our ears and rain water in our pillows. It was lovely and calm and so so pretty and I loved it. Every single thing I see in Vietnam is my favourite so far and Halong bay was no exception.

Oh and iboughtsomereallexpensivepearlearings, but don't tell anyone ok?

Same same but different

(I haven't updated in a couple of days on account of a lack of internets, but now I am in Hue using my rather fabulous room-mate's iPad to go on the internet. I'm hoping to write a number of short posts to convey to you what I've been up to overthe last couple of days. )

The title of this post comes from a phrase my host in Sapa used to compare rice wine and water, I'm assuming that it's used to denote two things as radicallydifferent as you can get because from experience, I can tell you that 18 glasses of water before a hike up a valleys probably a good idea, however, 18 glasses of rice wine is almost definitely not. Before y'all start judging me I'd like to point out that my host kept pouring me glasses while I was occupied with my food or talking to someone and then when I tried to refuse to drink it she told me I was making her sad, and really who was I to argue. In short she used most unfair sneak tactics to get me to drink and this resulted all three girls in my group attempting what was probably the least attractive belly dancing the world has ever seen. I believe there is video documentation somewhere but it's probably best if this never sees the light of day.

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Overnight Train

To get to Sapa, we took the overnight train from Hanoi. This was pretty much a novel experience for me, although I'm sure the novelty will soon wear off, but for this first time I enjoyed the feeling of the tiny cabins, the wooden beds and swaying carriages. I was lucky enough that my talent for sleeping came through for me on the train, the bed was pretty comfortable, the air conditioning high, and I found the rocking and rattling of the train fairly soothing. However despite this, the sleeping wasn't hugely restful, so I was still pretty tired by the time we got off the train.

Last of the Hanoi Adventures.

Just before we left Hanoi, we went to see the Water puppet show, which was a pretty amazing show of music, beautiful puppets, including a huge golden dragon, tiny golden fish, water buffalo, children climbing trees, and even at one stage what I thought might have been amazing dancing hats, although I may have been wrong. There was also a flaming hoop which some of the puppets jumped through, some of the puppets held candles, flames, and sparked jets, or spat, flicked, or swirled the water. I'm not doing a great job of describing the show, and sadly I wasn't able to take very many good pictures, as my inability to take pictures of small things, moving things, and far away things combined spectacularly, but it was a beautiful show, and there was some amazing live Vietnamese music too. Sadly the theatre hadn't really been designed with the taller customer in mind and so my knees were pretty squished, but really as the only draw back, this seemed pretty minor. 

Right before dinner we all decided to have coffee together at City View Cafe, which is so named because it is on the top floor of a huge building next to the lake, giving it both gorgeous views over Hanoi, but also out over the lake and to the temple in the lake and the turtle tower. I had my second ever Vietnamese iced coffee, and we took ridiculously touristy pictures of us posing in front of the lake. We had dinner is a converted traditional town house, which was really lovely, although I'm sure traditionally probably un-airconditioned. 

Sunday, 4 September 2011

So many adventures

Yesterday Violet took me out for adventures in Hanoi, we saw the temple of literature, and a really lovely old church and wandered round just being in Hanoi for a bit. We had lunch with Violet's friends and also stopped for iced coffee in a little place and watched the world go by. It was amazing to have such a peaceful day in such a busy city.

In the evening I met my tour group, and they seem like a really solid group of girls, although we're still waiting on the two Mexicans. Our tour leader is really nice and very eager, so I think we'll get along well.

Last night a couple of friends from the group and I met up with Violet and her friends and we did clubbing in Hanoi, take two. We dicided to go out a little earlier to avoid being closed down after two songs, but apparently it wasn't meant to be, and after having been kicked out of a bunch of clubs and bars, we wound up in a place called Dracula playing Jenga while drinking beer called La Rue, like real adults.

This morning we went adventured out in the (light) rain and visited the bank and I purchased for myself a sim card for my phone, the best thing about this is that the provider is called Tomato. I think this is brilliant. Then since the rain had stopped we decided to go visit the one pillar pagoda. The no rain situation lasted about three photographs and then the heavens opened. I have literally never seen anything quite like the amount of rain that was falling, the benches we were sitting on were covered in about 10 minutes.

The hotel staff were very concerned about how wet we were when we got back, but it was definitely worth it for the laughs and I think I managed to take some nice pictures, but I'll keep you updated.

This afternoon we're off to the Water Puppet show, which is a special Hanoi thing I believe, I'm not really sure what it involves, but everyone has been raving so I'm looking forward to it, and then we climb aboard the overnight train to Sapa, for the trecking portion of our adventures.

So many adventures, so little time!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

I have arrived!

I actually arrived a couple oof hours ago, but since it is 4am and I am absurdly awake thamks to a bad case of the jet lags, and since I have already done some laundry, tidied my room and repacked my things, I figured now would be a good time to update y'all, particularly since my adventures into vietnamese telly have shown that vietnamese telly isn't all that great at 4am, although i can tell you Liverpool is beating Bolton 3-0.
So my flights were safe and relatively uneventful, although sadly the presence of more babies than I have ever seen in one place before somewhat hampered my napping effort,which meant that by the time I got to vietnam I was very hungry and very tired and I somehow got caught by the oldest trick in the book and wound up paying through the nose for my taxi into Hanoi. But the important thing is that I got to my hotel safely, although I can't speak for the safety of my fellow road users since my driver seemed particularly crazy even by vietnamese standards.
Once checked in it wasn't long before el Violet located me and after we had snacked on the free bananas in my room, we ventured out into Hanoi for somthing more substantial. Violet is actually a God-send since she is very good at crossing roads, finding places to eat, conversing in Vietnamese with waters and the like, and generally being an excellent host. The upshot of which is that I had a lovely dinner, wandered round Hanoi, and had several drinks without getting lost or having to order anything for myself.
Yesterday it was some kind of national holiday and when we went to see one of the lakes in Hanoi, which I currently can't remember the name of , we found a whole bunch of concerts including a Vietnamese opera singer and some trained monkeys. You know, as you do. We went out for drinks with some of Violet's friends, including some oddly sweet Vietnamese beer, which we drank sitting on plastic stools in the middle of the street. We also went to a more convential bar, and then to a night club where we danced to all of two songs before it got shut down by the police, this marked both my first party which has been shut down by anyone, and also my first contact wit the communist police.
Following this excitement Violet and I climbed onto one of the motorcycle taxis which seem pretty ubiquitus and I felt very legitimate, particularly as Violet haggled with the driver in very efficient sounding Vietnamese, although consiering my grasp of the vietnamese language which is s close to none as to be negligible, you probably shouldn't trust my judgemnt. I got to bed before 12.30, and had a remarkably refreshing 2 hour nap. All of which brings us back, full circle, to the situation where I am awake at 4am with nothing to do, but I think I'll try the sleeping thing agan now and see how I get on...
p.s. sorry about any typos; I blame the kindle thing, and the lack of sleep thing...

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Ready to rock and roll

My insurance is sorted. My doctor has signed to say I can go. My liver is in tippy tip top condition. I have currency. I have addresses and phone numbers for when I get there. I have EVERYTHING I could ever need in any conceivable situation while away in Vietnam, because I am a scout with a penchant for overpacking. All my bags are packed (well, my big bag and my day bag, which is all my bags.) At this point it would be fair to point out to my loyal readers, that I actually will be adding things to my bag until the second I leave for the airport; I have a serious packing neurosis. But all in all I think I am ready to go. 27 hours until lift off!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Excitement

I feel like the word excitement is a bit of a strange one, because there isn't really any way of describing the levels of excitement. It's not like when you're cold and you can be a bit chilly, or down right freezing. But realistically is that how excitement works? I mean if you're Rebecca Black and you're singing about Friday, you might be "so excited" (we're looking forward to the weekend), but it's not really the same as when you're me and you're blogging about going on holiday to Vietnam in two weeks is it? I mean the very nature of weekends is that they occur once a week, where as holidays to Vietnam, well they don't grow on trees you know. However, being excited about your holiday to Vietnam, is probably not the same level of excitement as you would get if you were my friend SJ and gearing up for your wedding, because, well, that's pretty much a once in a lifetime thing, and therefore infinitely more exciting than Fridays, and probably a whole lot more exciting that going on holiday, even one as exciting as mine. In short. The English language is insufficient. Also, congratulations SJ. (And Elodie, and Jane, and anyone else reading my blog who just got married, or is going to...)


(Also, I'm pretty excited about Vietnam in two weeks, just not as excited as I would be if I were getting married tomorrow.)

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

I was so wrong!

So it turned out I did not have everthing I could ever need for vietnam, today I bought the kindle version of the lonely planet guide to vietnam. And its brlliant! iI founnd out about the lake in Tra Vinh, and about all the other things there are to do and see there, and i physically could not be more excited to go! This is whole new levels of excitement, even for me!

Also i just wrote this on the kindle. I don't think you'll be getting long kindle posts guys, this takes forever!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Preparations.

In EXACTLY 17 days I will be leaving on my adventures, so naturally, being a boy scout, I shall be prepared for all eventualities. In this vein I have been typhoid proofed, I have anti-malarials, I have a bikini, I have factor 50 suncream and I have ear plugs. I can't really see what more I could possibly ever need.

In more home based adventures I have been hanging out with my wonderfully fantastic friends, and I have been trying to learn how to use my camera properly (pictures to follow) by taking photographs of the Surrey flora and fauna (i.e. the deer in the garden and the Royal Horticultural gardens at Wisley.) So far I have discovered that my camera can do all sorts of magical manual focusing and such like, but that I basically take better pictures when I leave it in automatic. 

Also you guys, I bought shampoo in bar form! Like a bar of soap, but it's shampoo. I'm sure this is infinitely less exciting for everyone else than it is for me, but it's teeny tiny and won't explode in my bag. Which makes me happy.







The thing with deer is that they hide behind plants and move around.
And scratch their noses

And won't let me come near them....
Benches on the other hand are great at staying still

Monday, 8 August 2011

Testing

Oh hey I can post to my blog without having to actually go to the website, i.e. I can post on the road!

(Just to explain this, I have an email address that I can email posts to and then they upload to the blog automatically, which is good because it means I can use my (mother's) Kindle to blog with, once I get to Vietnam!)

Friday, 5 August 2011

You know what you're doing once you get there, right?

Sure. I know exactly what I'm doing once I get there. I'm checking into my pre-booked hotel, following which I have a day to explore Hanoi before I go on my perfectly organised tour of Vietnam. I'm going to Sapa and Halong Bay, before returning to Hanoi, following which I'm going to Hue, then Hoi An. Then I'm flying to Ho Chi Minh City, where I'm doing a cyclo tour (no, I don't know either) before going to the Mekong Delta. From whence I return to Saigon. Along the way I'm hiking, canoeing, making a lantern, going to various museums, learning to cook, and even staying overnight with a Vietnamese family. It is very adventurous and I am excited! 

After that the plan gets a little less plan-like and a little more vague, but basically I hope to meet up with a friend from my adventures in the land of the Hamburgers and stay with her while she teaches people English. I have been promised that there is a good lake, and that I will be able to eat frogs legs. Other than that I'm not too sure there is really a plan, other than to avoid decapitation. Still, this being spontaneous and off the beaten track, shall be all the more adventurous and I get to hang out at a Vietnamese University, which should be exciting!

So you see! I have very precise and detailed plans! Aren't you excited to read all about my adventures? I know I don't have a good track record of actually blogging when life gets adventurous, but I promise you, I have good intentions! 

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Counting down to my next adventure!

You guys, it's 30 days until I fly to Vietnam! I put a fancy little countdown widget over in the side bar so you can count down with me! I have been doing research into serious travelling blogs, and I believe at this stage it is customary to write a blog stating exactly what you are going to pack. I will not being doing this, partially because I'm sure you have no interest in exactly how many pairs of socks I will be taking, and partially because I honestly don't have a clue. However my research has revealed that there are three golden rules when packing:


1. Three pairs of underwear will suffice. I don't think I will be keeping to this rule; no matter how many times I read about the "Four days, Four ways" theory of underwear, it becomes no more appealing. I will wear my underwear the standard way. Not back-to-front, not inside-out, not back-to-front and inside-out. This is my final decision. I will also bring a sufficiency such that I do not spend my entire holiday washing my knickers. And before anyone even thinks of mentioning paper pants, I'd like to point out that this is so far outside the realms of things that are likely to ever happen that there's no point me shooting it down.
2. Absolutely no denim ever. I'm going to break this one too. Possibly twice; once in full length and once in short version. The only way I know to dress myself involves denim and hoodies. I don't think I can be deprived of these items for a whole month. I tried in South Africa and wound up buying myself a pair. I don't care if they dry slower than Christmas. They're coming. And besides, I am going to go live with a friend, who has a real person job. So I have to look like a real person, and preferably like I'm not going to smell like I'm on day 3 of the 4 day underwear cycle.
3. Don't bring bedding, it will be provided. Again, this one is looking like it's going to be broken... Anyone who has seen me at camp will know of my deep devotion to my silk sleeping bag liner, and the separation anxiety which occurs when I am bereft of it. I'm pretty sure it can protect me from bed bugs, knife wielding rapists, and the yeti, all at the same time. And I might bring my baby pillow too, because I love it, and it's been to South Africa, Nepal, and America three times and will get sad if it gets left behind.

So right now it's looking like I'm going to be taking everything, including the kitchen sink, I've never really been any good at packing light...

Friday, 29 July 2011

New Look Blog

Something happened to the host of my blog layout, which is sad, so I'm playing with a new one, I don't really do colours and that, as you all probably know, so if it's not working for you, it clashes, gives you a headache or whatever, let me know and I shall be changing things!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The great catch up Blog Post

Apparently I'm just going to blog every 3 months and try to fit everything in.
So here goes....
Since I last blogged I did a little of this :

I danced like this:

and this:

and this :
Maybe I shouldn't dance so much...
Anyway... I also dressed up like this:
          And like this:
In short, Mount Holyoke ate what little was left of my dignity. 
I also hung out with some fabulous people, including this wonderful lot:



All of which excitement culminated in marching in a parade dressed like this :

And the following day I went and got me one of these:

(In case you're wondering, "one of these" is a certificate saying I'd survived a year at Mount Holyoke College and a hug from the President, while wearing a ridiculous black robe and an even more ridiculous, poorly-fitting hat.)

Following which Half-Pint packed up my room while I wept into a box of Kleenex, then she drove me home to Plymouth. Where I ate and slept and read and got to see some of my amazing camp friends. The following day Half-Pint and I went shopping and hung out, and then her mum drove me to the airport. I bought and read the new book in the Hunger Games series, and then flew on my merry way home, in a fabulous seat with plenty of leg room!

And thus endeth the adventure in the Land of the Free.

Onwards to new things!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Oh hello there!

I'm terrible at blogging, so I am going to summarise the last couple of months in pictures and captions:

Firstly, it was my birthday, on my birthday I did not leave my building, because there was an ice storm, and the first snow day at Mount Holyoke for approximately 800 years. So instead I made my friends come to me. There are no nice pictures of this, however a couple of days later, when the weather had sufficiently calmed down to venture into the big bad world, I had a party of sorts and it was lovely. Here is a pictorial representation of this gathering:



We played taboo and I wore a hat shaped like a birthday cake :


Then I joined Frisbee. This was fun because I got to run around a lot and be part of a team. Shortly after joining Frisbee I played in a tournament, this resulted in a trip to a real life American ER. I felt like I might be on an episode of Grey's anatomy. Here is a picture of the out come of this adventure:


Also in February it was Valentines day, I got a whole bunch of Valentines, and this excited me, as I had never received one before. Here is a picture of some of them:


Another thing that happened was the Drag Ball, which supports people whose parents cut them off financially when they find out they're gay, we all dressed up in Drag. Here is a picture of my friends and I dressed as men:



Over Spring break, the Frisbee team went to Georgia, we drove all the way there. It took us 17 hours. I was not built to be in a car for 17 hours. We stopped off in DC. Here is a picture of me and my car-mates by the Lincoln memorial:


While we were in Georgia we played some Frisbee. This is the only evidence I have of ever having set foot on a Frisbee field. I am the one on the far right looking the wrong way. Excellent.


Here is a picture of our entire Frisbee team, or at least, those of us who went to Georgia, as you can tell, Georgia was pretty and sunny and we had the most excellent time ever.


Since Spring Break I have been hard at work doing academic type things. Part of this process is Study Parties. This is a strange Mount Holyoke thing I think. At study parties one hardly ever actually studies. Instead one gets conned into climbing into (and subsequently being locked into) cupboards under sinks:


And drawing pictures of the study party-ers on the black board in the room in which said study party is being held:


So that, in brief, is what I have been up to. Hopefully now I am up to date, I will keep up to date. That is, as always, the plan!

Friday, 4 February 2011

J-Term Adventures.

Other than moving furniture around my room, I did actually do interesting things over J-Term. These mainly involved snow orientated activities, such as sledging and snow fights and walking on lakes (I have still to try out the ice-rink on the lake because I'm not to sure how it's going to work without the wall to keep me upright, but I think I shall find someone who is good at ice-skating to help me out. It's funny because I used to be fairly proficient at ice-skating, but somehow I have lost much of my prowess in the interim period, but I digress...) The two other exciting things I did over J-Term were going to Magic Wings, and also on fantastical second-hand shopping expeditions. 

Second-hand clothes are magical things, because they are so much cheaper than regular clothes and because you feel like you are doing your bit to save the environment but also find a cure for cancer/help homeless people/feed people or whatever charity it is that you are supporting through buying said items of clothing. This combination of factors leads me to buy a lot more clothes than I would usually buy. Also there is a really nice shop in Northampton which sells second-hand designer and brand clothing. It is almost as bad as the Oxfam book shop in Guildford. I have yet to enter and leave without buying something. The main problem is that they put the retail price in the label so you feel like you're getting a good deal. It's mean. So over J-Term I acquired: one knitted jumper dress, one knitted body-warmer/vest/thingy-with-a-hood and the warmest lumberjack-style flannel plaid shirt you've ever seen in your life. I feel ever so Mount Holyoke when I wear it. 

The other adventure was much more legitimately adventurous than charity shopping. A friend from my Old English class took me on an excitable adventure to a butterfly conservatory named 'Magic Wings' where we wallowed in the amazing warmth, and took pictures of butterflies and the like. There were also birds, and reptiley type things, although the latter were kept in tanks and cages. We even saw a pac-man toad. I will put some of the pictures I took in here somewhere. I took hundreds but a lot of them were pretty blurry because I haven't quite figured out how to change the settings such that I can take pictures of moving objects, I'm sure I should change the aperture or something, but I need to read about it, and I currently don't really have the time. We also went to Yankee Candle Village. Which was a pretty bizarre experience. It's the biggest candle shop I've ever been in. Also, Santa and Mrs Claus live there, and there's a count down to Christmas, and there's a room where it snows every four minutes, lots of fake snow, and there's more candles than you can shake a stick at. Not that I know why you would want to shake a stick at candles ever. Still.








Monday, 24 January 2011

Productive Day is Productive.

I suddenly realised that J-term finishes the day after tomorrow, classes start, and I am entirely unprepared for this impending happening. It is looming, big and dark, very much like a very loomy thing. So this morning I had to bite the bullet and get on with preparing for the arrival of actual work and actual things to do. I was fairly successful in my uber productive day of productivity; I have topped up my one-card so I can do laundry, I have met with the director of Orchestra, I have ordered the books I need for my first two weeks of classes, I have set up an amazon student account, I have purchased a sketch book, I have marked all the bowings in for the first violins. Not bad for a day's work, and I still have the entire evening to get more done. Being productive is fairly satisfying. 

I spent a great deal of time marking the bowings and fingerings in on music today, it takes much longer than I had anticipated, and since it's all marked in in pencil, you can't always see everything, and suddenly 5 copies in you realise you've missed a slur or something and you have to go back and change everything. Luckily thanks to the months I spent working at the Howard, I am very accustomed to performing repetitive and mind-numbing tasks, and actually this is a little more stimulating than hours of laminating. I also discovered that it when exposed to a special brand of peppy pop music it is possible to keep fairly up-beat while doing this. Perky-pop of the minute was Miley Cyrus. So there I was, in the library, before class starts, in my new enormous lumberjack shirt, rocking out to Miley Cyrus, and scribbling all over a huge pile of music. It was then that I decided I needed a cool transplant. And that Miley needs to learn how to master the key-change. 

I am unsure why I have not previously discovered the Amazon Student account. I was alerted to its existence by a friend. Transpires, with an Amazon student account you get free two-day delivery. On everything. It's jolly fantastic! Which was pretty lucky, since classes start in two days, And my books should arrive in two days. See what I did there! I feel a little more prepared for classes now. I have bought the books for my Modern British Novel class, and my French class. There aren't any posted for my Medieval Lit class thus far, which is a little disconcerting, but hey ho! The only book my Creative Writing professor seems concerned that we get is a very particular Sketch Book, which had to be a very specific size and have a special kind of binding and certain number of pages. I went to the bookshop to purchase this magical, mythical Sketch Book. I'm more than a little concerned by this. I really am last in the artistically inclined camp. When God was passing out artistic talent, I was looking the other way. Hopefully use of The Sketch Book will be limited to cutting and sticking. I am very proficient in cutting and sticking. 

The productivity of my day is made somewhat more impressive when one considers the complete lack of  gainful activity which has been completed within the last month. Which has been so close to zero as to be almost entirely indiscernible. Also the fact that it is actually ARCTIC out there. For once in my life I am not exaggerating even a little tiny bit. It's in single figures. IN. FAHRENHEIT. Inhaling makes me cough. My lungs are rejecting the oxygen. It's that cold. And that's during the day. The other night it was -9. STILL. IN. FAHRENHEIT. That's -23 degrees Celsius guys. The high-schools in South Hadley were closed today, it was so cold! I'm going to turn into an icicle. Talking of icicles, there are some pretty spectacular icicles around actually. They're huge and lethal looking. I fear for my life every time I walk into a building. On the bright side they are also pretty beautiful. I think New England might be built for this kind of weather, all the little wooden houses, with the white trimming covered in snow and ice, it's pretty much picturesque. 

The prevailing weather conditions are proving the time for the somewhat outdated heating system in my building to show its worth. It has been almost unbearably hot in my room. To the extent that I've kept my window open pretty much since I moved in. The heating has turny dial, but I'm pretty much convinced that this is nothing more than a placebo dial, and not a very good one at that. From my experimentation the only thing that changes as you turn the dial is the amount of noise that emits from the heater. Apparently all the noise is made by steam. This is hard to believe, I am of the opinion that it is more likely a gremlin which lives inside the pipes. With a spanner (a wrench for all you American folks). A loud bashy spanner. Nevertheless the excessive efficiency of my heater is proving rather helpful because despite the fact that there is currently ice on the inside of the window, it is pleasantly toasty in my room. 

In other news two of my friends have broken their feet. Sadly they both broke the right foot. I think it would have been somewhat marvellous had they broken a left and a right one so I could have mix and matched friend feet. Or something like that. One of them is legitimately in pain, the other has been walking around on the broken foot for several months and very very bad at not walking on it cast and all now purple casty-ness has been applied. Clearly with all the ice and snow, now is not really the best time to be crutching around campus. So I get to go on fun crutching adventures to the Dining Hall and look like a massive fatty while I help myself to two plates of food. It's all fun and games. 

Oh and guys! it's my birthday next Wednesday! Just as an FYI!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Art of Feng Shui

So mainly what has happened between my last post and this post is EVEN MORE SNOW. And when I say even more snow I mean literally 2 feet of snow. Sadly I did not take any pictures of the monstrous snow because I was too busy frolicking in it. We went on a hike, well ok maybe a glorified walk, but still in a LOT of snow and we even went off campus. On the way back we trudged through a huge field of snow which no one had crossed before and it was above our knees and it was AMAZING! Apparently this is what is called a "Nor'easter" and it's going to happen AGAIN THIS WINTER! I will try to remember to take pictures next time. 

Anyway in an attempt not to make this a whole month of posts about snow, I am going to talk about my recent forages into interior design. Well actually, when I say "my recent forages into interior design" what I really mean is, I decided that having my desk by my window where there is a draft the size of a breeze, was not going to be good for my productivity. Also I was getting frustrated by the challenges associated with opening and closing my window over the top of my desk. Small things make all the difference you know. Anyway, so I decided to make changes, but being almost entirely spatially un-aware i had to call in the cavalry, in the form of my much more spatially aware friend. 

I'm pretty pleased with the result, and the vast majority of my friends were similarly impressed by the dramatic changes hauling some furniture around a teeny tiny room can make. I even have a little tea corner, and my room has become drastically more tidy because everything is more open and so the mess notices more because you can't hide it in corners. The only slight downside is I can't sit in bed propped up against the wall anymore because neither ends of my bed are against a wall, but i can sit sideways in bed, and hopefully this will encourage me to actually work at my desk, which will be an exciting change in my life. 

This room rearranging happened while I was supposed to be writing my last final paper from last semester, which I didn't manage to complete on account of my body's rebellion. (Just on an aside, I finished it! I'm finally free of finals! Yippee!) So clearly it made a great deal of sense to do some research on the possible implications of the move on the energy within the room.

It's actually pretty easy, you use a handy dandy mapping type grid like this one:


(which, co-incidentaly I found at this website : http://www.designingonline.com/home_decorating_articles/feng-shui-decorating-tips-bedroom.html which has some tips for if you're actually feng shui-ing your room.)


Anyway, so the basic analysis of my room shows the following trends in energy, which range from fairly satisfactory, to down right bizarre. My romance corner has been blocked off by my chest of drawers, my desk is in my creativity area, and my knowledge and spirituality are locked firmly in the closet. My bed is in my wealth area, I'm not sure what this says about anything, but I do know this has become a running joke among my friends. I haven't really kept to the colours either, since everything in my entire room is turquoise. 


It's nearly the end of J-term, I have my last J-term classes tomorrow, and then I start again with actual classes that mean things the following Wednesday. It's weird to think that I'm over half-way through my all-American experience already!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

I'm dreaming of a white... erm... January 9th?

The snow finally came to Mount Holyoke last night. It was actually pretty amazing. The snow came, and then when I got up this morning paths had been all cleared in the snow and everything is running as normal. Literally. Nobody stopped driving, busses are still going, and we had food as usual. If only England was so efficient in times of adverse weather. Well actually, I quite like getting a week off every time we have snow. Also there is a great deal less childish excitement about snow in general. Which is kinda sad. I think the most obvious sign of this is the fact that with the advent of snow there was not the mass facebook hysteria which would have ensued in England. Most people's profile pictures have remained largely snow free. Statuses continue as if nothing had changed. It's kinda a little sad. 

Luckily I managed to find several people who would indulge my childish adoration of snow and sledging. Which meant I got to trial the tray which I borrowed from the dining hall all those months ago in preparation for such an eventuality. I donned my ski jacket, fastened the snow skirt, put on my wellies and ventured out into the snow. After some practice I became very efficient at the sitting on the tray and sliding method of sledging, but one of my more enterprising friends decided it was necessary to test the face first approach. Being the gentleman I am I let her try this first. It was a disaster. However, I was undeterred. Transpires the art of face-first-tray-sledding is all about your position on the tray. The trick is to get the tray low enough on your boobs that all of your groin is on the tray and then you have the leverage to pick your legs off the ground while keeping pressure on the back of the tray; it's scientific. 

I also spent a great deal of time skidding around on the ice on the lake in my wellies. Literally hours. It's surprisingly fun, and almost as good as in actual skates, with the added advantage of being less likely to fall over and look like a fool. There's a section of ice which has been cleared for skating and there's edging type things around it. I guess on monday someone might come and clear it again. To be honest I was just excited to be walking on a lake. Which was when it was decided that we should walk across the lake towards the waterfall. I have to admit it did not feel hugely safe. At all. But it was very exciting to be walking along in the snow where there should be water. And the snow was all clean and fresh and pretty. And crunchy. There's something very satisfying about being the first person to go crunching through some snow. Particularly when that snow is on a lake. I wonder if the snow which is currently falling will cover up the tracks we made into the middle of the lake or not. 

Also today we went to see Tangled. Which is adorable. It was a really funny, really cute, really lovely movie. I went with a bunch of girls who I don't really know all that well, girls from various classes I was in last semester and friends of friends, who are all in one friendship group together and then I guess I somehow managed to infiltrate. Anyway they were just the right level of dorky where you quote lines of the movie back at each other. And make jokes about how the protagonists head was larger then her waist, and in fact how her eyes were larger than her waist. It's films like this though which give young girls unrealistic expectations of romance. That and the story a friend told me over dinner about her parents meeting while getting on/off a lift at the same time, and then falling in love. Which suggests that this kind of thing actually happens in real life. Although I remain largely unconvinced. 

Talking of things I am unconvinced about, one of the previews before Tangled was for a film called "Gnomio and Juliet". Yeah. An animated version of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy featuring a cast of garden gnomes. And whilst I don't doubt the ability of animated garden gnomes to carry the full weight of a Shakespeare character, I do doubt Disney's ability to, well, deliver the ending. It is a very sad ending. Everyone dies. There is a double suicide. There is not really much in the way of happily ever after. Disney is pretty much known for its happy endings. What would be the point of a Disney movie which did not have a happy ending? Romeo and Juliet just isn't really a family friendly plot line. I really can't see it. Which means, clearly, that I'm going to have to see it when it comes out. Because I'm so confused as to how they are going to make this work. And I hate to tell you this Disney but either way I'm going to be angry. Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending is not ok. However, Disney movies without a happy ending is equally not ok. 

Right now I should be finishing up my 10 page paper on constructions of childhood. Clearly I am not. I will have to finish it tomorrow though, because it's due on Monday. I'm really excited to be rid of the paper. Because then I will feel more free to do other things. Other things I need to do include practice clarinet, and send emails, and figure out what I'm going to do with my life this summer. Also spend more time hanging out with friends rather than sitting in my room pretending to be writing essays while actually procrastinating on the internet by writing super long blog posts about my day. Well. I spend a fair amount of time with my friends. It would just be nice to not feel bad about it all the time. Like I shouldn't be having fun and should be writing papers. I like having fun. Ok. I'm going to go write some essay and then sleep and then write more essay, and so on until the essay is done.