Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Longest Post Ever, but I HAVE A HOME!

I am no longer living out of a suitcase. And it is wonderful!!!!

Steph and I packed her car to the brim 2 Saturdays ago and left for Canterbury. And it took roughly a year to get there. A lane had closed on the M5 which meant traffic, then we were fine and then I don't know what else happened but it caused more traffic, so a1.5 hour trip turned into 3 hours. Eugh.

We moved Steph in first. She lives in a town house very close to the city center, and she's on the 3rd floor. She definitely has the best room in the house--it's nice and big with an ensuite sink and a window that overlooks the main street.

After unpacking most of Steph's car, she helped me check in and get my id (international student=no queue!) and move to my place. I live off to the side of campus in the Parkwood community. I lucked out location-wise, my court is right behind the parkwood pub, essential store (kind of like a c-store) and laundry, and pretty close to the path to main campus. My house has 5 bed rooms, 1.5 baths, and a kitchen, so I have 4 housemates: Matt from England, Madeleine from France, Sandra from Spain, and Alessandro from Italy. They are all really sweet. So we got all of my junk out of Steph's car and when we were done it was like having my mom drop me off at IU, only waaaay less daunting because I was due to see Steph again in an hourish for dinner.

My first dining experience in Canterbury was at Cafe des Amis with Steph and her friend Laura. We ate paella (ps they pronounce the l's here) and had margaritas and piña coladas--which were strong, tasty, and expensive. I have learned my lesson. Then we rode a bus to campus to hit up the uni pubs. IU's welcome week has pep rallies and free food events...Kent's welcome week starts with a campus pub crawl--each college (basically dorms) has its own pub, and they take the freshers around and then to the campus club, the Venue. We skipped the crawl and went to the college bar Mungo's, where Steph works, then to the Venue. It was fabulous, we just danced and went crazy.

I went to get room supplies and a few groceries with Steph and Laura, and rushed back to decorate. TADA:

Then Alessandro and I went to Oli's for Mama Haynes's lasagna and strawberry rhubarb crumble.

Psych orientation. I went and toured the building and met people from the psych department, but this was clearly for freshers. At one meeting, they were discussing schedules and taking questions, so I asked about my second term schedule because I'm double booked. I said maybe 4 words--long enough for my accent to become apparent--before the entire group turned around to look at me. British babies. It was funny but weird. Anyway that night though I went out with a group of other international students--Parkwood is basically the international community--and we went to a couple of campus bars.

Me and the roommies went into the city center to get shared supplies--pots and pans, knives, etc. All of us met Steph at Café Boho. The name is pretty descriptive, it's funky with clocks and fringed lampshades all over and it's exactly the kind of place I'd love to work in. We did lunch then shopping, and I left early to make a meeting but I got lost in the city center, which was truly pathetic, and Steph found me and we walked back to hers. She, her visiting friend Ben, and I hung out and watched Hot Fuzz (good movie!). Then we went for sushi, but THERE WAS NONE. Needless to say I found this incredibly upsetting. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself, the one sushi restaurant in Canterbury no longer exists. There's store bought stuff but we all know that doesn't hold a candle to anything fresh.

We settled for Wagamama's instead (still Asian), before getting ready for the Silent Disco at the Venue.
IU has the silent rave, where everyone brings their iPod and listens to their own music, but the Venue gives everyone a pair of headphones with 2 channels for 2 DJs and you just switch to whatever you feel like. It was crazy fun, if you had your headphones off you could tell which channel the majority were on because everyone was singing with it. The fire alarm went off in the club and everyone had to go outside, but no one wanted to leave because it was £5 deposit for the headphones, so as soon as the trucks left, a dj went back in and we restarted the dance party from the outside while we waited to file in.

I got back from Steph's, cleaned my room, went to sort my psych schedule, then chilled for a while. Wednesday night was the school disco--they wear school uniforms through the age of 16 in England, even if the school is public, so pretty much every uni does a mock school dance where girls are encouraged to dress like sluts. That being said, my outfit was tasteful--plaid skirt, knee socks, chucks. I went with my friend Pete and his house mate. We hung out at mine, found out Pete's friend lives literally across the court yard from me, and went for drinks at his place before going to the bar. When we got to Mungo's I found Steph and got drinks, and 15 minutes later the fire alarm went off. We walked around then sort of went back in, but we avoided the main hall and stuck to the Mungo's area. Honestly the school disco was a bit built up--the silent disco was way better. I still had fun, though.

Thursday was the first truly grey day I've had since I got to Canterbury, so I wore bright colors and pink lipstick to make up for the weather. Oli, Steph and I went to lunch, then we met another IU psych major, Roxanne,  and hit up the fresher's fayre to check out the different societies.

That night was meant to be chill--mini pub crawl around Steph's, then a Dexter marathon--but both of the pubs right by her were kinda dead, so the group of us (all Steph's house mates, me, Ben, and Roxy) went to a pub in the city center, the Cherry Tree, and got their Thursday special, the Pig F*. We stayed and hung out until closing, then it was back to my futon at Steph's.

Roxy and I went to the sports fayre and signed up for a bajillion different societies--Kick boxing, equestrian, badminton, lacrosse, and a bunch more that I know I won't join but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Then I got back and passed out for an hour (I'm smart, so I set an alarm). Alessandro and I hung out a little bit and I ended up going to a party at Oli's house. It was very fun. I learned that you can get alcohol delivered here. Straight to your door. At 11:30 at night. What is this place? Anyway I took it easy and got back for a skype date with Carli. Then Davis. Then Steph came and got me and we slept at hers because we were leaving for London in the am.

We overslept and missed the first 2 trains we had meant to take, so we went to the farmer's market for brunch before the next one. Canterbury farmer's market is so cute. There's a cafe in there that uses all the local produce for its meals, so 95% of the menu is from the surrounding vendors. Steph and I ate life changing sandwiches and beautiful cupcakes.

When we arrived in London we had to go to Islington so Steph could take pictures of a theater for a project. After that she took me Oxford Circus, which is like the Times Square of London. It really was a circus, super super packed. We went to TopShop, which was 3 giant floors of beautiful barely affordable clothing. We also went to Urban (you'd think it'd be the same as the states...it's not, their clothes are better). Then we met the Moore fam and had dinner before going to see Sweet Charity. Such a cute musical! And they all put on really good New York Accents.

After the show we rode the tube to Steph's friend Emma in south London. We stayed in and drank a cider before bed.

We got up, drank tea, and tubed it back to King's Cross. We got sushi (!) at one of those places that has a rotating belt with color coded dishes, so you just take one and the color says the price. It was over priced, but it could be weeks before we get sushi again so I don't feel that bad.

When we got back to Canters Steph went to work and I sat around, then Steph, her housemates, me, and Roxy went out for pub roast dinner before going back to the house to watch Taken (such a perfect movie for two American girls in Europe).

I only have class Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I slept in. I met Oli for coffee in the library, then Roxanne and I went to the city center to buy umbrellas and other stuff. We didn't have time to find any decent umbrellas because we got there at 4:30 and everything closes at 6, but we did get some stuff at poundland (bless that store) and we ate crepes for dinner.

We came back to Parkwood and I went to the first kick boxing meeting with Oli--it was mediocre,  I don't know that I'll join. Then Ale and I went to Woody's for a bit before coming back and watching Glee and Grey's Anatomy.

Today! It was my first day of classes. The first one was Child Development, and the teacher is Scottish--it's funny but I've gotten used to the British accent, so now Scottish and Irish are the novelties. Anyway Dr. Forrester was funny, I think I'm really going to like that class. I don't know what to do about Cognition in Action though. I like the subject matter, but it was a bit of a slow start. And I was super hungry, these classes are 2 hours each and back to back. So I bolted home, inhaled the last of my pita and hummus, and here I am. I don't have the right to be this exhausted, it wasn't exactly a taxing day. I'm going to a comedy thing at a pub tonight with Steph, but until then I will continue to lounge in sweats and maybe make ramen for dinner.

It's been an excellent week and a half, I'm loving Kent. And I'm looking forward to my next two classes on Thursday. But I'm still waiting for this to feel real.

Friday, September 17, 2010

So It Was More Like A Week From Friday...

OH GOD this is gonna be a long post. Partially because I didn't really have internet for this past week, mostly because I've been lazy. I'll take it day by day.

THURSDAY (where I left off):
LONDON!!!!! Which was, as you may have guessed, STUPENDOUS. This is where I wanna be post graduation. We started at Camden Market, one of my favorite places on the planet. I don't know where I get these random spurts of will power, because if ever there were a place worth spending myself into debt, it's Camden. I think the only thing that held me back was the knowledge that I'll be there again soon. Camden is London's Venice Beach, only without the sun and bigger and with better accents. I could have spent the day there, however I took pity on Haynes. And I pinched my £s: a few post cards (which I have yet to send) and a couple of bracelets (also due for packaging = belated birthday gifts). I've been to Camden before, but last time it was even shorter, soooo I made a new discovery--more market. More market in a late 1800s horse stable. I'm talking legit, GIANT stable, with wood paneled floors in the underground parts and shops inside the stalls. The picture is an inside view.

Oli and I left a reasonably sunny Camden, minded the gaps, and emerged at Notting Hill to a torrential downpour. We hid in a Starbucks until the rain stopped, then picknicked at a park bench before meeting Oli's friend David and beginning our search for Hugh Grant's blue door from Notting Hill. We sort of found it--it was black and there was a junkie on the door step. We couldn't find the book shop either, but we did spot Maroon 5's Adam Levine hanging out. Apparently Notting Hill is a very posh area. It's gorgeous, but this is England, few things aren't. We walked through Portobello Market, then in to central London so I could see the sights. London Tower, London Bridge, Tower Bridge (we saw it open!),
Tate Modern, Shakespeare's Globe, London Eye.

Then it was dinner at Wagamama's and Legally Blonde the Musical. Silly Brits couldn't quite get the valley girl accent, but most of them sounded American enough.

Uneventful. Read in a coffee shop in Colchester while Oli spoke with kids from his college about traveling to India. We had grilled burgers with his parents then drove back to Steph's.

Steph and I behaved like complete cows--we ate and watched TV all day. Then we got ourselves together and went clubbing in Camberley. I clung to a pole for dear life while some "chav" (Steph assures me that's what he was) "danced" "with" me.


Drove to Stafford to visit Steph's grandparents. These are the sweet, small, lovingly-bickery, spoiling English grandparents every child wishes they had, I'm not exaggerating. They both gave me huge hugs and kisses hello, they cooked a roast dinner for us, Steph's nan--very much like my Jewish grandma--would continue to offer us food no matter how many times she heard "no thank you." They had little statuettes of the queen on their mantel. This is the real England my friends. And I'm proud to say that within an hour I was adopted as the third granddaughter.

Cadbury World!!!! We toured the factory in Birmingham with Steph's cousin and ate our weight in chocolate. It was delicious and a little painful.

Lunch with the grandparents again and then off to the Roman city of Bath with Steph's other grandfather and her padre. Bath is lovely. I want to retire in Bath. We went on a comedy tour of the city--it wasn't informational, it was sort of combination stand up and magic show. For the very last bit the guy put me in the stocks and very nearly chopped off my head.

More of Bath. Technically Steph's gramps is in Bradford on Avon, so we went around and saw all David's childhood spots, then to the Tithe Barn and Gardens--filled with a few quaint little antique shops--before going for proper tea. It was the most English experience I've had, sipping tea out of white china and eating scones with cream and raspberry jam. Lovely. Then we saw more family, including a new baby, before returning to Yateley for dinner with the girls.

I managed to wire myself money from my American bank account. Thank God. And lots and lots of packing. We move to Canterbury tomorrow--byebye summer vacay. Next time I blog it'll be from my new school!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Midnight Blog

I can't fall asleep, so I'm going to write a new post instead.

The past two days have been incredible. Oli took me to the Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge, and a beach that I cannot remember the name of.

We started at the abbey yesterday, walking the 25 acres of gardens. It's all reminiscent of a cross between Pride and Prejudice and Alice in Wonderland.

 Oli and I hiked along one side of the property on the woodlands walk, which is pretty much a vast forest. We made our way around and back on the other side to Narcissus Garden, the Formal Garden, and the Rose Garden before stopping for a game of croquet on the temple lawn. I won, naturally ;)

Then we continued on to the Dahlia Garden, the Riverside Walk, and finally the Winter Garden. I'm sorry, but this place has the Chicago Botanic Gardens beat. My favorite spot was the winter garden because there was a small grove of thickly packed silver birch trees--it felt like being part of a secret. I know how corny that sounds, but honestly it was remarkable.

After picnicking at a table in the car park (parking lot), Haynes took me to Cambridge. I may have to transfer from Kent. Cambridge city center is much larger than Colchester, and on top of having a modern-but-endearing shop walk, it has the university. When I'm at IU, I'll look at the buildings we have on the main quad and think about how much history they have--they've got nothing on Cambridge University. Not that I don't still adore IU, but CU practically has castles for colleges. And their Jordan River equivalent is essentially a real mote. A good portion of Oli's and my entertainment was watching people punt through the river, especially since one punter clearly didn't know what he was doing and kept steering the boat into the walls or the other boats. Woops.

The 24th Annual Chappel Beer Festival was last night, and Oli and I sampled many a half pint of beer and cider so we slept in this morning. Today was really quiet, actually. We ate breakfast, we baked a Chocolate Pear loaf, and then we went to a beach off of Colchester. It was grey and foggy, and the tide was low so we saw all the marshy bits. The coloring outside gave it a bit of a haunting feel, but it still maintained its fresh, ocean-y vibe as well. Instead of sand there were a lot of shells and rocks, so we crunched everywhere we walked.

It's off to London tomorrow. Self-guided city walk, Camden Market, drinks, and Legally Blonde the Musical? Let's shall.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I'm in Suffolk! Sudbury, to be more precise. I'm with the Haynes family, and I have only just remembered what a luxury it is to have an ensuite bathroom.

Suffolk is northeast of London, so it was a 2 hour drive from Steph's. And Sudbury has a few larger towns surrounding it, but it's minuscule. I saw vast amounts of sheep on the way in.

I'm (still) working my way off the Stephanie Moore sleep schedule, so I was in bed late last night and woke up to my alarm at 10 this morning. Oli made us soft boiled eggs and soldiers (toast strips, for dipping) before we visited his dad's bakery.The bakery is way out near all these farm fields, in a refurbished barn from the late 1800s. We pretty much popped in and popped out, but we drove through the most beautiful tree tunnel path to get to and from.

England is extremely lush. Back tracking, some of the roads through Yateley are greener than a majority of places I've been in the states. Steph and I walked around this lake near her place, and it felt like we were in a Jane Austen novel (Steph said Secret Garden) because at certain spots along the path there was nothing close enough to suggest the year. It's stunning.

Anyway Oli and I drove back to the house and packed a lunch before heading in to Colchester, which sounds very much like "culturestuff" (very little emphasis on the f's) when Oli says it. That's actually how I remembered the name just now. Oli and I ate lunch--leftover roast sandwiches, Moore would never approve--by this pond on the Colchester Castle grounds before going into the castle-turned-museum (a Roman castle, actually, and the oldest one in England-->).

Then it was off to Starbucks. Don't judge, Oli works there and he had a 2 hour shift to fill. I explored the rest of town while he worked. Colchester has a town center, which is like the "down town." There's a couple of main streets where cars get through but the shops are double ended and through the other side there's a pedestrian zone, which is like a skinnier street where there are no cars. And all this forms a somewhat convoluted loop depending on where you start. It's kind of like an outdoor mall only more public, if that makes sense. So I strolled. I stopped in TopShop, H&M, New Look, Republic, Next, and some shoe store where Jillian would have probably cried because they had roughly 50 (okay maybe 7ish) different types of women's oxfords. Be proud I only window shopped. I then made my way back to Starbucks--without having to ask directions--and read some "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs." Which, by the way, is brilliant.

By the time Oli got out of work it had rained, stopped, and started again. I can't complain though, this is the first grey day I've seen since I got here. I cannot believe it has been less than a week. Haynes just got season 1 of the hills, so we indulged while looking up self guided tours of London...

Wonderful day. Time to go work on that sleep pattern. I'll post pics for this as soon as I return to my camera connector!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I'm Heeeeeerrreeee

SO! I've arrived in England. And now I'm writing on my blog and I feel like a loser for this. I don't even really know how to blog. So here goes.

It's already been 3 days in England! Aaaand travel was pretty easy...mostly....I nearly had a heart attack at the airport when the travel agent woman told me I couldn't check my second bag but turns out there was just a $50 charge (NOT the same as being forbidden from a second bag). Then the plane had a maintenance issue and we had to sit at the gate. Finally took off at 10 pm--1 hour late--and got into Heathrow at 12:05 the following day. Steph and Oli were there with sparkling Caitlyn Schwimmer signs and we made a nice big scene at the terminal pickup :)

The first stop was Steph's so that I could shower (best shower of my life), then we went to a proper English pub for a proper English lunch.

And I ordered my first ever legal drink, a pimm pom (pomegranite pimms). I also got the chicken pot pie with a side of chips (fries). They don't just say "ketchup" here, they bring you a variety of sauces--including mayonnaise--for your fries. I tried a few, it was...interesting.

Thursday night we ordered in enough Chinese to feed England before heading to the Royal Oak where I met Steph's entire town and had more totally legal beverages. Then we came back and crashed for 12 hours. It was glorious.

Yesterday we went to get me a phone (£9.99) before dinner and another pub and less sleep, and today I got a bank account. I'm practically British already!

Getting ready for David (Steph's dad's) birthday barbecue now, then off to Oli's tomorrow. I LOVE ENGLAND. Except driving which is really scary--I'm thrown every time we make a right.

Post again soon I guess...Ta.

-Caitlyn Swimwear (David's new nickname)