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28 March 2008

A Couple Days in the Netherlands

Easter Sunday in Bruges


My trip began with yet another early morning RyanAir flight from Stansted. By know I knew the routine: Wake up at 3:30, get my stuff ready, walk to the bus stop at 4:15, hopefully get to Stratford by 4:45. Get on the National Express coach bus, buy a return ticket for £15, put on my ipod, and maybe start falling back asleep as the bus arrives at the airport. Then, depending on whether I'm running late for my flight, I dash through the terminal toward the RyanAir counters. This time, there was a long queue of people waiting to start their winter holiday (can I say "snowcation"?). Plenty of people had skis and snowboards to check in, especially on my flight. Then the same routine of security, buy a bottle of water and a snack for myself at the Boot's just as you exit the security screening, and trek to my departure gate. Yes, it's quite a routine.

Arriving at Eindhoven airport, they kept us on the flight for several minutes because the gate wasn't ready for us... Grumble.

22 March 2008

Off on Another Trip

I'm leaving in a few hours (3 hours exactly!) for my next trip, to Belgium and the Netherlands. And I'm going to be busy the next few weeks as my friend Matthew is staying with me here in London, PLUS I have a paper due, an exam, and a play to perform in! So don't expect many posts then, sorry.

21 March 2008

Youtube Videos

Hey everyone! Just wanted to put in a quick plug for my travel videos, which I am uploading to youtube (as quickly as my internet will let me...).

Check it out here:

18 March 2008

St. Patrick's Day! And Things Are Getting Busy

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, when everybody's Irish! I definitely wore plenty of green.

On Sunday, the 16th, London held its St. Patrick's Day parade. Despite the weather being stereotypically drizzly and windy, I enjoyed watching the characters parading by.

There also was a big festival in Trafalgar square, which I checked out for a little bit.

Meanwhile, my life at uni continues, with my exploring someplace or discovering something new everyday. Contrast that with my flatmates, who are drowning in essays and the life of a first year, especially the girls. The other boys in my flat are hardly ever around. In fact, I just saw one of them today for the first time in days.

Since St. Patrick's Day fell on a Monday, I couldn't spend the day celebrating: I had 2 classes, an economics problem set due, and a rehearsal for the German play I'm in (a very small part!). Last night I worked until past 2 AM on my problem set, largely because I chose to review all the background material, basically teaching myself the first half of the course. I'm not complaining too much, because this was the only piece of assigned work I have had in 3 weeks.

But (I keep saying this, but it should be true!), school will soon pick up. After Easter, I have an exam, 2 performances of my German play, a 2000-word paper due and another paper--all in 5 days! And at the same time, Matthew will be coming to visit me, so I will need to find time to take him around London too!

How about a little taste of what I'm studying in my Architecture in London class? Yesterday, the class had our final "on-site visit", which was a tour of the regenerated riverside area around the old docks and a look inside City Hall. London City Hall, as I learned today, is a difficult building to describe. It's new (opened in 2002), and clearly "modern." I think it looks like a glass egg that has been sliced up horizontally. Inside, the building becomes harder to describe. I made the observation that it's very disconcerting to enter the building, as the floors slope up in a spiraling helix around the building. The walls are all glass, with metal supports and beams swooping through at odd angles. There are no traditional "edges" or "corners", because nothing intersects perpendicularly. As one walks up inside, the pathway winds around the inner chambers, and it becomes very easy to see the city's employees in their offices, meeting-rooms, and boardrooms. There is a large chamber, surrounded by glass walls, with bright blue-purple-y carpet, which is used for special events and presentations. People have observed that being in the building feels like being in a fishbowl, with everyone watching you from outside. City Hall is right on the river, looking across toward the Tower of London and all of the modern (and ancient) City of London.

15 March 2008

No Running Water

The water was switched off in our building this morning; it just came back on a few minutes ago. It's really hard to get by without running water. I luckily had water bottles that I could drink from, but still not getting to even wash your face in the morning makes you feel disgusting.

The past few days have been--uneventful. Really, I've been staying in my room, trying to force myself to catch up with Econ readings and to do the problem set due Monday. But it's really not working.

I talked with home for a while last night, trying to organize things for my trip to the Philippines next month. We were just trying to coordinate flights, and the website we were using to book wouldn't work. Sigh.

I forgot to call in to work to see if they had any shifts for today. Oops. I really should use this time to study, but I also need to buy some things...

13 March 2008

Waning Interest

Today in German class, only 3 people showed up, including me. Most of class was just a dialogue between the teacher and one student. So no one could learn much. We talked for a while about how hard it is to teach an introductory-level business German class.

I went to Sainsbury's. Bought bread and milk and some other things. Came back to my room and spent the rest of the day basically wasting my time online, videos (ANTM 9) and other distractions.

I'm looking for flights to the Philippines now for my cousin's wedding in April. I'm trying to plan a 2 day stopover in a city on the way there--either Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, or Tokyo. But it's hard to book such a flight online--I've only been able to get it to work for Singapore and Bangkok, and Bangkok was very expensive. So I may be going to Singapore in a few weeks, believe it or not!

Speaking of travels, some study abroad-mates are traveling to Dublin this weekend for St. Patrick's Day. I'm totally jealous. But just one more week and I'll be heading for Belgium and the Netherlands. Ah, the life. Seriously, without travel I would be completely bored now. The activities on campus are pretty limited, and I'm not really into going out every night like the regular British students do.

Ok, I'm going to get some rest. Mmm, bed...

12 March 2008

Gale-Force Winds

It's been really stormy and windy lately in London, very un-English of the weather. More like one of the massive pacific storms we get in California :)

From the BBC:
UK pounded by second severe storm

It is the second band of stormy weather within a few days.

Northern Ireland, north Wales and north-west England are being pounded by gales and heavy rain in the second band of storms to hit the UK in three days.

Forecasters say gusts of up to 80mph have hit Northern Ireland as the Atlantic weather front moves eastwards.

Motorists faced chaos as several major bridges were affected by the gales and some areas were placed on flood alert.

The second day of the prestigious Cheltenham horse racing festival has been abandoned because of the weather.

The course is in good condition but fierce winds made the huge marquees in the tented hospitality area unsafe.

The 55,000 people expected to attend the day's racing will get a full refund and the course is considering increasing its capacity for the rest of the week.

Travel chaos

In Cheshire, the M6 Thelwall Viaduct closed after three lorries overturned but there were no casualties.

The vehicles have been cleared but the eight-lane stretch of the motorway spanning the Mersey and the Manchester ship canal is still closed at Thelwall because of the danger from high winds.

There are two-mile tailbacks in both directions. High-sided vehicles are being advised against using the A533 Runcorn-Widnes bridge.

The Humber Bridge is shut to high-sided vehicles and has a 30mph speed limit for all other vehicles.

Some 750 homes have been left without power in Northern Ireland, and gusts of 85mph have been recorded in north Wales

A tree fell on to a coach in high winds on the A26 near Uckfield in East Sussex at 0735 GMT. Sussex Police said the vehicle was empty apart from the driver, and no one was injured.

Severe gales

Ian Jackson, from Liverpool coastguard, said the storms were likely to continue in the North West for most of the day.

He said: "The forecast is for the wind to decrease to force five, then perhaps come up again to force seven later on today."

Steve Crosthwaite, of the Highways Agency, is tracking the progress of the storm.

He said: "The winds will start to abate as the morning goes on but it will be very slow.

"But as the winds go over the Pennines, round about late morning and early afternoon, the eastern side of the country will start getting hit as well."

The Met Office has warnings of severe gales for all of the UK except northern Scotland and southern England.

Snow risk

The Environment Agency has three flood warnings and 24 flood watches in place.

BBC weather forecasters say a low pressure front could even bring snow to higher ground in parts of northern England and southern Scotland.

Later on Wednesday, the storms will move across central northern England and East Anglia.

Areas further south, which are still clearing up after Monday's storms, escaped the worst of the weather this time.

The Energy Networks Association said of the 30,000 people who lost power in those storms just "a few hundred" in the east of England were still without supply.

11 March 2008

Worked Today

I had to wake up early today. 5:55 am, to get to work at 7:30 near Embankment. It was an event, several rounds of serving coffee and clearning, nothing too bad. I also spent a lot of time going up and down the lift with trolleys full of plates, cups, etc. We from High Society (catering agency) were mixed with the regular IET serving staff, so there was a mix of people who knew what they were doing and where everything was and people who were totally clueless. I ate a lot, because I was hungry (having not eaten since 6 AM) and the food they served for lunch looked so good (beef strips sauteed with ginger, the beef was dry; salmon and haddock pie covered with mashed potatoes; vegetable lasagna, mmm; sides of salad). There was a cantina for their employees too, which had even more food for us. Needless to say, the food coma I fell into afterwards was very powerful. I fell asleep on the Tube coming back. I almost missed my stop. Almost.

10 March 2008

It's Raining, Raining

Weather Update
So after several weeks of relatively dry weather, the rain has returned to London. It began Saturday, some showers during the evening, then it began to really pour down just after midnight. Luckily I was back inside by then. Sunday was just cloudy with a few showers. And today, there was a downpour when I woke up around 9, but it stopped just before I left for class and actually cleared up with sun during the class. But it started back up again just as I was walking back from class, and it's been raining steadily now for the past hour.