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14 February 2008

Frequently Asked Questions

So how's England?
It's a country--I think it's doing just fine. Oh, did you mean, "how is [life in] England [treating you]?" In that case, it's treating me just fine. I'm healthy and happy, though often exhausted from all the traveling I've been doing. But that's not really England's fault, now is it?

How are the Brits?
I don't think they like being called "Brits." I know the Scottish hate being called British--and don't even think about calling them English! The English, however, seem okay with it. Of course I'm lumping 50+ million people into one, much how the world lumps Americans together as heavy-set loud SUV drivers with the Bible in one hand, a double cheeseburger in the other, and a gun in the lap. [No offense to the heavy-set SUV-driving, etc., people out there!] So, it's actually pretty complex.

Wait, you mean ... there's a difference between Britain and England?
I'm surprised how often I have to explain this to people back home. Yes! Look at a map, and let me break it down: England is a ("constituent")country that occupies most (but not all) of the island of Great Britain. Also part of Britain are Wales and Scotland. Now, take Great Britain and add Northern Ireland. Voila! You now have the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland." And furthermore, if you add all of Ireland, you now the British Isles. Got it?

So what's British food like?
Ah, British (Er, I mean, English) food. At first I didn't know much about what was traditionally eaten here. All I knew was fish and chips, and that they ate haggis, which is a sheep's stomach--stop, it's already too disgusting to be eaten. Oh, and I also knew that they drank tea all the time. Well, the culinary spectrum of English foods offers more than that! I'll start with breakfast: English "bacon" is what we call "ham." And they eat beans with breakfast. It's fascinating! (You'll have to decide for yourself if it's tasty!) But it's definitely more filling than a "Continental" breakfast.
Walking through the grocery aisles one can realize what the English like to eat. There is a lot of curry. Apparently curry is now the national dish of the UK. (They love it on their wurst in Germany, by the way.) There isn't a lot of frozen food that you can just microwave. And the food spoils really quickly! They just don't have many preservatives here. Oh, there are many good pastries and pies--"Cornish pasties" are a good lunch on the go. And there's a lot of potato dishes. One big thing is Sunday Roast, which is roast beef with potatoes, gravy and Yorkshire pudding (which is spongy bread--just imagine batter baked in muffin tins). They also have "brown sauce" which is their equivalent of barbecue sauce.
Needless to say, coming from L.A., I miss the convenience of having lots of good, cheap food from all over the world available. No Mexican food, and the avocados here are just weird. But there is a good amount of Bengali cuisine available, and if you can find it, just as much variety of food from around the world in London. I had some delicious Ethiopian food this Sunday. But still, no Mexican food! But lots of baked beans.
Oh, and the tea! There's a lot of tea here. And lots of biscuits to go with the tea. But "biscuits" refers to something between what we call "cookies" and crackers. They're good--especially the "digestive biscuits."

Ok, I've gone on enough about the English and their food. Any other questions?

When are you coming home Jason?!
Oh, I don't want to think about it yet! Not that I miss home (I do!!); I just don't want to think that my year abroad is almost over.

Well, if you must know, June 7 is the last day of my housing contract.

Not Getting Done

I'm leaving for Switzerland tomorrow! I'm excited. But my plans have just changed:

My friend Elena (from orientation in London) said that she would meet me in Interlaken. Well, turns out, she couldn't get a plane ticket! What that means is that yet again, I will be traveling on my own. I'm not exactly excited about it; I was looking forward to having a travel buddy. But I'll manage.

And I'll just remember, I'm going to Switzerland! How exciting!


And now for a little recap of the rest of my day.
German class today was very... let me say, intimate. And not in the way you'd think (especially with today being Valentine's day). There were only 5 people in the whole class! So, the teacher called on each of us a lot. Which was good, in a way, but most of us didn't know what we were exactly talking about (We're learning about the different types of corporations/partnerships, etc., and "corporate culture" in Germany. It's somewhat interesting, but full of unfamiliar vocabulary.

Anyway, after class, I went to the library to print out some of the documents I'll need during my trip to Switzerland. Well, (as happens usually when I try to do the laundry) there were some major obstacles in my way. First of all, the first computer I tried to log onto wouldn't let me, because it would turn on, but it would freeze before getting to the login screen. Okay, I thought, That's happened before. I'll just use another computer. So luckily there was another free computer available (usually the computer lab is totally full). I logged on (yay!) and went to print out my hostel reservation. Well, guess what?! It wouldn't work! Because I had no "print balance." Weird, I just added £2.00 to it a few days ago and haven't printed anything out since. So I check my print balance on the computer and, to my disbelief, not only is it out of credit, the balance was -£21.48!

Unbelievable! I double-checked to make sure I wasn't seeing things. Then I asked the library help desk about it. The guy was very polite and said that he had seen this problem before but couldn't do anything about it (what?!); instead, he referred me to the university-wide computing services office. So I had to pack up all my stuff and walk to the Queen's Building (and up 3 flights of stairs) to the Computing Office. I told them my problem and the receptionist was sympathetic but their "expert" wasn't. I gave him my name and login ID so they could check my account. I then told them, "I have to print pages out today." They then said to just add £1.00 of credit to my balance.
"But I have -20 on my balance!" I said.
"Then add a pound and you'll have 80 pence."
"No, I'm down 20 pounds, not 20 pence!"
Haha, turns out the man thought I only had a 20 pence deficit, not 20 pounds! No wonder he was so umsympathetic! Well, upon this clarification, he consulted his colleague who thought it would be something with one of their drives. They should be working on it soon. As for me, I was able to print out my pages on one of the Macs they had in their office and just pay for it in cash.

And I came back to my room. I'm leaving for a week, so I have to finish all the perishable food in my fridge. Therefore, I made an omelette--ham, cheese, and onion! It was delicious. I put pancake mix into the eggs to make it extra fluffy (thank you, Ihop!). And now I'm here, trying to get everything organized before I leave early tomorrow (4AM!).

Thursday Morning

I woke up (relatively) early today, so that it would be (slightly) easier for me to wake up really early tomorrow. (My flight to Friedrichshafen is at 7AM, so I have to leave my flat by 4AM :X!)

So, after moaning and groaning in bed and forcing the lights on, I got up around 8:30 and made myself some tea. Took a shower, and headed out to get some errands done. First, I had breakfast. I went to The Curve, which is the cafeteria on campus. I always walked by there in the mornings on my way to class, but I never had eaten breakfast there. Today I did. I just had some British bacon (basically ham), eggs and hash browns. The quality of the food was--okay; the bacon was a little too salty and the potatoes too dry. But it cost less than 2 pounds, so I didn't complain.

Then I walked down to Sainsbury's to get some shopping done. I just needed soap and laundry detergent. But I also got some snacks for my Switzerland trip tomorrow.

While at the grocery store, I looked at the "Reduced to clear" shelf, because there are usually some good deals there if you don't mind food that's about to expire. As I looked at the food, I noticed the expiration dates: 15 Feb, 16 Feb... "Hmmm," I thought, "weird that they're putting food on clearance when it's not due to expire for another week!" Then I looked at my watch and saw today's date: Feb 14. Oh, wow! It's already Valentine's Day! I hadn't even thought about it! I thought it was still like the 9th or 10th. Silly me!

Ok, I have to get ready for German class now, cheers out!