Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Loving Mail

Can I express how much I love receiving mail? Let me count the ways:

1) Tearing open an envelope is second best only to tearing off wrapping paper (but almost as satisfying). 2) Reading a letter is nearly as good as reading a book (and in some ways better, because the words were written just for me!). 3) Shorter than a phone call (which is worse because there’s less information conveyed but better because it means the person took special time to sit down, write those words, and put them in the mail to me). 4) Preservable (and therefore a record of other people’s lives to which I can refer at any time). 5) Tangible (and goodness knows, we are beings of touch, so what is closer to being with a person far away than sending them a work of your own hands?). 6) Sometimes more than just a letter (clothing, books, food . . . the possibilities are endless).

Monday, January 29, 2007

Little Things: clothing

The little things here are what get to me: they’re what make me appreciate being here and at the same time make this absolutely not home. Swimming on the left-hand side of the lane, hot and cold water taps on every sink, every store closing promptly at 5pm, doors that open from the opposite direction, TK Max, mayonnaise on my salad (lettuce salad, not the picnic tuna salad or potato salad, either), girls dressing in Halloween costumes at dance clubs (seriously: bunnies, nurses, multicolored wigs, the works), . . . the list goes on. Just yesterday, my friend and floormate Fluf (real name Chris—lives down 4 rooms away from me; is in his first year of university study yet is 29 years old; has been vegan for 9 years, vegetarian for 15; likes watching documentaries and reading science fiction) told me he had bought several new jumpers. Logically deducing that he probably had not bought himself a handful of dresses, I asked him exactly what the word “jumper” meant to him. He picked a sweater off of the floor and held it out to me. When I informed him that I would call that a sweater, he told me a sweater is more of what he would label what I was wearing. I looked down at my University of Rochester hoodie and said well, that would be more of a sweatshirt. He smiled pityingly and asked what, then, the difference was. I tried to explain that sweaters were knitted and fuzzy, while sweatshirts were more like thick T-shirts, but I grew embarrassed and frustrated as I realized that the slight variation in words (sweatshirt and sweater) really did not account for the significant difference in the clothing at all.

Our conversation progressed, and I asked him why no one in England seems to wear sweatshirts (or “hoodies,” as I decided to term my apparel, since we agreed upon that term). He kind of glanced at me sideways and said, “Because we tend to associate them with gangs.” I almost fell off of my chair. I have worn a hoodie every single day since I have arrived in England. Noting my horror, Fluf added that usually the association was with the hood up.

Mental note: keep hood down, particularly when entering buildings.

Who would have thought, me, studious little WASPy me, giving gang signs in Great Britain. Woody High, eat your heart out.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Eternal Sunshine

Spotless Minds:

What would happen if you could forget all about someone? Would you continue to fall in love with them; is doing so inevitable because of who you are and who they are? Or does that only happen if the two of you were “meant” to be together? Would that not happen if they truly “bad for you” and you became a wiser person for having known them and learned about yourself by knowing them? …But then wouldn’t you erase all that wisdom you gained by knowing them when you erased all memory of that person?

And how impossible would it be to erase all traces of a person in your life? Joel is instructed to gather up all paraphernalia, any article related to or which may remind him of Clementine that materially exists in his life. Imagine what an impossible of a task that would be. Perhaps that is only the case for me and Joel, since we would have garbage bags stuffed with all sorts of items—from homemade potato heads to “borrowed” hoodies—and other patients in the waiting room only had single objects: a trophy, a nameplate. I’m not sure I could ever successfully erase the reminders of having had an important person in my life successfully. What if drinking water reminds you of that person? Watching a new movie? One cannot stop living.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sussex Athletics

Why is it that being American, I am so disgusted by the lack of athleticism here in Britain?

I attended my first Sussex women’s basketball practice tonight. While I was extremely invigorated by the fact that I was on the court with a ball in my hands for the first time in goodness knows how long, I found the level of play astonishingly low. Frankly, these girls would barely make the second team of a high school varsity squad, never mind any sort of college team. And one of them had to leave early because she needed to get up early the next day for some sort of national tryouts. National?

One of the drills was very creative, demanding that three of us dribble the ball with one hand while passing a tennis ball between ourselves and performing a three-man-weave. This made complete sense to me, since it forces each player’s attention away from dribbling and toward the other players on the court, which is usually the goal of dribbling exercises. However, later on in the practice, the coach decided that his girls needed to learn to be more aggressive. Therefore, he was going to explain a new game that was totally different from basketball but would make them aggressive.

In this “game,” the object was to get the ball over the endline. Each play could consist of only one forward pass, and players could run with the ball. The defending team could stop the ball only by tagging the player holding the ball. The offense had three chances to get the ball over the endline for five points but could opt to shoot a three-pointer for three points.

Is this starting to sound like a familiar game to anyone?

And the coach thought he was being SO innovative. The sad part was, most of the girls were actually learning these rules for the first time. Oh American football, what a snob you have made of me.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lancing College Adventure

Well, I had this grand description of my entire adventure to this new location—Lancing College pool, in Shoreham, outside of Brighton—all written up for this blog site. I clicked “post,” and what shows up on the site? Nothing more than the lovely title, “Lancing College Adventure.” Sometimes I despise computers. Thus, I am reduced to re-summarizing my adventure once again.

Since I have arrived, I have endeavored to find a swim club here in Brighton—no easy task when you consider that competitive sports are nearly obsolete in England. Merely by accident, when I was in King Alfred Leisure Center, trying out the pool I had located (a convenient half mile, or whatever that is in km, from my residence), I saw a notice announcing a swim meet that weekend hosted by the Shivers. I inquired about it and collected the name and phone number of the assistant coach from the woman at the front desk.

After that, I attended one practice that was held at King Alfred Leisure Center. However the “team” (i.e. random collection of swimmers ranging from 10 years to 75 years of age, but all reasonably fast) practices more often at a place called Lancing College. I determined to attend a practice there. However, despite my requests for directions to this location, I received no advice for how to get there via bus or any other method of transportation. My only consolation was that if I managed to arrive on Wednesday night, a woman who was a tri-athlete from South Africa would drive me home.

After studying Google maps and intently reviewing the bus routes listed online and inside my paper bus schedule, I determined which line would take me closest to my destination. I figured I would have to walk a little bit, judging from the map, but I was determined to try and make it there. At this point, I had labeled this my “adventure.” I had no idea what an adventure this would turn out to be.

First off, the bus I took ended up not taking me as close as I had expected. I needed to be dropped off at the Red Lion Pub, and the #2 bus only went to the Southlands Hospital, which was located approximately 2 miles away; the 2A went to the Red Lion. Fortunately, another bus was waiting ahead of our bus as it pulled up, and my driver suggested that I ask whether it was going to the Red Lion. I did; it was; so I hopped on. Unfortunately, I did not know what the Red Lion looked like, so I nearly missed my stop. Luckily, that bus driver asked me, “Didn’t I want to get off?” when we reached the pub, so I disembarked and went on my way.

Instead of relying on the directions I had mapped out for myself on Google, I went inside the Red Lion and, once I found the bartender, which took a good while amidst all the windy staircases and bar chairs, I asked for directions to Lancing College. She took me out the back door and directed me: down a path through some bushes, across an iced-over wooden bridge in the dark, across an unlit parking lot, across four lanes of traffic, around the side of a hotel, and up the long college drive which wound through fields of grass, to the top where there loomed a majestic-looking cathedral. The trek was dark, cold, and long, but I made it up to that massive, lit-up church. Once I got there, I spied a catholic grade-school-looking gymnasium down to the right, so I wandered down there. Lo and behold! There was the pool. The doors were unlocked, and right inside were the dressing rooms. My mission was complete. Now, only two hours of swimming at £3.50 to go. Cheers.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

First efforts from Sussex Library

These will be the first "words of wisdom," posted from the University of Sussex library, or "uni" as the students here call it. Most annoying is that every time I want to type the quotation marks key, I keep typing the @ symbol instead, because they rearrange their keyboards here--don't ask me why. Obviously they need the £ key, but other than that, why they need to remove the # symbol and the @ and " symbols also is beyond me.

(I'm not sure if I need to use HTML to write this, so I'll try and see if the commands show up or not.)

What an experiment! I much prefer letters, but I keep repeating myself to my friends, so I figure this might be a better way to keep everyone informed, no? Plus, it will be like a live journal, and I have plenty of thoughts about my stay here in the UK, so it will be a fun way to put them out for the world to read. For example, the reason for the title of my blog: "having a think" is the way they say "think about ___(topic/issue)" here. I absolutely love the differences in language, which I am trying to compile and will post sporadically, as I come across them.

Well, class calls. Hopefully I will not fall asleep. I will e-mail this address to everyone as soon as I can.