Thursday, September 30, 2004
Today I had my first real British fish and chips. It was tasty, although a little greasy. They still wrap it in paper (although not newspaper, most places; that is, it's newspaper-like paper that has not been printed on yet), and they generally use haddock for the fish. They put all the little chips (and I do mean little) in the bottom and then put the fish on top of that, which makes the chips get soggier. I think that's supposed to be a good thing...
I also chose my classes today. I'm taking stylistics, pragmatics, and corpus linguistics this term (translated: semester). I'm SO excited for them! Along with these, I also have two required courses. Research Issues in Applied Linguisitics (RIAL) is kind of like a colloquium or senior seminar. That is, there is one particular person in charge of the class, but every week (or few weeks) the person actually teaching class changes. We talk about all kinds of issues in contemporary lingusitics. For the first (or Michaelmas) term, we only really take notes and such. I suppose they want to think too. ... Anyway, in second (or Lent) term, we have to write a paper for the class, but we also only have to attend class four times, or something. They have six or eight different topics going on and we just choose the ones that are of most interest to us personally. The other required class is Academic Discourse Practices. It's run by somebody from the Department of Student Support Services (or something like that), and they just give us help in knowing how to do good research and write well, etc. That one extends over all three terms (that is, Michaelmas, Lent, and Easter), but it's not exactly required. We can skip some classes if we don't feel they're especially relevant, and I don't think we have to do any assessment (read: test). It's also the only class we have during Easter term, as we are supposed to be mainly writing our dissertations (read: theses) by that time.
I'm hoping to do some writing today. Maybe a more detailed account of my arrival here in England, maybe some criticism and thoughts on A Tale of Two Cities, maybe something completely different. Who knows!
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
I'm infinitely sorry that this post is so amazingly long, but I wanted to let you all know what's been going on, partly because I thought I was funny (especially in retrospect). I'm considering writing it up in more detail, but that might turn out to be the size of a small story, so if I actually do it, you may not want to read it anyway. :)
OK, the short version of the story is this:
Friday, I arrived at Gatwick, took the train to Lancaster, and then found a hotel. All the hotels in Lancaster were full up for the entire weekend, so I had to stay the night in Garstang, a little village not too far from Preston. That’s when I started having money troubles, but I won’t bother all of you with the details right now. Suffice it to say, that the money troubles were many and numerous. In the morning, things seemed to be looking up — I actually managed to pay for the hotel room! — so I ordered a taxi to take me to campus, thinking that we could stop along the way to get some cash from an ATM. However, my card didn’t work. Eventually, he had to let me out, at the Safeway supermarket in Garstang. I had only a few pence left, and after exhausting all the possibilities I could think of, I decided to go sit outside with my luggage and try to think of other options. There, I cried a little and prayed a lot, and finally two ladies came out of the market and asked me if I were all right. I tearfully explained what was going on, and then remembered that I still had some Euros left from my last trip to France. So I asked them where I could get those changed. One of them stayed with my luggage while the other walked into town with me, and I got the money changed. Then they told me where to get on the bus that would take me to the University, which I did. Luckily, there was a guy on the bus who works at the University, and he helped me take my luggage up to the Graduate College (my residence). So, then I was settled in and had a place to stay.
During the next few days, money troubles continued, but they were all right. When I got to campus on Saturday, I still had about 10 pounds with me. I bough some supper and then settled in to hope that things would get worked out by Monday.
Sunday I found the local ward of the Church and attended. I unfortunately didn’t arrive until just after the sacrament had been passed, so I didn’t get to take it. But the members of the ward were very friendly, and one family even invited me to have dinner with them.
Monday I collected my check from my private loan. However, I couldn’t cash it yet, because it would take about six weeks to get it turned over. So, I called Mom and Dad and asked them to put some more money in my account at home so that I could get it out of the ATM here.
Tuesday morning, I registered and then tried the ATM again — no luck! By this time, I had a little over 3 pounds left, and I was beginning to be worried that I might not be able to eat for three more weeks. But, after attending some of my orientation activities for the Linguistics Department, I tried the ATM once more, and it worked. Yay!! I celebrated by getting Indian food for supper, and then by buying a bedding pack — never in my life until last night did I fully comprehend the true joy and felicity of having a blanket and pillow. (To my delight, the bedding pack even came with a duvet cover, which the people at the Students’ Union didn’t think it would. And my pillow cases fit the pillow.)
**NB: some people have been asking, so I'll tell you here that I had been using some folded up shirts stuffed into a pillow case for my pillow, and my big, long winter coat for a blanket.**
Today I got my computer to work. That is, it has power. I still haven’t gotten the internet connected to it yet, but as soon as I do, I’ll be in touch more frequently, and I’ll be able to provide more detail to the story of my arrival if you wish.
All in all, things here are wonderful! I love the British people already, I find them very friendly and helpful. And of course, it’s fun listening to all the different accents. Today I called Dell Customer Support in the UK, and I got a little Irish girl. The other day at the bank, the finance officer told me to “pop your details on that form, hand it to your accommodation officer, and then pop it over to me.” And last night, the porter asked me to “sign there, love” when I got my bedding pack. It’s fun.
(Break of about ... well, a few hours.)
Today I ventured into the library. I had to go there yesterday to get my library/ID card and some stuff from ISS (Information Systems Services) and so on, but today I really went in. I got a book, even.
I’m really not sure what cataloging system they use, but it is certainly not the Dewey Decimal System (thank heavens!) or the Library of Congress system (for obvious reasons), although it is more similar to the latter. Naturally, Linguistics, English lit, and English are on the top floor. Is there some law of the universe that I am personally unaware of, demanding that the Linguistics section in every library on earth must be on the top floor?
Anyway, I found the book. I have already run almost completely dry of things to read while I’m here (at least until my package of books and DVDs arrives, which should be in another week or two), and the last book I read was A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, which I adored! So, I decided to see what else I could find by him. I ended up getting Sketches by Boz. I always enjoy having some good short stories around, and I also generally enjoy reading early work by my favorite authors, for comparison with their later works.
Once I had found the book (which wasn’t too difficult, thanks to my many years of experience at the BYU library), I then had to find the checkout desk. Not as easy as you might think. I first looked around on the ground floor for something labeled ‘Check-Out’, but to no avail. Apparently it’s not called that here in England. So, then I went in to the bathroom instead (nature was calling), and while I was there, pulled out my map of the library. I scrutinized everything on it, trying to find something that might substitute checkout. I finally found something called ‘Loan and Return.’ That sounded likely, so I went there. It was the right place.
Things are settling in quite well now. My next big tasks are to try to get my internet connected in my room, and to make sure I keep things going with my loan money so that I can continue to live and study. Right now I’m going to work on the internet problem. Later tonight (when the banks in America are open), I will be trying to call the bank again to make sure they can do a wire transfer of my loan money.
Well, then ... Cheers for now!
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Right now I'm at the Best Western in North Salt Lake (read: Woods Cross). Tonight we're going to my niece's soccer game, and then a bunch of us are going out to dinner. I'm really hoping to go to McGrath's FishHouse. I'm in a seafood mood, and that sounds really good to me.
Tomorrow I'll get on the plane to go to London, and we'll see what happens from there. I still am having problems with my federal loan, but the private loan came through, and that should get me by for at least a week or two. It's not enough to cover all of my tuition, though, and I'll have to talk to financial advisor to make sure I'm all right.
During this week I had several interesting events. I went to the dentist on Monday for a checkup and cleaning, and they informed me that I had two, possibly three cavities. On opposite sides of my mouth. So they made an appointment for me the next day.
Later on Monday afternoon, I took the car (aka Bessie) to run several errands. Among other things I was able to vote. I went in to register to vote by absentee, and they told me I could just vote then if I wanted to. So I did. Then, just a few minutes later, I got into my first real car accident, the kind where I did damage to the car, I was at fault, and I got a traffic ticket (also the first ever).
In movies, they always show car accidents and things like that happening in slow motion. But that’s not the way it happened in my mind. I suppose they it that way in the movies so that you can see all the myriad of things that go on in 10 seconds or less. But nonetheless, I don’t remember it like that. Although I remember most all of the details, they are a quick blur—as quick in my memory as they happened in real life.
I had gotten into the section of one-way cross streets in downtown Idaho Falls, and I had somehow ended up in a corner I was unfamiliar with. When I finally had the choice to go right or left, I chose right—after all, that was ultimately the direction I wanted to end up in. Right, however, turned out to be a dead end with a cul-de-sac. So I turned the car around and headed back the other way again. I passed a policeman on the side of the street, who appeared to have stopped a speeding car, and then turned left onto the next available street. “If I’m going to get to 17th street,” I thought, “I’m going to have to turn left on the next street—oh, but that one only goes right. So I guess I’ll have to turn on the next street.”
It was right about then that I started through a new intersection. And a split second later, I saw the pickup truck coming along the street from my left.
At first, I slammed on the brake. But luckily the human mind works far better than most of us like to think it does, especially in a crisis. Before I had even had time to think, I hit the gas again, trying to get past the truck before it could hit me. I felt the pickup hit the car somewhere behind me, felt the car fishtailing through the last foot of the intersection, saw the sidewalk looming up in front of me, felt my foot slam on the brakes as the front tires rammed up over the curb, just a few feet from a rusty yellow fire hydrant.
I sat for a moment with the car still on, trying to wrap my mind around everything that had just happened. Then I turned off the ignition—and sat for another moment or two. Finally I got out of the car to see the pickup truck driver walking toward me from his vehicle. He was in his forties, maybe early fifties, with a kindly face worn with years of work, and a thick mustache. “Are you all right?” he asked promptly.
“Yes,” I replied, “just a little shaken, and upset with myself.
“Well, it’s OK. Just take a deep breath, things happen,” the man responded. I thought, “Well, at least he’s taking it well.”
It was a strange accident, I later reflected while trying to explain it to numerous people, because he had hit me, but I was at fault. Fortunately, the policeman from the other street came right over before we had to call him. The pickup driver, whose name I later learned was Bert Dieterle[*], had gone to try and find some witnesses when the officer arrived. He was youngish, with sandy hair, blue eyes, and a friendly manner. The officer asked me a few routine questions to establish what had happened, then asked me to take the car and park it alongside the sidewalk (as opposed to on it), and went to talk to Mr. Dieterle. Before I moved the car, a vagrant-looking man on the other corner of the intersection motioned to me. I stepped closer, watching him point to the street right in front of him, and heard him say that my license plate had come off. After letting this register in my brain, I picked up the plate and walked back toward the car, glancing at the back license plate while I was there. “It must have come off the front,” I thought. I threw the plate in the backseat of my parents’ car, and moved the car to park it off the street.
When I had gotten the car decently parked—which was more difficult than it usually is for me, given the shaken-up state of my nerves—I got back out and walked toward the officer’s car, which he had parked about 20 feet behind mine. While waiting for him to make his next move, I walked to the front of the car to see how the license plate had come off, but it was still there. “Oh,” I thought, “I suppose it must have come off of the back.” I walked back toward the officer’s car again, glancing at the back of my own car to look at the license plate—which was still attached. I barely had time to register that thought, when the officer came back over to speak to me.
“Could I see your license?” he asked.
I looked at the rear license plate again, and was about to give him the plate number, when my brain turned on. “No, you idiot!” it said. “He wants your driver’s license!” I pulled it out of my new green leather wallet, feeling a little foolish and hoping that no one would think I was just a dumb girl. The officer then asked for my registration. Luckily, my brain was still on at this point, so I promptly got the registration and insurance card from the jockey box. The officer took these and then said, “You can go ahead and sit in the car. I’m going to cite you for failing to yield—that’s the least amount of damage I can do to your life.” I smiled faintly and thanked him, then sat back down in the car, facing the sidewalk.
The waiting seemed like ages. “I’d probably better call Travis,” I thought. Travis is also lovingly known as My Brother The Chiropractor, and I supposed that I would probably have some spinal problems after having been thrown around like that. Around then, my brain switched to standby again, and I sat looking blankly in front of me, not really registering what was there. After a few minutes of this, I forced myself to think again, think about anything, anything except that accident and all the things I could have done to prevent it.
The house in front of my was a two-storey, with peeling white paint on the wood and bright blue door in the right-hand corner. The brick walls running parallel to the sidewalk were of varying heights, and what had once presumably been a garden was now run over with weeds and dead and dying plants. The lawn was mostly green with patches of brown here and there, but there were dandelions sprinkled in with this, some blooming and some gone to seed. A crumpled McDonald’s bag lay on the lawn a few feet away from the bright blue door. Grass, crab-grass, and morning glories ran several inches onto the sidewalk. Peeling white pillars ran from the ground to the second storey in front of the house, forming a quaint-looking porch.
Finally, the officer came back again with my documents. “Do you live in Idaho now?” he asked, holding out my Utah driver’s license.
“Yes—well, kind of.” I wasn’t sure how best to answer that question. “I’m only here for a few weeks before leaving for England.”
“Oh, what are you going in England?” he asked conversationally.
“Going to graduate school.”
“Oh, really? What school?”
“University of Lancaster.”
“Well, that sounds neat.” He held out another small white paper to me. “This is the other guy’s information,” he explained. “He doesn’t have his insurance information with him, so I put him down as ‘uninsured’, but he’s on the phone with his insurance company right now. He just switched providers and doesn’t have a new card yet, but he’ll be sure and contact you with his information.” I took the paper from him and set it on the passenger seat with the other documents. The officer held out another piece of paper to me. “I’ve cited you for failure to yield at an intersection controlled by a flashing red light. The fine for that is $53, and you need to pay that within 14 days from now.”
“Can I pay you right now?” I asked, taking the paper.
“No, you can’t pay me,” he explained. “If you want to pay it right now, you have to go down to the courthouse and pay it there.”
I nodded to show my understanding.
“You can go ahead and go if you want to,” the officer continued, “I don’t need anything else from you.”
I put all my papers away—license in my wallet, Mr. Dieterle’s info and the traffic ticket in my purse, the registration and insurance card in the jockey box. I thought I’d get out quickly to make sure they knew that I was leaving. Mr. Dieterle came over then, looking all around at the car. “Before you go,” he said, glancing in my front seat, “I lost my rear license plate, I just wondered if it ended up over here somewhere.”
My brain switched back into full mode again. “Oh, this must be yours, then.” I opened the back door and pulled out the license plate. It all finally made sense. I gave him the plate and bid him and the officer good-bye.
Later, after paying my ticket and gathering my wits a little more closely around me, I found myself going 10 mph under the speed limit on a main road. It’s funny how an accident will do things like that to you. I made my way out to Target, where I called my mom to let her know what had happened, in case Mr. Dieterle tried to call them there. Then I bought some new earrings and a KitKat, and life seemed much better again. I was still upset, but fashion and chocolate always do their share to cheer me up.
[*] Names have been changed to protect the not guilty.
Well, after that whole thing happened, I had my dentist's appointment on Tuesday for my fillings. They ended up doing four fillings in all, and they were on both sides of my mouth, so my whole lower mouth was numbed out. It was an interesting time ...
I counted backwards from 99 in German to keep my mind off of the imminent pain of the anesthetic. The only trouble was, I started so early that I was already down to about 35 before Dr. Jacobsen had even applied the local anesthetic. So, I calmed down a little, waited for a moment, and then started again. He poked me at least 4 times in each side. Interestingly enough, the right side hurt more when he injected the anesthetic, but the left side was worse during the actual work.
After anesthetizing me, the dentist and the assistant both left for a few minutes, and I concentrated on the oldies music that was being pumped through the sound system. After a short time, they came back, but they tried actually making conversation. My lip feels like a big, oversized, shapeless blob, and they want me to talk to them?
“So how’s the weather out there?” the assistant asked.
“Mrtyns,” I answered, meaning, “Pretty nice.”
“How does that feel?” the dentist asked when he returned a moment later.
“Nmm,” I replied, by which I meant, “Numb.” He seemed to understand this.
As they prepared the tools, the dentist informed the assistant that I was going to England for school.
“Really?” she said. “What part of England?” She didn’t even pause for an answer before she went on, “Oh, you can’t answer that, huh? My brother served his mission in England. He was in Leeds.”
I was torn between wishing that I could tell her I’d applied to Leeds and was attending school not far from there in Lancaster, or wishing that she would stop trying to ask me questions that weren’t yes-or-no.
They started drilling. “So what are you studying in England?” she asked again. Bits of my tooth are flying out and hitting me in the face, and she’s still trying to converse.
After a while, they stopped trying to talk with me, and just talked to each other instead.
“Did you know that London Bridge is actually in a little town in Arizona now?” the dentist asked.
“Really?” the assistant asked interestedly.
“Yeah. It was built in London in the 1800s, but it was just made for foot traffic and horse carriages, and when the automobile traffic started getting heavier, the bridge couldn’t support it any more. So they held this auction, and some little town in Arizona bought the bridge for—like, I don’t know, two million dollars—and they took it down and put it up in their little town. And now they have all this English touristy stuff there. My wife and I went down there a few years ago.”
“That is so interesting,” the assistant said.
At this point, I started thinking maybe I should have had the laughing gas after all.
They kept clamping my mouth open, and before too long, my jaw started feeling very sore. The right side seemed to go just fine. They started there, so my jaw wasn’t sore yet, and everything seemed to go pretty fast. On the left side, they found that the cavity had begun to spread forward to the next tooth, so they had to do another filling. Then, after they were all done, he tried flossing between those two teeth, and found that the contact was too big. So they had to re-do that, which took another 15 minutes and made my jaw that much more sore.
Lying there, I thought about how I would write out a note for the receptionist, since I would undoubtedly be unable to speak. “Could you please call my parents and tell them I’m done? They will pay. Curt or LaVern Wilkins, 523-9202.” Luckily, however, I found that I was still able to talk moderately well. Besides which, though, my mother had stopped off and left a signed check for me to fill out when I was done.
I literally (and I do mean literally, Paul J) could not feel the bottom half of my mouth and the front of my tongue for about two hours afterward. My jaw is still amazingly sore—worse than I’ve ever felt it before. I suppose that’s part of the reason why they don’t usually do fillings on both sides of the mouth at the same time, but what else could I do? I’m almost convinced that I don’t want to open my mouth completely for the rest of my life.
So ... it's been interesting. Hope you're all doing better than I am! More later.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Speaking of going ... I'm going to watch my nephew's karate practice in just a few minutes -- should be fun.
Friday, September 10, 2004
I really hope this all makes me feel better, since I'm planning to go down to my sister's tomorrow for a week or so of some fun, games, shopping, gossipping, eating ... and painting and sewing. She's expecting in December, and we're planning to make a new quilt for her new baby. And then she's been working a lot lately on getting her house painted and prettied, including the nursery, and I offered to help.
My aunt and uncle are here, so I'll be back in a minute. I'd provide some elevator music, but ... well, just hum to yourself for a few minutes!
OK, I'm back but only for a quick minute. I wanted to finish up before I go to see My Brother The Chiropractor.
Mom and I went to see Princess Diaries 2 the other day. It was cute, but not as good as the first, and I really felt like all the good parts were in the previews already. But I also bought new boots at Dillard's. I finally found some tall boots that fit over my wide calves. And they were SO cute!
One of the best things about being here is that I get to see so much of my niece, Alyce. She's just over a year old, and she's developed a real personality. She's an absolute doll, and very smart. Last night I got to give her a bath, and got vigorously splashed with water for about 10 of the 15 minutes. But it was sure fun getting to spend so much time with her. I just feel bad about it because I'm sick -- I'll sure feel awful if she develops my nasty cold in a few days!
Gotta go see the doctor now. Later!
Wednesday, September 8, 2004
Saturday, September 4, 2004
I arrived here today to find that Mom, Dana, and Amber were cleaning out the garage, which naturally involved the storage space as well. We took my last few boxes of stuff down there ... and then I realized how much more stuff I have here than I realized. I just finished purging all my stuff from my apartment in Provo, and I find I have three times that here! I'm feeling very ready to purge there, too ... It's tempting to just throw some boxes away without even looking at it, but I'd probably end up throwing out something I really want. *sigh*
I recently learned about the Fair Tax Act, a resolution that's currently before the House of Representatives. It's a resolution to abolish the income tax and replace it with a federal sales tax instead. I just learned about it, and I feel a little like I'm jumping the gun by supporting it without having taken the time to research it more thoroughly, but so far I really think I'm a proponent. You may well have noticed the banner and link that recently appeared in the sidebar -- take a few minutes to check it out, and let me know what you think.
Wednesday, September 1, 2004
The living situation has gotten much better. Well, maybe not much, but definitely better. I do have the living room and couch to myself by around 11:00 or so every night, which makes it much easier to sleep. And I've been having fun with more spare time. I've been watching some of my favorite shows, the ones that are on during the day time when I've had to work in the past. And today I worked on some writings that I haven't touched for a while. They actually were seeming pretty good to me. Definitely better than the last attempts I made, about ten years ago. I might even consider "publishing" some of them online here to get some feedback.
I leave Provo this weekend, either Friday or Saturday ... I still haven't gotten that cleared up yet with Dad. And then I'll be either at Mom and Dad's place in Idaho Falls or at my sister's in Logan for the next three weeks. I leave for London on September 23. I need to go reserve a hotel room for myself in Lancaster, as I arrive one day before I can move into my new on-campus accomodation ...
Today I missed lunch with my roommate Margo! I felt so bad. We had made plans a few days ago to meet for lunch today, and I totally forgot about it.
Last night we went to see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban again at the dollar theater. After seeing it the first time, I was so disappointed that I vowed I would not see it again until it came to the cheap theaters, and as it's there now, we went. It only served to deepen my dislike of that movie. As I -- and others -- have said before, it does all right by itself, but when you take the book into consideration, it gets about a 2 on my personal scale from 1 to 10 (where 1 is the worst). Here's what I hate about it: it seems out of balance to me. It seems to me that we spend far too much time exploring Cuaron's personal version of the Potterverse, and not enough time developing the plot, both of that particular installment and of the series in general. And there's so much information left out, that I have to wonder what made them decide to take it all out. The most important and emotionally-charged scenes in the book seem, in the movie, to be flat, shallow, and superficial -- an effect that is heightened by the fact that the actors show little to no emotional variation in those scenes. I can't stand David Thewlis as Lupin -- he's too old (IMHO), too wimpy, and he sounds rather like he used to be in love with Lily (which, by the way, had better not be the case). And I can't stand the way they have been making Hermione/Emma Watson into a little starlet while at the same time making Ron look weak, wimpy, and wavering, not to mention utterly stupid. Oh, and I hate the ending -- what kind of an ending is that, anyway?
Well, now that I'm done with that ... the only other mildly interesting thing going on is that I'm waiting for a paper from Lancaster that has to do with my Federal Stafford Loan. It should have arrived in the mail yesterday or today, and it hasn't yet. I'm getting nervous about it at this point. I'm considering putting in a request at the Dead Letter Office to see if they have it. If it doesn't come soon, I may well end up with no funds in my bank account by the time the British Consulate calls to confirm my proof of funding. Eek!