31 October 2010

Despite the fact that the past two days have been filled with a combination of running (7 miles yesterday and 5 miles today - in the pouring rain), and studying IR theories and Open Source intelligence, there have been a few excellent moments to qualify these as 'decidedly good days'.

First and foremost has to do with the above picture. See those beautiful flowers? Those are currently sitting on my desk. And no, I did not buy them for myself. In order to celebrate the one year anniversary of our meeting at Hallowgreens (October 31st) and our 10 month anniversary as a couple (on Tuesday), my wonderful/amazing/superb/fantastic/thoughtful/caring/charming/*insert other superlatives here* boyfriend surprised me and had them delivered to my flat in London. (For those who haven't caught on, my boyfriend still lives in the US, meaning that this entire operation was no easy matter). I was so surprised and touched!!! I'm not a flower person normally (as in, I don't actively go out and buy flowers/wish to spend lengthy periods of time in gardens), but I LOVE it when I receive them. And these flowers both look fantastic and smell wonderful. I am so lucky to have him in my life, and can honestly say that the past 365 days since I met him have been extraordinary.

The second event to qualify this weekend as 'decidedly good' falls much lower down the totem pole in terms of importance, but is still an exciting discovery. What is this? Savory oatmeal. I had always considered oatmeal to be a breakfast dish, but this is not so! Tonight, dinner was oatmeal with asparagus, zucchini, garlic, and cheese. Absolutely delicious, although I am so stuffed that I may never need to eat again.

Yup...exciting times in the life of Rebecca.

30 October 2010


Just another video to brighten your day. You really need to watch this. I rarely go for animal videos, but this one takes the cake. Your initial reaction will be to feel sorry for the cat due to apparent animal cruelty (i.e. bag on head), but continue watching!!!
A better post is coming later on tonight, but in the meantime...why doesn't this happen when I go to Heathrow/BWI???

26 October 2010

I have a problem.

Yes, I'll admit it: I like to read cooking blogs. I look at the wonderful recipes these bloggers make on a consistent basis and dream of being able to make similar things. I suppose I could attempt to do so here in the UK...but to be honest, it would cost too much to buy the staple ingredients that you only end up using 2 tbsps of, or to buy all the necessary equipment. And so I read these blogs and plan on making some of these recipes when I come home for Christmas break. I've already discovered three Christmas cookie recipes that I want to try, but am going to refrain from mentioning what they are because I want to make them as a treat for my family/boyfriend.

I suppose that is the real motivation behind my recent desire to 'learn how to cook right proper' : my boyfriend. One day I want to be able to cook Drew a real meal - something more than the cheesy bacon & eggs pasta I made him or the haggis. I want to prepare something that says 'yes, I am a modern woman who can travel the world, go to grad school, and have a career...AND I know how cook (which remains one of the chief ways to win over a man -- although I waited until well, well after Drew & I had started dating before I attempted to feed him anything. I'm not stupid. Food poisoning does not bring people together. (Disclaimer: He did not get food poisoning!)) Because, like it or not, one day far, far, far in the future, I may have to feed other people besides myself. And whilst I can survive off tomato, hummus, and avocado sandwiches, I am not entirely sure that others can.

And so I recently attempted a recipe that was something new for me: Lentil soup. I found a recipe on the internet, realized that I didn't like half the stuff in it, and so decided to improvise.

Rebecca's Lentil and Vegetable Soup/Stew Hybrid

1 onion (with a bit cut off from dinner the night before), thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
2 1/2 carrots (the other half was consumed during the chopping process due to the chef's hunger), sliced
1 large parsnip, cut into cubes
1 medium sweet potato, cut into cubes
1 cup diced tomatoes (the kind that you get from the supermarket in cans (or, due to the UK's new recycling initiative, boxes)
4 cups water (for broth)
1 cup water (for later)
2 cups red lentils (A nice replacement for the 'Country Soup Mix' from the grocery store, which you found out needed to be soaked overnight immediately before you attempted to add it to the soup.)
black pepper
1 chicken bouillon
1 vegetable bouillon

1. In a large pot, heat 4 cups water to boiling. Add chicken and vegetable bouillons and reduce heat. Stir until dissolved.
2. In large skillet, stir-fry onion, carrots, garlic, parsnip and sweet potato until onions are lightly browned and everything else is slightly tender. (I like my carrots to still be a bit crunchy when in the soup, but if this isn't to your taste, cook the vegetables until they are the desired tenderness. Remember: they will cook further when the soup is boiling.)
3. Add onion, carrots, garlic, parsnip and sweet potato into the pot with the broth. Stir.
4. Add diced tomatoes and 1 cup water. Add 2 cups lentils. Stir. Add black pepper, paprika, and thyme to taste. (I lile relatively bland food, but if you prefer lots of spice, go crazy with the seasonings.)
5. HEat, covered, until boiling.
6. Stir.
7. Reduce to simmer for 10 minutes or until lentils are tender.
8. Eat. (But wait a fair bit or else you will end up with a marked lack of taste buds, like me.)
9. Best served with crusty bread.

It's been over 24 hours since I consumed my first bowl (just had my second a few minutes ago) and I haven't died, so I suppose it turned out well.

24 October 2010

I'm Not A Superhero, Sorry I Couldn't Save The Day

 As promised, this will be a lengthier post than last time. Mainly because in addition to the race report from Wednesday, the past few days have been relatively eventful and so there are actually things to write about.

My first cross country race occurred on Wednesday, October 20 at Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath in North London. Although it was unexpectedly sunny, it was freezing cold since winter has apparently decided that it is time to descend upon London. (None of this fall business for the capital city! No! We will go straight from 'sort-of-warm' to 'ungodly-levels-of-wind-and-cold. Of course, I overexaggerate, but since I am always cold, any deviation from the norm spells disaster for me.) But, being the daughter and girlfriend of Eagle Scouts, I was prepared. I arrived at the Belsize Park tube station dressed in no less than six layers. Still, I was a bit chilled by the time we arrived at the changing facilities at Hampstead Heath. And it was there that I peeled away my toasty layers until I was wearing race attire: my new KCL running tank top (they call it a 'vest' here) and black shorts. I carried out a prolonged warm up more out of an attempt to stave off hypothermia than any real desire to loosen my muscles. Despite this, I was extremely grateful when the race actually started.

To say that the start took me by surprise would be a bit of an understatement. There I was at the start line, squished up with 200 other runners (Women and Men start the race together in UK XC races), talking with a fellow teammate when all of a sudden the runners in front took off. There was no 'drop of the flag' or 'sound of the gun' to announce the start...indeed there was no announcement at all. And so in an instance my thoughts changed from 'Gee, it's cold. I hope we st..' to 'HOLY HELL!' (except, perhaps, a less PG version). My thoughts remained much the same during the race itself. I took off at a fast clip in an attempt to regain some ground, and then kept going at the same pace. Most of the course was uphills, with brief plateaus, and then further uphills. Due to the high number of runners, there was no question of my ever slowing the pace for fear of literally being run over. It was terrifying, yet exhilarating at the same time. Unfortunately, a condition associated with my asthma that arises in the winter and is rather unpleasant to talk about resulted in the second half of the race being an attempt to keep breathing. Still, I managed to finish the 2.5 mile course in 17:54; 3rd woman on my team and 28th finisher overall. I was pleased.

Fast forward to today. Today I ventured to East London to attend the Spittalfields Market. Originally a Victorian fruits and vegetables market, it has experienced a transformation to the 'upscale' and 'artisan' in recent years. These days it plays full-time home to a number of restaurants and is Sunday host to a vast array of artisanal stalls. While there were a number of intriguing stalls present today, I couldn't afford anything that was being sold. Or at least I couldn't afford anything that I wanted (but did not need). However, I did leave the market in possession of a new friend, albeit an inanimate one. I struck up a brief conversation with the owner of one of the few unpretentious stalls, Highland Creatures. His stall sold plush toys made of 100% Scottish wool. Among the various items were 'Wild Haggis' (they looked a bit like a cross between a rat and a rooster), cats, and 'wee doggies'. The 'wee doggies' were stuffed with lavender (among other stuff), and I told him that lavender is one of the few things that seems to help (but not cure) my insomnia. This launched into a further discussion of how long I had experienced insomnia (2 years now) and the various methods that I had tried to combat it. I think he felt sorry for me by the end of our conversation, and he gave me one of the 'wee doggies'. To tell you the truth, even if he hadn't given it to me, I would probably have bought one anyways. They were only 6 GBP and fairly cute.

Yes, despite being 22 years of age, I am still satisfied with the simple pleasures in life. In this case, a stuffed toy meant for a 5 year old. Whatever.

On the way back home, I ran into a parade, complete with people dressed in renaissance clothing, the Green Man, and mummers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummers). Further investigation revealed this to be one of the opening events in the October Fest/Apple Day celebration being held by Southwark Cathedral and the Borough Market, both of which are located near where I live. The procession had started at the Globe Theatre, where they paid homage to Shakespeare, and then were on their way to Borough Market. I joined in, snapping a few pictures as I went.

Borough Market is not normally open on Sundays, so to see any activity there at all was a pleasant surprise. Many of the permanent stall-owners had opened and were selling their normal wares in addition to 'autumn' and 'apple' themed dishes. There were cauldrons of mulled cider and wine for sale everywhere you looked! I was in heaven! After grabbing a cup of spiced apple juice (non-alcoholic since it was, after all, only 12:30pm, although most 'cider' in the UK is alcoholic), I browsed the various 'visiting' stalls.Amongst those present were honey-sellers, confectioners, specialty olive and mushroom stalls, and a number of apple-sellers. I bought several Spartan apples and a pumpkin from the produce stand.

Such is my laziness (and lack of sharp knives) that I don't actually intend to carve the pumpkin for Halloween. Instead, I will roast the seeds and make pumpkin soup from the flesh. This will most likely occur tomorrow since I will finally have time to cook the pumpkin and prepare the ingredients for the soup.

Of other note: I have officially registered for the Shakespeare Marathon on May 8, 2011. Why? Well, as always, 'it seemed like a good idea at the time'. But more than that, this is probably one of the last times of my life that I will have completely to myself. Family and boyfriend are currently back in the States and so my training for a marathon will not inconvenience them like it would if I were physically a presence in their lives. In early May, I will be finishing the taught portion of my master's degree and completing a marathon (one of my life goals) will be a nice accompaniment. As I will just be coming off of spring break, my marathon will not interrupt my studies at all. And it was fairly cheap, which is something that can rarely be said about a marathon. My plan at the moment is to take the train to Stratford-upon-Avon, where the race is being held, on Friday, May 7, spend Saturday seeing the sights since I've never been to Stratford before, and then run the marathon on Sunday! And then it will be back home to London for exams!!! Thrilling! In addition, I will once again be using the marathon to raise money for WaterAid, a non-profit organization that seeks to improve water standards and hygiene in the developing world. It is with this in mind that I ask that instead of receiving any presents or cards this year, I would be most appreciative if my friends, family, and relatives would consider making a donation to WaterAid. I can provide the details later once I set up my donation page and work out target goals. Every donation, no matter how small, really does make a difference.

My pumpkin (soon to be reincarnated in the form of pumpkin soup, and my newly acquired 'wee doggie' (whom I have named 'Atholl')

22 October 2010

Better update coming tomorrow with a more thorough account of the race.

The overall result:
I came in 28th place out of 91, 3rd woman on our team to finish, which meant that my score counted towards our league standing

Next race is at Richmond Park, which has 650 free-roaming deer that we have been told are occasionally prone to chasing people during mating season. It will be in the middle of mating season when our race occurs in a fortnight, so I have images of myself being chased by giant lust-crazed red deer. It will certainly add an unusual element to the race.

19 October 2010

'Oh I'm running but you're getting away'

I am now the proud owner of a blender and a stock pot. I predict large amounts of soup/stew being made and consumed in the future. Pumpkin soup, if one wishes to be precise. The Borough market has an amazing fresh produce stand and I spotted pumpkins there a few days ago. I think making pumpkin soup will be my project for this weekend. For those who know me and the state of my current culinary abilities (which is largely limited to sandwiches, quesadillas, and, if I am feeling particularly fancy, stir-fried vegetables), this is a daunting prospect and will be a challenge. Still, it is imperative that I learn how to cook if I ever wish to live alone/feed mouths other than my own. (As I have told my boyfriend, it is fine and well for me to survive on chicken and avocado sandwiches or cooked vegetables, but I don't think it would be sufficient to keep him alive.)

In other news, I had my first classes of the my optional modules last week. Thursday was International Politics of the Middle East. Since it was the first week, we only had lecture; seminars will commence November 4th. The class looks like it will be interesting but intense. We have 150-200 pages of required reading a week and, since my professor is an expert in his field (The fact that he has a Wikipedia page of his own is a clear indication of this), I will really have to come prepared so as not to thoroughly embarrass myself. On Friday, between my Theories of IR lecture at 12 and seminar at 3 I had Open Source Intelligence. It is a class that has no counterpart in other universities. This term will provide the theoretical grounding and practical skills in OSINT collection/analysis while next term we will apply these skills to case studies. I am looking forward to how the course develops.

Friday also brought the arrival of my friend Veronica from the depths of Wales, where she attends university. After an initial poor start (it took me an hour to find her at the enormous Victoria Underground/Railway station), we had a wonderful dinner at the Founder's Arms under Blackfriar's Bridge. Saturday's highlights included shopping (i.e. fighting a war) on Oxford Street and at Primark (which constantly seems to exist in a state similar to Best Buys on Black Friday), eating lunch at Marble Arch, seeing the Royal Albert Hall, and visiting the V&A museum. Sunday brought an early morning visit to Westminster/Parliament, lunch in Hyde Park, a trip to Harrods, glance at Buckingham Palace, tour of the GLobe Theatre, and a Jack the Ripper tour that left us in the back alleys of Whitechapel and forced us to jump over chainlink fences in order to find our way back home, It was thrilling.

Veronica left on Monday and I spent the morning running in Regent's Park, attempting to convince my computer to give up its death grip on my ethernet cable, and begging the internet gods to work their magic on KCL's network. While my laptop still remains firmly in possession of the ethernet cable (a fact that I am willing to let slide until December when I suppose I will have to address the problem in order to pack the computer into my backpack), the other two events were successful. Today was spent comparing blender prices and properties at Argos, buying aforementioned kitchen implements, going to the gym, and reading about liberal theories of IR (and why they are criticized by basically everyone). Tomorrow is my first cross country race of the season at Parliament Hill. It is a short distance, less than 3 miles, but with my achilles tendon the way it is at the moment, every mile seems like 3. Still, there is no rest for me until December (at which time I plan to not run at all and instead TurboJam it up in my basement) and, as always, I will give tomorrow's race my best effort. Despite the fact that I have raced before, I am quite nervous.

Check back tomorrow to see how things went. In the meantime...keep it classy, readers.

11 October 2010

I Dream About Flying

And the answer that you're seeking
For the question that you found
Drives you further to confusion
As you lose your sense of ground

So don't forget to breathe
Don't forget to breathe
Your whole life is here
No eleventh hour reprieve
So don't forget to breathe

- Alexi Murdoch, Breathe

Life consists of realities and possibilities. Reality, the events that actually transpire at any given moment, is undeniable and largely uncontrollable. Of course, we have some measure of control over our own actions, decisions, and whereabouts. But, for the most part, what happens to us and around us is out of our hands. Reality, the here and now, is the result of a chain of decisions made by ourselves and others, influenced by earlier occurrences. We have no idea how our present decisions will effect our futures. I know that every single person experiences at least one occasion in his or her life where a decision that they make has an unexpected impact further down the line. I know that I have, with consequences that I am only just moving beyond. It would be very easy to blame myself for the decisions that resulted in this event. But this summer has shown me that it was not my fault. One cannot predict what the future holds for them. And I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason.

Closely related to realities are possibilities. These can be promising or threatening. Promising possibilities I like to consider to be opportunities. Opportunities for the future are exciting; they hold promise of things that may bring a better reality than the one we are experiencing at present. For example, earning my master's degree in IR may bring opportunities for jobs that I wouldn't have been able to get otherwise. It may bring more money. The opportunity to travel. On the other hand, it also has more threatening possibilities. These I refer to as the 'what ifs'.

The 'what ifs' are situations that are inherently dangerous/threatening/negative and have the potential of occurring. Of course, like opportunities, they may or may not actually transpire. I recently read an article by Stevyn Gibson for my Open Source Intelligence module entitled "In the Eye of the Perfect Storm: Re-Imagining, Reforming and Refocusing Intelligence for Risk, Globalisation and Changing Societal Expectation." While the bulk of the article is in reference to the future of the intelligence community, Gibson makes a worthwhile point when he states that our society has become risk-oriented. The majority of our institutions, both governmental and societal, are concerned with risk-management -- the desire to mitigate future risk. According to Gibson, risk has a dual nature, which means that "the perception of a risk may not necessarily equate to the reality of that risk" (27). He further goes on to say that our society's perceptions of certain risks (terrorism, nuclear proliferation, etc.) have become so inflated that we forget that the likelihood of such events actually occurring is relatively small. In fact, the odds of a Westerner (therefore broadening the range a bit beyond simply 'Americans') dying in a terrorist attack is 1 in 3 million each year. (Source = http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703481004574646963713065116.html). Perspective = readjusted.

The 'what ifs' associated with my master's degree are not as benign as some may assume. Earning my master's degree in IR implies that I will pursue a career in international relations, a career that, by definition, involves a certain amount of traveling internationally. Not all of this travel will be to 'friendly' countries. Furthermore, if I narrow my focus onto intelligence and counter-terrorism, as currently seems to be the direction that I am headed, the likelihood of my traveling to such countries is increased dramatically. 'What if' if I am sent to an active combat area? 'What if' I am in a so-called friendly country when an attack occurs? 'What if' I decide to work for our government and the building that I am is attacked? All are 'what ifs' that could occur and are entirely unpredictable. No one could have predicted the attack on the Pentagon that occurred on September 11, 2001. In fact, I bet that if you had asked Pentagon employees (or Americans in general) who had the likelier chance of being attacked, themselves or a US military base abroad, they would have answered the latter.

My point is that there is no way of predicting the 'what ifs'. We can anticipate the possibilities, but cannot actually say whether or not they will occur. This leaves us with a choice to make: we can either live in fear of the 'what ifs' and avoid activities, people, locations that have the potential of danger, or we can live our lives conscious of the threat but not altering our plans just because something might happen. Having experienced my fair share of dangerous situations (some might even argue that I've experienced more than my fair share of danger), this is a choice that I face each and every single day. Do I stay inside because of the ten thousand dangers that could harm me on the streets of London? After all, I have a 1 in 2 million chance of dying from falling out bed, 1 in 600 chance of dying as a pedestrian, 1 in 85 chance of dying in a car accident, and 1 in 7 chance of dying from cancer. These odds are frightening enough to make anyone agoraphobic.

and you don't need strength to be strong
time to believe in what you know

- Alexi Murdoch, Shine

Or do I accept these odds and the fact that, yes, this may be my last day on earth, but go out and live my life all the same? Some days, I will confess, it feels all too easy to do the former. It would be all too easy to let these 'what ifs' overwhelm me and keep me inside in the safety of my bed. The world outside is frightening. People can be nasty, rude, and violent. I've witnessed firsthand some of the brutality that one human can do to another. And yet...almost every single day for the past twenty-two years (and, more significantly, in the past one year and five months), I have pushed these 'what ifs' aside and stepped out to face the day. If these dangerous possibilities are going to occur, there is nothing that I can do about it. Of course, I am sensible in where I go and what I do. I avoid dark alleys. I associate with reputable characters. I stay away from illegal activities.

But the major 'what ifs', the ones that, to date, have caused my father to say 'you can't go' to all of the countries that I wish to travel to in the next year, those 'what ifs'? There is absolutely nothing that I can do to prevent them if they are going to occur. Of course they frighten me. When the US Department of State issued a heightened threat alert for Americans in the UK a few weeks ago, I will admit that I was on heightened alert. (Of course this could have something to do with the veritable flood of verbal and emailed warnings that I received from various family members.) Walking across the Millennium Bridge that day, I remember viewing everyone with suspicion as they passed, feeling as if I could literally see the threat of the 'what if' of a terrorist attack in the air around me. (It was also a particularly foggy day, so this may have contributed to the feeling.) After a few hours of nervousness, however, I came back to my senses. I was miserable feeling as if a bomb was about to go off around every corner.

The point is to be aware of the threat, not let it inhibit your everyday actions. And yes, I am aware that there is a threat to my life each time I open the door of my room. But I refuse to let this dictate my life. I will not live my entire life in fear of what may happen. I will not let these 'possibilities' dictate the activities that I wish to do, the countries in which I wish to vacation. I only get one life to live. I would like to hope that it will be a long one, but if this is not in the cards for me, so be it. I take measures to preserve my life for as long as possible. I exercise daily, abstain from all drugs, severely limit my alcohol intake, and maintain a strict diet. I work hard, but make sure to engage in stress-relieving activities that are enjoyable for me. (Although this has been somewhat limited as of late due to my achilles tendonitis). I am not reckless in my behavior. Since I do not know my particular expiration date, I can only continue on each day, living my life to its fullest. I hope to run a marathon within the next twelve months. Why? Because it is an activity that I wish to do, an experience that I wish to have. I want to travel to Burkina Faso to see my cousin Kenneth, to Israel to see the sites of the Holy Land, to Bahrain, to Lebanon, to Morocco, to Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Croatia. Yes, they have track records of being dangerous locations. But then again...so does New York City. So does London. In fact, the UK is the most violent nation in the entire European Nation. (Source: http://www.ias.org.uk/resources/publications/alcoholalert/alert200701/al200701_p14.html). So what I am saying is that while I recognize the concern for my safety that is expressed by my family and the reasons why they might wish to place limitations on the countries that I travel to, their fears are relatively ungrounded. Fear of 'what ifs' means that I am not safe anywhere. But why live in fear when you can go out and really live?

Of course, I could always fall back on to my contingency plan to be a horse farmer and tour coach driver on the Isle of Mull. A waste of an expensive undergraduate and postgraduate education, but probably much safer in the long-term.

These are legitimate concerns raised by my travel abroad. The purpose of this blog is to document my experiences whilst abroad, including thoughts and concerns. I aim to uphold the truth. Either I write what is on my mind, all of it, even if it is not exactly the 'cheery' things that suits popular consumption, or I write nothing at all. I will not lie. To lie is to ruin what I have worked so hard for, to fail to live up to the standards that I have set for myself. So, unfortunately, I will not be deleting this post, even if asked.

Still, to set your minds at ease, Mom and Dad: I will not travel to the Middle East in 2010/11. I will not travel to Morocco or Armenia. My travel to Burkina Faso is uncertain. If there is active widespread conflict in the country at my time of proposed travel, I will not go. Otherwise...I only get one life. I need to make the most of it while I can.

06 October 2010

Was assigned my optional modules today. Which means that for the next year, my schedule is going to look like this:

      Cross country 2-5pm
      'International Politics of the Middle East' lecture 2-3:15pm
                                                                   seminar 4-5:30pm
      'Theories of IR' (Term 1)/'Concepts of IR' (Term 2): lecture 12-1pm
      'Open Source Intelligence': seminar 1-3pm
       'Theories of IR' (Term 1)/'Concepts of IR' (Term 2): seminar 3-4pm

05 October 2010

Upcoming events:
6 October: Cross-country practice, Post-graduate reception
7 October: Working afternoon at ICSR
8 October: 'Theories' class 12-2; seeing 'Henry IV' part 1 at the Globe Theatre on its penultimate performance this season
10 October: Cross Country practice at Parliament Hill
12 October: Piracy symposium
15-18 October: Veronica coming to visit from Wales

03 October 2010

Things I Miss

So if anyone wants to test the international post system and send me a box of Swiss Miss Diet Hot Chocolate (or Jiffy Peanut Butter) it would be most appreciated. They don't have either in the UK.

My address is:

Rebecca Kaisler
Apt 49E, 165 Great Dover Street
London SE1 4XA

02 October 2010

Psychic ability = confirmed.

True to my word (prediction), I am now posting in considerably more length than yesterday. Why does it take me so long to put out a blog post? Well, when one is expected to be brilliant and witty in everyday life (neither of which are really adjectives ever utilized to describe me), it is awfully hard to be brilliant and witty in writing after hours (said adjectives also can't really be applied to this blog). And since I do actually attempt to make some effort at being coherent in my posts, it takes a while to write each individual entry. That said, I will try to be better at posting more consistently.

Before I begin, I would like to say that today is a very special day in my life. Today marks my 9-month anniversary with Drew. Yes, we count the individual months. And yes, Drew remembers the exact day every single month. This just shows how amazing of a boyfriend he is. I am so lucky.

Ok, now back to London.

First days in London
 My first days in London were spent getting oriented in my new neighborhood and setting up my flat. This meant exploring the surrounding area on foot to find the grocery store(s), quaint cafes, and best routes. I am lucky in that there are several Sainsbury's Locals and Tesco Expresses located quite close to where I live. These are small grocery stores that carry most of the essentials that one might need in daily life, but are more expensive. The big Tesco is located about 20 minutes on foot to the south-east of where I live. It's in the Afro-Caribbean-Turkish neighborhood and my sole trip to the store meant that I was assaulted by loads of delicious smells from the various restaurants. Unfortunately, I can only imagine the gastro-intestinal pain that I would be in if I actually decided to follow the wishes of my stomach and sample these delicious-smelling items.

I've managed to become fairly well acquainted with the Southwark and Southbank areas of London (the areas immediately south of the Thames). My classes will be held on the Strand campus, north of the river, and a 40 minute walk from where I live. I am trying to save as much money as possible for possible unexpected financial requirements/travel so I am walking everywhere instead of taking the insanely expensive Tube (subway). This has, of course, meant a few miserable days when it was raining, but, on the plus side, the walking (usually between 3-5 miles a day) is making me insanely fit. My typical path to get to the Strand/west London where everything (Westminster, Covent Garden, Oxford Street, Victoria, Hyde Park) is located is to walk up the Borough High, through the Clink, along the Thames Path past the Globe Theatre, across the Millennium Bridge leading to St. Paul's Cathedral, and then down Fleet Street to the Strand. (No, Dad, I've not seen Sweeney Todd yet.)

These first two weeks have seen me adopt some of the trappings of adulthood. I am currently in the processing of establishing a UK bank account, a tiresome and lengthy process requiring me to continually prove my identity and that consistently leaves me feeling as if I have committed a horrible crime by being abroad. I joined a gym (located 2 miles away so I get an additional workout each time I go) and bought both a skillet and a plant. I've even found myself wistfully gazing at dinner sets and thinking 'that would look lovely when I have my own apartment...for real.' These are perhaps signs that the end is near, that I am creeping ever steadily towards decrepitude as we speak. This may be an after-shock of the recent realization that I will be 24/25 when my boyfriend graduates from college and *gasp* 28 when he finishes law school. Even if we are not together at that point, there is no avoiding the fact that I will be that age. Of course, being with Drew is what started this downslide into domesticity in the first place. I still remember when I first decided aloud that I wanted to make him dinner. It was an admittance that shocked both myself and my roommates, who were well aware of my: a) lack of culinary ability and b) lack of domestic leanings. Anyways, the point of all of this is that I possibly need to go on an adventure soon, if nothing else to prove that I still have it in me. Oslo is perhaps too tame. Bucharest? Possibly. St. Petersburg? Maybe. Beirut? Oooh! (Just kidding Mum/Dad!!!)

So, I'm now I'm an 'adult' (or just plain old) and also officially a postgraduate student in the Department of War Studies at King's College London. I've been enrolled and inducted, and have had my first class (Theories of International Relations). I will take 2 core modules, both of which will consist of a Friday lecture (12-1) and a seminar (1-2). 'Theories of International Relations' will run from next week (the 8th) to the 10th of December. I will write one essay, present in a seminar, and then sit an exam in May. 'Concepts and Methods of International Relations' will run from January 14th through March 30 with one essay, seminar presentation, and exam in May. I will also take between 2-4 optional modules (either 2 full year courses or 4 half year modules). We had to list 12 preferences of what we wanted to take, which will then be allocated to us via a computer program. So I will find out on Wednesday just exactly what I will be taking and what my schedule will be like for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, I know for a fact that one of the classes I so wanted to take, Complex Political Emergencies, I can't take because it conflicts with one of my core modules. So I've decided that I will do the readings separately since I have the syllabus and get as much as possible as I can out of that.

What else has happened? I witnessed a murder and saw my first dead body (at least the first one to be within a few feet of me...I've seen the results of traffic actions). I won't go into exactly what happened, but suffice it to say that I have been forced to confront the fleeting nature of life and my own impending mortality. It does not make for terribly heartening conversation. I attended the War Studies Society Pub Quiz at the George on The Strand. It was terribly difficult (picture identification of British politicians and dictators...really?) and my team came in somewhere in the middle. It made pub quiz at Far From the Madding Crowd look like a piece of cake and I spent the duration of the event sitting in the corner (literally...I was trapped because it was incredibly crowded) feeling incredibly stupid and muttering bitterly about the weight of the cricket ball (between 5.5 and 5.75 ounces if anyone is interested) whilst drinking my Strongbow. I am continuing to keep it classy in London.

Last Wednesday was my first cross-country practice. Held at Regent's Park in north London, it required me to actually use the Tube since it was too far to walk. We took a running tour of the park, visiting the track (which, oddly enough, is 388m around as opposed to the standard 400m), ran along the canal, and then up to Primrose Hill (where the team does it's hill training). Then we did a relay race and a hard 5k, which I did pretty well in. Afterwards, it was time for the fresher's pub crawl. 6 hours and four pubs later, I made it home. A good day, all in all. Especially considering that, surprise! surprise!, I am injured again. This time it is my achilles tendon. It's nice and swollen, so probably tendonitis. I've been icing, consuming NSID's, and staying off it (as much as my mobile lifestyle will allow), but it has only gotten minimally better. So, I have decided to just go ahead with life as usual and hope that it stops with this nonsense.

Upcoming Dates:
12 October: Piracy Symposium that I am attending
20 October: First XC race at Parliament Hill

01 October 2010

I am psychic.

How do I know this? Well, I know that by this time tomorrow there will be a new blog entry up that contains the following details:
-First days in London
-Adulthood (i.e. My gym, skillet, and plant)
-Being faced with my own mortality
-War Studies Society Pub Quiz
-Imperial War Museum
-Walking around London
-First XC practice
-Why being injured (again...this time with achilles tendonitis) sucks
-First day of class/outlook for the rest of term

See? For those who don't believe me, just wait! I'll prove you wrong when you visit again tomorrow!