I met Darwin’s pet octopus

Yesterday, my Geographies of Nature class went on a field trip to the Natural History museum. I cannot say enough about the experience- I was overwhelmed with adoration and sheer joviality for everything natural history. I wore my Darwin earrings. I geeked out at EVERYTHING IN SIGHT. I sort of had the time of my life.

This is a good time to note that this post will contain some pictures of animals in jars and giant squids and all that good stuff. I’m sure if it’s too weird you can just look away and forget about it after a few seconds but, like my peer said after looking at a preserved animal in a jar, you may have thoughts similar to “Thank god I’m vegan” or “I’m now officially vegan”.



-Meeting some of Darwin’s pets and original type specimens. These are the animals that are sometimes the first of a species that are found, or are the prototypical specimens against which organisms that are proposed species members are compared for identification. Could be wrong about some of that but I think that’s the gist of it.

-Surviving a close encounter with a GIANT SQUID

Length: about 17 feet long. Keep in mind that this was only a teenager giant squid!

Their eyes are as large as dinner plates and their brains are doughnut shaped. So when they eat, it first TRAVELS THROUGH THEIR BRAIN before getting to their stomach!! #Thisiswhy I love science.

Here’s a striking illustration that really shows off that eye:

-Meeting a new friend, Mo, who was a very fun museum companion for the day. I could tell we’d be friends after, looking at a crack on a big glass case containing a giant moa, he asked, “Do you think it tried to escape?”

the comedian himself

the comedian himself

Darwin fangirl pics:

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And just because you’ve made it this far, have a look at this. Just for laughs.

I also found a wonderland of maps and globes: Stanfords. My jaw dropped when I stepped in. It felt like a sanctuary. I suppose that my inability to buy everything I liked added to this magical effect because I appreciated just looking at it all and not feeling an urge to own it. Just being inside this sort of cartographic museum made me glow with happiness.

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I added a pigeon on the steps of the British Museum for fun. Went there with a class and it was cool. Didn’t see much because I focused on one room for a synopsis of curatorial techniques and the like. Saw the controversial Elgin/Parthenon Marbles.

Talking with my flatmate Joey last night, he saw my slim slice of Neal’s Yard Dairy stilton cheese on the counter and we got talking about (how we can never stop talking/thinking about) food. He told me his story of how after high school, he didn’t know what he wanted to do so he came to London and worked at the deli area of Selfridges. He was quickly promoted to work at the luxury foods counter (!) He said that for most of the day he’d be standing around but one customer might come and spend an hour with him, necessitating a near-encyclopedic knowledge of caviar, alcohol, and cheese. Then they’d drop a few thousand pounds on something they’d consume in a tenth of that time. What a story.

That’s a lot for now. Am going back to the Natural History Museum next week for my museums class and then again for my mammals and evolution class later this term! SCORE!

Also, when I was looking for pictures of the NHM, I stumbled upon the image below and then the link to Zarek’s dad’s webpage. Hi Zarek!

darwinning. Not for darwimps!


Hydrated 4 life

You know those massive water bottles that Brits often drink from? Consider me indoctrinated. My bottle of choice is about twice the size of my head and I have mixed emotions. See below.

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This is who I am (for the moment)

(Before I start, I’ll preface this by saying that it has little (or possibly all) to do with studying abroad and that it may not be the right place for a post like this but I’m doing it anyway. YOBASAO (you only blog about studying abroad once.))

It was around middle school when I began a long and soul-searching traipse along the “who am I?” avenue. I think that before those years, I was satisfied with my self- and peer-appointed labels that included “spunky” and “smart”. I could continue with mentions of middle school hierarchies and fashion fads but let’s not discuss middle school any further.

In addition to trying to keep myself up-to-date with who I am, I’ve also perpetually led a parallel quest to keep everyone else  who might care up-to-date. Long story short, I think that looking back at adolescence, some of my choices reflect this necessity to correctly convey my personality. Psychoanalysts (such as one in my head) might say this arose from occasions in childhood when I was incorrectly judged or labelled- the most common offender that I was “quiet”. Ugh, it irks me just to think about how often this word was carelessly splattered all over me! But back to those adolescent choices: I’m talking about clothes that had to extremely clearly reflect parts of myself, such as shirts with jokes I’d laugh at on them or plastered with music I felt a strong connection to (Beatles, Wicked…) I’m talking about how (I think) that a reason I was so attached to Facebook was because it allowed me to transmit phrases I actually stood by to anyone who looked at my posts, versus the answers I’d share in school, formulated with the knowledge that when I spoke it, at least 20 of my peers might be listening and if I made a mistake, they’d all hear it. Painting my Facebook personality let me inform those 20 kids that I did have charisma not easily heard in classroom answers to questions about tenements and skeletal systems. From early on, I’ve felt that there have been untrue reputations of myself floating around in, most often, the minds of my classmates. And since those days began, I’ve felt the need to rectify those ideas of who Sophie was.

[Before we go on further, let me say that I fully understand that while I was so busy focused on myself, possibly a fraction of my worries were actually picked up by others. In other words, the majority of all this chaos could’ve been limited to my own mind. As they say, don’t worry so much about embarrassing yourself because everyone else is too busy focusing on themselves to notice.]

I feel so self-centered right now, and that’s because I’m writing a post that’s basically 100% about me. So I’m sorry if you’ve gotten to this point and have waning interest in reading any more about this girl’s musings about teenage psychology. Feel free to leave! But I’m gonna keep on analyzing. As I was saying-

Whenever I unearth a new iota of who I might be, I’m desperate to inform others lest they maintain an untrue description of my character. That’s why I’m going to type the sentences following this one.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m abroad or am on the verge of turning 21 or what, but I have some news of who I might be.

Thanks to the fortnight of transition and orientation at this new school, I may have orienteered myself (SEE WHAT I DID THERE? 😉 ) closer to unlocking or recognizing who I am (!)

Thanks to a recent examination of the Myers-Briggs test (thanks Elior!) and lots of reflection on how I’ve made friends at QM, here’s what I have to report:

I’m both introverted and extroverted, almost equally, but with the former slightly outweighing the latter. When I’m around many outgoing people, I often recede from conversation, preferring to talk with someone one-on-one or with a group of less loud people.

It’s hard for me to be anything but thorough with things like friendships and travelling. With friendships, you’ll find that it might take me a while to start opening up, but that’s because I’m feeling out what our chemistry is and am slowly beginning to anchor myself to this new commitment. When I make a friend, I intend to nurture the heck out of that friendship to keep it happy and prosperous for a long time. When I went to college, it was really hard to think about leaving my home friends behind (because I still liked them and put so many years of work into our relationships), and so, I’ve stayed in touch with at least five of those friends. In sum: I’m a k-selected species that invests in the long-term and values stability. With travelling, let’s just say I’ve scoured every site about inexpensive things to do in London because I don’t want to miss any of it. I can certainly be spontaneous, but I find peace in planning out trips so that I can be as efficient as possible about spending money and time in a foreign and/or special place. When it comes to things like these (sorry, cleaning my room isn’t on the list), thorough is my middle name.

I think that’s enough for now. Better to read about me in chunks than for me to bare my soul all at once. Probably.

P.S. I’ve dreamed about letting posts like this fly freely on the internet where I can economize my words (reach the most people.) I’m still not sure if this was a good idea or not. But it’s done and I hope that if you’ve made it this far, you’ll respect my vulnerability and maybe even share some of your own.

good friends + good markets = good life

Attempt to Identify Culture Shock, Round II

3/4 of my classes seem very manageable, but the fourth, which is a third-year class (only three years of uni, versus our stretched-out four) is very challenging. When reading two of the articles required for class, I stumbled on literally every sentence. I’m not used to that at all, even at Wes! That may be because I steer clear of classes that suggest complicated internal dialects. To illustrate: Biology has an entire vocabulary of its own and I’m able to understand it much better than Economics vernacular, for instance. Epistemologies and ontologies and Hollywoodism (an actual word from a paper I just read) make me stumble. Here’s hoping that with enough reading and office hours, I’ll make it through. Ugh.

It’s also hard to stay patient while making friends. Especially when you have introvert tendencies.

Luckily it’s getting easier to buy food each week. I also found a groupon that delivers veggies to my door weekly for a month (half price!), making it a lot easier to get elusive English vitamins I crave. England has a very carbohydrate and protein-rich diet (fish and chips, steak and kidney pie, tea cakes, bangers and mash, Ploughman’s lunch, Sunday roast, Yorkshire pudding, Welsh Rarebit… see a pattern?)

It’s hard to see all of the students here congregate after class, laughing and playing football (UK version) with each other, when I’m still at the phase where I see friends on the weekend and during class. I’m glad that I’m independent enough so that this doesn’t force me to explore the city with people I’m not very into, but it may be working against me by letting me be so free so often… Or did that last clause make no sense?

Here’s Wesleyan’s page on culture shock. Honestly, the symptoms sound like a day in the life of a teenager, which I’m only a year past, so it’s difficult to ascribe my present loneliness, for example, to CS or just my life as a twenty-year-old. Have a look for yourself.

In other news, I changed the layout of this blog for a freshening-up. You can better notice the links that I embed in text and although you have to click the three parallel bars in the upper right hand corner to see some of the widgets (such as “Today I learned…”), I think this layout is cooler. Easier to comment, too 😉

I’ll finish with a black pudding experience montage.

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Nah, I’ll finish instead with a really wonderful-looking plate of food. In short, I am going back. Again, and again. LOVE YOU HUMMUS BROS!

you are my sunshine, you make me happy when London skies are grey

you are my sunshine, you make me happy when London skies are grey

So I joined the Medieval Re-enactment Society…

Lady Sophsalot?

Lady Sophsalot?

Didn’t see that coming, didja?

At QM, you have to pay to join societies (ugh in the short term but some are really inexpensive, and this may eliminate any need for a ghastly “student activities fee” that some colleges *ahem* impose.) This one cost a measly pound and the booth attendants seemed like a lot of fun when one eagerly approached me about joining and the other proudly brandished her homemade sword.

Ok hold up- YES I’m telling the truth about joining!

On a similar topic of surprising purchases, let’s talk about what I paid five quid for at the Chatsworth Market last weekend. I’ll give you a hint:

-Two words

-First word: A color

-Second word: Pudding.

-Possible association: Haggis. (Worth noting I tried my first scotch egg too! And it was made of haggis as well, so I killed to birds with one stone. It was tasty!)

Ready for the answer? You may be as shocked as I was, when I reached into my pocket for the coins:

BLACK PUDDING. (Made that a link so you can explore it on your own.) Let’s just say I won’t be anemic anytime soon… Well, once I actually work up the courage to cook it up!

Enjoying my classes and meeting more people each day. Today I clicked with another person- the second theater student I’ve bonded with! Coincidentally, her best friend works in a lab at Berkeley studying frogs, so I have an inkling that we’ll get along well on our trips to London’s museums for class.

Here’s a little video of my front-row seat in a double-decker bus heading up to Hackney on Sunday morning.

No shame when no one knows your name HOLLA STUDY ABROAD

No shame when no one knows your name HOLLA STUDY ABROAD

This one’s for Veronica ;) LONDON FOOD! Part I of ∞

And now for the post with lots of juicy details and tender moments: FOOD IN LONDON!

Looking back at the rather curtailed collection of pictures I’ve taken thus far (mostly in an effort to make the shiniest moments stand out and leave the rest to memory or the pen,) a striking amount are of food. But are you surprised, really? Look who’s writing this blog, here. That’s right.

So how should I start my food adventures? How about with some quaint tea sandwiches and desserts?

mmmm tea and goodies!

mmmm tea and goodies!

This is a snapshot from the tea I experienced on the boat cruise on the Thames. Nothing to faint over, but lovely nonetheless: a welcoming cup of Earl Grey paired with a healthy assortment of sandwiches, ranging from salmon and cream cheese to egg salad with ginger. The desserts were little brownie bites with dollops of dense clotted cream or pieces of banana bread. On top of the tower were awkward-to-eat numbers with butter and jam in the middle. Delightful.

I made efficient use of my first weekend here with a trip to the legendary Brick Lane market, known for its troves of vintage clothes as well as the usual craft and food stands. Before I left, my flatmates Joe and Katie advised me to try Beigal Bake’s hot salt beef bagel. When I found the place, the line was out the door, so I knew it was worth it. Before even tasting a bagel, I ordered a half-dozen in addition to my commanded lunch. Let me tell you, that hot salt beef bagel was

amazingThe blessed culination (yes, getting poetic here) was delivered in a paper bag but anything else would’ve tried to unwisely take away any admiration from the culination in hand. An incredibly doughy bagel encased a handful of hot salt beef (much like corned beef in the US) and an overzealous coat of mustard completed the masterpiece.

A note about the mustard, if you ever find yourself in that Shoreditch sanctuary: Unless you ask for mild, the condiment you will receive will not only clear your nose, send tears down your face in multiples, but it will also demand acknowledgment from your stomach (make it hurt a little, at least for me.) Beauty Foodie is pain. But it’s worth it, for the devoted.

This is the time when I’ll let Yelp do its thing. Enough said.

I’ll also put this here. Seen on Brick Lane. Have a laugh.


I also passed the notorious and new cereal cafe. Read about it here if you wish. I didn’t go in (long line), but looking inside was enough for me. I’d rather sacrifice an overpriced bowl of cereal for a visit to the CAT CAFE any day.

While at the Sunday UpMarket, I bought some cool earrings and enjoyed a walk through the sensory shower of ethnic food stands peddling all types of world cuisine. I snapped a few pictures of the especially interesting Singaporean and Ethiopian stands before I was caught in the ever-flowing stream of shoppers moving the opposite way. Death, taxes, and assertive market-goers, man.

I wanna try Ethiopian food with all my heart

I wanna try Ethiopian food with all my heart

Singaporean delights

Singaporean delights

Grocery note: I’ve taken to British yogurt and English cucumbers (which are the norm, here, obvs.) The great part about them is that they’re about twice the size of boring US cukes so that means DOUBLE THE CUKINESS! I love cucumbers.

thanks, Nordic Recipe Archive, for so purely displaying the mighty differences between the English (center) and sad, sad American (warty and sad at the bottom) cucumbers. To add insult to injury, English cucumbers are also proud of their nickname as BURPLESS. Even the veggies have manners over here!!

If you’re as wacky as me, you’ll find this webpage on cucumber information an interesting read. Or just proof that I’m bonkers (sort of true.)

Another great part about Queen Mary is that walking down the main road gives you a great view of the building known as the GHERKIN! HOW PERFECT IS THAT? My respect for pickles is climbing every day, I think.

a giant pickle-inspired building? YES.

My usual view of that wonderful building

I’m also overcome with gladness (and happiness, when I bite into them) when I see persimmons at the supermarket. I also bought and ate three “fresh” figs today at Sainsbury’s just because I’ve never eaten a non-dried fig before (I don’t think.) When it comes to ripening, I’ll let M&S share my tale:

❤ 4evr&alw8z, persimmons ❤

Ok, let’s wrap this puppy up. But before that, here’s a picture of me in front of the cafe next to Sherlock’s and Watson’s residence in the tv show “Sherlock”:


As we serendipitously stumbled upon that on our way to a pub, later that hour I tried steak and kidney pie. My friends keep remarking on my “adventurous eating” (brought up after my British-food-acquainted friend and the cashier both expressed their dissent for the dish before I proceeded to order it.) I see meals as great opportunities to take safe risks and reap possibly high rewards. Why eat the same thing every day when there’s an endless list of tastes you can encounter!?


A bit prettier than it tasted.

In the end, I was pleased with my choice to sample a nationally celebrated food. I cannot say so much for the kidney pieces themselves. But that’s alright- more opportunities to sample other dishes!

And now a little palate cleanser to send you off and remind us that indeed, food does come from somewhere magical:


“Belle est la nature”