Be true to your eyes, or they’ll be false to you!

The title is a takeoff on a golden saying of my grandma: Be true to your teeth, or they’ll be false to you!

Memorizing the natural history of mammals, going to 1940s-themed clubs, and exploring London in scavenger-hunt fashion has been what’s up lately. I’ll explain.

I’m no wikipedia, but I do feel like a walking tome of mammalian evolution knowledge. My 3 essay, 3 hour exam for Mammals and Evolution, a 3rd year module, accounted for 75% of my final grade. Crazy, right?! In the US, a 40% final exam feels like a lot, but the UK system takes finals pressure to a new level. I think I did pretty well. One more exam for Geographies of Nature (50% of my grade) and then I’m DONE with junior year! I’m beyond ready to give my eyes a rest from hours and hours of staring at the computer, reading lengthy papers and revising powerpoints. I actually bought eyedrops yesterday.

dedicated to my TravelMate TM8471.


I recently visited Greenwich, the famous home of the Prime Meridian, as well as a bounty of cream-colored edifices strewn amongst emerald green lawns that reminded me of Saratoga’s Hall of Springs. It was very pretty and preppy and clean. I wasn’t bowled over but it made for a nice day trip. Anyway, while I was walking there, I saw this amusingly named restaurant and took a picture:

How nice to know I have friends stationed all over the city!

As I was about to continue on my journey down Salmon Lane, a nearby construction worker amiably hollered and asked what I was photographing. I replied that my focus was on the restaurant sign. He had thought I liked his yellow car.  And then he asked me to take a picture of himself, and how could I refuse? I really like how proud he looks. That smile can’t lie.

Just a minute before, upon seeing me look at a map, another person helped me figure out my directions. The people here are special.


On Wednesday, I went out with Erica, Beth, and her sister to a new 1940s-themed club called Cahoots in Soho. It was SO COOL! The menus looked like newspapers, the music was on point (albeit a bit loud), the servers were dressed in their best wartime threads, and the decorations were fascinating! My pictures turned out poor but my memories are vibrant (read more about that in my upcoming guest post for an online women’s magazine!) But I did get some good pics of the 1940s hairstyle I managed to finagle out of my unruly red locks. I’m too proud to not post a few:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The doorman also kindly obliged to a photo:

DSCN0992


And finally, the scavenger hunt story:

Equipped with my handwritten directions taking us from Yelp’s favorite fish and chips shop to an art gallery to a photo developing store, Erica and I embarked on a long and winding day trip around West London. What made this day so different from many others was the level of interaction with locals. As the English are known for being particularly reserved, we Americans have felt this difference acutely. So when we went into three shops and each of the workers happily jumped into conversation with us, we were shocked! Phrase of the day: “Where are we?!

At the World’s End clothing shop, we were educated on a tidbit of Sex Pistols history and given a tip of where to find hidden troves of American foodstuffs right by the Saatchi Gallery. At this innovative gallery which contained art paired with poetry, the sales assistant pointed us in the direction of a hidden cemetery she had only just discovered after forty years of living around the corner. We chatted with another artist for a good fifteen minutes about this Russian magnate who spent half a billion dollars on art only to sequester it away as an investment. Again, this is one of the best things I’ve learned abroad: being social doesn’t always have to revolve around a friend group or romantic relationship. One can have many conversations with strangers that oftentimes end up being surprisingly thoughtful and engrossing. And you might end up learning something very unexpected!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Three weeks until America. No sleep til Brooklyn!

Advertisements

God, how I miss couches

London has some great cafes, museums, places to walk around, but for the student, there are few places that offer supreme unwinding resources. My optimal version equates to

  • A couch with fuzzy pillows
    • blankets are bonuses
  • Soft lighting. Great ambiance is hard to find
  • Serene music or gentle silence
  • Pets are a plus

It may be April, but I feel my cosiness meter hasn’t yet met its quota for the past winter. Heck, we barely had any rain in London this spring! So with the lack of snow and bitter cold (utterly grateful, though) and even rain, I think I have some cosiness catching up to do. If you can’t find me this summer, check under blanket forts and quilts. And if that fails, seek out the knitting section of AC Moore. And whatever happens, you can certainly come over for teatime because heaven knows that habit won’t be ending anytime soon! Even bought my own teapot, cup, and saucer here!


If you couldn’t tell from my last post, April’s been sort of a lonely month for me. I have no classes, just tons of time to work on a paper and study for exams. Whereas I only have two, which are spaced out pretty well, my flatmates average something like six each (there’s no first semester exam period here) so they spend ALL DAY in the library. Seriously. Their friends are there to socialise, there’s a cafe for food (or they come back to the flat for an hour to eat or nap.) On the other hand, some of my American friends are using this time to jet-set because they only have papers due or exams late in the testing period. So, I’m more lonely than I’d like to be right now. But fear not- I found some lovely (but temporary) companionship in the fellas at the Spitalfields Farm! It was set up almost like a zoo in that people could walk amongst the animals. But it was a zoo with substantial meaning- not just a simple source of public education/amusement (I don’t believe in zoos.)

Most of my newfound besties are easy to see but some- let’s say the rather sheepish ones- fancied themselves some hide-and-go-seek.

DSC02314 DSC02313

Watson or Holmes, a New Zealander

Watson or Holmes, a New Zealander!

DSC02310

Hope ze wasn't embaaaarressed :/

Hope ze wasn’t embaaaaaaarressed :/

Was this sheep celebrating 4/20 a little early? Or just a baller? That face is difficult to translate

Was this sheep celebrating 4/20 a little early? Or just a baller? That face is difficult to translate

So, besides all that, not much else has been going on with the exception of writing a humongous paper for Geographies of Nature. It’s almost done: Fifteen double-spaced pages! The topic has been really cool to explore, though, and I’m more than happy to discuss it with anyone who’s interested. Basically, I begin by talking about a tool called a species meeting, where at least two organisms “meet”. This might occur when an ant nibbles off part of a leaf, someone goes bird-watching, or you eat a hamburger. Next, the paper goes into what species meetings can and can’t tell us about the nature of the human-animal boundary. An example of an advantage of a SM is that by thinking about the bacteria that live all over our bodies and are necessary for our survival, we can question whether humans should consider those other organisms as part of our identities. A disadvantage of a SM could be that they’re often difficult to arrange: there is an untold number of unidentified animals left to be discovered, or that many people mislabel species (how many times have you called an alligator a crocodile, or vice versa?) The paper wraps up with a discussion of what supposedly distinguishes humans from all other animals and then seeks to reconcile that boundary, concluding that human exceptionalism is a pretty dumb concept. Looks like I won’t be attending a Humanism festival anytime soon. But here are some festivities to come: an Edible Cake Garden, a Summer Craftacular, and a World Book Night giveaway!

Immobilized by Choice + ELIOR visits!!!

I bet you’ve been there before- where you feel like, with choices overflowing every mind-tab you have open, you can’t fathom where to begin? Overwhelmed is a pretty accurate adjective. The situation isn’t inherently a bad thing- the feeling is, but the provocateurs aren’t always. Right now, I’m referencing two very important things: what I’m going to do with my summer, and what I’m going to do with my recent cornucopia-like food delivery. If you know me, you realize that these two decisions aren’t so different in weight.

Another reason for feeling paralysed by endless options is that I have a world-class city at my feet and a limited amount of time and moolah left. It’s certainly a great problem to have, but it’s still not without pressure and stress. I do hold myself to oftentimes unreasonably high expectations, but how could one not fear that dreaded moment when they’re 22, 42, or 82 and they felt regret about not spending their twenties/time abroad wisely enough? Honestly, I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of squeezing out as much London as I can thus far, and probably will continue to. But a challenge coming up is prioritisation: where to spend the big bucks, what’s worth my time (markets > / = / < studying??), and how much more orange chocolate bars I’ll allow myself to buy because they’re unique to the UK and I need to build a dependence on them so I can go through even harder reverse-culture shock, obvs. (no, not this!!)

So with that, let me share some things I have on my April/May to-do list. These things are part of a 45-tab bookmark folder, fyi. In the tiny chance you live in London and are my friend, gimme a shout if ya wanna join in.

Exciting and overwhelming, in a positive way 🙂


Just took a slide test for my Museums class and finished my European Culture and Society paper, so that means that I am completely done with 2 of my 4 modules! Only 2 exams and one paper to write before I leave at May’s end or June’s beginning.

All in all, these classes were really great. Although the Museums one was 95% Americans, it was a privilege to “study” a different London museum each class- a total of 11. Also just a note that each museum was free. London is crawling with free museums- a gift. The Euro class was also well worth it, even though most students were freshmen. I got a much-needed dose of European history conveyed through major movements, not sticky details of war and piles of Georges and Marys (can’t distinguish them to save my life.) Learned about colonialism, feminism, the Russian Revolution, and many other eras through literature and film, which was really cool. This class was taught by a different professor each week, which also livened it up and only once was it boring! (structuralism, anyone?)


So, ELIOR came and visited!! We’re on Year 9 of friendship. So yeah, she is sort of my #1 and gosh, I could write odes and sonnets (already have, check those birthday cards yo) and endless interpretive dances about how much she means to me, which she knows, and I know, so let’s stop there and look at nutty pictures of us at a Tove Lo concert instead. LOVE YOU ELIOR!

Tove really did an awesome job, and her opening act, Urban Cone, offered some of those deeply satisfying beats and electronic soundscapes you can feel with your whole body.

Friendship year 3: Homecoming 2008 waddup!

We also walked around Notting Hill and Portobello Road, then ventured to Buckingham Palace for some classic awkward Eliophie pics so here’s a bunch of those too!

Comical Professors and Van Morrison (!!!)

I’m not used to having classes that are so blatantly applicable to life! Examples: lectures on feminism and postmodernism in my European Culture and Society class, and the value of nature in a capitalist economy in Geographies of Nature. So REAL!

I’d like to tell you a quick story from my last Euro class. The scene: our professor is shooting out all these incredible facts about how we live in a postmodern world and what it means and what is everyone’s favorite Starbucks go-to and can we ever prove the eclipse happened and all of a sudden he springs

“You don’t even know if you exist unless you’ve taken a selfie that morning.”

Whoa. No wonder this guy has tenure! (In case I’m not being clear, this sentence was so powerful because it completely encapsulates the essence of postmodernism and simultaneously couldn’t resonate more with our mostly eighteen years old millennial class. And it’s funny.) Man, the professors here are just full of goodness.

Which brings me back to our old friend placenta prof! Today he added another moment to his “greatest hits” collection.

So, we’re learning about the precursors to humans, namely Homo australopithicus and Homo habilis. He keeps reiterating the important advances that eventually led to our species, like the use of tools and having bigger brains. Yada yada. Excitement level is unwavering at zero. That is, until he reaches for his baby and pelvis props, announcing, “I will attempt to give birth this morning!”

The entire class explodes with laughter. Even the “manly” men couldn’t help but giggle. (Overall, England seems much more patriarchal than the US, and that’s reflected in the sociology of the sexes here quite noticeably. But that’s for another time.)

So he takes his pelvis model and a baby doll and actually shows us how much trouble it is for a baby to traverse the birth canal because of our ginormous brains! Now that’s LEARNING!

He also told us that hominins (a type of ancient humans) have gained “two tablespoons of grey matter every 100,000 years”. Chew on that unexpected measurement of intelligence! (Sorry for that unsavory pun. <– but not for that one! 🙂 )


I’m going to a CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL on Friday!! And, as they’re conjoined, a Cheese and Wine affair too! As my funny father quipped, I’ll probably regain the ten pounds I gave for a ticket after a day’s sampling of chocolates and cheeses. (Get it? Go punny papa!)


On Wednesday, Van Morrison and I decided to meet at the Royal Albert Hall and have a conversation. We talked of many things: New Orleans, gypsy souls, dancing in the moonlight. But the subject matter wasn’t the main takeaway, no. As I wasn’t the only one involved in this meeting of friends, I’ll let the grown man sitting in back of me explain what we were all feeling after the conversation had ended:

“YAY!”

His exclamation resounded with a pure sense of joy… a vulnerable, raw display of genuine human happiness. It was especially unique because of my location in London, a part of the world known for its reserved residents. That’s the magic of Van Morrison: his music zeros in on the part of you that’s grown numb to the spirit of life and taps it awake. His music is interwoven with spirit and soul. I left that theatre feeling renewed with motivation for life. That’s big stuff right there. Other reactions blurted out seconds after the last chord ended included “Brilliant!” and “Utterly brilliant!”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It wasn’t til the last half hour of the show that the magic really started for me- the first hour was him playing his lesser-known music and duets with “friends” that I didn’t recognize (but will post pics in case anyone can solve the mystery.) But after he played “Days Like This”, the audience knew what was coming next. He really saved his allure for the end, in my opinion, letting loose his legendary voice and leaving me feeling awed, thinking, “he’s still got it.” “Brown Eyed Girl” was a pleasure to behold, “Into the Mystic” sent waves of relaxation and good feeling about the entire concert hall. There was no way to avoid the goodness he poured over the crowd, even if you were in the limited legroom, obstructed view seat you bought for 50 pounds four days before the concert.

So yeah, Van’s the man!

Glad-I’m-not-an-English-major week

Extremely concise revelation from studying abroad for just over 2 months:

I’ve learned more about myself in those two months than I did one year at Wes. At the very least.


This week I’ve written two essays and have one more due next week, totalling about 6500 words. That’s about 26 pages of double-spaced, 12-font words. As a science major, that’s way out of the ordinary and has been a big challenge. In case anyone cares, I wrote one essay about Perissodactyla, an order of ungulates whose members include tapirs, rhinos, horses, and the largest mammal to ever live; my second essay is about how museums appeal to emotion in order to educate visitors, using three examples of London museums; the last has an undecided thesis, but may be about colonialism and Jose Saramago’s “The Tale of the Unknown Island”. One more 4000 word beast due in April too. So yeah, words don’t come cheap this week!

Instead, I’ll share some pictures. Below are some pics of street art around Brick Lane, very unusual stores at a krazy-kool pop-up mall in Shoreditch, a lovely event celebrating International Happiness Day where I received free hand and back massages, candy, and a daffodil (and a pic with a bellboy host with whom I unintentionally cuddled up to because I had endorphins falling out of my ears, I was so happy), and a crazy haircut to top it all off. Long story short, I was a hair model for an academy and got a free haircut (would’ve cost about 60 pounds normally at this place!) that in the end turned out quite nice after I washed out all the mousse but for the rest of the day left me looking like orphan Annie’s stunt double. It’s straight now, but I have about half the hair I did before!

And one last thing- spontaneously bought tickets to see VAN MORRISON at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday! I’m so freaking excited!!!!

Fast Times in Mammals & Evolution

It’s 12:38. We’re all developing a thin glaze over our eyes from nearly two hours of lecture about marsupials and mammals. But then, out of nowhere, my pony-tailed professor pulls out a

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

HUMAN PLACENTA

caught between shock, disgust and intense curiosity

He’s got the sterile gloves on to prove its authenticity and deep amusement sparkles in his eyes. This guy is almost nuts, but not quite. An immortal soundbite: “Sadly it’s lost a bit of its colour…”

There’s a marked difference in the humor over here. I really like it. It’s cheekier, sassier, and enhanced by the contrasting reservation of stereotypical Brits.

Some of my favorite funnies since I’ve been here:

(On an ad for a humor festival with a picture of supermarket chickens):
Now is the winter of our discount hens.

This ad for Las Vegas: DSC01050

On a greeting card: How do you approach an angry Welsh cheese? Caerphilly.


Darwin Day is a celebration of all things evolution. It’s held on his birthday, February 12th, and places all over the world offer up lectures and activities to spread the joy of this phenomenon. This year, Richard Dawkins is speaking at the London event and I would LOVELOVELOVE to go but have concert tickets for that night. On that note, if you like music characterized by harmonies, folk, Bon Iver prodigies, and sisters (<3 hey Em!), check them out here!)


Also, since it seems that many still aren’t sure how to contact me, here’s a list of HOT OR NOT to let you know how I can be reached. Trust me, you don’t want to land on the latter list.

Hot:

-Wes email

-QM email (ask if you want it but it just forwards to my Wes one anyway)

-this blog

-texting (I have a UK number)

-calling (UK number)

-skype

-letter!

What’s not:

-Texting/calling my US phone

-any app (snapchat included)

Facebook


And finally, yesterday I used some pink water leftover from boiling my beets to make pink pancakes! They didn’t taste like beets but lovely little scarlet cloud puffs. Here there’s a tradition right before Lent (Shrove Tuesday) of using up your sweets or indulgent foods to make pancakes. It’s occurring the day before my birthday this year and there’s all kinds of celebrations. My flatmates are planning on pancaking all day and I might check out a pancake race!

pancakeme

Laundry costs $7.36 per load here

Have you ever heard of such exorbitant laundry services?! There must be something I don’t know. Maybe the Queen does her laundry here. Or maybe once I deposit my clothes into the washer, they’re teleported to a team of underground elves who use golden soap and meteorites to de-lint. It’s beyond me.

Mysterious laundry hypothesis


This week I got to try on a hijab! There was a booth outside the campus library in celebration of Islamic Awareness Week with an assortment of scarves and a few Muslim girls staffing it. I immediately felt self-conscious when I imagined going over there, so I took that as a sign to do it and did it. The girls couldn’t have been sweeter, showering compliments of “you look so beautiful!” and “it complements your eyes!”. Regardless of their generous attempt to make me feel at ease, I felt pretty uncomfortable for those ten minutes of being dressed in the headscarf, talking with them about how it made me feel, writing it down on a whiteboard, and then declining an offer to wear it for another ten minutes to experience how others would respond. They took a picture and said they’d send it to me, but I haven’t received it yet.

At the risk of possibly being offensive in some way I can’t predict (a major fear instilled by Wes’ unbelievably PC atmosphere):
I mentioned this briefly a few weeks ago, but I really really love the diversity of East London. I like being around people of many different colors. I like hearing the languages on the tube and feeling like a minority because I’m white. I like that this area is dominated by halal restaurants and on a 15 minute walk down the street, I can pass four Indian clothing shops.
I think it’s related to how homogeneously white my hometown is (93% waddup) and the fading sparkle of Wes’ so-called diversity. As explained by Queensborough Community College, diversity is composed of “dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies”. Was going to post some easily comparable statistics but they’re not easily found online/ I’m too lazy to make big fancy tables so here are some salient points (sources: QMUL and Wesleyan websites).

Notice the top 3

22% Muslim!

Untitled

QM blew Wes out of the water for Asian students. But QM- where are the Latinos??? “Mixed background”? “Other”?

QM also has more than double the international students of Wes.

There are a ton more differences I won’t talk about (academics, income level…) so this is just a peek. In sum, both colleges offer different types of diversity. Also gotta tell you that the years I used to compare the schools aren’t the same- used Wes’ most recent stats (class of 2018) and QM’s early 2010s because I couldn’t find more recent.


On Saturday I went to Brighton and it was fantastic! Very hipster in a fresh way. Brit-ster? Anyway, here are a few highlights without pictures ( 😦 ) because my digital camera is on the brink of death (but fear not! I scored some snazzy disposables and covered them with stickers.)

  • Passed a store that specialized in bonsai trees
  • Experienced life-changing cake* and my first coffee art! The entire experience (food and atmosphere and hilarious decorations) WAS AWESOME
    • This place reclaims the word “eclectic”. I wish the Eclectic frat at Wes were more like this and not so intimidating and hard drug-ridden
    • Here’s a fun review. The best part is the description of the decor:

      The walls are packed with pictures, from the kitsch (Tretchikoffs, landscapes with UFOs, other tawdrily sentimental portraits with googly eyes stuck on, and the über-tastic Wings of Love by Stephen Pearson – two naked lovers encircled by the wings of a massive swan in a fantasy landscape – famous not only for its appearance in Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party but for being a favourite of Saddam Hussein) to zany film stills and pictures of old-school movie stars (and Rolf Harris, Michael Jackson and Tommy Cooper) as well as wartime directives – “Keep it under your hat: careless talk costs lives”). There are hand-painted skateboard decks, taxidermy, tailor’s dummies, posters, toys, old computer hardware, flashing fairylights, even a vintage mincing machine and a butt-naked Action Man zip-wiring across the ceiling, past toy helicopters. There’s a bright pink ArtVend machine that, for £4, dispenses an artwork by the local artist Imbue, and a cute red 1950s kitchen cabinet. Man, do I feel sorry for the cleaners here…

  • Loved my first Cornish Pasty
  • Went to this crazy outer space/rave/futuristic themed shop called Cyberdog and tried on an insane dress (again, wish I could post a picture but can’t yet so this’ll have to do:)
ready for takeoff

ready for takeoff

  • Upon my return in London, a gaggle of costumed couples made their way off the same train I’d taken from Brighton. I discerned a knight, a clown, and a ladybug.

Another travel update: May be going on a Scandinavian tour come April!