Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Dear Readers,

Today marks the third week since my arrival to the shores of this new land. The weather of which I was warned is present, with a forecast of 'staying cloudy and damp', and although uncertain about its precise location, I am being careful to avoid the dangerous 'Midsummer' area.

On this day, I experienced some moments of complete contentment as I gazed out a library window, over my books and onto grassy pastures and heard the elaborate songs of birds. There was no other place I wanted to be, I wanted for nothing, and I thanked the Lord for his blessings. This led me to depart from the library, and venture across the pastures, where your elegant correspondent partook of a constitutional stroll around the lake's edge, before settling on a bench to learn about the terrible deeds of the Crimean War.

Upon completing my learnings, I returned to my lodgings, whereupon I perched myself elegantly on a heater to thaw my derriere. Having then fallen into conversation with various other lodgers about the Crimean War and golf, I was drawn to the conclusion that it was time to appraise you of my educational situation in this foreign country.

Each week I must participate in seven structured hours of learning, with many times this expected spent in personal studies. My classes cover topics such as Napoleon to Stalin: The struggle for mastery in Europe, Latin for Historians, and Landscape II: Built and Semi-Natural Environments. Perhaps surprisingly the latter of these is so far proving the most engaging, perhaps due partially to the enthusiastic teachings of the staff. Never before have I heard such profanities emit from an educator's mouth, but he is forgiven for his excitable delivery of them.

My lessons in Latin will perhaps be the most challenging, as we struggle to grasp the concepts of grammar not yet familiar to your dutiful correspondent. The tutor in this subject, however, is a wise woman, who I feel will not let us fail easily in our tasks. I look forward to utilising the skills from these lessons.

There is a chance your faithful correspondent will not survive her lessons about Napoleon to Stalin, as there is a great deal of ferocious boredom induced in some of the topics. This has been diagnosed as only a temporary affliction, and should pass with the coming of a World War.

As to the location, the University is becoming less of a puzzle, the city slowly falling into place on the map contained within my head.

As I end this missive to you, my loyal reader, I must reiterate my utter thankfulness to our Good Lord who has provided a safe and happy harbour for your persistant correspondent.

Your Sincerely,

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

One week in...

Well, I've been at Norwich for a week now, and I'm feeling pretty settled. Haven't found all my routines yet, but they'll come. The most surprising thing so far is that the only homesickness I've had so far has been momentary, then gone. I think the internet really helps this - being able to keep in touch with home, seeing what's going on on facebook, chatting to people on skype means I feel far less disconnected than last time. There are disadvantages to this of course, and the main one is that I have to be careful to ensure my real life here takes priority over Tasmania. There's little point in being on exchange in a foreign country if I constantly miss opportunities and experiences because I'm distracted by 'home'.

I have Wednesdays off this semester, which is nice. This morning I was registered with the medical centre, so I'm now covered by the NHS, and this afternoon I'm going to Sherlock Holmes with some people I met at a church on Sunday. It's not quite as random as it sounds - they're friends of a Christian flatmate (who's been letting me tag along to church and Christian Union with her), and it was all organised last night at CU. I find it funny that the last movie I saw in Australia will be the first movie I see here. But should be fun - I enjoyed the movie last time, and wouldn't normally go to see it again, but it's about meeting people and living here.

The strangest thing about life here so far is actually living on campus. Here's a map of the campus, with relevant buildings so you can see how close everything actually is.

For those of you who've lived on campus before, this will seem normal, but for me it's strange. Where before uni was only a part of life, now it is life - everyone you meet goes to uni, and a fairly standard question is 'where are you living?' There are people who don't leave campus for weeks on end, because everything they need is here on campus. Last night walking back from Christian Union (via the pub) we bumped into some of our flatmates and all walked back together. I had to carry my bag of dirty washing through the middle of uni the other day, and an hour ago I popped out to one of the campus restaurants for lunch. It's very easy to see how one might become socially isolated in this environment - seeing only other uni students, and often only the same ones, without much interaction with the outside world. I shall endeavour to avoid that fate.

I bought a year long bus pass the other day. Free travel within Norwich for 12 months. It was expensive, and I need to make 50 return trips from the city for it to be worthwhile, but looks like just this week I'll use it at least 4 times, if not more. I debated whether to get one or not for a while - would like to get a bike too, but figured that if I have it, I'll use it and will go into town impulsively, like yesterday when I was bored, whereas if I don't, I'll save everything up until I can't avoid town any more. I think having it will give me far more freedom and I really will get to know the city.

Anyway, that's all for the moment. It's snowing at the moment, but I really want to go for a run. Bizarre. I hate running, but even when I was at home I was feeling the need to go running, to the point where I had dreams about jogging and enjoying it. A lot of my flatmates go to the gym, and running and things, so hopefully my aim of becoming fit this year is not so ridiculous. There's some good looking aerobicsy classes at the gym, so once my gym shoes get here from Australia I shall be off and away. I've also been eating rather healthily I think - lots of vegies, legumes, grains etc, which is nice. Made a pot of potato and onion soup, but I don't actually like it - the potatoes burnt right at the beginning, and I didn't realise until it was too late. Someone else likes it, so I've told them to eat as much as they like, then it's going into the bin in a couple of days. I should get used to the stoves at some point before the end of the year.... Hopefully.

Being the nerd I am, I'll get back to reading about the 1813 alliance between Austria and Great Britain now.

By the way, I've stopped posting my blog entries on facebook, so people over here won't read them (not that I'm going to write anything horrible about anyone). Please pass the word around about my blog though - I'm sure there are people who don't know it exists who still want to know what I'm up to. :)

Sunday, 10 January 2010

A photographic tour of my home for the next year.

For photos of UEA, especially Norfolk Terrace, have a look here. If you want to know more about what Norwich looks like, check these photos out.

My day started with a walk around the lake, a walk I've been meaning to do for a couple of days now. It's very pretty with all the snow, and I can't wait to explore some of the longer walking tracks in the area. There were lots of people walking dogs and jogging, but also a few other dawdlers like me. The area of land the uni has is quite impressive, and I imagine it will have a few more stages of beautiful as it goes through spring, summer and autumn.

After that, I headed into the city with Mo, a girl from Maine who's here for 6 months. We didn't really have a plan, just to get an idea of the lie of the land, buy a few things and end at a supermarket.

We were pretty excited to have our first trip on the top level of a double decker bus.

We wandered, saw some old stuff, didn't go into any museums or anything, but generally got an idea of how the city fits together. It's quite small - apparently wasn't affected by the industrial revolution so the street plan is the same as that set out in the medieval period, and it hasn't moved very far outside the original city walls. We're told it takes about 15 - 20 minutes to walk from one side to the other.

We ended in the supermarket, where I bought supplies for the next (hopefully) week and beyond - I doubt I'll use an entire packet of lentils or rice in a week... Now my cupboard has food in it, which is exciting. Still don't have any bread though...

Friday, 8 January 2010

The post you've all been waiting for.

I'm sorry to everyone who may have thought I'd fallen off the edge of the planet somewhere between Singapore and London, I have been intending on blogging for some time, but haven't. I'm still alive, am now in Norwich after a fun week of total-touristiness in London. Here's a selection of touristy photos, you'll find more here.

After a long time travelling (about 24 hours flying time, plus airport waits), I finally arrived. But first a word about the journey. I couldn't get window seats, and usually hate aisle seats because when I fall asleep I slump into the aisle and get attacked by the food trolleys. But this was the best flight I've ever had in the aisle - British Airways' headrests are very flexible, and bend down a long way so my head was surrounded and held in place. Meant I got some sleep. Spent lots and lots of time standing up the back chatting to various people and looking at the window trying to work out where over earth we were. The maps weren't working on the tvs, so we just had to guess. Finally got to Heathrow at 5am, went through the British aisle of immigration feeling like a complete imposter, trying not to talk in case they noticed my accent and revoked my passport, got out and was collected by my brother. We headed off to his flat, where I met my lovely 1o month old niece for the first time:

Spent most of the day relaxing, accidently dozed off too early in front of the tv, so woke up too early, but not so early I couldn't enjoy seeing London the next day. Caught up with Carli, and we saw lots of things over the next few days. Check my facebook album for more photos, but here are just a few, with accompanying Doctor Who references when relevant:
Buckingham Palace.

Phone Box! Oh, and Carli and me.

The Doctor thought he'd gotten rid of them all, but he missed one. Genocide? I hope not.

Repaired after that whole alien ship crash business a few Christmas' ago.


Also saw the Tower of London (very interesting place) and spent a whole day in the Museum of London (best £0 i've never spent - go there if you get the chance, not on the standard tourist route, and therefore no big crowds, everything's completly free, and the cafe food is only mildly over priced but very yummy.)

Well then I travelled by coach to Norwich. Got here mid afternoon, after taking about 10 hours to move 5km on one stretch (a slight exagerration, but I did hear the phrase '5 mile delay'). Caught a bus from the city centre to the uni, and although I haven't been back in yet, it looked very English, and therefore good. Hopefully I'll get in tomorrow, although there are supposed to be bitter North Sea winds.

The uni seems very nice. It has been described as a concrete jungle, and I can see that. Got lost a few times, but am now starting to get the hang of how it all fits together. The maps are pretty useless, because the whole uni is connected by walkways and bridges.

As soon as I walked into my accommodation I was welcomed by a couple of other residents. The majority of my flatmates are from the UK, and have been here since September. This means they're settled and well-bonded. I was a little concerned that it might be hard to fit in, but so far they all seem pretty easy to get along with and pretty keen to make me feel welcome - I'd been introduced to a few people within about 15 minutes of arrival, another couple came and knocked on my door while I was unpacking, and my stick figure (including beanie) had been added to the whiteboard of flatmates within about 5 minutes. I think there are about 5 girls and 7 or 8 guys, but I'm not entirely sure. Not everyone is back from the break yet, but when they are I think we're all going out for bonding drinks in town. There was a rather funny moment when I revealed that I'm not really a drinker, as this apparently presents a problem for bonding, but we'll see what happens. Almost all the others in this flat are studying med, nursing or physiotherapy. THere is one person studying English, but I think that's it. A few of the nursing students are on placement at the moment, and get up ridiculously early, but I can sleep through almost anything, so I'm already getting used to the noise of them moving around in the kitchen early in the morning.

Here are a few photos of my home for the next 6 months. Not sure where I'll be for the second semester, will have to vacate then get a new place at the beginning of next semester.

The view from my room window.

My room. Right next to the kitchen, with the water pipes in my cupboard - bit noisy when people use the kitchen taps, but also a nice warm cupboard which is great for hanging damp clothes.

My little sink area. Forgot to rotate it... Just turn your head.

The kitchen table (and windows).

The cooking half of the kitchen.

One of the other girls in my flat is Christian, and has offered to take me along to her church on Sunday, hoorah, and another international student (from New Zealand) is also going to be looking for somewhere, so we might go trialling together.

I've mostly been hanging out with other international students, and we're a mixed bunch. The largest group come from the US, followed by Australians. There are also some Norwegians, and probably some others, but I (unfortunately) find myself hanging out mostly with the Australians and Americans. Hopefully I'll get a chance to get to meet the others when we're not in such a large group - there are various day trips and outings planned throughout the semester. I'm looking forward to classes starting on Monday, will hopefully get to meet lots of 'natives'. I know one girl doing one of my classes, but no one else. My Latin for Historians class has about 11 people I think, so that will be a good chance to make friends I hope. Especially since the classes are 3 hours long first thing on a Thursday morning.

Timetable looks good - I have WEdnesdays and Fridays off, so will hopefully be able to do some 3 day trips to see things.

Currently the country is OBSESSED with the snowy weather - I've taken to having BBC News Channel on in the background (in the accommodation they have a free internet tv thing set up), and they just keep going back to the snow, checking in with different parts of the country, different old men and ladies eating their meals on wheels, different outdoor gear salesmen. The favourite shot is that of the reporter's foot pushing the snowy slush around on the road, followed by the locals shovelling.

That should keep you going for a little while. I'm off to find some dinner. Bye bye and thanks for reading.