Sunday, 21 February 2010

The big 'what I've done so far' catch up post (part 1)

Part 1
Opening a Bank Account
World Cafe
Day Trip to Cambridge
Phone Calls to Australia
Seeing some Seals
Part 2
The Gym and other forms of exercise
Windsor Castle
The Supermarket
Weekend Trip to Bath

When my editor suggested I tell you all about what I've actually been doing over here, my first thought was "Well I'm sure someone reads my blog, although I'm not sure who, surely they'd be interested in what I've ACTUALLY been up to so far in my adventure in England-land, rather than my vague impressions and ramblings about nothing." So here it is, a comprehensive post about what I've seen and done so far. Of course, if no one reads this, it won't be wasted, as this blog also operates as my travel diary... As always, there are more photos available on facebook - I'll only put up a small selection here, but you should be able to see the facebook albums, even if you aren't a user. Let me know if there are any problems.

Opening a Bank Account
Living here for 12 months entitles me to open a bank account here. I wasn't sure who to go with, so I followed the age old device of joining whoever had the most famous name, who had a branch on campus. I expected a long and tedious process, but instead I just had to take a letter in, talk to the manager who opened the account and told me it was all sorted and I just had to wait to get my cards and pins. The most difficult part was getting my money from my Australian account to my British one... The process for me getting a form back to the bank went like this : bank faxes it to Mum who scans it in and emails it to me. I print it out, fill it in, scan it and email it to her who then passes it on to the bank. But it's all good, I now have money, can budget properly and don't need to worry about whether my Travelex card will be accepted because it doesn't have a chip... Hurrah!

World Cafe
Before arriving, I'd looked up what kinds of things were going on for international students, and found a group called World Cafe. It's run by a group called Friends International, who focus on building communities and family like groups up for people away from home. This is a Christian group, and each Friday they run themed evening - I've been to an international quiz night and a night of traditional dancing so far. There are also Bible studies for those interested in learning more, and occasional day trips. The majority of regular attendees are Chinese, but there has been great excitement at having Australians, Americans and New Zealanders attending. A few of us went along in the first week, and others have gone along after hearing about it from us. Apparently the coordinators have a lot of trouble getting the word out to western international students - they put it in our weekly email bulletin, but who reads that? I suspect there are cultural differences at play as well...

Day Trip to Cambridge
The Dean of Students office organises trips for the international students to see parts of England, and one of the trips I've been on with them was to Cambridge. We left UEA at about 9am and got there at about 10:30am. We went on a walking tour of the city, including into Emmanuel College,

the chapel of which is designed by Christopher Wren, who went on to design St Paul's Cathedral in London.

As part of this tour we also saw King's College Chapel, which was both magnificent and a little unchurch like.
The size of the building made it feel a little more like an elaborate banquetting hall than a place of worship. I understand it to be in the style of the time in which it was built, but have nevertheless decided that it does not feel 'churchy' enough to me. Please don't now start about stereotypes and church buildings and things. It is certainly a magnificent building, and I would love to hear Evensong there sometime.

One little amusing thing was the 16th Century's royal version of an "I heart ___" tattoo:

"R A" - Regina Ann. King Henry VIII's dedication to his 2nd (of six) wife, Ann Boleyn. You wonder if he considered converting it into something else.

We had pizza, that was nice,

Saw the Chronopage (time eating clock), which was a little weird, but also quite funky. The grasshopper on top looks like something out of Jabberwocky.

After wandering around for a little while, seeing a Round Church

and other random parts of the city
we hopped on the bus and headed home. It was only five hours in Cambridge, but it struck me as being a very pretty city. I'll try to go back sometime in the spring or summer, when there's punting on the River Cam. It is quite touristy, and I still struggle to get my head around the fact that it's a university that's also a tourist destination.

More photos are in this album.

Phone Calls to Australia
I have rung a few people, which has been nice. And that's all I'll say on that topic. Oh, apart from advice for future travellers - get Skype credit if you use Skype, calls are super cheap.

Seeing some seals
The aforementioned World Cafe sometimes has day trips to different parts of the Norfolk area, and a group of us went along to Winterton to see the seals. They spend the winter there, and we had no idea if there would be any, many or none. After walking along the beach for a while

and admiring the North Sea

we saw some seals

They were quite cute, and frolicked around. There weren't very many (compared to other years apparently), but it was a nice walk, we saw seals, I chatted to new people and saw some British beach landscape. On the way back, we walked behind the sand dune, and the landscape was totally different. One side was the sandy dune, the other grassy fields with sheep.

The afternoon finished with afternoon tea at a nice country cottage of the parents of one of the World Cafe helpers. Yummy food. No photos, was too busy eating. :)

For more seal photos, click here.

And now I think it's time for a break. Take some time to have a cup of tea, and in a couple of days, I'll put up part two of this post... Hopefully I may beat Elly with the posting of this blog too...


  1. Yes, you beat me. But it's a nice long informative post so I'm happy to take second place.
    I second the Skype credit thing. I think we'll keep on using it to call Hobart when we get back, heaps more cheaper than landline!