21 August 2008

My Trek to the Airport

I showed up to the airport with 71 kilograms of checked baggage. More important, I made it from Central London, through Victoria Station, on and off a train, through the South Terminal, to the North terminal (via another train) with 71 kilograms of checked baggage.

When all of the bags were sitting next to my door in the wee hours of this morning, I guess I just didn't even consider what the trek to the airport was going to be like.

I made it to the check-in counter with sweat dripping from my face, weighed the bags, and began the negotiation. The first concession I asked for was a 32 kilogram limit per bag (rather than 23). Granted. Then I asked for the third suitcase at no cost. This one didn't come so easily, but after making a small scene by rifling through my bag, throwing my possessions, piece by piece, into the nearest rubbish bin, the woman behind the counter happily obliged. I ended up getting the combined weight of all my checked bags down to 67 kg, after parting ways with a sleeping bag and a few bedsheets (which didn't have much of a future, anyway).

I bought my ticket for the Gatwick Express on the train, instead of the ticket kiosk. It was the same price and worth not needing to deal with any more problems with all my worldly possessions in tow. When the gentleman came by my seat to sell me a ticket, he asked whether it would be one-way or return ticket. I froze for a second. Gulp. "One way?"

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15 August 2008

A Hog Sandwich & a Fireball Flashback

I trekked to campus to get some work done today. Unfortunately, I didn't have a full battery, but this usually isn't a problem, as there are usually plenty of power outlets available. I took the only open desk on the second floor, plugged in my notebook, and realized that no power was flowing through the cord. It only took me a few seconds to realize that I was sitting at the very desk at which I'd started a small fire just a few months prior with a faulty power adapter (different from the one I was currently using).

I looked down at the outlet and saw the black mark, still etched in the metal, that was a reminder of the fireball that knocked out power to the library's second, third, fourth, and fifth floors in the middle of the exam period. All of the computers lost power instantly, all of the screens went black immediately, and all unsaved work was lost forever. As soon as the sparks subsided and the fireball evaporated, I hastily stuffed all of my belongings into my bag and snuck out through the stacks to exit the library, because I was sure that the students were interested in perpetrating some heinous act of violence against the person responsible for the blackout (think angry mob with pitchforks and torches). Fortunately, they never caught me.

On my return from a relatively uneventful day at the library today, I made a pass through the Covent Garden Night Market. The market operates on Thursdays and Friday in August, and is basically a small slice of Borough. I weaved in and out of the booths, snapping pictures with my poor, injured camera, but couldn't pass a hog strung up over an open flame without buying a roast hog sandwich for lunch.

After a swing by Fernandez & Wells for an afternoon fika, I met a small group of classmates-turned-friends at a great Gastropub near the Heath for a late dinner.

Fernandez & Wells, Moleskine Stamp

The movers came today, so we're without dishes for the next six days. If anyone is interested in taking a meal with me, just let me know.

Litany of Lasts, Seven Days

This is one of my favorite spots, especially at this time of night. Traffic has calmed and so has the water, and the only people in sight are homeless, inebriated, or some combination of the two.

From this angle, the Eye's spokes become invisible. And with enough concentration it's possible to convince yourself that this massive, pod-studded wheel is not suspended by the giant compass right in its center, but is instead inexplicably defying gravity.

The Eye

I officially have less than a week left in London, so it's officially time to start the 'Litany of Lasts.' Along with finding some time to get a few thousand words on paper, I'll be giving my Oyster a workout this week.
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10 August 2008

Marking the Beginning of The End

Marking the Beginning of The End

It's starting to happen. The year is ending. The dissertation due date is growing closer. And the group of classmates is starting to disperse.

B was the first to go. We saw him off with a visit to Borough Market this morning (where I had an entire American Thanksgiving [turkey, stuffing, cranberry] on a bun).

As any good Canadian would, he gave us each a badge by which to remember him. In his right pocket he had half Maple leaves and half Canadian flags. I was happy to have the flag.

10 July 2008

Start Spreading the News

I'm on the ground at JFK. Well, I'm not actually on the tarmac. I'm still on a plane waiting for a gate. It took about 4 seconds from the time our A340's wheels hit the ground for everyone on the entire plane to start chatting on their mobile phones. Looking around, I can't see a single person over the age of 10 that isn't on his phone right now.

It won't be long till mobile calls are alowed in-flight. "That would help pass the time!," you might say. And while you might be right, you're not imagining what a flight full of mobile chatting would be like.

Allow me to share with you just a few of the insights of the occupier of seat 57A (herein referred to as ' 57A'):

# 57A took, on average, 18,000 steps on each day of her trip abroad. But she took 21,000 steps on the day she went to Bath!

# One ought to pay careful attention to the distinction drawn between a neurologist and a urologist!

# 57A will be getting a new couch this weekend! (She mentioned this on each of her five calls. I suspect she's using this 'couch delivery' as an excuse to stay indoors all weekend watching the Sex and the City DVDs she just got.)

# After being told by the person on the other end of the call, "...glad you got there safely," 57A loudly announced that there were still several ways that the flight could end in disaster!

But I suppose that the mobile phones just make worse a pre-existing problem. I mean, on our descent, 57A's travel companion (donning a Paris, France logo t-shirt) made some kind of comment about the sound of the landing gear's deployment. Clearly, he was a nervous flyer. Believe it or not, she explained to him (for several minutes) why it's important for the landing gear to deploy.

It's good to be home.
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06 July 2008

A Thoroughly British Sunday

Editor's Note: A Stockholm/Helsinki/Tallinn post will follow.

I trudged through the rain and sloshed through puddles to get to the pub up north to watch the Wimbledon final with a few classmates-turned-friends today. I had my first Sunday roast and we had a few pitchers of Pimm's. Considering the weather, the venue, the event, and the menu, I'd say this was one of my more British Sundays.

03 July 2008

Archipelago Picnic

We're on the ferry back to Stockhom from Grinda, where we spent the day. It's inacessible by car or train, so we got an archipelago boat tour. We took a dip in the water, which everyone's told us is suitable for drinking. While we didn't try drinking it, I can say that it was extremely cold.

M made a couscous salad, and we had mellon and prosciutto, and the 'Gold of Northern Sweden' brand beer. It's been a great day so far*.

Backlit Clouds

The ferry is pulling into port and a man next to me either made an obscene gesture toward a police boat next to us, or the Swedes have a very strange and angry way of saying 'hello.'

Now to enjoy a few more 'Gold of Northern Sweden' and a barbeque.

* I did break my backpack and stain all of my clothes with cantaloupe as a wave invaded our rock. These were two minor exceptions.
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