Sunday, November 27, 2005 


I've been staring at this thing for months now (I can see it from the teaching lab) and I just don't get it. Does it mean something to British people, a mule in a motorboat?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 


Culture shock and homesickness are harsh mistresses. Just when you think you've got a handle on them, they manage to startle you.

Last week we sent the KCL gay pharmaceutical drug delivery coalition to Nashville, Tennessee for the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists annual conference. None of them had ever been to America before, so I was quite looking forward to their impressions.

Very sweetly, one of them approached me before they left and said, "I'll bring you back anything you need, give me a list." My luck!! Usually I have to beg American friends and families for shipments of contraband.

"Aw, thanks," I proclaimed. "I'm really jonesing for some.... Uh...." And my mind went totally blank!

It's always food for some reason. I guess that's what comforts you, and what you desire the most when sad or stressed. So I quickly ran a list through my head, hoping to jog my memory. Some things I already have a stash of (peanut butter for example, the PB here is rubbish, I know plenty of British people who agree and will only eat American PB) while a lot of other things I've learned to make (Mexican, I'm a pro at making my own salsa now) and other items I've just learned to go without. I clearly don't miss them enough to even remember them, which is a very comforting thought.

Finally, grasping at straws and not wanted to be denied the opportunity of a present, I shouted out, "Reese's peanut butter cups!! And get the mini's if you can find them, they have the perfect ratio of chocolate to peanut butter." I didn't even really eat that many when he brought them back for me. I don't think I've ever felt less American in my whole life. How very odd.

Meanwhile, they had a great time. Went line dancing, the Grand Ole Opry, bought cowboy hats for their boyfriends. Awesome. One complaint? "I was dying for a piece of fresh fruit!"

"Yea, at restaurants you won't really get stuff like that. Everything's fried or baked or glazed or whatever," I explained.

"No wonder your whole country's fat."

Thursday, November 17, 2005 


A few more "becoming Londoner" mannerisms sneaking in. Yesterday I bought eggs and didn't put them in the refrigerator (because I had no room, stupid halls mini-fridge) and today I accidently/on purpose/not taking the piss/first time ever said, "innut." So not only am I becoming a Londoner, I am becoming an eastender. Huh.

Am more emotionally drained today than I've been in a long, long time. I'm learning a PhD is not just about working towards an academic goal, but it's also a journey in which you learn a lot about yourself; discover your "qualities" as they say.

I've always harbored secret desires to be a medical doctor but knew I couldn't go through with it because I couldn't cut people open. Just knew I couldn't handle it.

I'm extremely happy with the career I've chosen for myself, pharmacy. I've worked in drug delivery (getting certain drugs to certain parts of the body) for three years now. I love it. For my PhD, I'm working on new ways to get drugs through the skin.

In one of my first meetings with my supervisor, he asked, "animal testing?" I said, obviously, "no." Being a vegetarian Buddhist, animal testing doesn't really jive. Then he said, "human skin??"

"Sure!" It comes from liposuction patients. I thought, "if these vain individuals want to redeem themselves by donating body parts to science, hallelujah." It seemed too far in the future at that point, and so I totally forgot about that whole "cutting people up thing". Unfortunately.

And so that, dear reader, is what I did today. Removing the fat from dethawed skin that had been donated earlier. I know I'm lucky that my supervisor has this connection, and I will have an amazing thesis with this data, but this is by far the most disgusting day of my life. I will spare you the details, but trust me, there are no words to describe the revolting-ness of the situation.

But I did it. I sat there and did it. Lab coat sleeves soaked in blood. Hours of nausea. But I did it. And I'll do it again. And I am far more tough than I ever thought I was. And really really proud of myself.

(Don't worry, no pictures today!)

Monday, November 14, 2005 


Today I took a rather important step towards becoming a proper Londoner: I bought an Oyster Card.

I used to be a carnet kind of girl, but that really doesn't help when you want to venture out into the wild unknown world of Zone Two and Beyond. Also, I got tired of buying bus tickets and always running out. And, oh yeah, there were the recurring nightmares....

*in Monica's fast asleep mind*
Monica, sitting at her desk, studying vigorously.
*BANG!!* as the door is kicked in. Mayor Ken Livingstone and several Met police officers rush in. MKL grabs Monica by the scruff of her neck and hair, turns her around, pushes her face up against a wall and pulls her arm behind her and bends it upward painfully, like they always do in movies.

Monica: Oh dear God please stop!
MKL: And why should I? Rumor has it, Reid, you've been using tube tickets. Purchased at time of travel.
Monica: I, I, I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Ow! [starts to break down in tears]
MKL: So what's it going to be? Oyster or a broken wrist?
Monica: Look, I don't take the tube a lot. I walk to work! I walk to the Tesco! Please!! Pleaaaase!
MKL: Shut up! I could give a rat's ass how often you take the tube!
Monica: *sobs*
MKL: When will you fuckers learn? After I raise it to 3 pounds for a one way journey in Zone One this January? How about four quid? Five??!?! [leans on arm]
Monica: No, no! Please stop!!!
MKL: We're already the most expensive subway system in the world. You want to make it worse?!?!
Monica: I will buy one, I promise!!!
MKL lets go and pushes Monica to the ground. He puts a foot on her neck and presses down.
MKL: I got CCTV all over that muthafucka. Carnet won't save you anymore. Oyster, got it? Let's go boys. I got 7 Million Londoners in 1 London to get through to.

Funny, though, after having bought said Oyster Card, I didn't need to use it today. A nice young man walked up to me in Waterloo station this morning and just handed me his Zone 12 day travel card. Didn't say a word to me, didn't hit on me, nothing. Londoners are so lovely. A little after six that evening back in Waterloo, I returned the favor to a stunned man queued up in a very long line at the ticket window. What an interesting day of Pay It Forward, London Underground-style.

Sunday, November 13, 2005 


Armistice Day was the 11th, but the pomp and circumstance was today. Tried to fight the crowds to get shots of the parades but was unsucessful. Westminster Abbey was by far the most powerful anyway. Then after the crowds dispersed, I doubled back down Whitehall to check out the Cenotaph and the new Women's WWII memorial. All so beautiful...

Saturday, November 12, 2005 


The poppy campaign makes the American news!



Why on earth would Lord Mayor have his fireworks during the English vs Argentina match?? What's a loyal Londoner to do?

(I stayed in, and glad I did. This friendly's damn exciting!)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 


Well I'll be a monkey's uncle....

Monday, November 07, 2005 


Despite the fact I've been doing this one job, exam invigilator (stateside, see: proctor) for about a year, I've been asked to be trained again as part of this snazzy new training scheme. "Okay, whatever," I thought, despite not getting paid for it, "so long as it doesn't inconvenience me, I'm down."

I responded to the training request email in the following manner:

Hi Matt--

Hope you had a nice summer! I am free Monday the 7th, in the afternoon. Any time you want to assign to me is fine.


This is what I got back:

Ok. I will book you in for 10am.

Please come to the Exams office for then.


Now, I know the English run a seemingly more casual timetable during the day, what with their slightly more laid back morning arrivals and their tea times and all. But I'm fairly certain this still doesn't push 10am back to "afternoon" classification.

Sunday, November 06, 2005 


It's probably the biggest night of the year, called either Bonfire night or Guy Fawkes night. So for my Ameripeeps, the short of it goes like: in 1605 religious fanatics were aiming to blow up Parliament during opening session (meaning not only every MP, but also the Prime Minister and the King would bite the dust) to teach 'em a lesson, someone snitched, and guards found ole' Fawkes-y sneaking around below the Parliament building with 36 kegs of dynamite. (See long version here.)

I'm still trying to make the connection between a thwarted bomb attempt and fireworks, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying it.

I must say, seeing fireworks shot off a barge in the Thames in front of St. Paul's is the coolest thing I've seen in a while!

Friday, November 04, 2005 


Ha. Remember when I thought I could take it easy for a little bit from the whole school thing? Some how I just spent three late nights in a row churning out a report that was finally done and due today. I'm starting to think this is never going to let up....

But now it is November in London. And since this is my second November in London, I'm a bit more wise to some of the going ons particular to this month. Bonfire night's tomorrow, so I'll get to that Sunday. But earlier this week I donated some shrapnel and got my first poppy.

I dig the poppies. I dig that everyone wears them, people in the streets, all the people on the news, athletes, MPs, PM, regular folk, the whole country it seems gets on board. Pretty cool. I purchased mine in Waterloo station. When I did, a nice older gentleman proclaimed, "Oh, look at all the young people joining in, this is wonderful." I giggled girlishly, hee hee he called me young I thought, and then foolishly turned down his offer of a safety pin to attach it to my sweater. It wasn't until I got home and realized I'm not actually adult enough to own the type of clothes that have lapels, let alone holes in their lapels, for which the poppies are clearly designed. So maybe he was right and I'm not nearly as grown-up as I keep thinking I am....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005 


So I redid the old blogeroo. I thought that, despite evidence to the contrary (going to uni, living in a dorm with nineteen year olds, not owning a car, not having a proper job, still enjoying afternoon naps whenever I can) I am steadfastly becoming an adult (pushing on 29 now) and thus I needed a more "adult" looking blog.

What do you think? (And please be kind, this took like an hour to whip up.)

Cool chick

Torrid Travels

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