Confessions of a drinker student abroad

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What the Camera Saw

It's one of those mornings, the grey English mornings. The skies are so low you can almost see them brush the elms on the other side of the river. The trail along the bank is strewn with violets, clinging to the last frail remnants of summer. My eyes are old, and the scene before me blurs. I see the bridge, before the graffiti came, when the stones were bright. I see the form of a man standing on the bridge, shoulders sagged as though the entire weight of the world had been taken from his shoulders, not a relief, but rather a crushing refusal of worth. Away from him walked a woman, young, but whose straight back conveyed a sense of resolve, resolve not to turn, not to weaken, not to listen to the cries of her heart.

A mist forms in my eyes, whether from the skies, or my soul I cannot tell. Through the film I see a single red rose floating downstream from the bridge, its stem broken in half as though it had been thrown. Without thought a name is whispered by the wind, Emily. The name stirs something inside of me, but I cannot remember the name of this feeling.

Whenever the mornings are like this I come down to the riverside to see the bridge. Sometimes they are there, sometimes they are not. I can no longer recall where I have seen the picture, nor if I was the one who took it, or the one in it. That was all too long ago, before life happened to me, before my bones became chilled, and yet every morning like this I come down, hoping to see them, hoping to see her turn around, she never does. I sit down beside a great old elm, it was great when I was a child, it was great when my father was born, but I am the last of the line that will repose here. The wind is still whispering, but now it is my name, even that name sounds strange to me, it is the name of a man who believed she would turn around.

She never did.


Football, Cider and First aid

Yes, it really was that eventful a day yesterday that I need to discuss three topics.

So yesterday I was lazying about, when a girl from the union came to the door to tell us that there was some pickup 5-a-side going on over on the Taly pitches. I figured now would be as good a time as any to prove to the Brits just how terrible we are at football (as opposed to hand egg). Omar consented to come with me, mostly as moral support. We didn't realize how serious pickup games are, since most of the teams were guys that all lived together, we ended up getting thrown onto a hodgepodge team. Since I have no delusions of grandeur as a goalie I opted for defense. After getting beaten easily about three times, then missing a clearance I started to pick up the rhythm of the game. All the practice this summer paid off too, one of the few times I worked on advancing the ball I feinted right and chipped it left past his leg and cut around him. His simple, "Whoah, nice!" was the best compliment I've received over here, made my day. The rest of the four matches were a rush, not much stands out. I did manage to stumble into a shot block, two actually, and given that we held two matches scoreless, without a shot being fired even, I guess I did okay. In my enthusiasm though I pulled off what I'm told (by Omar and one of the other guys) was a great slide tackle, which was exciting, except for the aftermath to my left leg and arm. The rubber crumb doesn't cut quite like gravel, but it still drew blood, yaaaaaay! that means you're doing it right...right?

Fortunately they waited until after it was over to let us know that the Uni Football Coaches had been watching and taking notes during our matches, otherwise I wouldn't have gone out.

So, over here, they can sell liquor by the 2 liter bottle. So for 2 quid I picked up some Strongbow, when we got back however I ran into a situation, Sagarika (from downstairs) had sprained her ankle, so we deposited her in a chair in the kitchen while Philip and I cut up the chicken for dinner. Sadly, the knife was dull, so several times it slipped awkwardly, so we bandaged Phil's finger, mine wasn't that bad the first time. The second time I poked the point into my finger, but it didn't even draw blood, just hurt a bit. Then, because I had a powerful thirst I went outside and cracked open the cider. It goes down pretty easily, better from a bottle instead of a glass. Other Phillip (from Bulgaria) came by with Stephie (also from Bulgaria) and we had a grand old time. Since most of us had induction today we decided to go to bed early. So around 2 we polished off the cider and went inside.

I probably made an ass of myself and talked way too much last night, but I was a bit homesick, and nobody said anything.

This morning Omar and I went down to induction, so now I have my timetables and I registered for my optional modules in the spring. Wooooo nanomechanics! Fortunately my first class on Mondays is at 2, so I can go to the social after practice on Sunday. Now though it's almost noon, which means it's time for all of you to wake up, and time for me to go back to sleep for my afternoon nap. Here's wishing you a beautiful day and a quick plane ride over to see me and all the 'cheeky' steel smelting runoffs here in the UK. Cheers.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rachel and John

Sitting here, windows open, listening to the intermittent rain and Chesterfield King, eating Tajiki soup. Just came back from the Sports Fayre, definitely wasn't interested in Rugby...I like my teeth too much. But the A. Football team said they were looking for a new fullback, then they heard my accent, realized where I was from, and got properly excited. They said it's all a good laugh, not too serious, so I figure come Sunday I'll try my hand at running people over, then kickboxing starts up next week.

Last night was good, we just went up to the SC and shot a bit of pool, it was tough, the table and balls over here are smaller, makes it hard to properly mark it. Then we came back, the 1 floor crew were cleaning up from dinner and someone had brought a guitar, so I was recruited to play for them. Nupur was sitting to my left, and seemed pretty interested ;) sadly I didn't know any Hindi songs or much pop. After that we went out on the smoking deck, listened to music on Nupur's phone and hung out. By about 11 most of the MBA kids went in to bed since they had induction today. Agni, Patty and I stayed out, but moved over under the awning since it was raining. Patty went to get his bottle of vodka and we made a proper night of it, chatting up the passing people, although the rain put a damper on it.

Even better than razzing the rah-rahs, we discovered that sometimes people just need someone to talk to. John was passing by without a shirt, we remarked on his lost article of clothing and he told us he'd had the worst day of his life. Not being people to withhold comfort from someone needing it we invited him under the awning for a shot. He told us his story, had a drink and we listened, remarking that he didn't need to worry about getting turned down by a girl, there were plenty more girls in Cardiff. Pretty soon his mates came along and he left, but he seemed happier.

Rachel was a similar story, as she passed we saw her wipe away a tear, so we asked if she was okay. She declined a drink, but deigned to stop in and chat with us. Some fellow had spoken ill of and to her, effectively ruining her night. It didn't help that she was homesick. I assured her that if the situation ever arose again and we were around, we had no problem going further into the issue with the cad.

So that was it really, nothing adventurous or new, just a night with friends, and we got to help two people have a better night.

Induction is tomorrow, I'll check with the bank and see if they have my account finally.

That's about it, no really extravagant shenanigans...although over here you really have to go over the top to be extravagant. Will write more later this week, perhaps a new story will arise from all of this. Cheers.


Monday, September 27, 2010

So today was our first day of real rest, we slept in...after staying up till 3 again. Without anything scheduled to do we were going out of our heads with boredom, so Agni, Phillip and I decided it was time to get out and go on a little photo tour. We walked up the Taff trail around 2 miles then back down the other side, stopping in at the Llandaff Cathedral.

In other news we've found a new hobby, standing outside while the 1st years walk back after a night of partying, exchange comments and greetings, make new friends, watch the rah-rahs (as Patty calls them) cross the street to walk past us, then let them know what we think of them. Had a grand conversation with a Lemming Welsh girl. Life here is interesting. It may get more interesting before the week is over, that's all on that subject.

Tomorrow i have to go in and enrol for the Engineering School. yay for waking up at 8 for a 1 hour walk, oh well, I'll finally get my timetables and hopefully be able to figure out what books I need. For now I have to go and get a nap before tonight, we're going to a Postgrad welcome and meet&greet. Will write more later, hopefully less cryptic. Cheers.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Bowlers of Pakistan and the Batsmen of India

Wow, what a great night. It's around 3 here, so I realize it's already dark at home, but whatever. Tonight we discovered that there are more people who enjoy going out in our building, we also discovered that I am the token white kid. So we went out to the Social Centre (we being House 24 3-1 and 1-1) Two shots of tequila and a pint later we're sitting in a corner booth, laughing and joking. We talk about girls, the night ahead, silly things Americans do. Then we pick up and start the trek down to the Union. The entire way is one long chat and running joke. At the union we queue up for the international party, head downstairs and through the doors.

No one is on the dance floor yet, just sitting around the edge drinking their first drinks. So we go to the bar and get a round of whatever is cheap. Once we each have our diod we take a turn through the room to see if there are any girls who want to dance. Everyone is just settling in and nobody wants to be the first on the floor, then we run into Bhavana (who I met earlier) she's prettier tonight. We chat for a bit, then she goes with her friends. We are near the door, so when a group of Spanish girls come in they run into us, we chat, decide to go to the bar and get a drink. Once the girls have picked out their drinks we head out on the dance floor. Dancing in a disco is entirely different here, it's not a one on one thing where you get as close as possible and grind, it's a social thing, you stand in a circle and talk while you take turns acting like an idiot.

Sufifia and her friends are waiting for someone, so when she gets a text they have to go find someone and they'll be back, so I go find the rest of the guys I came with. There's a circle of them standing around. After the usual apologies for my lack of dancing ability AJ gets me into an Indian dance which leads to a good laugh. Since it's all in good fun I do my best imitation of a country jig, which isn't easy to disco music. This is another grand joke.

Soon enough the Spanish girls came back, and after a bit we end up sitting down talking for about an hour. Most of them are here studying English Philology. They've only arrived yesterday, and somehow Phillip, AJ and I have already acquired the roles of knowledgeable veterans, so I give them directions to different facilities.

Eventually the party winds down, the dance floor is empty again, so I walk the Spanish girls out, then, since they are in a group and the street is well lighted we say goodnight, with the obligatory kiss on the cheek, Sufifia because she and i had talked most of the evening, and her shy friend who seemed most intent upon saying goodbye. Back in the party I find the crew assembled and waiting for me so we can all walk home together. We had an agreement that we don't leave anyone stranded, no matter how safe the streets may be, and so begins the long walk home.

The walks are less long though when you have friends around you, it's really just like the party is moving with you. We stopped at a van that was selling food right outside the bar and get hot-dogs. Naturally it's a British hot-dog, so it's really a sausage, burnt to a crisp, on a hoagie roll with ketchup and onions, but it's hot.

Once we return to our house we have a clearly formed notion of how we want to put our house on the map. For three days now there has been segregation between the British houses and the International ones. So we have decided to throw a house party and try to bring them all together for the one thing we all enjoy.

Since nobody is quite ready for bed we find a deck of cards and a few beers and assemble in a kitchen downstairs. The cards are quickly abandoned however, and the beers remain untouched. The talk turns from one subject to another, first jokes and culture, then politics. After so much time spent with just engineers, it was interesting how adamant some people were. We had two MBA's, one Dentistry, 3 Jounalisms and me. Abhirup sits there and looks sleepy while Sagarika argues with Phillip about the problems with the Commonwealth games and the media attention, then about how the media is itself a problem. Discussing the conflict leads to what would be expected, a discussion of the groups themselves. Since there is a Pakistani sitting with us someone wonders what ever caused all the problems. No one from this generation can remember of course, so a suggestion is made for a new peace policy. The two countries should be united, if only so that they can have one unified cricket team. Everyone knows that this wouldn't work, and that they are the minority of thought back home, but it's a nice sentiment, and leads to a laugh.

Soon enough everyone is tired, so we adjourn for the evening with promises to do it again soon, although maybe with less tequila next time.

Now it's morning, we've all awoken, probably due to our fire alarm going off, this morning makes it a hat trick. All of the detectors are immediately outside the bathroom, so if you take a hot shower without the window open, and with the door open, alarms ensue. Perhaps we've already put our house on the map as the place with the stupid foreigners, but as someone noted this morning, it's just our way of getting back at them, "The colonies are here, and they're pissed." From the brighter side of the world, cheers.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Smoking, Silent Discos and Strolling

whew, sorry for not posting anything about travel day, but really, you probably know how that went, plane, airport, bus, airport, plane, airport, bus. Somehow with all those vehicles I still managed to walk around 4 miles yesterday...1 of which was walked while lugging around 60 kilos of luggage.

So, now I'm in Cardiff, safe and sound, the weather is gorgeous, although the spontaneous rain does still crop up occasionally.

So, last night, one of my flatmates and I went to our local pub (The Social Centre for future reference) There, we discovered that in these hallowed halls of the UK, the beer of choice for most discerning (read: 'broke') college students is Fosters. That's right lads and ladies, the word 'Fosters', Australian for: we-can't-believe-you-really-drink-this-kangaroo-sweat-in-a-can-but-we-love-your-money-anyway. Disregarding my tastebuds, because cool and frosty is cool and frosty, I set to. We promptly met Alex, poor bloke from Singapore who had no one to drink with, so we turned the duet to a trio and made quite the set, observing my new favorite British Fashion trend, the mini-dress with leggings. Soon we observed the statistical supportability of a conclusion that most of these minidresses were swaying off in one general direction. Happening upon a hypothesis that mayhaps there was an even occurring of momentous circumstance, we left the local pub (yes, our housing complex has its own) and set off down the lane.

We arrived at Solus, paid cover, and went inside. Another Fosters and a shot of off-brand vodka later we reached the conclusion that Solus was indeed quite lame, being as we didn't know anyone. Deciding to duck out onto the balcony as Alex wanted a smoke break and didn't want to go alone, we discovered the rest of the Internationals. There was Christina from Latvia, Brigette from France, Becky from Sheffield...okay, not technically international, but who cares. The moral of the story is, suddenly Solus was not lame, in point of fact it was quite excellent. So we chatted, they left, I met a gorgeous bird who's studying Computer Science...fairly sure it wasn't a hallucination, and we chatted regarding favorite coding languages while other people looked at us in disgust. It was a grand time.

It also helped me to realize something. Over here, it's not what color you are, it's where you're from. For example, Christina was great, so were some of the British girls out there with us, but by and large we get ignored by 90% of the English. The Welsh don't mind us, had a great laugh with a few that I couldn't understand, but the others don't care for us apparently, regardless of my allegedly sexy accent. Still, I'd rather go to the pubs with the internationals, we have more fun, more backgrounds, and realize there's more to life than drinking and dancing. There's also smoking and chatting on balconies, even if you never see each other again, it makes for a pleasant evening. From the dark side of the world, cheers.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Alleyways and Storytime

This blog is guaranteed 100% less angsty than past ventures of mine, however, I cannot resist a story. Recently my family and I were on a weeklong camping trip over on the Carolina coast as a last family event before i fly off into the rising sun, and it was awesome. We went to the small town of Beaufort, there were some beautiful views, and yet, something heavy there. Part of this made me particularly wistful as I passed by the alleyways. Something about the narrow passages, leading to courtyards shielded from inquiring eyes, a paradise tucked away among the bustle of main street, struck a chord with me. So now I present you with a story, a rather poor one. I laid awake late trying to discover the ending, but I could not see it, therefore, I must write it, and find out when I reach it.

Sarah Foster was in love with a soldier. Not that this was a particularly unusual case for a girl from Beaufort. Many of the fairer denizens of this small town had pledged their undying devotion to local boys, who, seeking a life of adventure away from their fathers' shrimp boats ran off to join the military. No, what set young Miss Foster apart from her fellow betrothed maidens was that her man was coming home. Yes, even as her friends bid farewell to their knights in khaki, she had received the letter informing her that Douglas was coming home, home to stay.

She paced up and down her room, pausing each time to look out through the lace curtains that shielded her windows from the prying eyes in the Plum Cafe below. Rare were the occasions she glanced down from this vantage, for most of her time was spent in the cafe, where she worked as a waitress. So much time was spent there in fact that she frequently kept the curtains drawn, hoping to forget that her prison of responsibility lay so close at hand.

A breeze coming off of the harbor stirred her wispy protectors of imagination. The autumn sunlight reflecting off of the shining water struck a small bauble upon her left hand and sent dazzling beams of colored light spinning through the room. She gazed listlessly upon the sullen golden band that housed the beautiful gem. Douglas would have known she didn't like gold, but unfortunately, the ring was not his. It had been given to her by a rather wealthy young fellow who frequented the Plum Cafe.

After Douglas had gone away, she had spent many long hours staring out over the harbor, trying to find an answer to the questions in her heart, but it was in vain that she asked the seagulls and sweetgrass whether or not Douglas loved her. If they knew, they had been sworn to secrecy, along with the bobbing pines across the bay.

As the weeks went by she grew convinced that her love was unrequited, and that it was hopeless to wait. Then had come the young Mr. Gregory. Mr. William Gregory, grandson of the Gregory's that lived in the great brick mansion over on Pinckney street in the upper end of the Victorian District. Mr. Gregory had cast his eye upon young Miss Foster and been instantly convinced that she was the most lovely girl in town. With his sails set and his eye upon the great heart that had so often eluded the local hounds. And so he courted her, day after day, gradually wearing down those stalwart defenses, until she accepted from him, early in the summer, a small token of his affection. He had insisted that she merely try it out to see how it felt. When his parents came down to visit him he had discovered that the stone was loose, and took it back to the jewelers for repair. Thankfully the jeweler was able to repair it, but not until after Mr. and Mrs. Gregory had gone away again.

Sarah had noticed then, for all people assumed she hadn't. She was a sharp girl, not one given to silly notions and the building of fantasy kingdoms. Yet she kept the ring on, hoping that perhaps it was a passing phase, that perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Gregory merely had to be eased into the idea of a waitress in the family. This one circular castle she allowed herself, believing that unless she hoped for something she must surely die.

Then had come the day of the letter. It had been a plain one, not full of flowery words as Mr. Gregory's were. It was written in a strong hand, one which appeared unfamiliar with the attention it was giving to detail. The meticulously formed letters seemed to cry with pain at the ages it had taken to write them, and if she had cared to inquire as to the page's family, she would have heard a long tale of many brothers and sisters left lying crumpled in a wire basket across the sea. The letter contained no declaration of love, but what lay between the carefully sculpted lines spoke louder than any sonnet. After finishing with the pleasantries and news of his own return he had simply asked if she still had the painting of the seagull over the harbor.

Her mind had fluttered back to that night while her body performed the same action across the room to her nightstand, where the small painting, lovingly framed and matted, rested upright against her mirror. The night he had given it to her, the night he had almost said something, but had held back, choosing instead to tell her of his imminent departure. All of her dreams came flooding back with the memory of those unspoken thoughts. The circular bastion of Mr. William Gregory grew inconsequential in her mind.

It was a quarter past noon when Mr. William Gregory strode into the Plum Cafe. He winked at the hostess, then wound his way to his usual seat. As Miss Foster took his order he tried in vain to catch her eye. As the clock down the street struck 12:30, Mr. Gregory's food began wending its way towards his table. The faint growl of a diesel engine announced the arrival of the bus from Charlestown. With a clatter the dishes were deposited on the table. Mr. Gregory shouted a protest but his words struck only air. A glance down at his sandwich revealed a small golden hoop with a shiny protrusion resting upon the bread. As realization dawned upon him, the jingle of the cafe door opening danced its way into his ear. Too late he had shouted, and too late he had decided to be true, for the hand that had so recently been burdened by that circlet of settlement was flailing for balance and Sarah raced down the sidewalk towards the bus station.

A screeching seagull gazed down upon them as he swooped over head. The fair one, trembling with joy, leapt into the arms of that khaki clad son of Beaufort. The cries of the gull united with the whisper of the sweetgrass, both proclaiming that well had they kept their secret, and now, relieved of his vow, the gull climbed into the heavens to announce that the artist had returned to his muse.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In the Beginning

It all started with a kid. What a terrible intro, things usually start somewhere, and since children are the beginning of adults it only makes sense that most stories, whether of adult or child, begin with a kid. Shall we try again?

It ended with a man...well, you see this isn't much better, true, it has ruled out approximately 50% of the population, but that's no great feat. Saying that it included a lobster at some point would be as positive an indicator to the point of the story, for that is what this is, a story. It is not a short one, nor will this meager domicile contain the entirety of it, instead this is but a chapter, a paragraph even in the story of my life, but what it is, for what it's worth, just might be worth the read. So, shall we?

Here is the place where I should make some short introduction of myself. I am the alleged protagonist of this tale, as well as the narrator and observer, but let us skip the pleasantries. I am me, you are you, and the fact that you are seeing this is entirely your own fault.

Life began for me...blah blah blah, I was young, I was foolish, I learned things, I saw things, I had fun, I lost something, I found something, I lost that too, and now here we are. 22 years in one sentence, sure puts life in perspective doesn't it? I am still young, still foolish, still learning, and about to embark upon (possibly) the greatest adventure of my life to date. If you are reading this, you probably know me, and you probably know that I'm leaving quite soon to study in Wales for a year.

This blog will attempt in some small way to convey the changes in my life as they happen, share the joys and sorrows of growing and finding who I am meant to be.

So tie your boots up tight, helmets are there on the rack to your left, this should be fun.