Saturday, 5 October 2013

Concerning the New Home

Concerning the Flat:
Mary Chapman Court, Duke Street. Complete with resident swan.
I once tried to count the number of places I've called home and got up to six houses with family, three houses with roommates, four college dormitories and three apartments before I got bored and stopped counting. Regardless, this is the first "flat" I've had the pleasure to call home.

Mary Chapman Court is the student accommodation, primarily for grad and international students, settled along the river in the heart of Norwich city. In contrast to where I was living a month ago, the flat is a bit of a downgrade - farewell dishwasher, television, personal bathroom with a tub that could accommodate a small horse, etc. Not to mention I'm having to start from scratch with furnishings (curious how often that happens), so I have precisely one pot, one pan, plastic dishes intended for a garden party from the "Everything £1" store and no real personal items in my room due to luggage constraint. Then I think about where I was living at this time last year. And I really appreciate my little flat a little bit more.

While I was expecting a bit of a cultural shock with the living situation, it wasn't in the way I had foreseen - I have three Chinese flatmates. :) Miranda, James, Roy and I make our home on the third floor in 24A, and you can usually find one of two of us in the kitchen, usually cooking delicious and healthy Chinese fare. Or, you know, heating up microwave meals.

Pots, pans, furniture - pah. We all know what really makes a home.

 Concerning the University:

To get to the university (the "uni," as it's called here), I have a five-minute walk through the city center followed by a 15-minute bus ride to the campus.

The founders, it seems, tried to the find the most beautiful green, hilly, gorgeous piece of land alongside a small lake that you could imagine...

...and promptly dumped a mass of multi-leveled concrete on top of it. Apparently massive grey squares were all the rage 50 years ago.

That's okay, because somewhere along the way cement went out of fashion and it's covered in greenery wherever possible.

That aside, it really is a great place - not to mention accommodating. Not only does it offer a range of shops and banks and whatnot, the university union also houses a pub that offers drinks from open to close (for those really rough lecture days, it was explained to me), and on weekend nights doubles as a right proper nightclub that frequently sells out. 

On an unrelated note, the library is also open 24/7/365.

Also, we have a volcano.*

*not a real volcano.
Concerning the People:

I have yet to meet an unkind or unhelpful person here. On the bus when I first arrived, I immediately met Clive the postman and his wife, who felt it his duty to bestow his intimate knowledge of the city ("Nobody knows better than a postman, you know," says Clive as he taps the side of his nose, a gesture whose purpose still eludes me) and the surrounding area upon me, and then invite me to go fishing.

UEA, like any other uni, has a hundred different clubs ("societies") you can join - I bypassed the Quidditch team in favor of the salsa dancing society. Interestingly, these do not include sororities or fraternities. Moreover, all the societies are considered separate entities that do not receive uni funding and are completely independent of academics - meaning that the American football team is the same as the football (read: soccer) team is the same as the knitting society is the same as the horror film society. Bizarre, right?

One of the more lively groups is the international student society. The uni boasts more than 3,000 international students (of which, odd as it seems, I am one). My course alone is home to students from Kazakhstan, Colombia, Malawi, Mongolia, Guyana, South Korea, Switzerland, a handful of Chinese and Japanese, and me, the token American. On the bus going out with friends the other night, we counted the number of countries represented (six) and the number of languages spoken (seven). There were eight of us total.

There's a marked difference between making friends as a college freshman ("fresher" here) and as a graduate student - namely, that it's easy because grad students are nice and open and mature. 

Ironically, the very first student I met here was an American living two floors down who's spent the past three years living in rural Ecuador and is an avid reader, writer and traveler (I'm like, did I really travel 5,000 miles just to meet myself in male form?). It's amazing to be able to meet people from all over the world who are interested in the same things you are. After leaving the pub with a Brit and Brazilian from my course the other night, we realized we'd spent the past two hours talking about our respective countries' most ridiculous news sources.

And we liked it.
Represented in this photo (l-r): Brasil, Philippines, China, Malawi, South Korea, USA, Turkey, Colombia, Mongolia, Japan, England

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Concerning the Next Adventure

Hullo from Norwich!

Seems as though the adventures continue, just in a much different setting. While I'm not planning on continuing this blog beyond this post, I just wanted to take the opportunity to share a little bit about my newest home (and try to convince as many of you as possible to come visit!).

My path has led me to Norwich (pronounced "nor-itch"), Norfolk, a few hours northeast of London in an area known as East Anglia. I'll spend the next two trimesters working towards my master's degree in Media and International Development at the University of East Anglia here, and spend my final trimester out there somewhere in the world putting it to use.

So here's really all you need to know:

Concerning the Flight

* I had a brief stopover in Edinburgh (pronounced "ed-in-burro"...apparently they like to add and delete syllables on a whim here), Scotland. The highlights here included: 
     1) Flying over during the day and seeing lots of big, old castles, lots of big, old churches and lots and lots of sheep.
     2) the Scottish accent. I simply CANNOT HANDLE how cool it is to listen to and possibly asked a few too many questions just so the wonderfully friendly Scots would keep talking.
     3) A man about my age wearing a kilt in the airport. Complete with boots and a popped-collar polo. The jury's out on if he wore it in the traditional fashion.
     4) THIS:

     Why yes, this is an advertisement for an all-redhead flight to an all-redhead festival. Guess where I'll be this time next year? Reconnecting with my long-lost equally genetically mutated brethren.

Concerning Norwich

Picture every stereotype of a British town that you can. Welcome to Norwich.

Red telephone boxes? Check.
Tiny streets bordered by countless tiny, adorable stores and cafes with ancient-looking fronts, large chimneys and slanted, tiled roofs? Check.
Churches older than the whole of my country around every corner? Check.
Fish and chips (and sometimes just chips) stands and cafes? Check.
Ubiquitous and charming old pubs always whose names always seem to be decided by a roulette-style matching of adjective and noun always accompanied by "the" (i.e., "The Loddon Swan," "The Walpole Arms," "The Armored Pig," etc.)? Check.
Zebra (pronounced like "Debra") crossings? Check.
"Living, keep right."
Cobblestone streets? Double-decker buses? A 12th century castle, for goodness' sake?! Check, check, check.

...and this is ALL within about a 15-minute walk from my flat. Not to mention two shopping malls, a movie theater - sorry, theatre - a puppet theatre and a theatre theatre.

The stores in the central all-pedestrian area go beyond and all seem to cater to the most eccentric tastes - there's the Top Hat Costume Hire, The Rasta Room, a store that seems to sell exclusively Dr. Who merchandise, a store that seems to only sell frozen dinners (appropriately called "Iceland") and a store that seems to merely serve as a congregating area for Dungeons and Dragons-style board and card games.

Another perk? The obligatory campus security introduction went something like this: "Norwich has less than half the crime of other cities in England, and UEA has less than that. If something happens to you, it's probably because you're doing something stupid and you should stop. But we're here 24/7 just in case. Oh, and you really should consider locking your doors when you leave your flat."

If that's not enough to tempt you, I'll simply leave you with these:

Mind your step. You never know when a British-style street fight will break out.

Norwich Castle, built by the Normans circa 1100