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Showing posts from December, 2009

Oh Ten. Wait, that's not right.

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Last weekend, while trying to describe our usual new years eve activities, I realized how silly our custom of watching 15 seconds of a three hour show just in time to watch a great big sparkling ball come down is. And how difficult it is to describe. I mean, what the heck is that about? It certainly reinforces my theory that new years is a fairly pointless holiday, though the year has to change sometime. Nevertheless, it is a good opportunity to evaluate my, um, goals from last year.

Now, most importantly, I did get a good flashlight for work. Thank you LL Bean. I haven't gotten any further into reading the Bible, so that goal will be tabled to next year. Other than that I'd like to write more, even if I have nothing to say. I'd like to do a better job trying to understand people. But my top priority is to finish this wild ass plan strong, and not to lose sight of why I'm here.

Oh, and write my 600th blog post. Done!

This was the first year ever I didn't hav…

Christmas in Shrop-shurr

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There are a few things that make a British Christmas decisively British: crackers and crowns, pudding, roasted parsnip, mince pies, baking with alcohol, brussel sprouts, and boxing day walks. Over my Christmas break I had or experienced all of those things, making it a very satisfying time. I stayed with a lovely family in the county of Shropshire, a highly underrated beautiful place where England really looks like England. The family have two kids, neither of whom I could understand (at least for the first couple of days.) Though kids with British accents are pretty much irresistible. We baked together, saw the countryside, and ate tons of delicious food and met some cool people.
We visited the town of Ironbridge, where not coincidentally the worlds first iron bridge was built in 1779. Fun fact of the day. We also did some post holiday walks in the famous Shropshire hills, giving us wonderful views of the surrounding area and into Wales. We visited a Bronze age (2000-1400 BC) …

If Only in My Mind

This Christmas is guaranteed to be outside of my normal. Completely away from home, rather, in someone else's home. I am being hosted by a family in the county of Shropshire (or Shrop-shurr) as I pronounce it.
HOST is a program where local families can host international students for holidays and weekends throughout the year. I am very lucky to get a Christmas placement, and it will be even more interesting as I will be sharing the experience with a Taiwanese student. The hosts themselves are a family of four, both children under six, and I'm told that for Christmas, the house will be filled with in-laws and friends as well. The host family seem really nice and they must be, as they get no compensation from any of the parties involved and host students merely for the good experience.
I am certainly looking forward to tucking in to a traditional Christmas dinner and am most curious as to what exactly comprises a Christmas pudding. I'm sure all my questions will be answer…

The Gym

"The Gym" is not a phrase which often passes my lips. For much, well all really, of my adult life, I have been a conscientious objector to the gym. All through school it was abundantly clear I was not sport inclined. For most of that time I believed I was being clever and practicing good civil disobedience as I refused to run around a track. The rest of the time I was being ashamedly lazy. (To be honest I still think that running should be reserved for fires.)
Thankfully, though, we can evolve. Here I can admit that I have been going to the gym for the last few weeks. Several things have motivated me, obviously a healthier lifestyle, jaffa cakes, it's now too cold to take the bike out, rain, Christmas, and perhaps most importantly, my accommodation fee includes membership to our sports center. So not going is a waste of money!
With mild irritation I endured the required gym orientation, but a combination of a very nice leader and my fascination with a treadmill tha…

Caerdydd

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We arrived in sunny Cardiff after a long bus ride and early wake up call. Because it was right across the street, we went straight to the National Museum of Wales. This museum fulfilled all of my nerdy needs: natural history, welsh history, and fine art. From dinosaur bones to Monets, it is quite the place. Something for everyone!
After seeing all we could and accidentally trying to read all the explanations in Welsh, we explored the city center. I think Cardiff is downplayed a bit as a capitol city, it is bustling to say the least. We explored it’s large pedestrian shopping areas, Christmas market, city market, and the ubiquitous, really old church.

We found our hostel and checked in without issue. I think I have been spoiled in my hostel experiences, as they’ve all been great. Due to it being winter our six bed room was never filled, and overall the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. But really with a free breakfast and huge shower (by any standards, let alone hostel standa…

Playing the tourist

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Lesser known than the Shakespeare sites, Stratford is home to the UKs largest tropical butterfly farm, which as it turns out is an excellent place to visit. Even if you have a passing interest in butterflies, it is easy to be won over by seeing hundreds of them flying around a beautiful (and warm) setting. They also have Chinese quail, some other tropical birds I can’t identify, a room of rare (caged) insects from around the world, and the completely unmentionable room of (also caged) giant spiders. After spending about two hours there, we still had time to waste in beautiful Stratford, before our trip took us to Warwick.

Famous mostly for its huge, restored, and very intact castle, Warwick is a relatively small town outside of Coventry. I wasn’t planning on going to the castle, as it is very expensive (£18 for an adult) but I was overcome by the allure of a reduced student group ticket. I’m glad I went, it is a very beautiful place, and in winter, not full of tourists. Many of t…

Lincoln, lincoln

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This Saturday was the last of the International Office trips for the year. We went to Lincoln. And if you think that's random, you're right! But, like many random small towns in England (I am learning) it is full of charm and history.
I think my book will now be called “The giant cathedrals of England and their surrounding areas” as now that I think of it, the last three weeks I've been to three different towns and the first thing I've done is explore their ancient and huge cathedrals. With good reason. They are all beautiful and fascinating and Lincoln Cathedral is no exception.
The original church was built in 1092, dating it back to the Normans. Parts of the skeleton of the original church are still visible today, and things can be said like "That doorway is older than your...well everything." Like most old British buildings it has been through a lot; fire, earthquake, spires blowing off, and a complete collapse of the central tower, have shaped the c…

Helimed 53

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Today I took the bike to the airport to do a site visit of the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance, whew! Better known as WNAA or by their call sign of Helimed 53.
Everyone was extremely nice and accommodating to my silly questions. This helicopter runs with one pilot, a paramedic, and a doctor. Having the doctor is "really handy" as they can do all sorts of crazy things in the field including thoracostomy (chest tube), thoracotomy (chest 'cracking'), surgical airways, clamp bleeds, amputations, RSI, etc. They average about five "jobs" a day, but like many medivacs, get canceled quite a lot.
All medivac helicopters in the UK are funded entirely on private and corporate donations. This really boggles my mind, as where I work, the helicopter is funded through billing, and where I live, it is funded through taxes.
Throughout the year, all of the medivacs have fundraisers and PR activites to raise awareness. In fact, some busses in Coventry have…

Advent

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Today (well officially Sunday) is the first day of Advent, the season of Christmas. A couple of weeks ago I received a mysterious box from my parents, not to be opened until now. I have no idea how she fit it, but inside a shoebox, my Mom has put 24 envelopes to open throughout the month and one Christmas present at the bottom. I mean, seriously! Once I stopped crying, I was able to open #1 and I have a little more idea of where this will be going. It was a piece of my favorite toys ever, playmobil. Will update. (Oh and yes, you must be crazy, which is why I love you.) It is pictured below with my official Top Gear advent calendar.
Here is a great article about how this calendar is contributing to putting "Christmas in danger of becoming an empty shell into which we stuff all our fads." Personally, I think it's brilliant. C and I are big fans of the show and I think a TG advent calendar isn't any worse than any of the non holiday themed ones I've seen her…