Posts

Showing posts from October, 2009

31st October

Image
I'm bringing the picture of the day project for October to a close with a visit to the lovely Coombe Country Park. It's about 5 miles outside of town and completely worth the drive/bike/bus ride. I'm sure the time of year had something to do with winning me over. The park has a huge abbey where you can stay the night or get married, or both. In fact, I saw two brides, and I was only there a couple of hours. There were a lot of other people enjoying the park today, allowing me to feel entirely safe. There was also a food stand, donkey rides, and possibly the greatest playground I've seen. It was like a ropes course for kids, awesome.
Strictly speaking I wasn't allowed to ride my bike down their tree lined, smooth, beautiful, perfect paths. But I did anyway. It was awesome, and it turns out that the crap bike likes trails!
So, happy Halloween, and I hope you enjoyed the pics.

Plug follow up

Image
When I first arrived, I had the great idea of using a US power strip to power all of my US electronics at once. Genius, right? Of course not! When I plugged it in on the first night, I nearly caused a fire and needed new pants.
So, instead I decided to plug things in individually, using the adapters that I had brought. I had to buy these in a bit of a rush on ebay because the one I originally had only allowed for two prong items to be plugged into it (as opposed to the thee prong plug on most things i.e. laptops).
This worked, but not really. I was afraid of it because it would occasionally spark when I plugged it in. Silly me.
When this adapter failed to work in the library, worried that I would burn it down, I set off to buy an adapter that had a fuse or a voltage adaption feature. I found one with a fuse so I bought it for 7 pounds. Victorious, I plugged the lappy in and it didn't spark once. Totally worth the money, right? Of course not!
The next day, wandering aimlessly…

30th October

Image
The quintessential picture of Coventry: Lady Godiva.

29th October

Image
Because I don't have a job, without shame I went to the local ASDA (the UK wal-mart). Here I got shampoo for 0.12 pence, and many other good buys. I was again fascinated by UK retail and I'm pretty sure I love it. I couldn't buy too much as I was on the bike, but I now have more confidence that I will not be completely destitute next year.

Afterward, I rode the bike back toward home. I got a great free bike route map so I was far less worried about being lost. Though, I will admit I got a bit...misplaced, but that can be a good thing.

28th October

Image
Late-night Christmas light hanging, just outside my door.

27th October

Image
I know, I owe you a picture of the day for yesterday. But as for today...At 1030 last night, I had literally just stepped out of the shower when the fire alarm went off. Under normal circumstances this would have yielded some irritation, but being soaking wet and undressed really added another dimension of inconvenience. So, I hastily dried off and haphazardly threw clothes on, and by the time I was downstairs I realized that I didn't have my glasses. Oh well, at least I was dressed.
Again, our security arrived, and again so did the fire engine. Sweet. The fire alarms now have become more of a social gathering, so soon as we were let back in, I grabbed my glasses and camera we all hung out for awhile with some beers. It was all too easy to forget that it was a Tuesday night; we were having a good 'fire alarm after party'.

I left there with two of my friends around one. My hand was on my door handle when we noticed that an unusual number of people were out and about i…

26th October

Image
Vegetable extracts. Why?

25th October

Image
Beautiful Stratford Upon Avon.
And Holy Trinity Church.

24th October

Image
Today I had some trouble deciding on the picture of the day. From ten in the morning, it was quite clear. But I didn't think that my afternoon would be as fun and nice as it was. So, I opted for two. At 1030 this morning the fire alarm went off. Thanks to all the early morning tests I think almost everyone waited a minute before actually leaving the building. Of course, it is chilly in the mornings, especially when it's raining.
So we all met outside each other with sleepy eyes and pajamas, confused and irritated. No one reported smoke on their floors or anything weird. Our security arrived as did the fire brigade. Now being outside in the rain was worth it! It turned out nothing was on fire and I assume someone burnt their breakfast. In the afternoon I had a Chinese buffet for lunch and walked to the war memorial park. After the earlier rain, it turned out to be a beautiful day, perfect for enjoying the turning leaves.

One Month In

I have certainly had an adventurous, educational, and unexpected first month in Coventry. I would not admit all of my fears about moving a month ago, but there were plenty. I was worried that stores I needed would be far away and I’d have to lug groceries for miles, but most stores are just out my back door. I worried that I’d never meet anyone, but meeting people has been easy, as I am not the only alone foreigner. I have gotten very good at walking into situations where I know I don’t know anyone. I mostly worried that I was under qualified to be accepted at school in the first place. Our class has such varied backgrounds, I feel like I fall somewhere in the middle. But ask me in a couple of weeks when I’m sweating over my class assignment.

A few things are “worse” than I expected. I am still disillusioned that UK public transport is neither fast nor cheap (in general). Recycling is not universally required, and I can’t find a recycle bin to save me. Salad is expensive and s…

23rd October

Image
Christmas preparations in the city center.

Mobile

Image
A brilliant compilation of the "giant phone" prank. Yes I have the same ringtone! No, it is not as obnoxious.
Trigger Happy TV - Giant Phone Compilation

Trauma (reprise)

I’ve finally caught up on the last few episodes of “Trauma.” I am left wondering if it was be meant to be humorous or depressing for current EMS providers. It’s not exactly littered with inaccuracies, just a few glaring ones instead. For example: let’s work this code for about a minute, let’s enter this burning building, let’s confront this gang, let’s go into a building with a psychotic gunman on the loose, let’s fly this ankle fracture, let’s forget to triage people, let’s crash a car into whatever we want, let’s use our x-ray vision, let’s suture iliac arteries on the street. Most of these things left me whacking my head against the wall. At least they didn't shock asystole!
I get what they’re trying to convey most of the time, but it may be because I’m a medic. The job is already cool; you really don’t have to keep putting your medics in stupid situations to make it cool. And to be more realistic I think they should do some real EMS and do something boring for once!

One t…

22nd October

Image
Today's post is brought to you by the worlds smallest milk. Note the penny for scale. Awww!

21st October

Image
I spent most of the day working on my paper. Then I went to a halls representative training, which basically spent an hour and a half telling me that if I have a specific problem in my hall, to refer to page 1 of the hall rep handbook. Not rocket science really. I then went to a class at church which I'm sure I'll have more to say about later. I didn't do anything particularly exciting, but did take a few minutes experimenting with low light photography. These were both taken at the same time of day (the dark) with different settings. I am not a photography genius so it's guess and check for me. This is the steeple of Holy Trinity church, I'll bring the tripod next time.

20th October

Image
Not kicking a ball or the former currency of Ireland. The Punt. Flat bottomed boat propelled by pushing a long pole against the riverbed. Formerly used to traverse shallow waters and hunt ducks. Currently used to take tourists down English rivers.
I was in Cambridge today, where punting is a favorite pastime. We did take a floating tour down the river Cam, which was actually very nice and informative. I know a lot more random things about Cambridge than I did before. (which means a bit more than "Cambridge has a really old university.") They also have a library designed by Sir Christopher Wren that houses the first edition of "Winnie the Pooh".
Also, a "stupendous" (accurately described by my Godfather) collection in the Fitzwilliam Museum, which has things from Egyptian artifacts to Monets; so something for everyone.

19th October

Image
The beautiful interior of Holy Trinity Church here in Coventry. I really like the windows here, but am more intrigued by their light fixtures. Hurray for energy efficiency in a 13th century building.

18th October

Image
After going a few miles out of my way, I found the London Road Cemetery that I had been looking for. I can't wait for my new map to arrive.
What I came to find was the civilian memorial, built for those who died during the Coventry blitz in 1940, and many of those victims are buried here. It's a really huge cemetery, with a distinctive old and new section. The old section gave me a very creepy vibe, so I didn't stay long. The newer area was nice and far less creepy. Also, my mother has a particular interest in cemeteries, so I took a few extra pictures for her. If you're also interested, you can find them online here.

17th October

Image
Kenilworth Castle. Lovely place, worth paying to get in. Parts of it were built in 1125! The castle was changed a lot over the years, most notably, all the green you see in this picture would have been filled with water in the early 1200's thanks to King Johns attempts to improve its fortification. Fast forward to the 1930's, the castle gate was still used as a residence.
It is (like every English tourist attraction) full of all kinds of nerdy history, King Edward II abdicated the throne here in 1326 and, Queen Elizabeth I visited several times during her reign.
I rode the bike here, it's only about 12 miles there and back, but it has been a long time since I biked that far!

16th October

Image
I love EMS. Here is my future ambo. I had my first meeting with the SJA "adult" unit this evening. They seem like good people, and are doing their best to get me out of some/most/all of the required SJA training. And, they have an ambulance! And a bike. And a van.
I'm hoping (and I think they are too) that I'll be able to help them with training and with responses and doing standby time with them. It all sounds pretty good to me, and I'm really glad I went. It cheered me up after a frustrating afternoon. Nothing serious, just that getting a contract cell phone here is somehow more difficult than getting a student visa!

Queuing, et al.

After inductions, sorting out enrolment, checking books at the library, shopping, and using cash machines, I think I have moved from novice to intermediate, because I have stood in a lot of queues in the last two weeks.
I always show my commitment to the line and wait patiently. I give a wide space between myself and the person using the cash machine. I sigh quietly, give long glares, and shift my weight angrily when someone queue jumps (I certainly don’t say anything to them). If there is any queue confusion, I look to the other person involved and gesture kindly toward the till (and they do the same to me until one of us reluctantly approaches the counter) and if it’s me, I feel slightly guilty at the misunderstanding.

Which brings me to the word “till.” I can’t think of an American equivalent, and I’ve heard it so often here that I wonder how we can survive without an alternative. I guess we say “checkout” but I really only think of checkouts in grocery stores. What do we say in…

15th October

Image
I promise the pictures will be more interesting after this week!
But these things are interesting on a logistical basis. My student card, of course is great. Especially as it gets me into buildings and allows me to check out library books.
My Sainsbury's nectar card (which I haven't quite figured out yet) and my Tesco card. Woot, discounts at grocery stores.
More importantly is my British debit card. Not only does it feature the 2012 Olympics on the front, but it has a smart chip in it. This was popular in the US a few years ago, but didn't catch on like it did here. Nobody swipes a card here, they stick it in a machine! Oooh! Anyway, goodbye foreign transaction fees at amazon.co.uk!
Most importantly is my NHS (national health service) medical card. This entitles me to free socialized healthcare and £7 prescriptions (which is really quite cheap).

14th October

Image
The fridge. Note, that I do not call it a "mini" fridge. This is standard UK size I think, or maybe even a little bigger. Courtesy of my good friend Jean, who is better to me than I deserve.
I have stocked up on some of the essentials. Tiny milks, salad cream, "lemonade," and crumpets (which are delicious by the way, nooks and crannies and all).
I also purchased some peanut butter, something that I think America has perfected. It is not quite the same as what I'm used to, but unlike American peanut butter, it only has three ingredients.

There are so many products to try in the grocery store. As a lover of foreign groceries in the first place, I love that I have as much time as I could ever want to wander carefully down the aisles, taking it all in. I have been especially amused by "American" products including a disgusting looking jar of hot dogs and potato skins with sour cream in a box with the stars and stripes on it.
It is true that you hav…

Katrina

Day two of Disaster theory was a very informative day. There was lots of stuff about theories, and disaster models, and other stuff that's not extremely interesting. We also had a discussion about disaster recovery and comparing that of first world to third world nations. We were given our assignment for this module, which so far seems very doable.

Before lunch we watched two short videos about hurricane Katrina. This is definitely an excellent example of everything we want to and are going to learn. What I didn't expect was while these videos played, I suddenly wished for a hole to open up in the floor, so that I could drop into it.
I felt so full of shame watching Americans struggle without hope from the government or each other. I watched helplessly at footage of the superdome and convention center that was simply awful. I know Katrina was awful, but for the first time I felt like I really stuck out as an American. They even showed all the moronic clips of Brown and …

13th October

Image
I had my first training with St John ambulance this evening. Because it would cost about $600 dollars for the UK Health Professions Council to "appraise my prior learning" as a paramedic, I am biting the bullet, and sitting through SJA's basic courses. It's only a few hours, and really wasn't as torturous as I thought it would be. Though next week I know I will have a hard time not telling everyone to "push a little harder" while doing CPR.
Tonight we did the basics of dealing with an unconscious patient and some bleeding control. It was only two hours, and I wasn't too bored. They use DRABC: Danger, Responsivness, Airway, Breathing, Circulation. They like to call it "Dr. ABC" but I prefer Drab C. I'm still partial to scene safety/BSI, AVPU, and ABCs, but this gets the job done for the lay person pretty easily. Plus, a tap on the shoulder is not nearly as much fun as a sternal rub. Oh well.
Oh, and this country, or at least the …

Back to School

Today was the first day of class. I met a lot more of my classmates and had a pretty nice day. My class is about 20 students strong, all from different backgrounds and regions of the world including several countries of Africa, Cyprus, France, UAE, the UK and the 1 from the US of course. I'm very happy to be getting what will be a global education both socially and academically.
This class is also a mix of part time and full time students. Some of the full timers started last January, and some, like me are on their first module.
There are eight modules between now and the spring, this week is Disaster Theory and Practice. Classes go for one week every day 9-5 and are a mix of lectures and group work, then we have three weeks for self study and to complete our module assignment (a 4000 word essay or report).
Our main lecturer is from Canada (who has worked in the UK for 25 years) the other is from South Africa, who I think will bring a unique perspective.
There are no required boo…

Baptism Sunday, again!

Image
Yesterday morning I went with a friend to the Holy Trinity Church. This is a beautiful old (founded in the 12th century) building. It is very near the cathedral, and I figured I'd mix it up and visit as many of the different local churches as I could.
I had a sudden déjà vu as we found our seats and I flipped through the bulletin. "It's baptism Sunday!" I frantically whispered. I again had that fleeting moment of panic as I considered running toward the exit. How could I have stumbled upon two in a row?!
We stayed of course and it wasn't really all that bad.
It was a nice service and we even sang "Lord of all hopefulness," one of my favorites. The only thing was that they had all the words wrong. I mean every single one. Same tune though, so it was the easiest thing to sing so far in my church of England adventures.

12th October

Image
My "two ring binder" and ever exciting A4 paper. It says wide ruled but really it looks like college ruled.
Also there's my two hole punch.
I think three rings is much more sensible.

11th October

Image
Medieval Spon street. This is about as lively as I've seen it, but it's still cool.

10th October

Image
Cov kayak time!

Memory aids

I thought of something brilliant to write about last night. Unfortunately I had already climbed the ladder, turned off the light, and laid down. It was so good, I congratulated myself for being so clever and it was the last thing I thought of before closing my eyes, promising myself that I would remember it in the morning. As I slept I dreamt about Eddy Monsoon and meeting Barack Obama (I had him autograph a receipt.) When I woke up this morning, that brilliant line I had thought of was foremost on my mind.

It's four hours later now I still can’t remember what it was.

Now to put a pad of paper and a pen “upstairs.”

False alarm

Image
Okay, this picture is not good of anything, but it's here only for reference. The purple thing is my duvet. The thing about four feet above it is the fire alarm/smoke detector. Boy that's close.
This morning, after staying up quite late to communicate with people on eastern standard time, I was snoozing away, warm in my bed, enjoying the ever cloudy English mornings.
Suddenly, I was jolted awake by the fire alarm. I am so used to such awakenings, that rather than worry about a fire, I immediately started to shout expletives at it, and made feeble attempts to cover it with my hands and pillow. I looked down to make sure my room wasn't filling with smoke and a few more expletives later I had clambered down the ladder, just as the alarm stopped. One more expletive for good measure and I popped my head into the hallway to see a couple of my equally confused neighbors. One went to inquire and returned shortly to report that it was merely a fire alarm test.
Now fully awake a…

9th October

Image
The Coventry canal basin. A cool and strangely unpopular place. People live in houseboats on the canal, there are a few stores (including where I got the bike) and on the weekends the Mercia Canoe Club have an open paddle. Yeah that's right, a £4 (including rental) one hour open paddle session. Hopefully it's not raining tomorrow!
(I cheated a bit, I didn't take this today, as it's raining. Big surprise)

8th October

Image
How English.

7th October

Image
The new wheels. Sorry it's not a very glam location (the bike store room in the basement) but a picture of it to day was pretty much required. I found this for £30 (<$50) which, considering it has wheels, brakes, pedals, and a seat is not too bad. I've added a little light, a bell, and my mirror (on the correct side.) I am hopefully getting a helmet tomorrow, then it's game on! I have to remember only two things: they drive on the left here, and the brakes are on the opposite hands.

The Blitz

Image
I just watched a BBC special called "Blitz: The bombing of Coventry" What an amazing thing to watch while sitting here in the heart of the city, warm and safe in my room, so far from being huddled in a bomb shelter fearing for my life.
November 14 1940, after 10 hours of German bombings, 568 civilians were killed, and three quarters of the buildings in Coventry were destroyed. Here's a short video for those not in the UK. But if you can watch this, please do. I hope like me, you'll come out with a new appreciation for this great city.
(photo taken from the daily mail)
I could nerd out about this too, but I'll leave at that....for now.

6th October

Image
Not sure which sounds worse, a flu jab or a flu shot.

Baptism Sunday!

Image
Yesterday morning I went to church in Coventry Cathedral. It was very similar to our episcopal church services at home. Some of the wording was different, and they have a "Verger" and a "Curate" (1st year vicar as far as I can tell) which we don't have but everything else is largely the same. I was amused when I flipped through the bulletin, I let out a familiar groan and instinctively looked toward the exit as I noticed it was baptism Sunday! Really it wasn't too bad, and I got to see them use their very cool baptismal font that is a hollowed out boulder from Jerusalem.

Afterward I found myself at a lunch there to discuss international students/parishioners. So that was excellent, as the combo of free food while meeting good people never goes amiss.

Consecrated in 1962 (when the Queen herself broke a bottle over it), this is the youngest cathedral in Britain, and I was pretty excited when I realized that my church at home is actually older than one here. V…

5th October

Image
Some pics of the Cathedral.

Bonus Pic

Image
Bonus pic before the joke gets too old, I was going to put one up but wait, someone has something more important to say...

4th October

Image
A sweet vintage St. Johns ambulance in the Coventry Transport Museum. A must see!

Shopping adventures

Image
So, right outside my door is the first and one of the largest pedestrian shopping areas in the world. Every store one could imagine is there, and even though I generally hate retail, I have wasted a lot of time just wandering around observing things. This place is always busy even in the middle of the week. Oh, except for after 6pm when absolutely everything save the Tesco metro shuts down. Then it is a very boring place indeed.
Today I spent the morning in search of nothing in particular. There are three outdoor stores within 5 minutes of eachother which pleases me. The IKEA is easily less than a 10 minute walk. A full size Sainsbury's is about 5 minutes away. After living the last two years within walking distance to one grocery store, a liquor store, and a bank, the choices before me now are fantastic.

I visited a Boots store today which is basically just a UK pharmacy/drug store. Never has someone enjoyed an aisle of plasters (band-aids) more than I have today. I spent…

3rd October

Image
Coventry market boasts "all kinds of everything" and I have never seen a place where that is so true. Fresh fruit and veg, clothing, bike accessories, pet stuff, cell phones, linens, fresh meats, fish, anything you could need all within a hundred or so stalls. Here is a huge stall of Halloween costumes, and a sign I found amusing.

2nd October

Image
LDN. We had a free trip to one of my favorite places today. The post grad center here offers free trips around the country throughout the year, the first to London today. On the way there I met a few people who were really great. They had never been to London so I took them around and showed them some of the places I knew how to get to. We only had a few hours so we hit some of the touristy highlights. I made sure to give us an hour at the national gallery (didn't see Sister Wendy this time.) I have a very warm place in my heart for this museum. I know it's nerdy but I love it!
I was thrilled when we saw a RRU, a couple of ambulances and a motorcycle response unit throughout the day. When we went back to our bus, we stumbled upon the picture below. I was excited of course to be anywhere near an ambulance and accident scene. Yes, now these people know that I'm a nerd and a freak! But really, how great. I'm not sure why this scene required no less than 10 po…