31 July 2010

Gym Class

Oh, how gullible I've become. Fuelled by having friends willing to go to the gym with me, I agreed to take a class with them. Yeah, the kind where techno music is blaring while an overly-energetic leader shouts things at people. And of course, loads of public embarrassment. Oh, and don't forget the mirror lined walls so we can all see how awesome we are.
The class we chose to experience first was called 'body combat' which to me was equally intriguing and amusing. Right off the bat, the annoying remixes were playing and the guy in charge was shouting something indecipherable and it seemed like everyone there knew what was going on except for me.

I was shamefully brought back to 9th grade show choir and my pathetic attempts to not participate. If I had not been 14 when I joined that choir, I might have been good. But instead I was a brainless idiot who thought, wrongly again, that I was being civilly disobedient in just not giving a crap. Really, I was just lazy. Believe me, I was not too cool for that choir and boy was I bad. I was notoriously and constantly one beat behind everyone else and rightly moved to the back so the rest of the choir could hide me and pretend I didn't exist. A very appropriate move. I have long been convinced that I am uncoordinated, but the truth is, if I had given it even 10% of the effort it deserved, I probably would have done okay. As it was, I'm not sure I even committed any of it to memory and just followed whatever the person in front of me was doing. Stupid. Alas, 14 year-olds!

But back to the point. This class was like singing along to a song without knowing the words. Instead of deteriorating into unintelligible nonsense words, vaguely resembling the melody, I kind of did whatever came to me, which in this case was feebly punching the air and bouncing randomly on my feet.
The instructors enthusiasm was like nothing I'd ever seen. He was like a movie character; I didn't think people like him really existed. It was like he had chugged 15 Red Bulls right before the class and the results were hilarious. When I wasn't laughing at my own struggles, I was laughing at his silliness.
“Feel the power!” “Without core, you don't know the score!” “4 more times, he-yaa!”
“This is a battle!” “Everybody: KEEE YAAH!”
And maybe all that stuff is helpful, but I am still too apathetic to go along with it. I'd be equally inspired if he just said “Let's get through this so we can eat dinner.” or “Muddle through and I'll give you a high five either way.”

Certainly observing the other class members made me feel slightly less silly. Although they were all following him perfectly, they were also super into it and the girls were suspiciously under dressed and enthusiastic. In hindsight, I'm not sure they were there entirely to punch and kick the air and after quite a girly discussion on the subject, I can say with more authority that most girls only bother to show up to fuel their fantasies of this high-kicking instructor.

My friend who had participated in this silliness before assured me 'Don't worry, next week you'll understand what he's saying.'
Oh, great.
That is assuming I'll be able to walk again by then.

30 July 2010

Maybe it's a British Thing Pt. 1

What is with those people on the street who are representing reputable charity like organisations, but are constantly bothering everyone? You can spot them from a block away, wearing brightly color coordinated t-shirts or jackets. And it's like spotting an ex coming toward you on the street; suddenly panic stricken and shouting 'Oh, my God!' before spinning around to seek an alternative route around them. But sometimes, it's too late. You've been spotted. Eye contact has been made. Your grimace has been greeted with a bright smile and there's no time to turn and run.
I usually pretend I am in a hurry (suddenly) but even that doesn't work. Whatever you're in a hurry for 'this will only take a minute.'
“Sorry, I'm in a hurry...”
“Oh, this will only take a minute.”
“Actually, I'm in labor. Can't you tell? Hoo-Hoo Hee-Hee”
“My house is on fire.”
“I'm late meeting my birth mother for the first time.”
“But I'll take only a minute of your time.”
But there are some tricks I've learned to get out of dealing with them other than taking a sharp turn down the next dodgy alleyway.
They can't go beyond a certain area so if you say, sure I'll take your survey on my way; walk with me. They can't. You could probably stand on the next block and taunt them if you wanted.

These days I just say that I don't live here and my accent tells them that I am merely a holidaymaker in sunny Coventry and not interested in their UK based charity work.

It's not very believable, but you could always say your are under-age. Works with telemarketers too.

You can always go the “I don't speak English/no hablo Ingl├ęs /ne parle pas anglais/Ich spreche kein Englisch.” route. Which is usually not believable when you mispronounce it in your newly acquired mother tongue.

And most effectively, “You got my details yesterday!” Shouted as you jog past them. Which will either sound legitimate, or confuse them as they weren't out there yesterday.

Once you give in and they have your details, they are relentless. The British Red Cross, bless them, called me no less than 23 times before I gave up an answered. I was not guilted into making a regular donation, although, boy did they try! “I'm sorry, I totally support you guys, but I am a student and I don't have a job.” “Yeah, but surely you can spare £5 a month?” “Actually, no. But when I am employed again (not in this country) I'm all over it.”

If you give in to making the donation, they begin using your pittance to send you piles of thank-you gifts. Seriously, the money spent on this calendar, pencil set, letter opener, luggage tag, beach towel and pin makes my donation completely obsolete. But...you're welcome. We could have cured cancer by now, but they've starting a printing service instead.

And I admit, there are so many worthy charities in the UK, which is awesome. I wish that they didn't have to pester people for money, and I wish I could give them all £5 a month. Standing in the street, asking for money for them every day must rank as one of the worst jobs in the world. Everyone must be so mean to them, or just lie about being in a hurry.

27 July 2010

Informative Tattoos

I will admit it. I watched American Idol this year. That's unusual for two reasons. Firstly, I've never watched a whole season before. It's usually boring after everyone isn't being made fun of anymore. Secondly, I had to go to a special effort to see it in this country. But that is far beside my point.
I was checking up on my favorite, Mamasox, (quit doing that supid contractually obligated tour and cut an album!) and stumbled upon a picture of her new tattoo. No, this blog will not turn into Ugliest Tattoos (always gives me a laugh! and makes me reevaluate my assesment of mankind).
But her tattoo is on the inside of her wrist and, very stylishly informs me that she is a type 1 diabetic. And, by stylishly, I mean with a bit of a flourish, a caduceus with a hypodermic, and even a star of life! I am the target audience for this tat.
I'm torn between loving this and hating it. It is rather informative and would help cut to the chase in an unconscious person. But, what self respecting paramedic wouldn't do a glucose on an unconscious person? (okay, okay, I'm sure it's happened). It's actually much cooler than medical alert bands, and far more useful than the completely pointless (yet cool) won't-hold-up-in-court 'Do Not Resuscitate' tattoo. And, it's quite likely that I would notice it. Now, if only we could get everyone to tattoo their medical histories on themselves. My favorite converstaion is:
"Do you have any medical problems?"
"Nope" (they answer confidently)
"This bag of medication would make me believe otherwise."
"Oh, that. Well, I do have high blood pressure. And I am diabetic, and I have 'heart problems' but I certainly can't be more specific. And I sometimes have seizures, come to think of it. Oh, and I had a very mild heart attack, but that was, like, six months ago. Does that count?"
"That's the most non medical history I've ever heard. Let's just check your medical history tattoo here to clear this up!"
So, just a little EMS today.
Oh, and I won't tell Mamasox that her tattoo is upside-down.

25 July 2010

Theatres, trains, and museums, oh, my!

A few days ago, Andy stopped over for a visit on his way to Greece. Shout out! He came to visit sunny Coventry and then we headed down to London for a night on the town. We had dinner in Leicester Square then double-decker bussed it over to the Apollo Victoria Theatre to see Wicked. It was a very clever and great show that made me want to a. reread that book and b. sing loudly and proudly as much as possible. It seems like such an awesome job to sing like that every day. There are some amazing voices in that show, wow. Great costumes and set design too, but what do I expect from a proper west end show? Of course the costumes and sets and voices were good! I do wonder what L. Frank Baum would think of it.

In the morning, Andy left at some un-Godly hour, and I slept until a more reasonable time before heading to the London Transport Museum. I have just a minor obsession with the London tube which makes this museum awesome. From the beginnings of public transport to how they hand dug the first (and many subsequent) tube tunnels, it is full of cool old vehicles, tickets, advertisements, and signage. There are also several opportunities to drive a simulated tube train that was really cool. I think I want one in my house. You can also sit in the drivers seat of a double decker and climb upstairs in some antique buses. Their gift shop is probably the best I've seen, although everything is super expensive. They have purses and pillows made from old tube patterned upholstery, tons of underground memorabilia, and every London travel poster one could hope for. Okay, nerd rant over (again). But, that museum was worth the £5.

It is situated next to Covent Garden, which on a Saturday, is an excellent place to be. It's full of street performers, tourists, and delicious and fancy street foods (like pumpkin torteloni, yum!).
I wandered over to Trafalgar square just because I like it and of course made my millionth visit the National Gallery. On the way out I was struck with a reluctance to leave and a sadness, knowing that I will soon not be able to go there any day of the week.
I made a short stop in the Wellcome Collection which has a great array of strange medical items and related art. I was frankly surprised to have only now stumbled upon this museum considering my love of medical oddities. They have an exhibit at the moment dedicated to skin. Exploring tattoos, diseases, and cellular make up, it was weirdly wonderful.

I'm back in Cov today, now panicking slightly at the date and come to think of it, it was about this time last year that I was panicking about the date and my impending move. Life is cyclical. What comforted me then was making a list, and I think that will be useful again this year. The thesis will be okay, but I am, as usual, easily distracted, now with making travel plans to 'the continent' before I go home. It turns out that the continent is getting slightly expanded in my mind as I am zeroing in on a sweet sounding trip to Morocco.

On a completely unrelated note, mere weeks after my post about the National Railway Museum and it's lack of Hogwarts Express action, it was announced that they will indeed be displaying that train in the near future. That's the kind of power I have here. Or, not. I just have the same ideas as 7 year olds.
LINK

21 July 2010

TS3

I have been anticipating a 3rd Toy Story installment since rumours of one began back in, probably 2000, during the Disney/Pixar rift. When I learned that it was actually made and going to come out last year I was embarrassingly excited. I am kind of surprised that I didn't camp out to see it, but there isn't much point when you can prebook cinema seats. (Or just walk in on the day, because the rest of the world is not as excited nor has demanded a midnight showing).
Anyway, after waiting an extra month to see it here in the UK (thanks, whoever!) I have now seen it in 2D and 3D and basically it's fantastic. I mean, no unplanned 3rd movie has been so good (take a lesson Pirates 3). It was my first 3D experience and really for this, didn't seem to make much of an impact. It was beautifully animated without it, but the 3D is pretty cool. (I couldn't help but think of the novelty of the cultural arts programs we had in school that were about 3D. Awesome then, awesome now. Everybody sees in...3D!!)
The story is brilliant, and I like to forget that I too have aged 11 years since the last installment.
I am infinitely happy that Disney was not allowed to make a studio strictly for cranking out 'pixar' sequels, because they all would have been terrible. This had all the same voices (except slinky dog) including the guy who plays Andy, and even Sid makes an appearance as a garbage man. Perfect! The original TS3 plot was to be a recall of Buzz Lightyear, but when the other toys realized that they weren't being fixed but replaced, they go to Taiwan to rescue him. Also would have been awesome. Do I hear a Toy Story 2.5?
And 'You've got a Friend in Me' en Espanol? Fab.
By the end, anyone with a heart would have been beaming with joy, if they could stop sobbing. I know that if I had been alone in the theatre, I probably would have been crying through the entire thing.

14 July 2010

Now, where was I?

I had intended to have the rest of the vacation posts written by now, but dear old lappy broke. With much joy I can report there is life in her yet! We're also running windows 7 which I am still, mere hours later, undecided about. But it's a change. I feel like an old mare set in her ways, unable (more likely, unwilling) to change. I'm sure that my computer usage can be as adaptive as the rest of me. (but why can't I make my start bar anything but blue!?)
I've also found, after trying hard to get into it, that I am having a hard time getting out of vacation mode. My mood probably has something to do with feeling in the home stretch of this WAP which truly fills me with mixed emotions. In the last two days I have felt appallingly sorry for myself (again!) watched too much TV and ate just enough ice cream.
Also in this time I have had the first glimmer of communication from my dissertation supervisor. After three emails of increasing irritation and panic, I received a two sentence email suggesting that we meet (for the first time) in early August. Oh, what a laugh I had! Then I realized he was serious. So I am still a bit in the weeds, but not stupid enough to wait to do anything until 5 weeks before it's due. Seriously, August?!
Stupidly, I have been struggling for a topic that meets all my needs of interesting, having plenty of associated resources, and might fill even a minute hole in this very broad discipline. I always believed it should have to do with medicine, of course. A few months ago I found a book in our library that had a chapter in it written by one of my old professors at UMBC. It turns out that I should have stopped exclaiming my disbelief and pride and actually read it thoroughly. It was about what I had already noticed here, a palpable disconnect between emergency planning and the health sector (whether it be public health, epidemiology, or EMS/hospitals). How intriguing, I thought to myself. So I started flipping through all of our books claiming to be 'Everything one could possible need to know about emergency management' and found, happily, very little mention of bringing the medical people in on the planning or preparation phases of emergency planning.
Anyway, I'm sure no one is still reading at this point, but there it is basically. Why is there such a gap between these disciplines that to me, should go hand in hand? Why was our 'managing health in emergencies' module so disappointing and pointless when medicine is such an essential facet of disaster management? Because emergency managers don't talk to health people. And, if I can find, (I'd be happy with two) experts on the subject who independently agree on (I'd be happy with one) potential solution to this problem, I will be ecstatic.
With renewed interest, (and growing panic) I am finally happy with my topic and truly believe it is achievable and could shed some light on a real issue.
So, let's get cracking! (as soon as I finish the rest of these holiday posts)

08 July 2010

Chipotle Dried my Tears

Seeing my parents off while I stayed in the station was one of the hardest things I've done here. We had settled so well back into our usual travel mode, that it was very surreal to not be going home with them. Now again immune to the embarrassment of crying in public, I stood in the tube station for a few minutes before donning sunglasses, popping in the elitist headphones and heading back into the city. It was pretty much decided that ice cream was in order when I remembered that C and I had stumbled across a Chipoltle which I found shocking and incredible and nearly had me licking the windows on the way past. So, I decided that an overpriced burrito was in my immediate future. But where was that? I attempted to retrace my steps for about 45 minutes before seeing it in the distance like a shining beacon of hope. I practically jogged there and excitedly waited in line, ordered my usual carnitas bowl and even got a diet coke. A-Mazing. I was renewed.

Now, I think I'm ready to declare the blogging of most recent travels over! It only took me all week! The only thing left is to find all the annoying typos. I Hope that all 3 of you out there reading enjoyed it. I do worry that the blog hasn't captured my actual life here, and has become too much of a travelogue. Which isn't all bad, I mean Bryson has produced some awesome travel writing but, to me, travel writing is completely boring unless you've already been there. It's difficult to relate a place, its customs, and its scenery to people who have never been there. And what makes good travel writing is when someone who's already been there can say 'yes, exactly!' and their own warm happy memories of that place are brought to the surface. I am, selfishly, much happier to watch a travel show about somewhere I've already been than somewhere I haven't for that very reason.

The blog promises 'this paramedics life' and although there is far less EMS than I'd like, it will be back on soon. In fact, I've recently talked with my old boss who is interested in having me back in the fall. Horray! I hope indeed that there will be slightly more to report in coming weeks than 'today I went to the library and wrote sentences.' Boring! But for now, that's what I'm doing.

Cautious Optimism

I am sitting here with my travel journal wondering where to start. I have doubled its used pages in the last month. I guess the beginning is always an effective launch point. My parents were meant to visit in April and were interrupted by a little ash cloud problem. The boyfriend had always meant to come in June, and it worked out that he would arrive in early June, and stay for two weeks. My parents booked their flights to arrive the day after he went home, like two jet planes passing in the night. This was a brilliant situation and at the very least saved me a trip to London. Because I love planning, I immediately began sorting everything out, booking hotels, hostels, ferries, hire cars, and train tickets like nobody's business. Then, all I had to do was wait.
I remained no more than cautiously optimistic about the whole thing because I knew it would be difficult to take another disappointing blow and I wasn't going to believe in any of it until I saw it. The morning I was to meet C, I was waiting at the rendezvous point, when all of the variables I hadn't thought of ran through my mind. What if he got delayed, lost, couldn't access money, lost his bags, or was detained at the border? How would I know? How long would I wait for him there? He had my mobile, but while waiting in the tube station I had no signal. So many things could have gone wrong that I had no contingency plan for. But, suddenly, there he was! Really, really there, and I could scarcely believe my eyes.

07 July 2010

Soon.

I have been travelling around this glorious rock for the last four weeks and will (after a proper lie-in) sort it all out on the blog. From London to Skye and many places in between; over 1200 miles driven, and many more covered in trains, boats, kayaks and on foot, it's been a weird and wonderful time. Nothing beats familiar faces in, well, familiar places. Hours of planning, months of anticipation, and hours of terrified driving were all worth it, and I can only hope that the blog reflects my warm, happy, and exhilarated feelings I have for this country and my loved ones.

Carrying On

I'm proud to ride the tube today.

06 July 2010

Sent to Coventry

It's about time I used that line! The parents and I managed to navigate through central Manchester and return the car without incident! Woot! What a relief that is. In Manchester we visited the museum of science and industry which didn't fail to impress.
We trained it to Coventry and it felt very good and weird to be home. We were just in time for the Godiva Festival, and we watched the colorful and impressive parade go by before walking to the park to see just what this festival was all about. Oh, and by the way, Lady Godiva was a. fully clothed (not even pretending to be naked) and, b. in a car. I mean seriously?! We can do better. I'll grow my hair out and be ready by next years parade. Bring me a white horse.

The festival was pretty fun and there were so many people there! Way to come out, Coventry. They had plenty of carnival rides and games, drunk teenagers, and local crafts. Not to mention some good food stands. A great day out. The next day we went back to the Transport Museum. Okay. I'm totally over it after 2 visits in 2 weeks, but the parents enjoyed it thoroughly. We wandered back into the cathedral (which I didn't mind visiting at all), and to St. Mary's guildhall which is a hidden gem of Coventry history.

"Today on 'Strange London Destinations' we will be wandering into zone 3 to Highgate Cemetery, arguably the best Victorian cemetery on the planet." This was our surprise destination for Mom who is a taphophile and champion 'tombstone tourist' making Highgate Cemetery a must see. It is truly beautiful, but could use some government sponsorship and money. Half of it is still a working cemetery and Malcolm McLaren was most recently buried there. Karl Marx is also there as well as George Eliot, and many other artists, diplomats, writers, and generally cool people who did good works. We had a tour of the older part of the place which was very nice, and revealed many beautiful sculptures and tombstones.