Sandy speaks on matters of life and mirth.
Monkeys are seldom present.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Same Question

I got a CD from my Grandma last Christmas. It was called Reflection of Something, by Todd Agnew.

I opened it today.

This was a mistake.

Not opening it, but opening it a year after I got it. You see, I took one look at the cover and thought "Nah..." It's a soft-focus, warm-toned photo of a hippy, bare-footed man seated cross-legged, looking down with a dopey smile on his face. I looked at the tracklist, and dismissed it as yet another average Christian CD. My Grandmother doesn't exactly have the best track record on this kind of thing, you see. For instance, and my personal favourite, the other CD she gave me, which features 'The Ten Commandment Boogie', with lines like:

"We're half way through with one that's just for you - Listen to your mom and dad 'cause what they say you gotta do."

"the B-I-B-L-E, yeah that's the book for me"
and my personal favourite:

"Commandment Seven feels like heaven but only with your husband or wife"
(oh for goodness sake, go and look it up if you don't know what it is.)

So anyway, I didn't exactly have high hopes for Reflections of Something. Or, in fact, any hopes at all, given that I waited a year to open it. In fact, it was still in its protective cellophane casing earlier this evening, when I decided that I might as well put it on my laptop.

And it's fantastic.

Todd Agnew's voice is pretty good, and the tunes aren't bad, but what really gets me are the issues he addresses, the words he uses. He isn't a perfect, squeaky-clean Christian, singing gloatingly about how awesome it is to be a Christian. He's a real person, a Christ-follower, someone who truly loves Jesus and is doing his best and not always succeeding.

And I don’t know what You want, what You see in my life
And I don’t know what You mean, how You could be glorified
I’m not too sure about this idea of sacrifice

My Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet would stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despised the proud
I think He'd prefer Beale Street to the stained glass crowd
I know that He can hear me if I scream out loud.

I'm reminded of a cartoon I saw once. Two turtles sit, talking to each other. One says to the other, “Sometimes I’d like to ask why God allows poverty, famine, and injustice when he could do something about it.” The other turtle asks him why he doesn't. The first replies. “I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.”

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Head + Concrete = Concussion

Things I have in common with Ben Roethlisberger, NFL Pro Quarterback:

1) Both our last names start with an 'R'
2) We've both been knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion recently
3) We've both won a Super Bowl.

One of these facts is untrue.

So last night at dodgeball I was definitely unconscious for between a minute and two minutes. I went up to catch a ball, bounced off another player, and then as I came down something inexplicable happened.

My feet missed the ground.

The rest of me, sadly, did not.

The sound of my head hitting the carpet-covered concrete has been described as a 'schmush', a 'thunk', or, and in my opinion this is the most descriptive account, 'the most disgusting noise I have ever heard.'

Now I just remember lying there for about thirty seconds, with the wind totally knocked out of me, unable to think straight, but with my eyes open. Turns out I was down for a good couple of minutes, with my eyes closed, and was totally unresponsive. Pretty scary. The weirdest part of all this is that the things I remember as a continuous stream of events actually occurred over several minutes, with big gaps in between.

The real kicker is the concussion, though. Since then, I keep getting weird headaches and rushes of blood to my head. My hearing will fade in and out, I'll feel randomly nauseous, and standing up too quickly is really weird.

On the plus side, I'm done with all with all my classes, and all my finals were in-class, so I really have nothing better to do than sleep and sit around doing nothing....which is really all I feel capable of doing right now.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

All I Want for Christmas is Mariah Carey

Hello again.

Well, I'm still in Illinois, still not doing very much. Well, actually, that's a lie. I have four finals in two days this week, three of which are in a five hour span. That's just ridiculous. Add to that an average of four hours a night of rehearsals, and you start to realise that I am somewhat overworked. On the plus side, I did work out where a certain film quote that was bothering came from, so I'd call it a successful week.

My laptop is driving me crazy. Its latest 'hilarious' quirk? The disc drive won't stay in. At all. What the hell is that all about? On the plus side, it still runs the internet...just about.

Christmas is approaching at breakneck speed. I honestly have no idea where the last four months have gone. It seems like so recently that I arrived here in Champoo-Banana, and yet I have been here an entire semester. Crazy. What else have I to tell you my devoted readers?

Well, I've been working on my five year plan. I currently plan to graduate from Edinburgh in Summer 08, and then, hopefully, do a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education (The Caps make it official sounding) at Edinburgh, before coming back to Chambana to teach in underpriviledged schools around here. Originally I wanted to come out to America sooner, but recent events, and large amounts of rumination have made me realise that, actually, I'm not quite done with the U of K yet.

Well, I should probably go study for my final final, but to keep you thinking, here is my Christmas wishlist, just in case you have Santa's number on speed-dial.

1. World Peace
2. Understanding between all peoples
3. A new laptop

Monday, October 30, 2006

What I've Learned from Breakfast in the Residence Halls

I hate country music.

So very much.

Or, to be more specific, I don't necessarily hate country music. What I hate is the country music voice.

Having been exposed to a very, very, very large amount of country music here in the United States, I can reveal that there are only two country music singers - one male and one female. Oh, sure, they might release songs under multiple different names, and release hundreds of different albums, but I mean really - has anyone ever listened to these songs? They don't even try to disguise the fact that they all sound exactly the same. The voices on these tracks are identical, people! Use your ears!

But who are these shady people? I did some investigation, and, at great personal risk to myself, am finally willing to reveal their true identities.

Virgil McSouth and Cindi Starkweather are the true names of this mysterious duo. They've been recording country music for over twenty years. Before that, Meat Loaf filled in after Elvis' retirement.

Thi conspiracy has been well-hidden, with the Country Music Association arranging for people to mime along to their music in live shows, and the annual "Country Music Awards" where D-List actors and homeless people pretend to be big-time movie stars. One of the most elaborate deceptions was when, using clever multi-tracking and lip synching techniques, the CMA managed to fool people into thinking that Starkweather was in fact three jobless sisters of the CEO's wife. You may know these three better as 'The Dixie Chicks'.

The truth is out, people. I've put my head on the line to expose this. Now, spread the word - don't let my risk be for naught!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Tiddlywinks, Now There's A Real Sport

So it's a been a while since I updated this thing. I've been far too busy doing nothing.

I've definitely got addicted to American sports. And I'm not just talking about the good ones, like American Football, or basketball. I'm talking about the ones they show at midnight on ESPN-2.

No, not those kind of sports. Get your mind out of the gutter.

In fact, I'm not even sure that is a sport.

So anyway, last night, me and a couple of friends (male friends, obviously - girls have far too much sense to do this kind of thing) decided it would be fun to find out what non-sport was showing on ESPN-2 at half eleven. (That's eleven thirty to all you crazy Americans.) Well, suffice to say, we weren't disappointed. We tuned in just in time to watch the girls' final of the Teen Masters...of ten pin bowling. That's right. That's a real competition.

You know the saddest thing, though? After five minutes, I was really getting into it. We were talking tactics, cheering, and rooting for our favourite. It gets better, though. After the girls' final, it was the boys' turn! And then after that, the boys champion and the girls' champion faced off against each other! Amazing!

Once that finished, I decided it was finally time to do something productive, or at least to watch some real sport.

And then the World Series of Poker came on.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fungus

You know, sometimes old clichés are actually true.

They say that sometimes you have to leave something behind to realise how much you love it.

(They also say that bumblebees shouldn't be able to fly, but hey 'they' can't get everything right.)

So I was volunteering at a Study Abroad Fair the other day (hey, it's not like my courses give me any work). I was there to represent Edinburgh, and convince people to take a semester or a year abroad there. Well, I did that for a while, and it was fun, but there were two of us, and I noticed Newcastle didn't have anybody. So I switched over to Newcastle, and started plugging that.

And wow. I have never realised quite how much I love Newcastle, and the North-East in general. As I spoke, I realised I wasn't exaggerating a single word. Now that doesn't mean that I regret leaving - not in the slightest. Edinburgh is awesome, and Illinois is fantastic. It just makes me a little bit sad that I'm unlikely to spend more than three weeks at a time there ever again.

My life, or at least the next few years of it, is starting to come together in front of my eyes, which is nice - although also incredibly petrifying. I may be returning to America a little sooner than I thought, although to a totally different place than I expected. But I'll tell you more when I know details.

Well, that was mysterious.

In other news, the room I share with Chris has become known as 'The Embassy'. Who knows why. Still, we made a Facebook group, so if you want to see pictures of life in Illinois, then that's the place.

My addiction to American Football is growing stronger. (Yes, I called it 'American' Football - deal with it.) On Sunday night, I really wanted to watch the Colts vs Giants game, but I also really wanted to go to church.


So, most normal people would've just shrugged their shoulders and resolved to watch the highlights on YouTube. (That's the football, not the church service.) Not me. No,I got my friend to TiVo it, and then went over to her's immediately afterwards to watch it. (While making sure she screened my calls so that no-one could ruin the score for me.) Thanks Kirsten, you're a legend.

I also went to see the University American Football (We won, but not against a great team.) and the real Football. (Again, we won, this time 4-0). It was refreshing seeing 'soccer' (urrggghhh...) again. I think me and my other British friend enjoyed ourselves a little more than the rest of the crowd. We were the only one's standing up, and I think we confused the other fans by nicknaming the girls based on famous European football players. (Especially when I decided to yell "Pass it to Nedved!" across the field.)

I feel like I'm some kind of talisman. Notice how Illinois have a perfect record at games I attend? Now contrast that with the American Football game at Rutgers, which we lost 33-0.

I wonder if watching it on TV counts?

Monday, September 04, 2006

William Gallas May Soon be Sleeping with the Fishes

Gallas 'issued own-goal threat'

For those of you who aren't aware - The English Premier League champions Chelsea just sold William Gallas to Arsenal, after long and arduous negotiations.

"Chelsea say they sold William Gallas because he threatened to score an own goal if he was selected for their first game of the season."

Wow - that's hardcore. I love how bitchy this statement gets. Chelsea went on to say:
"He also failed to recognise the role Jose Mourinho and Chelsea played in helping him become a double Premiership champion for a player whose only league title prior to that had been in the French Second Division."

and then of course there's the frankly disturbing:

The manager told him that, even if he did not agree a new contract but returned to the "family" and abided by the rules, he would still select the best players available and would not punish him playing wise.

The 'family'? Sounds a little ominous.

I guess Arsenal just made him an offer he couldn't refuse...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Bow for Brown

I went to a volleyball game the other day.

It was utterly insane.

In Britain, when two university sports teams face off against each other, the usual turnout is around twelve. (and that's only at the home games, and if the striker's little brother doesn't have a dentst appointment.) At the volleyball game we attended on Friday, there must have been around 1000 people - 986 of whom were Illinois supporters.

The atmosphere was incredible - we were right in the middle of a big group of Illini (that's pronounced [ih-line-i] - it tooks us a while to work that one out) and the chants were awesome. Each player on the Illinois team had a different chant, and the ones to mock the offense were frankly hilarious. From "You can't do that!" when the opposing team fouled to "Awkward Silence!" when they took too long to serve.

Some of the other chants were a little bit harsh ("She's got crabs!" when the opposition server came up being a case in point.) but everything was in really good spirit. Oh, and did I mention that this was women's volleyball? In Britain, we like to pretend women's sports don't exist, but at Illinois, and in the Big Ten (the league Illinois is part of, which is actually a pretty original name, given that there are eleven teams in it) women's sports are as well-attended as the men's. Crazy, eh? Next they'll be running for President.

A friend of mine from camp was visiting, and we instantly found a favourite (yes, I spelt that word with a 'u', you lazy Ameriquins) player - number 2, Vicki Brown. She managed to lead her team in scoring, desite only being on the court for about two minutes at a time. We decided to start bowing to her every time she scored a 'kill', and by the end of the second game we attended, the entire hall was following suit.

That's my contribution to Illinois athletics, and I doubt there'll be another one.

Monday, August 28, 2006


God rocks.

Just thought I'd let you know.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Initial Report from Champaign-Urbana

So I've been here for a week now.

And it's pretty darn awesome.

If you ever come to the UofI - the first thing you'll notice is the obscene size of everything. There is a fully-fledged gym in my halls, and a bowling alley in the union. There are about 40,000 students here, pretty much all of whom are from Illinois. On my floor I appear to be the only foreign student, which means I have both novelty value, and an excuse for doing anything wrong - wonderful!

I've registered for a scant twelve hours of classes, three of which are in 'Fundamentals of Acting 1', which seems a bit ridiculous, but never mind.

My halls are, perversely, absolutely freezing - the air conditioning seems to be turned up to a ridiculous amount. This meant that I had the very odd experience of buying a very thick insulated blanket from WalMart in the middle of summer. (There are three WalMarts in Champaign-Urbana, by the way, all of which are bigger than the city of Durham.)

Continuing with the 'insanely big' theme - my church in Edinburgh is around three hundred strong. My church here is something like 2500! They have a gym...inside their church. Utter madness.

However, they are all really cool, and I got on with them really well. I think I'm improving on my record from first year in Edinburgh, where I knew very few people, and almost none in my halls. So far, I've got to know a load of people on my floor really well, and we're looking at starting an intramural soccer team. It's shaping up to be a really awesome year.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Can a Bag Really Have A Weight Problem?

I'm currenty speeding from O-Hare airport (which, during my brief stay there, I discovered is named after a famous fighter pilot. Just thought you'd like to know.) onboard a small minibus, which has been christened with the somewhat overdramatic title of 'The Lincolnland Express'. My flight from Minneapolis, where I was staying with my family, was fairly painless. As ever in my travels, it was the eve of the day of travel which provided the excitement. Coming from Edinburgh to Pennsylvania, it manifested itself in lost tickets and my travelling companion locking his bags in an unoccupied flat. The night before I left Camp to head to Minneapolis, somebody got fired, and I got hopelessly lost in the forest. All par for the course, really.

The fiasco this time revolved, of course, around my packing. I arrived in Minneapolis with one bag. My parents had brought another one over with them when they visited my Minneapolis family earlier this summer. Following so far? In addition to this, I had with me a backpack, and my parents brought my laptop with them in another backpack. Actually, come to think of it, there's a satchel packed into one of my suitcases for when I get to Illinois, but mentioning that would just confuse things.

Confused yet? Good. Now, as I was saying, I had my two large bags, and my laptop backpack, which was to bee my carry-on. All other small bags were stowed away in the larger bags. I spent about 20 - 40 minutes packing all my stuff away, which wasn't easy - fitting a year's worth of stuff into two bags can be pretty tricky like that. About 10:00 PM, my aunt pointed out that, even though I was flying domestic, it was probably still a good idea to take my passport. Good point, I thought. I'm ahead of the game, I smiled smugly. I opened my bag, and took out my lockbox. "It's right in here." Unfortunately, the lockbox was locked. Guess where the keys were? Inside my backpack. In the bottom of the bag I'd just packed.


So, I unpacked that bag as best I could, scrabbling my way to the bottom of the bag. I pulled out the backpack, and guess what? No keys. Uh-oh. I repacked the entire bag (not an easy feat) and then turned to my carry-on laptop bag. I unzipped the side-pocket, and, of course, there they were. I unlocked my lockbox...and my passport wasn't in there. Great. I started to get the sinking feeling I'd had before, except that last time it had involved lost tickets, and had resulted in a last minute call to two airlines, and a very hectic weekend. I didn't have anything like that time, as at that point I had about eight hours till my flight left. Me being me, of course, I didn't tell anyone that I couldn't find my passport, as I was terrified of looking stupid. With the other prospect being the utter derailment of an entire year of schooling, it was good to see I had my priorities correctly sorted. I proceeded to check through my carry-on multiple times, both my large bags, unpacking and repacking the four or five times, before searching the entire house, all the while striving to 'act casual', so my relatives didn't twig that something was up. Having spent about an hour doing this, I checked my carry-on bag one last time. And there it was - right where I could have sworn I'd looked about twenty times.


But the fun doesn't stop there. Oh, no no no no! Because, having finalised everything that was in the bags, I remembered that there was an limit on the weight of my checked baggage. So off we went again, wheeling out the scales, and futilely trying to balance a very large case on what seemed like a very small set of scales. Depending on the scales used, both cases seemed to range from just under the allowed weight of 50 pounds to about twelve pounds over. This prompted a frantic display of packing and repacking, culminating in me abandoning a bag in its entirety, and replacing it with a larger one. After about an hour, we figured both bags were roughly about maybe 50 pounds.

So this morning, my cousin accompanied me into the airport, so that if anything was too heavy, I could load him down with non-essentials to bring me back under the weight limit. We queued up for some time, before finally reaching the check-in desk. I dumped my first bag on the scales, and waited with bated breath...47 pounds! I exhaled loudly. Now for the next one. I groaned as I saw the dial read 52 pounds. I frantically started calculating what I could leave behind. I could get more bodywash in Urbana, right? Nobody needs such a big towel - maybe I could make do with a facecloth till I got a new one. Did I really need that pot of marmite? What about...

My panic-stricken reverie was interrupted by the check-in associate smiling at me, and saying 'Oh that's fine. Two pounds is nothing really."

What? "Are you sure?" I asked, almost as if I wanted to argue with her. (At this stage I'm not entirely sure I didn't - I'd got myself all hyped for an argument, and now she was backing out - who did she think she was?)

"Absolutely. Don't worry about it." I could have kissed her.

I didn't, of course. We are at Threat Level: Orange, after all.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I Still Know What I Did This Summer, Part the Nineteenth

So anyway,

we took a busride to the camp the next day, along with the rest of the international staff. At this point, we were all being horrendously polite to each other, to avoid making a bad first impression. They all seemed nice, and, in truth, they all were nice.

We got to Camp William Penn just as the heavens opened, and one of the biggest rainstorms I have ever seen was unleashed upon the land. It was pretty wet. The Camp Director, Michael Shelton got onboard the bus, and asked me forward to check everyone was there. As I came up to him, he passed me the list of names, and then said "Oh, by the way - you're going to be a Unit Leader this year."

My response to this was: "Ah. Right."

Basically, I got a promotion in everything but money. I was in charge of around 10 to 20 kids, and four to six staff (Although one week there were ten staff. Crazy). There were four ULs in Boys' Camp (although one of them got fired the day before the kids arrived), and four in Girls' Camp; and between the eight of us (seven after the training week), we managed the everyday operation of the camp.

The kids this year were, on the whole, pretty good kids. I did have the unfortunate reputation of being the only UL to send kids home (one after only forty minutes at camp), but at least none of my kids got arrested for aggravated assault, unlike one of the other ULs. Another good thing was that this year, no-one tried to sue me, which was nice.

On the downside, however, I did quite seriously damage the muscles in my back around my lung. That hurts. On the other hand, I'm on enough painkillers that I wouldn't know. :D

In summation, then, I had an awfully large amount of fun this summer. I'm pretty sure that I'm going back next year as well. Right now, I'm camped out in my Aunt's basement for a week. Next Wednesday I fly out to Chicago, and then take the shuttlebus to Urbana, where I shall start the next stage of my exciting adventure.

That's going to the University of Illinois, in case you hadn't worked that one out.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I Know What I Did This Summer...Part the First

So, it's been a while.

Camp is now done. And it was officially awesome.

We finally got to America, after a series of farcical cock-ups. First the airline lost my reservation, then they found it, but couldn't confirm it, and then the check-in lady at Glasgow just gave up and decided to let the people in Heathrow fix it. I had a pretty low opinion of her by this point, but that plummeted after the following conversation:

Me: Could I have my passport back?

Her: I gave it to you.

Me: No, you didn't.

Her: Yes, I did.

Me: I don''t think so. [checks pockets, and asks travelling companions] No, I'm sorry, you definitely still have it.

Her: [v. sarcastically] Oh, well maybe I'll just check under my seat then. [she does so. she finds it] Oh.

Me: Yeah.

I mean, really.

When we got to Heathrow, through a series of more screw-ups, I ended up havinig to completely check-in again, and go back through Security. This could have taken about an hour, but I managed to blag my way into the Speedy Check-In, cutting out 90% of the queue. Nice.

Still, it could have been worse - the lady at Glasgow managed to actually cancel my friend Clare's reservation from Heathrow to Newark.

I think the moral of this story is clear - never, ever fly BMi Baby.

When we finally did get to America, the fun hadn't yet finished. They nearly had to divert us to JFK because of a bomb threat, and then when we finally did land, the man at immigration managed to stamp the wrong visa on my passport. Idiot.

Roger, of course, managed to get himself left at the airport, after forgetting to fill in a form at customs. Using his traditional flukey luck, however, he somehow managed to get picked up by the Camp Director of a different camp, who gave him a lift to the hotel we were staying at, so he arrived before us. Crazy.

Anyway, I have to go to the beach now, so I shall update you on what happened next at a later date. Suffice to say, with me and Roger involved, it was just a little bit farcical.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

In A Bit Of An Odd Pickle...

So I thought my mistake was ridiculous.

Well, Roger has raised the bar in madness tonight, challenging me to reach new heights in idiocy.

We're staying in my flat in Edinburgh tonight, as we're flying out of Glasgow tomorrow. Roger has been in Edinburgh for the past couple of days, so he dropped his stuff off at my flat on Friday...or so he thought. It was at this point that everything started to go wrong.

Roger got the wrong flat. I told him we lived in Flat Three, which, logically, he assumed must be on the third floor. He went up to the third floor flat, which is actually number five. At this point, he probably would have realised that he had the wrong flat, and tried the one downstairs. Except that in Edinburgh, Flat 5 is also Flat 3f1, which was what was on the door. So Roger asked if he could leave a bag for Sandy.

At that point you would expect the woman who answered the door to say that she had never heard of Sandy...except that she's foreign, and she thought he said 'Andy', who does live upstairs.

So Roger left the bag upstairs. But that should have been fine, right? Because we could just go up and get it when I got here and we realised the mistake. Except that the people upstairs moved out today, before I got here. So now we have Roger's bag locked upstairs, and we're waiting for a man from Grant Management, who own the flat, to give us the authorisation to call a locksmith to break in.

All very silly. Here's hoping he calls soon.

I Am, Actually, An Idiot

I'm sure this will come as little surprise to most of you.

Quick check on Friday night:





"Other Visa"


"Plane Tickets."


Yes, that's right, folks, I have lost my plane tickets. How? I have no idea, but I've managed it. We've tipped the house upside down, but to no avail. I talked to a lovely lady at Camp America, who clearly really didn't want to deal with this. She said she would ring me back when she'd sorted it.

One day, I will go on holiday, and not lose something. Not this time, though.

UPDATE: Sorted out an e-ticket. I love Camp America.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Most Important Thing I Learned Today...

Freddie Ljunberg swears in English.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Person Who Tells It Like It Really Is

"Terry, that sky is definitely blue."

"Yes John, that is an incontrovertible statement of fact. It is also somewhat overcast."

"That would suggest it may rain later on, John."

"Although it is not certain, Terry."

"No John, we would not want to give that impression. That would be most unprofessional."

'The Person Who Tells It Like It Really Is' - I mean, really- what kind of a stupid tagline is that?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My Whole Country Has Gone Crazy... crazy!

Don't get me wrong, I love football, and I'm really enjoying the World Cup, (So much so that even as I type this, I'm watching Ecuador vs Costa Rica - a game which is proving suprisingly enjoyable), but something is seriously wrong with thee English people. I say English, because I haven't been in Scotland for a bit - I'll let you know if they're as insane after my brief trip up this weekend. Anyway, as I was saying, England has actually gone mad. I accept that some commercial involvement is inevitable - official sponsors, sportswear manufacturers, etc, but I saw this poster today:

Surely just a harmless piece of patriotism, right? Look closer at the right hand side of the image...

"Official England Supermarket"? What on Earth does an official England supermarket do? Do the players shop there? On second thoughts, they're in Germany right now, so that wouldn't work...unless they shop online, I guess.

The really amusing thing is the way the products are advertised. For instance, I just saw an advert for the special World Cup burger - itself an utterly ridiculous concept - in which the actual burger was onscreen for about three seconds of a thirty second ad spot. The rest of the advert was shots of football fans. nPower is another example. "We provide the Energy, you provide the Electricity." - what? The advert is all shots of celebrating football fans. If you didn't know it was an advert for nPower, you wouldn't have a clue what it was advertising. Madness.

In other news, I've been taking my first steps towards packing today. Clothes? Don't be ridiculous - I've been putting music onto my laptop. Clothes will be packed on the night before...or possibly on the morning of. Less than two weeks to go now...

UPDATE - I just finalised my travel plans. ARRRGGGHHH!

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Least Productive Five Hours of My Life

So today I went and got my Visa for going to America.

That sentence makes it all sound easy. Well, actually in fairness, it was pretty easy - in the sense that there was very little effort involved. Which, to put it simply, was the problem.

Let me explain. In order to stay in Ameriqua for longer than thirty days, you must have a visa. Simple enough, right? Except that, as far as I can tell, there seem to be about seventy six different kinds of visa. And those are just the ones I could be bothered to count. They seem to have every eventuality covered, so if you're a 19 year old Jamaican gardener, who's looking to increase his collection of porcelain dolls, they probably have a visa tailored just for you.

I could whinge about the huge numbers of forms you have to fill in, and the ridiculous questions they ask you, (for interest's sake, and to avoid inconvenient rumours, I answered 'No' to the question 'Were you involved with the genocide in Nazi Germany') as well as the bizarre decisions on which forms you have to fill out, (there is a special form that all men, and women from 'Axis of Evil' countries have to fill out, just to check you're not a terrorist. Clearly European women are biologically prevented from being terrorists.) but I'm not going to dwell on those. Instead I'm going to focus on something much more important. How mind-numbingly boring the whole thing is.

So I arrived at the embassy in London at One o' clock. PM. In the afternoon. I was greeted by the same happy security guard who's greeted me every time I've been. (Admittedly only three times, but spread over three years, and all on different days.) He's a stereotypical cheery Londoner, who's quite large, and loves taking the mick out of people's passport photos. I know this, because he does it to everybody. He softens the blow for girls, though, by adding 'you look lovely now' afterwards. I'm sure this would be nice...if you hadn't just heard it said to the eight people ahead of you. Last time I saw him, he was wearing a big puffy jacket that made him look like the Michelin man. I think I'll call him Larry. Next time I see him, I'll ask for his autograph. He probably has photos to sign. I'll tell him he looks lovely now.

Once you get into the embassy, through the requisite security checks, (which always manage to make me feel guilty...even if I've done nothing wrong) you get into the main hall, and are given a number. This number is to be treasured, because it becomes your identity for the next few hours. And by few, I mean many. After about ten minutes, you get called up to a window, where you hand over some forms, tell the nice man what kind of Visa you want, and then go and sit down.

Where you stay....for the next four hours.

The kicker is this, though. You have no idea how long it's going to take to process your application. A computer calls out the numbers, but it seems to be in a totally random order. Everyone's applying for a different kind of visa, as well, so some people take a lot longer to process than others. This means you have to be constantly on the lookout (hearout?) for your number being called. This isn't helped by the computer system displaying what looks like a queue of whose number is going to be called next, but is, in fact absolutely nothing to do with anything. The number 017 stayed at third in the queue for two hours. I know, because I counted.

So anyway, you have these breathless expectation thing going on. So there I was, trying to read my newly-purchased copy of V for Vendetta, (yet another comic I'm going to have to figure out how to pack - curse you Alan Moore!) but every time a number was called starting with 'four hundred and...' I would look up, suddenly hopeful, only to have my hopes dashed. The real depressing point is when they start calling the numbers sixty places after you before yours. That's just soul-destroying.

After about four hours of frantic nothing, you finally get called to your 'interview', which consists of a consular agent making mindless chit-chat while he stamps your forms. This takes about thirty seconds. And that's it. Thirty seconds. I was almost begging him to pull out the difficult questions, the real mind-benders, the ones that would make me die inside. But I didn't. Because I'm not stupid.

So after all that, (and a long wait to sort out delivery of my documents, during which I enjoyed hearing the woman at the desk complain for ten minutes about how she needed a cigarette. Well, I say enjoyed...) I got out of the embassy at half past six in the evening. Which was actually a pretty short visit.

Wow, that was a long post. Well, I'll finish off by saying that not only did I visit the American Embassy, I also ate lunch at Subway, and dinner at McDonalds. I could only be more American if I had a bagel for breakfast.

Actually, I think we might have some around here somewhere...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Countdown to Evacuation

So I'm sitting here at my computer, thinking thoughts.

I'm thinking I should go to bed. That, however, would involve going upstairs, which is far too much like effort.

Yes, it's official folks - I am now too lazy to go to bed.

So I've been preparing to leave recently. For those of you who haven't quite figured it out, I'm off to Ameriqua in a matter of weeks. First to work at a camp for underpriviliged children from the Philidelphia area, and then onwards to Illinois to study for a year.

Am I prepared? What do you think?

I have done zero packing, zero planning, and about the closest I've come to preparing is making a list of things I'm regretting about going away.

Which is, to whit:

I can't fit all my comics in the one suitcase I can take with me.

This has created a major problem for me.

Do I choose Batman over Spiderman? Wolverine over Captain America? New Comics over Old Favourites?

One thing for sure, Watchmen is coming. (The movie, by the way - cancelled. :( ) (Hey, that kinda looks like a frog. Of course if this blog thing turns it into a picture, you'll never know what I meant. I'm sure that's a metaphor for life, or something.)

Anyway, back to comics. I tried limiting myself to one from each genre, but that didn't work. I have way too many X-Men comics for that. The next plan was to try and get a representative sample. That was too much math. It was at about that point that the little voice of sanity remarked that I didn't really need to take that many comics - it wasn't like I was going to have time to read them all.

Man, I hate that guy.

So anyway, if anyone has any ingenious ideas, I'd appreciate knowing them.

I wonder if I could scan in every page, and then save them to my computer...

So, I'm too lazy to go to bed, but I'm willing to scan in over a thousand pages of artwork.

Go figure.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Testing 1, 2...uh...5?

This is just a test really - just to see if this baby'll run.

So...uh...toast. Yeah, I like toast. Mmmm...