Saturday, 22 September 2007

Airport musings

Can't believe how lazy I've been with this. WHEN did I last update? 13th? ok so that was like, over a week ago. Well, I'm at the airport in San Francisco atm waiting on my delayed flight back to the UK, and am using up the last of my $1 bills on the rather extortionate internet access to avoid spending more money on duty free and chocolate (I just spent an interesting while with the very nice lady at the currency exchange who had to count and recount like $100 worth of my $1s, oops.) Am now in possession of 79 pounds and feeling much poorer now I'm back in English mode.

OK so will try and do over a week of updating now. Last Saturday was a real, All-American football game; Stanford vs San Jose State, held at the Stanford Stadium, which for the record is about as big as Wembley, I swear (maybe I do exaggerate but you get my drift.) Stanford has not won at home for Two. Years. And guess what? We won!!!!! 36-0 or thereabouts. It was all very exciting. I felt extremely Stanforded-up in my new hoody, and very much enjoyed the team spirit and jollity. There were cheerleaders, there were marching bands, there were injuries (one guy broke his neck. nice.) and I have an actual photo of myself with a real American footballer, who was massive. After the game we went back to one of the student houses; it was Russian themed (!) - they have Russian, French, German themed houses, it's insane. The Russian one is named Slavdom (!!) and Molly lives there. I did not sleep, and walked back to my new home - the lamely-located Stanford Guest House, an hour and a half walk away - at 7am.

Have spent a surprising amount of time this week working, on a less exciting note. I gave my presentation on American GIs in Britain on Monday, having nearly slept through my alarm and the class, and wrote my final paper for Thursday - 3500 words in 2 1/2 hrs, oh yes. Oxford has taught me at least one useful thing. Have been to San Francisco again, as well as the wonderful mall - actually last night we walked along the Embarcadero under the Bay Bridge at night when it was all lit up and it was loovely. Oh and there was some kind of an actual party too, for Fiona's birthday, and a crazy event in which the uni band runs around campus with their mascot, a large tree. Ok, i know I'm forgetting stuff.. am quite tired/annoyed about imminent 11 hr flight. Sigh.

I will write a concluding blog when I get home. Just want you to know I had the best time ever, and am currently very sad. I want to staaaaaaaaaaaay :(

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Tales from the Hoover

I feel very illicit as am writing this in the high-security Archives room at the Hoover Institute (which also doubles as a Conservative think tank, just to let you know how crazy this place is.) An update is in order so here goes:

The baseball game was funfunfun, in all seriousness. No one actually watches the game. They just eat. I ate: garlic fries, cheesy nachos, a chocolate brownie, a huge cookies&cream icecream, a huge cup of lemonade, a cup of green tea and a "Superdog", in the space of about 3 hours. Am still suffering for it. The SF Giants ("our" team) won the game, yay, and there was a home run although I'ms till not clear exactly what this entails. There was also singing of "Take me out to the Ballgame" and some horrendous lounge singer doing the Star Spangled Banner, it was all very American, oh and the mascot of the team is a sea lion! Cute. So I liked that. We missed the train home so waited for the midnight one in SF station. Interestingly, they have Safeway here. Got home about 1.30am then had 2 games of Scrabble, which occupied myself and Scott until around 4. I lost both games, which is a bit embarassing. Have lost count of the games of Scrabble that I have screwed up whilst here.

Yesterday I finally got down to some proper work and spent the afternoon between libraries. Read a GI's diary (hilarious- may post some extracts sometime), a female pilot's letters and a billeted housewife's diary. You're not allowed to take your own paper in here- "authorised notepaper" only. Weirdos. Then I went to the Green Library, which is insanely huge and full of stacks, and I found nothing and it was a rather misspent hour, so I went to the dorm and slept. In the evening we had "s'mores", which for the uninitiated are digestive biscuit sandwiches of chocolate and toasted marshmallow. Was quite excited to do a proper campfire but the s'mores were frankly terrifying. I do not recommend. Played more Scrabble, lost again, then had a relatively early night.

Today I'm kind of sad as tomorrow we move to different accommodation and I am going to miss the Americans loads, sob. We had a D-day veteran in class (he must be so old! he was born in 1921!) which was so interesting. He was at Omaha Beach and showed us loads of photos from his boat, very Saving Private Ryan. Its weird to think how few opportunities people have left to talk to someone like that.

And now work needs to be done. The sketchy librarian approaches....

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Sleep deprivation and me

I decided to post in this blog rather than go to bed, as it's 2pm and although I am absolutely DEAD of exhaustion I need to think about "important" stuff such as my upcoming "oral report" and extended essay that is in for next Monday. I'll do that later however, as it's time for a blog post.

Soo, we went to San Francisco on Saturday as a "class bonding" activity. (our class is so bonded, which is nice.) We walked from the train station to Fisherman's Wharf (= a long way), and I ate some kind of fish soup out of a bowl made of bread. Which was kind of interesting. We saw the sea lions, had an icecream that served 8 people, and missed the train back to Stanford so had to hang around for another hour. I've touched on it before, but SF is actually awesome. Go there. So when we got back we had "The Game", which as well as being ingeniously titled is in actuality a ridiculously long-winded treasure hunt that is reputed to last up to 12 hours. Our team gave up at 3am when most of it had gone to bed; we came 5th. I lost multiple games of Hangman.

Sunday we went on a trip to some museums in SF. One was the Legion of Honour, which was an intriguing collection of random furniture and art from various British country houses arranged artfully, and the other was the De Young, a rather more modern affair designed by the people who designed the Tate, not exactly the most attractive building in Britain I thought, but whatever. There were some cool things, it was OK, la la la, we came back and chatted in the corridor til 2am as seems to happen every night, hence my exhaustion.

Yesterday we watched propaganda films in class and I almost fell asleep. Lol, this account makes me sound so bored. It was alright, one of them was narrated by Laurence Olivier and included verses from "Jerusalem", and I am not sure whether the Americans amongst us understood a single word, mostly because I really didn't. Went swimming again in the afternoon. I would NEVER get tired of doing that. It's so nice and sunny at around 5pm and you can sunbathe on the grass and then swim and basically, it is fabulous (or "faaaaaaaaaabulous" as our tutor exclaimed today in his brilliant New York Jewish accent). In the evening the tutors of the different classes explained to us how they "arrived at their intellectual passions", including a crazy, undersexed opera-loving woman who I swear was transported from like, 1845. And our own fantastic tutor Professor Stansky, who informed us that "modern sex" didnt exist when he was at uni. Good to know. Later I ate cold Pop Tarts and lost at Scrabble. To an American. Still cringeing.

Today I am mostly tired, but it's been OK so far. I just registered at the Hoover Institute archives and am quite excited about going to read real GIs' diaries and letters tomorrow for my still non-existent essay. Tonight we are going to SF to see a baseball game, which I will reserve judgement on, though I refuse to sing or do the Pledge of Allegiance or shout maniacally at the players in true American fashion, as in this I am determined to remain resoundingly British. All in all it's lovely here. Hope all is good. xx

Friday, 7 September 2007


An update.
Today we went swimming in the huge outdoor swimming pool that Stanford just happens to have on campus. It was immense. I am actually in love with everything here. As I have thought many a time, I am currently experiencing the American childhood I never had; watching volleyball games (more on this in a second), cycling in the sun, and swimming in the afternoon. It is nice.
OK, and so yesterday eve we went to a womens' volleyball game. Stanford has a ridiculously hi-tech and amazing hall for volleyball and basketball complete with hotdog sellers, programmes, a big TV on the ceiling and cheesy American commentator. I understand the game now (shock!) and we won, which was exciting. They had cheerleaders. And I was introduced, somewhat awkwardly, to some real American footballers who were literally enormous, for I would not use that word lightly, and nice, but generally terrifying. The biggest of them all was called Brad Bulky. This was his ACTUAL name. Love it.
So it's very chilled here and as you may be able to guess I am loving it. We did another puny 700-word essay yesterday and one thing I have to add that is brill but I dont think I have mentioned yet is that my room has a BALCONY and when you look out of the window it's beautiful and sunny and there are mountains on the horizon.
Oh and last night we had the obligatory "Americans get excited about how English people talk" session which was hilarious. And to add to my cool points, we are playing Ultimate Frisbee in a minute. yay.
Nevertheless, I miss you all. Hope life is good everywhere else. I am going to San Francisco both days this weekend and tomorrow night we are playing a 12-hour night treasure hunt, get jealous, and on Sunday eve we are going to our professors house to swim in his pool. To swim in our tutors pool. Yes that's right. Cool.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Another day..

So I'm thinking this may be a shortish entry, shocking I know as I havent posted since, like, a few days ago anyway. But you know, it's a long trek from the 3rd floor to the "computer cluster". Considering I used to wash in the bath when our shower was broken last year rather than bother to go up to another floor....
Aanyway. What American things have I been doing? Today we went to the mall. On bikes. They're kind of American-y bikes, with crazy handlebars, and I am most excited to have hired one. Not that I will ever cycle in Oxford (death trap) but it's a novelty here. So yeah, the mall. It's all outdoors, and there are lots of "preppy" shops (so I am told), but we went in what I think is their Debenhams and I bought a very nice dress so it's all fine. Apparently you can cycle anywhere in California. We're considering cycling to the nearest Walmart, which is pretty extreme. I will try not to die.
We've also had 2 classes so far. Both are with the most crazy Oxford-style professor who is 75 (I asked), has a very strong New York accent and digresses more than Nightingale, and James, you will understand the significance of this. We also had to do a "paper" yesterday, that was, get ready Oxford people: 500 words. On our THOUGHTS. Not like, proper work. Not like, think, do loads of reading. It was weird. I wrote 1200. The novelty of "class" has basically worn off now though, and so i'm trying to think of other stuff... we went to have "fro-yo" in town last night, and we also had a barbecue. The weather is amazing.
I'm pretty sleepy- it's like 7.30pm here, how lame Stanford makes me - but very happy. I would so transfer here. It is like, chilled central, the work is not work and the sun is nice and warm and you can cycle everywhere without dying. The Americans are hilarious and ridiculously nice. I wish you were all here too.
(I'm also noticing that I'm picking up the Californian speech pattern, which is disturbing, so I will try and avoid it in future. Or maybe I'll keep it til Freshers Week to entertain you all. And Terry, I met a girl who knows you! Mimi? It was briefly very exciting.)

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Stanford- at last!

I am sitting in the Stanford computer cluster at 8.30pm writing this, and I have sooo much to write and am too tired/apathetic to write it.
I got to Stanford at about 2pm today and met up with Sofie and Rhiannon, both from Corpus, who are lovely, and spent much of the (swelteringly hot) afternoon with them in our dorm unpacking and speculating about our fellow Stanfordians, whom we assigned titles such as "captain of the football team", "quarterback" etc from their Freshers Faces-style photos on the dorm wall. Yet none of the Stanfordians are due to arrive at all til tomorrow, so we have not met our roommates or anyone else apart from each other and the teaching assistants, who are crazy and overly happy all the time, but lovely also. The dorm is basically the Flete, but with really attractive architecture, and a piano in the very civilised "JCR" type room downstairs. All of us on the history course are on the same corridor, Flete-style, although we obv have to share rooms which I'm not sure if I like the idea of at all, but yeah. The rooms have bunkbeds (!) and the bottom bunk is so high I have to climb into it, but this is preferable to falling out of the top one. There is also a sink, exciting as I was denied one last year. There are 2 showers that we all have to share. Clearly, I am used to this, but all the others are shocked and affronted.
We went on a trip to discover the campus bike store, as the campus is huuuge and regrettably I will have to get on a bike asap. This was locked so we wandered around, but OMG it is hot here. It's only just got below 20 degrees and it's the nighttime. Weird. We had a meal in their insanely well-equipped hall, which is basically like, an all you can eat buffet. I plan to try Root Beer at some point, but I need to adjust to the culture shock first...!
Soo, summing up: it's weird to be here and hear people talking about the Union and the Bridge, I cant imagine any of these Oxford people at Oxford. It's also so big here that I feel much more disconcerted than I remember feeling when I started at Oxford but maybe that'll pass soon. I can't believe I'm going to be living with Americans for the next 3 weeks; Francie, the TA, told me about "sexiling" wherein your roomate locks you out of your room whilst they have an all night sex session, and omg, I am well freaked out that my roomie will be some Stanfordian whore and I will have to sleep in the corridor. I am looking forward to going to a real frat party, and still confused that their massive library has no books in it because it's an internet library. WHY is it so big?!
Hmmm, this is getting vv long and I'm soo tired so I might go and enjoy my last night of solitary sleep til I leave America. Will post with tales of roommates, lessons and root beer when I can. I miss you all. I really want to ring someone just to check that I havent entered some alternate universe, but you'll all be asleep, so.. damn.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

San Francisco; day 1

I am writing this from the comfort of my hotel (technically it's a "motel".. which is a bit more sinister) in San Francisco, and it is about 8am. Mum is talking to Imogen on the phone and it's mid-afternoon in England apparently, so good afternoon to everyone.

At Terry's behest I'm going to try and write something "interesting", so here we go. The flight yesterday was suuch a nightmare, we were on the plane for 12 hours (an hour of which was sitting on the runway at Heathrow, which I have vowed to never return to, ever.) We arrived in San Fran in the early evening and drove to the city centre where we're staying. First impressions: it's an amazing city. I have to keep reminding myself I'm in America and I feel like I'm in a theme park. The bay is huuge and the whole thing just rises up out of it over the hills, and somehow people manage to park their cars on an almost vertical gradient. All the shops are either vintage, "erotic toys and lotions", or massive Chinese fleamarkets. There is a bigger Asian community here than anywhere in the world outside Asia.
Also, there are huundreds of gay couples walking around, which to a small-town girl such as myself is rather novel, and I have even been on TWO tram rides. We went out last night to find food and got a tram, or, sorry, a "cable car" down one of those ridiculously sloping streets, and ended up talking to a extremely gay middle-aged man who used to live in Brighton. (And now lives in San Francisco. His life is a walking gay cliche!!) But he was very cool and drew us a map of a walk we're going to attempt today, despite the fact that the weather is looking pretty rubbish.

Thoughts: I was so sure that a cable car was an ACTUAL cable car, as in skiing-cable car. It is not; it is a tram, which is actually better. I also only realised how often SF is on film when I got here. It seems so weirdly familiar. Finally, the flavours of soft drinks here are absolutely ridiculous. Last night I bought "Diet Dr Pepper with cherry and vanilla", and also "Diet Coke Plus", which tastes strangely like medicine.

And tonight my MUM wants to go to the gay area. No, no, no, no, no.

I hope that was mildly interesting, I'm still kind of tired so probably not but I'll have more to write about after today. And tomorrow=Stanford, aaaaah!!!
Hope all are well!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

A newsflash.

I just have to post to say: I have FINISHED my packing. I have done it, and redone it, about fifteen times. Literally.
Books I am taking (very important): Perfume, Hallam Foe, So Many Ways to Begin, and a shiny biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Randomest item I've packed: Probably a travel kettle that I picked up for a bargainous £4 at Sainsburys, complete with plastic mugs and spoons, and a box of Earl Grey. Tea, tea, tea. (!)

12 hours on a plane tomorrow, good stuff. I promise that the next time I post, I will be in California.



Right, testing this blog.
I have decided that it would be easiest to post a blog during my time at Stanford than give everyone long-winded individual accounts, so although this is probably very presumptuous and none of you care, here is where you can read exciting and stimulating anecdotes and think of me, far away in l'Amerique, for a whole 23 days.
I haven't even left home yet so this really isn't very exciting at all, but I shall endeavour to update as regularly as poss when I get there. You can even post comments, you dont have to be a member of this site or anything. Just so I know you're all alive. I strongly encourage this...
Speak soon..