Friday, February 24, 2006

my address

If you want to write me, I'd be happy to receive mail... email me at and I'll send you my mailing address. I also have a (616) phone number where you can reach me without having to pay international rates.

p.s. I'm spending the weekend in LONDON!

22 Feb. - quick catch-up

So it's Wednesday night and here I am with my cup of peppermint tea, thinking how catch-up sounds like ketchup, and how its like gold here. If it's even provided, most places you have to pay for it. You can buy it in the supermarkets and stuff, but in terms of being available as a condiment, well, good luck, ketchup lovers. Don't plan on coming to Europe anytime soon. (Usually it's called 'tomato sauce' and it tastes different... its thicker or something.) Thankfully Molly had a bottle from Tesco on hand so we could have it with our fish & chips tonight.

Fish & Chips... whew. I'm still full. We went to a take-away (take-out) place on Bath Road, which is about a 20-minute walk from where we live. But apparently this place was good & cheap, and a few of us were feeling like we were missing part of the whole British experience without having eaten a meal of fish & chips.

Jake, Stephanie, Molly, Greg (all American BCA students) with our fish & chips. Notice the bottle of ketchup in the middle of the table...

Jake has been to this place before, and he warned us about the big portions, but when we got back and unwrapped our meals...

here's Molly in shock. what did I get myself into?

Molly & I are not big fish people. It's one of those things you just have to do; besides, anything battered & fried can taste good.
Yeah, we didn't finish our meals. I think the grease will be coating my stomach walls for a few days.

Well, you might be wondering... how is the food over there? I've heard it's not so good.
here's my take on the food so far:
  • pies & pasties are pretty popular. steak pies, pork pies, mince meat, lamb, you name it. you can find a nice variety in the fridge section at Tesco, and they are sometimes buy-one-get-one free. you can tell how I've been doing my grocery shopping.
  • since we are responsible for our own meals here, my meals have mainly consisted of normal "college student" cuisine. pizza, frozen stuff, pasta... you get the idea.
  • there isn't a cafeteria like the colleges back home. most students don't live on campus; actually only "first-year" students do. so that means no meal plan where you can just go in and get your card swiped. the cafe here, called the "refectory", is about it. we have some credit on our ID cards to use at the refectory but it's only enough for about 1 meal/day we are here. some of the BCA students have already written off the refectory, calling it "panini hell." they have cold subs (baguettes), a limited salad bar, various hot meals (the other day I had lamb & guinness stew, it was interesting) and paninis paninis paninis. cheddar & tomato, bacon & brie, pepperoni & mozarella, ham & cheese, coronation chicken... the panini possibilities are endless. sounds good, I'm sure, and they were at first. but ugh. I am on a nearly 1 1/2 week panini hiatus and I think I might be able to get one tomorrow and actually enjoy it.
  • Indian food is pretty popular, too; I might have mentioned that in an earlier post. it only sticks out to me when I see frozen chicken tikka meals & such in the TV-dinners section at the supermarket (I hang out in the freezer aisle a lot, ok? It's cheap.)
  • so far I've seen McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, KFC, and pizza hut here. My cousins were telling me that you see KFC knock-off's here too, with names like "Dallas Fried Chicken" or "Tennessee Fried Chicken". If you think about it, why would people here know the difference between Kentucky or Dallas or Tennessee?
    I bet you have to pay for the ketchup packets there, too.

In other news, I recently received word that my cousin Susanna had her baby!
here's my new cousin!

Belko (which means joy, happiness, hospitable in Fulani) John was born Tuesday the 21st and was 7lbs. 4oz. (I had a feeling it was a boy...) How exciting! : )


Well there's no way I'm going to be able to cover all the stuff I've done since my last post... but I do have a kind of funny story. It's definitely one of those culture-oops moments.

Last Saturday was the school disco, which means that everyone goes to the Student Union bar (the SU as we like to call it, or some say "sue"), dance, have some drinks, etc. You get the picture. Well, they (the students who go) also tend to go in costume.

Andy, a British student who lives in the building in front of mine, decided to go as the classic nerd. He just needed the finishing touches...
(Enter Andy into Merrowdown kitchen. Group of female American students are sitting around the table, just having finished dinner.)
ANDY: Does anyone have any braces?
GIRL 1: Yeah, the ones I keep in my back pocket...
(GIRLS laugh.)
GIRL 2: Why would we have braces?
GIRL 3: Oh, you mean like a retainer?
(GIRLS break into random sharing of orthodontic horror stories.)
ANDY: No one has like a belt or something I can hook on my pants? (draws imaginary line with hand from shoulder to waist)
GIRLS (in unison): Ohhhhh...
GIRL 2: You mean, like suspenders.
ANDY: Yeah, braces. We call them braces.
(GIRLS laugh hysterically.)

But thankfully Andy is used to our American-ness, and he and some of the other 'Brits' that live with us like to affectionately snicker when we talk about our movies, classes and make our miscellaneous mispronunciations.

They like us enough to hang around us, and I think Andy especially likes having all these American girls around...
here's Andy with some of the American girls (& 1 British)

Some of the girls helped him make some make-shift "braces" with brown packaging tape.

some of the GIRLS sitting in Merrowdown kitchen. (Jamie, Georgiana, me, Stephanie)

After dinner and after most people were off to the disco, Leslie, Molly, Stephanie & I decided to watch a movie.. err... film. But not until we acquiesced our chocolate craving. So we made a quick run to the convenience store at Texaco (yes, Texaco) across the street and bought some of the biggest swiss cake rolls you've ever seen!

Molly, me & Stephanie with our "choc' rolls"

Nothing like chocolate, friends & a good chick flick! It was a good ending to a great day (you'll have to click on the link of "pictures from my trip to Gloucester" on the right to see more! But I'll just leave you with this to make you want to check them out...)

Harry Potter was filmed here!

Thursday, February 23, 2006


hey I just changed the settings so that now anyone can post comments, you don't have to have an account. Now I should get no excuses from my faithful readers for not leaving their 2 pence...

You know you're an American when...

  1. you're at the register at Tesco and you don't even think to bag your own groceries.
  2. you're in class and when the tutor asks you about American history, you have no idea when the Declaration of Independence was signed. or what it says.
  3. your concept of something being "old" is 100 years, give or take.
  4. the only college dorm situation you've ever known is living with roommates. the concept of all campus housing consisting of single rooms boggles your mind.
  5. when people hear you're from America, they're surprised when you say that you've never been to California, or Texas, as if it's in your own backyard.
  6. you're sitting on a bus talking with your (American) friends and everyone else on the bus turns to look at the foreigners.
  7. at dinner, your table is the loudest in the refectory.
  8. you go to pay with your credit (or debit) card and you stick it in the card reader and the cashier says, "oh, it doesn't have a chip, does it."
  9. you go to pay for a post card at the Millenium Stadium souvenir shop, and while digging through your coin purse for a 50p coin, the cashier says, "it's the big silver one."
  10. you don't know what 'A-levels' are.
  11. when discussing class with your friends, you keep saying "my professor- I mean, tutor--"
  12. you have a hard time getting used to the fact that the SU (student union) bar --the place where students hang out and tend to get drunk on the weekends-- is right across the hall from where you go to your psych class.
  13. you are 19 and you can legally drink alcohol, and that is abnormal.
  14. you don't know much about the EU.
  15. you can't bring yourself to say 'cheers' to the bus driver, because it sounds fake no matter what
  16. the country you're staying in is approximately the size of your home state.
  17. you don't know what 'black Friday' or 'rag week' is.
  18. you pronounce 'Reading' like 'reeding', not 'reding'; 'Leicester' like (well, how would you say it?), not 'lester'
  19. someone has to show you how to use the oven in the kitchen.
  20. you love the fact that when you buy something, you pay what the price sticker says-- no sales tax!
  21. you haven't seen an SUV in a while and you actually take note of this.
  22. when you go to cross the street, out of habit you step on to the street-- just the edge-- to look for traffic, but you almost get run over. and the car doesn't slow down!
  23. you think red telephone booths are so cute.
  24. people look at you funny when you say you say you're "going to school", not university.
  25. you crave chocolate or ice cream almost every day; fast food at least twice a week.
  26. your program director has to tell your friends that: a) you have to flip the little switch next to the power outlet so the red is showing or nothing will work b) their hairdryers have been blowing out because the voltage is different here.
  27. you call it an 'outlet' instead of a 'socket'
  28. your fellow group member, while on the bus from the airport, sees a gas station and says, "oh look, they have BP here!"
  29. you see the price sign at the gas station says "89.9" and you think that's cheap, but that's actually more expensive than back home.
  30. you're sore in the morning from walking so much
  31. 7.95 seems like a decent price for a meal... and then you remember the exchange rate.

more to come...

Monday, February 13, 2006

13 Feb. - Classes Begin!

Today was the first day that "Modules" met. Here, the classes, or modules, only meet once a week: generally 1 hr. lecture followed by 1 hr. seminar. I took the University shuttle this morning to Francis Close Hall (which I talked about on an earlier post). FCH is the site of the Humanities departments, so most of my modules meet there. My first class was Psychology 101. There are 2 other BCA students in that class with me. The tutor (professor) is an interesting fellow-- he has 10 piercings on his face (yes, I counted...)
I think Psych will be alright.
Afterwards, we had lunch in the refectory (cafeteria) and I had some free time before I went to a writing module. It's called "Changing Stories: Writing & Rewriting", which is basically taking a "famous" piece of literature or storyline and recasting it in your own way... which doesn't sound too appealing to me. I didn't really like the way it seemed to me. It's okay, though, because the way BCA sets it up, I'm not really registered in any modules yet. They just told us to attend whatever modules we might be interested in taking this week, and then by the end of the week we can be signed in.
Tomorrow I am going to "Earth Processes & Landforms" and either "Screenwriting I" or "Crafting Fictions". Friday I will go to "19th Cent. American Literature" and "Playwriting". The plan is to be registered for 5 modules.

Today in the writing class, there was a short story the tutor wanted us to read aloud in class. So the paper was passed around the class and everyone read a portion. Naturally, I was the only non-Brit in the room. It was kind of intimidating to read in my very non-British, American voice, sticking out like a sore thumb. Not that I was ashamed, but I normally don't like to draw too much attention to myself... and there was no escaping the fact that their ears would perk up when they heard the change in droning reading voices. (you know how it is when a group of people take turns reading and you start to zone out because they all sound the same... and then someone with a very distinct voice reads and you snap out of it? yeah. like that.) Back home when I hear a British accent I think it's fascinating and I want to listen to it; but today it would have been nice to be reminded that there are people who talk like me! I'm sure the others thought nothing of it. But it's hard getting used to the fact that everywhere you go... whenever you open your mouth (sometimes you don't even have to)... people know you're a foreigner.
Nevertheless, it's good for me to be on the other side of the fence. After all, that's what I'm here for : )

Sunday, February 12, 2006

11-12 Feb. - Weekend in Bournemouth

I just got back from Bournemouth, where my cousin Susanna and her husband Boureima live. It's about 2.5 hours from Cheltenham , and they were kind enough to drive me all the way back home. Boureima especially is very hospitable, and insisted they drive me back instead of taking me to the train station.

I was down for the weekend to visit, and also to attend a baby shower that Susanna's sister Miriam organised as a surprise. It was quite interesting as baby showers are not as popular here in the UK as they are in the states. Many of the guests were friends of Susanna's and, as you can imagine, not familiar with this sort of thing, (some of them were saying 'I don't know how this whole American custom goes...') but overall everyone seemed to enjoy it. Miriam informed me that the British do something like a bridal shower, called "hen day," where all the bride's friends and such get together for the day and give her gifts and they all go out and do something... it sounds like a cross between our bachelorette parties and bridal showers. But the concept of a baby shower is quite foreign, and I think some of the ladies were surprised to see how many gifts Susanna ended up with. At the same time, I was thinking how I would have expected to see much more at a baby shower back home. But everyone was very generous and Susanna was very grateful (and surprised!)

here's Susanna, Miriam to her left, and in the corner is her friend Beth from London (who went to Bible College in Iowa)

L to R: Aunt Nancy, Ruth & Bryn, me, Susanna & Boureima

My cousin Bryn and Susanna's husband (Boureima) were also at the party--which is another thing you don't see in America-- and Boureima (who's from Burkina Faso, Africa) kept calling it a "Baby Bath". Miriam had called him a few days prior to tell him her plans so that he could keep it as a surprise for Susanna. When we arrived he informed us that he had cleaned the bath tub in preparation for "whatever this baby bath is". We all got a good laugh out of that. : ) He will be a good dad.

Boureima is the field director for Fulani Ministries in Burkina Faso. They plan to return in September, after the baby's born (which could be any day now). I'm excited to see my new cousin!

10 Feb. - Campus Orientation

A small group of us (mostly those of us who live in Merrowdown and Eildon, the villa next door) hopped on the university buses to see the different campuses that compose the University of Gloucestershire. There are 4 (I think) campuses all together; 1 in Gloucester and the other 3 in Cheltenham. (Side note: I heard that Harry Potter was filmed at the Gloucester Cathedral! I have yet to see it). We only got to 2 of the campuses, though. The main idea was to get used to the busing system because most of us have classes at different campuses. It looks like a lot of my classes will be at Francis Close Hall:

the buildings are really beautiful.

and here's the inside of the chapel

nothing quite like Edman... or even Blanchard (back at Wheaton)!

9 Feb. - Settling into Cheltenham...

This morning the directors met with us to inform us about choosing Modules (our classes) and how everything works at the University. Later, a few friends & I went into town to shop for some necessities... I bought some loo rolls (toilet paper), hangers, etc. Later on, our whole group met at a restaurant called Indian Brasserie. I'd never actually been to an Indian restaurant before, so it was interesting. It was pretty good, but I wasn't a huge fan.

It was a fun night. That was the last time we'll all be together for awhile! (there's a good part of the group I haven't even met yet...)

Below: Lisa (from Messiah College in PA-- most of the students are from Messiah), Stephanie (from Malone College in OH) and me (the lone Wheatie)

8 Feb. - Cymru

Today we took a trip to Cardiff, Wales (Wales=Cymru in Welsh). It was mostly a touristy excursion. I'm sure we were quite a spectacle; forty American college students descending upon the streets of Wales' capital & largest city, at least half had cameras out and ready... I felt like I was wandering with a herd of cattle!

I bet you can't spot us...

Anyway, we visited Milennium Stadium first. It's a huge stadium (seats 74,500) used for 6 Nations Rugby (International Rugby organisation) and football (soccer) matches. It happens to be the largest stadium in the world with a retractable roof.

When we were waiting outside the stadium for our tour guide, we saw a group of guys tossing around a rugby ball. It turns out they were French Rugby players, and I'm not sure if they were from the French team or what, but who knows, maybe we saw some celebrities?

A few of the girls posed for pictures with them. This is Alex, she's one of the BCA group coordinators.

Rugby is pretty big in Wales. They close all main city streets in Cardiff on match days. We got to see the stadium inside & out, and even got to see where the queen would sit if she were at the game!

here's the view of the stadium from the inside. The trophy is just a replica, but that's where the real one would sit.

The post that looks like a football goal is the rugby post (it has a bar that connects the two but you can hardly see it in this picture)

After lunch in the city, we had a tour of Cardiff Castle. Here I am in front (of the oldest part) of the castle:

I climbed into the top window there and found a nice view of the city
(the clocktower of the castle is on the right; Millenium Stadium is just to the left)

more of Cardiff...

7 Feb. - Jetlag & Merrowdown Annexe D2

Whew... where do I start. It has been a long three days, and I still haven't completely recovered from jet lag (even though I slept for over 15 hours Monday night!). It hasn't hit me yet that I'm here for the semester, that I'm actually here, that I won't be home for 4 months.

My home away from home... Merrowdown Annexe Flat D2. It's campus-owned but not on the main campus. It's nicely situated between town and the university campus, so either way is about a 15 minute walk. I was fortunate to get one of the Annexe rooms, which means I get my own bathroom! :)

here's my room:
I haven't finished unpacking yet. I've only taken one trip into town so far, where I bought some handwash, face cloths, air fresheners & scissors. I went to the register to purchase these items, and the cashier looked at me and said, "Are you 16?"
I, a bit surprised, hesitated and then, "yes..."
"Can I see some I.D?"
(I hand her my international student ID card.)
she looks it over. hands it back to me. "I have to ask, you know, because it's a sharp pointed object..."
"That's fine, I understand."
and sure enough, on the back of the package it says, "NOT FOR SALE TO PERSONS UNDER 16 YEARS OF AGE."
So there you have it. I could go to the pub across the street and buy a beer but I can't buy a pair of 49p scissors without getting carded