Friday, September 30, 2005

T plus One Week

Well, it has been some time since I've posted. That's due partially to the fact that my first week here has been incredibly hectic with much to do and less time in which to do it, but also because it has been incredibly frustrating, and I didn't want to taint my blog with negativity and ill-will, but rather keep it a place of merriment and mirth. I'll will simply say this on the issue: 1) Customer service is a foreign concept around here and 2) It's harder to open a bank account here than it is to lick your own elbow.

Well, that aside, things here have really been quite good. I can't say that I feel any particular affinity for London as a city or geographic location per se, but there have been things that have really confirmed that this is where I'm meant to be. We were sitting at a bar (as we've been doing every night since I've gotten here) and I mentioned how excited I was that one of my favourite jazz musicians was coming to play with the London Symphony Orchestra. Someone at the table inquired who it was, and I said it was Dave Brubeck, and at least 3 people at the table were just like "Dave Brubeck?! When?!" Heheh, I've never quite gotten that reaction from anybody upon mentioning Dave Brubeck's name. Another night we were sitting in one of the common kitchens drinking lots of wine and we got to talking about the movie "Sideways," and this Italian guy half-jokingly starts applying a Marxist analysis to the movie, so I facetiously add that, if one REALLY wanted to, one could also incorporate the Gramscian notion of hegemony into it, which started this whole discussion about Gramsci and a bunch of other Marxist philosophers that I've never heard of, but it really didn't feel pretentious (though I realize it sounds it). Rather, I really think that people around here realize that they have just as much to learn from one-another as they do from courses, so it's a genuine exchange of ideas and not the intellectual penis-measuring contests that so often afflict academic circles.

One more story to share, on a much lighter note. Some of the people from my residence were out at a bar (I had stayed home this night as I was rather under the weather) and a verbal altercation broke out between one of us and the bar tender, and the bar tender called this person a "fucking muppet." Honestly, was that the best he could do? At least bring the mothers into it, it'd sure beat "you're a fucking muppet." Apparently this is some pejorative term in England. I love it though! I use it as a term of endearment now. All my good friends are "fucking muppets."

Oh, also, the battery chargers (for my digital cameras) which I had forgotten in Canada have arrived by courier, so I'll be sure to take lots of pictures and post them here. I know I've been promising that for some time now, but it'll really happen very soon.


Sunday, September 25, 2005


Well, it's day 4 here in London...I think. Everything has really been a haze between scrambling to get basic household necessities (I have bedding, yay!), meeting new people, meeting old people, going out, etc. One crazy thing that Nesma and I have realized is that there are a total of 5 people including ourselves at SOAS from our old highschool in Kuwait, how nuts is that?! It's a small world indeed. We don't know the other 3 well, but at least two of them went to school at the same time as us and we vaguely know them.

Yesterday was international postgraduate student orientation. The orientation itself, overall, was fairly uninteresting, but it provided the opportunity to meet lots of new people. So far I am the youngest person I know of who is a postgraduate here. Everyone is rather surprised when they learn that I am only 21. Nesma is the next youngest person, being 2 months older than me, but everyone else has at least a few years of work experience after undergrad. One guy worked for Doctors Without Borders as an architect designing field hospitals in such charming locations as Liberia, Somalia, and Afghanistan. Another guy worked as a chemical engineer and is now doing development studies, another worked as a journalist, another as a legal aid in the Gaza Strip, etc. etc. etc. You get the point. Still, I don't necessarily feel intimidated by the others. I know I can hold my own, despite my modest life experience. If anything I think it's cool that I'm so young and doing the same thing they are. A bunch of us from residence ended up going out and hitting the pubs last night and had a really good time. "I think I'm going to make it after alllllll..."

Oh, also, I'm sick of people thinking I'm American. I think I'm going to start really exagerrating my OOTs and ABOOTs.


Friday, September 23, 2005

In London!

Hello All!

Yes, it is true, I have arrived in London and even managed to accomplish the improbable feat of surviving my first day!

The flight over was pretty uneventful. I sat next to a cute little old Indian lady and thought to myself "She'd be fun to talk to" and promptly conked out (aided in large part by gravol) as soon as the plane took off. When I woke up a few hours later, still in mid-flight mind you, the lady had disappeared! This presented me with a moral dilemma. On the one hand, yay leg-room! On the other hand, how does a little old lady disappear on a plane?! In the end, the former of those two won, and I put my legs up on the seat upon which she once sat and promptly conked out once again.

As for London, well, London is London as someone living my residence so eloquently put it yesterday. The residence is as close to the heart of London as one can get, meaning the area is a little bit grungy, but charmingly so...or at least I hope I come to see it that way. My dorm room is larger than expected, but faces a rather busy street, so you hear traffic and sirens all day and night long. When I mentioned this to my dad, he rightly pointed out that ANY street will seem noisy compared to the street we lived on in suburban Waterloo population less than 90,000. I'm thinking the street noise too is something I shall get used to.

Nesma and my grand plan to buy all the necessary housewares in the first day went down the shitter because we had to wait around in the residence until 2:00 to check in and then gathered information on opening a bank account until 5:00 and then met up with Rini, Sam, Roni and Ant (old friends of mine from Kuwait days who now live in London). So we met up with them, went to a pub, then to a Belgian restaurant, which took us until about 9:00 or so, at which point I realized that I had no linens, pillows, sheets, blankets, etc. and it was now hopelessly late to acquire any. Nesma was kind enough to loan me a pillow for the night (THANKS NES!) but it was still a rather chilly sleep. I should add too that Nesma and I went grocery shopping after the restaurant last night at a store that stays open late, and upon buying cereal, juice, milk, etc. for this morning's breakfast, we realized that we had no vessels in which to place these items for consumption, so today we went out and got some plates, cutlery and a few other basics, but still no sheets/blankets/pillows...I really need to get on that.

Well, this has turned out to be a rather lengthy entry already, and I can't really think of what else to add, I guess you can post specific questions in the comments section. I'm safe and well and looking forward to getting started at school. Also, pictures are soon to follow, I've only taken one so far and haven't even uploaded it to my computer, but rest assured, my shutter-buggery is only on temporary hiatus.

Salaam to all

Edit: I wish to correct the popular misconception that London is a perpetually overcast city where it frequently rains cats and dogs...I'd liken it more to donkeys and hippopotami

Monday, September 19, 2005

Last post from Waterloo

Hello All,

So, I think this is going to be my final post from Waterloo. Hopefully the next time I write, it'll be from jolly ol' England, meaning that you'll have to read everything I write in an English accent.

When I left Kuwait at the end of highschool in 2001 it was with great joy and jubilation. "I'm never going to miss that place," I told myself. Well, simply put, I was wrong, I miss a great many things about that place, not the least of which are the people I met there, so I'm not going to repeat that mistake again. If there's one thing I've learned so far it's to never say never or forever. Life confronts us with a whole host of unexpected variables beyond our control that we must cope with. It is often in the face of these adversities that we truly thrive.

Therefore, my departure from Waterloo is a bittersweet experience. It hasn't always been my most favourite of places, but it is a place where I've learned much about myself, grown as an individual, and met many people whom I love so dearly. The people around you can make or break an experience, and I'm happy to say that you people made my experience living here a decidedly positive one. Thank you all so very much for everything, all the laughs, the good times, the memories; I will fondly recall it all.

To those of you awaiting me in London...what can I say...I can't believe you couldn't book a few measly elephants for my arrival celebrations...sigh. Seriously though, it's so hard to believe that we've managed to keep in touch since highschool with all but a few fleeting meetings. You guys are a large part of the reason I'm so excited about the forthcoming year. It truly would not be the same without you.

So, to all, let's raise a glass to the past, present, and future, whatever it may bring.

Salut, and Salaam

T minus 2 days...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Waning Days of Waterloo

Well, the countdown continues, and I'm actually finished packing, though methinks I'll be rearranging my luggage a few times yet. I thought I could get away with one piece of luggage, and technically I still can as it is only a few kilos over the free allowance meaning either they'll let it slide or have me pay a little extra, but I figure why pay extra when I could empty some of it into another bag and get it onto the plane for free. I'll probably put some of the extra weight into the big backpack I took backpacking with me around Europe last year and check that as luggage, that way I'll have it in London with me if I ever go on some kind of excursion. Okay, I'm boring myself with this luggage talk...

Next weekend is going to be the big Goodbye Weekend. Kaelyn and Rob are coming to Waterloo friday night and then hopefully the three of us will be meeting up with some of my Laurier chums (Janice, Julian, Rob, Heather, that means you) for an evening of drinking and debauchery. Then on saturday, Kaelyn, Rob, my mother, brother and myself will go to Mississauga to visit all the relatives/family friends there and say my goodbyes.

The fact that I'm leaving in just over a week really hasn't sunk in yet. Maybe it will next weekend with all the goodbyes and whatnot, but more likely it won't hit me until my first night in my dorm room. Getting close though....getting close...

well, it's midnight here, so I guess I can say it's 13th, which means it's...

T minus 8 days

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ripping, cleaning, packing...

...That about sums up what I've been doing on this, the first day of freedom from the indentured servitude that I euphimistically called "work." Now that I don't have to stare at a glowing box from 9 to 5 for the better part of the week, I have begun my London preparations with gusto. As I type, I am ripping nearly my entire CD collection to my hard drive so that I don't have to lug all my disks to London. Just finished ripping Dvorak's 9th Symphony (From the New World) and will start ripping Rachmaninoff's second symphony in a moment. Also in the mix I've got some Brahms, Elgar, Beethoven, Saint-Saens, Dave Brubeck, with my only non-classical/Jazz CDs being The Cranberries "To the Faithful Departed" and "No Need to Argue," the latter being the first ever (and one of the few) non-classical/jazz CD that I have bought.

Once I'm done ripping CDs I seriously need to clean up my room. It looks like Katrina made a quick stop at Chez Joe around here. This leads logically into packing...

...once my room has achieved some semblance of order (read: I can see the floor), I will proceed to begin packing. To me, packing is not simply a necessary chore one performs prior to travelling, it is a delicate art, to be performed with grace and panache, a dance if you will. I will first lay out everything that I intend to take with me. I will then eye my luggage, much like a hawk soaring high in the skies eyes its prey prior to swooping down upon it. Subsequently, I will determine some system for packing, shirts on the bottom, pants on top, vice versa, or shirts on the right pants on the left. Nor should I forget the sweaters, jackets, underwear, socks, and other odds and ends that I plan on taking with me. All will be accounted for. My luggage is like Noah's ark...not that I own two of everything...

Alright, well, I best get back to CD ripping...if you think of any "Ooh, don't forget to bring _____" items which are commonly forgotten, please let me know.


T minus 15 days.