December 03, 2010

Peru blog!

I've been fairly busy the last few weeks, so I'll probably save my update for the holidays. Until then, here's the blog I kept during my 40-day volunteering project in Peru in summer 2009:

peru_2009_blog-1.pdf

Hopefully people'll be able to read this!



October 13, 2010

In which a wonderfully busy term begins

Time is certainly a strange thing. At the beach with my family, time went so slowly that I was amazed at how many hours there were until the sun would retire. Yesterday, on the other hand, I was amazed at just how little time there was between events!

To finish up the summer: after those few days at the beach, I stayed at home a while longer with my parents. Bev celebrated her 21st birthday, so we and some of her other friends met up in London for an afternoon of pizza, Articulate, and many rounds of dance-machine. That was great fun! A few days later, Mum left for Peru - I went with her to the airport, and from there took the train back to Coventry.

Up until term started, I was mainly in the house/Chaplaincy/friends' houses enjoying doing nothing. Sophie had a party for her 21st birthday, Catherine K and I ran into John and Amy at Sainsbury's and had dinner at their house, Jen's been showing me and Damon how to play her saxophone, I went into Birmingham to pick up something for Steve while he was away, and one day I took a day-trip to Stoke for a piano-teacher interview. I didn't get the job, but I had a good day and am more confident playing, so I have no regrets there. Sumaiya and Andy came up for a few days, it was good to see them again. The day before term began, I went to Jen's confirmation - I'm really happy for her, and it was a really lovely service.

Then term began! So far it's been good - it was great to see Katie and Claire again in psychology lectures, the lectures themselves are interesting so far (this term we're doing perception-planning-action, developmental, social and methods), all of my Focus friends are back now, and societies have begun again! A lot of freshers came to the first two Focus socials and to our first Thursday talk, so I'm hopeful that some will come back! I signed up for orchestra again - Clare came to the first practice with me, and yesterday's concert was great fun - the only drawback is having a rather clicky back and neck afterwards!I went to the first Opera social as well, I'm considering joining the chorus for their production of Figaro. We'll see how tired I am in the evenings, though.

I went to visit Christopher for a few days while Mum was still in Peru (she's back now) - he wasn't too unsettled to see me there, which is definitely an improvement from last time! It was good to see him, and to see what his school's like when parents aren't around - he seems content, and the staff do care, which is what matters most to me. I went home last weekend to see Mum and Dad and Christopher, it was good to have the four of us together again for a while.

While I had wonderful times in the summer, I really am glad that term has started - to be learning new things in lectures, to be involved with societies again, to be back with my friends - it's a wonderful thing. How I love uni!



September 06, 2010

In which I summer–ise the summer

While this is strictly speaking my uni blog, I couldn't go so long without writing something. I'll try and keep this relatively short, though:

After uni ended, I spent a couple of days at home with my parents, then came back to Warwick for summer-camp training. That was certainly an interesting week! I met up with friends from previous camps, and got to meet the people I'd be working with that summer. After three days of seminars and workshops (child protection, first aid etc), the head leader of my camp said that after getting to know me better, she wondered if I'd be better off moving to a camp for younger teenagers. I eventually agreed, but it wasn't until a few hours before we were due to leave for camp on the fifth day that I found out where I'd be going. I was assigned to a camp up in the Lake District for 10-14 year olds - that would be better, I thought, since there'd be a greater age gap. I then got to know my new team and new head leader, and we spent that week preparing the site for camp and planning activities. That was quite fun, until we went to try the offsite activities - I used to love abseiling when I went on camps before, but this time I became frightened and absolutely hated it. I've no idea why.

Finally, the big day arrived: the youngsters were coming! I was on coach duty with another teammate, things started on the wrong foot when we arrived at the pick-up point 10 minutes late - we were told to pick the kids up from the station, when we'd been there half an hour and seen no youngsters we phoned head office, who told us that they'd clearly meant the bus station, which was on the other side of town. The coach journey was okay, though - my teammate had been a leader on camp twice before, which helped. Then when we got to camp, we met our day and dorm groups, then began the activities once the youngsters had settled in.

That first week of camp was tough. A lot of the youngsters clearly didn't want to be on camp, some taking out their frustrations on us and the other youngsters. Unfortunately, quite a lot of the youngsters were like this, and the mood quickly spread. Groups were swapped around so that everyone got a chance to have a rest from the 'tougher' youngsters, so I didn't get to know my group too well, and the youngsters I was with didn't have much respect for me. By the last night of camp, after a lot had happened, we were all worn out and I was near breaking point - the head leader saw how exhausted I was and let me off the rest of night-duty that night. The next day the kids went home, and we had a bit of time to recover that afternoon and the next day. The next group of kids who came were better behaved, but I was still under-confident and drained from that first week, so things didn't go too well for me. Halfway through the week, the head leader suggested that I was finding camp too much of a struggle at this point, and we agreed that it would be best for me to go home before I got pushed to breaking point. So when the kids went home at the end of the week, I did too - I was upset at having to leave camp, but like the head leader said, it was clear that I needed more experience with youngsters with challenging behaviour before trying camp again. I did feel a bit better as I got the train home - I'd almost forgotten that there was a world outside of camp, having been there for three weeks, and my problems seemed a bit smaller as I saw towns and cities out of the train window.

I spent some time at home after that - the best thing about being home was that I was there for Christopher's birthday, which I'd missed for the last few years through being at camp or in Peru. It's scary to think that he's now 18! Mum and I went out one day to see Sister Act in London, which was great fun. Another time I met up with Catherine K in London and went round her house afterwards, then she came round to visit me a few days later - those were really fun days. My cousins and I spent one morning getting our hair cut for £5 at the Toni and Guy academy - it was a fairly dull experience, but for such a cheap haircut I couldn't complain! Bev came for a sleepover, it was good to see her again. So I did have a good time at home, and I soon felt a lot better and more rested from camp.

A few days after Christopher's birthday, I went back up to Coventry - to my house! It was strange to think of Jen-Steve-James' house as my house too, but I soon got used to it. When I got to uni I went to Curiositea with Pierre, then I hung about in the Chaplaincy with him and Tom until James gave us a lift home. The first few days in Coventry, I stayed indoors setting up my room and getting to know the house - James was at uni working, and Jen and Steve were away, it was nice to have my own space those first few days. It was great when everyone was back home, though - we had two get-togethers with our friends, it was wonderful to see everyone again.

Last weekend, I went with some uni-friends to the Greenbelt festival - I'd never been before, it was such a great experience. During the day I went to different prayer workshops, including a session run by L'Arche - that was absolutely beautiful, they're such a great bunch of people. Noelia and I joined the choir on the first night, and we got to sing in the Communion service on Sunday - that was great fun! Nights were filled with worship sessions, comedy acts, and hot chocolate (my lungs are still paying the price for that...) When I wasn't at an event, I was sitting outside the tents with my friends, just having a great time. I absolutely loved it.

I stayed indoors the next few days, cleaning and packing for coming back home, and on Friday I took the coach back to London. Mum was away on retreat, so it was just Dad and me. On Saturday I visited my friend Naomi, and on Sunday Mum came back. Tomorrow (well, today) we're going with Christopher to the beach - it'll be good to go away for a bit. Plus I've missed Christopher - he's been in my thoughts a lot lately. I went to the L'Arche session wondering if they'd be right for him. It's clear that they're not, but they've been so much on my mind that I'm wondering if they'd be right for me.


July 03, 2010

In which my Fresher–ness comes to an end

We've now come to my last night as a fresher here at Warwick. I've had such an amazing year!

On Sunday 20th was the Focus barbecue. I'd been with Vince and Emma the day before to buy food and barbecues, the good news is that we had plenty. Unfortunately, the disposable barbecues we'd bought didn't work too well, so Ian brought over a proper barbecue. It was great fun - a few of us played frisbee for a bit, the rest of the time was just chatting and enjoying the warm weather with my friends. 

I went home as planned on Monday - it was good to see my parents again, sadly Christopher wasn't home during those few days. On Thursday, Mum drove me back up to uni so that she could drive some of my things back home for me. It was a bit sad to start taking things down off the walls and emptying cupboards - this has been my place for the last nine months, I've grown fond of my Rootes room. After Mum left, I went to the Chaplaincy to help with ball decorations. Thursday and Friday were mainly spent drawing salamanders, painting salamanders, cutting out salamanders, falling asleep on the cushions, and helping with salad. I was introduced to the Avenue Q soundtrack - I'd quite like to see the show now!

Saturday finally arrived: the day of the Chaplaincy ball. Bev was moving out of halls that day, so in the morning I helped her pack up her things and take them to her Dad's car. As thanks, she straightened my hair for the ball. Afterwards I went round the Chaplaincy to see if there was anything I could do, so I made salad for a while. A few of us tried to work out how to open a beer keg, and Steve was finally successful. The slightly bad news is that beer escaped - some on the floor, and my jeans ended up soaked. I was in fits of laughter! Walking back to Rootes with my jeans soaked and me smelling like a brewery certainly drew a few strange looks! I spent the rest of the afternoon in my room, then finally it was time for the ball. I had a wonderful time - chatting with my friends,  ceilidh and disco dancing, good food, and generally having lots of fun. I loved it, I felt a bit sad when the night came to a close.

The next day at Focus, some of us went ceilidh-ing again once we were full of Chaplaincy ball leftovers. I do love ceilidh dancing, it was great fun.

This week has involved frantic packing, saying goodbyes, and waiting for exam results. On Monday and Tuesday I got back into story-writing - I've been neglecting that recently due to exams, it was nice to go back to the story I'm currently on. On Wednesday I went with Catherine to explore Leamington, which was good fun, then when we got back to campus Kate and Steve helped me take my stuff over to the house - I'm really grateful to them for all the help - so now my room is completely empty. In the evening Catherine and I made some chalk patterns on the ground, then I went to the WALL-E screening with Caroline. We met up with some of Caroline's friends, then Joey and Ellen joined us. There was a bit of a delay, and I ended up leaving about an hour into the film because my back was starting to hurt. I rejoined Catherine and we kept chalking, then Ed joined us once the screening had ended. On Thursday, I went to Curiositea with Catherine, then later on with Sumaiya. In the evening Focus went to Nando's for the end-of-term social. I had a good time, but it was sad to think that I wouldn't see everyone for quite a while, especially Sumaiya and Beka who won't be coming back next term. Still, it was a fun evening. Yesterday (Friday) I went swimming with Caroline, then we had breakfast before going to say goodbye to Vicky. I went to see my Spanish teacher to tell her about my results (I'll come to those in a bit), then saw Nathan on the way out. We went to the Chaplaincy, where I said bye to him and Tom. I came back to my room for a bit, then went back to the Chaplaincy to help take down the decorations from the Ball. I went round Jen and Steve's after for dinner, then we watched The Railway Children with Jess before Jess and I walked back to campus. I'll miss them over the summer.

So, results! I went to get them from my personal tutor on Thursday afternoon - 64 in Psychology in Context (I know that I mucked up one of the questions), 65 in methods (I got my project feedback last week), 67 in stats (I didn't do the last question), 70 in Spanish (wow!) and 74 in Brain and Behaviour (pleasantly surprised!). Overall I got 68.5, a 2.1 - I'm really pleased with how that's gone! I was a bit worried just before getting my marks that I'd failed, so I'm very relieved. Second year here I come!

Later today I'm meeting Jenny from Church in the morning - we're taking the same train, and I'm helping her take her things to Heathrow since she injured her hand. My bag's packed, rubbish bags are by the door, and now I'm all set to go.

So... just what has this year been all about? To me, it's been about finding out who I am: as a student, as a friend, and being the best person that I can be in these two areas. I'm looking forward to the summer break - my summer job'll be a great experience, and it'll be nice to see my family again for a bit - and then I'm looking forward to coming back to Warwick to keep learning and being with my friends. I've learned a lot this year, and I've made some amazing friends through psychology, Focus, Ruddigore and other places - if anyone's reading this, know that you've helped to make my first uni year amazing!



June 19, 2010

In which I finish exams and generally appreciate living a life

I had my last exam earlier - it's such a relief that they're all over now!

My Spanish oral was on 25th May - it went better than I'd thought, it became more of a conversation about complementary health than me giving a presentation. Then I had a fairly long 'break' until 11th June - that was my stats exam, which went relatively okay. I ran out of time on the last question, but hopefully the rest of the paper went well enough to pull me through. The next day I had my Psychology in Context paper - I'd spent the previous week revising/stressing/writing up notes on this, so I thought it would be alright. The last three questions weren't too hard, the first went terribly - I ended up writing about a page spouting whatever came to mind, then attempting to make a very muddled conclusion from that. So who knows how that paper went... and yesterday (18th June) I had the multiple-choice Brain and Behaviour test. It was a three hour exam, and I'd finished and checked my answers thoroughly before two hours were up (with Queen's 'Bicycle Race' going around in my head for much of the time). It went much better than I thought it would, bearing in mind that I was near tears the night before in the chaplaincy, and the night before that was hitting Catherine K with a teddy bear in the library. I react in strange ways to stress... and now, the exams are over!

For the past few weeks, I've been going round to Jen's house to help some local children with their reading. I still find it just as much fun as I did that first day, they're such characters! Their mum recently had a baby, and the last time I went round I got to hold the three-day old baby boy. I was in such a good mood for the rest of the day, he's so adorable!

The week after Ruddigore, I met up with Martha and Caroline for tea in Curiositea - their fudge hot chocolates are amazing. I know, I'm allergic to chocolate, but afterwards I drank loads of water to get the toxins out. It tends to help - the worst reaction I've had so far at uni is really painful blocked ears, and a very slight wheeze that disappeared in minutes. Still, I won't be too reckless. In any case, it was really fun to hang out with them both - it seems strange now, not seeing them everyday now that Ruddigore's over.

One Friday, Sarah from the volunteers' office came with me to the special school to take photos. The youngsters I was with that day didn't mind too much - lately they've been personalising cloth patterns using beads or sequins. They do look really good, plus there's something about getting glue all over my hands that makes me smile. I haven't been recently because of exams, but I'm hoping to go next Friday. That'll be the last time this term - I'll miss my group of youngsters, they're such fantastic people.

I took a night off from revision to go to the Opera Warwick AGM - it was odd to see so many people who I hadn't met before, since I really only knew those who'd been in Ruddigore. It was a good evening, and unwinding in the pub after was good fun.

I've taken up swimming recently - it helped me de-stress from revision, plus it's nice to do something that doesn't involve a computer or textbooks. Bev comes with me (or I go with her), which makes it more fun.

Last Sunday was Clare's 21st, so some of us went up to her home near Durham. Kate drove me and Steve up, and on the way home Mark came as well (he hitch-hiked up). That was a fun weekend - Clare showed us around (her family live in an actual castle!), her dad had organised a treasure hunt around the castle, the grounds and the village (I thought it really charming), then we played games and sang songs and had a meal before sleeping. The next day some of us played badminton, then hung about a little more before heading back home. 'twas great fun!

On Wednesday, some of us girls met up in the pub to celebrate Jess, Caroline and Martha having finished their exams. Today to celebrate the end of my exams, I had lunch with Katie and Claire H. Catherine joined us after a while, then I went to the chaplaincy for a bit before heading out to Curiositea with Claire F, Catherine and Alex. After dinner I chatted to Bev for a bit, then went to Catherine's to watch Ponyo. It's such a cute Ghibli film.

Next week I'm heading home from Monday until Thursday, then my plans are to help decorating the chaplaincy for the ball. A group of us have been round Jen's a few times to help paint (my cave painting skills leave much to be desired) - that's great fun and I either leave feeling happy, or if it's late then I stay over and still feel happy. Once or twice after staying over I've joined Jen and Mark for morning prayer - I quite like it, hopefully I'll get the hang of it!

My CRB check for this summer has finally come through, so now that exams are over I can look forward to working! I'm sure it'll be amazing. I also got an email from Fiorella, the daughter of the Peruvian host family I stayed with last summer - I'd sent her a card for her 16th, it was so nice to get an email from her! I'll reply to her when I've finished writing this up.

This week was Carers' week - I wrote a facebook note on my thoughts on this year's theme: 'A Life of My Own'. This year I have been living a life of my own - it feels a bit strange at times, but it's nice to know that I'm free to live for myself, and that my friends are there with me.


May 23, 2010

In which a Professional Bridesmaid enjoys the sun

I do love summer weather. Blue skies, warm sun, a cool breeze, flowers in all colours, and the sound of birds as the day turns to dusk. It's absolutely beautiful.

Thursday 6th was election day. For some reason I didn't mention that in my last blog entry, so I'll write about that here. After Focus, a bunch of us went to Dan-Mark-Clare's to watch the results come in. I spent most of the night/early morning in a sleepy trance on the sofa, and at about 5 or 6 I had a short nap. It was still a fun night with my friends. At about 7am I went back to Jen-Steve-James' for a bit more sleep (they have a spare bed), before heading back for my lecture at 11. The country ended up with a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition - I'm intrigued in a good way as to how this will work out.

The Tuesday after, I went round Jen-Steve-James' in the afternoon. I got to meet the local children who come to read to Jen - they're such children, it's great! I'd love to keep going back. Jen's hoping to get a kids' group started, I'll definitely help her with that. I stayed for dinner, then Jen and I came back to campus.

On Saturday I went home for the weekend - Mum's still in Peru, so I went to give Dad a hand with Christopher. It's strange being back home after uni, but I did love being back with my family. Dad and I had some good chats, Christopher held my hand when we bought sweets, so by the time I came back to uni on Monday I felt happy with how the visit home had gone.Dad showed me the plants he's been growing, and gave me some spares to give to Jenni. Why I alternate between Jen and Jenni when writing, I have no idea. And speaking, come to think on it.

I finally finished off my project report! I still don't feel that I had enough words (they asked for 2500 max, I had about 1700 by the end) so we'll see how that goes. After handing in my project, I went straight to my Spanish exam. The grammar section wasn't so great, despite having revised verb endings earlier in the day with Noelia, but hopefully the writing and reading will pull me up a bit. If not, I still have the oral - that's on Tuesday, and I've only just written the script for it. Now I just need to sort out the mistakes, and learn it all by 3pm on Tuesday. Hmm...

Last Thursday was Steve's birthday, so on Friday he had a barbecue at his house. Catherine and I walked up together, nearly melting in the summer sun, and soon Steve's garden was filled with friends. I had a great time - food, laughter, chatting, a little experimentation with Archer's and pink lemonade... the child who lives next door came over for a while, so I got chatting to him as well. When it got darker, we went indoors for ice cream and more drinks, then Vince walked me and Emma back to campus. That was a really great evening.

Finally, Ruddigore! Most evenings have been filled with rehearsals, and we just finished our last show yesterday. The dances went well, our singing was great, and the audience laughed. I had such fun performing, and getting to know the other cast members better on the show dates - who knew that speaking in recit for over an hour with 10 other people could be so much fun? Some of my Focus friends come on Tuesday and Thursday to watch at the Student Union, and Bev came too. Yesterday Cathy, Caroline and I bought cake to celebrate, and sat in a car park sharing it with the cast before going onstage. There was an after-show party at Tom's house - we sang some songs from musicals, then just sat about chatting until Martha's mum came to pick her up, and gave me and Caroline a lift back to campus. I feel quite sad that the show's over now - no longer am I a 'Professional Bridesmaid'... but I am glad that after all the work we put in, everything went so well on stage. Hooray!

The down side is that now I have time to do some work. Revision, here I come...


May 06, 2010

In which I get a summer job and stop tripping over my feet

A week and a half later, and I'm still enchanted with being back at uni. Something seems to be happening every day, there's rarely time to get bored!

Last Wednesday I met up with Claire and Katie to work on our psychology project in the library - our data has now been analysed, and we now know that our results are significant! Now all I need to do is write up the project itself... so far I have the intro and method, I'll see if I can get more done over the weekend. After we'd finished that, I went to the Chaplaincy for lunch - the chaplains had organised a buffet for the exec of chaplaincy-based societies to meet each other and to get to know the chaplains better. In the afternoon I met up with Vicky in Curiositea, a cake and tea shop on campus - I'd missed her birthday party, so this way we had 'birthday cake' and hot chocolate. A side-note: the fudge hot chocolate is delicious. Unfortunately I started itching almost straight away (chocolate allergy/sensitivity), but I drank loads of water when I got back to my room, so I was alright.

On Friday after my lecture, Catherine and I looked around the stalls in the SU and then came back to mine for a quick lunch. After that I went to the station, and took the train home. It was Mum's birthday, and I'd wanted to surprise her by coming home, so I'd planned my journey so that she'd still be out when I arrived home. When Mum arrived home half an hour after I did, Dad led her to believe that another friend had come to visit (he knew of my plans), so she was certainly surprised when she saw me in the kitchen! We had a good weekend at home, the four of us. Mum and Christopher gave me a lift back on Sunday - I'd be taking my foldable bike back to uni with me, and unfortunately the coach I'd booked didn't allow bicycles, so Mum said she'd drive. A minute after I arrived, I got a text saying that there'd be a Ruddigore rehearsal on the other end of campus, so I cycled straight there. That was fun, I've missed cycling.

Later that evening I went to a celidh with some Focus friends - that was loads of fun, although I managed to fall over twice when dancing with Mark! 'twas a really great evening, I loved it.

This week, we've had Ruddigore rehearsals every day, and will continue to do so since the show starts next Friday (well, I have tomorrow and Saturday free). Rehearsals are so much fun - we're working harder now, but we still laugh and I do enjoy the dances, especially now that I'm not tripping over my feet quite so much! Alena's started coming to rehearsals - she'll be filling in for Noelia on one of the show days, and now there are plans to alter the dances so that Alena can be in the other shows too. I've only just gotten the hang of these dances after a term, I'm not so sure I can cope with more adjustments!

My lectures now centre around revision - it's helpful since what we're going over isn't so alien to me now, and I do understand most of what's being said. Katie, Claire and I did some revision today, and it really did help going over the topics which I hadn't understood at the time. Oh, I got my Spanish test back - since most of us performed badly in the listening, that's been marked up so in the end I got 78% overall - I'm fairly pleased with that.

Mum flew out to Peru yesterday to sort out my aunt's things and look after my grandparents, and she texted me a few hours ago to say that she'd arrived safely. I'm glad for that, I really hope that things go well over there. She'll be there for a month, so I'll be going home the weekend after this one to help out Dad and Christopher.

The most exciting news (to me) is that I got a call last Wednesday, offering me a job with the summer camp organisation that I applied to! Given that I'd described myself as being "an orange, because I'm soft and squishy inside" in interview, I wasn't sure how things would turn out - but I got the job! The only bit that I don't quite understand the logic of is that I've been placed in the camp for 17-19 year olds - why not put me with the younger ones? Today I learned that the head leader at that camp was my dorm leader last year, so that'll be fun! I'm really looking forward to this now!


April 26, 2010

In which far too much happens in five weeks!

So much has happened in the month or so since I last wrote, so this entry might become rather long!

On the Thursday before term ended, Christian Focus had a pizza and pudding party for its end of year social. That was fun! I made an apple crumble that didn't turn out very crumbly, and shared a pepperoni pizza with Steve. Early on, Steve and I went to Jess' to pick up the trifle she'd made - she couldn't come to the social, but had made pudding anyway. The pizzas arrived shortly after we get back to the Chaplaincy, so that was good timing!

And then it was the end of term. No Bible study since Mark and Steve were in Iona, painting letters and making them into fridge magnets at the special school, frantic packing for the next day, and a Ruddigore rehearsal to round things off. 'twas a good end to term.

The next day, I woke up at around 6am. I made sure that my suitcase was packed, wolfed down some toast for breakfast, got my passport handy, then made my way with my suitcase and violin to Library Road. Finally, the time for the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus tour to the Netherlands had arrived! That first day was just travelling - I slept for most of the journey to Dover, played cards and took photos during the ferry to Calais, then chatted and gazed out of the window as we made our way to Amersfoort. When we arrived at the hotel after about 10 hours of travelling (4 to Dover, 4 from Calais, give or take 2 on the ferry if you include waiting at the ports), we took our things to our rooms - I shared with Caroline - and made our way back to the coach. Thankfully this journey was only 5 minutes or so - to the hotel where most of the Chorus members were staying, where we had a meal. I tend to get hungry after travelling, so I wasn't too impressed with the small portion sizes at the hotel!

After a restful night (Caroline said that I'd talked in my sleep - quite a few people have said that I do this, but unfortunately they can never quite make out what I say!), we had a good meal at the breakfast buffet before getting on the coach. That day we went sightseeing in Utrecht - we saw a self-playing violin in a museum, saw a lot of bicycles, and walked by the canal. That evening we played in a concert hall - for some reason the audience didn't applaud after we'd played Zadok the Priest, but 'twas a fun evening. The next day some of us went to the Keukenhof tulip garden. Unfortunately only a few tulips had bloomed, but the ones that we saw were absolutely gorgeous! I loved looking around at them. There were a few ponds and statues to look at too, so we spent most of the day walking around. At one point Milo, Luis, Laura and I found a giant chess set and had a match - Laura and I started getting bored after a fair while, so we moved on. And we saw a windmill! We climbed up to the top, and were just feet away from the blades - it was amazing! When the coach arrived to pick us up (it was rather late, so we all ended up singing by a fountain), we went to The Hague. There wasn't enough time for sightseeing (we had the choice between Keukenhof and The Hague), so after a quick dinner we went to a beautiful church to perform. That was our last concert, and the next day was devoted to just sightseeing in Amsterdam. We walked through the town - the red light district was certainly larger than I'd thought! - and bought food from a supermarket for lunch. There were so many 'coffee shops' - we even saw some 'grow your own cannabis' kits and cannabis lollipops (I hadn't known they existed at all!). After lunch we visited a lovely little Catholic courtyard - it's hidden in the centre of town, and is just so peaceful. Then a few of us went to the Anne Frank museum - that was incredible, being inside the house itself, imagining how a family could live for two years there. I felt humbled by the time we left.

The next day, Thursday, was spent travelling back home - we took a group photo outside a service station in Belgium, then continued on our journey. It seemed to take more time to get back, and I was very relieved when we finally arrived at Warwick that night!

I stayed on campus for a few more days, since I had an interview in Birmingham on the following Monday. On Friday I went round Caroline's and we had dinner with Monika (another UWSO-er I met on tour), and on the weekend I mainly packed for Easter. A few people were still around, so I got them to do my psychology experiment.

On Monday, I went into Birmingham for my interview with Do it 4 Real summer camps. There I saw two of my previous leaders (I'd been a few times to Di4R as a camper), and a girl who'd been on the same camp as me last year. It was a great surprise! The interview was mostly okay, and I hope that they'll let me know soon whether or not I've got the job. Fingers crossed! After that I went to visit my aunt and cousins who live in Birmingham, and stayed there for dinner.

The next day I was glad to come home - much as I love being at uni, home is home. I took up reiki classes over Easter, and have completed level 2 (there are two levels, then one can study to be a master). I love reiki - feeling connected with the energy makes me feel so alive, and in my last class I was taught how to use it to heal from a distance. I've been trying that, I hope it's doing some good. At least I know for certain that it causes no harm - energy sent with good intentions can't harm.

We spent the Easter weekend at home, then on Easter Monday I went with Mum, my brother Christopher and his dog Sammy to the seaside for the week. We went to a caravan park in Camber - Christopher accepts it, and it's a stone's throw from the beach. We had a great time - we could get up when we wanted, go for car trips, I could walk Sammy whenever I liked, and if we didn't feel like going out then we could stay in and watch a film (Christopher would watch Sesame Street on his TV, Mum and I watched DVDs on my laptop). Christopher seemed to be content too - one evening the two of us took Sammy for a walk around the caravan park, bearing in mind that Christopher usually dislikes going for walks unless Dad's there. That was magical.

The next week I mostly spent at home with the family. On Wednesday I met up with Catherine in Euston, and we visited the Wellcome Collection. That was really fun - I still don't know how I'd managed to be unaware of its existence until Catherine mentioned it, bearing in mind that whenever I'm in London I look for cheap or free places to go! On Thursday my guinea pig Tawa died - she was nearly 6 years old and was showing her age, but I'm glad that she didn't get to the stage of being so ill before she died. It feels odd having no more guinea pigs (we used to have four) - they'd been with me through my teenage years, so I loved them a lot. On Sunday Bev came over, and we spent the day playing games and trying out angel cards (my set don't work well at all, Mum's set are far better). Sammy was with us most of the day - he really likes Bev, and he's always been an attention-seeker. I love that dog.

On Monday 19th, my aunt Gloria died. She'd been on lifelong meds for the past ten years following a brain tumour, and eventually they'd worn her system down so that her organs ended up damaged. A few days before she died, her stomach had gotten worse and she'd had to stay in intensive care. She'd been in the ICU a few times before though, and she'd been discharged, so I wasn't so worried. Mum had been over to Peru to look after her in February, and aunt Silvia had been with her for the Easter break until a few days before Gloria died (her plane took her as far as Spain, and then because of the volcano she was stuck there for another week - she was in Spain when Mum rang her with the news), so at least Gloria was being taken care of by her sisters. Mum's flying out as soon as she can to care for my grandparents (Gloria was their sole carer) and help my uncles sort out Gloria's things. I'm glad that she's at rest and with God, but there's still that selfish part of me that wants her to stay.

That day Mum and I were scheduled to go and stay with some nuns for a few days, and Mum decided that we should stick with those plans. So after my reiki class (we did a long-distance healing on my grandmother, hopefully it helped) Mum and I drove down to Minster Abbey in Kent. It did Mum such good - we prayed with the sisters, read our Bibles, did the rosary, attended a Mass for Gloria's soul (the priest had asked if we'd like him to do one for her) and just felt the stillness and peace of the abbey. We walked a lot in the countryside, at times talking and at other times listening to just our own thoughts. I think I'd finished my grieving by the time we left. It really is a lovely place, the abbey, and during a talk with two of the sisters they suggested that I bring the Chaplaincy group down. A future possibility...?

We arrived back home on Thursday, and on Friday I took my train back to uni. It feels so good to be back, with the sun shining and seeing my friends again. That night some of us went round Jen's for a girlie-night, where we ate pasta carbonara followed by a dessert of profiteroles, strawberries, and tiramisu, then watched Muppet Treasure Island. 'tis good to be back!

Since then I've mainly been unpacking, clearing my desk, evicting a visiting wasp from my room (I made the mistake of leaving the window open all day yesterday) and revising. On Sunday we had a 4 hour long Ruddigore rehearsal - 'twas good to see everyone again, and we got to see our bridesmaid costumes - I'm not convinced that I can look decent while doing the hornpipe in mine! After that was Focus, which was as wonderful as always. The hoodies had arrived, and we were left with a giant cardboard box which became Clare's house, then my aeroplane, then Vince sellotaped it shut while Tom was inside.

How I've missed uni!



March 18, 2010

In which I relate an Amazonian ghost story

Spring is coming to campus, which I'm overjoyed about. On Tuesday we had our Spanish exam in a 4th floor classroom with sunlight streaming in through the window - I wished that I could've been outside at that moment. The Spanish test wasn't that bad - the listening was rather confusing and my grammar section went a bit haywire, but I did get to write about how one story from the Amazon rainforest about a ghost who frightens misbehaved children scared me as a child. One of the things that I love most about writing tasks is that you can interpret the question in so many different ways - the actual question asked something along the lines of whether we believed in accounts of ghosts and paranormal activity, so I wrote about ghost stories and angels and the psychology conference where a professor 'explained' alien abductions. All in all, I'm hoping that I did okay on that exam! I went for a walk to Gibbet Hill before orchestra - the sun was casting its golden glow over the woods, and it was absolutely lovely to walk through them. I sat by the pond for a bit, watching the geese. I feel so peaceful in those moments, as though the world stops save for that beautiful moment.

Yesterday morning Claire, Katie and I gave our project presentation - we got a 2.1, which we're happy about. Now we just need to run the experiment! We're hoping to get the results done before Easter, so I have two days in which to pester hallmates. Afterwards I went to the Chaplaincy for a bit - Steve saw me as I was leaving the psychology building and we started chatting, and I wasn't in a rush to go home so went to the Chaplaincy to chat. Not many people were there - Kate was filling in forms and left shortly after I arrived, and some others who I don't really know were debating. I went back for lunch, then had my Camp Beaumont interview. I'm honestly not sure how it went - from the start the interviewer said that those who couldn't give a firm answer as to whether they could work for the whole summer wouldn't get priority, then she asked me how my friends would describe me (I never know what to say to this) and how often I'd give kids drinks of water on hot days (she said 'okay' to my answer in a not-too-convincing tone). So we'll see how that goes.

I went to the pub for dinner with orchestra - they were going to a concert held by the Royal Philharmonic, and even though I wasn't going to the concert, I felt like going for the meal. It was fun chatting, plus the food is quite good. I left just before 7, and spent the rest of the evening Ruddigoring. I still can't get the hornpipe right, I'll try and get some practice in over Easter!

Catherine came over on Tuesday after our lecture, and at one point asked why I begin my entry titles with "In which". If anyone else is wondering, the reason is that chapters in Winnie the Pooh always begin with "In which", and I just liked that. In a way I feel as though I'm in a story book, writing my blog like this. I read through some of my old diaries night before last, and even though the entries I read are from when I was 16 to 18, it seems like a whole different world to the one I'm living in now. Almost as though that's a complete different story. Maybe life's like that - our life stories can go the same way for a while, then a twist happens so we have a different feel for the next installment. I like making analogies like this, even if they don't always make so much sense!


March 15, 2010

In which Mother's Day is celebrated

The second half of this week's been fairly busy. On Wednesday I got a call from Camp Beaumont, inviting me to schedule a telephone interview for this week. So I've got that to 'look forward to' on Wednesday. I'll give it my best shot. After sorting that out, I went to my first 'new Focus exec' meeting - 'twas fun jotting everything down! Democracy broke down and I'm somehow vice-president - I'm still not sure how that happened, but there you go. On Thursday afternoon Katie and I went shopping (we went via the pond near Rootes - it's gorgeous in the spring) and said hi to Claire who works at Iceland. In the evening I had to trek to Westwood for the Ruddigore rehearsal, and got horribly lost, but still had a fun night when I did get there!

Friday - I had five things written down in my planner. Lecture on schizophrenia - somewhat recapping what we'd done at A-level, but still just as interesting. Bible Study - looking more at Revelation, finding it hard to analyse since I'm used to taking it at face value, but still interesting to hear the discussion on it. Volunteering - there were four youngsters in my group on Friday, and they went over their bugs from last week with a coat of glitter, then held them up so I could stick magnets on them with a hot-glue gun (the teacher and I didn't want to take any chances letting them use the hot gun). After being dropped off at uni, I looked up some stuff for our psychology project (more on that in a bit) then went out to Jen, Steve and James' house. There I met the landlords, a very friendly couple who talked me through the contract, and finally I got to sign it. I sent off the deposit today, so from August I'll be living with those three in Canley! I'm really happy about this, I'm sure it'll be fun. The person whose room I'll be having, Andy, left on Saturday so it was good to be able to see him before he went. I stayed at the house all evening - a few more people came over and we ate before we girls made beaded necklaces and watched a German film. We weren't convinced about the German film, shall we say, so afterwards we watched Outnumbered. 'twas a fun evening, and I'm glad that housing's now officially sorted out and that I'll be with such great people.

On Saturday morning Mum came up, so we spent the day in Warwick Castle. It's absolutely gorgeous, I had no idea! There were people in periodic costumes as well, to give it a real feel. Mum and I had a great day out, plus it was really good to see her again. Bev came over in the evening, so we both got reflexology treatments. Bev had brought chocolates for Mum, so we had a good evening chatting and munching on chocolate. I can be so girly. On Sunday I gave Mum her cake and card and present for Mother's Day, then ran out for my orchestra rehearsal. The rehearsal lasted three hours, and by the time I got back my back was a little sore! Mum told me over lunch about how she'd been to the Chaplaincy Mass and loved it (I adore the Mass here, there's such a community feel), then we both went to the concert hall. I ran backstage to set up while she went to her seat, and then the concert began. It was beautiful - we played the opera Aida, with the choir and soloists singing. It was so beautiful - usually I can't stand the thought of opera, but this was just magical.

After the concert had ended (most of us complained of sore backs by this point - I'm wondering if eating chocolate the night before made it worse, since I didn't have any other reaction apart from an irritated neck) I took Mum back to my room, then headed out for the Christian Focus sleepover at the Chaplaincy. I wasn't hungry, but did grab some rice krispie cake for dessert. A few of us went to a celidh about half an hour after I arrived, then during the break some more of our friends arrived. I had such a fun evening. We headed back at about half eleven - Clare attempted to hornpipe back to the Chaplaincy with the steps we have to learn for Ruddigore, I tried a little before resorting to spinning in circles, while Mark and Dan laughed. Back at the Chaplaincy, I joined in a Scrabble variation called 'Bananas' which James had shown us on the weekend-away last term, then Ed showed me, Mark and Catherine another game with the tiles. I munched some popcorn and watched the guys try to wrestle on the cushions, before we decided to watch Monty Python. I got cold so decided to get into my sleeping bag - next thing I knew, the DVD was being taken out of the laptop and my back had stopped hurting. A seemingly short while later, the curtains around the main area had been drawn and it was completely dark and very quiet. Then it was 7.15, and I huddled in the sleeping bag for another half hour before getting up. We ate porridge, then once everybody was awake we cleared up and resumed our lives. 'twas fun, I do love Focus socials.

Today I came back to talk to Mum for a bit, before heading out to my lecture. Katie, Claire and I decided to meet up at 2pm to work on our project, so at 2pm I bade farewell to Mum on the road to Tesco so she could get her coach back home. Mum had left me some chocotejas, which I'm looking forward to eating! She also left her rice cakes behind, although I think that was unintentional... So, project. We have our idea - we changed it so that it no longer regards a story, but instead extends some memory studies done in Sweden - and on Wednesday have to do a presentation on it. Katie had made powerpoint slides, so we built on that and an hour later left the computer lab feeling content. This evening before Ruddigore I put the references in the slides, and I'll send it to the project chair when I've finished this. For some reason we have to send it to the chair 24 hours before we give our presentation - I'd guess to check that we're not breaking any guidelines, although we already got cleared by a postgrad. So there you go. At Ruddigore this evening, we had a complete run-through - it was great to be able to watch the bits that I'm not in, although I did forget quite a lot of the dances. Thankfully Clare remembers nearly everything! I had fun, but felt too tired to hang about after. So now you find me here.

Tomorrow I have a Spanish test that I was hoping to revise for today, but I haven't had the time, what with coming back here at midday and working on the project and taking a brief nap after lunch. I'm far too tired to revise now (yet strangely enough am able to write a blog...) so I'll sleep now. I'll go over my verb tables tomorrow, despite having recently studied in psychology that cramming doesn't work. Hmm... I'd say wish me luck, but with my disorganisation I'm not entirely sure I deserve that!


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