AtME: Connecting surges ‘twixt the nations run / Our Saxon souls dissolving into one!

Yes, it’s still Lovecraft’s poem.  God that man was hilarious.

Anyway.

Before this past week I had never flown before.  My preferred method of describing the experience now is that it is like a roller coaster that turns into a bus ride after the first five minutes and then it keeps going for seven and a half hours.  Unless, of course, there is a delay due to light snow and the bus ride lasts for eight hours.  And then you arrive at Heathrow after midnight and your cab you reserved has left and so you have to spend an arm and a leg on a black cab to take you to your house.  Well.

I have arrived safe and sound in foggy (or as it happens snowy) Londontowne.  I’m sure you’ll forgive me for missing yet another Friday, as I was out in Kensington all day for completely useless orientations.  That may sound petulant on my part but I mean it, they were pretty useless — my college is working in conjunction with an international education organization which provides its own dorms for students.  However, each program is also tailored specifically to the wishes of each college, and my college in particular wanted us to stay with English host families rather than in dorms.  It was made so.

Most of the orientations, then, turned out to be about how to live in the dorms, deal with neighbors, and so on.  There was also a bit on our eventual internships, which start in about seven weeks, and how we will have to travel; we were warned quite solemnly that we could expect a daily commute of up to 45 minutes, which I suppose might be somewhat harrowing for all the students living in the dorms, but the entire group from my school has to take a commute of 45 minutes or more just to get to the damn classrooms, so it wasn’t exactly a productive evening for us.

Don’t misinterpret that as me not liking the host family situation.  I’m actually enjoying myself so far — the family is very pleasant, and there are plenty of interesting shops nearby.  Of everyone in our school’s group, my roommate and I actually have the shortest commute into Kensington for class (we’re the lucky 45-minute bastards) and while that’s pretty cool, it also means we have to work a little bit to meet up with the other people we know.  Our first attempt at this was last night, when we all went out for drinks at a pub, and while the journey in was okay, on the journey back we ended up on the wrong bus line and rode in the completely wrong direction for a while before finally getting turned around and falling into bed at about 1:00 this morning.

Then we woke up at 8 today and, because it was Saturday and the tubes were running slowly due to weekend travel/closings we had to run about four blocks to catch a tour bus we were scheduled for.

The tour itself was neat enough; we briefly stopped by all the famous monuments, took some pictures, and nearly froze to death.

That strikes me as a good transition for talking about my strongest first impression of this city: the snow.  There is not normally snow here, which is not a fact I was previously aware of, but which I have been informed ceaselessly since I arrived.  An English friend of mine who I’ve known for a few years asked me: “Do you like how we all panic and flap our hands like girls when snow happens?”

Not only does this accurately describe the situation, I do in fact like it, in a weird way.  I come from the Midwest, where we have horrific winters pretty regularly.  I can remember missing more or less a month of school due to a sort of blizzard, and then a week (or a week and a half) one winter where the powerlines were so weighed down with ice they snapped.  We regularly have subzero temperatures in Fahrenheit.  So when I showed up with people completely freaking out about how this was the COLDEST WINTER IN 30 YEARS and it was ZERO DEGREES (in Celsius, these chumps!) I thought it was pretty hysterical.

During my first evening in, the snow came, and pretty much all hell broke loose.  The tube was off schedule, buses were off schedule, people were having snowball fights in the street (and while walking past the hospital, I saw the paramedics were having a snowball fight in the ambulance dock).  On the news that night some field reporter was completely freaking out over how much ice was on the pavement, then proceeded to stomp around on the few pitiful, brittle flakes of ice under her feet.

There is, of course, a downside to this.  Since people here are so unused to snow, they’re actually very unprepared for it — meaning, basically, that people don’t know how to shovel their fucking sidewalks, or put salt or sand down.  They simply don’t have the capacity for it, they don’t have the materials and the thought never occurs to them.  This has ensured that, outside of central London where all the snow is spirited away municipally, the pavements have degenerated into horrible inch-thick sheets of ice and packed snow that are murderously slick.

Today, especially, has been a rather bad day to be out.  It’s only about 30 F, which is of course a horrible shock to the Londoners, but the wind chill is ungodly; added to that, it was snowing last time I was out and for all I know it may still be going.  What I am getting at, I guess, is that if the weather doesn’t clear up soon then I will be stuck in an unfamiliar city with a couple million people dealing with an unfamiliar weather situation and we will probably all die screaming before the month is out.

That seems to be enough for a first damage report, so I’ll cut myself off here.  Classes start Monday; if I have time on Friday, I’ll write up my impressions of that, plus anything I’ve skipped over here.  Also I don’t blog frequently enough to link every new thing I find to be awesome, and I know it’s already been all over the internet, but I cannot recommend Two Gentlemen of Lebowski enough.

Cthulolita

Cthulolita, loath of my life, fear of my lexicography. My syllables, my sanity. Kuh-thoo-lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a temerarious trip of five steps down the palate to tap, timidly, on the teeth. Kuh. Thoo. Lo. Lee. Ta.

It was Tulu, plain Tulu, to the Tcho-Tcho people, standing four feet ten in their squalid jungle. It was Q’thulu in Quechua. It was Kutulu in deep Y’ha-nthlei. It was Dread Cthulhu in the archives at Miskatonic. But in my darkest dreams it was always Cthulolita.

Did it have a precursor? It did, indeed it did. In point of fact, there might have been no Cthulolita at all had I not read, one summer, a certain incantation in a certain aged and worm-eaten manuscript. In a princedom on the shores of dim Carcosa, lost Carcosa. Oh when? About as many years before the blasphemous bubbles crawled out from beneath the thumbs of their five-lobed southern lords and loped on the shores in the shape of an ape. You can always count on a madman for a fancy prose style.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, again I say, I do not know what has become of Clare Quilty, though I think — almost hope — that he is in peaceful oblivion, if there be anywhere so blessed a thing. Look at this tangle of tentacles.

An American to Mother England

England! My England! can the surging sea
That lies between us tear my heart from thee?

Today I received notice that I have been accepted for my college’s off-campus program in England for Spring of 2010. This was something I was anticipating and part of my reason for starting this blog — in addition to my desperate attempts to get published, I’ll probably be keeping something of a journal of my experiences. In keeping with the theme of my site the series, I have decided, will be called An American to Mother England, after the Lovecraft poem linked above. If you do not bother reading the whole thing, I don’t blame you. Lovecraft was a pretty terrible poet most of the time, and I picked the title for this because I mostly think HPL’s Anglophilia was absolutely hilarious.

Anyway, I suppose this exercise might prove enlightening. Students keep journals when they’re staying overseas pretty much all the time, like my friend Ross who is in the lead-up to a year in Japan, but I figure England is boring and unpopular enough that I can be my own unique self. Being in the UK also means I will have less of the “OMG GUYZ THIS FOREIGN COUNTRY IS SO GODDAMN WACKY” that stands a serious chance of contaminating a Japan blog. At most I will probably end up with “OMG GUYZ THIS COUNTRY IS SO GODDAMN RUDE TO AMERICANS” which at this point probably applies to all of Europe.

So here is, I suppose, the first official entry in AtME: I have to scrounge up the time and money to obtain a passport and a deposit. It’s not due until September, thankfully. Also, in the papers I received, there is mention of obtaining a Visa. I’ve never traveled outside of the country before, but I am under the impression that the Visa is a new development for this program. Back in the good old days no one had to have Visas, but the UK has apparently tightened up some immigration laws and as a consequence people without Visas can’t hold jobs.

This means that students in my college’s England program couldn’t have the staple job placement/exposure portion. I hear this was circumvented by calling the job placement something other than job placement, but that fell through recently and I’m not sure what the students currently there are up to. The last I talked with a friend in the program she said something about having to pick out a random person on the street and shadowing them to see what the life of a normal Londoner is like. While that seems wildly unlikely, I also think it is a good way to become embroiled in a Guy Ritchie movie, so I am torn between wanting to believe her and calling bullshit.

More on this as it develops. Oh, and the rejection counter now stands at a healthy 18.