About the Kenya Field Trip

Ok so I completely failed to blog properly about Intro Week. In short: it was fun, I met lots of people and then it was over. Since then I’ve had one week of school and it’s been great. The workload this winter is going to be heavy, but I’m excited for everything I’m going to be learning, albeit a little intimidated.

Today I finally got some decent information about the field trip to Kenya. It was exciting and terrifying all at once. I think that while my teacher was trying to be honest with us, she was also probably enjoying scaring us a bit.

We leave on January 15th from Heathrow. The flight is close to 12 hours long. Then we stay at Lake Elementaita Lodge for one night before we drive to the Marich Pass Field Studies Centre. Apparently this is a very poor, very remote area and getting there isn’t easy. The roads are very bad and the drive is likely to take up  to 10-11 hours.

There is limited electricity there. We will have access to plugs at the dining hall (I think) to charge our phones, but otherwise we’ll do without. There are open-air showers. The look on the teachers face was positively sadistic when she mentioned that there are bugs the size of birds. *panic*

So yes, this trip is way out of my comfort zone and I’m nervous. I am also incredibly excited and I know this is going to be very good for me. I’m a terribly spoiled, way too sanitized and completely clueless. Hopefully this will serve to widen my horizon considerably and teach me a few good life lessons.

Before I go I’ll have to get lots of extreme sunblock, good shoes, immunizations, travel insurance (from Iceland or the UK?) and possibly therapy for my arachnophobia.

In other news: Sheffield is awesome, classes are fantastic and life is good.

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Intro week – day 1!

The first day of Intro Week is over!

I started it by getting up at about 10am (that’s early to me, shut up!). I had to drop by The Edge to get my Eat with US card upgraded. When I went to pick it up on Saturday they couldn’t find it and had to order a new one. The new one only had a £30/week allowance when it was supposed to be £50. I was told to come back at 5pm which I did.

After that I went to Elmfield to get my qualifications and passport verified. The line was really long and I spent most of it talking to mom on the phone and listening to some British guy showing off his Chinese skills to some much younger Chinese kids. He irritated me a bit, but I guess I can’t be too judgmental seeing as I don’t speak a word of Chinese myself. In my defense I do realize that technically there is no such thing as Chinese.

After that was over I walked outside and pulled out my umbrella. On my walk over to the Students’ Union parts of my brain waged a war over whether I should pity or laugh at the poor souls who had no umbrellas and were very very wet.

I meant to go on one of the Union Tours at 2pm. I had ordered my free ticket online yesterday and I was kind of looking forward to it. I was supposed to pick up my ticket at the box office only when I got there the line was so long it probably would’ve taken me an hour to actually get the ticket. Since I hadn’t actually paid any money for it I decided to just skip it. Instead I had cupcakes from the new Fancie outlet. They were yummy.

I spent some time online and ordered a printer on Amazon. I know I don’t technically need it but I hate reading texts on my computer screen. I like to print out articles to read them so I can scribble notes and stuff. It’s not a very expensive printer so I feel justified.

At around 3pm I went home and watched one episode of Doctor Who (the one about Vincent Van Gogh) and then went back to the Edge to get that upgrade. There was some trouble with the upgrading and lots of people who were there to buy tickets to various Endcliffe Village events had to wait behind me forever. I was really sorry.

After dinner I went to the Interval where Progress, the postgraduate students’ forum, had a sort of welcome party. I arrived alone and felt a bit awkward for a bit. I met two Chinese girls who are getting their Masters in Public Health and since I’ve been here for a month already and have taken the time to read up on pretty much everything, most of the conversation was just them asking me questions about how everything works. Maybe I should become some kind of guide for the department or something.

Shortly after that I met a German girl who’s getting her Masters in Management in Culture, or something like that. When I told her what I’m studying she told me her roommate is studying the same thing so we went over to talk to her. Not long after that another girl wandered over who is also getting her Masters in Public Health in International Development. It was fantastic. The first girl is from San Francisco and she has a BA in Philosophy and something and the other one is from Kenya and she’s a pharmacist. I have a feeling we’re all going to be from very different backgrounds. I think it’s fascinating. It’s funny that the pharmacist is from Kenya because that’s where we’re going on our field trip. We laughed about that quite a lot.

Apart from them I met a Canadian Political Scientist, a Pakistani economist, an Iranian girl studying International Communication (or something like that), a History teacher from New Jersey, a girl from Chicago who’s studying Music Management, as well as this perfectly adorable Scottish Mathematician. It was fantastic fun and everyone was so very friendly and funny.

The funniest part of the evening though was when I had just been talking to two English people about the obvious things people ask me about when they hear I’m from Iceland. They asked me whether anyone had asked me about the volcano or the banks. I told them that so far no one had. Then we talked about how due to my accent people tend to think I’m American.

A few minutes later a guy came over and introduced himself. After a few minutes of conversation he said to me: “…and you must be American.” We laughed. Then when I told him I’m actually from Iceland he said: “Oh wow, with the big volcano.” We laughed more.

But yes, it was a fantastic evening and I’m hoping that tomorrow will be just as fun. I have a feeling I’m going to be very tired at the end of the week.

Still in Sheffield, still bored

Maybe I should write a few words about what’s been going on. “A few words” will do since I haven’t been doing much at all. :P

The University gave me until September 1st to get a job and then they’d let me pay home fees instead of overseas fees. The difference is about £10,000. Well, it’s September 3rd and I don’t have a job. It’s all right though, I will get student loans and it’ll take me longer to pay them back, but it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve spent most of my time going for walks or hanging out at cafes where I can get online. The Interval is a cafe/bar in the Union building and Coffee Revolution has opened so I have several options. I’m bored to tears most of the time, but it’s only about 2 more weeks and then school starts. I’ll live. :)

Coffee Revolution is the cafe for which I was interviewed the day after I arrived. The two guys who interviewed me both came to me today (I visited it the first time today) and chatted with me. The owner told me not to despair that they haven’t called me yet, he said that they’d been really busy and have yet to hire lots of people so they might still call me. He then told me that we’re friends now and that I should come by a lot. So sweet. Everyone is so friendly here, I love it. :D

Even if it doesn’t pan out I have a job interview for a “bar and catering assistant” position for the Union on Wednesday. So it’s not all hopeless. :)

I’ve also made a new friend, a girl I’ve been talking to online. We met the other day and talked, it was nice. She’s celebrating her birthday on Saturday and invited me, so that’ll be an opportunity to meet some more people. I’m very excited.

I also finally heard from the school, they will allow me to arrive early into the flat I’ll have all winter. I have to leave the flat I’m in now on September 11th before 10am. I wasn’t supposed to get the other flat until September 18th, but they are allowing me to move there on September 11th. I’m so relieved! This way I can just pack up my stuff and call a taxi.

Free wifi is love!

I’m bored! So booooooored!

I got a call from the Coffee Revolution guys. The job is not mine, at least this time. They said they’d be calling a few more people after a week, so maybe then. In the meantime I’m going to send applications everywhere. Applying for jobs is so incredibly boring. At least the Coffee Rev guy who called me (Dan) said that they liked me and he encouraged me to stop by and say hi once they’ve opened some time next week. Very friendly. I think I’ll do that, just so I’ll get to know some people.

So booooooored!

I’ve spent the day at cafés just so I can get online. I have no internet at home and I’m going out of my mind I’m so bored. Yesterday I spent the evening watching random Supernatural episodes.

I did go shopping yesterday though. I now have kitchen essentials, all bought incredibly cheap at this little hardware store close to where I live. £43 for two pots, a pan, two plates, two bowls, three glasses, three dish cloths, two table cloths, 5 small baskets, a squeegy-thingy for the bathroom floor, a small oven dish, toilet cleaner and a dish washing brush. Not bad.

I also shopped for food so now I can eat at home, it’s nice. Yesterday I had a very British breakfast: scrambled eggs with bacon, sausages and baked beans. :P No, I won’t be eating like that every day. Just occasionally. I also got this pack of 10 coke zero cans for £1.99. Cheapest coke I’ve ever bought!

Sheffield is very pretty though. Very green and warm and nice. The Endcliffe village (where I live) is right in the middle of a residential area, so it’s quiet and full of cute little brick houses.

The day before yesterday I went to Meadowhall. It’s a big mall. Actually, it’s a HUGE mall. Unbelievably massive. I swear the Kringla (Icelandic mall) could fit in there two or three times. Fucking enormous! I bought pillows, towels and bedsheets at Debenhams. I bit costly but I’m a snob for that sort of stuff. I completely love my double bed now. I spent all summer sleeping on a narrow, squeaky cot in dad’s computer room. This is bliss after that. The drain in the bathroom floor didn’t drain at all so I went by the Edge to let them know. A guy came over on Thursday and fixed it.

Can you tell how exciting life is now? Shopping and maintenance and wifi at cafés. I can’t wait for school to start. Just a month! I can survive a month, right?

I have arrived in Sheffield

I have arrived!! In Sheffield that is.

I left mom and dad’s place shortly after noon on Tuesday. Mom insisted that we stop at Spöngin (shopping centre) where she bought me two pairs of fancy earrings. One pair is my birthday present and the other one is my graduation present. It was super sweet. :) After that we picked up Teddi and Katla (my nephew and niece) and brought them with us to the airport.

Luckily I wasn’t charged for my very heavy luggage. I mentioned that I was moving to England and apparently that was enough. I hugged mom, dad and the kids half to death before I left, even dad shed a few tears for me. Aww, now I’m all teary eyed. It’s strange to think I won’t see them again for months.

The flight was uneventful as usual. I played some Sudoku, listened to music and read. The seat next to me was empty, which was very nice.

I landed in London at 8pm and got my luggage right away. I then spent 2 hours or so at a Costa café since my bus didn’t leave until 11.30pm.

My bus driver was an ass. No really. I brought my luggage to him and warned him that it was heavy. He charged me £10, which was fine. I turned away and then heard him grunt so I turned back to him with a smile. I meant to offer to help him with it but obviously he is very busy being all strong and macho so he decided I was laughing at him. He freaked out and threatened to leave my luggage behind. I told him I hadn’t been laughing at him and eventually he put my luggage on the bus and I went and picked a seat. Like I said: an ass!

The bus ride was boring. I couldn’t fall asleep and since it was dark there wasn’t much to see. I was able to sort of semi-doze most of the way so it wasn’t too bad. When I got to Sheffield everything was closed, understandably, it was 3.45am. I walked to the train station and was lucky enough to run into a woman there who found me a taxi. This driver was nice and chatty and we found Endcliffe Village (student housing area) before long. The reception there is open 24/7 and is called The Edge. For some reason the man in the reception was unable to find the key to my room and had to call someone else in and it took a while.

I asked to go to the bathroom but for some reason the only toilets that weren’t locked were quite a walk away. Unfortunately for me I have a minor bladder infection going on and after running through the halls like a moron with my legs half crossed I ended up peeing my pants. Yes, it was very embarrassing. I was prepared to go back to the reception and blush to death but when I got there the guy was in the back somewhere and I managed to open my luggage, pull out another pair of pants and change before he got back! SCORE! Just that makes this whole story only about 1/10 as embarrassing as it could have been.

Eventually a key was found and a young guy came by with a car to drive me to my room. He was very funny and we joked around the whole way. Once he started struggling with my luggage we agreed that if he got a hernia it would be my fault. He also told me that I was welcome to come to The Edge if I needed anything, unless it was to ask him to carry that bag again…in that case I would be shit out of luck. :P

They gave me a bedding pack which was nice, except that the sheet doesn’t fit on the bed. It’s ok though. It means I don’t have to buy a duvet, just sheets and a better pillow. I slept the whole night through…well, what was left of it.

Yesterday morning I went out and found a supermarket where I bought some essentials (such as shampoo) and then went back for a shower. I then went to The Edge and told them the drain in my bathroom doesn’t drain. The bathroom was like a big lake for a few hours. Then I went and bought some more stuff (drying rack, laundry basket, stuff like that).

At 5pm I had a job interview. I met two guys at The Interval and we talked. It was fun, they were nice and funny and we got along really well. The job is at Coffee Revolution, a cafe in the Students’ Union building which is being renovated at the moment. I think they liked me, but they did warn me that they had a big number of really good applicants so I’m staying hopeful, but not too hopeful.

The evening was spent reading and then falling asleep early. :P I woke up again at midnight and didn’t fall asleep for 4 hours or so. My sleeping cycle is way off.

I woke up at 9.30am when a guy came over to fix the drain. Good service! I decided not to sleep any more and instead found my way to the city centre and got myself a phone number. I am now sitting at Starbucks. Later I’m going to Meadowhall (a mall) to buy even more stuff! I’m thinking I’ll just call a taxi to drive me home from there so I won’t have to kill myself trying to carry it all home by myself.

So that’s that. Day number 2 in Sheffield! I still have all sorts of things to do so I’m not too bored. I’m not looking forward to being all settled though since that’s when I’ll start getting bored, lonely and homesick. Eeeep.

Gay Pride and moving to Sheffield

Gay Pride

So, this weekend is Gay Pride weekend in Iceland. I had every intention of partying hard tomorrow, but I’ve come down with some kind of sinusitis shit so it doesn’t look like I’ll be up to much. I’m terribly sad. Still, I love Gay Pride. This time of year is always so full of love and acceptance and happy times.

The opening ceremony was today. I’m not a huge fan of the mayor of Reykjavík, but I have to applaud him for showing up at the ceremony in drag. Well done Jón Gnarr.

I’m sad I can’t be a part of it though. I had every intention of being a part of the parade this once. Q, the University of Iceland’s GLBT society, has a float that I had signed up for being a part of. The theme is something like “GLBT workers”. So I was going to try to figure out how to represent myself as a bisexual geographer. Oh well, maybe some other time. :P

In other news: I leave for Sheffield in 11 days. I’m feeling a very confusing mix of fear and excitement. I have pretty much everything worked out. Accommodation has been arranged, I have contacted HSBC so I only have to show up at a branch with some paperwork to open an account, I have bought my plane ticket (one way OMG) and the bus ticket from Heathrow to Sheffield. I have sent some job applications (and will continue searching when I get there).

All I have left is printing out and organizing all the paperwork for everything, packing, finishing working out the student loans issue and then leave. I only have 3 more shifts left at work. I’m already acting like the people I’ve been laughing at all summer when they’ve been counting down the minutes until their summer vacation starts. I’m so preoccupied I can’t focus on anything.

I had originally been planning on taking all of my kitchen stuff and lots of books with me. I had packed and put aside everything that I would have shipped over. The other day when looking into the cost of it and how it’s done I decided I couldn’t be bothered. Instead I’m just going go through the junk, pick out a few things that I care about and give the rest away. I’m keeping the books though, I’m going to have mom mail a box every now and then. I can also bring stuff with me when I come to Iceland for a visit and if my family visits me they can also bring some stuff. This decision is such a weight off my shoulders. I hadn’t realized how much this was stressing me out. I can just buy the most essential things when I get there and then with time bit by bit collect everything again.

I don’t really know what the future holds at the moment. The plan is to go to Sheffield, finish the year and then stay in the UK. I can’t really count on that working though, anything could come up. The only thing I know for sure is that I’m going to be there for school for a year, after that things are sort of uncertain. That means I can’t really be making decisions based on staying there for a number of years until I know whether that would work out or not. Who knows, maybe I won’t get a job, maybe I’ll be shipped off to Africa right away…I want to keep my options open.

My first degree!

So I have just about finished my first degree. Go me! I have finished everything, all grades are in and my graduation is on Saturday. Four days from now I will be a Bachelor of Science in Human Geography.

My thesis ended up being something of a pain. Due to anxiety I put off working on it for too long and then what I did wasn’t good enough for my instructor. I pretty much ended up writing the whole thing in about a week and a half. But I finished it and got a decent grade so all is well.

Here’s the abstract in English:

The aim of this thesis is to explore the effects that globalization has had on the emergence and spread of infectious diseases around the world since 1980. Theories in health geography, geopolitics and political ecology are used to illuminate this development. The conclusion is that emphasis on neo-liberalism and marketization in modern globalization creates and perpetuates inequality and restricts the access of the poor to healthcare and medication. Insistence on more productive production methods has an effect on the environment and nature and increases the emergence of new infectious dieases and increased migration has led to the spread of disease around the world. Attempts to react to the problem have remapped the borders of the world and even increased health inequality.

It’s crap, I know. :P Still, I learned a lot from writing it (mostly that I’m a dork and need to stop being the world’s greatest procrastinator) and my hatred for neo-liberalism has risen to incredible heights. Most importantly I realized that what I’m studying and what I have planned for the future is exactly right for me. I’m even more excited for next winter than I was before.

In September I will begin my post graduate studies at the University of Sheffield. The programme is called Master in Public Health in International Development (read about it here). In January we go on a field trip to KENYA!! I can’t even tell you how awesome that is! I’m going to have to work on my spider/creepy-crawlies phobia until then, otherwise I’m likely to be twitchy the whole time while there and not sleep at all. I’m silly like that.

For the moment I’m just working at a nursing home, trying to save some money. It’s remarkable how hard that is in the middle of a recession. Everything is so expensive it’s fucked up. I moved in with my parents to save on rent and phone bills and such. It’s been really nice, mostly because my mom is laundry-master-extraordinaire. I’m going to miss it when I leave and I’ll have to take care of my own laundry again. *sad face*

I leave for Sheffield in the middle of August. School doesn’t start until late September, but I have to arrive early to try to get a part time job. It’s only about 2 months away and I’m starting to get a bit nervous. Still, it’s going to be awesome!

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