Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Preliminaries

As anyone might imagine, there is a shit-ton of stuff to do in preparation for getting me close to 5,000 miles away for the coming year, over most of the American continent, New York City, and the Atlantic Ocean. Most of it involves paperwork, most of which I have already submitted to SLC, who are technically supposed to take care of it. Or not. Today, I discovered that I have been remiss in submitting an academic paper (I think I knew I was supposed to send that, but forgot) and five passport-sized photographs of myself to the Office of International Programs. This to go along with the health insurance form, passport form, tutorial planning questionnaire, housing questionnaire, medical form, second medical form, medical questionnaire, parental permission form, financial guarantee form, and sundry other pieces of paper that I have already managed to turn in. Not to mention the UK visa form which I keep attempting to fill out, only to be rebuffed because I do not know, off the top of my head, things like my full educational history from age 11 or my family's monthly income after taxes. One thing I do know, however, is that I have not been convicted for genocide and I have not ever sponsored or been involved with terrorist organizations. I would also tell the helpful British consulate people what I had for lunch last Wednesday, but I can't remember. It might have been a turkey on rosemary parmesan sandwich at Quizno's, as there's one right across from the Starbucks where I work and I am kind of addicted to those things.

Speaking of which, the whole reason that I am working like a slave in the empire of coffee is because I really fricking need the money. Looking at exchange rates on Yahoo! Finance is just depressing. $1 USD is worth almost exactly $1 Canadian, .60 of a euro and .50 of a British pound, and since the British pound is the currency I will have to get used to using (at least I think they don't have shillings and farthings any more, which is good, because it is all bloody confusing) and spending, it is currently going head-to-head in a boxing match against the US dollar and knocking it the hell out. Now is not a good time to be traveling abroad with the abysmal state of the dollar, especially when you're trying to convert it into one of the strongest currencies in the world, and about a month of work serving the caffeinated masses of Evergreen, Colorado, has netted me a little shy of $1,000. Which works out to about £500. Which is kind of depressing for someone who hopes to eat on a regular basis. At least I have another three months to go, which is likely to earn me about £1500 in total -- if I'm lucky, finally get a raise, and also get the back pay that they promised. I was hired on at $8 an hour, did a shitload of extra work including being the manager for a week, and still had to jump through a lot of hoops to get up to $9/hour. (My Starbucks is a licensed store, meaning it's a kiosk in a grocery store instead of being a standalone store. Which means I am working for The Man, aka Corporate Bastards, which is a problem when it comes to getting them thinking about something besides the bottom line). Hoo god, that is really, really depressing. I hope to go up to Scotland for at least a few weeks during my March break, but clearly, essentials are going to have to come first. My parents may be able to lend me a little, but money is pretty tight around our house right now for various reasons and I don't want to be the stereotypical entitled rich-Evergreen-kid mooch who lives on mommy and daddy's pocketbook. My parents have promised that they won't let me starve, but that's about it. The rest of the excursions are coming out of my pocket.

Since it's also too early to book my airline ticket (I'm not returning until June 2009, and most airlines only offer ticket sales 330 days in advance, I'm left to wait it out as fuel costs soar and the airlines get ever deeper in shit) I am not yet sure, exactly, when I will be leaving. I know that I will depart on September 30th in order to make it to Oxford in between 10 am and 5 pm on October 1st, and that since the Trinity term ends on June 20th, I will be home roughly a few days later. BMI offers a direct flight from Denver to Heathrow, which might be nice so I don't have to screw around with connections, but the website is not cooperating every time I attempt to look up flights. It also tells me that it has been sold out. I take serious leave to doubt this, since I don't think there can be too many people who have already booked their flights from Denver to London on September the 30th and back on June 22nd next year. Maybe they're all leaving on September 30th and returning sooner, so they've already got them booked. Good lord, everything in this country is a mess right now. It'll be nice to spend a year overseas in England, even if I am more than likely to be desperately poor at the end of it. At least I'll be in a place where George W. Bush is not the president, and will arrange to vote absentee while I'm there. My sister Gillian will spend Christmas with me (hopefully) after the first semester of her freshman year at Columbia University, so that will be fun. I would like to get there already and if I have to stay here, at least make some more damn money.

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