Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cabin Fever

This is very odd. My younger sister Gillian left just this morning for her freshman year at Columbia University, something that is still taking a little (a lot) getting used to. I will not see her again until December, in (coincidentally) Oxford. She will fly out to spend Christmas with me, as mentioned (ticket booked and all, she is on Aer Lingus, leaving JFK and transferring through Dublin, we get about eight days together) but since she's my best friend, the separation, after being together for the whole summer, is still feeling strange. I've been away in New York myself for the past two years, but it's a novel feeling to be left, instead of doing the leaving. She'll move in tomorrow and start classes on September 2, and I know she'll have a fabulous time. But now that this official end-of-summer benchmark has been reached, I am just a little disappointed that it is not my turn to depart as well. I am at that uncomfortable juncture where I am very tired of work and want to get out, jet off to England, and have myself a merry olde time, but still have another month to go -- almost exactly. Tomorrow is August 24th (better known as my 20th birthday) and I requested for my last day at work to be September 24 ahead of a September 30 departure.

If by some miracle my savings edge up over $3000, that would be very enjoyable, but will do nothing to ameliorate what is likely to be miserable poverty. Between that and the shortened summer I will have next year, I at least will have a head start on being a starving grad student. I am dubious that £1500 will cover food and travel expenses all year. I am sure that I've covered this before... It is probably a Bad Thing to be at least a little happy when the global economy, which like the U.S.'s is taking a marked downturn, starts aiming for the shitter. It has a long way to go, but hey, the exchange rate is holding steady about $1.90/£1. I have heard that the minimum wage in Britain is a monster £10 ($20/hour) which makes me a) wonder why the hell our ostensibly advanced first-world economy can only come up with $5.15, and b) reminds me that I need to see if I'm allowed to work under the terms of my visa. I'm already planning on volunteering for Oxfam, since it's something I want to do and something that will be a strong complement to my academic work, but that's not paying work, and altruism, while good for one's complexion and sense of moral superiority, is notably deficient at padding one's already scanty pocketbook. Does this mean I have to attempt to contact the British Consulate again? Groan.

My grandmother offered to buy me Wellies as my birthday present (better known as rubber boots, which will be needed for the various wet commutes I will have back and forth between the SLC flats and Oxford itself) so I picked out a pair in a snazzy quasi-Scottish plaid. When (if) I make it to Scotland, I shall take a picture of myself in the plaid boots (and the rest of my clothes, just in case you were getting any uncouth ideas) and post it here. Just for the hell of it. Until I actually get to Oxford, I don't particularly have anything new to write about, aside from my kvetching about work, impatience, the exchange rate, how unlikely it is that I will be able to eat the entire time, how much I can't wait to get there, the exchange rate, things I want to do, the exchange rate, British consulates, plane tickets, the exchange rate, etc. But nonetheless, I occasionally feel the need to elucidate exactly nobody about the progress I am making this summer, and the excitement I feel for the fall. And how much I have a bad case of cabin fever now that Gillian gets to faff off to New York and I am left behind in a markedly quieter house. (She does an excellent job of keeping the noise at previously established levels, so my parents would never notice that they had only one kid, instead of three, around. My older sister and I have both been away at school for the last few years, so now that Gillian's out, they are officially empty-nesters. It's going to be a change.

36 days until I leave.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Preliminaries, Round Two

So it's been just about a month since I last updated this blog (me not yet being in Oxford, updates are not necessarily required, but I know that it might behoove me to actually get into practice) and I'm still snowed under the mound of paperwork and tiny details that must be sorted. Fortunately, I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. My plane ticket is now booked, and I am flying a nonstop on British Airways instead of BMI, all for the low, low price of $1,114. This isn't so bad, since the ticket itself was $500 or so, but they soak you for international taxes and fuel costs, and since I will need to milk every drop of the luggage allowance, I am glad that BA doesn't (yet) charge for the second bag. (United, for example, is now charging for the first bag. Yes, folks, our airline industry is truly in the shitter). Knowing my luck, this will undoubtedly change in the one and a half-months I have before leaving, but what the hell. I depart from DIA at 8:15pm on September 30th, fly an ass-long time -- actually 8 hours and 55 minutes -- and then presumably, once across the pond, touch down at Heathrow at 12:10pm local time, jetlagged as crap and set with the task of finding the correct bus to Oxford, navigating British money, and not falling asleep and sleeping through my stop. Not to mention taking two taxis, finding the Wadham College office and then my flat, and somehow being expected to unpack the contents of two large suitcases, one small suitcase, and a laptop bag while staying awake until 9pm. But I digress.

My previous post touched on the difficulties of filling out a visa application that wants to know your life history. In any case, I outsmarted the computer, got all the boxes filled in with a minimum of invention, drove an hour down to Aurora to have my fingerprints taken, spent five minutes there, and drove an hour home while getting stuck in traffic since two guys had unwisely overloaded a pickup and a trailer and scattered debris all over westbound I-70. (True story, since it took me about an extra half-hour to get through that. Hire a U-haul next time, jackasses). After mailing the kit and caboodle off last week, I got an email from the British Consulate in Los Angeles today telling me that my visa has been approved and is in the mail (this after also getting two separate voice messages, one at 3:42 and one at 3:48, the first asking for more financial documentation proving my ability to pay, the second telling me that they'd found the sheet showing I did and apologizing for bothering me, all in a prim British accent. It was very amusing). Enclosed in said package are my passport and all my letters from SLC and Oxford proving that no, I am not a crook, and yes, I am actually enrolled for the year, so if UPS loses it or decides they can't deliver it for whatever reason, I am going to have to choke a bitch. The actual dates of my departure are September 30, 2008 -- June 22, 2009, which is definitely a very long time to be overseas where you (as yet) know no one and are immediately bankrupted out of half your money due to the (aforementioned) exchange rate. I need to have a meeting with my dad hammering out the financial particulars, but due to his various artistic projects and/or psychotic episodes (long story) I'm not sure how much is going to come out of the parental pocket (besides, they have three kids in college, and two of those are at private schools across the country. Have some pity on them).

Speaking of which, I also mentioned that my sister will be coming out to visit me at Christmas. Unfortunately, it won't be quite as long as the two weeks that I'd hoped for, since she is now affiliated with a talent search company and will have to fly to Orlando, Florida, on December 29 in preparation for a weeklong convention in which she will have various shots at endearing herself to various entertainment bigwigs, such as acting, modeling, dancing, etc. executives. I love my sister dearly, and she is my best friend, but it is also true that she is the consummate perfect child who sometimes would make me hate her if, well, I didn't love her. You know the type -- blonde hair, blue eyes, outgoing, popular, boys love her, valedictorian of her high school class, off to the Ivy League university of her choice, not to mention she did the audition for this talent company on a whim and ended up being their top pick for callbacks. Now they're specially grooming her for this opportunity, which means she'll probably get signed to some lucrative contract and become a star, while I am broke and holed up in a small flat in England, writing a paper on some obscure tenet of psychology for some megalomaniac Liverpudlian with an academic deathwish. (I wish to disclaim that this is all speculation, as I have not met my Oxford tutors yet -- we do that when we actually get there -- and I am sure that they are all perfectly nice people, aside from harboring an intense desire to tear my work down and tell me all the things of which I am sadly unaware. Have mercy on me, I'm only a junior anyway and already have plenty of what I call epistemological crises -- in which I am dead sure that four years of a liberal arts education, while interesting and thought-provoking, will end up teaching me absolutely doofer about anything useful whatsoever. I am an anomaly of an artist in that way, since I have always been what I call a terminally sensible sort of person. I am also the type of person who wants to know everything and at every turn, am reminded of how far I have to go).

I am still working at Starbucks, where I have somehow seemed to endear myself to the brass to which point I am now the assistant manager. I chalk this up to me actually doing my job, as I am terrible at half-assing things and if I have to be detained for the entire summer asking if you want the extra shot in that or whipped cream on top, it makes sense to have fun doing it. I like my coworkers and always do the little things that you'd think everyone would actually do, but sadly, I work with a bunch of teenagers who do not always think of such things. (There are a few exceptions, and I have one coworker that I love because she's hysterically funny and another coworker that I love since we talk about political and social issues). But despite that, we have a lot of fun and I do stupid stuff like offering to re-type the price sheet and do inventory, but am rewarded for it with the devotion of the bigwigs (always useful social capital to possess) and a fairly certain job offer for next summer. I will not, however, have that much time to work next summer, since after all I get home in late June and will have to leave in late August, which means I will be poor as dick for my senior year. Which means I will have a head start on being a grad student. Wait, I'm going to be a senior in a year?! Jesus Christ on a bicycle. I swear I don't know where the last two years have gone anyway.

In any case, it's Tuesday night and I've already worked two eight-hour shifts this week, with the same to follow until Friday. On Saturday, my sister and I are going to our last Rockies game together for quite some time (what with her leaving for Columbia in a few weeks) which may or may not be depressing since the Rockies are currently in the process of being shut out by the Washington Nationals. (After losing to them last night. At home. With Aaron Cook on the mound. If you are not as devoted and psychotic a Rockies fan as I am, I will sum that up for you more concisely: EPIC EPIC FAIL). I'll probably make it to one of their last home games in September, which will be strange since I'll be watching half the season next year from across the pond and eight hours ahead, which means night games in Colorado will start around 2 AM. In short, I hope they play a lot of afternoon games on the East Coast. And on Sunday, I am probably going to have coffee with my mom, as this is the first summer we've ever spent any time together on a consistent basis and are discovering that we have a lot to talk about (and disagree about, and debate about, etc). I really like Colorado, and the mountain valley where I live, and will be happy to come back here both in June next year and for the next five years to get my master's/Ph.D. (At CU Boulder in cognitive psych. Case you were wondering). But in the meantime, I am really really frinking ready to go to Oxford. Too bad I still have just under two months to go. I don't think staring at the clock will help, since I try that all the time at work and all it does is laugh at me.

Anyway, it's past 9PM. Think I'll go find my sister so we can talk before I go to bed. Not that I go out that much anyway, but when you have to get up every day at times ranging from 5AM (not joking, it is awful) to 9AM, your options for nocturnal entertainment are limited. Fortunately, I have never been one to go clubbing and do not see the appeal in getting so trashed every night that you can't remember what or who you were doing, and generally prefer to write, listen to music, and try to pretend that I am not aware of the Rockies failing. I'm looking at you, boys.

All right. I'm really leaving now.

P.S. Why the fuck does Blogger no longer automatically publish single-spaced and instead crams all the paragraphs together so I have to go separate them in Word? I ask you.