Our time across the pond

Currently I am missing Birmingham, UK something fierce.  In the fall of 2009 my husband and I spent four months in the city.  I was on academic exchange for my graduate program, and during our time overseas I attended classes, travelled the country, taught English at a school for young Afghani asylum seekers, spent a week in Switzerland – in short, I had the most amazing and profound adventure of my life.

As we crawl closer to September – the month we departed for the UK – I cannot help but reflect on our time spent in Brum.

Here is a brief snapshot of the start to what ended up being a truly brilliant, beautiful, and life-changing time:

Day three/four in Jolly Ol’ England.  Baaaaaahhhh.

Yesterday we moved into our new place.  The night previous Marc had seriously destroyed his stomach (the tragic mistake?  Purchasing a can of Carlsberg lager on our way home from dinner as an accompaniment for six individually wrapped cake pastries that were amazing, yet deliriously rich and quite heavy on the tummy) and spent most of the night in agony, pacing around the hotel room.  This, coupled by the fact that we had spent a good portion of the day walking around the city left us completely knackered (in the parlance of our times, or at least country) and we managed to not only sleep in past breakfast, but past check-out.

Hotel room!
Hotel room!

Stress was had. 

And we had ALL of it.

Also I’m not sure I would do very well as a regular student at the University of Birmingham.  The campus seems to be run in a “laissez-faire” kind of way, which does not sit well with neurotics and obsessive compulsives (aka-me.)

I met today with my tutor, who was lovely and personable and we discussed my course sign up, but mostly we chatted about the campus and how easy it is to sit in on other professors’ courses as long as you contact them first. 

There is a PoliSci introduction this Friday from 11-12 that will cover everything course-related and although I didn’t want to make her go through everything that I would be hearing in two days’ time, it was all I could do not to jump up from my seat and yell out “WHY THE CAN’T WE DO ANYTHING BY A STRICT SCHEDULE I AM NOT GOOD WITH BLURRY LINES.”

She was so calm as she sat there telling me that as long as I had signed up for my courses by the second week of term (bloody October 10th or there around) I would be okay.

My guts were roiling just thinking about this.

The campus is phenomenal, with lovely red brick buildings that stand in sharp contrast to the velvety green of the grass that spreads around the campus like a deranged serpent in pursuit of higher learning (or maybe just to munch on the ankle of an undergrad or two.) 

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Campus clock!

I am excited to explore the European Research Institute and attend the guest lecture series available to all students. 

I am excited to attend classes where I will actually be interested in the material in hopes to rediscover why I actually fell in love with academia in the first place. 

I am excited to ride my bike along Norfolk Road wearing my chunky boots and pink tuque, daydreaming about the city’s Christmas market while trying not to get killed each time I forget which way the cars are coming.

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Christmas market!

I cannot believe that Marc and I will be here for but four months. The city is powered by a maddeningly seductive electricity that I have yet to discover anywhere in Vancouver.  This spark runs through the multicultural signposts standing at each street corner, and in the form of head scarfs and turbans and skin colours that range from the palest pales to the deepest blacks.  It is present in the bustling how-to-do of New Street and the downtown core, in the cheap but flavourful takeaways that take up space on most street corners (and often in between), and the men selling fresh dairy products down at the open air market, bellowing over and over about their jumbo sized eggs, sold either in a half or one dozen cartons.

This country is also bloody fantastic due to the amount of candy available EVERYWHERE.  As I sit typing this I am eating a package of “Quarter Pounders” drinking a class of Diet Cherry Coke. 

I feel a bit of existential angst every time I set foot in a grocery mart: there is so much to choose from I find myself asking “what’s the point?  I’ll never be able to try all of these products!”

Further, I used to think that I drank quite a lot of tea and only now realize how silly I was in my naivety.  M and I drink somewhere between eight to ten cups of tea a day, more on days that we spend time in the company of friends.  It will be running through our veins in no time and I’ll find myself transformed into Kevin McDonald’s Tetley addict, imagining that Dave Foley dressed as a giant tea bag is chasing me around my flat shouting “COME ON…DUNK ME!  DUNK ME!”

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Rugby game tea!

I may need help.

Or at the very least, another cuppa.

Tea?