sangre_fria: (Default)
Woah, I can't believe I'm going back to England on Friday. It just seems too soon.

I still have people to see and so much to do, it's crazy. I'm going to be rushed like mad to get everything done in time.

I'm happy to hear that everyone's settling fine into college for the new semester, and despite not wanting to leave home, everyone seems to be looking forward to what lies ahead.

I don't know what to think about my next term. From what I've heard from older students (and even professors), this should be the most depressing eight weeks I've ever had. England during the winter is bitingly cold and constantly dreary. Combine that with the usual stress from working at Oxford, and it's not pretty. From what I've heard, all of the student counselors are going to be running around, always asking, "Are you all right? Do you need to talk? Have you been sleeping well? Are you sure you're all right?"

I'm not generally prone to depression, but I know how crippling it can be. We'll just have to see how it goes.

My mom is completely against me rowing this term. Of course, the email I got from our boat club president didn't help. We have to wear several layers while out on the water, and she sent us all a link to information on cold water survival. Apparently, there's this thing called "dry drowning"; when you hit the water, it's so cold that your whole body spasms and your airways actually close up. No water can get into your lungs, but then again, air can't either. No joke, guys. It's beyond freezing out there. Combine with that the fact that I'm Floridian, and the fact that I'm still on my second round of antibiotics, and my mom is worried sick at the very thought of me out there.

I really don't know what to do about it. I'm still mulling it over. I'll have to make a decision soon, though. Hopefully, it'll be the right one.
sangre_fria: (Default)
I'm feeling so much better today; only a slight sore throat and some weakness to deal with now. And it was much warmer than usual, with a high of forty-eight degrees. Oh yeah, bring on the heat.

Tonight should be really nice. Packing up everything, followed by Carols on the Stairs and then chocolate cake with the rest of the Bio girls. Carols on the Stairs is a tradition that St. Hilda's has had since the 1930's, and consists of everyone gathering around the main staircase of South building and listening to the girls of our choir sing. This is no shabby singing, let me tell you; my neighbor next door is a music major, and a member of the choir. The first time that I heard her sing, I originally thought I was hearing a violin, her tones were so pure. So we get to hear all of this beautiful singing, to really herald in the Christmas feelings, and then they're going to serve mulled wine and minced pies. Sounds good to me...

We had our Principal's collections on Tuesday, which was a bit stressful. Basically, each of our tutors writes a report on each of us and how we've progressed over the term. Then we all dress in our formal gowns and meet with the Principal and one of our tutors individually to discuss the reports and how we've been doing so far. I've spoken with Lady English before, but never in an academic context; Sarah (aka Dr. Watkinson) was there, and read each of the reports aloud. I was relieved to hear that all of my reports were good. Sarah thought that I've made consistent progress with my essays, that my writing style has been flowing and compelling to read since the beginning, and that I've always contributed interesting points to discussions; Petros (aka Dr. Ligoxygakis) thought that my essays really captured the essence of the subject, and that I was always forthcoming in tutorials; and Annalie (aka Dr. Morris) thought that my essays were clear and concise, and that I was very active during tutorials.

Which means they all said more or less the same thing: my essays are short/to-the-point, and I talk a lot.

But we all knew that already, right?

Well, Lady English asked if I had been doing anything extracurricular during my time here, and I mentioned the fact that I had joined St. Hilda's boat club and had been rowing this term. I don't know about you guys, but here, everyone who hears the phrase "I'm in boat club" realizes the same thing: you're up horribly early all the time, you're always tired, and you have no time for a social life (even on weekends). So I saw the surprised look on her face before she smiled. "Oh, you've been rowing? Well, that's a very Oxford thing to do, isn't it?"

And yes; it is a very Oxford thing to do. It's obsessive here. There's even an anti-rowing group on Facebook because of it...

"Any of you who have been at Oxford for at least a term will understand the horror of this apparently civilised sport. Not only does it require that greatest taboo, physical exercise, but it also turns those once much loved friends into unrecognisable monsters. Yes, it's true. That neighbour of yours who once got up at noon is suddenly taking a shower at 9.30, is knocking on your door for breakfast at 8 and, worst of all, you hear their alarm clock at 5.30. Those friends who could once talk to you about anything become closed-minded and yes, rowing obsessed. One by one we are losing them, those once ordinary people who are gradually taken by this monsterous sport. We must stop it. We must save them."

Ha! That's all I have to say. It's funny; the girls on my floor introduce me as "the American rower". I'm the only rower on our floor, so they like taking the mickey out of me sometimes. All in good fun, though. (I'll convert them yet, just wait and see...)

But in the end, Lady English said that it seemed like I was really taking advantage of my time here, and that I was a credit to the college and the university. This is the part where I went bright red, blurted a "thank you", and was lead out of the room in a kind of daze. When I got back to my room, Eva knocked on the door. Apparently, she and the rest of the girls had been talking, and they wanted to know how my session went. I told her it was fine; nothing bad happened, of course. She said that all of them had figured that I would have the best report. That was more than a little surprising for me. But apparently, the others had been told about some "areas that needed improvement" in their work, so I suppose I really did do well.

I still can't believe it, though.
sangre_fria: (Laura- EL suit)
I don't want to sound melodramatic or anything, but I seriously thought I was going to die last night. I actually considered how Oxford would have to tell my mother.

Dear Mrs. M_____,

It is with our deepest regrets that we must inform you of a tragedy. Your daughter, Cassondra, passed away last night. There were no witnesses, but questioning of her neighbors revealed that she had mentioned feeling ill. The medical examiners have confirmed that the death was due to natural illness, and nothing suspicious was found in her room. Arrangements are already being made to return her remains to you. St. Hilda's College, and the University of Oxford as a whole, sympathizes with your loss and offers any aid that you would require in this most unfortunate of times.

Lady English
Principal of St. Hilda's College
Oxford University

I can't remember the last time I felt this sick; certainly not in the last two years, at least. High fever, the shakes, sore joints and muscles, killer headache, horrible sore throat, neck pain, and dizziness. It all came on so quickly, too. I had felt a little sick before, and then boom; it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had an essay to finish, too. The last paper of the term, and I could barely concentrate for more than two minutes. I was so dizzy and confused, not to mention colder than I've ever been. I had to struggle with the button on my alarm clock because my shivering was so bad. No cough and no runny nose, which was odd. I had to just curl up and bed and try my best to keep warm.

I feel so much better today, that it's almost like a miracle. I slept until eleven, and missed my lectures for today, but it was worth it. I needed the rest more than anything, really. I'm supposed to go to an erg test tonight, to see how hard I can pull and which team I'll be on next term. I can walk around without feeling dizzy now, and so I might go anyway. If I set out early, I can ride nice and slow to our boathouse at Longbridges. I know that my split would be crap, but then again, it would be crap anyway. I'm the weakest one on my crew, sadly enough. I was also supposed to go to the biology student social tonight, but there's no way that I'm going to go out if I could be resting. Rachel was organizing it, and she's going to be upset at me for missing it, but there's just nothing I can do. I can barely function, so socializing is right out.

So now I'm just going to putter around my room like an old lady, doing what I can to pack and resting every few minutes when I get tired.
sangre_fria: (Default)
Thursday: Our second day that the ChCh regatta. The current in the river was so strong, one of Merton's shells crashed into the bank and had to have people rescued. (We passed by the accident site later, and the shell was complete wreckage.) Because of that, our race was delayed an hour. So we sat out in the freezing cold, in a boat, fighting the current for an hour. Two (Irina) and I had to constantly row so that we could stay in the same place; I'm not kidding. Then it started to rain (freezing rain) right before our race. By the time we finally started our race, it had started absolutely pouring. We couldn't even see, and we could barely hear our cox, even though she was screaming at the top of her lungs. Halfway through the race, hail started to come down on us. Chunks of ice, about the size of marbles. The wind made the current so bad, we almost crashed into the bank like the other crew. And, of course, after our race they had to cancel the rest of the regatta for the day...

We did manage to make it to the finish line. When we rowed past Merton's wrecked shell, I felt like crying. It was so sad; it was a wooden one, hand-crafted and polished to a shine. Broken more ot less in two, the riggers all twisted on one side. It was a horrible crash, and such a shame losing such a beautiful shell. And we almost knocked a goose senseless, because it was just too stupid to get out of our way. Strokeside accidentally knocked it about a bit with their blades before it swam on. Yeah, geese are pretty dumb...

Pictures, anyone? I'm the bow, which for you non-rowers means that I'm the one on the end...

Thursday night was spent at Katie's party, which was absolutely fabulous. She had a murder mystery party, and each of us was given a character to dress up as and act the part of during the game. These mystery party games are all the rage here in Britain. It's all in a kit that you buy in party shops and such. You buy one that has the right number of characters for your party, and it contains invitations that tell everyone who their character is and how to dress. So then you get there; everyone's in character, and you put on a tape that came with it. A "detective" starts talking about the murder, and gives you clues here and there to help you solve it. Each of us gets a booklet for our character, telling us who we are, and what our real motives are; what we're supposed to tell people, and the things that we should try to keep secret. Then we go around accusing each other and questioning to figure out who did it. No one knows who the murderer is until the very end, after you go around guessing who did it. Then you play the last bit of the tape, and all the pieces fall together.

And just in case you guys were wondering who did it, I can tell you that it was just about everyone. It was a lot more complicated than I thought it would be. Apparently, the dead Butler had been stealing the Uncle's port, and since the Uncle was pathologically insane, he put poison in the alcohol to "teach him a lesson". That would have killed him, except for the fact that the French Girl he had an affair with tried to poison him too, because he was blackmailing her. The two poisons canceled each other out, but he was feeling very sick and had to stay in bed. That's where he was shot, but the curious thing was, there was blood on both sides of his pillow. As it turns out, the Nun was his long-lost sister; when their father had died, their family became penniless so the Nun was sent to America and the brother/Butler was sent to London. Their mother later married a rich German, who already had a daughter, the Caberet Star. When she died, the money was going to go to the Butler, but he died so the Caberet Star was going to inherit it all.

The Nun was my secret lover, and I wanted her to inherit it all instead; so I was going to kill the Butler. I even had a suicide note all written up. But when I got there, he was already dead. So I left the suicide note and snuck away. The Butler was killed because the Niece's Fiance owed him money. The Butler was actually a member of a the crime underworld, and the Fiance didn't want to get mixed up in it. So he convinced his wife-to-be to actually pull the trigger. But the shot to the head didn't actually kill him. That's why there was blood on both sides of the pillow. The Nun (his sister) had come in afterward, and had seen that he was shot, but still breathing. She smothered him with the pillow; a mercy killing.

Man, it was so much fun...

Friday: An unspeakable amount of work was done.

Saturday: Errands were run, inquiries were made, and laundry was done. The dryers only take twenty pence coins, and I ran out halfway through. Despite borrowing money from a porter, there still wasn't enough to actually dry my clothes. Or the sheets I was supposed to sleep on. Or the towel I was supposed to use after showering. I'm almost positive that my annoyance could be felt across the Atlantic ocean. If you felt a chill come over you that afternoon, then yeah, that was me.

Sunday: Finished my last cells and genes paper a day early. I'm almost positive that my jubilation could be felt across the Atlantic ocean. If you felt the sudden urge to laugh hysterically come over you that afternoon, then yeah, that was me. My clothes and sheets and towels were still wet, though. But on the bright side, the regatta after-party was that night. So I got to hang out at Filth with some of my crew, and more or less danced the night away. I ended up getting to bed at three o'clock in the morning; not because of leaving the club late, though. I actually left around one o'clock. When I got back to my room, I remembered that Biz had borrowed my extra mattress because she had had a friend come to stay with her. Of course, I didn't really "remember" this by myself; I saw the mattress laying out in the middle of the hallway. So there I was at about two in the morning; single-handedly dragging a mattress through the hall to my room. Ducking under the clotheslines still covered in drying clothes, I finally managed to shove it back on the bed. Then bed for me.

Monday: Last dissection for the term; the poor little starfish never had a chance. I turned in my cells and genes paper, but I have my last invertebrate paper due Wednesday; so it was off to the library for me. I stumbled across a book written by Dr. Speight, which was interesting (though not really surprising, at this point). He gave his last lecture this morning, so I suppose I'll just have to chat with him about it after I get back from winter break. Like most of our dissections, today's had been a bit rough on the nerves, so Ada and I took up our habit of hanging out in the college bar for a while after dinner. She doesn't like cutting things open (not to mention that she's a bit of a vegetarian), so I bought her a drink for being such a good sport about it all. Afterwards, I walked back to my building.

It started to rain, but something just wasn't right about it. The rain wasn't falling as fast as it should have, and it wasn't very wet. I looked down at my coat and got the shock of my life. I'm almost positive that my childish wonder could be felt across the Atlantic ocean. If you felt the sudden urge to dance in the middle of a snowfall about four hours ago, then yeah, that was me. They weren't proper snowflakes, but it was still snow.

I'm in complete awe.
sangre_fria: (Laura- Red dress)
I had fun today, and I think we all did. To spare you the suspense, I should go ahead and say that we lost. But it was a close race the whole way, and Pembroke only won by less than half a length. Everyone was a little bummed out, but we tried our best. Our coach, Alice, said that she was proud of us anyway, and that everyone along the river was telling her how good we looked.

Our cox, Peri, was proud of us too. We didn't panic at the start, and nobody really caught a crab. We did have a problem with catching air, but I think we'll do much better in our next race. Now that we know what racing actually feels like, I think we'll be able to put that experience to good use when we race again tomorrow against Worchester's novice A.

They don't celebrate Thanksgiving here, but the Principal has invited all of the Americans and Canadians for celebratory drinks before lunch. And my friend Katie is celebrating her twentieth birthday tomorrow, and she's having a murder mystery party. Kind of like Clue, really. Each of us is given a character to play, and we all dress up; we're suspects, and we have to figure out who did it by the end of the night. The party is set in the year 1912. My character is Oscar Hemmingway III; I'm an American businessman of shady dealings (possibly armaments) with a passion for big game hunting. I'm also supposed to be very loud, and carry around a large cigar or something like that. Hooray for being a man. I'm going to have so much fun with this...

In other news, [ profile] laurelin_kit made me many, many beautiful icons of joy! They're so lovely, and I wish I could use them all. Sadly, I'm a cheap "free LJ account" whore. But I do have three of them up. Thank you, Laura! *snuggles*

I saw some shoes like the ones Evangeline is wearing in the "glorious red dress" one; they're in a shop on High Street, and I almost fell to my knees and wept at the sight of them. Of course, it didn't help that I was walking down to the ATM at the time. Sadly, I have to spend my money on food, not the Shoes of the Gods...
sangre_fria: (Default)
Alright, there's a lot to say and not much time to say it.

Prince Charles walked through our laboratory while we were doing a practical on arthropods. Hooray for bugs. Very surreal, really. Security everywhere, and apparently the Press were being shepherded around the building while I was practically pressing my face up against the glass of a scorpion's cage. The lab went on per usual, and they didn't even announce him when he came in. He just walked right in, and since I was right next to the scorpion at the time, I was about four feet from him. He was a tad bit shorter than I thought he would be, but other than that he looked exactly the same as any picture your could find of him in the Media. Once he and his entourage of official-looking men in smart suits passed by, it was business as usual. Part of the lab was to create and label diagrams in order to show the diversity of form within the arthropods as a whole. Which more or less means that I drew a pretty picture of a butterfly. I wonder if my mom is going to hang it on our fridge...

For those of you that don't know, my schedule has been a bit tight lately because of the coming regatta. Monday mornings are off. On Tuesdays, I have to get up at six o'clock to make it the the gym session, before my morning classes. On Wednesdays, I'm up at five o'clock to go on outings on the river. Thursdays are the same as Wednesdays. Fridays are off, usually, but we had an outing on Friday last week. Saturdays have afternoon outings that last several hours. And Sundays either have outings or sprint erg sessions (when you get on a rowing machine and row as hard and fast as you can until you can't really move anymore), followed by an evening gym session (heavy weightlifting). Not to mention that I have nine o'clock lectures every morning, and Mondays and Tuesdays are lab practical days (i.e. I'm there until past five at night). Not to mention essays to write for tutorials and reading to do for the lectures. And we can't forget the little things like laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, and going to the bank. Those sorts of things seem insignificant, but they do add up when you have things to do and places to be.

I also have to figure out how much (and what) stuff I'm storing here over the holidays. (Luckily I already found a place, emailed them, and got a reply back so that's one less thing left to do.)

Christ Church regatta starts tomorrow, and we'll be racing Pembroke's novice B team first. Depending on how well we do, we might be having races all the way until Saturday. So I'm going to miss one lecture tomorrow to race, and who knows how many others in the next few days. I'm excited, but a bit nervous too. I have been trying my best, though, and I know we'll all enjoy it so I'm not really freaking out (yet?). On Friday, we had an almost mock race with one of Balliol's teams, since we both spun at Longbridges at about the same time and that just happens to be the starting point for the Christ Church course. We started out and passed them; then three different people caught crabs at the exact same time, so we actually had to stop completely while Balliol kept going. Then we all recovered, started rowing again, and passed them again. Balliol was not best pleased.

It really felt good, and it gives us a certain level to aim for when we race tomorrow. Trust me, we're not cocky; about as far from it as you can get. I always put my all into our power tens, even when it's just practice. We all do, and you can hear it...Sadly, you can be fined for using profanity during a race at Christ Church. Irina (who sits at Two, right in front of me) is quite fluent, and we were joking about that tonight. Since she's Russian, she said she'll teach us all to curse in Russian (and especially Estonian since no one here speaks it) so we can't be caught. I don't really need to worry about that, though. I only talk to myself silently in my mind, really.

"Pull, you fat bitch! PULL!!"

And I don't want to hear any "But Cassie, you're not fat!" and such; when I'm in the bow seat and we're doing a power ten or power twenty, I am the fattest bitch on the face of the planet. End of story. I'm not going to be a weak link; I won't let my crew down, no matter what. I prefer to take the mindset that I need to work twice as hard as everyone else in the boat; that way, if everyone is thinking that way, we'll all just fly down that river.

This is not fun and games. It's cold here. The highs are in the low forties and the lows are in the low twenties, so if you ride from Hilda's to the boat house without gloves on, you will actually hurt your hands. But when it's time to row, the gloves come off and stay off. Even though frost is covering everything, and the sun hasn't even risen yet, and you have to watch your step when you're putting the shell in or taking it out of the water, because the raft under your feet is slick with ice. Even though your blade is covered in ice, and when you grab it to put it away, your hand actually freezes to it, like getting your tongue stuck to an ice cube. It hurts; it's so cold at first, your knees ache. You're tired, and probably have the start of a cold, and you have to go to a full day of lectures and practicals and tutorials afterwards. But you get out there anyway, and you concentrate on keeping your back straight, and squaring early, and slowing down the slide, and catching in time with Stroke, and keeping your arms straight, and tapping down sharply, and all the other tiny details that could make your rowing perfect if you can manage to pull them all off at once. And while you do that, your putting all your strength into the strokes; really trying to put power into the water. And after about ten minutes, you need to take off your jacket, and your jumper, and your shirt, because it's just too bloody hot.

So there you sit, in the middle of a river, before the sun has risen, in below-freezing weather, clutching an iced-over oar, and wearing nothing but a tank top.

And the funniest thing about this is that your thoughts ("I'm a masochist...") perfectly match what your timing should be. Let me explain. When you're rowing, it's best to have a stroke to recovery ratio of two to three. Two beats for the stoke while your oar's in the water, and three beats to take down the slide. No matter how fast you're rowing, the 2/3 ratio shouldn't change. Sometimes the cox will count it out loud, but usually they have more important things to scream at you. So you have to do it in your head, and it helps to do it a little something like this. Stroke. Recovery.

"I'm a masochist. I'm a masochist. I'm a masochist. I'm. A. MAS-oh-KIST..."

It works, and it's oh so true...

But despite how horrible it may sound, I love rowing to death. And I'm not going to stop, no matter how tough it gets.

Wish me (and the rest of my crew) luck tomorrow at Christ Church, guys.
sangre_fria: (Default)
Yeah I know, Becky; it's been a while. Even I was starting to believe that I had died...

Well, last week was bad. There's this thing called "The Fifth Week Blues", but I somehow managed to catch it a week early. Just my luck. But all the girls on my floor have been going though it as well.

"Oh, I just felt so homesick, I called my mom and she came up to see me for the afternoon."

.....Mhmmm.....I'm trying to imagine how something like that could work in my case. Nope, it's just not there.

And I finally had that serious case of food poisoning that I've been joking about for weeks. Yeah, remind me to never joke about that again. Also, I missed one of my lab practicals, and absolutely panicked. I talked to my tutor about it, and he said that it's okay, that these things happen, and that I should be fine. But enzyme-mediated reactions are not something to take lightly, so I'm going to have to study that uber-hard so it's not a weakness on the final exam.

But this week was fine, at least in my mind. The light on my bike broke and the seat is twisted, but I'll just have to go get those fixed this weekend.

Last Friday, we had our tutorial with Dr. Watkinson out in the woods instead of our usual room in South Building. Her specialty is fungi, and when I say that, I mean it. You know the essay I wrote last week about pathogenic fungi? Well, I used the recommended textbook on fungi as a reference, and guess who co-wrote it? Yep, Dr. Watkinson. (Or "Sarah", as she has us call her...) This is why I love this place so much. She's the top of her field, she literally wrote the book on fungi, and she was taking us all out on a jaunt in the woods to identify and collect specimens. How awesome it that?! She's also kindly invited Ada and myself to have lunch with her this Sunday, because we're the international students, and the homesickness always gets pretty bad on the weekends.

The girls finally managed to pry me out of my room last Saturday for Bonfire Night (aka Guy Fawkes' Day), and we walked down to Green College to see their fireworks. It was nice, but I swear...I prefer my firework holidays to be summer holidays. Only the British would be crazy enough to have a holiday where everyone stands around outside in the cold. Heh, of course, the holiday was created because of a crazy British nutjob, so I suppose it's only fitting...

We were going to head to Teddy Hall's party afterward, but it was canceled because of a highbrow concert or somesuch, so we ended up at The Turf. I adore it there; it's just full of so much history. It's the pub that I mentioned before, the one that's nestled into a bunch of alleys near the old city wall. It was famous for cockfighting in the eighteenth century, sword fighting in the seventeenth century, and...something about the owner dying on the job in the sixteenth century, but I can't remember what the circumstances were. So yeah; it's old. It was incredibly crowded so we ended up drinking in the open air in the back courtyard, which would probably be where people used to leave their horses...

And I'm sure you're all waiting for me to talk about rowing. What can I say? It's currently the most interesting thing about my life.

On Wednesday morning, I was staring at a pair of locked gates. It was five-thirty in the morning, freezing cold, with all the gates locked up and not a porter in sight. So I'm standing there with my bike, glancing back and forth between my watch and the sign that said "back in five minutes", for about fifteen minutes. Finally, one of the porters comes strolling back from South building, and trust me, he was taking his sweet time about it. After acting like I was inconveniencing him (Look, buddy; this is your job...) and making a point of asking me if I wanted to go out and why I needed to go out, he finally unlocked the bike gate.

That's right; take your time. Oh, no, don't worry about it...I was just standing out here at half-past five in the morning because I felt like getting hypothermia. It's a hobby of mine, you see. I also like being late for rowing practice, so if you could take a little longer, I would really appreciate it...

Our first regatta is in a few weeks, and it's going to be huge. The Christ Church Regatta, and I hope we're all ready. I don't think anyone is ready, frankly, so it's good to know that we're on even footing with our opponents. Novice B is really giving it everything we've got. We're the ones that have all taken the swimtest; we're the ones that were able to catch up to and pass another crew on the river (while they were rowing full eights and were we only using bow four). We had an erg session last night, and we raced Novice C for three thousand meters. We won, and it felt really good.

I still have a ton of work to do personally, though; I felt like I was going to be sick that last fifty meters, and I had to more or less crawl off the erg afterwards. Wuss, wuss, wuss, wuss... They have two ergs down in Hall, behind the bar, so I'm going to hit one of those for a while tonight, and every night I can for the next few weeks. I wasn't able to make it to the gym session last week, but I will this weekend. And now that our Tuesday practices have been moved to Thursday, I should be able to make the Tuesday morning weightlifting practice before class now. Go for it, go!

As the girls here would say: Keen to the point of madness.

But chatting with friends back home who've done crew is always a joy. I'll paraphrase one for you.

Cass: I just ordered my rowing kit, and I'm (apparently) going to be in a regatta. What Crew Gods should I be praying to?
Ross: JOBU.
Cass: .....What now?
Ross: Jobu. God of rowing. And bow ball.
Cass: ...How do you pronounce that?
Ross: Joe. Boo.
Cass: Okay, just checking. That's hilarious; so where did that one come from?
Ross: SCC. You offer him rum, and fine cigars. And strap him to your bow ball.

Kevin and Evan's input/advice are always valuable and entertaining, as well. I don't know what I would do without my friends; die of boredom, probably. But with friends like these, I'll never have to worry about that.

I can just laugh, and concentrate on killing myself with an erg.

sangre_fria: (Default)
It's days like these that remind me why I decided to row.

Our regular practice was alright, I suppose. The cox was experienced (thank God), and we were going full eight by the end of the practice. (In other words, all eight of us were rowing, with no one left to sit the boat. Which is pretty hard to do, because everyone has to have the same balance and timing, or it'll all go to crap pretty quickly.)

It was at about this time that I realized something very important: Whoever had been sitting at Bow before me had loosened the footplate, and not tightened the screws again.


So every time I put some power into the stroke, the footplate makes a horrible screeching sound and lurches a peg lower. Lovely. And then there were the balance problems...

For those of you that aren't "boaties", it's like this:

When you first start to row, you're afraid of your oar. Seriously, you are. If it digs too deep into the water, it'll be pulled under and the handle will swing at your face. You end up thinking of it as something alive, that you have to fight for control with. You have no idea what it's going to do next, and you watch it constantly.

Once you gain more experience and confidence, you realize that you actually have control of it, and that it'll do whatever you tell it to; you just have to know what you're doing. Because if the blade does something wrong, it's your fault. You begin to understand that if the shell is listing to your side while you're sitting the boat, you can fix it by raising your hands.

Then you gain even more experience, and you begin to understand that you can adjust the balance of the boat during the stroke, again by raising or lowering your hands. That's the point at which we're at right now.

...Which means that we seesaw.

Bowside: "Oh crap! My blade isn't clearing the water, so I'd better raise my hands on this stroke!"
*Bowside raises hands, and shell lists to Strokeside*
Strokeside: "Oh crap! My blade isn't clearing the water, so I'd better raise my hands on this stroke!"
*Strokeside raises hands, and shell lists to Bowside*
Bowside: "Oh crap!"

But at least we're getting the hang of it now. When we got back to the boathouse, one of the other novice teams was waiting for their turn. And well, what do you know? Three of them showed up late, and two of their crew just didn't show up at all, for no apparent reason. I mean, it's not like it was early morning and someone overslept. This explains why they're Novice D. Oh, and one of them had never been out on the water before. That also explains it.

So I volunteered to be one of the two people to stick around and row for a few more hours with them. (Surprisingly enough, I was the one with the most experience in the entire crew.) The three that showed up late were real girly-girls. I'm not kidding, and I'm not knocking it either. There is nothing wrong with make-up, manicured nails or eye shadow that matches your outfit. But come on; don't dress up to come rowing. The one that hadn't ever rowed before was in that group, which isn't unexpected.

And where did they end up? At Four, Three and Two. As the Bow, I just had to put up with it. Especially when the cox called for Bow Four to row. Our cox was a novice (second time coxing ever), and our course was pretty erratic. And when I say "erratic", I mean that we almost crashed into the bank four separate times. I swear to God, if we rip off our bow ball, I'm going to have it mounted and give it to the cox...Apparently, no one had ever told Two that you're supposed to row at the same time as the other people in the boat....Yeah, that might be a good idea. Three was the newbie, and she had no idea what to do. Frankly, I'm surprised that she knew which end of the oar to row with....I have only three words for Stern Four: Sit. The. Boat. And I swear to God, the rest of us weren't rushing the slide; Stroke just must have been trying to take naps during the recovery...

Pretty amusing, actually. I didn't get mad or frustrated at all; I just sat back and enjoyed the show. I was probably the only one because a) I was at Bow, and you see everything and b) because everyone else couldn't keep their eyes in the boat.

Two: "Wow, rowing sure is hard work. But now I can rest and watch the ferry that's coming, because I'm just kind of sitting here..."
Three: "Hmm, look at all the ducks on the river..."
Four: "My oar is fascinating."
Five: "Mmm, the guys over in the Pembroke College shell look good in that spandex...."
Six: "Oh crap....It's so hard to row right now with the shell listing to my side. Maybe if I take long, pleading looks over my shoulder at the bank coach..."
Seven: "What's Stroke doing? I'll just watch her oar..."
Stroke: "I wonder how long I can make this slide? I guess I'll just stare at the cox and wait for her to tell me when put it in the water..."
Cox: "Umm, we're going to crash again. What should I do? I'll look to the bank coach for direction..."

Priceless. Absolutely priceless. I was trying not to crack up the whole time, because it was just so sad. It's no laughing matter, to be honest, but hey...If we crash, I'll be the one that has to be scraped off whatever we hit.

So it's good to have a sense of humor.
sangre_fria: (Default)
My life is so awesome.

And no, I'm not going to rephrase that. Because even though things are tough here, it's all so worth it. I should probably explain this a bit.

The other day, I was almost hit by a bus. That's right; an honest-to-God bus. If you're trying to ride your bike down High Street, and you need to turn right, here's what you have to do: you have to steer your bike one-handed and signal with your other arm, then cross traffic to the turn lane. Once you're there, you just have to hope that the cars on either side of you can see that you're there. I was sitting there at the red light, squeezed into the bike turn lane with a huge truck on my right side. On my left, a bus tried to go ahead and squeeze by. (Yeah, the streets here can get a bit narrow...) It's not even like the bus had slowed down to squeeze through; the driver hit the gas, as if moving faster would somehow help him get past. So the only warning I had was the engine of a bus suddenly revving right behind me, and suddenly there's a huge yellow monstrosity flying past. It was one of those moments when you realize what's happening, and you just go very still. I must have been been as white as a sheet, because that one really scared me. I usually like to have at least two inches between my arm and a passing bus...

Oh, and that wasn't my only brush with rush-hour traffic. On Tuesday, I had gotten up before the sun to make it to a crew practice. We hit the gym, and spent a few hours weight lifting. So by the time I had to head back to college that afternoon, my muscles were essentially done for the day. That's what I get for pushing myself like that, and then sitting still for a few hours; the muscles get sore and stiff pretty quickly. So riding my bike back to college (uphill nearly the whole way), my legs just weren't cooperating. It's not even like I was out of breath; they just couldn't move fast enough. So to get back to Hilda's, you have to merge with traffic and follow a roundabout. That's right; you're pedaling like Hell in the middle of traffic. Well, some smartass guy in a lorry decides that I'm not going fast enough. It's not even like I was in his way; he was next to me. So he rolls down his window and starts yelling at me.

Look, I'm sorry. Yeah, I know I'm not going as fast as I should be, but then again, I'm staying to the left. I'm in nobody's way over here; just shut up and pass me. Yeah, same to you, buddy. Have a nice day.

People in cities can be real jerks sometimes. But I got back alright, if a bit irate. Yesterday, I was almost hit by another bus, but I think I'm getting used to it now. It's just something you have to live with, because no matter how close to the sidewalk you ride, they're going to try to squeeze past.

I finished an essay on bacterial metabolism last night, so now I have to start writing my next one. It's supposed to be on how the control of gene expression can cause such biodiversity, which should be interesting. I'll have to do a lot of reading, though.

I made Novice B, which means three practices a week (not counting when Novice A is a person short and I have to step in). Not too bad, but I'm going to try to make it to the senior gym practices if I can, because I really need to work on my strength. I have a lot of work to do if I want to be ready for the Christ Church Regatta. My mom is still convinced that I should have just been a cox, but you know how moms are; I think she's still half-afraid that I'm going to "fall out of the boat".


I have a swim test tonight, which should be a doss. We have to swim twenty-five meters on our backs and twenty-five on our stomachs, pick a brick up from "deep" water (1.8 meters, which is about six feet), and tread water for a minute. It should be pretty easy for me, I think. Nothing compared to what West Shore's crew team had to do...No wonder you guys were so crazy ripped.

I was sitting in lectures today, and I glanced down at the desk to see "I *heart* arthropods" written into it. I nearly caused a scene, trying not to crack up.

...Yeah, this is definitely the place for me to be.


Oct. 23rd, 2005 06:02 pm
sangre_fria: (Default)
Fact: An oar handle can rip open your hand.
sangre_fria: (Default)
Today was very productive, I think.

I was able to sleep in a little before I went to crew practice. It's was nice to meet the actual coach, and we finally got a lesson in feathering the blades. It takes a little practice to get the hang of, but once you get used to it, it's definitely better than rowing on the square. Our cox was also extremely experienced. (And more than a little bossy, but that's just the way coxes are. You can always tell a cox in a group of people; they're shorter than even me, and they're usually telling someone what to do...Very loudly.)

Since there were larger than usual girls in my group today, I was Bow again. Two didn't really know what to do with her oar when she wasn't rowing, so things were a bit unstable. We'll all get the hang of it someday, though; you just have to work hard. I don't really know how I'm doing, truth be told. The coach didn't really talk to me, and neither did the cox (besides the usual, "Bow, give me a tap."). But I am trying my best, and the feathering is working well for me. Besides giving me blisters, of course. Before, rowing just gave me callouses; now, there are blisters. But that's just how it goes; my hands'll toughen up soon enough.

I'm kind of freaked out, because I just got my schedule for practice tomorrow. With five novice teams trying to practice, I had thought I would only be practicing today, which is what I was originally scheduled for. But then a girl named Ivy, who was scheduled to row tomorrow, had to go to a tutorial at that time. I emailed her and said that I'd do it, and she agreed. But then I got the schedule from the Senior Captain today, and it shows me practicing twice tomorrow. Once with Ivy's group, and then again with the seniors.


The only way I can work it out is that one of the seniors has a paper to write or something, and needs to call it in early. They've all been working really hard to get us novices organized and coached, so they deserve a break here and there. I'm looking forward to it, though. I just hope I don't screw up out there. I haven't caught a single crab since my first day, and I'm hoping I can keep it that way tomorrow. Wish me luck, guys.

After practice, I walked down to Cornmarket Street and withdrew some money from the ATM there. Then I headed back up to Cowley Road, bought groceries at the Tescos there, and then bought a bike. It was expensive, but I think I got a good deal. It's silver, and I really like it. I especially liked the fact that I road back home in five minutes, as opposed to the fifteen minutes that it had taken me to walk. I just have to keep my wits about me, because the traffic here can be crazy...

So I think it was a good day. I'm feeling better, I get to row again tomorrow, and I won't have to walk half an hour to class every morning. Awesome.
sangre_fria: (Default)
I can't believe that I was only five minutes late for class this morning. I think the fact that I ran nearly the whole way there had something to do with it, though. Now there's a thought...

Basically, this is how it works: there's a practice early in the morning, and two people don't show up. So everyone has to stand around and wait while the cox calls some seniors to see if they'll get out of bed at that exact moment and haul ass down to the boathouse. This takes a long time, and it feels even longer when you're standing outside in the cold. (And when I say "cold", I mean it. The high today was sixty degrees.) Finally, there's a full crew and things get moving, but it's already getting really late. Then the second group (i.e. my group) that was scheduled to practice shows up, and realizes that one of their members got horribly drunk the night before and didn't even make it back to the dorms.

She had been so drunk that she had no idea what happened the night before; so she's upset, and everyone's just standing around again. Then the first group finally comes back, and one of them agrees to stick around and row again. The rowing commences, and things are a bit rough, to say the least. The cox is a novice cox, so the land coach is trying to yell to the cox, to tell her what to yell at us. Oh, and the coxbox is broken, so Bow and Two behind me can't hear what they're supposed to be doing. (It was interesting to be Three again.) There's a crazy amount of traffic on the river at that time of the morning, and the cox is having trouble trying to deal with it. (We hit the bank twice, and strokeside had to pull in their oars so we wouldn't hit an old man in a single-seated scull. He was actually laughing at us...)

And while all this was going on, it started raining incredibly hard. Freezing cold rain coming down, and drenching all of us to the skin. So we're trying to hear our poor, confused cox while the rain is coming down so hard that we can't really see, and I'm trying to keep time while I relay what the cox just said to Two and Bow. So we finally get back to the boathouse, (miss the dock, row backwards for a while, then finally pull ourselves to shore) only to find that the boathouse is locked up. So we all wait around for the land coach, try to get the boat ready to be put away. My fingers were so numb with cold, I couldn't close the oar lock back up. Bow had been rowing with gloves on (which you're not supposed to do), so she was able to twist it closed. So I suppose we're even now.

And all of the water that had been raining down on us had gotten trapped in the bottom of the boat, so when we brought it up to head, we all got another drenching shower of cold water. Once we had put everything away, it was time to run like mad across the city to get to class. That was fun, but at least it warmed me up a bit. The air conditioning in the lecture theater had the opposite effect. The guy I sat down next to quickly moved his papers over so I wouldn't drip water on them. So after spending two hours soaking wet and shivering, I was glad that classes were over. Clare had been nice enough to lend me her (dry!) jacket during the second lecture, and I ended up snoozing a little bit. What can I say? I've been horribly sick in the past two days, and I know so much about gene expression already; I needed the sleep more than I needed to be told about the lac operon for a third time.

But apparently, the sight of me sleeping was hilarious. I'm not sure what exactly woke me up, but I'm pretty sure that it was Clare laughing. According to her, I had been sitting with my head all the way back against the seat, with my mouth hanging slightly open; she said she was half-expecting me to start snoring. She apologized for laughing at me, but I can't say I blame her. I would have laughed at me; I had been laughing out on the river this morning. But that was because I'm weird. Four (a Russian law student) was cursing the fact that she couldn't see through her wet glasses, and I just started laughing like a maniac. But we all know I'm crazy, so this is no surprise.

So I hurried home as quickly as I could, while Clare tried to describe to all the other girls how I had been sleeping. Don't look at me; I don't know how I looked, so I can't say whether it was really that funny. Maybe we're all about to crack under the pressure (already), so we're just easily amused.

Putting my pajamas back on was one of the most wonderful feelings in the world; but the hot shower I took after lunch comes in at a close second place. Hopefully I won't become even more sick from all this.

Now that I'm all warm and dry, I can look back on this morning and laugh.

...Really hard.
sangre_fria: (Default)
I was late for class today. Yes, I admit it. But the professor had just started talking (he was still on the first slide) and a lot of other people came in behind me because of Monday morning traffic. So even though I feel terribly guilty, I wasn't horribly mortified. But that's me; getting up later and later every morning.....Always pushing the envelope.

But I'm sure my little "morning run" did me some good. I certainly felt better after warming up all my sore muscles like that. I've been so crippled lately. For serious. Moving in any way, shape, or form has been Hell. Whenever I laugh or cough, it's horrible. I always get funny looks when I start laughing, but then moan and clutch my ribs, still helplessly chuckling. But this evening I felt much better. My beloved hot showers are finally working their magic.

The line between pain and pleasure is completely blurred here, but that's what attracts me so much. It's just awesome, so any pain is worth it. Speaking of which, I was just emailed my rowing schedule. I'm going to have a practice on Wednesday morning before class, and then a training session that evening, then another morning practice on Friday. Which means that I'm going to have to crawl out of bed at five in the morning. Holy Teh_Crap. You guys know me, and you know that if there's one thing that gets to me more than anything else in this world, it's getting up early in the morning.

But I will do it. This is what I want. And besides, it's going to be gorgeous. I'll have to run across Magdalen Bridge, then turn left onto Rose Lane, enter Christ Church Meadow, walk for ages through the forest there (it has two rivers running through it and everything), and arrive at the boat house. Of course, we're not using our boat house. That one was burnt down a little while back by animal rights activists, and now the University is trying to rebuild it. I'll talk about that some other time, because it really is a story worth telling.

We had an awesome practical today; it was a field trip to the Natural History Museum. You know, the exact place where Darwin's concept of evolution was first presented to the public? Yeah, I was there. Our tour guide was hilarious, and about as insane as they come. But it was the good kind of insane. The "Heheh...Crazy people are funny..." kind of insane. I'll have to give specific examples later, because I'm just so tired right now.

But I should mention that I'm starting to get a better view of what my terms here are going to be like, and it's looking like an uphill (more like vertical) climb from this point onward. With all of these essays and labs and assigned readings and crew practices, I'm going to be even less reachable. But I will say that if any of you guys email me during your morning, I'll be sure to check my mail in the afternoon when I get back from classes. I'll be able to read it then, and I can almost guarantee some kind of response, however short it may have to be. So if you do send it, I'll read it.

...Right before my afternoon nap...
sangre_fria: (Default)
Yesterday was cool. I saw a swan swimming in our river on my way to class. I thought we'd have a lab in the afternoon, but we didn't. They gave us a whole afternoon off, to use in whatever fashion we may fancy. This was a good idea, because I had laundry to do, groceries to buy, two essays to write, one essay to edit, my room to clean, and my dishes to do. And what did I use it for?

I took a stroll around the city, taking pictures like the bloody tourist that I really am at heart. I went with another girl on my floor, Helen. Helen is a history major, and she's half-Welsh. She already knows the city better than I do, because in the past week I've only left the college for classes. I hadn't really done any serious exploring outside the college. So we ran around, talking about this and that while we walked. We stopped by the Eagle and Child (all you Tolkien or CS Lewis fans should enjoy the pictures, when they're eventually posted), but I could grab a napkin or coaster while I was there. Becky's mom asked me to bring back a napkin for her, and by God, I'll do it! I'll just have to have a pint there sometime, that's all.

We also got to see several of the colleges, a cemetery in the middle of the road, a rugby game being played, the foundations of the old city wall, and the inside of the Exams Building. The next time I go there is going to be in June, and I'm going to be terrified (I'm not looking forward to exams). We walked right in and the lady at the desk didn't say anything, so we just went farther inside. But before we knew it, a security guard was chasing us down. Apparently, we're not allowed in there unless we're members of the University, or students taking exams. I really wanted to mention that we were students, but I made sure not to open my mouth; being an American undergraduate here is almost unheard of. My accent definitely would have gotten me accused of lying, on top of being thrown out on my arse.

We found The Turf, which is the pub where the students usually hang out. It was by the old city wall, and was nestled in among several small alleys. Seriously. You guys know how small I am; if I were to walk down the alleys with my elbows out, I would be scraping them against the walls.

Helen tried to explain the game of cricket to me, which was hilarious. We compared several games from America and Britain, which was interesting. Came back to my dorm, grabbed my wallet, and ran down to Cornmarket Street to withdraw some cash (since the exchange rate is good right now), then took a shower and called home. I need to buy some more phone cards...

This morning, my alarm didn't go off. But I was up and scrambling around at nine thirty because we had Matriculation today. It's an ancient ceremony (again, held in Latin) that formally accepts us as member of Oxford University; and it's a huge deal. It's all very secret, too. No one ever tells you what it's going to be like, and parents aren't allowed inside the gates, let alone inside for the ceremony.

So I was scrambling around like mad this morning, trying to sort out the sub-fusc I had to wear. Sub-fusc is all of the formal gowns and such that we have to wear when we Matriculate, or go to take our exams. For girls, it's: dark hose, dark skirt or slacks, black shoes, white button-down shirt, dark jacket, black velvet ribbon at the collar, and gown. We had to bring our black mortarboard hats along, but we weren't allowed to wear them; only on graduation day. In fact, if we were ever caught wearing them, we would be fined fifty pounds. (They're crazy about sticking with tradition here. Apparently, a girl last year wore a baby-blue sock while taking exams, and she was fined twenty pounds.)

Oh, and you remember the weird black wings that hang down the back of my gown? Well, they're traditional because if students ever try to run, the Proctors can grab hold of them. That's the thing; we're expected to behave ourselves, but there are ancient traditions for keeping us all in line. For instance, guys called "Bull Dogs" patrol the city pubs to make sure all us gownies are minding our manners.

So we all got together in the morning to take a college picture, and then individual pictures. Two guys dressed up as girls, and snuck into our picture. One was wearing a headband, and they had stuffed their bras and everything. They didn't do a bad job on the make-up, either. I got a picture of them on my camera, so hopefully it'll come out well. They were from Catz (St Catherine's College), which explains everything. Heh, yeah; inter-college rivalry. Gotta love it.

So then we met the Dean of Degrees and went off the Matriculation. It was all over so soon, but I did get some quick pictures of that. Then we caught some lunch (I forgot to bring my wallet, but Biz offered to pay for mine), and then the girls went off to get their costumes for tonight's S&M bop. I went back to college and checked my email. There was an email from the boat crew, and they said that they would have a practice today at two o'clock. I had already signed up for the one tomorrow, but since I felt bad about missing a few last week, I signed myself up at the Lodge and went along.

Holy Teh_Crap! There's too much to say about it; you guys'll just have to ask the next time I see you. I enjoyed it immensely, though, and I can't wait until tomorrow. My body could probably use a rest, though. I had to keep flexing my hands this evening, because I had such a death-grip on my oar. For those of you that haven't done crew before, there are times that you don't row, and your job is to keep the boat level. Well, even just sitting the boat, as it's called (at least here, that is) is hard work, and you always have to have your wits about you. If the people sitting the boat aren't really paying attention, then rowing is just that much harder. That happened while I was rowing, and so my side was tilted more towards the water and my oar dug too deep. So the oar was underwater farther than was right, and the handle nearly swung up to smack me in the face.

Yes. I had to dodge being bitch-slapped by an oar. That was certainly an experience...

So I came back from practice, and I already had the beginnings of blisters on my palms. That's what happens when you spend a few hours out on the water. I could almost feel my muscles tightening up on the way back to my dorm. So I went grocery shopping. I walked all the way down to Tesco's and bought provisions for the weekend. They only sell food in the dining hall during the school week, so we're on our own during the weekends. They sell brunch on Saturdays, but that's it. So I got my food and walked all the way back with my heavy grocery bags. Carrying them all that way just made the aching in my arms/shoulders/back more obvious.

So I got back to my dorm, made some dinner, and had a little Matriculation party with the rest of the girls on my floor. Woo!

I still need to do laundry and write essays, but that'll just have to wait until tomorrow. I just know that my whole body is going to be sore.

I'm so knackered...


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